Precinct 333

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Anti-JPII Bias At New York Times

Hindrocket over at Power Line found this unbelievable bias from the friendly folks at the New York Times.

It seems that they had a very critical obituary chock-full of quotes from critics and opponents ready to run when Pope John Paul II died this afternoon -- but somehow hadn't gotten around to finding anyone with something good to say about one of the most beloved figures on the planet. Compare the screenshot of the original version with the current version of the same story. Notice the line that appears right before they bring in a theologian so heretical that he had his teaching credentials yanked by the Vatican!

Even as his own voice faded away, his views on the sanctity of all human life echoed unambiguously among Catholics and Christian evangelicals in the United States on issues from abortion to the end of life.

need some quote from supporter

John Paul II's admirers were as passionate as his detractors, for whom his long illness served as a symbol for what they said was a decrepit, tradition-bound papacy in need of rejuvenation and a bolder connection with modern life.

"The situation in the Catholic church is serious," Hans Kung, the eminent Swiss theologian, who was barred by from teaching in Catholic schools because of his liberal views, wrote last week. "The pope is gravely ill and deserves every compassion. But the Church has to live. ...

In my opinion, he is not the greatest pope but the most contradictory of the 20th century. A pope of many, great gifts, and of many bad decisions!"

I have to say it -- this is absolutely beyond belief, even for a once-great newspaper turned third-rate birdcage-liner like the New York Times.

(Hat Tip -- Michelle Malkin)


Sede Vacante -- RIP Pope John Paul II

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

Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, has died at 84, the Vatican announced in an e-mail Saturday.

"The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment. All the procedures outlined in the apostolic Constitution `Universi Dominici Gregis' that was written by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been put in motion."


Papabile -- Possible Popes

UPDATE -- April 9, 2005: After reading this post, consider going to my new post on the conclave, Thoughts On The Papal Election of 2005. It looks at the upcoming conclave in light of events of the last week, and considers the chances of some of "possible popes" mentioned below, along with some additional candidates who have emerged since the death of John Paul II.

* * * *

In theory, the next Pope can be any baptized Catholic male. That leaves a lot of possible candidates out there. But the likelihood of us seeing the election of Ted Kennedy, Feddie from Southern Appeal, or one of my old seminary classmates is pretty remote. It has been centuries since someone NOT a member of the College of Cardinals was elevated to the Throne of St. Peter. That narrows the field significantly, to fewer than 200 "princes of the Church. When we exclude non-voting members of the College (over age 80) as likely too old to be elected, that leaves us with 117 (of the maximum 120 allowed by Church law) Cardinal Electors. In 2003, the Pope did create one Cardinal "in pectorre", meaning the name has been kept secret. It is believed that the secret Cardinal is one of the bishops of the Catholic Church loyal to the Vatican which has been oppressed in the People's Republic of China. The Vatican could quickly announce his name and have him participate in the conclave IF he can be safely gotten out of China and if he is under 80.

Different names are already circulating as papabile -- "possible popes" -- as we head towards a likely conclave in the month of April. I've written on this before (and got 300 hits on this earlier post just yesterday, since I am #3 on Google's search on the subject), but I think it is time to look at the topic again, as a conclave seems much closer than it did in February.

Generally speaking, church observers group the 117 cardinals eligible to elect the next pope into four overlapping constituencies:

There are those, likely a majority, who decidedly don't want the next papacy to last as long as John Paul's, who was elected Pope in 1978 at age 58.

They will favour an older man, maybe a caretaker pope, to nanny the church as it adapts to a new era without John Paul's fist on the tiller, but who will not stay in the job too long.

There are cardinals who will want a pope from the global South, where nearly 70 per cent of the world's Catholics now live.

Opposing them will be cardinals who think one of John Paul's great failures was his inability to address European secularism, and who, therefore, feel the next pope should be a Western European.

And there will be cardinals who, despite sharing John Paul's conservative theology — which virtually all of them do — have chafed under his centralized iron authority and will want the next pope to be more collegial, which is Catholic code language for allowing national churches and bishops to be more in charge of their own show.
What names are being tossed around as serious papabile? Well, here are a number I have encountered.

  • Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 71, of Milan, a conservative moral theologian who has tolerated the relaxing of the strict interpretation of the Church's teaching on condom use when Catholic groups distributed condoms to prostitutes for protection from HIV/AIDS. He is also a strong supporter of Opus Dei.
  • Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia, 75, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. An ideal candidate if the Cardinals are looking for a candidate from outside of Europe.
  • Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany, 72, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
  • Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, age 77, a German who has served as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for most of the current pontificate. He is doctrinally conservative and is a lightning-rod for criticism among Church liberals. At the same time, he is personally popular, an intellectual giant, and a man who, like the current pope, is a believer in ecumenical work and is also not afraid to defend the teachings of the Church when they are called into question. He is dean of the College of Cardinals.
  • Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 77, an Italian, the Vatican Secretary of State and vice-dean of the College of Cardinals. He is one of those closest to the current pope, and has the advantage over Ratzinger of being an Italian. There are about 20 Italians who will be voting in the conclave if it comes now.
  • Cardinal Claudio Hummes, 70, Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is a likely candidate if those who believe a candidate from the Southern Hemisphere should be elected, especially if the desire is for a pastoral rather than a curial candidate.
  • Cardinal Francis Arinze, 72, of Nigeria. He is currently Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, he is seen as one of the bright stars of the Curia. Cardinal Arinze is frequently mentioned as a candidate for the papacy, and would be the first African pope in some 1500 years. He would also, as best can be determined, be the first black pope.
  • Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, retired Archibishop of Paris. A Jew by birth, he grew up a yellow-star wearing boy named Aaron and lost his mother in Auschwitz. he is actively involved in inter-religious dialogue.
  • Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria. He is probably a bit young to be elected this conclave, as he would likely serve for a period of time similar to the John Paul II, who was elected at 58. On the other hand, he is theologically close to the current pontiff, and has a similar warm pastoral style. If the decision is for another non-Italian Western European, this would likely be the man. Another plus is that he took over in Vienna following a sexual abuse scandal forced out his predecessor and Schönborn dealt with the situation very effectively. Such a background would,sad to say, be useful given the scandals of recent years. If an older pope is elected, expect Schönborn to be seen as a leading candidate in the next conclave.
  • Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, 62, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He is not as hard-line as the current pope in many areas, but is widely respected among the latin American Cardinals. He is often mentioned as papabile.
  • Cardinal Ivan Dias, 68, Archbishop of Mumbai(Bombay), India. He is a native of india, a former member of the diplomatic corps, and is fluent in many languages. Dias followed the path common for such previous popes as Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI. He would be the first Asian pope, and is considered to be a dark-horse among possible candidates.
One thing to note is that each of them (except Schönborn & Rodríguez Maradiaga) is an older man, indicating that we are likely to see a "caretaker pope" who will likely give the Church a little breathing room after the third longest papacy in history, one defined by arguably the strongest papal personality in a century. Such popes are not generally expected to do much, but can be surprising. The last "caretaker" was Pope John XXIII, who was expected to do little more than correct Pius XII's failure to appoint Milan's Archbishop Montini to the College. Instead he issued the call for the Second Vatican Council, changing the Catholic Church forever.

Ultimately, we don't know who the next pope will be, or where he is from. That is up to the Holy Spirit, acting through the Cardinal Electors in the conclave.


Here is an Australian article that matches up well with much of my list, though with some differences.

This ABC News article is also sort of interesting.

The Houston Chronicle carried this article from Reuters giving a list with biographies. There are some significant additions and subtractions from my list.

In addition, I've got one Czech reader pushing his personal favorite, along with a list of other candidates.


Seattle Secretly Selling Sick Brains From Morgue

This sounds almost like a sick joke -- but it isn't.

Imagine the moment of deepest loss. Your spouse, parent, sibling or child is dead. You've lived for with the difficulties that came with this loved one's mental illness. You've hoped and prayed for a cure of some kind for the disease from which they suffered for years. And now someone from the lab asks for tissue samples from their brain and other organs for research purposes. It would be hard to say no. And that's what they counted on -- that, and the probability that you would ask no further questions.

Folks on Vashon Island called him "Cool Gary," a local schizophrenic who loved hitchhiking and playing practical jokes.

When Gary died jumping into traffic in November 1998, his body wound up at the King County Morgue.

Less than 72 hours later, Gary's brain was removed and mailed to Bethesda, Md. It became property of The Stanley Medical Research Institute, a multimillion-dollar company that studies mental disorders.

"I can't believe what is happening here," said Bill Lynn, Gary's father.

