- Points to Ponder -
The following information is compiled from wire services and
major newspapers, and is provided here, in brief, in an effort to illustrate the
broad spectrum of political activity that is taking place today, and in the hope
that by bringing together such short, capsulated accounts, the information will
be both welcome to readers who are usually pressed for time, while
simultaneously being thought provoking. As always, we welcome comments and
observations, with no regard to a defined point of view.
Gas Prices & Elections;
Question Of Gullibility
Does anyone seriously think that gas prices just coincidentally decreased in
the months leading up to the mid-term Congressional elections? Even Jay Leno
recently noted that we can expect gas prices to remain low and suppressed until
one minute after the polls close on November 7th.
The depth of the GOP’s cynicism seems to have yet to be revealed, and
certainly if anyone waits for the major media to question this phenomenon they
will grow quietly old. But imagine what would be said if it were the Democrats
who had so many convoluted ties to the oil industry and, after years of quickly
inflating fuel/energy costs prices precipitously dropped just before a crucial
mid-term election? It is reasonably certain the media would be filled with
caustic commentary and questioning reports.
Think about it: Did the Arab leaders suddenly decide that there is reason for
benevolence toward the West? Or is the collusion between the oil companies, Arab
nations and the oilmen who currently run the American government so entrenched
and intertwined that the GOP’s political interests can be accommodated?
If the latter is true, than it can mean only one thing: The amazing gasoline
price escalations for fuel during the Bush Administration were nothing more than
calculated price gouging and, in effect, war profiteering.
Just how gullible is the nation? The GOP apparently is confident in the
Political, Business Values
Of FCC Can Be Easily Heard
If the Federal Communications Commission actually protected the interests of
the American public, which after all has been recognized since the inception of
broadcasting as the collective owner of the air waves, much would be different.
There might be ‘truth in advertising,’ for example, whereby broadcasters
would have to use the same criteria that print media does in determining if
something published is false and therefore potentially libelous, except that
instead of printing first and waiting to see if someone, somewhere sues for
libel, the broadcaster would be waiting to see if the FCC took action.
Yet as anyone with even a partially open mind realizes, broadcasters can say
and get away with pretty much anything so long as it has a right-wing slant. Yet
if there is ever a question of how politics drives the FCC, all one has to do is
recall the efforts of the regulatory agency, in the first years of the G.W. Bush
presidency, to stifle NPR while ignoring the lying rants of people like Rush
Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly.
But equally obvious is how much of a doormat the FCC is for commercial and
business interests, which of course is reflective of the Congress, especially in
the past decade. Think about this one, small aspect of daily life that affects
everyone who sits down to watch television and when a commercial comes on the
volume suddenly jumps many decibles.
The FCC is protecting the interests of the American public that owns the
airwaves! If it was, this wouldn’t happen. The FCC is protecting the interests
of the business community, the advertisers, by allowing them to use technology
to override the volume a listener has decided is appropriate for his or her
comfort level so that commercial messages can be blasted into the home.
Such is business as usual in the FCC and in the Congress. 10/13/06
Justice System Weakened
By New Sex Offender Laws
As a society, Americans are all too willing to allow political leaders to get
away with expedient, short-term solutions to ugly, long-term problems, and as a
result are now often losing the rights and liberties upon which the nation was
It isn’t hard to find many examples of this phenomenon, but one of the most
obvious and yet little discussed is the current process of handling sex
offenders. The age-old, time-tested concept of a convicted criminal paying his
debt to society by fulfilling the sentence of the court has now been cast aside.
In our current system, a sex offender can never pay his debt to society. When
he or she has completed the prison sentence, the ex-con must register with the
police, who then dutifully announce where the individual lives and works for the
edification of everyone who might be interested. The net result is that the
person is a pariah who has trouble getting work and, when if luck enough to get
a job, often finds community pressure makes it impossible for the employer to
retain them. And of course they can only live in certain places, and of course
no one wants them there either.
So as a society, Americans have created a new class of criminal who can never
repay the individual debt to society, and will never be free again. The problem,
however, is not just that of the offender. It is the problem of everyone!
Allowing this situation to evolve means that the American judicial system now
has a precedent whereby extra-legal punishment is acceptable, and anyone who
thinks this will not erode the system is likely to be very surprised in the
future. Such erosion of fundamental government principles usually begins by
using the most heinous examples of societal wrongs, and what could be worse than
predatory sex crimes?
There are always those who want a quick solution, and there are always those
who care little about protecting the nation’s values and historical systems,
but when unscrupulous and lazy politicians fuel the emotions of such people by
exploiting fears and prejudices, everyone loses in the long run. It is worth
remembering that currently anyone who can’t find a rest stop and uses the side
of the road to relieve themselves can in fact be arrested for lewd and gross
indecency, and if convicted could become a low-level sex offender.
It is time to pause and decide, as a nation, how to deal with people who can
be shown to be an ongoing threat. This should be an intense, national debate,
and if it means that in the end some sexual criminals face life behind bars,
that will at least assure that the judicial system is not riddled with unsavory
exceptions that ultimately will broaden to affect other aspects of the legal
system, and thereby diminish the judicial protections every citizen currently
Dangerous Political Correctness
Continues To Go Unquestioned
It is time for common sense! And therefore it is time to confront the
arrogant mavens of Political Correctness who would put dangerous wild animals in
crowded suburban and even urban environments and then have the astounding gall
to suggest that humans cannot, must not, protect themselves against these
The most obvious abuse of PC sensibilities is the introduction of wild
coyotes into regions of the country where historically there is no evidence that
they ever lived before, and if they did, the environment is so changed that it
is ridiculous to assume they should be reintroduced. But they have been very
successfully reintroduced, and now that they are here they are
"protected" and their increasing depredations are supposed to be
forgiven or overlooked for some strange greater good.
Cape Cod is a prime example of this phenomenon.
There seems to be no evidence, historical or otherwise, that coyotes were
ever indigenous to this peninsula, but now they are here. And, like elsewhere,
they are increasing in numbers and in violent attacks on domestic animals and,
not surprisingly, on humans. These are not little animals; they average 35-50
They have been found stalking little children and they are no longer easily
frightened away, rather they will back off only to try to attack again. The news
in New England now has regular reports of coyote attacks.
For but one example, in the late spring of this year William Galvin, a 42
year old man driving his truck down a residential street in populous Hyannis saw
a Coyote attack a woman who was trying to prevent her cat from being killed –
it was in fact killed – and he jumped out of his vehicle to help her.
Galvin got the coyote away from the woman, but was bitten several times until
he finally prevailed by kicking the animal hard enough that it fled.
In Connecticut this summer a woman with a child was attacked repeatedly in
the parking lot of a McDonald’s rest area off Rte. 95, despite the fact there
were people and cars all around.
A retired soldier hunting in New Hampshire last year was attacked by a pack
of coyotes and all might have gone poorly for him had he not had a pistol as
well as a shotgun, because when the shotgun was emptied and several were killed
they kept coming and he had no time to reload. With the pistol he was able to
kill the lead animals and the rest ultimately retreated. He was badly shaken by
The point here is simple: common sense is being shelved for some ethereal,
ivory tower concept that coyotes and other predatory species – including
wolves – must be introduced to areas where they have not existed for at least
a century, if ever, in order to reestablish some sort of natural balance or
harmony. This idea should have been laughed into disgrace when it was first
mentioned, but instead it has been allowed to take hold in such a way that the
animals are not only reintroduced and proliferating, but laws have been created
to prevent humans from protecting themselves from them.
It is time to stand up to the so-called naturalists and the mavens of
political correctness and if necessary, shout them down. They are wrong! And
they have created a danger that must now be addressed. At the very least the
laws restricting people from defending themselves and hunting down these
creatures must be overturned.
The Bradley Report would welcome anyone who can show that Coyote’s ever
populated this sandy peninsula. Bring on the history! 10/8/06
Justice’s Home In New Hampshire
May Be Threatened By Court Ruling
Justice David Souter has yet to escape his decision to join the 5-4 decision
of the Supreme Court that so vastly enlarges government power over eminent
domain land takings. Thanks to the recent court decision – late June of this
year – local town, city and state government authorities now have the power to
take property from one land owner and turn it over to a private developer to
make greater economic use out of it.
