Friday, April 29, 2005

Zell Miller Hospitalized

Former Georgia Senator Zell Miller apparently fell ill during a speech and was taken to the hospital. He had been complaining of flu-like symptoms (which, these days, can be anything) for a few days, says his wife. I certainly hope for Miller's full recovery.

I wish there weren't people in America who gleefully applaud when someone gets sick, but there are. No surprise where to find them, either.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Once more...

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

In other words, it's time to clean out my desk. Tomorrow is my final day with my current employer, a network consulting firm on contract to the Federal government. Specifically, I've worked for a bit over a year on some of the most classified networks in our nation: those used by our government intelligence services. These last two weeks have been, ironically, among the best days I've had there. In just the last few days, I've worked on systems that really, really mean something. It's been some of my best work, and I'll likely never be able to go into details with those I'd love to discuss it with. Such is life under the security clearance.

Don't get me wrong, though. Moving to the new place also means I don't have to get up at 4:30 am and look forward to a 75-90 minute commute to work. The new place is just 15 minutes away, and that's with moderate traffic. Plus - and this is the big part - I get to sleep in until 6:00 am and I can be there in the morning when my daughter wakes up for school. And that's worth the change, right there.

So, onward, dear friends, onward. Bring on the 'morrow and let the newest dawn shine light into a life renewed. More to come... Stay tuned.

Lebanon sets election date

Now that the Syrians have departed, I note that Lebanon has set an election date of 29 May. I think Smash has put it best:

::::::::You know, this democracy thing just might catch on.::::::::

It might, indeed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Calculate your blog's reading level

Hat Tip to INDC Journal for finding this one, you can now calculate the "reading level" of your blog. (Or someone else's blog.) Hoodathunk? writing comes in at an 8th grade level, which is about that of most popular novels. I can live with that!

Syria leaves Lebanon

Syrian troops and intel officers have been in Lebanon for, literall, almost all of my life. That changed in the last couple of days:

::::::::Syria ended its nearly 30-year occupation of Lebanon yesterday, pulling its last 250 soldiers across the border after an upbeat ceremony that glossed over the tensions between the two neighbors.

The rear guard of a Syrian contingent that had numbered 14,000 soldiers just two months ago chanted and waved V-for-victory signs as it rode buses and jeeps across the border in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
::::::::

This is good news. I hope Lebanon can make good on its efforts to democratize now that Syria's gone. (If, indeed, they are. One can only hope.) I am especially glad that this was completely without a shooting war. I also hope that other regimes working to repress their neighbors get the hint and follow Syria's lead.

Bad polling = bad conclusion

I was preparing to write about the absurd Washington Post story this week about a poll of theirs purporting to show that Americans oppose changing the rules in the Senate to disallow filibusters on judicial nominees by a 2-1 margin. I just noted that the guys over at Power Line are, as usual, on the ball about such things, so I'm going to just link to their post on the matter.

Indeed. The poll's sampling is skewed as well, making the conclusion more than suspect. Go have a look.

Airbus 380 has successful maiden flight

Some of you know I have some aviation background so stories about new planes always attract my interest. Today's regards the new Airbus 380 jumbo jet, now the largest passenger-carrying aircraft in the skies. (In terms of passengers, that is.) The A380 survived its maiden flight today in France:

::::::::But here is the question the pollsters asked: "Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?" That is an absurd question, to which I would probably answer "No," too. The way the question is framed, it makes it sound like a one-way street, as though the Republicans wanted to change the rules to benefit only Republican nominees. If they asked a question like, "Do you think that if a majority of Senators support confirmation of a particular nominee, that nominee should be confirmed?" the percentages would probably reverse.::::::::
::::::::The world's largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, completed a maiden flight Wednesday that took it over the Pyrenees mountains, a milestone for aviation and for the European aircraft-maker's battle with American rival Boeing Co. (BA)

The double-decked, 308-ton plane landed successfully to applause at 2:22 p.m (8:22 a.m. EDT) after a flight of nearly four hours. About 30,000 spectators watched the white plane with blue tail take off and touch down, 101 years after the Wright brothers achieved the first controlled, sustained flight.

Before it landed, its front lights shining, the A380 did a slow flyover above the airport in Blagnac, southwest France, where it had taken off at 10:29 a.m. (4:29 a.m. EDT).

The plane carried a crew of six and 22 tons of on-board test instruments. It can carry as many as 840 passengers on commercial flights.
::::::::

Now, that's a big bird. Airbus and Boeing have gone head-to-head now for years and there was a bit of a race going on to see who was going to come out with an "upgrade" aircraft to the venerable Boeing 747. Boeing's design team had started running with 2 ideas. One was to simply extend the 747's "hump" upper deck all the way back to the tail for a 2nd level of seats. The other was an all-new design where the aircraft used a blended-wing arrangement to house 2 passenger levels in a sort-of "flying wing". The design was, frankly, cool as anything flying and I was really looking forward to seeing someone change the face of commercial aviation. Boeing, however, decided that there wasn't enough of a market for an aircraft that seated 800+ passengers and also cited concerns about the lack of ground facilities capable of handling the plane. They decided to place their efforts in the updates to their workhorse 737 design and into launching the 787 Dreamliner, a long-range sleeper cabin aircraft. I note that Air Canada will be deploying Dreamliners, so they're definitely coming to an airport near you.

While Boeing decided to bow out of that particular market, Airbus pressed ahead and came up with the A380. There are some practical issues with a plane that size. Fueling, catering, and cleaning such a large aircraft will clearly take a lot of time. Boarding a plane with 150 passengers seems to take 20-25 minutes. This one will have 6 times that many people, raising concerns about the amount of time a gate is going to be occupied at an airport as opposed to cycling aircraft in and out quickly. This says nothing of the situation where an emergency evacuation is called for. 800 people struggling to get out of an enclosed space can generate all kinds of chaos.

Still, one imagines that the engineers at Airbus have thought about all this. The airlines are not, I know, shy about expressing themselves regarding aircraft design. I look foward to seeing one of these critters myself. Living as close to Dulles Airport as I do, I can't help but think we'll see them here among the first operational flights. Should be interesting.

Countdown continues

As I mentioned earlier this week, this is my last week at my current employer. It hasn't been a coast to the finish line and that's the way I like it. I've been working on a number of projects over the past year and there's a few that are still on the drawing board. They'll be turned over to another engineer to work on after I'm gone. That's the way it works and that's fine. However, there were a couple that were within striking distance if I really leaned on a few people, so I did. The result was approval to implement a design I've been working on for the past couple of months. That's why, after my full 8 hour day yesterday, I came home to grab a few hours' shuteye and returned to the office at 1:45 am this morning. With a 3-hour window set aside, I wanted to be there the second the window started. My part of the design was complete with 20 minutes to spare, although some other engineer's designs failed to integrate with mine as they were supposed to, so there was an hour of troubleshooting and tweaking. Bottom line, we're fully operational and we now have 2 layers of fault tolerance that weren't there before. A good day's work.

What that meant, however, was no time to blog, so I'm taking a bit of my evening to handle that. I enjoy writing and I don't want to get out of the habit. Thanks for your patience, and on with the show!

Countdown is now T minus 2 days and counting. After that, I'll get to wake up at a normal hour with all the rest of you folks! Gonna be nice...

Monday, April 25, 2005

Chrenkoff has more Good News from Iraq

Here's the latest report from Chrenkoff, his 26th. There's still a lot of stories of progress and positive work that are not getting reported, so it's good Chrenkoff is still on the ball. I note the opening stuff there where Chrenkoff highlights a BBC report on average Iraqis doing better. Good catch, Arthur!

::::::::Recently, British Broadcasting Corporation decided to conduct a little vox populi around Iraq: "Two years after the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, marking the fall of the city to US-led forces, BBC Arabic.com asked seven Iraqis for their thoughts on how life has changed for them since the conflict." The results were surprising, certainly for the BBC, whose attitude towards the liberation of Iraq has always been at best lukewarm. They were surprising for me too, not so much in what the seven Iraqis had to say, but that the BBC still chose to run the story.

Here's Saad, 32, sound engineer from Basra: "Iraqis are feeling better. They are breathing the air of freedom. They read, watch and say what they want. They travel, work and receive a living wage. They use mobile phones, satellite dishes and the internet, which they did not even know before... As for terrorism, we are now beginning to unite against it and to defeat it."

Noura, 32, computer engineer from Baghdad and a Christian: "While we lost security after Saddam's fall, we gained our freedom and a chance to build a new society."

Nada, 32, government worker from Mosul: "We never imagined that the Turkmen community would have a political party representing them in Iraq, but this is happening now."