Bill Lynn says he's never heard of Stanley. He at first thought KIRO Team 7 Investigators were kidding when we showed him proof that King County profited from harvesting his son's brain.

"You're crazy! I didn't raise my kids to sell 'em. This is unreasonable. Why would I agree with any hospital or anybody to receive any money for any body parts? No way! I'm just not built that way," Lynn said.

So what about this written "consent form" provided to KIRO Team 7 Investigators by King County as proof that Bill authorized the brain donation?

"Something is rotten in Denmark, that's for sure. No, I never, I didn't sign anything. That's not my writing here," Lynn said.

Here's what Lynn says did happen: The Medical Examiner's office called on the phone, asking for a "skin and brain tissue donation."

"They didn't tell me they were going to sell it. I'd have said 'no' right off the bat," said Lynn.

I could imagine an honest conversation about what was going on. Tell me what you think.

"Hi, This is Bob from over at the county morgue. I'm mighty sorry your son died. Would you be willing to give us your son't brain so we can sell it to a company? No sir, you and your family won't get a share of the profits. It'll all go into the office budget so we can buy copier supplies and some new equipment."

Who wouldn't have said no? I mean, what person in their right mind (forgive the phrase) would take that deal? The entire notion is obscene. And while I was a bit flip about what the money was being spent on (it isn't clear where the money went, exactly), I think the point is pretty clear.

Lynn's story is a familiar one. KIRO Team 7 Investigators contacted a half dozen families, which we confirmed had donated brains via King County. None knew of Stanley. None knew of money changing hands.

"It was my feeling that they were maybe going to run some tests on his brain tissue," said Vicki Hendricks.

Hendricks's son Jim died suddenly at 36 years old. She gave permission for King County to take brain "samples" thinking they needed them to determine cause of death. Jim's whole brain instead ended up at Stanley Medical.

"Those are public servants, people we rely on to be there for us, and if you can't feel comfortable with them, then it's kind of scary," Hendricks said.

What are teh ethics of such a program. KIRO-TV, which did the investigation, asked medical ethicist Dr. Elliot Stern about that.

Contracts vary a little each year, but the one in 2003 said "the KCME will try to collect a minimum of 50 specimens." For those efforts, Stanley sent big monthly checks to the medical examiner's office -- far exceeding the true costs of removing and shipping brains.

"That's a huge breach of public trust," said Dr. Elliot Stern.

Stern is a recognized expert in donation ethics. He says King County has big trouble ahead. If next-of-kin are not fully informed, courts consider that no consent at all.

"I would not have made a donation," Dr. Stern said. "I don't know a reasonable person who would have made a donation knowing money was going to change hands and enter county coffers in excess of harvesting costs."

So yeah, there is a big problem there. The consent gien probably is not legally valid due to the details left out.

When there was consent at all.

Records indicate more brains shipped than there were consent forms.

This could get really ugly.


Friday, April 01, 2005

One Cool Site

I hadn't realized that there was someone doing this, but there is a site called "The Pope Blog".

They have, since last summer, been posting papal news.

I highly recommend it as a good source for reasonably up to date material.


Religious Speech Less Free Than The Rest At Air Force Academy

I agree with and applaud efforts by officials at the Air Force Academy to prevent religious harrassment. But I am a bit uncomfortable with one aspect of the training program, called Respecting the Spiritual Values of All People, or RSVP.

RSVP begins first with educating faculty and staff on Air Force policy and directives that proselytizing and religious jokes and slurs are forbidden.

"Once we've gotten that across ... then we can say, 'Now, let's dialogue,"' said Col. Michael Whittington, senior chaplain at the academy. "Let's have this very healthy discussion, even argue - that's OK. Let's go ahead and find out: 'How can we show respect without believing that somehow I'm condoning what you believe?"'

The problem is the relegation of religious speech to a second-class status. A prohibition on all proselytizing speech? It seems to me that by placing such a restriction, you violate the very respect for religious beliefs that the program is about preserving. What the ban says is that such speech (and, implicitly, the belief system associated with it) is not respected, and is in fact officially disapproved. That strikes me as a rather extreme restriction on the civil liberties of individuals training to protect our civil liberties.

Now I recognize that good order and discipline may require restrictions on the exercise of those civil liberties, but this one goes too far. Does the good of the service really require the restriction of freedom of speech and freedom of religion to such a degree?


Dumb Comment Du Jour

I don't generally cover affirmative action bake sales any longer. While i think they are a great tool for making a point, the mere fact that one is controversial is not a big deal to me. One has to get shut down to really get my attention.

Or someone has to do/say something really stupid. Like this guy as Arizona State University.

Several students took on the [College Republicans] Tuesday. Many of them approached the booth screaming and accusing the club of being racist.

"They're [the club] trying to say affirmative action is based on race, but it's not," said Juan Fortenberry, a kinesiology freshman.

Uh, Juan, can we talk? Affirmative action is exclusively based upon race and ethnicity. It is the giving of preferences, based upon race and ethnicity, to applicants who would not otherwise be considered for employment or admission. Even if we reverted back to its benign form, as opposed to today's malignant version, it would still be about taking steps to include candidates in the hiring/admissions pool based upon race and ethnicity. What did you think it was, dude?

My guess is that Juan is a beneficiary of the program at ASU.


John Paul II – We Love You!

I remember chanting that line when the Holy Father was in Denver in 1993, along with a crowd of other young people as we welcomed him to various World Youth Day events. I remember that at the end of the final Mass, The crowd began the chant one final time and that before he left, the Pope responded -- "John Paul II loves you, too."

Though I have since struggled with the Church and would definitely qualify as a lapsed Catholic (though still a believer in Christ), that does not in the least reduce my love and respect for that man.

I know he will be leaving us soon.

Here’s a quote that set me to weeping.

"This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope," Angelo Comastri, the pope's vicar general for Vatican City, told the crowd.

And all I can respond with is this – Around the world, Your Holiness, there are hundreds of millions whose hearts echo that chant from Denver.


When Do They Begin The Assassinations?

We conservatives have spent years dealing with the Left attempting to shout-down and silence our voices. We have found it necessary to put up with thugs stealing newspapers and prevent speeches. In recent weeks, the Left has been busy engaging in assaults upon conservative speakers. In the last couple of days, both William Kristol and Pat Buchanan have been assaulted by food-wielding terrorists. Kristol gamely continued with his speech after being pied, but Buchanan was forced to stop his talk after having a bottle of salad dressing dumped over his head.

"Stop the bigotry!" the demonstrator shouted as he hurled the liquid Thursday night during the program at Western Michigan University. The incident came just two days after another noted conservative, William Kristol, was struck by a pie during an appearance at a college in Indiana.

After he was hit, Buchanan cut short his question-and-answer session with the audience, saying, "Thank you all for coming, but I'm going to have to get my hair washed."

The demonstrator, identified by authorities as a 24-year-old student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, was arrested and faces a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace. He was released on a $100 cash bond, pending his April 14 arraignment.
"He could have faced a felony assault charge, but Pat Buchanan decided to not press that charge," university spokesman Matt Kurz said.

Frankly, Pat was wrong – he should have insisted upon the felony assault charge. His failure to do so lowers the stakes for such attempts to silence the Right on Campus.

Kristol’s attacker faces even less sever punishment.

Kristol, editor of the influential conservative magazine The Weekly Standard and former chief of staff to Vice President Quayle, was splattered by a student during a speech Tuesday at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.

Members of the audience at the Quaker college jeered the student, then applauded as Kristol wiped the pie from his face and said, "Just let me finish this point." Kristol then completed his speech and took questions from the audience.

The student, who was not immediately identified, was suspended and could face expulsion following a disciplinary review, Earlham Provost Len Clark said Wednesday.
Clark also issued a written apology complimenting Kristol for his "graciousness.".

What next? Will we see these folks using guns to shut up unwelcome viewpoints? Will conservative speakers be banned on campus because of the real threat of bloodshed, caused by those whose political philosophy is so bankrupt that they must engage in violence to suppress the other side? These attacks that so many folks laugh at are nothing short of civil rights violations – an interference with the rights guaranteed these speakers under the First Amendment.

Oh, and one other thing. I noted this paragraph in the middle of the article.

Buchanan's visit had evoked controversy on campus because it fell on the birthday of the late Mexican-American labor leader Cesar Chavez. Buchanan favors tighter controls on immigration.

I don’t see why the fact that it was his birthday should have been the source of any controversy at all. Chavez opposed illegal immigration because it suppressed the wages of farmworkers who had to compete with the cheaper pay given to illegals. He urged his union’s (mostly Hispanic) membership to report border jumpers. He even staged rallies outside of INS offices to protest the failure of the government to secure the borders. What’s more, the UFW even set up a border operation, the Wet Line, to stop illegals from entering the country (shades of the Minuteman Project). If anything, Buchanan and Chavez would agree today on the need to do something about the sieve that is the US-Mexico border.


