Precinct 333

Saturday, January 15, 2005

School-To-Prison Pipeline?

I don't fisk an article often, but I think I will do this one from the Houston Chronicle.

Increasingly, discipline in our public schools is handled by police officers and the court system rather than educators. Our judges are trained to address criminal behavior, not adolescent misconduct. In Houston, judges complain — rightly — that the Houston Independent School District uses the courts to discipline students for minor school infractions. In HISD, the most common reason for more than 50 percent of the referrals to Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs are for persistent misbehavior, which falls under the vague category of forgetting school assignments, loitering in the halls, truancy and disrespect. Studies show that these students are being prepped for prison by the very same system charged with educating them.

Yeah, there is a lot of discipline handled by police and courts. But is that the fault of the schools? Have they been so stripped of authority that farming out that discipline is the only availble means for dealing with the worst offenses. And when the lower level of discipline isn't effective, it might just be that the legal system is the only thing available to teachers and administrators. Which is not to support HISD, which everyone knows is a mess. But I know we have cops on campus issuing citations in my school, which borders on HISD. I don't know that I would stay if we did not. I teach at a school that includes some rough neighborhoods. Just this week we had a kid taken away in an ambulance to get stitchesafter he got his head gahsed open on a locker door during a fight. Both he and the other student in the fight will be visiting a judge in the next few weeks.

The institutional links between school failure and prison are out-of-school suspensions, juvenile detentions, outplacement in separate special education and alternative educational programs.

The high recidivism rate for these young people suggests that schools are giving up on students and not working to help them reform.

But is the school the cause of these problems, or are they simply the setting in which they play out? Two years ago, one of my students hit a kid with a baseball bat in the parking lot after school so he could steal the other boy's new Jordans. Did the school fail my student, or did he arrive already prepped for crime. Is it a culture of drugs and violence that makes these kids criminal, or the fact that we punish them for not being in class on time or for cussing out a teacher?

Also, is it the school's place to reform these students? We're supposed to teach them academic subjects. We've had the task of feeding them two meals a day handed to us. I'm supposed to be looking out for signs of abuse, drug use, and a variety of other social and physical ills. Do you really want to extend the "character education" mandate to include dealing with criminal behavior?

Millions of at-risk third-graders are left stranded and behind, and used as the source to predict the number of future jail cells needed. California schools are a prime example of this disturbing trend and appears to be setting a benchmark for most states. (Unfortunately, Texas ranks second to California in incarcerating youths.) Nationally, at-risk students often receive inadequate academic and counseling support in alternative educational pathways.

The widespread failure of our public schools to meet the needs of our youths leaves them stripped of hope and dignity, academically unprepared to return to a regular educational program and more susceptible to criminal behavior.

So what is your solution to the plight of these third-graders who cannot read at grade level or do basic math? More social promotion? Putting them in a classroom setting where they are not equipped to handle the work? More special programs pulling money away from the "good kids" who do their work, try to learn, and follow the rules? Back when I taught English, I was always struck by the reaction of my kids to Phyllis McGinley's "Lament of the Normal Child", because it so succinctly encapsulates the problem we have in ignoring the needs of the "normal students" in favor of the "troubled students". I'm afraid that we face the exact situation here -- shortchanging the kids who do what is expected in favor of those who don't. When are we to look after their needs in a classroom in which we are supposed to pay attention to the "speial needs" of mainstreamed and at-risk students? Do you propose that we allow one or two disruptive kids to prevent the other 25 from learning? Or should we get rid of four or five core curriculum teacher slots at my campus so we can set up a special program just for those students who refuse to conform to basic standards of behavior?

Minority students are hardest hit. In Texas, for example, African-American and Hispanic students are in the minority, but they represent the majority in Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs and Juvenile Justice Alternative Education programs. Shockingly, many of these minority children are placed in alternative educational programs for nonviolent and minor school offenses like dress codes, tardiness and truancy. In a society saturated with at-risk youths, we must invest in their education to prevent juvenile delinquency. As has been often said, it is cheaper to educate than to incarcerate.

Now hold on just a minute. Why are they the majority? Could it be because they commit the majority of the offenses? And why are they placed in the alternative programs? Could it be because they comit these infractions repeatedly? Dare I point out that there are major problems in the African-American and Hispanic communities in this country that contribute to the problem. Working hard, doing well, and getting a good education is "acting white."

So is following the rules. I can't tell you the number of times kids have trotted out the accusation that I'm hassling them "because I'm black" or "because I'm Mexican" if I ask them for a pass if they are in the hall, ask why they aren't wearing their ID, or tell them to pull up their pants and tuck their shirt in as required by the dress code. Some are insubordinate and insolently refuse to comply. Those kids get written up. Now who is the bad guy, Ms. Campbell -- me or the kid?

I teach 10th graders. As of Friday, after nine days of school (that's total 36 class periods on a block schedule), I have one student student with no fewer than SIX tardies. I've got several who have not yet deigned to grace us with their presence? This is the school's fault? Is it your position that there should be no consequences? I won't get into the question of what you can do to a kid who fails to appear for detention. Your only solution at that point is a suspension or an alternative program -- or to ignore the infraction altogether, which means there is no consequence to misbehavior.

"Setting High Standards" and "Leave No Child Behind" are just empty slogans to students who are deprived of an education. Last October, The New York Times exposed the negative impact of alternative educational programs in an article titled," Get Tough Youth Programs are Ineffective." This article highlighted a study by the National Institutes of Health, which included a 13-member panel on youth violence and ways to prevent it. The panel concluded that negative peer pressure is the No. 1 issue with boot camps and other punishment-focused programs. Other systematic problems cited against alternative educational programs were: inadequate counseling for youth and their families; and ineffective adult lecturing programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE).

