The only columnist in the publication worth reading on a regular basis has been fired in a cost cutting move.
The troubled Village Voice laid off three employees Tuesday, including Nat Hentoff, the prominent columnist who has worked for the paper since 1958, contributing opinionated columns about jazz, civil liberties and politics.
* * *
ďNat Hentoff wrote liner notes for every great musician that Iíve ever loved, from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and thatís not even what heís been writing about for the last 30 years,Ē said Tom Robbins, a Voice staff writer.
More importantly, Hentoff has been one of the great voices on issues of freedom of speech and freedom of the press over the last couple of decades. I was first introduced to him in graduate school, when one of our ancillary readings was his classic book, The First Freedom. Even though I depart with him on the Crusade Against Jihadi Terrorism, I have never doubted that his views are worthy of respectful consideration. Indeed, he is one of only two syndicated columnists whose work I insist upon reading as soon as it comes out. To see the Village Voice dump him is a shock.
Pretty badly -- but not badly enough to keep Obama from appointing the head of the Chicago's public schools to the top spot at the Department of Education. And it is even worse than I have mentioned in earlier posts -- the district has received five straight failing grades under NCLB with Arne Duncan at the helm.
The Chicago Public Schools, whose superintendent, Arne Duncan, has been tapped by President-elect Barack Obama to be the next education secretary, failed to meet the Illinois state standards set under the No Child Left Behind Act for the last five years.
From 2004 to 2008, the Chicago district (District 299) failed to make ďAdequate Yearly ProgressĒ (AYP) in key areas, according to the districtís progress report on the Illinois State Board of Education Web site.
Now I am a critic of NCLB, and think it needs serious revision to do a better job of measuring student learning. But a district in which only 60% meet the minimum standard in reading and only 20% of special needs students meet the minimum standard is clearly not up to snuff.
If he can't lead effectively at the district level, why should we believe that Arne Duncan can be an educational leader at the national level? The US Senate must reject Duncan's nomination.
After all, they must kill Jews wherever they are found -- even if all they are doing is selling cosmetics.
Palestinian Authority Arab terrorists attacked a group of young Israelis at a stand in a Danish mall early Wednesday evening.
Local police said the attack took place at approximately 3:20 p.m. at the Rosengirdscentret Center, one of the largest shopping centers in the city of Odense, located about 200 kilometers from Copenhagen.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levi, an undetermined number of Palestinian Authority gunmen approached the group of young Israelis at a "basta", or stand which sells Dead Sea products and other items from Israel and opened fire "with guns or rifles."
I'm curious -- how long until the world is willing to acknowledge that there is something fundamentally dysfunctional within the so-called "religion of peace" that leads its followers to be decidedly unpeaceful?
In my life, I've made a few interesting and exciting trips, including a couple out of the country. Lately that hasn't been an option, as health issues, deaths, and an unpleasant meteorological event called Hurricane Ike have turned the lives of my wife and I upside down. But 2009 will be different -- this I pray.
What brought all this to mind? Well, the impending new year, of course -- but also a couple of YouTube videos that I came across. Both are humorous takes on what can happen when one goes on vacation. I could easily see myself being this Americans in Paris, given my success with building and rebuilding things. Hopefully i would not be the cause of any sort of international demolition -- and I certainly would not get myself into the sort of jam that teh fellow in their Brazillianvideo did -- clearly he needs to be on the internaional equivalent of jerry Springer.
Of course, these videos are quite fun, but vacationing is a serious business. Like they say, what happens on vaction is, in the end, your own business (well, maybe not for the folks in these videos). All I know is that they have helped reignite my wanderlust, and perhaps they will inspire my darling wife and I to travel to our preferred destination this year -- probably some place with a glacier to beat the Texas heat.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevic is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
What has he given us today? An eminently qualified African-American nominee to replace Barack Obama in the US Senate -- and a full-blown constitutional crisis on both the state and federal level.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected today to name former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. SenateÖ
Shortly after Obamaís Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevichís arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governorís support.
Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obamaís replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, heís never lost to a RepublicanÖ
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada previously warned Blagojevich, following the governorís Dec. 9 arrest, that Senate Democrats would not seat any appointment the two-term Democratic governor made. Reidís warning was contained in a letter signed by all 50 sitting Democratic senators, including the No. 2 Democrat in Senate leadership, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Now I lived the better part of two decades in Illinois. I remember Roland Burris as a public official and a candidate for office. He always struck me as a fundamentally decent man, well-qualified and eminently worthy of public trust. And even though I voted against him at every opportunity, I always believed him to be the sort of Democrat I could live with if my Republican candidate lost. And I will say this loud and clear -- given the failure of the Illinois legislature to act to strip Blagojevic of his power to appoint Barack Obama's successor, I fully support his decision to appoint Burris.
Of course, this action by the corrupt governor has given rise to several interesting responses.
Consider this response from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin giving him a measure of cover.
Senate Democrats said Tuesday they would refuse to seat the man Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has picked to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, saying that the taint of scandal would follow the new senator to Washington.
"Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said in a statement.
Well, the Senate DOES have the right to judge the qualifications of its members -- but there could be a constitutional problem with this declaration. More on that in a bit.
And then there is this statement from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.
The appointment was instantly rejected by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White who said he would refuse to certify Burris' selection....
His argument amounts to a claim that the current legal cloud under which Blagojevic finds himself makes the appointment illegitimate. However, does that apply to all appointments, or just to this one -- and on what basis does he make and enforce that judgment. Another constitutional crisis, this on the state level.
And wherein lie the constitutional crises?
Well, let's start with the state constitutional crisis. After all, state law REQUIRES the Secretary of State to perform the following acts, and the state constitution (Article V, Section 16) obliges him to carry out the duties prescribe by this law.
1. To countersign and affix the seal of state to all commissions required by law to be issued by the Governor.
2. To make a register of all appointments by the Governor, specifying the person appointed, the office conferred, the date of the appointment, the date when bond or oath is taken and the date filed. If Senate confirmation is required, the date of the confirmation shall be included in the register.
There is nothing optional or discretionary in this. His failure to do so will lead to state court action to require White to do his job. That means lots of drama on another front in Blago-gate.
And the federal constitutional crisis? I'll let Eugene Volokh explain this one.
If there's some evidence that Burris's appointment was indeed the result of a bribe or some illegal maneuvering, then indeed the Senate can refuse to seat him. But if there is no such evidence, then for reasons I noted earlier, I think their position is legally unsustainable, given the Supreme Court's Powell v. McCormack precedent.
Given that Burris meets all the requirements set by the US Constitution to hold a Senate seat, any failure to seat him will almost certainly be struck down -- just as any attempt to toss ted Stevens would have failed if the Senate had tried to expel him following his reelection after a bribery conviction. Of course, that will require another nasty court fight.
Now as a Republican, I see a great political upside for my party if White refuses to certify or Senate Democrats refuse to seat Burris. The ensuing court battles as the Democrats try to keep a black man out of the Senate seat previous held by the only black member of the US Senate (by then the first black president) would be entertaining -- and would likely serve to drive a wedge between some elements of the black community and the Democrat Party. That could only serve to help turn Illinois (and perhaps some other states) from blue to red.
But to be honest, I don't want it to come to that. I actually agree with Bobby Rush on this score -- words you may never see again.
"This is a good decision," Rush told reporters. "Roland Burris is worthy. He has not, in 20 years of public service, had one iota of taint on his record as a public servant. He is an esteemed member of this state and this community."
"I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to casitgate the appointor," Rush added. "Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointor. Roland Burris is worthy."
Let's be honest -- at 71, Roland Burris is unlikely to be a Senator for more than two years. He will certainly face challengers in the Democrat primary in 2010, and the Blagojevic connection will not serve him well. The GOP will put up a strong candidate as well, who will have a better than even chance to win. In other words, he is a sear-warmer -- and one whose service to the people of Illinois would be capped by this honor, and who has the stature to rise above the current scandal. He should be accepted by all parties as the ideal compromise appointee.
Could you imagine the howls of outrage if George W, Bush appointed as Secretary of Education a school administrator from a district where 83% of eight graders tested below grade level in reading and less than half of all entering freshmen graduate from high school? We'd hear words like "incompetence", "failure", and "the destruction of public education".
But when Obama makes precisely such an appointment, we are told that the new Cabinet member is an "innovator" and "reformer" who will continue "experimentation on a national scale".
City schools chief executive Arne Duncan, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for education secretary, pushed that performance-pay plan and a host of other innovations to transform a school system once regarded as one of the country's worst. As Duncan heads to Washington, the lessons of Chicago could provide a model for fixing America's schools.
"Obama chose Arne Duncan for a reason, and part of that reason is the experimentation that Duncan has done in Chicago and his real attention to data and outcomes," said Elliot Weinbaum, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education. "Duncan's willing to try new things and see if they work, hopefully keep the ones that do and drop the ones that don't. I expect that experimentation to continue on a national scale."
Now I will give Duncan some credit -- he has introduced some meaningful reforms into a district that has been troubled for decades by corruption, incompetence, and union intransigence. But the reality is that, by virtually every measure, the district remains a failure in terms of its primary mission -- educating every student to his or her fullest potential, and preparing them to function as productive citizens.
As a teacher, I am NOT reassured by this appointment -- and I am shocked by the whitewashing that the press are giving Duncan and his record.
Sixty years ago, at the establishment of the state of Israel, the civilized world was united in the cry of "Never again!" in response to the Holocaust. Today, as Israel seeks to guarantee the end of near-daily attacks upon its territory and people, there are too many folks who cry out "Do it again!" as they support the Hamas-led government of the Terrorstinian Anarchy.
I think the sign says it all.
So not only does this low-life support terrorism, he supports genocide against an ethnic group he cannot even spell. And yet this is the side that the liberal elite and the UN seems to think operates from the moral high ground.
Here are the results of the last two votes by the Watcher's Council!
T* - Denotes Tie
T* - Denotes Tie
Congratulations to the winners, and to all participants.
Best wishes to new parents Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin on the birth of their son.
Bristol Palin, the 18-year-old daughter of former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, gave birth on Sunday to a healthy 7 lb., 4 oz., baby boy in Palmer, Alaska.
"We think it's wonderful," said Colleen Jones, the sister of Bristol's grandmother Sally Heath, who confirmed the news. "The baby is fine and Bristol is doing well. Everyone is excited."
The baby's name is Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, according to Jones.
Baby Tripp takes his surname from his dad, Levi Johnston, an apprentice electrician and former Wasilla High School hockey player who has been dating Bristol for three years.
Bristol Palin is currently residing in Wasilla and completing her high-school diploma through correspondence courses.
Baby Tripp's parents are planning a 2009 wedding.
And to those on the Left who want to accuse me of hypocrisy for not condemning the new parents, please realize that my attitude is not yours. Every birth is a moment of beauty and wonder -- a miracle of new opportunities contained in new life. I therefore rejoice, even if I view the choices made by the child's parents to be less than ideal.
Oh, and by the way -- will this finally lay to rest the absurd conspiracy theories regarding young Tripp's mother, grandmother, and uncle perpetuated by folks who now ought to publicly admit that they were not just wrong, but also malicious.
H/T Hot Air
Last July, Barack Obama made an important point about the right and obligation of Israel to defend itself in the face of attacks from Gaza by Hamas.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said upon completing his daily briefing that the Israel Defense Forces will use every resource to bring about an end to Palestinian rocket fire.
Speaking at the end of the third day of deadly aerial assaults on the Gaza Strip, Barak said "if the criminal rocket fire aimed at Israeli civilians does not stop immediately, Israel will use all its resources and all the legal tools it possesses to force the enemy to stop this aggressive, illegal behavior," Barak declared.
* * *
Barak also cited a comment made by U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who visited Sderot during his election campaign earlier this year.
"Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it," Barack told the plenum.
In reference to the rocket attacks, Obama said that "I think that no country would accept missiles landing on the heads of its citizens."
Obama emphasized Israel's security, saying, "I came to Sderot with a commitment to Israel's security. Israel has the right to defend itself, and peace should not undermine its security."
He expressed his admiration for the citizens of Sderot who remained in place even though their homes had come under fire. "Israelis must not suffer a threat to their lives, to their schools," he said, adding that "if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that."
Now this raises an interesting point three weeks before the inauguration -- once again there is the possibility that Obama's campaign rhetoric may come back to haunt him as president. Obama recognized the legitimacy of Israel defending itself from rocket attacks directed against its civilian population -- which is precisely the course of action that Israel is engaged in today. To follow a different policy after his inauguration would be worse than a betrayal of (another) campaign promise, it would be a sign that Obama expects Israel to accept and endure things that he has publicly stated no nation should accept, ant that he would not accept if directed at his own children. As such, Ehud Barak may have backed the president-elect into a policy corner.
Not only that, but the Israeli government is warning civilians away from likely military targets.
RESIDENTS at certain addresses in the Gaza Strip have been receiving unusual phone calls since the Israeli air assault began on Saturday -- a request that they and their families leave their homes as soon as possible for their own safety.
More unusual than the recorded message is the Arabic-speaking caller, who identifies himself as being from the Israeli defence forces.
Dipping into their bag of tricks for the updated Gaza telephone numbers, Israel's intelligence services are warning Palestinian civilians in Gaza living close to Hamas facilities that they may be hurt unless they distance themselves from those targets.
In some cases, the warning comes not by telephone but from leaflets dropped from aircraft on selected districts.
So much for the notion that Israel is being indiscriminate in its attacks. they know where they are going to attack and are trying to get the civilians out -- a tricky task given that Hamas has located its facilities of military value in the midst of the civilian population.
And Israel has done a pretty good job of avoiding those civilian casualties, based upon the statistics here.
But there are conflicting reports about how successful the air force has been avoiding civilian casualties. On Sunday, Israeli officials, citing Palestinian sources, said of the almost 300 fatalities reported until then in Gaza, all but 15 were members of Hamas. Hamas officials said yesterday that one-third of fatalities were civilian.
Last night the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said at least 51 civilians had been among those killed.
I'd be willing to guess that the actual number is probably somewhere between those put out by Israel and the staunchly anti-Israel UN group, which is often little more than a mouthpiece for the Terrorstinians. In other words, only about 10% of the casualties are civilians, while the rest are legitimate military targets -- predominantly members of the military wing of Hamas and Hamas-controlled police forces that have been involved in terrorist activities. Even the attack on the Islamic University of Gaza was intended to pinpoint military research being conducted in laboratories at the school -- another legitimate goal for a nation that has decided to put an end to military attacks on its people.
