Precinct 333

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Illegal Immigrant Supporters Seek Speech Suppression At University Of North Texas

As a form of political protest, "Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day" might have been a poorly thought out act of guerilla theater. But the issue it raised was an important one. The border/sieve between the US and Mexico is a threat to national security, and the presence of 10 million lawbreakers in this country is a threat to the economic well-being and cultural identity of the nation.

What concerns me more is that there are folks who are more offended by the demonstration than by the flaunting of our nation's laws. Even more offensive is their demand that UNT officials be forced to attend brainwashing sensitivity sessions so that they can teach "tolerance" to students. Excuse me, but since when is it a legitimate objective for a university to try to force certain political and social beliefs on its students?

And then there is this even more frightening demand by one of the advocates for foreign invaders.

Emma Guzman Ramon, president of Denton’s LULAC chapter, said she appreciated Jackson’s statement, though it could have come sooner and been more powerful.

"I think whenever an incident like this happens, UNT should have spoken up a lot earlier and said they don’t condone the message," she said.

She said her group wants the university to preview content to be presented in the free-speech zones.

"There should have to be some kind of a review before it goes to a free-speech area because they’re [UNT] using that as a crutch," she said.

So, lest criminals and their supporters be offended, the university should actively censor student speech, not merely pen it up in a couple of sharply limited "free speech zones" which require permission for use. If this woman had even half a concept of what was in the United States and Texas Constitutions, she would realize that the entire campus is, by rights, a free speech zone, and that no public official has any right to censor the political speech of any citizen.

How much longer are Americans going to sit back and accept the notion that one's rights are limited by the most overly-sensitive member of the community? We are guaranteed freedom OF speech, not freedom FROM speech, and freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. There is no such thing as an "I'm offended" exception to civil liberties.


Food Or Sex?

If you are a male cockroach, the answer isn't "food" -- even if you are starving.

The compound that lures males to their potential mates is so powerful that cockroaches near death from starvation will forgo peanut butter for a chance to copulate, said Coby Schal, a professor of entomology at North Carolina State University and coauthor of the study, published today in the journal Science.

No word on whether or not the pair might be open to combining the two for a particularly kinky time.


Death Of A Hero

The Houston Fire Department lost one of its own today.

A 12-year veteran Houston firefighter was killed fighting a house fire early this morning.

Six others were injured in the 6 a.m. fire at a vacant house on Brandon Street, near Texas 288 and Belfort, authorities said.

Capt. Grady Burke, 39, died when the roof collapsed on him while inside the house in south Houston, said Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan.

None of the others' injuries required hospitalization and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Burke is survivied by his wife, Cindy; daughters, Hannah, 9; Hailey, 8; and son Hunter, 7.

Burke is the first HFD fatality snce April, 2004.

City of Houston emergency personnel form an impromptu honor line as an ambulance leaves a fire scene with the body of Capt. Grady Burke. Burke, 39, was killed early today while battling a fire at an abandoned house.


Headline Spin

It is always amusing to examine headlines 9especially in the Houston Chronicle) to see how stories get spun by a paper.

Look at the headlines in two Texas papers about a new poll on support for the war in Iraq.

Poll: War support shrinking in Texas (Houston Chronicle)


Most Texans still back war
(Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

I guess it all comes down to a question of what editorial line you want to take on the war.


An African Pope?

Word has it that Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, one of the more conservative members of the Curia, is considered high on the list of possible successors to Pope John Paul II should his death come soon. While that might seem jarring to many people, it wouldn't be the first time an African has served as successor to St. Peter. In fact, there have been three, dating to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

Pope Saint Victor I was born in Africa and bore a Latin name as most Africans did at that time. A native of black Africa, Saint Victor was the 15th pope and served during the reign of Emperor Septimus Severus, who was also African and had led Roman legions in Britain. Victor I is credited with reaffirming the holy feast of Easter to be held on Sunday as Pius has done. An outspoken pontiff, Victor I condemned and excommunicated Theodore of Byzantium for denying the divinity of Jesus Christ and added acolytes to the attendance of the clergy. He was crowned with martyrdom and served as pope for ten years, two months and ten days. He was buried near the final resting place of the apostle Peter, the first pope in Vatican. While some historians contend that St. Victor died in 198 A.D. of natural causes, others have suggested that he suffered martyrdom under Servus. He is buried in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City near the "Convesso." Pope Saint Victor I feast day is July 28.