And negative peer-pressure is also the number one problem they run into in their communities. I've already pointed that out. Gangsta rap and narco-corridas have more influence than teachers do in these students' lives. Schools are a counter-cultural force in many communities, and that means that there are times we are going to have to exclude parts of that culture. Gang-bangers aren't welcome. Kids who get up and call me a mother f*cker in class are not welcome. Taking away the option of excluding these kids will not improve education, it will only render me more powerless and them more powerful. Eventually, if you continue to take away our power to exclude such kids, I and many of my colleagues will quit. As far as the bootcamps and other punishment-based programs are concerned, I don't care if the programs are effective in changing the behavior of the disruptive 5-10% -- they need to be out of the classroom for the sake of the rest of the kids..

To disconnect the school-to-prison pipeline trend, The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund teamed up to host a daylong discussion called "Building Capacity For State-Level Advocates to Address the School to Prison Pipeline." I participated in this roundtable, along with fellow Texans and others from North Carolina, Mississippi and Massachusetts. As a parent on the frontline fighting for my children and others, I shared a parent's sense of helplessness and frustration. When confronting the educational bureaucracy and its high-powered attorneys (paid for by taxpayers), defenseless parents are intimidated. That is why it is urgent to create parental empowerment, which will lead to more parental involvement.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the educational system is the conficting message sent about parental involvement. By using governmental immunity to defend wrongdoing, and labeling parents who speak out as troublemakers, school officials deter parental involvement. At the same time, they cite the lack of parental involvement as an excuse for students' poor performance. These organized tactics demean, undermine parents and cause some of them to question their parenting skills.

On the other hand, I can't tell you how many times I've had to deal with parents who come into a meeting with the express intent of cursing me. Too many parents insist that their child certainly couldn't possibly be guilty of misbehaving. I've been present as parents have insisted that they have the right to exempt their child from a detention (or even a suspension) if they don't think it is deserved -- and I've seen building and district administrators comply! We actually had one parent attempt to get a court to forbid one of our assistant principals being involved in any disciplinary actions agains a student because the man was white and therefore obviously a racist. And I won't get into the issue of parents who appear on the school doorstep with so-called "civil rights leaders" or television reporters in tow before they have even contacted the school about their problem. I don't want those parents involved. Frankly, Ms. Campbel, I think you are one of them, the type who has a deep hostility to the schools you attend and their personnel, and who believes that anyone who dares to tell you "No" is automatically acting in bad faith.

The parental involvement barriers I experienced as a parent and as an advocate in Fort Bend Independent School District gave me a deeper understanding of the extent to which a school district will go to deter parental involvement. These experiences allowed me to share the following lessons that I had learned out of necessity. Parents can advocate for their children by: getting organized; serving on the school district's board and committees; obtaining parental advocacy training; enlisting the support of other parents; making the media and public officials aware; and speaking out about the need for high expectations for every child.

We would love for you to do the constructive things on that list. Unfortunately, you've just spent an entire column complaining because the district has tried to set high expectations for every child, and has used the means available to enforce them. I've yet to see a single proposal regarding what you would do to solve the problems the school faces. I suspect that the end result will be more restrictions on what the school can do to deal with the problem students, and no improvement in the actual conduct of the students themnselves.

Each roundtable participant presented compelling evidence of the school-to-prison pipeline. A group of state leaders, led by Rep. Dora Olivo, D-Missouri City, has planned a summit on Jan. 28 to address legislation and policies that better promote safe schools and lead to a more equitable and effective student disciplinary system.

In learning more about this subject, I was particularly moved by a documentary called System Failure-Violence, Abuse, and Neglect in the California Youth Authority. In this video presentation, young victims and their parents share their horrifying experiences. The documentary confirms my theory that the most effective way to bring about alternative educational reform is through a state/federal report card, including participants' evaluations.

Think about it: If providers of the alternative educational pathways are held accountable, they would be forced to positively change the way they do business — in order to stay in business.

Ah, there we have it. This whole column is about creating another set of "victims" of "the system." Maybe the better way is to simply abolish public education as we know it and give the funds to parents as vouchers. Those students interested in learning can go to schools where they don't feel threatened. Teachers can teach in schools where they have some authority.

And you can set up your own program for the delinquents, and figure out what to do with them. The only problem I see is that you wouldn't have an enemy (especially not an implicitly racist white enemy) to blame for the problem. You would only have yourself and your community.


Leftists Object To Bombed Bus -- Call It Anti-Palestinian

Shortly before 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 29, 2004, Egged Bus 19 was blown up at the corner of Gaza and Arlozorov streets in Jerusalem by a homicide bomber who detonated the explosives strapped to his body. The terrorist, a Palestinian, murdered 11 people and wounded at least another 45.

Bus 19 has been brought to a number of cities in recent months to point out the devastating effects of terrorism in Israel. The next stop is Berkeley, California. But local terrorists sympathizers will protest the display, claiming that it is "politically charged and one-sided."

Organizers of the exhibit, which will be the focus of an anti-terrorism rally at a Berkeley park on Sunday, said the point is to show the devastating effects of terrorism.

"We're bringing it around the country to heighten the awareness of the cruelty, the godless brutality of terrorism," said James Hutchens, president of the Washington, D.C.-based group The Jerusalem Connection, formerly known as Christians for Israel.