Hamas, of course, offers no such warnings to the civilian population of Israel before launching unguided missiles into civilian areas -- but those who support the terrorist government of Gaza don't want to address that little detail.
The terrorist front that is the Council on American Islamic Relations has spoken out on the current conflict in the Middle East. As expected, they sided with the Hamas terrorists rather than Israel.
A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today condemned Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip that left more than 200 people dead and called the death toll a ďmassacre carried out using U.S. taxpayer-funded weapons.Ē More than 700 people, including women and children, were injured in the attacks.
I won't quote further, and will only note that they use all the standard buzzwords found in the statements of terrorism supporters whenever the victims of terrorism fight back. Indeed, they claim to base their position, in part, on their respect for the sanctity of human life.
A quick perusal of their website, however, will show that not a single word critical of the years of rocket attacks from Gaza exist there. Apparently they view dead and wounded Jews as less significant than dead Terrorstinians. Could it be that the folks from CAIR, with its long history of connection to anti-Semitic Islamic terrorist groups in the Middle East do not view Jews as human beings?
Of course, it shouldn't be surprising that CAIR would speak out on behalf of Hamas -- the organization was an unindicted co-conspirator in the recently concluded trial related to illegal terrorist fundraising activities on behalf of Hamas.
Let us remember the people people who Israel defends when it acts against the Terrorstinians in Gaza.
Larissa Yaakobov stands before me sobbing. Her young daughter and nine-year-old son look on helpless. ďI canít do it anymore,Ē she says in broken Hebrew, ďI canít live here.Ē ďHereĒ is Sderot, an Israeli border community adjacent to the Gaza Strip where Larissa has lived since she emigrated from Russia fifteen years ago. Larissa ís son does not say a word. He hasnít said much, she tells me, since the two watched a Qassam rocket slam into a woman a few feet away killing her instantly. Less than twenty four hours before Israel unleashed its air-force on the Gaza Strip, I sat with four families in Sderot who have been injured and traumatized by Hamas rocket fire. In the hours before Israel ís incursion, the mood was tenseóeven by Sderot standards. The streets were barren; everyone is bracing for new waves of rockets. Sderot has no shortage of childrenís playgroundsótwisty blue and yellow slides, swings and handle-bars. But children are no where to be seen. I do see plenty of bomb shelters. Every bus-stop in Sderot has been turned into a lime-colored enforced shelter with a single shrapnel-proof window. I enter one of these rooms to see what it is like inside. A car screeches to a halt and the driver dashes out to join me in the shelter. He is panicked and out of breath. Seeing me enter the shelter, he mistakenly thought a rocket was headed our way. I apologize sheepishly for the confusion as he returns to his car and speeds away.
I scan the looming gray clouds above for any indication of incoming rockets or mortars. A single fish-shaped white balloon sitting high off in the distance is my sole source of comfort. It is the Israeli armyís preferred method of identifying incoming rockets. It triggers an alarm which gives residents a few seconds to find shelter. I cannot shake the feeling that at any moment a rocket will fall from the sky and strike me directly. I note the location of every bomb shelter along the way in case I must make a mad dash to safety.
This feeling of unremitting and ubiquitous terror is the norm in a community of 20,000 residents.
Remember -- these are people in a town that is indisputably a part of Israel. After all, it is part of the pre-1967 territory of the Jewish state. It was missile barrages against Sderot and other Israeli towns near Hamas-controlled Gaza that led to the blockade of Gaza -- and despite the cease-fire that began six months ago, the attacks from Gaza continued. Homes and schools are regularly hit by the unguided missiles lobbed across the border between Israel and the Terrorstinian Anarchy. Yet somehow the world community expects Israel to continue to "take it" rather than act to root out the terrorist threat from within Hamas-controlled territory.
Pray for the people of Sderot, who have endured eight years of aggression from within Gaza -- and for the success of the military operations designed to protect them and their fellow Israelis from Hamas-sponsored terror attacks.
I find this particularly disturbing.
What we've all been waiting for ó a little hope, and Barack's the man for the job. We made him purple, because we here at dugshop feel that he's a true uniter, there are no red or blue states, we're all purple.
Just as I have no interest in shirtless pics of Obama on vacation, I also have no interest in having him stare at me naked in the shower. Indeed, I can't think of a politician who I want in the shower with me.
Free Gaza Group spokeswoman Caoimhe Butterly said their 20-meter yacht Dignity would leave Larnaca port around 5 p.m. (1400GMT) Monday with 3.5 tons of donated supplies.
She said the yacht would carry 16 passengers, including former US Congresswoman Cynthia Mckinney, Cypriot lawmaker and doctor Eleni Theocharous and activists from Britain, Australia, Ireland and Tunisia.
Remember, this is the same Cynthia McKinney who is noted for her history of anti-Semitism. She is going to help those who are actively involved in trying to kill Jews, and demanding that Israel stop defending its citizens from those who have engaged in repeated terror attacks on Israeli. As such, she and her fellow-travelers are entering a war zone with contraband -- and are legitimate military targets.
There are a great many ways to explain what is going on right now between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Terrorstinian Anarchy. However, I found the clearest explanation in this editorial in the Jerusalem Post.
On Friday, a Hamas spokesman made Israel the following proposal: You keep the stream of humanitarian aid and supplies flowing into Gaza and we will keep launching rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians.
It was an offer Israel had little choice but to refuse.
For weeks Israel has been imploring Hamas to stop shooting across the border, to stop tunneling in preparation for the next round of violence, and to allow our farmers to tend their fields. The Islamists responded that they were not afraid of the IDF and that they reserved the right to resist "the occupation" - meaning the existence of a Jewish state. They brazenly told Israel to get used to the idea that no amount of humanitarian gestures would stem their behavior.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Israel finally told Hamas that it would not be bled, slowly, to death. Thanks to excellent intelligence and superb training, a haughty enemy was caught off-guard. Targets up and down the Strip were hit and large numbers of Hamas personnel including senior military figures were killed. Key facilities were turned into rubble; well-camouflaged equipment was destroyed.
Imagine, if you will, that Canada was lobbing missiles into the US on a daily basis. Imagine that decades of attempts to negotiate a settlement to the conflict and years of foreign aid to the attackers had done little or nothing to stem the tide of the attacks, nor regular suicide bombings in our nation's cities. And what's more, imagine that the Canadians informed us that it was expected that the US lay back and take it while continuing to cough up ever more foreign aid to the Canadian government even as the Canadians continued to express the intent to continue attacks and ultimately destroy the United States.
How long would the people of the United States be prepared to accept the attacks? How long would it be until they demanded that the government respond militarily to crush the attackers? We know the answer to those questions -- and we know that the United States government (whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats) would act to crush the Canadians via military force -- hopefully disproportionate force designed to forever neutralize the ability of the Canadians to do attack and kill Americans.
Last week a truce between Israel and the Hamas-led government of the Terrorstinian Anarchy that began on June 19, 2008 came to an end. During that time of truce, Israel faced regular missile attacks from within Gaza in violation of the truce. Israel faced a number of terror attacks originating from Gaza. A blockade intended to protect Israel's citizens from such attacks was implemented -- and received international condemnation from those who sympathize with the Terrorstinians and their stated desire to murder Jews and destroy Israel. Israel was expected to stay its hand because of the truce, even as the other side violated it with impunity.
And when the truce ended, Israel said "No more!" Indeed, it acted in precisely the manner that Americans would demand in the scenario I outlined above -- though with less force than Americans would demand in that scenario.
And that is the problem.
Israel has, over the years, failed to kill a sufficient number of Terrorstinians.
The evidence of this?
The obvious lack of deterrence of the relatively merciful policies followed by the Israeli governments over the last 60 years.
Until Israel responds in a manner that is sufficiently ruthless to lead the Terrorstinians to fear Israel more than they hate Israel, thereby leading them to reject terrorism in order to preserve their lives and those of their children and grandchildren, the Terrorstinians will continue to make the rational choice to engage in aggression against Israel because the cost (a relative handful of dead compared to what they desire to inflict upon Israel) is sufficiently low to allow them to continue to practice terrorism.
In short, the solution to Terrorstinian attacks on Israel is for the Israelis to continue the military response and to step it up -- adding a ground component to the air component. While I'm not -- quite -- suggesting that the Terrorstinians be driven into the sea (a favorite and oft expressed dream of the Terrorstinians with regard to the people of Israel), I do suggest that the Israeli response be truly disproportionate, regardless of the sentiments of the world community. When one's enemy interprets mercy and proportionality with weakness, massive retaliation (and massive enemy casualties) becomes the only way to stop them -- and that is the situation in which Israel finds itself today.
For the last eight years I've heard Democrats tell us that tax cuts are irresponsible. Indeed, during the last campaign we heard Joe Biden define patriotism as paying higher taxes. So what gives with this?
A top adviser to President-elect Barack Obama said Sunday that the country's slowing economy won't keep the new administration from fulfilling its plans for a middle-class tax cut.
"We feel it's important that middle-class people get some relief now," Obama adviser David Axelrod said.
"This package will include a portion of that tax cut that will become part of the permanent tax cut that he'll have in his upcoming budget," Mr. Axelrod said.
The adviser appeared Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS's "Face the Nation."
The incoming administration is considering tax cuts of $1,000 for couples and $500 for individuals that will be delivered by reducing the tax withheld from paychecks. That plan has been estimated to be worth about $140 billion in 2009 and 2010.
Odd, but wasn't that the argument used by George W. Bush to reduce the the amount of income tax paid by every American who paid income tax when he entered office in 2001? Indeed, didn't those tax cuts have the very impact that the incoming administration says this cut will have -- putting money in the pockets of Americans? Does this mean that the Democrats are admitting that Bush was right?
Oh, and I cannot help but be struck by this twisted bit of illogic.
The lump-sum rebates issued earlier this year were used by many people to pay down debt, rather than spending the money and boosting the economy as the administration had hoped.
Now wait -- if (hypothetically speaking) my wife and I took our $1200 and used it to pay down our credit card debt or student loans, wouldn't this have had the effect of dribbling money into our pockets the same way this Obama tax cut will do? After all, the amount of the Obama cut will be about $80 a month -- roughly the same as would be left by the reduced payments on the bills in question.
Could it be "honor killing"?
After all, consider the scenario here and tell me that it is not th emost obvious explanation of what we see here.
Sahar Daftary would have turned 24 on Christmas Day -- but instead of celebrating her life, family members of the British beauty queen mourned her death, laying flowers and lighting candles outside the apartment building from which she plunged 150 feet to her death.
Police say the case is under investigation and have not ruled out a suicide or accident, but last week they arrested and released on bail Rashid Jamil, 33, the man Daftary married in 2007 in a lavish Muslim ceremony, but not under British law.
Daftary was found in critical condition last Saturday after Jamil called police to his waterfront apartment building. She plunged 12 stories from his waterfront flat in Salford Quays, Manchester, and later died in the hospital.
What happened? It would certainly appear that Jamil murdered his Daftary because she objected to his continued marriage to a previous wife -- and his sexual assault perpetrated upon her this spring. She wanted a divorce under Islamic law (especially important since the marriage was not valid civilly and because women have very limited rights to initiate divorce under sharia), and it would appear that he instead chose to dissolve the bond in a different fashion -- via murder of a wife whose refusal to submit to him tainted his honor.
What a pity that the MSM is unwilling to label such killings what they clearly are -- out of a misguided desire, no doubt, to avoid casting the religion that justifies such barbarism in a negative light.
The Hamas parliament in the Gaza Strip voted in favor of a law allowing courts to mete out sentences in the spirit of Islam, the London-based Arab daily Al Hayat reported Wednesday.
According to the bill, approved in its second reading and awaiting a third reading before the approval of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as the Palestinian constitution demands, courts will be able to condemn offenders to a plethora of violent punitive measures in line with Sharia Law.
Such punishments include whipping, severing hands, crucifixion and hanging. The bill reserves death sentences to people who negotiate with a foreign government "against Palestinian interests" and engage in any activity that can "hurt Palestinian morale."
Interesting, isn't it, that those who complain that playing rock music to annoy terrorists or putting women's undies on their heads constitutes torture can't find their voices when it comes to the authorization of a truly cruel form of torture and death when it is authorized BY terrorists.
After all, consider this description of what crucifixion does to a person.
The length of time required to reach death could range from a matter of hours to a number of days, depending on exact methods, the health of the crucified person and environmental circumstances.
Death could result from a variety of causes, including blood loss and hypovolemic shock, or infection and sepsis, caused by the scourging that preceded the crucifixion or by the nailing itself, and eventual dehydration. A theory attributed to Pierre Barbet holds that, when the whole body weight was supported by the stretched arms, the typical cause of death was asphyxiation. He conjectured that the condemned would have severe difficulty inhaling, due to hyper-expansion of the chest muscles and lungs. The condemned would therefore have to draw himself up by his arms, leading to exhaustion, or have his feet supported by tying or by a wood block. Indeed, Roman executioners could be asked to break the condemned's legs, after he had hung for some time, in order to hasten his death. Once deprived of support and unable to lift himself, the condemned would die within a few minutes.
Experiments by Frederick Zugibe have revealed that, when suspended with arms at 60į to 70į from the vertical, test subjects had no difficulty breathing, only rapidly-increasing discomfort and pain. This would correspond to the Roman use of crucifixion as a prolonged, agonizing, humiliating death. Zugibe claims that the breaking of the crucified condemned's legs to hasten death, as mentioned in John 19:31-32, was administered as a coup de gr‚ce, causing severe traumatic shock or hastening death by fat embolism. Crucifixion on a single pole with no transom, with hands affixed over one's head, would precipitate rapid asphyxiation if no block was provided to stand on, or once the legs were broken.
I don't know about you, but this certainly sounds like torture to me. But I guess when terrorists (even elected terrorists like Hamas) use such methods, torture doesn't seem like a big deal to the "no torture for terrorists" crew.
And lest you doubt that this penalty is in keeping with the dictates of Islam, consider this Quaranic injunction allegedly revealed to the false prophet Muhammad.
'The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.' Surah 5:33
Just call this effort to bring back one of the more barbaric aspects of Islam one more reason to hold the Terrorstinians -- and Islam -- in utter contempt.
No, not for his part in the Blagojevich scandal. That could come later.
I mean for the illegal dumping of human remains.
