Precinct 333

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Cardinal Accused

I am unsure of what to make of this story. It paints Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in a very bad light, but will it have an effect on his electability? More to the point, was the accusation a political move made precisely in order to prevent him from being a serious candidate? After all, up to now he has been widely mentioned as a papabile -- a possible pope.

Just days before Roman Catholic cardinals select a new pope, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against an Argentine mentioned as a possible contender, accusing him of involvement in the 1976 kidnappings of two priests.

Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio's spokesman today called the allegation "old slander."

The complaint filed in a Buenos Aires court Friday by human rights lawyer Marcelo Parrilli accused Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, of involvement in the kidnappings of two Jesuit priests by the military dictatorship, according to the Buenos Aires newspaper Clarin. The complaint does not specify Bergoglio's alleged involvement.

The priests were released after five months.

"This is old slander," the Rev. Guillermo Marco, Bergoglio's spokesman, told The Associated Press in Rome. "This is the week of slander."

Under Argentine law, an accusation can be filed with a very low threshold of evidence. The court later decides whether there is cause to investigate and file charges.

The Italian newspaper Corriere dell Sera called the accusations "an infamy fueled by Bergoglio's enemies," saying Saturday that far from participating in the kidnappings, the cardinal helped win the priests' freedom. It did not detail its sources.

The accusations against Bergoglio, 68, in the kidnappings of priests Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics are not new, being detailed in a recently published book by Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky.

Marco called Verbitsky "a gentleman of dubious fame who is advertising himself to sell a book," saying the journalist was "taking advantage of this moment."

So, do we have a man who cooperated in the kidnapping of a couple of priests under his authority? Or do we have an author who is seeking to sell his book by making the most of a sensational charge in it?

And will it make any difference for the humble Cardinal who is considered a bright light among Latin American contenders for the papacy?%


Black Perps, White Victims -- No Hate Crime

LaShawn Barber writes about this little atrocity from New York.

Imagine your kids playing basketball on a court at a playground. Suddenly, another group of kids appears and demands that your children leave. Since your kids are not done with there game -- and were there first, -- they refuse. Now they haven't done anything unreasonable, have they?

The new arrivals leave in a huff -- and come back with about 30 kids, shouting racial slurs and engage in a physical assault upon your children. Certainly there is a crime -- and given the language used during the assault, it must be a hate crime, right?

Wrong -- not if the children who are brutally beaten are white and the little thugs are black.

Invoking the name “Martin Luther King” and screaming “Black Power!” a gang of up to 30 black teens attacked four white girls in Marine Park in what police are saying is not a bias crime.

The March 30 attack was a hot topic at state Senator Marty Golden’s recent public safety forum.

According to witnesses and parents of the victims, four young girls from St. Edmund’s had the day off from school due to Easter recess. They were playing basketball during dismissal from nearby Marine Park Junior High School, when several Marine Park students demanded to use the court.

After adults intervened and asked them to wait their turn, the teens left - but returned in a pack of up to 30, both boys and girls, and stormed into the park.

Witnesses say the attackers were all black and called their victims “white crackers” during the bloody melee, which raged for almost 20 minutes.

“This is not being looked at as a bias crime,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Kevin McGinn said at the meeting.

Well why the hell not, Deputy Inspector McGinn? You have an unprovoked act of violence, prima facie evidence of racial animus, possible evidence of religious bias, and a violent attack by a mob on four little girls. What more do you need? Isn't an assault serious enough to cause the hospitalization of two victims by a mob shouting racial epithets sufficient to file such charges? Would their being beaten to death have been sufficient?

I mean, let's consider what happened in this vicious attack by a group of feral children (who have much more in common with a pack of wild dogs than the great civil rights leader whose name they invoked) attempting to maim or kill four little white girls who thought they had the right to play basketball on a public court in a public park.

“When I pulled my car up to the park, I witnessed a pandemonium I’ve never seen in my life,” said Debbie, a mother of one victim who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.

Her daughter ran to the car, screaming, “They’re going to kill us,” Debbie recalled. My daughter was so scared and kids were running around like crazy.

Pursued by dozens of teens, some of the girls were “literally running into traffic to save their lives,” she said.

One girl made it as far as a nearby house, but was dragged by her hair back into the playground by a “wolf pack of children,” Debbie said.

The St. Edmund girls were bleeding and beaten to the point where they had cuts, scrapes, footprints and dirt all over them - and the attackers surrounded her car and started pounding on the windows as Debbie tried to herd the terrified children into her vehicle.

It seems to me that the reason the police and DA won't call this a bias crime is that the victims don't have a high enough melanin content to be subject to equal protection of the laws. You and I both know that we would be seeing a hate-crime prosecution if this were an attack by 30 white kids on a couple of little black girls. We'd have Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and the New Black Panther Party out in the street crying "No Justice -- No Peace!" We would probably still be reading about riots if you failed to file hate-crime charges if the victims were black and the perps were white.

Al Sharpton got a state investigation into the fake assault on Tawana Brawley. The LA riots provoked a federal prosecution of the cops who beat Rodney King. Where are the state and federal investigations and prosecutions here, of a hate crime perpetrated against white children -- and the failure of the legal system in New York City to treat this crime with the seriousness it deserves.


Marriage May Mean Jail For Border Patrol Agent

Immigration Enforcement Agent Ramon M. Sanchez Jr. makes his living by enforcing our nation's immigration laws. Unfortunately, he fell in love with a border jumper. Rather than do his job, he married her while fully aware of her immigration status.

Now Sanchez is facing jail for violating the vry laws he swore to uphold.

Immigration Enforcement Agent Ramon M. Sanchez Jr., 41, was charged Tuesday with harboring an illegal alien. Sanchez married the woman, Flor Liliana Velasco Barrera, on Feb. 25 of this year. But as early as last November he knew she was a Mexican citizen who was not authorized to live or work in the United States, even though she had been in the country for the past four years, authorities said.

Sanchez, whose work involves transporting detainees and doing other support services for the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau, was arrested Monday and could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, said a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dude -- what were you thinking? You knew her immigration status, and you didn't report it. Not only that, you helped her stay here illegally. Were you not aware that both actions were crimes? Or did you, in your arrogance, think the law didn't apply to you?


Santorum Makes The Case For Bush Judges

Senator Rick Santorum, who would be a hero of mine even if we had not graduated five years apart from the same high school (and had many of the same teachers), makes a great argument for ending the filibuster of Bush appeals court judges backed by a majority of the Senate.

Frankly, the records of two of these judges is sufficient to show that the "extremist judges outside the mainstream" argument fails miserably.

It has been almost four years since President Bush nominated Texas Supreme Court Judge Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. Since then the Senate has held two hearings, conducted many days of floor debate, analyzed Owen's judicial opinions down to the last comma and attempted four times to invoke cloture so that debate could finally be concluded and the Senate could take an up-or-down vote on her nomination.

Not only has Owen withstood this intensive examination, she has shown time and again that the American Bar Association got it right when it unanimously awarded her its highest possible rating. She was also reelected with 84 percent of the vote in 2000 and had the endorsement of every newspaper in Texas. Owen has earned the support of a clear majority of senators.

She is not alone. This July will mark almost two years since the president nominated Justice Janice Rogers Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Brown started life as the daughter of a sharecropper in the segregated South and through hard work and determination became the first African American woman to serve on California's highest court. In 2002 she was called upon by her colleagues to write the majority opinion more often than any other member of the California Supreme Court. She was retained with 76 percent of the vote in her last election. In short, Brown has shown herself to be unquestionably trustworthy, highly intelligent and well within the mainstream, and she has earned the enthusiastic support of a majority of the U.S. Senate.

There is no legitimate basis for calling either of these women unfit for the federal bench. Allowing a minority to block their confirmation is nothing short of tyranny. As the support they have received shows, neither one of them is unqualified or outside the mainstream -- unless the overwhelming majority of voters in both California and Texas are outside of that mainstream as well.


Iraqi Tet Offensive

One of the enduring truths learned by enemies of America during Vietnam is this: Americans can be convinced they are losing if the enemy engages in a series of spectacular attacks, even if the Americans win. That's what happened during the Tet Offensive in 1968. The Viet Cong and NVA attacked, the Americans and South Vietnamese decisively defeated them, and North Vietnam won a PR victory.

The same thing is going on in Iraq, according to writer Austin Bay.

On April 2 and again on April 4, the terror gang led by al-Qaida's Iraq commander, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, launched "military-style attacks" on the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Baghdad. In the April 4 assault, U.S. forces took 44 casualties (most of them minor wounds). The terrorist gang, however, took 50 casualties, out of a force estimated at 60 gunmen.

On April 11, the gang attacked a Marine compound at Husaybah near the Syrian border. As I write, terrorist casualties are unconfirmed, but the assault flopped.

While bomb attacks on unarmed Iraqi civilians continue (particularly against Shiites), public opinion now matters in Iraq, and the thugs' public slaughters have killed too many Iraqi innocents. January's election dramatically lifted public morale and changed the media focus — suddenly, democracy looks possible, and an Arab Muslim democracy is al-Qaida's worst nightmare.