End Daylight Savings Time

I’ve never liked Daylight Savings Time. It is an annoyance to me as someone whose workday starts before 7:00 AM. I already have to drive to work in darkness much of the year, and the change in time forces me back into darkness. My students, finally arriving to school in daylight, are also required to travel to school in darkness, to the detriment of their safety. And as an additional hardship, the time change will cause me to once more lose the signal of my favorite talk radio station, with its lower signal strength between dusk and dawn.

John Miller writes about the problems presents a number of excellent reasons for doing away with DST in an article in National Review.

I recently wondered exactly why we observe Daylight Saving Time (DST). For some reason, I had harbored a vague notion that it had to do with farmers.
Well, it turns out that DST had nothing to do with farmers, who traditionally haven't cared much for it. They care a lot less nowadays, but when the first DST law was making its way through Congress, farmers actually lobbied against it. Dairy farmers were especially upset because their cows refused to accept humanity's tinkering with the hands of time. The obstinate cud-chewers wanted to be milked every twelve hours, and had absolutely no interest in resetting their biological clocks — even if the local creameries suddenly wanted their milk an hour earlier.
As Michael Downing points out in his new book, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time, urban businessmen were a major force behind the adoption of DST in the United States. They thought daylight would encourage workers to go shopping on their way home. They also tried to make a case for agriculture, though they didn't bother to consult any actual farmers. One pamphlet argued that DST would benefit the men and women who worked the land because "most farm products are better when gathered with dew on. They are firmer, crisper, than if the sun has dried the dew off." At least that was the claim of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, chaired by department-store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. This was utter nonsense. A lot of crops couldn't be harvested until the morning dew had evaporated. What's more, morning dew has no effect whatsoever on firmness or crispness.

Perhaps farmers should take one for the team — i.e., put up with DST even though they don't like it because it keeps city cash registers chinging into the twilight. Yet the contention that DST is good for business is doubtful. It may help some businesses, but it also stands to reason that other ones suffer. If people are more likely to browse the racks at Filene's Basement in the daylight, then they're probably also less likely to go to the movies or take-out restaurants. And in the morning, when it's darker during rush hour, commuters are perhaps disinclined to stop at the corner store for a newspaper or the coffee bar for a latte. Although it's impossible to know the precise economic effects of DST, any attempt to calculate them carries the malodorous whiff of industrial policy.

We're also informed that DST helps conserve energy, apparently because people arriving home when the sun is still up don't switch on their lights. Didn't it occur to anybody that maybe they compensate by switching them on earlier in the morning? Moreover, people who arrive home from work an hour earlier during the hot summer months are probably more prone to turning up their air conditioners. According to Downing, the petroleum industry once was "an ardent and generous supporter" of DST because it believed people would hop in their cars and drive for pleasure — and guzzle more gas.

But the very worst thing about DST is that it's bad for your health. According to Stanley Coren, a sleep expert at the University of British Columbia, the number of traffic accidents and fatal industrial mishaps increase on the Monday after we spring forward. (Check out one of his studies here.) The reason, presumably, is because losing even a single hour of sleep over the weekend makes a lot of people a bit drowsier on what we might usefully call Black Monday. Unfortunately, there's no compensating effect of a super-safe Monday as we go off DST and "fall back" in the autumn.

So DST is deadly. But maybe we should keep that troubling little fact to ourselves, before Congress decides to impose the National Bedtime Hour.

Let’s just let time be time. There are some natural phenomenon that Government cannot and should not tamper with. And if it can muck around with time, should we be surprised if some year or other they attempt to amend or repeal the Law of Gravity?


Insipid Silliness And Mean-Spiritedness

I just don’t understand how A led to B.

Janeal Lee, 30, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a scooter, was disqualified after she was shown in a picture in a newspaper standing up with her high school math students.

She says she has been made to feel like she's "not disabled enough" to represent disabled people in Wisconsin.

Lee had planned to go to the national pageant with her younger sister, who also has muscular dystrophy and won the competition in Minnesota. Students at Kaukauna High School, where Lee teaches, raised $1,000 for her trip to the national pageant.

But pageant officials are standing by their ruling that in public, the winner must mostly be seen in a wheelchair or a scooter. Otherwise, says an official with Ms. Wheelchair America, you risk offending women who can't stand or walk.

So the crown goes to the runner-up, Michelle Kearney, of Milwaukee, Wis., who will compete in the national pageant in July.

One picture? Tell me how that one picture constitutes a violation of the policy?


More Democrat Election Fraud And Incompetence

Notice, this is Democrat Miami-Dade, not a GOP part of the state, where incompetence reigns and votes go uncounted. It isn’t in an area where the process is controlled by Republicans.

The elections chief of a key South Florida county has resigned amid revelations of voting problems in six elections.

Miami-Dade Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan resigned Thursday. Her chief deputy, Lester Sola, will take over temporarily.

The veteran Chicago election official came on board in Miami in June 2003 to fix problems from the 2000 presidential election. The county was heavily criticized after 28,000 mostly punchcard ballots went uncounted. President Bush won the state - and thus the presidency - by 537 votes.

County Manager George Burgess said he questioned Kaplan about a special election on slot machines in which there were a high number of ballots with no recorded votes - known as undervotes.

Kaplan blamed a software fluke, he said.

Officials later identified elections in West Miami, Bay Harbor Island, Surfside, Golden Beach and Cutler Ridge with high undervotes.

Kaplan said the uncounted votes would not have changed any results, but pari-mutuel industry officials - who lost a bid to install slot machines at tracks and jai alai frontons - have asked for a new election.

Burgess said Kaplan's explanations for the problems were inadequate.

But why should we be surprised by the inability of this woman to conduct a free and fair and accurate election – her qualifications include a stint working with elections in Chicago, the capital of Democrat vote fraud.


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Rebel Without A Clue

On Good Friday, Christian Legal Society members at Penn State Law School hide plastic eggs around campus, filled with candy and Gospel messages. This year, they found out someone beat them to it. The unknown culprit hid eggs with blasphemous cartoons inside depicting Jesus questioning his sexuality and calling God an “asshole”.

In a striking stand for the First Amendment, the group did not seek to have the perpetrator punished by the school. Instead, they held a forum to discuss the First Amendment implications of rules and laws against hate speech. Good for them.

The perpetrator finally came forward on Tuesday. He is George Black, a second-year Penn Law student. What does he say about the incident? He calls it a parody, and claims that he was trying to communicate message. The message?

“It's just annoying to me to have these fundamentalist ideas pushed down my throat," Black said in an interview. "It's interference with my education."

Black said he had attempted to voice his opinions through Law School listservs and announcement systems but was not permitted because he did not represent an official student group.

So Black was angry that he is having “fundamentalist ideas pushed down [his] throat.” I’m curious – how are they being pushed down his throat? Are group members tackling and forcing their materials down his throat? Are they hiding their materials in his food, forcing him to consume their literature unaware? Or are they merely engaging in free speech that he dislikes and wants stopped – something they clearly were not interested in doing with his much more offensive speech.

Yesterday, the CLS hosted a discussion about campus free speech led by David French, president of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, in response to the egg incident. Gebelin said she hoped to foster an open dialogue about Christianity at the Law School. FIRE is an organization that was co-founded by professor Alan Kors in response to a free-speech incident on Penn's campus in 1993.

"If [Black is] interested in having a free exchange, let it be," Gebelin said. "We don't like what he did, [but] we wouldn't want him to be censored."

In other words, they defend Black’s right to speak, even as he uses that right to spew insults their direction and to engage in speech that could reasonably called blasphemy. If he had tried that sort of tactic to mock Muhammad, he would probably have already been banned from the campus for his own safety following the issuance of a fatwa calling for his murder. It seems to me that the CLS has taken a principled stand in trying to create a dialogue, rather than silence their opponent – which seems to be what Black wanted all along. And even after being defended by those he clearly hates, Black doesn’t get it.

Black, however, said the CLS's reaction has been too harsh.

"I thought it was funny," Black said. "I thought it'd be considered offensive, but I didn't think that people would have a stick up their ass about it."

Actually, the thing they have a “stick up their ass about” is freedom of speech, and the tendency in too many public settings to try to limit that speech, at best, to the bland and inoffensive, or, at worst, to the radical polemic of the Left.

(Hat Tip: The Torch)


Stop This Prudish Farce

Some people are simply artistic Philistines. Take this case in Indiana.