Secret Service security keeps a close watch as Obama, oldest daughter Malia and sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, among others, make their way down to the rocky shoreline. Together, they spread the ashes of Madelyn Dunham. It's the same spot Obama paid tribute to his mother last August. She died in 1995.
However, consider what the law is on the matter. In Hawaii, it is required that the dumping of human remains take place at least three nautical miles from shore. Federal regulations impose a similar requirement. And while I am not necessarily an expert on such matters, I feel that I am competent to state that this is not taking place three nautical miles from shore..
That's right -- President-elect Obama is demonstrably breaking federal and state environmental laws by dumping the dearly departed less than three feet from shore.
As the folks at NewsBusters point out, our nation's lapdog media has not been willing to cover this mini-scandal -- just as they are willing to accept his self-absolution in the Blagojevich scandal.
But my question is one even more basic -- will the authorities apply the law regarding the illegal dumping of human remains in this case against Barack Obama? Or will he be given a pass on his public lawbreaking?
For those who wish to argue that Islam is merely another path to God, please recognize the blasphemy that the Quran contains.
Where were these words of blasphemy "revealed" by the false prophet Muhammad displayed? In the city of Nazareth, directly across from the Basilica of the Annunciation. You know, one of the holiest sites in Christendom, at the spot where Christians believe that Gabriel the Archangel informed the Virgin Mary that she was to bear the Son of God without knowing man. And when? At Christmas, when we of the Christian faith mark the miracle of the Incarnation, when the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.
As Nazarethís Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas, they are playing down the appearance of a confrontational Islamic banner that challenges an elemental Christian belief.
Journalists visiting the city saw two large banners--one in English, one in Arabic--hanging in the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation, with a verse from the Koran (112:1-4) contradicting the New Testament proclamation that Jesus is the ďonly begottenĒ of God.
ďIn the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful, Say (O Muhammad): He is Allah, (the) One and Only. Allah, the Eternal, the Absolute. He begetteth not, nor was begotten, and there is none like unto him,Ē the banner reads.
Nazareth's mayor refused to take action against this provocation against Christians during one of the two holiest time of the year for Christians. He claims he did so to avoid giving Islamic radicals an opportunity to spread their malign beliefs further. However, I wonder whether he would have allowed a sign declaring Muhammad to be a false prophet to be hung in front of the local mosque during Ramadan, or whether the Muslim population of the city would have been expected to peacefully accept the calculated insult. Indeed, would not such an anti-Islamic sign be the cause of riots, both in Nazareth and around the world?
Perhaps the most interesting thing to note is that Christians around the world have not rioted. There have been no attacks on mosques or individual Muslims in retaliation. Moreover, the justifiable outrage at the sign has been confined to the written and spoken word -- something that we have noted time and again is in sharp contrast to the response of Muslims to provocations that are even less extreme. Which faith is, therefore, more accurately described as the religion of peace?
And let's not forget -- the words on that sign are fundamental to the beliefs of Islam. Those words come from the book of lies that Muslims revere as the literal word of Allah, and are held by Muslims to be sacred truth and unchangeable. Is it not therefore clear that Muslims worship some other god than the God of the Old and New Testaments?
Though with a headline like this, it ought to be.
Oldest bat in captivity to mark birthday today at Cranbrook Institute
Here's a little more information.
Tanner, the oldest bat in captivity in the world, turns 23 today at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.
But don't expect loud horns or funny hats at this birthday party.
And instead of cake, he'll get a luscious cup of papaya, mango and melon at noon.
Tanner is a golden bat, a rare species found in nature only on a 13-square-mile island in the Indian Ocean, about 1,300 miles off the shores of Madagascar. The species is critically endangered, with only 1,000 in captivity.
Tanner is only 23. Helen Thomas is 88.
Which do you find more creepy and frightening?
Seems to me she has the battle won hands down.
Let us not forget why we mark this day each year in celebration of the fact that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and lo the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, tis Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
A Merry Christmas to all this year -- proclaim the miracle of the Incarnation to the whole world this day and every day.
Prepare for another move towards successful private space travel -- the carrier for SpaceShip Two has made its first flight.
A carrier aircraft designed to be the first stage of a commercial spaceline system made its maiden test flight Sunday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Designed by Scaled Composites, the huge and unique White Knight Two mothership rolled down the runway and muscled itself into the air using four Pratt and Whitney PW308A turbofan engines. The White Knight Two flew for about an hour, departing the runway at roughly 8:17 a.m. PT, safely touching down at the Mojave airport at approximately 9:17 a.m. PT.
"It's a big day," said Stuart Witt, general manager of Mojave Air and Space Port. "I think it's a real reflective time. When everybody's looking for a bailout, there are still people that are doing something for a much larger reason," he told Space.com.
SpaceShip Two will be the second step towards Virgin Galactic's suborbital space service. And once it succeeds, who knows what the future will hold for us. My question -- will Sir Richard Branson's venture beat NASA's next generation spacecraft into earth orbit.
ON Thursday, Dec. 11, Jim Donnelly got the call at his office on Jay Street in Dumbo for the biggest job he had ever had. Emmett Beliveau, the executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, told him that Precise Continental, Mr. Donnellyís 26-year-old printing company, had won the bid to produce one million gold-and-black engraved invitations for the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
Insert your joke here.
This holiday season is a time to examine whoís been naughty and whoís been nice, but Iím unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.
Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.
Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, ďWho Really Cares,Ē cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.
Other research has reached similar conclusions. The ďgenerosity indexĒ from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.
The upshot is that Democrats, who speak passionately about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans ó the ones who try to cut health insurance for children.
What is pretty clear here is that while we on the right may question the propriety and effectiveness of government programs, we do more to actually help the poor than liberals do. Support for high taxes and yet another government give-away leads liberals to absolve themselves of the need to actually do something personally for the poor -- while conservatives at all financial levels give more to charitable causes than do liberals at the same income level. And when you include volunteer time, you see the disparity grow. Only if you exclude giving to religious organizations (which would include not just churches, but religious hospitals, religious schools, and other religious charities that engage in their work for religious reasons) does the gap close. But such an exclusion, besides being intellectually dishonest, is also an example of the essential religious bigotry that permeates much of contemporary secular liberalism.
That isn't to say that liberals are bad people -- most of them are not. But when they call for sacrificial giving, they are unwilling to engage in it themselves unless they are forced to do so by the government -- and everyone else is forced to do so with them.
Certainly not after the head of the Organization of Islamic Countries gets the UN to again condemn "defamation of religion"
The world's top diplomat for Islam called on Friday for an end to what he termed efforts to equate the religion with terrorism and said the 'demonization' of Muslims around the world must be fought.
But speaking soon after the U.N. General Assembly passed an Islamic-sponsored resolution condemning "defamation of religion" for the fourth year in a row, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said his group was committed to respecting freedom of expression.
There was a "rising tide of incitement to religious hatred and discrimination and intolerance targeting Muslims," he told a meeting called by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the United Nations in Geneva. The 57-nation OIC, based in Saudi Arabia, represents 1.5 billion Muslims.
"Attempts to equate Islam with terrorism should be stopped. Stereotyping and demonization of Muslims should be combated," said Ihsanoglu, a Turkish history professor who became OIC Secretary-General in 2005.
Frankly, I wish that we didn't have to link Islam and terrorism. Unfortunately, these folks do.
Given that each and every one of these indicted terrorist fugitives is a Muslim, I don't see how we can avoid making a connection between their religion and terrorism -- especially when they themselves make that connection, claiming to engage in their foul acts under the rubric of "jihad", which is the duty of every Muslim.
For that matter, there is this comment, too -- making a clear statement about how terrorism will get you into heaven if you are a Muslim, from a spokesman from a major Muslim organization.
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) is one of the media's favourite Muslim organisations - radical and outspoken but not extremist, we're led to believe. One of its spokesmen, Asghar Bukhari, is a particular favourite of the BBC, whose Asian Network describes how he has "set up Media response workshops to educate and engage Muslims about dealing with the media" .
So I was interested to see how Bukhari would "deal" with me when I rang him to ask about an interesting discovery by The Centre for Social Cohesion, in my opinion the most formidable of the think-tanks monitoring Islamic extremism, which has been rooting around Facebook discussions.
In one recent thread, Bukhari says: "Muslims who fight against the occupation of their lands are 'Mujahadeen' and are blessed by Allah. And any Muslim who fights and dies against Israel and dies is a martyr and will be granted paradise ... There is no greater oppressor on this earth than the Zionists, who murder little children for sport."
Well, Bukhari didn't evade the question. He confirmed that the Facebook discussion was authentic, and said: "I stand by that [his comments], and I think any Muslim in the world stands by that ... if you think I'm going to tap dance for you and say 'These Muslims are really bad and should sort their own house out', then I'm not going to."
Indeed, he added, if that was my view then I could "p--- off".
Seems like this Bukhari shares a view of Islam with the terrorists above, but not with the OIC.
But I'm prepared to make a deal with Professor Ihsanoglu -- when his religion quits producing the overwhelming majority of terrorists and its apologists, I'll quit drawing a connection. Until then, I'll stand by the position that there is clearly something dysfunctional in a faith that produces a disproportionate number of terrorists.
Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann used his campaign account to bankroll home repairs and family vacations, according to a newspaper review of state investigative reports.
The reports are part of a complaint filed last week with the Ohio Elections Commission by state Inspector General Tom Charles. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner also filed an elections commission complaint against Dann last week alleging misuse of campaign funds.
The Ohio Elections Commission will address both complaints Jan. 22. And state Auditor Mary Taylor plans Monday to release her own investigation into Dann's spending.
Dann resigned in May amid a sexual harassment scandal in his office that included his admission that he had an affair with an employee.
The first four paragraphs are representative of the rest of the article in that they leave out Dann's party. Nowhere does this AP article identify this corrupt public official's party, which seems to me to be pretty shocking. Isn't that relevant information?
Of course, Dann is a Democrat -- something that could have been inferred from the absence of the party label. After all, if Dann were a Republican, we know it would have been included.
Using the arguments made by California AG Jerry Brown, it could be. After all, his argument that certain sorts of amendment are impermissible could just as easily be used to make the following argument put forward (tongue-in-cheek) at Discriminations.
If only slaveholders (or, arguably, former slaveholders) had been as smart as Jerry Brown, they could have urged the Supreme Court to invalidate the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, on the Brownian ground that the Constitution as adopted protected property, including property in slaves, and that that right should not be sacrificed to the whims of a tyrannical majority.
Fortunately for African-Americans in this nation, the US Supreme Court of the United States is unlikely to rule that constitutional amendments are unconstitutional. Will the California Supreme Court exercise similar restraint, even with Brown's urging that they make precisely such a ruling?
The Italian government says it's shoring up the parmigiana market by buying 100,000 wheels of the famed cheese to give to charity.
Despite a strong demand for the cheese in Italy and abroad, parmigiana producers are struggling to make money, which puts parmigiana's future at risk, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The government is buying the chunks of cheese, which weigh about 77 pounds each, with money from a special European Fund meant to feed poor people, the Journal reported.
And in all seriousness, makers of mozzarella producers are upset, arguing that they need a bailout as well.
Well, at least the Italian government is getting something tangible for its money -- is the US government getting anything similar for all the billions in taxpayer cash being tossed around in bailout plans?
When your obligation under the state constitution is to defend the laws of the state -- and any constitutional amendments passed by the people of your state -- your duty should be pretty clear.
In a surprise move, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown asked the California Supreme Court on Friday to invalidate Proposition 8. He said the November ballot measure that banned gay marriage "deprives people of the right to marry, an aspect of liberty that the Supreme Court has concluded is guaranteed by the California Constitution."
It is the attorney general's duty to defend the state's laws, and after gay rights activists filed legal challenges to Proposition 8, which amended the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, Brown said he planned to defend the proposition as enacted by the people of California.
But after studying the matter, Brown concluded that "Proposition 8 must be invalidated because the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification."
In other words, Brown has arrogantly taken it upon himself to substitute his view of the matter for the view of the people of the state of California who passed an amendment to the state constitution to formally establish the definition of marriage as that which it has been since the founding of the American Republic -- one man and one woman.
In other words, what Brown has done here is to promulgate as the official position of the state of California the position taken by the losing side in the last election. What's more, he has taken the position that right of the people to govern themselves and to alter or abolish their form of government does not exist -- and that they have no recourse in the face of judicial tyrants who impose novel interpretations of the very document from which they derive their authority. In other words, he has rejected the notion that the people are sovereign and instead seeks to have the California Supreme Court rule that the people of that state are mere subjects. As such, he has actively violated his oath of office and should be immediately impeached and removed from office.
That will not happen, of course, given the predilection of some members of the gerrymandered General Assembly to ignore the vote of the people on the same issue and attempt to legalize what the people of California had banned when they voted for a proposition against gay marriage in 2000 -- despite explicit constitutional prohibitions on repealing such initiatives through legislation.
What is even more frightening is that the California Supreme Court may take it upon itself to use Brown's filing to overturn Prop 8 -- after all, it is a specific rebuke to that activist court that overturned the previous vote of the people because it overturns last spring's decision legalizing gay marriages.
What we may have here, then, is a situation in which it may become the obligation of the Federal Government to intervene in California, under the authority conveyed by Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution.
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
After all, if the ruling of the court is that the people may not alter or abolish the government established by their state constitution and that the voice of the people on matters of public policy carry no force, then it is clear that there does not exist a Republican Form of Government in that state.
And of Congress or the Obama Administration were to fail to act in such a situation? Jefferson addresses that matter well.
"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
Like the patriots of old, prepare the tar and feathers -- and like the people of Italy at the end of WWII, prepare the piano wire and meat hooks.
For crying out loud! Did someone really make a decision to do something this absurd?
Students at St. Stephen Elementary School found out last week that Santa Claus can have the same skin color as them.
That's because two Santa Clauses ó one white, one black ó were invited to the rural Berkeley County school at separate times last Friday to take pictures with students of the same skin color.
Principal Willa Norton's decision to invite two Santas has drawn criticism from a few parents and from two civil rights organizations, which said the school shouldn't have divided the students by race without asking parents first.
Marguerite Lyons, who found out about the two Santas while picking up her son outside the school Thursday, said dividing the children by race smacked of prejudice. All the children should have seen one Santa, she said.
"I don't care if (Santa) was Chinese or Puerto Rican," said Lyons, who is black. "Everyone's the same."
