Precinct 333

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Easter Proclamation


Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
When Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night,
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slav'ry,
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night,
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.

This is night,
when Christians ev'rywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night,
when Jesus broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed,
when heaven is wedded to earth
and we are reconciled to God!

Therefore, heavenly Father, in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.


Stuff The Starbucks Cup

I don't drink Starbuck's coffee. Heck, if I drink a half-dozen cups of coffee in a year, my consumption is way up. Not that I'm not a caffeine-freak -- my blood is carbonated and if I'm ever hospitalized they'll need to hang a two-liter bottle of Coke Classic from the IV stand.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't necessarily have a dog in this fight.

But it seems that some folks are bothered by Starbuck's "The Way I See It" campaign. They've taken quotes from several dozen scholars, athletes, activists, and other "celebrities" and placed them on their coffee cups. Personally, I think it is a really neat idea. Anyway, the issue that has been raised is that the selectees and quotes, where they have an ideological bent, skew Left.

The quotes aren't all that inflammatory, though several mirror Starbucks' hallmark tall-grande-venti pretentiousness. Take this one from film critic Roger Ebert: "A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it."

The problem, critics say, is the company's list of overwhelmingly liberal contributors, including Al Franken, Melissa Etheridge, Quincy Jones, Chuck D. Of the 31 contributors listed on Starbucks' Web site, only one, National Review editor Jonah Goldberg, offers a conservative viewpoint.

Considering Starbucks sells millions of cups of coffee each day - some specialty drinks at $4 and up - it's no surprise some customers have complained to Starbucks' Web site, labeling the campaign "offensive" and the company a proponent of "the destruction of family values and virtues."

"I want to enjoy your product without having Earth Day Network propaganda thrust at me," wrote Malachi Salcido of East Wenatchee, Wash.

Yvette Nunez, a 27-year-old Republican from Tampa, said she hadn't noticed the quotes on her weekly caramel machiattos. On "tall" cups, the text is obscured by a cardboard sleeve.

"There are a lot of great conservative quotes, but oh well," she said. "I'm not surprised. I'm used to being under-represented."

Now Starbucks claims it is not out to be ideological.

Company spokeswoman Valerie Hwang said the goal is not to stir up controversy. She said the company has lined up 60 contributors with "varying points of view, experiences and priorities" in an effort to promote "open, respectful conversation among a wide variety of individuals."

Each cup also bears a caveat letting customers know that the quote is "the author's opinion, not necessarily that of Starbucks."

"The program is such that we're not requiring our customers to read," Hwang said, "but rather the quotes are there for our customers to discover and enjoy."

Now the company claims it is open to suggestions from the public for future quotes. Let's take them at their word. My challenge to you is to find your favorite quote from a living individual, preferably conservative, and submit it to Starbucks. Don't be radical or outrageous -- give them something thoughtful. After all, these are liberals who have never encountered a thoughtful conservative other than Jonah Goldberg. I've got at least two individuals in mind (one conservative, one libertarian) who I think merit inclusion. And yes, liberals, you can play along as well. After all, a good quote that makes one think is always a good thing, no matter what the source. I mean, one of my favorites in the program comes from Al Franken.

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it’s a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."

-- Al Franken

It will probably end up being used in my classroom. And why not? We conservatives don't have the monopoly on good ideas.


Tainted Honor

Being AWOL is a serious charge for a Marine. So why did Harpers place a group of Marine recruits reporting for basic training on the cover of their magazine for a story about military deserters?

The cover photo, taken at Parris Island, S.C., shows seven Marines lined up in their T-shirts, shorts and socks. They are not identified in photo credits or in the article. In fact, Harper's says the Marines are not meant to depict people in the article.

"We are decorating pages," said Giulia Melucci, the magazine's vice president for public relations. "We are not saying the soldiers are AWOL. Our covers are not necessarily representative."

A media observer said using real people as "decorations" for a story about deserters might go too far.

"Going AWOL is not a favorable or positive thing," said Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns the St. Petersburg Times.

Another issue is that the photograph was altered. One recruit's image appears lighter than the others, as if he were disappearing.

Gee, would you "decorate pages" with random photos for a story about sexual predators? Come on, people, think about what you are doing. You are implicitly charging them with a crime on the cover of your magazine. You are accusing them of cowardice in time of war and the betrayal of their oath "to uphold protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic."

And consider how one Marine in particular feels about being depicted as "fading away" from his comrades in arms.

Lance Cpl. Britian Kinder, an active Marine who asked that his base not be identified, is upset.

"It does make me pretty angry that they would do something like this. I'm pretty much upset that they would do this without my consent."

Kinder's father believes the magazine should correct the impression it has made of his son.

"People recognize this picture," said Mickey Kinder of Pinch, W.Va. "Put another picture of him in the magazine and do a retraction. He's not AWOL."

It is bad enough that the magazine decided to publish an article painting cowards and malcontents as sympathetic, even heroic, figures. What is worse is that they decided to tar smear the honorable in the process -- for not one Marine on the cover of that magazine is a deserter.

UPDATE (3/29/05): It appears that Harper's has been stung by the criticism their way. They plan on running a "clarification"
about the cover.

"We're going to print a clarification in our next issue," said Giulia Melucci, a vice president at New York-based Harper's. "We feel it needs to be clarified that these are respectable soldiers defending our country honorably. We regret any confusion it may have caused."

Note, of course, that this isn't quite an apology for defaming those pictured. Nor does it deal with the blatantly anti-military (some would say anti-American) article that the cover promoted. Maybe Harper's would consider doing an article about what is right witht he American military, along with an actual apology for their maligning the good names of "a few good men."


Conflict Of Interest

Ward Churchill is now to be investigated for academic dishonesty. But will it be a fair investigation? That is open to question, since three of the twelve panel members have already publicly defended Churchill, and refuse to recuse themselves in the investigation.

Records and news stories show at least three of the 12 members of the committee have come out publicly supporting Churchill's rights or questioning the university's ability to discipline him after he made statements likening 9/11 victims to a top Nazi and calling for other attacks on the United States.

Steven Guberman, associate professor in education, was one of nearly 200 Boulder faculty members who signed a petition last month defending Churchill's right to speak and protesting the preliminary investigation that ended Thursday. The faculty then took out an ad in a local newspaper with the faculty names.

Guberman said he will not recuse himself because he believes he can be independent in judging Churchill's work.

"They are two separate issues," said Guberman, who was appointed two weeks ago to the misconduct committee. "One is about freedom of speech. The other is about research misconduct."

Two other committee members, law professor Richard Collins and physics professor Uriel Nauenberg, were quoted in articles about Churchill.

How biased are the committee members? Collins has already made it clear that only the most outrageous incompetence will do.

Collins recently told the CU faculty newspaper that the university would have to prove that Churchill was unfit for his job. For comparison, Collins said it would take evidence comparable to the hypothetical case of a math professor who repeatedly declared two plus two equals five.

"It's tough to sack him," Collins said.

Not, of course, that it is likely that action will be taken. No one at the university can recall a case in the last 20 years in which the standing committee has disciplined a professor. Given the statements of the members, it is unlikely that there will be any action taken now, despite the overwhelming evidence of academic misconduct that has emerged.


Friday, March 25, 2005

First The Verdict, Then The Testimony

Remember the whole Wilson/Plame affair? Remember how we were ASURED that there was a crime there somewhere in the administration -- talk of Karl Rove being frog-marched out of the White House and Robert Novak rotting in prison?

Looks like the media has changed its mind on the matter. Funny what holding a couple of reporters in contempt for withholding evidence from a grand jury will do.

A federal court should first determine whether a crime has been committed in the disclosure of an undercover CIA operative's name before prosecutors are allowed to continue seeking testimony from journalists about their confidential sources, the nation's largest news organizations and journalism groups asserted in a court filing yesterday.

The 40-page brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, argues that there is "ample evidence . . . to doubt that a crime has been committed" in the case, which centers on the question of whether Bush administration officials knowingly revealed the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in the summer of 2003. Plame's name was published first by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak and later by other publications.

The friend-of-the-court brief was filed by 36 news organizations, including The Washington Post and major broadcast and cable television news networks, in support of reporters at the New York Times and Time magazine who face possible jail time for refusing to cooperate with a grand jury investigating the allegations. Those two organizations filed a petition Tuesday asking the full appeals court to review the case.

