Thursday, January 31, 2002
Well, the General Accounting Office, the investigative agency of Congress, has announced that it will sue Vice President Dick Cheney to force him to turn over information about his energy task force. Usually I'm all for transparent government, but I think this is going a little too far. There's no accusation of wrongdoing that has any substance behind it, merely allegations from the regular opposition quarters.
What's interesting is why the GAO is suing now, when just a year ago it was stonewalled by the Clinton Administration and did nothing. National Review Online's Byron York looks into the details here.
The Washington Post's Sally Quinn has a great op-ed column in today's paper regarding kidnapping and the German court system. Americans, or any non-Germans for that matter, who marry a German national and then divorce or separate, risk having their German partner return to Germany and never see their children again. Quinn barely touches on the real issues behind the story in her short article. Under international treaty, signed by both the U.S. and Germany, custody arrangements and rulings made in the country where the children reside are binding. Thus, when a German flees the U.S. with his/her children, the courts there should return them to the U.S., but that's not what happens.
The CBS news magazine "60 Minutes" did an excellent piece on this subject a few years ago, but nothing has changed.
Here is what is happening: Germans who marry and divorce Americans take their children back to Germany. Then, in a scenario worthy of Kafka, the American parent is deprived of any custody or visitation rights. After several years, the children don't know or remember their other parent. The courts then decree that the children don't want to see that parent and would be traumatized by any visit. The courts also bill the American parents for child support. If these parents refuse to pay, and still try to see their children any way they can (say, from a parked car across the street from the house), they are thrown in jail for nonpayment.
This is happening in Germany not only to American parents but also to any parent who is not a German national.
This week German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer denounced the United States for its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, demanding that it adhere to the Geneva Convention. How ironic that he cares so little about the rights of kidnapped children and their parents from foreign countries. If ever there was a human rights violation, these kidnappings are it. One might even call them acts of terrorism.
The horror stories are legion. Here are just a few:
Joseph Cooke married a German woman. She stole his children, went back to Germany, had a nervous breakdown and put the children in foster care. The German government thinks it is better to have the children in German foster care than living with their non-German natural father. After years of fighting and thousands of dollars, Cooke still has no visitation rights, and his children regard him as a stranger.
The children of Catherine Meyer -- now the wife of Britain's ambassador to the United States -- were abducted in 1994. She has seen them for only a matter of hours since then, despite many trips to Germany and thousands of dollars in legal fees. A recent German court ruling denies her visitation rights before 2003, at which time it will be argued that her children would be traumatized by any contact.
Two recent cases are chilling. U.S. Army Maj. Andrew G. Andris, now serving in Germany, divorced his German wife seven years ago. He is now married to a British army sergeant, also serving in Germany. He has seen his children by his first marriage for one hour in the past seven years. Last week he was arrested at the Frankfurt airport and put in the maximum security prison in Weiterstadt as a "deadbeat dad." This was only one incident in a long history of harassment against him for trying to see his children.
In the other case, an American father from Texas whose son had been abducted by the German mother became so distraught he killed himself on Jan. 10.
I'm calling a spade a spade: The German courts who are defying an international treaty to which Germany is a signatory are racists. That's the only reasonable explanation behind the bizarre justification that children seeing their non-German parents would be too traumatic.
Just finished reading the State of the Union address and Rep. Dick Gephardt's (D-Mo.) response. They were both well done and, for all appearances, set a less-partisan tone in Washington. Of course, Gephardt isn't in a position to be an obstructionist like Sen. Tom Daschle is.
My only quibble with either speech was Gephardt's apparent refusal to make any changes in Social Security. He referred to the proposed partial-privatization as "gambling in the stock market." Fine. Then let us take that 1/3 of our Social Security tax and put it in certificates of deposit, or some savings account. A 2 percent return on investment is far better than what Gen-Xers would get from Social Security.
Wednesday, January 30, 2002
One thing I did get to see early this morning when I returned home from work was a little item on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein apparently visited the infamous Camp X-Ray and revealed how the facilities there were better than those at some California prisons, notably San Quentin. The senator said that if she had a choice, she would pick Camp X-Ray.
Also along that note, it seems that the U.S. may have gotten the Brits to quit their whining about the conditions at Camp X-Ray and at its sister facility in Afghanistan. It seems that, in addition to the three currently at X-Ray, there are approximately 100 more British citizens under lock and key in Afghanistan who were fighting on al Qaeda's side. U.S. officials reportedly offered to just ship all 100+ of them back to Britain and let them worry about it.