Critics see the exhibit in a different way, and are planning a counterdemonstration in opposition to Israeli policy.

Barbara Lubin, executive director of the Berkeley group Middle East Children's Alliance, which provides aid to Iraqi and Palestinian families, sees the real purpose of the exhibit as "perpetuating the idea that Palestinians are terrorists."

Lubin is organizing a silent "Vigil for Global Justice," to be held across the street from the Sunday rally.

Let's make something crystal clear here, something that must not be forgotten.

Arafat was a terrorist.

Abbas is a terrorist.

The rest of the Palestinian leadership is composed of terrorists or terrorist supporters.

Deal with it, don't protest because people point those facts out.

Chris Cantor, a member of the group Students for Justice in Palestine, said he doesn't expect many students to attend the Sunday rally. Spring classes at UC Berkeley do not start until Tuesday.

He had heard about the exhibit and, like Lubin, thought it was one-sided.

"It's focusing on something that I think everybody agrees is a tragedy," he said. "It doesn't address any of the root causes of violence."

I've addressed the root causes above.

Arafat was a terrorist.

Abbas is a terrorist.

The rest of the Palestinian leadership is composed of terrorists or terrorist supporters.

The best way to address the root cause of terrorism is to kill every terrorist you can find, just as you would any other form of vermin.

That any individual or group could object to this display, highlighting the evil of intentional attacks on civilians which are perpetuated and approved by the Palstinian leadership and its affiliated terrorist groups, shows the utter bankruptcy of their cause. They are terrorist apologists, and should be rejected as such by every decent person. Their view deserves no hearing.

Lest we forget.

The Victims Of Palestinian Terror On Bus 19


Moss Threatens To Unveil Shortcoming

After he was fined, repoters asked Rany Moss if he was upset about losing $10,000 for his antics during the Green Bay game. His response demonstrated a level of class seldom seen in the NFL.

"No, it ain't shit," he said as he climbed into his SUV. "It ain't nothing but 10 grand. What's 10 grand to me? What's 10 grand if you're rich? It ain't shit. Next time I might shake my dick."

Would anyone even notice if he did?


Court To Newdow --Constitution Doesn't Mandate Atheism

Michael Newdow really doesn't get it. In his crusade to wipe out any hint of religious speech or expresion in any public venue, Newdow fails to recognize that his success would effectively gut the very First Amendment he alleges he wants enforced. Fortunately the courts are starting to see the absurdity (and, indeed, the danger) of his activities.

On Thursday, Newdow told U.S. District Judge John Bates that having a minister invoke God in the Jan. 20 ceremony would violate the Constitution by forcing him to accept unwanted religious beliefs.

But one day later, Bates ruled that Newdow wouldn't get far in his legal challenge and noted the absence of a "clearly established violation of the Establishment Clause."

"Moreover," the judge said in the ruling, "the balance of harms here, and particularly the public interest, does not weigh strongly in favor of the injunctive relief Newdow requests, which would require the unprecedented step of an injunction against the president."

The government had asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to dismiss the current lawsuit, saying the invocation had been widely accepted for more than 200 years old.

The court on Friday said it doesn't have the power to order the president not to speak at his own inauguration and the act of ordering the president not to permit an invocation and benediction — which Newdow sought — would be one and the same.

So, Mike, get this through you thick little atheist skull -- just as no one has a right to force you to speak or believe other than what you choose, you also lack the right to impose restrictions on others. You are not harmed by hearing that which you object to, whether in person or on television, and your own intense shocking sensitivity is not the standard by which the First Amendment is enforced.

Oh yeah, and Mike -- you need to go back and read up on the concepts of "stare deceis" and "res judicata", since you clearly slept through those lessons in law school. Since you already adjudicated this very issue, the earlier decision stands and serves as the precedent for all future cases on the issue. In short, you and your supporters lose FOREVER!


Hitler Sought Papal Kidnapping

"When fearful martyrdom came to our people in the decade of Nazi terror,
the voice of the pope was raised for the victims. The life of our times was
enriched by a voice speaking out on the great moral truths above the
tumult of daily conflict. We mourn a great servant of peace."

Golda Meir
October 9, 1958

One of the great lies of the last half-century has been the accusation that Pope Pius XII stood by silently while Hitler murdered the Jews. While nothing could be further from the truth, that lie is repeated by Jews, anti-Catholic bigots, and secular Leftists in an attempt to defame the man's memory and delegitimize Catholicism. Yet even a cursory examination of the record shows that to be untrue.

Now we have one more piece of evidence to refute the charge.

Elements of alleged plots to abduct the Pope during Germany's occupation of Italy have already emerged in the past from some historians, but Avvenire's full-page report said its details were new.

Avvenire said Hitler feared the Pope would be an obstacle to his plans for global domination and because the dictator wanted to eventually abolish Christianity and impose National Socialism as a sort of new global religion.

The newspaper said a plot that was codenamed Operation Rabat had originally been planned for 1943 but was not carried out that year for unspecified reasons.

It said that in 1944, shortly before the Germans retreated from Rome, SS General Karl Friedrich Otto Wolff, a senior occupation officer in Italy, had been ordered by Hitler to kidnap the Pope.

According to the newspaper, Wolff returned to Rome from his meeting with Hitler in Germany and arranged for a secret meeting with the Pope. Wolff went to the Vatican in civilian clothes at night with the help of a priest.

The newspaper said Wolff told the Pope of Hitler's orders and assured him he had no intention of carrying them out himself, but warned the Pontiff to be careful "because the situation (in Rome) was confused and full of risks."

Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had already fallen and set up a German-backed puppet regime in northern Italy. The German occupation of Rome was in its dying days. Allied forces were advancing on the capital, which they liberated on June 5, 1944.

As a test of Wolff's good faith, Pope Pius asked for him to free two Italian resistance leaders who had been condemned to death. Wolff arranged for them to be released, the paper said.

Now does that sound like Pius XII was "Hiler's Pope," or perceived as a supporter of National Socialismby that Satanic philospohys main proponent? Or does it sound more like he was, as the New York Times called him after his radio address on Christmas Day, 1942, "a lonely voice crying out in the silence of a continent" speaking out against "the exile and persecution of human beings for no reason other than race or political opinion"? Would Hitler have ordered such a kidnapping if Pius was a collaborator in the Final Solution? The answer should be obvious to those who are honest.


Methane Seas On Titan -- Will Liberals Blame Bush?

Huygens has sent back loads of information about Titan. The release of data from the European Space Agency probe continues as it is processed.

New, refined pictures from Saturn's moon Titan released today show a pale orange surface covered by a thin haze of methane and what appears to be a methane sea complete with islands and a mist-shrouded coastline.

Space officials worked through the night to sharpen the new photos taken by the space probe Huygens, which snapped the images Friday as it plunged through Titan's atmosphere before landing by parachute on the surface.

This is a remarkable achievemaent for the European Space Agency, which has partnered with NASA in this first exploration of one of Saturn's moons. According to articles I've read, this data may help us understand the development of Earth as the solar system formed. Congratulations to all involved in this pushing back of one more scientific frontier!


Friday, January 14, 2005

Ever Wonder Who Is Watching You?

Found this among my daily visitors today, courtesy of Statcounter.

Referring Link philadelphia white supremacist&spell=1
Host Name
IP Address
Country United States
Region Washington Dc
City Washington
ISP Us Dept Of Justice
Returning Visits 0
Visit Length 0 seconds
Browser MSIE 6.0
Operating System Windows 2000
Resolution 1280x1024
Javascript Enabled

Gee, i wonder how I earned the surveilance?


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Do They Accept This Excuse From Students?

We have zero tolerance for drugs in our schools? Shouldn’t we have zero tolerance for drug using school board members?

Oakland school board member Dan Siegel was cited for marijuana possession at the Oakland International Airport as he prepared to board a flight on Tuesday -- and says his use of the drug is just part of life.

"Yes, I use marijuana occasionally for stress,'' Siegel said Wednesday, a day after he was caught with the marijuana. "It's just a part of life." He said he does not have a prescription for medicinal marijuana.

Siegel, a former school district attorney who is expected to run for Oakland mayor in 2006, was cited Tuesday night after Transportation Security Administration officials found less than ounce of the drug in a piece of his checked baggage, Oakland police Sgt. Larry Krupp said.

What is the penalty for drug possession in Oakland schools?


Yeah, I Know It Looked Awful, But. . .

Most new television shows get at least a couple of weeks to thrive. Not this one.

CBS lost "The Will" after just one night.

This reality series, which logged a minuscule 4.2 million viewers on its premiere airing Saturday, has been axed by CBS, the network confirmed Wednesday. Despite heavy promotion, "The Will" ranked 79th place in viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, making it CBS' lowest-ranked show of the week. (The week's most-watched show, CBS' "CSI," drew almost 29 million viewers.)

A rerun of CBS' Sunday crime drama "Cold Case" will plug the hole this Saturday, the network said.

A reality show whose 10 participants vied to be sole heir to the fortune of a 73-year-old rancher, "The Will" thus joins a handful of other one-shot blunders in TV history.

The most recent was "South of Sunset," a CBS detective drama with former Eagles rocker Glenn Frey, which debuted October 27, 1993, then was never seen again. With a 6.1 rating, that show attracted what was deemed the smallest audience ever for a series premiere on any major network.

For the sake of comparison, "The Will" got a 2.9 rating.



Rant Against Fox News Commentators

Sylvester Brown, a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, doesn’t much like Fox news. That’s why he wastes an entire column ranting against several Fox commentators who have shows carried on one of the local stations.

"A PBS Mind in a Fox News World."

I saw that slogan on a bumper sticker, and it resonated with me. I consider many news programs on the Fox network unabashedly partisan and ultraconservative. The idea that millions rely on it for news and information makes me wince.

Although I agree with the sentiment, I'd never paste the sticker on my bumper. It assumes that all Fox News viewers are morons. Too rude for me.

While scanning the FM dial a couple of months ago, however, I heard a promotion for a local radio station:

"St. Louis 97.1 FM - Younger. Smarter. Better."

Well, talk about rude.

Oh, dear. The station promo is RUDE. Heaven forbid!

"Younger, smarter and better" than . . . who? Elderly people? Other radio stations? Liberals? Who?

To better understand, I've been listening. I'm still baffled.

I've only heard brief segments of the eight hours each day on the Emmis-owned station filled by conservative media darlings Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But what I've heard doesn't strike me as being "smarter" or "better" than anything else available.

If by "younger" they mean "bratty," "whiny" and "attention-craving," however, then they have that mastered.

Seems like Sylvester has it down, too. That is what the rest of his column is, anyway – a series of anecdotes from the shows all intended to paint the respective hosts as petty blowhards who don’t merit their exposure.

What I sense behind the posturing of these hosts is a yearning to be recognized by the very celebrities they heckle.

