Precinct 333

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Royal Wedding

What can I say about the wedding of the Prince of Wales and the newly-minted Duchess of Cornwall -- they used all the fairy dust up on Prince Charles' 1981 wedding to Princess Diana.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall - the former Camilla Parker Bowles - knelt before the Archbishop of Canterbury for a blessing of their union Saturday, after a modest civil ceremony that sealed a love affair ignited at a polo match more than 30 years ago and blamed by many for poisoning his marriage to Britain's beloved Princess Diana.

Beneath the towering Gothic arches of St. George's Chapel at ancient Windsor Castle, the royals nervously pledged their undying love and confessed "manifest sins and wickedness" - a phrase from the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer - under the solemn gaze of Archbishop Rowan Williams.

After enduring years of criticism and even ridicule, Charles and Camilla's shared affection appeared to finally to have won them a measure of acceptance from the British public. It remains to be seen, however, whether the bride will ever be known as Queen Camilla.

I guess I don't see the reason for the charade of holding two ceremonies. After all, the Anglican Church exists as a separate entity because Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon so he could marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Why should the divorces in this case present an obstacle for the Church of England -- which Charles will one day head as King of England -- today?

The tacky moment of the day has to be watching all the royals scurry on to rented buses for the ride to the reception. It was enough to make one wonder if they were holding it at some local hotel rather than on premisies at Windsor Castle. But like I said, they used all the fairy dust in 1981, so rather than a Royal Coach and a caravan of limos, we got that sad spectacle.

And I will never forget one pricelss moment after the blessing ceremony was over. One of the royal watchers providing commentary for CNN said it was the triumph of middle-aged love. My wife nearly choked to death on her soda as she blurted out "Middle-aged love? OH MY GOD! Look at them -- they're nearly sixty. Someone at the palace must have paid her off."

The whole thing made me thankful for the Revolutionary War.


Thoughts On The Papal Election of 2005

Pope John Paul the Great, the Pilgrim Pope, was buried yesterday. The world now awaits two things sure to come -- the late pontiff's elevation to sainthood and the election of his successor.

Canonization will take years, but the conclave is only nine days away, on April 18. The Vatican has imposed a "gag order" on the cardinals, so we won't be hearing from the princes of the church until sometime after April 20. That doesn't mean that they will not be talking among themselves, though, and some unofficial collations will likely exist by next Monday. I've offered some viewpoints on candidates, but feel there is still more to be said.

1) The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Los Angeles Times offers these statistics on the breakdown of the College of Cardinals by region, compared to the 1978 conclaves that elected John Paul I and, less than two months later, John Paul II.


Latin America
North America
11 12
Africa 10


As you can see, then, not much has changed in that superficial balance of power.

2) The more things stay the same, the more they change. The same statistics quoted above show a different picture if you do the country breakdown.

Country1978 2005
Italy25 20

United States
9 11
France 7
Germany5 6
Spain4 6
Mexico1 4

Those European cardinals are much more spread out. As these totals show, the largest delegations have a smaller percentage of the total number of electors. That will make it difficult for the Italians to get the papacy back, and more likely that the new pope will not be a European.

3) When the conclave starts on Monday, April 18, expect it to be done by Friday -- and possibly as early as Wednesday.
Year Days Ballots Elected
190347 Pius X

1914 3 10Benedict XV
1922 4 14 Pius XI
1939 2 3 Pius XII
1958 4 11 John XXIII
1963 3 6 Paul VI
1978 2 4 John Paul I
1978 3 8 John Paul II

We've been watching this pope slowly die for the last several years. The question of succession has been on the minds of these cardinals during all this time. All but three (one of whom, Cardinal Sin of Manila, is on kidney dialysis and unlikely to attend the conclave) were appointed by John Paul II, and most share his views on doctrinal matters. The issue here, other than nationality/ethnicity/region, is likely to be how much the next pope will intervene in the affairs of the local church vs. how much freedom will local bishops have in running their dioceses.

4) How long a papacy do these cardinals think the next pope should have? I cannot predict that. If they look for a transitional pope, I still lean towards their selection of Cardinal Ratzinger, whose major task will be dealing with those tasks the late pope left undone during the last years of his infirmity. While I doubt that a young pope is on the agenda, I could easily see Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, 60, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria as the next pope if the cardinals move that direction. If a pontificate of about a decade is sought, I suspect that we will see a cardinal around age 70 (2/3 of the voting cardinals are 70 or older) elected -- perhaps the 68-year-old Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, an Argentinian of Italian heritage who would also become the first Jesuit to hold the papacy. In him we would get the simple holiness of John Paul I (he lives in a small apartment rather than the episcopal residence, cooks for himself and takes the bus to work daily) and the conservative theological and intellectual brilliance that marked John Paul II.

5) An African pope? Speculation will continue to swirl around Francis Cardinal Arinze, but the African cardinals have downplayed that speculation.
"Psychologically and spiritually, the West is still not ready for a black pope," Cardinal Bernard Agre told reporters in his native Ivory Coast.

As an American, I am inclined to disagree with that point of view -- but it may well be that this is true of the 50% of the College of Cardinals who are from Europe. Many of the cardinals can remember when Africa was mission territory and its bishops were European, and it may be that we need another generation to move past such an archaic viewpoint. If that proves to be the case, expect the Africans to vote with the Latin Americans -- though given Arinze's many years of curial experience in Rome, it could well be that the Italians and the rest of the Europeans would embrace him as one of their own.

6) We could also see another pope emerge from an oppressed church. Some speculation has revolved around Jaime Lucas Cardinal Ortega y Alamino of Havana, Cuba. At 68, he is the right age. Being from Cuba, he certainly falls in an important bloc of cardinals. He was imprisoned by Castro in the 1960s, and is an outspoken human rights advocate. What a message to send to the oppressed church in Cuba, China, and Vietnam, as well as in the Muslim world.

Some may find these words sacrilegious. After all, this isn't a political game, but a process directed by the Holy Spirit. But I do not intend to discount that fact -- after all, the Holy Spirit works though the Cardinal Electors, and influences their hearts and minds. I am simply engaging in speculation on how that process may play out.


Marriage = Career Suicide?

Most Republicans have no particular problem with homosexuals. That may shock a lot of people, given that the standard media approach to stories on the issue of the GOP and homosexuality is to interview the folks on the more extreme edge of the religious right on the issue, rather than Dick Cheney. That is why it is no surprise that there are any number of "out" conservative/libertarian Republicans who are active in the party. Arthur J. Finkelstein has been one of those for years.

On the othe hand, most members of the GOP do oppose same sex marriage -- especially if it is imposed by courts over the vocal objections of the overwhelming majority of Americans. It is an issue that the GOP has and will run on, and upon which it has and will win. And that is why a personal decision by Finkelstein may constitute career suicide.

Arthur J. Finkelstein, a prominent Republican consultant who has directed a series of hard-edged political campaigns to elect conservatives in the United States and Israel over the last 25 years, said Friday that he had married his male partner in a civil ceremony at his home in Massachusetts.

Mr. Finkelstein, 59, who has made a practice of defeating Democrats by trying to demonize them as liberal, said in a brief interview that he had married his partner of 40 years to ensure that the couple had the same benefits available to married heterosexual couples.

"I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said.

He declined further comment on the wedding, which was in December.

Some of Mr. Finkelstein's associates said they were startled to learn that this prominent American conservative had married a man, given his history with the party, especially at a time when many Republican leaders, including President Bush, have campaigned against same-sex marriage and proposed amending the Constitution to ban it. Mr. Finkelstein has been allied over the years with Republicans who have fiercely opposed gay rights measures, including former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and has been the subject of attacks by gay rights activists who have accused him of hypocrisy. He was identified as gay in a Boston Magazine article in 1996.