The philosophy behind this majority opinion, which included votes by Justice
John Paul Stevens, who wrote the opinion for the majority, Ruth Bader Ginsberg,
David Stephen G. Breyer, Anthony M. Kennedy and Justice Souter, apparently
involves a belief that such a vast expansion of eminent domain power is
necessary to allow major metropolitan areas to maximize the taxable value and
the public use of land within the municipalities borders.*
Some have made the case that this is necessary social planning, but many
other voices see it as a frontal attack on the right to own personal, private
property. Not surprisingly, conservatives of all stripes are opposed to this
idea, since the bedrock value of acquisitive capitalism is the ability to own as
much property as possible, but what is surprising is that Americans from just
about every walk of life are, this time, in full agreement with the
conservatives; common sense seems to indicate this ruling is absurd.
And one California man grabbed onto the issue and has so far not relented,
targeting David Souter in an apparent attempt to give at least one Supreme Court
justice a taste of the insecurity that so many people now feel about their
Logan Darrow Clements of Los Angeles came forward in June, indicating he
would try to have Mr. Souter’s hometown of Weare, N.H., condemn the judge’s
200-year-old home so that a developer can build ‘The Lost Liberty Hotel,’
which would also contain the ‘Just Desserts Café.’
At first this seemed like a humorous and frivolous attempt to pin the tail on
Judge Souter, but while the story itself has, as usual, disappeared from the
major media, Clements has pumped new life into it by continuing his plan,
however quixotic it may be.
Logan Clements is talking with a developer, and with town officials and
residents in Weare, and while most townspeople clearly don’t want to try to
take David Souter’s family property, some understand that the effort may be
very useful in underscoring just what the June Supreme Court decision could mean
to average Americans.
Clements has garnered some support, and all he needs is 25 local residents to
sign a petition and he can put the question to a town-wide, secret ballot vote.
That should be enough to gain Judge Souter’s attention.
It’s surely a long shot, but the possibility exists that David Shouter
might be among the first Americans turned out of their homes and away from their
property simply so that the land can be developed more profitably. Judge Souter
and his colleagues, Ms. Ginsberg, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Stevens, and Mr. Breyer may
well want to take stock of their property holdings. At the least this movement
will give the justices reason to pause and reflect on their actions.
August 21, 2005
* See the Bradley Report: "Staunch Conservatives Stand Up/Against Threat
To Private Property."
After Four Years of Bush & The GOP Congress,
America’s Checkbook Is $545 Billion In The Red
In early August the Bush Administration changed it’s deficit forecast from
a projected $521 billion to a mere $445 billion, and then promptly touted the
new figure as a positive turn of events. And of course most of the major media
portrayed it as the GOP hoped it would, overlooking the fact that budget experts
outside the government had stated the original figure was inflated.
But the Bush Administration clearly has its own way of viewing events, and is
not shy at all about expressing itself in the most bald-faced manner, no matter
how contrary the facts. The Washington Post quotes Joshua B. Bolten, director of
the Office of Management and Budget, as declaring: "This improved budget
outlook is the direct result of the strong economic growth the president’s tax
relief has fueled."
The Post goes on to observe that "Mr. Bolten’s argument makes little
sense…in any event, $455 billion marks the highest deficit ever…only in this
administration’s upside-down economic world could a deficit $70 billion higher
than last year’s be hailed as progress."
But it’s actually worse than even that analysis. Mr. Bush and his
neo-conservative administrators, together with their GOP allies who hold the
majority in both Houses of Congress, had a surplus of some $100 billion in the
U.S. Treasury when President William Jefferson Clinton and his Democratic
administration left office.
Anyone who has ever balanced a checkbook knows that when you start with a
surplus and end with a deficit, you have spent the surplus and then spent what
you didn’t have, therefore Mr. Bush and the GOP actually spent some $545
billion in slightly less than four years.
And at the same time, Mr. Bush and his neo-conservatives willfully and
drastically cut tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans. This is a new form of
economics, where revenue is cut while spending is increased, and it is brought
to the American people by the Republican Party, which has long held itself to be
the party of fiscal responsibility. Perhaps the current group of people in
charge of the GOP are quite different from traditional Republicans, although
there has yet to be any indication that the Republican rank and file are
Of course government spending isn’t quite the same as individual
bookkeeping, but the end result is remarkably similar; as a result of all of
this new debt, the U.S. dollar is not worth the same as it was four years ago,
and that means there are increasing trade deficits, which means jobs and the
economy for working people are adversely affected.
But of course working people are supposed to take solace in the standard
explanation of Mr. Bush and the GOP; that is, by saving money for the rich there
will ultimately be a ‘trickle down’ effect that will help the average
American. (See the following related story).
Congressional Budget Office Says Middle-Class
Is Now Picking Up The Tab For Federal Expenses
On August 13th, the Congressional Budget Office,
CBO, issued the
results of its most recent study relating to the tax cuts that President George
W. Bush, his administration, and the GOP Congress have enacted in the last
The report shows that the federal tax burden has significantly increased for
families whose joint annual incomes total $51,500 to $75,600, but that families
with incomes substantially above that middle-income level have reaped
considerable tax benefits. The top 20% of families, with incomes of $182,700 or
greater, enjoyed some of the largest benefits.
But the greatest savings went to the top 1 percent of American families,
those earning $1.1 million or above annually.
Interestingly, it was the people at the top of the middle-class, those
earning some $75,600 a year, who saw their tax burden increase the most.
People in the lowest income categories – those earning between $14,900 and
$34,200 annually – saw tiny decreases in their tax burdens.
The CBO report carries considerable weight because it is a non-partisan,
independent government agency.
No Spontaneity In Bush/Cheney Rallies
It may look good on camera, and TV viewers are rarely warned that its not a
traditional, spontaneous political rally, but the truth is that to attend one of
George Bush’s or Richard Cheney’s campaign events requires obtaining a
ticket in advance, usually from GOP sources, and sometimes even requires signing
a "President Bush endorsement" form before being allowed to become a
member of the audience.
"‘We have an obligation that people can come and have a level of
comfort that the event won’t be disrupted,’" GOP campaign spokesman
Terry Holt recently told a Washington Post reporter, adding: "‘A few
people can ruin the experience for everyone…and we feel strongly that people
should have good manners and not work to disrupt the events.’"
The campaign events, particularly the recent "Ask President Bush"
gatherings that give the impression of spontaneity, are anything but
spontaneous; rather they are carefully staged and orchestrated events designed
specifically for TV coverage. But these events leave the impression among TV
viewers of Mr. Bush as a casual, down to earth executive capable of easily
handling any questions that may be thrown at him from the public. And of course
the TV coverage raises the question of why the TV "journalists" do not
question the process, or at least identify how contrived it is to their viewers.
It’s also interesting to recall that the GOP campaign has begun
orchestrating loud and aggressive demonstrations at John Kerry’s public
meetings. Groups of GOP stalwarts have attended the Democrats public meetings,
taking advantage of the fact the meetings held by the Democrats are open to
everyone, and disrupted the speeches by chanting, "Four More Years,"
and similar Bush slogans.
Recently, in Wisconsin, when it appeared there might still be an
uncomfortable question posed, Bush replied: "Don’t worry, I’ll be the
interpreter, and if I don’t like the question, I’ll just change it."
(August 23, 2004)
Even in Massachusetts, Fascism Lives
In the past year more reports – there have usually been a few such reports
each year – have been made throughout the state of fascist symbols and slogans
being painted on buildings, grave stones and even sometimes on cars. The most
popular fascist symbol, of course, is the swastika, and it seems clear it is
During the past month, on several late model vehicles moving through American
Auto Auction in North Dighton, MA, swastika’s could plainly be seen outlined
in the road and lot dust covering hoods and trunks. Someone had clearly been
motivated enough to take a cloth and wipe the dirt and dust from the hoods and
trunks in order to leave the image of the swastika boldly outlined.
But whether the individual who drew the swastikas was an auction employee,
someone who worked for a selling dealer, or someone associated with a dealer who
was there to buy for his or her retail inventory, the end result is the same;
fascism was given some publicity.