Let's get this straight -- now they are not sure whether or not there is a crime even though they told us there was? And they want the court to determine whether or not there was a crime BEFORE they will give the evidence necessary to indict someone? Seems to me they have the whole process ass-backwards. The testimony in question is necessary to possibly secure an indictment so that a trial can be held to determine if anyone is guilty of anything in the release of Ms. Plame's name.


Quid Pro Quo Leads To School Board Member's Arrest

Leigh Heavin's husband needed a lawyer to represent him in his criminal trial. She called Steven C. Copenhaver, a Round Rock ISD school board member, and told him she didn't have much money but needed someone to represent her husband.

Most lawyers will reduce fees, do pro bono work, or otherwise help a client out. Copenhaver offered Heavin a deal.

Copenhaver told Heavin that they could work something out and asked her if she had any good-looking friends, according to the warrant. He told her that he had fantasized about two women having sex together, according to the warrant.

The next day, Copenhaver came to Heavin's apartment shortly after her sister-in-law, Malinda Tilley, had dropped in, the warrant said. Unknown to Copenhaver, it said, Heavin's mental health caseworker, her mother and her husband were in a back bedroom.

Copenhaver asked Tilley and Heavin to perform sexual favors for him, according to the warrant. When the women asked "what they would get out of this," Copenhaver said he would represent Heavin's husband, the warrant said.

Uhhhhh -- yeeee-ah. Words just fail me. As I'm sure words failed Copenhaver when Heavin's husband, mental heath caseworker and other relatives came out of the back bedroom and called the police.

And you've gotta love the wahoo who is the head of the school board. I imagine he was stunned, but surely he could have come up with something more than a statement that he didn't know how the arrest would impact Copenhaver's service on the school board. Isn't there a zero tolerance policy out there somewhere that might cover this situation?

And then there is this from the state bar association.

Dawn Miller, chief disciplinary counsel for the State Bar of Texas, said exchanging legal services for sexual favors could constitute a violation of rules barring "illegal or unconscionable" fees. Punishment could range from a reprimand to disbarment, Miller said.

Could constitute a violation of the rules barring "illegal or unconscionable" fees? COULD? Ya think?

Copenhaver has been charged with prostitution, and released on $750 bail.


Anybody Else Troubled By This?

I loved chocolate-bunnies when I was a kid. And when i was in seminary, I raised a few eyebrows by giving some of my buddies a humorous product called "Just the Ears" -- a set of molded bunny-ears -- since they are usually eaten first while much of the rest goes to waste (the ears go to waste). I was accused of being disturbed by several of my humor-impaired classmates.

This product, on the other hand, is a bit more disturbing to me.

A symbol of Christianity that sits atop church steeples, dangles from necks and hangs on walls is now ending up in the mouths of the faithful, over the objections of some religious officials.

A mass-produced chocolate cross is being sold this Easter by Russell Stover Candies Inc. in about 5,000 stores nationwide, which experts say is apparently a first for a major American company.

"Obviously they've seen that there's a market for chocolate crosses at Easter," said Lisbeth Echeandia, a consultant for Candy Information Service, which monitors candy industry trends. "I don't see it growing tremendously but I think there would be growth in the Christian market."

However, not all Christians are happy about it. Chomping on a chocolate cross can be offensive to some, said Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Conn.

"The cross should be venerated, not eaten, nor tossed casually in an Easter basket beside the jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps," he said. "It's insulting."

They claim to be targetting the Hispanic market. The crosses are decorated with a floral bouquet and are filled with caramel made from goat's milk, a popular Latin America treat.

My initial reaction was "what's next -- a chocolate Jesus?" Not to worry, though.

Ward said Russell Stover considered making other traditional images out of chocolate but eventually opted not to.

"A molded Jesus, for example, would not be a good call and a cross with Jesus on it wouldn't be a good idea either," Ward said.

Am I being overly sensitive on this? Or is there really something "not quite right" about this product?


Felons Purged -- After Their Votes Elect Democrat

More proof of vote fraud and election irregularities in the Washington gubernatorial election. It further raises the question of the legitimacy of the Gregoire administration, after Christine Gregoire won in November (on the third count of the ballots) by 129 votes statewide.

King County election officials purged 99 felons from the voter rolls yesterday as prosecutors announced they would challenge an additional 93 felons they claim are illegally registered to vote.

Officials said they will continue to scour the voter rolls for felons. They're acting in light of a Republican lawsuit challenging the validity of the razor-thin election of Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire and in response to a Seattle Times investigation that found at least 129 felons in King and Pierce counties had voted in the 2004 general election.

Earlier this month, Republicans released a list of 1,135 registered voters statewide who they said were felons who had not had their right to vote restored by a judge. Hundreds of those felons, however, appear to have been juveniles who did not lose their right to vote once they turned 18. Republicans said they are modifying their list.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the county prosecutor's office, said his office is investigating nearly 800 alleged felon voters named by the Republicans.

The 93 challenges announced yesterday came from that list, and additional challenges are likely, Donohoe said.

Prosecutors mailed certified letters to the last known address of each of the 93 yesterday, alerting them to an administrative hearing March 31.

"This represents phase two of our ongoing efforts to remove the names of ineligible voters from the list that was referred to my office," King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng said in a news release. "We will continue this effort until all unqualified voters are removed from the list."

Democrats, of course, don't have anything to say about this clearly fraudulent election, while raising false claims and baseless allegation about the reelection of President George W. Bush. I've not seen Jesse Jackass Jackson out there talking about the disenfranchisement of legitimate voters and stolen elections. But then again, his girl (who worked to keep blacks out of her sorority as a college student during the 1960s civil rights movement) won -- and that's all that counts.

Count every vote -- but only count the legal ones.


Kay Bailey Hutchison -- Break The Term-Limit Pledge

Let me say it -- I think term limits are a bad idea. While some argue that the current system deprives us of new blood and new ideas in government, I see term limit as depriving us of experienced leaders. I find voluntary term limits to be an even worse idea -- they force a politician to either break his or her word and appear hypocritical, or to abide by it even if that is detrimental to the best interests of their constituents. And that is the situation faced by the senior Senator from Texas, the Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Hutchison, back in 1994, promised not to run for a third full term in the Senate.

Hutchison made her promise in television ads and personal statements in 1994, and on election night she said:

"I've always said that I would serve no more than two full terms. This may be my last term, or I could run for one more. But no more after that. I firmly believe in term limitations and I plan to adhere to that."

Seems pretty unambiguous to me. I suspect that she may now recognize the problem of that simplistic scheme. She is now in the best position to benefit her Texas constituents and the nation as a whole with her relatively senior position in the Senate, but her own commitment will deprive the state of her services in the Senate, an institution in which seniority is critical. It's not that she is indispensable (no politician is), but rather than unless the term-limits apply across the board they are an act of unilateral disarmament.

The result is that she may run for governor. That means an ugly primary fight against the incumbent, Rick Perry, and comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, a GOP maverick (and mother of White House spokesman Scott McClellan). The winner will face an undetermined Democrat (possibly former Houston Congressman Chris Bell) and an independent, singer and author Kinky Friedman. A difficult GOP primary could mean trouble for the winner. And that would also leave open the possibility of a Democrat winning a Senate seat that would be secure if Hutchison seeks reelection. Currently only San Antonio Republican Congressman Henry Bonilla has publicly indicated interest in running in the event that the incumbent steps down, while no Democrat has stepped forward. That will change by the January 2006 filing deadline.

How ugly might the primary be?

Perry's campaign has been skirmishing with Hutchison and Strayhorn in recent weeks, releasing lists of endorsements and supporters around Texas.

Perry's campaign this week also admitted to having video taped Hutchison with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at a Washington speaking engagement in which the Democrat called Hutchison "my partner on so many important fronts."

"Any potential opponent, we're going to research, we're going to follow. Any good campaign would do the same," said Perry campaign manager Luis Saenz. "Any potential opponent should not expect a free ride."

Saenz declined to comment on Hutchison's term limit pledge, saying that was for "her to decide."

Perry is a scrapper, and I don't doubt that he would pull out all the stops to win. He doesn't seem interested in a "seat-swap' with Hutchison, either, running for her current job while she seeks his, in part because Bonilla would be a difficult candidate for him to beat in the primary. Besides, he knows that if he does not seek reelection, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will file for the gubernatorial nomination, leaving that very powerful position (the Lieutenant Governor makes all appointments to committees in the state senate, including designating the committee chairperson) open for a Democrat challenger.