And I could argue that I sense the same yearning to be recognized in Sylvester’s column. After all, he is a columnist in one Midwestern newspaper – a Blue State bloviator in the middle of a sea of Red State values. And yet these – gasp! – conservatives have national syndication deals that pay them handsomely and bring them opportunities that Sylvester will never have. I can imagine him sitting in front of his keyboard, carefully calculating how insulting he would need to be in order to get a bit of that national exposure via a mention on one of those shows, or maybe even by the liberal deities of Air America.

Fox's conservative blowhards obviously make millions and attract much-wanted attention. But if the juvenile antics of their hosts reflect a better and smarter world, perhaps I'll reconsider applying that bumper sticker.

Not, of course, that you are a liberal elitist, Sylvester. More likely because you don’t understand the medium of talk radio, and prefer that the government subsidize your preferred entertainment rather than having it compete in the marketplace – or the marketplace of ideas.


A Bigger Congress?

Jeff Jacoby makes an interesting point about the disconnect felt by many people when it comes to their member of Congress. His take on the matter is that there are not enough members.

Divide Iraq's 25 million people by the number of members in the new parliament (275), and the result is one legislator for every 91,000 people. That will make Iraq's government almost exactly as representative as Great Britain's — each member of the House of Commons also represents, on average, about 91,000 citizens. Other democracies are comparable. The ratio for Italy's Chamber of Deputies is 1 to 92,000. For the French National Assembly, 1 to 104,000. For Canada's House of Commons, 1 to 105,000. For Germany's Bundestag, 1 to 136,000.

But in the US House of Representatives, each lawmaker represents, on average, a staggering 674,000 citizens. That makes the "people's house" in Washington one of the least democratic bodies of its kind in the world. No wonder so many Americans feel alienated from Congress. The vastness of their constituencies has turned too many representatives into distant careerists, political moguls with bloated staffs and bloated egos who are more closely attuned to their campaign war chests than to the lives of the people they are supposed to represent.

Term limits would help reconnect members of Congress with their districts, as would an end to blatantly partisan gerrymandering. But there is an even better way to make Congress more democratic: Make it bigger.

Jeff does have a point. If we had representation at the same level as the First Congress, the House of Representatives would consist of some 6000 members. If we used the same ration adopted after the 1790 census, we would have nearly 9000 members. Jacoby suggest that we simply increase the size of the House to somewhere around 1300, or triple the current size. That would make every vote for Congress more important, and allow voters to feel connected to their representative. More to the point, the diversity this would foster would make for a better representation of the view of Americans.

As far as I’m concerned, if we slash Congressional salaries and staff to compensate for the increased size, it might not be a bad idea.


How Long Does Child Support Continue?

Now I’m not opposed to child support payments being ordered by a court after a divorce. But it seems to me that there have to be some reasonable limits. They’ve crossed the line in Canada.

The doctor at the centre of the case, William Neufeld, is angry that he must shell out as much as $22,000 a year to see his daughter Jennifer through at least three years of medical school at the University of Calgary.

"It's just very wrong to teach the children of this province that if they happen to be the children of a person who makes more than an average amount of money, they can just sit on their ass and do absolutely nothing and expect to be paid for it, as long as they're making good marks," he told the Vancouver Province Tuesday.

In making the ruling, one judge referred to Jennifer as "an exemplary student."

The appeals court based its ruling on the fact that a separation agreement Neufeld signed after splitting with Jennifer's mother Barbara in 1999 did not set a cap on his educational support for either Jennifer or her younger brother.

Barbara Neufeld's only income is from spousal support, the ruling noted.
The ruling also took into account William Neufeld's income of $170,000 a year, and said it might have come to a different conclusion for a child "simply going to college because there is nothing better to do."

Now wait. Support payments are to continue into the child’s LATE TWENTIES! Where I grew up, the last nine or ten of those years constitute ADULTHOOD! And while it isn’t unusual to insist upon payment of college tuition (despite the fact that the law does not require married parents to pay a child’s college tuition), isn’t that the point at which legally mandated support ought to stop?

By the way, please notice that the mother in this case contributes NOTHING – because the courts have given her a support package that lets her live comfortably without working. So this guy is being sponged for probably something approaching $100,000 when one considers that there is a second child involved and that we are talking in terms of Canadian dollars, not a currency that has a value close to that of the American dollar.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Hate Crime Laws – Proper And Improper Usages

I’m not a big proponent of hate crime laws. While they make for nice symbolism – “we won’t tolerate hate” – they are generally not enforced with sufficient frequency or consistency to deal with the problem they are meant to eliminate. Swastikas on a synagogue are generally presumed to be a hate crime until proven otherwise, while Satanic scrawlings and desecration of the Eucharist at a Catholic church are treated as teenage mischief. That is why these two stories strike me as representing the two sides of this coin.

My first example is of a case where a hate crime law clearly ought to be used.

Ever since he was 12, Daniel Romano has cut a noticeable figure around Middle Village, a working class part of Queens. Mr. Romano, 20, who calls himself a Satanist, stands out, with his blue-tinted bouffant hairdo, his black clothing and fingernails, and the prominent crucifix, worn upside down.

Mr. Romano has long been teased for dressing like a "gothic kid" or simply a "goth," in a community with small homes, neat lawns and populated with many Roman Catholics.
But in recent weeks, two local teenagers began fixating on Mr. Romano, calling him names including "Satan worshiper," "baby sacrificer" and "hooker killer," the authorities say. On Sunday the verbal harassment turned into violence.

