April 30, 2005

Democrats Foreclosing Minority SCOTUS Appointment -- Or Making It More Likely?

Professor Steven Calabresi argues that the Democrats have already won the battle to keep conservative women, minorities, and Catholics off the Supreme Court by their use of the filibuster against Bush Appellate nominees. Miguel Estrada has withdrawn himself from consideration. Janice Rogers Brown, Bill Pryor, Priscilla Owen and Carolyn Kuhl have yet to be confirmed, though Pryor sits on the bench through a recess appointment. He presumes that the failure of the Senate to confirm these judges is grounds for keeping them off the Supreme Court, noting that only older white men are mentioned as possible nominees in the event of a Supreme Court resignation or death. I disagree with Calabresi, but let me come back to that later.

This has happened, of course, due to the desire of Democrats to avoid the appointment of a certain kind of justice to the Supreme Court.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, the legal left and the Democratic Party rallied around the slogan "No more Clarence Thomases." By that they meant that they would not allow any more conservative African Americans, Hispanics, women, or Catholics to be groomed for nomination to the High Court with court of appeals appointments. The Democrats have done such a good job of this that, today, the only names being floated as serious Supreme Court nominees are those of white men.

This is what is at stake in the fight that rages now over whether the filibuster of judges gets abolished. Leading Democratic activists like Bruce Ackerman have called on Senate Democrats never to allow another Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. If they succeed in establishing the proposition that it takes 60 instead of 51 votes to get on the Supreme Court, conservatives can forget about ever again appointing a Scalia or a Thomas.

On this point, I agree. Compromise with the Democrats, never a good idea when we are dealing with principle or constitutional matters, is impossible on this point. Senate Republicans need to choke the life out of the filibuster of judicial nominees now, for that tactic will surely be used this summer when Chief Justice Rehnquist (presumably) will resign due to ill health. The nation's highest court, the only one actually established by the Constitution, must not be allowed to continue to be a tool of the political minority.

More to the point, the Democrats must not be allowed to post a metaphorical "No Conservative Minorities Allowed" sign on the bench of our nation's highest court.

Why are Senate Democrats so afraid of conservative judicial nominees who are African Americans, Hispanics, Catholics, and women? Because these Clarence Thomas nominees threaten to split the Democratic base by aligning conservative Republicans with conservative voices in the minority community and appealing to suburban women. The Democrats need Bush to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court whom they can caricature and vilify, and it is much harder for them to do that if Bush nominates the judicial equivalent of a Condi Rice rather than a John Ashcroft.

Conservative African-American, Hispanic, Catholic, and female judicial candidates also drive the left-wing legal groups crazy because they expose those groups as not really speaking for minorities or women. They thus undermine the moral legitimacy of those groups and drive a wedge between the left-wing leadership of those groups and the members they falsely claim to represent.

These are mainstream jurists with mainstream political philosophies. Most have been handily reelected to judicial office by the voters of their states, or confirmed handily for District Court seats by the Senate. There is no reason for them not to be confirmed. But what Senate Democrats do not realize is that they may be creating their own worst nightmare. I hope President Bush simply bumps one of these nominees up to the Supreme Court.

Some of you may ask how that could happen. After all, they don't have Circuit Court experience. My response is that the lack of such experience is irrelevant and unnecessary.

Sandra Day O'Connor was a state judge in Arizona at the time of her nomination. William Brennan was a state Supreme Court justice in New Jersey. William Rehnquist was an assistant attorney general. Earl Warren was governor of California. Hugo Black was a US Senator from Alabama. I could name others as well, but I think you see the point. Experience on the federal bench is not now and never has been a requirement to be nominated to the Supreme Court -- and each of those I mention is considered to be a great or near great justice.

Now here is where I disagree with Calabresi. I do not think that some of these potential Supreme Court nominees need be taken out of consideration. Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Justice Priscilla Owens have current background checks, have had hearings and Judiciary Committee votes in recent weeks. There is no need to reinvent the wheel with either of them. George W. Bush could take a stand and make the nomination to the Supreme Court and justify it with the state Supreme Court experience and the complete record that has been compiled for the current confirmation battle. Hearings could be abbreviated (after all, what more is there to bring out?), and the new justice seated quickly. That would be the ideal moment for the nuclear option to be used.

For that matter, the president could let it be known privately that the nominee had better be approved quickly, lest his replacement nominee be even less palatable and more bulletproof. Who might the nominee be? Either Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, whose criticism of Owens while he was a Texas Supreme Court justice is used as an excuse to hold up her nomination and who was recently confirmed; or Senator John Cornyn, who like Gonzalez is also a former justice of the Texas Supreme Court and whose status as a Senator would make him difficult for Senate Democrats to reject. Rather than allow either of the alternatives to be put forward, Democrats would likely fold their hand and give in.

(Hat Tip -- Southern Appeal)

|| Greg, 04:59 PM || Permalink || Comments

Milford High School Implements Heckler's Veto Policy

Principal John Brucato of Milford High School in Milford, Massachusetts, sees the issue as a very clear one. The shirts that a few students wore to school on Tuesday were inapporpiate, and had to go.

"It's analogous to somebody wearing a slogan T-shirt that's an advertisement for drugs or alcohol -- that's against our philosophy," he said.

What were the horrendous words on the shirts? Why, they were pro-life messages. They said that "Abortion Kills" and "Abortion Is Homicide".

In Brucato's defense, he was merely upholding a school policy that reads as follows.

The Milford High School Student Handbook states, "Individual attire that is disruptive to the educational process or causes distraction to others will not be tolerated. Inappropriate dress will be defined as any clothing/accessory that disrupts the regular learning process and leads to distraction or is offensive, vulgar or provocative to other students, faculty, staff or administration."

It also details the banned items as, "clothing which displays tobacco or alcohol advertising, profanity, racial slurs, disruptive images or words, drug or gang related symbols" and "offensive images or words that would be considered socially, culturally or ethically inappropriate and disrupt the educational process."

Unfortunately, that would appear to conflict with the following two policies. There is this one.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is generally known as the First Amendment, and it was extended to cover state actors, including school districts, by the Fourteenth Amendment, as is noted in Tinker v. Des Moines.

The other may be found here in the Massachusetts Constitution.

Article XVI. Liberty of the Press; Freedom of Speech. - The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restained in this commonwealth. The right of free speech shall not be abridged.

That amendment is further amplified in Pyle v. School Committee of South Hadley

The principal, though, claims that the message on the shirts worn by a couple of high school girls caused a disruption. His evidence?

Principal John Brucato said about three or four students brought the shirts to the attention of Assistant Principal Kevin Maines.

"They were very upset that these slogan T-shirts were being displayed by kids," Brucato said. "One was upset enough to have left school and maybe a couple of others visited the adjustment counselor."

Brucato said it is his job to protect all students and he does not believe anyone's rights were violated.

"Everybody has a right to self-expression, however the law states very clearly that school buildings are limited open forums for self-expression," Brucato said. "The reason the law states that is because it grants school authorities the ability to protect everybody as a whole."

So, Principal Brucato, the fact that you have three or four kids who don't like the message is enough to shut that message down? It strikes me that the problem is the failure of your school to teach the principles contained in the First amendment and Article XVI. After all, these students should know that the right the mere fact that they are offended or upset is not a basis for the government to prohibit speech. Heck, I'm rather concerned that you are unaware of the controlling legal principles here.

So tell me, sir, objectively, what was wrong with these shirts? Not the subjective issue of "someone got upset and complained," but an actual objective standard that applies so that these students would have known that the shirts were a violation of the policy. Your own words indicate that there isn't one.

Under your explanation, a couple of Yankees fans could come to you sniffling and weeping and you would have to ban Red Sox jerseys and t-shirts from your school. All they have to do is claim to be distraught and offended. I'm sure your Muslim students will be glad to know that they can ban any Christian expression in school in precisely the same manner. And of course, you have now given the students on your campus who oppose homosexuality the tool they need to shut down any pro-homosexual propagandizing by their classmates -- they just need to burst out in tears and beg to see the "adjustment counselor." After all,such messages would have caused a disruption of similar size and nature, and you are supposed to "protect everybody as a whole."

And that is what you said in explaining why you don't believe this is a free speech case.

"These young ladies have the right to express their views and opinions -- they have not been denied those rights," he said. "What we said simply was this type of advertisement is offensive to others in the community. I've been consistent. If even one or two individuals finds something offensive I'm going to ask that individual to remove it. I'm exercising my authority and judgment as a school administrator to administrate to the population as a whole."

Principal Brucato, you had better be damned even-handed in the future, because you have set the standard here -- having knowledge of one or two individuals complaining now REQUIRES that you apply EXACTLY THE SAME STANDARD in every case. You are no longer the principal of Milford High School -- you are the Supreme Censor. Enjoy your new role.

My closing comment is this -- I admire the young ladies in question, and think they behaved appropriately in this case. While I would have liked to have read that Amanda Chattman, Autumn Gerami and their classmates had told Supreme Censor Brucato to take a flying leap, I understand their reluctance to do so. The article does not make clear what disciplinary threat Brucato bullied them with to get them to forego the liberties guaranteed them under not merely one, but two separate constitutions, so I cannot judge if they surrendered their freedom too cheaply. I just hope that they do pursue the litigation that is clearly warranted, and that in the mean time they hold Brucato's feet to the fire by monitoring what other messages are allowed and by making complaints regarding ANY they find offensive (and maybe even a few they really don't, just to make the point). Good luck, girls!

» Zero Intelligence links with: Universal veto policy implemented at Massachusetts school
» JennyD links with: Carnival of Education, Week 13
» Blind Mind's Eye links with: Texas is finally doing something about zero tolerance policies

|| Greg, 11:54 AM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments

Academics Rise Up Against Union Support For Terrorists

Not long ago, The UK's Association of University Teachers decided to boycott two Israeli Universityies and examine the possibility of expanding that boycott to cover all Israeli schools. There has been an uproar since then, and now it appears that the boycott will never go into effect. Why not? Because of a grassroots rebellion by union members, some of whom have resigned while others are circulating a demand for an emergency meeting to repeal the ban.

The first academics to resign from the AUT, Shalom Lappin and Jonathan Ginzburg, have circulated an open letter calling on members to join them in breaking away from the union.

"For the past several years an ugly campaign of anti-Jewish provocation has been building on the margins of the Israel hate-fest that the boycott supporters have been promoting on campuses throughout the UK," they said in the letter.

"There comes a time when an organization discredits itself to the point that it can no longer be taken to stand for the values that it purports to represent. When this point is reached, one has no alternative but to disassociate oneself from it."

It seems that, contary to the expectation of the union's anti-Zionist/anti-Semitic leadership (more on that later on) , Jewish professors and supporters of israel would not stand by silently while the union supported terrorists who advocate a new Holocaust.

The condemnation has not just come from within Great britain, but has also been heard from around the globe.

A letter from the New York Academy of Sciences told the AUT that its resolution, "by selecting individuals and universities for boycott, is a very clear reminder of 'McCarthy-like' tactics of accusation."

The letter concluded: "We call upon the AUT to take immediate steps to rescind their regressive vote and join forward-looking academics the world over in voting for cooperation and not boycott."

In the mean time, the repeal movement has already gained significant headway.

Chris Fox, lecturer in Computer Science at Essex University, told The Jerusalem Post that the 25 signatures by AUT local association members required to submit a motion calling for the repeal of the boycott resolutions were being collected.

The motion would be heard in an emergency national meeting. Fox said that if the executive failed to call such a meeting, the AUT could expect further resignations.

"I will be resigning in the next few days if the national executive of the union fails to indicate an intention to act directly to reconsider or rescind the boycott," said Fox....

One Oxford Middle East studies professor has responded to the boycott by insisting that he be added to the boycott list, standing in solidarity with colleagues at the two boycotted universities.

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi, of the Middle East Center at St. Anthony's College at Oxford University, has written to AUT general-secretary Sally Hunt requesting to be included in the boycott.

"Oaths of political loyalty do not belong to academia. They belong to illiberal minds and repressive regimes," wrote Ottolenghi. "Based on this, the AUT's definition of academic freedom is the freedom to agree with its views only. Given the circumstances, I wish to express in no uncertain terms my unconditional and undivided solidarity with both universities and their faculties.

"I know many people, both at Haifa University and at Bar Ilan University, of different political persuasion and from different walks of life. The diversity of those faculties reflects the authentic spirit of academia. The AUT invitation to boycott them betrays that spirit because it advocates a uniformity of views, under pain of boycott."

"In solidarity with my colleagues and as a symbolic gesture to defend the spirit of a free academia, I wish to be added to the boycott blacklist. Please include me. I hope that other colleagues of all political persuasions will join me," Ottolenghi conclude.

Now some of you may argue that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. That argument has always been a weak one, but one British author and columnist makes it clear that, especially in this case, they are one and the same.

Author and columnist Howard Jacobson said that the boycotts underlined the fact that "Anti-Zionism is, after all, anti-Semitism."

Referring to Sue Blackwell, the Birmingham University lecturer who tabled the boycott motions, Jacobson said that "For Blackwell, the argument of history is only circular anyway. It is no defense of Israel that it has had to fight against being driven into the sea, because the sea, in her view, is where it belongs."

Howard also said that Blackwell's "feverishly pro-Palestinian Web site is under investigation by a Common's Committee [for] possible links with a site blaming Jews for 9/11." Blackwell later said that her Web site had included the link "inadvertently."

Blackwell has posted a triumphant message on her Web site, entitled: "Victory to the academic intifada!" Underneath a photograph of herself wearing a dress made from the Palestinian flag, and flashing a victory sign, the lecturer told readers: Yes folks, we won.

"Anti-Zionism, now, is anti-Semitic," said Jacobson, "because by the actions of its members, the Association of University Teachers has made it so."

So, what we have here is a group of terrorist supporters who have hijacked a union and politicized it in favor of their political goals. In this case, it is acting in support of those who murder Jews for being Jews, and who wish the six million Jews of israel to join the six million Jews of Europe slaughtered by Hitler. Fortunately their anti-Semitism has not spread so far into academia that there is no opposition.

And when they are through dealing with the jew-haters in their midst (indeed, among their leaders), maybe the membrship of the Association of University teachers will consider the issue of whether that corrupt organization needs to exist at all.

|| Greg, 11:02 AM || Permalink || Comments

April 29, 2005

An Interesting Discovery In Egypt

Here is a little something for my fellow history geeks!

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a number of rare Pharaonic seals of soldiers sent out on desert missions in search of red paint to decorate the pyramids, Egypt's culture minister said Thursday.

The 26 matchbox-sized seals belonged to Cheops, who ruled from 2551 to 2528 BC, in whose honour the greatest of the great pyramids of Giza southwest of Cairo was built, and show Pharaonic soldiers' ranks, the MENA news agency quoted Faruq Hosni as saying.

"These seals were used by a mission sent by Cheops to collect ferric oxide, which is necessary to make red paint," said Zahi Hawwas, secretary general of the Higher Council of Antiquities.

Over 50 pottery fragments bearing imprints from the clay and stone seals were found nearby in the region of the Giza pyramids.

"Artisans at the time needed ferric oxide to decorate the pyramids as well as (other) material and funerary installations of the IVth dynasty," to which Cheops belonged, said Hawwas.

"The seals proved the official nature of the missions sent to desert regions," he added.

"The mission was made up of 400 men and a group of people whose job it was to cook during the journey," according to inscriptions on the pottery pieces.

"Archaeologists also found a number of leather bags containing ferric oxide brought back by the mission," he said.

I will never cease to be amazed that, four and a half millenia after the fact,we are still finding the discarded refuse of the ancients and using it to learn about their lives and activities.

|| Greg, 11:24 AM || Permalink || Comments

Filibuster Follies

Once again, the GOP has tried to accomodate the obstructionism of the Democrats in the Senate. Bill Frist offered 100 hours of debate on each nominee to the Courts of Appeals, followed by an up or down vote on the nomination. The Democrats, of course, reject any solution that allows the will of the majority of Americans to be carried out.

Reid characterized the Frist offer in an interesting manner.

[T]he Senate's top Democrat immediately expressed doubt about the proposal, calling it "a big wet kiss to the far right."

I suppose that we could therefore characterize the Democratic obstruction of the majority rule as the extended fellatio of the extreme left.

Senate Republicans must do something. Either invoke the nuclear option or insist that the Democrats engage in a real filibuster by speaking 24/7, resulting in the shut-down of all Senate business.

|| Greg, 10:15 AM || Permalink || Show Comments (3) || Comments

April 28, 2005

More Chinese Persecution Of Catholics Loyal To Vatican

Just when it appeared that the Red Chinese might be ever so slightly softening their line towards Vatican involvement in Chinese Catholic affairs, they turn around and make a move like this.

Seven priests of the underground Catholic Church were arrested in China's Heibei province on Wednesday, April 27, the Cardinal Kung Foundation reports.

The priests had been attending a spiritual retreat led by Bishop Jia Zhiguo of the Zhending diocese-- who had been under 24-hour surveillance by police for most of the past month. Bishop Jia had reportedly been warned by Chinese officials that he should not schedule any religious activities.

The tight surveillance of Bishop Jia had begun when the death of Pope John Paul II appeared imminent, and continued through the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The Chinese government has established a history of crackdowns on the underground Church at times when religious sentiments are high-- such as Easter and Christmas-- as well as the time of major national holidays and Communist Party meetings.

The article does not indicate what has happened to Bishop Jia. Based upon this report, I presume he is still at liberty, though under observation by Chinese Security forces.

This action shows that the status quo is unchanged in China, despite official condolences offered by Beijing on the death of Pope John Paul II and congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI. Chinese Christians who refuse to be worship under the auspices of the official churches controlled by the Communist government will remain the subjects of persecution and martyrdom for the forseeable future. The international community will, of course, continue to ignore thse human rights violations, and China will continue to serve as a member of the UN Human Rights Commission.

UPDATE: If you want to see the degree to which Chinese Catholics are persecuted, follow this link. The shear number of priests and bishops prevented from exercising their ministry to their flocks is shocking.

|| Greg, 07:27 PM || Permalink || Comments

April 27, 2005

When Will The FCC Shut These Folks Down?

I’m a big defender of free speech, including speech that I profoundly disagree with. That said, I think these folks have crossed the line. Look at this skit from Err America’s Randi Rhodes Show, as reported by Drudge.

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

This isn’t the first time Rhodes has advocated the murder of George W. Bush. Last year, according to Michelle Malkin, Rhodes did this little number last May.

Comparing Bush and his family to the Corleones of "Godfather" fame, Air America host Randi Rhodes reportedly unleashed this zinger during her Monday night broadcast: "Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw. "

Rhodes then imitated the sound of a gunshot.

In "Godfather II," Fredo Corleone is executed by brother Michael at the end of the film.

Buh-bye, bitch – we’ll see you in 10-20 years. Such statements about killing the president are a crime.

UPDATE: It seems this is a serious story on which Drudge got the scoop. Even the folks from Err America are investigating Randi.

» links with: I Hear a Knock at the Door

|| Greg, 05:06 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (26) || Comments

Chinese Christians Persecuted – Not A Human Rights Issue For UN

I’ve written about the plight of Chinese Christians who refuse to join the state controlled churches. They are subject to arrest, torture, and other forms of abuse for exercising the freedom to believe and to worship as they choose. One would think such persecution would be of interest to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Sadly, though, it is not.

Not only is it not of interest to that organization, but one of its members, China, recently forced the suppression of testimony about the atrocities it commits against Christians. On April 5, Bob Fu of the China Aid Association, appeared before the group to testify about the case of Cai Zhuohua, a pastor imprisoned for printing Bibles without government permission. Fu noted the use of various instruments of torture, in Chinese prisons. This brought a most disturbing result.

One of the Chinese police's favorite torture devices — and one that has probably been used repeatedly on Cai Zhuohua — is a kind of electric baton. Bob Fu owns such a baton, smuggled out of a Chinese prison. He took it to Geneva after obtaining permission from the secretary of the UNCHR to conduct a demonstration of it during his testimony. This demonstration consisted of Fu's holding it in the air over his head and turning it on for six seconds.

Predictably, the Chinese delegation went berserk, its members claiming that the demonstration made them feel threatened. (One is left to wonder how they would feel if the baton were actually used against them.) They then demanded that Fu be booted from the proceedings. The commission's chairman, obliging chap that he is, agreed. Fu was escorted from the building and stripped of his U.N. badge. His baton was also seized, and has not been returned.

So, it is more serious to offend the government of a repressive dictatorship than it is for that state to engage in the torture of citizens exercising their human rights. How interesting. How pathetic. And they wonder why so many of us do not recognize the legitimacy of the UN any longer.

» Rhymes With Right links with: More Chinese Persecution Of Catholics Loyal To Vatican

|| Greg, 05:01 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (19) || Comments

Wed By Mail

Some folks want a big church wedding. Others would prefer something more low key, such as getting married by a judge at the County Building. But it appears that there is even a “no frills” way of getting married that eliminates all the ceremony – a wedding at which neither party has to appear. Believe it or not, you can do that in the state of Montana – even if both of you are not physically in the state. Believe it or not, it is legal, and can be done for under $1000.

Who gets married this way? Here's one typical couple.

First Lt. Derek Ping couldn’t wait to marry his fiancee. So he got hitched from 7,000 miles away, without even saying “I do.”

“When she told me we could get married without either of us being there, I thought it was pretty weird,” the 25-year-old soldier admitted. “Now that we did it — well, it’s still weird. But I’m glad we did it.”

The couple’s double-proxy marriage — a legal ceremony requiring neither party to be present — is among about 30 weddings organized by S&B Inc, nearly all military.

While several states allow a stand-in to say the vows for one spouse, the completely absentee nuptials are an option only in Montana; the union is recognized by all 50 states and the U.S. military.

The Pings, who live in Waco, Texas, had to fill out several identification forms and submit notarized statements of their sworn love before they received a marriage certificate in the mail. But for the couple, it was the only way to tie the knot while he was deployed in Iraq.

Soldiers are realizing that if they don’t make it home, the woman they promised to marry later will have no access to benefits if he dies. So rather than waiting, there is a way for the couples to get married now. It may not be romantic, but it is practical. Most couples apparently have a church wedding latter.

|| Greg, 04:57 PM || Permalink || Comments

Center For Gender Equity Doesn’t Practice It

At the University of California – San Francisco, it will be "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" on Thursday, with the program sponsored by the Center For Gender Equity. Unfortunately, the term “Gender Equity” has quite an Orwellian meaning. All you have to do is look at the scheduled program to understand that the program is being run in a manner that can only be described as “separate and unequal.”

For example, the 9- and 10-year-old daughters are being invited to participate in 17 hands-on activities such as working with microscopes, slicing brains, doing skull comparisons, seeing what goes on in the operating room, playing surgeon, dentist or nurse for a day, and visiting the intensive care unit nursery, where they can set up blood pressure cuffs and operate the monitors. They can learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness, how to use a fire extinguisher, how to operate several types of equipment -- even fire a laser.

And what do the boys get to do?

Learn about "gender equity in fun, creative ways using media, role playing and group games" -- after which, the boys can get a bit of time in with a microscope or learn how the heart works.

Yeah, you’ve got it – the girls get to experience all the neat things the University has to offer, while the boys get political indoctrination in Double-Plus-Good feminist thought. The Center’s director defends the two-track program this way.

Longtime center director Amy Levine, however, tells us the program isn't intended to give boys and girls the same learning opportunities -- nor, she says, is it a career day.

"It's about dealing with effects of sexism on both boys and girls and how it can damage them," she said.

Hence, while the boys undergo gender sensitivity training, the girls focus on their capabilities -- be it handling a scalpel or microscope.

Well, at least they are not claiming that the programs are equal – but I am a little bit scared that Ms. Levine is so proud of fostering discrimination at a public university using public dollars. What led to the decision to set up the two tracks?

UCSF tried mixing the boys with the girls a few years back, but Levine says it just didn't work out.

"It mirrored the same sexism that occurs in the classroom daily," she said, "where boys raise their hands more often, demand more attention and have discipline problems."

So now the boys have their own gender sensitivity program, where "they learn about violence prevention and how to be allies to the girls and women in their lives," Levine said.

So because boys acted like boys and girls acted like girls, there needs to be a separate program to emasculate the males and turn them into pathetic little Alan Aldas and Al Frankens. I hope that parents at UCSF have the courage to just say no to this pathetic attempt at social engineering, and that UCSF either mends it or ends it by the time next year rolls around.

|| Greg, 04:54 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments

April 26, 2005

B.C./A.D. Or B.C.E./C.E.

We got new textbooks at school last year. As I began to flip through them, I noticed that they used the traditional B.C./A.D. dating convention rather than the newer B.C.E./C.E. convention that has become more popular in recent years. Personally, I don’t have a problem with using either system, but it seems that folks on both sides of the debate are somewhat more worked up over it.

In certain precincts of a world encouraged to embrace differences, Christ is out.

The terms "B.C." and "A.D." increasingly are shunned by certain scholars.

Educators and historians say schools from North America to Australia have been changing the terms "Before Christ," or B.C., to "Before Common Era," or B.C.E., and "anno Domini" (Latin for "in the year of the Lord") to "Common Era." In short, they're referred to as B.C.E. and C.E.

The life of Christ still divides the epochs, but the change has stoked the ire of Christians and religious leaders who see it as an attack on a social and political order that has been in place for centuries.

For more than a century, Hebrew lessons have used B.C.E. and C.E., with C.E. sometimes referring to Christian Era.

This raises the question: Can old and new coexist in harmony, or must one give way to the other to reflect changing times and attitudes?

Now I don’t see why both sides cannot exist in harmony. The breaking point is still the same, and that is the life of Christ. But while I am generally accepting of the B.C.E./C.E., I was initially taught it as Before Christian Era and Christian Era. In my classes, I present both dating systems, and discuss the underlying reasons for using each. I also tell my students that they ultimately have to make a choice in what system to use, and that either one is acceptable – and then proceed to use B.C. and A.D myself for the rest of the year.

Now I am particularly shocked at this criticism that shows up in the article, indicating extreme ignorance or extreme bias.

Although most calendars are based on an epoch or person, B.C. and A.D. have always presented a particular problem for historians: There is no year zero; there's a 33-year gap, reflecting the life of Christ, dividing the epochs. Critics say that's additional reason to replace the Christian-based terms.

Hold on just one moment. There is no 33-year gap between the eras. The year 1 B.C. is followed by 1 A.D., marking the traditional year of the birth of Christ (who probably was born between 7 B.C. and 4 B.C.) – there are no years floating around in limbo, falling into neither category. And the lack of a Year 0 is a rather absurd idea as well. After all, when we start counting something, we do not begin by labeling the first one as zero. No, we count them out sequentially, beginning with the number one. The arguments the article makes are just plain stupid, and I cannot imagine any serious scholar offering them.

Now there is a legitimate argument to be made against using B.C. and A.D., and that is the fact that it makes every date into a statement about a religious figure who is rejected by about 75% of the people of the world – more, if one recognizes there are a lot of folks out there who call themselves Christian who have no particular faith in Christ. I certainly understand where making a religious profession every time one uses a calendar might trouble them.

"When Jews or Muslims have to put Christ in the middle of our calendar ... that's difficult for us," said Steven M. Brown, dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.

I accept that argument, which is why I’m not troubled by the usage of B.C.E. and C.E. as meaning Before Christian Era and Christian Era. It accurately acknowledges the reason for the reason for making a change in dating in the traditional Western calendar system, but avoids requiring anything that resembles a profession of faith. At the same time, it does not engage in religious cleansing, in that it acknowledges the historical centrality of Christianity in the Western world.

Not everyone agrees with me, though.

Candace de Russy, a national writer on education and Catholic issues and a trustee for the State University of New York, doesn't accept the notion of fence-straddling.

"The use of B.C.E. and C.E. is not mere verbal tweaking; rather it is integral to the leftist language police -- a concerted attack on the religious foundation of our social and political order," she said.

For centuries, B.C. and A.D. were used in public schools and universities, and in historical and most theological research. Some historians and college instructors started using the new forms as a less Christ-centric alternative.

"I think it's pretty common now," said Gary B. Nash, director of the National Center for History in the Schools. "Once you take a global approach, it makes sense not to make a dating system applicable only to a relative few."

Now I think de Russy overstates the case. The original use of the term in Hebrew schools was designed to be sensitive to both Christians and Jews, and I think that principle certainly extends beyond those two groups and into the world as a whole. But I think Nash carries the argument too far, given that the logical implication of his position is that we should develop a whole new calendar that begins with the year 1 B.W.S.S. (Because We Say So). And that ignores the fact that for some 15 centuries, dates in the West have been calculated according to the system set up by Dionysius Exiguus. It has become the de facto dating system of the world.

In the end, I find myself coming down on the same side as the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ Tim Callahan.

"Is that some sort of the political correctness?" said Tim Callahan, of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, an independent group with 60,000 educator members. "It sounds pretty silly to me."

The entire debate is rather silly. There are much greater issues for us to look at. In the end, any of the usages should be considered acceptable. This is a battle that does not need to be fought by either side, and from which all should disengage with an understanding that all three dating conventions will be tolerated. Anyone who cannot do that does not deserve to be taken seriously.

» Watcher of Weasels links with: Submitted for Your Approval

|| Greg, 08:28 PM || Permalink || Comments

Here’s An Irony

The liberal wing of the US Supreme Court upheld the right to keep and bear arms today, against the dissents of conservative judges who sided with the Bush administration in its attempt to restrict firearms ownership. And the entire case revolved around the question of whether or not a statute should be read literally.

In a 5-3 decision, the court ruled in favor of Gary Sherwood Small of Pennsylvania. The court reasoned that U.S. law, which prohibits felons who have been convicted in "any court" from owning guns, applies only to domestic crimes.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the majority, said interpreting the law broadly to apply to foreign convictions would be unfair to defendants because procedural protections are often less in international courts. If Congress intended foreign convictions to apply, they can rewrite the law to specifically say so, he said.

"We have no reason to believe that Congress considered the added enforcement advantages flowing from inclusion of foreign crimes, weighing them against, say, the potential unfairness of preventing those with inapt foreign convictions from possessing guns," Breyer wrote.

He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In a dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that Congress intended for foreign convictions to apply. "Any" court literally means any court, he wrote.

"Read naturally, the word 'any' has an expansive meaning, that is, 'one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind,'" Thomas said.

He was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy.

Small had answered "no" to the felony conviction question on a federal form when he bought a handgun in 1998, a few days after he was paroled from a Japanese prison for violating weapons laws in that country.

Small was indicted in 2000 for lying on the form and for illegally owning two pistols and 335 rounds of ammunition. He later entered a conditional guilty plea pending the outcome of this case.

The Bush administration had asked the court to apply the statute to foreign convictions.

It seems somewhat ironic here that the conservative reading of the statute brought the dissenting justices into support for one more liberal gun-grabbing scheme, and that the liberals supported gun ownership. After all, these folks would usually line up the other way on Second Amendment issues. However, Thomas has the matter right in noting that the plain language of the statute does not exclude foreign convictions. Breyer’s disregard for the plain meaning of the word “any” is one more example of the tendency of liberal judges to make the law say what they want it to say, not what it actually says.

On the other hand, I would have preferred that the entire statute be tossed as a violation of the right to keep and bear arms.

|| Greg, 05:27 PM || Permalink || Comments

Coulter Condemned

I’m not an Ann Coulter fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel I should comment on this story. It shows the hypocrisy of liberal academics when it comes to conservative speakers.

The Rev. Dennis Dease, President of Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas, condemned a speech by author and columnist Ann Coulter given last week at his school.

The president of the University of St. Thomas on Monday condemned a speech at the Catholic school last week by conservative author Ann Coulter, saying "such hateful speech vulgarizes our culture and goes against everything the University of St. Thomas stands for."

The Rev. Dennis Dease wrote in Bulletin Today, a university newsletter, that "although her presentation may have been meant as an 'act' or a 'shtick' to entertain by provoking those who disagree, such behavior unfortunately contributes to the growing dark side of our culture -- a disrespect for persons and their sincerely held beliefs."

Now I find Coulter a bit to vituperative for my taste, but you won’t find me condemning her speech at St. Thomas. After all, I wasn’t there, and haven’t seen a transcript.

That didn’t stop Dease. You see he didn’t attend the speech either, but has merely relied on second-hand accounts of the event. It’s sort of telling when an intellectual feels he can condemn the content and tone of a speech that he didn’t attend. Doesn’t THAT go against everything the University of St. Thomas stands for? Or does Rev. Dease think that “respect for persons and their sincerely held beliefs� doesn’t include giving them a fair hearing before condemning them for expressing those sincerely held beliefs? And would Dease have made the same sort of statement against Ward Churchill?

|| Greg, 05:25 PM || Permalink

Does Downey Need Another Drug Test?

Robert Downey, Jr. had this unusual exchange with interviewer Lorraine Kelly on the UK show This Morning.

The former Hollywood bad boy had daytime viewers choking on their cornflakes when he made the remark on ITV1 show This Morning.

Kelly, wearing an orange cardigan and black camisole which revealed a hint of cleavage, was hosting the show in place of Fern Britton.

She welcomed Downey Jr to the show by telling him: "You look fantastic, you look really well."

The 40-year-old actor replied: "Thanks. I was going to say that your t*ts look great too!"

A clearly shocked Kelly, 45, said "Thank you, that's nice," as Downey Jr added: "Particularly today."

Kelly managed to say: "Oh good, well I'm glad I made you happy."

Gazing down at her cleavage and adjusting her top, she said: "I didn't realise they were so out."

Kelly's co-host Jeremy Kyle, on his first day as temporary replacement for Phillip Schofield, stepped in to change the subject by saying: "Let's move swiftly on."

An embarrassed Kelly agreed: "I think we should."

Could you imagine such an exchange with Katie Couric?

|| Greg, 05:21 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments

Wouldn’t This Traffic Report Have Been Fun To Hear?

Some stories are just too good to ignore.

PIKESVILLE, Md. (AP) - A herd of buffalo somehow got loose and wandered around an upscale neighborhood Tuesday, disrupting traffic and alarming homeowners before officers managed to corral them in a tennis court.

More than a dozen police cars and a police helicopter were used to herd the roughly 10 beasts, authorities said.

"Somehow they figured it out; I've got to give a lot of credit to the creativity of our officers," police spokesman Shawn Vinson said.

Authorities have identified the owner of the buffalo but did not release the person's name immediately.

Residents in the Baltimore suburb first reported that buffalo were meandering along the road about 7 a.m.

Police shut down several major traffic arteries, including a section of the Baltimore Beltway, while they tried to anticipate which way the buffalo would roam.

Officers eventually managed to maneuver the buffalo onto the tennis court about a mile from where they first were spotted.

No word on deer and antelope sightings.

|| Greg, 05:20 PM || Permalink || Comments

April 25, 2005

Grad Student Banned From Poetry Class Over Poem

When you are in a poetry class, you are supposed to write poetry. Or at least that is what Southern Connecticut State University graduate student Edward Bolles thought when he signed up for English 202, Introduction to Poetry. But he and the professor, Kelly Ritter, had differences of opinion over the liberal political themes of poems selected by Professor Riitter, and the two developed a dislike for one anotehr. That led to Bolles to write a satirical poem about a racist white professor, loosely based upon Ritter.

That is when the crap hit the fan.