Pope Saint Gelasius I was born in Rome of African parents and was a member of the Roman clergy from youth. Of the three African popes, Gelasius appears to have been the most active. He occupied the holy papacy four years, eight months and eighteen days from 492 A.D. until 496 A.D. Saint Gelasius expanded upon Miliatades' work with the Manicheans, exiling them from Rome and burning their books before the doors of the basilica of the holy Mary. He is credited with delivering the city of Rome from the peril of famine and was a writer of strong letters to people of all rank and classes. He denounced Lupercailia, a fertility rite celebration. He asked them sternly why the gods they worshiped had not provided calm seas so the grain so the grain ships could have reached Rome in time for the winter. He persuaded Femina, a wealthy woman of rank, to return the lands of St. Peter, taken by the barbarians and the Romans, to the church. He designated that the lands be used to support the poor who were flocking to Rome. Pope Saint Gelasius I feast day is November 21.

Pope Saint Militiades I occupied the papacy from 311 to 314 A.D., serving four years, seven months and eight days. Militiades decreed that none of the faithful should fast on Sunday or on the fifth day of the week because this was a pagan custom. It was Militiades who led the church to final victory over the Roman Empire. Saint Militiades was buried on the famous Appain Way. Pope Saint Militiades I feast day is December 10.

The article also discusses a number of other saints from Africa, though I'm inclined to dispute the assumption implicit in the article that "African" necessarily means "black." After all, the Roman Empire was a European empire, and it is more probable that folks such as Augustine and Monica (for example) were of European ancestry, or more closely related to the Berbers of North Africa. But certainly the Egyptians mentioned were likely to reflect the current ethnic makeup of Egypt, as were folks such as Saint Antonio Vieira, Saint Benedict the Moor, Saint Martin de Porres, St. Moses the Black, and more recent martyrs like St. Charles Lwanga (who is surprisingly not mentioned in the article).


Friday, February 18, 2005

Grading Day Round-Up

Well, another evening of grades, grades, and more grades – and a quick round-up of today’s highlights.

You’ve just gotta love it when someone finds a creative loophole in a law. Like this guy in Boise, who discovered that he could give his patrons sketchpads and pencils to create “serious artistic merit” to the display of nudity. As a result, his girls are transformed into “art models” rather than strippers, who may not perform fully nude in town.

African Muslim charities are complaining that laws intended to stop the funding of terrorists are hurting them. My response? Too bad – too many of your “charities” have been little more than fronts for al-Qaeda, Hamas, or other terrorist groups. Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.

Mike Adams writes another funny column, this one dealing with both the proliferation of “erectile dysfunction” commercials and discussions in today’s society – and the causes of the condition in his case. Trust me, this one is worth the read. And as one of my colleagues said a couple of weeks ago in the teacher’s workroom – “in case of erections lasting more than four hours, have your wife call all her girlfriends.”

In a move that causes mixed emotions for me, the Senate has passed legislation banning discrimination based upon genetic makeup or genetic predisposition to medical conditions. While I think that the move to protect the most personal information we have is laudable (you don’t get more personal than DNA), I’m not a big fan of government imposing ANY non-discrimination rules on private employers. Companies that make irrational decisions to discriminate will suffer financially, and those making rational decisions to discriminate will profit – neither one of which should be stopped by the government. But if we are going to have such laws (and it appears we shall have them for a very long time), one that prevents an employer from deciding things based upon your DNA seems reasonable.

And speaking about employers and employment decisions, a casino in New Jersey is going to fire overweight waitstaff. Employees who gain more than 7% of their body-weight will be suspended pending a 90-day, company-paid weight-loss program. I guess I won’t be gambling at the Borgata.

Bill Maher once again displayed that he is both a bigot and a moron. He appeared on “Scarborough Country” this week and described Christians and other religious believers as having “a neurological disorder.” So much for the adhering to the talismanic principle of “tolerance” that you and your fellow liberals insist must come before all else.

Deroy Murdock points out the many REPUBLICAN contributions to Black History that are overlooked by black activists who are aligned with the Democrat Party that fought tooth and nail against freedom and liberty for blacks. It is worth a read, and includes a link to the House Policy Committee's 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar, which can be downloaded for free. The calendar contains daily facts about the GOP's leadership in the field of emancipation, womens' rights, civil rights, and the inclusion of minorities based upon merit. Take that, Howard Dean!