The Venus de Milo had better wear a top and Michelangelo's David should put on some pants if they're going to be seen at a yard art business.

Bartholomew County officials told the business near Interstate 65 that it must move cement copies of the classical statues — and about 10 others — out of public view because they are obscene under Indiana law.

"It's not fair to point out our business, and personally, I don't find them offensive," Ginger Streeval, a co-owner of White River Truck Repair and Yard Art, told the Daily Journal of Franklin for a story Wednesday.

Frank Butler, the county's zoning inspector, disagreed.

"They have nudity ... and that should not be in the view of a minor," he said.
Indiana's obscenity law prohibits the display of nudity where children might see it, he said.

The law also stipulates that such material is harmful for minors if, "considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors."

I’m left speechless by this idiocy.


Muslims Defile Temple Mount

When will Sharon seize control of this holy site from the Muslim barbarians who control it and sweep it clear of the latest defilement by the Ishmaelite horde – and those that they have perpetrated over the centuries?

A carved half-meter tall inscription of the word “Allah” in Arabic was discovered on the Temple Mount’s Eastern Wall, which police suspected had been made by Palestinians construction workers.

The laborers had been doing maitenance work on the wall in recent days.

“This breaks the Antiquities Law; these people are supposed to renovate and fix the wall, not commemorate names (on it), and certainly not names that are irrelevant," Eilat Mazar, a spokesman for the Committee to Prevent the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, told Ynetnews.

Ten months ago, the committee said the site, holy to to Muslims and Jews, was "lawless" and lacked "archaeological supervision.

The Temple Mount is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but great restrictions have been placed on access to all except Muslims. A Muslim group controls Temple Mount, and has destroyed numerous antiquities while failing to keep retaining walls and other non-Islamic structures in good repair. The time has come for Israel to act, to preserve the religious heritage of both Judaism and Christianity – and those of Islam as well.


What’s Wrong With This Story About Homeless Vets?

Sometimes stories are written with a slant so dishonest that you just have to be appalled. Take this lead from a story on homeless veterans that appeared in the Detroit News.
Everywhere he looks these days, Ron Johnson sees yellow ribbons bearing the words "Support Our Troops." And every time he sees them, he wonders which troops they refer to.

Johnson, a U.S. Army veteran who has been homeless since losing his job just before Presidents Day, has come to believe that concern for soldiers stops as soon as they're discharged.

"It's fake," said the 53-year-old. "As soon as you're out of the service, you're automatically zero."

Advocates for Metro Detroit's homeless say the number of homeless veterans who, like Johnson, are seeking assistance, is on the rise. The state's largest assistance center for former soldiers reported a 36-percent increase in veterans seeking homeless assistance since last year. Nonprofit groups in Wayne and Macomb counties also reported significant increases.

Sounds awful.. This poor guy, just discharged, is out on the streets after being used and abused by the evil US military. How can you not be outraged? I know I was – right up to the point that I got to this part of the article.

While some veterans recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan have appeared at area shelters, most are veterans who have been out of the service or the reserves for several years.

Of the 323 veterans who received transitional housing through the Michigan Veterans Foundation, 54 percent were age 31 to 50 and another 39 percent were 51 to 61. Many are not combat veterans.

At 54, Herman Abila recently found himself in need of housing assistance. From 1980 to 1983, he was in the U.S. Army, stationed in places like Colorado and Germany.

"I enlisted because it was a regular job," said Abila, who was a sergeant when discharged and was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve through 1993. "The only thing you have to do to keep the job is keep your nose clean."

Abila was a mechanic until a workplace accident shattered his right elbow. After three surgeries and physical therapy, finding steady work became difficult.

Two weeks ago, his temp job dried up, leaving him with only his disability check.
"I was staying in a motel room but it was eating up my check," he said. With nowhere else to go, Abila turned to Veteran's Haven, which is providing him with temporary housing.

The problem is not with current soldiers returning from combat and being turned out on the streets by an uncaring country. These are older guys, who served in a peacetime military, who are facing hard times as the Rust Belt economy of the state of Michigan flounders. Mr. Abila is not homeless because the government turned its back on him – he is homeless because of an on-the-job injury that limited his employability. Look at the dates. He hasn’t been a reservist since the first year of the Clinton administration – and when Abila was last on active duty, Demi Moore thought it was cool to date a 27-year-old because he would be an older man.

In other words, they are not playing straight with us here. There may be a problem here, but it isn’t what they are telling us.


Hey! You! Outta The Gene Pool!

Gotta love this story, in a sick sort of way. How stupid can someone be?

A teenage gangster has become the first victim of a craze for miniature "designer" guns disguised as key fobs.

Fabian Flowers, 19, a member of Manchester's Longsight Crew, is believed to have shot himself in the head while trying to test the weapon's apparently faulty firing mechanism.

Friends who were with him immediately fled the lap-dancing club where the test firing took place.

The tiny gun - just over 4ins long and with a barrel extending a mere 1½ ins - has never been recovered.

Dozens of similar weapons have been smuggled into Britain from Bulgaria in the past 18 months. They are sold initially as novelty flare guns but then modified by criminals to fire twin .25 bullets.

The weapons, which change hands for several hundred pounds, are notoriously unstable and lack accuracy. However, at point-blank range they are lethal.

Yeah, that’s right – little keychain guns that don’t look like guns. Here’s what seems to have happened.

On Feb 23 last year a group of youths, including some members of the Longsight Crew, were at the High Society club in Stockport.

At some point in the evening Flowers went to the lavatory with some of his friends. Police sources suggest someone had recently borrowed the key fob gun and was returning it.

An inquest yesterday heard that Flowers's final words to his friends were: "I'm going to put it to the test - watch."

One friend said: "He put it to his head and I heard a bang. I got the impression that he thought the safety catch was on and it was perfectly safe."

The gangster died from a single wound to the head. Police initially suspected he had been the victim of a gangland killing but became convinced that he had died at his own hand.

Let’s just call that one a case of Darwin in action.


Isn’t This Swell Of NYC?

You’ll have to excuse me. I was under the strange impression that the same First Amendment that applies here in Texas also applied up north in New York. What is this stuff about the city “agreeing” to allow freedom of speech on a public sidewalk? I thought that matter was settled law.

NEW YORK — The city has agreed that First Amendment activities including leafleting, petition-gathering, picketing and holding press conferences can occur on public sidewalks in front of schools, a civil rights lawyer said yesterday.

The agreement between the city and lawyers for the New York Civil Liberties Union was approved March 16 by a federal judge who was scheduled to preside at a trial over a 2003 lawsuit brought by a youth advocacy organization, the Ya-Ya Network, said Christopher Dunn, the NYCLU’s associate legal director.

The lawsuit was brought after students working with the group alleged they were threatened with arrest outside schools for handing out literature telling other students about their rights to keep personal information from military recruiters.
The NYCLU said it was “essential” for such student activities to be allowed to occur outside schools.

Now I will concede that I don’t like the group that is making use of the very rights that the military defends, but we even have to allow losers like these the freedoms that are the birthright of all Americans. And if, as the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. DesMoines, students do not shed their freedoms at the schoolhouse gate, how can anyone argue that they lack those freedoms before they set foot on campus?

It is cases like these that keep me from issuing a blanket condemnation of the ACLU and its affiliates. They do, in many cases, get it right when it comes to basic civil liberties.


Should We Be Frightened Or Comforted?

After all, shouldn’t we already have operational control of our own borders?
The U.S. Border Patrol will more than double its fleet of helicopters and airplanes and bring 534 agents to the Arizona border this summer, in an effort to gain "operational control" of the border at this, its most vulnerable point, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert C. Bonner.

The term was pounded home; Bonner used the phrase "operational control" four times during an hour-long press conference Wednesday to announce this latest federal roll-out to control the Arizona line with Mexico. He also spoke of living in a "post-9/11 era," and "terrorism" as well as "not overnight" and "cost."

Bonner also answered questions that were previously not answered by federal officials. He said nationally, about 300,000 to 400,000 people manage to successfully enter the country illegally each year. He also said that the latest border control effort, the Arizona Border Control Initiative Phase II, will help protect the United States against terrorism, though nobody has been arrested coming in from Mexico on terror-related charges.

"Look, the reason we have to get control along the borders of our country is because we have an enemy that is bound and determined to attack us, and that's al-Qaida and its associated terrorist organizations," he said.

"We will shut down - and I mean shut down - the West Desert Corridor," Bonner said. "We will gain control … of what is the weakest part of the border with Mexico." The West Desert comprises the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It's a sore point for illegal entry and was the focus of the Border Patrol's efforts last year during the first Arizona Border Control Initiative.