Southern Connecticut State University barred a student from a poetry class after his professor said a poem he submitted contained veiled threats to sexually assault her and her 3-year-old daughter.

The student, Edward Bolles, said his poem entitled "Professor White," was meant to be a satirical piece about globalization. In it, a Mexican student named Juan has a sexual encounter with the daughter of his white professor.

Bolles' professor, Kelly Ritter, found the poem "disturbing," according to an April 8 campus police report, and said she believed the poem was a threat. University officials prohibited Bolles, who is Mexican, from attending his poetry class while he was investigated.

Now there are some key differences between Bolles and Juan, and between Ritter and the poem's title character. The main one is that the daughter with whom Juan has a sexual encounter is a college student, not a three-year old, while Bolles was unaware that Ritter had a daughter at all.

Bolles said the poem's interracial affair symbolizes white America's feeling that Mexicans are corrupting their culture. The encounter is not violent, and the professor's daughter brings Juan home to meet her disapproving mother.

"I came in using a different set of reasoning as context to look at the craft of poetry, and she was put off by it," Bolles said.

The poem ends with the professor trying to get Juan kicked out of school by calling one of his poems racist.

Ritter, claiming that the poem was a threat of sexual assault against bothe her and her daughter, filed a police report and demanded Bolles be removed from her class. Not only that, but she demanded that the student be required to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. Presumably the results of that evaluation, had it been required, would have been the basis for seeking Bolles expulsion from the college.

Bolles, though, fought back. After being put out of his class, he began a protest around campus. It got the results he wanted, probably because of the embarassing publicity that his actons generated.

Bolles began publicly protesting the university's decision Monday, wearing a "Save Professor White" shirt and handing out fliers on campus. After that protest began and university officials received calls from The Associated Press Monday, Bolles received a hand-delivered, one-sentence letter from the administration:

"As a result of the investigation, I wish to inform you that no formal disciplinary charges will be filed on behalf of the university and you are permitted to return to your English 202, Section 1, course, Introduction to Poetry," Christopher Piscitelli, director of judicial affairs, wrote.

Bolles remains concerned about his return to the class. He declines to offer Ritter any apology, nor do I believe he should. Of greater concern is how he will be received by classmates following the two week absence from the class and Ritter's possible comments on it. He is also concerned about having fallen behind due to Ritter's persecution of a student she didn't like or agree with, amd whether or not he will be given a fair chance to recover from his forced exile.

And as an outside observer, I have to wonder what action will be taken against Professor Ritter for her unjust and unfounded actions against Edward Bolles.

» The Education Wonks links with: The Carnival Of Education: Week 12

|| Greg, 09:43 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (28) || Comments

California Legislature Seeks To Overturn Will Of Voters

The California Legislature is seeking to overturn the will of the people of California by considering Assembly Bill 19, “The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act,” would amend the California Family Code to make marriage a gender neutral proposition in the state. This would, of course, make homosexual marriage legal and recognized in the state of California.

Unfortunately, this would also overturn Proposition 22, passed by the voters in 2000. It reads as follows.

"Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Now I may be a bit slow, but that seems pretty clear to me. Marriage, according to the California voters, is one man and one woman. It isn’t two guys, two girls, or any other combination. The voters have spoken, approving Prop 22 with a 62% majority, and under the California Constitution the legislature cannot overrule that decision. But the supporters of homosexual marriage are still hell-bent on trying to validate and recognize something other than marriage between a man and a woman -- even if it means violating laws, constitutions, and the will of the people to get it.

|| Greg, 06:52 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (8) || Comments

At Last – Hate Crime Charges Brought

I recently commented on the refusal of New York City law enforcement officials to file hate crime charges in a racially motivated attack where the perpetrators were black and the victims were white. Well, someone higher up on the food chain finally listened to the outrage of New Yorkers and other Americans, and have upgraded the charges.

City lawyers overruled the Police Department and charged a band of Brooklyn toughs with a hate crime for allegedly shouting, "Black power!" as they beat up a group of girls in Marine Park, The Post has learned.

In a case that roiled racial tensions in Brooklyn — and became a rallying point on white-supremacy Web sites — locals are now second-guessing law enforcement.

Cops locked up five of the alleged attackers — all juveniles — but did not charge them with a bias crime.

The city's Corporation Counsel Office, which prosecutes cases in Family Court, raised the charges against the assailants.

Sources said the initial report did not include the comments allegedly made by the suspects. "It should have been a hate crime from day one," fumed one parent.

The article makes it clear that this was no simple fight in the park, but rather a premeditated action in which the original aggressors repeatedly set out to get more help to make sure they significantly outnumbered the six victims.

|| Greg, 06:48 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (4) || Comments

Watcher's Post

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

Also, there is a spot open on the Watcher's Council -- see this link for details.

» Watcher of Weasels links with: The Old Switcheroo

|| Greg, 06:44 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments

April 24, 2005

Greeley Gets One Right

I don't like the smutty novels that Father Andrew Greeley writes -- not so much because they are unbecoming of a priest, but more because they are not that good. I've been amused by his tentative efforts at science fiction, and more impressed by his scholarly works in sociology. As a teen, i was especially entranced by his study of American anti-Catholicism, and wish he would write more on the subject. He was the seminary classmate of one of my former pastors, and he cancelled speaking engagements some years ago to fly to be with some of my family's old neighbors and say the funeral mass for their teenage son when he was killed in a fall while rock-climbing. In short, I think he is a good man, even if I don't agree with him in a lot of areas. However today he writes a newspaper column that, in my mind, hits the nail squarely on the head.

Greeley begins by noting that young people seem quite entranced by the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI. How strange, he notes, that there is this "rock star" style enthusiasm for an old theology professor who espouses views that so many of these young people reject. Did John Paul II somehow endow future popes with this sort of charisma, an aura, that draws the young?

That possibility raises the question of whether the pope, almost by definition, enjoys an entirely new charisma -- an immediate appeal to young people. A second question follows on this day of Be Ne De To's installation as pope: Given the inexperience and shallowness of the young, how much is this charisma worth?

I submit that it is a license for a pope to teach and not an automatic guarantee of any other long-term religious impact. One heard often in Rome before the conclave that the new pope should be able to communicate with young people like the late pope. Yet, in truth, the religious attitudes and behavior of young people in every country where there has been a World Youth Day have not changed -- nor, for that matter, have the attitudes and behavior of adults changed in any of the countries John Paul visited. As collective religious rituals, these events were dramatic. They were a celebration of Catholic faith and Catholic heritage -- and as such eminently effective. But they didn't change much in ordinary human life.

My three pretty young Italian cheerleaders, unless they were different from typical Italian young women, would eventually sleep with their boyfriends before marriage and use birth control after marriage. They would see no contradiction between such behavior and enthusiasm for Benedict XVI. Does it follow that the new pope should try to teach as well as celebrate religious faith when he attends the next World Youth Day in Cologne?

An excellent question indeed, especially in a world faced with rising Islamist extremism and lukewarm Christianity that has too often surrendered to valueless secularism. What can Benedict XVI say to the assembled young people at this year's World Youth Day in Cologne (including some of my own students, traveling with a parish youth group led by one of my colleagues)? Greeley has an excellent suggestion -- start with the basics.

If he should tell them that they should reform their sexual lives, they will simply laugh. Far better that he listen to them talk about their religious faith and urge them to be patient and forgiving in all of their relationships and generous in helping others. Let sex wait for the next time or the time after. The re-evangelization of Europe cannot be done all at once. This is what I mean when I say that youthful admiration for the pope gives a license to teach -- wisely, cautiously and slowly, as any good teacher would.

Greeley is correct. Start with the basics of Christianity, and build from there. Begin with the fundamentals and build up from there. Just as one does not whip out The Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas and make it the starting point of catechesis and evangelization, one cannot begin with the nuanced and beautiful Catholic teachings on human sexuality without laying the basics. Too often since Vatican II, those basics have not been effectively taught, whether through neglect, rejection, or confusion, and have been drowned out by what then Cardinal Ratzinger called a "dictatorship of relativism" only a week ago. The Christian nature of Western society has been eroded over the course of decades, and there is no way that this pope will live to repair the damage. But the job is his to start, using the special affection this generation appears to have for the successor of St. Peter as a tool for evangelization. By beginning with the fundamentals of the faith, Benedict XVI may begin a revival of the Christian West that matches the fervor and explosive growth of Catholicism (and Christianity in general) in other parts of the world.

|| Greg, 02:11 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments

Defending Free Speech -- Even When It Is Distasteful

One of the bad things about defending the First Amendment is that it sometimes means defending the right of someone to say something you find offensive. That is especially true when PC types attempt to shut down "insensitive" speech, or when someone tries to be "humourous" about a topic which is not, in the least, funny. One such current case involves the newspaper of the University of Nevada -- Las Vegas, The Rebel Yell.

That which passes for humor these days is often nothing more than profanity-laced crudity attempting to evoke uncomfortable titters through shock. However, the same shtick that can fetch a living wage on the comedy club circuit can draw the wrath of the politically correct crew on campus. Advertisement

That was the scene a little more than a week ago at UNLV during a meeting of the advisory board of the campus newspaper, The Rebel Yell. About 40 students and faculty showed up to protest a column called "Ask Jubert."

Jubert is an amalgam of the names of the paper's editor and managing editor, Justin Chomintra and Hubert Hensen, respectively. The column, two-thirds of which is penned by Hensen, is meant to be a satirical send-up of advice-to-the-lovelorn columns, only written from the perspective of a doltish, misogynistic, rage-prone bully.

Until March the column reportedly had been met approvingly or indifferently. But then the March 7 "Ask Jubert" offered advice on how to "get back at an ex," by recommending -- tongue firmly in cheek and ripping off dialogue from the movie "Anchorman" -- that "the best way to seize revenge is with sudden, blinding violence. Punch the filthy pirate whore in her mouth. Show her exactly how you feel about her. The harder the punch, the more she'll realize how much you care."

Though it carried a disclaimer at the bottom saying, "The Rebel Yell does not condone any form of violence, especially domestic violence, nor cruelty against animals. (The column also contained advice on stringing up the ex's poodle.) 'Ask Jubert' is meant to be humorous and should not be taken seriously," it was taken quite seriously.

Now let's say this very clearly -- the piece is crude and offensive. I don't see why anyone would find it in the least bit funny. I don't understand why the young men in question would even think it was appropriate to publish something like that -- even if it is meant to be a satire on advice columns. That said, I also recognize that the First Amendment applies to it, and that those who wrote the column should not be in any way disciplined for their sophomoric attempt at humor.

Needless to say, there was a huge turnout at the next meeting of the paper's advisory board, demanding censorship of the paper and punishment of the offenders. Several law students had the audacity to demand that the paper be censored (did they sleep through their Constitutional Law class?) and that there be a ban on "hate speech" in The Rebel Yell (I'll bet they only wanted to ban hate speech against "protected classes", not whites, heterosexuals, males, or Christians). Fortunately, the board held the line and refused to impose such measures.

One professor, the head of the Women's Studies Department (raise your hand if you weren't surprised) joined in the call for censorship.

Several people found it a bit ironic that the chair of UNLV's Women's Studies Department, Lois Rita Helmbold, offered a jesting aside about refraining from using her martial arts skills on Hensen.

Helmbold conceded she made a joke but declined to elaborate. She described the advocacy of domestic violence as irresponsible journalism and not funny.

The professor also pointed out that student fees pay for operations of the campus newspaper, unlike other newspapers which people may choose to purchase or not. I thought that was a pretty good point and drew an analogy to taxpayers objecting to their money being used to sponsor "art" that consisted of a crucifix in a jar of urine. For some reason she didn't agree.

I love it when a liberal hypocrite doesn't commits the exact same act that she demands others be punished for, and refuses to concede that the principle of censorship that she supports could logically be extended to censor her point of view. After all, I imagine Professor Helmbold arguing, men are oppressors by nature, so they deserve to be beaten as an act of female liberation; and the patriarchal Christians are racistsexisthomophobes whose beliefs and symbols merit no respect.

In the end, the advisory board did not impose any sanctions or restraints on The rebel Yell. It did turn down Hubert henson's application to be the editor of next year's paper, but that decision appears to have been made on the merits of another candidate, not the controversy over teh column that caused such excitement. he plans on leaving the staff, and devoting himself to completing his degree in physics.

Advisory Board member Steve Sebelius, editor of the weekly CityLife newspaper and a former political columnist with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, makes this observation about those who turned out in favor of censorship and against freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

"If these people ever get hold of the apparatus of power, it will be a Hitlerian danger to free speech."

he is, of course, correct. And not just about those on the Left, but also about those on the Right who would require that words pass some ideological litmus test before being granted the protection afforded them without reservation by the First Amendment.

|| Greg, 01:51 PM || Permalink || Comments

BBC Sponsors Hecklers

We all know that the American broadcast networks are de facto arms of the Democrat National Committee. All one has to do is look at Memogate to confirm that reality. But when all is said and done, private businesses have every right to support whatever political philosophy they want. After all, the public can simply cut into their bottom line. A tax-supported broadcast outlet, such as the UK's BBC, needs to remain scrupulously neutral. Guess what -- they don't, and have now been caught formenting the disruption of a Conservative Party event.

The BBC was last night plunged into a damaging general election row after it admitted equipping three hecklers with microphones and sending them into a campaign meeting addressed by Michael Howard, the Conservative leader.

The Tories have made an official protest after the hecklers, who were given the microphones by producers, were caught at a party event in the North West last week. Guy Black, the party's head of communications, wrote in a letter to Helen Boaden, the BBC's director of news, that the hecklers began shouting slogans that were "distracting and clearly hostile to the Conservative Party".

These included "Michael Howard is a liar", "You can't trust the Tories" and "You can only trust Tony Blair".

Mr Black's strongly-worded letter accused the BBC of staging the event "to generate a false news story and dramatise coverage. . . intended to embarrass or ridicule the leader of the Conservative Party". The letter said that BBC staff were guilty of "serious misconduct". At least one of the hecklers was seen again at a Tory event in the North East, Mr Black added.

Last night, the BBC claimed that the exercise was part of a "completely legitimate programme about the history and art of political heckling" and said that other parties' meetings were being "observed". However, The Telegraph has established that none of Tony Blair's meetings was infiltrated or disrupted in similar fashion.

So, how did these folks get caught? What evidence is there that this was a BBC set-up, not simply a program on the political heckling?

Tory officials became suspicious at the meeting in Horwich, near Bolton, last Wednesday, when they saw BBC camera crew focusing on the hecklers rather than Mr Howard. They twice challenged the two men and a woman involved, and discovered they had been equipped with radio microphones.

Mr Black said that they described themselves as "shoppers". In fact, they were under direction from a BBC team making a programme called The History of Heckling for the BBC3 channel. The programme, whose producer is Paul Woolwich, is in the process of being edited.

Mr Black's letter said of the hecklers: "It is entirely clear to me that the success of their presence required an element of performance on their behalf, and that this was a premeditated event intended to disrupt the course of Mr. Howard's speech.

"I do not believe that the BBC should be in the business of creating news. It also appears that the same crew was at the Michael Howard visit to Stockton-on-Tees and it can be no coincidence that someone with them was one of these 'hecklers'.

Absolutely incredible! An arm of the British government supplied equipment to those looking to disrupt a rally featuring the head of the opposition party. This is serious stuff, given the fact that there is no evidence of the BBC sponsoring any such attacks on Tony Blair's Labour Party. Could you imagine the uproar in this country if PBS were to have perpetrated something like this against John Kerry during the last election? It would have been seen as proof positive that the Bush Administration was attempting to create a totalitarian regime (granted, the Left made that claim without any evidence whatsoever, but you see my point) and would have cost the president any chance at reelection. Heck, if the generally conservative Fox News had done this, it would have been viewed as a Karl Rove instigated dirty trick.

And yet this seems to have had little effect in the UK. That is too bad. If the British people had a little bit more spine, they would demand the resignation of the Blair government, the prosecution of those involved in this abuse of government power, and the end of the BBC as a tax-supported entity. Here's hoping there is at least enough spirit left in out cousins on the other side of the pond to see them reject Labour and its dirty tricks.

|| Greg, 01:13 PM || Permalink || Comments

April 23, 2005

Religious Freedom -- Saudi Style

In the West, Muslims practice their religion freely and with complete legal protection. This is fully in keeping witht he ideas that spring from the Enlightenment, that religious tolerance is necessary to a free society. But what of non-Muslims in Muslim countries? I think this example from Saudi Arabia says it all.

Forty foreigners, including children, were arrested for proselytizing when police raided a clandestine church in suburban Riyadh, the head of a wide-ranging security campaign in the capital said Saturday.

Lt. Col. Saad al-Rashud said the 40 were arrested Friday in the neighborhood Badeea. Their church, he said, contained crosses and was run by a Pakistani man who claimed to heal the sick. He allegedly was holding prayers, hearing confessions and distributing communion.

It is illegal to promote religions other than Islam in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. There are no legal churches in the conservative kingdom, where members of other religions generally can practice their faith in their own homes, but not try to convert people or hold religious gatherings.

Authorities said those arrested with him were foreigners, but did not specify nationalities.

A conviction on proselytizing can result in a harsh prison sentence followed by deportation.

Multiple thoughts spring to mind -- few of them suitable for publication. But I will say one thing, however unpopular.

If Saudi Arabia cannot see its way clear to allowing fundamental freedoms to its people, maybe it should be the next country liberated by the US military.

|| Greg, 08:41 PM || Permalink || Comments

Stewart Unrepentant

I didn't think I could get any angrier than I was when I originally posted on this last night. I was wrong. The San Francisco Chronicle has run a "news story" (actually a thinly disguised advocacy piece) about Lynne Stewart, the convicted terrorist supporter who admits that she passed operational information on behalf of the blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Not only did this violate federal law, it violated special administrative measures (SAM) imposed by the Justice Department to prevent the terrorist leader from continuing to direct his folowers from a federal prison.

"I argued that lawyering can't be interfered with by government regulations,'' Stewart said. "SAMs now seem to override a lawyer's sense of what is right and proper to do for a client. The government will decide that now.''

Damn straight the government will decide those things, when it comes to protecting national security. You ignore two things in your flawed analysis. First, the man committed an act of war against the United States and had been duly convicted at the time you acted. Second, when an attorney becomes a party to a conspiracy to commit a criminal act, attorney-client privilege no longer applies. Your complaint is, in effect, that you got caught and were not held to be above the law because you are a lawyer.

If you live out in the San Francisco area and want to show your contempt for this traitor, here's where you can view her schedule.

And since the Left has organized a letter writing campaign in an attempt to get her a lenient sentence for her betrayal of the United States, I would like to urge loyal Americans to write the judge urging that Stewart face the maximum possible sentence. Send them to the court at the following address.

Honorable John G. Koeltl
United States District Judge
Southern District of New York
United States Courthouse
500 Pearl Street
New York, New York 10007

My best advice is that they be typed, respectful, and note the seriousness of Lynne Stewart's actions and her utter lack of remorse for them. If you or someone close to you suffered any harm due to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center or other terrorist attacks on the United States, be sure to share that with the judge. Focus on the fact that America is currently in a battle for its survival against Islamist jihadis of the nature assisted by Stewart, and that her sentence should be severe enough to deter others from following her anti-American example. Urge the judge to sentence her to the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

|| Greg, 11:00 AM || Permalink || Comments

The Hate Speech Of Howard Dean

When he became head of the Democrat National Committee, Howard Dean said he was going to change the tone of politics in America, talking about what is right with the Democrats rather than defining the Democrats as the anti-Bush party. Well, let's take a look at how he has done.

• In a speech in Kansas in February, not long after his election as DNC chairman, Mr. Dean said the contest between Democrats and Republicans was "a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

• In Florida earlier this week, he accused Republicans of being "corrupt," saying, "You can't trust them with your money, and you can't trust them with your votes. ... Evangelicals don't like corruption either."

• In a closed-door Democratic fundraiser in Lawrence, Kan., he said conservative Republicans were "intolerant" on the issue of abortion. "They don't think tolerance is a virtue. I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."

• Speaking to Democrats Abroad, Mr. Dean called Republicans "brain-dead," saying the reason his party lost the 2004 race to the "brain-dead" Republicans was because of the Democrats' "tendency to explain every issue in half an hour of detail."

So, "Mr. Positive" (or should that be "Dr. Positive") has been anything but positive. Rather than defining what the Democrats are, he has maligned the Republicans as evil, corrupt, intolerant and brain-dead. Not only that, but after the Democrats complained about Republicans "politicizing" the Terri Schiavo case, Dean has promised to "use Terry Schiavo" to score political points against the GOP. Along the way, Dean has defined the Democrats as against Bush judges, against the Bush Social Security Plan, against Bush nominee John Bolton, and against virtually every policy initiative proposed or implemented by the Bush Administration.

So, Howard, where are your solutions? Where are your programs? Your platform can be summed up in two words -- "Oppose Bush". How can you claim to be positive when you spend your time engaging in nothing short of anti-Republican hate speech.

|| Greg, 10:11 AM || Permalink || Comments

Latin Lives!

When I was about 14 or so, the chaplain at Naval Training Center -- Great Lakes, Fr. R. Conway O'Connor (may he rest in peace) got approval to offer a Saturday evening Mass in Latin. No, not the Tridentine Mass, but the current liturgy promulgated by Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council. I got to serve mass, along with my brother and a couple of buddies. I was entranced by a language that I didn't understand, didn't recognize, but knew carried with it a weightiness and sense of the sacred that was missing in the regular vernacular mass that I was used to. Years later, while a seminarian, I was one of the guys who struggled to learn Latin from Sister Dorothy in the afternoons, though I soon dropped out of the class because it conflicted with choir practice. Looking back, i would have done better to drop choir.

The advent of the papacy of Benedict XVI may send a lot of folks scrambling for Latin dictionaries and classes in the classical tongue (or its ecclesiastical offspring). Just as a knowledge of Polish was helpful in the Vatican during the pontificate of John Paul the Great, it appears that Latin may become an important means of communication in a Church that has practically abandoned the tongue outside of "official" texts of documents.

Latin may be considered a dead language today, but for many centuries it was the language of the Catholic Church.

Forty years ago the Vatican decided to drop Latin as the official language of the mass and switch to the vernacular.

In the 1990s, even bishops stopped talking to each other in Latin when they went to official meetings at the Vatican.

When he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI originally supported the idea of dropping the Latin mass.

Now he is Pope, he has apparently had a rethink and Italians are struggling to keep up.

Now I am certain that the Tridentine Mass will not be making a major comeback, though this pope will probably allow its more liberal use where tehre is a desire for it. Nor do I think we will see an end to vernacular liturgies. What I believe we will see, though, is a move back towards the teaching of Latin in seminaries and the revival of the use of the language for liturgical purposes. I would expect that Catholics will be able to find a Latin liturgy in a local parish, if not their own, as one more option. And I suspect that we will see more use of the Latin language in liturgical celebrations for international gatherings, to communicate the message that the Church is universal and timeless institution.

And besides -- if we are to see the continued internationalization of the Catholic Church leadership, there needs to be one language that is shared among those who work in the Vatican and those back in the local dioceses and parishes of the world. It needs to be a langage that doesn't change from pontificate to pontificate, and which is clear and fixed in its meaning. So unless the Church is going to adopt Esperanto, there is one obvious candidate -- Latin, which was the language of choice for most of the history of the Church.

|| Greg, 09:26 AM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments

April 22, 2005

Muslims Threaten Swedish Preacher With Death

Oh, those ever so tolerant Muslims! Their "holy" book is filled with anti-Semitism and negative comments about Christians. Their religious law calls for the death of those who dare to speak against their religion or their prophet. So it should be no surprise that a well-known Swedish minister is in police protective custody following a provocative sermon.

Celebrity Pentecostal preacher Runar Søgaard is under protection by Swedish police after receiving death threats. A high-profile sermon where Sögaard called the prophet Mohammed "a confused pedophile" has triggered fears of religious war.

Excuse me? His sermon has triggered fears of a religious war? I thought Sweden was a Western democracy where religious rights were guaranteed to all citizens. Did I miss it becoming an Islamic caliphate?

Consider this little gem from one Swedish paper, quoting one of the Islamists who dominate Islam today.

"Even if I see Runar while he has major police protection I will shoot him to death," a radical Islamist told Swedish newspaper Expressen.

So what we have here is someone who is prepared to commit murder because a Swede dared to exerciee his rights under Swedish law. I cannot help but notice that the story protects the man's identity, lest he be apprehended by police and prevented from carrying out his religious duty to murder someone for daring to disrespect the founder of the religion that has bred the bulk of modern terrorism. After all, identifying him might also have put the newspaper or the reporter at risk.

And it isn't just a couple of radicals mouthing off, either.

Persons connected to the Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam claim to have received a fatwa, a decree from a Muslim religious leader, to kill Søgaard.

Muslim organizations have called Søgaard's sermon, which is on sale on CD at the Stockholm Karisma Center's web site, a hateful attack on Islam and fear the type of violent conflict that scarred the Netherlands after filmmaker Theo van Gogh was killed by an Islamic extremist for a controversial film.

Notice, they claim they fear that the sermon will cause a violent conflict. They claim they don't want it. Well, fine, then why don't you Muslims act to restrain the radicals among you who threaten to murder an innocent man for expressing his opinions? How dare you blame him for the problem, as if his rights were somehow subordinate to the feelings of the followers of your murderous sect?

That isn't, of course, what they are out to do. Instead they are making demands that Swedish Christians submit to Islam in order to be spared bloodshed and a reign of terror in their streets.

Imam Hassan Moussa, head of Sweden's imam council, demanded that Christian communities repudiate Søgaard's remarks, and promised that Sweden would avoid the ugly scenes experienced in Holland.

Yeah. Swedes should submit to the foreigner among them in their own country, and allow an alien cult to determine their religious rights. In other words, the people of Sweden need to submit to dhimmi status.

What needs to happen is for the Swedish government to follow the precedent set by Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the Reconquista. Muslims must convert to Christianity or be expelled for the good of the nation, to protect the liberties of the Swedish people. Threats of jihad cannot be tolerated.

And as such threats appear in other countries in Europe or the Western Hemisphere, the same course of action must be followed. Otherwise Western civilization is doomed.

UPDATE: DhimmiWatch has this post about the case. It appears that some Muslim authroities are calling for restraint. On the other hand, at least one denies the words of the hadith in order to deny the charge made against Muhammad.

|| Greg, 07:38 PM || Permalink || Comments

Convicted Terrorist Supporter Given Freedom To Travel

If this does not make your blood boil, nothing will. Lynne Stewart, convicted of knowingly and intentionally giving assistance to and communicating messages for the terrorist mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, is being allowed to go on a public speaking tour!

A federal judge is letting convicted terror lawyer Lynne Stewart jet across the country as part of her campaign to argue that she was unjustly prosecuted and to rally her supporters to raise funds for an appeal.

Trial Judge John Koeltl approved Stewart's request to travel to the Left Coast, where she has arranged to speak at nine events in the San Francisco Bay area and participate in at least six radio and TV interviews, starting today.

A jury convicted Stewart Feb. 10 of fraud, providing material support to terrorism, and filing false statements while she represented blind Egyptian terror cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Her sentencing has been pushed back to September.

Stewart faces up to 30 years in prison.

Frighteningly enough, this is not Stewart's first trip to give a speech to her fellow radicals and terrorist supporters. Since her conviction, Stewart has been permitted to travel to Florida, California and Boston. Seems that she is not considered to be a flight risk. Still, isn't she a security risk, given her past actions?

Frankly, I don't know why she was even allowed to stay on the streets pending her sentencing. She ought to be in a cage down at Gitmo, with the low-level terrorists who have made war on our nation!

|| Greg, 07:12 PM || Permalink || Comments

When Will Turks Admit To The Armenian Genocide?

It has been 90 years since the Muslim Turks began their genocide of 1.5 million Christian Armenians, but the Turkish government still will not admit to that crime.

VARAZDAT was six when his family were driven from their home by Turkish troops in 1915. But even 90 years after Ottoman troops began the slaughter of up to 1.5 million Armenians, fear still flickers in his eyes.

As the family and 200,000 other Armenians fled east from their homes in Van, near modern Turkey’s eastern border, Turk and Kurdish forces opened fire from both sides. “They killed so many. Mothers threw their children in the lake. They said it was better to drown them than let the Turks have them,” Varadzat Harutyuniyan told The Times.

Turkey still denies responsibility, minimizes the number of Armenian dead, and paints the Turkish people as the greater victim. It is illegal in Turkey for anyone to claim that this genocide happened. It refuses to have diplomatic relations with Armenia and refuses to allow traffic across the border the two countries share. This unacknowledged genocide is one of many factors that stands in the way of Turkey’s admission to the EU – no less that 15 countries have demanded that Turkey do so before the EU allow Turkey to become a member.

How deep is this denial and refusal to acknowledge Turkey’s crime against the Armenians? Look at the high level denial of the genocide by a high level Turkish official.

On Wednesday the head of the Turkish Armed Forces, General Hilmi Ozkok, called on Armenia to drop the genocide allegations. The 1923 Lausanne Treaty, which established modern Turkey, “put an end to the baseless genocide claims politically and legally,” he said.

Yet in the end, this political claim cannot hide the historical truth of the murder of over 1 million people by the Turks. A treaty cannot deny the reality of photographs of Turkish soldiers posing with severed Armenian heads held (or stacked) as trophies. Until Turkey is willing to admit its historical guilt in the matter, there can be no allowing it into the EU.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa makes the case clearly.

“The truth must come out,” said Lech Walesa, the former Polish President, at this week’s conference. “It is a just claim of the Armenians that Turkey’s entrance into the European Union should come after admitting genocide.”

When will our president label what happened as genocide? When will he join other world leaders in making it clear that Turkey cannot be considered a member of the civilized world until it acknowledges the crime of its jihad against the Christian Armenians?

|| Greg, 04:33 PM || Permalink || Comments

Pre-Dynastic Necropolis Found

Wouldn’t this be neat to see? A 5000-year-old tomb, the largest pre-dynastic funerary structure ever discovered, containing 7 bodies – including four who appear to have been human sacrifices.

The necropolis was discovered by a joint US and Egyptian team in the Kom al-Ahmar region, around 600 km (370 miles) south of the capital, Cairo. Inside the tombs, the archaeologists found a cow's head carved from flint and the remains of seven people.

They believe four of them were buried alive as human sacrifices.

The remains survived despite the fact that the tombs were plundered in ancient times.

Egypt's chief archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, said the discovery would add greatly to knowledge of the elusive pre-dynastic period, when Egypt was first becoming a nation.

The complex is thought to belong to a ruler of the ancient city of Hierakonpolis in around 3600 BC, when it was the largest urban centre on the Nile river.

Egyptologists say the city probably extended its influence northwards defeating rival entities. The unification of Upper and Lower Egypt eventually led to the establishment of rule by the Pharaohs.

Excavations at the site started in 2000 under the leadership of Egyptologist Barbara Adams, who died in 2002.

The site contains some of the earliest examples of mummification found in Egypt.

Call me a geek, but I find this stuff really cool.

|| Greg, 04:30 PM || Permalink || Comments

Frivolous Lawsuit Slapped Down

Are cows happy? The California Milk Producers Advisory Board has run a series of commercials making the claim that "Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." PETA filed suit in 2002, claiming that the ads were false and that cows live miserable lives, repeatedly being milked and impregnated before being killed.

"False advertising is no less harmful when it comes from government-run businesses," said Matthew Penzer, the attorney for PETA in the lawsuit. "Painting a 'happy' image of an industry that sends 400,000 cows to slaughter every year and their calves to the isolation of veal crates is deceptive, no less so because it is the government doing the deceiving."

California courts have ruled that the Board is immune from lawsuits, just like other state agencies.

And the liberals wonder why we need lawsuit reform. This case is a classic argument

|| Greg, 04:29 PM || Permalink || Comments

Wrong Headline Deceives Readers

10th Grader Shot and Killed

There is only one conclusion to be drawn. The story must be about some school shooting.

And then you read the actual story.

Police in Niagara Falls say a 10th grader was shot and killed after he tried to rob a pizza delivery man Wednesday night.

Detectives say the pizza driver admited he shot and killed 16-year-old Anthony Maurice Sheared, after he and another teen pulled a BB gun on him while he was making a delivery on Pierce Avenue.

Police say they will not charge the delivery man. They say he was acting in self-defense. "The driver was told to go to 1319 Pierce and was told to go to the back door and when he got out he was jumped by two men and they tackled him to the ground," says Niagara Falls Police Lieutenant Ernie Palmer.

The other teen, 16-year-old Aldeaz M. Lewis, was located by police and charged with second degree robbery.

Now, why is the fact that the dead felon is in 10th grade the issue being highlighted? He isn’t a victim of anything but his own criminal behavior and the preparedness of a guy just trying to make a living. There is no tragedy here – unless, perhaps, you consider the fact that the delivery guy didn't ventilate the other young felon as well.

|| Greg, 04:27 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments

It’s Sorta Hard To Feel Any Sympathy

When someone dies before their time, I tend to view that as a tragedy. But you know what, I can’t muster up a whole lot of sympathy in this case.

A convicted sex offender apparently committed suicide in despair over signs posted in his neighborhood calling him a child rapist.

Clovis Claxton, 38, was found dead by his father with one of the signs beside his body. It was less than a day after his release from a psychiatric hospital.

His mother blames Marion County Commissioner Randy Harris for her son's death. Harris proposed putting up flyers in the neighborhoods of sex offenders to alert neighbors.

Sheriff Ed Dean objected. He says he understands the concern of parents but doesn't want to see hysteria.

Sorry, Sheriff, but you have this one dead wrong. This guy is a convicted sex offender. The public has a right to that information. You have no right to hold it back out of some misguided concern for the criminals. Better that this guy be known by his neighbors to be a potential threat than that we have another kid killed by a child rapist who law enforcement isn’t keeping track of.

And as for the Claxton family, I’d like to say I’m sorry for your loss – but I won’t because I am not. Your son showed himself to be a self-centered bastard who violated others in an attempt to overcome his own inadequacies as a human being. Once he found out that he couldn’t hide from society and its disapproval, he took his own life rather than stand up like a man and face the consequences of his actions. Quite bluntly, I am glad he won’t victimize anyone else, and that is a sentiment I am sure is shared by anyone worthy of being called a civilized human being.

UPDATE: It seems that someone altered the posters in question, adding Claxton's address and the words "CHILD RAPIST" to the poster. That is appears to be a violation of Florida law, and a spokesman for the Marion County Sheriff's Department is talking about investigating the matter and referrign it for prosecution. I hope the local prosecutor has the decency not to file charges over someone adding truthful information to more fully inform the public of the monster in their midst. And if charges are brought, it sounds like an excellent time for a little bit of jury nullification.

UPDATE II: After pawing around Bob's website, I finally found some information to show that the accusation that Claxton was a Child Rapist or a continuing threat was untrue. As such, I have to change my view that his death was anything other than a tragedy/ Those who posted the innacurate signs should be prosecuted and convicted. That said, I still believe that all neighbors should be notified of the presence of sex offenders in their midst.

» links with: Commissioner Harris' "Campaign Posters" led to Claxton Suicide

|| Greg, 04:26 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (8) || Comments

April 21, 2005

Turley On The Senate Filibuster

Yesterday I commented on Mort Kondracke’s column on the filibuster of nominees to the appellate courts. I mentioned the views of Jonathan Turley, a liberal scholar of the law and judiciary, which Kondracke himself had referenced. Well, what should appear in my local paper this morning but a column on the subject by Turley himself?