Columnist Gil Spencer comments on the decision of a Philadelphia judge to throw out charges against the Repent America protesters who were arrested at Outfest. He notes that gay activists try to spin the situation into one of “incitement to riot” or some other exception to the First Amendment, but that the argument doesn’t work. The answer to speech that someone hates is more speech, not censorship.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Tomb of St. Paul Found

For all my fellow archaeology geeks, here's another fun one for you.

A sarcophagus which may contain the remains of St. Paul was identified in the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, reports Giorgio Filippi, a archeology specialist with the Vatican Museums. The sarcophagus was discovered during the excavations carried out in 2002 and 2003 around the basilica, which is located in the south of Rome.

An official announcement is pending.


While I’m Working On Grades

It is that awful time of the marking period – the weekend before grades are due. As usual, a torrent of late work has come crashing onto my desk. It may be a while before I get back to regular posting.

So, without further ado, I give you a host of “stories that have caught my eye.”

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion won a round in Philadelphia today as a judge dismissed all charges against members of a Christian group arrested at Philadelphia’s Outfest. The judge indicated that a thorough review of video of the incident. "We are one of the very few countries that protect unpopular speech. And that means that Nazis can March in Skokie, Ill. ... That means that the Ku Klux Klan can march where they wish to," Judge Dembe said. "We cannot stifle speech because we don't want to hear it, or we don't want to hear it now.”

We kept hearing last year during the campaign that Clear Channel was conspiring to suppress liberal voices. Guess again – the nation’s largest radio network is trying out a liberal talk format on about 40 stations nationwide. They want to see if it is a moneymaker for them – which is exactly why so much of their programming is conservative.

Seems that Ward Churchill has been drawing criticism for a long time – and the folks out at Colorado have been ignoring it. Little things like plagiarism, poor scholarship, false claims of Native American heritage, and even threats or acts of violence against others have been raised for years, but the university has failed to investigate the matters further.

Even a court order isn’t sufficient in Massachusetts if a hospital wants to kill a patient. Barbara Howe has ALS, and her daughter, Carol Carvitt, has a court order allowing her to make medical decisions for her mother and forbidding the removal of life support without her consent. But Dr. Britain Nicholson, Massachusetts General Hospital 's chief medical officer, has ordered life support be removed next week. This makes the Terri Schiavo case look benign, as Ms. Cavitt is simply trying to uphold her mother’s expressed wishes regarding the removal of life-support – the very argument used to authorize Terri’s husband to order her execution food and water to be cut off.

It seems that the next royal wedding won’t take place in Windsor Castle after all, but in the local town hall. A quirk in British law would require that Windsor Castle be opened to the general public for weddings if Charles and Camilla were to be married there. So, it is off to the historic Windsor Guildhall for the civil ceremony.

Arizona has a “stupid motorist law” which authorizes government agencies to bill folks for the cost of their rescue if they drive around barricades or ignore the orders of safety personnel. It is about to be applied for the first time, after Paul Zalewski of Cave Creek decided to drive his Hummer across a flooded street. Zalewski is to be billed for over $800 for the helicopter rescue of himself and his six passengers, including three children.

Proving that she doesn’t know that her 15 minutes are up, former Apprentice competitor Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth is complaining that executive producer Mark Burnett is racist in his handling and presentation of black players. "Once you start looking at how all the black men are perceived as lazy and laid-back and nonaggressive," she said, "and all the black women are quite the opposite, I do think there is a pattern." Yeah – it shows what happens when you bring affirmative action hires into a highly competitive program.

Andrew Hyman cogently presents the case that certain Democrats are lying when they say that President Bush’s re-nomination of judicial candidates who have been filibustered have been rejected by the Senate. Rather, he argues, Senate Rule 31 makes it clear that they have not been rejected – and that same rule does not allow for the use of a filibuster as a means of rejecting a candidate at all.

Look who gave money to support Lynne Stewart’s defense fund – George Soros. How is it that a man who claims to love America gave money to a woman committed to destroying it? And why wasn’t this disclosed by the Mainstream Media when he was bankrolling the Kerry campaign with soft-money donations to liberal 527 organizations?

Bravo to FBI agent Robert Jordan for refusing to back off his comments that there are “people here in Oregon that have trained in jihadist camps”. I just hope that he got the name of all in attendance at his meeting with local Muslims and other community members in the Portland area. After all, if they were offended by comments that are clearly true, they may be part of the problem. Quite frankly, we need to quit apologizing to offended Muslims for speaking the truth – that there are members of the Muslim community who are active supporters of terrorism. The professionally offended need to take offense at the disloyalty of members of their own community, not at folks who comment on that reality.