My preference is to see the Senator stay right where she is. I'd like to see the Governor and Lt. Governor stay right where they are. Jerry Patterson has already said he is staying put as Land Commissioner (a pretty powerful job in Texas, and one elected statewide), and I think the incumbent Railroad Commissioners (again, statewide elected positions with a fair amount of clout) are all staying put. The only person looking to move is Strayhorn, who would likely face a primary challenge after angering most everyone in the GOP the last couple years with her public criticism of budgets and fellow Republicans.

And so I'll say it right now -- Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison should break the two-term pledge. I believe that Texans will ratify that decision if she does by overwhelmingly reelecting her to the US Senate. I know this Harris County Precinct Chairman would do so even without the political disarray a decision to step down would engender. Kay Bailey Hutchison is good for Texas and good for America. She deserves another term.


Left's Tainted Money

We hear all the time about the big businesss money that allegedly bankrolls the Right in this country. Now it is true that many entrepreneurs support the side that favors capitalism over the side that favors socialism. It's in their best interest. And it is folks on the Left (who favor socialism) who constantly decry the sins of those evil capitalists.

Unless the money is coming, for whatever reason, into the coffers of the Left.

Which brings me to the major funding source for last year's attacks on George W. Bush -- George Soros. Soros bankrolls Media matters,, and a host of other leftwing groups. That's his right. But what happened to the principles of the left? Why are they not condemning Soros for his illegal and/or immoral financial dealings? Why are they still taking his money, when they insist that the Right forego any such "tainted" money?

The conviction of George Soros, the billionaire investor and former fund manager, on insider trading charges was upheld on Thursday by a French appeals court, which rejected his argument that his investment in a French bank in 1988 was not based on confidential information.

Soros, 74, now retired from money management but active as a management but active as a philanthropist and author, was ordered to pay a fine of €2.2 million, or $2.9 million, representing the money made by funds he managed from an investment in Société Générale. He said the purchase had been part of a strategy to invest in a group of companies that had been privatized by the French government.

Soros, of course, expresses no remorse over his crimes, and plans on keeping it different levels of the French and European court systems until well after his death. But the Leftis financier immediately went into political spin mode.

The ruling upheld a conviction in 2002 and followed an appeals court hearing last month at which the financier testified, saying he wanted the sentence overturned because "my reputation is at stake." While the fine is small relative to his assets, Soros testified then, the conviction is "a gift to my enemies."

See, its all about the politics. He'd gladly pay the money (equal to several times more than most of us will make in our lifetimes) if it were not for the impact on his reputation giving ammunition to his critics.

But this isn't the only time he's been involved in shady dealings.

In 1992, he became known as the man who broke the Bank of England, when his funds were said to have made a billion dollars betting that the British government would be forced to devalue its currency. By contrast, the investment in Société Générale was a very small one for him, a fact his lawyers argued indicated he did not think he had inside information.

This is the first criminal charge he has faced, but not his first run-in with regulators. In 1979, Soros signed a consent decree with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which had claimed he manipulated a company's stock by selling shares in advance of a planned public offering.

But as long as the money keeps flowing to the right Left activist groups, all is forgiven and covered up by the left-wing watchdogs of political donations.

UPDATE: This appeared in The Hill the other day.

House Republicans are taking the offensive in the burgeoning ethics war on Capitol Hill by circulating research that details links among Democrats, George Soros and government watchdog groups that have criticized Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and the House ethics process.

The research shows that members of these groups’ boards have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates and political organizations and several of their staff members have previously worked for Democrats. The groups have also accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Open Society Institute, an organization founded by Soros, who spent millions trying to defeat President Bush in last year’s election.

How independent are all these watcher taking tainted cash from a partisan criminal like Soros?


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why A National AIDS Memorial?

I probably sound insensitive by asking the above question. It isn't meant to discount the tragedy and horror brought about by the disease, nor is it a slam at those who have been its victims or who have triumphed over it. But I have to ask why we have a memorial to a disease?

A design by two New York architects was declared the winner Wednesday in a competition to create a centerpiece for a 7-acre garden in Golden Gate Park, the only federally recognized AIDS memorial in the country.

"Living Memorial," by Janette Kim and Chloe Town, features a stand of black carbon fiber trees, a charred wood deck and a burned, bark-like walkway that in time will sprout greenery - elements borrowed from a fire-scarred forest to evoke a sense of loss and renewal.

"While the design is at first frightening, it is also rich with the eventual triumph of life," said Ken Ruebush, who co-chaired the international contest that drew 201 submissions from 24 countries.

Conceived in 1989 by a group of residents, the National AIDS Memorial Grove originally was designed as a living memorial that relied more on its natural setting than man-made features to send a message.

Its board of directors started talking about installing a more imposing structure once Congress gave the grove national memorial status in 1996, a designation shared by American icons ranging from the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor to Mt. Rushmore, according to Ruebush.

Why not a National Polio Park next? Or a Malaria Monument? Why AIDS? Why ANY disease?


An Honor For The Pope

This is just a neat story -- one about an appropriate honor for one of the most beloved men of my lifetime.

The Italian region of Abruzzo said on Wednesday it will name a mountain peak after Pope John Paul II on the pontiff's 85th birthday in May.

The 2 424m peak in the Gran Sasso, a region of jagged mountains in central Italy often visited by the pope, will be named "John Paul's Peak" on May 18th, the committee organising the ceremony said.

"We decided on the Gran Sasso because the pope visited it many times, in order to get some rest as well as to pray," said Monsignor Luigi Casolini, a member of the committee.

"John Paul II chose these mountains not only because they reminded him of Poland," but also because a nearby church often visited by the pope in his stronger days - Saint Peter of the Ienca - "is a place where spirituality is in the air", said Casolini.

"This place always had a special place in the pope's heart. He likes to walk on the paths surrounding the mountains, and therefore a path will also be named in his honour," he added.


This Is Scary!

I pity the children who have been in this man’s classroom.

A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in - who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly - not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.

"I was pressured into it. He threatened me," the bogus test-taker Rubin Leitner told the Daily News yesterday after Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon revealed the scam.

"I gave him my all," said Leitner, 58, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a disorder similar to autism. "He gave me what he thought I was worth."

Brightly, 38, a teacher at one of the city's worst schools, Middle School 142, allegedly concocted the plot to swap identities with Leitner last summer. If he failed the state exam again, Brightly risked losing his $59,000-a-year job.

Let’s see if you can tell the difference between the two men.

Here’s Bright. He’s the teacher.

Here’s Leitner. He’s the ex-homeless guy with a developmental disability.

Uh – yeah, they could be twins. Just add two decades, 100 pounds and a truck-load of skin-bleaching cream. I guess Bright really is stupid.

And if that didn’t get you to draw the conclusion, try this part of the article out for size.

When The News went to Brightly's Mount Vernon home yesterday, a man who strongly resembled him insisted Leitner took the test on his own. The man, who appeared to be in his late 30s, denied being Brightly - saying he was the teacher's son.

Yep, he sounds like a real winner to me.


Angry At The Presidents -- Bush and Fox

Quit sucking up to Pendejo Presidente Vincete Fox, Mr. Bush. You are close to losing the respect of this Texas Republican.

President Bush yesterday said he opposes a civilian project to monitor illegal aliens crossing the border, characterizing them as "vigilantes."

He said he would pressure Congress to further loosen immigration law.
More than 1,000 people — including 30 pilots and their private planes — have volunteered for the Minuteman Project, beginning next month along the Arizona-Mexico border. Civilians will monitor the movement of illegal aliens for the month of April and report them to the Border Patrol.

Mr. Bush said after yesterday's continental summit, with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at Baylor University, that he finds such actions unacceptable.

"I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America," Mr. Bush said at a joint press conference. "I'm for enforcing the law in a rational way."

The Minutemen are not vigilantes, they are much more closely akin to the neighborhood watch groups around the country. How dare you suggest otherwise! They are doing nothing more than looking for lawbreakers and reporting them to the Border Patrol. If that does make them vigilantes, we need more just like them.

And just who does the Mexican Pendejo Presidente think he is trying to kid with his threats against Americans? Does his country protect “migrants” who cross its borders in violation of Mexican law?