Hence the "Tet gamble." Bombs haven't cowed the Iraqi people — but perhaps the American people will lose heart and buckle if al-Qaida concocts a military surprise.

U.S. forces, however, are "hard targets" — unlike civilians standing in line to vote, U.S. troops shoot back. Since 9/11, al-Qaida has never won a military engagement at the platoon level (30 men) or higher. Coalition forward operating bases are heavily fortified.

Unfortunately for the American military, the press at home and the pro-terrorist Left are ready to paint every unsuccessful attack by the terrorists as an unmitigated failure of the US military. The terrorists do not have to win -- the ;eft-wing media and left-wing ideologues consider every assault on Americans (and innocent Iraqi citizens) to be a victory for the enemy by virtue of the fact that they still have the capability to make the attack. Under their logic, terrorist Eric Rudolph's cowardly bombing of abortion clinics was a victory for those of us opposed to abortion (it wasn't, as it betrayed our principles).

Looking at the bright side, we have the ability to defeat the terrorists in a war of attrition. The ultimate question is if the American and Iraqi peoples have the will.


Who Says Canada Is A Free Country?

This case proves once more how far Canada has strayed from the values and practices that characterize a western-style democracy. Is the day coming that we have to liberate her people from a government as oppressive as that of Saddam Hussein's was?

Calgary's police chief Jack Beaton has used a rare legal tactic to seize a computer from a private home that was believed to have been used to operate a website critical to Beaton and his senior managers.

Beaton obtained a civil court order this month to enter the home of a civilian police employee and seize the computer.

A sweeping gag order issued at the same time prevents anyone from talking about the case or reading documents related to it, which have been sealed.

So, let's consider the basic outline here.

A website criticizes government agency and its high officials.

The courts order the site taken down and the equipment used to engage in that free speech confiscated.

All comment on it is stifled by a gag order against the allegedly corrupt officials (who want the charges to go away) and the folks making the charges.

And local elected officials, for whom the police chief works, applaud the move.

However, Ald. Craig Burrows, who sits on the police commission, says Beaton acted properly.

"I think any time you go after the morale of a service or the morale of a city that takes pride in its service, the chief has a right to act," Burrows said.

"I'm afraid we live in a culture today where you can say anything you want about people, as negative as it is, and you don't think you can be held accountable. I think our chief is just basically ensuring that, moving forward, if you're going to say something that's going to affect the reputation of the service and officers, you have to have evidence to support that claim."

So, if you are going to make critical remarks, the government can shut you down, preventing you from presenting that evidence to the public. That effectively means that there is no right in Canada to criticize the government if the officials involved do not like the criticism.

Now you may wonder what sort of accusations were made on the website.

Messages on the site said it spoke for officers who had suffered under Beaton's "corrupt" administration.

It stated: "We are the police, the communications officers, the administration staff and other police service members and employees that either have been the victims of tyranny, politics, harassment, bullying, racism, constructive termination, etc., or we know someone who has."

Last fall, Beaton was quoted in the Calgary Herald as "vowing to take every measure necessary to get those behind the website."

He has also called the site "mean-spirited" and "in poor taste."

Four current or former police officers, who agreed to talk to the CBC about their concerns as long as their names weren't used, said promotions on the force are based on who you know, and that racist and sexist behaviour is tolerated.

Sounds to me like this was clearly raising issues of public concern about problems in a government agency. You know, the sort of things that citizens should be aware of and permitted to discuss freely in a democratic society. The failure of Canadian law to protect such a basic right is simply one more piece of evidence that our neighbor to the north has ceased to share fundamental values with the United States. When a public official is allowed to remain in office after making a public statement that he will "get" those who dare to criticize how he does his job by using the full police power of the government to suppress those criticisms, it is clear that the protection of fundamental rights no longer exists. What you have in such a case is an authoritarian system that feigns respect for civil liberties.

I'm curious -- where are all the liberals running websites that claim the Bush administration is oppressive and urging folks to flee to Canada? Why are they not speaking out against this atrocity?


Anyone Find This Obscene?

First the courts rule that Terri Schiavo could be starved to death despite no clear evidence of her personal wishes on the matter -- just the assertion of the person who stood to gain the most by her death.

Now we have this case, in which a court is allowing the government to overrule the clear intent of an enemy of the United States.

A Cuban exile on a monthlong hunger strike protesting his detention as a suspected spy was in a hospital's inmate ward Friday after a judge cleared the way for U.S. officials to have a feeding tube inserted in him.

Juan Emilio Aboy was being held at Jackson Memorial Hospital's inmate ward, hospital spokeswoman Lorraine Nelson said Friday.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Huck agreed with another judge's order to ``involuntarily administer nutrients'' to Aboy though a stomach or intravenous tube, and to restrain him if he attempts to remove it.

``Mr. Aboy is now completing his fourth week without eating. The decision to not eat was his choice. A court order was issued allowing the U.S. Public Health Service to take any necessary precautions in the interest of his health,'' said Nina Pruneda, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Miami.

So what we have here is a precedent that says you can kill the sick, but must intervene to stop a voluntary death.

Who says this country hasn't lost its way?


Preparations For Change

For some time now, I have been preparing to make some changes in my site.

I'll be changing the site name, the site address, the appearance of the page, the software being used, and even the handle I post under.


1) Blogger drives me nuts at times. They do a good job, but it runs so slow, and crashes often.

2) You never know -- I may not be the precinct chair in this precinct forever.

3) It's time for a change, and I'm nearly ready to make the move.

I'll tell you more later, when the move is ready.


Friday, April 15, 2005

Border Jumpers Skip Deportation Hearing

Why would we think anything else would happen? They already took a dump on our nation's immigration laws once -- why would they change now?

Eleven illegal aliens who were released by federal authorities after a traffic stop in Fairfax County on Sunday did not show up for immigration proceedings yesterday.

"None of them came back, and I think that the fact that these aliens failed to appear showed the challenges of immigration enforcement," said Manny Van Pelt, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Mr. Van Pelt said about 30 percent of illegal aliens who are ordered to appear for immigration proceedings fail to show up. Of those who do appear, about 85 percent become fugitives if a judge orders them to be deported.

"We know full well that the honor system doesn't work and it doesn't make our job any easier when we're trying to focus on violent criminal aliens and trying to thwart terrorism," he said.

THEN WHY THE HELL DO YOU USE IT? You know that many won't show and many others will skip out if they lose their case. You know they are not here legally. Don't release them -- hold them until the hearing and then load them onto a bus or plane and get them to the other side of the border.


Pontification On Possible Popes

Sorry, folks, I couldn't help myself there. Some titles are just too obvious to resist.

I came across a couple of great articles on the upcoming conclave, and another on the history of the current selection process that I think might interest folks.

1) Conclave History. Where did we get this process of selecting popes? At one time, the people of Rome selected their new bishop (remember -- besides being the head of the entire Catholic Church, the pope is first and foremost the local bishop of the city of Rome) by public acclamation. That is how Peter's successor, Linus, was selected. The selection of a new pope by the cardinals was an innovation of the 11th century. Even as late as 1903, the article points out, the papacy was a political plum, and the selection of a new pontiff was as much a matter of international politics as it was of religion.

And, of course, there have been scandals and outrageous acts by popes and papal candidates. The Middle Ages and Renaissance were particularly notorious for odd goings on.

Nineteen elections lasted more than a month and several dragged on for many months, even years. Other successions descended into violence.

Consider the reign of Pope Sergius III in the 10th century.

His faction seized the papacy through armed force, and he had his imprisoned predecessor, Pope Leo V, strangled to death.

Chroniclers of the age claimed that Sergius had a son with a 15-year-old girl - who was later elected Pope John XII by the nobles who had backed Sergius. John himself became a notorious debaucher who was deposed, struck back and deposed his successor, and supposedly died while in bed with a married woman.

Then there was Alexander VI, who won the papacy just before the Protestant Reformation by bribing cardinals and promising lucrative jobs. His subsequent reign was ``marked by nepotism, greed and unbridled sensuality,'' the Rev. Richard McBrien writes in ``Lives of the Popes.''

Thanks to Alexander, the cardinals who elected his successor included his illegitimate son, appointed a cardinal at age 18, and the brother of one of the pope's mistresses.

Perhaps the most bizarre succession involved the ``cadaver synod'' of 897.

So much did Pope Stephen VI hate his deceased predecessor, Pope Formosus, that Stephen had his minions dig up Formosus' corpse. The new pope then held a mock trial for the old one, stripped the corpse of its vestments, cut off the two fingers that bestowed papal blessings and threw the body into the Tiber.

The over-the-top display did Stephen no good. His enemies rebelled, imprisoned him and strangled him to death.

And we cannot forget the period of French control of the papacy at Avignon, nor the multiple popes and anti-popes of the Great Schism.

The modern papacy, freed of the temporal concerns that existed when the popes ruled the Papal States, is now much more a spiritual and moral force in the world. The unification of Italy may have been one of the best things that ever happened to the successors of St. Peter, and they now only needed to be concerned with running the Church.