Now I respect the right of Finkelstein and his partner to have whatever sort of personal relationship they choose to have, though I do not believe that this legitimately extends to marriage (which waas illegitimately imposed upon the people of Massachusetts by an activist court which misinterpreted a document partially written by John Adams). You would find that this is the position held by most Republicans, though not by those coming out of the ultra-libertarian wing of the party. We might personally and socially acknowledge the fact of the relationship, but reject the notion that we should be legally compelled to do more than that. Given that about 7-in-10 Americans oppose same sexx marriage, I would be willing to speculate that this is the position of roughly half the American public.

But that is not my main point. My question is this -- what happens to Finkelstein's career at this point? Does he still have a career as a GOP political consultant? I'm frankly not sure.

Among the libertarian, non-social conservative wing of the party, I'm sure he does. But given the "hot-button" nature of the gay marriage issue (which even a large number of Democrats oppose), will candidates in competitive districts and/or facing primary challenges be willing to take the risk of hiring Finkelstein? After all, we've seen candidates damaged by a bad choice in the past, if they hire a consultant whose previous work involves a controversial candidate or issue. While I respect Finkelstein's personal motives and would be willing to "agree to disagree" on that issue, I know I would never hire him for a congressional race for precisely because it would make me vulnerable in the district in which I live -- not that I plan on taking on Tom Delay any time soon. I doubt his expertise would outweigh the damage his Massachusetts marriage could (not necessarily would) cause.

By the way, I am curious about one thing. Finkelstein and his partner marriaed in December. There is just one quote attributed to him in this article. Was this marriage revealed by choice, or was it a case of outing by activists like Mike Rogers and John Aravosis (though I am NOT accusing either of having done so in this case)?


DeLay Backs DHS Office At Ellington

In a move that is good for his district, good for Houston, good for Texas, and good for the country as a whole, House Majority Leader Tom Delay has endorsed placing one of nine regional offices of the Department of Homeland Security at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas.
"In my efforts to support Ellington, I want to make sure that everything is being done to increase its value to our homeland security mission while enhancing its ability to protect the Texas Gulf Coast region," DeLay said in a letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff this week.

He told Chertoff that a DHS regional office at Ellington would complement the services already there, including the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard, Coast Guard Air Station Houston and the Texas Army National Guard.

Adding the DHS to the mix, the congressman said, would "ensure our region's assets, including NASA, the refineries, the Port of Houston and other critical industries in the area, are sufficiently protected."

DeLay's request is the latest addition to a growing mix of considerations and decisions that are shaping the future of the historic field that opened in 1917.

The Defense Department recently announced an agreement to relocate 2,300 military reservists to Ellington from land near Texas Medical Center that the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center wants for expansion.

Why Ellington?
  1. The basic infrastructure is there. The capital expenditures involved would be proportionately lower.
  2. Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, located in a distinct region of the country. It makes sense to locate there, just as it does to place regional offices in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
  3. The Port of Houston (especially when one throws in the nearby Port of Galveston and Port of Texas City) is a major international commercial hub, especially for the petrochemical industry. Protecting our energy resources is vital. Ellington Field is located withing 15 minutes by car of virtually any of the port or chemical facilities along the Houston Ship Channel.
  4. Johnson Space Center is less than five miles away from Ellington Field, and some of the facilities related to the space program are at (or border on) Ellington Field.
  5. Houston's close proximity to the southern border.
Love DeLay or hate DeLay (and I have mixed emotions about him), placing a regional office at Ellington just makes sense.


Friday, April 08, 2005

Best Buy Refuses Legal Tender -- Cops Arrest Customer

I don't shop at Best Buy. The place is too crowded, the clerks are rude, the prices are high, and they usually don't have the merchandise as advertised. I remember buying a computer there some years ago, and I won't go there again. Their advertised prices are always some gimmick. And now I come to understand that they don't always want to accept US currency.

It seems that Mike Bolesta bought his son a CD player for his car. Despite assurances, it didn't fit in the dashboard, and so they picked another one. Upon getting their refund (the second CD player was less expensive), Bolesta was told that installation fees would be waived because of the initial error on the part of Best Buy employees. Then came the phone call.

"But then, the next day, I get a call at home. They're telling me, 'If you don't come in and pay the installation fee, we're calling the police.' Jeez, where did we go from them admitting a mistake to suddenly calling the police? So I say, 'Fine, I'll be in tomorrow.' But, overnight, I'm starting to steam a little. It's not the money -- it's the threat. So I thought, I'll count out a few $2 bills."

He has lots and lots of them.

With his Capital City Student Tours, he arranges class trips for school kids around the country traveling to large East Coast cities, including Baltimore. He's been doing this for the last 18 years. He makes all the arrangements: hotels, meals, entertainment. And it's part of his schtick that, when Bolesta hands out meal money to students, he does it in $2 bills, which he picks up from his regular bank, Sun Trust.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

At Best Buy, they may have perceived the protest -- but did not sense the comic aspect of 57 $2 bills.

"I'm just here to pay the bill," Bolesta says he told a cashier. "She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money. Like she's doing me a favor."

He remembers the cashier marking each bill with a pen. Then other store personnel began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

A Best Buy manager refused comment last week. But, according to a Baltimore County police arrest report, suspicions were roused when an employee noticed some smearing of ink. So the cops were called in. One officer noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

"I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank,'" Bolesta says. "I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

Now I'll concede, you don't see many $2.00 bills today unless you frequent the two-dollar window down at the track. One would have hoped, though, that the manager would have known that the things were real. And surely the cops could have confirmed the legitimacy of the bills without having "cuffed and stuffed" Bolesta and then subjected him to the degradation of being hauled down to the police station. Couldn't they have just taken him back to the store security office and placed a call to the Secret Service from there?

Nope, I won't be going to best buy. Employees don't know the merchandise. Customer service is a joke. And now this absurdity.

And I'll admit right now, I wouldn't have been as kind when I got the phone call to come and pay. I would have suggested they pound sand -- and if I'd gone, I wouldn't have brought 57 $2.00 bills.

I would have stuffed my pockets with 114 Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea coins.


Let Him Serve!

I've always thought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a silly policy. Frankly, I thought the whole ban on homosexuals in the military was a bad idea before DADT was put in place. Quite simply, it deprives the military of good men and women who are ready, willing, and able to serve -- like this guy.

Sgt. Robert Stout, 23, says he has not encountered trouble from fellow soldiers and would like to stay if not for the policy that permits gay men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"I know a ton of gay men that would be more than willing to stay in the Army if they could just be open," Stout said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But if we have to stay here and hide our lives all the time, it's just not worth it."

Stout, of Utica, Ohio, was awarded the Purple Heart after a grenade sent pieces of shrapnel into his arm, face and legs while he was operating a machine gun on an armored Humvee last May.

He is believed to be the first gay soldier wounded in Iraq to publicly discuss his sexuality, said Aaron Belkin, director of the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

"We can't keep hiding the fact that there's gay people in the military and they aren't causing any harm," said Stout, who says he is openly gay among most of his 26-member platoon, which is part of the 9th Engineer Battalion based in Schweinfurt, Germany.

Stout, who served in Iraq for more than a year as a combat engineer, said by acknowledging he is gay, he could be jailed and probably will be discharged before his scheduled release date of May 31.

Let's look at this objectively. Here is a man who has shown himself more than adequate to the task of serving. Wounded in the line of duty, Stout certainly qualifies as a hero and a patriot in my book. I think the harm of discharging him is certainly more significant than the harm of keeping him -- and I believe that is the case with most homosexuals in the military.

Robert Stout is ready, willing, and able to serve. Let him.