For the record, I agree with Lyons, who seems to have adopted the philosophy of racial equality much more fully than the principal or the civil rights organizations, which were willing to concede the propriety of such racial separatism ďif the parents wanted it.Ē There should have been only one Santa, with no racial division Ė and had she brought a black Santa into her school that is ĺ black, I canít imagine having anyone object (or caring if anyone did). After all, I was not troubled when, during my two years on Guam as a kid, we had a Santa who looked just like the Pacific Islanders who made up the bulk of the non-military population there.
Now mind you, Norton was trying to do a good thing here, and I wonít attack her goal. But the execution is really problematic Ė and even she and her district indicate there will be a different procedure in place next year. So Merry Christmas to them all.
Now Iíve said in the past that I donít care that Congressman Keith Ellison is a Muslim. Iím not offended that he took his oath of office using a Koran. And I personally consider it a wonderful thing that he went on the hajj this year.
John Hinderaker wrote about the Star Tribune's puff piece by Mitch Anderson earlier this week on the pilgrimage of Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison to Mecca for the Muslim Hajj. The brief piece relied heavily on comments by Ellison spoksman Rick Jauert, who told Anderson "that Ellison paid for the journey himself." (Incidentally, the Star Tribune seems to have tinkered with the version of the story on which John commented)
Today the Star Tribune devotes a second puff piece by Anderson to Ellison's Hajj The rationale for another piece on the same subject is obscure. Apparently adding weight to Ellison's greatness in the eyes of the Star Tribune, Anderson quotes Ellison: "This is just me trying to be the best person I can be."
Anderson buries the sole item of journalistic interest at the end of the article. Anderson reports: "[Ellison's] expenses were paid for by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota." Despite the fact that it was Anderson himself who previously quoted Ellison's spokesman asserting that the trip was on Ellison's own nickel, Anderson drops the subject there.
Now Iím not going to delve into the prolems with the MAS or its various branches, the groupís origins or its somewhat alarming connections to some troubling groups abroad. Power Line does a great job of that later in the piece Iíve quoted above, and I wonít reproduce it here. Go read it there, and give them the traffic.
No, Iím concerned about another issue Ė one related to ethics. After all, democrats have for years raised questions about what Republican went where on what company or groupís dime. And there are, of course, some rather straightforward requirements on what can be accepted as well as when and how the travel must be reported on official disclosure forms. Not only that, but there are requirements for advance approval of such privately funded trips. Has Ellison complied with all those disclosure and reporting guidelines? I checked the House website, and there is no filing there. Do we have another potential ethical lapse by a House Democrat?
We have a local blogger over at Bay Area Houston who has taken it into his head that he is the leading watchdog on government ethics in the state. After all, he regularly makes posts attacking pols who have been cited for various ethical lapses. Now Iíd find this admirable except for one minor detail Ė he only reports on the REPUBLICANS Ė as a Democrat activist, he wonít touch the ethics problems of Democrats with a 10-foot poll.
Thatís why he managed to miss this tidbit about a Texas legislator with a host of such problems Ė one who wants to be Speaker of the House.
Representative Sylvester Turner has been a busy little beaver. He has managed to amass enough campaign finance violations in the last two years to fill a 37 page ethics complaint, along with167 pages of campaign finance reports to back up the complaint. Since the complaint runs 37 pages I obviously cannot do all of his violations justice but I will hit some highlights for you.
ē $220,905.33 (cumulative errors) is missing and unaccounted for out of his campaign funds, and also did not report any interest accrual on the account as well. This is fraud and perjury.
ē Accepted $13,500 in direct contributions from corporate entities which is illegal.
ē $500 of which was from Zachry Construction, the prime contractor for the Trans-Texas Corridor construction and a major contractor to TXDoT. Knowingly accepting Corporate donations is a third degree felony. He did this a total of 16 times in the last two years, listed the corporations on the forms, and then signed them, so he will have a hard time claiming he did not know. Maybe he didn't read them, but he SHOULD have read them. He signed the form which means he is accepting responsibility for what is in them.
ē Made six payments to Ford Motor Credit in the amount of $736.46 for what appears to be his personal vehicle. Amounting to $4418.76. This is personal enrichment from campaign funds and he would be civilly liable for the amount, even if it's a lease with residual value to the lessor.
ē Made a total of 141 payments to himself and others from the fund without disclosing the names of payees, dates, amounts, or purposes of the payments.
Now mind you, this covers just TWO YEARS worth of violations.
Personally, I donít know if Turner is actually guilty of the offenses with which he is charged, and I am willing to wait to see what the outcome is. And Iíd even cut John some slack here were it not for the fact that he has recently filed an ethics complaint against the current speaker, and has implied on his blog that the mere fact that the Texas Ethics Commission accepted his complaint as properly filed is indicative of Speaker Craddickís guilt. That means, I suppose, that John is seeking to protect his partyís own corrupt pols, since he is only reporting on actions against his political opponents.
And interestingly enough, he himself would be one of the corrupt Democrats he has been protecting. After all, heís the guy used by the Office of the Inspector General as a case study in what not to do with regards to the Hatch Act Ė which he was determined to have violated and for which he received a 180 day suspension from his job at NASA. Interestingly enough, John didnít see fit to comment on that ethical lapse on his blog Ė and nor did he offer any criticism of the candidate for whom he illicitly raised funds on government time using government resources and facilities in violation of federal law. I guess that lapses of political ethics are in the eye of the beholder, right?
But then again, why should we be surprised? After all, heís jut following the Pelosi Paradigm for improving political ethics Ė cleaning out the ethical swamp to make room for his own unethical alligators.
UPDATE: I'll be damned -- Coby actually reports today on the ethics issues of a Democrat. Of course, she is one of the "Craddick Democrats" who support the current speaker, so John is still only commenting on the ethical issues of those he identifies as political enemies.
UPDATE II: I love it when John brags about his threats of physical violence against me. Just more of barack Obama's "new tone" in American politics, I guess.
Under their interpretation of the parable, the priest and the Levite got it right.
Being a good Samaritan in California just got a little riskier.
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a young woman who pulled a co-worker from a crashed vehicle isn't immune from civil liability because the care she rendered wasn't medical.
The divided high court appeared to signal that rescue efforts are the responsibility of trained professionals. It was also thought to be the first ruling by the court that someone who intervened in an accident in good faith could be sued.
Lisa Torti of Northridge allegedly worsened the injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by yanking her "like a rag doll" from the wrecked car on Topanga Canyon Boulevard.
Torti now faces possible liability for injuries suffered by Van Horn, a fellow department store cosmetician who was rendered a paraplegic in the accident that ended a night of Halloween revelry in 2004.
But in a sharp dissent, three of the seven justices said that by making a distinction between medical care and emergency response, the court was placing "an arbitrary and unreasonable limitation" on protections for those trying to help.
In other words, folks, the prudent rule to follow in California is ďLET THAT SUCKER DIE!Ē After all, the alternative is being saddled with an insurmountable debt if someone decdes your course of action was incorrect Ė and that someone will always be a lawyer.
Oh, and when this case gets to a jury, hereís hoping for a bit of jury nullification.
After all, if you are going to waive a requirement for all those who do not meet it, how can you keep a straight face by labeling it a requirement?
Many Maryland high school seniors at risk of not graduating may be able to earn diplomas through a waiver of the state's new exit-exam requirements under a policy approved yesterday. The waiver process, approved unanimously by the Maryland State Board of Education, provides another path to a diploma for some of the 4,000 seniors who have not passed or not taken one or more of the High School Assessments, a set of four exams in algebra, English, biology and government.
The estimate of 4,000 at-risk seniors is sharply reduced from an earlier statewide estimate of 9,000 because, state officials said, thousands of students have met graduation standards in recent months.
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said the waiver was likely to affect "a small cohort" of students who have not completed courses or remedial work. Many of those affected would be students learning English as a second language or others in special education programs, she said.
"It's very hard to predict. The determination literally has to be made at the school level," Grasmick said. "I could say several hundred, and I'd probably be somewhat safe."
In other words, the state of Maryland has said you must pass a test to graduate, and if you canít there are other options Ė unless you canít fulfill any of them, in which case you donít have to bother with any of it at all. All I can say in response is that instead of raising the value of a Maryland diploma, they have managed to lower it.
I love the conclusion in the NY Times article on the new freedom of conscience rules put in place for medical professionals.
Opponents of abortion, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, support the new regulations and say they are needed to protect health-care providers from being forced to perform abortions and sterilizations.
They are opposed by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, among others. Opponents contend that the regulations are a threat to a womanís right to choose to have an abortion, and that they are not needed in any event because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.
Now look at that last sentence. It shows the propensity of anti-lifers like the NACDS, AHA and AMA folks to lie about anything in an effort to ensure that abortion is available any time, anywhere, with as little restriction as possible. After all, absolutely nothing in the regulations forbids women to have abortions Ė they simply ensure that those who have a moral objection to abortion are not forced to participate in them. After all, must every doctor be forced to become an abortionist in order to guarantee a woman the freedom to take the life of her unborn child? Of course not. And since the 1964 Civil Rights Act argument has not generally been successful in protecting the conscience rights of pro-life medical professionals, the latter argument is fatuous
But the assertion made by the proponents of death does lead to a question that no reporter for the Grey Lady would dare ask Ė if they are opposed to regulations that they claim essentially duplicate protections found in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, are they also opposed to the protections found in that seminal piece of civil rights legislation? Do they, in fact, believe that even the religious liberties of Americans must take the back seat to the needs of the abortion industry? But while asking such questions would be good journalism, doing so might expose the anti-freedom agenda of these acolytes of death Ė meaning that the answers to such questions will never make it into the MSM.
Iím personally surprised that the New York Times included the party affiliation in this story.
City Councilman Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat who was elected to the State Senate last month, was arrested and charged with assault on Friday morning in connection with an injury to his girlfriend, law enforcement officials said.
Paul J. Browne, the Police Departmentís top spokesman, said that Mr. Monserrate had been arrested and charged with assault in the first degree.
Officials said that Mr. Monserrate had taken his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, 30, to Long Island Jewish Medical Center with what appeared to be a serious injury in or around her left eye.
Ms. Giraldo told hospital staff that it was Mr. Monserrate who had assaulted her, officials said. It appeared that she had been punched and slashed in or around her left eye with a shard of glass, and officials said it took 20 to 40 stitches to close the wound. A doctor at the hospital, which straddles the border between Queens and Nassau County, called the police at 4:50 a.m.
New York City police detectives arrived at the hospital, arrested Mr. Monserrate and took him to a Queens precinct house for questioning. The alleged assault occurred in Mr. Monserrateís apartment, at 37-20 83rd Street in Jackson Heights, officials said.
What a prince of a man Ė just one more example of the way in which New York Democrats show their respect for their women. After all, in the last year we have seen a pair of New York governors exposed for engaging in affairs behind the backs of their wives (one with a hooker, the other with a staffer). And letís not forget the way in which New Yorkís junior senator was treated by her husband a few years back. I guess this sort of stuff proves that NY Democrats view women as doormats Ė and Iím prepared to call them on it in light of the propensity of Democrats to be outraged by the peccadillos of Republicans.
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
During my seminary days, I had multiple opportunities to read the work of a great American theologian -- Avery Cardinal Dulles. Word has come today that he has passed from this life into the next, at the age of 90.
Cardinal Avery Dulles, a convert to Roman Catholicism from a prominent American family who was the only U.S. theologian named a cardinal without first becoming a bishop, died Friday. He was 90.
Dulles, a Jesuit, died in an infirmary at Fordham University, where he was a professor for two decades, according to the Rev. Jim Martin of America, a Jesuit magazine that regularly published Dulles' articles.
Pope John Paul II appointed Dulles in 2001 to the College of Cardinals, making him the first American Jesuit and the first U.S. theologian outside of a diocese to be named a cardinal. He was considered the dean of American Catholic theologians.
Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI considered Dulles to be so important that the pontiff made a personal visit to the cardinal while in the United States this spring. There are few who have had such an honor -- but Dulles was an extraordinary man.
When I read Thomas Merton's The Seven Storey Mountain, I noted a passage regarding the large number of veterans attracted to the priesthood and/or monastic life following the end of the Second World War. Like Merton, Dulles was one of them, converting to Catholicism in 1946 and eventually being ordained a priest in 1956.
During Vatican II he was seen as one of the great progressives, but in his later years he was often counted among the traditionalists (quite similar to the paths taken by Bishop Karol Wotyla and Father Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI) -- an example, as one of my seminary professors pointed out, that the purpose of the Council may have been to modernize the Church, but not to change it in its essentials.
Dulles was often noted for his great intellect as well as his great personal holiness. Perhaps the best tribute I can give is to quote from his last lecture, one which he was too weak to deliver himself but for which he was present this past April.
"The most important thing about my career, and many of yours, is the discovery of the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field -- the Lord Jesus himself."
And to that I add a hearty "AMEN".
I'm a long-time science fiction fan. Tonight I mark the passing of an important figure in Star Trek -- Majel Barrett Rodenberry.
Majel Barrett Roddenberry, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's widow and a fixture of nearly every incarnation of the space travel franchise, died on Thursday. She was 76.
Roddenberry, who suffered from leukemia, died at home in Bel Air, Calif., according to a spokesperson.
Before Star Trek, the Ohio-born actress worked on a range of television shows, including Bonanza and Leave it to Beaver.
She was romantically involved with Roddenberry when he launched Star Trek in the mid-1960s. Though he cast her as the USS Enterprise's unnamed first officer in his pilot, she would go on to fame as the secondary character Nurse Chapel in the original series and in subsequent films. The couple married in 1969.
Roddenberry reappeared in the revamped Star Trek: The Next Generation as one of its beloved recurring characters: Betazoid ambassador Lwaxana Troi and as the voice of the starship's onboard computer ó a job she would also hold on spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager, audio books, animated series, video games as well as on the forthcoming J.J. Abrams prequel film.
As noted above, she appeared as three characters in the series -- two of who became fan favorites. But it is her voice work as the voice of the computer, so ubiquitous throughout the entire run of the franchise, that we who love Star Trek may find ourselves missing the most.
In addition to her tie back to the Star Trek's creator, of course.
Rest in Peace, Majel -- and know that you are missed.
Just like the dinosaurs, a big old asteroid is coming to wipe us out.
A blue-ribbon panel of scientists is trying to determine the best way to detect and ward off any wandering space rocks that might be on a collision course with Earth.