The plan this year is to control that area, then turn attention to Cochise and Yuma counties.

Gaining operational control of the border can't happen overnight, Bonner said, but will happen over time.

This is great – they are doing something. But it is years to late and not nearly enough.


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Two Blows Against Racism In Government Employment

We've seen two jury verdicts today ripping governemnt employers who use race as a deciding factor in hiring, firing, and promotion. One case comes from New Orleans, the other from Milwaukee.

The New Orleans case involves the mass firing of employees in the district attorney's office. Upon taking office in 2003, DA Eddie Jordan fired 53 of 77 non-lawyers in the office and hired black replacements.

Under U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval's instructions, jurors had to find Jordan liable if they concluded the firings were racially motivated. Jordan has acknowledged he wanted to make the office more reflective of the city's racial makeup, but he denied he fired whites just because they are white. In fact, he said, he did not know the race of the people fired.

The law bars the mass firing of a specific group, even if the intent is to create diversity.

Both sides agree on the facts of the unusual case: eight days into his term, Jordan fired 53 of 77 white workers who were not lawyers — investigators, clerks, child-support enforcement workers — and replaced them with blacks. Some seven out of 10 whites were fired, to be replaced by blacks.

Months later, 44 of the whites sued him, and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission later made a preliminary finding that Jordan had been racially biased. One of the plaintiffs eventually dropped out of the suit.

But Jordan has insisted that he paid no attention to the race of his support staff. He has portrayed himself as more focused on the legal staff than the support staff — keeping, he pointed out, 56 white assistant district attorneys.

Jordan and a top deputy who testified have admitted that experience wasn't necessarily their top consideration. Instead, they have made it plain they were looking to populate the office with loyalists.

The whites' lawyers concentrated on showing that many of those who were fired had far more experience and scored higher in job interviews than blacks who were either hired anew or kept on.

Could you imagine the outcry if, in an agency where minorities are over-represented based upon their share of the population (say the EEOC), there were a mass firing of minorities so that whites could be fired to reflect the ethnic makeup of the country? No administrator would even consider such a move, nor should they. Why, then, did Jordan think he could get away with what is clearly the explicit use of racial criteria as the deciding factor in employment?

And then there is the Milwaukee case. A jury determined that 17 white officers were discriminated against a cummulative total of 144 times in the selection of minority candidates for positions as police captains by former Chief Arthur Jones.

Jones said he was disappointed by the verdict.

"I believe that it is a blow to diversification, and I think that's very important to a municipal police department, especially here in Milwaukee," he said.

Jones also defended his record, saying that his promotions included four white females, three black females, two black males, two Hispanic males and one male Pacific Islander with an "understanding" that more than half his 41 promotions to captain were white men.

"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Jones said. "I don't see where any discrimination against white males took place."

Each of the 17 plaintiffs asked for $300,000, an immediate promotion to captain if applicable - two are now captains, two others are retired - and other punitive damages in the initial lawsuit. Testimony in the damages trial is expected to take three days, Curran said, then, the same jury will deliberate over what each plaintiff deserves.

During the trial, Rettko methodically explored how promotions to captain occurred under Jones' leadership.

Under Jones, as under other Milwaukee police chiefs, a candidate for a captaincy was nominated by the chief, then sent to the Fire and Police Commission for approval. The commission rarely levies criticism of a candidate - only one of Jones' nominations received a single negative vote - but the commission sees only one candidate at a time. Several commissioners testified that their roles were to make sure the chief's nominations were qualified to do the job, not to weigh them against other potential nominees. In his testimony, Jones admitted that he picked his nominees mostly by his personal evaluations of their skills, without consulting résumés, personnel evaluations or the men's permanent records in the Milwaukee Police Department.

Rettko sent each of his plaintiffs to the stand to discuss his credentials at length and his thoughts about how those who were promoted compared. Often times, the comparison favored the 17 plaintiffs, which Rettko underscored by repeating that everyone Jones promoted to captain after less than two years in a lieutenant's job was not a white male.

Incredible. Skin-color and genitalia were mor eimportant than qualifications in promotion to senior positions in the police department. makes you feel safe from criminals, doesn't it.

And the worst part is that it will be the taxpayers, not the guilty parties, who will end up paying for the malfeasance in office on the part of these racial bigots.


Maybe It WILL Make You Go Blind!

We all have heard the old wive's tale (old spouse-of-indeterminate-gender's tale, for those from Massachusetts) about a the bad effects of various forms of sex -- everything from hairy palms to insanity. One of my favorite ones's was "It will make you go blind!"

Well, check out this study on Viagra, if you can see the screen.

In a new study, US researchers describe seven patients who developed nonarteritic ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), an eye problem that can result in permanent vision loss, after taking Viagra (sildenafil) for erection difficulties. Combined with past reports, this study brings the total number of sildenafil-related NAION cases to 14.

"For years, we've known that some men who take Viagra will experience temporary color changes in their vision and see things as blue or green," study co-author Dr. Howard D. Pomeranz, from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in a statement. "NAION is a much more serious condition because it can lead to permanent vision loss."

With the exception of one patient whose symptoms began 24 to 36 hours after using Viagra, the patients developed symptoms within 24 hours of use. In all patients, the initial symptoms were blurred vision and some degree of vision loss. In one patient, both eyes were affected, whereas in the remainder, just one was involved.

All of the patients had one or more heart disease risk factors. High blood pressure was invariably present and most men also had high cholesterol levels. Three patients had preexisting eye problems that may have increased their risk of NAION.

The final vision in the patients' affected eye(s) ranged from perfect vision to only light perception, the investigators note in the Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology.

I guess we'll be seeing lots of executives with trophy wives and seeing eye dogs.


It's Not Like A Democrat Would Change Much

At least that was my thought upon getting this news.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., on Wednesday ruled out a run for the Senate in 2006, saying he could better serve his constituents by staying in the House and serving on the Appropriations Committee.

Kennedy has been in Boston caring for his mother, Joan Kennedy, who was hospitalized with a concussion and a broken shoulder after a passer-by found her lying in a street Tuesday.

In a statement, Kennedy did not cite family responsibilities as a reason for his decision, but he and his brother and sister recently took temporary guardianship of his mother to ensure she receives treatment for her alcoholism. Patrick Kennedy was seeking to become her permanent legal guardian.

"I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received to run for the Senate," he said. "But over the past few days, I have determined that I can make the greatest difference in the lives of Rhode Island families by remaining on the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives and fighting for their priorities." The committee controls about a third of the nearly $2.6 trillion federal budget.

Kennedy had been encouraged to run for the Senate against Republican incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee, after Rhode Island's other Democratic congressman, Jim Langevin, decided not to seek the Senate seat.

I mean be honest here -- Chafee is practically a Democrat anyway.

And I would like to add that my prayers are with the Kennedy kids and their mother as they deal with Joan Kennedy's situation. She has been such a tormented soul for years.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mike Rogers Attempts To Silence Another Blogger

This time he went after Richard Shurbet of, for echoing GayPatriot's earlier post calling Rogers a terrorist for his outing campaign.

Shurbert has a number of posts on the matter up on his site, which was briefly shut down by HostingMatters in response to whining by Rogers. Shurbet also offers this banner for folks who want to protest the misdeeds of Mike Rogers.

I'm not gay, and I have many points upon which I differ with both Shurbet and GayPatriot. That said, I don't approve of the tactics and methods used by Rogers to shut down his political enemies. And yes, I freely admit that I hold a particular grudge against Rogers for his outing of an old family friend, Congressman Ed Schrock, last summer.


Pope Likely To Receive Feeding Tube

It appears the Pope John Paul II is likely to return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach due to difficulties swallowing.

Pope John Paul II may have to return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted, an Italian news agency reported today. It stressed that no decision had been made.

The APcom news agency, citing an unidentified source, said the 84-year-old pope might have to have the tube inserted to improve his nutrition since he is having difficulty swallowing with the breathing tube that was inserted Feb. 24.

APcom said the idea of inserting a feeding tube was a hypothesis that was being considered. The procedure involves inserting a tube into the stomach to allow for artificial feeding.

Earlier today, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that the pope's doctors were considering a new hospitalization next week both to perform tests on the breathing tube and to adjust his diet because of problems swallowing.

There was no comment from the Vatican. Nicola Cerbino, a spokesman at Polyclinic Gemelli hospital where John Paul was rushed twice last month, called it media speculation.

Another newspaper, La Repubblica, quoted the pope's Vatican physician, Dr. Renato Buzzonetti, as saying doctors are "reasonably calm" about the frail pope's condition.

