Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pot Calls the Kettle Black

Ethics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the rules of right conduct. An ethic is a principle of right or good conduct or a system of moral values. Given that, it is my responsibility to offer a correction: in my last letter to the editor, I stated that former Marine Sgt. Massey was presented to the Social Studies classes without an opposing balancing viewpoint. I was mistaken, apparently teachers Jeff Levin and Angelo Jardina performed that role. With all due respect to both gentlemen and recognizing the pointed questions Mr. Jardina put to Mr. Massey, I don’t see how a pair of teachers who the students have known at least all year can compare in impact and authority to a soldier returning from the frontlines. It is also my understanding that Mr. Levin invited Springfield Peace and Justice to bring Mr. Massey in, so I have to wonder about his ability to offer balance. I am also still left wondering how this obvious indoctrination was considered educationally valuable and why it was allowed to be presented in a school setting, but that’s an issue from another day.

Ethics is a charged issue and in the headlines currently. I’m referring to Tom DeLay and, of course, we know all about his ethics violations....or do we? Some things really should be kept in mind when discussing this issue. The grand jury in Travis County, Texas has not indicted DeLay though 3 of his associates were. The charges against several of the companies indicted in the case have been dropped after reaching dismissal agreements which included pledging financial support to the “non-partisan, balanced and publicly informative" LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. If you review the actual “ethics violations” in the House, you’ll find they just don’t stand up to serious scrutiny, as the Ethics Committee time and again admits by not finding him in violation of the ethics rules. Despite Nancy Pelosi’s statement “Mr. Delay has now been rebuked twice by the Ethics Committee for abusing his power,” the fact is the Committee “after a five-month investigation...voted unanimously to gently reprove” DeLay and gave him an admonishment, “the least severe punishment the committee can give,” according to Christian Bourge, a UPI Congressional and Policy Correspondent reporting for the Washington Times.

The Ethics Committee is a ten person panel comprised of 5 Republicans and 5 Democrats. It is highly partisan on both sides and is used to score political points more often than to actually maintain an ethical standard. In the case of a tie, an ethical complaint is left standing. Recent changes enacted by the Republicans and opposed by the Democrats would have required complaints to be adjudicated one way or another within 45 days or they would lapse. The Democrats shut down the Ethics Committee rather than abide the rules changes. With the Ethics Committee not serving, DeLay cannot clear his name. Denny Hastert, House Majority Leader, just recently offered to rescind the rules changes to bring the Democrats back to the Committee table to allow DeLay’s case to be heard. It remains to be seen if the Democrats will re-open the Committee. If they do, a simple party-line vote will still deny DeLay a clean slate. So it’s business as usual.

Why would the Democrats refuse to re-open the Ethics Committee? Well, if they do there are bound to be some uncomfortable questions asked. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader, sent an adviser to Spain and Germany in April 2004 for nine days but the trip was paid for by a nonprofit organization that donates to her and that she helped to get Federal Transit Administration money for. Pelosi’s office stated that the trip was “within House rules,” which happens to be exactly the same thing DeLay has said. In fact, The Cincinnati Post reports that “PoliticalMoneyLine, an online tracker of money in politics, found that lawmakers have taken $16 million in privately paid trips since 2000, over half of it from nonprofits.” Similarly, Representative Bernard Sanders (D-VT), as has been reported in both the Bennington Banner and Brattleboro Reformer, “used campaign donations to pay his wife and stepdaughter more than $150,000 for campaign-related work since 2000.” Of course, there is no law prohibiting politicians from paying family, which is exactly what DeLay said. The Washington Post notes that “members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records...paying old restaurant bills, filing missing forms and correcting erroneous ones...” - - - excuse me, ‘erroneous’ filings?