Bravo to Colin Levey for pointing out that journalists have no greater rights under the First Amendment than any other American. No one is required to tell them anything or turn over information to them. They have no right to obstruct justice or withhold information from law enforcement. Those who pretend otherwise are engaged in a self-aggrandizement that can and will lead to their own downfall.

And why does this story make me think of Howard Dean and the Democrat Party?


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Eminent Domain -- A Threat To Free Exercise Of Religion?

As traditionally understood, eminent domain is the right of government to take property at fair market value for a public use, usually for parks, roads, schools and the like. Over the last 50 years or so, it has expanded to include takings for urban renewal. But in recent years the power has been used to seize property from owners unwilling to sell to private developers favored by the city because of the potential for increased tax revenue. Next week, in Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.), the Supreme Court will examine that issue. The outcome could be particularly critical for churches.

The question is which direction the court will go in Kelo and what impact it might have [cases involving the use of eminent domain against churches to increase tax revenue]. Some expect new limits on government power. A landmark ruling on eminent domain at the state level - used for 20 years as precedent in many cases, including by the state court in Kelo - was reversed by the Michigan Supreme Court just six months ago.

In the 1983 decision in Poletown v. City of Detroit, the Michigan court approved the taking of 500 acres to sell to General Motors for a plant. Hundreds of homes and businesses and six churches were condemned. In July 2004, the court called the Poletown decision "a radical departure from constitutional principles" and overturned it in County of Wayne v. Hathcock.

"[I]f one's ownership of private property is forever subject to the government's determination that another private party would put one's land to better use, then the ownership of real property is perpetually threatened by the expansion plans of any large discount retailer, mega-store or the like," the court said.

The US Supreme Court accepted the Kelo case shortly after the Michigan court rendered that decision.

The logic applies not just to churches, but also to private schools, hospitals, charities, and other untaxed entities. Take the land, sell it at a bargain-basement price to a developer, and get it on the tax rolls would be the temptation facing every land-locked community or fast-growing municipality. In effect, not-for-profits would be at the mercy of government.

As would owners of modest homes -- for the Kelo case isn't about a church, it is about taking homes in an older middle-class neighborhood for redevelopment as a marina and high-dollar condos.

Hopefully the Court will safeguard the rights of all property owners, and guarantee that our churches are not driven from town in the pursuit of additional taxes.


Impeachment For Judge In Ross Case?

Several weeks ago I commented on the bid by the ACLU to stop the execution of Connecticut death row inmate Michael Ross. Now there is a bid to impeach one of the judges involved in the case, U.S. District Judge Robert Chatigny, on grounds of partiality and improper behavior. Congressman Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) has delivered a letter from Republicans in the Connecticut statehouse to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) requesting an investigation, which has begun.

“He has exhibited behaviors and decisions that directly contradict the role of an impartial judiciary,” the three-page letter said of Chatigny, adding, “Such abuses of judicial powers should not and must not be tolerated. We strongly urge your committee to investigate the matter fully, and to commence proceedings to redress this misconduct, including the possible removal from office.”

Ross had fired his defense team and hired a lawyer to expedite the proceedings after 24 years of court proceedings to determine his guilt and punishment, as well as challenging the death penalty. At that point the ACLU intervened, ostensibly on behalf of Ross' father.

Finally, on Jan. 24[, 2005], Chatigny, who had not been presiding over the case, issued a stay of execution, which was followed by a flurry of appeals.

Four days after his initial stay, Chatigny held a conference call with lawyers from both sides to discuss a letter sent to the court by a fellow inmate of Ross’s arguing that Ross had lost his sanity while in prison and was not mentally competent to ask the court for his own execution.

During this call, Chatigny challenged Ross’s lawyer, T.R. Paulding, who was hired to expedite Ross’s execution, to follow up on the inmate’s insanity claim. When Paulding equivocated, Chatigny berated him, at one point saying, “You better be prepared to deal with me if in the wake of this an investigation is conducted and it turns out that what [the inmate] says and what this former program director says is true, because I’ll have your license.”

In other words, Chatigny intervened in the attorney-client relationship to the point that he ordered Paulding to act contrary to the desires and directions of his client. What's more, he threatened the man's career if he didn't follow the judge's directives to act contrary to his client's wishes and directives. In effect, the judge's order prohibited the attorney from being an advocate for his client, and turned the case from an adversary proceeding into a virtual conspiracy to thwart that client's pursuit of what he believed to be his interests. That intervention in the attorney-client relationship certainly approaches unethical conduct, if it does not cross the line. Furthermore, indicates a partiality that is unfitting in a judge.