This does not sound unlikely to me, given the problems the Pope has had with speaking and swallowing. Inserting the tube is very much in keeping with Catholic teaching on medical ethics, which does not hold feeding tubess to be extraordinary treatment, but rather views the provision of nutrition and hydration as ordinary care which is mandatory unless it causes medical harm to the patient.


Once Again, Prayers For Falwell

As I said when he was hospotalized some weeks ago, I have a number of points on which I disagree with Rev. Jerry Falwell. That said, my prayers are with him during this new period of critical illness.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell is critically ill but "clinically stable" after being admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital shortly before midnight Monday with respiratory arrest, hospital officials said yesterday.

Falwell, 71, one of the nation's leading religious conservatives, was driven to the hospital by his wife, Macel, after complaining of shortness of breath.

"He lost consciousness just as they got to the hospital," spokesman Ron Godwin said. "He slumped over as they were getting there."

He was immediately placed on a ventilator and quickly stabilized, according to the hospital's statement. Doctors expect more details on his condition today.

A hospital spokesman said physicians are trying to determine if Falwell had a relapse of pneumonia.

Falwell was said to be alert and responding to questions, at times by eye contact or nodding.

May God reach out and touch His son, Jerry, and restore him to health; and may He provide a spirit of peace and comfort to the Falwell family.


Johnnie Cochran -- RIP

I was shocked to hear the news.

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the masterful attorney who gained prominence as an early advocate for victims of police abuse, then achieved worldwide fame for successfully defending football star OJ. Simpson on murder charges, died this afternoon. He was 67.

Cochran died at his home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles of an inoperable brain tumor, according to his brother-in-law Bill Baker. His wife and his two sisters were with him at the time of his death.

My prayers are, of course, with the Cochran family at this time. Whatever disagreements I had with the man (and they were many), I still feel a touch of sadness at his death.

It is also my hope that the US Supreme Court does not use his death as a reason not to decide the case it heard involving an injunction on free speech against one of his critics. While the injunction died with Mr. Cochran, the issue of a complete ban on speech is too important to allow it to be buried with him.


Muslim Group Seeks To Muzzle Critics Of Islam

CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, is seeking to punish National Review for daring to publicize and promote books critical of Islam.

A Muslim civil rights group is urging the Boeing Company to stop running ads in the conservative National Review magazine. The Council on American-Islamic Relations objects to the National Review's promotion of books that "attack Islam and the Prophet Muhammad." Those books include "The Life and Religion of Mohammed," which, according to the magazine's review, exposes the "ugly truth about the founder of the world's most violent religion"; and "The Sword of the Prophet," which "gives the unvarnished, 'politically incorrect' truth about Islam -- including the shocking facts about its founder, Mohammed; its rise through bloody conquest; its sanctioning of theft, deceit, lust and murder." In a letter to Boeing CEO James A. Bell, CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad "respectfully" requested that Boeing "address the concerns of Muslims worldwide by withdrawing its advertising support from a magazine that actively promotes anti-Muslim hate." Awad said a copy of the letter would be sent to ambassadors of Muslim and Arab nations in Washington, D.C. Boeing does business with Arab-owned airlines.

I've got a better idea. In light of certain unpleasantness in the fall of 2001, why don't we demand that Boeing cease doing business with all airlines in the Arab world. Better yet, why not stop doing business with all airlines based in predominantly Muslim countries. And while you are at it, stop selling military technology to those countries, too. At least until followers of Islam stop engaging in anti-American terrorism.

And while we are at it, when will the IRS, DOJ, and Homeland Security conduct a thorough investigation of CAIR, an organization with numerous documented connections to terrorist supporters, terrorist groups, and individual terrorists?

And as for Muhammad, from what I can tell from my reading of the Koran and various historical material drawing upon Islamic sources it sounds to me like the books have characterized him correctly.

UPDATE: I put something in whilte typing and forgot to delete it before posting. I was politely asked to fix it. Due to the extremely nice manner in which I was asked, I removed it.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Whose Side Are Presidents Bush And Fox On?

I have to ask that question in loght of recent statements calling the members of the Minuteman Project "vigilantes" and "racist migtant-hunters."

And I have to ask whether they are comfortable with the fact that they are on the same side as these folks in opposing what is little more than a glorified neighborhood watch group?

Members of a violent Central America-based gang have been sent to Arizona to target Minuteman Project volunteers, who will begin a monthlong border vigil this weekend to find and report foreigner sneaking into the United States, project officials say.

James Gilchrist, a Vietnam veteran who helped organize the vigil to protest the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration, said he has been told that California and Texas leaders of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have issued orders to teach "a lesson" to the Minuteman volunteers.

Where is the concern about these real vigilantes, gentlemen? You know, the vicious predatory gang-members who are out to injure and kill Americans who just want their nation's laws enforced and their nation's border respected.

The MS-13 gang has established major smuggling operations in several areas along the U.S.-Mexico border and have transported hundreds of Central and South Americans -- including gang members -- into the United States in the past two years. The gang also is involved in drug and weapons smuggling.

Gang members in America have been tied to numerous killings, robberies, burglaries, carjackings, extortion, rapes and aggravated assaults. Authorities said that the gang has earned a reputation from the other street gangs as being particularly ruthless and that it will retaliate violently when challenged.

On the otherhand, the Minutemen are going to great lengths to avoid violence -- not that the public an tell that from the overblown statements comming from the two presidents.

"We're not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers," Mr. Gilchrist said. "And those guys are just a bunch of punks."

More than 1,000 volunteers are expected to take part in the Minuteman vigil, which will include civilian patrols along a 20-mile section of the San Pedro River Valley, which has become a frequent entry point to the United States for foreigner headed north.

About 40 percent of the 1.15 million foreign nationals caught last year by the U.S. Border Patrol trying to gain illegal entry to the United States were apprehended along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona border here known as the Tucson sector.

Many of the Minuteman volunteers are expected to be armed, although organizers of the border vigil have prohibited them from carrying rifles. Only those people with a license to carry a handgun will be allowed to do so, Mr. Gilchrist said.

An operational plan calls for teams of four to eight volunteers to be deployed along the targeted 20-mile stretch of border at intervals of 200 to 300 yards, along with observation posts and a command center.

Mr. Gilchrist said some of the patrols and posts will be right on the U.S.-Mexico border, while others will be located farther north. The volunteers also have been told to "make lots of noise and burn campfires at night to be very visible."

According to guidelines issued to the volunteers earlier this month, organizers said they expect that they will be targeted by various protest groups and others and that some protesters would try to provoke confrontations.

"If we are to send the message loud and clear to President Bush and Congress, it is imperative we stay within the law," Mr. Gilchrist said.

"If one single person steps over the line for their personal gratification, we are all stained with that irresponsible behavior and labeled forever as a fringe element that embarrasses all who are counting on us to make this historic statement," he said.

In other words, the Minutemen are taking precaustions to avoid violence, while these street-thugs and the usual band of left-wing malcontents are outstop them from engaging in legal activity. And yet somehow the two presidents see the Minutemen as the bad guys in all this, and are united in their opposition to their lawful activities.

Sadly, someone is likely to die during the month of April along the Arizona/Mexico border. Even more sadly, it might be one of the Minutemen, folks out there trying to do the right thing for their country. And the blame will belong on the shoulders of two presidents who have done little to stop the flow of border-jumpers into this country, and have defamed those who think they should.


War On Foie Gras?

You can abort a baby until birth. You can starve a family member to death. But if legislators in Oregon, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts get their way, it will be illegal to possess foie gras. Laws on the books will already ban the food in 2012 if the industry cannot prove its practices humane.

At issue: the force feeding technique used to produce fattened duck liver.

For the final two weeks of their lives, a stainless steel tube is inserted into the throat of waterfowl twice a day and a measured amount of partially cooked corn is pumped down the esophagus. The technique packs on the pounds quickly, creating a fatty liver.

Some say the protesters -- and now legislators -- are clueless, and scoff at the idea that birds whose livers alone are worth $75 a pound are mistreated.

Now I don't eat the stuff -- it is too expensive and sounds nauseating. Maybe it is just a matter of my having a pedestrian palate. I mean, I have no interest in sushi, either. And my consumptionof veal is rare because of the price tag, not because of any concern about the conditions in which the calves are raised. We are, after all, talking about animals. But others disagree with me.

But Gene Bauston, co-founder of the animal rights group Farm Sanctuary, says the pictures and videos of foie gras farms show force-feeding is a "cruel and unnecessary practice" that should not be legal.