2) The Importance Of Papal Language Skills. I'd have to say that John Paul II made the ability to speak in multiple languages critical for a successful papacy. He was multilingual, and even if his Italian was week in 1978 (or even a quarter century later), his ability to communicate with the people of Italy was important. Let's be honest -- if your entire country is located in downtown Rome and you are the city's bishop, you need to speak Italian.

'Pope John Paul's ability to speak other languages allowed him to make better contacts with world leaders such as Fidel Castro and [Augusto] Pinochet," said Marco Politi, coauthor of ''His Holiness: John Paul II and the Hidden History of Our Time."

''The ability to speak another language could make the next pope more effective."

The pope's biographers say that in addition to Polish, John Paul could converse in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin.

But beyond that, English and Spanish are the two major languages of the faithful. Being unable to communicate in those two languages (or at least one of them, initially) will weaken the new pope. And since John Paul II made international travel an important part of the papacy, that linguistic ability is very important. As I remember from Denver, the fact that the pope, not a translator, was speaking to us was very important to the young people there. We understood him, and he understood us.

Will linguistic ability help propel some candidate to the papacy? Probably not -- but it might be a factor for some, such as Cardinals Ivan Dias of India, Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, and Francis Arinze of Nigeria. They speak English, French, and Italian, as well as other languages.

3) A Black Pope? Personally, I don't see why not. While some are downplaying the possibility (perhaps as a means of safeguarding the candidacy of Cardinal Arinze or one of the other Africans), I don't know that it would be as big a handicap as some suggest. Africa is the growing Church today. Whereas a century ago the Irish and Americans were sending missionary priests to Africa to preach the Gospel, the opposite is happening today. Many dioceses have African priests working in them to help with the priest shortage. My seminary had 200 students, and about 15 of them came from Uganda, Tanzania, and Nigeria (I've heard about Cardinal Arinze for years) -- some of whom were here to stay, not to go home.

And Cardinal Arinze himself would be a good candidate. At age 72, he is young enough to be pope for a decade or so, but not so young as to stay a quarter century. And there is the fact that he has spent so much time working in the Vatican that he is practically a Roman.

The leading African candidate is Cardinal Francis Arinze, a 72-year-old Nigerian who has worked at the Vatican for more than 20 years, mostly as the pope's point man for Islamic relations.

While he is not the only African candidate, his combination of Vatican knowledge, theological conservatism, pastoral experience and deep spirituality makes him the favourite.

I would not be surprised to see a black hand bestowing the next papal blessing, though I will not be so bold as to make that a definitive prediction. It's just that the election of Cardinal Arinze would make a lot of sense, as the above quote indicates.

Enough for now. Pray for the holy Spirit to guide the Cardinals, an for the Cardinals to be open to the Spirit.


This Evidence Makes Crime Easy To Solve

I mean, this would have been one heck of an identifying feature – and the source of plenty of DNA evidence.

A woman bit off the tongue of her alleged rapist and then gave it to police as evidence, Free State police said on Friday.

Captain Veronica Ntepe said the 32-year-old woman from Mahlatswetsa, near Excelsior, was woken up on Thursday night when a man broke into her bedroom at around 11pm.

While allegedly raping the woman, the man forced his tongue into her mouth.

"This was the gravest mistake he made. The woman bit (off) the front part of his tongue," Ntepe said. The man immediately ran away.

The woman called the police and handed over the piece of tongue.

Police put out an alert for a man with a piece of his tongue missing.

A suspect was arrested on Friday afternoon.

Police have sent the tongue to the forensic science laboratory in Pretoria to test whether it belonged to the arrested man.

The 23-year-old man, from Mahlatswetsa, will face charges of rape and house-breaking in the Excelsior magistrate's court on Monday.

Too bad she couldn't have done more significan damage.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Am I The Only One Not Troubled?

I hope not, and I suspect not.

We were told that lethal injection was humane and painless. Fine, I thought at the time, if that would deal with the issue of "humane treatment" for those squeamish about the administration of the appropriate penalty for some crimes, that is fine. Now it turns out that this method of execution may not be quite as painless as it was billed. I find myself singularly unmoved with compassion towards the condemned.

As many as four of every 10 prisoners put to death in the United States might receive inadequate anesthesia, causing them to remain conscious and experience blistering pain during a lethal injection.

Researchers in Florida and Virginia drew this conclusion after reviewing levels of anesthetic in the blood of 49 inmates after they were executed.

"I approached this as a physician," said the study's lead author, Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, chairman of surgical oncology at the University of Miami. "We were asking: Is there a possibility of awareness during an execution? Is there a large degree of pain and suffering associated with it? And I think the answer we found is yes."

Of the inmates studied in a report published by the British journal The Lancet, 43 percent had concentrations of anesthetic in their blood — as measured by medical examiners during autopsies — that would indicate consciousness rather than sedation during an execution.

Koniaris, who says he does not oppose the death penalty, thinks the study warrants a moratorium on executions until a publicly appointed panel can review whether some inmates remain conscious during lethal injection.

"If that's the case, as a society we need to step back and ask whether we want to torture these people or not," he said.

And I have to be honest – I don’t give a rat’s ass if they feel pain or not. I had no moral qualms about the gas chamber or the electric chair, and wouldn’t mind if the hangman’s noose or the firing squad were reintroduced. Hell, I would have no moral qualms about coating pedophiles and rapists with honey and staking them out over fire ant hills. While I’m not a native Texan, I have to agree with those who hold to the philosophy that “some folks just need killin’.” Generally speaking, though, I’m open to discussion about the method. And I am willing to discuss alternatives to the death penalty --life without parole beling the minimum.

But frankly, I have to disagree with the editorial from the Lancet that is quoted in the story.

The implications of an ineffective anesthetic are, in the words of a Lancet editorial accompanying the article, troubling: "It would be a cruel way to die: awake, paralyzed, unable to move, to breathe, while potassium burned through your veins."

And I should be morally outraged because…?

I mean, it’s not like these folks gave a whole lot of concern for the mental and physical anguish they inflicted upon their victims. You know, the raped and killed little girl after being abducted from her bed. The adolescent boy killed after being sodomized by a couple of NAMBLA members. The wife beaten to death by her abusive husband. The family murdered by robbers looking for a couple of bucks. I guess I don’t have any more compassion for the killers than they did for their victims. Let them feel the utter helplessness and pain that they were more than willing to allow another human being to experience.

And then there is this gem from one of the study’s authors.

"It's now up to the corrections systems to show that, at the time of death, inmates are asleep. We should accept no less when we're killing people."

I disagree.

We should accept nothing less than their being fully conscious.

Let them feel every last bit of society's outrage and retribution for their crimes.

Let them be aware of their punishment.

And let them understand, in their last moments, what their victims may have felt.


Sanity In Oregon

The Oregon Supreme Court left the issue of homosexual marriage right where it belongs today – in the hands of the people and their elected representatives.

The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday nullified nearly 3,000 marriage licenses issued to gay couples a year ago by Portland's Multnomah County, saying a county cannot go against state matrimonial law.

"Oregon law currently places the regulation of marriage exclusively within the province of the state's legislative power," the high court said in its unanimous ruling.

The court said state law bans gay marriage. It also noted that Oregon voters approved a constitutional amendment last November that even more explicitly prohibits the practice.

Kevin Neely, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, said the court left the big issue — civil unions for gay couples — for another day. "I suspect the issue will be resolved by either legislation or by additional litigation," he said.

Legislators had been waiting for the court's ruling for guidance. On Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he will push for a law allowing gay couples to form civil unions that would give them many of the rights and privileges of marriage.

The governor and legislature will consider civil union legislation. Whether that is the appropriate course of action is, of course, subject to debate, given the solid rejection of homosexual marriage by Oregon voters in November. It strikes me that they should tread very slowly in that area, because the overwhelming majority of Oregonians expressed a position that seems to oppose granting legal status to homosexual relationships. Given the difficultrts have imposed an unwelcome solution on a sharply divided public, I think the Oregon Supreme Court acted wisely, and I hope the legislature and governor act in a manner which respects the policy preferences of the people of the state -- who are, ultimately, the sovereign power to which they must defer.


Animal Rights Morons Sprayed

I love it when someone finds a non-violent way to rid themselves of folks who are out to impose their whacked-out values on the rest of us.

A trio of protesters with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals didn't find the welcome mat out when they stopped at a KFC in Brownsville on Wednesday. The sprinkler system was on for them, though.

John Olivo, the manager of the fast-food chicken restaurant, turned the system on full blast to soak the curbside protesters. And a man who eats beef followed them around with his stepchildren and a microphone.

The PETA protesters, including one in a chicken suit, are participating in PETA's campaign to get KFC to pressure slaughter houses to use more humane methods to kill chickens.

"They already hit me in McAllen," Olivo said in a story in Thursday's editions of The Brownsville Herald. "I was already waiting for them here in Brownsville."