Kaban, 31, electrical engineer from Baghdad: "There have been many changes since the fall of Saddam's regime, but the most important change was that we feel free... However, those who say that security was better in the past are completely wrong. It is true we did not have suicide car bombings in Saddam's era, but our homes did not feel safe from the intrusion of Saddam's security men, who came in the middle of the night to kidnap, kill or rape."

Waala, 25, schoolteacher from Baghdad: "The Sunnis in Iraq do not live in isolation from the political and social circles of life, as many people outside Iraq seem to believe. Nothing has affected our relationships with each other - we face the same problems. This applies to Sunnis or Shia, Christians or Muslims, Arabs or Kurds. Unfortunately, the refusal by some Sunnis to participate in the elections was the cause of some political isolation."

Imad Mohammed, 25, university graduate from Baghdad: "I am no longer worried about losing my dignity or my life. And I am also getting a higher income, like most Iraqis."

Yes, the sample is hardly representative, and the concerns also expressed by the seven interviewees are many, most notably the still precarious security situation. But the sense of new-found hope and optimism cannot be easily dismissed, particularly since it also seems to be reflected in other interviews, opinion polls, and changes on the ground.
::::::::

As they say, it's worth the read.

Begin countdown

Moving jobs is always a combination of relief and nervousness, anticipation and trepidation. Some jobs I've been in a hurry to leave and others I did so only out of necessity and accompanied by a heavy heart. These are the feelings with me now as I go into my final week at my current job. The work itself has been hugely rewarding and I'll miss the people. But the commute...

I'm up at 4:30 am every day. A quick shower, shave, and usually something to eat on the way out the door at 5:10 am. It takes until 6:30-6:45 to get to the office, depending on the day and weather conditions. The reverse trip home in the afternoon takes every bit that long and sometimes as long as 2 hours. I've had enough. So, that's what made me look for another job and I found one much closer. Today marks the beginning of my last week here, so let's start the countdown at T minus 5 days and counting.

Should be fun.

End of "assault weapon" ban has proven uneventful

When a liberal publication the size and scope of the New York Times finally runs the story that the end of the "assault weapons" ban has not, in fact, resulted in massive violence, you know the issue is done. Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you The New York Times:

::::::::Despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, the expiration of the decade-long assault weapons ban last September has not set off a sustained surge in the weapons' sales, gun makers and sellers say. It also has not caused any noticeable increase in gun crime in the past seven months, according to several metropolitan police departments.::::::::

Of course, gun-control advocates who screamed loudly that allowing the ban to end would result in thousands of deaths from automatic weapons fire and the sight of 2nd graders packing AK-47's in their lunchboxes are now floating new reasons for this eventless event. The real reason that there hasn't been an explosion in gunfights is because - hang on, now! - the "ban" wasn't really a ban, after all. They now claim that the lack of the huge spike in assault weapon-related crime is that people have been able to buy these so-called assault weapons anyway.

Preposterous. No licensed gun dealer was selling those weapons, period, and they know it. The ban was simply bad law and never had any measurable effect on crime, regardless of the incessant claims to the contrary. Gun-control advocates had their decade-long bite at the apple and they were proven wrong in their assertions, plain and simple.

Don't feel too bad or good about the Times' story, though. They use the story not to examine the facts of the ban and its effects, but to give a bully-pulpit to the gun-control lobby while downplaying the valid arguments of the opposition to the ban. Throughout the story, they quote all manner of people who think the ban was a good thing, and some who didn't care. In an article on the assault weapon ban, you find not 1 quote nor even a reference to the NRA. A story on an issue where the NRA played a huge and important part and they don't even mention their name. Nice reporting, guys.

Hat tip: Instapundit

WaPo Columnist SOP: Accuse without foundation

As if there's not been enough examples of this in the past year, Marc Fisher's column in today's Washington Post merely proves the point about the direction of bias this paper has. Fisher's topic-du-jour? That the evil Republican representative currently sitting in the no-doubt-undeserved congressional seat for VA's 11th District, Tom Davis, is going to "use Congress's authority over the Metro system to force a downsizing of a huge, 2,250-unit condo, townhouse and commercial development planned for 56 acres next to the Vienna Metro station" so "he can guarantee himself reelection till the end of time" by "preventing Democrats from moving into his district."

Now that's a fascinating accusation to make, considering that's just in the first two sentences of his column. The Congressman denies he's opposed to the development on politicial grounds and says it's a case of traffic and population density management. But Fisher knows his accusations are on target because he was told by three - count 'em, 3 - other politicians.

:::::::: Three Fairfax elected officials told me that Davis explained his opposition to the MetroWest development to them as a matter of party politics: The congressman believes that the people most likely to move into condos and townhouses near a Metro station are -- oh, the horror! -- Democrats.

One politician who spoke to Davis says the congressman told him straight-out that he opposes Pulte Homes' MetroWest project because "all it does is produce Democrats."
::::::::

You know, that sounds just like a Republican politician, to say that he disapproves of condo and townhouse development because they breed Democrats. Feel free to read the column, as I have, but I think you'll find that he refers to only 2 elected officials in it. The third person making comments is a Vice President of Pulte Homes, the developer of the condos and townhouses in question. Last I checked, residents of Fairfax County don't elect Pulte company officers, but perhaps Fisher has a closer relationship with Pulte than I do. The first of the elected officials is the Chairman of Fairfax County, Gerry Connolly. Fisher identifies him immediately as a Democrat. Good job, Mr. Fisher. You've discovered that a member of the political party in opposition to the party Congressman Davis hails from stands in opposition to the Congressman's initiatives. Stop the presses! I can only imagine that Fisher must have decided that trotting out one Democrat after another would have lessened the impact of his argument because the second elected offical he quotes is T. Dana Kaufmann. This time he's only identified as a "Fairfax supervisor who is also Chairman of Metro's board" even though he, too, is a Democrat. So while Mr. Fisher has made it quite clear into which camp Congressman Davis falls, he's not that forthcoming with the politics of those people he chooses to quote in opposition.

Aside from simply accusing Congressman Davis of wanting to stifle the development because he's afraid condos attract Democrats, no one's offering anything to back up this claim. Fisher, Connolly, Kaufmann, and Pulte Vice President Stan Settle are all just making the same claim and not bothering to provide any proof. Congressman Davis says he's concerned about the development there for traffic reasons:

::::::::Davis scoffs at the idea that he is motivated by politics. He says Vienna is simply unsuited to a project of this magnitude. The Orange Line is already full in the morning rush, and Interstate 66 is way over capacity.::::::::

This apparently doesn't hold any water with Fisher, but I have to wonder where Mr. Fisher lives and how does he commute to his job at the WaPo. I live out beyond this specific corridor and I use both 66 and the Metro's Orange line to get into the office. Let me assure Mr. Fisher that I have direct, personal evidence that what Congressman Davis is concerned about is quite real. During rush hour the Orange line train is standing-room only after it leaves the very first station of the line. By the time it gets to West Falls Church (the 3rd station), there are cars packed so tight you cannot get into them. I've never had the misfortune of having to try to get on-boad the Orange line from the 4th or 5th station, but it can't be a picnic. Having an additional 2200 families worth of commuters living literally next door to the Vienna station (the 1st station on the line, I might add) will only overload both Orange Line and route 66 further. This on top of the additional stations being considered in Tyson's Corner which will flow traffic onto the same lines.

I find Congressman Davis's concerns quite real all by themselves and hardly a smokescreen. Mr. Fisher clearly does not, but his accusations to the contrary don't make them so. As usual, he doesn't seem to think he needs to prove his point and his editors at the WaPo don't either. Same story, different edition.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Moussaoui pleads guilty: Crazy like a fox

Zacarias Moussaoui has plead guilty to the charges leveled against him as a participant of the 9/11 attacks. Stating that he understands his situation, he changed his plea and that plea was accepted.

::::::::He calmly answered U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema's (search) questions. Brinkema, in turn, told the court that Moussaoui had a better understanding of the law than some lawyers.

Moussaoui's plea capped more than three years' worth of legal battles: Moussaoui versus his attorneys, Moussaoui versus the judge, and the judge versus the Justice Department.

Moussaoui, who has been kept in solitary confinement in all that time, has since grown a full beard, though his head is still shaved.

He appeared subdued and almost respectful on Friday as he stood before Brinkema, whom on several occasions he accused of being a Nazi conspiring to have him killed.

At one point, Brinkema asked a defense attorney if Moussaoui knew what he was doing.

After a very long pause, attorney Alan Yamamoto told the judge, "He is facing the possibility of death or life in prison. He has told me that he understands that."

Once the guilty plea was accepted, Moussaoui appeared to switch gears, launching into one of the rambling tirades for which he has become famous. He complained he was misled by his attorneys, and insisted he was part of a conspiracy not related to Sept. 11.

"I will fight with every inch against the death penalty," he said.