"There are certain things that are beyond the bounds of acceptable," Bauston said.

Yeah, there are, Mr. Bauston, and the force feeding of ducks doesn't even cause a blip on the moral radear-screen for me. How can your moral compass be so out of whack that you would spend one minute on this misguided crusade of yours?

Genocide in the Sudan.

The horrors of abortion.

The starvation of Terry Schiavo.

Those are things that are beyond the bounds of acceptable.

So while I don't like how the ducks are treated and would never consume foie gras myself, I won't be joining your campaign.

But don't call me pro-cruelty-to-animals.

Call me pro-choice.


The Silencing Of A Blogger

I didn't agree with GayPatriot on many things, and only wandered on to his website from time to time as a way of seeing what a different type of Republican thought about current issues. Last week, he made a post that may have been ill-advised, referring to two prominent homosexual activists as terrorists due to their outing campaign against Republican homosexuals and their staffers (both are partisan Democrats who conspicuously protect homosexual Democrats and their staffers).

Within hours, the post was gone and GayPatriot disassociated himself from his own site, which he turned over to heis blog-partner, GayPatriotWest.

For the full story, which I will not recount here (because Christian Grantham does a better job than I would), go to this link at Outlet Radio Network. Suffice it to say that one of those he criticized began harrassing GayPatriot, his secretary, and his boss, threatening a national boycott of GayPatriot's corporate employer.

And these people claim they are all about freedom -- I guess that is only the freedom to agree with them.

(Hat Tip: The Central Front)


You Can't Argue With Some People

I had a conversation recently about the Schiavo case. It went something like this.

"I can't believe how disgusting all you conservatives are! How can you people believe that this is right? The stuff that you and that woman's family are puttingher and her poor husband through! You should all be ashamed. It's just wrong."


"Stop it! Don't say another word! You people are just sick!"

Needless to say, it was over at that point. No place for discussion, debate, or rational presentation of views in any of it. Just a set of exclamations and declarative sentences, and a command that I not even attempt to speak a word on behalf of those who might oppose Michael Shciavo's decision.

Sadly, that is reflective of the state of public dialogue today. Pat Sajak comments on that phenomenon in a column in Human Events.

Recently, for example, I was discussing the United Sates Supreme Court with one of my many Liberal friends out in Los Angeles when she said, without any discernable embarrassment, that Justice Anton Scalia was “worse than Hitler.” Realizing she wasn’t alive during World War II and perhaps she may have been absent on those days when her schoolmates were studying Nazism, I reminded her of some of Hitler’s more egregious crimes against humanity, suggesting she may have overstated the case. She had not; Scalia was worse. As I often did when my parents threatened to send me to my room, I let the conversation die.

Aside from being rhetorically hysterical -- and demeaning to the memory of those who suffered so terribly as a result of Hitler and the Nazis -- it served to remind me of how difficult it is to have serious discussions about politics or social issues with committed members of the Left. They tend to do things like accusing members of the Right of sowing the seeds of hatred while, at the same time, comparing them to mass murderers. And they do this while completely missing the irony.

The moral superiority they bring to the table allows them to alter the playing field and the rules in their favor. They can say and do things the other side can’t because, after all, they have the greater good on their side. If a Conservative -- one of the bad guys -- complains about the content of music, films or television shows aimed at children, he is being a prude who wants to tell other people what to read or listen to or watch; he is a censor determined to legislate morality. If, however, a Liberal complains about speech and, in fact, supports laws against certain kinds of speech, it is right and good because we must be protected from this “hate speech” or “politically incorrect” speech. (Of course, they -- being the good guys -- will decide exactly what that is.)

Now I will grant that there is plenty of self-righteous superiority on the Right as well as teh Left. I know certain folks on my side of the political fence with whom one cannot have a discussion without being presumend to be morally and mentally defective for disagreeing with them on some point or other. But this characteristic, dating back to the 1960s, seems particularly common among the radical Left -- and it is that segment of the Left that often seems to develop the political memes that dominate debate on the Left. The result is an impoverished public discussion.

The rhetoric has become so super-heated that, sadly, I find myself having fewer and fewer political discussions these days. And while I miss the spirited give-and-take, when Supreme Court Justices become worse than Hitler and when those who vote a certain way do so because they’re idiots, it’s time to talk about the weather.

I miss that spirited give-and-take as well. Not just because I love a good argument, but because I think it ultimately harms the country as a whole.


Outcry Essays

For over half of my teaching career, I taught English. Even now, when I get a summer school assignment I usually end up teaching an English class. That means grading a lot of student writing. It also means learning a lot about your students that you never do in another subject. That is what they are finding as they grade this year's TAKS essay.

Each year, hundreds of students use the essay portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to write about being abused, neglected or raped, education officials say.

Others write about being depressed, or wanting to die or hurt themselves or others.

Such essays fall under the state's definition of an outcry, and school officials have a legal and ethical obligation to report the revelations to law-enforcement officials.

You get those in the classroom, too. One term each year I had students writing about "an event that changed your life." Over the years I was flabbergasted by what I got from my students. I was also heartbroken.

One sweet young lady wrote about being molested by her youth pastor several years before, and I had to report it to the school and CPS. I never did hear what happened to the guy. I lost track of her after she graduated.

Another girl wrote about the death of her father and how she blamed herself for it. She had her best friend over one night for a sleep-over, and her father offered to wait for them to ride along to KFC for a bucket of chicken. They preferred to stay swimming in the pool, and her father was killed by a speeding truck on the way home with dinner. Last I heard, she should finish college this spring, majoring in elementary education. I hope she comes back to the district.

One of my boys told the tale of going straight while being robbed of his drug money. When I challenged him on the veracity, he lifted up his shirt and showed me two entry and two exit wounds. He later became the first kid I wrote a college letter of recommendation for, and the first in his family to attend and graduate.

One guy wrote a chilling paper entitled "The Night I Killed A Man." His father had heard a sound in the living room and had gone to check it out. When the student heard a fight between his dad and a robber, he ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife from the butcher block, and plunged it through the robbers back, killing him before they could even call the police. He was 16-years old. I know he talked about joining the Marines, to get away from the folks who were threatening revenge.

I read papers about drug rehab, crushing personal losses, and becoming a parent-too-soon in the ninth grade. I learned about the thrill of victory, first kisses, and getting saved one Sunday at church. I exulted in the glories that these kids experienced, and bled over the many hurts they had experienced. It was the assignment I dreaded most, and which took the most out of me. Mandated by my district, it was one of the things that was steadily pushing me to the point of burnout and reinforced my desire to teach in my major field, history. And yet, I sometimes miss that chance to really know my students, something that I don't always get to do now.

That a child or teen would write about something so personal or traumatic on a state test "isn't logical at all when you look at it from the outside," said Catherine Ayoub, an associate professor at Harvard University's Medical School and Graduate School of Education.

But "this is the most anonymous way that you can tell," so it's "absolutely what you would expect," Ayoub said.

And it is also because they know that the essays are going to be read. It is unfortunately way too easy to tell a kid you don't have time for them, even if you want to talk to them about a situation -- the bell just rang and you've got 28 other kids in class to attend to, you've got duty in the cafeteria, or there is a faculty meeting after school that you can't miss. The counselors at my school are nothing more than glorified (at best semi-competent) schedule-makers, each with a case-load of 400 students who they might never meet. The administrative team is made up of some really great people, but their one of their major issues is discipline and so some of the kids who most need them tend to avoid them. But that essay is a chance for them to say their piece and be heard -- they hope -- and so they spill their hearts out on those lines and hope that what is there will be taken seriously. It is true in the classroom, and true on the TAKS test.

You might wonder, how old are the kids who give these "outcry" responses on the tests? How common are they? What are the prompts that give them such freedom?

Texas labeled 688 essays as "outcry" last year and 592 in 2003, a fraction of the pool of more than a million essays.

The writing section of the 3-year-old TAKS is designed to give students flexibility — opening the door for personal essays.

"There are so many things that children are bringing to school" nowadays, said Chuck Hoffman, executive director of student and social services for the Fort Worth school district.

Students in Texas must write an essay for the TAKS in grades 4, 7, 10 and 11. Although the TEA flags outcry essays at all grade levels, most appear at the seventh-grade level.

Students are free to express themselves on the TAKS because the writing instructions are less formulaic than on past achievement tests, including the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills.

The essay instructions are broad: "Write an essay explaining the importance of accepting others as they are" or "Write a composition about an adventure you had."

Students can use any writing approach, such as cause and effect, or problem and solution. Essays can be narrative or philosophical.

The TAKS gives students more latitude in their essay writing than other state tests. For example, last year's test included this instruction for 10th-graders: Write an essay about the impact another person can have on your life.