"You're not going to win. Not in Brownsville," David Ingersoll, of Los Fresnos, shouted through his microphone at the protesters at a busy intersection. His stepchildren passed out anti-PETA pamphlets to stopped drivers.

"I'm waiting for someone to throw a cabrito head at them so they know what part of the country they are in," Ingersoll said, referring to the goat meat that's used in some Mexican dishes.

Good for you, Mr. Olivo!


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

School Disses Marine Graduates

Some folks are just plain ashamed of patriotism. That seems to be the case with administrators at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Illinois. They are denying two early graduates permission to wear their Marine dress blues when they receive their diploma at the district's Memorial Day weekend graduation.

Brenten Kostner, 19, and John Shymanik, 17, graduated early in December to become Marines. They hope to attend the graduation ceremony wearing their dress-blue uniforms during a 10-day leave from boot camp.

However, the Marines’ mothers said they’ve been told by school officials their sons must wear Warren-issued caps and gowns like everyone else during the May 28 graduation event at Northwestern University.

Kostner’s mother, Julie Hamil, said Warren District 121’s position doesn’t make sense. She said the young men are against covering themselves with the caps and gowns because they want their peers to see their pride in becoming successful graduates as Marines.

“I’m shocked,” Hamil said. “Do you only show your patriotism when something bad happens?”

Hamil appealed to the District 121 board Monday night. Outgoing school board President Mari Carlson directed administrators to re-examine their stance on the uniforms.

“These are special times we live in,” Carlson said.

Nearly 350 students and teachers at Warren signed a petition Monday requesting Kostner and Shymanik be allowed to wear the dress uniforms. Kostner’s sisters, Sherri and Audrey Hamil, circulated the petition.

Here's hoping that a little bit of common sense prevails here.

Contact the district and the school to comment.


Disruptive Conduct Or Discrimination?

James Herndon, a student at Pacific High School in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, has been suspended for wearing lipstick and eye makeup to school. The school claims that his makeup is distracting, while James has trotted out the usual array of liberal claims of sexism, religious discrimination and violation of freedom of expression.

In what is shaping as a battle between conformity and self-expression, Pacific High School has suspended a ninth-grade boy for wearing lipstick and eye makeup.
Officials are calling it a violation of school policy, which they seemed unable to find in writing.

James Herndon, 16, repeating his second year at the school, and his mother, Valerie Wallace, say James has been wearing black lipstick and red eye makeup the entire time he has been enrolled at Pacific. He also wears his hair in a dyed-red mohawk with the sides shaved. But that was not cited as part of the reason for the five-day suspension, which was imposed Monday.

The youth said the makeup expresses religious beliefs he shares with his mother, a Wiccan priestess in the neopagan religion based on northern European beliefs in the supernatural.

James also said the suspension is sex discrimination and violates his constitutional right to free expression.

Now before you think that the school is simply being unreasonable in its demands for conformity, please be aware that this is how James has been going to school.

And lest you think James understands he occupies a different place in the pecking order at school that the faculty and staff do, look at this comment.

"If I can't wear makeup,' James said, "then the girls or the staff can't wear makeup either.'

Uh, wrong, James. You are a student. A different standard of conduct and different set of rules apply to the staff than applies to the students. It is not up to YOU to make that declaration. Of course given your mother’s clear lack of respect for the school’s authority over matters of school disruptions and safety issues, not to mention her failure to prepare her child to operate in a society with certain social norms.

When James returns to school Monday, he will wear the makeup with his mother's blessing. "My son shouldn't change the way he is.

"After my divorce from his father, he became very depressed, and wearing the makeup makes him feel good,' she said, adding that the boy's psychologist and psychiatrist encourage him to express himself.

I’m hoping to hear that this kid is suspended again if he shows up in the same attire. His appearance constitutes a distraction in the classroom and a potential safety hazard on campus.

You may wonder about the latter point, but I can explain. As a teacher, I need to be able to determine at a glance whether or not someone at my school of 2300 students belongs there or not. I’m able to quickly tick through a number of dress code issues that help me narrow the field – things that include a ban on male facial hair and earrings, and visible piercings on any student. If someone is wearing a hat or bandana, they get confronted, too. There is also the school ID on a chain, but those are often not visible because of coats, sweaters, or the angle from which a kid is seen. A kid who showed up dressed as James is in the picture would be quickly hustled into an administrator’s office to be dealt with as a flagrant violator of the dress code or an unauthorized presence on campus. It is part of why we have so little violence on our campus, especially compared to some neighboring schools with similar demographics.

Now the ACLU is backing this kid and his so-called parent. I’m betting they lose. That appearance is so distracting that it would be a source of disruption in class. The law they cite is intended to protect gender-benders from being harassed, not permit kids to wear clown makeup.

And if mom doesn’t like the policy, might I suggest that she homeschool?


I’ve Lost Respect For A Man I’ve Admired

I won’t go into the bigger story here, one about a guy who detained seven border jumpers at gunpoint. Given that he was correct in his assessment, I don’t believe he should be charged with anything.

But I have lost respect for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose actions to make jail less appealing made me a big fan. His take on the situation?

"Being illegal is not a serious crime. You can't go to jail for being an illegal alien. . . . You can only be deported."

Joe, that attitude is precisely why we have a problem with border jumping. Law enforcement doesn’t see it as a problem – and as a result doesn’t treat it like a problem. That means that little action is taken by law enforcement at every level to stop border jumping, detain and hold border jumpers, and deport border jumpers. The result is a flood of criminal aliens who walk among us with impunity, consuming taxpayer-financed resources far beyond their contribution to society.

I hope you have a strong opponent next election, Joe – you are clearly not a part of the solution, but are instead part of the problem.


Where Is The Liberal, Media Outrage?

Last week we were treated to Left-wing shouts of “Scandal!” when it was disclosed that Tom DeLay’s wife and daughter were paid for work by his campaign and a PAC with he founded. Those of us who defended the family were said to be ethically-challenged partisans who were circling the wagon.

So today, as the lone declared (as opposed to effective) Socialist in the House of Representatives is disclosed to have had the same arrangement for his wife and daughter, I’ll say it again – there is nothing wrong, legally or morally, for having family members on the payroll of the campaign or affiliated PACs.

Rep. Bernard Sanders used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Jane O'Meara Sanders, his wife, received $91,020 between 2002 and 2004 for "consultation" and for negotiating the purchase of television and radio time-slots for Sanders' advertisements, according to records and interviews.

Approximately $61,000 of that was "pass through" money that was used to pay media outlets for advertising time, Jane O'Meara Sanders said in an interview. The rest, about $30,000, she kept as payment for her services, she said.

Carina Driscoll, daughter to Jane O'Meara Sanders and stepdaughter to the lawmaker, earned $65,002 in "wages" between 2000 and 2004, campaign records show.

Driscoll, a former state legislator, served as Rep. Sanders' campaign manager in 2000, his fund-raiser and office manager in 2003 and his database manager in 2004, according to Jeff Weaver, Sanders' chief of staff.

"Both of them are regarded as people who are knowledgable about Vermont politics," Weaver said Tuesday. "They earned every penny they got."

The practice is legal if there are actual campaign/political services rendered. That is the case with DeLay, and that is the case with Sanders. While the amounts vary, that is irrelevant. The fact is that there is nothing wrong with the practice at all – unless you want to apply the nebulous and ill-defined “appearance of impropriety” standard, which says it is an issue if somebody wants to make it one, but you can never know for sure if it is unless they do.

Like it or not, the family members of politicians often go into campaign/politcs related businesses. They are going to make money in the field, as is their right as American citizens. That goes for the Right and the Left. Deal with it.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Texans Betrayed

The people have been calling for appraisal caps to stop runaway property taxes (which in many jurisdictions are annually raised the full legal 10% across the board without regard to market conditions) that are running Texans out of their homes. City and county politicians have been opposed to the caps, because the annual 10% increase lets them spend more money without raising taxes.

Today the rat basterds politicians won.

AUSTIN — A measure meant to save Texans billions in property taxes by limiting appraisal increases died before debate even began on the House floor today.

It was a stinging defeat for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has pushed for appraisal caps for more than a year.

"I'm disappointed in the vote. I don't mind saying that," Perry said. "This is not going to go away."

Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, has been trying for weeks to gather the 100 votes needed to pass his constitutional amendment to halve the amount appraisals can grow each year. Currently, tax appraisals can grow as much as 10 percent annually.

"It's a sad day for the taxpayers of the state of Texas," Bohac said.

Perry vowed to keep up a public campaign to limit what he calls property appraisal "creep." He championed a bill set to be debated Wednesday that will reduce the cap on property tax revenue increases in cities and counties.

Proponents of appraisal caps said they would safeguard property-tax reductions that are part of the school finance plans in the House and Senate. Bohac's measure had support from the Republican leadership, including House Speaker Tom Craddick, who said today he supported appraisal caps.

"We need to take the burden of unfair taxation off the homeowners' shoulders," said Rep. David Leibowitz, D-San Antonio.