Mr. Romano, while walking on 72nd Street in Maspeth, was attacked by the two teenagers, the authorities say. Yesterday the Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, announced that the young men, Paul C. Rotondi and Frank M. Scarpinito, both 18 and from Middle Village, would be charged with hate crimes, which carry harsher penalties and are usually leveled when an attack involves a victim's ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

Let’s look at this case. You have a clearly identified crime, assault. It is clearly motivated by the victim’s religion, a criteria for the hate crime charge. There is no possible basis for claiming that the activity engaged in is itself protected by the Constitution. When all factors are taken into consideration, a harsher charge is warranted.

But then there are statutes that are subject to abuse, and prosecutors inclined to abuse them. We see this in the unfolding case of a group of Christians arrested at Philadelphia’s Outfest last fall, and charged with multiple offenses that could see them imprisoned for 47 years.

Although the precise sequence of events is in dispute, the general outline of what happened Oct. 10 is relatively clear, thanks to several videotapes and the police report.

Early that afternoon, 11 demonstrators led by Marcavage entered the eight-block area around 13th and Chancellor Streets where Outfest was taking place. Marcavage had a Bible in one hand, a bullhorn tucked under the other arm, and a Repent America baseball cap on his head.

The demonstrators were no strangers to event organizers or police. Repent America had brought its message - "Homosexuality Is Sin, Christ Can Set You Free" - to previous gay-pride events. In addition, group members had been thrown out of Citizens Bank Park in August for bringing in a banner to protest the Phillies' observance of Gay Community Day.

Soon after their arrival, Marcavage and company were surrounded by Outfest's makeshift security force, which was armed with pink whistles and eight-foot-tall boards of pink-colored insulation mounted on sticks. The force's goal was to prevent the group's signs from being seen and its words from being heard.

Eventually, a crowd formed, and police, who said in their report that they wanted to prevent violence, instructed the demonstrators to go to the edge of the Outfest area. A videotape shows Marcavage asking officers to protect his own freedoms of speech and movement.

After complying with two orders to move and refusing a third, the demonstrators were told they would be arrested. At that point, Marcavage sat down in the street, forcing police to haul him away.

Now there might be a basis for misdemeanor charges here, but even that is debatable. Outfest is a street festival, but the streets (in a residential area) are not blocked off to the public. People could come and go through the area at will – until (view video here) a pre-planned, pre-announced strategy of containment was implemented against Repent America by event organizers, based solely upon Repent America’s religion, sexual orientation, and exercise of the right of free speech. One of the charges, ethnic intimidation, is based strictly upon speech – spoken quotes from the Bible and those written on signs. Has the First Amendment been so watered down that quoting from a revered religious text constitutes “hate speech” and “fighting words” for which an individual may be imprisoned? And would a group of gay rights protesters at a Catholic ordination (like those who pelted a newly ordained priest and his mother with condoms in Boston several years ago) be charged with a felony hate crime on such a flimsy basis?

So while I may be pleased with enhanced charges based upon motive in the Queens assault case, I am much more frightened by the erosion of liberty in Philadelphia and its implications for American freedom.


Strength From Above

We’re not a country that imposes religious tests for public office. I would oppose any attempt to impose such a requirement. But at the same time, I thing George W. Bush is exactly right in saying a relationship with God is important for any president.

"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit," Mr. Bush said. "That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit.

"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," he said.

Now some might object to that statement. I believe they would be wrong to do so. The burdens associated with the office of President of the United States are awe-inspiring. They are, I believe, more than any one person can bear alone – and yet they must be borne alone. One must have some other source of strength – and my faith tells me that the source of that extra strength is God.


Another Frivolous Lawsuit – Brought To You By PETAphiles

Are California cows happy cows? Not according to the folks at PETA, who sued to stop a series of popular commercials for California cheeses.

The ads showed cows in spacious pastures on rolling hills.

They were challenged in a false advertising lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, based in Norfolk, Va.

PETA claimed that most California cows are actually unhappy and spend their lives in dry, grassless dirt lots.

I’m curious – how did they determine whether or not the cows were happy? Did they do exit polling?


Another Free Speech Case From Missouri?

Just this week, the Supreme Court ruled that the white trash who make up the KKK cannot be barred from a program picking up trash on Missouri highways. Now the St. Louis area transit agency, Metro, has removed ads from trains because they were placed by a white supremacist group, the National Alliance.

Metro plans to remove a white separatist group's advertisements from MetroLink trains today, calling the group's philosophy offensive.

The St. Louis unit of the National Alliance paid $1,500 for 50 ads on MetroLink trains. The ads read, "The Future Belongs to Us," and provide the group's Web site and phone number.

The National Alliance has been described by watch groups as the nation's largest neo-Nazi group and has a relatively large and active membership in St. Louis.

Now hold on. A government agency is going to pick and choose which groups are allowed to advertise on trains based upon whether or not folks find the philosophy of the organization “offensive”? Does this mean no more ads from Planned Parenthood? From the NAACP? From gay rights groups? From the Democrat Party? Who, exactly, is going to get to decide which groups can be offended and which ones cannot? Will vegetarians have to put up with ads for restaurants that serve meat? Will thinking people continue to be offended by ads for the local Air America radio outlet? And will pacifists be required to tolerate recruiting posters from the military? Why is it this ad, which on its face is innocuous, that must be removed?


Unifying Values?

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Chivas Regal) has called for Democrats to follow an agenda based upon the unifying values of the party.

"Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead of dividing us," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a speech prepared for delivery at the National Press Club.