Sounds Like the School Handled This Just Right

I wonder if the kids wore their shirts to class, and how the school dealt with that if they did.

What began as an anti-gay rally at a Rohnert Park high school today soon turned into an exercise in free speech when a group of students with a different viewpoint came out to challenge protesters.

April 13th is set aside by some to honor the gay and lesbian community nationwide, but a number of students Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park don't think that's right.

In a protest organized by the group Gay Marriage No and the school's Conservative Club and its student president and founder, Tim Beuler, about a dozen students from the school wore anti-gay sweat shirts and waved anti-gay signs as trucks drove around town emblazoned anti-gay slogans.

The gathering took place across the street from the school as protestors gave up their lunch hour to send their message to other students and people driving by. Other students from the school who support the April 13th “Day of Silence” observance weren’t quiet about letting the anti-gay protestors know they didn’t support their views.

Though things got a little tense as both sides loudly voiced their beliefs, district superintendent Michael Watenpaugh recognized the need to protect freedom of speech for all students. “It's a delicate situation.We need to preserve the rights of the students and we need to make sure that learning continues in the classroom."
Because the protest was not on school grounds, the school did not organize or try to break up the event. However, administrators did contact the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety, which had officers on hand to make sure the protest did not turn violent.

For what it is worth, I don't necessarily support the actions of these kids. It sounds to me, though, like these kids were condemning homosexuals as well as homosexuality. Ihave to say that I disagree with that point of view.

I don't believe that homosexual orientation is sinful, though I believe homosexual sexual activity is (a very distinct difference). And while I oppose same sex marriage, I do not support Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And while I support making sure that schools are a safe place for students regardless of sexual preference, I oppose presenting homosexuality as just one more option to be celebrated while suppressing other points of view as anti-social.


Sounds Good To Me

After all, they are freely choosing how to direct their own cash. That is precisely what we on the right have always said they should do.

They're rich, they're outraged, and they're not going to take it anymore -- their tax refund, that is.

A Boston-based group that wants to close the nation's "wealth gap" announced on Wednesday that its members have agreed to turn down their share of "tax cuts for the wealthy" by signing a "Responsible Tax Pledge."

Individuals who have taken the pledge this year are due an average estimated 2004 tax break of $20,000, the group Responsible Wealth said.

Responsible Wealth (a project of United for a Fair Economy) is calling on rich Americans to "redirect their federal tax breaks -- by giving their "unwanted and unneeded 'windfall'" to grassroots organizations that are working for "fairer" taxes.

Those groups include Responsible Wealth; and the Fund for Tax Fairness at the Tides Foundation - the foundation frequently mentioned during the 2004 presidential campaign because it is supported by charitable donations from Teresa Heinz Kerry.

I’d just like to know – how many Senators and Congressmen who opposed the Bush tax cuts are kicking their money into the pot? You know, putting their money where their mealy mouths are.

I bet not many.

After all -- it's their money, not ours.


Dumb Stunt Leads To Minuteman Investigation

On one hand, this is almost funny, a little bit of twisted gallows humor about the job the Minutemen are doing since the Border Patrol cannot or will not do it. On the other hand, I fear that it may be used to discredit an honorable movement doing good work.

Cochise County officials said they are investigating two Minuteman volunteers after an illegal entrant complained Wednesday to authorities that he was held against his will.

One of the men paid the illegal entrant $20 and gave him a T-shirt to hold up while he filmed the encounter. The T-shirt read: "Bryan Barton Caught an Illegal Alien and all I got was this T-shirt," said Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department.

The border-jumper (what is this “entrant” garbage) was then turned over to the Border patrol, unharmed.

Barton, who is seeking the GOP nomination for a congressional seat in San Diego, denies any wrongdoing, as does the other man being investigated. They deny detaining the border-jumper against his will.

And of course, the Open Border activists who put the rights of immigration criminals above the rights of American citizens and the security of the United states are making the most of the situation.

"This shows what we've been saying all along," said Jennifer Allen, director of the Border Action Network.

"It was nothing but a media sham to mislead the public," she said. "Clearly they misrepresented the situation. They misrepresented themselves."

No, they didn’t, as over 200 border-jumpers detained based upon the reports of the Minutemen proves. What this situation really demonstrates is that, given enough beer and enough time, even otherwise mature, responsible men will engage in antics reminiscent of a fraternity house.

Oh, and by the way, Ms. Allen -- the investigation showed that the Minutemen did nothing to the border-jumping invader that he was not willing to participate in for twenty bucks.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

You Knew It Had To Happen

When Andrea Yates murdered her children just a few miles from my home, my wife and I wondered how long it would be until Russell Yates started looking for another woman to breed a few more. We raised the same question again when he divorced her a couple of months back.

Well, guess what – he now says he is ready to “move on” and start a new family.

"I'm kind of in a phase where ... I'm through, I think, a lot of the healing and at a point where I'm starting to look more to the future," Russell Yates told the newspaper.

Yates, who has a new assignment with NASA as project manager for development of a sensor to detect damage on the space shuttle, talks of earning a master's degree in software engineering.

He's dating, though he declined to give details. He said he might eventually remarry and have more children.

"I have the freedom now," he said. "I'd like to do that someday and possibly have a family again. ... But I'm not 20. I'm 40. So I have to reassess where I'm at, what I have to offer."

No word on who the the object of his affection is.

What sort of sick woman would even consider marrying this guy?

Other than Andrea, of course.


One More Assault

Well, another conservative speaker has been pied.

A conservative activist who criticizes what he calls the leftist domination of college campuses was struck with a pie Wednesday night at Butler University.

David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, had just started a lecture at Butler when he was hit.

Horowitz's supporters followed the assailants out of the hall, and confronted them with what a witness called "pushing and shoving." However, the attackers got away.

"There's a wave of violence on college campuses, committed by what I'd call fascists opposing conservatives," Horowitz said. "It's one step from that to injury."

Well, David, you have them labeled exactly right. I hope your version of the story is correct, and that three of the four punks were arrested.

The perps need to be prosecuted and expelled.


Mexican Invaders Hinder US Military Training And Readiness

Well, one more reason to seal the borders. The border-jumping invaders coming into this country with the approval and assistance of the Mexican government are putting our own troops in danger.

Virtually every Marine squadron headed to Iraq or Afghanistan receives combat training at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, which for nearly 40 miles touches the US-Mexico border in the southwestern corner of Arizona. The Border Patrol's focus in recent years on tightening the border in the eastern part of the state, where volunteer citizens this month have established their own observation posts, has pushed more undocumented immigrants westward.

Since July 2004, the training range has been shut down more than 500 times because of immigrants spotted on the range, causing a loss of more than 1,100 training hours, said Colonel James J. Cooney, the base's commanding officer.

''That's equivalent to almost 46 days of training. We're getting overrun here," he said in an interview. ''Any moment we take away from a Marine's experience base could cost him his life in combat."

Cooney said Marines intercepted more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants on the training range last year and, in the first three months of this year, more than 1,100. Base personnel detain the immigrants and call in Border Patrol agents to pick them up.

''I have to use Marines that aren't trained in that to do that, which puts me at a liability," said Cooney, a Boston College graduate. ''It's completely counterproductive to our whole training operation."

There has also been the issue of humanitarian concern. The border-jumpers might get hurt.

Another big concern, he said, is the potential danger to undocumented immigrants: ''We just don't want them to come here, because we're firing lasers, we're shooting machine guns, we're shooting 209-millimeter cannons, and we're dropping practice bombs, and we don't want to hurt anyone."

Last summer a Marine pilot dropped a practice bomb on a target and seconds later, a few feet away, a small group of illegal immigrants scrambled from underneath a bush and ran down the range. The near miss was caught on a training tape that Cooney has reviewed.