Someone felt strongly enough about the ugly concepts and principles
associated with fascism to take the time to illustrate support for them, and to
do so in a way that would be quickly recognizable through the use of the
And sometime over the weekend of August 21st and 22nd,
some individual or individuals took the time and effort to climb onto the roof
of the concession building at the Mashpee, MA, Heritage Memorial Park, off Route
130, a major Cape Cod thoroughfare. The swastika wasn’t just done quickly or
sloppily, and doesn’t look much like a prank, drunken or otherwise. The people
who did it took the time to carefully strip shingles and the tarpaper under them
in a swath nearly a foot wide, and they created a swastika that was at least 10
feet long and five feet high. The bare wood made the symbol very visible, which
obviously was why so much trouble was taken in the first place.
The police are investigating, and the Town of Mashpee is now preparing to
reshingle the roof, but the crime is more than the sum of its parts; in other
words, it’s not just vandalism with a cost factor involved because of the work
needed on the roof. It’s an expression of hate and it is an expression of
support for one of the two ugliest, most violent and virulent political concepts
that emerged in the Twentieth Century: Fascism and Communism.
Communism has been defeated and discredited virtually everywhere, and only in
China and North Korea retains any actual power, but unfortunately while fascism
was defeated in WWII, it has not been fully and completely discredited. Because
of that fact it remains alive and well, and is like a virus that can affect the
disenchanted, the downtrodden, and those who would be their leaders, the greedy
and power hungry.
It is time for average Americans everywhere to stop being complacent about
such manifestations of growing life among fascist movements. It is time to stop
ignoring such demonstrative symbols by telling each other that it’s just the
work of the misguided or the inebriated, the ignorant and the common. It’s
time to stop thinking that such symbols are only an expression of hatred toward
certain minorities, principally the Jews, but with them non-whites, etc.
Fascism seems to be alive and well, and if it is becoming more and more
obvious in cosmopolitan (if not liberal) Massachusetts, then everyone who
believes in democracy must begin to understand it as a growing threat.
Christian Voice Embarrasses GOP Sen. John W. Warner
An organization known as the Christian Voice of Alexandria, Virginia, asked
for use of space in the Dirksen Senate Office Building a few months ago for a
reception and ceremony, a common request made by many private groups to various
senators. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Warner and his staff were told
the space would be used to host a meeting to "honor the ‘Ambassadors for
A subsequent invitation was sent to lawmakers and others in Washington and
elsewhere, indicating "the ‘primary program sponsor’ would be the ‘Interreligious
and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP), founded by Rev. Dr. and
Mrs. Sun Myung Moon."
About a dozen lawmakers attended, along with various others, but all were put
in an embarrassing situation when Moon delivered a long-winded speech in which
The Post reported him declaring, "Emperors, kings and presidents…have
declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than
humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."
The Post reported that Moon also said, "his teachings have helped Hitler
and Stalin be ‘reborn as new persons.’"
The Christian Voice, it was later learned, "has been linked to Moon’s
far-flung religious and business empire," which also includes The
Washington Times, a daily newspaper that is often quoted by other papers,
including The Wall Street Journal.
"Our office felt misled," John Ullyot, Sen. Warner’s spokesman,
told The Post.
This would seem a cautionary tale for senators and representatives who are
anxious to support conservative causes without much thought or investigation,
but it is also a warning to everyone who believes in democracy with a small ‘d,’
since Mr. Moon and his business enterprises and associated groups all appear to
be dedicated to policies that are antithetical to the continuation of free and
democratic societies anywhere, but particularly here in the world’s most
The Right-Wing’s ‘K’ Street Project Is Illuminating
Insiders in Washington and elsewhere in the United States have
long realized a hard fact that has received very little publicity; that is,
hard-core right-wing politicians and their neo-conservative associates have
tried very hard in the past three years to dominate every aspect of American
political life. The goal has been obvious; exclude Democrats from every
political venue, no matter how large or small.
One perfect example of the effort is the ‘K Street Project,’
organized by Grover G. Norquist, president of a right-wing group called
Americans for Tax Reform, and a well known reactionary. The K Street Project had
a simple goal; eliminate most if not all Democratic lobbyists from any position
of influence. The ‘Project’ sought to ‘advise’ corporations and lobbying
organizations why it would be better to hire Republican representatives and
bypass anyone with a Democratic affiliation.
The organization has reportedly had some tangible success
during the early years of the Bush presidency, but in what might be an indicator
of things to come, it seems to be losing its grip.
When Jack Valenti, the longtime chairman and CEO of the Motion
Picture Association, recently announced he would retire, the trade association
announced he would be replaced by Dan Glickman. And Glickman, like Valenti
himself, is a Democrat.
This caused something of a furor in Mr. Norquist’s world;
the K Street Project had apparently been thwarted. This became such an issue
that both Mr. Valenti and Mr. Glickman felt it necessary to respond to the
unusual controversy; that is, the fact that an organization supporting
Republicans was so upset that a Democrat was being appointed that it had become
a news story.
In a recent press conference, Valenti and Glickman declared
that neither politics nor partisan affiliation were reflected in the Motion
Picture Association’s decision making.
"This is not a partisan job," Glickman declared at a
press conference, wryly adding that he would "reach out" to
congressional Republicans to soothe any wounded feelings.
"Some of my closest friends in Congress are
Republicans," Glickmay said.
Grover Norquist, on the other hand, was less graceful,
declaring that Glickman’s appointment was "a mistake. It's goofy. It's a
The Washington Post reported that Norquist then asserted that
The Motion Picture Association's "ability to work with the House and Senate
is greatly reduced because they've decided to hire a guy whose claim to fame is
that he is a retired Clinton hire." said.
According to The Post, "The K Street Project, which was
conceived by Republican leaders in Congress and GOP activists elsewhere,
identifies loyal Republican lobbyists and campaign contributors and then
encourages lawmakers to welcome them into their offices to the exclusion of
July 5, 2004
Killing non-Muslim’s is OK!?
After Saudi Arabia suffered a terrorist bombing last week by
Islamic radicals – a situation, it might be fair to say, is the epitome of the
old cliché of ‘the chickens coming home to roost,’ given the cynical
support Wahhabism was given over the decades by the Saudi’s – a remarkable
statement was made by that kingdom’s chief Muslim cleric.
Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti
Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, called the attack "one of the greatest sins!" At
first blush, this might seem hopeful to non-Muslims around the world. It might
seem as though the Saudi kingdom is coming to terms with Islamic radicalism,
much of which it fostered either directly or indirectly.
But such hope is quickly crushed when the rest of the Grand
Mufti’s statement is heard and of course understood.
"Whoever kills a believer on purpose will be punished by
being burned in hell, punished by God’s anger and will be cursed and suffer
great pain," Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik declared. And whom is he referring to when
he says "believer?" Well, it isn’t hard to figure out that he is
referring to other Muslims.
So, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Saudi Arabia’s
top religious leader is moved to condemn terrorism when its horrors are
delivered against other Muslims, period. The obvious extrapolation is that Grand
Mufti Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik has no issue with Islamic killers releasing their
hatred on non-Muslims. And since it is reasonable to assume that the Grand Mufti
will not make any statement that is in contradiction to the wishes of the Saudi
royal family, it is now evident what the ruling family of Saud truly believes.
This knowledge should serve as a solid framework from which
American and Western societies now operate within when dealing with Saudi
When In Multitudes, Officials Want The Deceased to Be
To military officials, it’s been okay – and also impossible to prevent –
coverage of individual funeral ceremonies of American servicemen and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it hasn’t been okay to show the
honored dead returning to the states. Why is that the case?
Well, it's pretty easy to understand. Individual funerals are
dispersed across this huge country, and the news coverage is similarly isolated.
Also, of course, funeral services are dignified and poignant, and therefore the
media must tread lightly.
But when a C-130 lands at Dover Air Force Base loaded with
flag draped coffins, if the media is present it doesn't have to tread lightly.
It can speak directly to a wide audience, perhaps a national audience, reporting
on a generalized story of war deaths instead of an isolated story of one soldier
being honored by funeral services and a grieving family. Hard questions can be posed
instead of soft and empathetic comments respecting the relatives of the
So the landing and off-loading of flag draped caskets is done with great security and
secrecy. No media personnel are allowed near the plane to observe the activity.