"Today, I propose a progressive vision for America, a vision that Democrats must fight for in the months and years ahead -- a vision rooted in our basic values of opportunity, fairness, tolerance and respect for each other."
Kennedy played a big role in the 2004 White House race that saw President Bush re-elected and Republicans increase their majorities in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

Apparently Senator Kennedy (D-Delirium Tremens) doesn’t realize that the Democrats were rejected when they ran on their values. Following such a path will be a basis for the continued rejection of a Democrat Party out of touch with the values of most Americans, in favor of a GOP that actually does stand for opportunity, fairness, tolerance, and respect for each other.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Oops! They Did It Again

How much more screwed up does the King County count need to be before a court takes notice and throws out the fraud-wracked Washington gubernatorial election?

Three days after King County election officials explained most of a controversial discrepancy between the number of ballots cast and voters known to have voted, the gap has grown again.

After whittling the discrepancy from 3,539 votes to 1,217 last week, officials yesterday said they had made a mistake.

The number of votes now unaccounted for is "somewhere around 1,800," county Elections Superintendent Bill Huennekens said yesterday.

It's impossible to come up with a precise number, Huennekens said, because workers are adding and deleting names of registered voters as they update the list in preparation for a Feb. 8 special election.

Huennekens said the numbers released Friday were wrong because the names of 1,003 voters appeared twice on the voter list. Not all of them voted in the November election. Computer experts are trying to figure out why some names were on the list twice.

It seems manifestly clear that there are at least 10 times the margin of victory in unknown votes, along with all the other problems. Where is Jesse Jackson? Where is Barbara Boxer? Where is the Congressional Black Caucus? Where, oh where, are the host of Democrats who protested the Ohio vote? It seems they don’t care when the margin is close and any change will benefit a Republican – proving that the mantra of “count every vote” doesn’t apply here – unless we are talking about counting illegitimate votes for their preferred candidate.


The Catholic League Slaps Dan Rather

Applying the very standard he applied to Boston’s Cardinal Law, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties issued this statement regarding embattled CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Here is what Dan Rather said about Cardinal Law on December 9, 2002:
“The Roman Catholic Church faces a long-running crisis of a different sort in Boston, where Cardinal Bernard Law is resisting calls for his resignation over his handling of the priestly sex abuse scandal. But there are new questions tonight about how much longer the cardinal can hang on.”

Now try this one on for size, Dan:
“CBS faces a long-running crisis of a different sort in New York, where Managing Editor Dan Rather is resisting calls for his resignation over his handling of an erroneous report on President Bush’s National Guard service. But there are new questions today about how much longer Rather can hang on.”



User Fees For Emergency Services?

Should out-of-towners be charged for rescue services if they are in an automobile accident?

Winter Park could be the first city in the state to charge for pulling injured motorists from their wrecked cars, according to a Local 6 News report.

Local 6 News reported that if a driver involved in the crash isn't a city resident, crashing in the city could cost even more.

Winter Park firefighters respond to hundreds of crashes every year and the money from the proposed service fees could provide money without raising taxes.

Fees could range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars for extensive crashes involving cutting people out of their cars, according to a report.

While the idea of charging non-residents a user fee is attractive, I have some concerns. Has the idea truly been thought through? And what’s the next step? A user fee to investigate crimes against non-residents? I can hear it now – “I see here that you are from Miami. If you want us to take a report and look for the guy who shot you, that will be $5000. If we catch the guy and prosecute him, that will be another $5000. You can’t expect the taxpayers of our community to pick up the tab.”

Thoughts and reactions?


Monday, January 10, 2005

An Accounting From CBS

Well, the axe has fallen.

Four CBS News employees, including three executives, have been ousted for their role in preparing and reporting a disputed story about President Bush’s National Guard service.

The action was prompted by the report of an independent panel that concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in the preparation and reporting of the piece. The panel also said CBS News had compounded that failure with a “rigid and blind” defense of the 60 Minutes Wednesday report.

Asked to resign were Senior Vice President Betsy West, who supervised CBS News primetime programs; 60 Minutes Wednesday Executive Producer Josh Howard; and Howard’s deputy, Senior Broadcast Producer Mary Murphy. The producer of the piece, Mary Mapes, was terminated.

The correspondent on the story, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, is stepping down as anchor of CBS Evening News.

The fact that the senior folks were dumped tells you how serious the problem really was, for all of Rather’s attempts to minimize the error. But they had to save face by allowing Rather to retire gracefully. Still, Rather is faulted as a cause of the problem.

The panel said a "myopic zeal" to be the first news organization to broadcast a groundbreaking story about Mr. Bush’s National Guard service was a key factor in explaining why CBS News had produced a story that was neither fair nor accurate and did not meet the organization’s internal standards.

The report said at least four factors that some observers described as a journalistic “Perfect Storm” had contributed to the decision to broadcast a piece that was seriously flawed.

"The combination of a new 60 Minutes Wednesday management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network’s news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said.

In other words, this report didn’t measure up to even the lowest standard, because they wanted to be first with a story they wanted to be true. A heck of a note for Dan to go out on.

The interesting point for me is the recommended changes.

The panel made a number of recommendations for changes, including:
· Appoint a senior Standards and Practices Executive, reporting directly to the President of CBS News, who would review all investigative reporting, use of confidential sources and authentication of documents. Personnel should feel comfortable going to this person confidentially and without fear of reprisal, with questions or concerns about particular reports.
· Foster an atmosphere in which competitive pressure is not allowed to prompt airing of reports before all investigation and vetting is done.
· Allow senior management to know the names of confidential sources as well as all relevant background about the person needed to make news judgments.
· Appoint a separate team, led by someone not involved in the original reporting, to look into any news report that is challenged.