The State Department says that the Mexican government, angry that a thousand American volunteers will begin an Arizona border vigil next month, consistently violates the rights of illegal immigrants crossing its southern border into Mexico.

Many of the illegals in Mexico, who emigrate from Central and South America, complain of "double dangers" of extortion by Mexican authorities and robbery and killings by organized gangs.

The State Department's Human Rights Practices report, released only last month, cites abuses at all levels of the Mexican government, and charges that Mexican police and immigration officials not only violate the rights of illegal immigrants, but traffic in illegal aliens.

Although Mexico demands that its citizens' rights be protected when they illegally enter the United States, immigrants who cross illegally into Mexico "are often ripped off six ways until sundown," says George Grayson, a professor at the College of William & Mary and a fellow at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

Mr. Grayson, who wrote a report for the center on Mexico's abuses of aliens, says "very little" is being done by Mexico to protect the welfare of the Central Americans and the others who cross into Mexico.

So, cabron Presidente Fox, what’s the deal here? Americans insist that their border be protected and seek to assist the proper authorities, and you make threats. Folks cross the Mexican border illegally and you stand by passively as they face extortion and violence at the hands of both Mexican criminals and Mexican law enforcement personnel. Yet you demand that your citizens have the red carpet rolled out for them, with more rights and better treatment than American citizens. Why don’t you deal with the problems in your own backyard before dealing with the solutions to the problems in ours, hijo de puta Your Excellency? Until you do, this American would prefer that you and the rest of your chihuahuas chingadas government officials quit interfering in our internal affairs.

And President Bush – drop the immigration plan designed to appeal more to the Mexicans than it is to the Americans until after Vincete Fox has fixed Mexico’s problems with illegal immigrants.

UPDATE: The Washington Times went after President Bush's mischaracterization of the Minutemen as "vigilantes" prior to the visit of Mexican hijo de puta President Vincente Fox.


We've reached a very strange moment in the immigration debate. On Wednesday President Bush condemned a group of good American citizens worried about the breaking of U.S. immigration law. He condemned the organizers of Project Minuteman as "vigilantes" even though they have broken no law and pledge not to do so. An hour or two later, Mr. Bush welcomed to his Texas ranch a man who insults the United States for its immigration policy and leads a government that routinely flouts U.S. immigration law.

Mexican President Vicente Fox hit a trifecta of contempt for the United States and its laws over the past week. First, he accused Americans of taking no pride in their country because the government is building fences in San Diego to keep out those who try to enter the country in defiance of the law. Next, he scoffed at the concern of U.S. authorities that terrorists may be crossing the U.S. border. Then, he vowed to stamp out the work of Project Minuteman and other efforts by Americans to protect their country. When Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona told Mr. Fox to show "a little less disdain for the rule of law north of the border," he was being only too polite. Nevertheless, Mr. Bush welcomed Mr. Fox to his home.

It's worth reviewing how we got here. First, the Bush administration has failed to do all it could do, and should do, to curtail illegal immigration. The most recent analysis, out this week from the Pew Hispanic Center, suggests that 10.3 million undocumented aliens live in the United States, up 23 percent from the estimated 8.4 million who were here only four years ago. Most are Mexicans. This has happened in large part because Mr. Bush seems not to be concerned about the growing tide of illegal immigration. He declined to provide in his 2006 budget for hiring the 2,000 additional border agents he promised in the intelligence bill he signed in December. Mr. Bush wants to hire only 210.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has engaged in an unprecedented campaign to encourage the breaking of U.S. law. As we pointed out in January, the Mexican government publishes and distributes pamphlets instructing would-be illegals on how to evade detection at the border, and how to lie low once they're here. All the while, Mr. Fox continues a high-decibel campaign of rhetorical contempt for U.S. law.

Amid this chaos, states, local governments and citizen groups have responded. In Arizona, whose illegal population has grown fastest, a citizen initiative called Proposition 200 passed with a solid majority in November to place curbs on the distribution of public benefits to illegals. Many Hispanic citizens voted for it. Now, Project Minuteman -- a border-monitoring effort slated to begin April 1 -- has swollen to more than a thousand volunteers with 30 private planes to monitor activity on the border 24 hours a day, reporting what they find to the Border Patrol.

Mr. Bush's description of the Minutemen as vigilantes is a misreading of American history. The vigilantes were a lynch mob. The Minutemen are an expanded version of the Neighborhood Watch programs popular in many American cities. It's sad to see an American president roll out a royal welcome to a foreign dignitary so openly contemptuous of U.S. law, while simultaneously condemning Americans who are trying to help duly constituted authorities enforce the law.

Exactly right -- quit pandering to the Mexicans, Mr. President, and start doing the job demanded by the American people -- stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Refinery Explosion

The BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, suffered a serious explosion today. Fourteen are known dead, and at least 100 were treated at area hospitals. Crewa are still searching for other victims at the site, and some plant workers remain unaccounted for.

The refinery, which accounts for about 3% of the nation's gasoline supply, is about 15 miles from my home, and I could make the straight shot down 146 to the site of the explosion in 20-30 minutes, depending on whether or not I made all the lights.

Please offer prayers for the injured and dead, for the missing, for the families, and for all the workers and community members touched by this tragedy.


Four Plead Guilty To Democrat Vote Fraud In East St. Louis

I've worked elections in St. Clair County. As a graduate student I worked closely with both Gaffner for Congress campaigns in 1988 (special election and general election). We were up on Jerry Costello both times until the East St. Louis vote came in. It was taken for granted that the city vote was not clean.

Some things never change -- except now they are getting caught and prosecuted.

Leroy Scott Jr., 46; Lillie Nichols, 51; Terrance R. Stitch, 43; and his wife, Sandra Stith, 54; pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count each of vote-buying before U.S. District Judge David Herndon on Tuesday morning.

The East St. Louis Democratic Committee held organizational meetings on Oct. 13, 20 and 27, headed by Committee Chairman Charlie Powell and discussed strategy for maximizing the Democratic vote for president, Illinois Supreme Court justice and the St. Clair County Board chairman in the Nov. 2 election, according to the charges.

"During these organizational meeting, the need to pay voters for voting the 'Democratic ticket' during the Nov. 2 general election, and the amount which said voters should be paid, was discussed by Charles Powell and other precinct committeemen," the charges stated.

Powell denied Tuesday he ordered anyone to buy votes, but only to get voters to the polls on Election Day. He also acknowledged there was a chance he could face an indictment.

"Everything is possible," Powell said. "I don't have any judgment on it whatsoever."

Robert Sprague, who heads the St. Clair County Central Democratic Committee, could not be reached for comment.

Two days before the election, the charges allege Scott, Precinct 38 committeeman, received $1,200; Nichols, Precinct 29 committeeman, received $1,500; and Terrance Stith, Precinct 23 committeeman, received $2,000 from the St. Clair County Democratic Committee.

Sandra Stith worked the polls for her friend, Edna Mayes, Precinct 11th committeeman, and received $500, the charges stated.

The Stiths, Nichols and Scott admitted Tuesday that they paid voters between $5 and $10 for favorably casts ballots during the Nov. 2 election.

Here's hoping that this will encourage an honest vote and an honest count in one of the most dishonest election venues in the country.

UPDATE: Looks like there is even more.

The head of the East St. Louis Central Democratic Committee and others bought votes in a 2004 election that included hotly contested races for Illinois Supreme Court justice and St. Clair County Board chairman, according to federal indictments made public Wednesday.

Besides committee Chairman Charles Powell, the accused include Kelvin Ellis, director of regulatory affairs for the city, who was named in an earlier indictment that among other things accused him of trying to arrange the murder of a witness against him in a vote fraud investigation.

U.S. Attorney Ron Tenpas said some of the money used to sway the vote came from the St. Clair County Democratic Party, but he stressed that the indictments didn't indicate that county Democrats were aware the money was used for vote buying.

Wrong thing to say, Ron. The East St. Louis Democrat Party apparatus is almost exclusively black, while the St. Clair County Democrat party is mostly white. You are certainly going to have people start shouting "racism" over the failure to indict folks from the county Democrats, since you've implicitly cleared the white folks while indicting the black folks.

The indicted Democrats are:

The five charged in the indictment with conspiracy to commit election fraud are committeemen [Charles] Powell, 61; Jesse Lewis, 56; Sheila Thomas, 31; Kelvin Ellis, 55; and precinct worker Yvette Johnson, 46. Lewis, Thomas, Ellis and Johnson also are charged with election fraud.