This case bears watching, as it could be the beginning of a trend towards holding biased and activist judges accountable for their malfeasance while on the bench.


When Tolerance Equals Intolerance

Students in Kentucky's Boyd County are required to participate in a "diversity training." The program, though, does not practice respect for diversity. In fact, it is explicitly opposed to freedom of speech and freedom of religion -- at least if that means believing and saying that homosexual activity is immoral. Or so says a suit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

“This mandatory ‘diversity training’ hardly teaches diversity. It not only puts a gag on students who disagree with homosexual behavior, it also actively attempts to change their moral beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The Supreme Court is clear on this matter: Americans have an absolute right to their beliefs. This training obviously crosses that constitutional line.”

All middle and high school students in Boyd County schools are required to attend the “diversity training.” School policies and practice do not permit parents to opt their children out of the training, even if it violates their personal beliefs and morality.

In the training session’s video, school employees and other individuals state that homosexuality is a characteristic that cannot be changed and that school policy prohibits any student from telling another student that he or she believes homosexuality is “wrong.”

According to the complaint filed today, “Students are required to undergo this training without expressing any disagreement. This effectively forces the students to speak in agreement with the School District’s view that homosexuality is a safe and healthy lifestyle that cannot be changed.” To read the full text of the complaint, go to

Now I know that there are going to be folks who show up here and argue that the position taken by the school on homosexuality is the correct one -- that it is an immutable characteristic not a chosen lifestyle. That isn't the point, and is really irrelevant. Rather, the problem is that the school district is taking a position on a moral issue addressed by religious beliefs and teachings of students and their families and churches. The school is insisting that it is the arbiter of MORAL AND RELIGIOUS VALUES, and is prohibiting constitutionally protected speech. That goes far beyond the bounds of any legitimate educational mission.

The great irony here is that the training is required under the settlement of an ACLU-litigated suit over the district's refusal to recognize the Boyd County High School Gay-Straight Alliance. In agreeing to recognize the rights of members of that organization, the district abrogated the rights of every other student in the district and their parents. Where is the tolerance and respect for diverse views in such a settlement?


But Was It In His Lesson Plan?

There are lots of bits of history I would like to cover in class, but I don’t. After all, do my students really need to know about Catherine the Great’s “riding accident”? The controversy over Lincoln’s sexuality? The FDR’s infidelities? Probably not, and common sense dictates that I keep them out of a high school classroom. And if I were a science teacher, I somehow think I would have steered clear of this lesson, with its much greater potential for harm to a student.

ORLANDO, Fla. — A high school chemistry teacher was arrested after students claimed he taught his class how to make a bomb, authorities said.

David Pieski, 42, used an overhead projector in class to give instructions in making explosives to students at Freedom High School, including advising them to use an electric detonator to stay clear from the blast, an Orange County sheriff's arrest report said.

In Pieski's classroom in Orlando, authorities found a book labeled "Demo," which includes the chemical breakdown for a powerful explosive, the arrest report said.

Uhhhh… yeah.

Dude – what were you thinking? Let’s forget about 9/11, Oklahoma City, and Columbine. How about just good common sense?

And then there is this line at the end of the story that almost slipped my notice.

School officials told investigators that Pieski previously had been told he was not allowed to have any form of explosive on campus.

He had to be told this? Shouldn’t that have been a basis for closer supervision? I know it certainly would raise some red flags for me.


Churchill Hiring, Tenure Decisions Bypassed Normal Procedures

Ward Churchill has been at the center of a controversy for several weeks. Many fgolks have asked how it was possible that the usual standards of scholarship and peer review failed, getting him into a tenured position without a doctorate.

The answer is simple. They didn’t fail. The normal procedures were simply bypassed.
Churchill started teaching at the school in the 1980s as a non-tenure track teacher. Ethnic studies was not even a department back then.

In the 1990 e-mail exchange, [Kaye] Howe, the vice chancellor, noted that Churchill had been invited to be a guest lecturer that fall at Alfred University in western New York State.

Howe sought support from [Charles] Middleton, the dean, to make Churchill a visiting professor in Indian studies in spring 1991. Howe said Churchill could return to his slot in the academic support program if the visiting professorship did not turn into a permanent faculty position.

"I think this would give Ward a significant opportunity," Howe wrote.