And the problem is not just confined to the Marines at this one base. It also hurts training at Army and Air Force bases near the border. Immigrants simply wander into – or are directed by smugglers into -- firing ranges where live ammunition and bombs are in use.

Two other bases in Arizona, one the Army's and another the Air Force's, have experienced similar problems.

At the Army Yuma Proving Ground, near the Marine Corps Air Station but about 30 miles north of the border, an increasing number of undocumented immigrants have invaded military space and disrupted training.

''The smugglers just drive them up the highway and dump them off, and these illegal immigrants stumble right onto our testing range," said Chuck Wullenjohn, spokesman for the Army base.
As one of the largest military installations in the Western world, the Army Yuma Proving Ground is constantly conducting tests for ground forces on artillery and ammunition, including tank rounds, mines, mortars, and helicopter guns.

''Having anyone on this range that doesn't belong here is extremely dangerous," said Wullenjohn. ''The illegal immigrant issue is becoming a bigger problem all the time."
The Air Force said it has had to interrupt exercises with F-16 pilots after undocumented immigrants were spotted on a bombing range east of Gila Bend, north of the border.

''In 2004 we suspended range operations 55 times for a net loss of 122 hours," said Jim Uken, director of the 56th Fighter Wing range management office.

We simply cannot and should not endanger the training and readiness of our men and women in uniform – not to mention our national security – in the name of protecting those who violate our borders and our laws. Maybe the solution is simple – don’t stop the training exercises. We’ve all seen the humorous signs that read “Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be prosecuted”. Perhaps the time has come to post those around these training ranges in both English and Spanish, and then act accordingly.

If that sounds harsh, so be it.

Better a dead criminal than a dead soldier.


We Can’t Let The Cops Ask About Crimes, Can We?

Police officers are in the business of tracking down and arresting criminals. Unfortunately, the Open Borders crowd has succeeded in getting a lot of locales to forbid making inquiries about immigration status. That results in absurdities like this one from the Left Coast.

Central American community leaders on Wednesday demanded to meet with Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton to discuss proposed guidelines allowing police to make limited immigration inquiries about convicted felons they suspect reentered the U.S. illegally.

Under Special Order 40, adopted in 1979 to encourage illegal immigrants to report crime, LAPD officers are prevented from inquiring about a person's residency status.

However, Bratton plans to issue a clarification stating that officers can check on felons, mostly violent gang members, who were deported only to return illegally.

More than half a dozen of the community activists said clarifying the police's relationship with federal immigration officials could discourage immigrant witnesses or victims from turning to authorities to help fight crime.

Discourage ALL immigrant witnesses or victims, or discourage border-jumping witnesses and victims from reporting crimes? Well, we all know the answer there. Allowing the police to question someone about immigration crimes would discourage immigration criminals from turning to the police. Could you imagine preventing cops from asking drug dealers about drug sales because it might keep them from reporting robberies when someone steals their drug money?

The activists said they wanted to hear from Bratton himself about the specific policy language as well as safeguards to prevent police from "casting a wider net" to target illegal immigrants.

"The Los Angeles Police Department should deal with crime," added Isabel Cardenas, a longtime Salvadoran American community organizer. "Immigration should be totally separate. The change could give way to abuse."

Ms. Cardenas, this is about the police dealing with crimes. You may not have realized it, but it is a violation of the law for the border-jumpers you are trying to protect to even be in this country without the proper legal documents. By definition, seeking their removal is dealing with a crime. If you want that law change, you need to lobby your Senators and Congressmen to decriminalize illegal immigration and throw open the borders of the country to every Tomas, Rico, and Geraldo who can swim the Rio Grande or sneak across the desert.

Assistant Chief George Gascon said Wednesday that Bratton was willing to meet with the group, not only to discuss the clarification but also to spell out the reasons behind it.

"The policy is very clear," Gascon said. "The clarification has to do with people who were convicted of a felony, deported from this country and have reentered illegally, and we become of aware of it. It's very narrowly focused."

Police say some officers are confused about how to approach previously deported criminals — most with ties to violent international street gangs — with multiple misdemeanor or felony convictions.

Yeah, that’s right, these activists are afraid of the possible arrest and re-deportation of convicted violent felons, especially narco-terrorists. They don’t care about the crime – they care about getting more of their people into the country. They are, in effect, the fifth column of the Mexican invasion force.


Oh, No!

Right after I call for an end to Daylight Savings Time, along comes this atrocity.

If Congress passes an energy bill, Americans may see more daylight-saving time.

Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the last Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.

"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton (news, bio, voting record), R-Mich., who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored the measure.

The amendment was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is putting together major parts of energy legislation likely to come up for a vote in the full House in the coming weeks.

"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.

The country uses about 20 million barrels of oil a day.

I don’t see why it will have that effect – last time I checked, we would continue to have 24 hour days with the same day/night cycle. As I pointed out, the effect of DST on me is making me drive to school in the morning in the dark instead of daylight. Darkness at the start of the day rather than at the end. The savings are truly miniscule.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

An Act Of Kindness -- Remembered 60 Years Later

This story by Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune is moving and beautiful, a story of kindness and compassion that arose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the Second World War. It is also a family story, about his mother-in-law’s experience after surviving the Nazi horrors.

That it also serves as a moving tribute to the young man involved on the occasion of his passing makes it that much more beautiful. I could not help but weep as I read this story of the meeting between a young Jewish girl and a Polish seminarian.

During the summer of 1942, two women in Krakow, Poland, were denounced as Jews, taken to the city's prison, held there for a few months and then sent to the Belzec extermination camp, where, in October, they were killed in primitive Nazi gas chambers by carbon monoxide from diesel engines.

Their names were Frimeta Gelband and Salomea Zierer; they were sisters. As it happens, Frimeta was my wife's grandmother. Salomea, known as "Salla," had two daughters, one of whom survived the war and one of whom did not.

The elder of these daughters was Edith Zierer. In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death. Separated from her family, unaware that her mother had been killed by the Germans, she could scarcely walk.

But walk she did, to a train station, where she climbed onto a coal wagon. The train moved slowly, the wind cut through her. When the cold became too much to bear, she got off the train at a village called Jendzejuw. In a corner of the station, she sat. Nobody looked at her, a girl in the striped and numbered uniform of a prisoner, late in a terrible war. Unable to move, Edith waited.

Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to the girl to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?"

Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.

The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again, the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese.

They talked about the advancing Soviet army. Edith said she believed her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.

"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried - and failed. The man carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak, and set about making a small fire.

His name, he told Edith, was Karol Wojtyla.

I urge you to read the rest. It so clearly shows that Karol Wojtyla was truly every bit the man of kindness, decency, and holiness that we would all come to know as Pope John Paul II.


Sheriff Uses Driver's License Records To Track Down Critic

Imagine this scenario – you write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. In the letter, you criticize an elected law enforcement official. A short time later, you receive a letter in response from the official. How did he locate your address? That’s simple – he ran your name through the state Driver’s License database.

Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary had his aides use the records to get the address of Alice Gawronski so he could send her a scathing letter, which some say violated federal privacy law. It is illegal to access a driver's license database to obtain personal information, except for clear law-enforcement purposes, under the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994.

"I recently read your slanderous remarks about the Orange County Sheriff's Office in the Orlando Sentinel," Beary wrote Gawronski on March 23. "It is unfortunate that people ridicule others without arming themselves with the facts before they slander a law enforcement agency or individual."

Gawronski said, "I thought I was exercising my First Amendment right of free speech -- expressing an opinion in an open forum about a paid public official." She considered Beary's letter a form of intimidation.