He told the court that he was training at a Minnesota flight school to man 747s in order to fly a plane into the White House as part of a wave of post-Sept. 11 attacks. He hinted he would argue once again he had no role in the Sept. 11 attacks during the penalty phase.
::::::::

Moussaoui has done this before leading his defense attorneys to claim he was mentally incompetent to enter such a plea. I say he's crazy like a fox. This clown is quite familiar with how to play our legal system to his advantage and I have no doubts that he received instruction on just how to do it, too. Attorney General Gonzales has said that he'll seek the death penalty and I'm hoping he gets it.

"Inquisition" not necessary "Catholic"?

A couple of days ago I posted about the Democratic Underground's reaction to the ascension of Pope Benedict XVI and addressed 2 of their specific points, that of the Pope's past in WWII Germany and his work in the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith. Those who would apparently love to see the Catholic Church dissolve are quite quick to accuse the office of being a cover name for the "Grand Inquisition" and, therefore, that the Pope was the Church's Inquistor General. I received a very welcome surprise in the comments section of that post - a note from the author of the post that inspired mine, Confederate Yankee. With that pleasant surprise came something of a shocker: he spoke of the Protestant Inquisitions.

At that point, I was thinking, "Protestant Inquisitions? There were Protestant Inquisitions?" Apparently so, and he's pretty convinced they were worse than the Catholic variety:

::::::::Just a few things to add on inquisitions:

As a Protestant, I would remind Protestant pope-haters that any of the individual Protestant Inquisitions in Germany or England put to death far, far more people than all the Catholic Inquisitions together.

German Protestants put to death 100,000 witches; in England, Henry the 8th killed 72,000 Catholics, and Queen Elizabeth I put more people to death in one year than the Catholic church did in 330.
::::::::

I actually went to parochial school and have considered myself reasonably well-educated in the matters of my faith. I gotta be honest with you all: I have never heard of these events in the framework of an "inquisition." Say that word and, it seems the world over, the immediate connection is to the Vatican and the Catholic faith. This seems like a hole in my education it would behoove me to fill, given the usage of the Inquisition as a mace beaten over the heads of Catholics by all manner of folk who don't like the faith.

Now, if you read nothing else from this post or the sources I link, read and understand this: The actions taken on behalf of the Catholic Church during the medieval Inquisition were unjustifiable and plain wrong. Conversion by force or threat of violence is a sham that ultimately causes far more problems than those the perpetrators perceive they are fixing. Nothing I have found out about other inquisitions excuses what was done by the Catholic Church those hundreds of years ago. I am explicitly stating that here so those who think the Catholic Church is the font of pure evil won't yell about me implying otherwise. I'm not. John Paul II himself stated this case quite eloquently:

::::::::Yet the consideration of mitigating factors does not exonerate the Church from the obligation to express profound regret for the weaknesses of so many of her sons and daughters who sullied her face, preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness. From these painful moments of the past a lesson can be drawn for the future, leading all Christians to adhere fully to the sublime principle stated by the Council: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power.” (Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 35, quoting Vatican II, Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae, no. 1.)::::::::

However, there appears to be a need to balance the scales somewhat with reference to a faith pursuing people they believe to be heretics. In all manner of popular literature and myth the only group of people guilty of that are Catholics and that's not correct. History needs to be told to be taken into account when judging where we've been and where we're going, what kind of people came before us and what can we learn from them, and whether we've allowed popular belief to color our thinking about what really happened. This is my goal in researching this topic. Let's proceed.

The endless repetitions of the accusations against the Catholic Church have led to claims where hundreds of thousands - indeed, millions - were burned at the stake. Historically, this is wildly inaccurate. True estimates are between 3000 and 5000, a ghastly fact in its own right. But understand that this was the total put to death over the course of the 330+ years of the Cathollic Inquisitions. As Confederate Yankee noted above, German protestants were far more lethal during their inquisitions. And while the people they executed were accused of witchcraft, the fact is that their primary targets were Catholics.

It occurs to me that I could go on and on for pages but it's likely far more efficient to simply point you to a few references, such as this one on the Protestant Inquisition, this one on a number of inquisitions, and simply to Google. Do what the web is best at and follow the links where they lead. For most of us, having grown up with the repeated tellings of how the Catholic Church was history's most vile killers, the education received from these sites will be a needed balance, indeed.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Universities a bastion of academic freedom? Clearly not.

Richard Lamm is a tenured professor at the University of Denver, the same place where 29 professors in their College of Law denounced the inquiry into Ward Churchill on the grounds that academic freedom to say even that which is unpopular must be held sancrosact. So what happened when Mr. Lamm submitted an article to the Universities administration-run paper, The Source, posed as an answer to an affirmative action official's article on white racism? It got denied.

::::::::Too Controversial for the University of Denver
Richard D. Lamm
Academic Questions, Fall 2004

I started teaching at the University of Denver in 1969 and, except for serving as Colorado s governor for 12 years, have been there continuously. I became a full tenured professor in 1973.

Some time ago I submitted the attached article, Two Wands, to The Source, the university newspaper run by our Vice Chancellor for Communications. The article was in response to a particularly offensive screed on white racism by one of our affirmative action officials. I felt it should not go unanswered.

The Source is run by the administration, separate from our student newspaper. To my amazement, the article was turned down as too controversial. I protested to no avail. So I confidentially went to our provost to get the decision reversed, and was doubly shocked when he agreed with the vice chancellor that the article was too controversial. Next stop was the chancellor of the university, who has been a friend for 25 years. Ever the diplomat, he said he did not think of it as censorship and also refused to reverse the decision. I argued at length about academic freedom and that controversy was what universities were all about.

I recounted that I had attended the University of Wisconsin when Joseph McCarthy was senator and observed first-hand courageous academic administrators standing up to the power of the U.S. Senate, time after time risking their careers to protect what is the most basic freedom on a university campus. I reminded him that I come out of the liberal wing of the Democratic party and my first job out of law school was as a civil rights attorney. Our family marched in Selma. Certainly this was a viewpoint that deserved to be heard.

I argued and argued to no avail.
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Make sure you understand what this man is saying. This is no fan of Rush Limbaugh. This guy is squarely in the Left side of the spectrum, and he's got an activist history, too. There's no way this man can be dismissed as just another conservative drone. His article, titled "Two Wands" is an insightful examination of the root causes (gotta love that phrase, don't ya?) behind the lack of academic and economic success by minorities in this country.

:::::::: Let me offer you, metaphorically, two magic wands that have sweeping powers to change society. With one wand you could wipe out all racism and discrimination from the hearts and minds of white America. The other wand you could wave across the ghettoes and barrios of America and infuse the inhabitants with Japanese or Jewish values, respect for learning, and ambition. But, alas, you can t wave both wands. Only one.

Which would you choose? I understand that many would love to wave both wands; no one can easily refuse the chance to erase racism and discrimination. But I suggest that the best wand for the society and for those who live in the ghettoes and barrios would be the second wand.
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This article is a real must-read on the matter of the effects of racism on academic/economic success. And it's quite frankly an indictment on the matter of academic freedom on college campuses these days. An article denouncing white racism as the reason for minority lack of success - even though not all minorities exhibit this lack of success - is considered just fine for publication but a response as well thought-out and written as Lamm's is dismissed by the same academics who scream about protecting academic speech. There's no hiding the Left-wing bias on this one.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Bloggers are the light at the end of MSM's tunnel

Noted by both Power Line and Little Green Footballs, the most recent issue of Masthead has a wonderful article by Phil Boas of The Arizona Republic. The piece is titled, "Bloggers: The light at the end of the newspaper's tunnel" and carries the subtitle "Engaged bloggers are voracious newspaper readers, too." Jokes about whether we represent the way out of darkness or the front end of an oncoming train aside, the article so clearly sums up the promise and peril of bloggers for the newspaper industry that it's hard to actually excerpt here. For just a taste, however:

::::::::It's customary for anyone writing to the uninitiated about blogs to define them. This is a journalism trade publication and you are no ordinary reader, so I'll spare you the customary definition.

Instead, I'll define blogs as they relate to you.

They are your Nemesis in the making.

If you've remained nonplussed as they took down Dan Rather and four of his Black Rock colleagues, if you haven't the slightest interest in acquainting yourself with the blogosphere, don't move an inch. You won't have to. Bloggers will be knocking on your door any day now. Or knocking it down.

To many of you, bloggers are a presumptuous rabble-amateurs elbowing their way into the publishing world. You may not know them, but they know youyour face, your manners, your prejudices, your conceits.

They're your readers. And, God help us, they've become the one thing we've always begged them to become ...