While it’s true that the House Ethics Committee doesn’t cover the them, Senate Democrats (many of whom have been highly critical of DeLay) have questions to answer as well. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has some questions to answer about The Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002 which “promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms,” according to the LA Times. That’s only one of Reid’s deals. None of the DeLay associates who have been indicted deny DeLay had any knowledge or wrong-doing. Such is not the case with Hillary Clinton, who’s ethical issues are almost legendary. David Rosen, Hillary’s former finance chairman, has been indicted for not declaring proceeds from Hillary’s August 2000 Hollywood fundraiser. Two of her associates clearly implicate her and expressly indicate her knowledge of the deal. Peter Paul bankrolled the event and has said, “Hillary personally called the producer of the concert...she asked him to lower the fee that he was charging of $850,000.” Aaron Tonken describes his face-to-face with Hillary when he “told her about virtually every penny I’d spent on her behalf.” Unfortunately for Hillary (notorious for not keeping good records), “both Tonken and Paul kept meticulous records.”

I don’t loose sleep over philandering politicians. That’s almost a fact of life. I don’t even raise an eyebrow when Pelosi, Reid, and others lie with such facility. It almost doesn’t faze me when the mainstream media neglect to call the aforementioned on their whoppers. What truly bothers me, what makes me pace the floor fuming, what makes me grind my teeth, is the eager willingness of rank-and-file Democrats to over-look, forgive, forget, and white-wash the glaringly apparent mis-statements and out-right lies, un-ethical and sometimes even criminal behavior of their elected representatives. Democrats seem deaf, dumb, and blind when the pot calls the kettle black.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Peace at all Costs

A few weeks ago, the Reporter ran a cover story on “former Marine Sgt. Jimmy Massey” and I can’t stand it anymore. Massey was invited into the school system to indoctrinate the students - it’s just that simple. He was “sponsored by the Springfield Area Peace and Justice” - no agenda there. He spoke to “Social Studies” classes, but was there an opposing or balancing speaker provided? Of course not. So, again, I’ll rise to the challenge and provide some balance.

According to Massey, he’s “here to let everyone know just how desensitized to violence you can get when you are part of any war effort. In a 48 hour period I’ve seen over 35 civilians killed, the youngest being only six years old. That’s war and that’s what’s going on in Iraq.” According to Gunnery Sgt. Mark Francis of the II Marine Expeditionary Force “what’s going on in Iraq” has a different tone. Francis asked to be sent toys for children. He explains that “on each patrol we take through the city, we take as many toys as will fit in our pockets and hand them out as we can. The kids take the toys and run to show them off as if they were worth a million bucks. We are as friendly as we can be to everyone we see, but especially so with the kids.” Now there’s a desensitized soldier! But wait, there’s more: “On one such patrol, our lead security vehicle stopped in the middle of the street...reported a little girl sitting in the road and said she just would not budge. As the vehicles went around her, I soon saw her sitting there and in her arms she was clutching a little bear that we had handed her a few patrols back...The rest of the convoy paused and I got out to make sure she was OK. The little girl looked scared and concerned, but there was a warmth in her eyes toward me. As I knelt down to talk to her, she moved over and pointed to a mine in the road.”

“Massey said the United States was committing genocide in Iraq.” This is the same claim that Massey makes in a report run by Al Jazeera, but it may come as news to people who actually live in Iraq. The Iraqi bloggers at http://messopotamian.blogspot.com graciously gave me permission to print their story: “the war toppled a monstrous regime of a bestial clan, and freed a hostage majority. Whatever other motive lay behind the intervention, this was a valiant act of chivalry. And when the American people ( as proved by their vote) and their president are willing to spill the blood of their children and the treasure of their land to help the Iraqi people regain their freedom and build their democracy, this comes from their respect and belief in the humanity of their fellow humans, regardless of distance and racial differences. Racism consists of ignoring the plight of your fellow humans. ‘We must not mess about with the problems of the third world, withdraw immediately and leave them to their own resources.’ they say. That mayhem and genocide can ensue does not seem to bother these ‘do-gooders’.”

Massey claims “Capitalism is being forced on others...We are forcing our will and life on other countries.” Again, I turn to the Iraqis themselves: “this infant democracy that is just beginning in our country will grow and become strong but it needs the helping hand and protection of its powerful friends who were the basic instrument of God’s mercy to bring it into being; especially at these times when it is still too weak and fragile. And make no mistake either, that if it were not for the powerful presence of the Friend, the monsters and wolves infesting the place would loose no time in completely dismembering, deavouring and interring the remains of the new born.”