Violators of the driver's privacy act can be sued in U.S. District Court for damages of at least $2,500, punitive damages, attorney's fees and all other relief the court determines to be appropriate.

"If I were her, I'd sue and get him in front of a jury. He'd probably get laughed out of the courtroom," said Chris Hoofnagle, the senior counsel for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "This is the most common problem with surveillance -- who's watching the watchers."

Beary claims that responding to a “citizen concern” is part of his duties, but that hardly constitutes a “law-enforcement purpose.” I’m with the guy from EPIC – I think his method was illegal. For that matter, I think his letter was abusive and unprofessional. The goal seems to have been to place Gawronski in fear of litigation (notice the charge of slander made repeatedly by the Beary), not answer her concerns.

What is it about Florida?


Ninth Circuit Finds A Limit To Free Speech

That limit is the lap-dance. Such erotic dances are not constitutionally protected “expressive speech”, and are therefore outside the bounds of the irst Amendment. Therefore, local government (and presumably state government) can implement policies which regulate stripper/patron contact.

The city of La Habra requires that lap dancers stay at least 2 feet away from customers during their performances.

Badi "Bill" Gammoh, who owns the Taboo Theater, contends the rule infringes on freedom of expression. The strippers said they also lost money because of the requirement.

A federal appeals court has refused to reconsider a January ruling that upheld the 2-foot rule. But Gammoh's lawyer said their fight isn't over yet.

I don't know about you, but I'm somewhat surprised by this decision. Given that we are talking about the Ninth Circuit, I would have expected a requirement that lap dances receive public subsidies.


ACLU Declares Prayer 'Un-American And Immoral'

Well, we clearly know who the enemy is in this case.

ACLU of Louisiana executive director Joe Cook says it was “un-American and immoral” to allow an adult to pray over Loranger High School’s public address system.
Cook says members of the school board should be fined or jailed for failing to stop it.

Last month, the ACLU asked Judge Ginger Berrigan to hold the same school board in contempt for letting an elementary school student recite the Lord’s Prayer before its meeting.

Berrigan ruled in February that school boards, unlike most government bodies, cannot hold public prayers. That ruling was denounced by Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and is being appealed.

Now there may be a problem with the prayer before the game, based upon the Santa Fe case, but the court is probably wrong on the school board prayer ruling. There is no basis for excluding school boards from the same rules that apply to other elected bodies.

As for "un-American and immoral", I think that label is more accurately applied to the judge and the ACLU than it is to prayer.


Homosexual Marriage Loses Again

Well, this now makes it 18-0 for the traditional marriage side. You see, each and every time the people speak on the issue, homosexual marriage loses. That explains why the supporters of homosexual marriage have consistently turned to the courts to impose it on an unwilling nation.

Some folks clearly do not understand the implications of a 70%-30% margin.

Opponents who gathered near the state Capitol in Topeka were disappointed but not surprised by the results.

The vote is not reflective of the typical Kansan, said Steve Brown of Prairie Village, a member of Kansans for Fairness, a group that worked to defeat the amendment.

“Eventually, moderate Kansans are going to stand up and say they've had enough,” Brown said.

Oh, please. A 70% margin means that it IS reflective of typical Kansans, folks. The reality is that EVERY SINGLE POLL shows the result to be reflective of typical AMERICANS. There is simply no historical basis for arguing that any provision of the Constitution of the US, or of any state in the Union, was intended to establish and protect homosexual marriage. So Mr. Brown, you have are right, moderate Kansans have stood up and said they have had enough – of folks like you pushing your agenda.

Oh, and by the way – you don’t suppose that the 18-0 record of voter approval of state amendments banning homosexual marriage constitutes a trend and a consensus, like that they discovered in the Simmons case on the juvenile death penalty, do you? Or do such judicial creations only apply to liberal causes and positions?


Ridor Calls For Natural Disaster To Wipe Out Conservatives And Christians

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have this nasty habit of saying that natural disasters happen to punish the sins of groups of people, especially homosexuals. Now I disagree with that theology, and I have condemned such comments when they have been made. For that reason, I feel perfectly appropriate condemning the words of our resident troll, Ridor.

When I drove eastward to Cody from Yellowstone, the drive down the massive mountain was absolutely stunning. I even stopped by the gas station to fill the tank. I turned my back to gaze upon the road that I drove few minutes earlier. I was astonished by its massive size. Yellowstone National Park sits on the top of the mountain. It is a sleeping giant waiting to erupt once again.

And when it does, it shall overwhelm Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and the parts of Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas and Minnesota -- the hotbed of Republicans, Conservatives and X-ians. Surely, it will be delicious to witness the death of filthy Republicans, dirty Conservatives and X-ian pigs. Of course, Ann Coulter would still blame the Liberals for causing the dormant volcano to erupt in the first place.

Now, could you imagine the outrage voiced by Ridor if Falwell or Robertson changed the disaster location to San Francisco and suggested that it would "be delicious to witness the death of filthy sodomites, dirty lesbians and transgendered pigs"?

Why is such a double standard acceptable? Why do you think you and your words are exempt from standards of fundamental moral decency to which you seek to hold others?


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

No Freedom For Teachers In Soviet Kanuckistan

This Canadian case chills me to the bone, as I am a politically active Republican in addition to being a teacher. I thank God for our First Amendment, because if I lived in Canada I would be out of a job -- possibly for this blog.

In a decision handed down yesterday, Quesnel School District Superintendent Ed Napier suspended school counsellor Dr. Chris Kempling for three months. Dr. Kempling has been employed as a counsellor since 1990, and has been active in a wide variety of volunteer positions in the community. He is also the local spokesperson of the federal Christian Heritage Party, and had written a letter to the editor of the local newspaper on behalf of his party, criticizing the Liberal government's same sex marriage legislation. The school district did not provide a single example of disruption to the school system, or any negative effect of the letter. They also ignored over a dozen letters of reference from supervisors and community members written in support of Dr. Kempling.

Think about this. The implications for non-PC teachers in Canada are astounding.
  1. The freedom to participate in political activities does not exist if you are a Canadian educator. Taking the "wrong" political position can leave you subject to suspension, or even termination. Implicit in this employment action is the threat that other party members might be so disciplined.
  2. Freedom of speech also does not exist for Canadian educators. The principles of "tolerance", "diversity", and "sensitivity" trump the the speech rights enshrined in The Canadian Charter of Liberties and Canadian law.
  3. Religious freedom is also endangered for Canadian teachers. After all, the Christian Heritage Party is based upon certain lon-standing religious teachings of the Christian religion. Would membership in a Church espousing the same position as the party, if it became publicly know, be grounds for employment sanctions?
  4. Canadian educators are now threatened with disciplinary action for actions taken or words spoken on their private time, not in their public role as an educator but instead in their role as private citizen. No disruption of the school or of the education of students needs be demonstrated.
What you have, therefore, is a reduction of human rights for Canadian educators. They have become second-class citizens. And we are not talking about some Third World dictatorship or banana republic -- we are talking about a nation that claims to be a Western Democracy which protects the rights of its citizens.

Dr. Kempling plans on fighting his suspension through the district grievance process and through the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal, on the basis that he is being discriminated against on the basis of political association. But do not hold out much hope for him -- a Canadian teacher was recently suspended and denied relief for writing a letter to the editor denouncin homosexuality. Ther eis no particular reason to expect better in this case.


Killing King’s College

King’s College is a small school, over 40 years old, that lived a quiet existence in the suburbs of New York City. No one took much notice of the small evangelical school, despite its reputation for excellence, until it moved into the NYC itself and took up residence in one of the city’s great icons – the Empire State Building. There it began to focus on politics, philosophy, and economics, seeking to prepare its students for positions in government and business. And now, suddenly, its accreditation by the New York Board of Regents is at stake.