Let me explain this to you. there is a thing in finance circles that is called the "rule of 72" It shows the rate at which the value of an item will double. All you do is divide 72 by the rate of increase to determine the number of years that it takes for the asset to double in value. At 10%, that means that the taxable value of homes doubles in 7.2 years -- meaning, for example, a house bought at $100,000 today will be appraised at $200,000 in 2012 -- and at $400,000 by 2020. And that aso means that the taxes increase at the same rate -- today's $2500 property tax bill is a $5000 tax bill in 2012 and $10,000 in 2020. Given the rate at which my pay increases in my district (traditionally 3% each year), my salary will not have doubled in that time -- it will take until 2029 to do so. By that time the value of the hypothetical house will have increased in value to nearly $500,000, with a tax bill of about $15,000 each year -- and that does not include the mortgage payment.

Now to be fair, the argument by the county and local politicians makes sense on the surface. They argue that the lower rate of increase will not give hem a sufficent cash flow to provide services to the public. Apparently a 3-5% increase in the budget each year (about what the average Texan seens in their paycheck each year) is not enough. What they overlook is that they do have the option of making cuts or -- in an act of candor which frightens politicians -- going to the voters for a rate increase.

Fortunately, there is still hope for some tax relief.

House lawmakers Wednesday will debate a plan by Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, to cap at 3 percent the amount of growth in tax revenue cities and counties can take in each year. Local voters could elect to reverse the increase. The measure needs only 76 votes to pass the House.

Isett said his "truth in taxation" bill is a better way to provide tax relief.

"Lower taxes drive economic activity," Isett said. "That happens every time, everywhere it's tried."

A similar revenue cap measure by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is awaiting a vote by a Senate committee. Another appraisal cap measure, authored by Sen. Kyle Janek, R-Houston, that would limit property value growth to 5 percent but allow cities and counties to opt out is pending in the Senate. Janek said he is not sure whether to proceed with his bill after today's action.

Perry remained resolved to get the tax relief he has promised.

"We're going to live to fight again," he said.

Yes, but whatever relief we get could be eaten up by higher appraisals, or overturned by simple majority vote. As it was, a minority (65 "Representatives") managed to thwart the will of the majority of 85 members of the House.

Texans -- here are the culprits who do not believe you should be permitted to vote on an Amendment to the Texas Constitution that will allow you to be able to afford to stay in your home.

Allen, R.; Alonzo; Anchia; Bailey; Blake; Burnam; Campbell; Casteel; Castro; Chavez; Chisum; Coleman; Cook, B.; Crownover; Davis, Y.; Delisi; Deshotel; Driver; Dukes; Dunnam; Edwards; Eiland; Escobar; Farabee; Flores; Frost; Geren; Giddings; Gonzales; Gonzalez Toureilles; Griggs; Guillen; Haggerty; Hardcastle; Harper-Brown; Hartnett; Hill; Hodge; Hopson; Hunter; Jones, D.; Jones, J.; Keel; King, T.; Kuempel; Laney; Luna; Madden; Martinez; Martinez Fischer; McCall; Menendez; Moreno, P.; Morrison; Mowery; Naishtat; Noriega, M.; Oliveira; Orr; Peña; Pickett; Quintanilla; Raymond; Ritter; Rodriguez; Smith, T.; Smithee; Solis; Solomons; Swinford; Thompson; Truitt; Turner; Uresti; Veasey; Villarreal; West.

Remember that during the primaries in March, 2006, and during the general election in November, 2006. They must be defeated.


Racist Commies

Apparently American liberals are not the only folks on the Left who cannot stand the advancement based on merit of a conservative woman of color. It looks like Communists in Red China also dislike her, and they reviled her with racist and sexist insults on the closely monitored and regulated Chinese Internet following Rice's recent visit to China.

"She looks like an orangutan, and talks rubbish; send us a beautiful woman next time," stated one contributor to

"This black woman is not welcome!!!" stated another.

"She looks absolutely like a witch!" said a third.

Sounds like the sort of comments you would find on Demcratic Underground or other websites run by the "tolerant non-racist Left".

What other racist comments about the Secretary of State have been allowed to remain unmolested by the Yellow Menace? This is just a sample of the comments collected by one Chinese dissident about Dr. Rice.

"Black devil"; "black pig"; "black whore"; "black female dog"; "You're not even as good as a black devil, a real waste of a life"; "Her brain is blacker than her skin"; "Really ugly"; "The ugliest woman in the world".

You know, I wonder if these folks got their comments from the Democrats who tried to stop Condoleezza Rice's confirmation. After all, they are in character with what was said by the Senators and their surrogates.


"Santo Subito" -- Sainthood Now!

The chant was heard at Pope John Paul II's funeral last week -- "Santo! Santo!" Cardinal Ratzinger's homily hinted that he believed the pope not to be in Purgatory (as traditional Catholic teaching suggest may be the fate of most believers for a time) but already among the heavenly host. And then there were the signs that read "Santo Subito".

Calls for sainthood began almost immediately after the pope died on April 2 and reached a peak at his funeral on Friday, when mourners in St. Peter's Square held banners saying, "Santo Subito," or "Saint at Once," and chanted, "Santo, Santo." Reports of miraculous cures through his intervention poured in.

Several Italian newspapers reported that the Vatican had quietly been collecting messages from people attesting to healings attributed to him.

Luigi Accattoli, one of the most respected Vatican reporters, wrote in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera that a petition had already been circulated among the cardinals seeking signatures for a fast-track canonization process for John Paul. The usual process involves years of careful investigation, and it sometimes takes centuries for the final declaration.

Several cardinals confirmed that the idea of rapid canonization was discussed the day after the pope's funeral at their daily meeting.

If John Paul is canonized, he will be only the fourth pope to be so honored in 900 years.

That the cardinals are already discussing the possibility of a speedy canonization is intriguing. The waiting period for the process to start is five years, but it can be waived. And one cardinal even talks of being healed by the intervention of John Paul several years ago.

Cardinal Francesco Marchesano evoked the idea of miraculous healing. He said that when he had been in the hospital for an operation on his carotid artery and lost his voice, John Paul caressed his throat and said: "The Lord will give back your voice. You will see. I will say a prayer for you.'" Cardinal Camillo Ruini spoke of "the certainty of his new, mysterious and luminous presence."

Some argue that this speedy move for canonization, or at least beatification, is intended to cement the Pope's conservative policies into place by making them inseperable from the holy man himself.

While there may be some cynics around who are doing that, I don't believe that to be the case. What I see instead is a return to an older tradition, one under which the faithful themselves had a role to play in the process of declaring sainthood. Consider Thomas a Becket, martyred by English knights loyal to King Henry II. Shortly after his death, the people themselves had made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and devotion. The faithful declared him to be a saint, and he was so recognized by the Church within three years. Please note -- it was the sense of the faithful that came first, not the public affirmation by the institution. The outpouring of grief and love and prayer we have seen may be the sign that the faithful have recognized something that the institutional church needs to acknowledge.


Stamp Of Disapproval

My personal definition of art is pretty broad. But I think this has crossed the line.

Apparently, the Secret Service is concerned about it, too.

Organizers of a politically charged art exhibit at Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery thought their show might draw controversy.

But they didn't expect two U.S. Secret Service agents would be among the show's first visitors.

The agents turned up Thursday evening, just before the public opening of "Axis of Evil, the Secret History of Sin," and took pictures of some of the art pieces -- including "Patriot Act," showing President Bush on a mock 37-cent stamp with a revolver pointed at his head.

The agents asked what the artists meant by their work and wanted museum director CarolAnn Brown to turn over the names and phone numbers of all the artists. They wanted to hear from the exhibit's curator, Michael Hernandez deLuna, within 24 hours, she said.

That particular work looks like a threat to me. It is obligatory on the Secret Service to check it out. And before the leftists complain -- remember that there were events at a couple of gun clubs shut down in the 1990s because the targets depicted Bill &/or Hillary. Anything that even looks like a potential threat must be investigated.

What other "art" would you find at this exhibit?

The Columbia exhibit features 47 artists from 11 countries and depicts powerful religious and political leaders worldwide on mock postage stamps. One, called "Citizen John Ashcroft," shows Ashcroft's face fashioned from images of naked bodies at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Another piece -- "I saw it in a movie starring Steven Segal" -- shows a series of images of an airplane nearing, then crashing into the Sears Tower, and ends with the Chicago skyline without the skyscraper.

In other words, it is some stuff that is simply sick and disgusting. While I recognize that such "protest art" falls within First Amendment protection (though perhaps not the Bush stamp -- threats against the president are illegal), that does not mean I have to approve of it or its message. Furthermore, I wish the college had the integrity to disassociate itself from a show that includes both the Bush stamp and the 9/11 style attack on Chicago. After all, the school also has a First Amendment right to not associate its good name with the exhibit.

And I am appalled, but not surprised, at the Left-wing fear-mongering of the exhibit organizer.

Hernandez said any government involvement could come close to trampling First Amendment rights.

"It frightens me ... as an artist and curator. Now we're being watched," Hernandez said. "It's a new world. It's a Big Brother world. I think it's frightening for any artist who wants to do edgy art."