The decision to nuke or not to nuke has obscured the real issue: Are the Republican nominees qualified or are they flat-Earth idiots? As a pro-choice social liberal, I didn't find much reason to like these nominees. However, I also found little basis for a filibuster in most cases. Indeed, for senators not eager to trigger mutually assured destruction, there is room for compromise.

Turley then goes on to analyze each of the judges that the Democrats label extremists who are unfit for the bench – or who they object to because a Republican president is not deferring to their home state Democrat senators. He indicates that the judges in question are generally well-qualified and within the mainstream of the law. In most of the cases he shows that the criticism is either wrong or insignificant. So strong are his objections to the use of the filibuster that he says, “For nine of the Republican nominees, Democratic opposition looks as principled as a drive-by shooting.”

Only three of the nominees present a problem for Turley.

Democrats are on good ground in filibustering William J. Haynes II, who signed a memo that appeared to justify torture of POWs and suggest that the president could override federal law — an extreme view that preceded abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Then there's 9th Circuit nominee William G. Myers III, a former mining lobbyist who, as an Interior Department official, advocated extreme-right positions on Native American and environmental issues, often in contravention of accepted law. Given the centrality of such issues to the 9th Circuit, there is reason to bar his confirmation.

Finally, there is the closer case of Priscilla R. Owen. She has a "well-qualified" ABA rating, but she is also indelibly marked by a prior public rebuke. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, her colleague on the Texas Supreme Court, said she engaged in "an unconscionable act of judicial activism" in restricting a minor's access to an abortion. That and other charges of activism leave Owen damaged goods for confirmation.

Of these three, I agree on one – the Haynes nomination. It is not that I think that Haynes was necessarily wrong in his position, because I don’t. But at this time, I think the issue is one that is too radioactive. Haynes might be a good nominee in a couple of years – just not now.

I’m not sure about Myers. Do his political positions prevent him from being an acceptable candidate for the judiciary – or at least for the appellate level, beyond which most cases never go? Perhaps. That he lacks experience on a lower court troubles me, because it prevents determining if Myers has an appropriate judicial temperament. I would not be troubled by his confirmation, but would not be troubled by his rejection, either. I just don't see his nomination as a hill worth dying for.

And then there is Priscilla Owens, on whom I steadfastly disagree with Turley. She has been a good justice here in Texas, and while I have disagreed with her position on a number of issues, I have accepted the reasonableness of her rulings. Turley wants to write her off because of an ad hominem attack by one of hercolleagues, the current attorney general. Frankly, I find that to be a pretty weak argument, given that the same statement could have been made against then-Justice Alberto Gonzales in the same case. More to the point, the ABA rated her well-qualified (the alleged “gold standard” for nominees, according to Senate Democrats at the time of Owens' original nomination) and the people of Texas have overwhelmingly reelected her to the bench since that case was decided. Those two facts, taken together, show that she is not an extremist, and is eminently qualified for the federal appellate bench.

Overall, however, I agree with Turley. Now, are there enough honest liberals -- more to the point, enough honest liberals in the Senate -- for such clear thinking to carry the day?

» Watcher of Weasels links with: Submitted for Your Approval
» Watcher of Weasels links with: The Council Has Spoken!

|| Greg, 07:10 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments

The New York Times – Hitler’s Paper?

The New York Times – the former “paper of record” for important news in the United States – has long accused Pope Pius XII of being silent in the face of the Holocaust, and of being “Hitler’s Pope”. The fact that it contradicts the evidence contained in its own pages – in one instance the paper called Pius “a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe”, and in another “a lonely voice crying out of the silence of a continent.” Yet recent scholarship has examined the New York Times response to the Holocaust. The results are damning – a paper published by a German-Jew buried the most important (and horrific) news of the twentieth century in the bowels of the paper rather than make it front-page news. At least that is the claim of one recently published book, Buried by the Times.

The author, Laurel Leff, a professor of journalism and a former reporter for TheWall Street Journal, has done a fine job of research in the archives of the paper of record. Others could have done that, but nobody has. More important, she has brilliantly analyzed the reasons Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the German-Jewish publisher of The Times, brought Jewish self-hatred to a head long before the rubric gained popularity.

In 1939, when the Nazis began to destroy the Jews of Poland, what bothered Sulzberger was Franklin Roosevelt's casual remark that Jews were a "race." He got FDR to call them a "faith," which settled the issue of the Warsaw Ghetto for him.

On the eve of Thanksgiving 1942, the State Department confirmed that 2 million Jews were dead in Europe, and it allowed Rabbi Stephen Wise, the leader of American Jewry, to announce the news. The Times didn't send a reporter to the press conference in Washington. Instead, it ran a short from The Associated Press - on page 10, surrounded by turkey ads.

What if FDR had announced the news? Then, even a scared Jew like Sulzberger would have been afraid to keep it off the front page. And if that happened, millions of Jews could have been saved.

What if Sulzberger and the Times had spoken out? What if they had actively covered the story of the extermination of Europe’s Jews? They might well have forced Roosevelt to speak out. Instead, over the course of 6 years they buried over 1100 stories in the heart of the paper, somewhere between the police blotter and the grocery ads.

One can always argue that Pius XII didn’t say enough, but it is estimated that the Catholic Church saved between 750,000 and 1,000,000 Jews during the war, much of it with the active encouragement and support of the pope. The charge that Pius was “Hitler’s Pope” is a blood libel.

On the other hand, it seems clear that Sulzberger and the Times were certainly in the pocket of the Roosevelt Administration – and that the muting of the Times at the behest of an anti-Semitic president most likely resulted in the deaths of millions because it allowed the malignant neglect of the Jews at a time when they most needed help. As such, would it not be fair to say, using the standard the New York Times has applied in recent years to Pius XII, that Sulzberger was “Hitler’s Publisher”, and the New York Times was “Hitler’s Paper”?

|| Greg, 07:01 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (5) || Comments

Excuse Me, Senator

The Democrats keep telling us that religion based attacks on political opponents are unacceptable and run contrary to the values of the Constitution. If that is truly the case, what is Senator Ken Salazar doing making these comments?

"I do think that what has happened here is there has been a hijacking of the U.S. Senate by what I call the religious right wing of the country," Salazar told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday.

He singled out Focus on the Family by name, objecting to full-page newspaper ads the ministry's political arm recently placed, targeting 20 senators in 15 states.

"I think what has happened is Focus on the Family has been hijacking Christianity and become an appendage of the Republican Party," Salazar said in an interview. "I think it's using Christianity and religion in a very unprincipled way."

Uh, Senator – who are you to call their religious faith into question? Is that not a religious attack? Isn’t that the exact sort of “unprincipled” behavior to which you are objecting?

|| Greg, 06:55 PM || Permalink || Comments

Let’s Hope They Soak Him For It All

Imagine this – you and a group of co-workers regularly buy lottery tickets as part of a pool. The drawing is held and the guy who buys the tickets announces that he has a winning ticket – but that it isn’t one that belongs to the group, but is instead one that he bought for himself. You and the rest of the group are out of luck.

Three hospital employees who thought they were about to split a second-place Mega Millions jackpot worth $175,000 are suing a co-worker who insists he bought the winning ticket for himself.

"I felt betrayed," said Veronica Edmondson, who is among the trio of Mount Sinai Medical Center office workers suing John Piccolo, the office's regular designated lottery ticket buyer. "We trusted him with our money."

Edmondson, 30, of the Bronx, said joy turned to anger when Piccolo called in late for work on Nov. 3 - a day after the drawing.

"Don't be mad at me, but I just won the Mega Million second prize," he told her, according to court papers.

"I exclaimed: 'We won, John!' to which Mr. Piccolo responded: 'No, I won,'" Edmondson said in an affidavit.

Edmondson told the Daily News yesterday that Piccolo offered to give her a Mega Millions umbrella that officials handed him when he picked up his check.
"He said, 'There is nothing you can do. The courts won't take it.' He even had the nerve to come to work and show us the receipt for the money with the taxes taken out of it," she added.

Guess what – Piccolo was dead wrong. The courts will take such suits – and have so far ruled in favor of the co-workers.

In a decision made public yesterday, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond said his co-workers have a convincing case.

She refused to throw out the lawsuit and froze $81,750 of the $109,000 Piccolo collected after taxes.

Piccolo offered each person in the pool $1,000 - but later halved it to $500 saying he needed money for a down payment on a house. "He offered some money because he thought it was the right thing to do," said his lawyer, Thomas Weiss.

No, Mr. Weiss, the right thing for your client to have done would have been to not rip off his co-workers. I’m hoping that by the time he is done paying damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs, he ends up deep in a financial hole – maybe to the tune of $175,000.

|| Greg, 06:50 PM || Permalink || Comments

Didn’t Ratzinger Silence Him?

One of the many “crimes” for which Pope Benedict XVI is often chastised is the “silencing” of heterodox theologians. In reality, all that actually happened was that their licenses to call themselves Catholic theologians were revoked. Want proof? Here is one of the silenced theologians, Father Charles Curran, offering his critique of the new pope's election and the continued push for Catholic orthodoxy, from his tenure-secured job teaching at Southern Methodist University.

I grew up as a typical pre-Vatican II Catholic. I entered the seminary at 13 and became a priest 11 years later, never questioning church teachings. But as a moral theologian in the 1960s, I began to see things differently, ultimately concluding that Catholics, although they must hold on to the core doctrines of faith, can and at times should dissent from the more peripheral teachings of the church.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Catholic Church feel differently. In the summer of 1986, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the powerful enforcer of doctrinal orthodoxy around the world, concluded a seven-year investigation of my writings. Pope John Paul II approved the finding that "one who dissents from the magisterium as you do is not suitable nor eligible to teach Catholic theology." Cardinal Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — told the Catholic University of America to revoke my license to teach theology because of my "repeated refusal to accept what the church teaches."

I was fired. It was the first time an American Catholic theologian had been censured in this way. At issue was my dissent from church teachings on "the indissolubility of consummated sacramental marriage, abortion, euthanasia, masturbation, artificial contraception, premarital intercourse and homosexual acts," according to their final document to me. It's true that I questioned the idea that such acts are always immoral and never acceptable (although I thought my dissent on these issues was quite nuanced).

Unfortunately, the Vatican — which was already moving toward greater discipline and orthodoxy — was having none of it. Seven years earlier, it had punished the Swiss theologian Hans Küng because of his teachings on infallibility in the church. Later, Cardinal Ratzinger "silenced" Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff, an advocate of liberation theology, for a year. Just recently, Ratzinger said U.S. Jesuit Roger Haight could not teach Catholic theology until he changed his understanding of the role of Jesus Christ.

Gee, imagine that. If you are teaching things that run directly contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, you can’t run around calling it Catholic theology. One would have hoped, of course, that fundamental decency and a sense of honesty would have prevented folks like Curran from making such claims. It didn’t, and so Catholic authorities acted to clarify the situation for the world – you cannot use the forum of a Catholic college or university to put forth ideas that diverge from Catholic truth while claiming that they represent authentic Church teachings.

Curran, of course, is distressed by the advent of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. The result is a call for the rejection of the teachings of the Church. If one is looking for evidence in support of the actions taken against him two decades ago, one need look no further than his continued rejection of those teachings and his attempt to undermine them in the minds of others.

|| Greg, 06:47 PM || Permalink || Comments

Why Don’t They Pop?

One of my buddies grew up in Ridgway, Illinois – the Popcorn Capitol. One of the questions he could never answer for me was why some kernels didn’t pop.

Well, the latest scientific research from the Popcorn Board out of Chicago gives us a potential answer.

It's long been known that popcorn kernels must have a precise moisture level in their starchy center -- about 15 percent -- to explode. But Purdue University researchers found the key to a kernel's explosive success lies in the composition of its hull.

Unpopped kernels, it turns out, have leaky hulls that prevent the moisture pressure buildup needed for them to pop and lack the optimal hull structure that allows most kernels to explode.

"They're sort of like little pressure vessels that explode when the pressure reaches a certain point," said Bruce Hamaker, a Purdue professor of food chemistry. "But if too much moisture escapes, it loses its ability to pop and just sits there."

The findings may help popcorn breeders select the best varieties -- or create new ones -- with superior hulls that yield few, if any, unpopped kernels. But for now, there's no way to screen out potential old maids before they end up in bags of popcorn.

Hamaker and his associates compared the microwave popping performance of 14 Indiana-grown popcorn varieties and examined the crystalline structure of the translucent hulls of both the popped kernels and the duds.

I’ll admit, it isn’t rocket science (and living so close to Johnson Space Center, I know plenty of rocket scientists), but maybe it will one day guarantee that that every kernel is “good to the last pop”.

|| Greg, 06:43 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments

Email The Pope

What a world we live in! The faithful (and the faithless, for that matter) are invited to write to Pope Benedict XVI at his new email address.

Got a prayer or a problem for the new pope? Now you can e-mail him. Showing that Pope Benedict XVI intends to follow in the footsteps of John Paul II's multimedia ministry, the Vatican on Thursday modified its Web site so that users who click on an icon on the home page automatically activate an e-mail composer with his address.

In English, the address is In Italian:

Vatican spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment on how many messages Benedict may have received already.

Pope John Paul II also had an email address, and made use of computers and the internet.

» r0x0rz links with: Pope Benedict XVI's email address activated

|| Greg, 06:38 PM || Permalink || Comments

April 20, 2005

Filth Or Freedom

Is loving one's vagina grounds for being suspended or expelled from school? Apparently it is in Winona, Minnesota. It seems that two students at Winona High School saw The Vagina Monologues, and wore buttons to school that read "I [heart] My Vagina".

Two Winona High School students have found themselves in hot water with school officials.

Why? Because after Carrie Rethlefsen attended a performance of the play "The Vagina Monologues" last month, she and Emily Nixon wore buttons to school that read: "I [heart] My Vagina."

School leaders said that the pin is inappropriate and that the discomfort it causes trumps the girls' right to free speech. The girls disagree. And despite repeated threats of suspension and expulsion, Rethlefsen has continued to wear her button.

The girls have won support from other students and community members.

More than 100 students have ordered T-shirts bearing "I [heart] My Vagina" for girls and "I Support Your Vagina" for boys.

"We can't really find out what is inappropriate about it," Rethlefsen, 18, said of the button she wears to raise awareness about women's issues. "I don't think banning things like that is appropriate."


I'll tell you, I have some mixed emotions here. There is clearly some redeeming content here, designed to address an "Important Issue" in society. I don't particularly want to see that stifled. Given that we are dealing with high school students, it isn't like they are unfamiliar with what a vagina is, nor with the issues in question. So while I wish the girls would find a different way to address the women's issues (after all, one act in the play glorifies the sexual abuse of a young girl by a lesbian babysitter who plies her with alcohol) I don't find the button that disruptive. I think the school administrators have likely made a serious mistake in their handling of the situation.

The buttons were not disruptive, it seems, until spotted by a secretary. Later, one teacher appears to have completely over-reacted.

Rethlefsen said school officials first told her the button was inappropriate in mid-March when a school secretary spotted it. That started a string of visits -- and debates -- with teachers, counselors, an assistant principal and the principal. A teacher barred Rethlefsen from her classroom as long as she wore her button.

"The principal said that by wearing the pin, I was giving people wrong ideas," Rethlefsen said. "That I was giving an open invitation [to guys]."

The girls said they tried to explain that the buttons are meant to spark discussion about violence against women, about women's rights. But Principal Nancy Wondrasch said others find the buttons offensive.

"We support free speech," she said. "But when it does infringe on other people's rights and our school policies, then we need to take a look at that."

Wondrasch said she thought they had worked out a compromise with the girls, allowing them to set up a table in the school to discuss women's issues. But Rethlefsen said school officials are insisting that they review and approve any information the girls want to present.

And then comes the issue of the shirts that the girls have ordered. Again, that is political speech that is protected. Here is where the school has gotten particularly heavy-handed, even more that with the prior approval requirement for the information table, which doesn't strike me as particularly unreasonable except for the circumstances that led up to that "compromise".

Nixon said more than 100 students are expected to wear the shirts. She added that officials have threatened real consequences if that happens.

"They told us that if a single person showed up wearing them, we're going to get expelled," she said. "People are going to wear them anyway."

And these shirts are where I could see a problem arising -- actually the same problem that might have been feared by those who objected to the buttons. What happens when the first satirist shows up wearing a shirt that says "I [heart] My Penis"? What about "My Penis [hearts] Your Vagina"? The whole thing has the potential to spiral out of control. Do we want various and sundry vaginas and penises, each with a different message, wandering the hallways of the high school? Is the decision of the school administration really all that unreasonable?

Frankly, I'm not sure. On the one hand, I applaud the girls in question and their supporters for dealing seriously with a serious issue. On the other, I see the potential difficulties. I am, without question, loathe to see prior restraint based upon a mere hypothetical. And I don't see how or where a bright line can be drawn between supporting the constitutional rights of students and lat the same time letting them know when they have crossed a line. If anything, this case is much more difficult than the Day of Silence/Day of Truth conflict I wrote about over the weekend.

Still, in the end I have to side with the "Vagina Warriors". They seem to have learned their lessons well when it comes to exercising their civil rights. Here's hoping they have learned to do so responsibly and respectfully.

UPDATE: Well, today was t-shirt day in Winona. About 40 kids wore the shirts -- turned inside out -- and two wore them right-side-out. The two girls were suspended.

After all the radio interviews, after all the newspaper stories and television stories and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails, Carrie Rethlefsen ended her lesson in free speech and democracy today by doing a simple thing:

She walked into school with her "I [heart] My Vagina" T-shirt's message in plain sight. About 40 classmates had walked in just seconds before after turning their T-shirts inside out.

And, minutes later, she emerged with another lesson learned. The administrators at Winona Senior High School mean what they say. They sent her home for the day.

"I'm happy," said Rethlefsen, 18. "I got my message out there."

Also sent home was senior Katelyn Delvaux.

Congratulations, girls, for standing up for freedom of speech in schools.

» Zero Intelligence links with: Vagina Monologue buttons forbidden at Minnesota school

|| Greg, 10:57 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (3) || Comments

Is The Pope Catholic?

Yes – and that seems to be the problem for some folks.

The election of Benedict XVI seems to have put a quick end to the love-feast that we have witnessed in the three weeks since the illness of his beloved predecessor, Pope John Paul the Great. Having been a lightning rod for criticism as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, it was inevitable the new pope would be controversial. Yet when it comes down to it, the real complaint seems to be that Pope Benedict XVI is just plain too Catholic.

Consider the criticisms found in this article. First we get the feminists who are seeking to undo the two millennia old practice of limiting the priesthood (and higher advancement) to men only.

The Women's Ordination Conference, a Catholic feminist organization working for the ordination of women priests, said the church desperately needs a healer, but the cardinals have elected a divider: "This is another example of how the hierarchy is out of touch with Catholics in the pews," said Joy Barnes, executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference.

Sorry, Ms. Barnes, there was never any possibility of you getting what your heart desires. The Church hasn’t survived for two thousand years by taking flash-polls and interpreting survey data. You may not like that – and you may even have survey results showing that two-thirds want just the “reform” you are backing. But that said, I wouldn’t count on that change happening. The weight of scriptural, historical, and theological evidence is against you, as my dear former professor Sister Sara Butler (herself once a vocal supporter of ordaining women until she studied the issue more closely) used to tell us back during my seminary days. And while I may now be an ex-seminarian married to a woman who is a former church pastor, I fail to see how such a change can be made in a Catholic context.

And then there was this comment from the “official” organization of American nuns.

The National Coalition of American Nuns noted that the new pope has the reputation of being "rigid in his position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, silencing and expelling theologians, priests and nuns whom he perceived as not being orthodox.

"He certainly is not known for his sensitivity to the exclusion of women in the Church's leadership," the nuns said in a statement.

Uh, ladies, the teachings of the Catholic Church are not the menu of your local Chinese restaurant. You don’t get to pick one from column A and two from column B. The “silenced” theologians (many of whom are incredibly vocal) were not teaching what the Church teaches, but claimed that they were. What else is the individual charged with ensuring orthodoxy supposed to do? And as far as alleged rigidity is concerned, that is a necessary virtue for one who is expected to be the arbiter of orthodoxy.

And where would we be without these words of dissent from those who utterly reject the teachings of the Church on human sexuality, yet insist that they (and not the Church hierarchy) get to redefine the historic teachings of the Church to meet their own desires?

"The new Pope is seen as the principal author of the most virulently anti-gay, anti-GLBT rhetoric in the last papacy," said DignityUSA President Sam Sinnett.

"The elevation of Cardinal Ratzinger is being seen by many GLBT Catholics as a profound betrayal by the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and betrayal of one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ as the loving Good Shepherd who reached out to the ones separated from the flock."

Sinnett called the election of the new pope a test of faith: "We express deep sadness for all those who will find themselves further alienated from the church because of Cardinal Ratzinger's assumption of the papacy. With their support and that of all our members and allies, we will re-double our efforts to speak the truth of our lives as faithful GLBT Catholics."

Never mind that the teachings of the Church are congruent with the words of the Bible itself in a way that the position of DignityUSA is not – they’ve got the truth and the new Vicar of Christ has it all wrong.

I could go on, but it is simply more of the same. Such theological luminaries as Maureen Dowd and Andrew Sullivan have weighed in, as has the New York Times. Their words lead me to ask one pressing question -- How did Catholicism ever manage to make it through its first two millennia without their prophetic voices to guide it?

UPDATE: Seems that I'm not the only one to have noticed that the objections to Ratzinger boiled down to his being too Catholic. This piece showed up in the London Times.

WHAT HAS been most enjoyable about the stunned reaction of the bulk of the media to the election of Pope Benedict XVI has been the simple incredulousness at the very idea that a man such as Joseph Ratzinger could possibly have become leader of the universal Church.

Journalists and pundits for whom the Catholic Church has long been an object of anthropological curiosity fringed with patronising ridicule have really let themselves go since the new pontiff emerged. Indeed most of the coverage I have seen or read could be neatly summarised as: “Cardinals elect Catholic Pope. World in Shock.”

As headlines, I’ll grant you, it’s hard to beat God’s Rottweiler, The Enforcer, or Cardinal No. They all play beautifully into the anti-Catholic sentiment in intellectual European and American circles that is, in this politically correct era, the only form of religious bigotry legitimised and sanctioned in public life. But I ask you, in all honesty, what were they expecting?

Did the likes of The Guardian, the BBC or The New York Times think there was someone in the Church’s leadership who was going to pop up out on the balcony of St Peter’s and with a cheery wave, tell the faithful that everything they’d heard for the past 26 — no, make that 726 — years was rubbish and that they should all rush out and load up with condoms and abortifacients like teenagers off for a smutty weekend? Or did they think the conclave would go the whole hog and elect Sir Bob Geldof (with Peaches, perhaps, as a co-pope) in an effort to bring back the masses?

Right on the head, Mr. Baker -- I only wish I had written it so well!

Update 2: I thought I had seen it all when it came to the anti-Catholic garbage of the Left. The I found this piece from, which is the web portal for the San Francisco Chronicle. Talk about disgusting and sacriligious!

This, then, was to be your biggest challenge. To make yourself relevant again, make yourself known. To make open-hearted and sex-positive and choice-happy and pantheistic changes to your dusty dying church that make the world sit up and take notice and applaud.

Is it still possible? Is there still a glimmer of hope that you might choose to buck dour church tradition and kick down the doors and throw open the stained-glass windows and remake yourself as modern, as inclusive, as the Pope That Changed Everything? Because right now, the world has this sad, sinking feeling again. All signs point to more of the same as the last bitter and bilious 2,000 years, if not even worse. All signs point to more repression, homophobia, intolerance, denial, insularity, guilt like a weapon.

Be thankful that the dark, evil hateful repressed, < YOUR BIGOTTED ADJECTIVE HERE > Catholics are restrained by a moral code that says to love their neighbor and turn the other cheek. If you wrote this about Muslims, they'd be purchasing an orange jumpsuit and sharpening their scimitars.

|| Greg, 06:31 PM || Permalink || Comments

Wouldn’t A Tune-Up Have Been More Useful?

I’ve had vehicles that I’ve not been pleased with, but never to quite this degree of hostility.

John McGivney had enough.

He loaded his .380-caliber handgun Friday afternoon, walked out to the parking lot of his Lauderdale-by-the-Sea apartment building and fired four shots into the hood of his ailing Chrysler.

"I'm putting my car out of its misery," McGivney told his landlord.

But the Broward Sheriff's Office didn't see it as a mercy killing. They arrested McGivney on a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm in public.

After a night in jail, he was back at his Bougainvilla Isles apartment on $100 bond -- the bullet-riddled 1994 Chrysler LeBaron LX dead in the spot where he left it. McGivney said Tuesday he hasn't tried to start the car and suspects that the four slugs he fired into it probably made his car trouble worse.

McGivney, 64, said the car has been giving him trouble for years and had "outlived its usefulness."

He called the shooting "dumb," and said he'll probably be evicted. But he doesn't regret a thing.

"I think every guy in the universe has wanted to do it," McGivney said. "It was worth every damn minute in that jail."

I'm curious -- which old car does this story make you fondly (o not so fondly) remember?

Mine would have to be that old Plymouth Volare wagon, painted silver-gray.

|| Greg, 06:12 PM || Permalink || Comments

Hey, Dems – Prove It!

Columnist Mort Kondracke makes a persuasive argument in his recent column on judicial filibusters. The Democrats may have a case for trying to stop some of the Bush appellate nominees, but not for denying a vote to all of them as a matter of routine action.

In the case of Bush's nominees, Democrats have scarcely tried to mount a campaign on the merits. The quick, now-routine resort to the filibuster suggests that Democrats don't think they can muster convincing, substantive arguments that the nominees are extreme.

George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley, himself a liberal, thinks that good cases could be made against Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, District Judge Terrence Boyle and former Pentagon counsel William Haynes.

However, he says that most of Bush's other nominees, including California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown and Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, while ideologically conservative, have demonstrated that they are principled jurists who put the law ahead of their beliefs.

Now I can agree with that sentiment. There could be among the judges denied an up-or-down vote some who are clearly unworthy. But the Democrats have not made that case – they have simply refused to allow the nominations to be voted upon as a matter of course. They haven’t debated or deliberated – they have insulted and assassinated their characters. In the end, real debate is needed on each nominee. A vote is necessary for each and every judge. And if the Democrats have any actual basis upon which to reject a judge, they should prove it before the entire Senate – and the American people.

|| Greg, 06:05 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (3) || Comments

April 19, 2005

Cubans Vote – But What Does It Mean?

Hey, they had almost 97% voter turnout in the election in the Communist dictatorship to the south of Florida – but does it really count as an election?

Justice Minister Roberto Diaz Sotolongo, who presides over the National Electoral Commission, said nearly 8.2 million Cubans, or 96.66 percent of those registered, went to the polls Sunday to elect 169 municipal assemblies across the island of 11 million.

"I don't think any other country has such a high voter turnout," Cuban President Fidel Castro said in a televised address after Diaz presented the results.

Cuba consistently defends its system as democratic, but critics of Castro's government argue that tight state control, a heavy police presence and neighborhood-watch groups that report on their neighbors prevent any real political freedom.

Though it is not obligatory to vote, pressure to participate is high. Municipal and national elections always have a high turnout.

The municipal elections, dubbed "the most democratic in the world" by Castro after he voted Sunday, take place every 2 1/2 years. The turnout in the last municipal elections was reported to be 95.75 percent.

Under Cuba's one-party system, municipal, provincial and national representatives are elected by citizens on a local level. Anyone can be nominated to these posts, including nonmembers of the island's ruling communist party — the only one recognized in Cuba's constitution.

So when it comes right down to it, the dictator allows a modicum of freedom and the people exercise it. But in the end, this freedom amounts to nothing, because the only legal party wields the real power.

|| Greg, 06:14 PM || Permalink || Comments

Why Not Let The People Vote?

Supporters of affirmative action know they have only tenuous public support for these programs. Most Americans believe that non-discrimination is a policy that should be worked both ways – protecting the rights of both whites and minorities. That is why the opponents of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative are seeking to knock the measure off the ballot, despite the fact that supporters turned in petitions with more than 160% of the required signatures.

A pro-affirmative action group says some voters were tricked into signing a petition they thought would protect affirmative action when the initiative would actually hurt those programs. The group filed a challenge with state election officials Monday afternoon in an attempt to block a proposed constitutional amendment targeting the November 2006 election.

"People were deceived," said Luke Massie, chairman of Operation King's Dream, a campaign affiliated with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "There is an overwhelming pattern of fraud specifically with black voters, but it extends beyond black voters to white and suburban voters."

The group backing the proposal — the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative — successfully defended the wording of its petition in state courts last year. The next fight could be certifying enough of the 508,000 signatures of Michigan voters collected in its petition drive.

The group must have at least 317,757 valid signatures of Michigan voters to qualify for the ballot. Michigan Civil Rights Initiative executive director Jennifer Gratz said she was confident her group has enough signatures to make the ballot, and that the claims made by BAMN and Operation King's Dream were without merit.

Ultimately, the question is this – why are supporters of affirmative action so unwilling to let the people of the state of Michigan have a say on this matter of public importance. If their case for affirmative action is so strong, they won’t have any problem in defeating the MCRI. -- or is that the crux of the problem?

|| Greg, 06:05 PM || Permalink || Comments

Axumite Obelisk Returning To Ethiopia

One of the more egregious acts of antiquities theft was the removal of an obelisk dating back to the Axumite kingdom from the ancient city of Axum by Mussolini. It is in the process of being returned, seven decades later.

A teenage Abebe Alenayehu watched Italian soldiers haul away Axum's revered obelisk nearly seven decades ago and never thought he would live to see its return.

But if the weather cooperates, he will see the dream he shares with his nation come true Tuesday when a giant cargo plane returns the 82-foot monument's top section to this wind-swept town that was the seat of the ancient Axumite Kingdom.

"The memory still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth," Abebe said about the loss of a monument that Ethiopians consider the symbol of their nation. "Every day for the last 67 years I have thought about the obelisk."

The Italian Foreign Ministry said Monday that the two other pieces of the 176-ton obelisk should be back by the end of April. Lattanzi, the Italian company organizing the return, says no one has attempted to fly such a massive monument before.

Abebe, 81, vividly recalls the day the masterpiece of the Axum civilization was taken away and shipped to Rome.

"All the adults in the town were under curfew," he said. "But we played with the soldiers who gave us sweets and sugar. We didn't realize what was happening, but our parents were hiding their faces and crying."

The restoration of this ancient monument is a fitting end to the evils committed by Mussolini and his forces against the Ethiopian people during the occupation of their nation from 1936-1941. And it sounds like it will be even more of an engineering nightmare than its removal was in 1937.

|| Greg, 06:01 PM || Permalink || Comments

Habemus Papam!

God has given us Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope Benedict XVI.

He was elected in only four ballots, which tells me that the Cardinals are pretty firmly united behind him. I also cannot help but suspect that this is the man who John Paul the Great would have chosen as his successor.

As I expected, Joseph Ratzinger did not choose to be called John Paul III. I had a funny feeling that Benedict would be the choice, and have said so repeatedly over the last few days. Many are linking him to the shy Pope Benedict XV, who tried so hard to end World War I. I think another model to consider would be Benedict XIV, who was concerned about the accommodation of Christian truth to the practices of non-Christian cultures.

I find the new pontiff’s words to the faithful inspiring and appropriate. Pope Benedict, for all his gigantic intellect, remains a humble man of deep spirituality.

"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard.

I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers.

In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help, and Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side.

Thank you."

We shall see how this papacy will develop. Will he be a pope in the image of John Paul the Great? Or will he be something completely different?

Update: I commented on the London Times piece on Pope Benedict’s youth in Nazi Germany. His detractor’s are already making scurrilous comments about him in relation to his brief – and legally mandated – membership in the Hitler Youth and military service. The Jerusalem Post provides some excellent insight into the issue – and also the important work of this pope in his predecessor’s reconciliation with the Jewish faith.

|| Greg, 05:00 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments

A Non-Latin Rite Pope?

NOTE: I finished this as white smoke rose over the Vatican. The election of the new Pope Benedict XVI is a great blessing to the Church, and to the world. I hope that the new pontiff will follow the path of ecumenical contact with the churches of the East, and will strive to honor the Eastern Rite Catholics and their heritage of faith.

* * *

As a kid, I first heard the term “uniate” used to describe the Maronite Christians of Lebanon. Later, I heard the term describe Ukrainian Catholics. I didn’t understand what the term meant at the time, but later study – especially during my seminary years at Mundelein – brought me to a deep appreciation of those in the Catholic Church who follow the rituals of Eastern Christianity while being in union with Rome. By extension, I also learned to appreciate the rich spiritual history of the Orthodox churches of the East. To this day, I wonder if they might serve as a bridge between the two halves of Christianity split asunder in 1054.

Joseph P. Duggan raises the same issue in a column on the possibility (however unlikely) of the election of an Eastern Rite pope. Two cardinals in the current conclave are of the Eastern Rite leaders, not Latin Rite. It is not inconceivable – though highly improbable – that one of them could appear on the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, clad in white. It would be a magnificent step towards full equality and respect for the Eastern Rites within the Catholic Church, and towards reunion between the oldest extant strains of Christianity. It would also be in keeping with one of Pope John Paul the Great’s fondest desires and most precious dreams.

John Paul visited numerous countries where the Orthodox Church is dominant and spoke of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches as equals, expressing hope that Christianity once again may "breathe with both lungs." He implored Orthodox Christians to forgive and set aside the schisms of the second Christian millennium and take inspiration from the first millennium, when the Churches of East and West were united. John Paul's encyclical letter Ut Unum Sint ("That All May Be One,") offered a bold invitation to all Christians for their ideas on how the papacy might be transformed to be more effective in promoting Christian unity. Even before Pope John Paul, some four decades ago, Orthodox and Catholic prelates rescinded their mutual excommunications, and the churches recognize the full validity of one another's ordinations and sacraments.

Duggan, of course, notes that one of the great changes that would necessarily be wrought by such an election would be the rethinking of mandatory clerical celibacy. While forbidden in the Latin Rite (and in the United States by a wrong-headed papal decree sought by American bishops n the nineteenth century), the Eastern Rites ordain married men as priests. It is hard to imagine that a pope from among the non-Latin Catholics would long retain the mandatory celibacy that dates back a millennium. Priests would not be able to marry, but married men could become priests. Precedent exists for this in the early history of the Church, and in the special dispensation granted to some Anglican and Lutheran converts over the last couple of decades. When one considers that the church historically has had a father and son serve as popes (in the sixth century – St. Hormisdas, the 52nd Bishop of Rome, and St. Silverius, the 58th), not to mention the married Simon Peter who is reckoned the first, this would be a return to tradition rather than a departure from it.