King’s College has been accredited by the New York State Board of Regents for over 40 years, and all was on track for yet another renewal. After the college was scrutinized by the New York State Board of Education and an external site visit team, the Regents’ own Advisory Council recommended a five-year extension of King’s accreditation. So the stage was set for a fascinating experiment in higher education — an ultimate encounter of red and blue America.

That was until King’s College caught the attention of John Brademas, a quintessentially liberal politician, and one of the newest members of the State Board of Regents. Brademas had been a liberal Democratic congressman from Indiana, but was defeated in 1980 (according to this study with major opposition from the Moral Majority). After his defeat, Brademas went on to serve as president of New York University for a decade — a period during which NYU consolidated its reputation as a liberal bastion.

As soon as the question of King’s College’s accreditation came before the Regents, Brademas began to throw up a series of patently bogus objections, all of which were answered in the written material prepared by the Regents own Advisory Council. Brademas harped on the college’s small library — yet neglected to note that King’s is across the street from the Science and Business Branch of the New York Public Library, and seven short blocks from the library’s main building. That gives King’s a better library than all but a handful of colleges and universities in New York State.

But the silliest objection of all was the claim that the college has a misleading name. After all, said Brademas, King’s College was the original name of Columbia University. Wouldn’t that mislead prospective students into thinking they’re attending Columbia, instead of an evangelical Christian school? Trouble is, Columbia University changed its name from King’s to Columbia over 200 years ago — after the Revolution broke our ties with England’s king. And, of course, the King honored in King’s College’s name is God. New York’s Regents have accredited this college for over 50 years under the name of King’s. So why the problem now?

Frankly, it appears that there is no basis for the objection. The school has met the standards of the Regents for around half a century. More to the point, Joseph Frey, the state Education Department’s Assistant Commissioner of Quality Assurance, has stated that the school is in compliance. Now they have given the school only a single year’s accreditation – despite the fact that their own rules call for a five year accreditation, and provide for a shorter period (two years) only in the event that a school given conditional or probationary accreditation. The only folks who are out of compliance with the rules of the New York Board of Regents are the Regents themselves!

Now I won’t go quite to the lengths of those who have said that this is the case of religious discrimination, though I think that a prima facie case can be made that this unique abuse of a small evangelical college is religiously based. I’ll simply call it what it is – an immoral violation of due process. I won’t get into the question of whether or not the Regents should exist, or whether the state has any place doing accreditation when the private sector handles the process quite well through a variety of accrediting bodies. But I will say that there is a clear injustice here.

What can you do? Might I suggest writing to the Regents in protest? They can be contacted through the board secretary at

Let’s tell them that they cannot kill King’s College.


How Effective Are The Minutemen?

Let’s see – in their first four days, they were involved in the apprehension of 118 border jumpers.

So far, 118 illegal aliens have been arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol based on calls from Minuteman volunteers along a 20-mile stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border, where limited patrols began Friday.

"This is not about racism or hate, but the rule of law," said Bob Wright of Hobbs, N.M., who spent the weekend helping to map out the group's observation posts.

"I would hope the two governments would try to do something. ... What is happening to these people who risk their lives to come into the United States is a travesty."

Not only that, they can see other groups of would-be immigration criminals can be seen waiting for the Minutemen to leave. They know that if they try to cross they will be caught.


Student Wins Net Speech Dispute

Ryan Dwyer was an eighth grader at Maple Place Middle School in Oceanport, New Jersey, didn’t like his school. He disliked it so much that he created a website about it – one which provided a forum for others to talk about school and encouraged other students to make “I Hate maple Place” stickers for their notebooks. In other words, he acted sort of juvenile – just like a normal eighth grader.

Until the school decided his site constituted a threat, demanded it be shut down, and suspended the boy because the site offended school officials. No policy or law was ever cited by any district official as grounds for the punishment, just vague claims that the site contained threats and constituted possible criminal conduct.

Launched in April 2003, the Web site greeted users with the legend, “Welcome to the Anti-Maple Place — Your Friendly Environment,” and said: “This page is dedicated to showing students why their school isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. You may be shocked at what you find on this site.”

Ryan urged students to make stickers that said “I hate Maple Place” and also wrote, “Don’t even try to make me take my Web site down because it is illegal to do so!”

Users who wished to leave comments were instructed not to use profanity and “no threats to any teacher or person EVER.”

Some visitor comments criticized the school and its teachers, but others, the lawsuit conceded, “were arguably crude, sophomoric and offensive.” Ryan never made threats or profanity, it said.

[Judge] Chesler wrote that the defendants “could only have lawfully disciplined Ryan for statements and other content created and provided by him, and not for any comments made by other individuals in his guest book.”

Perhaps most alarming is that despite the family’s cooperation with the school’s censorship of out-of-school speech, Ryan was suspended for a week, banned from the school baseball team for a month, and denied the right to go on a class trip to Philadelphia. It seems pretty clear that the goal was not just to remove any material that violated school policies (there were no such policies), but to punish the boy for activities over which the school had no legitimate basis for controlling.

Today, Ryan is a sophomore at Shore Regional High School, and he noted the following about the case.

“When I was in eighth grade, it kind of just seemed like I couldn’t do anything about it,” Ryan said. “Now I realize that I missed out on a lot of things, and it feels good that they got proved wrong about what they did.”

“I was really surprised that the school administrators actually thought they could punish me for just saying a couple of things about them,” he said.

Sadly, there are still too many school administrators out there who forget that students do not shed their liberties at the schoolhouse gate, and that whatever limits are legitimate at school do not follow the student home. Sadly, the judge ruled that the principal and superintendent could not be held personally liable for their violation of Ryan’s rights. That’s too bad, because only that will convince some administrators that the dictates of the US Constitution apply to their actions.


What Would They Do About Tic Tacs?

They were only mints, not drugs. They contained caffeine and another ingredient often found in energy supplements. But they caused a panic at a school in Ohio when several students ate them and began to feel their hearts race.

Now the boy who brought them to school will “only” be suspended for 10 days under a policy banning any item that resembles a drug.

Police won't charge a 13-year-old boy who was suspended for 10 days after he brought caffeine-laced mints to school and his classmates got sick.

Nine students between the ages of 12 and 14 were sent to a hospital last month after eating the mints. The students at Jackson Memorial Middle School near Canton were treated and released for symptoms such as a racing heartbeat.

Police considered filing charges against the boy until they tested the ingredients in the Blast Energy Supplemints.

"We found no illegal substance whatsoever. Just caffeine," said Major Tim Escola.

Besides caffeine, the pills contain taurine, a common ingredient in energy drinks such as Red Bull.

Police estimated about 39 mints could have been eaten by the students. According to the label, a single serving is six mints, which contains 15 milligrams of caffeine. That's about half the amount of caffeine in a regular can of soda.

The mints are distributed by Bally Total Fitness Corp. and advertised on the company's Web site as an ephedra-free pick-me-up for "quick energy support for work, play, school, athletics, weight training and much more."

The boy's mother said she bought the mints at a drug store and that her son took them from her purse without her permission.

School officials suspended the boy for 10 days because school policy prohibits anything that resembles a drug.

So how much caffeine did the kids get from this so-called look-alike drug? About half that provided by a can of soda in the school cafeteria.



Watcher Post

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

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

And there is an open seat on the Watcher's Council. Contact the Watcher if you are interested.


Well, The Loons Are Out!

America's most vile hatemonger, Fred Phelps, is at work showing the world what a Christian is not. His take on the Pope's Death can be found here and here.

I'd suggest deluging him with email, but I somehow doubt that it would have any effect on his demented mind.