Howe told Middleton she had the "highest esteem for Ward."

Middleton responded that he agreed with Howe "in principle." However, he anticipated Bruce Ekstrand, the vice chancellor for academic affairs, would have concerns about Churchill's lack of a doctorate.

Ekstrand - not Howe - had direct authority over faculty appointments. Howe supervised the support programs where Churchill then worked.

Now that isn’t necessarily outrageous. Go ahead and give the guy a chance. Maybe he doesn’t have the doctorate that the job would ordinarily require, but sometimes that can be dispensed with if there is exceptional merit on the part of a candidate. Not to mention, this wasn’t even a tenure-track position. That could come later, with all the usual reviews and evaluations.

But then things got even more interesting. For reasons not discernible in the public record, Churchill was brought before the Board of Regents for a decision on tenure – ten months after being offered the non-tenure-track visiting professorship, in April, 1991. And no one seems able to explain why or how, especially since the normal process for granting tenure .

This is a situation that cries out for examination. Every step of the way, normal processes and procedures were dispensed with and finessed. We need to know why, so that such things do not happen again. After all, an unqualified, plagiarising polemicist was head of a department at a major state university. That should be a matter of concern for folks of all political stripes.


Passport-Free Travel – A Thing Of The Past

It looks like we’ll all be needing a passport if we want to see the Canadian Falls or take high tea in Victoria, BC.

In three years, U.S. citizens and Canadians will have to show passports or a federally issued ID cards linked to Homeland Security databases to re-enter the country from across the border.

The intelligence bill passed by Congress last year mandates the new identification requirements be in place by Jan. 1, 2008.

It also requires that the Department of Homeland Security have by then a registered traveler program for border travelers like those now being tested at five airport sites. The programs allow frequent travelers to avoid extra security inspections by volunteering for background checks.


This may not seem like much to folks in most of the country. After all, how often do
folks zip into Canada if they live in Missouri? But for those along the
longest unfortified border in the world, international travel has never been
terribly difficult. It appears it will be much more difficult, starting in
three years.

As a Texan, though, I want to know about travel across the southern border. Will a passport be necessary there? Or will it continue to leak like sieve, with little effort made to enforce our nation’s immigration laws?

Seems to me that we are focusing on the wrong place. Canada is not the source of our border problem – Mexico is.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

In Memory Of A Nameless Hero

It may sound funny coming from a middle-aged white guy, but some of my greatest heroes growing up were the Tuskegee Airmen.

I owe my existence to one unknown African-American fighter pilot of a past era.

Blame it on my dad, a Navy officer who made clear to me at a young age that the qualities he and my mother sought to instill in me are not limited to people who look like me. And one of the prime examples he held up for me were those men who performed such great deeds in their planes. It is why I wept before the Super Bowl, as some of the last of them walked and rolled on to that field. And it is why I wept again today, as I read First Lt. Jennifer Miller’s commentary in today’s St. Louis Post Dispatch. She has a special connection to that elite group of African-American pilots, military pioneers who proived that plack men could do anything a white man could do -- maybe even better than a white man could do it.

When I was little, my family and I took a weekend trip to Dover, Del., to visit my father who was on Army Reserve duty that summer. During our trip, we visited a hanger at Dover Air Force Base where a group of veterans were rebuilding a vintage B-17G from World War II called the "Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby." That July morning, I watched my grandfather stand motionless in front of that Flying Fortress. He had not seen one for at least 40 years.

Looking closely, I thought I saw a tear on my grandfather's cheek, and - as only a child could - I asked, "What's the matter, Poppy Arnold?" We sat down on a nearby bench, and he told me this story.

It’s one of those stories remarkable not for the unusual heroism it conveys. Rather, it leaps out at me because the heroism was so ordinary, so commonplace. Such heroism is the everyday currency of those in combat. And so it was that Lt. Arnold Bernfeld, a 22-year-old bombardier in the 8th Air Force's 509th Bombardment Squadron, 351st Bomb Group, found himself and his B-17 in the sights of a German fighter. It was a situation likely to have only one outcome. The only question was whether or not the bombs in the belly of the plane would be delivered before the crew met their end.

Suddenly, the German fighter disintegrated in a fireball before his very eyes. My grandfather announced "Bombs away," the pilot regained control of the plane, and the group headed back to England. As my grandfather looked out the nose of the plane, he saw an American fighter plane with a red tail. My grandfather distinctly remembered the pilot, who had shot down the German fighter, looking towards his bomber and saluting. He never forgot the black face of that pilot who saved his life that day, along with the lives of the other nine members of his crew.