The election of an Eastern Rite pontiff would be a significant step for the Catholic Church, one that reaffirms its catholicity every bit as much as the election of a Polish cardinal to that office did in 1978. Duggan envisions a pope celebrating a liturgy using the vestments and rituals of the Byzantine or Syriac Church. And yet, there is nothing to stop that from happening now – and a strong argument for encouraging the practice no matter who the next pope is. After all, a pope leads a church which claims the hallmark of catholicity – universality – and as such he is called to be a shepherd to those who worship in the styles of the East every bit as much as those whose rituals are those of the West. Such actions would serve as a healing gesture of fraternal love for Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. May we live to see the day when the seeds planted four decades ago by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem, seeds tenderly watered and nurtured by Pope John Paul the Great during his papacy, bring forth a harvest of unity for the glory of the Risen Savior.

|| Greg, 11:30 AM || Permalink || Comments

Day Two -- Morning Session -- Black Smoke In Rome

There have been two votes taken, assuming the cardinals have stuck to their announced schedule. Shortly before noon in Rome, dark smoke billoed from the chimney over the Sistine Chapel. There is no new pope yet.

|| Greg, 05:06 AM || Permalink || Comments

April 18, 2005

Chronicle Smears Tax Activist Radio Host

Dan Patrick has been a thorn in the side of politicians in Houston for years. A couple of years back, he went state-wide when he led a group of listeners to Austin to protest the annual 10% appraisal increases allowed under state law. The experience made him an activist, as he and the common folks who took those buses to the Capitol were dissed and dismissed by Re. Fred Hill in favor of a group of lobbyists.

Well, after spending time digging through tax records to prove that politicians were getting favorable tax treatment by appraisal districts, I guess we shouldn't be surprised to find that the other side did the same thing to Dan. But whereas Dan did his work publicly, they did theirs undercover and anonymously, dumping the information they found in the lap of a Houston Chronicle reporter who would write a story that favored the stealth-tax supporters.

As a host on his own radio station, Dan Patrick has crusaded against rising property taxes.

Until this month, however, his taxes hadn't been rising as fast as everyone else's. It seems that Patrick, owner of homes in Katy and Montgomery, had homestead exemptions on both.

It wasn't his fault, really. As a professional slinger of zingers, he'd hardly leave himself open to something so easily verified on the Internet.

Which is how we checked out the anonymous phone tip. Sure enough, Patrick's home on Lake Conroe has a full homestead exemption, designed to lessen the tax burden on a primary residence. And his home in Katy also had a homestead break from the Katy Independent School District.

Until we made a couple of calls.

When Patrick transferred his homestead to Lake Conroe a few years ago, Montgomery and Fort Bend counties coordinated the removal of most of his Katy exemptions.

But Katy ISD straddles two counties and its school taxes are collected by Waller County. Montgomery didn't communicate with Waller, and Patrick didn't volunteer that he still had a KISD exemption because, he said, he didn't even notice.

Waller kept the exemption until contacted by the Chronicle. The county has billed him $595.

I left out the part of the story where the reporter gratuitously throws in Dan's real name (Dan Patrick is the professional name he has used in broadcasting in this city for around a quarter century), despite the fact that it did nothing to enhance the story. The sad thing is, Dan's real name may have been the only actual fact in the piece. According to his account over at Lone Star Times, it wasn't some reporter that prompted the change -- and Dan has the letters and paperwork to prove that he acted properly in this situation.

I made it very clear to Mr. Feldstein last week that I had done nothing wrong, that the facts of the matter are clear about my having done nothing wrong, and that he was being used by my political opponents in an attempt to harm me.

Knowing all that, he chose to go ahead and write this article anyway.

Here are the facts, which I am prepared to document and attest to under oath, in the course of a legal proceeding:

* For many years I lived with my family in Katy, located in Fort Bend Co., and listed that home as my primary residence.
* During the period that my home in Katy was my primary residence, I always paid my Fort Bend Co. property taxes on time and in full.
* Only for purposes of paying Katy Independent School District taxes, my home in Katy was subject to appraisal and assessment by Waller Co.
* During the period that my home in Katy was my primary residence, I always paid my Waller Co. property taxes on time and in full.
* Because my home in Katy was my primary residence, I claimed and received a standard homestead exemption from both Fort Bend and Waller counties.
* For the past several years, I have also owned a second home on Lake Conroe in Montgomery Co.
* Because my second home on Lake Conroe was not my primary residence, I neither claimed nor received a homestead exemption for it.
* During this period, I always paid my Montgomery Co. property tax bill on time and in full.
* In 2003 my home on Lake Conroe became my primary residence.
* As required by law, I immediately notified the proper taxing authorities in both Fort Bend and Montgomery counties, dropping my homestead exemption from the former and reassigning it to the latter.
* In situations such as this, not only is it standard procedure for Fort Bend Co. to notify Waller Co. of any changes in homestead exemption status, they have a legal obligation to do so.
* Fort Bend Co. taxing authorities have confirmed for me, on multiple occasions, both verbally and in writing, that they– not I– were in error by not following standard procedures or meeting their legal obligation to notify Waller Co. of my change in homestead exemption status.
* My "dual homestead" exemptions were the result not of my actions, nor of my legal negligence, but of multiple bureaucratic errors that the bureaucracy itself acknowledges I was neither responsible for nor aware of.
* When my property tax bills of the last two years came for my home in Katy (which was now no longer my primary residence), I paid what the taxing authorities told me I owed.
* Because of mistakes and errors made not by me, but rather by three separate taxing bureaucracies, over the past two years I wasn’t assessed approximately $500 in property taxes, out of a combined property tax bill for my home in Katy that totaled close to $20,000.
* In February of this year I received a letter from Fort Bend Co. taxing authorities notifying me of their failure to properly communicate with Waller Co., but including no statement as to the amount of back taxes I might owe as a result of their mistake.
* Also in February of this year I received a letter from Waller Co. taxing authorities notifying me of their failure to properly communicate with Fort Bend Co., but also not including any statement as to the amount of back taxes I might owe as a result of their mistake.
* Of my own volition, I contacted Fort Bend Co. taxing authorities and spoke with a supervisor, who was very professional, very helpful, and who made it clear to me that this mistake had been their fault, not mine.
* I asked the supervisor if I owed any back taxes as a result of their error, and she advised me that there would be a tax bill due of approximately $500 dollars.
* The supervisor informed me that there would be no penalty due if I paid the tax by May 1st, 2005, since this matter had not been the result of my error.
* I have that statement in writing, signed by the supervisor.
* When I informed the supervisor that I was selling that home, she suggested that I simply allow the taxing authorities to assess and collect that amount at closing.
* Despite having closed the sale of my former home in Katy at the beginning of this month (April), it doesn’t appear that any taxing authority took the amount of back taxes I accrued as a result of their error.
* I am in the process of verifying that fact, so that I do not overpay my taxes.
* In fact, I still haven’t gotten an official statement, from any taxing jurisdiction, telling me exactly how much I owe them as a result of their mistake.

Again, I want to be perfectly clear– I communicated to Dan Feldstein and the Houston Chronicle the substance of all of this information last week.

So it turns out that the appraisal authorities of three different taxing authorities screwed up his assessment and exemption -- and acknowledge it in writing. They made contact about the matter with him IN FEBRUARY, not last week, as the article implies. And Dan did exactly what most of us do when we receive that bill (if it isn't paid through a mortgage company) -- wrote the check and didn't go over the thing with fine-tooth comb. We assume that the agencies in charge have done their job correctly and sent us a bill for the correct amount. What's more, the total annual shortfall was around $200 a year over the last three years -- an almost insignificant amount on a tax bill that approaches $7000 annually. The short answer is that Dan did everything right, unless you believe that a taxpayer has an obligation to double-check the work of the taxing authorities for accuracy and competence.

Now Dan Feldstein seems miffed at something Dan Patrick said during the course of his interview.

"If you come after me, I'll come after you," he cheerily imparted to an inquiring reporter.

Well, Dan Patrick has an explanation for that as well.

I made that promise to Mr. Feldstein because as our interview went on it became clear to me that he was less interested in being fair than in smearing me– a suspicion borne out by the callous disregard for the truth evident in the article he finally produced.

Guess what -- when you are a reporter you usually are able to get away with writing a slanted hit-piece. Dan Patrick, on the other hand, has something that Dan Feldstein doesn't -- his own radio station where he talks about whatever he wants for two hours a day (wanna guess what today's topic was), a professionally maintained website that is reqad by many Houstonians where he can post a response that will be read, and an audience that will defend him. Were I Dan Feldstein, I would expect to be on the receiving end of a lot of heat over this attempted smear.

|| Greg, 11:35 PM || Permalink || Comments

Black Smoke -- No Pope

To no one's particular surprise, the Conclave has not elected a new pope. Black smoke was seen in Rome following the first vote taken by the cardinals. By tradition, the first vote is one in which cardinals cast votes for friends, esteemed colleagues, or a favorite son candidate from their own country or region. In 1978, for example, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla cast his first ballot votes for his beloved mentor, Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, in both 1978 conclaves. Serious voting will begin tomorrow.

Black smoke streamed from the Sistine Chapel's chimney today to signal that cardinals failed to select a new pope in their first round of voting, held just hours after they began their historic task: finding a leader capable of building on John Paul II's spiritual energy while keeping modern rifts from tearing deeper into the church.

"It seems white. ... No, no, it's black!" reported Vatican Radio as the first pale wisps slipped out from the narrow pipe and then quickly darkened.

As millions around the world watched on television, at least 40,000 people waited in St. Peter's Square with all eyes on the chimney, where smoke from the burned ballots would give the first word of the conclave: white meaning a new pontiff, black showing that the secret gathering will continue Tuesday.

In the last moments of twilight, the pilgrims began to point and gasp. "What is it? White? Black?" hundreds cried out. In a few seconds — at about 8:05 p.m. — it was clear the 115 cardinals from six continents could not find the two-thirds majority needed to elect the new leader for the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics. Only one vote was scheduled for today.

Few expected a quick decision. The cardinals have a staggering range of issues to juggle. In the West, they must deal with the fallout from priest sex-abuse scandals and a chronic shortage of priests and nuns. Elsewhere, the church is facing calls for sharper activism against poverty and an easing of its ban on condoms to help combat AIDS.

The next pontiff also must maintain the global ministry of John Paul, who took 104 international trips in his 26-year papacy and is already being hailed as a saint by many faithful

|| Greg, 10:56 PM || Permalink || Comments

Schumer Calls Filibuster Opponent “Un-American”

Many of us have noticed that the Democrats have been particularly hard on people of faith during the confirmation process. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the judicial filibusters that have been going on. Over the last year or so, many have called the Democrats on what appears to be a religious test for public office. Now you can agree or disagree with that analysis and still be a person of good will, in my opinion. Unfortunately, it seems some of the Democrats no longer see it that way.

Now Senator Charles Schumer has responded to the charge with an epithet of his own. He has attacked Dr. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council with a particularly troubling charge.

The conservative group's president, Tony Perkins, "stepped over the line," Mr. Schumer said. "He said it's people of faith versus Democrats."

"That is so un-American. The founding fathers put down their plows and took up muskets to combat views like that - that one faith or one view of faith should determine what our politics should be," Mr. Schumer said on the ABC News program "This Week."

Sorry, Senator, but your party has been relentlessly hostile to Christians and other believers over the last decade or so. In the wake of the recent election, your leadership even acknowledged that the Democrat Party has lost touch with typical Americans who believe in God and go to church. Why then is it “un-American” for Dr. Perkins to note the same trend?

Sorry, Senator, you stepped over the line by telling a religious leader that he is un-American for speaking out about his view of the great issues of our day. And dare I suggest that such an attempt to silence your religious Americans with such an epithet is, in and of itself, un-American.

|| Greg, 10:18 PM || Permalink || Comments

Those Who Betrayed Texas Homeowners

As I pointed out at the old place, we Texans were done over by a group of Republican legislators who didn't want to allow us to vote on a property tax reform amendment to the state constitution that is a part of the Texas GOP platform. Heck, they wouldn't even vote to allow their fellow representatives to debate the matter on the House floor.

These 36 RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) must be removed from office. Each deserves to be challenged and defeated in the primary by a Republican committed to property tax reform -- or during the general election by a Democrat who is committed to it.

Who are the guilty RINOs?

1. Ray Allen (Grand Prairie - DFW)
2. Roy Blake (Nacogdoches)
3. Dan Branch (Dallas)
4. Carter Casteel (New Braunfels)
5. Warren Chisolm (Pampa - Amarillo)
6. Byron Cook (Corsicana)
7. Myra Crownover (Denton - DFW)
8. Dianne Delisi (Temple)
9. Mary Denny (Denton - DFW)
10. Joe Driver (Garland - DFW)
11. Charlie Geren (Ft. Worth)
12. Tony Goolsby (Dallas)
13. Bob Griggs (Ft. Worth)
14. Pat Haggerty (El Paso)
15. Rick Hardcastle (Vernon)
16. Linda Harper-Brown (Irving - DFW)
17. Will Harnett (Dallas)
18. Fred Hill (Richardson - DFW)
19. Bob Hunter (Abilene)
20. Delwin Jones (Lubbock)
21. Terry Keel (Austin)
22. Edmund Kuempel (Seguin)
23. Jodi Laubenberg (Parker - DFW)
24. Jerry Madden (Dallas)
25. Brian McCall (Plano - DFW)
26. Tommy Merritt (Longview)
27. Geanie Morrison (Victoria)
28. Anna Mowery (Ft. Worth)
29. Rob Orr (Burleson)
30. Elvira Reyna (Mesquite - DFW)
31. Todd Smith (Euless - DFW)
32. John Smithee (Amarillo)
33. Burt Solomons (Dallas)
34. David Swinford (Dumas)
35. Vicki Truitt (Keller - DFW)
36. Buddy West (Midland)

Let's get 'em, folks. That especially goes for you folks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, since it seems that the bulk of this list is composed of your so-called Republican Representatives.

|| Greg, 12:16 AM || Permalink || Comments

The First Post

Well, this isn't exactly the first post. Ans many of you know, I've been posting as "The Precinct Chair" over at Precinct 333. I've moved over here and made some changes because I feel the need to get away from Blogger, and also because I've grown and changed since I began blogging last June.

My old blog began as an impulsive act. I wanted to put my tribute to Ronald Reagan out to the world, and so I wrote. I also wanted a place to express myself on issues of the day, since I was resolved to quit arguing over them with my wife, who is the very light of my life. And so I continued writing.

Blogging has expanded my horizons, made me thing about my views, and even changed my mind more than once. I'll avoid the cliche that "I've grown." I'll just say I've lived and thought, and experienced. I've made friends, made enemies, and had interesting conversations.. I'm glad that has happened.

Let's see how this site, now rather bare, evolves. let's see how this writer evolves, too. But expect to read more of the types of things you saw on the old site. Just expect to find them here instead.

|| Greg, 12:06 AM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 17, 2005

School Teaches Wrong Lesson -- Censors Students

Students do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate, according to the Supreme Court of the United States. However, student speech which disrupts the educational process may be suppressed by administrators in the interest of preserving the mission of the school. That is why this situation in Connecticut concerns me.

Four South Windsor high school students were sent home Friday after T-shirts they wore bearing anti-gay slogans caused disturbances, students and school officials said.

The boys, who wore white T-shirts with the statement, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve," say their constitutional right to free speech was violated.

"We were just voicing our opinions," said Steven Vendetta, who made the T-shirts with his friends, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi and another student who was not identified by the Journal Inquirer of Manchester. "We didn't tell other people to think what we're thinking. We just told them what we think."

Hold it here -- THE SHIRTS caused the disturbance? How did the articles of apparel cause a disturbance? It must have been the words on the shirts that were the problem, the message that they conveyed. But how did they cause a disruption? Obviously, they did not -- it must have been the response to the shirts.

Other students say they felt threatened by the shirts, which also quoted Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality.

"I didn't feel safe at this school today," said Diana Rosen, who is co-president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance.

You don't feel safe at school because of the words? They contained no threat. They expressed an opinion. Do you mean, Diana, that you feel unsafe when others are permitted to publicly disagree with you? How, pray tell (and I don't care if you are offended by my use of the word "pray") does the expression of an alternative religious, political, or social view make you unsafe? How do you expect to survive in American society, with its robust protection of free speech, if the expression of a contrary view reduces you to a tearful quivering mass of gelatin?

There is, of course more to the story, as this article makes clear.

Vendetta said the impetus for the T-shirts came earlier in the week, when students at the high school took part in the annual Day of Silence, a project orchestrated by the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. On the Day of Silence, students across the country do not speak, as a reminder of the discrimination and harassment experienced by homosexuals.

Students at the high school also wore signs showing their support for legislation that would recognize civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut, Vendetta said.

Vendetta and his friends, who oppose civil unions, wanted to make their feelings known.

"We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it," he said. "There is another side to this debate, and we're representing it."

So, after showing respect and tolerance for the views of the pro-homosexuality/pro-civil union students, who seem to have gone through the day unmolested, they decided to exercise the same rights, and expected the same courtesy. After all, the school clearly had created something of an open forum by allowing (perhaps promoting?) the earlier event. That made what these boys did fair game -- and it should have been expected.

Instead of tolerance, what the boys got from Ms. Rosen and her fellow students was something different. What they got from the administration was a threat of censorship, and the promise of a heckler's veto.

Almost immediately, the shirts drew comment and debate from other students, Vendetta said.

"I walked down the hall, and people were either cheering me on, yelling at me, or just sneering," he said. "It was the most intense experience."

Teachers brought the situation to the attention of high school Principal John DiIorio, who said Friday that the law protects students' freedom of speech, as long as that speech doesn't disrupt the educational process.

He told the boys they could continue to wear the shirts as long as they didn't become a distraction to others.

The students returned to class. But heated arguments and altercations ensued almost immediately, with some students becoming "very emotional," said student Sam Etter.

Rosen said that when she first saw the shirts, she "almost didn't believe it." She became very upset, crying and spending most of the day in administrators' and guidance counselor's offices. She also got into several arguments, she said.

"I saw a large crowd gathered during one of our lunch waves," said senior William "B.J." Haun. "A large debate was going on. It involved a lot of people. By the end of the day, everyone was talking about it and giving their two cents."

Eventually, DiIorio called the boys into the office and told them that other students were becoming "emotionally distraught," Shinfield said. He then asked the boys to remove the shirts. They refused and were sent home.

Gee, imagine that. The shirts promoted discussion. Where I come from, that is called learning, and perhaps even citizenship. Some of the discussions became heated and may have threatened to become physical. That should have resulted in the punishment of those who were fighting, not the censorship of the message. And poor, overly-sensitive Ms. Rosen seems to have spent the day lobbying for that censorship, when she was not confronting students and actively creating the disruption. Unfortunately, the spineless Principal DiIorio gave into those who wanted to make sure that the anti-homosexual/anti-civil union message was suppressed.

When all is said and done, I have three observations.

Steven Vendetta, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi and unnamed friend, while the message on your shirts may have been a bit more juvenile than I would have liked, I applaud you for being willing to voice your beliefs even in the face of an administrator who was wishy-washy about protecting your civil rights. I wish there were more like you. I hope that you and your supporters continue to press for your rights to be respected -- and demand that either you be allowed to wear your shirts or that the Gay-Straight Alliance be shut down as incompatible with the policies of the school, which forbid free and open discussion of homosexuality.

Diana Rosen, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you had any principles, you would have been out there defending the rights of your classmates to voice their beliefs, even when (especially when) you disagree. You are more than willing to make use of the First Amendment when it suits your purposes, but your actions that day showed that you are a censor and a dictator at heart. And since you are head of the group that conducted the Day of Silence, I suggest that you do not plan on holding one again. You have supplied your opponents with the weapon they need to shut you down by asserting that your fear and emotional weakness are grounds for silencing those with whom you disagree. All they have to do now is claim that your group and its message frighten and anger them. You may as well disband the group now, because you have made it impossible for your message of "tolerance" to ever be taken seriously.

Principal DiIorio, you are a failure as an educator. You had the opportunity to teach citizenship and respect. What you taught was censorship. Your actions were fundamentally wrong, and betrayed the very values your school is supposed to be teaching. At the first sign of a problem, you should have been on the PA system reminding the students of the values contained in the First Amendment, their obligation to tolerate messages with which they disagree, and the school's obligation to protect the rights of every student. You didn't. Instead you let the situation get out of control, and then silenced the victims. What you have taught is that hurt feelings and offended ideologies matter more than the US Constitution. In other words, you have undermined one of the very things your school is responsible for teaching. More to the point, you would NEVER have shut down the Day of Silence because students were angry, offended or "scared" by the message it communicated. You are simply a PC weenie who set these boys up to take a fall. You have no legitimate place in education.

|| Greg, 07:00 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Conclave Schedule

As I type, we are less that 8 hours away from the beginning of the Mass for the Election of a Supreme Pontiff, which begins the Conclave for the election of a successor to Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal Electors and their staff have already taken up residence in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they will live until they have completed their task.

The schedule for the Conclave will be as follows. All times are local time in Rome, which is GMT+2.

At 4.30 p.m. on Monday, the procession of cardinal electors will leave the Hall of Blessings for the Sistine Chapel. This ritual will be transmitted live on television.

Once in the Sistine Chapel, all the cardinal electors will swear the oath. The cardinal dean will read the formula of the oath, after which each cardinal, stating his name and placing his hand on the Gospel, will pronounce the words: 'I promise, pledge and swear.' Over these days, there has been frequent talk of the bond of secrecy concerning the election of the Pope. However, I would like to reiterate that this is just part of the oath. First of all, an oath is made to observe the prescriptions of the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis; then another oath is made that - and I quote - 'whichever of us by divine disposition is elected Roman Pontiff will commit himself faithfully to carrying out the munus Petrinum of Pastor of the Universal Church.’

After the oath, the master of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff pronounces the 'extra omnes,' and all those who do not participate in the conclave leave the Sistine Chapel. Only the master of Liturgical Celebrations and Cardinal Tomas Spidlik remain for the meditation, once that has finished they too leave the Sistine Chapel.

During the conclave, the cardinals will have the following timetable:

At 7.30 a.m., the celebration or concelebration of Mass will take place in the Domus Sanctae

Marthae. By 9 a.m., they will be in the Sistine Chapel. There they will recite the Lauds of the Liturgy of the Hours and, immediately afterwards, voting will take place according to the prescribed ritual (two votes in the morning, and two votes in the afternoon). In the afternoon, voting will begin at 4 p.m. At the end of the second vote will be Vespers.

After the two votes of the morning and the two of the afternoon respectively, the ballots and any notes the cardinals have made will be burnt in a stove located inside the Sistine Chapel.

Purely as an indication then, the smoke signals could appear at around 12 noon and at about 7 p.m. (unless the new Pope is elected either in the first vote of the morning or the first vote of the afternoon, in which case the smoke signal will be earlier). In any case it is expected that, along with the white smoke, the bells of St Peter will sound to mark a successful election.

According to Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, after three days without the selection of a new pope there will be a day taken for prayer and reflection. The voting will resume for seven ballots, then break for another such period if no new pope has been elected. This pattern will continue until a new pope is chosen. After the 33rd or 34th ballot, the Cardinal Electors may choose to reduce the margin from the initial 2/3 vote to a simple majority, or may limit themselves to only the top two candidates (or, I presume, both).

The identity and regnal name of the new pontiff will not be announced to anyone outside of the Conclave until the new pope is brought out to the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square. There will be no special notification of the press, as was done when on the death of Pope John Paul II.

|| Greg, 06:19 PM || Permalink || Comments

Ratzinger Smear

I'm not necessarily a supporter of the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as pope (I wouldn't oppose it, either), but I do object to this smear in the London Times.

THE wartime past of a leading German contender to succeed John Paul II may return to haunt him as cardinals begin voting in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow to choose a new leader for 1 billion Catholics.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, whose strong defence of Catholic orthodoxy has earned him a variety of sobriquets — including “the enforcer”, “the panzer cardinal” and “God’s rottweiler” — is expected to poll around 40 votes in the first ballot as conservatives rally behind him.

Although far short of the requisite two-thirds majority of the 115 votes, this would almost certainly give Ratzinger, 78 yesterday, an early lead in the voting. Liberals have yet to settle on a rival candidate who could come close to his tally.

Unknown to many members of the church, however, Ratzinger’s past includes brief membership of the Hitler Youth movement and wartime service with a German army anti- aircraft unit.

Although there is no suggestion that he was involved in any atrocities, his service may be contrasted by opponents with the attitude of John Paul II, who took part in anti-Nazi theatre performances in his native Poland and in 1986 became the first pope to visit Rome’s synagogue.

“John Paul was hugely appreciated for what he did for and with the Jewish people,” said Lord Janner, head of the Holocaust Education Trust, who is due to attend ceremonies today to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

“If they were to appoint someone who was on the other side in the war, he would start at a disadvantage, although it wouldn’t mean in the long run he wouldn’t be equally understanding of the concerns of the Jewish world.”

Now hold on for just a minute. The Ratzinger family was anti-Nazi, but the 14-year-old Josef Ratzinger was required by a 1941 law to be a member of the Hitler Youth until he could get an exemption because of his seminary studies -- all school children were. And yes, he served in an anti-aircraft battery, but he was drafted into that service at a time when the German Army was taking 15 & 16-year-olds and putting them on the front lines. Those who refused to serve were shot. Ratzinger himself deserted when he became aware of the slaughter of the Jews in the death camps, and was briefly held as in Allied POW camp.

You cannot make a Nazi or a war criminal out of a guy who was only six when Hitler came to power in 1933. It seems quite unreasonable to complain that a 16-year-old lacked the courage to place himself in mortal danger in the midst of the horrors that existed in wartime Nazi Germany. What is this really about?

It is about Ratzinger's theology, of course. He is one of the more conservative, orthodox wing of the College of Cardinals, and was the Pope's close associate and doctrinal point-man during much of John Paul II's pontificate. The two had been friends and colleagues since the Second Vatican Council, when they first met and worked together. Today they are frightened by the prospect of the man they have reviled for over two decades being mentioned prominently as a possible pope. And that is why some would do anything to keep him out of the Shoes of the Fisherman, even defame him and raise the spectre of Hitler and the Holocaust to tar a good and holy man.

His condemnations are legion — of women priests, married priests, dissident theologians and homosexuals, whom he has declared to be suffering from an “objective disorder”.

He upset many Jews with a statement in 1987 that Jewish history and scripture reach fulfillment only in Christ — a position denounced by critics as “theological anti-semitism”. He made more enemies among other religions in 2000, when he signed a document, Dominus Jesus, in which he argued: “Only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation”.

In other words, his detractors are gravely concerned that Ratzinger is the one thing they cannot tolerate -- a believing Catholic, loyal to the historic teachings of the Catholic Church, and cut from the same cloth as the Pope he worked with for nearly a quarter century.

By this time next week there will almost certainly be a new pope. And soon thereafter, I expect we will begin to hear the true story of what happened in the Conclave. The question is -- will it be a story of Ratzinger's ascent to the Chair of Saint peter, or of the making of some other pope, probably with his support?

|| Greg, 03:24 PM || Permalink || Comments

April 16, 2005

Cardinal Accused

I am unsure of what to make of this story. It paints Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in a very bad light, but will it have an effect on his electability? More to the point, was the accusation a political move made precisely in order to prevent him from being a serious candidate? After all, up to now he has been widely mentioned as a papabile -- a possible pope.

Just days before Roman Catholic cardinals select a new pope, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against an Argentine mentioned as a possible contender, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's spokesman today called the allegation "old slander."

The complaint filed in a Buenos Aires court Friday by human rights lawyer Marcelo Parrilli accused Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, of involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests by the military dictatorship, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin. The complaint does not specify Bergoglio's alleged involvement.

The priests were released after five months.

"This is old slander," the Rev. Guillermo Marco, Bergoglio's spokesman, told The Associated Press in Rome. "This is the week of slander."

Under Argentine law, an accusation can be filed with a very low threshold of evidence. The court later decides whether there is cause to investigate and file charges.

The Italian newspaper Corriere dell Sera called the accusations "an infamy fueled by Bergoglio's enemies," saying Saturday that far from participating in the kidnappings, the cardinal helped win the priests' freedom. It did not detail its sources.

The accusations against Bergoglio, 68, in the kidnappings of priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics are not new, being detailed in a recently published book by Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

Marco called Verbitsky "a gentleman of dubious fame who is advertising himself to sell a book," saying the journalist was "taking advantage of this moment."

So, do we have a man who cooperated in the kidnapping of a couple of priests under his authority? Or do we have an author who is seeking to sell his book by making the most of a sensational charge in it?

And will it make any difference for the humble Cardinal who is considered a bright light among Latin American contenders for the papacy?%

|| Greg, 07:32 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Black Perps, White Victims -- No Hate Crime

LaShawn Barber writes about this little atrocity from New York.

Imagine your kids playing basketball on a court at a playground. Suddenly, another group of kids appears and demands that your children leave. Since your kids are not done with there game -- and were there first, -- they refuse. Now they haven't done anything unreasonable, have they?

The new arrivals leave in a huff -- and come back with about 30 kids, shouting racial slurs and engage in a physical assault upon your children. Certainly there is a crime -- and given the language used during the assault, it must be a hate crime, right?

Wrong -- not if the children who are brutally beaten are white and the little thugs are black.

Invoking the name “Martin Luther King” and screaming “Black Power!” a gang of up to 30 black teens attacked four white girls in Marine Park in what police are saying is not a bias crime.

The March 30 attack was a hot topic at state Senator Marty Golden’s recent public safety forum.

According to witnesses and parents of the victims, four young girls from St. Edmund’s had the day off from school due to Easter recess. They were playing basketball during dismissal from nearby Marine Park Junior High School, when several Marine Park students demanded to use the court.

After adults intervened and asked them to wait their turn, the teens left - but returned in a pack of up to 30, both boys and girls, and stormed into the park.

Witnesses say the attackers were all black and called their victims “white crackers” during the bloody melee, which raged for almost 20 minutes.

“This is not being looked at as a bias crime,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Kevin McGinn said at the meeting.

Well why the hell not, Deputy Inspector McGinn? You have an unprovoked act of violence, prima facie evidence of racial animus, possible evidence of religious bias, and a violent attack by a mob on four little girls. What more do you need? Isn't an assault serious enough to cause the hospitalization of two victims by a mob shouting racial epithets sufficient to file such charges? Would their being beaten to death have been sufficient?

I mean, let's consider what happened in this vicious attack by a group of feral children (who have much more in common with a pack of wild dogs than the great civil rights leader whose name they invoked) attempting to maim or kill four little white girls who thought they had the right to play basketball on a public court in a public park.

“When I pulled my car up to the park, I witnessed a pandemonium I’ve never seen in my life,” said Debbie, a mother of one victim who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Her daughter ran to the car, screaming, “They’re going to kill us,” Debbie recalled. My daughter was so scared and kids were running around like crazy.

Pursued by dozens of teens, some of the girls were “literally running into traffic to save their lives,” she said.

One girl made it as far as a nearby house, but was dragged by her hair back into the playground by a “wolf pack of children,” Debbie said.

The St. Edmund girls were bleeding and beaten to the point where they had cuts, scrapes, footprints and dirt all over them - and the attackers surrounded her car and started pounding on the windows as Debbie tried to herd the terrified children into her vehicle.

It seems to me that the reason the police and DA won't call this a bias crime is that the victims don't have a high enough melanin content to be subject to equal protection of the laws. You and I both know that we would be seeing a hate-crime prosecution if this were an attack by 30 white kids on a couple of little black girls. We'd have Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party out in the street crying "No Justice -- No Peace!" We would probably still be reading about riots if you failed to file hate-crime charges if the victims were black and the perps were white.

Al Sharpton got a state investigation into the fake assault on Tawana Brawley. The LA riots provoked a federal prosecution of the cops who beat Rodney King. Where are the state and federal investigations and prosecutions here, of a hate crime perpetrated against white children -- and the failure of the legal system in New York City to treat this crime with the seriousness it deserves.

|| Greg, 10:26 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Marriage May Mean Jail For Border Patrol Agent

Immigration Enforcement Agent Ramon M. Sanchez Jr. makes his living by enforcing our nation's immigration laws. Unfortunately, he fell in love with a border jumper. Rather than do his job, he married her while fully aware of her immigration status.

Now Sanchez is facing jail for violating the vry laws he swore to uphold.

Immigration Enforcement Agent Ramon M. Sanchez Jr., 41, was charged Tuesday with harboring an illegal alien. Sanchez married the woman, Flor Liliana Velasco Barrera, on Feb. 25 of this year. But as early as last November he knew she was a Mexican citizen who was not authorized to live or work in the United States, even though she had been in the country for the past four years, authorities said. Sanchez, whose work involves transporting detainees and doing other support services for the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, was arrested Monday and could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dude -- what were you thinking? You knew her immigration status, and you didn't report it. Not only that, you helped her stay here illegally. Were you not aware that both actions were crimes? Or did you, in your arrogance, think the law didn't apply to you?

|| Greg, 10:14 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Santorum Makes The Case For Bush Judges

Senator Rick Santorum, who would be a hero of mine even if we had not graduated five years apart from the same high school (and had many of the same teachers), makes a great argument for ending the filibuster of Bush appeals court judges backed by a majority of the Senate.

Frankly, the records of two of these judges is sufficient to show that the "extremist judges outside the mainstream" argument fails miserably.

It has been almost four years since President Bush nominated Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Since then the Senate has held two hearings, conducted many days of floor debate, analyzed Owen's judicial opinions down to the last comma and attempted four times to invoke cloture so that debate could finally be concluded and the Senate could take an up-or-down vote on her nomination.

Not only has Owen withstood this intensive examination, she has shown time and again that the American Bar Association got it right when it unanimously awarded her its highest possible rating. She was also reelected with 84 percent of the vote in 2000 and had the endorsement of every newspaper in Texas. Owen has earned the support of a clear majority of senators.

She is not alone. This July will mark almost two years since the president nominated Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Brown started life as the daughter of a sharecropper in the segregated South and through hard work and determination became the first African American woman to serve on California's highest court. In 2002 she was called upon by her colleagues to write the majority opinion more often than any other member of the California Supreme Court. She was retained with 76 percent of the vote in her last election. In short, Brown has shown herself to be unquestionably trustworthy, highly intelligent and well within the mainstream, and she has earned the enthusiastic support of a majority of the U.S. Senate.

There is no legitimate basis for calling either of these women unfit for the federal bench. Allowing a minority to block their confirmation is nothing short of tyranny. As the support they have received shows, neither one of them is unqualified or outside the mainstream -- unless the overwhelming majority of voters in both California and Texas are outside of that mainstream as well.

|| Greg, 10:04 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Iraqi Tet Offensive

One of the enduring truths learned by enemies of America during Vietnam is this: Americans can be convinced they are losing if the enemy engages in a series of spectacular attacks, even if the Americans win. That's what happened during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The Viet Cong and NVA attacked, the Americans and South Vietnamese decisively defeated them, and North Vietnam won a PR victory.

The same thing is going on in Iraq, according to writer Austin Bay.

On April 2 and again on April 4, the terror gang led by al-Qaida's Iraq commander, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, launched "military-style attacks" on the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Baghdad. In the April 4 assault, U.S. forces took 44 casualties (most of them minor wounds). The terrorist gang, however, took 50 casualties, out of a force estimated at 60 gunmen.

On April 11, the gang attacked a Marine compound at Husaybah near the Syrian border. As I write, terrorist casualties are unconfirmed, but the assault flopped.

While bomb attacks on unarmed Iraqi civilians continue (particularly against Shiites), public opinion now matters in Iraq, and the thugs' public slaughters have killed too many Iraqi innocents. January's election dramatically lifted public morale and changed the media focus — suddenly, democracy looks possible, and an Arab Muslim democracy is al-Qaida's worst nightmare.