"We're looking for the killer asteroid,'' James Heasley, of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, last week told the committee that the National Academy of Sciences created at Congress' request.
Congress asked the academy to conduct the study after astronomers were unable to eliminate an extremely slight chance that an asteroid called Apophis will slam into Earth with devastating effect in 2036.
Apophis was discovered in 2004 about 17 million miles from Earth on a course that would overlap our planet's orbit in 2029 and return seven years later.
Observers said that the asteroid ó a massive boulder left over from the birth of the solar system ó is about 1,000 feet wide and weighs at least 50 million tons.
After further observations, astronomers reported that the asteroid would skim by Earth harmlessly in 2029, but it has a one in 44,000 probability of slamming into our planet on Easter Sunday, April 13, 2036.
Hmmmm. . . one-in-44,000. I donít know that I like those odds. So the article posits an Armageddon-like project to decrease the possibility of an impact. Of course, it may be the end of the world as we know it Ė but I feel fine.
A pocket of magma beneath the earthís crust in Hawaii Ė the first we can actually study.
A geothermal power company drilling a mile and a half deep on one of the Hawaiian Islands has for the first time encountered an undisturbed chamber of magma, or molten rock, scientists reported this week.
Before the discovery, which was made in 2005, the only access to magma had been on Earth's surface -- in the form of lava from volcanoes.
The 2,000-degree Fahrenheit material in the chamber is undergoing a complicated transformation that may give geologists the first real-time look at how the silicate-rich rock of continents is formed.
"This is Jurassic Park. This is first contact. Here we see this [continental] stuff being produced in its natural habitat," said Bruce D. Marsh, a geologist at Johns Hopkins University. He described the findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.
Imagine the possibilities.
Increased scientific knowledge.
Near limitless geothermal energy.
An ideal spot to house Gitmo detainees, given that it closely approximates the corner of Hell to which they will be consigned.
And this time it is a liberal being censored!
Big Bear High School student Mariah Jimenez should be allowed to wear the "Prop. 8 Equals Hate" T-shirt she was banned from wearing on campus, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The 16-year-old sophomore, who is her class president, wore the tie-dyed T-shirt to school on Nov. 3, the day before voters approved the constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage in California.
Mariah's sixth-period teacher, Sue Reynolds, ordered her to remove the shirt during a meeting of the Associated Student Body.
When Mariah protested, Reynolds sent her to the principal's office.
"She said I shouldn't be wearing such divisive shirts, and my shirt draws a line down the school," said
Now Iíve taken a pretty hard line on student speech in the past, relying on the seminal case in Tinker v. Des Moines, in which the Supreme Court ruled that students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate. However, since Jimenez lives in the Ninth Circuit, Iím going to have to take a different position, because the Ninth Circuit decided to overrule that precedent from a higher court and the higher court (the US Supreme Court) punted when offered the opportunity to reassert its authority and acknowledge that student speech on important political and social issues is protected by the First Amendment.
The irony, of course, is that the decision in which the Ninth Circuit stripped students of their First Amendment rights was a speech that allowed schools to suppress the speech of students critical of homosexuality. But since the Ninth Circuit undermined the notion that students have a First Amendment right to speak on such issues, it is hard to accept the argument that this is a violation of Mariahís rights in any way. After all, the Ninth Circuit has more or less indicated that it will defer to school administrators in such instances, and they did indicate that they were seeking to avoid violence and disruption, just as the school had in the case in which the Ninth Circuit implicitly dispensed with the relevant Supreme Court precedent.
Ferraud sent Mariah's mother a letter dated Dec. 3 indicating the school's decision was more about Mariah's safety than about restricting free speech. She said district officials "were concerned about the potential disruption resulting from the fact that the shirt seemed to imply that those students who supported Proposition 8 were expressing `hate."'
And since many of those students were basing their position on Prop 8 on their religious views, and since at least some of those students would have been members of minority religions (Mormons and Muslims, among others), these students had every right to be left alone and not subjected to so-called hate speech, just as the judges ruled gay students had a similar right when the student in Harper v. Poway was banned from expressing ďhatefulĒ sentiments by wearing a shirt that read ďHomosexuality is ShamefulĒ. These members of minority faiths might have their poor psyches injured by such hateful words, just like the hypothetically-harmed homosexual kids in the earlier case. And while the fact that young Mariah made it through to sixth period with no disruption of the school day might seem compelling in arguing that the shirt caused no harm, Tyler Harper had made it through a substantial portion of the day without incident before his speech was suppressed by school authorities. If such facts are irrelevant in a case involving speech on one side of the gay issue, it should be equally irrelevant on the other as a matter of applying the law and Constitution equally.
Outside the Ninth Circuit, though, I would argue that Mariah should have every right to wear her shirt unmolested Ė and, indeed protected if necessary Ė by school authorities. If we are to teach our young people to be fully-informed and active citizens in a free society, both Mariah Jimenez and Tyler Harper OUGHT to be able to walk through the hallways of a school expressing diverse views of homosexuality and gay rights with the full support of teachers and administrators. In a world where Tinker v. Des Moines were a precedent which school authorities sought to uphold rather than undermine, actions like those of Jimenez and Harper would be seen as evidence that the schools had succeed rather than problems for administrators to deal with. Of course, in such a world we would view schools as a place which encouraged critical thinking and respectful self-expression rather than institutions in which teaching to the state minimum standards implicitly requires that No Child Gets Ahead.
By the way, let me state for the record that I do not fully agree (or disagree) with either studentís message. On the other hand, Iíd be proud to claim either as my student or my child, because each has engaged in an act of true patriotism by exercising their legitimate First Amendment rights and attempting to defend them appropriately when challenged by government authority. Each deserves better than they were given by their respective schools.
Is anyone else troubled by the fact that Barack Obma has appointed a new Secretary of Education whose own school district under-performs the nation on standardized tests AND is provides such a lousy education that the president-elect and his wife refused to send their children to the district's schools.
In 2007, only 17 percent of eighth graders tested at or above grade level in reading in Chicago Public Schools Ė the school system administered by Arne Duncan since 2001.
President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday tapped Duncan to become secretary of education in the upcoming administration.
Duncan, hailed by Obama as a reformer, said he would like to take the lessons he learned in Chicago with him when he moves to Washington. ďI'm also eager to apply some of the lessons we have learned here in Chicago to help school districts all across our country," Duncan said after Obama formally named him to the job in Chicago.
By every measure, Duncan is a FAILURE as a superintendent, with his reforms having been ineffective. Can our children afford to have the lessons he learned in Chicago applied nationwide, which would presumably lower student performance? We'd be going from "No Child Moves Ahead" to "No Child Learns To Read". I therefore urge the US Senate to reject Arne Duncan's nomination to be Secretary of Education.
What Muslims don't want you to be able to publish.
Islamic proposals to ban criticism of religion, which have gathered strength since the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad two years ago, threaten to derail an already troubled U.N. anti-racism conference planned for next year.
The European Union rejects suggestions by Algeria _ backed by other Muslim and African countries _ that limits on free speech are needed to stop the publication of offensive articles and images.
Supporters of the proposal, who have been pushing for such a ban to be included in international anti-discrimination charters, want it discussed in April at a high-level United Nations anti-racism meeting in Geneva.
BOOK EXCERPTS from Islam or Fundamentalism? In light of the Qorían and the Sunna by Imam Abou Hammaad Sulaiman Dameus Al-Hayiti
* Homosexuality is a "perversion"
* Homosexuals "spread disorder on earth"
* Homosexuals and lesbians should be "exterminated in this life"
* "Homosexuals caught performing sodomy are beheaded"
Ethnic groups are not equal
* "Can we doubt the superiority of Islamic principles over the corrupt principles of Eastern and Western cultures ? Culture is based on the beliefs of a nation. The superior culture is the one closest to the revelation of Allah !"
* "This is the reason why ethnic groups are not equal"
Muslims are superior to Infidels
* "... a Muslim must never put his brother in Islam at the same level as an Infidel. In fact, to place Infidels at equality with Muslims is one of the greatest form of ignorance and injustice"
* "The rule is that the most disobedient among Muslims is better than the most virtuous, the most polite, the most honest and the most loyal among the Infidels"
* "The Muslim nation is actually the most balanced and the most righteous"
* "It is because of this religion of lies, which goes against human nature, that the West is now full of perversity, corruption and adultery"
* Jews "spread corruption and chaos on earth"
* Most Jews "seek only material goods and money, apart from that, they have nothing"
* Jews "unjustly occupy" Palestine for the sole purpose of "filling this land with corruption and transgress the laws of Allah in the name of secularism"
The scary thing is that there are some in the West who are more than willing to allow precisely such a dichotomy of speech, establishing a regime under which even the mildest criticism of Islam will result in government sanction while even the most outrageous words of hate from Muslims will be treated as protected speech. This leads us back to the question I have asked more than once in the past -- are Islam and human rights able to coexist, or is Islam a fundamental threat to the human rights of all non-Muslims?
The Illinois Supreme Court has refused to hear a challenge to Gov. Rod Blagojevich's fitness to hold office.
A spokesman said Wednesday that the court rejected the challenge without comment.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan had argued Blagojevich's legal and political troubles are keeping him from performing his duties. He has been charged with seeking kickbacks in choosing a successor for President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
Madigan argued that the governor's problems amount to a disability, so Blagojevich should have his authority removed temporarily.
My guess is that the court internally adopted a theory something akin to what I outlined here. However, they didn't need to explain their decision not to take the case, and did not. Now the ball is in the court of the branch constitutionally charged with dealing with impeachment.
In the few seconds it took Iraqi journalist Muntather Zaidi to wing a pair of shoes at President George Bush, the Middle East got its own version of Joe the Plumber.
Just as Joe Wurzelbacher's gripes to Barack Obama during the U.S. presidential election catapulted him to fame, Zaidi's burst of rage toward Bush during a Baghdad news conference Sunday has made him a household name across the Middle East.
To many, Zaidi is a hero for engaging in the ultimate Arab world insult -- hurling his shoes -- at Bush, who ducked to avoid being slammed in the head. To others, Zaidi is an embarrassment for a society that prides itself on being hospitable to guests, even those who are not much liked. Whichever way his act is viewed, there's no question that Zaidi, like Wurzelbacher, is no longer just another Joe.
Let's see -- Wurzelbacher asked a pointed question of a candidate who literally appeared on his doorstep -- the ultimate in free speech. Zaidi engaged in a violent attack and confuses that with free speech.
Personally, I think we'd do better to compare Zaidi to Squeaky Fromme or John Hinkley -- but somehow I expect the press to start comparing those two presidential assailants to Joe the Plumber instead.
It is not that this priest started a ministry per se -- it is that he was forbidden to engage in any public ministry due to his history of misconduct.
A priest accused of having sexual conversations with teenage boys has been excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix for starting his own ministry.
The diocese announced Monday that Monsignor Dale Fushek and another Catholic priest who helped open the ministry are now prohibited from receiving church sacraments.
Fushek was the second highest-ranking administrator in the diocese. He is awaiting trial on charges including assault and indecent exposure over conversations from the 1980s and '90s.
He had been placed on paid leave, but his salary was cut off after Fushek started the ministry in defiance of the bishop's orders.
The problem here? Defiance of the bishop's authority -- and his continuing to publicly act as a priest after suspension for sexual misconduct. The bishop has been acting to protect the faithful from a sexual predator -- and has no applied the ultimate sanction in an effort to get Fushek to comply with his authority. Too bad the Washington Post didn't do a better job of covering the situation -- but then again, there isn't as much news in the Church getting it right on sex abuse.
UPDATE: I did a little furhter checking -- it appears that there was a more fundamental reason for the excommunication. Not only was he violating the restriction upon exercising public ministry (thus violating his promise to obey his bishop taken at ordination), but the ministry he and a laicized priest set up is actually a schismatic religious congregation with teachings contrary to those of the Catholic Church. Seems to me that the only surprise here is that anyone would be surprised by the excommunication.
By one measurement, the answer would have to be that they are.
The residential patterns for current veterans and the patterns of state-level contributions of new recruits to the all-volunteer military have a distinct geographic tilt. And tellingly, the map of military service since 1973 aligns closely with electoral maps distinguishing red from blue states.
In 1969, the 10 states with the highest percentage of veterans were, in order: Wyoming, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, California, Oregon, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Connecticut and Illinois.
In 2007, the 10 states with the highest percentage of post-Vietnam-era veterans were, in order: Alaska, Virginia, Hawaii, Washington, Wyoming, Maine, South Carolina, Montana, Maryland and Georgia.
Over the past four decades, which states have disappeared from the top 10? California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois, all big blue states that have voted Democratic in the past five presidential elections. These states and another blue state, New York, which ranked 12th in 1969, are among the 10 states with the lowest number of post-Vietnam vets per capita. New Jersey comes in 50th of the 50 states; just 1 percent of current residents have served in the military since Vietnam.
Now Iíll be the first to concede that there are any number of ways to interpret those statistics, as well as a host of reasons for them. And Iíll also concede that military service and love of country are not the same thing. But it does show a certain cultural divide that exists in this country that runs deeper than mere voting patterns. After all, we heard statements time and again about who was serving in the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Turns out that it was the people of the states who were voting in support of those conflicts by voting in support of the GOP.
There are two ways of looking at this one. On one level, it shows how the imposition of civil rights laws on private entities can cause a burden on the exercise of rights by business owners, in this case religious liberty. But if such laws are to exist (and in the case of access for the disabled, I think they should), allowing stuff like this to happen without consequence is unacceptable.
Alun Elder-Brown, a recruitment executive, said he was left feeling "like a piece of dirt" after being barred from bringing the animal into Kirthon Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on religious grounds.
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said the decision was illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act and Mr Elder-Brown, 51, is now considering suing the establishment in The Pantiles.
It follows a series of successful prosecutions of Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry guide dogs in their cars because they considered them unclean on religious grounds.
Mr Elder-Brown was taking his girlfriend out to celebrate her birthday with her five year-old daughter last week when he was told he would have to leave his dog, Finn, tied up outside.
He showed a card issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers certifying he and his dog were allowed into any premises but an argument ensued and the owners threatened to call the police if he did not leave.
Oh, yes Ė the presence o a dog might offend a Muslim, and so the rights of other citizens to freely access a public accommodation under the conditions established by law are once again overriden. Hereís hoping that the Brits will come down hard on those who committed this outrage, as they have in the case of a number of cab drivers playing this same game.