Engaged.
::::::::

Yeah, that's gotta scare the pajamas off a few editors here and there. Boas goes on to describe how newpapers have managed to keep even their most engaged readers under control by virtue of the speed of postal communications and that letters to the editor and the like could be printed or not at the editor's whim. Not so with blogs. As both of the 2 worthies I linked to above have proven, blogs offer the ability to open that letter to the editor to the world. There are hundreds of newspapers in the country that would seriously consider illegal acts to get a readership like LGF or Power Line, to say nothing of the Titans of the blogosphere like Instapundit and Drudge. (Yes, I know: some argue that Drudge isn't a blog, but work with me, here.) The bottom line is that editors can no longer simply pocket someone's letter and allow the issue to die in silence. Just ask CBS about that plan of action. The blogs aren't all poison for the MSM, however, as Boas explains.

::::::::If you listen closely, tuning in to the conversation beyond the oft-expressed contempt for mainstream media, you'll find the blogosphere actually needs mainstream media. We provide most of the coverage that starts the conversation. And by carrying the conversation further than we do, the blogosphere makes mass media vital.

The bloggers are demanding better standards and less bias-not unreasonable demands given journalism's current track record. But they're also creating stimulating and often irresistible discussion around the news we produce.

Journalism tomorrow, thanks to forces like the blogosphere, will grow more competitive. The best journalists will flourish. The mediocre will be exposed and washed out.

That's not something to lament. That's progress. We are living in the Information Age, when government and business are increasingly dependent on knowledge. It was inevitable that a knowledge-based culture would demand better, faster, more reliable information.

We're about to provide it, even if we get bruised in the process.
::::::::

So true. The fact of the matter is that while I have a good view on event local to my house, I have no ability to collect news in, say, Ecuador. I am dependent upon the media for the raw material I use to write my opinions and analysis and I'd have no issue with that at all if I could trust them to provide that raw material with some purity. Tell me what happened, actually. Leave the editor's biases for the editorial page. News reporting should be all about the facts and as much of the facts as can be had. Omission of material that doesn't fit the message the MSM wants to send about an issue is the largest problem the blogosphere has with them. The second being a biased choice of language and literary construct. Fix these issue and you've got a reader for life in me. And, I suspect, in the rest of the bogosphere as well.

Ecuadoran President removed by Legislators

We do appear to be living in interesting times. Ecuador's Congress voted yesterday to remove President Lucio Gutierrez after declaring that his lack of performance of his duties had rendered the office vacant. Protests against Gutierrez have been going on there for over a week as Ecuadorans have come to feel that he is acting in violation of their constitution.

::::::::The protests were fueled by allegations that Gutierrez meddled with the courts in a move to amass power. Demonstrations surged over the past week and late Tuesday night 30,000 protesters marched on the palace, demanding Gutierrez's ouster.

The rapid events were only the latest in a long history of political instability in Ecuador, where two other presidents have been forced from office since 1997. Gutierrez himself led the rebellion that toppled President Jamil Mahuad in 2000.

Gutierrez was elected two years later on a populist, anti-corruption platform. But his left-leaning constituency soon fell apart after he instituted austerity measures, including cuts in food subsidies and cooking fuel, to satisfy international lenders.

Opponents have accused him of trying to consolidate power from all branches of government. On Friday Gutierrez dissolved the Supreme Court in a bid to placate protests after his congressional allies in December fired most of the court's judges and named replacements sympathetic to his government. That move was widely viewed as unconstitutional.
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Their legislators have sworn in Vice President Alfredo Palacio as the new President and Palacio has, in turn, sworn to the people to neither pardon nor forget the people who have so raised their ire. Time will tell, I suppose. Gutierrez's supporters are planning counter-demonstrations. This is a volatile situation and history has shown that South American countries tend to get down to shooting fairly quickly in this kind of circumstance. I have no knowledge of the actions Gutierrez has taken nor do I know whether he's guilty of what he's accused of. It's entirely possible that the people demanding his ouster were and are correct in so doing. As I watch this event unfold, I can only hope that those in charge are able to chart a course for their country and their people that avoids as much bloodshed as possible.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Democratic Underground on Hitler Youth and Inquisition: DIE, POPE, DIE!

Power Line gives us a link to Confederate Yankee's descent into the bog that is the Democratic Underground and the general feeling there over the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI. There's an awful lot of people there hoping this priest dies quickly:

:::::::: It is always fun (well, disturbing) to watch the Democratic Underground respond with paranoia to the world event de jour, and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope is no different. What follows is a selection of choice tidbits in two threads from the group voted "most likely to flatline an EEG."

he was head of the Inquisition. Enough said for me.

Kind of makes you wonder if cardinals vote on Diebold machines.

Wrote a document in 2000 that denounced other faiths... Great. Just what we need. Warns of the "EVILS" of liberalism. Rigid, intolerant...it just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? The only plus here is that he is 78! Ed: You've got to love DU. Not pope for a day, and they already can't wait for Pope Benedict XVI to die.

Yeah, we got the John Ashcroft of new popes. Ed: Among liberals, being compared to John Ashcroft, a respectful, God-fearing man, is an insult of the highest magnitude.

He is the Grand Inquisitor...No fooling. He heads the Office for Enforcement of the Doctrine of the Faithful, which is the direct successor office to the centuries-old Grand Inquisition. He is therefore the leading hardliner, enforcer and book-censor of the Church, and was JP2's right-hand man...

He used to be a hitler youth.. and practically endorsed GW in his statements on "catholic voting" during our elections... Ed: Hitler Youth = GW Bush support. Why didn't I get that?

Oh goody. Another neocon in power... Ed: Yep, Karl Rove rigged this election, too...

This is BS. Maybe we'll get lucky he will "die in his sleep" like our 33 day "Progressive Pope" John Paul 1st, did.

It's a sad day when the best aspect of a new pope is that he's likely to die soon.

This is very sad news, indeed, for the Catholic church. Once again, the forces of evil triumph...

Hopefully, they'll all die off soon. Ed: Who, Catholics?

Look on the bright side... this ensures that Bush** is not the most fascist leader in the known universe. Berlusconi (out-and-out fascist Fini in cabinet) might have had the edge, but this makes it official.

Whatever else may have been going on in there, I'm reasonably sure that God was not speaking to them, saying "Hey, guys, why not shake things up a little bit? Go for the Nazi!"

::::::::

Yankee has made each of these comments into links that will take you to the comment on DU, assuming the DU hasn't shut down access to the forum by now. As a Catholic, I'm just impressed beyond words that my fellow Americans on the Left think so highly of our freedom of religion that they publicly hope the leader of our church dies tonite. Then, of course, there's the Nazi angle, a requirement these days for when the Left discusses a leader with Rightward tendencies. The issue has been addressed, by the Pope himself, on several occasions dating back into the 90's. The whole thing rests on his inclusion in the rosters of the Hitler Youth, for he was a boy in Nazi Germany. Sam Ser of the Jerusalem Post writes on the matter in response to an article in the London Sunday Times:

::::::::As the Sunday Times article admits, Ratzinger's membership in the Hitler Youth was not voluntary but compulsory; also admitted are the facts that the cardinal – only a teenager during the period in question – was the son of an anti-Nazi policeman, that he was given a dispensation from Hitler Youth activities because of his religious studies, and that he deserted the German army.

Ratzinger has several times gone on record on his supposedly "problematic" past. In the 1997 book Salt of the Earth, Ratzinger is asked whether he was ever in the Hitler Youth.

"At first we weren't," he says, speaking of himself and his older brother, "but when the compulsory Hitler Youth was introduced in 1941, my brother was obliged to join. I was still too young, but later as a seminarian, I was registered in the Hitler Youth. As soon as I was out of the seminary, I never went back. And that was difficult because the tuition reduction, which I really needed, was tied to proof of attendance at the Hitler Youth.

"Thank goodness there was a very understanding mathematics professor. He himself was a Nazi, but an honest man, and said to me, 'Just go once to get the document so we have it...' When he saw that I simply didn't want to, he said, 'I understand, I'll take care of it' and so I was able to stay free of it."

Ratzinger says this again in his own memoirs, printed in 1998. In his 2002 biography of the cardinal, John Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote in detail about those events.

The only significant complaint that the Times makes against Ratzinger's wartime conduct is that he resisted quietly and passively, rather than having done something drastic enough to earn him a trip to a concentration camp. Of course, whenever it is said that a German failed the exceptional-resistance-to-the-Nazis test, it would behoove us all to recognize that too many Jews failed it, as well.
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The history is correct, the Hitler Youth was made compulsory as the German war effort started running into manpower troubles. Failure to join up meant far more than a lack of tutition assistance. That this man, then a teenager, still had the fortitude to hold out and stay true to his principles is a testament to his own will and the upbringing his parents bestowed.