Hence the "Tet gamble." Bombs haven't cowed the Iraqi people — but perhaps the American people will lose heart and buckle if al-Qaida concocts a military surprise.

U.S. forces, however, are "hard targets" — unlike civilians standing in line to vote, U.S. troops shoot back. Since 9/11, al-Qaida has never won a military engagement at the platoon level (30 men) or higher. Coalition forward operating bases are heavily fortified.

Unfortunately for the American military, the press at home and the pro-terrorist Left are ready to paint every unsuccessful attack by the terrorists as an unmitigated failure of the US military. The terrorists do not have to win -- the ;eft-wing media and left-wing ideologues consider every assault on Americans (and innocent Iraqi citizens) to be a victory for the enemy by virtue of the fact that they still have the capability to make the attack. Under their logic, terrorist Eric Rudolph's cowardly bombing of abortion clinics was a victory for those of us opposed to abortion (it wasn't, as it betrayed our principles).

Looking at the bright side, we have the ability to defeat the terrorists in a war of attrition. The ultimate question is if the American and Iraqi peoples have the will.

|| Greg, 09:37 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Who Says Canada Is A Free Country?

This case proves once more how far Canada has strayed from the values and practices that characterize a western-style democracy. Is the day coming that we have to liberate her people from a government as oppressive as that of Saddam Hussein's was?

Calgary's police chief Jack Beaton has used a rare legal tactic to seize a computer from a private home that was believed to have been used to operate a website critical to Beaton and his senior managers.

Beaton obtained a civil court order this month to enter the home of a civilian police employee and seize the computer.

A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed.

So, let's consider the basic outline here.

A website criticizes government agency and its high officials.

The courts order the site taken down and the equipment used to engage in that free speech confiscated.

All comment on it is stifled by a gag order against the allegedly corrupt officials (who want the charges to go away) and the folks making the charges.

And local elected officials, for whom the police chief works, applaud the move.

However, Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, says Beaton acted properly.

"I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act," Burrows said.

"I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim."

So, if you are going to make critical remarks, the government can shut you down, preventing you from presenting that evidence to the public. That effectively means that there is no right in Canada to criticize the government if the officials involved do not like the criticism.

Now you may wonder what sort of accusations were made on the website.

Messages on the site said it spoke for officers who had suffered under Beaton's "corrupt" administration.

It stated: "We are the police, the communications officers, the administration staff and other police service members and employees that either have been the victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc., or we know someone who has."

Last fall, Beaton was quoted in the Calgary Herald as "vowing to take every measure necessary to get those behind the website."

He has also called the site "mean-spirited" and "in poor taste."

Four current or former police officers, who agreed to talk to the CBC about their concerns as long as their names weren't used, said promotions on the force are based on who you know, and that racist and sexist behaviour is tolerated.

Sounds to me like this was clearly raising issues of public concern about problems in a government agency. You know, the sort of things that citizens should be aware of and permitted to discuss freely in a democratic society. The failure of Canadian law to protect such a basic right is simply one more piece of evidence that our neighbor to the north has ceased to share fundamental values with the United States. When a public official is allowed to remain in office after making a public statement that he will "get" those who dare to criticize how he does his job by using the full police power of the government to suppress those criticisms, it is clear that the protection of fundamental rights no longer exists. What you have in such a case is an authoritarian system that feigns respect for civil liberties.

I'm curious -- where are all the liberals running websites that claim the Bush administration is oppressive and urging folks to flee to Canada? Why are they not speaking out against this atrocity?

|| Greg, 08:43 AM || Permalink || Show Comments (1) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Anyone Find This Obscene?

First the courts rule that Terri Schiavo could be starved to death despite no clear evidence of her personal wishes on the matter -- just the assertion of the person who stood to gain the most by her death.

Now we have this case, in which a court is allowing the government to overrule the clear intent of an enemy of the United States.

A Cuban exile on a monthlong hunger strike protesting his detention as a suspected spy was in a hospital's inmate ward Friday after a judge cleared the way for U.S. officials to have a feeding tube inserted in him.

Juan Emilio Aboy was being held at Jackson Memorial Hospital's inmate ward, hospital spokeswoman Lorraine Nelson said Friday.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck agreed with another judge's order to ``involuntarily administer nutrients'' to Aboy though a stomach or intravenous tube, and to restrain him if he attempts to remove it.

``Mr. Aboy is now completing his fourth week without eating. The decision to not eat was his choice. A court order was issued allowing the U.S. Public Health Service to take any necessary precautions in the interest of his health,'' said Nina Pruneda, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami.

So what we have here is a precedent that says you can kill the sick, but must intervene to stop a voluntary death.

Who says this country hasn't lost its way?

|| Greg, 08:36 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Preparations For Change

For some time now, I have been preparing to make some changes in my site.

I'll be changing the site name, the site address, the appearance of the page, the software being used, and even the handle I post under.


1) Blogger drives me nuts at times. They do a good job, but it runs so slow, and crashes often.

2) You never know -- I may not be the precinct chair in this precinct forever.

3) It's time for a change, and I'm nearly ready to make the move.

I'll tell you more later, when the move is ready.

|| Greg, 08:23 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 15, 2005

Border Jumpers Skip Deportation Hearing

Why would we think anything else would happen? They already took a dump on our nation's immigration laws once -- why would they change now?
Eleven illegal aliens who were released by federal authorities after a traffic stop in Fairfax County on Sunday did not show up for immigration proceedings yesterday.

"None of them came back, and I think that the fact that these aliens failed to appear showed the challenges of immigration enforcement," said Manny Van Pelt, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Mr. Van Pelt said about 30 percent of illegal aliens who are ordered to appear for immigration proceedings fail to show up. Of those who do appear, about 85 percent become fugitives if a judge orders them to be deported.

"We know full well that the honor system doesn't work and it doesn't make our job any easier when we're trying to focus on violent criminal aliens and trying to thwart terrorism," he said.

THEN WHY THE HELL DO YOU USE IT? You know that many won't show and many others will skip out if they lose their case. You know they are not here legally. Don't release them -- hold them until the hearing and then load them onto a bus or plane and get them to the other side of the border.

|| Greg, 11:30 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Pontification On Possible Popes

Sorry, folks, I couldn't help myself there. Some titles are just too obvious to resist.

I came across a couple of great articles on the upcoming conclave, and another on the history of the current selection process that I think might interest folks.

1) Conclave History. Where did we get this process of selecting popes? At one time, the people of Rome selected their new bishop (remember -- besides being the head of the entire Catholic Church, the pope is first and foremost the local bishop of the city of Rome) by public acclamation. That is how Peter's successor, Linus, was selected. The selection of a new pope by the cardinals was an innovation of the 11th century. Even as late as 1903, the article points out, the papacy was a political plum, and the selection of a new pontiff was as much a matter of international politics as it was of religion.

And, of course, there have been scandals and outrageous acts by popes and papal candidates. The Middle Ages and Renaissance were particularly notorious for odd goings on.

Nineteen elections lasted more than a month and several dragged on for many months, even years. Other successions descended into violence.

Consider the reign of Pope Sergius III in the 10th century.

His faction seized the papacy through armed force, and he had his imprisoned predecessor, Pope Leo V, strangled to death.

Chroniclers of the age claimed that Sergius had a son with a 15-year-old girl - who was later elected Pope John XII by the nobles who had backed Sergius. John himself became a notorious debaucher who was deposed, struck back and deposed his successor, and supposedly died while in bed with a married woman.

Then there was Alexander VI, who won the papacy just before the Protestant Reformation by bribing cardinals and promising lucrative jobs. His subsequent reign was ``marked by nepotism, greed and unbridled sensuality,'' the Rev. Richard McBrien writes in ``Lives of the Popes.''

Thanks to Alexander, the cardinals who elected his successor included his illegitimate son, appointed a cardinal at age 18, and the brother of one of the pope's mistresses.

Perhaps the most bizarre succession involved the ``cadaver synod'' of 897.

So much did Pope Stephen VI hate his deceased predecessor, Pope Formosus, that Stephen had his minions dig up Formosus' corpse. The new pope then held a mock trial for the old one, stripped the corpse of its vestments, cut off the two fingers that bestowed papal blessings and threw the body into the Tiber.

The over-the-top display did Stephen no good. His enemies rebelled, imprisoned him and strangled him to death.

And we cannot forget the period of French control of the papacy at Avignon, nor the multiple popes and anti-popes of the Great Schism.

The modern papacy, freed of the temporal concerns that existed when the popes ruled the Papal States, is now much more a spiritual and moral force in the world. The unification of Italy may have been one of the best things that ever happened to the successors of St. Peter, and they now only needed to be concerned with running the Church.

2) The Importance Of Papal Language Skills. I'd have to say that John Paul II made the ability to speak in multiple languages critical for a successful papacy. He was multilingual, and even if his Italian was week in 1978 (or even a quarter century later), his ability to communicate with the people of Italy was important. Let's be honest -- if your entire country is located in downtown Rome and you are the city's bishop, you need to speak Italian.

'Pope John Paul's ability to speak other languages allowed him to make better contacts with world leaders such as Fidel Castro and [Augusto] Pinochet," said Marco Politi, coauthor of ''His Holiness: John Paul II and the Hidden History of Our Time."

''The ability to speak another language could make the next pope more effective."

The pope's biographers say that in addition to Polish, John Paul could converse in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin.

But beyond that, English and Spanish are the two major languages of the faithful. Being unable to communicate in those two languages (or at least one of them, initially) will weaken the new pope. And since John Paul II made international travel an important part of the papacy, that linguistic ability is very important. As I remember from Denver, the fact that the pope, not a translator, was speaking to us was very important to the young people there. We understood him, and he understood us.

Will linguistic ability help propel some candidate to the papacy? Probably not -- but it might be a factor for some, such as Cardinals Ivan Dias of India, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Francis Arinze of Nigeria. They speak English, French, and Italian, as well as other languages.

3) A Black Pope? Personally, I don't see why not. While some are downplaying the possibility (perhaps as a means of safeguarding the candidacy of Cardinal Arinze or one of the other Africans), I don't know that it would be as big a handicap as some suggest. Africa is the growing Church today. Whereas a century ago the Irish and Americans were sending missionary priests to Africa to preach the Gospel, the opposite is happening today. Many dioceses have African priests working in them to help with the priest shortage. My seminary had 200 students, and about 15 of them came from Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria (I've heard about Cardinal Arinze for years) -- some of whom were here to stay, not to go home.

And Cardinal Arinze himself would be a good candidate. At age 72, he is young enough to be pope for a decade or so, but not so young as to stay a quarter century. And there is the fact that he has spent so much time working in the Vatican that he is practically a Roman.

The leading African candidate is Cardinal Francis Arinze, a 72-year-old Nigerian who has worked at the Vatican for more than 20 years, mostly as the pope's point man for Islamic relations.

While he is not the only African candidate, his combination of Vatican knowledge, theological conservatism, pastoral experience and deep spirituality makes him the favourite.

I would not be surprised to see a black hand bestowing the next papal blessing, though I will not be so bold as to make that a definitive prediction. It's just that the election of Cardinal Arinze would make a lot of sense, as the above quote indicates.

Enough for now. Pray for the holy Spirit to guide the Cardinals, an for the Cardinals to be open to the Spirit.

|| Greg, 10:31 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

This Evidence Makes Crime Easy To Solve

I mean, this would have been one heck of an identifying feature – and the source of plenty of DNA evidence.
A woman bit off the tongue of her alleged rapist and then gave it to police as evidence, Free State police said on Friday.

Captain Veronica Ntepe said the 32-year-old woman from Mahlatswetsa, near Excelsior, was woken up on Thursday night when a man broke into her bedroom at around 11pm.

While allegedly raping the woman, the man forced his tongue into her mouth.

"This was the gravest mistake he made. The woman bit (off) the front part of his tongue," Ntepe said. The man immediately ran away.

The woman called the police and handed over the piece of tongue.

Police put out an alert for a man with a piece of his tongue missing.

A suspect was arrested on Friday afternoon.

Police have sent the tongue to the forensic science laboratory in Pretoria to test whether it belonged to the arrested man.

The 23-year-old man, from Mahlatswetsa, will face charges of rape and house-breaking in the Excelsior magistrate's court on Monday.

Too bad she couldn't have done more significan damage.

|| Greg, 10:14 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 14, 2005

Am I The Only One Not Troubled?

I hope not, and I suspect not.

We were told that lethal injection was humane and painless. Fine, I thought at the time, if that would deal with the issue of "humane treatment" for those squeamish about the administration of the appropriate penalty for some crimes, that is fine. Now it turns out that this method of execution may not be quite as painless as it was billed. I find myself singularly unmoved with compassion towards the condemned.

As many as four of every 10 prisoners put to death in the United States might receive inadequate anesthesia, causing them to remain conscious and experience blistering pain during a lethal injection.

Researchers in Florida and Virginia drew this conclusion after reviewing levels of anesthetic in the blood of 49 inmates after they were executed.

"I approached this as a physician," said the study's lead author, Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, chairman of surgical oncology at the University of Miami. "We were asking: Is there a possibility of awareness during an execution? Is there a large degree of pain and suffering associated with it? And I think the answer we found is yes."

Of the inmates studied in a report published by the British journal The Lancet, 43 percent had concentrations of anesthetic in their blood — as measured by medical examiners during autopsies — that would indicate consciousness rather than sedation during an execution.

Koniaris, who says he does not oppose the death penalty, thinks the study warrants a moratorium on executions until a publicly appointed panel can review whether some inmates remain conscious during lethal injection.

"If that's the case, as a society we need to step back and ask whether we want to torture these people or not," he said.

And I have to be honest – I don’t give a rat’s ass if they feel pain or not. I had no moral qualms about the gas chamber or the electric chair, and wouldn’t mind if the hangman’s noose or the firing squad were reintroduced. Hell, I would have no moral qualms about coating pedophiles and rapists with honey and staking them out over fire ant hills. While I’m not a native Texan, I have to agree with those who hold to the philosophy that “some folks just need killin’.” Generally speaking, though, I’m open to discussion about the method. And I am willing to discuss alternatives to the death penalty --life without parole beling the minimum.

But frankly, I have to disagree with the editorial from the Lancet that is quoted in the story.

The implications of an ineffective anesthetic are, in the words of a Lancet editorial accompanying the article, troubling: "It would be a cruel way to die: awake, paralyzed, unable to move, to breathe, while potassium burned through your veins."
And I should be morally outraged because…?

I mean, it’s not like these folks gave a whole lot of concern for the mental and physical anguish they inflicted upon their victims. You know, the raped and killed little girl after being abducted from her bed. The adolescent boy killed after being sodomized by a couple of NAMBLA members. The wife beaten to death by her abusive husband. The family murdered by robbers looking for a couple of bucks. I guess I don’t have any more compassion for the killers than they did for their victims. Let them feel the utter helplessness and pain that they were more than willing to allow another human being to experience.

And then there is this gem from one of the study’s authors.

"It's now up to the corrections systems to show that, at the time of death, inmates are asleep. We should accept no less when we're killing people."

I disagree.

We should accept nothing less than their being fully conscious.

Let them feel every last bit of society's outrage and retribution for their crimes.

Let them be aware of their punishment.

And let them understand, in their last moments, what their victims may have felt.

|| Greg, 04:36 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Sanity In Oregon

The Oregon Supreme Court left the issue of homosexual marriage right where it belongs today – in the hands of the people and their elected representatives.
The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples a year ago by Portland's Multnomah County, saying a county cannot go against state matrimonial law.

"Oregon law currently places the regulation of marriage exclusively within the province of the state's legislative power," the high court said in its unanimous ruling.

The court said state law bans gay marriage. It also noted that Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment last November that even more explicitly prohibits the practice.

Kevin Neely, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the court left the big issue — civil unions for gay couples — for another day. "I suspect the issue will be resolved by either legislation or by additional litigation," he said.

Legislators had been waiting for the court's ruling for guidance. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will push for a law allowing gay couples to form civil unions that would give them many of the rights and privileges of marriage.

The governor and legislature will consider civil union legislation. Whether that is the appropriate course of action is, of course, subject to debate, given the solid rejection of homosexual marriage by Oregon voters in November. It strikes me that they should tread very slowly in that area, because the overwhelming majority of Oregonians expressed a position that seems to oppose granting legal status to homosexual relationships. Given the difficultrts have imposed an unwelcome solution on a sharply divided public, I think the Oregon Supreme Court acted wisely, and I hope the legislature and governor act in a manner which respects the policy preferences of the people of the state -- who are, ultimately, the sovereign power to which they must defer.

|| Greg, 04:30 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Animal Rights Morons Sprayed

I love it when someone finds a non-violent way to rid themselves of folks who are out to impose their whacked-out values on the rest of us.
A trio of protesters with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals didn't find the welcome mat out when they stopped at a KFC in Brownsville on Wednesday. The sprinkler system was on for them, though.

John Olivo, the manager of the fast-food chicken restaurant, turned the system on full blast to soak the curbside protesters. And a man who eats beef followed them around with his stepchildren and a microphone.

The PETA protesters, including one in a chicken suit, are participating in PETA's campaign to get KFC to pressure slaughter houses to use more humane methods to kill chickens.

"They already hit me in McAllen," Olivo said in a story in Thursday's editions of The Brownsville Herald. "I was already waiting for them here in Brownsville."

"You're not going to win. Not in Brownsville," David Ingersoll, of Los Fresnos, shouted through his microphone at the protesters at a busy intersection. His stepchildren passed out anti-PETA pamphlets to stopped drivers.

"I'm waiting for someone to throw a cabrito head at them so they know what part of the country they are in," Ingersoll said, referring to the goat meat that's used in some Mexican dishes.

Good for you, Mr. Olivo!

|| Greg, 04:27 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 13, 2005

School Disses Marine Graduates

Some folks are just plain ashamed of patriotism. That seems to be the case with administrators at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois. They are denying two early graduates permission to wear their Marine dress blues when they receive their diploma at the district's Memorial Day weekend graduation.
Brenten Kostner, 19, and John Shymanik, 17, graduated early in December to become Marines. They hope to attend the graduation ceremony wearing their dress-blue uniforms during a 10-day leave from boot camp.

However, the Marines’ mothers said they’ve been told by school officials their sons must wear Warren-issued caps and gowns like everyone else during the May 28 graduation event at Northwestern University.

Kostner’s mother, Julie Hamil, said Warren District 121’s position doesn’t make sense. She said the young men are against covering themselves with the caps and gowns because they want their peers to see their pride in becoming successful graduates as Marines.

“I’m shocked,” Hamil said. “Do you only show your patriotism when something bad happens?”

Hamil appealed to the District 121 board Monday night. Outgoing school board President Mari Carlson directed administrators to re-examine their stance on the uniforms.

“These are special times we live in,” Carlson said.

Nearly 350 students and teachers at Warren signed a petition Monday requesting Kostner and Shymanik be allowed to wear the dress uniforms. Kostner’s sisters, Sherri and Audrey Hamil, circulated the petition.

Here's hoping that a little bit of common sense prevails here.

Contact the district and the school to comment.

|| Greg, 08:46 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Disruptive Conduct Or Discrimination?

James Herndon, a student at Pacific High School in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, has been suspended for wearing lipstick and eye makeup to school. The school claims that his makeup is distracting, while James has trotted out the usual array of liberal claims of sexism, religious discrimination and violation of freedom of expression.
In what is shaping as a battle between conformity and self-expression, Pacific High School has suspended a ninth-grade boy for wearing lipstick and eye makeup. Officials are calling it a violation of school policy, which they seemed unable to find in writing.

James Herndon, 16, repeating his second year at the school, and his mother, Valerie Wallace, say James has been wearing black lipstick and red eye makeup the entire time he has been enrolled at Pacific. He also wears his hair in a dyed-red mohawk with the sides shaved. But that was not cited as part of the reason for the five-day suspension, which was imposed Monday.

The youth said the makeup expresses religious beliefs he shares with his mother, a Wiccan priestess in the neopagan religion based on northern European beliefs in the supernatural.

James also said the suspension is sex discrimination and violates his constitutional right to free expression.

Now before you think that the school is simply being unreasonable in its demands for conformity, please be aware that this is how James has been going to school.

And lest you think James understands he occupies a different place in the pecking order at school that the faculty and staff do, look at this comment.

"If I can't wear makeup,' James said, "then the girls or the staff can't wear makeup either.'

Uh, wrong, James. You are a student. A different standard of conduct and different set of rules apply to the staff than applies to the students. It is not up to YOU to make that declaration. Of course given your mother’s clear lack of respect for the school’s authority over matters of school disruptions and safety issues, not to mention her failure to prepare her child to operate in a society with certain social norms.

When James returns to school Monday, he will wear the makeup with his mother's blessing. "My son shouldn't change the way he is.

"After my divorce from his father, he became very depressed, and wearing the makeup makes him feel good,' she said, adding that the boy's psychologist and psychiatrist encourage him to express himself.

I’m hoping to hear that this kid is suspended again if he shows up in the same attire. His appearance constitutes a distraction in the classroom and a potential safety hazard on campus.

You may wonder about the latter point, but I can explain. As a teacher, I need to be able to determine at a glance whether or not someone at my school of 2300 students belongs there or not. I’m able to quickly tick through a number of dress code issues that help me narrow the field – things that include a ban on male facial hair and earrings, and visible piercings on any student. If someone is wearing a hat or bandana, they get confronted, too. There is also the school ID on a chain, but those are often not visible because of coats, sweaters, or the angle from which a kid is seen. A kid who showed up dressed as James is in the picture would be quickly hustled into an administrator’s office to be dealt with as a flagrant violator of the dress code or an unauthorized presence on campus. It is part of why we have so little violence on our campus, especially compared to some neighboring schools with similar demographics.

Now the ACLU is backing this kid and his so-called parent. I’m betting they lose. That appearance is so distracting that it would be a source of disruption in class. The law they cite is intended to protect gender-benders from being harassed, not permit kids to wear clown makeup.

And if mom doesn’t like the policy, might I suggest that she homeschool?

|| Greg, 07:55 PM || Permalink || Show Comments (2) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

I’ve Lost Respect For A Man I’ve Admired

I won’t go into the bigger story here, one about a guy who detained seven border jumpers at gunpoint. Given that he was correct in his assessment, I don’t believe he should be charged with anything.

But I have lost respect for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose actions to make jail less appealing made me a big fan. His take on the situation?

"Being illegal is not a serious crime. You can't go to jail for being an illegal alien. . . . You can only be deported."

Joe, that attitude is precisely why we have a problem with border jumping. Law enforcement doesn’t see it as a problem – and as a result doesn’t treat it like a problem. That means that little action is taken by law enforcement at every level to stop border jumping, detain and hold border jumpers, and deport border jumpers. The result is a flood of criminal aliens who walk among us with impunity, consuming taxpayer-financed resources far beyond their contribution to society.

I hope you have a strong opponent next election, Joe – you are clearly not a part of the solution, but are instead part of the problem.

|| Greg, 07:52 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Where Is The Liberal, Media Outrage?

Last week we were treated to Left-wing shouts of “Scandal!” when it was disclosed that Tom DeLay’s wife and daughter were paid for work by his campaign and a PAC with he founded. Those of us who defended the family were said to be ethically-challenged partisans who were circling the wagon.

So today, as the lone declared (as opposed to effective) Socialist in the House of Representatives is disclosed to have had the same arrangement for his wife and daughter, I’ll say it again – there is nothing wrong, legally or morally, for having family members on the payroll of the campaign or affiliated PACs.

Rep. Bernard Sanders used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Jane O'Meara Sanders, his wife, received $91,020 between 2002 and 2004 for "consultation" and for negotiating the purchase of television and radio time-slots for Sanders' advertisements, according to records and interviews.

Approximately $61,000 of that was "pass through" money that was used to pay media outlets for advertising time, Jane O'Meara Sanders said in an interview. The rest, about $30,000, she kept as payment for her services, she said.

Carina Driscoll, daughter to Jane O'Meara Sanders and stepdaughter to the lawmaker, earned $65,002 in "wages" between 2000 and 2004, campaign records show.

Driscoll, a former state legislator, served as Rep. Sanders' campaign manager in 2000, his fund-raiser and office manager in 2003 and his database manager in 2004, according to Jeff Weaver, Sanders' chief of staff.

"Both of them are regarded as people who are knowledgable about Vermont politics," Weaver said Tuesday. "They earned every penny they got."

The practice is legal if there are actual campaign/political services rendered. That is the case with DeLay, and that is the case with Sanders. While the amounts vary, that is irrelevant. The fact is that there is nothing wrong with the practice at all – unless you want to apply the nebulous and ill-defined “appearance of impropriety” standard, which says it is an issue if somebody wants to make it one, but you can never know for sure if it is unless they do.

Like it or not, the family members of politicians often go into campaign/politcs related businesses. They are going to make money in the field, as is their right as American citizens. That goes for the Right and the Left. Deal with it.

|| Greg, 07:47 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 12, 2005

Texans Betrayed

The people have been calling for appraisal caps to stop runaway property taxes (which in many jurisdictions are annually raised the full legal 10% across the board without regard to market conditions) that are running Texans out of their homes. City and county politicians have been opposed to the caps, because the annual 10% increase lets them spend more money without raising taxes.

Today the rat basterds politicians won.

AUSTIN — A measure meant to save Texans billions in property taxes by limiting appraisal increases died before debate even began on the House floor today.

It was a stinging defeat for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has pushed for appraisal caps for more than a year.

"I'm disappointed in the vote. I don't mind saying that," Perry said. "This is not going to go away."

Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, has been trying for weeks to gather the 100 votes needed to pass his constitutional amendment to halve the amount appraisals can grow each year. Currently, tax appraisals can grow as much as 10 percent annually.

"It's a sad day for the taxpayers of the state of Texas," Bohac said.

Perry vowed to keep up a public campaign to limit what he calls property appraisal "creep." He championed a bill set to be debated Wednesday that will reduce the cap on property tax revenue increases in cities and counties.

Proponents of appraisal caps said they would safeguard property-tax reductions that are part of the school finance plans in the House and Senate. Bohac's measure had support from the Republican leadership, including House Speaker Tom Craddick, who said today he supported appraisal caps.

"We need to take the burden of unfair taxation off the homeowners' shoulders," said Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio.

Let me explain this to you. there is a thing in finance circles that is called the "rule of 72" It shows the rate at which the value of an item will double. All you do is divide 72 by the rate of increase to determine the number of years that it takes for the asset to double in value. At 10%, that means that the taxable value of homes doubles in 7.2 years -- meaning, for example, a house bought at $100,000 today will be appraised at $200,000 in 2012 -- and at $400,000 by 2020. And that aso means that the taxes increase at the same rate -- today's $2500 property tax bill is a $5000 tax bill in 2012 and $10,000 in 2020. Given the rate at which my pay increases in my district (traditionally 3% each year), my salary will not have doubled in that time -- it will take until 2029 to do so. By that time the value of the hypothetical house will have increased in value to nearly $500,000, with a tax bill of about $15,000 each year -- and that does not include the mortgage payment.

Now to be fair, the argument by the county and local politicians makes sense on the surface. They argue that the lower rate of increase will not give hem a sufficent cash flow to provide services to the public. Apparently a 3-5% increase in the budget each year (about what the average Texan seens in their paycheck each year) is not enough. What they overlook is that they do have the option of making cuts or -- in an act of candor which frightens politicians -- going to the voters for a rate increase.

Fortunately, there is still hope for some tax relief.

House lawmakers Wednesday will debate a plan by Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, to cap at 3 percent the amount of growth in tax revenue cities and counties can take in each year. Local voters could elect to reverse the increase. The measure needs only 76 votes to pass the House.

Isett said his "truth in taxation" bill is a better way to provide tax relief.

"Lower taxes drive economic activity," Isett said. "That happens every time, everywhere it's tried."

A similar revenue cap measure by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is awaiting a vote by a Senate committee. Another appraisal cap measure, authored by Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, that would limit property value growth to 5 percent but allow cities and counties to opt out is pending in the Senate. Janek said he is not sure whether to proceed with his bill after today's action.

Perry remained resolved to get the tax relief he has promised.

"We're going to live to fight again," he said.

Yes, but whatever relief we get could be eaten up by higher appraisals, or overturned by simple majority vote. As it was, a minority (65 "Representatives") managed to thwart the will of the majority of 85 members of the House.

Texans -- here are the culprits who do not believe you should be permitted to vote on an Amendment to the Texas Constitution that will allow you to be able to afford to stay in your home.

Allen, R.; Alonzo; Anchia; Bailey; Blake; Burnam; Campbell; Casteel; Castro; Chavez; Chisum; Coleman; Cook, B.; Crownover; Davis, Y.; Delisi; Deshotel; Driver; Dukes; Dunnam; Edwards; Eiland; Escobar; Farabee; Flores; Frost; Geren; Giddings; Gonzales; Gonzalez Toureilles; Griggs; Guillen; Haggerty; Hardcastle; Harper-Brown; Hartnett; Hill; Hodge; Hopson; Hunter; Jones, D.; Jones, J.; Keel; King, T.; Kuempel; Laney; Luna; Madden; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; McCall; Menendez; Moreno, P.; Morrison; Mowery; Naishtat; Noriega, M.; Oliveira; Orr; Peña; Pickett; Quintanilla; Raymond; Ritter; Rodriguez; Smith, T.; Smithee; Solis; Solomons; Swinford; Thompson; Truitt; Turner; Uresti; Veasey; Villarreal; West.

Remember that during the primaries in March, 2006, and during the general election in November, 2006. They must be defeated.

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

Racist Commies

Apparently American liberals are not the only folks on the Left who cannot stand the advancement based on merit of a conservative woman of color. It looks like Communists in Red China also dislike her, and they reviled her with racist and sexist insults on the closely monitored and regulated Chinese Internet following Rice's recent visit to China.

"She looks like an orangutan, and talks rubbish; send us a beautiful woman next time," stated one contributor to

"This black woman is not welcome!!!" stated another.

"She looks absolutely like a witch!" said a third.

Sounds like the sort of comments you would find on Demcratic Underground or other websites run by the "tolerant non-racist Left".

What other racist comments about the Secretary of State have been allowed to remain unmolested by the Yellow Menace? This is just a sample of the comments collected by one Chinese dissident about Dr. Rice.

"Black devil"; "black pig"; "black whore"; "black female dog"; "You're not even as good as a black devil, a real waste of a life"; "Her brain is blacker than her skin"; "Really ugly"; "The ugliest woman in the world".

You know, I wonder if these folks got their comments from the Democrats who tried to stop Condoleezza Rice's confirmation. After all, they are in character with what was said by the Senators and their surrogates.

|| Greg, 10:55 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

"Santo Subito" -- Sainthood Now!

The chant was heard at Pope John Paul II's funeral last week -- "Santo! Santo!" Cardinal Ratzinger's homily hinted that he believed the pope not to be in Purgatory (as traditional Catholic teaching suggest may be the fate of most believers for a time) but already among the heavenly host. And then there were the signs that read "Santo Subito".
Calls for sainthood began almost immediately after the pope died on April 2 and reached a peak at his funeral on Friday, when mourners in St. Peter's Square held banners saying, "Santo Subito," or "Saint at Once," and chanted, "Santo, Santo." Reports of miraculous cures through his intervention poured in.

Several Italian newspapers reported that the Vatican had quietly been collecting messages from people attesting to healings attributed to him.

Luigi Accattoli, one of the most respected Vatican reporters, wrote in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera that a petition had already been circulated among the cardinals seeking signatures for a fast-track canonization process for John Paul. The usual process involves years of careful investigation, and it sometimes takes centuries for the final declaration.

Several cardinals confirmed that the idea of rapid canonization was discussed the day after the pope's funeral at their daily meeting.

If John Paul is canonized, he will be only the fourth pope to be so honored in 900 years.

That the cardinals are already discussing the possibility of a speedy canonization is intriguing. The waiting period for the process to start is five years, but it can be waived. And one cardinal even talks of being healed by the intervention of John Paul several years ago.

Cardinal Francesco Marchesano evoked the idea of miraculous healing. He said that when he had been in the hospital for an operation on his carotid artery and lost his voice, John Paul caressed his throat and said: "The Lord will give back your voice. You will see. I will say a prayer for you.'" Cardinal Camillo Ruini spoke of "the certainty of his new, mysterious and luminous presence."

Some argue that this speedy move for canonization, or at least beatification, is intended to cement the Pope's conservative policies into place by making them inseperable from the holy man himself.

While there may be some cynics around who are doing that, I don't believe that to be the case. What I see instead is a return to an older tradition, one under which the faithful themselves had a role to play in the process of declaring sainthood. Consider Thomas a Becket, martyred by English knights loyal to King Henry II. Shortly after his death, the people themselves had made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and devotion. The faithful declared him to be a saint, and he was so recognized by the Church within three years. Please note -- it was the sense of the faithful that came first, not the public affirmation by the institution. The outpouring of grief and love and prayer we have seen may be the sign that the faithful have recognized something that the institutional church needs to acknowledge.

|| Greg, 10:28 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Stamp Of Disapproval

My personal definition of art is pretty broad. But I think this has crossed the line.

Apparently, the Secret Service is concerned about it, too.

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn't expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show's first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of "Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin," and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including "Patriot Act," showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

The agents asked what the artists meant by their work and wanted museum director CarolAnn Brown to turn over the names and phone numbers of all the artists. They wanted to hear from the exhibit's curator, Michael Hernandez deLuna, within 24 hours, she said.

That particular work looks like a threat to me. It is obligatory on the Secret Service to check it out. And before the leftists complain -- remember that there were events at a couple of gun clubs shut down in the 1990s because the targets depicted Bill &/or Hillary. Anything that even looks like a potential threat must be investigated.

What other "art" would you find at this exhibit?

The Columbia exhibit features 47 artists from 11 countries and depicts powerful religious and political leaders worldwide on mock postage stamps. One, called "Citizen John Ashcroft," shows Ashcroft's face fashioned from images of naked bodies at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another piece -- "I saw it in a movie starring Steven Segal" -- shows a series of images of an airplane nearing, then crashing into the Sears Tower, and ends with the Chicago skyline without the skyscraper.

In other words, it is some stuff that is simply sick and disgusting. While I recognize that such "protest art" falls within First Amendment protection (though perhaps not the Bush stamp -- threats against the president are illegal), that does not mean I have to approve of it or its message. Furthermore, I wish the college had the integrity to disassociate itself from a show that includes both the Bush stamp and the 9/11 style attack on Chicago. After all, the school also has a First Amendment right to not associate its good name with the exhibit.

And I am appalled, but not surprised, at the Left-wing fear-mongering of the exhibit organizer.

Hernandez said any government involvement could come close to trampling First Amendment rights.

"It frightens me ... as an artist and curator. Now we're being watched," Hernandez said. "It's a new world. It's a Big Brother world. I think it's frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art."

Hernandez said he hopes the public sees the exhibit as a whole -- and not just about one man or even one country. Some works Hernandez thought would be more controversial challenge Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Others look at Nazi Germany and the killing fields in Cambodia.

This frightens him -- I wonder if it frightens him as much as the fake stamps he sent through the mail in the fall of 2001 frightened the postal workers who handled them. The design was of a black skull and crossbones with the word "Anthrax" on it -- during the height of the anthrax scare.