Hernandez said he hopes the public sees the exhibit as a whole -- and not just about one man or even one country. Some works Hernandez thought would be more controversial challenge Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church. Others look at Nazi Germany and the killing fields in Cambodia.

This frightens him -- I wonder if it frightens him as much as the fake stamps he sent through the mail in the fall of 2001 frightened the postal workers who handled them. The design was of a black skull and crossbones with the word "Anthrax" on it -- during the height of the anthrax scare.

Where would you find this "artwork"? Columbia College's Glass Curtain Gallery, 1104 S. Wabash, Chicago. Here's hoping there is some serious protest -- and financial ramifications for the college.


Papabile-palooza – Possible Papal Long-Shots

Papal elections are few and far between. They come suddenly and are over quickly – at least in the modern era. Historically, most of the participants have been unknowns, but the advent of the internet and other mass media have made it possible for the faithful and the curious to gather information and to speculate about the likely next pope. The possibility of another non-Italian – not to mention a non-European – makes the speculation that much more exciting.

Who are the candidates? Well, it is a bit hard to tell, since the cardinals are no longer talking. That said, there are a lot of names being mentioned, a diverse list of papabile. And while there are certainly some leading candidates, there are also some papal long-shots being mentioned.

If an African is to be the next pontiff, then Francis Cardianal Arinze of Nigeria is still the leading candidatre. That said, in recent days the name Cardinal Wilfred Napier of South Africa has been mentioned.

Are relations with Islam important going to be crucial in the conclave? If so, there are candidates who have experience in that area.

At a time when the Vatican is trying to broaden its dialogue with Islam, Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja, 70, of Indonesia, is distinctive as one of the few cardinals from a predominantly Muslim country. Ivan Dias, 68, the archbishop of Bombay, India, also comes from a populous country with relatively few Catholics, though much of his career has been spent as a Vatican diplomat, serving in Africa, South Korea and Albania.

And of course, the Latin Americans are being mentioned prominently. One of those, as I mentioned the other day, is the Archbishop of Havana.

There are a raft of contenders - some front-runners, some long-shots - to be the first Latin American pope. The region's dark horses include Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, the archbishop of Havana, who helped organize the first papal visit to Communist Cuba in 1998 and negotiated modest openings with a government that was once officially atheist.

Ortega, 68, his risen far from humble origins as a sugar worker's son. He is fluent in French and a skilled pianist, cutting an elegant and generally nonconfrontational figure in Cuban society.

And we have all, of course, heard about the front-running Italian, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi , but there are other cardinals to be considered as well.

Italy supplies at least three front-running candidates, but also several in the next rung, including Cardinals Ennio Antonelli of Florence, Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, and Severino Poletto of Turin.

Bertone, 70, occasionally provides radio play-by-play of his favorite soccer team, Juventus; a few weeks ago he made headlines worldwide by urging a boycott of the best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code," which he said distorts the origins of Christianity.

Antonelli, 68, is viewed a cheerful man of the people, a relative moderate on most of the issues facing the Vatican. Poletto, 72, is custodian of the Shroud of Turin.

There are even a couple of French cardinals mentioned as papabile, though their ages make it unlikely that they would become the first French pope since the Avignon period. One is even younger than John Paul II was in 1978, while the other is 78.

Two French cardinals are sometimes mentioned: Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, who is only 55 and known as an advocate for immigrants' rights, and retired Paris Archbishop Jean-Marie Lustiger, 78, a confidant of John Paul's, a Jewish convert - and a skeptic about lists of front-runners.

"All the names that have surfaced have been invented by journalists," he said last week. "What happens is that most of the time, those who get it are completely unexpected."

In the end, I think Cardinal Lustiger has it partially right. In handicapping the conclave like a political convention or a horserace, it is very possible that almost none of us have heard the name of the next pope – which is exactly what happened twice in 1978, a year that saw the burial and election of two popes.


Feingold To Divorce – Friends And Analysts Lament End Of Presidential Bid

I think this explains one more way in which Democrats are simply out of touch with the bulk of the American populace. Senator Russ Feingold and his wife of 14 years are about to divorce – and rather than offer sympathy, Democrats are much more concerned with the political implications.

Sen. Russ Feingold and his wife, Mary, stunned the political world in announcing Monday that they would end their 14-year marriage.

The news came in a 31-word statement from Russ Feingold's office, indicating the two "were separating amicably, and intend to remain very good friends."

Feingold, 52, a Democrat, is a Harvard-educated lawyer elected in November to his third term.

Mary Feingold, 47, is a writer working under the auspices of her firm, Write Now Business Communications, according to the senator's most recent annual financial disclosure.

A divorce would be the second for both. Each has two adult children from a first marriage.

Feingold had begun to test the waters for a presidential run in 2008, and the news led one political expert and longtime friend to speculate that any hopes for the nomination three years hence were dashed.

"This is the end of his presidential hopes, at least for 2008," said the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato, an expert in presidential campaigns.

"The Democratic Party is much more tolerant of things, but a twice-divorced single man would have very little chance of being elected president. That is not something that would appeal to any red state."

Two weeks ago, the Feingolds traveled to Alabama. The public portion of the trip ran March 28-30. Mary Feingold was very visible as the Feingolds were received and entertained by local officials, Democrats and supporters.

Hold on, folks. Most of us in the red states wouldn’t have a problem with voting for the right divorced man --like Ronald Reagan leaps to mind. We might not be happy about the divorce (and who should be), but that would not be a deciding factor.

No, the problem Feingold would have in the red states is his liberal record and his opposition to free speech – precisely the same problem John McCain will have if he decides to run. I could not see supporting either of them for that reason.

Frankly, I’m sad for both Feingolds. Divorce is a sad and (all too often) ugly thing. I am sorry that the couple is splitting up. My only concern about Feingold being twice divorced would not concern the morality of divorce per se, but rather with the possibility (hinted at in the article) that Russ Feingold has a history of putting his political career ahead of those he is closest to. That comes down to a question regarding his priorities in life, and whether he would place Russ Feingold or the United States first in a hypothetical Feingold Administration.

Regardless of all that, I wish the couple well, come what may. – and hope that things stay amicable between them, or even that some healing can take place which saves this marriage.


Border Jumpers, Human Smugglers Captured – Cause Auto Wrecks

I’m glad to hear that these folks were caught, but would like to urge Arizona drivers to KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE FREAKIN’ ROAD!

Drivers gawking at a group of 15 handcuffed illegal entrant suspects along the side of Interstate 10 on Monday morning caused three car crashes that shut down travel for about an hour near Downtown.

The rubbernecking mishaps happened after several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made a high-risk traffic stop on westbound I-10 near the Miracle Mile exit, just before 10 a.m., said Officer James Oien, an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman.

While not often initiated in such a visible location, high-risk stops are made when agents or officers suspect there is a potential for violence, Oien said.

"They were being extremely cautious," he said. "If you've got some felons going down the interstate and the only place you can stop them is Grant Road, you do what you gotta do."

The federal agents are part of an anti-smuggling team and had tracked and stopped a stolen pickup truck carrying a group of suspected illegal entrants, said Russell Ahr, an ICE spokesman in Phoenix.

One of the men was separated from the others at the scene, but Ahr didn't have more details about whether he was a suspected people-smuggler or whether charges were pressed.

The incident is still under investigation, he said.

After agents and officers handcuffed the suspected illegal entrants, the group sat on a dirt shoulder in the sun. They had been riding in the cab of the silver pickup while others were hidden under a piece of plywood that covered the bed.

Besides the people who were detained, about a dozen law enforcement vehicles were on the scene with their lights flashing, drawing the attention of morning motorists.

Traffic backed up for several miles and, in less than an hour, two landscaping trucks and a motor home rear-ended cars in three separate crashes. The two trucks spun sideways and blocked the westbound lanes of I-10 near the Grant Road exit, Oien said.

Two of the rear-end crashes involved injuries that were not life-threatening, Oien said. No one was injured in the third incident. None of the drivers' names was released.

"The causes of the accidents were people not paying attention to what they were doing and paying attention to what the cops were doing," Oien said.

DPS officers established a detour so traffic could be diverted to city streets for about an hour until the crashes could be investigated and cleaned up, he said.

Motorists should concentrate on their own driving and traffic around them to avoid accidents, Oien said.

"Try to resist the rubbernecking or gawking at the scene and pay attention," he said.

What more needs be said?


Monday, April 11, 2005

Reefer Madness?

I don't think there is anyone of my generation who has not seen the classic propaganda film, Reefer Madness. By the time I saw it in the 1970s, the four decade old film was viewed as a comedy piece -- and subjected to treatment not unlike what you would later see on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Marijuana, we were assured, never did anyone any harm. Pot was, according to everyone, harmless.

Today there is even a musical version of the old cult-classic. This story leads me to ask -- was the film necessarily all that far off? A newly published scientific study shows that one of every four people has a gene that, when activated by adolescent marijuana use, triggers schizophrenia and similar disorders at five times the normal rate.