Pictures of rows of coffins being disgorged from the cargo doors of the
military transports would obviously present a very different news picture.
Of course, one of the wonderful aspects of a democracy is that
citizens of conscience can make a difference, without fear of losing their
lives, although it is entirely possible to lose one’s job and livelihood,
especially in ‘conservative times.’
Such has been the case with Tami Silicio and her husband,
This couple worked for Maytag Aircraft, out of Colorado, a
company that contracts with the military. Silicio and Landry no longer work for
Maytag, because Silicio, who was part of a crew that repeatedly filled military
aircrafts with caskets, decided to take some pictures. She and her husband then
apparently agreed to release those images.
Ms. Silicio seems to be an average American woman with solid
values. She has expressed pride in the fact that American war dead are treated
with great respect by the military, even when no one is watching! She is quoted
as declaring that she wanted to show the grief stricken parents of the war dead
that "their children weren’t thrown around like a piece of cargo."*
Officials at the Pentagon defended the interesting policy of
closing off casket arrivals by asserting that ‘individual gravesite services
give the full context of a soldier’s sacrifice.’* To say that this is facile
seems almost too obvious. In fact, it seems reasonable to assume that for
the military to express such political cynicism is indicative of a belief that
this is what is either desired or demanded by the current civilian leadership;
i.e., the Bush Administration. The Pentagon leadership rarely gets out in front
of the political leadership.
But because of Ms. Silicio and Mr. Landry, the entire process
has been called into question and resulted in a national dialogue. They are to
be commended, and should be recognized by Americans everywhere as countrymen who
stood for what seemed to them to be right despite the possibility of personal loss. And they
have suffered that loss. They both lost their well-paid jobs, and now must
struggle to meet their financial obligations – including their home mortgage -
while at the same time facing the fact they’ve become controversial in the
current political climate, where loyalty to the policies of the incumbent
administration is so often wrapped in false patriotic values.
Ms. Silicio and Mr. Landry have in fact illustrated true
patriotic values. It can only be hoped that the solid values of these two people
will be recognized by those who have hiring authority, and that they will soon
be gainfully employed again.
* Washington Post, 4/23/04, pg. A10, story by Blaine Harden
and Dana Milbank.
Teacher Resigns After Saying, "Throw Her Out The
What was apparently a long simmering conflict between a
teacher and at least one student erupted in a bizarre incident early this month
when a 14-year old girl was hurled from a classroom window at a school in
The incident took place at the Sharp Learning Center,
according to the Associated Press, (AP), and is being investigated by the Newton
County Sheriff’s office. The girl was being treated for neck pains and various
cuts after two boys acted on what has been described as the teacher’s order
that the girl be thrown out a window.
Apparently the 62-year-old teacher, who it seems, was fed up
with some of the way students appeared in class, took a photograph of a few of
the students, including the girl who was ultimately dispatched through a window.
When the girl objected to the photo, the teacher, as the AP reports, made a
"disparaging remark about the girl’s appearance." This was
apparently followed by the girl becoming agitated and swearing at the teacher,
and she also reportedly hit the "office assist button on the classroom
One can only imagine how this girl appeared in class and how
her rebellion both affronted the teacher and seemed to undercut the teacher's authority.
It seems logical to assume that the teacher’s photo shoot was a last ditch,
desperate attempt to illustrate to her superiors and her peers – other
teachers – just what has happened in her class.
But the very fact the teacher
would resort to such desperate tactics seems also to reflect how completely she
had lost control of her classroom, and how she failed to understand that it was
the administration's job to worry about dress codes and appearances, not hers,
unless the mode of dress was disrupting the class itself.
In any event, it was at this point that the teacher is reported to have told
a pair of 14-year old boys to take the girl and "throw her out the
window." The boys later explained to the school principal, Kenneth Daniels,
that they obeyed, "because they did not want to be written up for disobeying
The teacher has since resigned, and it is unclear what may
happen to the boys who so blindly followed orders. Yet the cautionary point in
this is clear; that is, Americans must remember how often in recent history we
have heard the perpetrators of incredible crimes declare they were just
following orders! If a couple of young American teenagers can use that same
excuse for such bizarre behavior, we should all pause and consider what is
happening in our country, our education system, and our culture. Why would these
boys, who were after all climbing the first rungs of adulthood in our democratic
society, not understand that such an order by anyone in authority is wrong and
should not be obeyed?
To Muslim leader, reason is irrelevant;
what’s black is white!
Abu Bakar Bashir, 66, jailed in Jakarta, Indonesia, is,
according to Associated Press (AP) reports, the "alleged spiritual leader
of the al-Quaida-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror network," and in a
jailhouse interview with AP he resoundingly declares his innocence of any
involvement in the murderous bombings that recently took place in Southeast
But despite his declaration of innocence, Bashir
"denounced the U.S. as an enemy of Muslims," and asserted that attacks
against America "were justified."
Abu Bashir states, "America clearly started a war
against Islam. We have a right to defend ourselves."
He goes on to declare to the AP reporter, Chris Brummitt, that
his imprisonment is due to American and Australian pressure on the Indonesian
government, and that the only reason he is incarcerated is because the West is
"afraid of my struggle to impose Islamic law in Indonesia." Of course,
this flies in the face of American, Australian and Indonesian belief that Bashir
was instrumental in a series of lethal bombings.
And of course by his own declaration, Bashir is trying to
overthrow the government of Indonesia in order to replace it with Islamic law,
therefore he is a self-acknowledged revolutionary posing as a religious leader
while exhorting his followers to take over a nation's systems.
Australian Prime Minister Alexander Downer, AP reports,
"called Bashir a ‘loathsome creature.’"
This would not seem an unjustified comment, despite its
strength, given Bashir’s statement to the AP that ,"It’s obvious the
American government is full of terrorists who have killed many people (around
the world); it is justified to attack it, even an idiot knows that."
"Osama (bin Laden) is not a terrorist, he is a member of
Allah’s army," Bashir told Brummitt."His dream is to defend
This, of course, is to turn black into white.
Osama bin Laden "dreams" of defending Islam against
the terrible intentions of the Western world? Or is it more likely that Bin
Laden dreams of destroying the West, by any means possible, and to kill everyone
in the West and anywhere else in the world who doesn't surrender to his
totalitarian view of Islamic law? Who is really trying to foment a world-wide
But the plain white truth is that the Western world had no desire to destroy Islam.
other hand, it is increasingly clear that the militant leaders of Islam wish to
destroy the Western world; that is the black reality of the Islamists. It is just vastly comfortable for these aggressors to
try to make people believe they are not what they are; that is, that they aren’t
belligerent and ruthless killers and suppressors of all who don’t agree with
them, they are just the protectors of Islam.
Perhaps among the vast, impoverished and ignorant masses of
the Muslim world, whose leaders have found it convenient to enrich themselves at
the expense of their followers, it is easy to believe that Islam is under
attack. But only with such immense ignorance can black be turned to white.
Bashir is only an example of the problem.
Islam is the aggressor, and its goal is the subjugation of the
world into a theocracy based on an ancient rejection of Christian values first
and all other values and religion second. This is apparent by the efforts of
extremists like Bashir who want to capture Indonesia, where Buddhism and other
Asian religions flourish.
Bashir and Bin Laden assert a
convoluted belief that rigidity of thought and a caste system that ensures great
poverty and often the enslavement of others is entirely acceptable, since true
life begins after death. But black isn’t white, and it seems clear by the
actions of the Muslims that we will all be called upon to defend that point
This is, perhaps for the first time – given the
technological advantages of travel and communication, to say nothing of the
techniques of warfare, but most of all because of the harsh religious overtones
employed by the Arabs – a true world war.
It’s OK for the Brits, but not for Americans!
It seems fair to say that the recent CBS decision to show
black and white still photos of Britain’s Princess Diana trapped and dying in
the demolished vehicle she was riding in while ostensibly trying to escape
photographers was in poor taste. But it was entirely within the context of the
‘new journalism’ brought to the United States by the British. It was
ex-patriot Brits who initiated the supermarket tabloids in this country, and who
played a major role in developing cheap sensational news as a new and aggressive form
of journalism in America.