All of these sound like good ideas. It would be a complete cultural change. The key question for me is whether or not the recommendations will be fully implemented. After all, it would severely hinder the CBS tradition of dicey scoops based upon questionable evidece that is more fitting for a tabloid than a major news outlet.


Dem Election Theft Began Before Election

And the Democrats still want to claim that no voter was disenfranchised in the gubernatorial election.

Less than a month before the November election, the U.S. Department of Justice threatened to sue Washington state because it was moving too slowly in mailing military ballots overseas.
At that point Washington was the only state that hadn't mailed its overseas ballots.
Questions about military ballots have come up frequently since the Nov. 2 election ended with a deadlocked governor's race. Democrat Christine Gregoire was certified governor-elect Dec. 30 and is to be sworn in Wednesday. But Republican Dino Rossi has made the military ballots, generally seen as Republican votes, a key part of his effort to call for a new election.

On Oct. 7, State Elections Director Nick Handy sent all county auditors an e-mail tagged "URGENT" telling them about a threat from the senior litigation attorney for the Department of Justice. Handy said the state's attorney had been told the federal government "is preparing a lawsuit to be filed tomorrow against the state of Washington."

This tracks closely with what Rossi has claimed in his election contest. There is a pattern that extends back weeks BEFORE the election that resulted in federal scrutiny. The result?

"Military overseas and other absentee voters may not have received or been sent their absentee ballots in a timely manner and could have been disenfranchised by the neglect, mistake, or error of election officials," according to the case filed by Republicans in Chelan County Superior Court.

Rossi was joined at a news conference by the parents of Tyler Farmer, a Marine wounded in Iraq who didn't get his ballot until the day after the election and was unable to have his vote for Rossi counted.

But such things are clearly irrelevant to the Democrats. Stealing elecions is a longstanding tradition for them. It doesn't matter whose right to vote is compromised.

Lisa Cohen, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, said no one has shown evidence of "broad disenfranchisement" of military voters. "Was there some isolated cases? Quite possibly," she said. But she said that most of the problems could be avoided by the alternative methods of voting available to military personnel.

In other words, Ms. Cohen and her party just don’t care, since those votes were most likely Rossi votes. And besides -- they are only members of the military, right, Ms. Cohen? Its not like they ware racial minorities or other members of the ever-shrinking Democrat coalition.

But why should we be surprised. They’ve said the same thing about every other irregularity in this election. When does the cumulative weight of the evidence add up to something for the Democrats? Especially when one considers the frivolous challenge to Ohio’s electoral votes last week, based upon much weaker evidence in an election that was not nearly as close.


ACLU Seeks To Stop Execution – Over Prisoner’s Objection

The case seems like every other death penalty appeal – throw a bunch or arguments at the wall and see if they stick. The one the ACLU is riding hardest is the one that claims lethal injection is causes intense pain, and is therefore cruel and unusual punishment.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut argued Friday that serial killer Michael Ross could suffer "excruciating pain" during his execution by lethal injection Jan. 26, and asked a federal judge to stay the execution and hold hearings on the process the state plans to use.

"I believe what's really at stake here is the humanity of everyone in this room and the humanity of the state of Connecticut," attorney Annette Lamoreaux, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, argued to U.S. District Judge Christopher F. Droney.

But here is a twist that seems really striking to me. The condemned doesn't want the appeal to move forward, so the ACLU is arguing he isn't competent to determine his own legal strategy!

The local ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of Ross' father, Dan Ross, as "next friend" to his son. It claims Michael Ross is mentally incompetent, due to an array of documented mental disorders. Lamoreaux claims that by "volunteering" to be executed, Ross is endangering his own health, "as it amounts to state-assisted suicide."

Ross last week was found to be mentally competent to control his legal affairs by Superior Court Judge Patrick Clifford in New London.

Ross, appearing on five monitors throughout the courtroom, was adamant he did not want the lawsuit to proceed.

"This lawsuit came as a complete surprise to me," Ross said. "I don't need anyone filing anything on my behalf.

"I believe you should dismiss the case," Ross told Droney. "They do not have standing" to bring the lawsuit.

Ross, a Cornell University graduate, is well-versed on death penalty case law and recent controversies concerning the lethal combination of drugs used in the execution process.

So the man is has epertise in the area and understands the issues. The only thing that the ACLU is hanging its hat on is that the guy doesn't want their help. Why is this case not being dismissed? He is making a choice on legal strategy.

Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Harry Weller argued that even the ACLU's expert, anesthesiologist Mark Heath, acknowledged that if the drugs were administered properly, Ross would die a humane death. Weller also emphasized there is no evidence to suggest Ross is incompetent.

"The claim here is that if someone decides to accept execution, they must be incompetent," Weller said. "I think that's the theory that's driven all this litigation."

Talk about your crazy defenses – “If he is willing to accept the judgement of the court, he is incapable of directing his own defense.”


History Geek Alert!

It is a Civil War buff’s dream!

Civil War buffs are getting access to a treasure trove of information - thousands of original maps and diagrams of battles and campaigns between 1861 and 1865, all posted on the Internet.
The Library of Congress is posting 2,240 maps and charts and 76 atlases and sketchbooks, while The Virginia Historical Society and the Library of Virginia are adding about 600 items. Much of the collection is online now; the rest will be by the spring.
The items depict troop positions and movements, as well as fortifications. There also are reconnaissance maps, sketches and coastal charts and theater-of-war maps.

To see the collection, click here.


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