Please note -- Powell is the chairman of the East St. Louis Democrats. The truly sad thing is that, for all their work subborning vote fraud, only one of the favored candidate won.

Only one of the "favored candidates" identified in the indictment was elected. That was County Board Chairman Mark Kern, who trailed Republican rival Steve Reeb by about 4,000 votes in the rest of the county but won by about the same number when ballots in East St. Louis were counted. The city has a separate election authority from the rest of the county.

Talk about your gang that couldn't shoot straight.

And that "down by 4000/up by 4000" move when the votes were counted looks really familiar to me -- the first Gaffner campaign I worked on went into East St. Louis up by 2500 votes and came out down by the same margin, costing us the election.


So Long, Dolphin!

As some folks who venture into the comment threads might note, dolphin has decided to swim away from my site for good after posting one more of his ever-so-superior comments directing insults my direction. I'm sorry to see him go and feel a certain loss over the sundering of what was once a very respectful and cordial relationship. At the same time, I cannot say I am surprised. Given the accusations made, I feel obliged to respond, and given the limits of Haloscan, I believe it to be prudent to post it here.

If you peruse the comment thread (and others), you will see that the thread in question was somewhat heated right from the beginning. Dolphin, you see, does not like to have anyone question his assertions on homosexual rights (or much else), and took immediate offense at my response to him. He was hostile to anyone who dared to do so, and refused to deal with the assertion that what he proposed in that initial post was nothing short of a eugenics program of the sort implemented and carried out by Southern Democrats and German Nazis during the 20th century. Having set out an untenable position, he simply refused to dialogue with me from that point forward, and spent time insulting folks who dared to characterize his position in a way that he disliked and telling folks to shut up, pouting because I questioned his veracity on an assertion about Justice Scalia (and refusing to back his assertion up), and discussing animal sex with Deb.

In the midst of this, dolphin chose to make a post on his site ridiculing Deb for a statement that she had made. There was no attribution and no linkage. My comment pointing that out (and taking him to task on some issues from my site) was deleted. He also responded to my Gmail account. I post the entire exchange that followed.

dolphin Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 7:33PM

I wanted to make sure you had my email address so next time you wanted
to address a comment specifically to me instead of in response to a
particular post and can't find the "email me" link on side bar of my
site, you will not have to waste my bandwidth with comments unrelated to
my posts.



The Precinct Chair Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 9:35PM
To: dolphin

Actually, dolphin, it was related to your post -- in particular your
uncited use of material from my site.

Link it or remove it.

dolphin Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 10:35PM
To: The Precinct Chair

I will not link to your site. I do not link to websites that frequently post anti-gay hate literature. If you so desire, I will place the name of your site in the post and people can google it if they care to. As for citing you for the quote, I don't see where I'm under any obligation to do so. The quote is not your writing and is not stored on your server so I don't see how you can claim any rights to it. At best, it's simply property of which you have linked to from your site. Let me know if you'd like your site's title added to the post. It would be prudent to note that you authorized my comments to be used on another site without permission, yet I sent you no demands.


The Precinct Chair Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 11:04PM
To: dolphin

I authorized the use of a comment thread from my site, which is well
within my rights, after authorization was requested.

I did not authorize your use of the comment thread because you did not
even have the courtesy to ask.

And I do not post ANY anti-gay hate literature. I challenge you to
find ANY anti-gay hate literature. Unless, of course, you view
disagreement with gay marriage as "anti-gay hate literature," which is
an absurd position. What I have come to discover is that, in your
eyes, "anti-gay hate" means "disagrees with dolphin on an issue
related to homosexuality."

I repeat -- link or delete. The choice is yours.

And yes, the name of my site is expected to be associated with any
material taken from my site or associated comment threads.

dolphin Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 11:20PM
To: The Precinct Chair

I will add your site's name to the post. As for linking, I will not do so, I do NOT link to hate sites (as determined by me), PERIOD. It's not a new policy instituted exclusively against you. It's been policy since I started my blog. The choice is indeed mine, and I will add your site name (though I am not under obligation to do so) however that is the extent of it. Having reviewed the TOS, I am under no obligation to bow to your threats.

The Precinct Chair Mon, Mar 21, 2005 at 11:35PM
To: dolphin

Where was there a threat?

And what on my site makes me a hate site -- other than the fact you
disagree with me?

Or will you avoid these questions, too, as you have the inconvenient
ones in the discussions on my so-called "hate site"?

At that point all communication ended -- and I removed the link to dolphin's website. I mean hey, why would I link to someone in my list of favored sites if they refuse to even link to me when they are taking information from my site on the basis that I run an anti-gay hate site? His conduct and position on the issue made that decision a perfectly reasonable one. Even in his private emails he was condescending and insulting, and made additional false accusations (would someone please point out the threat I am accused of making?). I had planned on leaving it at that, but I wanted to clarify for Amy's benefit that the questions were directed at dolphin and not Ridor. The rest simply flowed out of my frustration over the situation, and I decided that I would post it all as a way of dealing with that frustration and explaining dolphin's absence.

By the way, does anyone note the irony of dolphin stating that "it takes a small man to bash someone on a public website instead of taking his problems up with the individual involved in a polite and non-threatening or confrontational way"? What were most of his comments on that thread but bashing? For that matter, what would you call the item from his site which I objected to? For the record, I am following his precedent by making a conscious decision to neither link nor cite his blog -- I hope he has no objection.

While visiting the neo-con site (yes sometimes it's fun to see what they're up to), I came across this gem of a quote in the comments section and thought I'd share it here.

News Flash. Same sex marriage is not an invention of the gay community. -Deb S

Now she failed to mention WHO invented it, but if it was not gay individuals, the clear implication is that it was straight individuals who first decided they'd like to marry members of the same-sex. I think this is an example of "I just hate gay people so bad that I can't even handle the thought that THEY could want to get married so it must be a decision straight people made for them."

He bashed both Deb and I on his site (calling me a neo-con and not even having the integrity to identify me) on his public site, and tried to do it in a way that she would never know that she had been bashed -- and refused to allow me to respond on his site. So we can add "hypocrite" to the list of titles that he has earned here.

Dolphin says he isn't coming back here again, so I shouldn't respond to him. This isn't a response to him, but merely an explanation of his parting comment. If he does respond, I hope he does so in a "polite and non-threatening or confrontational way." After all, we wouldn't want him to act like a "small man" again.


But They Are Just Hard Workers Who Want Jobs

Like we don’t have to worry about enough with the regular border jumpers, now we have to look out for these guys.

Law enforcement authorities in Arizona were on alert yesterday for six convicts who escaped from a prison in Nogales, Mexico, and may have tried to cross the border.

Mexican officials notified U.S. law enforcement agencies after the men overpowered guards at the prison Friday night, U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Jose Garza said yesterday.

Garza and Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said that none of the six had been apprehended as of Monday. Estrada said he had been told that two of the inmates had planned to escape and four others "piggybacked" along.

Guns may have been smuggled in to the prisoners, and Mexican officials arrested some guards at the prison and were questioning them to determine possible involvement, he said.

After the men escaped, "They went on a rampage, robbed a bank, carjacked a couple of vehicles, all on the Mexican side, and apparently injured the husband" of an American consular official in Nogales, Mexico, Estrada said.

They are, of course, fine upstanding Mexican citizens who are just in search of work, whose crimes include robbery, assault, narcotics sale/trafficking and the murder of law enforcement officers. Maybe the Minutemen will spot them, since we've seen how well the Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies in the region do with handling border jumpers.


Ban The Sport, Not Good Sportsmanship

The traditional post-game handshake has been banned at high school girls soccer games in San Francisco. It seems that harsh words, insults and hard handslaps and even blows have been exchanged. So now the following rule has been put in place.

Not only that, but "all soccer players will be barred from saying a single word to their opponents, opposing coaches or officials upon the conclusion of every soccer game,'' Donald Collins, the school district's high school athletic commissioner, decreed in an e-mail to all coaches and referees Monday.

So instead of winners and losers exchanging friendly or even perfunctory high-fives, "all soccer players will immediately proceed to their respective sidelines upon the conclusion of every soccer game,'' Collins commanded.