Yet here are some of the British comments and headlines after
the CBS airing of the distasteful pictures of Princess Di:
"Fury at TV Photo of Dying Diana," The Daily Mail.
" US TV Shows Diana Dying," The Daily Mirror.
These headlines were followed with stories filled with quotes
such as, "vile images," and "horribly offensive…"
But wouldn’t that old English axiom sum up this situation;
that is, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.’
It was fine to expand the worst sort of English newspapering
into American markets, making many millions of dollars in the process of denigrating U.S.
journalism by playing to the lowest common denominators, but when that formula
strikes close to home, the Brits clearly don’t like it. Nonetheless, they have
nowhere to look to place blame but to themselves. To use another trite axiom, in
the great tradition of British journalism, ‘The chickens have come home to
Earlier Points to Ponder:
1). Newspaper publishers, at any meeting or social gathering,
can readily be heard complaining about the loss of circulation and advertising
revenue, an old and time honored complaint that has taken on a kind of desperate
reality in current years. But while there are many complex factors involved, the
publishers themselves are the principal culprits. They have cut back on
editorial staffing over so many years that the entire reason for newspapers
in the first place – the selling of valuable information to the people who
will be affected by the news – is now being rendered ineffective.
newspapers are amazingly shallow, and the people who live in the given coverage
area aren’t fooled; they know what’s going on in their communities, and they
know whether it’s being covered or not.
Up to and through most of the 1960’s, if a newspaper had 15
advertising salespeople, it had at least that many reporters and editors, and
often more. But
through the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, as the drive for profit increased and
simultaneously more papers consolidated, so that competition lessened, these
Simultaneously, as publishing companies got bigger and more and more became
public, the demands of Wall Street for ever increasing stockholder returns grew
All of this led to an increase in the sales department and a
decrease in editorial. Since all the other departments – production, business
services and administration, circulation/delivery – are part of the business mechanics,
editorial can seem to be a luxury.
At first glance, especially for bottom-line minded
publishers, editorial can seem to be an expensive haven for difficult to handle
personnel who are likely to produce material that will lead to controversy, if
not law suits. It was not surprising, therefore, that the axes fell most heavily on editors
and reporters. This phenomenon was all the more natural since most modern
publishers – unlike their earlier, founding counterparts - had little
experience in anything to do with editorial; they were usually from the ad side
or from accounting.
Now a newspaper with 15 ad reps is likely to sport an
editorial department of five people, including the editors.
So it’s no great surprise to learn that Jack Kelley, a star
reporter at USA Today, has followed in the footsteps of Jason Blair of the New
York Times, and of other recently discredited journalists from major
In one of Kelley’s stories, according to Joel Achenback of
The Washington Post, a bombing in Israel resulted in a man with a six-inch glass
shard in his temple, while "a woman had a nail in her left eye," and a man
"bled to death ‘from where his genitals had been…’" Mr. Kelley
was apparently trying to outdo Ernest Hemingway.
A good part of the problem is that there are so few editors
today that many reporters are essentially unmonitored. Reporting mistakes and
journalistic lapses that would have been quickly caught forty or fifty years
ago, and would have resulted in a serious confrontation with editorial management, are
now frequently printed and never corrected, much less punished.
Kelley wrote gory war stories supposedly from first-hand
experience in the Middle East, but now it appears he was just writing fiction at
little or no risk to himself. But why should anyone be surprised? Editorial
comes in last in newspaper budgeting, even though it is the very reason for the
And publishers still complain that readers are turning
elsewhere, especially to the Internet, for their news. How surprising!
2). Calls are now being heard from the judiciary, prosecutors
and others in the ‘law community’ to further restrict the press from access
to court proceedings. This is as a result of the Tyco mistrial, where two
ultra-conservative newspapers broke the long-standing 20th Century
‘gentleman’s agreement’ whereby newspapers would not publish the names of
jurors while a trial was underway.
The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post revealed the
name of Juror No. 4, Ruth Jordan, as the individual who, in stroking her hair,
is alleged to have made something of an "OK" gesture to the defense
table; i.e., to Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz and their lawyers.
By contrast, The Washington Post covered the story but did not
name Ms. Jordan.
And after Ms. Jordan’s name was published, she reported
having received at least one threat at her home, which caused NY Supreme Court
Justice Michael Obus to declare a mistrial.
The prosecutors and some judges are lining up to take
advantage of this situation by pushing state legislators to further restrict
journalistic reporting of court proceedings, but this only illustrates how
foolish the press was in the first place when it entered into a ‘gentleman’s
agreement’ not to reveal juror’s names. It’s another case of letting the
individual circumstance color the larger picture.
"I am tired of the idea that jurors have a right to
anonymity," declared Jane Kirtley, a media ethics and law professor at the
University of Minnesota in an interview with The Washington Post.
"Jurors’ names have historically been public," she
states. "Government actions are public in order that the public can hold
But by trying to accommodate modern sensibilities, the press
has created a box for itself, and now it must either defend itself or be further
constrained in a smaller and more formalized box.
3). Everyone – every single one of us – no matter what our
national origin, heritage, race or sexuality, must come to terms with our
knowledge of mortality, but through all of recorded history how we do that and
the conclusions we reach are and have been, at the least, influenced by
It is probably fair to say that the highest goal of any
religion would be to provide an intellectual pathway to justify and illuminate
the best of human nature, that very basic sense that the highest virtues bring
us closest to immortality. It is equally fair to observe that as these views
gained expression in the earliest times, more and more codification of values
took place, and from this fertile ground grew the first organized religions.
And as might be expected, these organizations reflected not
only their particular geography and culture, but also the politics of their
practitioners. So organized religions took hold in every corner of the world,
and for the most part gave succor and intellectual comfort to people, but at the
same time too often assumed an increasingly rigid and dogmatic posture that was
more self-serving than generous and humanistic.
Such has been religious history, proven out in wars and
conflicts throughout history, yet in our modern Western world we often flatter
ourselves that we are relatively sophisticated and no longer unquestioningly
responsive to the dictates of church leaders. But there are many recent
instances that contradict any such comfortable belief, ranging from the
committed anti-abortion warriors to the evangelical Christians who seem so
willing to follow any right-wing political leadership.
A granite block that a wayward southern judge orders carved with the Ten
Commandments and delivered at night to a courthouse becomes a symbol to which
people actually pray, despite the scripture that declares graven images shall
not be worshipped. And this is but one example of how religious thought can be
distorted even in a modern, progressive and democratic society, let alone a
closed, autocratic and poverty-stricken society such as what is often found in
Africa or the Middle East.
And just how terrible the result can be isn’t limited to
experiences with suicide bombers or their ilk; it is visible here as well.
Interestingly, it is often people from the so-called Bible Belt, where intense
evangelistic Christianity blankets everyday society, that the most bizarre
tragedies seem to take place.
The most recent example is that of Deanna Laney, of Tyler,
Texas, who "believed with all my heart" that God had instructed her to
kill her children. She was a mother who home schooled her children, and somehow
came to believe that God gave her signs that her children must be sacrificed;
one of the 'signs' was a rock she tripped over that became a murder weapon, used
to crush the skulls of her children.
"I thought this was a test," she said in testimony
introduced at her trial.
If there is any lesson in such tragedies, it is probably that
religious extremism moves from what is good in human nature to what can be evil,
no matter what culture or heritage may be involved, and when such extremism is
exploited by religious or political figures, they are as guilty of whatever
results from the exploitation as are the zealots who commit the crimes.
1). The following comes under the heading, ‘How Silly Can We
Be?’ On Cape Cod, a famous peninsula some 80 miles long and for much of it, 40
miles wide, there are 15 towns and a huge military base. Now, however, there are
also Coyotes, even though no one has yet to be able to show that these wild
canines ever existed on the peninsula prior to their introduction by modern man.
But that is considered a largely irrelevant fact by the politically correct
Coyotes are here now, and that is what counts. And they are a protected species!
The fact they were apparently never here before, and have no natural predators,
is similarly irrelevant.
In February, 2004, in East Orleans, the Cape Cod Times
reported that "the attack of a seal Tuesday by a trio of coyotes horrified
some onlookers, but environmental authorities say the incident is something they’re
loath to interfere with; it’s nature." Well, perhaps, but if so, it’s nature
as shaped by man.
