Precinct 333

Saturday, July 03, 2004

A plea to vote Democrat

I found this posted at Chasing the Wind and thought I would share. Seems to be the most effecive case I have seen made for a Kerry vote.

Dear Voters:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak my mind. I lost my job this past year.

When Clinton was president, I worked in a prosperous enterprise. But in the last year, we had to close our operations.

Far worse, I lost two of my sons in Bush’s evil war in Iraq. They gave their lives for their country, and for what? My pain of losing my sons is indescribable.

While it is trivial next to the loss of my sons, I regret to say that I also lost my homes. I simply have nothing left.

I am a senior citizen with various medical problems. I’m not in a position to begin a new career. I was reduced to the point of homelessness… all because of President Bush.

And when the authorities found me, did they have any compassion for my misfortune and ailments? No, I was arrested and even my family and friends were wrongly kept from seeing me for many days. I am still waiting for my trial.

If I had any money left, I would donate most of it to the Democratic party. If Al Gore had been elected in 2000, I would still have a job, a home, and most importantly, my sons.

We need to get out the vote this year. Vote Kerry!


Saddam Hussein


And you wonder why I don't join the NEA

Once again proving that NEA membership should be grounds for termination from any position in education, the NEA is about to award the "2004 Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights" to Kevin Jennings of GLSEN, a group dedicated to "incorporating homosexual concepts into all curriculum."

There is a loud objection from two NEA specialty caucuses within the NEA, calling for the award to be canceled. Members of the NEA Republican Educators Caucus object to the award because Jennings has admitted in one of his books that he failed to make a report of child sexual abuse as mandated by law. And the head of the NEA Ex-Gay Educators Caucus points out that Jennings advocates the ruthless suppression of speech in school that supports the position that a homosexual can change his or her sexual orientation.

I find a couple of interesting points in all of this. First, the NEA seems to have defined "Human Rights" to mean "Gay Rights." The award itself is named for a gay educator who specialized in creating programs on behalf of gay students. This would seem to leave out some 95-98% of the human race.

Second, that Jennings does not face the same type of moral condemnation and scorn heaped on Cardinal Law despite his failure to act to stop the sexual exploitation of a student is indicative of the double standard that exists in our society. Homosexuals are generally allowed to prey on young people in a manner that heterosexual pedophiles are not, because of the fear that acting to protect a child will be labeled "homophobic." I recall, for example, that police even returned Jeffrey Dahmer's last victim, a drugged underage boy running down the street in his underwear, to the cannibal killer because they had been instructed not to make a big fuss about the issue of gay men and underage boys out of "sensitivity" for the "gay community."

Third, Jennings is not tolerant, nor is he willing to allow for an open exchange of ideas in an academic setting. He wants to shut down debate and punish dissent. Such a position is the antithesis of academic freedom, and should be condemned by real educators.

Lastly, how does one incorporate homosexual concepts into all subjects? I'm all to aware of the attempts to classify historical figures as homosexual at a distance of several centuries based upon scanty evidence. I've seen the textbooks with "gay and lesbian literature" of dubious quality that teachers are "encouraged" to teach to be "inclusive." But how do you teach "Queer Chemistry" or "Transexual Typing"? And I don't even want to know about word problem in GLSEN-inspired math classes.

That's not to imply hostility to gay and lesbian students in my classroom. Quite the opposite. I demand that students show and be shown fundamental respect. I clamp down on anti-gay slurs in my room with an unambiguous ferocity. But what I refuse to do is suppress the beliefs of my students either way. Because of this my gay students know they have an advocate who respects them, while those on the other side of the issue know that they and their beliefs are respected. The result is that my students in both categories learn who to live and work together cooperatively without being marginalized or homogenized. THAT is what education should be about.


Bad taste? Or illegal threat?

New book centers on murder of President George W. Bush

One of my memories as a high school kid was the resignation of Jackie Kennedy Onassis from her job as a book editor at Viking because of her disgust over the company's plans to publish Shall We Tell the President?, by Jeffrey Archer. In it, he posited an assassination plot against President Teddy Kennedy. She found it unacceptable to make him the target given family history and acted to call attention to something very wrong. To this day it remains one of the things I most admired about her.

Fast forward to 2004. Author Nicholson Baker has written Checkpoint, all about an attempt to murder President George W. Bush. It is to be published in August by Knopf. I've got a problem with that, every bit as big as I did with the Archer plot to kill Teddy (a man I despise). Responsible people do not write about, plan about, the murder of the sitting president, whoever he may be.

here's hoping that Knopf gets a serious case of responsibility and pulps this piece of trash, or at least is responsible enough to wait until Mr. Bush is out of office, whether we are talking January 2005 or January 2009.