This is precisely the wrong decision. This rule even punishes a student who thanks a referee or tells compliments an opposing player. If there is a problem, the offenders need to be disciplined, including suspensions or even bans. If it is so severe that displays of good sportsmanship need to be banned, then the teams need to be disbanded and the season cancelled. You don’t implement another zero tolerance rule that fails to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate conduct.


City Recalls Pledge-Sitter

The people of Estes Park, Colorado, have recalled a city councilman who refused to stand for or say the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of council meetings. The final vote tally was 905-603.

Habecker has been a trustee for 12 years, but the issue didn't arise until last year when the town board began reciting the Pledge before meetings. Habecker chose to sit out these sessions, calling the "under God" clause unconstitutional.

The recall election was original scheduled for Feb. 15, but Habecker went to court and had it blocked. Earlier this month, a federal judge lifted the injunction.

"I don't think it's a sad day for me," said Habecker after the votes were counted. "I stood ...or sat.for what I believed in and I still believe that way and the vote of the town of Estes Park isn't going to change my mind."

Habecker said he still plans to attend board meetings and express his opinions. He says he'll probably file a lawsuit over the outcome, claiming he's being denied his "political capacity" because of his religious beliefs.

"What it means is that the people have a voice in their government and that's what the state statute was set up for," said Richard Clark, the recall organizer.

Now I have to tell you that while I understand and agree with the ide of getting him off the council I find the whole situation unsettling. I don’t dispute that Habecker has every right to refuse to stand for or say the pledge. If this were a regularly scheduled election, I know I would vote against him if he disclosed his objection to standing for the pledge. But I don’t know that I would vote to recall him over this issue, preferring instead to wait for his term to end. The reason is simple – Habecker is already threatening to sue over the recall, and it is possible that some judge could find a religious freedom violation in the recall. Waiting for the term to end would eliminate that option, because there is no way that he could challenge a general election.


Double Standard

Chuck Colson offers this anecdote that raises the issue of a double standard regarding religious expression in the public square.

Ironically, while the Supreme Court was debating the role of religion in American public life and whether the monuments of the Ten Commandments could stand on public property, one group of Americans has settled the question for themselves. Medical students in Boca Raton, Florida, recently filled their classroom with the smell of incense and the sound of ancient chants. They lit candles and spoke about the body being the “temple of the soul.” And they did it all “on a state university campus, in facilities funded with . . . tax dollars.”

Did I mention that all this chanting and candle-lighting was in accordance with Buddhist ritual? You didn’t really think that it would be Christian, did you?
The rites followed the final exam in Gross Anatomy on the Florida Atlantic University campus. Students, led by a professor, used them to pay their respects to the four cadavers they had used in class. What the Palm Beach Post called a “solemn closing ritual” ended with the exhortation to “go out and make a new world.”

The obvious question here is: What if Christian, not Buddhist, rites had been used? As columnist Terry Mattingly asked, how would the university have reacted if “rose incense” and “Byzantine” or “Gregorian” chant had filled the air? What if students had been told to “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”?

Where are the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State? Why is a non-Christian religious activity, led by a professor, acceptable in a classroom at a state university if identical Christian activity is not?

Colson posits that it is because Christianity demands that society be confronted and changed. It demands that people make a choice to live morally and seek to improve the world. Buddhism, especially in America, makes no such demand. As such, the public expression of “diverse” Buddhism is acceptable, while the public practice if “intolerant” Christianity is not.


Supremes Likely To Slap Down Johhnie

Celebrity lawyer Johhnie Cockroach Cochran appears likely to lose a case before the Supreme Court involving an injunction ordering former client Ulysses Tory to stop picketing him and forbidding Tory (or people acting on his behalf) from even speaking publicly about Cochran.

The Supreme Court appeared roundly unsympathetic yesterday as a lawyer for Cochran tried to defend an injunction issued by a California judge against Ulysses Tory, a disgruntled former client who picketed outside Cochran's Los Angeles office with signs describing him as a liar, cheat and worse.

The injunction bars Tory, along with his agents and representatives, from picketing or even speaking about Cochran in any public forum, apparently forever. A California appeals court upheld the injunction and Tory, backed by numerous press and free-speech organizations, asked the Supreme Court to strike it down in Tory v. Cochran.

Cochran's lawyer, Jonathan Cole, portrayed the injunction as Cochran's only possible remedy for years of verbal abuse and attempted extortion by Tory. Suing Tory for defamation afterward would yield little in damages from Tory, who has few assets.

This injunction is very broad. No speech. Forever and ever. No matter what the context. As Justice Breyer noted, the injunction could be construed in such a way as to prohibit Tory’s attorney, Erwin Chemerinsky, from even mentioning Johnnie Cochran during the course of oral arguments.

The good news is that no justice seemed sympathetic towards Cochran’s position. In light of previous case law, it is almost unthinkable that the justices will uphold the injunction. But that a judge would ever consider such an expansive limitation on speech is pretty scary.


Too Bad It’s Not The End Of A Rope

I’m glad to hear his fight for freedom is nearing the end of the line. If you sell-out the US, you deserve no mercy. I don’t care how noble you allege your aims to be.

Jonathan Pollard is running out of options in his fight for freedom, with his lawyers telling The Jerusalem Post that their current appeal is essentially their last legal venue of challenging his life sentence.

Should the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reject the appeal – a likely event, if the court's chilly reception so far is any indication – Pollard's lawyers would probably petition the Supreme Court. But there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court would even agree to hear their case, much less overturn 20 years' worth of legal and governmental opposition to Pollard's release.

"Once we are out of the judicial system, our only remedy would be political relief in the form of a presidential pardon," said Jacques Semmelman, who is representing Pollard together with Eliot Lauer.

Semmelman and Lauer are trying to convince the court that Pollard's original defense counsel, Richard Hibey, was unacceptably ineffective. Hibey inexplicably failed to appeal the life sentence requested by the prosecution, and imposed by the court, despite the plea agreement that stipulated no life sentence be sought for Pollard.
Hibey and Joseph DiGenova, the lead prosecutor in the original case, refused requests to discuss the case.

And I’ll say it now – any president, Republican or Democrat, who pardons a spy deserves to be impeached.

UPDATE: Pollard's wife writes a vitriolic anti-American piece claiming anti-Semitism is behind her husband's treatment. Mrs. Pollard, who lives off a pension supplied to her by the Israeli government as payment for her husband's treason, insists that justice requires her husband's release.

Maybe I could go along with that.

Release Jonathan Pollard.

From the belly of a bomber flying over the Knesset at 30,000 feet.

I have no patience for those who support Americans who betray their country.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

When Will People Get This Straight?

One of the things that has long bothered me is the accusation made against George W. Bush that the number of executions in Texas during his time as governor reflected a lack of compassion. The charge is absurd, and based upon an incorrect assumption that the media is never willing to correct. The charge has shown up lately during discussion of the Schiavo case. Take this excerpt from a story I read today.

Death penalty opponents said Bush did not give the same presumption (in favor of live) to death row inmates in Texas, where he used his power to grant an execution stay only once while governor from 1995 to 2000.

In 2000, the state set a U.S. record with 40 executions, including that of Gary Graham, whose guilt was hotly contested and became an international controversy.

Yeah, they are right. Bush only used his power to grant clemency (not a stay, for he issued several, but actual clemency and commutation of the sentence) once during his time in office. That looks pretty damning, until you look at the Texas Constitution.

(a) The Legislature shall by law establish a Board of Pardons and Paroles and shall require it to keep record of its actions and the reasons for its actions. The Legislature shall have authority to enact parole laws and laws that require or permit courts to inform juries about the effect of good conduct time and eligibility for parole or mandatory supervision on the period of incarceration served by a defendant convicted of a criminal offense.
(b) In all criminal cases, except treason and impeachment, the Governor shall have power, after conviction, on the written signed recommendation and advice of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, or a majority thereof, to grant reprieves and commutations of punishment and pardons; and under such rules as the Legislature may prescribe, and upon the written recommendation and advice of a majority of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, he shall have the power to remit fines and forfeitures. The Governor shall have the power to grant one reprieve in any capital case for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days; and he shall have power to revoke conditional pardons. With the advice and consent of the Legislature, he may grant reprieves, commutations of punishment and pardons in cases of treason. (Texas Constitution, Article IV, Section 11)

Yeah, you read that right. As governor, George W. Bush could not do any thing about a death sentence without the prior consent of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, other than grant a single thirty-day stay of execution. In the Graham case, he lacked even the ability to do that much, vor his prececessor, Ann Richards, had previously granted one to Graham. Without support from the Board, Bush could do nothing. Any attempt to act would have been an impeachable offense under the Texas Constitution.