The study, led by Avshalom Caspi and Terrie Moffitt, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, offers the best explanation yet for the way that cannabis has a devastating psychiatric impact on some users but leaves most unharmed. Scientists had suspected that genetic factors were responsible for this divide, but a gene had not been pinpointed.

The findings, to be published in Biological Psychiatry, also reinforce a growing consensus that nature and nurture are not mutually exclusive forces but combine to affect behaviour and health. The King’s team has previously identified genes that raise the risk of depression or aggression, but only in conjunction with environmental influences.

Mental health campaigners said that the results vindicated their concerns about the decision last year to downgrade cannabis to a Class C drug, which means that possession is no longer an arrestable offence.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said that it was becoming clear that cannabis placed millions of users at risk of lasting mental illness. About fifteen million Britons have tried cannabis, and between two million and five million are regular users, according to the Home Office British Crime Survey. The research suggests that a quarter could be at risk.

The evidence will be considered by a review of the drug’s classification announced last month by the Home Secretary. It may be possible to develop a test for genetic susceptibility to cannabis. “If we were able genetically to identify the vulnerable individuals in advance, we would be able to save thousands of minds, if not lives,” Ms Wallace said.

Dr Caspi, however, rejected the idea of screening based on the COMT gene. “Such a test would be wrong more often than it is right. Cannabis has many other adverse effects, especially on developing teenagers, on respiratory health and possibly on cognitive function. Effects may be pronounced among a genetically vulnerable group but that doesn’t mean we should encourage others not genetically vulnerable to use cannabis.”

The King’s team tracked 803 men and women born in Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1972 and 1973, who were enrolled at birth in a research project. Each was interviewed at 13, 15 and 18 about cannabis use, tested to determine which type of COMT genes they had inherited, and followed up at 26 for signs of mental illness.

COMT was chosen as it is known to play a part in the production of dopamine, a brain-signalling chemical that is abnormal in schizophrenia. It comes in two variants, known as valine or methionine, and every person has two copies, one from each parent.

So dudes, put away the bongs, roach-clips, rolling papers and hash pipes -- the next hit could fry your brain.


De-Bugging The Conclave

In 1978, at the time of the two previous conclaves, I was fascinated by the need to sweep the area for bugging devices before the College of Cardinals convened. It is an even more serious matter now.

VATICAN CITY -- Computer hackers, electronic bugs and supersensitive microphones threaten to pierce the Vatican's thick walls next week when cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel to name a papal successor.

Spying has gotten a lot more sophisticated since John Paul II was elected in 1978, but the Vatican seems confident it can protect the centuries-old tradition of secrecy that surrounds the gathering.

"It's not as if it's the first conclave we've handled," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Vatican security refused to discuss the details of any anti-bugging measures to be used during the conclave. But Giuseppe Mazzullo, a private detective and retired Rome policeman whose former unit worked closely with the Vatican in the past, said the Holy See will reinforce its own experts with Italian police and private security contractors.

"The security is very strict," Mazzullo said. "For people to steal information, it's very, very difficult, if not impossible."

Thousands of reporters will be watching as the 115 cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel on April 18. Hackers and government informants may also be monitoring the conclave.

The temptations to spy will be immense. The papal election will likely see keen competition, notably between reformers and conservatives. It is also expected to witness a strong push for the first non-European pope.

Revelations of the proceedings could prove embarrassing to the Vatican. For instance, sensitive discussions on a papal candidate's stand on relations with Muslims or Jews, recognizing China rather than Taiwan or views on contraception would be sought after by governments or the press.

Just when you might have been willing to look at the conclave as a religious event rather than a political one, the reality of technology intrudes.

Oh, and the penalty for breaking the secrecy of the conclave during the event? Excommunication, which may be lifted only by the new pope himself.


Bill Clinton Slurs Gay GOP Consultant

First he has the audacity to go on about John Paul II's "mixed legacy" because the pontiff failed to adopt the liberal line of sex. Now he dares to read the soul of one of Hillary's political opponents, GOP political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, and directs a left-wing slur at him.

"Actually I was sort of sad when I read it," he said. "That fellow who used to work for Pataki is doing it. I mean, they give you two stories. One is that he went to Massachusetts and married his longtime male partner and then he comes back here and announces this. I thought, one of two things. Either this guy believes his party is not serious and is totally Macchiavellian in its position, or you know, as David Brock said in his great book 'Blinded by the Right,' there's some sort of self-loathing or something. I was more sad for him."

It might surprise you to know, Bill, that political consultants sometimes work for candidates with whom they disagree on an issue. I don't judge Finkelstein negatively for this. And as for your citation of a book by admitted serial-liar David Brock, who one must either believe lied for years while writing as a conservative or is currently lying in his career as a liberal attack dog, why don't you find a credible source.

Actually, Bill, there is an analysis I would like for you to do. I would be quite interested in your analysis of the self-loathing of a serial adulterer and accused rapist who professes to be a feminist. Know anyone like that, sir?


No Freedom For Patriotic Teen

They are after her again, even after she took them to court!

The saga continues for a 13-year-old Mont Pleasant Middle School student who is suing school officials for the right to wear a handmade red, white and blue necklace to class.

Raven Furbert was a typical student before she received a string-it-yourself bead kit for Christmas.

Now, the girl who filed the civil rights violation claim in U.S. District Court in February has drawn national attention as she fights administrators who say paraphernalia featuring gang-oriented colors is prohibited. At least 50 Web sites have been dedicated to her.

Furbert said she wears the necklace in honor of soldiers serving overseas, including an uncle and three other relatives.

Friday, the case again boiled over when Furbert's mother, Katie Grzywna, was called to school after her daughter was threatened with in-school suspension if she didn't remove the beads.

Simply outrageous and patently unconstitutional. It is a clear point of law -- students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate! When will the administrators take seriously the fact that Tinker v. Des Moines has been settled law for over 35 years? Heck, a federal court here in Houston held that an anti-gang policy did not trump the right of teens to wear a rosary around their necks, so I don't see how this one can stand, either.

And I have to wonder -- does this latest violation of young Raven's rights rise to a level that the administrators will be held responsible in their personal capacity, and not just on the school district's insurance policy?


Rangel Tries To Hijack Jesus And The Pope

Anyone catch this MSNBC exchange on Thursday?

MATTHEWS: I mean, Charlie, Jesus didn‘t hang around with the swells, the rich people.

RANGEL: Well, he said the rich are going straight to hell.


MATTHEWS: Well, he did not.



MATTHEWS: He said it is harder to get through a needle‘s...


RANGEL: No. But the deal with St. Matthews and all these people are trying to get into heaven. And he said, hey, when I was hungry, you didn‘t feed me. I was thirsty. I was naked. I was sick. You didn‘t do all these—he‘s talking about food stamps, Social Security.


RANGEL: He‘s talking about taking care of those who haven‘t got. So, when it comes to moral value, my Republican friends can decide which side the pope was on.

Uh, excuse me, I don’t find the New Deal and Great Society anywhere in the Bible – Old Testament or New. I wonder if “Charlie Cardinal Rangel” would care to provide us with chapter and verse citations for Jesus’ endorsement of these programs. And while I agree with his general point that the late pope did preach a Gospel-based message of concern and compassion for the poor, that does not necessarily mean that failure to embrace the leftist social platform of the Democrats is sinful. There are many ways to help the poor, sick, and outcast – ever hear of personal charity, Charlie? I realize that means that you don’t get to appropriate the money and direct it be spent for abortion and birth control (things that John Paul II certainly opposed), but that is how society dealt with such issues for some time before Roosevelt.

And by the way, I think Peter King and Mark Foley made an excellent point on Rangel’s attempt to turn the death and burial of the pope into a political opportunity for his party.

KING: Yes, I think we can certainly debate these in another setting.

To me, I am very confident that my beliefs reflect the pope‘s, but I‘m not saying Charlie‘s don‘t. I mean, I think, as a Catholic, I try to bring my faith and my religion to views I hold. I may end up on a different side than Charlie. I believe that mine are more close than he does, but that‘s really what our country is about.
But I think, on certain lasting principles, the pope stood out. And the pope did speak out, and rather than have these debates tonight. But there are different levels of what is dogma, what is prudential judgment, what‘s informed judgment. And we can have those debates another time.

I just think what he did tell all of us was that, if you are going to make a decision, make sure it does have a moral basis for it and be secure in your own conscience.


MATTHEWS: Mark, you want to get in on this?

FOLEY: Well, I can‘t believe we‘re talking Social Security in front of the Vatican.

Indeed – I can’t believe it, either. And certainly not the night before the Pope's funeral.


Follow The Byrd Rules

Senator Robert Byrd (KKK-Dogpatch) claims that changing rules and invoking parliamentary procedure to end filibusters violates near sacred Senate precedents. Unfortunately for Byrd, history proves him a liar. On at least four different occasions between 1977 and 1987, the Senate invoked parliamentary techniques similar to those proposed by supporters of the “nuclear/constitutional option” to cut off debate and bring about a vote on a measure supported by a partisan majority over the objections of the minority engaged in a filibuster.