Friday, July 02, 2004

Presumption of Innocence/Presumption of Guilt

Dan Abrams has an interesting piece on Jewish World Review today. In it, He talks about the legal concept of presumption of innocence. His point -- it does not and should not exist outside the courtroom.

Think about it. For to us presume someone innocent is for to us presume the authorities got it wrong whenever they arrest someone. I'm not willing to assume that unless I'm a juror. It's a legal fiction that was designed for the courtroom. Since the authorities have the power to take away someone's freedom, we force them to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and give the defendant the presumption of innocence.

Now that will be important for me next Tuesday, because I'll be headed downtown to the Jury Assembly room, and may get picked to sit on a case. I've got to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt. But that does not meant that I have to assume that the Harris County sheriff or Precinct 8 Constables are a bunch of screw-ups incompetent to investigate even the source of the mess in a baby's diaper. I instead need to require that the prosecution show me sufficient evidence to convince me that their judgment is correct.

What that does not mean is that I cannot make judgments on every other case in the world besides the one I sit on. If I have concluded Michael Jackson to be a marauding pedophile and Scott Peterson to be a philandering sociopath, I've done nothing wrong. I am not required to believe that Kobe's accuser is a lying slut after money just because there is not yet a conviction (though that may be his defense). The fate of those men is not in my hands.

I'm pleased that I don't know of any big cases coming up here in Houston at this time. I'm glad I dodged the Clara Harris (4 miles away) and Andrea Yates (7 miles away) cases. I got picked last time for a capital murder case and caused a mistrial -- how could I know during voir dire that on the first day I would look out, see one of my former students in the midst of the victim's family, and realize that she was the victim's little sister? The fact that I had held her in my arms outside my classroom a few days after the murder while she wept her way through an explanation of why she wasn't ready for my test made me incapable of presuming innocence.

So here's looking to Tuesday. I hope I get excused.


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Liberal outrage as Bush encourages white churches to politic like black churches!

It is no secret that religious conservatives are a core constituency of the Bush campaign, and of the GOP as a whole. So it should be no surprise that the Bush campaign is seeking to activate conservative Christian voters. These efforts have produced much heavy breathing among liberals, who find the notion of white churches doing for Republicans what black churches traditionally do for Democrats to be both illegal and immoral.

The Bush campaign has been encouraging religious supporters to campaign within their congregations. A checklist has been sent to members of churches identified as Republican friendly, asking them to send copies of church directories and urging them to ask their pastors to hold a "Citizenship Sunday", complete with a voter registration drive and a reminder of the duty of Christians to vote. These supporters, who are usually individual parishioners rather than church staff members, are also encouraged to recruit volunteers, speak to church organizations, and distribute issue guides.

In other words, what is being sought is individual participation, not church endorsements. Such things have been customary in the black community for generations. And the Bush appeal falls far short of the pulpit endorsements that we have seen black pastors make over the years, anointing the Democrat candidate with the mantle of "God's candidate" and (here in Texas where we have early voting) loading up charter buses to take folks to the polling station immediately after the sermon.

Perhaps most amusing is this paragraph:
"I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status," said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush.

Sinful? Really? Well who are you to attempt to impose your morality on anyone. And since when is political action by individuals, even religious individuals, grounds for punishment by the government. Almost every request is for the individuals to act, not the churches. Those things that a church might do are expressly permitted under the law, or have been in the past when black churches did them. Why are you afraid of white Christian participation?


Eliminate the border with Mexico?

Better idea -- let's just invade and push the US border south to Guatemala. Half of Mexico is already here anyway.

The new Mexican official in charge of border affairs wants to eliminate the border between the US and Mexico. Arturo Gonzalez Cruz has as an immediate goal making border crossing easier for purposes of trade and immigration, but has said the eventual goal is to eliminate it.

From an American perspective, this is a bad idea. We have too many illegal aliens in this country already. These folks have too great an influence on our government as it is, aided and abetted by the Mexican government. What we need to do is make it harder to cross, even at the risk of decreasing trade.

Either that, or rev up the tanks and forcibly annex Mexico down to the Guatemalan border.


A Heresy Trial for Kerry?