That was the job of the Tuskegee Airmen. Their duty was to protect the men and planes who rained death and destruction down on the enemies of America. They did it well – so well, in fact, that the 332nd Fighter Group never lost a bomber under their care. They were truly the best of the best, and they proved their skills many times over. Sixty-six of their number died in combat, and another thirty-two were held as prisoners of war after being shot down. Rarely in the history of air combat has their like been seen.


A Filibuster For Frist?

I make no secret about my support for Condoleezza Rice at this early stage of the race for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. But one of the other prominently mentioned names is that of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. But what does he need to do to distinguish himself from the field?

If Bill Frist is going to distinguish himself from his likely 2008 primary contenders (like Virginia senator George Allen), he needs to be Bush's game-breaking quarterback in the Senate. In fact, one could argue that successfully pushing Bush's agenda through the Senate would so identify Frist with the Bush legacy that he could run as Bush's ideological heir. But to do this, Frist will need to exhibit some of that famed Volunteer-state toughness, and this means breaking filibusters the old-school way, with non-stop debate, sleepless nights, and cots in the Senate required.

I don’t know if I agree with that assessment, but I agree that a real filibuster, with the Democrats constantly on television actively obstructing the work of the Senate, is what is needed to get the American people to speak out. I don’t know if there exists film of the Democrat filibusters of civil rights measures, but wouldn’t it be great to run them side-by-side? Even more fun would be the film of Senator Byrd in 1964 and in 2005, seeking to keep minorities from voting then and from becoming judges today.


A Bargain At Twice The Price

Hey, kid, want a bargain basement price for college? Try St. Louis Christian College.

In a big, fat, expensive valentine to its 200 students (and parents), the Bible college's board of trustees on Saturday agreed to provide full-tuition scholarships for its resident students starting this fall. That adds up to more than $16,000 in savings over four years.

For a student taking 12 credit hours (though many students take more), the old system cost about $10,000 a year. Cancel the tuition and add a new $450 student services fee, plus increased room-and-board fees and the new total will be about $6,000.

The school sees its primary mission as preparing students for ministry, and hopes to make it possible for more young people to answer their calling. It is also hoped that the tuition-free program will bring about an increase in enrollment.

"Why on earth are we doing this?" Jamie Lankford, St. Louis Christian's director of business, asked at the chapel service.

He answered by ticking off statistics: Three out of five ministers leave the ministry within their first five years. About 50 percent of ministers are at or near retirement age.

With dorm rooms only about a third full, Lankford said, administrators knew they could do more to help fill them. And they could do it by reducing the amount of loans students take out - especially since many students will take on low-paying jobs in the ministry.

If St. Louis Christian can double enrollment, it can offset the costs of the tuition plan, said Tom Wallace, the school's director of development. He's hoping for 70 more students this fall.

The school also anticipates raising about $400,000 in the next two years from area churches, alumni and individuals.

And, for the record, commuters will pay half-tuition (and save about $1,900 a year) while part-timers will get no breaks.

If it works, it will be the salvation of the college – and a boon to its students. But the question is, will it mark a trend towards decreasing tuition rates everywhere?


Monday, February 14, 2005

Watcher's Council Notice

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

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


Sunday, February 13, 2005

RIP -- Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos

She was one of the most important Catholic figures of the twentieth century. Many knew her name, but few saw her after she became a cloistered Carmelite nun. After nearly a century of life, and nearly nine decades after she and her cousins claimed to have seen the Virgin mary at Fatima, portugal, Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos has passed on to her heavenly reward.

LISBON (Reuters) - Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, the last of three children who claimed to see the Virgin at Fatima and who revealed a vision the Catholic Church said foretold the attempt to kill Pope John Paul, died on Sunday, the Church said.

Dos Santos, 97, who later became a nun, was the eldest of the shepherd children who in 1917 told of seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary six times. She died at her Carmelite convent at Coimbra in central Portugal.

"She had been weak for several weeks and had not left her cell," Coimbra Bishop Albino Cleto told the Church's Radio Renascenca.

Like the story of the visions at Lourdes, the Fatima visions have great following among Catholics. Like Lourdes, the visions were given not to the powerful or famous, but rather to simple children of the porest class.

The events at Fatima unfolded against a backdrop of religious persecution under anti-clerical factions that ruled Portugal after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910.