Which brings us to the other evil-that-must-not-be-named accusation about the office the Pope held with the Church within the "Office for Enforcement of the Doctrine of the Faithful". This isn't the first place I've seen it mentioned, usually in an "I-told-you-so" tone, that this office is really the Office of the Inquisition. Yes, that Inquisition. You know, those nice priests and laymen who ran around the countryside burning people at the stake and hanging them on orders from the Pope who only wanted their property and money.

OK, right off the bat, there is no such named office in the Holy See. The office in which Pope Benedict XVI worked is called the Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith, and has been so called since 1965. Prior to that, the title was Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, so dubbed in 1908. And before that, it was called the Sacred Congregation of the Universal Inquisition. That title was granted by Pope Paul III in 1542. You'll note that the word "enforcement" is nowhere in any of these titles. It's a nice little piece of linguistic distraction loaded with an emotive content designed to reinforce the punch line about the Pope having been the Grand Inquisitor. Their conclusion, of course, is that anyone who was a member of such an organization must surely still hold their evil values and shouldn't be permitted to be the leader of their religion.

The Inquisition - and there were 2 of them, by the way, the Medieval and the Spanish - were nothing to be proud of. What started as the Church's attempts to defend the tennets of our faith warped badly into searches for heretics. Not just non-believers, mind you, but good Christians who just didn't happen to buy the Vatican's line 100%. Contrary to what these fine folks at the DU would have you believe, the Inquisition was nowhere nearly as deadly as their mythology describes. The medieval Inquisition began in the middle ages and wasn't a specifically organized effort until 1228 when Pope Gregory IX sent Domincans into southern France. Even then, the Popes' long-standing condemnation of torture meant that these friars were basically investigators with very little ability to actually harm anyone. Innocent IV (irony noted) declared torture permissible during his term which ended in 1254. This was when the Inquisition began its slide into darkness. When a guilty verdict came in - and that was all too frequently - the accused was handed over to secular authorities for punishment. Under the medieval Inquisition, that usually did not mean death. The secular powers began to also confiscate the property of those convicted and would sometimes give some of it over to the Church. This was just another step down the corruption path and it didn't take long before the graft began to result in clearly innocent people being accused and convicted. Secular rulers also began to use the Inquisition as a weapon, most notably in the case of the Knights Templar.

The Spanish Inquisition was a completely separate thing, and far more deadly. Invoked not by the Pope but by the sovereigns of Spain, it applied the death penalty far more often. It even banned books written and distributed by the Holy See and refused to take any direction from the Pope except to allow him to name the inquisitor general. The title was meaningless, however, since the real direction of the inquisitors came from Ferdinand and Isabella. No other nation allowed the Spanish Inquisition to operate within their borders, even some of Spain's colonies. They tried to operate in Italy but were literally run out of Naples in 1510. The Spanish Inquisition lasted literally for centuries but was finally abolished even in name in 1834. The medieval inquisition had been over nearly 2 centuries by that point.

The Church altered the mission of this office, realizing that the methods used were wrong. The mission today, "is to promote and safeguard the doctrine on the faith and morals throughout the Catholic world: for this reason everything which in any way touches such matter falls within its competence." According to the "Activity of the Holy See" the congregation "promotes in a collegial fashion encounters and initiatives to spread sound doctrine and defend those points of Christian tradition which seem in danger because of new and unacceptable doctrines." It is this office that Pope Benedict XVI worked within and it is this mission that he worked for. Many on the Left have a problem with the Pope because he's a devout Catholic and they have a huge problem with the Catholic Church. Of course, they can't admit that, so they've got to come up with something else, no matter how hard they have to bend the truth to do it. I have no issue with them if they simply don't want to be religious. That's their call. I will make use of my free speech as easily as they do to defend the man when they try to distort and distract as they are doing here today.

Attempts at injecting amnesty for illegals into bill fails

There's an emergency spending bill for the continuing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq under debate in the Senate. The traditional sport of attempting to graft unrelated amendments to such bills is infull swing this year, as shown by the 3 attempts to add immigrations language to the bill. The amendment to grant amnesty to an estimated 1 million illegals and implement a 3-step path to citizenship failed to get added, as did a similar plan to grant amnesty with no such path installed. A plan to raise the cap on temporary seasonal workers did get added, however. Interestingly, that one was driven in large part by Maryland's Senators trying to boost the available worker pool for the Chesapeake crab fishing industry.

I've written on a number of occasions about my feelings on the matter of amnesty for people who have entered the country illegally. My feelings are simple: don't do it. Simply granting amnesty to people who deliberately broke our laws sends the message that following the law isn't really a requirement. It's only necessary as long as it's not inconvenient. That is precisely the message to send if you want to see a huge increase in illegals penetrating the border. The amendment was offered by Senator Craig of Idaho:

:::::::: The defeat of the "Ag-jobs" legislation sponsored by Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, was considered a significant vote by both supporters and opponents. Ag-jobs would have created a three-step path to citizenship for agricultural workers who were in the country illegally at the beginning of the year and had worked 100 days out of 12 months in the agriculture sector.

Under the proposal, the workers would earn temporary legal status, leading eventually to a green card denoting legal permanent residence, and then the chance to apply for citizenship.

"I don't call that amnesty; I call that hard-earned labor paid for to get the ability to stay and work," Mr. Craig said.
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I'll tell you what I call that, Senator Craig. I call that proof positive that your grasp of the english language is slipping. Waving a Senatorial magic wand and absolving a million people who broke the laws of any responsibility for following them and from any penalty accruing as a result of breaking them is amnesty, and a textbook example of it, to boot. The fact that they work hard is immaterial to the fact that they broke the law to get where they are. They are capable of working hard only because they violated our immigrations law. To now say that the very work that was made possible by such a violation should be considered an excuse for the violation to begin with is the worst sort of illogical causitive flipping I've encountered in a long while. What can you possibly say to the people who came here legally that would explain to them the necessity of following the laws when they see others who have made no such effort benfit in the same way they do? And who also do suffer any penalty for not following the law.

The fact that this amendment actually garnered 53 votes in favor is the part I can't follow. I already know 1 Republican who voted for it (and that would Mr. Craig himself) but that still leaves 7 others who also lent their support, at a minimum. These guys didn't get the message in the last election that illegal immigration was a fairly important issue for their constituents? Between this and the judicial filibuster issue, I am growing concerned that this majority is going to get turned to something else in 2006.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI elected

Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany is elected Pope. He has selected the name Benedict, the 16th Pope to wear the name.

May God guide him well.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Passports for Canadian/Mexican travel. Bush not aware?

Just a brief note about the rules changes going into effect for people entering the US from Mexico and Canada. As you likely have heard on the news, the requirements for re-entry are going up a bit. Instead of showing a driver's license (a uniformly too-easy document to obtain or forge), you'll have to show a passport upon arrival. This has raised a chorus of complaints from the usual groups unhappy with the fact that we even have a border and who feel foreign nationals should be able to come and go as they please without interference. Tourism promoters are also unhappy with the rules since they feel this will keep Americans without passports from deciding to take a quick jaunt across the border on a whim or just a few days' notice. Not all of the travel industry is upset, though. Several airlines have applauded the change saying that making the requirement for re-entry uniform regardless of the foreign country travelled to will streamline their procedures. Passengers will also welcome the change, they say, since there's no longer a question of what documentation they'll need upon coming home.

What concerned me was not the rules change but in the reaction President Bush had to its announcement.

::::::::Plans requiring passports from people entering the United States don't pass muster with President Bush, who has ordered a review of this border security effort amid fears it would impede legal travel from Canada, Mexico and other U.S. neighbors.

The president said Thursday he was surprised by the proposed rules announced last week by the State and Homeland Security departments.

"When I first read that in the newspaper about the need to have passports, particularly today's crossings that take place, about a million for instance in the state of Texas, I said, 'What's going on here?'" Bush said when asked about the rules at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
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Funny he should ask that. That's exactly what I said about his remarks, given that the rules changes are a result of the Intelligence Reform Act he signed into law last year. So why is he now surprised? Wasn't he informed as to what he was signing? Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of these people who expect that the President will, personally, read every single word of every law Congress decides to pass. The Tax laws are thousands of pages long, themselves, and reading every word of them would take an individual weeks if he did nothing else with his 8-12 hour day. The President's got other duties, too. But he's also got a staff, some of whom have in their job descriptions doing exactly what I just described: reading every line of a law being sent to him. They create a briefing for the President so he can be reasonably well-informed about what he's signing into law. I find it hard to fathom that a change in entry requirements from Canada and Mexico wouldn't make one of the top bullet points in such a briefing. So either the President skipped past that one just a bit too quickly or he's got a staffer who fumbled the ball. In either case, it's not exactly reassuring that the President's public reaction to hearing about a rules change mandated by a law he signed was, basically, "What the f - ?"

It's not that large an imposition on people to have a passport when they travel abroad. It's something the travel industry will easily adapt to and it will take no more time to present to international arrivals agents than the driver's license they expect now. Of course, there's always biometrics...