In a that is as bold as it is stunning, a canon lawyer from Los Angeles has filed a complaint with the ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Boston accusing Senator John Kerry with heresy. The filing, which could result in the excommunication of Kerry from the Catholic Church, has been undertaken by Marc Balestrieri, an official with the ecclesiastical court of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and member of the conservative Catholic organization "DeFide". A copy of the filing is on the organization's website, as is a link enabling the public to add their names to the complaint.

In the complaint, Kerry is accused of publicly adhering to the "Right to Murder heresy" for his pro-abortion speeches and votes during his Senate career. By doing so, Kerry is alleged to have placed himself outside the Catholic Church and to have done harm to it by representing his position as authentically and acceptably Catholic. According to Balestrieri, his action comes because of the failure of bishops to act on the matter of pro-abortion Catholic politicians in the 31 years since Roe v. Wade was decided by the Supreme Court.

Canon law experts cited in the article note that the Archdiocese of Boston may choose to take no action. In that event, Balestrieri has the option of appealing to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.


Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A BAD problem

But also a problem with a bad definition

A report by Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft (no jokes, please) estimates that approximately 1 in 10 students suffer some form of inappropriate sexual conduct by teachers and other school personnel during their time in school. Another researcher, Robert Shoop of Kansas State University, suggest that the estimate may be too low due to the historical underreporting of such offenses.

This study is not based on new research, but is instead an extrapolation from earlier research by the American Association of University Women and other researchers.

Needless to say, there is outrage on the part of teachers groups, lawmakers, and others concerned with education.

But there is a problem with the data. Or more accurately, with the characterization of the data and the definition used of sexual misconduct. The report certainly categorizes molestation and rape as sexual misconduct, but it also expands the definition to include telling a dirty joke or conduct that might qualify as sexual harassment.

And I guess this is where my problem with the study arises. Does a problem exist with sexual abuse in schools? You bet it does. I've worked in a school where the guidance counselor divorced his wife in March and ran off with the valedictorian to get married in Vegas the day after graduation, only to have a baby in November. And we will never forget Mary Kay what's-her-name getting knocked up by her middle school beau. Folks like that need to be ruthlessly exposed and put where they can never harm a child.

But there is behavior which is less egregious that got lumped together with such misdeeds. And I don't mean to minimize inappropriate conduct, but it trivializes the truly serious incidents to put garden-variety inappropriate comments and looks in the same category as sleeping with a student. And since there was no new research conducted, and no standardization of methodology, I wonder about the validity of the study's conclusions.

But my biggest fear of all is that we are about to see a witch hunt very like that which has so recently taken place in the Catholic Church. I fear that the whisper of an allegation will be as good as a conviction, and that good teachers will be destroyed by misguided zealots armed with this study. Call me paranoid if you will -- but I watched the "guilty until proven innocent" standard take hold a dozen years ago, and remember the mantra that "the victim must always be believed." I saw Crucible-style justice meted out, with one dear friend utterly destroyed because a parent made an accusation that the alleged-victim (by this time in his mid-20s) vehemently denied.

I would rather not relive those days.


Tuesday, June 29, 2004

School backs down in the face of backlash

I've been following the developments in the case of NYC student Tiffany Schley, the valedictorian of the High School of Legal Studies who was denied her diploma for criticizing the school in her graduation speech. The more details that emerge in this case, the more unacceptable the conduct of the administrators appears. The fact that the school board refuses to apologize is simply outrageous.

What was her crime? It was commenting on the various administrative changes that impacted her education during her senior year of high school. Since end of her junior year the school has had FOUR different principals. The administration has been less than open to student concerns about the changes, and repeatedly told students who did express concerns that the issues were none of their business. Tiffany chronicled it all in her speech about the challenges she and her classmates had faced on their path to graduation. The result was the refusal of the school to give her the diploma she had earned and to have security escort the girl and her mother off campus when they arrived to pick up the diploma as scheduled.

Now it turns out that the school had been trying to censor her speech all along. Advisors repeatedly removed references to school problems and inserted praise for the very people who had shown nothing but lack of concern for the education of students.

Fortuantely, Tiffany will get her diploma Thursday night in a special ceremony at her church. And the incident will do nothing to keep this spunky young lady from starting her education on time this fall. SHe will be a freshman at Smith College, on full academic scholarship.


Monday, June 28, 2004


Well, we hope not.

I know that is my fondest home, as a member of the Harris County GOP's Ballot Security Committee. We work really hard to make sure that Election Judges, Alternate Election Judges, and Precinct Workers are all trained in election law so as to ensure free, fair, and clean elections in the county. Considering the Alternate Election Judge in Precinct is the Loyal Opposition (I am the Election Judge), I have no doubt of that in our corner of the world.