Will there be another corruption scandal touching the nascent Obama Administration?
A federal grand jury is investigating how a company that advised Jefferson County, Alabama, on bond deals that threaten to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, did similar work in New Mexico after making contributions to Governor Bill Richardsonís political action committees. The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into Beverly Hills, California-based CDR Financial Products Inc., which received almost $1.5 million in fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 after donating $100,000 to Richardsonís efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and pay for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, people familiar with the matter said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation asked current and former officials from the state agency if any staff members in the governorís office influenced CDRís hiring, said the people, who declined to be identified because the proceedings are secret. Richardson, who is President-elect Barack Obamaís designate for Commerce Secretary, has a staff of at least 30 people.
This probe has been in progress for some time. It could ensnare Richardson directly, but even if his involvement is only tangential it has the potential to spatter the new president with even more scandalous muck. After all, this appears to be more of the Chicago Way of pay-to-play.
Iíll concede that I have expressed some preferences for possible GOP nominees in 2012, but I also recognize that it is a bit early to commit oneself to a candidate. After all, the new president has not even taken his oath of office. So for John McCain to take this position vis-ŗ-vis a possible Sarah Palin candidacy is not at all surprising.
Sen. John McCain said Sunday he would not necessarily support his former running mate if she chose to run for president.
Speaking to ABC's "This Week," McCain was asked whether Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin could count on his support.
"I can't say something like that. We've got some great other young governors. I think you're going to see the governors assume a greater leadership role in our Republican Party," he said.
He then mentioned governors Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of Utah.
McCain is no fool. He is correct in recognizing that we have a number of young governors (including not only the two he mentioned, but also Louisianaís Bobby Jindal and Hawaiiís Linda Lingle who would be great candidates. There are also several promising members of the House and Senate who would be fantastic candidates. And letís not forget Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, whose showing this year gives them serious name recognition that would help a future candidacy. But who knows Ė there may be some candidate who is not yet on anyoneís radar who could emerge and lead us to victory. David Petraeus, anyone?
So for anyone who wants to make this into a slight of Palin by McCain, please think again. After all, at this time in 2004 we all thought that 2008 would see the major Dems line up to put Hillary Clinton into the Oval Office. We saw how well that worked.
The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush in a supreme insult has suddenly become the talk of Iraq, hailed by marchers as a national hero but blasted by the government as a barbarian.
* * *
Zaidi shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," at Bush in a news conference he held with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki during a farewell visit to Baghdad on Sunday.
The journalist then flung one shoe at Bush, forcing him to duck, followed by another, which sailed over Bush's head and slammed into the wall behind him. Throwing shoes at someone is the worst possible insult in the Arab world.
Zaidi was dragged struggling and screaming from the room by security guards and could be heard shouting outside while the news conference continued after momentary mayhem.
Now apparently the Iraqi government is charging him with crimes against the Iraqi state. I think this is the wrong move for them to make, for it turns him into a political prisoner. Rather, he should be charged with assault Ė for after all, this piss-ant is nothing more than a common criminal.
His employer is demanding he be released, claiming that his actions are merely free speech. They are wrong Ė his actions were assault (assault and battery, actually, as I understand that one individual may have been struck by one of the shoes). He isnít being punished for his words Ė he ought to be punished for his actions.
The Insane Left is, of course, all in a tizzy over the incident, proving their fundamental moral and mental inferiority to even single-cell life forms. Consider a few of the comments documented by the folks at NewsBusters:
Here is a sampling of the the reaction from the Daily Kos:
Is the Iraqi reporter eligible for a Pulitzer?
- What will happen to this reporter? Do we need to send money for his representation in court or is he dead already? My concern is for this guy. I understand that Dana Perino got a black eye from a microfone in the melee. I'm sorry but retribution is sweet! If we could help this shoeless person I would.
- We can throw 9000+ combat boots at him as he waddles to Marine 1 for the last time.
- Michael Ware Was Grinning From Ear to Ear! Iraq journalist Michael Ware was shown on CNN telling Blitzer about the shoe throwing incident. He was positively gleeful.
And it wouldn't surprise me if quite a few other American journalists, whether based in Iraq or not, were also grinning from ear to ear in solidarity with the Kossacks over this incident. Meanwhile the Huffington Post comments were very similar to those of the Daily Kos:
- All I can hope for is that bubble boy takes a real good look at what he has wrought. He should rot.
- Find out who it was the guy deserves a medal of honor. you go iraqi guy! wooohooo! we should all be chuckin our shoes at him! lmao!!!! the shoebomber! lmao!!!
- I would love to throw something at Bush.. not a shoe though.. maybe a brick.. or cinder block.
- Give that man who threw his shoes at the shrub an award...or better yet a statue built in his own likeness.
- Shall we say thank you Al-Jazeera?
- The next time you see Bush's motorcade rush by, don't let anyone keep you from giving him your shoe, too...
- does anybody know the name and address of the man who threw the shoe? I'd like to buy him a new pair and throwing lessons.
And finally, last but least, we have the input from the loons at the Democratic Underground:
- F---ing shame he missed.
- Too bad Shrub didn't get his teeth knocked out, that guys a true hero!
- *sigh* why can't anyone ever hit their targets? is it asking too much too see Bush hit in the face with a shoe, or Coulter with a pie, or Rove with flaming poo?
- I soooooo wish I could throw something at the idiot too.
Now I wonder if these folks will be so receptive to the first time ď. . . a shoe, or. . . a pie, or. . . a bag of flaming pooĒ is thrown at Barack Obama? Or will these same morons apply a different standard to their new god (whose tin idol is already tarnished by the Blagojevich connection), demanding harsh treatment of the offender?
By the way, the idiot KOSsack who asked if Zaidi was already dead ought to consider something Ė if this were the Iraq that existed prior to the US liberation of that country, his actions would have earned him and his entire family prison and probably death by some barbaric methodology. If this were the Iraq that the Leftís beloved terrorists want, Zaidi would already have been decapitated for his crime. For that matter, what would have happened anywhere in the rest of the Arab/Muslim world if he had tried that with one of their leaders? The question answers itself. Instead, this semi-talented journalistic hack will be something of a hero to a certain segment of the Iraqi populace, while being excoriated by others Ė and he may face a short time in jail or a fine for his clearly inappropriate action.
After all, there are limits to freedom of expression Ė and Zaidi needs to learn that it ends where assault begins.
By the way, I have to agree with this point by Talking Points Memoís Josh Marshall:
But watching the video of the Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush, I could not help but notice that it took an uncomfortably long period of time for anyone to get to the assailant and, even more, much longer than I would have expected for anyone who looked like Secret Service to get to the president and block his body or get him out of harm's way.
I guess the point here is that this was a very confined space. Presumably the Secret Service controlled access to the degree that they were confident there were no unauthorized weapons in the room. And they wouldn't have to worry about someone with a gun at a greater distance. So they may have been less worried about jumping in front of the president, etc.
Maybe I'm just over-analyzing this. And obviously a president can't be under lock and key at all moments, with Secret Service agents ready to throw him to the floor at a moment's notice. But for an American president, any moment in Iraq has to be considered a very high risk situation. So it did make me wonder.
That was, in fact, my first reaction to the incident.
UPDATE: Here's the best reaction I've seen from an Iraqi:
ďI spent five years in Saddamís jails,Ē said Saman Qadir, a 51-year-old mechanic. ďThis journalist has to throw flowers on Bush, not a shoe, because Bush saved the Iraqi people from a bloody regime. Malaki has to raise a case against this journalist.Ē
But then again, for some it all comes down to the shop-worn "Bush=Hitler" meme.
I'm regularly told that I'm not allowed to question the patriotism of Democrats -- even when they support policies that endanger our national security, parrot enemy propaganda during time of war, or conspire with America's enemies to influence American elections. After all, I'm told, the GOP does not have the monopoly on love of country -- and that dissent is the highest form of patriotism.
Now, however, the failure of Republican legislators to support legislation being rammed through by the Democrats who lead the Senate is described as unpatriotic by leading Democrats without a word of protest by the media or GOP leaders.
Consider these two statements, both made in the wake of the defeat of the Big Three bailout.
First, Congressman John Dingell.
ďLast night, some Southern Senators kicked American workers in the gut,Ē Dingell said in a statement released by his office. ďLetís be clear about what happened in the Senate: Senators from states where the international automakers do considerable business unpatriotically blocked a bill that was supported by the White House, that passed the House with a bipartisan majority, and that had the support of 52 Senators.Ē
And then Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
"It is unacceptable for this un-American, frankly, behavior of these U.S. senators to cause this country to go from a recession into a depression," Granholm said during a radio interview Friday morning.
Notice, if you will, that failure to support the bill is not presented as a disagreement on principle, a policy difference, or even simply wrong. The Democrats have gone right to the patriotism of those who dare to disagree with their proposal to give another bailout to big business without giving a bit of relief to the average taxpayer. Now that they have seized power at the polls, dissent cannot be permitted, and dissenters have to be clearly labeled as the enemy of all decent Americans.
Oh, and let me make a little side note about Dingell. Could it be that his vote on the bailout bill, and his criticism of those who opposed it, is less about the needs of the country and more about the need of his stock portfolio?
[N]obodyís been a bigger advocate for Motor City interests than Dingell. And for him, the stakes arenít just political, theyíre personal.
ďThereís an actual conflict,Ē said Ryan Alexander of the nonprofit group Taxpayers for Common Sense. ďHis personal financial health, you know, the wealth of his family is tied up in the car industry.Ē
Dingellís wife Debbie once worked as a lobbyist for GM.
When she married the congressman, she became a senior GM executive at an undisclosed salary. And we found the couple has extensive GM assets.
Dingellís current financial disclosure filed in May lists GM stock worth up to $350,000, options worth up to $1 million more, and a GM pension fund. In 2000, among the Dingellsí GM assets were stock options worth up to $5 million.
And in 1998, the congressman reported selling GM stock options worth up to $1 million dollars.
If Dingell were a Republican, I'm sure folks would accuse him of having a major conflict of interest. After all, a GM bankruptcy would certainly lead to sever financial losses for him and his wife. But since he has a D after his name, I suspect that the conflict of interest will be ignored and he will be permitted o cast aspersions on the patriotism of political dissenters.
Frankly, I'd love to see Granholm's disclosure forms as well. I know what I think we would find there, and it would certainly call into question whether her words were based upon the best interests of the country or the best interests of her personal finances.
H/T The Next Right
Are the Democrats so short of credible folks to occupy newly vacated Senate seats that they will turn to not merely one, but instead two, members of the Kennedy clan to fill them?
Is Chris Kennedy, the son of the late, great U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, a possible entrant on the list to fill Presidentelect Barack Obama's Senate seat?
ē ē To wit: Sneed hears Kennedy's name has been wafted into the inner circle of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who would be the guy who chooses Obama's replacement if Gov. Blagojevich resigns.
ē ē Quoth Dem politico Jay Doherty, a Kennedy confidant: "It would give Pat Quinn the answer to the puzzle before him if he becomes governor."
ē ē The upshot: Word is Kennedy, who is also the nephew of Sen. Ted Kennedy, a major Obama supporter, is likely to accept if asked.
ē ē Hmmm: Wouldn't that be something: An offspring of the legendary Kennedy line as a senator from Illinois? Stay tuned.
Like his cousin Caroline (often mentioned as a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton), Chris Kennedy has no significant credentials for the office besides his name and has never held elective office. But what the heck -- who needs experience if you are a Kennedy?
As you all know, I am not a fan of the folks at Daily Kos. I consider it a cesspool of the worst that liberalism has to offer -- hate, profanity, and anti-Americanism.
That said, I can't help but be struck by this diary about Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's effort to do an end-run around the Illinois Constitution's impeachment provisions by having the Illinois Supreme Court declare Gov. Rod Blagojevich unfit for office. It mirrors my own thoughts on the matter, which I had been planning to write about tonight.
The Illinois Attorney General is trying to stage a Thai-style coup this weekend. I know that Blagojevich is an asshole and should leave office forthwith, but even if it's technically legal, having the Supreme Court remove him without due process is antidemocratic and the wrong way to go about it.
The constitutions of the several states are all based on the same principles of the Federal one, three coequal branches providing checks and balances. While this is less efficient than the parliamentary system, where the chairman of committee of the legislature has near dictatorial powers for a time (see Canada), the removal of an elected executive by members of an unelected branch without due process is nothing more than a coup d'etat and anti-democratic. I have no brief for Blagojevich and what he did, but this way of getting rid of him is profoundly wrong.
the law in question was about the Governor being in coma or being so physically damaged that CANNOT physically do his job. This is not the case here. Blagojevich may be a felonious asshole, but to some extent, so are the other 49 governors, Look at Sarah Palin, for example, or Jennifer Granholm, who is only slightly more popular than Blagojevich. Just because Blago got caught doesn't mean the Supreme Court can get rid of him without due process. If he was in a coma or in the hospital heavily sedated, means he couldn't object, and in the latter case, he could probably get his job back as soon he was well enough to ask for it. OR could he?
Of course, the diarist does make a small mistake -- in Illinois the judicial branch is elected. However, the reality is that removal of an executive who has not been convicted of a crime is the sole province of either the voters (refusal to reelect) or the legislative branch (impeachment). The incapacity provision is clearly intended to cover a physical or mental illness, not political corruption. A quick check of the Illinois Constitution makes it clear where the power to remove a corrupt governor lies:
ARTICLE IV SECTION 14. IMPEACHMENT The House of Representatives has the sole power to conduct legislative investigations to determine the existence of cause for impeachment and, by the vote of a majority of the members elected, to impeach Executive and Judicial officers. Impeachments shall be tried by the Senate. When sitting for that purpose, Senators shall be upon oath, or affirmation, to do justice according to law. If the Governor is tried, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the Senators elected. Judgment shall not extend beyond removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office of this State. An impeached officer, whether convicted or acquitted, shall be liable to prosecution, trial, judgment and punishment according to law.
Given that it is a bedrock principle of our system that members of one branch may not delegate their constitutional prerogatives to officers of another branch, it is obvious that the Madigan gambit is in violation of the Illinois Constitution of 1970.
Why, then, is Madigan making this effort? While one could infer that she is doing so out of concern for good government, consider a couple of points. First, Madigan is seen as atop candidate for governor in the next election. This effort would burnish her image in advance of the election. Second, Madigan's father, the Speaker of the Illinois House, is a Blagojevich enemy who would be spared the need to impeach a governor of his own party by this move. And third, there is currently the incentive for Blagojevich to rat out any legislator who votes for impeachment or conviction, so this provides cover for a host of grateful Illinois pols.