Frankly, I don't know whether to be shocked by how many such essays the state gets, or how few. In a classroom setting, there is at least a relationship that exists and a level of trust between student and teacher. That doesn't exist on the test, which might be a good thing for some kids or inhibit others.

Do we, as teachers, listen closely enough to what our kids say? Do we take their writing seriously enough? They need us to do so. They have a lot to say. There's so much that they need to have heard. We need to give them a chance to get their message through.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Welcome To The Blog

The Conservative Party in the UK is starting to get into blogging. One new entry is, which has a very good blog.

The website — — is being started today by Tim Montgomerie, who was political secretary to Iain Duncan Smith when he was Tory leader and was head of the Conservative Renewing One Nation unit under William Hague.

It is independent of the Tory party, though supportive of it, but the website will inevitably be seen as the start of a fresh debate about where the party should move in the event of a third successive election defeat.

The website combines the concepts of a think-tank and online newspaper and its aim is to provide a forum for the revival of Conservative thinking and policies. Mr Montgomerie is an expert on American politics and the way that the Right has used websites to bypass the mainstream media, which is felt to be broadly hostile to conservative ideas. It is funded by donations from private individuals.

I've been, I like, and I'm linking.

Take this entry, for example, just from the first day of operation. It is a tranlation guide from Leftish to English.

As an occasional feature, this blog will bring extracts from the Leftish Phrasebook. Leftish is a confusing and complex language with many variants. It is widely used amongst the political and media classes in Britain and other countries. In recent years Modern Leftish has emerged as the dominant dialect and is the main language of administration, however Old Leftish still lingers on -- especially among the cultural elites. Of course, many terms are common to both forms of the language.

Leftish -- English

Foetus -- Baby

Let Terri Schiavo die -- Starve Terri Schiavo to death

The right to die -- The right of someone else to kill you

A woman's right to choose -- I'm not listening anymore

This shouldn't be an election issue -- This might lose us votes

Investment -- Spending

Tory cuts -- A marginally slower rate of growth in government expenditure

Society -- The state

The community -- The state

Our so-called democracy -- Democracy

You can't impose democracy -- We wish you wouldn't remove dictators by force

International law -- Whatever's fine by Russia, China and France

Secular -- Atheist

Multifaith -- Everything/nothing is true

Rational -- The stuff we believe.

Conservative brothers and sisters in the UK, we welcome you! If this is a sample of what we can expect (along with the much more serious pieces that I just loved), you are a welcome addition to the blogosphere.


What Next -- The Return Of Pogroms?

Anti-Semitism has a long, unsavory history in Russia. Sadly, it looks like it may be back.

About 5,000 people, including former world chess champion Boris Spassky, have signed a letter asking prosecutors to ban Jewish organizations because they believe one of the basic Judaic books professes religious hatred, said a center that monitors religious freedom.

The group sent the letter to the Prosecutor General's Office last Monday, the Sova center said last week.

The signatories claim that "Kizur Shulkhan Arukh," an abbreviated version of a 16th-century book that lays out daily rules for Jews, teaches hatred toward non-Jews, Sova said.

Moscow sculptor and head of the obscure nationalist All-Russian Cathedral Movement Vyacheslav Klykov, a signatory of the petition, confirmed the report, Interfax said.

A Prosecutor General's Office spokeswoman could not immediately confirm Friday that the petition had been received.

You can find what you want in various books about faith and spirituality in any religion. I somehow doubt that these folks are interested in considering things from their own Russian Orthodox religious heritage.

Would they dare to be consistent and support banning the Russian Orthodox Church? I didn't think so.


Sex-Offenders In The Classroom

And no, I'm not talking about the teachers. I'm talking about the students.

Police across the state often fail to inform schools officials about young sex offenders in their classrooms because of confusion about Illinois law - confusion that could put students at risk, according to a published report.

An Illinois registry with the names of about 1,100 juvenile sex offenders is largely kept secret, unlike lists of adult offenders that are readily accessible via the Internet, the Chicago Tribune reported in its Sunday editions.

A law adopted in the 1990s requires sheriff's police to inform schools when a juvenile sex offender enrolls. However, with some police interpreting the law differently, that doesn't always happen.

Even when school principals ask some police departments for the names of juvenile offenders who might be attending their schools, the information is not given.

Fortunately we don't face that problem down here in Texas. Juvenile sex-offenders end up on the statewide list that you can access from the Internet. Sadly, I've found former students there. And when a student is charged with such an offense (as with violent felonies), the kid is immediately removed from the classroom pending adjudication and placed in a highly-structured alternative setting where they are under constant supervision.

Sounds like the Illinois situation is absolutely out of control. Take this case.

One East Peoria woman, who was not identified by the Tribune, saw first hand how the notification law on juveniles does not seem to be working as intended. She learned that a boy who was found guilty of molesting her 7-year-old son ended up in a class with her older teenage son.

The 16-year-old was registered as a sex offender. Because of the disarray surrounding the notification rules, however, that information never got to the school.

East Peoria Community High School officials said later that they were thankful the student's mother brought the matter to their attention. They say they are now more vigilant.

Scary, isn't it, that we now have to watch the kids, not just the adults, for convicted sex-offenders.


Dangerous Voters

Well, conservative Christians of various stripes are organizing in Ohio. The movement is non-denominational, grass-roots, and based on social issues. GOP leaders are keeping close tabs, and activists in other states are waiting to see if the model is successful. So reports The New York Times.

But my favorite quote comes from one of the most conspicuous voices for "religious liberty" in the country.

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the Restoration Project might have greater impact because it was more homegrown and had ties to a wider array of denominations than previous groups like the Moral Majority.

"This represents a new wave in organizing on the part of conservative evangelicals," Mr. Lynn said. "From my standpoint, as someone who doesn't agree with their conclusions, this is a more dangerous model."

So, citizens getting organized, active and voting is dangerous if you don't agree with where they stand on the issues? Would your preferred model be that of Cuba or the people's Republic of China, where such people know their place is in the catacombs?


Widow And Children Soldier On

In time of war, we often see the name of a soldier, dead too soon, in the local paper. Perhaps we get funeral coverage if it is a local hero. But rarely to we hear more, about the struggles of those left behind. Today's Houston Chronicle shares one such story.

Karren Warren / Chronicle
Patty Mora Guereca, whose husband, Jose Guereca Jr.,
was killed in Iraq in November, is left with four children,
from left, 5-year-old twins Angel and Nathan, Jose, 2
months, and Rolando, 7.

MISSOURI CITY - Her daily dreams are vivid and always include her husband, Sgt. Jose Guereca. The dreams always end with Guereca not coming home.

The 24-year-old Army sergeant died Nov. 30 in Iraq during his second tour of duty to the war-torn nation. He was the 25th Houston-area service member to die in the war.

"I miss him so much. The kids miss him, too," said Patty Mora Guereca, 23, who was left a widow with four boys younger than 7. When her husband died, Patty Guereca was seven months pregnant with the couple's fourth child.

The past few months for Guereca have been trying, to say the least. The young mother had to bury her husband, move herself and her then three children from Fort Hood to her mother's Missouri City home. She gave birth to her fourth child — Jose Alejandro Guereca III — on Jan. 11.

A month after the baby was born, Guereca headed to Fort Hood to tend to moving issues while her mother-in-law kept the newborn. Guereca ended up rushing back to Houston when the baby's congestion turned into a respiratory infection and pneumonia, and landed him at Texas Children's Hospital for four days.

For now, Guereca and the four children are living with her mother and a younger sister,although she intends to purchase a home in nearby Stafford soon. Life-insurance benefits, aid from the Veterans Administration and generous donations from the public have allowed her to stay home with her children and not have to work.

Even with the generosity of strangers, it won't be easy for Mrs. Guereca. Widowed at 23 with four young children. But she has an outlook that can only be admired -- an outlook she learned from her husband.

Normalcy for Guereca means getting up at 6 a.m. to get 7-year-old Rolando ready for first grade and at his bus stop by 7:10 a.m. She has a little down time in the afternoon after she drops off her 5-year-old twins, Nathan and Angel, for afternoon kindergarten.

"It's been hard," Guereca told the Chronicle. "But I just keep thinking of my husband. He was so positive. He'd say, 'For every problem, there's a solution.'

We have lost over 1500 soldiers in Iraq. I've not been able to locate a figure for those who have died in Afghanistan. I won't even pretend to be able to tabulate the number of those seriously wounded and left disabled in those theaters of war. We owe them and their families a debt of gratitude. And we owe it to them to do what we can to help their families.


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