Where would you find this "artwork"? Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, Chicago. Here's hoping there is some serious protest -- and financial ramifications for the college.

|| Greg, 10:05 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Papabile-palooza – Possible Papal Long-Shots

Papal elections are few and far between. They come suddenly and are over quickly – at least in the modern era. Historically, most of the participants have been unknowns, but the advent of the internet and other mass media have made it possible for the faithful and the curious to gather information and to speculate about the likely next pope. The possibility of another non-Italian – not to mention a non-European – makes the speculation that much more exciting.

Who are the candidates? Well, it is a bit hard to tell, since the cardinals are no longer talking. That said, there are a lot of names being mentioned, a diverse list of papabile. And while there are certainly some leading candidates, there are also some papal long-shots being mentioned.

If an African is to be the next pontiff, then Francis Cardianal Arinze of Nigeria is still the leading candidatre. That said, in recent days the name Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa has been mentioned.

Are relations with Islam important going to be crucial in the conclave? If so, there are candidates who have experience in that area.

At a time when the Vatican is trying to broaden its dialogue with Islam, Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, 70, of Indonesia, is distinctive as one of the few cardinals from a predominantly Muslim country. Ivan Dias, 68, the archbishop of Bombay, India, also comes from a populous country with relatively few Catholics, though much of his career has been spent as a Vatican diplomat, serving in Africa, South Korea and Albania.

And of course, the Latin Americans are being mentioned prominently. One of those, as I mentioned the other day, is the Archbishop of Havana.

There are a raft of contenders - some front-runners, some long-shots - to be the first Latin American pope. The region's dark horses include Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the archbishop of Havana, who helped organize the first papal visit to Communist Cuba in 1998 and negotiated modest openings with a government that was once officially atheist.

Ortega, 68, his risen far from humble origins as a sugar worker's son. He is fluent in French and a skilled pianist, cutting an elegant and generally nonconfrontational figure in Cuban society.

And we have all, of course, heard about the front-running Italian, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi , but there are other cardinals to be considered as well.

Italy supplies at least three front-running candidates, but also several in the next rung, including Cardinals Ennio Antonelli of Florence, Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, and Severino Poletto of Turin.

Bertone, 70, occasionally provides radio play-by-play of his favorite soccer team, Juventus; a few weeks ago he made headlines worldwide by urging a boycott of the best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code," which he said distorts the origins of Christianity.

Antonelli, 68, is viewed a cheerful man of the people, a relative moderate on most of the issues facing the Vatican. Poletto, 72, is custodian of the Shroud of Turin.

There are even a couple of French cardinals mentioned as papabile, though their ages make it unlikely that they would become the first French pope since the Avignon period. One is even younger than John Paul II was in 1978, while the other is 78.

Two French cardinals are sometimes mentioned: Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who is only 55 and known as an advocate for immigrants' rights, and retired Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, a confidant of John Paul's, a Jewish convert - and a skeptic about lists of front-runners.

"All the names that have surfaced have been invented by journalists," he said last week. "What happens is that most of the time, those who get it are completely unexpected."

In the end, I think Cardinal Lustiger has it partially right. In handicapping the conclave like a political convention or a horserace, it is very possible that almost none of us have heard the name of the next pope – which is exactly what happened twice in 1978, a year that saw the burial and election of two popes.

|| Greg, 08:09 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Feingold To Divorce – Friends And Analysts Lament End Of Presidential Bid

I think this explains one more way in which Democrats are simply out of touch with the bulk of the American populace. Senator Russ Feingold and his wife of 14 years are about to divorce – and rather than offer sympathy, Democrats are much more concerned with the political implications.

Sen. Russ Feingold and his wife, Mary, stunned the political world in announcing Monday that they would end their 14-year marriage.

The news came in a 31-word statement from Russ Feingold's office, indicating the two "were separating amicably, and intend to remain very good friends."

Feingold, 52, a Democrat, is a Harvard-educated lawyer elected in November to his third term.

Mary Feingold, 47, is a writer working under the auspices of her firm, Write Now Business Communications, according to the senator's most recent annual financial disclosure.

A divorce would be the second for both. Each has two adult children from a first marriage.

Feingold had begun to test the waters for a presidential run in 2008, and the news led one political expert and longtime friend to speculate that any hopes for the nomination three years hence were dashed.

"This is the end of his presidential hopes, at least for 2008," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, an expert in presidential campaigns.

"The Democratic Party is much more tolerant of things, but a twice-divorced single man would have very little chance of being elected president. That is not something that would appeal to any red state."

Two weeks ago, the Feingolds traveled to Alabama. The public portion of the trip ran March 28-30. Mary Feingold was very visible as the Feingolds were received and entertained by local officials, Democrats and supporters.

Hold on, folks. Most of us in the red states wouldn’t have a problem with voting for the right divorced man --like Ronald Reagan leaps to mind. We might not be happy about the divorce (and who should be), but that would not be a deciding factor.

No, the problem Feingold would have in the red states is his liberal record and his opposition to free speech – precisely the same problem John McCain will have if he decides to run. I could not see supporting either of them for that reason.

Frankly, I’m sad for both Feingolds. Divorce is a sad and (all too often) ugly thing. I am sorry that the couple is splitting up. My only concern about Feingold being twice divorced would not concern the morality of divorce per se, but rather with the possibility (hinted at in the article) that Russ Feingold has a history of putting his political career ahead of those he is closest to. That comes down to a question regarding his priorities in life, and whether he would place Russ Feingold or the United States first in a hypothetical Feingold Administration.

Regardless of all that, I wish the couple well, come what may. – and hope that things stay amicable between them, or even that some healing can take place which saves this marriage.

|| Greg, 08:04 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Border Jumpers, Human Smugglers Captured – Cause Auto Wrecks

I’m glad to hear that these folks were caught, but would like to urge Arizona drivers to KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE FREAKIN’ ROAD!
Drivers gawking at a group of 15 handcuffed illegal entrant suspects along the side of Interstate 10 on Monday morning caused three car crashes that shut down travel for about an hour near Downtown. The rubbernecking mishaps happened after several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made a high-risk traffic stop on westbound I-10 near the Miracle Mile exit, just before 10 a.m., said Officer James Oien, an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman. While not often initiated in such a visible location, high-risk stops are made when agents or officers suspect there is a potential for violence, Oien said. "They were being extremely cautious," he said. "If you've got some felons going down the interstate and the only place you can stop them is Grant Road, you do what you gotta do." The federal agents are part of an anti-smuggling team and had tracked and stopped a stolen pickup truck carrying a group of suspected illegal entrants, said Russell Ahr, an ICE spokesman in Phoenix. One of the men was separated from the others at the scene, but Ahr didn't have more details about whether he was a suspected people-smuggler or whether charges were pressed. The incident is still under investigation, he said. After agents and officers handcuffed the suspected illegal entrants, the group sat on a dirt shoulder in the sun. They had been riding in the cab of the silver pickup while others were hidden under a piece of plywood that covered the bed. Besides the people who were detained, about a dozen law enforcement vehicles were on the scene with their lights flashing, drawing the attention of morning motorists. Traffic backed up for several miles and, in less than an hour, two landscaping trucks and a motor home rear-ended cars in three separate crashes. The two trucks spun sideways and blocked the westbound lanes of I-10 near the Grant Road exit, Oien said. Two of the rear-end crashes involved injuries that were not life-threatening, Oien said. No one was injured in the third incident. None of the drivers' names was released. "The causes of the accidents were people not paying attention to what they were doing and paying attention to what the cops were doing," Oien said. DPS officers established a detour so traffic could be diverted to city streets for about an hour until the crashes could be investigated and cleaned up, he said. Motorists should concentrate on their own driving and traffic around them to avoid accidents, Oien said. "Try to resist the rubbernecking or gawking at the scene and pay attention," he said.

What more needs be said?

|| Greg, 08:00 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 11, 2005

Reefer Madness?

I don't think there is anyone of my generation who has not seen the classic propaganda film, Reefer Madness. By the time I saw it in the 1970s, the four decade old film was viewed as a comedy piece -- and subjected to treatment not unlike what you would later see on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Marijuana, we were assured, never did anyone any harm. Pot was, according to everyone, harmless.

Today there is even a musical version of the old cult-classic. This story leads me to ask -- was the film necessarily all that far off? A newly published scientific study shows that one of every four people has a gene that, when activated by adolescent marijuana use, triggers schizophrenia and similar disorders at five times the normal rate.

The study, led by Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, offers the best explanation yet for the way that cannabis has a devastating psychiatric impact on some users but leaves most unharmed. Scientists had suspected that genetic factors were responsible for this divide, but a gene had not been pinpointed.

The findings, to be published in Biological Psychiatry, also reinforce a growing consensus that nature and nurture are not mutually exclusive forces but combine to affect behaviour and health. The King’s team has previously identified genes that raise the risk of depression or aggression, but only in conjunction with environmental influences.

Mental health campaigners said that the results vindicated their concerns about the decision last year to downgrade cannabis to a Class C drug, which means that possession is no longer an arrestable offence.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said that it was becoming clear that cannabis placed millions of users at risk of lasting mental illness. About fifteen million Britons have tried cannabis, and between two million and five million are regular users, according to the Home Office British Crime Survey. The research suggests that a quarter could be at risk.

The evidence will be considered by a review of the drug’s classification announced last month by the Home Secretary. It may be possible to develop a test for genetic susceptibility to cannabis. “If we were able genetically to identify the vulnerable individuals in advance, we would be able to save thousands of minds, if not lives,” Ms Wallace said.

Dr Caspi, however, rejected the idea of screening based on the COMT gene. “Such a test would be wrong more often than it is right. Cannabis has many other adverse effects, especially on developing teenagers, on respiratory health and possibly on cognitive function. Effects may be pronounced among a genetically vulnerable group but that doesn’t mean we should encourage others not genetically vulnerable to use cannabis.”

The King’s team tracked 803 men and women born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1972 and 1973, who were enrolled at birth in a research project. Each was interviewed at 13, 15 and 18 about cannabis use, tested to determine which type of COMT genes they had inherited, and followed up at 26 for signs of mental illness.

COMT was chosen as it is known to play a part in the production of dopamine, a brain-signalling chemical that is abnormal in schizophrenia. It comes in two variants, known as valine or methionine, and every person has two copies, one from each parent.

So dudes, put away the bongs, roach-clips, rolling papers and hash pipes -- the next hit could fry your brain.

|| Greg, 11:12 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

De-Bugging The Conclave

In 1978, at the time of the two previous conclaves, I was fascinated by the need to sweep the area for bugging devices before the College of Cardinals convened. It is an even more serious matter now.

VATICAN CITY -- Computer hackers, electronic bugs and supersensitive microphones threaten to pierce the Vatican's thick walls next week when cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel to name a papal successor.

Spying has gotten a lot more sophisticated since John Paul II was elected in 1978, but the Vatican seems confident it can protect the centuries-old tradition of secrecy that surrounds the gathering.

"It's not as if it's the first conclave we've handled," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Vatican security refused to discuss the details of any anti-bugging measures to be used during the conclave. But Giuseppe Mazzullo, a private detective and retired Rome policeman whose former unit worked closely with the Vatican in the past, said the Holy See will reinforce its own experts with Italian police and private security contractors.

"The security is very strict," Mazzullo said. "For people to steal information, it's very, very difficult, if not impossible."

Thousands of reporters will be watching as the 115 cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel on April 18. Hackers and government informants may also be monitoring the conclave.

The temptations to spy will be immense. The papal election will likely see keen competition, notably between reformers and conservatives. It is also expected to witness a strong push for the first non-European pope.

Revelations of the proceedings could prove embarrassing to the Vatican. For instance, sensitive discussions on a papal candidate's stand on relations with Muslims or Jews, recognizing China rather than Taiwan or views on contraception would be sought after by governments or the press.

Just when you might have been willing to look at the conclave as a religious event rather than a political one, the reality of technology intrudes.

Oh, and the penalty for breaking the secrecy of the conclave during the event? Excommunication, which may be lifted only by the new pope himself.

|| Greg, 08:03 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Bill Clinton Slurs Gay GOP Consultant

First he has the audacity to go on about John Paul II's "mixed legacy" because the pontiff failed to adopt the liberal line of sex. Now he dares to read the soul of one of Hillary's political opponents, GOP political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, and directs a left-wing slur at him.
"Actually I was sort of sad when I read it," he said. "That fellow who used to work for Pataki is doing it. I mean, they give you two stories. One is that he went to Massachusetts and married his longtime male partner and then he comes back here and announces this. I thought, one of two things. Either this guy believes his party is not serious and is totally Macchiavellian in its position, or you know, as David Brock said in his great book 'Blinded by the Right,' there's some sort of self-loathing or something. I was more sad for him."

It might surprise you to know, Bill, that political consultants sometimes work for candidates with whom they disagree on an issue. I don't judge Finkelstein negatively for this. And as for your citation of a book by admitted serial-liar David Brock, who one must either believe lied for years while writing as a conservative or is currently lying in his career as a liberal attack dog, why don't you find a credible source.

Actually, Bill, there is an analysis I would like for you to do. I would be quite interested in your analysis of the self-loathing of a serial adulterer and accused rapist who professes to be a feminist. Know anyone like that, sir?

|| Greg, 07:49 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

No Freedom For Patriotic Teen

They are after her again, even after she took them to court!
The saga continues for a 13-year-old Mont Pleasant Middle School student who is suing school officials for the right to wear a handmade red, white and blue necklace to class.

Raven Furbert was a typical student before she received a string-it-yourself bead kit for Christmas.

Now, the girl who filed the civil rights violation claim in U.S. District Court in February has drawn national attention as she fights administrators who say paraphernalia featuring gang-oriented colors is prohibited. At least 50 Web sites have been dedicated to her.

Furbert said she wears the necklace in honor of soldiers serving overseas, including an uncle and three other relatives.

Friday, the case again boiled over when Furbert's mother, Katie Grzywna, was called to school after her daughter was threatened with in-school suspension if she didn't remove the beads.

Simply outrageous and patently unconstitutional. It is a clear point of law -- students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate! When will the administrators take seriously the fact that Tinker v. Des Moines has been settled law for over 35 years? Heck, a federal court here in Houston held that an anti-gang policy did not trump the right of teens to wear a rosary around their necks, so I don't see how this one can stand, either.

And I have to wonder -- does this latest violation of young Raven's rights rise to a level that the administrators will be held responsible in their personal capacity, and not just on the school district's insurance policy?

|| Greg, 05:33 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Rangel Tries To Hijack Jesus And The Pope

Anyone catch this MSNBC exchange on Thursday?
MATTHEWS: I mean, Charlie, Jesus didn‘t hang around with the swells, the rich people.

RANGEL: Well, he said the rich are going straight to hell.


MATTHEWS: Well, he did not.



MATTHEWS: He said it is harder to get through a needle‘s...


RANGEL: No. But the deal with St. Matthews and all these people are trying to get into heaven. And he said, hey, when I was hungry, you didn‘t feed me. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. You didn‘t do all these—he‘s talking about food stamps, Social Security.


RANGEL: He‘s talking about taking care of those who haven‘t got. So, when it comes to moral value, my Republican friends can decide which side the pope was on.

Uh, excuse me, I don’t find the New Deal and Great Society anywhere in the Bible – Old Testament or New. I wonder if “Charlie Cardinal Rangel” would care to provide us with chapter and verse citations for Jesus’ endorsement of these programs. And while I agree with his general point that the late pope did preach a Gospel-based message of concern and compassion for the poor, that does not necessarily mean that failure to embrace the leftist social platform of the Democrats is sinful. There are many ways to help the poor, sick, and outcast – ever hear of personal charity, Charlie? I realize that means that you don’t get to appropriate the money and direct it be spent for abortion and birth control (things that John Paul II certainly opposed), but that is how society dealt with such issues for some time before Roosevelt.

And by the way, I think Peter King and Mark Foley made an excellent point on Rangel’s attempt to turn the death and burial of the pope into a political opportunity for his party.

KING: Yes, I think we can certainly debate these in another setting.

To me, I am very confident that my beliefs reflect the pope‘s, but I‘m not saying Charlie‘s don‘t. I mean, I think, as a Catholic, I try to bring my faith and my religion to views I hold. I may end up on a different side than Charlie. I believe that mine are more close than he does, but that‘s really what our country is about.
But I think, on certain lasting principles, the pope stood out. And the pope did speak out, and rather than have these debates tonight. But there are different levels of what is dogma, what is prudential judgment, what‘s informed judgment. And we can have those debates another time.

I just think what he did tell all of us was that, if you are going to make a decision, make sure it does have a moral basis for it and be secure in your own conscience.


MATTHEWS: Mark, you want to get in on this?

FOLEY: Well, I can‘t believe we‘re talking Social Security in front of the Vatican.

Indeed – I can’t believe it, either. And certainly not the night before the Pope's funeral.

|| Greg, 05:29 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Follow The Byrd Rules

Senator Robert Byrd (KKK-Dogpatch) claims that changing rules and invoking parliamentary procedure to end filibusters violates near sacred Senate precedents. Unfortunately for Byrd, history proves him a liar. On at least four different occasions between 1977 and 1987, the Senate invoked parliamentary techniques similar to those proposed by supporters of the “nuclear/constitutional option” to cut off debate and bring about a vote on a measure supported by a partisan majority over the objections of the minority engaged in a filibuster.

Oh, and the member who instigated and orchestrated the end of debate in these four cases was none other than Byrd himself.

In 1977, Byrd cut off a filibuster led by two members of his own party, Sens. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and James Abourezk (D-S.D.), on a proposal to deregulate natural gas prices. He initiated a maneuver empowering the chair to disqualify amendments under certain circumstances. He then used his recognition rights to foreclose the possibility of appeal. Byrd created a precedent that enabled him to break the filibuster and used it with stunning force.

Two years later, Byrd again manipulated the Senate rules by establishing a precedent to curb the practice of adding legislative amendments to appropriation bills. Byrd's victim that time was Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.), who had offered an amendment to raise a cap on military pay. In 1980, Byrd was back at it, changing Senate procedures to prevent a filibuster on a motion to consider the nomination of Robert E. White as ambassador to El Salvador. Republican Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) was the target of Byrd's third tactic. His point of order against Byrd's maneuver was sustained by the chairman, but Byrd prevailed on a party-line 54-38 appeal.

Byrd's fourth change of Senate procedure came in 1987 against Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who was attempting to prevent a vote on a defense authorization bill. Byrd rolled over the GOP's delaying tactics by imposing new precedents through a slew of simple majority votes that ran almost entirely along party lines.

Byrd, who recently trumpeted "the Senate was never intended to be a majoritarian body," made the Senate just that on four occasions when it suited his ends.

The column also points out that a number of senators, in 1995, argued against allowing filibusters to prevent the will of the majority from being carried out in the Senate – even on legislation. The majoritarian reformers included currently serving Democrats Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

In short, the Senate Democrats are engaged in political hypocrisy of the most naked kind. It’s time for Republicans to break the judicial filibuster by using the Byrd precedent.

|| Greg, 05:27 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Here’s Your Sign

Does anyone else out there find these signs appalling and more than a little bit unnerving?

Caltrans posted several of these signs along San Diego freeways beginning in 1990, when the city was a funnel for undocumented immigrants headed north. The signs were intended to warn drivers they might encounter people frantically darting across lanes of traffic as they tried to evade border security.

Dozens of immigrants were struck and killed from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, some in front of horrified family members, as stunned drivers failed to stop in time.
Now I understand the desire to make sure that there are not traffic deaths, but I find these signs a bit unnerving. Wouldn’t it be better if we made sure that these people were not crossing our borders (not to mention our highways) in the first place? Or are my priorities out of whack?

Apparently someone agrees with me – the signs are slowly coming down via attrition. But in the meantime, the image has become an iconic symbol in California’s pop culture and tourist trade. Its multiple uses (and abuses) show a wonderful creativity on the part of artists and entrepreneurs.

|| Greg, 05:24 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Washington Times On Leftist Assaults On Speech

I think this sums the matter up nicely, putting the recent rash of attacks on conservative speakers in a larger context.
The media should highlight these cases not as the jokes they are perhaps intended to be, but as unacceptable perversions of the First Amendment. So far, however, the mainstream media has failed to do so. It also gave scant attention to last year's election-oriented violence directed almost solely against Republicans. Perpetrators shot at Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters and attacked volunteers and destroyed campaign offices across the country, to cite a few examples. But news organizations such as the New York Times instead provided a platform to those making dubious charges of voter intimidation committed by the Republicans. Violence, of course, should be intolerable no matter who is on the receiving end, and must be rejected by people of goodwill, whatever their political ideology. It is ironic that college campuses -- which typically style themselves as bastions of free speech and tolerance -- are increasingly the scene of intolerant, thuggish behavior. These days it is being directed at folks who don't subscribe to the prevailing liberal orthodoxies.

And if these attacks do not stop, perhaps the time will arrive where conservative speakers need to give their talks armed -- and ready to act in self-defense against their attackers.

|| Greg, 05:18 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 10, 2005

Bell Offers Good Idea, Partisan Rhetoric -- Chronicle Crosses Ethical Line

Chris Bell, a defeated Democrat Congressman, makes a good point about congressional redistricting. It should be non-partisan, and should be designed to produce competetive elections where possible, not the one-sided affairs that currently exist in most districts.

Bell lays out his plan as follows.

We cannot achieve this unless Republicans and Democrats work together. And therein lies the problem. It would be difficult to overstate the stultifying effect that partisanship has on the work of Congress. Coming from Houston city politics, where I had worked with members of both parties, Congress was a horrible shock.

Neither party finds an electoral advantage in compromise because the district lines are drawn to favor a candidate supported by hard-core, partisan apparatchiks. What we have in Washington is the parliamentary equivalent of World War I trench warfare, with combatants so afraid of dying in no-man's land that they never leave the safety of their trenches.

If we want to force Congress out of their trenches and onto common ground, we need to make them more vulnerable to general election returns than to intraparty fratricide. Politicians who place a higher value on party loyalty than on ethics will never fight for ethics. They need to listen to November's voices rather than March's partisans.

He is right here. Most districts in the Houston area are designed in such a way as to give one party or the other a decided advantage. While this is true, for example, of Tom Delay's district (where I live), the same is also true of Sheila Jackson-Lee's district just to the nort of it. There was a definite political strategy in drawing these districts -- making sure that the party that gets nearly 60% of votes in congressional races also gets about the same percentage of the seats (unlike the court-imposed 2001 plan it replaced -- and the 1991 Democrat gerrymander it was based upon -- under which 57% of the Congressional vote earned the GOP 43% of the Congressional seats). Remapping software produces bizarre configurations that frustrate the will of the people in most states. So i agree, something has to be done.

There are just two problems wit this piece. They are the incredibly partisan (and intensely personal) attacks on Tom DeLay found in the piece, and the decision by the Houston Chronicle to run it at all.

Bell blames delay, with good reason, for the loss of his seat. Bell was targetted, along with virtually every other white Democrat in Texas, for defeat. This was done by following the mandate of civil rights laws that no redistricting plan can reduce minority representation. The GOP intentionally drew a map that increased minority-dominated districts, resulting in Bell's defeat by a black Democrat in the primary (I guess that black voters qualify as "March partisans" for Bell). Bell's retaliatory ethics complaint (which he lauds as a public service as an introduction to this commentary) was dismissed by the Ethics Committee as so lacking in merit that an ethics filing against Bell would have been appropriate if he were not so close to leaving Congress. Bell may be right on the issue of redistricting, but this partisan hack-job on DeLay will make his proposal too easy to ignore.

The Chronicle's decision to run this piece is also troubling. Bell is an all-but-declared candidate for Governor. In the commentary, he takes a pretty direct shot at his likely opponent, incumbent Governor Rick Perry. That is imply dirty pool. You do not give a candidate a platform in this manner and then allow him to carry on about his major campaign issue. Especially troubling, the paper provides the internet address to Bell's exploratory committee website, and even hyperlinks it from the online edition. This amounts to making the piece into an unpaid political ad. Given the difficulty that local and state Republicans have getting their pieces into the Chronicle, this presents loads of ethical problems in my eyes.

(Hat Tip: blogHOUSTON)

|| Greg, 01:09 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Texas Republicans Continue To Grow

My liberal friend keep telling me about the groundswell of opposition to the GOP here in Texas, and about how strong their party is. Tell me, then, why is this trend continuing unabated?
Chambers County has joined other fast-growing suburban counties where Republicans are no longer swimming against the tide to win a county office.

In fact, Republican contenders for Chambers County offices, which officials said started as a small "wave" in the late '90s, turned into a tidal wave within the past month as four more longtime Democratic officeholders defected to the other side.

The four are among the county's more powerful elected officials: the county judge, district clerk, county attorney and county treasurer.

They are responding to an influx of conservative families from the Houston area to new subdivisions in the county, a trend that has also been experienced in Montgomery, Fort Bend and Waller counties.

A majority of those who migrate to the suburban counties for cheaper housing, safer neighborhoods and better schools tend to be predominantly white conservatives, said Richard Murray, director of the University of Houston's Center for Political Policy.

You Texas Democrats keep on telling yourself how strong you are. We in the GOP will continue to control federal, state, and local offices because we have THE PEOPLE on our side.

|| Greg, 12:22 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Hillary Says There Are Robots In Congress

Hillary Clinton, the woman who thrilled Americans with her spine-tingling tale of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that forced her husband to have sex with an employee half his age in the Oval Office while conducting government business and then lying about it to the American people and to in a judicial proceeding while under oath, has a new yarn for us. Leaving tales of conspiracy, intrigue and sex behind, she has now turned to the field of science fiction.

Science fiction?

You read that right -- science fiction.

She lambasted Republican members of Congress as "extras in the movie 'I Robot' " who "mindlessly rubberstamp the agenda of this administration" and want to do "little more than fund the military and build some highways."

Sorry, Hillary, you'll have to do beter than that. The robots in the awful mauling of the Asimov classic simply were not convincing. If'm thinking you would do better convincing Americans that Congressional Republicans are more like these guys.

But then what do I know? You are already being proclaimed

"the next great president of the United States."

|| Greg, 11:20 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Filmed Search Cause For Tossed Conviction

I'm a big fan of the Bill of Rights. That includes applying those protections it embodies to those charged with and/or convicted of crimes. But I think this interpretation goes a bit far. Tell me if you agree.
The Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out a man's cocaine conviction because his strip-search was filmed by a camera crew for the Oxygen Network.

In its ruling, the appeals court found that the filming of Andra Thompson's strip-search was "unprofessional and unreasonable."

"Where should the media line be drawn?" Judge Edward Najam wrote in the ruling issued Thursday. "We think the line should be drawn here. ... We will not sanction such conduct, which demeans the suspect and degrades the entire legal process."

Thompson, 26, of Indianapolis, was convicted of cocaine possession and sentenced to six years in prison in May 2004 after his arrest by Indianapolis police.

When he showed up during a June 2003 sting at a motel to sell cocaine, officers took him into a bathroom and searched him, finding cocaine stuffed between his buttocks.

The search was filmed, with police permission, for an Oxygen Network show called "Women and the Badge." One of the arresting officers was a woman.

At one point, the camera zoomed in on Thompson's naked posterior for several seconds while he was bent over in handcuffs with his pants pulled down.

Now here are my thoughts on the matter.

1) This sort of search would be standard procedure for a drug bust of this kind. Probable cause existed to conduct the search. The filming does not undermine those facts.

2) If anything, the filming of the search PROVES that the search was properly conducted and the evidence was properly obtained.

3) If Thompson's due process rights were violated by the filming (which I would dispute), does the exclusion of the properly seized evidence constitute a proper remedy? I think not. And if the evidence is validly seized in the course of a valid search, on what basis is the conviction overturned?

4) Assuming the filming was improper, overturning the conviction is not the proper remedy. The proper course of action would be a civil suit, seeking damages for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.

This is a bad decision, one which imposes an entirely new and (at the time of the arrest) completely unknowable standard on police conduct. Worse yet, it opens the door to a whole new area for criminals to challenge their convictions -- not based upon their guilt or innocence, but instead upon the basis that they were embarrassed by the arresting officers.

|| Greg, 10:21 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 09, 2005

The Royal Wedding

What can I say about the wedding of the Prince of Wales and the newly-minted Duchess of Cornwall -- they used all the fairy dust up on Prince Charles' 1981 wedding to Princess Diana.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall - the former Camilla Parker Bowles - knelt before the Archbishop of Canterbury for a blessing of their union Saturday, after a modest civil ceremony that sealed a love affair ignited at a polo match more than 30 years ago and blamed by many for poisoning his marriage to Britain's beloved Princess Diana.

Beneath the towering Gothic arches of St. George's Chapel at ancient Windsor Castle, the royals nervously pledged their undying love and confessed "manifest sins and wickedness" - a phrase from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer - under the solemn gaze of Archbishop Rowan Williams.

After enduring years of criticism and even ridicule, Charles and Camilla's shared affection appeared to finally to have won them a measure of acceptance from the British public. It remains to be seen, however, whether the bride will ever be known as Queen Camilla.

I guess I don't see the reason for the charade of holding two ceremonies. After all, the Anglican Church exists as a separate entity because Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon so he could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Why should the divorces in this case present an obstacle for the Church of England -- which Charles will one day head as King of England -- today?

The tacky moment of the day has to be watching all the royals scurry on to rented buses for the ride to the reception. It was enough to make one wonder if they were holding it at some local hotel rather than on premisies at Windsor Castle. But like I said, they used all the fairy dust in 1981, so rather than a Royal Coach and a caravan of limos, we got that sad spectacle.

And I will never forget one pricelss moment after the blessing ceremony was over. One of the royal watchers providing commentary for CNN said it was the triumph of middle-aged love. My wife nearly choked to death on her soda as she blurted out "Middle-aged love? OH MY GOD! Look at them -- they're nearly sixty. Someone at the palace must have paid her off."

The whole thing made me thankful for the Revolutionary War.

|| Greg, 07:42 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Thoughts On The Papal Election of 2005

Pope John Paul the Great, the Pilgrim Pope, was buried yesterday. The world now awaits two things sure to come -- the late pontiff's elevation to sainthood and the election of his successor.

Canonization will take years, but the conclave is only nine days away, on April 18. The Vatican has imposed a "gag order" on the cardinals, so we won't be hearing from the princes of the church until sometime after April 20. That doesn't mean that they will not be talking among themselves, though, and some unofficial collations will likely exist by next Monday. I've offered some viewpoints on candidates, but feel there is still more to be said.

1) The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Los Angeles Times offers these statistics on the breakdown of the College of Cardinals by region, compared to the 1978 conclaves that elected John Paul I and, less than two months later, John Paul II.



Latin America
North America
11 12

Africa 10


As you can see, then, not much has changed in that superficial balance of power.

2) The more things stay the same, the more they change. The same statistics quoted above show a different picture if you do the country breakdown.

Country1978 2005
Italy25 20

United States
9 11
France 7

Germany5 6
Spain4 6

Mexico1 4

Those European cardinals are much more spread out. As these totals show, the largest delegations have a smaller percentage of the total number of electors. That will make it difficult for the Italians to get the papacy back, and more likely that the new pope will not be a European.

3) When the conclave starts on Monday, April 18, expect it to be done by Friday -- and possibly as early as Wednesday.

Year Days Ballots Elected
190347 Pius X

1914 3 10Benedict XV
1922 4 14 Pius XI
1939 2 3 Pius XII
1958 4 11 John XXIII
1963 3 6 Paul VI
1978 2 4 John Paul I
1978 3 8 John Paul II

We've been watching this pope slowly die for the last several years. The question of succession has been on the minds of these cardinals during all this time. All but three (one of whom, Cardinal Sin of Manila, is on kidney dialysis and unlikely to attend the conclave) were appointed by John Paul II, and most share his views on doctrinal matters. The issue here, other than nationality/ethnicity/region, is likely to be how much the next pope will intervene in the affairs of the local church vs. how much freedom will local bishops have in running their dioceses.

4) How long a papacy do these cardinals think the next pope should have? I cannot predict that. If they look for a transitional pope, I still lean towards their selection of Cardinal Ratzinger, whose major task will be dealing with those tasks the late pope left undone during the last years of his infirmity. While I doubt that a young pope is on the agenda, I could easily see Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria as the next pope if the cardinals move that direction. If a pontificate of about a decade is sought, I suspect that we will see a cardinal around age 70 (2/3 of the voting cardinals are 70 or older) elected -- perhaps the 68-year-old Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, an Argentinian of Italian heritage who would also become the first Jesuit to hold the papacy. In him we would get the simple holiness of John Paul I (he lives in a small apartment rather than the episcopal residence, cooks for himself and takes the bus to work daily) and the conservative theological and intellectual brilliance that marked John Paul II.

5) An African pope? Speculation will continue to swirl around Francis Cardinal Arinze, but the African cardinals have downplayed that speculation.

"Psychologically and spiritually, the West is still not ready for a black pope," Cardinal Bernard Agre told reporters in his native Ivory Coast.

As an American, I am inclined to disagree with that point of view -- but it may well be that this is true of the 50% of the College of Cardinals who are from Europe. Many of the cardinals can remember when Africa was mission territory and its bishops were European, and it may be that we need another generation to move past such an archaic viewpoint. If that proves to be the case, expect the Africans to vote with the Latin Americans -- though given Arinze's many years of curial experience in Rome, it could well be that the Italians and the rest of the Europeans would embrace him as one of their own.

6) We could also see another pope emerge from an oppressed church. Some speculation has revolved around Jaime Lucas Cardinal Ortega y Alamino of Havana, Cuba. At 68, he is the right age. Being from Cuba, he certainly falls in an important bloc of cardinals. He was imprisoned by Castro in the 1960s, and is an outspoken human rights advocate. What a message to send to the oppressed church in Cuba, China, and Vietnam, as well as in the Muslim world.

Some may find these words sacrilegious. After all, this isn't a political game, but a process directed by the Holy Spirit. But I do not intend to discount that fact -- after all, the Holy Spirit works though the Cardinal Electors, and influences their hearts and minds. I am simply engaging in speculation on how that process may play out.

|| Greg, 02:12 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Marriage = Career Suicide?

Most Republicans have no particular problem with homosexuals. That may shock a lot of people, given that the standard media approach to stories on the issue of the GOP and homosexuality is to interview the folks on the more extreme edge of the religious right on the issue, rather than Dick Cheney. That is why it is no surprise that there are any number of "out" conservative/libertarian Republicans who are active in the party. Arthur J. Finkelstein has been one of those for years.

On the othe hand, most members of the GOP do oppose same sex marriage -- especially if it is imposed by courts over the vocal objections of the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is an issue that the GOP has and will run on, and upon which it has and will win. And that is why a personal decision by Finkelstein may constitute career suicide.

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize them as liberal, said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

"I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said.

He declined further comment on the wedding, which was in December.

Some of Mr. Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn that this prominent American conservative had married a man, given his history with the party, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the Constitution to ban it. Mr. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures, including former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and has been the subject of attacks by gay rights activists who have accused him of hypocrisy. He was identified as gay in a Boston Magazine article in 1996.

Now I respect the right of Finkelstein and his partner to have whatever sort of personal relationship they choose to have, though I do not believe that this legitimately extends to marriage (which waas illegitimately imposed upon the people of Massachusetts by an activist court which misinterpreted a document partially written by John Adams). You would find that this is the position held by most Republicans, though not by those coming out of the ultra-libertarian wing of the party. We might personally and socially acknowledge the fact of the relationship, but reject the notion that we should be legally compelled to do more than that. Given that about 7-in-10 Americans oppose same sexx marriage, I would be willing to speculate that this is the position of roughly half the American public.