"The seal was resting on the frozen surface of Mill Pond in
East Orleans when it was attacked by the coyotes," the Times observes. The event was well
documented, the Times reports that Kent Carson, who was called by a neighbor,
said that "we saw three coyotes pecking away at a seal…"
Apparently the seal got away, but not because any humans
intervened. Authorities were called, but theirs is a laissez faire attitude:
Orleans Police Capt. Kenneth Greene is quoted as saying that
while police were dispatched to the scene, their purpose was not to interfere
with the coyotes, but to restrain the public, as the Cape Times reporter
explained, "to make sure no one tried to do something that might get them
hurt." Mass. Environmental Police were also on hand, but they too were just
observers, though state wildlife officials have noted that there have been a
high percentage of Coyote droppings in the Cape area, and that analysis
indicates the canines are having success in killing and eating seals. So the
Coyotes are being monitored, at least through their waste.
"It’s natural predation, as awful as it is to
watch," declared Katie Touhey, program manager for the stranding network.
"It is not our policy to interfere with nature," she said. But the
problem, of course, is that this is not simply nature, it is the result of man’s
manipulation of nature.
Cape Cod now has a growing population of vicious predators,
some of which are large – Coyotes of 50 pounds or more have been reliably
sighted – and no one can take any steps to control them! There have already
been published police reports of Coyotes stalking toddlers in their own backyards, and many
people have reported losing small pets, both cats and dogs.
Unfortunately, it appears that once again the politically
correct and their sensibilities will prevail until a tragedy occurs, after which
some measure of common sense may take hold. If common sense were to be allowed a
place in the current reality, there would at the very least be a hunting season
for these dangerous and vicious predators, and some efforts would be made to
determine how they were introduced into this environment in the first place.
2). The Democratic National Convention will, as most everyone
knows, be held in Boston this summer. It has also been public knowledge that the
multi-billion dollar Big Dig is drawing to a close, and it was expected that the
old elevated roads and train tracks would be removed by the time of the
convention, making Boston
much more attractive than it has been in many decades.
However, it now appears that the rusty, dilapidated old Green
Line, a defunct elevated rail line, will remain prominently displayed, if unused. The Mass.
Bay Transportation Authority, MBTA, suddenly says the line can’t be removed,
and this apparently relates to decisions by Gov. Mitt Romney, a prominent
Republican, to put the project far down on the budgetary priority list. It seems
fair to wonder where removal of this rusty, pale green pile of girders and
trestles would be on the list if it were the GOP holding a convention in the Fleet Center.
We suspect it would be high on the priority list.
3). If you are from the New England or the West Coast, or from
the industrial and farming states along America’s backbone, you probably think
that "paddling" in the secondary school system is a thing of the past,
a relic of earlier times. You would be surprised, therefore, to learn that 22
out of the 50 U.S. states still allow corporal punishment of students, but you
might not be too surprised to learn that Mississippi and Texas are at the top of
the list of states employing the paddle.
Mississippi is the nation’s top paddling state, according to
a recent review of the subject by the Washington Post, with 10% of the students
in public classrooms having reportedly been paddled every year. But even in ‘Ol
Miss, the use of the paddle requires school board policy and therefore public
and political input, but not so in Texas.
Parental permission or commentary is not required in Texas.
School officials in that great state are free to paddle at will.
"In some states, such as Pennsylvania and Wyoming,
corporal punishment of students remains legal, though the institution has all
but died out," The Post reported, noting that "the top paddling states
after Mississippi are Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee," and statistics seem
to show that "black students are paddled more than twice as often as other
There is also a strain of religious beliefs involved, as
illustrated by a special education teacher from Mississippi. Cherry Moore, in an
interview with The Post, duly reported by Michael Dobbs, pointed to the Old
Testament, declaring: "Are we going to believe man’s report or God’s
report…and spoil the child by sparing the rod…"
In Mississippi an officially approved paddle is required –
it must be a quarter-inch-thick and made of wood – and no more than
"three quick licks" may be administered.
Of course there remain arguments for and against corporal
punishment, even though it has now been completely outlawed everywhere in the
industrial world except for the U.S. and one Australian state; in recent years
even Zimbabwe, Zambia and Pakistan have outlawed the practice.
But despite the pro and con arguments, perhaps the biggest
problem is that there is no way to administer corporal punishment within various
schools in a uniform and fair manner. An example of what can go wrong was
provided in the 1950’s on Cape Cod, when one elementary school principal –
bedecked in a suit and bow tie – made it a practice to bring seventh and
eighth grade malefactors before an assembly of the entire student body, where he
would administer one or more hard cracks across the palm of the child’s
outstretched hand with a brass-tipped yardstick.
The goal was to humiliate as well as punish, but sometimes
when the student stood up to the abuse he would strike again, and more than once
Such is the world of authorized corporal punishment.
Unfortunately, as is so often the case, Massachusetts overcorrected for such
excesses, and now teachers and even assistant principals – long acknowledged
as the ‘muscle’ of the public school administration – are cautious about even
raising their voices, let alone putting a finger on a wayward student, much less
great irony, of course, is that it seems so difficult to find common sense, and
when a rigid and uncompromising policy is shown to be more damaging than
effective, the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, so that it
appears there is no way to intervene with a troubled or troublesome child without
taking drastic action, such as calling in the police.
A balance needs to be found, but surely the use of a paddle is
not the answer to discipline in public schools. Perhaps, in our great age of
communication, it is time to demand that public forums be provided.
January 29, 2004
1) - There are always surprises in the law, especially when
major industries have lobbied for certain exclusions or loopholes, yet the fact
that a number of years after everyone thought the United States had banned from
cattle feed any use of cattle blood, brains or other otherwise unsaleable
remnants of the slaughterhouse, we find that wasn’t exactly true. Obviously,
the press took the government’s word at face value.
Now we learn that as a result of the Mad Cow episode in
Washington State, there will in fact be a ban on such incredible folly as the
use of ground-up animal parts in the feed given to vegetarian animals.
In an Associated Press (AP) wire service story by Lauran
Neegaard we learn, at the end of January, 2004, that Washington is finally
"outlawing cattle blood in livestock feed and the use of cow brains and
other parts in dietary supplements," all as part of "broader
restrictions in response to the nation’s first known case of Mad Cow
Disease." Of course, we all believed that such ‘pound foolish and penny
wise’ attempts to extract another ounce of profit from slaughtered animals had
been outlawed nearly a decade ago, in the wake of the disaster that struck
Ms. Neergaard goes on to note, "the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) announced the steps (January 26th) to close
loopholes in its livestock feed ban – a key protection against the spread of
the brain-wasting disease in cattle – and to make sure that people do not
consume risky animal parts in processed foods and supplements."
FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan reportedly stated that
"firewalls have been in place for many years; the steps we’re taking
today are intended to provide even greater security." Perhaps we are
naïve, but if cattle blood, brain material, etc., has been allowed in cattle
feed and, interestingly and alarmingly, also used in processed foods and
"supplements" that humans consume, we don’t see where the firewall
existed, save in giving the government a story to pass on for the media to
present to the public, without scrutiny! Let’s reassure the public. Thus,
apparently, were normal, rational concerns deflected and an extra pound of flesh
extracted for profit.
It would be nice to see the major media pursue this story and
uncover how this has been happening. And it would be very useful to learn how
the concept of feeding leftover parts back to other animals – and apparently
humans – came about in the first place. We suspect it was little more than an
attempt to make every last ounce of the animal profitable, but it would be good
to see if that is the case, and if so to illustrate it and the people involved
with it, fully and without restrictions.
2) – A Washington Post story by Jonathan Weisman provides
some very clear statistics that give the lie to Republican claims of fiscal
moderation and good management.
During the mid-point in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the
country had a $221.2 billion deficit (it was also nearly that much at the end of
the Reagan Administration); at the mid-point in George H.W. Bush’s presidency,
the deficit was $290.4 billion (and at the end of his term, was at the Reagan
level); during the mid-point of Bill Clinton’s two terms, the deficit was
about zero, (and at the end of Mr. Clinton’s two terms, there was a $236.4
billion surplus). Now, near the end of George W. Bush’s first term in the
presidency, America has a $477.0 billion deficit.