Now I realize that the Left never lets the facts get in the way of a good meme, but I would hope that honest and fair-minded people would see that the "blood-thirsty butcher Bush" accusation flies in the face of the facts of the matter.


Sex-Predator Border-Jumpers

And here we keep being assured that they just want to work. Apparently that isn't all they want.

Border Patrol agents have picked up three convicted sex offenders in the past few days in the Sasabe-Arivaca area, south of Tucson.

All three are Mexican nationals and are in federal custody on a felony charge of re-entry of an aggravated felon.

Few details on the arrests and the men's convictions were available, but a Border Patrol news release said:

Two of the men, both from Michoacan state, were picked up Friday in a group of 35 illegal immigrants.

After detaining the group, agents learned one of the 35, Jose Ramos Salmeron, age unavailable, had been convicted in 2001 in Texas of aggravated sexual assault and indecency with a child and deported to Mexico after his prison term.

Also in the group, agents found Carlos Avila-Gonzalez, who had been convicted of assault to commit rape in California in 1996. He was sentenced to four years in prison and deported in 1999.

The other man, Nicolas Jacinto-Huerta of Oaxaca state, was in a group of 57 illegal immigrants stopped Wednesday two miles east of Sasabe.

None of their ages was available last night.

Agents learned Jacinto-Huerta had been deported from the United States in 2003 after a 2002 conviction for having sex with a minor.

Since October 1, 2004, Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector have arrested 166 illegal immigrants with convictions for sexual offenses.

So, in case you missed that number, that is 166 sex-criminals crossing the border in one region in the last six months. That translates to over 300 a year. And if you include all the other regions...

So is it any wonder that those who live along the border are frightened of the flow of border-jumpers across the border and through their property and communities? Is it any wonder that some of them seek to assist the Border patrol, and some have even tried to make citizen's arrests when they catch border-jumpers in the act?

Vincente Fox, el Pendejo el Presidente de Mexico, insists that action be taken to stop Americans from defending themselves from the torrent of immigration criminals. Why doesn't he do something to help them -- perhaps starting by putting some of these rapists and child molesters up in the Presidential Palace and in the homes of his relatives.


IRS Investigates Church That Hosted Kerry

The IRS is investigating Friendship Missionary Baptist Church for its political involvement in hosting a visit by John Kerry last year that took on the trappings of a political rally rather than a church service – and included words from the pastor that seemed to constitute an endorsement.

The IRS has notified a Liberty City church that it is under investigation for possibly engaging in political activity -- putting its tax-exempt status into question.

The probe is related to an appearance last October by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and several black leaders, including U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The reason for the investigation, an IRS official wrote in a 10-page letter obtained by The Herald, is that ``a reasonable belief exists that Friendship Missionary Baptist Church has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status as a church.''

Rev. Gaston Smith took a break from the revelry and worship of Palm Sunday services to inform the congregation about the inquiry. He said visits by political candidates are nothing new, and that the 75-year-old church did not violate U.S. tax code, as suggested in the letter. He has hired former U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis to defend the church in the inquiry.

''This is not about politics. It's about principles,'' Smith said. Silence fell over the congregation as he spoke.

The inquiry raises serious questions about whether the predominantly black church can keep its tax-exempt status. If it fails, members and contributors could not deduct tithes and other gifts, upon which churches heavily rely to operate.

Some have raised issues of racism about the investigation, which appears to also encompass other Florida churches that hosted Kerry in the run-up to the presidential election. There have been accusations that the investigation is politically motivated. Others insist that the service was business as usual for the church, and that they did nothing wrong. But was it? You can decide whether the line was crossed for yourself by looking at this CBS/AP article on the visit.

The Democratic presidential nominee attended two church services Sunday, instead of his usual one, worshipping first with Haitian Catholics and then with black Baptists, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton tied his election to the civil rights struggle.

"We have an unfinished march in this nation," Kerry said at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, as many congregants waved fans handed out by the campaign with his slogan, "Hope is on the way."

"Never again will a million African Americans be denied the right to exercise their vote in the United States of America," Kerry promised, referring to the disputed Florida recount in the 2000 presidential race. As he often does before black audiences, Kerry said he has a legal team that will aggressively respond to any allegations of disenfranchisement.

Black turnout is key to Kerry's plan for victory in Florida and elsewhere - less than 10 percent of black voters nationally supported George W. Bush in 2000. But Kerry's campaign says there have been efforts to turn religious blacks against him based on his support for abortion rights and civil unions for same-sex couples.

Jackson told worshippers their political concerns are issues that touch their everyday lives, not gay marriage.

"I see disturbing signs today that some of our churches have been confused by wolves in sheep's' clothing," Jackson said. "How did someone else put their agenda in the front of the line?"

"November 2, the power is in your hands, hands that once picked cotton," Jackson said.

Added Sharpton: "Everything we have fought for, marched for, gone to jail for — some died for — could be reversed if the wrong people are put on the Supreme Court."

Speakers avoided criticizing President George W. Bush by name, since they were in church, but he was indirectly vilified.

Former Congresswoman Carrie Meek said Kerry is "fighting against liars and demons. ... He challenges the man who walks with a jaunty step." She rocked her hips in an imitation of Bush's swagger as the congregation cheered and Kerry laughed from his high-backed seat behind the pulpit.

And lest one think that this is a bit of political payback from the administration, consider this October press release from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State -- not a Bush friendly organization by any stretch of the imagination.

A Miami church that hosted a rally on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry Oct. 10 should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United today asked the IRS to investigate the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, which hosted a Sunday service that became a rally featuring speeches by Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton and other prominent Democrats.

During the service, the church's pastor, the Rev. Gaston E. Smith, introduced Kerry as "the next president of the United States" and told the crowd, "To bring our country out of despair, despondency and disgust, God has a John Kerry."

Sharpton also praised Kerry and attacked President George W. Bush. He criticized the Florida recount of 2000, promising that voters in the state would deliver a "big payback" to the president on Nov. 2.

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said the church-based partisan rally seems to be a clear violation of federal tax law that bars houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups from intervening in political campaigns.

"Federal tax law is clear on this matter," Lynn said. "Houses of worship may not endorse candidates for public office, and they certainly may not host huge partisan rallies. This was way over the top."

Concluded Lynn, "I urge the IRS to investigate this church's activities. Americans need to know that federal law will be enforced."

So it isn’t a bunch of conservatives raising an issue, it is coming from a group that is generally pretty liberal and aligned with the Democrats. You would be hard-pressed to make the argument that this is a case of political payback. If the media reports are correct, it seems pretty clear that the church crossed over the line and engaged in explicit partisan activity at this event. Perhaps they need to lose their tax exemption. Certainly the strict separationists think so.


Board Let’s Public Speak After All

It seems that the Hampshire County Board of Education is willing to let the public speak about district employees after all. Following discussions with the state ethics commission, the board decided to unmuzzle the public, provided that the comments did not become “defamatory or slanderous,” as determined by the board president.

Wanda Carney of the education-watchdog group West Virginia Wants to Know urged Hampshire residents to keep attending meetings and demanding action on the man at the center of a scandal that has embarrassed the community.

"You pay Mr. Mezzatesta's salary. You pay Mr. Friend's salary. You have a right to ask these elected officials to fire these two men," said Carney, a Kanawha County resident whose group filed the first ethics complaint against Mezzatesta.

Mezzatesta pleaded no contest in Kanawha County Magistrate Court in December to altering and destroying legislative computer records amid the ethics probe. He is under investigation by a special prosecutor in Hampshire County concerning whether an affidavit that he gave to the Ethics Commission last year was false.

Mezzatesta has declined to discuss his job status and took his family on a vacation out of state this week.

A recent audit by the state Office of Education Performance Audits was highly critical of the county's hiring procedures. The audit prompted the state Board of Education to strip Hampshire of its accreditation and declare a state of emergency.

Carney said she believes the local board will never act against Mezzatesta but the state will take over the troubled district in April, "and they will do this task for you."

Sounds like there is a lot more at work in this than a fundamental disrespect for the rights of citizens. Hopefully the situation will get cleaned up sufficiently to let the district return to a focus on its primary task – the education of its students.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Do Teachers Get To Decide On The Education Of Their Children?