National GOP Chair Ed Gillespie has proposed that the GOP and Dems set up joint pollwatching teams to monitor elections in Missouri. The idea is transparent, non-partisan investigation and observation of the polls so as to ensure clean elections. The goal would be to cut down on fraud and increase credibility of charges of voting irregularities., especially in light of large voter registration drives in that state by liberal groups and America Coming Together.

Like I said, sounds like a good idea to me. Free and clean elections have always seemed important to me.

But guess what -- the liberals are already saying this is about vote suppression.

I assume clean elections are too much for them to handle.


Buckley steps down!

"The question is choose some point to quit or die onstage, and there wouldn't be any point in that."

While we are talking about legends, let me stop to express my shock at the decision of William F. Buckley, the father of National Review, to step aside from his duties of controlling the magazine. If anyone has earned a right to a good rest it is Buckley, who for half a century had been one of the most recognizable voices in conservatism. No, that isn't sufficient -- more than any single man, he is responsible for defining what is and is not within the mainstream of conservative thought in the US. National Review has always been open to the various voices of conservatism, but Buckley made a point of closing it to racists and anti-Semites, including the ejection of Joe Sobran from its pages in a well-publicize dust-up in the 1980s.

One thing I found interesting -- in half a century NR has never shown a profit. Rather, a group of 1000-1500 donors makes up the difference at the end of every year.


Giving Miss Essie her due.

I've always been ambivalent about Strom Thurmond. I think that is true of most Americans. After all, here was a man who was an arch-segregationist, who filibustered much of the leading civil rights legislation of the 1950s and 1960s (he went nearly 24 hours on one bill -- we should make the Hildebeast do the same on judicial nominations) who later became a supporter of equal opportunity. Here is a man who should have been political toast after the Dixiecrat fiasco, but who went on to serve close to five decades in Washington aftewards, and who died something f a beloved institution (Trent Lott not withstanding).

But not long ago we found out about the skeleton in his closet -- an illegitimate daughter, fathered on a 16 year old black maid some eight decades ago. Essie Mae Washington-Williams held her piece for decades, living in the shadows of the world where such children existed for generations. Out of loyalty for a father who provided opportunities for her when and as he could, but who never publicly acknowledged her existance, she kept the secret of his youthful indiscretion through times when she could have literally destroyed him and only came forward after his death.

And now she will be added to his monument in the South Carolina capitol -- assuming her rightful place in the public eye as his eldest child. It is fitting and proper.

God bless you, Miss Essie.


Sunday, June 27, 2004

A writer who doesn't insult your intelligence.

I love Vin Suprynowicz, who writes for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. On a weekly basis he is one of the best reads on the net -- even on those Sundays when he writes about Vegas and Nevada politics instead of the larger world. Vin is also a libertarian True Believer. As a result you get things that are the written equivalent your best-friend's mom's meatloaf and mashed potato dinner -- stick-to your brain cells columns that are intellectually nutritious but have a little unusual flavor that your mom's cooking lacks.

I mean, who else would title a column "Shuffling to the sound of the Morlocks' dinner bell"?It is sad to say, but too many folks just wouldn't catch the reference to H.G. Wells. In the column, Vin explains how Michael Badnarik upset Aaron Russo at this month's Libertarian National Convention and became that party's nominee. It makes for a good read and is loaded with good insight as to how the best funded campaign, best-organized imploded on the convention floor. I may just use this and his previous column (commented upon last week) in my Government class when I talk about third parties.

Moveover, he makes a solid case for actually voting Libertarian -- if you accept his premise that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the major parties:
I will cast that vote on Nov. 2, and get my ass whupped (politically speaking), and go to bed proud and justified.

In contrast, 95 percent of you (if you bother going to the polls at all -- and who can blame you for your increasing sense of mortification? You must start to feel like the Eloi, shuffling in to the sound of the Morlocks' dinner bell in H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine") will vote for a lying politician who you know to be a lying politician -- one of two interchangeable Skull & Bonesmen without any discernible political principles, who (no matter which wins) will proceed to raise your taxes, take away more of your freedoms, and continue frittering away whatever remains of America's reputation for decency by continuing the violent military occupation of scores of foreign countries that have never attacked nor declared war upon us. All this in hopes of temporarily propping up the bottom lines of sundry well-heeled banks, oil companies and federally subsidized engineering and construction firms.

Maybe not enough for me to abandon the GOP, but certainly grounds for respecting his principles and his writing.


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