Howard Dean: "We're going to use Terri Shiavo..."

Lost completely among all the screaming from the Left these days about those damn Republicans, those damn Christians, trying to ride Terri Shiavo's death into the driver's seat of an American theocracy is mention of what the Left's darling has to say:

::::::::Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said Friday that his party would wield the Terri Schiavo case against Republicans in the 2006 and 2008 elections, but for now needed to stay focused battling President Bush on Social Security.

"We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said of the brain-damaged Floridian who died last month after her feeding tube was removed amid a swarm of political controversy.
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Excuse me? For a man to call what happened in Congress about Shiavo "grandstanding" and then make a statement like this is hypocrisy at its finest. Of course, the part that gets me isn't that Dean has a mouth that he can't seem to find the safety for. I'm afraid we all already knew that. It's that he, as the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee can make a comment like that and get virtually no press coverage on the matter whatsoever. Don't take my word for it, check out Google's search for the terms. There's not a single MSM outlet listed, in spite of the fact that the article I've linked to, above, with the assistance of Power Line, appears in the LA Times. At the moment I'm writing this, there's an article listed as posted 3 hours ago on the site for the Chicago Tribune. Fascinatingly, when you go read that article, it omits the reference Dean makes completely.

That's right. His comment has been... shall we say "censored?" Probably too strong a word. Hidden? Covered up? Under-reported, perhaps?

So, when a minor staffer at a freshman Senator writes a memo that suggests they "use Shiavo," it's front page news and is carried in the news cycles for days. The head of the DNC baldly states the same thing, and it's ignored. More media bias in favor of the Left. No surprise there.

I'm curious about the thoughts on the matter from all those Democrats and other Left-leaning folks who have continually accused those of us on the Right of being mindless drones who never say anything bad about the Bush Administration. Does Howard Dean speak for them? Are they the completely supportive Dems and Lefts their silence makes them out to be? Should we on the Right be assuming their mental states as well? Now that's a quandry for the MSM, for sure. If it's the Left decrying comments from Dean, would they carry it? Not that the Left's blogs are saying anything about it, either, but it's an interesting thought nonetheless.

Shocking News: 11 illegals fail to show for their court appearance

I wrote this past week about an incident in northern Virginia where a local cop pulled over a van on a routine traffic stop and found 11 illegal aliens in the back. The cop, doing his job correctly, contacted officials from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. When those worthies arrived on the scene, they basically waggled their collective finger at the illegals, said "Bad illegal alien!", and gave them each a card with a time and date to show up for a hearing as to their status. They then let the illegal aliens go without having the first idea where they would be. I know this is going to come as a shock to most of you, but those illegals failed to show for their hearing.

::::::::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.
::::::::

Mr. Van Pelt's job woes just aren't ICE's fault, though...

::::::::"In this case, none of these aliens were criminals or threats to national security," he said. "We're committed to enforcing immigration law, but do we go after terrorists or gangs like [Mara Salvatrucha] to keep another 9/11 from happening, or do we go after day laborers? It's a challenge that requires balance and prioritizing." ::::::::

The stunning ineptitude of an agency charged with the enforcement of our immigration laws in having delivered into its hands people who were absolutely, 100% in violation of our immigration laws only to then simply release them on an "honor system" they know doesn't work just boggles the mind. And then to have ICE officials try to justify their dereliction using arguments that are so obviously full of holes adds insult to the injury. First, let's dispense with the notion that this represented a case where ICE had to decide whether to go after that nice, smiling family of day laborers desperately hoping to participate in the American dream, or that slavering, armed-to-the-teeth terrorist. This group was already caught by a law enforcement officer who was busier doing his job then in making excuses for not doing it. ICE didn't have to "go after" anyone here. They just had to show up and take custody.

Second, ICE makes it sound as though you can easily tell the terrorists from the day laborers. Oh, sure you can. I mean, after all, the terrorists only show up with vests made from dynamite, wearing black masks, and tossing their AK-47's around. They jump right off the bus just like that. No gun? Hmmm. Must be a day laborer. Wake up, ICE. The terrorists know that. Did ICE consider Atta and the rest of the 9/11 hijackers to be terrorists before they drove the planes into the buildings? The attitude from Mr. Van Pelt just seems a bit too cavalier about the matter.

Third, with a record like this regarding the ratio of people who fail to appear to these hearings, you cannot seriously believe that it's reasonable to rely on an honor system. These people already blew the honor system the moment they decided to circumvent our immigration laws. They clearly don't honor our legal system. Why would you even for a moment consider trusting them to honor it now? This might be simple naivete, but it's more likely a matter of an agency who doesn't care about its job as much as it should.

The magnitude of this farce wasn't lost on the local government officials, either. Read the story for their reactions, but I can't close this post without commenting on the reaction of the Democrat interviewed for the story.

:::::::: Delegate Vivian E. Watts, Fairfax County Democrat, said Wednesday the law limiting local officials in detaining illegal aliens is necessary to prevent illegals from being victimized by other criminals.

"The issue there is while you could be deported based on a felony record, in this instance, these individuals have not committed any felony," Mrs. Watts said. "If immigrants fear that they can be deported then they are very vulnerable to being victimized by people who are committing crimes" because they would not go to the police.
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OK, first, they're not immigrants. Immigrants are people who have come to our country in accordance with our immigration laws. Illegal aliens do no such thing and are, therefore, not immigrants. Ms. Watts seeks to misdirect the issue by lumping in legal immigrants with illegal invaders. An immigrant to this country who has followed the law will not have an issue with reporting themselves as the victim of a crime. Illegal aliens, on the other hand, forfeit their protection from such things the moment they decide to engage in criminal behavior themselves. Who is responsible for putting them at such a disadvantage that they can't contact the cops to report a crime? The cops? The other criminals? No, not hardly. They are, themselves, responsible for their state and I see no compelling reason to tie the hands of our law enforcement agencies because illegal aliens have made themselves vulnerable.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Hear, hear. I'm closing my wallet.

In the past 24 hours, 2 heavyweights in the GOP have proven they're either indecisive incompetents or outright traitors to their own. Senator Frist has managed to come across as a dopey dawdler in taking what was a huge momentum from the 2004 elections and allowing it to fizzle in not addressing what was touted as a huge concern of the electorate: breaking up the filibuster logjam in the Senate. John McCain has decided to flip the bird to his own constituents and the rest of the GOP in siding squarely with the Democrats on this issue, clearing up the issue of whose side he's on. Combine that with the fraud and travesty of the "Campaign Finance Reform" he managed to get through Congress to shut off the free speech of the American people, and I think you can write the good Mr. McCain off as a candidate in 2008. News reports also state that there are 6 other GOP Senators who can't seem to muster the will to get in there and grapple with the issue.

The Republican Senators calling for the filibuster to be ruled out of order on this issue have the Constitutional high ground. There is nothing in the Constitution that says judicial nominees require a supermajority to be confirmed and the Constitution is quite clear about the need for such a supermajority on many other issues. If the Founding Fathers had meant for judicial nominees to require such, they would have included it in on the list. They didn't, so it's not. The matter of the Constitutionality of ruling a filibuster out of order is a non-issue and a distraction put forth by those hoping people will be simply too lazy to check.

The number of nominees held up or confirmed by the Senate is also chaff tossed up in the air. Much has been made, sneeringly, by those on the Left that there's only a handful of nominees that have been blocked by these filibusters. The Senate has a duty to confirm or deny a nominee put forth by the President for a judicial position. This is precisely the duty that the Democrats' filibuster is sloughing off. The fact that there's only 5% of the nominees (or whatever number it is) that are being denied an up-or-down vote is immaterial. I would submit that these people who are suggesting that the number aproved versus blocked makes it OK to deny these nominees a vote would not be so sanguine were it 5% of, say, their paychecks that didn't get processed. Or if 5% of their prescription medicines were perpetually backordered. Or 5% of their vehicle repairs that weren't done properly.

It is not OK for a minority in the Senate to dictate for the majority. That's not a democracy. That's the antithesis of a democracy, and to hear people defend it who then wail about our democracy crumbling is, frankly, disgusting. That disgust is only superceded, for me, by the sheer dereliction of the GOP Senators who have allowed this to continue. Captain Ed Morrisey over at Captain's Quarters has it right. Right on the money, as a matter of fact:

::::::::To hell with Frist, to hell with Thune, and to hell with the GOP if they wait until the session is half-over before finding their spine or other significant parts of their anatomy. The GOP campaigned on judicial nominations as the second-highest priority for the Senate, and the electorate rewarded them with a healthy gain of four seats, remarkable for an election in which the incumbent president won by a tight margin. After spending a record amount of money on supporting Republican candidates, the electorate has sat back and watched as the Democrats, led by Harry Reid, have uncorked one lunatic manuever after another: challenging Ohio's slate of electors, holding up Condoleezza Rice's nomination while people like Mark Dayton outright call her a liar, and attempting to extort the White House into giving up its Constitutional assignment of nominating the judges the President sees fit for Senate approval.