Sadly, We the People have become less concerned to constitutional niceties when they get in the way of what we want done. Here's hoping that there are enough judges on the Illinois Supreme Court who still recognize that a constitution is more than just a piece of paper to be ignored when it suits them. Impeachment, not removal for unfitness, is the proper outcome. It is so simple that even a Kossack can see it.
UPDATE: Not precisely on this point, but Darren makes a point that is certainly tangential to one of mine in this post about how Republics degenerate.
UPDATE 2: Althouse offers a much more detailed explanation of what is wrong with this move by Madigan from a constitutional viewpoint.
An apparent arson attack has caused major damage to Barack Obama's home church, Trinity United Church of Christ.
Fire officials are investigating a suspicious blaze at one of the biggest churches in Chicago. The pastor is estimating damage at more than $1 million.No one was injured in the fire at Trinity United Church of Christ, which started late Friday. About a half dozen church members were in the building doing crafts when the fire began but were able to get out safely after the building's fire alarm sounded, a church spokesman said.
"This fire is definitely suspicious," said Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele.
Needless to say, this is a political attack by hate-filled Rethugliklans out to silence the prophetic voice of the black church and intimidate Barack Obama and his fellow progressive Christians. The Leftosphere is aflame in outrage, demanding action that includes the silencing of "hate radio" that obviously created the climate for such an attack
The version of the story I received was apparently flawed.
Fire officials are investigating a suspicious blaze at one of the biggest churches in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The pastor is estimating damage at more than $1 million.No one was injured in the fire at the Wasilla Bible Church, which started late Friday. About a half dozen church members were in the building doing crafts when the fire began but were able to get out safely after the building's fire alarm sounded, pastor Larry Kroon said.
"This fire is definitely suspicious," said Central Mat-Su Fire Chief James Steele.
The church, located off the Parks Highway on the north end of town, is one of the biggest in the Valley with a typical Sunday service drawing up to a 1,000 people.
Several well-known Valley residents attend the church, including Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla.
Well, I expect that we won't be hearing any liberal outrage on this one -- and probably a fair amount of liberal gloating. In the mean time, conservative blogs are maintaining a calm tone, though the question obviously must be asked as to whether or not the arson was politically motivated (especially since we were told by liberals that the teachings of Palin's church were quite relevant to her fitness for office, while those of Obama''s church and pastor were merely a racist distraction).
What is shocking is that anyone would torch a church -- especially when there are people inside. But since this is a predominantly white church, I somehow suspect that there will be no assumption that this is a hate crime -- even though we have seen the repeated targeting of evangelical churches by liberal groups since the passage of California's Prop 8 and WBC has hosted at least one conference promoting the "ex-gay" movement.
And as for a possible Palin connection, i can't help but note the unique level of venom directed against her by the media and her political opponents (as bad or worse than that directed at George W. Bush, and with less reason). Heck, when a woman's political opponents (like Andrew Sullivan) go so far as to question the maternity of one of her children, I won't put anything past them.
Which leads, of course, to another question -- given that Andrew Sullivan is on sabbatical right now, can anyone verify his whereabouts at the time of the fire?
I seem to have skipped another week in posting results for the Watcher's Council, so let me do the last two weeks to get us up to date.
December 12, 2008
T* - Denotes Tie
December 5, 2008
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It does rather look like it, given this story.
As Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to pick Illinoisí next U.S. senator, businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevichís campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job, the Tribune has learned.
Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.
Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jacksonís bid for the Senate.
Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.
Isnít this all remarkably coincidental? And doesnít it harmonize better with the evidence offered by Patrick Fitzgerald than the story told by the young congressman at his press conference? Interestingly enough, though, the major go-between in this case isnít daddy, the well-know shakedown artist Rev. Jesse Jackson. Instead it was another Jackson son, Jonathan. I guess this shows that the apple does not fall far from the tree Ė though in this instance the elder Jackson was wise enough to stay away from the fire so as not to get burned.
While I think that Obama and company have handled the entire Blagojevich matter incorrectly (and probably dishonestly), I must applaud the course of action taken by one member of his team.
Emanuel turned testy and declined to talk with a reporter who approached him Thursday at Chicago City Hall, where he was watching his children perform in a concert. The Chicago Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.
ďYouíre wasting your time,Ē Emanuel said. ďIím not going to say a word to you. Iím going to do this with my children. Donít do that. Iím a father. I have two kids. Iím not going to do it.Ē
When pressed for comment, he said, ďIím not as capable as you. Iím going to be a father. Iím allowed to be a father,Ē and he pushed the reporterís digital recorder away.
Now I realize that the press has the right to ask questions, and I fully support their doing so. That said, there is an appropriate time, place, and manner for doing so Ė and the Sun-Times reporter chose the wrong one. There was absolutely nothing asked that could not have waited until after the Emanuel kids sang at that concert Ė and Emanuel was pretty gentle in how he rebuffed the reporter in question. Every public official has a private life and is entitled to a bit of family/personal time, and Emanuel was drawing a healthy line to guarantee that he would get to be a Dad. Whatís not to respect there?
And given Rahmís reputation, Iím actually amazed there werenít a few curse words Ė which I would have been hard-pressed to condemn under the circumstances.
Hey, folks, it is Christmas. You know, the most wonderful time of the year, when Santa Claus is coming to town and a swaddled Babe lies sleeping in a manger. Yeah, that Christmas.
And let me remind you of one of those very important Christmas customs that you must not overlook -- the Christmas card. I started receiving them the day after Thanksgiving -- mostly ones that are from my professional or political associates. After all, professional organizations and politicians all know that folks like to be remembered at the holiday season -- and that is why there is such a need for Business Christmas Cards. After all, what better way to make it seem how much you appreciate those who are essential to your past (and future) prosperity.
Over at GalleryCollection.com, they have a large variety of such business Christmas cards available at reasonable prices. Just think -- you can keep in touch with all of those clients or buyers or other business contacts you have, reminding them of your business relationship right on the cusp of the new year, when many of those relationships might need to be renewed. That seems especially important during a recession, which is why the site even has a special offer available for former customers who haven't ordered yet -- check your email!
And by the way, GalleryCollection.com has one other little holiday surprise for you related to holiday traditions. If you visit Daily Lit.com, you can get a free download Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol", sponsored by GalleryCollection.com. What a way to say Merry Christmas during this "Bah Humbug" of a year.
Letís face it Ė even in a year in which Republicans were at a distinct disadvantage, Democrat Senatorial candidate Rick Noriega never stood a chance. Only rarely did he even have a close showing in the polls, and the final couple of months showed him to be generally fading in most polls. Except for the most blind partisans, no one expected Noriega to best Senator John Cornyn. It was no wonder, then, that the national Democrats dropped Noriega from their list of races to focus on during the waning days of the campaign Ė they knew he could not win.
Well, now weíve got Hispanic Democrats here in Texas up in arms over that decision Ė and angry that it appears that Democrats are going to focus upon viable candidates who happen to be Anglo in 2010 and beyond.
Two prominent Hispanic Democratic officials from Texas harshly criticized an arm of their national party today for skipping over the state when it provided funding muscle for U.S. Senate candidates across the country.
State Sens. Mario Gallegos of Houston and Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio objected to the fact that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee collected contributions from Texans ó $1.1 million at an event in San Antonio, for instance ó without sending any to the campaign of outgoing state legislator Rick Noriega of Houston.
Noriega lost the Senate race in November to Republican incumbent John Cornyn, who raised $10 million during the campaign to $4 million for Noriega, according to federal records.
The Democratic committee's decision to spend the money outside Texas "is shameful and disgraceful, and we will do everything we can to prevent this disrespect from happening again," the two state senators wrote.
"For the face of the U.S. Senate to represent the true face of America, we must all work together to invest in quality candidates such as Rick Noriega, not take a walk when our candidate is not a member of the millionaires' club," they added.
Sorry, folks, but while Noriega is an honorable man, he did not represent the views of Texas. After all, this is a state that went strongly for John McCain, and Cornyn won with similar numbers. Why, pray tell, would one expect a Democrat running on the same old liberal platform to do any better, especially when he publicly associated with the dregs of the Left over at Daily Kos?
And the other comments in the article, are Gallegos and Van de Putte suggesting that Democrats should back minority candidates rather than candidates who are more likely to win?
Most of us are pretty firmly against discrimination by government Ė and are usually pretty troubled by it when it occurs in private entities as well. But are there times when discrimination is not only not a bad thing, but essential to a groupís maintaining its identity? And if so, how should laws and institutional rules deal with that discrimination? That is a key question in this Florida case Ė one which deals with how a university should deal with an organization that is organized to promote a certain ethic and point of view of a religious nature.
A Christian fraternity asked federal judges Wednesday to recognize the group as part of student life at the University of Florida, despite a school rule that bars Gator groups from discriminating based on religion. Beta Upsilon Chi lawyers told a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the university's policy threatens their core beliefs and that inviting non-Christians would undermine their mission.
"They're not going to be as open if everyone in the group is not sharing their Christian values," fraternity lawyer Tim Tracy said.
University lawyer Chris Bartolomucci said student groups are an extension of the educational process and should be open to intellectually curious students. He said no non-Christians have attempted to join the fraternity to hijack it, a hypothetical concern raised by the judges during a hearing in Atlanta.
Now if this were a group designed to deal with any other sort of viewpoint, this would be an open and shut case Ė the group would be able to restrict its membership and leadership to those who hold to the point of view established in the charter of the organization. But we as a society tend to look at religious restrictions differently, and courts generally apply a higher standard to instances of religious discrimination than other viewpoint based restrictions. Still, when a group is formed around a religious viewpoint, limiting membership (or at least position of authority) it strikes me that it needs to be treated just as any other ideological group. Indeed, the most obvious reason for doing so is the fact that there have been efforts by some opposed to the groupís point of view to join the organization in an attempt to undermine its reason for existence. Requiring a Christian (or Jewish or Buddhist, or atheist) group to admit those who hold to other religious beliefs is to effectively neuter them.
Frankly, this case is more important than it appears at first glance. Colleges and universities across the country have attempted to impose similar restrictions on religiously-oriented groups (particularly evangelical Christian groups) over the last several years. Until and unless it becomes clear that the freedom of association rights of religious groups includes the exact same right to set belief-based membership requirements as non-religious groups, we will continue to see public institutions exhibit hostility to religiously-affiliated groups that seek to be true to their mission.
The House ethics committee voted on Tuesday to expand its investigation into Representative Charles B. Rangel to examine his role in preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company whose chief executive pledged $1 million to a City College of New York project that will bear the congressmanís name.
Interestingly enough, Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to stand by Rangel Ė just as she did recently defeated Corruptocrat Congresscritter William Jefferson. I guess draining the swamp is taking a backseat to feathering her nest Ė and that of her party.
By now so much has been said about the Blagojevich indictment and the sleazy deeds that led to the charges that there is little left to say. What I will note is that the alleged misdeeds are even shocking to me, who cut his teeth on Illinois politics before moving to Texas.
The 76-page criminal complaint reveals a governor who no longer wanted his job and badly wanted cash Ė and quickly realized that the chance to name Obamaís successor was the answer to both of those problems. He and his aides spoke in expansive Ė and often profane Ė terms of replacing Obama as a naked act of political horse-trading, something to be maximized for as much personal gain as possible for Blagojevich, the complaint says.
And it isnít just the Senate seat issue Ė there was the attempt to shake down a childrenís hospital and the effort to get journalists fired as a condition of approving a deal on Wrigley Field. And he certainly worked to keep it all in the family, trying to ensure that his wife also got some lucrative plums in the process. Simply unbelievable Ė even by Chicago standards.
Too bad that the press and prosecutor acted to make sure that the American people knew nothing of this corruption before the election Ė because like it or not, it does reflect poorly upon Barack Obama, whose entire career is based upon connections to many of the very same players that are a part of the Blagojevich sleaze machine. Unless we are to conclude that Obama is the only virgin in the brothel, I think it is reasonable to believe there is more than meets the eye here.
Iím also curious Ė what actions will be taken regarding Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. AKA ďSenate Candidate No. 5Ē.
It is his name Ė he should use it proudly.
Barack Obama says his presidency is an opportunity for the U.S. to renovate its relations with the Muslim world, starting the day of his inauguration and continuing with a speech he plans to deliver in an Islamic capital.
And when he takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he plans to be sworn in like every other president, using his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.
The manís name is Barack Hussein Obama. Why should he shrink from using it? Indeed, one of the silliest controversies of the election season was over whether or not the use of that middle name constituted a vicious hate attack on the then-candidate. This move by the new president should settle that question once and for all.
As for the speech, Iíve commented on what he should say and where he should say it in a previous post. All I will say in addition to those earlier words is that the only ďrebootĒ needed in the speech is a metaphorical one applied to the rumps of followers of Islam. Mutual respect and goodwill are wonderful Ė but not if they mean the sacrifice of fundamental American values like freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion around the world. To the degree that Islam is an obstacle to the spreading of those values around the world, there can be no mutual respect Ė and to the degree that the followers of Islam use terror and violence to oppose such freedom, there can be no goodwill.
I realize that the explosive charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are overshadowing everything else about his time as governor Ė but one recent action of his raises a question in my mind.
On Monday, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich held a quickly organized press conference at the plant and vowed to ask a federal court to enforce federal guidelines. He also said the state would sever business dealings with Bank of America until the Republic matter is resolved. "It's a natural thing to step up to help workers when there's a situation like they're facing now," Blagojevich said. "This is the right thing to do, this is the just thing to do."
Iím curious Ė just how far is the state of Illinois willing to go here? What exactly does it mean to ďsever business dealings with Bank of AmericaĒ? Will the state REALLY stop doing business with B of A? I mean completely, such as refusing to cash checks drawn on accounts with Bank of America customers? Or does it mean something less? And if the state isnít willing to make the associated sacrifice (foregoing the funds drawn on Bank of America), how willing is it to REALLY do the right thing?
Nearly seven decades after his death at the hands of the Japanese during their opening salvo against Americaís armed forces.