Essentially, as The Bradley Report has reported before, this
means that Mr. Bush and the Republican Party – the party of business, that has
so long proclaimed it’s the party of fiscal responsibility through an
understanding of business practices – has cut government income (from
corporate and personal taxes) and increased spending so that $713.4 billion has
been dispersed; i.e., $236.4 in surplus that has been spent and $477 billion in
additional deficit spending.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO),
"the government is on track to accumulate nearly $2.4 trillion in
additional debt over the next decade." Even some Republicans understand
what this can mean, as illustrated by a comment from CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
a former economist in the Bush White House. The Post’s Weisman reports that
Holtz-Eakin recently stated that, "if you look forward, sustained, large
deficits in the face of a fully operating economy will have economic
We think that many working people and service men and women
are already feeling the consequences quite clearly.
3) – Apparently under the heading of protecting one’s own,
Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist has rebuffed queries from
Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Joseph I. Lieberman of
Connecticut regarding the appearance of conflict of interest involving Justice
Judge Scalia has been having dinner with his old friend,
Vice-President Dick Cheney, and recently went on a duck hunting trip with him,
all after the Supreme Court has agreed to review a lower court ruling requiring
the White House to identify members of the controversial Energy Task Force. The
task force, chaired by Mr. Cheney, was created to help develop energy
strategies. Vice-President Cheney has steadfastly refused to provide any
information regarding it, even though it apparently had an early and important
role in determining the nation’s energy policy under the Bush Administration.
Associated Press reporter Gina Holland, in an article this
week, noted that "Rhenquist, a Republican put on the high court by Richard
Nixon in 1972 and made chief justice by Ronald Reagan in 1986, said that while
justices often consult with colleagues when they are considering recusing
themselves from a case, there is no formal procedure…it is up to Justice
Scalia to make that decision."
Lieberman and Leahy, in their letter, told Chief Justice
Rhenquist that "when a sitting judge, poised to hear a case involving a
particular litigant, goes on a vacation with that litigant, reasonable people
will question whether that judge can be a fair and impartial adjudicator of that
Justice Scalia, who was part of the majority in the 5-4
decision to intervene on behalf of George Bush in the election contest with Al
Gore, has indicated there is no reason why anyone should question his ability to
judge the case fairly. Apparently Mr. Scalia, and maybe Justice Rhenquist too,
has forgotten that once upon a time not so very long ago the judiciary,
especially members of the Supreme Court – whose decisions bear no means of
appeal – were sensitive to even the appearance of conflict of interest.
Certainly Judge Scalia’s defiant attitude brings back echoes
of the 5-4 votes to decide the presidential election that made Mr. Cheney
vice-president. It is not unrealistic to assume that Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush
feel confident when they are dealing with the Supreme Court.
4) – Now, with the passing of Jack Paar, the principled ‘father’
of late night talk shows, it seems appropriate to contrast the present with the
In recent months it has been increasingly clear that Jay Leno
and David Letterman have very different political viewpoints. Mr. Leno, it
seems, is very fond of conservatives and Republicans in general, and Mr.
Letterman is – albeit a bit more subtly – favorable to liberals and
This is perhaps a symptom of the times, but it is also worth
remembering that at the start, Jack Paar was truly an equal opportunity talk
show host, providing a quiet yet intellectual atmosphere in which all points of
view were discussed. His lengthy and balanced discussions with Richard Nixon and
John Kennedy are but the more recognizable examples. His personal viewpoint was
hard to determine, save for his unwavering belief in freedom of speech under the
Constitution of this free nation.
The man who followed him, Johnny Carson, brought a livelier
tone to The Tonight Show, but he was equally obtuse regarding his actual
And even David Letterman, for many years, was very hard to ‘read’
Not so anymore. But perhaps that is hardly surprising since it
is obvious that Mr. Letterman’s competition, Jay Leno, is having an
increasingly hard time hiding his political stance.
A somewhat classic illustration of the current divide on late
night TV, which perhaps is reflective of the state of the nation, was the recent
appearance of Dennis Miller on Mr. Leno’s show and Al Franken on Mr. Letterman’s.
Anyone channel surfing between the two shows was given a wonderful illustration
of the divisions of political thought and belief that are now deepening across
January 7, 2004
1) - Federal prosecutors here in Massachusetts have for,
months now, taken full advantage of so-called "sneak and peek" search
warrants; it is reasonable to assume that federal prosecutors across the country
are doing the same. These "sneak and peek" warrants are authorized
under the anti-terrorist USA Patriot Act. In some cases searches have been
conducted without the person under suspicion being notified.
In one instance, reported in the fall by The Boston Globe,*
"investigators who were granted one of the special search warrants by a
federal judge secretly searched… three locations, then quietly left without
telling the owners that they had been there."
Only one of the three search sites involved a terrorism
suspect; the others involved alleged criminal activity.
As The Globe explained, "the new law, passed six weeks
after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, gives federal agent broader
authority to investigate terrorism, money laundering and other crimes. It also
allows judges sitting in a secret court to decide whether to issue subpoenas and
search warrants…even if the (individual) isn’t under investigation for a
Not surprisingly, as the Patriot Act has been criticized,
Atty. Gen. John D. Ashcroft has risen to its defense, to the extent that he went
on a national speaking tour defending the Star Chamber aspects of the
2) - Florida Governor Jeb Bush, on December 24th,
2003, dedicated the nation’s first "faith-based prison," the Lawtey
Correctional Institution in Lawtey, Florida.
According to The Boston Globe,** the prison, which houses some
800 prisoners, will hold "regular prayer sessions and offer religious
studies, choir practice, counseling and other spiritual activities every day.
Participation is voluntary and inmates are free to transfer out."
Gov. Bush "lauded the inmates from 26 faiths and
denominations for committing themselves ‘to a higher authority.’"
"This is not just fluffy policy, this is serious
policy," Jeb Bush stated, adding that "for the people who are
skeptical about this initiative, I am proud that Florida is the home to the
first faith-based prison in the United States."
When the change to a "faith based" facility was
announced, close to Thanksgiving, more than 100 prisoners transferred out, but
apparently their bunks were quickly filled by "volunteers from other
prisons," The Globe reported.
"We’ve developed a cocoon, a place where they can
practice their faith and not have the severe negative pressures and interactions
that naturally take place in some of our institutions," said Florida
Corrections Secretary James Crosby, Jr.
But the executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Florida, Howard Simon, had a different point of view. According to The
Globe, he called the Lawtey Correctional Institution "part of ‘a major
constitutional showdown’" over the federal governments funding for
religious programs under the policies of Jeb Bush’s brother, George W. Bush,
who often proclaims himself a ‘born again Christian.’
Mr. Simon’s viewpoint is illustrative, since it does seem
that the Bush family is pressing to remove the separation of church and state
that has been a part of the nation’s safeguards since the country was founded.
3) - In the past week police raided the home of a Boston man
wanted on charges relating to a shooting incident and discovered an illegal
kennel in the basement, filled with abused pit bulls. The cellar was clearly
rigged to allow dogfights.
Other incidents relating to pit bulls are in the news
But the worst story so far took place in Denver, Colorado, in
December of 2003. In that incident, several owners of pit bulls had been letting
the dogs run loose and the animals formed a pack that apparently terrorized the
suburb of Kiowa, a ranch land southeast of Denver, for some months. A rancher
had been injured earlier in the fall, but escaped the dogs when his son shot at
them. And earlier, in the spring, Diana Nichols was mauled by the dogs,
suffering deep bite wounds.
Those lessons were apparently lost on the dog owners and the
area animal control officials, because in December Jennifer Brooke, 40, was
killed by the dogs as she walked to her barn to care for her horses. A male
friend, Bjorn Osmunsen, was attacked when he went to look for Ms. Brooke.
According to a story written by Robert Weller of the
Associated Press, "after fatally mauling Brooke, (and attacking Osmunsen),
the dogs moved on to a nearby home and attacked Lynn Baker when he stepped
"‘One was leaping for my throat as one was dragging me
down by my hand,’ Baker said. He said he jumped into the bed of his pickup
truck and screamed for family members to call authorities, and for his
16-year-old son, Cody, to grab a gun
"Cody Baker fired at the dogs with a shotgun, blinding
one, knocking another down, and disorienting the third. The distraction allowed
his father to climb into the cab of the pickup and drive close enough to his
house to scurry inside."