What has this bunch of Republican milquetoasts done? Nothing.

Why? Apparently, they've changed their priorities since the election. No longer are judicial nominations the leading priority. In fact, they've done everything they can to backpedal from the frightening spectre of Harry Reid, for Pete's sake. Now they claim that they want to pass as much legislation as they can before the vote on nominations comes up ... meaning that the judges are actually the lowest priority for Frist and his band of merry cowards.
::::::::

His post is titled, "Not. One. Dime." and I think you can get the gist pretty well. I've received fundraiser letters from the Republican Party in the past few months. Well, I'm done with sending money in to an organization whose leadership called on its members to help in the last election and then won't even try to live up to their promises. I'm done supporting Congressmen and Senators who either can't or won't summon the courage to do what they said was necessary back when they wanted the votes. If they won't step in and handle their own house, then I'm not trusting them with anything else. If they can't take care of the problem they have already acknowledged, then maybe it's time to start putting my money behind people who will. Hear, hear, Captain Ed. Not one dime from me, either.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Catch & Release, INS Style

OK, so the Coast Guard is intercepting Cuban refugees at sea and turning them around so they can't make it to the US. The Minuteman Project is assisting the Border Patrol in locating and intercepting Mexicans illegally crossing into the United States. Defense of our borders and compliance with our laws shown in vivid detail. So, when a cop in Annandale performs a routine traffic stop and finds 11 illegal aliens in the car, the logical thing is that they'll be arrested/deported back to where they came from, right?

Wrong.

::::::::Federal authorities released 11 illegal aliens who were detained during a traffic stop in Annandale because immigration officials said they did not pose a threat to the public.

"The 11 passengers were processed and released," said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. "There were children involved, so it was better that we released them."

Authorities ordered the 11 Mexican nationals, three of whom are children, to return to immigration offices tomorrow for further processing. Ms. Fobbs said officials do not know where the illegals are in the meantime.
::::::::

Un. Be. Lievable. This incident occured less than 10 miles from where I'm sitting at this very moment. At this moment, there are 8 people claiming to be Mexican nationals (along with 3 supposedly innocent children) who snuck past our borders and travelled from Arizona to the Washington, DC area. And the INS (ICE?), whose job it is to manage and control the entry aliens into this country simply let them go back into the American population with no clue as to where they are today. Oh, yeah. I feel safe with these guys on the job.

Perhaps they should read the news about terrorist organizations using children to further their goals. Perhaps, in one of the multitude of government meetings, they could be bothered to learn that terrorists are claiming citizenship in other countries so they can come here posing as a national from another country. Or, perhaps, they could just do their jobs and deport people who come here illegally. How would there being children present change anything? They clearly thought packing their kids up for a bit of an illegal stroll into a foreign country without permission was a fine outing for the kids. How would sending their butts back where they came from be a problem?

This was a clear violation of our laws and an equally clear duty of the INS/ICE to handle. They decided not to. You think that cop in Annandale is going to give a crap the next time he pulls over a vanload of illegals? "Hey, they're just going to let them go, anyway. Why should I get stuck with all the paperwork?" The imbecile at ICE who thought this was the way to go should be fired and have any authorization to work in the government sector revoked for life. Get people in there who care about doing their job and enforcing the regulations.

Scottish History

What with the various (serious) issues of the day, I haven't had the chance to pass along a post I found that was making me laugh out loud in the office. Apologies to the author, but I can't leave any of these out!

::::::::Great Events in Scottish History:

1326 - The game of golf was invented in Scotland, followed shortly thereafter by the invention of the word "DAMMIT!"

1410 - Drinky MacDrunkard discovered how to make single malt scotch. He was then beaten to death by his neighbors when they found out they had to wait 12 years before they could drink it.

1453 - Kurt MacCobain invented the plaid flannel kilt and followed it up with his hit song "Smells Like Distilled Spirits"

1570 - Godawful MacScreechy conceived the idea for a new musical instrument after getting drunk and accidentally setting fire to his cat.

1623 - The Scots invented money. That same year, they also invented tight-fisted skinflintery.

1697 - By a three-vote margin, the Scots lost the "Brawlingest Drunkards" award to the Irish. A title which the Irish still hold to this day.

1724 - Smartass MacJoker entered his newly created dish, haggis, into the Betty MacCrocker Cooking contest as a prank. The judges, being three sheets to the wind at the time, picked it as the winner, and the culinary atrocity has been a Scottish staple ever since.

1823 - Crazy MacWhacko stayed sober for an entire year, and was hung for treason.

1907 - Tipsy MacSwigger invented drunk driving.

2005 - An angry mob of Scottish descent kicked the crap out of a talentless hack Wisconsin blogger who mocked Tartan Day. The cheers were deafening.

2257 - Montgomery Scott, beloved alcoholic engineer of the Starship Enterprise, started a bar fight with some Klingons at Space Station K-7, thus finally bringing honor and the "Brawlingest Drunkards" trophy back to Scotland.
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Circuit "upgrade"

Apologies for the light posting. Verizon offered to upgrade my circuit to increase the bandwidth and (dummy that I am) I accepted. Well, the "upgrade" fired yesterday morning and increased my bandwidth to zero. Their support team is pointing at their provisioning team, so this is likely going to take another day to straighten out.

Grrrrrrrrrrr.

I'll post more as soon as I can.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Time for some clerk training.

Imagine trying to pay for something using legal tender in US funds - here in the US, to boot - and being arrested for it. Mike Bolesta of Baltimore County doesn't need to imagine. He got to see it first hand:

::::::::PUT YOURSELF in Mike Bolesta's place. On the morning of Feb. 20, he buys a new radio-CD player for his 17-year-old son Christopher's car. He pays the $114 installation charge with 57 crisp new $2 bills, which, when last observed, were still considered legitimate currency in the United States proper. The $2 bills are Bolesta's idea of payment, and his little comic protest, too.

For this, Bolesta, Baltimore County resident, innocent citizen, owner of Capital City Student Tours, finds himself under arrest.

Finds himself, in front of a store full of customers at the Best Buy on York Road in Lutherville, locked into handcuffs and leg irons.

Finds himself transported to the Baltimore County lockup in Cockeysville, where he's handcuffed to a pole for three hours while the U.S. Secret Service is called into the case.

Have a nice day, Mike.
::::::::

Long story short, Best Buy managed to screw up their end of the deal where Bolesta's purchased radio for his son's car didn't fit the dashboard as Best Buy said it would. In getting everything worked out, Best Buy went (in just 24 hours) from apologizing for their mistake to threatening arrest of Bolesta if he didn't come down and make a payment. Bolesta did so, showing up at the store with 57 $2 bills for the payment. That's where stuff started going quite wrong.

The US Treasury Department does, in fact, list the $2 bill as one of the denominations of currency in circulation today. They even address the mistaken notion that some folks have that the bill was removed from circulation specifically. The bill has been in circulation since 1996. What the Treasury does not list as valid currency is any money with George Bush's face on it. They don't list any bill with a $200 denomination at all. None of this is stopping clerks from refusing the former, yet accepting the latter.

Is it too much to ask that retail stores take the 10 minutes to explain to their employees the valid denominations they could expect to see? I mean, it's just not that uncommon to see the $1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar bills these days. Tell them that and advise them to notify their manager should something come in that's not one of those. It's not that much training time and it's less expensive in the longrun than the upcoming lawsuit that's sure to be headed their way.

Hat tip: Instapundit

Sunday, April 10, 2005

A DeLay-ing action?

Read any of the left-wing blogs these days and you'll likely find, in the first few moments, a mention of Tom DeLay and how he's an ethics-devoid cretin whose continued existence in the universe is proof-positive that the right half of the American political spectrum is just a bunch of NaziFascistGreedyCorporateBastards who are so busy trying to convert America into a theocracy that they're blinded to any sort of rational thought process or reasonable dialog. He's the immediate answer to any opposing viewpoint of quite a bit of the Left, who are quick to toss him up when confronted on just about any matter at all, whether or not DeLay's ethics - or anyone's ethics - are germane to the discussion at hand. And I've already commented on the incessant use of Nazi rhetoric on the part of the Left these days, which has proven to be far more of an impediment to rational thought and reasonable dialog than any action taken by any politician. Having so spoken, I usually get DeLay as an answer. So fine, let's talk about him, if that's the point we can't get past.