In 1916 she experienced her first vision, when an angel appeared to the children, she wrote in her memoirs.

On May 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to her and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marta on an oak tree. On her last appearance before an estimated 50,000 onlookers, witnesses claim to have experienced a 15-minute spectacle of bright lights and rainbow colors.

In her memoirs, dos Santos said the Virgin Mary appeared to the children six times in 1917. Jacinta and Francisco died in the influenza pandemic in 1919 and 1920.

The two were beatified, the last step to sainthood, by Pope John Paul during his Fatima visit in 2000.

V. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
R. And may perpetual light shine upon her.
V. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.
R. Amen.


Election Results Are In

The people of Iraq have spoken.

The Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance ticket received 4,075,295 votes, or about 48 percent of the total cast, Iraqi election officials said. The Kurdistan Alliance, a coalition of two main Kurdish factions, was second with 2,175,551 votes, or 26 percent, and the Iraqi List headed by the U.S.-backed Allawi finished third with 1,168,943 votes, or about 14 percent.

Those three top finishers represent about 88 percent of the total, making them the main power brokers as the assembly chooses national leaders and writes a constitution.

About 58% of eligible voters cast ballots, despite a Sunni call for boycotts. natureally, of course, Sunnis are unhappy and question the legitimacy the results.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera television, Mohammed Bashar of the anti-American Association of Muslim Scholars said the fact that there were no international or U.N. monitors in Iraq made him question the figures.

"Those who boycotted the elections are more than those who took part in it," he said. "Boycotting the election does not mean that the boycotter will renounce his rights."

In other words, we engaged in an electoral crap-shoot and lost, so we plan on continuing to engage in terrorism against the British, Americans, and the Shiite majority that we oppressed during the Saddam years.

What comes next?

CONSTITUTION REFERENDUM AND THE NEXT ELECTIONS: Iraqis will vote on the proposed constitution by Oct. 15. If they approve, elections for a permanent government to replace the assembly will be held in December. If voters reject the charter, the National Assembly will be dissolved and a new transitional assembly will be elected in December to take another stab at constitution-writing.

In other words, these poor, "disenfranchised" Sunnis who sided with the terrorists will get a chance to vote on the Constitution and potentially derail it -- and then will be able to vote in the elections that follow.


Rodeo Is Coming!

Anyone who has ever lived in Texas knows about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. As we get closer to opening day (March 1), my wife and I get more excited, and the local news begins to publish more rodeo-related news.

And this story is so heartwarming. Barrel racing is one of my favorite events at the rodeo, the only one in which women compete. I'm hoping that someday little Brittney Holland is among the top 64 competitors in the world, so that I get a chance to see her ride.

The horse knows the girl's voice.

He knows her touch and the loving way she lays her cheek against his neck and feeds him treats from the palm of her small hand.

Some say that seeing is believing.

But one doesn't have to see to believe.

Fourteen-year-old Brittney Holland believes in her well-trained horse, Dollar, and in her skills and experience as a rodeo performer.

The ninth-grade honor student from Aledo High School also believes what Susan Holland, her mother, has told her since she was 3. When Brittney asked if she would ever be able to see Hayley, her older sister, her mother told her no.

"Britt, you're going to do greater things being blind than you ever would if you had total vision," Susan Holland said.

Yeah, that's right. Brittney is legally blind, and can only see two letters at a time in her large-print school books. The kid has big dreams, and I hope and pray that they all come true.

Oh, and if you want to learn a bit about the real stars of bull-riding -- the bulls -- check out this article.

"Bulls have their own personalities," says Rorey Lemmel, general manager of Stace Smith Pro Rodeos of Texas, a supplier of bucking bulls for the Dixie National Rodeo, running through Wednesday at the State Fairgrounds in Jackson.

Among the 70 or so bucking bulls bringing their reps to Jackson are Speckled Bird, Copper Top, Smokeless Drifter, Bounty Hunter and Dirty White Bull.

"Some fans show up as much for the bulls as for the cowboys," says Mike Mathis of Lufkin, Texas, rodeo announcer for this year's Dixie National.

Riders and fans alike are savvy about certain bulls: They know that some, for instance, may lean either to the right or the left, like a Supreme Court justice or a car with bad brakes.

And some of us, like basketball fans from Chicago, want to see the bulls win.

So I'll probably be posting a couple more rodeo related articles in the next couple of weeks, and then deluge you with rodeo coverage for those glorious three weeks in March when cowboys and livestock go at it in the Reliant Center.


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