Early on the morning of Dec. 8, 1941, nine Japanese fighter planes swooped down on Malalag Bay in the Philippines and strafed and sunk two U.S. Navy seaplanes at the very outset of World War II. All of the Americans escaped unharmed except Ensign Robert G. Tills, 23, of Manitowoc, Wis., who was cut down by machine gun bullets. "Ensign Robert Tills died in the fusillade of bullets from the Japanese strafers, the first American naval officer killed in the defense of the Philippines," the Naval Historical Center wrote.
Ensign Tills died during one of the many near-simultaneous sneak attacks upon American military bases in the Pacific on December 7/December 8, 1941. His body was not recovered Ė until recently. His sole surviving relative is his sister, who was eleven years old when her brother died, and will bury him at Arlington National Cemetary, with full military honors.
May God grant Ensign Tills eternal rest, and may the nation for which he gave his life always rmember his sacrifice.
I grew up in a military household Ė and I spent several years studying for the priesthood. Those experiences taught me the value of patriotism, and the beauty of religious faith. But the reality is that it is not always easy to love oneís country Ė or to hold on to the hope that is part of faith Ė when times are bad.
One day after an F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet fell from the sky and crashed into his two-story house in San Diego's University City neighborhood, Dong Yun Yoon returned to a home and life in ruins.
Rescue workers sifting through the debris on Cather Avenue had found the bodies of his wife, two baby daughters and mother-in-law.
* * *
"I believe my wife and two babies and mother-in-law are in heaven with God," Yoon said at a news conference afterward. "Nobody expected such a horrible thing to happen, especially right here, our house."
Yoon said he bore no ill will toward the Marine Corps pilot who ejected safely before the jet plunged into the neighborhood two miles west of the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. "I pray for him not to suffer for this action," Yoon said. "I know he's one of our treasures for our country."
First, let me offer my deepest condolences to Mr. Yoon on this grievous loss. To lose oneís entire family in an accident that appears to caused by mechanical failure would seem to be enough to rock his love of country and faith in God Ė but it has not.
The unswerving faith that there is a life beyond this one, and that hs family has been brought into the presence of the divine is an inspiration.
The words of love and concern for a pilot who managed to escape his crashing plane exemplify the concern that each of us is called to show at all times Ė but that many of us fail to show under much less severe stress.
And the patriotic sentiment Ė that our servicemen and women are, indeed, our nationís treasurs Ė is one which he could have overlooked in his hour of mourning without a word of reproach from anyone. And yet he stopped to include this acknowledgement, even though it was the crash of a military jet that tore his loved ones away from him. It takes a special sort of patriot to do something like that Ė one who loves his country when it is hard, not merely when it is easy.
And so I salute Dong Yun Yoon Ė a man whose example as a patriot and a man of faith we should all strive to follow.
Malkin provides contact information for those wishing to offer their sympathies to Dong Yun Yoon.
I donít know that Kathleen Parker will succeed in mollifying her many conservative critics (including me) with her most recent column, but she does make a good point that I believe bears repeating.
How about social conservatives make their arguments without bringing God into it? By all means, let faith inform one's values, but let reason inform one's public arguments.
It is, I would have to say, a quite valid position Ė and one to which I personally subscribe. As long as arguments are presented in strictly theological terms, conservatives ought to lose any argument on public policy. Indeed, that is why I am often embarrassed by some of the language in the Texas GOP platform Ė not because I disagree with the sentiments expressed, but because such a document ought to be a reasoned outline of policy positions rather than a profession of faith.
Take, for example, abortion, which Parker uses to illustrate her position.
They might take a cue from Nat Hentoff, a self-described Jewish-atheist, who has written as eloquently as anyone about the "indivisibility of life" and the slippery slope down which abortion leads. He uses logic and reason to argue that being pro-life, rather than resolving the religious question of ensoulment, is really a necessary barrier against selective killing, such as when someone else decides it's your time to die.
Even during my days studying for the priesthood, I never made the argument against abortion from a theological point of view. After all, such an argument is easily dismissed with the statement ďI believe differently.Ē The moral argument, however, that a human being exists from conception is difficult to dispute scientifically Ė and the self-evident importance of defending innocent human life is something that brings most abortion supporters up short. But the moment someone trots out Biblical passages about God knowing us in our motherís womb, the argument instead becomes one of religious freedom that is difficult to win. The same sort of thing applies in the gay marriage debate as well, which is why the folks who opposed Prop 8 are now actively appealing to religious bigotry in their efforts to overturn a ballot measure supported by virtually every demographic segment in the state of California.
But most importantly, the issue that needs to be dealt with is one of perception, as Parker notes. As long as GOP is seen as a party dominated by one segment of religious believers, the party will alienate many sympathetic to conservative and libertarian political philosophy. That doesnít mean repudiating the values many of us draw from our faith, but instead requires that we present them in a way that are palatable to our fellow citizens. And I say that as a conservative who is unapologetically Christian Ė but who is certainly not a Christian Conservative.
But Kathleen Ė loose the oogedy-boogedy thing. It seems condescending and offensive to me, especially since you canít particularly explain what you mean by it. Admit you were wrong, apologize, clarify what you meant, and move on Ė most of us are more than willing to forgive you if you do.
We are constantly told by advocates of affirmative action that the under-representation of racial, ethnic, or gender groups in a program is evidence of a problem that must be remedied. As such, Iíd like to encourage colleges and universities to implement affirmative action programs to guarantee that the proportion of individuals in these study abroad programs.
In recent years, as study abroad has ballooned across the nation, fueled by growth in short-term programs and increasing diversity in participating studentsí majors and destinations, a 2-to-1 female-to-male ratio has stayed remarkably stagnant. In 2006-7, the most recent year for which data are available, 65.1 percent of Americans studying abroad were women, and 34.9 percent men. A decade earlier ó when the total number of study abroad students was less than half its current total ó the breakdown was 64.9 percent female, 35.1 percent male, according to Institute of International Education Open Doors statistics.
Iíd bet that if there would be task forces, special programs and howling by the professional victimís groups (like AAUW) over what would appear to be a violation of Title IX if these figures were reversed. Yet somehow this disparity has been permitted to fester over the years, with women being denied the benefits of an appropriately diverse educational experience when they study abroad. Shouldnít something be done Ė using the very arguments used to eliminate menís athletic programs and establish special scholarships for women and minorities? Or does this situation serve as confirmation that the claimed goals of equality and equity are actually nothing more than excuses to engage in indefensible discrimination?
Of course it does, as illustrated by this anecdote.
The persistent gender gap is regularly described as an object of interest in the field ó if not an object of intense concern compared to, for instance, the similarly stagnant and low numbers of racial minorities studying abroad. (ďIíve made myself a little unpopular occasionally when Iíve been in sessions on under-represented groups in study abroad and I bring up the issue of men in study abroad,Ē (William) Hoffa said).
Yeah, thatís right Ė only under-representation of victim classes is a problem. Daring to suggest otherwise makes one ďunpopularĒ due to the sin of political incorrectness.
Iíd have to argue that this is a leading candidate for ďheist of the centuryĒ.
Armed robbers pulled off one of the world's biggest jewellery heists at a famed Paris store, making off with 80 million euros (102 million dollars) in diamonds and valuables, investigators said Friday.
A gang of four thieves -- two of them disguised as women -- on Thursday stole nearly all the jewels on display at the Harry Winston boutique just off the Champs-Elysees avenue, which attracts a wealthy international clientele.
The heist was well-planned, a source from the investigating team told AFP. The men knew the names of some of the shop's employees and the location of some hidden storage cases for jewellery.
Given the knowledge this gang had, you have to wonder if it is an inside job? Disgruntled employees, current or former? A mole at Harry Winston? Or just plain a good intelligence operation?
The even bigger question is what one does with $102 million in diamonds and other jewels. Where do you fence the stuff? And to whom do the proceeds eventually accrue?
Well, that is the word out of the New York Times. The newly elected president wants to give such a speech sometime in the first hundred days of his term -- possibly in Cairo
President-elect Barack Obamaís aides say he is considering making a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office.
So where should he do it? The list of Islamic world capitals is long, and includes the obvious óRiyadh, Kuwait City, Islamabad ó and the not-so-obvious ó Male (the Maldives), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Some wise-guys have even suggested Dearborn, Mich., as a possibility.
Clearly it would be cheating for Mr. Obama to fly to Detroit, talk to Dearbornís 30,000 Arab residents and call it a day. And Male and Ouagadougou, while certainly majority Muslim, canít really be what Mr. Obamaís aides have in mind when they talk about locales for a high-profile speech that would seek to mend rifts between the United States and the broader Muslim world.
In other words, look for a kow-tow. The dhimmification of America will be in full swing with such a speech. After all, these are folks who arenít happy with the fact that the US dared to strike back against al-Qaeda after 9/11. These are folks who arenít happy that the US dared to remove Saddam Hussein from power after multiple violations of UN resolutions and the brutal oppression of his people. These are the folks who are unhappy about our support for Israel. These are thepeople who want our civil liberties and human rights be curtailed lest they be offended by the free expression of non-Islamic views. How do we ďmend riftsĒ with those who insist that we have been wrong to defend ourselves, oppose dictatorship, support our allies, and live in freedom without repudiating things that are quintessentially American?
But if Obama is going to a Muslim capital to speak, he ought to carry a message of freedom. He ought to speak out against authoritarianism and oppression, and in favor of democracy and liberty. He ought to speak out on behalf of women who are relegated to subservience in much of the Muslim world. He ought to call for full respect for the rights and dignity of non-Muslims in the Muslim world, including freedom of speech and religion. Whatís more, he ought to speak out against the application of sharia law to those who Islam calls apostates due to their decision to reject Islam in favor of another faith or none at all.
And should Barack Obama be so courageous and honorable as to give such a speech in the Muslim world, it ought to be given in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, in the presence of the ruler who is also custodian of the holiest sites in Islam. After all, the only terms on which America can legitimately mend the rifts that exist are those that echo the clarion call of freedom that is central to our founding documents Ė and one which offers no apology for exercising, protecting, and promoting the inalienable rights with which we are endowed by our Creator.
H/T Don Surber (who proposes the speech be in Baghdad), Hot Air (Ed would like Mumbai, but would settle for Dubai), Commentary's Contentions (where Abe Greenwald notes that Obama's "ability to move mountains by speechifying hit its career high exactly one month ago, when it got him elected President of the United States of America.")
As disgusting and hateful as I find the sentiments expressed, I rejoice that we live in a country where these religious bigots can freely trumpet their message of hate for all to see.
An atheist group has unveiled an anti-religion placard in the state Capitol, joining a Christian Nativity scene and ďholidayĒ tree on display during December.
The atheists' sign was installed yesterday by Washington members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group based in Madison, Wis.
With a nod to the winter solstice ó the year's shortest day, occurring on Dec. 21 this year ó the placard reads, in part, "There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
Mind you, this is from an organization whose leader claims that a Nativity scene is ďhate speechĒ and openly boasts that his sign is intended as an attack on religion.
I trust that, in a similar spirit of tolerance, the state of Washington (and the state of Wisconsin, where a similar plaque has appeared for over a decade), will abide by the same principle and solicit a similarly contemptuous point of view from the KKK for display along with material honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. in January.
After all, a drop in oil prices like the one predicted by Gulf Oilís CEO would surely be merely a temporary thing, as the law of supply and demand would soon lead the former to drop, causing the latter to rise.
Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski said on Wednesday that the price of oil could sink to $20 per barrel, and there is a chance gasoline prices could drop as low as $1 per gallon by early next year.
Speaking at a South Shore Chamber of Commerce breakfast at Lombardoís in Randolph, the Brockton native said that after speculators drove oil prices up, there is a chance that the market will overshoot on the way back down, resulting in much lower prices at the pump.
We still need to develop solar, wind, and other alternate energy sources. We still need to build nuclear plants. We still need to expand the use of clean coal technology. And we still need to heed the wisdom of those chanting ďDrill here, drill nowĒ in an effort to end our dependency on foreign energy suppliers.
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider Friday whether to take up a lawsuit challenging President-elect Barack Obamaís U.S. citizenship, a continuation of a New Jersey case embraced by some opponents of Obamaís election.
Not because I want to deny Obama the presidency. I donít Ė and have not since the election returns came in a month ago. Rather, I wish to definitively confirm the legitimacy of his election so that those who continue to claim differently will be exposed as the crackpots they are.
Of course, Obama should simply moot the whole thing by directing the state to release certified copies of the original vault version, filed in 1961, of his birth certificate. I remain mystified why he has not done so.
H/T Hot Air
Sullivan quotes Hitchens approvingly, and therefore indicates his intent to call the city victimized by Islamist terrorists last week Bombay rather than by its proper modern name, Mumbai. Their argument is that it is illegitimate for brown-skinned to change the names given to their cities by their British masters during the colonial era Ė especially if that name change reflects the cultural heritage of the majority.
When Salman Rushdie wrote, in The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, that "those who hated India, those who sought to ruin it, would need to ruin Bombay," he was alluding to the Hindu chauvinists who had tried to exert their own monopoly in the city and who had forcibly renamed itóafter a Hindu goddessóMumbai. We all now collude with this, in the same way that most newspapers and TV stations do the Burmese junta's work for it by using the fake name Myanmar. (Bombay's hospital and stock exchange, both targets of terrorists, are still called by their right name by most people, just as Bollywood retains its "B.")
In effect, the two British expatriates argue that the Indians must accept the decisions of those who colonized their nation and attempted to suppress their religion and culture. I guess that is a sign of the arrogance that still runs deep in British culture Ė the sun may have long since set upon the British Empire, but they want to pretend that they still rule the world anyway.
Sullivan, though, in a fit of intellectual honesty, does publish a dissent by one of the uppity Indians who insists upon defending their right to give an Indian city a proper Indian name.
I'm a fourth-generation Mumbaikar who loves reading your blog, but your post about the name Mumbai (linked to Hitchens) left me seething. Hitchens is completely wrong. As someone whose roots go back many generations in Mumbai, let me assure you that we've always called the city Mumbai in our local language Marathi. The name Bombay was given to the city by the British. What do you think the city was called before the Europeans arrived? It was called Mumbai.
No word yet on whether or not either of these Brits will repent of their cultural imperialism and acknowledge that the name change to Mumbai is every bit as legitimate as the decision of Chinese authorities to rename their capital Beijing, or for the Russians to strip the names of Communist dictators from Saint Petersburg and Volgograd.
I've been remiss in posting winners from teh Watcher's Council, so here are the last two weeks' results.
November 28, 2008
November 21, 2008