Monday, April 04, 2005

Thief Steals Motorcycle At Accident Scene, Leaves Body

I know they say there is no honor among thieves. Would it have been too much to expect a little bit of decency in this case here in Houston?

A man was killed this morning when his motorcycle crashed into a northwest Houston house, but the motorcycle soon disappeared, police said.

The man's body was found around 6 a.m. today between two houses in the 1800 block of West Gulf Bank near Donley. He had suffered major head trauma, said Houston Police Department Sgt. David Crain.

Homicide investigators and crime scene unit officers were initially called to the scene, but determined the man had been injured in some sort of traffic accident after finding broken bits of the motorcycle nearby and discovering a tire track leading up to the house.

Officers also found a spot where the man's head had hit the house. He was not wearing a helmet, Crain said.

Police determined the man had been driving a motorcycle southbound on Donley Street at a high rate of speed, then crossed over West Gulf Bank and hit the house.

After the impact, someone came along and took the motorcycle, leaving the man's body there, police said. Police were still looking for that motorcycle later today, Crain said.

The depravity of some people is beyond my understanding.


Cardinal “In Pectore” –Who Is It?

As has been mentioned a number of times in recent days, Pope John Paul II did not announce one of his appointments as cardinal during the 2003 consistory. The name still has not been made public. That leads to an obvious question – who is this cardinal “in the breast”? There is much speculation.

The first possibility is, of course, that the pope told no one who his selection was, and did not leave any written indication of the choice. In that case, the man in question can never be known. But what if the identity was revealed, one way or another? Who might it be?

Observers divide into two camps on the identity of our “undercover cardinal.” On the one hand, it might be a prelate from an oppressed church who would face danger if named publicly. On the other, it could be someone quite close to John Paul, perhaps a priest or prelate in the Vatican whose elevation would have created difficulties if publicly known.

Those who hold the latter view have a candidate in mind. Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Pope’s private secretary for many years. He was ordained a priest by then-Bishop Karol Wojtyla in 1963, and served as his secretary in Krakow and the Vatican. Naming him a cardinal publicly would have been difficult, as it would have likely meant the loss of his services. It would not have been out of character for John Paul to have withheld the public acknowledgement of that appointment until after his death, leaving a final gift to the one man to whom he was closest. If this is the case, we will soon know, because Dziwisz is young enough to participate in the conclave, and near enough at hand to make the announcement of his appointment a simple task.

And there is an element of danger in announcing the appointment of a bishop from an oppressed church. Such a cardinal would almost certainly come from the People’s Republic of China or, perhaps Vietnam. In those nations, making the appointment public would subject the cardinal to arrest, torture, or even martyrdom. Such appointments were not unprecedented under the late pope.

John Paul has named three other "in pectore" cardinals whose names were later revealed, including Marian Jaworski, archbishop of Lviv, Ukraine, for Catholics who follow the Latin rite, and Janis Pujats of Riga, Latvia.

Both Ukraine and Latvia formerly belonged to the officially atheist Soviet Union.

The third was Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei, an elderly Chinese bishop who spent 30 years in Chinese prisons for defying attempts by China's communist government to control Roman Catholics through the state-run church.

As I have pointed out elsewhere, speculation has centered on Bishop Julius Jia of China, but there are others who might also have been chosen by John Paul II. Would it be possible to announce the name of the secret cardinal and get him safely to Rome in time to participate? Would he be allowed to return home in the event he did participate? Those questions would need to be answered, and the consequences considered, before making the announcement.

What impact would this cardinal, the name made public only after the late pope’s death, have at the conclave? Dziwisz certainly knew the mind and heart of the pope better than anyone. What weight would his voice be given? Would he be a desirable candidate himself, or would the election of a second Polish pope in as many conclaves be tone too many? Would a stranger from a strange land, one who has lived under the bootheel of totalitarian oppression (much like a certain Polish cardinal in 1978) have great influence – or even bee seen as the key to liberating his homeland if elected, just as John Paul II’s words and deeds were instrumental in liberating Poland and the rest of the Eastern Bloc?

So much could hinge on the identity of the cardinal “in pectore,” if only we learn his identity.


The Catholic Church Is Not A Democracy

That’s why I find this poll to be more than a little bit absurd.

The U.S. Catholic church is struggling with a variety of problems, including a dramatically shrinking U.S. priesthood, disagreement over the proper role for lay leaders, and a conservative-liberal divide over sexuality, women's ordination and clergy celibacy.

About two-thirds of those polled, 69 percent, said priests should be allowed to marry and almost that many, 64 percent, said they want women in the priesthood. Six in 10 Catholics supported each of those steps.

More than four in five Americans — and about the same number of Catholics — said they want to see the next pope do more to address the problem of priests sexually abusing children.

The church has been trying to deal with an abuse crisis that bubbled to the surface in January 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread throughout the country. Since then, the church has adopted a toughened discipline policy, enacted child protection and victim outreach plans in dioceses, and removed hundreds of accused priests from church work.

Americans were divided when asked from where the next pope should come. Just over a third said he should be from Europe, while a similar number said he should be from a part of the world where Catholicism is growing fastest, like Africa or Latin America. The rest weren't sure.

First, the poll does not limit itself to Catholics only. In that regard, it is somewhat insulting. Could you imagine a survey of all Americans regarding whether Jews should change the rules on what is kosher to include pork? But beyond that, I would be curious to find out how many of the “Catholics” were actually practicing Catholics. My guess would be no more than 10% of those included in the sample were actually baptized Catholics who have set foot in a Catholic Church for anything other than Easter, Christmas, weddings, and funerals during the last 12 months. In other words, why should we care what 90% of these people think on issues related to the Catholic Church.

Second, the Catholic Church is not run based upon opinion polls and focus groups. It doesn’t matter how many folks in the US think the Pope should come from the Third World, Europe, or Sheboygan, Wisconsin. And given that Americans are a relatively small subset of the Church, the opinions of Americans are not highly relevant.

Still, an exercise like this one could be interesting if done right. You know, if they had surveyed Catholics about their views on Catholicism. Not that it would have had any impact on who or how the new pope would be chosen.


Treating Healers Like Pushers

I hope you never ever have to live with chronic pain. I hope none of your loved ones ever has to live with chronic pain. It is a hell that no individual should have to live with. Medically, there is only one treatment – high doses of pain-killing drugs, including opiates. Trust me – I know. My wife is one whose only relief comes from a pharmaceutical cocktail.

Doctors are hesitant to prescribe these drugs because writing “too many” prescriptions for “too many” pills at “too high” a dosage brings scrutiny that doctors would prefer not to face. My wife’s pain management doctor recently informed us that he had changed office policy to forbid a practice that is standard in most physician’s offices – giving refills to a pharmacy by phone. If my wife (and every other patient) wants a refill, she must make an office visit and be seen by the doctor. Why? Because of cases like this one.

In December, after a federal jury convicted McLean, Virginia, pain doctor William Hurwitz of running a drug trafficking operation, the foreman told The Washington Post "he wasn't running a criminal enterprise." Don't bother reading that sentence again; it's not going to make any more sense the second time around.

Hurwitz, who is scheduled to be sentenced on April 14 and will go to prison for life if U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler follows the prosecutors' recommendation, was charged with drug trafficking because a small minority of his patients abused or sold narcotic painkillers he prescribed for them. Prosecutors argued his practice amounted to a "criminal enterprise" based on a "conspiracy of silence"—i.e., a conspiracy in which Hurwitz did not actually conspire with anyone—because he charged for his services and should have known some of his patients were faking or exaggerating their pain.