Oh, and the member who instigated and orchestrated the end of debate in these four cases was none other than Byrd himself.

In 1977, Byrd cut off a filibuster led by two members of his own party, Sens. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and James Abourezk (D-S.D.), on a proposal to deregulate natural gas prices. He initiated a maneuver empowering the chair to disqualify amendments under certain circumstances. He then used his recognition rights to foreclose the possibility of appeal. Byrd created a precedent that enabled him to break the filibuster and used it with stunning force.

Two years later, Byrd again manipulated the Senate rules by establishing a precedent to curb the practice of adding legislative amendments to appropriation bills. Byrd's victim that time was Sen. William Armstrong (R-Colo.), who had offered an amendment to raise a cap on military pay. In 1980, Byrd was back at it, changing Senate procedures to prevent a filibuster on a motion to consider the nomination of Robert E. White as ambassador to El Salvador. Republican Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) was the target of Byrd's third tactic. His point of order against Byrd's maneuver was sustained by the chairman, but Byrd prevailed on a party-line 54-38 appeal.

Byrd's fourth change of Senate procedure came in 1987 against Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), who was attempting to prevent a vote on a defense authorization bill. Byrd rolled over the GOP's delaying tactics by imposing new precedents through a slew of simple majority votes that ran almost entirely along party lines.

Byrd, who recently trumpeted "the Senate was never intended to be a majoritarian body," made the Senate just that on four occasions when it suited his ends.

The column also points out that a number of senators, in 1995, argued against allowing filibusters to prevent the will of the majority from being carried out in the Senate – even on legislation. The majoritarian reformers included currently serving Democrats Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Barbara Boxer of California, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

In short, the Senate Democrats are engaged in political hypocrisy of the most naked kind. It’s time for Republicans to break the judicial filibuster by using the Byrd precedent.


Here’s Your Sign

Does anyone else out there find these signs appalling and more than a little bit unnerving?

Caltrans posted several of these signs along San Diego freeways beginning in 1990, when the city was a funnel for undocumented immigrants headed north. The signs were intended to warn drivers they might encounter people frantically darting across lanes of traffic as they tried to evade border security.

Dozens of immigrants were struck and killed from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, some in front of horrified family members, as stunned drivers failed to stop in time.
Now I understand the desire to make sure that there are not traffic deaths, but I find these signs a bit unnerving. Wouldn’t it be better if we made sure that these people were not crossing our borders (not to mention our highways) in the first place? Or are my priorities out of whack?

Apparently someone agrees with me – the signs are slowly coming down via attrition. But in the meantime, the image has become an iconic symbol in California’s pop culture and tourist trade. Its multiple uses (and abuses) show a wonderful creativity on the part of artists and entrepreneurs.


Washington Times On Leftist Assaults On Speech

I think this sums the matter up nicely, putting the recent rash of attacks on conservative speakers in a larger context.

The media should highlight these cases not as the jokes they are perhaps intended to be, but as unacceptable perversions of the First Amendment. So far, however, the mainstream media has failed to do so. It also gave scant attention to last year's election-oriented violence directed almost solely against Republicans. Perpetrators shot at Bush-Cheney campaign headquarters and attacked volunteers and destroyed campaign offices across the country, to cite a few examples. But news organizations such as the New York Times instead provided a platform to those making dubious charges of voter intimidation committed by the Republicans.

Violence, of course, should be intolerable no matter who is on the receiving end, and must be rejected by people of goodwill, whatever their political ideology. It is ironic that college campuses -- which typically style themselves as bastions of free speech and tolerance -- are increasingly the scene of intolerant, thuggish behavior. These days it is being directed at folks who don't subscribe to the prevailing liberal orthodoxies.

And if these attacks do not stop, perhaps the time will arrive where conservative speakers need to give their talks armed -- and ready to act in self-defense against their attackers.


Sunday, April 10, 2005

Bell Offers Good Idea, Partisan Rhetoric -- Chronicle Crosses Ethical Line

Chris Bell, a defeated Democrat Congressman, makes a good point about congressional redistricting. It should be non-partisan, and should be designed to produce competetive elections where possible, not the one-sided affairs that currently exist in most districts.

Bell lays out his plan as follows.

We cannot achieve this unless Republicans and Democrats work together. And therein lies the problem. It would be difficult to overstate the stultifying effect that partisanship has on the work of Congress. Coming from Houston city politics, where I had worked with members of both parties, Congress was a horrible shock.

Neither party finds an electoral advantage in compromise because the district lines are drawn to favor a candidate supported by hard-core, partisan apparatchiks. What we have in Washington is the parliamentary equivalent of World War I trench warfare, with combatants so afraid of dying in no-man's land that they never leave the safety of their trenches.

If we want to force Congress out of their trenches and onto common ground, we need to make them more vulnerable to general election returns than to intraparty fratricide. Politicians who place a higher value on party loyalty than on ethics will never fight for ethics. They need to listen to November's voices rather than March's partisans.

He is right here. Most districts in the Houston area are designed in such a way as to give one party or the other a decided advantage. While this is true, for example, of Tom Delay's district (where I live), the same is also true of Sheila Jackson-Lee's district just to the nort of it. There was a definite political strategy in drawing these districts -- making sure that the party that gets nearly 60% of votes in congressional races also gets about the same percentage of the seats (unlike the court-imposed 2001 plan it replaced -- and the 1991 Democrat gerrymander it was based upon -- under which 57% of the Congressional vote earned the GOP 43% of the Congressional seats). Remapping software produces bizarre configurations that frustrate the will of the people in most states. So i agree, something has to be done.

There are just two problems wit this piece. They are the incredibly partisan (and intensely personal) attacks on Tom DeLay found in the piece, and the decision by the Houston Chronicle to run it at all.

Bell blames delay, with good reason, for the loss of his seat. Bell was targetted, along with virtually every other white Democrat in Texas, for defeat. This was done by following the mandate of civil rights laws that no redistricting plan can reduce minority representation. The GOP intentionally drew a map that increased minority-dominated districts, resulting in Bell's defeat by a black Democrat in the primary (I guess that black voters qualify as "March partisans" for Bell). Bell's retaliatory ethics complaint (which he lauds as a public service as an introduction to this commentary) was dismissed by the Ethics Committee as so lacking in merit that an ethics filing against Bell would have been appropriate if he were not so close to leaving Congress. Bell may be right on the issue of redistricting, but this partisan hack-job on DeLay will make his proposal too easy to ignore.

The Chronicle's decision to run this piece is also troubling. Bell is an all-but-declared candidate for Governor. In the commentary, he takes a pretty direct shot at his likely opponent, incumbent Governor Rick Perry. That is imply dirty pool. You do not give a candidate a platform in this manner and then allow him to carry on about his major campaign issue. Especially troubling, the paper provides the internet address to Bell's exploratory committee website, and even hyperlinks it from the online edition. This amounts to making the piece into an unpaid political ad. Given the difficulty that local and state Republicans have getting their pieces into the Chronicle, this presents loads of ethical problems in my eyes.

(Hat Tip: blogHOUSTON)


Texas Republicans Continue To Grow

My liberal friend keep telling me about the groundswell of opposition to the GOP here in Texas, and about how strong their party is. Tell me, then, why is this trend continuing unabated?

Chambers County has joined other fast-growing suburban counties where Republicans are no longer swimming against the tide to win a county office.

In fact, Republican contenders for Chambers County offices, which officials said started as a small "wave" in the late '90s, turned into a tidal wave within the past month as four more longtime Democratic officeholders defected to the other side.

The four are among the county's more powerful elected officials: the county judge, district clerk, county attorney and county treasurer.

They are responding to an influx of conservative families from the Houston area to new subdivisions in the county, a trend that has also been experienced in Montgomery, Fort Bend and Waller counties.

A majority of those who migrate to the suburban counties for cheaper housing, safer neighborhoods and better schools tend to be predominantly white conservatives, said Richard Murray, director of the University of Houston's Center for Political Policy.

You Texas Democrats keep on telling yourself how strong you are. We in the GOP will continue to control federal, state, and local offices because we have THE PEOPLE on our side.


Hillary Says There Are Robots In Congress

Hillary Clinton, the woman who thrilled Americans with her spine-tingling tale of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" that forced her husband to have sex with an employee half his age in the Oval Office while conducting government business and then lying about it to the American people and to in a judicial proceeding while under oath, has a new yarn for us. Leaving tales of conspiracy, intrigue and sex behind, she has now turned to the field of science fiction.

Science fiction?

You read that right -- science fiction.

She lambasted Republican members of Congress as "extras in the movie 'I Robot' " who "mindlessly rubberstamp the agenda of this administration" and want to do "little more than fund the military and build some highways."

Sorry, Hillary, you'll have to do beter than that. The robots in the awful mauling of the Asimov classic simply were not convincing. If'm thinking you would do better convincing Americans that Congressional Republicans are more like these guys.

But then what do I know? You are already being proclaimed

"the next great president of the United States."


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