“When one student asked him if he felt it was worth it, he answered, ‘No. You cannot support democracy through the barrel of a gun. That is the same as the Nazis did during World War II.” This tidbit is so loaded that I am going to come at it from a few points. First, I’d like to introduce you to George Perez, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. At 21, Perez lost his leg in action in Iraq. After lengthy recovery, he re-enlisted to rejoin his regiment in Afghanistan. Perez said, “I’m not ready to get out yet. I’m not letting this little injury stop me..” Obviously, Perez thinks it’s worth it. Second, as my 6-year-old has just learned, democracy was supported and won for this country “through the barrel of a gun” and it was the only way it could have been done. Thirdly, the Nazis did not support democracy, they were National Socialists, which is essentially exactly what Saddam Hussein was.

Massey speaks eloquently for the Springfield Area Peace and Justice. He espouses their ‘peace at all costs’ agenda perfectly. It is a shame on them that their agenda is so clearly in support of the terrorists and dictators. Pursuing their goals would have doomed the Iraqi people to indiscriminate rape and murder as has been documented time and again. That doesn’t seem to bother them. It leaves me wondering what their true goal is; it certainly doesn’t seem to be peace and justice or truth.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Truth to Power

As my wife is fond of saying: “you can torture numbers to make them say anything you want them to.” That is why it is crucial to use as non-partisan, unbiased, and legitimate sources as possible. Personal opinions are fine, but aren’t reputable sources better than “take my word for it” statements?

Chuck Gregory claims “since the 1970's, real income has slid.” Not according to Nicholas A. Jones and James S. Jackson, Ph.D., who found “In 1970, the median income for Black households was about $22,000, while for white households it was $37,000. In 1999, African-American median household income was $27,900, the highest ever recorded, but still far less than for non-Hispanic white households $44,400..." (The Demographic Profile of African Americans 1970-71 to 2000-01 from The Black Collegian Online at http://www.black-collegian.com/ issues/30thAnn/ demographic2001-30th.shtml) So since 1970 income has increased and what’s more the gap between black income and white income closed from 59.4% to 62.8% - a modest increase, but an increase nevertheless. The US Dept of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis offered also disagrees with Mr. Gregory: “Per capita income–the average income received by persons grew 4.7 percent in 2004, more than double the 2.2 percent growth in the previous year, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. This is the fastest pace since 2000 when per capita income grew 6.8 percent. All states except South Dakota, Nebraska, and Michigan enjoyed faster growth.” (News Release: State Personal Income, Mar 28, 2005 - http://www.bea.gov/bea/newsrel/SPINewsRelease.htm)

Chuck Gregory observes “the American life span is shortening.” Someone should tell the National Center for Health Statistics of the Center for Disease Control because they think our life expectancy is still increasing. The NCHS/CDC offers the National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 53, No. 6, Nov 10, 2004 where on pages 33 and 34 you will find Table 12 which shows the estimated life expectancy from 1900 through 2002. American life spans increase from 47.3 to 77.3 years - go figure (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/nvsr53_06t12.pdf). The Wall Street Journal is kind of mixed up too: “life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high. Death rates from cancer, heart disease and AIDS are falling. The gap between white and black life expectancies is narrowing. Infant mortality rates are lower than ever.” (An Empty Uniform by Michael Gough and Steven Milloy, Feb 10, 1998) S. Jay Olshansky at the University of Illinois at Chicago agrees with Chuck, but he doesn’t blame Republicans. Olshansky thinks that obesity “would reverse the mostly steady increase in American life expectancy that has occurred in the past two centuries.” Notice, he thinks it would reverse the “steady increase.” On the other hand, Samuel H. Preston of the University of Pennsylvania is “projecting a continued increase in U.S. longevity, assume[s] that obesity will continue to worsen, but also account[s] for medical advances.” (Report: Obesity will reverse life expectancy gains, Mar 16, 2005 - http://www.cnn.com/2005/HEALTH/ diet.fitness/03/16/obesity.longevity.ap/)