Yes, folks, that is the question that is to be decided by a jury in Texas. One would have hoped that no one would have even needed to ask that question, but apparently that was not the case in at least one Texas school district. The case involves a teacher, Karen Jo Barrow, passed over for promotion by Greenville Independent School District in favor of a less qualified candidate because of her decision to send her children to a local Christian school.

Barrow, who has had her principal's certificate for ten years and has taught for 15, alleges she was told by Superintendent Herman Smith that she had no future in the school district unless she removed her children from Christian school. But when she explained her religious objections to removing her children from the educational setting she had chosen for them, the teacher was denied the position and removed from the list of candidates. Instead the middle school principalship was given to an applicant who had not been recommended and who had not even completed the certification process.

Frankly, that is an outrageous abuse of power. There are a variety of reasons that one may choose a private school education for one's child. In her case, she felt that the best choice for her children was one that provided both secular and religious education. That is not an unreasonable choice. Using that decision as the basis for denying career advancement is nothing short of religious discrimination. Passing her over for a less experienced, less qualified candidate only highlights the fact that this was not a judgment call about qualifications. Barrow's response was to seek legal counsel, and a suit was filed on her behalf by the Liberty Legal Institute.

What I find even more shocking are the arguments made by the attorneys for the school district. It has been settled law for eighty years that the state may not compel parents to select a public rather than a private education. Unless employment by a school district results in the loss of basic citizenship rights, the school really lacks any firm basis for its actions.

Attorneys for the Greenville School District have attempted to justify Smith's actions by arguing that superintendents are under a great deal of pressure due to competition from charter and Christian schools. However, LLI is arguing that Barrow and other Christian parents have the right to choose religious education for their children without government retribution.

Smith also attempted to claim qualified immunity in the matter, initially arguing that Ms. Barrow's right to select private school education for her children was not clearly established at the time he refused to consider her application for the principal's position. The U.S. District Court in Dallas had ruled against the teacher, declaring that a parent's right to choose private education is not a fundamental right. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed that ruling with a 3-0 decision in favor of Barrow and LLI.

Superintendent Smith must have slept through his class dealing with school law on the evening that they dealt with the seminal case on the issue of parental choice in education, Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 US 510 (1925)) Without going into the entire background of the case, it dealt with the state of Oregon attempting to create an educational monopoly that made it illegal to send a child to other than a public school. The Supreme Court struck down that law with a ringing endorsement parental rights to oversee and direct the education of their children.

"The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."

For the lawyers for Greenville ISD to make the claim that the law was not settled on the matter of Barrow's right to choose a religious education for her children is therefore absurd. She had every right to send her child to the school of her choice, and the attempt by the district to interfere with that choice by making negative decisions in the matter of employment or promotion is a clear violation of that right. When one couples the violation of that right with the religious basis of that decision, it is clear that this right is a fundamental one.

Interestingly enough, the school district seems to have already changed the policy at issue in this case. A quick look at the district website shows that the principal of Greenville High School is. . . Karen Jo Barrow.


Putting Clouds Into Sunshine Laws

Virtually every state has some form of "Sunshine Law", designed to ensure public access to government meetings and government access. After all, in a representative democracy like ours, the people have to know what's going on, right?

Well, that isn't the position held by some folks down in North Carolina. They want local government and state agencies authorized to sue individuals who file open records requests, so as to block their access to meetings and documents.

Lawyers for local governments and the University of North Carolina are talking about pursuing a measure to allow pre-emptive lawsuits against citizens, news organizations and private companies to clarify the law when there is a dispute about providing records or opening meetings.

On another front, the city of Burlington is appealing a ruling last year by the state Court of Appeals that said the government can't take people to court to try to block their access to records or meetings.

Citizens can sue the government over records, the appeals court said, but not the reverse. The state Supreme Court takes up that case next month and is expected to settle the issue.

North Carolina's League of Municipalities supports Burlington.

"It makes sense to ask a court what the law is when there's a dispute about the Open Meetings Law, just like when there's a dispute about anything else," said Ellis Hankins, the league's executive director.

"We need to have open government," he said. "But governments need to operate. And there are unanswered legal questions."

The cities say they want to use an ordinary tool often deployed in other kinds of legal disputes, called a "declaratory judgment," to let judges settle disagreements about public access to records or meetings.

The problem is that this will make it less likely that the people will attempt to find out about their own government. After all, are you going to go down to the courthouse and request public records if that request could result in the need to hire a lawyer to defend yourself from the very government that the law supposedly requires give you access?

This is a bad idea. Let's hoe the North Carolina Supreme Court and the legislature slap the notion down.


Idle Rich Vote Democrat

We know that the poor and those surviving on entitlement program benefits are likely to vote Democrat. But so are non-productive Americans at the other end of the spectrum – those who live of trust fund money and inherited wealth that makes it possible for them to live a life of luxury without lifting a finger to work, according to Michael Barone.

Who are the trustfunders? People with enough money not to have to work for a living, or not to have to work very hard. People who can live more or less wherever they want. The "nomadic affluent," as demographic analyst Joel Kotkin calls them.

These people tend to be very liberal politically. Aware that they have done nothing to earn their money, they feel a certain sense of guilt. At the elite private or public high schools they attend, and even more at their colleges and universities, they are propagandized about the evils of capitalism and globalization, and the virtues of environmentalism and pacifism. Patriotism is equated with Hiterlism.

Their loyalties, as Samuel Huntington explains in "Who Are We?," are not national, but transnational -- they are citizens of the world with contempt for those who feel chills up their spines when they hear "The Star Spangled Banner." They are taught to have contempt for the economic contribution they make to their country as investors and to feel guilty if they make no other contribution. Their penance is that they must vote left.

Barone goes on to point to a number of electoral results in the 2004 race that highlight how trustfunders voted differently from their productive, working neighbors. Barone sums it up thus.

The good news for Democrats is that they have found a new source of votes and money. The bad news is that an important part of their core constituency has the characteristic that the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin ascribed to the press, "power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages."

Maybe we need a special “trustfunder tax.” And after all, how could they, or the party they support, object to making the spoiled super-rich “pay their fair share.” Messrs. Kennedy, Kohl, and Dayton, get your checkbooks ready.


Bishops To Campaign Against Death Penalty

One of the issues raised during the 2004 presidential race was John Kerry’s support for legal abortion in the face of unwavering Catholic opposition to the taking of unborn life. One criticism made by Kerry supporters was that they did not apply the same standard to President Bush on the death penalty. Well, now the bishops are going to take a much more active stand on the death penalty.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, who played a leading role in developing the new campaign, said the bishops sense that public opinion is shifting against capital punishment, partly because genetic testing has proved that scores of death-row inmates were wrongfully convicted.

"I think the DNA evidence has really shaken up people," McCarrick said. "I think this is a moment, a very special moment, where we can talk about this and people are ready to listen."

The campaign will be formally announced today in Washington and then will move to the state and local level, using all the tools of persuasion at the church's disposal, said John Carr, a staff member of the bishops' conference who will play a coordinating role.

"We'll be filing briefs in court cases, talking with the people who publish textbooks in Catholic schools, using church bulletins, encouraging homilies and addressing legislation through state Catholic conferences," he said. "The death penalty will end in this country in several ways -- legislation, judges' decisions and decisions by individual prosecutors and jurors -- and we'll be seeking all of those."

There will be opposition to this from different quarters. Evangelicals tend to support the death penalty, as do many conservative Catholics. Even many of those in the prolife movement who oppose the death penalty consider it to be an issue that needs to take a backseat to the protection of innocent life.

Oh, and one more minor detail for those who chastised the bishops for not attacking Bush on the death penalty.

McCarrick, like Hahn, noted that Article 2267 of the Catholic catechism, an authoritative compendium of church teaching, says the church "does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives" against a criminal. But the catechism also quotes John Paul II as saying that today, cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Because of the nuance in the church's teaching, McCarrick said, the bishops will not argue that capital punishment is inherently immoral. "Our job is to try to persuade our Catholic people and everybody of good will that the death penalty in America at this time is not necessary, it's not useful and it's not good," he said.

In other words, the teaching on the death penalty is not of a kind with that on abortion, and people of good faith can differ on whether or not it is justified today in America without going against the teaching of the Church. In short, disagreement with the bishops on this point cannot be seen as morally equivalent to support for abortion.


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