"They were monsters. And they don’t run away. They come
at you, even when you are shooting at them,’ Baker told the AP’s Weller.
The animals were eventually killed by Cody Baker and a deputy
sheriff. Both Lynn Baker and Bjorn Osmunsen were treated for injuries and
Charges are now being filed against the owners of the pit
bulls, including negligent homicide. But up to this point, local officials were
hampered by the fact there were no applicable ordinances to use in forcing the
irresponsible dog owners to take some action. Again, this was no isolated or
short-term problem. The pit bull pack was so notorious, Weller reported, that
"the people in the area had their own sort of emergency phone network to
warn each other if the dogs were loose" so that people wouldn’t go out.
And this was in a relatively rural area!
Clearly local officials failed to pursue an obvious and
growing problem, even if it meant seeking additional regulations. But more to
the point, of all the various dog breeds, it is increasingly clear that pit
bulls have been trained for too many dozens, perhaps hundreds of generations to
attack and kill other dogs and other animals. It seems time to consider
regulating these animals differently than we do any other dogs. Also, it seems
worth noting that if some of these Americans did not have weapons readily
available, these animals would not have been able to be stopped and a greater
tragedy would have taken place. It also seems unfortunate that Jennifer Brooke
was not carrying a pistol when she walked to her barn, especially given the
history of those vicious animals roving free.
* The Boston Globe, October 30, 2003, Pg. B3.
** The Boston Globe, December 25, 2003, Pg. A3.
Other, less recent points to ponder:
1) – "The United States will not allow companies from
countries that did not support the war in Iraq to bid on $18.6 billion in prime
reconstruction contracts funded by U.S. taxpayers, effectively excluding firms
from Russia, Germany, France and Canada from a large portion of the biggest
nation-rebuilding effort since World War II.
"Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said it was
necessary ‘for the protection of the essential security interests of the
United States’ to limit the competition. His Dec. 5 policy memo was posted
yesterday on the Web site of the Project Management Office, a new Pentagon-run
group overseeing the award of U.S.-funded reconstruction contracts.
"Wolfowitz said in his memo that coalition partners ‘share
in the U.S. vision of a free and stable Iraq. The limitation of sources to prime
contractors from these countries should encourage the continued cooperation of
coalition members.’ The $18 billion is taxpayer money, ‘so the U.S. should
have a say in how that is spent,’ a senior State Department official said last
night. But Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, asked about the
decision during a candidates' debate last night, said, ‘I can't think of
anything dumber or more insulting or more inviting to the disdain of countries
and potential failure of our policy.’ (Mr. Wolfowitz is one of the primary
architects of a plan for a new America, based on hard-right principles).
"Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the top Democrat
on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called the policy a ‘totally
gratuitous slap’ that ‘does nothing to protect our security interests and
everything to alienate countries we need with us in Iraq.’* (It does, however,
illustrate to the world that our current administration seems to embody the
vengeful and base philosophy that is best described by the phrase, ‘If you’re
not with us, you’re against us’).
2) - The Bush Administration is now on the road to
emasculating Radio Free Europe; here is how it’s happening: "They provide
what one Lithuanian politician calls ‘neutral, solid, Western programming’
reflecting Western values. They give an American point of view but are not
generally regarded as propaganda. They have millions of listeners across the new
democracies of Eastern Europe as well as a long tradition. They cost, by U.S.
budgetary standards, very little: The overall funding, for 11 countries, is $11
million a year. Yet if congressional appropriators have their way, one of the
cheapest, most effective and most popular tools of U.S. public diplomacy -- the
foreign language services of Radio Free Europe -- will soon cease to exist.
Seven languages are to be cut altogether, including the services to Romania,
Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia and the Baltic states. Several more, including
services to Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Serbia, will be cut by 25 percent.
(And this is happening while former KGB executive Vladimir Putin consolidates
power; of course, Mr. Putin has been given great individual support by Mr.
"The logic behind the cuts -- which have been heavily
pushed by the administration and opposed by many in Congress -- is allegedly
financial: More money is now going to radio services in the Middle East, and
budgets are limited. But the omnibus appropriations bill awaiting congressional
approval is hardly austere. As we've said before, it is proving to be yet
another example of lax congressional spending, funding everything from a rain
forest museum in Iowa to Alaskan fishing communities.
"Like the relatively low funding for the newer but
equally effective services of Radio Free Asia, the cuts to Radio Free Europe do
not, therefore, really reflect a new administration push to control spending.
Instead, they are yet another example of the administration's poor choice of
foreign policy priorities. With a short attention span and little understanding
that allies, too, require attention and diplomacy, the administration seems to
have let whole chunks of the world fall off its diplomatic radar screen
altogether. No iron law says that new democracies will remain democracies or
even remain American allies. In this unstable part of the world, the sober
presentation of an American point of view is still necessary."** (But
perhaps if one desired Russia to again become a dangerous dictatorship, one
would want to follow policies that would not inhibit the transformation).
3) - "For the past several weeks, Taiwan and China have
been exchanging rhetorical broadsides about how the island's political future
might be decided. Taiwan's democratically elected president, Chen Shui-bian, has
been hinting that maybe his people should make a democratic choice about whether
to unite with China or become independent. Beijing's Communist dictators have
replied with bellicose threats to settle the matter by force, no matter the
price. Yesterday President Bush essentially placed the United States on the side
of the dictators who promise war, rather than the democrats whose threat is a
ballot box. His gift to visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was to condemn ‘the
comments and actions made by the leader of Taiwan’ while ignoring the
sanguinary rhetoric of the man standing next to him. Mr. Bush had his reasons
for doing so -- above all to avoid one more foreign policy crisis during an
election year. But in avoiding a headache for himself, he demonstrated again how
malleable is his commitment to the defense of freedom as a guiding principle of
U.S. policy. ***
4) - Around the country, Republicans are trying to restructure
Congressional Districts so that they have an enhanced possibility of increasing
their numbers in the U.S. House and the Senate. The obvious question is, why?
Texas and Colorado are the two most prominent battlegrounds, yet the process isn’t
limited to those states. Perhaps we as Americans need to ask ourselves why one
political party, having gained Executive, Legislative and Supreme Court
majorities, is so desperate to assure that power doesn’t slip away by a vote
of the public in next year’s elections!
5) - In American history, we have developed the following
governmental/legal structures to assist the average American citizen: 1) Social
Security. 2) Medicare. 3) Medicaid. 4) Collective Bargaining. 5) The minimum
wage. 6) The 5-day work week. 7) Unemployment insurance. 8) Civil rights. 9)
Rural electrification. 10) Federal aid for higher education. 11) The Pure Food
& Drug Act. 12) The Environmental Protection Act. 13) The Clean Water Act.
14) Guaranteed bank deposits. 15) The Federal Reserve. 16) The Securities and
Exchange Commission. 17) The Food and Drug Administration. 18) The National Park
Service. 19) The national school lunch program. 20) The Voting Rights Act. 21)
The graduated income tax. These programs were created as a result of the effort
of Democratic Party members and officials, sometimes with support from well
6) - The administration of Pres. George W. Bush remains
unhappy with its ability to control media coverage, and has therefore begun
attempts to bypass national and international news media by seeking direct
television time to deliver messages to the American people. This is particularly
interesting given that the so-called ‘Liberal Media’ is a myth developed by
the GOP decades ago – during the ill-fated Nixon/Agnew Administration – for
political purposes, and has long been the source of ironic humor among news
professionals. The reality is that the vast majority of newspapers, radio and TV
stations in America are owned and operated by registered Republicans, as any
unbiased survey will immediately reveal; the percentage of GOP print media
ownership can be expected to be in the 90th percentile of weekly and
daily newspapers. Mr. Bush and his associates are apparently frustrated that
they are unable to control the few remaining independent outlets, and the
international news services that report globally; why should they want a total
* Story by By Jackie Spinner, Washington
Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, December 10, 2003; Page A01
**Washington Post, December 8th, 2003.
*** Washington Post, Wednesday, December 10, 2003; Page
**** List compiled by former U.S. Sen. George McGovern, published initially
in Harper’s magazine, December, 2002.
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