Chuck Gregory suggests we all “read Susan Faludi’s books, Backlash and Stiffed.” But before you do, consider this quote from Brian Carnell’s Men are from Earth, Women are from Earth?: A Review of Cathy Young’s Ceasefire. Carnell notes that “Young’s analysis of Susan Faludi’s Backlash is simply devastating. Young shows Faludi’s book to rely almost from top to bottom on extremely poor scholarly standards, egregious misquoting of primary sources and a whole host of other questionable procedures. She even catches Faludi making a claim in Backlash that Faludi herself had debunked in an earlier newspaper profile!” (http://www.equityfeminism.com/ discussion/fullthread$msgnum=51)

It is a sad state when a grown man accepts any drivel fed to him and then repeats it to his community without the slightest attempt to check it’s veracity. I expect such from idealistic teens for whom all life is a crusade, but maturity means growing out of such behavior and becoming responsible - responsible not just for one’s actions, but for one’s speech, as well. A weak debater attacks the person of his opponent precisely because he lacks sufficient facts to buttress his position. Mr. Gregory sprinkles his ad hominem criticisms of me with the odd source-quote now and then, but (like his Faludi reference) they always seem to be from dubious sources. I encourage everyone to take up issues; a more issue-oriented society would be healthy. However, learn about your issues make them your own, take the time to make sure that what you’re repeating is actually true information and not politically-motivated propaganda or hate speech.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Culture of Life

James Kraft is a self-styled "conservative Christian and Republican" and denies being a Democrat!

Last week James Kraft asked "where was George W. Bush’s ‘culture of life’ when, as Governor of Texas, he executed Robert Drew and mocked Karla Fay Tucker’s plea for mercy?" I don’t want to pick on Mr. Kraft, but it would be nice if he’d get his facts straight before he launches. George Bush was elected Governor of Texas on Nov. 8, 1994. His predecessor, Gov. Ann Richards, didn’t leave office till January 17, 1995. So it was late January of 1995, at the earliest, when Bush became Governor of Texas. Robert Drew was executed on August 2, 1994. For you recent graduates of public school, that is 168 days before Bush took office. It was Ann Richards, a Democrat, who refused Drew’s appeals for a new trial and executed him. There are some disturbing elements to the Drew story which might have warranted commuting his death sentence or even calling for a new trial. However, the simple fact is that he was an accomplice to senseless murder, did not go to the police after the act (as far as I can tell), and had to be apprehended. He also did nothing to assist the State in its investigation or prosecution.

It amazes me every time I hear the moans and cries for mercy for monsters. Karla Fay Tucker was a monster. She was so heinous that I won’t retell her horrors here (read for yourself, if you’re curious, at http://www.courttv.com/archive/casefiles/tucker/background.html or http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/women/tucker/1.html?sect=5);
it’s simply ghastly. On Larry King Live, Mrs. Tucker avoided telling the details of her crime herself but did admit, "I not only didn't walk around with any guilt, I was proud of thinking I had finally measured up to the big boys." That she had sufficient time on Death Row to find God and become saved in Christ is commendable, but has no bearing on her sentence.

The ‘anti-capital punishment’ movement (Amnesia International... err... I mean Amnesty International, Innocence Project, Grassroots Investigation Project, etc.) is eager to talk about those already executed (Drew and Tucker). They quote "last words" and describe the executions in morbid detail. They present the bare bones of cases, give detailed reports of "inaccuracies" and "mistakes" in trials. Curiously, they provide no resource material on investigations, no trial testimony, no evidentiary material, nor any information relating to the laws pertaining to capital murder charges. In short, they tell moving stories of redemption or persecution, but leave out any information useful in coming to an educated opinion on the issue.
Typical of the ‘anti-capital punishment’ crowd are the specious claims of hundreds of innocents executed.

"A review of death penalty judgements over a 23-year period found a national error rate of 68%," says the ACLU Death Penalty Campaign statement. Reg Brown of the Florida governor’s office noted "The ‘study’ defines ‘error’ to include any issue requiring further review by a lower court.... Using the authors’ misleading definition, the ‘study’ does, however, conclude that 64 Florida post-conviction cases were rife with ‘error’ -- even though none of these Florida cases was ultimately resolved by a ‘not guilty’ verdict, a pardon or a dismissal of murder charges...[and]...the nearly 40 death penalty convictions that were reversed by the California Supreme Court during the tenure of liberal activist Rose Bird are treated as ‘error cases’ when in fact ideological bias was arguably at work." Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Paul G. Cassell observed that "after reviewing 23 years of capital sentences, the study’s authors (like other researchers) were unable to find a single case in which an innocent person was executed. Thus, the most important error rate -- the rate of mistaken executions -- is zero."