There's been a lot of accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Tom DeLay. Rather than making the finding of actual fact as to whether he's done what's claimed the central issue, my colleagues in the GOP have centered on who's doing the accusing. In other words, since it's someone who's a partisan Democrat making the accusations it's not really believable. Now, where have I heard that before? When CBS got caught promoting some of the worst-made forgeries I've seen since my kid tried to remake the Sistine Chapel ceiling using crayons and construction paper their answer for 12 days was to say the accusations were groundless because of who was making them. When John Kerry got caught out in his decades-long lie about his Christmas in Cambodia, the Left as a whole howled in derision because they said the Swift Boat Vets were just an extenstion of the Bush campaign - an accusation they were patently unable to prove and flew in the face of the known and verifiable facts - and, therefore, any claims the Swifts made just had to be utter nonsense. These are the places I've heard it before. It was an unsupportable assertion for the Left to make about the Right and it's equally unsupportable in the opposite direction. Besides, if your man is doing something unethical, you should be expecting the opposition to make the first and loudest squawk. It sure shouldn't be the last one, though, and that's what's happening.

I've said for years that I vote the man, not the party, and I've meant it. I don't support someone simply because of the party affiliation they hold and that's why I think Tom DeLay's had his 15 minutes. I note that Steve Sturm over at Thoughts Online compares the whole thing to the Clinton fiasco several years ago. He's not off the mark, as far as I'm concerned.

::::::::I also become disenchanted with his enablers and apologists. Whether it was to keep their jobs in a Democratic Administration, to get themselves on the nightly cable talk shows or to keep the GOP at bay, otherwise good people looked the other way. Not one member of Clinton's administration ever quit out of principle over his actions. Not one Democratic member of Congress ever did more than issue a mild rebuke (yes, this is all Lieberman did). They all sold their souls for the price of keeping a Democrat in the White House.. and everyone of them got dirty as a result.

Well, as Yogi said, it's deja vu all over again, but this time with Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader. No, he's not the President, but he is someone in a leadership position who is failing miserably at meeting the standards one expects our elected leaders to meet. Whether it is steering dollars to family members or taking junkets paid for by those seeking government favors, DeLay has revealed himself to be nothing more than a hack using his office in order to enrich himself.

As with Clinton, it doesn't - and shouldn't - matter if what DeLay did was illegal. It was wrong. You're not supposed to take trips from people looking for favors (as I've posted earlier, I've fired people for doing just that). You're not supposed to put your family on the payroll. You're supposed to use the power of your office to make America's life easier, not your own.
::::::::

While I don't extend DeLay's problems to the GOP as a whole, as several of my Leftward leaning compatriots do, that also doesn't lessen the issue with DeLay. He's not my elected representative, so there's very little I can do about him. I have expressed my dissatisfaction with my own rep, and that's all I can ask of anyone else. I would hope the GOP in the House would take the higher road.

Term limits for Supreme Court?

This has been something bandied about for several years but I'm hearing more talk about it lately. Is having a lifetime term as a Justice on the Supreme Court a good idea for a democracy? Does having the potential abuse of office that might occur outweigh the independence offered by such an arrangement? These are exactly the questions considered by the Founding Fathers when they were hammering out the Constitution 2 centuries ago. The answers they came up with were formed in the crucible of the time in which they lived and they might or might not make sense today.

Let's get right to the heart of the matter and simply answer the question. In my view, a lifetime appointment as a Justice of the Supreme Court has mutated from the beneficial to the harmful. What was once considered a requirement for an independent judiciary has changed, horribly, into a license to ignore completely the trust into which the Justices have been initiated. They need not concern themselves with doing what every school-age child is taught they are supposed to be doing - adjudicating the cases before them with an eye as to whether or not a law is in violation of the prohibitions detailed in the Constitution - and may, rather, seek to form the legal landscape in this nation to their own desires. They are completely and totally above any action the People may take (sans revolution) and have no fear of acting that way. Therefore, in my view, term limits have become a necessity that should be incorporated into our judiciary's makeup.

I note (by way of Instapundit) that Volokh has commented on the issue as well, though the thrust of it is a different bit of reasoning. I'll get to that in a moment, but I thought I'd include it here for reference. (OK, I include it here so I won't forget it. Keep readin'.)

The question, of course, becomes whether and how we could do such a thing without sacrificing the needed judiciary independence. Make the suggestion that there be term limits and there's an immediate outcry that judges would then have to be worried about public opinion rather than law. Or that these judges would need to be involved in politics more deeply than they already are, and that's not a good thing. First, the term limits need to be rather long so they could span completely across a given administration. I have seen the figure of 18 years suggested and that sounds fine. Considering that a particular President can serve 8 - less than half of the proposed term limit - a particular Justice can be seated across a specific set of Presidential terms with no issue. It's a long period of time which offers a stability to the court. And, once seated, a Justice cannot be removed by any process not currently available, meaning impeachment. So, while there's a time limit, it's bulletproof enough to allow a Justice to rule according to law and ignore the winds of public opinion as he should.

It's also short enough that the nation isn't stuck with a Justice whose rulings become, as they often do, less connected with the rule of existing law and more with his own personal vision of what the law should be.

Second, the terms should be staggered so that no single administration can appoint a majority of Justices to the Court. There are 9 justices. If we presume 18-year terms, then we have a Justice being appointed every 2 years. A single administration, if re-elected, would be present to nominate Justices 4 times. Rinse. Repeat. The Chief Justice is the Justice with the seniority in terms of their term with the Court. That means the Chief Justice changes every 2 years. Every single Justice on the Court will be the Chief Justice, in turn.

Finally, and this is crucial, the Senate must have a specific window within which to consider and vote upon a nominee, period. The days of dragging out a nominee's vote ad infinitum must be put behind us, permanently. If a nominee has the votes, he gets confirmed. If not, he's thanked for his time and handed his hat.

This proposal is a starting point, and it's not a perfect solution I will grant. There's a lot of details that need to be worked out and that's fine. We should do so together. But when you have as large a part of our Nation's population shaking their heads in amazement over the actions of the Supreme Court, it's a sign that something's broken. We need to fix it and this, in my view, is a part of that fix.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Instapundit on red light cameras in Virginia: die! die!

OK, so he didn't actually say, "die! die!" What he said was that the red light cameras here are dead and that's good news. I live in northern Virginia and I've seen the effects of people running the red lights. A few times in the past year, I've started to go at a green light and have narrowly avoided idiots blasting through the intersection against the red light shining in their face. I understand that a camera won't keep an accident from happening when someone does decide to run the light, or just isn't paying the proper attention to their driving. But they do instill a bit more care in people to make sure they have sufficient time to cross. One or two tickets mailed to these folks for running the light will generally make them watch the timing of the lights more closely and approach intersections with more care.

That's why I don't get Mr. Reynold's opinion on the subject, but I'm certainly willing to be convinced. I sent him a note this morning to ask for his take on the matter. If he's already written on it, I'll post the link should I find it. If he actually writes me directly (don't hold your breath, folks, he's busy) I'll see if he'll let me post it here.

Minutemen display integrity, kick member off Project

The Minuteman Project has been ultra-clear about both their mission and the behavior they expect from their members. They expect them to observe and notify. They are to never, ever confront. On Thursday, one of their teams spotted a man who was wandering the desert and both notified the Border Patrol and waved the man over. They gave the illegal crosser some food, but it didn't stop there. One of the volunteers had the man pose for a picture with a T-shirt he'd had made that said, "Bryan Barton caught an illegal alien and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Cute. (Not.) While officials have determined that the volunteer did not illegally detain the man, the MMP has given the volunteer the boot.

::::::::Organizers of the Minuteman Project said that although authorities determined the man had not illegally detained the immigrant, he still violated the group's procedures. They added that the volunteer had given the immigrant $20 and fed him during Wednesday's encounter.

"The volunteer's actions were admirable, justified and undeniably humane," Chris Simcox , a project official, said in a news release, "but unfortunately they jeopardized our established procedures and overall purpose of passively monitoring the border."
::::::::

This was exactly the right move for the MMP to make. Critics of the project and of strong borders, generally, are looking for any sort of incident that could possibly be trumped-up to the level of "vigilante action." The organizers of the Project can tolerate no volunteer who opens them up to that kind of attack and giving this member his walking papers over an incident that, officially, was no big deal underscores their determination to run the Project cleanly.

Contrary to editorials I've been reading lately, the MMP has been effective in cutting illegal immigration Virtually every agency monitoring such metrics has said the same thing. The Border Patrol has been quick to point out that it might be the increased presence of the Mexican authorities on the other side of the border, but they miss the point. If the MMP wasn't on station, the Mexican authorities wouldn't be, either. The MMP is defintely doing the job. We need a more comprehensive method of dealing with the issues of illegal immigration, but the fact that the MMP doesn't address every issue of the problem isn't a valid reason to say they shouldn't be there.