But that is not my main point. My question is this -- what happens to Finkelstein's career at this point? Does he still have a career as a GOP political consultant? I'm frankly not sure.

Among the libertarian, non-social conservative wing of the party, I'm sure he does. But given the "hot-button" nature of the gay marriage issue (which even a large number of Democrats oppose), will candidates in competitive districts and/or facing primary challenges be willing to take the risk of hiring Finkelstein? After all, we've seen candidates damaged by a bad choice in the past, if they hire a consultant whose previous work involves a controversial candidate or issue. While I respect Finkelstein's personal motives and would be willing to "agree to disagree" on that issue, I know I would never hire him for a congressional race for precisely because it would make me vulnerable in the district in which I live -- not that I plan on taking on Tom Delay any time soon. I doubt his expertise would outweigh the damage his Massachusetts marriage could (not necessarily would) cause.

By the way, I am curious about one thing. Finkelstein and his partner marriaed in December. There is just one quote attributed to him in this article. Was this marriage revealed by choice, or was it a case of outing by activists like Mike Rogers and John Aravosis (though I am NOT accusing either of having done so in this case)?

|| Greg, 10:59 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

DeLay Backs DHS Office At Ellington

In a move that is good for his district, good for Houston, good for Texas, and good for the country as a whole, House Majority Leader Tom Delay has endorsed placing one of nine regional offices of the Department of Homeland Security at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.
"In my efforts to support Ellington, I want to make sure that everything is being done to increase its value to our homeland security mission while enhancing its ability to protect the Texas Gulf Coast region," DeLay said in a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff this week.

He told Chertoff that a DHS regional office at Ellington would complement the services already there, including the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, Coast Guard Air Station Houston and the Texas Army National Guard.

Adding the DHS to the mix, the congressman said, would "ensure our region's assets, including NASA, the refineries, the Port of Houston and other critical industries in the area, are sufficiently protected."

DeLay's request is the latest addition to a growing mix of considerations and decisions that are shaping the future of the historic field that opened in 1917.

The Defense Department recently announced an agreement to relocate 2,300 military reservists to Ellington from land near Texas Medical Center that the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center wants for expansion.

Why Ellington?

  1. The basic infrastructure is there. The capital expenditures involved would be proportionately lower.
  2. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, located in a distinct region of the country. It makes sense to locate there, just as it does to place regional offices in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
  3. The Port of Houston (especially when one throws in the nearby Port of Galveston and Port of Texas City) is a major international commercial hub, especially for the petrochemical industry. Protecting our energy resources is vital. Ellington Field is located withing 15 minutes by car of virtually any of the port or chemical facilities along the Houston Ship Channel.
  4. Johnson Space Center is less than five miles away from Ellington Field, and some of the facilities related to the space program are at (or border on) Ellington Field.
  5. Houston's close proximity to the southern border.
Love DeLay or hate DeLay (and I have mixed emotions about him), placing a regional office at Ellington just makes sense.

|| Greg, 10:40 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 08, 2005

Best Buy Refuses Legal Tender -- Cops Arrest Customer

I don't shop at Best Buy. The place is too crowded, the clerks are rude, the prices are high, and they usually don't have the merchandise as advertised. I remember buying a computer there some years ago, and I won't go there again. Their advertised prices are always some gimmick. And now I come to understand that they don't always want to accept US currency.

It seems that Mike Bolesta bought his son a CD player for his car. Despite assurances, it didn't fit in the dashboard, and so they picked another one. Upon getting their refund (the second CD player was less expensive), Bolesta was told that installation fees would be waived because of the initial error on the part of Best Buy employees. Then came the phone call.

"But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They're telling me, 'If you don't come in and pay the installation fee, we're calling the police.' Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, 'Fine, I'll be in tomorrow.' But, overnight, I'm starting to steam a little. It's not the money -- it's the threat. So I thought, I'll count out a few $2 bills."

He has lots and lots of them.

With his Capital City Student Tours, he arranges class trips for school kids around the country traveling to large East Coast cities, including Baltimore. He's been doing this for the last 18 years. He makes all the arrangements: hotels, meals, entertainment. And it's part of his schtick that, when Bolesta hands out meal money to students, he does it in $2 bills, which he picks up from his regular bank, Sun Trust.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

At Best Buy, they may have perceived the protest -- but did not sense the comic aspect of 57 $2 bills.

"I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor."

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

"I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,'" Bolesta says. "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

Now I'll concede, you don't see many $2.00 bills today unless you frequent the two-dollar window down at the track. One would have hoped, though, that the manager would have known that the things were real. And surely the cops could have confirmed the legitimacy of the bills without having "cuffed and stuffed" Bolesta and then subjected him to the degradation of being hauled down to the police station. Couldn't they have just taken him back to the store security office and placed a call to the Secret Service from there?

Nope, I won't be going to best buy. Employees don't know the merchandise. Customer service is a joke. And now this absurdity.

And I'll admit right now, I wouldn't have been as kind when I got the phone call to come and pay. I would have suggested they pound sand -- and if I'd gone, I wouldn't have brought 57 $2.00 bills.

I would have stuffed my pockets with 114 Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea coins.

|| Greg, 08:11 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Let Him Serve!

I've always thought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a silly policy. Frankly, I thought the whole ban on homosexuals in the military was a bad idea before DADT was put in place. Quite simply, it deprives the military of good men and women who are ready, willing, and able to serve -- like this guy.
Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open," Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it's just not worth it."

Stout, of Utica, Ohio, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent pieces of shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was operating a machine gun on an armored Humvee last May.

He is believed to be the first gay soldier wounded in Iraq to publicly discuss his sexuality, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

"We can't keep hiding the fact that there's gay people in the military and they aren't causing any harm," said Stout, who says he is openly gay among most of his 26-member platoon, which is part of the 9th Engineer Battalion based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Stout, who served in Iraq for more than a year as a combat engineer, said by acknowledging he is gay, he could be jailed and probably will be discharged before his scheduled release date of May 31.

Let's look at this objectively. Here is a man who has shown himself more than adequate to the task of serving. Wounded in the line of duty, Stout certainly qualifies as a hero and a patriot in my book. I think the harm of discharging him is certainly more significant than the harm of keeping him -- and I believe that is the case with most homosexuals in the military.

Robert Stout is ready, willing, and able to serve. Let him.

|| Greg, 07:49 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Sounds Like the School Handled This Just Right

I wonder if the kids wore their shirts to class, and how the school dealt with that if they did.

What began as an anti-gay rally at a Rohnert Park high school today soon turned into an exercise in free speech when a group of students with a different viewpoint came out to challenge protesters.

April 13th is set aside by some to honor the gay and lesbian community nationwide, but a number of students Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park don't think that's right.

In a protest organized by the group Gay Marriage No and the school's Conservative Club and its student president and founder, Tim Beuler, about a dozen students from the school wore anti-gay sweat shirts and waved anti-gay signs as trucks drove around town emblazoned anti-gay slogans.

The gathering took place across the street from the school as protestors gave up their lunch hour to send their message to other students and people driving by. Other students from the school who support the April 13th “Day of Silence” observance weren’t quiet about letting the anti-gay protestors know they didn’t support their views.

Though things got a little tense as both sides loudly voiced their beliefs, district superintendent Michael Watenpaugh recognized the need to protect freedom of speech for all students. “It's a delicate situation.We need to preserve the rights of the students and we need to make sure that learning continues in the classroom."
Because the protest was not on school grounds, the school did not organize or try to break up the event. However, administrators did contact the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, which had officers on hand to make sure the protest did not turn violent.

For what it is worth, I don't necessarily support the actions of these kids. It sounds to me, though, like these kids were condemning homosexuals as well as homosexuality. Ihave to say that I disagree with that point of view.

I don't believe that homosexual orientation is sinful, though I believe homosexual sexual activity is (a very distinct difference). And while I oppose same sex marriage, I do not support Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And while I support making sure that schools are a safe place for students regardless of sexual preference, I oppose presenting homosexuality as just one more option to be celebrated while suppressing other points of view as anti-social.

|| Greg, 06:59 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Sounds Good To Me

After all, they are freely choosing how to direct their own cash. That is precisely what we on the right have always said they should do.
They're rich, they're outraged, and they're not going to take it anymore -- their tax refund, that is.

A Boston-based group that wants to close the nation's "wealth gap" announced on Wednesday that its members have agreed to turn down their share of "tax cuts for the wealthy" by signing a "Responsible Tax Pledge."

Individuals who have taken the pledge this year are due an average estimated 2004 tax break of $20,000, the group Responsible Wealth said.

Responsible Wealth (a project of United for a Fair Economy) is calling on rich Americans to "redirect their federal tax breaks -- by giving their "unwanted and unneeded 'windfall'" to grassroots organizations that are working for "fairer" taxes.

Those groups include Responsible Wealth; and the Fund for Tax Fairness at the Tides Foundation - the foundation frequently mentioned during the 2004 presidential campaign because it is supported by charitable donations from Teresa Heinz Kerry.

I’d just like to know – how many Senators and Congressmen who opposed the Bush tax cuts are kicking their money into the pot? You know, putting their money where their mealy mouths are.

I bet not many.

After all -- it's their money, not ours.

|| Greg, 06:55 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Dumb Stunt Leads To Minuteman Investigation

On one hand, this is almost funny, a little bit of twisted gallows humor about the job the Minutemen are doing since the Border Patrol cannot or will not do it. On the other hand, I fear that it may be used to discredit an honorable movement doing good work.
Cochise County officials said they are investigating two Minuteman volunteers after an illegal entrant complained Wednesday to authorities that he was held against his will. One of the men paid the illegal entrant $20 and gave him a T-shirt to hold up while he filmed the encounter. The T-shirt read: "Bryan Barton Caught an Illegal Alien and all I got was this T-shirt," said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department.

The border-jumper (what is this “entrant” garbage) was then turned over to the Border patrol, unharmed.

Barton, who is seeking the GOP nomination for a congressional seat in San Diego, denies any wrongdoing, as does the other man being investigated. They deny detaining the border-jumper against his will.

And of course, the Open Border activists who put the rights of immigration criminals above the rights of American citizens and the security of the United states are making the most of the situation.

"This shows what we've been saying all along," said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network. "It was nothing but a media sham to mislead the public," she said. "Clearly they misrepresented the situation. They misrepresented themselves."

No, they didn’t, as over 200 border-jumpers detained based upon the reports of the Minutemen proves. What this situation really demonstrates is that, given enough beer and enough time, even otherwise mature, responsible men will engage in antics reminiscent of a fraternity house.

Oh, and by the way, Ms. Allen -- the investigation showed that the Minutemen did nothing to the border-jumping invader that he was not willing to participate in for twenty bucks.

|| Greg, 06:52 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 07, 2005

You Knew It Had To Happen

When Andrea Yates murdered her children just a few miles from my home, my wife and I wondered how long it would be until Russell Yates started looking for another woman to breed a few more. We raised the same question again when he divorced her a couple of months back.

Well, guess what – he now says he is ready to “move on” and start a new family.

"I'm kind of in a phase where ... I'm through, I think, a lot of the healing and at a point where I'm starting to look more to the future," Russell Yates told the newspaper.

Yates, who has a new assignment with NASA as project manager for development of a sensor to detect damage on the space shuttle, talks of earning a master's degree in software engineering.

He's dating, though he declined to give details. He said he might eventually remarry and have more children.

"I have the freedom now," he said. "I'd like to do that someday and possibly have a family again. ... But I'm not 20. I'm 40. So I have to reassess where I'm at, what I have to offer."

No word on who the the object of his affection is.

What sort of sick woman would even consider marrying this guy?

Other than Andrea, of course.

|| Greg, 10:45 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

One More Assault

Well, another conservative speaker has been pied.
A conservative activist who criticizes what he calls the leftist domination of college campuses was struck with a pie Wednesday night at Butler University.

David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, had just started a lecture at Butler when he was hit.

Horowitz's supporters followed the assailants out of the hall, and confronted them with what a witness called "pushing and shoving." However, the attackers got away.

"There's a wave of violence on college campuses, committed by what I'd call fascists opposing conservatives," Horowitz said. "It's one step from that to injury."

Well, David, you have them labeled exactly right. I hope your version of the story is correct, and that three of the four punks were arrested.

The perps need to be prosecuted and expelled.

|| Greg, 10:30 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Mexican Invaders Hinder US Military Training And Readiness

Well, one more reason to seal the borders. The border-jumping invaders coming into this country with the approval and assistance of the Mexican government are putting our own troops in danger.

Virtually every Marine squadron headed to Iraq or Afghanistan receives combat training at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, which for nearly 40 miles touches the US-Mexico border in the southwestern corner of Arizona. The Border Patrol's focus in recent years on tightening the border in the eastern part of the state, where volunteer citizens this month have established their own observation posts, has pushed more undocumented immigrants westward.

Since July 2004, the training range has been shut down more than 500 times because of immigrants spotted on the range, causing a loss of more than 1,100 training hours, said Colonel James J. Cooney, the base's commanding officer.

''That's equivalent to almost 46 days of training. We're getting overrun here," he said in an interview. ''Any moment we take away from a Marine's experience base could cost him his life in combat."

Cooney said Marines intercepted more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants on the training range last year and, in the first three months of this year, more than 1,100. Base personnel detain the immigrants and call in Border Patrol agents to pick them up.

''I have to use Marines that aren't trained in that to do that, which puts me at a liability," said Cooney, a Boston College graduate. ''It's completely counterproductive to our whole training operation."

There has also been the issue of humanitarian concern. The border-jumpers might get hurt.

Another big concern, he said, is the potential danger to undocumented immigrants: ''We just don't want them to come here, because we're firing lasers, we're shooting machine guns, we're shooting 209-millimeter cannons, and we're dropping practice bombs, and we don't want to hurt anyone."

Last summer a Marine pilot dropped a practice bomb on a target and seconds later, a few feet away, a small group of illegal immigrants scrambled from underneath a bush and ran down the range. The near miss was caught on a training tape that Cooney has reviewed.

And the problem is not just confined to the Marines at this one base. It also hurts training at Army and Air Force bases near the border. Immigrants simply wander into – or are directed by smugglers into -- firing ranges where live ammunition and bombs are in use.

Two other bases in Arizona, one the Army's and another the Air Force's, have experienced similar problems.

At the Army Yuma Proving Ground, near the Marine Corps Air Station but about 30 miles north of the border, an increasing number of undocumented immigrants have invaded military space and disrupted training.

''The smugglers just drive them up the highway and dump them off, and these illegal immigrants stumble right onto our testing range," said Chuck Wullenjohn, spokesman for the Army base.
As one of the largest military installations in the Western world, the Army Yuma Proving Ground is constantly conducting tests for ground forces on artillery and ammunition, including tank rounds, mines, mortars, and helicopter guns.

''Having anyone on this range that doesn't belong here is extremely dangerous," said Wullenjohn. ''The illegal immigrant issue is becoming a bigger problem all the time."
The Air Force said it has had to interrupt exercises with F-16 pilots after undocumented immigrants were spotted on a bombing range east of Gila Bend, north of the border.

''In 2004 we suspended range operations 55 times for a net loss of 122 hours," said Jim Uken, director of the 56th Fighter Wing range management office.

We simply cannot and should not endanger the training and readiness of our men and women in uniform – not to mention our national security – in the name of protecting those who violate our borders and our laws. Maybe the solution is simple – don’t stop the training exercises. We’ve all seen the humorous signs that read “Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be prosecuted”. Perhaps the time has come to post those around these training ranges in both English and Spanish, and then act accordingly.

If that sounds harsh, so be it.

Better a dead criminal than a dead soldier.

|| Greg, 10:27 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

We Can't Let The Cops Ask About Crimes, Can We?

Police officers are in the business of tracking down and arresting criminals. Unfortunately, the Open Borders crowd has succeeded in getting a lot of locales to forbid making inquiries about immigration status. That results in absurdities like this one from the Left Coast.
Central American community leaders on Wednesday demanded to meet with Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to discuss proposed guidelines allowing police to make limited immigration inquiries about convicted felons they suspect reentered the U.S. illegally.

Under Special Order 40, adopted in 1979 to encourage illegal immigrants to report crime, LAPD officers are prevented from inquiring about a person's residency status.

However, Bratton plans to issue a clarification stating that officers can check on felons, mostly violent gang members, who were deported only to return illegally.

More than half a dozen of the community activists said clarifying the police's relationship with federal immigration officials could discourage immigrant witnesses or victims from turning to authorities to help fight crime.

Discourage ALL immigrant witnesses or victims, or discourage border-jumping witnesses and victims from reporting crimes? Well, we all know the answer there. Allowing the police to question someone about immigration crimes would discourage immigration criminals from turning to the police. Could you imagine preventing cops from asking drug dealers about drug sales because it might keep them from reporting robberies when someone steals their drug money?

The activists said they wanted to hear from Bratton himself about the specific policy language as well as safeguards to prevent police from "casting a wider net" to target illegal immigrants.

"The Los Angeles Police Department should deal with crime," added Isabel Cardenas, a longtime Salvadoran American community organizer. "Immigration should be totally separate. The change could give way to abuse."

Ms. Cardenas, this is about the police dealing with crimes. You may not have realized it, but it is a violation of the law for the border-jumpers you are trying to protect to even be in this country without the proper legal documents. By definition, seeking their removal is dealing with a crime. If you want that law change, you need to lobby your Senators and Congressmen to decriminalize illegal immigration and throw open the borders of the country to every Tomas, Rico, and Geraldo who can swim the Rio Grande or sneak across the desert.

Assistant Chief George Gascon said Wednesday that Bratton was willing to meet with the group, not only to discuss the clarification but also to spell out the reasons behind it.

"The policy is very clear," Gascon said. "The clarification has to do with people who were convicted of a felony, deported from this country and have reentered illegally, and we become of aware of it. It's very narrowly focused."

Police say some officers are confused about how to approach previously deported criminals — most with ties to violent international street gangs — with multiple misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Yeah, that’s right, these activists are afraid of the possible arrest and re-deportation of convicted violent felons, especially narco-terrorists. They don’t care about the crime – they care about getting more of their people into the country. They are, in effect, the fifth column of the Mexican invasion force.

|| Greg, 07:25 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Oh, No!

Right after I call for an end to Daylight Savings Time, along comes this atrocity.
If Congress passes an energy bill, Americans may see more daylight-saving time.

Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the last Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton (news, bio, voting record), R-Mich., who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored the measure.

The amendment was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is putting together major parts of energy legislation likely to come up for a vote in the full House in the coming weeks.

"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day.

I don’t see why it will have that effect – last time I checked, we would continue to have 24 hour days with the same day/night cycle. As I pointed out, the effect of DST on me is making me drive to school in the morning in the dark instead of daylight. Darkness at the start of the day rather than at the end. The savings are truly miniscule.

|| Greg, 06:41 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 06, 2005

An Act Of Kindness -- Remembered 60 Years Later

This story by Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune is moving and beautiful, a story of kindness and compassion that arose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the Second World War. It is also a family story, about his mother-in-law’s experience after surviving the Nazi horrors.

That it also serves as a moving tribute to the young man involved on the occasion of his passing makes it that much more beautiful. I could not help but weep as I read this story of the meeting between a young Jewish girl and a Polish seminarian.

During the summer of 1942, two women in Krakow, Poland, were denounced as Jews, taken to the city's prison, held there for a few months and then sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where, in October, they were killed in primitive Nazi gas chambers by carbon monoxide from diesel engines.

Their names were Frimeta Gelband and Salomea Zierer; they were sisters. As it happens, Frimeta was my wife's grandmother. Salomea, known as "Salla," had two daughters, one of whom survived the war and one of whom did not.

The elder of these daughters was Edith Zierer. In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death. Separated from her family, unaware that her mother had been killed by the Germans, she could scarcely walk.

But walk she did, to a train station, where she climbed onto a coal wagon. The train moved slowly, the wind cut through her. When the cold became too much to bear, she got off the train at a village called Jendzejuw. In a corner of the station, she sat. Nobody looked at her, a girl in the striped and numbered uniform of a prisoner, late in a terrible war. Unable to move, Edith waited.

Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to the girl to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?"

Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.

The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again, the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese.

They talked about the advancing Soviet army. Edith said she believed her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.

"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried - and failed. The man carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak, and set about making a small fire.

His name, he told Edith, was Karol Wojtyla.

I urge you to read the rest. It so clearly shows that Karol Wojtyla was truly every bit the man of kindness, decency, and holiness that we would all come to know as Pope John Paul II.

|| Greg, 05:15 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Sheriff Uses Driver's License Records To Track Down Critic

Imagine this scenario – you write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. In the letter, you criticize an elected law enforcement official. A short time later, you receive a letter in response from the official. How did he locate your address? That’s simple – he ran your name through the state Driver’s License database.
Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary had his aides use the records to get the address of Alice Gawronski so he could send her a scathing letter, which some say violated federal privacy law. It is illegal to access a driver's license database to obtain personal information, except for clear law-enforcement purposes, under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

"I recently read your slanderous remarks about the Orange County Sheriff's Office in the Orlando Sentinel," Beary wrote Gawronski on March 23. "It is unfortunate that people ridicule others without arming themselves with the facts before they slander a law enforcement agency or individual."

Gawronski said, "I thought I was exercising my First Amendment right of free speech -- expressing an opinion in an open forum about a paid public official." She considered Beary's letter a form of intimidation.

Violators of the driver's privacy act can be sued in U.S. District Court for damages of at least $2,500, punitive damages, attorney's fees and all other relief the court determines to be appropriate.

"If I were her, I'd sue and get him in front of a jury. He'd probably get laughed out of the courtroom," said Chris Hoofnagle, the senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "This is the most common problem with surveillance -- who's watching the watchers."

Beary claims that responding to a “citizen concern” is part of his duties, but that hardly constitutes a “law-enforcement purpose.” I’m with the guy from EPIC – I think his method was illegal. For that matter, I think his letter was abusive and unprofessional. The goal seems to have been to place Gawronski in fear of litigation (notice the charge of slander made repeatedly by the Beary), not answer her concerns.

What is it about Florida?

|| Greg, 05:01 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Ninth Circuit Finds A Limit To Free Speech

That limit is the lap-dance. Such erotic dances are not constitutionally protected “expressive speech”, and are therefore outside the bounds of the irst Amendment. Therefore, local government (and presumably state government) can implement policies which regulate stripper/patron contact.
The city of La Habra requires that lap dancers stay at least 2 feet away from customers during their performances.

Badi "Bill" Gammoh, who owns the Taboo Theater, contends the rule infringes on freedom of expression. The strippers said they also lost money because of the requirement.

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a January ruling that upheld the 2-foot rule. But Gammoh's lawyer said their fight isn't over yet.

I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat surprised by this decision. Given that we are talking about the Ninth Circuit, I would have expected a requirement that lap dances receive public subsidies.

|| Greg, 04:58 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

ACLU Declares Prayer 'Un-American And Immoral'

Well, we clearly know who the enemy is in this case.
ACLU of Louisiana executive director Joe Cook says it was “un-American and immoral” to allow an adult to pray over Loranger High School’s public address system. Cook says members of the school board should be fined or jailed for failing to stop it.

Last month, the ACLU asked Judge Ginger Berrigan to hold the same school board in contempt for letting an elementary school student recite the Lord’s Prayer before its meeting.

Berrigan ruled in February that school boards, unlike most government bodies, cannot hold public prayers. That ruling was denounced by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and is being appealed.

Now there may be a problem with the prayer before the game, based upon the Santa Fe case, but the court is probably wrong on the school board prayer ruling. There is no basis for excluding school boards from the same rules that apply to other elected bodies.

As for "un-American and immoral", I think that label is more accurately applied to the judge and the ACLU than it is to prayer.

|| Greg, 04:56 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Homosexual Marriage Loses Again

Well, this now makes it 18-0 for the traditional marriage side. You see, each and every time the people speak on the issue, homosexual marriage loses. That explains why the supporters of homosexual marriage have consistently turned to the courts to impose it on an unwilling nation.

Some folks clearly do not understand the implications of a 70%-30% margin.

Opponents who gathered near the state Capitol in Topeka were disappointed but not surprised by the results.

The vote is not reflective of the typical Kansan, said Steve Brown of Prairie Village, a member of Kansans for Fairness, a group that worked to defeat the amendment.

“Eventually, moderate Kansans are going to stand up and say they've had enough,” Brown said.

Oh, please. A 70% margin means that it IS reflective of typical Kansans, folks. The reality is that EVERY SINGLE POLL shows the result to be reflective of typical AMERICANS. There is simply no historical basis for arguing that any provision of the Constitution of the US, or of any state in the Union, was intended to establish and protect homosexual marriage. So Mr. Brown, you have are right, moderate Kansans have stood up and said they have had enough – of folks like you pushing your agenda.

Oh, and by the way – you don’t suppose that the 18-0 record of voter approval of state amendments banning homosexual marriage constitutes a trend and a consensus, like that they discovered in the Simmons case on the juvenile death penalty, do you? Or do such judicial creations only apply to liberal causes and positions?

|| Greg, 04:52 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Ridor Calls For Natural Disaster To Wipe Out Conservatives And Christians

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have this nasty habit of saying that natural disasters happen to punish the sins of groups of people, especially homosexuals. Now I disagree with that theology, and I have condemned such comments when they have been made. For that reason, I feel perfectly appropriate condemning the words of our resident troll, Ridor.
When I drove eastward to Cody from Yellowstone, the drive down the massive mountain was absolutely stunning. I even stopped by the gas station to fill the tank. I turned my back to gaze upon the road that I drove few minutes earlier. I was astonished by its massive size. Yellowstone National Park sits on the top of the mountain. It is a sleeping giant waiting to erupt once again.

And when it does, it shall overwhelm Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and the parts of Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas and Minnesota -- the hotbed of Republicans, Conservatives and X-ians. Surely, it will be delicious to witness the death of filthy Republicans, dirty Conservatives and X-ian pigs. Of course, Ann Coulter would still blame the Liberals for causing the dormant volcano to erupt in the first place.

Now, could you imagine the outrage voiced by Ridor if Falwell or Robertson changed the disaster location to San Francisco and suggested that it would "be delicious to witness the death of filthy sodomites, dirty lesbians and transgendered pigs"?

Why is such a double standard acceptable? Why do you think you and your words are exempt from standards of fundamental moral decency to which you seek to hold others?

|| Greg, 04:36 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 05, 2005

No Freedom For Teachers In Soviet Kanuckistan

This Canadian case chills me to the bone, as I am a politically active Republican in addition to being a teacher. I thank God for our First Amendment, because if I lived in Canada I would be out of a job -- possibly for this blog.
In a decision handed down yesterday, Quesnel School District Superintendent Ed Napier suspended school counsellor Dr. Chris Kempling for three months. Dr. Kempling has been employed as a counsellor since 1990, and has been active in a wide variety of volunteer positions in the community. He is also the local spokesperson of the federal Christian Heritage Party, and had written a letter to the editor of the local newspaper on behalf of his party, criticizing the Liberal government's same sex marriage legislation. The school district did not provide a single example of disruption to the school system, or any negative effect of the letter. They also ignored over a dozen letters of reference from supervisors and community members written in support of Dr. Kempling.

Think about this. The implications for non-PC teachers in Canada are astounding.

  1. The freedom to participate in political activities does not exist if you are a Canadian educator. Taking the "wrong" political position can leave you subject to suspension, or even termination. Implicit in this employment action is the threat that other party members might be so disciplined.
  2. Freedom of speech also does not exist for Canadian educators. The principles of "tolerance", "diversity", and "sensitivity" trump the the speech rights enshrined in The Canadian Charter of Liberties and Canadian law.
  3. Religious freedom is also endangered for Canadian teachers. After all, the Christian Heritage Party is based upon certain lon-standing religious teachings of the Christian religion. Would membership in a Church espousing the same position as the party, if it became publicly know, be grounds for employment sanctions?
  4. Canadian educators are now threatened with disciplinary action for actions taken or words spoken on their private time, not in their public role as an educator but instead in their role as private citizen. No disruption of the school or of the education of students needs be demonstrated.
What you have, therefore, is a reduction of human rights for Canadian educators. They have become second-class citizens. And we are not talking about some Third World dictatorship or banana republic -- we are talking about a nation that claims to be a Western Democracy which protects the rights of its citizens.

Dr. Kempling plans on fighting his suspension through the district grievance process and through the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, on the basis that he is being discriminated against on the basis of political association. But do not hold out much hope for him -- a Canadian teacher was recently suspended and denied relief for writing a letter to the editor denouncin homosexuality. Ther eis no particular reason to expect better in this case.

|| Greg, 07:01 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Killing King’s College

King’s College is a small school, over 40 years old, that lived a quiet existence in the suburbs of New York City. No one took much notice of the small evangelical school, despite its reputation for excellence, until it moved into the NYC itself and took up residence in one of the city’s great icons – the Empire State Building. There it began to focus on politics, philosophy, and economics, seeking to prepare its students for positions in government and business. And now, suddenly, its accreditation by the New York Board of Regents is at stake.

King’s College has been accredited by the New York State Board of Regents for over 40 years, and all was on track for yet another renewal. After the college was scrutinized by the New York State Board of Education and an external site visit team, the Regents’ own Advisory Council recommended a five-year extension of King’s accreditation. So the stage was set for a fascinating experiment in higher education — an ultimate encounter of red and blue America.

That was until King’s College caught the attention of John Brademas, a quintessentially liberal politician, and one of the newest members of the State Board of Regents. Brademas had been a liberal Democratic congressman from Indiana, but was defeated in 1980 (according to this study with major opposition from the Moral Majority). After his defeat, Brademas went on to serve as president of New York University for a decade — a period during which NYU consolidated its reputation as a liberal bastion.

As soon as the question of King’s College’s accreditation came before the Regents, Brademas began to throw up a series of patently bogus objections, all of which were answered in the written material prepared by the Regents own Advisory Council. Brademas harped on the college’s small library — yet neglected to note that King’s is across the street from the Science and Business Branch of the New York Public Library, and seven short blocks from the library’s main building. That gives King’s a better library than all but a handful of colleges and universities in New York State.

But the silliest objection of all was the claim that the college has a misleading name. After all, said Brademas, King’s College was the original name of Columbia University. Wouldn’t that mislead prospective students into thinking they’re attending Columbia, instead of an evangelical Christian school? Trouble is, Columbia University changed its name from King’s to Columbia over 200 years ago — after the Revolution broke our ties with England’s king. And, of course, the King honored in King’s College’s name is God. New York’s Regents have accredited this college for over 50 years under the name of King’s. So why the problem now?

Frankly, it appears that there is no basis for the objection. The school has met the standards of the Regents for around half a century. More to the point, Joseph Frey, the state Education Department’s Assistant Commissioner of Quality Assurance, has stated that the school is in compliance. Now they have given the school only a single year’s accreditation – despite the fact that their own rules call for a five year accreditation, and provide for a shorter period (two years) only in the event that a school given conditional or probationary accreditation. The only folks who are out of compliance with the rules of the New York Board of Regents are the Regents themselves!

Now I won’t go quite to the lengths of those who have said that this is the case of religious discrimination, though I think that a prima facie case can be made that this unique abuse of a small evangelical college is religiously based. I’ll simply call it what it is – an immoral violation of due process. I won’t get into the question of whether or not the Regents should exist, or whether the state has any place doing accreditation when the private sector handles the process quite well through a variety of accrediting bodies. But I will say that there is a clear injustice here.

What can you do? Might I suggest writing to the Regents in protest? They can be contacted through the board secretary at

Let’s tell them that they cannot kill King’s College.

|| Greg, 05:24 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

How Effective Are The Minutemen?

Let’s see – in their first four days, they were involved in the apprehension of 118 border jumpers.
So far, 118 illegal aliens have been arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol based on calls from Minuteman volunteers along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, where limited patrols began Friday.

"This is not about racism or hate, but the rule of law," said Bob Wright of Hobbs, N.M., who spent the weekend helping to map out the group's observation posts.

"I would hope the two governments would try to do something. ... What is happening to these people who risk their lives to come into the United States is a travesty."

Not only that, they can see other groups of would-be immigration criminals can be seen waiting for the Minutemen to leave. They know that if they try to cross they will be caught.

|| Greg, 05:22 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Student Wins Net Speech Dispute

Ryan Dwyer was an eighth grader at Maple Place Middle School in Oceanport, New Jersey, didn’t like his school. He disliked it so much that he created a website about it – one which provided a forum for others to talk about school and encouraged other students to make “I Hate maple Place” stickers for their notebooks. In other words, he acted sort of juvenile – just like a normal eighth grader.

Until the school decided his site constituted a threat, demanded it be shut down, and suspended the boy because the site offended school officials. No policy or law was ever cited by any district official as grounds for the punishment, just vague claims that the site contained threats and constituted possible criminal conduct.

Launched in April 2003, the Web site greeted users with the legend, “Welcome to the Anti-Maple Place — Your Friendly Environment,” and said: “This page is dedicated to showing students why their school isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. You may be shocked at what you find on this site.”

Ryan urged students to make stickers that said “I hate Maple Place” and also wrote, “Don’t even try to make me take my Web site down because it is illegal to do so!”

Users who wished to leave comments were instructed not to use profanity and “no threats to any teacher or person EVER.”

Some visitor comments criticized the school and its teachers, but others, the lawsuit conceded, “were arguably crude, sophomoric and offensive.” Ryan never made threats or profanity, it said.

[Judge] Chesler wrote that the defendants “could only have lawfully disciplined Ryan for statements and other content created and provided by him, and not for any comments made by other individuals in his guest book.”

Perhaps most alarming is that despite the family’s cooperation with the school’s censorship of out-of-school speech, Ryan was suspended for a week, banned from the school baseball team for a month, and denied the right to go on a class trip to Philadelphia. It seems pretty clear that the goal was not just to remove any material that violated school policies (there were no such policies), but to punish the boy for activities over which the school had no legitimate basis for controlling.

Today, Ryan is a sophomore at Shore Regional High School, and he noted the following about the case.

“When I was in eighth grade, it kind of just seemed like I couldn’t do anything about it,” Ryan said. “Now I realize that I missed out on a lot of things, and it feels good that they got proved wrong about what they did.”

“I was really surprised that the school administrators actually thought they could punish me for just saying a couple of things about them,” he said.

Sadly, there are still too many school administrators out there who forget that students do not shed their liberties at the schoolhouse gate, and that whatever limits are legitimate at school do not follow the student home. Sadly, the judge ruled that the principal and superintendent could not be held personally liable for their violation of Ryan’s rights. That’s too bad, because only that will convince some administrators that the dictates of the US Constitution apply to their actions.

|| Greg, 05:20 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

What Would They Do About Tic Tacs?

They were only mints, not drugs. They contained caffeine and another ingredient often found in energy supplements. But they caused a panic at a school in Ohio when several students ate them and began to feel their hearts race.

Now the boy who brought them to school will “only” be suspended for 10 days under a policy banning any item that resembles a drug.

Police won't charge a 13-year-old boy who was suspended for 10 days after he brought caffeine-laced mints to school and his classmates got sick.

Nine students between the ages of 12 and 14 were sent to a hospital last month after eating the mints. The students at Jackson Memorial Middle School near Canton were treated and released for symptoms such as a racing heartbeat.