On Friday, Mar. 25, 2005, Good Morning America’s Charles Gibson played a phone interview with Jack Kevorkian who spoke from his Michigan prison, where he lives on death row. The good doctor had this to say about the Terri Schiavo issue: "What bothers me is the bit of hypocrisy in this. When the President and the Congress get involved because all life is sacred and must be preserved at all cost, they don't say the same thing about men in a death row cell. Their life is just as sacred." Mr. Kraft claims Bush has a disconnect between "an eye for an eye," and "turn the other cheek," but both Mr. Kraft and Dr. Kevorkian are confused about Christianity. Jesus was not trying to delete the Law of the Old Testament: "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them, but to complete them." (Matthew 5:17) Truly, "scripture says, vengeance is mine," but Paul goes on to say "if you do wrong, then you may well be afraid; because it is not for nothing that the symbol of authority is the sword: it is there to serve God, too, as his avenger, to bring retribution to wrongdoers." (Romans 13:4) Now, I’m not a Biblical scholar, but what I’ve read suggests that the word ‘authority’ means the State and the interpretation of the sword as the symbol which is more than just symbolic clearly indicates a death penalty. Likewise, "give unto Caesar" means more than just taxes.

That anyone would compare Kevorkian, Drew, or Tucker to Terri Schiavo is simply the basest of moral relativism. It is similar to trying to co-opt "Right-to-Lifers" with opposing abortion while supporting the death penalty. Only a moral reprobate would compare an innocent life with a convicted felon, murderer, or rapist.

George W. Bush’s "culture of life" shines in all the things that Mr. Kraft hates about him. "When he decided to unnecessarily invade Iraq, resulting in the death of perhaps 100,000 people," Bush ended a tyrannical rule where a 12-year-old boy named Taimour was shot several times before being bulldozed into a mass grave. He was one of a very few who survived an estimated 180,000 Kurdish deaths in the Anfal massacres. It was Bush’s "culture of life" that rescued Ibrahim, an activist opposed to the Ba’ath Party, who escaped while 13 of his group were murdered, two of them died under torture. Bush’s "culture of life" shut down numerous torture chambers and rape rooms into which hundreds of thousands disappeared screaming in the night. (For those interested see http://www.c-span.org/resources/pdf/hrdossier.pdf which is a British report on Saddam’s human rights abuses.) As to "unnecessarily" invading, I would point out the violations of 16 United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the binding cease-fire agreement at the end of the First Gulf War. Of note also is the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 signed into law by Bill Clinton. These arguments of "unnecessary" and "illegal" war are fraudulent.

Mr. Kraft questions "the ‘culture of life’ among ‘conservatives’ when they threaten the lives of Howard Dean, Jim Jeffords, and now Judge George Greer," but for the life of me, while I won’t argue it may have happened, I can’t find any stories about it. Be that as it may, let’s take it as read that it happened, I ask: so what? High-profile figures like these regularly receive threats and the incidence of threat becoming act approaches zero. I find it notable that Mr. Kraft avoids mentioning the outrageous physical attacks on ‘conservatives’ that are not threatened but are actually occurring. William Kristol at Earlham College, Pat Buchanan at Western Michigan University, and Ann Coulter, among others just this year. According to Sun-Times columnist, Richard Roeper, "about 90 percent of pie attacks are launched by liberals against conservatives." Of course, a "pie attack" is not on a par with a death threat, however, as Earlham student journalist, Thomas Lifson, points out, "pie-throwing is a violent assault, capable of damaging the eyes...designed to intimidate speakers out of accepting speaking engagements...a crime against civil society," intended to stifle one’s freedom of speech. So much for the Left’s respect for free speech.

After all this, I have one simple question for Mr. Kraft and others who share his opinions: what is your "culture of life" and where is your sense of decency?