Judging from the comments of the jury foreman, Ralph Craft, the jurors did not really buy this theory. Perhaps they still harbored the legally unsophisticated notion that drug traffickers are people who engage in drug trafficking. But they convicted Hurwitz anyway, because they didn't like the way he practiced medicine.
"I'm not an expert," Craft conceded, while expressing the opinion that Hurwitz was "a little bit cavalier" in prescribing opioids. "He ramped up and ramped up the prescriptions very quickly," he said. "This is stuff that can kill people. He should have been extra careful."

Craft and his fellow jurors were appalled by the sheer number of pills Hurwitz prescribed. "The dosages were just astounding," he said, calling them "beyond the bounds of reason."

But they are not beyond the bounds of reason. The body builds up a tolerance to these medications, as a physical dependency develops. Where one pill getting up and one pill at dinner might have provided relief early on, in a year or so the dosage will need to reach four pills a day, just to be able to move around the house. From there the dosage must increase, or a new medication must be introduced. Some medications are not even considered – Oxy-Contin, for example, because of the scrutiny it brings due to the high level of abuse. And even with all the changes and increases, the pain continues to progress. Still more medication is necessary, just to have some semblance of a normal life.

Those dosages are pretty intense. I was recently prescribed one of my wife’s medications when I had a muscle spasm in my neck and back that went on for two weeks. My dosage was lower, and less frequent than what my wife regularly takes. The first dose took away all my pain – and left me incapable of walking any further than the bathroom for the next six hours – and so frightened that I refused to take the medication again. My wife, on the other hand, is completely clear-headed when she takes a dosage twice as high four times a day. Why? Because her body has built up a tolerance to the medication, and its effect on a systemic neuro-muscular disease is palliative, not intoxicating.

In a letter they wrote before the verdict, six past presidents of the American Pain Society rebuked Ashburn for this statement, along with several other misrepresentations of pain treatment standards. "We are stunned by his testimony," they said. "Use of 'high dose' opioid therapy for chronic pain is clearly in the scope of medicine."

As these pain experts recognized, Hurwitz was not the only person on trial at the federal courthouse in Alexandria. So was every doctor who has the courage to risk investigation by treating people who suffer from severe chronic pain with the high doses of opioids they need to make their lives livable.

In poignant letters to Judge Wexler, who has fairly wide latitude in punishing Hurwitz now that the U.S. Supreme Court has made federal sentencing guidelines merely advisory, dozens of his former patients recount how he saved them from constant agony caused by migraines, back injuries, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and other painful conditions that left them disabled, homebound, despondent, and in some cases suicidal. They outline the difficulties they had in getting adequate treatment before they found Hurwitz and the trouble they've been having since the government put him out of business.

"Good pain doctors are hard to find," writes one. "I am saddened that Dr. Hurwitz is branded a criminal for helping me and helping people like me." Another argues that Hurwitz's "crime"—trusting his patients—was one of his greatest virtues. "It is to Dr. Hurwitz's credit," he says, "that he chose to trust that his patients were genuinely seeking relief from pain that cannot be objectively measured. This trust is, in my experience, all too rare." Threatening doctors with prison for viewing their patients with inadequate suspicion will make it even rarer.

What has happened here is that the War on Drugs has turned into a War on Doctors – and by extension, into a War on Patients. Prosecutions like the Hurwitz case make it harder for patents like my wife to get needed medications in therapeutic doses. And it leaves me asking uncomfortable questions.

Will the day come that my wife’s doctor is going to refuse to give her the medication she needs in order to keep out of jail?

Will this kind and decent man be put on trial because some patient overdoses or sells medication?

Will some prosecutor be second–guessing my wife’s medical care?

Or will needed medications, and the physician's to prescribe them, remain available?


Sunday, April 03, 2005

"Mail It In" -- How To Avoid The Filibuster

Let's concede, for the sake of argument, that Senator Robert Byrd (Klan-Dogpatch) is correct. No where does the Constitution require an "up-or-down" vote on a judicial nominee. It just isn't in there. But then again, the Constitution does not mandate a vote at all. It simply calls fo the "advice and consent" of the Senate. So notes a piece in today's Opinion Journal.

As the Senator says, Article II of the Constitution is silent on how the Senate shall exercise its "advice and consent" power in confirming judicial nominees. For more than 200 years, however, that body has interpreted the Founders' injunction to mean that a simple majority of Senators--51 in our age--must vote to confirm. That's why we cried foul in President Bush's first term when Democrats filibustered 10 appeals-court nominees, thereby denying them an up-or-down vote on the floor--even though every candidate had the support of a bipartisan majority. A vote to end a filibuster requires a super-majority of 60 Senators.

But now that Senator Byrd has expressed the view that the Senate doesn't have to vote at all, here's a better idea for ending the impasse over judicial nominations: Fifty-one of the 55 Republican Senators can simply send the President a letter expressing their support for his candidates. Under Mr. Byrd's Constitutional analysis, the Senate will have exercised "advice and consent" and the judges will be confirmed.

Sounds reasonable to me. Having advised the President to reappoint those candidates denied a floor vote, the explicit consent of a majority of senators, communicated to the President constitutes "advice and consent". The Constitutional mandate having been met, the nominations are, by any Constitutional standard, approved and the judges confirmed.

Thank you, Senator Byrd, for providing the solution to the current crisis. Let the filibuster rule remain unchanged -- just follow the Constitution. Problem solved.


Maligned Minutemen Save Border Jumper

And I thought they were supposed to be gun-wielding racists out "hunting for Mexicans". What happened? Could it be that the leftists, the Preseident Bush, and Pendejo Presidente Fox have misled us -- perhaps intentionally so?

Minuteman Project volunteers helped an illegal entrant in distress late Friday. The incident was the first documented encounter between the volunteers and Mexican nationals sneaking across the border, officials said.

The incident happened around midnight when a tired and thirsty illegal entrant who'd been separated from his group approached Minuteman volunteers at the Bible College in Palominas, said U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame. Project volunteers have been camping out at the college.

Not, of course, that this changed anyone's point of view about American citizens engaged inlegal activity attempting to help the Border Patrol.

Officials from both sides of the issue said that Minuteman volunteers proved helpful in the first contact with an entrant.

"In this particular case, it was helping us. In this sole incident, it was a help," Adame said, adding the Border Patrol still doesn't support the Minuteman Project, which involves volunteers stationed along areas on the border looking for illegal entrants.

One case of providing help doesn't make the monthlong protest acceptable, said a member of a border rights group.

"The fact that they encountered a migrant and did the right thing, yes I'm glad. Does it suddenly make them OK in our communities? No," said Kat Rodriguez, an organizer for the Tucson-based Derechos Humanos, a rights group that has spoken out against the project.

And therein lies the problem. The administration is more concerned with kissing the butt of maintaining good relations with the Mexican cabron president than with protecting our borders and enforcing our laws, hence the opposition from the Border patrol. And the so called "border rights groups" (read that "pro-crime groups") are always going to be opposed to any enforcement of our nation's laws at all -- they are the immigration equivalent of members of the Osama Fan Club. The result is that no matter what the Minutemen do, they will be maligned by those who are opposed not only to their presence, but to their agenda.

UPDATE: Well, now they've tipped Border patrol officers to a group of border jumpers coming into the country illegally -- 18 border jumpers arrested.

Volunteers for an effort to patrol the Mexican border reported their first sighting of suspected illegal immigrants, resulting in 18 arrests, authorities said Sunday.

Participants in the Minuteman Project spotted the migrants Saturday near Naco as the volunteers were surveying the border to familiarize themselves with area. When agents arrived, they apprehended 18 people, Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said.

"You observe them, report them and get out of the way," said Mike McGarry, a spokesman for the project, which begins Monday and is to continue for a month.

Now who are the bad guys here? The Minutemen, or their opponents?


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