Police considered filing charges against the boy until they tested the ingredients in the Blast Energy Supplemints.

"We found no illegal substance whatsoever. Just caffeine," said Major Tim Escola.

Besides caffeine, the pills contain taurine, a common ingredient in energy drinks such as Red Bull.

Police estimated about 39 mints could have been eaten by the students. According to the label, a single serving is six mints, which contains 15 milligrams of caffeine. That's about half the amount of caffeine in a regular can of soda.

The mints are distributed by Bally Total Fitness Corp. and advertised on the company's Web site as an ephedra-free pick-me-up for "quick energy support for work, play, school, athletics, weight training and much more."

The boy's mother said she bought the mints at a drug store and that her son took them from her purse without her permission.

School officials suspended the boy for 10 days because school policy prohibits anything that resembles a drug.

So how much caffeine did the kids get from this so-called look-alike drug? About half that provided by a can of soda in the school cafeteria.


|| Greg, 05:16 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Watcher Post

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting one of my own posts for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.
Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

And there is an open seat on the Watcher's Council. Contact the Watcher if you are interested.

|| Greg, 06:13 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Well, The Loons Are Out!

America's most vile hatemonger, Fred Phelps, is at work showing the world what a Christian is not. His take on the Pope's Death can be found here and here.

I'd suggest deluging him with email, but I somehow doubt that it would have any effect on his demented mind.

|| Greg, 05:13 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 04, 2005

Thief Steals Motorcycle At Accident Scene, Leaves Body

I know they say there is no honor among thieves. Would it have been too much to expect a little bit of decency in this case here in Houston?
A man was killed this morning when his motorcycle crashed into a northwest Houston house, but the motorcycle soon disappeared, police said.

The man's body was found around 6 a.m. today between two houses in the 1800 block of West Gulf Bank near Donley. He had suffered major head trauma, said Houston Police Department Sgt. David Crain.

Homicide investigators and crime scene unit officers were initially called to the scene, but determined the man had been injured in some sort of traffic accident after finding broken bits of the motorcycle nearby and discovering a tire track leading up to the house.

Officers also found a spot where the man's head had hit the house. He was not wearing a helmet, Crain said.

Police determined the man had been driving a motorcycle southbound on Donley Street at a high rate of speed, then crossed over West Gulf Bank and hit the house.

After the impact, someone came along and took the motorcycle, leaving the man's body there, police said. Police were still looking for that motorcycle later today, Crain said.

The depravity of some people is beyond my understanding.

|| Greg, 05:15 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Cardinal “In Pectore” –Who Is It?

As has been mentioned a number of times in recent days, Pope John Paul II did not announce one of his appointments as cardinal during the 2003 consistory. The name still has not been made public. That leads to an obvious question – who is this cardinal “in the breast”? There is much speculation.

The first possibility is, of course, that the pope told no one who his selection was, and did not leave any written indication of the choice. In that case, the man in question can never be known. But what if the identity was revealed, one way or another? Who might it be?

Observers divide into two camps on the identity of our “undercover cardinal.” On the one hand, it might be a prelate from an oppressed church who would face danger if named publicly. On the other, it could be someone quite close to John Paul, perhaps a priest or prelate in the Vatican whose elevation would have created difficulties if publicly known.

Those who hold the latter view have a candidate in mind. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s private secretary for many years. He was ordained a priest by then-Bishop Karol Wojtyla in 1963, and served as his secretary in Krakow and the Vatican. Naming him a cardinal publicly would have been difficult, as it would have likely meant the loss of his services. It would not have been out of character for John Paul to have withheld the public acknowledgement of that appointment until after his death, leaving a final gift to the one man to whom he was closest. If this is the case, we will soon know, because Dziwisz is young enough to participate in the conclave, and near enough at hand to make the announcement of his appointment a simple task.

And there is an element of danger in announcing the appointment of a bishop from an oppressed church. Such a cardinal would almost certainly come from the People’s Republic of China or, perhaps Vietnam. In those nations, making the appointment public would subject the cardinal to arrest, torture, or even martyrdom. Such appointments were not unprecedented under the late pope.

John Paul has named three other "in pectore" cardinals whose names were later revealed, including Marian Jaworski, archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, for Catholics who follow the Latin rite, and Janis Pujats of Riga, Latvia.

Both Ukraine and Latvia formerly belonged to the officially atheist Soviet Union.

The third was Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, an elderly Chinese bishop who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons for defying attempts by China's communist government to control Roman Catholics through the state-run church.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, speculation has centered on Bishop Julius Jia of China, but there are others who might also have been chosen by John Paul II. Would it be possible to announce the name of the secret cardinal and get him safely to Rome in time to participate? Would he be allowed to return home in the event he did participate? Those questions would need to be answered, and the consequences considered, before making the announcement.

What impact would this cardinal, the name made public only after the late pope’s death, have at the conclave? Dziwisz certainly knew the mind and heart of the pope better than anyone. What weight would his voice be given? Would he be a desirable candidate himself, or would the election of a second Polish pope in as many conclaves be tone too many? Would a stranger from a strange land, one who has lived under the bootheel of totalitarian oppression (much like a certain Polish cardinal in 1978) have great influence – or even bee seen as the key to liberating his homeland if elected, just as John Paul II’s words and deeds were instrumental in liberating Poland and the rest of the Eastern Bloc?

So much could hinge on the identity of the cardinal “in pectore,” if only we learn his identity.

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

The Catholic Church Is Not A Democracy

That’s why I find this poll to be more than a little bit absurd.

The U.S. Catholic church is struggling with a variety of problems, including a dramatically shrinking U.S. priesthood, disagreement over the proper role for lay leaders, and a conservative-liberal divide over sexuality, women's ordination and clergy celibacy.

About two-thirds of those polled, 69 percent, said priests should be allowed to marry and almost that many, 64 percent, said they want women in the priesthood. Six in 10 Catholics supported each of those steps.

More than four in five Americans — and about the same number of Catholics — said they want to see the next pope do more to address the problem of priests sexually abusing children.

The church has been trying to deal with an abuse crisis that bubbled to the surface in January 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread throughout the country. Since then, the church has adopted a toughened discipline policy, enacted child protection and victim outreach plans in dioceses, and removed hundreds of accused priests from church work.

Americans were divided when asked from where the next pope should come. Just over a third said he should be from Europe, while a similar number said he should be from a part of the world where Catholicism is growing fastest, like Africa or Latin America. The rest weren't sure.

First, the poll does not limit itself to Catholics only. In that regard, it is somewhat insulting. Could you imagine a survey of all Americans regarding whether Jews should change the rules on what is kosher to include pork? But beyond that, I would be curious to find out how many of the “Catholics” were actually practicing Catholics. My guess would be no more than 10% of those included in the sample were actually baptized Catholics who have set foot in a Catholic Church for anything other than Easter, Christmas, weddings, and funerals during the last 12 months. In other words, why should we care what 90% of these people think on issues related to the Catholic Church.

Second, the Catholic Church is not run based upon opinion polls and focus groups. It doesn’t matter how many folks in the US think the Pope should come from the Third World, Europe, or Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And given that Americans are a relatively small subset of the Church, the opinions of Americans are not highly relevant.

Still, an exercise like this one could be interesting if done right. You know, if they had surveyed Catholics about their views on Catholicism. Not that it would have had any impact on who or how the new pope would be chosen.

|| Greg, 05:09 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Treating Healers Like Pushers

I hope you never ever have to live with chronic pain. I hope none of your loved ones ever has to live with chronic pain. It is a hell that no individual should have to live with. Medically, there is only one treatment – high doses of pain-killing drugs, including opiates. Trust me – I know. My wife is one whose only relief comes from a pharmaceutical cocktail.

Doctors are hesitant to prescribe these drugs because writing “too many” prescriptions for “too many” pills at “too high” a dosage brings scrutiny that doctors would prefer not to face. My wife’s pain management doctor recently informed us that he had changed office policy to forbid a practice that is standard in most physician’s offices – giving refills to a pharmacy by phone. If my wife (and every other patient) wants a refill, she must make an office visit and be seen by the doctor. Why? Because of cases like this one.

In December, after a federal jury convicted McLean, Virginia, pain doctor William Hurwitz of running a drug trafficking operation, the foreman told The Washington Post "he wasn't running a criminal enterprise." Don't bother reading that sentence again; it's not going to make any more sense the second time around.

Hurwitz, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14 and will go to prison for life if U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler follows the prosecutors' recommendation, was charged with drug trafficking because a small minority of his patients abused or sold narcotic painkillers he prescribed for them. Prosecutors argued his practice amounted to a "criminal enterprise" based on a "conspiracy of silence"—i.e., a conspiracy in which Hurwitz did not actually conspire with anyone—because he charged for his services and should have known some of his patients were faking or exaggerating their pain.

Judging from the comments of the jury foreman, Ralph Craft, the jurors did not really buy this theory. Perhaps they still harbored the legally unsophisticated notion that drug traffickers are people who engage in drug trafficking. But they convicted Hurwitz anyway, because they didn't like the way he practiced medicine.
"I'm not an expert," Craft conceded, while expressing the opinion that Hurwitz was "a little bit cavalier" in prescribing opioids. "He ramped up and ramped up the prescriptions very quickly," he said. "This is stuff that can kill people. He should have been extra careful."

Craft and his fellow jurors were appalled by the sheer number of pills Hurwitz prescribed. "The dosages were just astounding," he said, calling them "beyond the bounds of reason."

But they are not beyond the bounds of reason. The body builds up a tolerance to these medications, as a physical dependency develops. Where one pill getting up and one pill at dinner might have provided relief early on, in a year or so the dosage will need to reach four pills a day, just to be able to move around the house. From there the dosage must increase, or a new medication must be introduced. Some medications are not even considered – Oxy-Contin, for example, because of the scrutiny it brings due to the high level of abuse. And even with all the changes and increases, the pain continues to progress. Still more medication is necessary, just to have some semblance of a normal life.

Those dosages are pretty intense. I was recently prescribed one of my wife’s medications when I had a muscle spasm in my neck and back that went on for two weeks. My dosage was lower, and less frequent than what my wife regularly takes. The first dose took away all my pain – and left me incapable of walking any further than the bathroom for the next six hours – and so frightened that I refused to take the medication again. My wife, on the other hand, is completely clear-headed when she takes a dosage twice as high four times a day. Why? Because her body has built up a tolerance to the medication, and its effect on a systemic neuro-muscular disease is palliative, not intoxicating.

In a letter they wrote before the verdict, six past presidents of the American Pain Society rebuked Ashburn for this statement, along with several other misrepresentations of pain treatment standards. "We are stunned by his testimony," they said. "Use of 'high dose' opioid therapy for chronic pain is clearly in the scope of medicine."

As these pain experts recognized, Hurwitz was not the only person on trial at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. So was every doctor who has the courage to risk investigation by treating people who suffer from severe chronic pain with the high doses of opioids they need to make their lives livable.

In poignant letters to Judge Wexler, who has fairly wide latitude in punishing Hurwitz now that the U.S. Supreme Court has made federal sentencing guidelines merely advisory, dozens of his former patients recount how he saved them from constant agony caused by migraines, back injuries, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and other painful conditions that left them disabled, homebound, despondent, and in some cases suicidal. They outline the difficulties they had in getting adequate treatment before they found Hurwitz and the trouble they've been having since the government put him out of business.

"Good pain doctors are hard to find," writes one. "I am saddened that Dr. Hurwitz is branded a criminal for helping me and helping people like me." Another argues that Hurwitz's "crime"—trusting his patients—was one of his greatest virtues. "It is to Dr. Hurwitz's credit," he says, "that he chose to trust that his patients were genuinely seeking relief from pain that cannot be objectively measured. This trust is, in my experience, all too rare." Threatening doctors with prison for viewing their patients with inadequate suspicion will make it even rarer.

What has happened here is that the War on Drugs has turned into a War on Doctors – and by extension, into a War on Patients. Prosecutions like the Hurwitz case make it harder for patents like my wife to get needed medications in therapeutic doses. And it leaves me asking uncomfortable questions.

Will the day come that my wife’s doctor is going to refuse to give her the medication she needs in order to keep out of jail?

Will this kind and decent man be put on trial because some patient overdoses or sells medication?

Will some prosecutor be second–guessing my wife’s medical care?

Or will needed medications, and the physician's to prescribe them, remain available?

|| Greg, 05:02 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 03, 2005

"Mail It In" -- How To Avoid The Filibuster

Let's concede, for the sake of argument, that Senator Robert Byrd (Klan-Dogpatch) is correct. No where does the Constitution require an "up-or-down" vote on a judicial nominee. It just isn't in there. But then again, the Constitution does not mandate a vote at all. It simply calls fo the "advice and consent" of the Senate. So notes a piece in today's Opinion Journal.
As the Senator says, Article II of the Constitution is silent on how the Senate shall exercise its "advice and consent" power in confirming judicial nominees. For more than 200 years, however, that body has interpreted the Founders' injunction to mean that a simple majority of Senators--51 in our age--must vote to confirm. That's why we cried foul in President Bush's first term when Democrats filibustered 10 appeals-court nominees, thereby denying them an up-or-down vote on the floor--even though every candidate had the support of a bipartisan majority. A vote to end a filibuster requires a super-majority of 60 Senators.

But now that Senator Byrd has expressed the view that the Senate doesn't have to vote at all, here's a better idea for ending the impasse over judicial nominations: Fifty-one of the 55 Republican Senators can simply send the President a letter expressing their support for his candidates. Under Mr. Byrd's Constitutional analysis, the Senate will have exercised "advice and consent" and the judges will be confirmed.

Sounds reasonable to me. Having advised the President to reappoint those candidates denied a floor vote, the explicit consent of a majority of senators, communicated to the President constitutes "advice and consent". The Constitutional mandate having been met, the nominations are, by any Constitutional standard, approved and the judges confirmed.

Thank you, Senator Byrd, for providing the solution to the current crisis. Let the filibuster rule remain unchanged -- just follow the Constitution. Problem solved.

|| Greg, 01:16 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Maligned Minutemen Save Border Jumper

And I thought they were supposed to be gun-wielding racists out "hunting for Mexicans". What happened? Could it be that the leftists, the Preseident Bush, and Pendejo Presidente Fox have misled us -- perhaps intentionally so?

Minuteman Project volunteers helped an illegal entrant in distress late Friday. The incident was the first documented encounter between the volunteers and Mexican nationals sneaking across the border, officials said.

The incident happened around midnight when a tired and thirsty illegal entrant who'd been separated from his group approached Minuteman volunteers at the Bible College in Palominas, said U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame. Project volunteers have been camping out at the college.

Not, of course, that this changed anyone's point of view about American citizens engaged inlegal activity attempting to help the Border Patrol.

Officials from both sides of the issue said that Minuteman volunteers proved helpful in the first contact with an entrant. "In this particular case, it was helping us. In this sole incident, it was a help," Adame said, adding the Border Patrol still doesn't support the Minuteman Project, which involves volunteers stationed along areas on the border looking for illegal entrants. One case of providing help doesn't make the monthlong protest acceptable, said a member of a border rights group. "The fact that they encountered a migrant and did the right thing, yes I'm glad. Does it suddenly make them OK in our communities? No," said Kat Rodriguez, an organizer for the Tucson-based Derechos Humanos, a rights group that has spoken out against the project.

And therein lies the problem. The administration is more concerned with kissing the butt of maintaining good relations with the Mexican cabron president than with protecting our borders and enforcing our laws, hence the opposition from the Border patrol. And the so called "border rights groups" (read that "pro-crime groups") are always going to be opposed to any enforcement of our nation's laws at all -- they are the immigration equivalent of members of the Osama Fan Club. The result is that no matter what the Minutemen do, they will be maligned by those who are opposed not only to their presence, but to their agenda.

UPDATE: Well, now they've tipped Border patrol officers to a group of border jumpers coming into the country illegally -- 18 border jumpers arrested.

Volunteers for an effort to patrol the Mexican border reported their first sighting of suspected illegal immigrants, resulting in 18 arrests, authorities said Sunday.

Participants in the Minuteman Project spotted the migrants Saturday near Naco as the volunteers were surveying the border to familiarize themselves with area. When agents arrived, they apprehended 18 people, Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said.

"You observe them, report them and get out of the way," said Mike McGarry, a spokesman for the project, which begins Monday and is to continue for a month.

Now who are the bad guys here? The Minutemen, or their opponents?

|| Greg, 12:47 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 02, 2005

Anti-JPII Bias At New York Times

Hindrocket over at Power Line found this unbelievable bias from the friendly folks at the New York Times.

It seems that they had a very critical obituary chock-full of quotes from critics and opponents ready to run when Pope John Paul II died this afternoon -- but somehow hadn't gotten around to finding anyone with something good to say about one of the most beloved figures on the planet. Compare the screenshot of the original version with the current version of the same story. Notice the line that appears right before they bring in a theologian so heretical that he had his teaching credentials yanked by the Vatican!

Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life.

"The situation in the Catholic church is serious," Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, who was barred by from teaching in Catholic schools because of his liberal views, wrote last week. "The pope is gravely ill and deserves every compassion. But the Church has to live. ...

In my opinion, he is not the greatest pope but the most contradictory of the 20th century. A pope of many, great gifts, and of many bad decisions!"

I have to say it -- this is absolutely beyond belief, even for a once-great newspaper turned third-rate birdcage-liner like the New York Times.

(Hat Tip -- Michelle Malkin)

|| Greg, 11:13 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Sede Vacante -- RIP Pope John Paul II

V. Eternal rest grant unto them him, O Lord. R. And may perpetual light shine upon them him. V. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. R. Amen.
Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, has died at 84, the Vatican announced in an e-mail Saturday.

"The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment. All the procedures outlined in the apostolic Constitution `Universi Dominici Gregis' that was written by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been put in motion."

|| Greg, 02:12 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Papabile -- Possible Popes

UPDATE -- April 9, 2005: After reading this post, consider going to my new post on the conclave, Thoughts On The Papal Election of 2005. It looks at the upcoming conclave in light of events of the last week, and considers the chances of some of "possible popes" mentioned below, along with some additional candidates who have emerged since the death of John Paul II.

* * * *

In theory, the next Pope can be any baptized Catholic male. That leaves a lot of possible candidates out there. But the likelihood of us seeing the election of Ted Kennedy, Feddie from Southern Appeal, or one of my old seminary classmates is pretty remote. It has been centuries since someone NOT a member of the College of Cardinals was elevated to the Throne of St. Peter. That narrows the field significantly, to fewer than 200 "princes of the Church. When we exclude non-voting members of the College (over age 80) as likely too old to be elected, that leaves us with 117 (of the maximum 120 allowed by Church law) Cardinal Electors. In 2003, the Pope did create one Cardinal "in pectorre", meaning the name has been kept secret. It is believed that the secret Cardinal is one of the bishops of the Catholic Church loyal to the Vatican which has been oppressed in the People's Republic of China. The Vatican could quickly announce his name and have him participate in the conclave IF he can be safely gotten out of China and if he is under 80.

Different names are already circulating as papabile -- "possible popes" -- as we head towards a likely conclave in the month of April. I've written on this before (and got 300 hits on this earlier post just yesterday, since I am #3 on Google's search on the subject), but I think it is time to look at the topic again, as a conclave seems much closer than it did in February.

Generally speaking, church observers group the 117 cardinals eligible to elect the next pope into four overlapping constituencies:

There are those, likely a majority, who decidedly don't want the next papacy to last as long as John Paul's, who was elected Pope in 1978 at age 58.

They will favour an older man, maybe a caretaker pope, to nanny the church as it adapts to a new era without John Paul's fist on the tiller, but who will not stay in the job too long.

There are cardinals who will want a pope from the global South, where nearly 70 per cent of the world's Catholics now live.

Opposing them will be cardinals who think one of John Paul's great failures was his inability to address European secularism, and who, therefore, feel the next pope should be a Western European.

And there will be cardinals who, despite sharing John Paul's conservative theology — which virtually all of them do — have chafed under his centralized iron authority and will want the next pope to be more collegial, which is Catholic code language for allowing national churches and bishops to be more in charge of their own show.

What names are being tossed around as serious papabile? Well, here are a number I have encountered.

One thing to note is that each of them (except Schönborn & Rodríguez Maradiaga) is an older man, indicating that we are likely to see a "caretaker pope" who will likely give the Church a little breathing room after the third longest papacy in history, one defined by arguably the strongest papal personality in a century. Such popes are not generally expected to do much, but can be surprising. The last "caretaker" was Pope John XXIII, who was expected to do little more than correct Pius XII's failure to appoint Milan's Archbishop Montini to the College. Instead he issued the call for the Second Vatican Council, changing the Catholic Church forever.

Ultimately, we don't know who the next pope will be, or where he is from. That is up to the Holy Spirit, acting through the Cardinal Electors in the conclave.


Here is an Australian article that matches up well with much of my list, though with some differences.

This ABC News article is also sort of interesting.

The Houston Chronicle carried this article from Reuters giving a list with biographies. There are some significant additions and subtractions from my list.

In addition, I've got one Czech reader pushing his personal favorite, along with a list of other candidates.

|| Greg, 09:36 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Seattle Secretly Selling Sick Brains From Morgue

This sounds almost like a sick joke -- but it isn't.

Imagine the moment of deepest loss. Your spouse, parent, sibling or child is dead. You've lived for with the difficulties that came with this loved one's mental illness. You've hoped and prayed for a cure of some kind for the disease from which they suffered for years. And now someone from the lab asks for tissue samples from their brain and other organs for research purposes. It would be hard to say no. And that's what they counted on -- that, and the probability that you would ask no further questions.

Folks on Vashon Island called him "Cool Gary," a local schizophrenic who loved hitchhiking and playing practical jokes.

When Gary died jumping into traffic in November 1998, his body wound up at the King County Morgue.

Less than 72 hours later, Gary's brain was removed and mailed to Bethesda, Md. It became property of The Stanley Medical Research Institute, a multimillion-dollar company that studies mental disorders.

"I can't believe what is happening here," said Bill Lynn, Gary's father.

Bill Lynn says he's never heard of Stanley. He at first thought KIRO Team 7 Investigators were kidding when we showed him proof that King County profited from harvesting his son's brain.

"You're crazy! I didn't raise my kids to sell 'em. This is unreasonable. Why would I agree with any hospital or anybody to receive any money for any body parts? No way! I'm just not built that way," Lynn said.

So what about this written "consent form" provided to KIRO Team 7 Investigators by King County as proof that Bill authorized the brain donation?

"Something is rotten in Denmark, that's for sure. No, I never, I didn't sign anything. That's not my writing here," Lynn said.

Here's what Lynn says did happen: The Medical Examiner's office called on the phone, asking for a "skin and brain tissue donation."

"They didn't tell me they were going to sell it. I'd have said 'no' right off the bat," said Lynn.

I could imagine an honest conversation about what was going on. Tell me what you think.

"Hi, This is Bob from over at the county morgue. I'm mighty sorry your son died. Would you be willing to give us your son't brain so we can sell it to a company? No sir, you and your family won't get a share of the profits. It'll all go into the office budget so we can buy copier supplies and some new equipment."

Who wouldn't have said no? I mean, what person in their right mind (forgive the phrase) would take that deal? The entire notion is obscene. And while I was a bit flip about what the money was being spent on (it isn't clear where the money went, exactly), I think the point is pretty clear.

Lynn's story is a familiar one. KIRO Team 7 Investigators contacted a half dozen families, which we confirmed had donated brains via King County. None knew of Stanley. None knew of money changing hands.

"It was my feeling that they were maybe going to run some tests on his brain tissue," said Vicki Hendricks.

Hendricks's son Jim died suddenly at 36 years old. She gave permission for King County to take brain "samples" thinking they needed them to determine cause of death. Jim's whole brain instead ended up at Stanley Medical.

"Those are public servants, people we rely on to be there for us, and if you can't feel comfortable with them, then it's kind of scary," Hendricks said.

What are teh ethics of such a program. KIRO-TV, which did the investigation, asked medical ethicist Dr. Elliot Stern about that.

Contracts vary a little each year, but the one in 2003 said "the KCME will try to collect a minimum of 50 specimens." For those efforts, Stanley sent big monthly checks to the medical examiner's office -- far exceeding the true costs of removing and shipping brains.

"That's a huge breach of public trust," said Dr. Elliot Stern.

Stern is a recognized expert in donation ethics. He says King County has big trouble ahead. If next-of-kin are not fully informed, courts consider that no consent at all.

"I would not have made a donation," Dr. Stern said. "I don't know a reasonable person who would have made a donation knowing money was going to change hands and enter county coffers in excess of harvesting costs."

So yeah, there is a big problem there. The consent gien probably is not legally valid due to the details left out.

When there was consent at all.

Records indicate more brains shipped than there were consent forms.

This could get really ugly.

|| Greg, 09:11 AM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

April 01, 2005

One Cool Site

I hadn't realized that there was someone doing this, but there is a site called "The Pope Blog".

They have, since last summer, been posting papal news.

I highly recommend it as a good source for reasonably up to date material.

|| Greg, 08:15 PM || Permalink || TrackBacks (0) ||

Religious Speech Less Free Than The Rest At Air Force Academy

I agree with and applaud efforts by officials at the Air Force Academy to prevent religious harrassment. But I am a bit uncomfortable with one aspect of the training program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of All People, or RSVP.
RSVP begins first with educating faculty and staff on Air Force policy and directives that proselytizing and religious jokes and slurs are forbidden.

"Once we've gotten that across ... then we can say, 'Now, let's dialogue,"' said Col. Michael Whittington, senior chaplain at the academy. "Let's have this very healthy discussion, even argue - that's OK. Let's go ahead and find out: 'How can we show respect without believing that somehow I'm condoning what you believe?"'

The problem is the relegation of religious speech to a second-class status. A prohibition on all proselytizing speech? It seems to me that by placing such a restriction, you violate the very respect for religious beliefs that the program is about preserving. What the ban says is that such speech (and, implicitly, the belief system associated with it) is not respected, and is in fact officially disapproved. That strikes me as a rather extreme restriction on the civil liberties of individuals training to protect our civil liberties.

Now I recognize that good order and discipline may require restrictions on the exercise of those civil liberties, but this one goes too far. Does the good of the service really require the restriction of freedom of speech and freedom of religion to such a degree?

|| Greg, 07:18 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Dumb Comment Du Jour

I don't generally cover affirmative action bake sales any longer. While i think they are a great tool for making a point, the mere fact that one is controversial is not a big deal to me. One has to get shut down to really get my attention.

Or someone has to do/say something really stupid. Like this guy as Arizona State University.

Several students took on the [College Republicans] Tuesday. Many of them approached the booth screaming and accusing the club of being racist.

"They're [the club] trying to say affirmative action is based on race, but it's not," said Juan Fortenberry, a kinesiology freshman.

Uh, Juan, can we talk? Affirmative action is exclusively based upon race and ethnicity. It is the giving of preferences, based upon race and ethnicity, to applicants who would not otherwise be considered for employment or admission. Even if we reverted back to its benign form, as opposed to today's malignant version, it would still be about taking steps to include candidates in the hiring/admissions pool based upon race and ethnicity. What did you think it was, dude?

My guess is that Juan is a beneficiary of the program at ASU.

|| Greg, 07:02 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

John Paul II – We Love You!

I remember chanting that line when the Holy Father was in Denver in 1993, along with a crowd of other young people as we welcomed him to various World Youth Day events. I remember that at the end of the final Mass, The crowd began the chant one final time and that before he left, the Pope responded -- "John Paul II loves you, too."

Though I have since struggled with the Church and would definitely qualify as a lapsed Catholic (though still a believer in Christ), that does not in the least reduce my love and respect for that man.

I know he will be leaving us soon.

Here’s a quote that set me to weeping.

"This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope," Angelo Comastri, the pope's vicar general for Vatican City, told the crowd.

And all I can respond with is this – Around the world, Your Holiness, there are hundreds of millions whose hearts echo that chant from Denver.

|| Greg, 05:12 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

When Do They Begin The Assassinations?

We conservatives have spent years dealing with the Left attempting to shout-down and silence our voices. We have found it necessary to put up with thugs stealing newspapers and prevent speeches. In recent weeks, the Left has been busy engaging in assaults upon conservative speakers. In the last couple of days, both William Kristol and Pat Buchanan have been assaulted by food-wielding terrorists. Kristol gamely continued with his speech after being pied, but Buchanan was forced to stop his talk after having a bottle of salad dressing dumped over his head.
"Stop the bigotry!" the demonstrator shouted as he hurled the liquid Thursday night during the program at Western Michigan University. The incident came just two days after another noted conservative, William Kristol, was struck by a pie during an appearance at a college in Indiana.

After he was hit, Buchanan cut short his question-and-answer session with the audience, saying, "Thank you all for coming, but I'm going to have to get my hair washed."

The demonstrator, identified by authorities as a 24-year-old student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, was arrested and faces a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. He was released on a $100 cash bond, pending his April 14 arraignment.
"He could have faced a felony assault charge, but Pat Buchanan decided to not press that charge," university spokesman Matt Kurz said.

Frankly, Pat was wrong – he should have insisted upon the felony assault charge. His failure to do so lowers the stakes for such attempts to silence the Right on Campus.

Kristol’s attacker faces even less sever punishment.

Kristol, editor of the influential conservative magazine The Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Quayle, was splattered by a student during a speech Tuesday at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

Members of the audience at the Quaker college jeered the student, then applauded as Kristol wiped the pie from his face and said, "Just let me finish this point." Kristol then completed his speech and took questions from the audience.

The student, who was not immediately identified, was suspended and could face expulsion following a disciplinary review, Earlham Provost Len Clark said Wednesday.
Clark also issued a written apology complimenting Kristol for his "graciousness.".

What next? Will we see these folks using guns to shut up unwelcome viewpoints? Will conservative speakers be banned on campus because of the real threat of bloodshed, caused by those whose political philosophy is so bankrupt that they must engage in violence to suppress the other side? These attacks that so many folks laugh at are nothing short of civil rights violations – an interference with the rights guaranteed these speakers under the First Amendment.

Oh, and one other thing. I noted this paragraph in the middle of the article.

Buchanan's visit had evoked controversy on campus because it fell on the birthday of the late Mexican-American labor leader Cesar Chavez. Buchanan favors tighter controls on immigration.

I don’t see why the fact that it was his birthday should have been the source of any controversy at all. Chavez opposed illegal immigration because it suppressed the wages of farmworkers who had to compete with the cheaper pay given to illegals. He urged his union’s (mostly Hispanic) membership to report border jumpers. He even staged rallies outside of INS offices to protest the failure of the government to secure the borders. What’s more, the UFW even set up a border operation, the Wet Line, to stop illegals from entering the country (shades of the Minuteman Project). If anything, Buchanan and Chavez would agree today on the need to do something about the sieve that is the US-Mexico border.

|| Greg, 05:09 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

End Daylight Savings Time

I’ve never liked Daylight Savings Time. It is an annoyance to me as someone whose workday starts before 7:00 AM. I already have to drive to work in darkness much of the year, and the change in time forces me back into darkness. My students, finally arriving to school in daylight, are also required to travel to school in darkness, to the detriment of their safety. And as an additional hardship, the time change will cause me to once more lose the signal of my favorite talk radio station, with its lower signal strength between dusk and dawn.

John Miller writes about the problems presents a number of excellent reasons for doing away with DST in an article in National Review.

I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers. Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven't cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it. Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity's tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks — even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier. As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn't bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because "most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off." At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn't be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What's more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.

Perhaps farmers should take one for the team — i.e., put up with DST even though they don't like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer. If people are more likely to browse the racks at Filene's Basement in the daylight, then they're probably also less likely to go to the movies or take-out restaurants. And in the morning, when it's darker during rush hour, commuters are perhaps disinclined to stop at the corner store for a newspaper or the coffee bar for a latte. Although it's impossible to know the precise economic effects of DST, any attempt to calculate them carries the malodorous whiff of industrial policy.

We're also informed that DST helps conserve energy, apparently because people arriving home when the sun is still up don't switch on their lights. Didn't it occur to anybody that maybe they compensate by switching them on earlier in the morning? Moreover, people who arrive home from work an hour earlier during the hot summer months are probably more prone to turning up their air conditioners. According to Downing, the petroleum industry once was "an ardent and generous supporter" of DST because it believed people would hop in their cars and drive for pleasure — and guzzle more gas.

But the very worst thing about DST is that it's bad for your health. According to Stanley Coren, a sleep expert at the University of British Columbia, the number of traffic accidents and fatal industrial mishaps increase on the Monday after we spring forward. (Check out one of his studies here.) The reason, presumably, is because losing even a single hour of sleep over the weekend makes a lot of people a bit drowsier on what we might usefully call Black Monday. Unfortunately, there's no compensating effect of a super-safe Monday as we go off DST and "fall back" in the autumn.

So DST is deadly. But maybe we should keep that troubling little fact to ourselves, before Congress decides to impose the National Bedtime Hour.

Let’s just let time be time. There are some natural phenomenon that Government cannot and should not tamper with. And if it can muck around with time, should we be surprised if some year or other they attempt to amend or repeal the Law of Gravity?

|| Greg, 05:06 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Insipid Silliness And Mean-Spiritedness

I just don’t understand how A led to B.
Janeal Lee, 30, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a scooter, was disqualified after she was shown in a picture in a newspaper standing up with her high school math students.

She says she has been made to feel like she's "not disabled enough" to represent disabled people in Wisconsin.

Lee had planned to go to the national pageant with her younger sister, who also has muscular dystrophy and won the competition in Minnesota. Students at Kaukauna High School, where Lee teaches, raised $1,000 for her trip to the national pageant.

But pageant officials are standing by their ruling that in public, the winner must mostly be seen in a wheelchair or a scooter. Otherwise, says an official with Ms. Wheelchair America, you risk offending women who can't stand or walk.

So the crown goes to the runner-up, Michelle Kearney, of Milwaukee, Wis., who will compete in the national pageant in July.

One picture? Tell me how that one picture constitutes a violation of the policy?

|| Greg, 05:04 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

More Democrat Election Fraud And Incompetence

Notice, this is Democrat Miami-Dade, not a GOP part of the state, where incompetence reigns and votes go uncounted. It isn’t in an area where the process is controlled by Republicans.
The elections chief of a key South Florida county has resigned amid revelations of voting problems in six elections. Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan resigned Thursday. Her chief deputy, Lester Sola, will take over temporarily.

The veteran Chicago election official came on board in Miami in June 2003 to fix problems from the 2000 presidential election. The county was heavily criticized after 28,000 mostly punchcard ballots went uncounted. President Bush won the state - and thus the presidency - by 537 votes.

County Manager George Burgess said he questioned Kaplan about a special election on slot machines in which there were a high number of ballots with no recorded votes - known as undervotes.

Kaplan blamed a software fluke, he said.

Officials later identified elections in West Miami, Bay Harbor Island, Surfside, Golden Beach and Cutler Ridge with high undervotes.

Kaplan said the uncounted votes would not have changed any results, but pari-mutuel industry officials - who lost a bid to install slot machines at tracks and jai alai frontons - have asked for a new election.

Burgess said Kaplan's explanations for the problems were inadequate.

But why should we be surprised by the inability of this woman to conduct a free and fair and accurate election – her qualifications include a stint working with elections in Chicago, the capital of Democrat vote fraud.

|| Greg, 05:01 PM || Permalink || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

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