The Brits started screaming about how much of a danger they were and they didn't have secure facilities to house them in, etc. Anyway, there should be a little less whining coming from the other side of the pond.
Finally, Toby Harden reports on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page about his visit to Gitmo.
Brutalized? I have seen the inmates resting or chatting to their neighbors from cages big enough to do jumping jacks in. They are receiving hot showers, halal meals, Apple Jacks, Froot Loops and Granola Bars.
Tortured? Far from inflicting wounds, the U.S. military is healing them. There are 161 medical staff treating the detainees. I have talked to surgeons who told me that hardened fighters suffering from shrapnel and bullet wounds had thanked them after being operated on.
Humiliated? Korans have been distributed and I have witnessed a Muslim chaplain arriving to lead the predawn call to prayer. Guards are so anxious that the detainees might suffer the indignity of defecating in public that they have devised a hand-signal system. "Who would want to do the Number Two in a bucket?" asked Staff Sgt. Monte Webster, a military policeman from Baltimore. "So they hold up the Number Two and we get to them as fast as we can and take them to the bathroom."
To quote Dr. Evil: "Zip it!"
After working late Tuesday night and then having to be in at work Wednesday morning, well I haven't had time to check out the State of the Union address. Unless C-SPAN is showing it when I get home late tonight, I'll have to go with the written version. A critique of both Bush's address and Rep. Dick Gephardt's response will be forthcoming.
Tuesday, January 29, 2002
The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" includes an item from The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, which happens to be the place where I had my first-ever interview for a newspaper job. I'm reprinting the item here in full, because it's very scary.
The Clinton Legacy
The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, Calif., publishes an appalling op-ed piece by one Lindsay Llarena, a 13-year-old girl. Some background: Earlier this month, Blaine Trimble, a former policeman who served as a "resource officer" at Indio High School, pleaded guilty to "two counts of consensual digital penetration with a minor," according to a Jan. 8 Associated Press dispatch. The sexual encounters involved a 17-year-old girl and took place on school grounds.
When he's sentenced Feb. 6, two counts of "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" will be dismissed. Trimble's expected sentence: probation, community service and counseling. Young Lindsay's article is a response to an earlier column, by Cindy Uken, arguing that the sentence was too mild. Lindsay blames the girl for Trimble's actions:
The girl should've known not to do this, unless she wasn't brought up to know right from wrong. . . . Blaine is a very kind man and is a person who wouldn't parade around school looking for innocent minors. . . .
Also, he probably did care when he was getting his "jollies." Blaine needed to have the girl's trust to have a sexual relationship with her. . . .
Everybody makes mistakes, nobody's perfect, and there is no perfect world.
Look at Bill Clinton. He was an honorable person. He ran our country, and he had an affair. He didn't even get a punishment, and his authority ranked above police officers.
We can't blame Lindsay for her moral slovenliness. After all, it takes a village.
The only thing that scares me more than this teenage girl is her parents.
Tony Auth has a great cartoon which points out how stupid it is to insist that the captured al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists be classified as Prisoners of War under the Geneva Convention.
Conservative commentator and talk-show host Laura Ingraham chastises China for its human-rights record. Take a look at it here.
It appears as though the Democrats may want to rethink their attempts to tie President Bush and his administration to the Enron failure. The Drudge Report is reporting that Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, helped by Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick, turned a $100,000 investment into $18 million. (Refrains of Hillary Clinton's foray into the commodities market spring to mind.)
Why is this little revelation important? Because yesterday Global Crossing declared bankruptcy.
Republicans shouldn't rejoice at this news. Former President George H. W. Bush also took Global Crossing stock, in lieu of a $80,000 honorarium for a speech he gave several years ago.
Segueing to media bias, The New York Times' report on Global Crossing's collapse contains the following:
The company had attracted many notable business and political figures as investors, including Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who profited by selling Global Crossing stock before it declined.
Another early investor was former President George Bush, who accepted stock in lieu of an $80,000 fee for speaking to Global Crossing customers in Tokyo in 1999, although it is not known whether Mr. Bush sold his stock. Other investors included the Tisch family of New York and Lodwrick Cook, the retired chairman of ARCO and a big Republican Party fund-raiser.
So, the Times mentions McAuliffe, but the only money figure is Bush 41's. Other names tossed out appear to be Republicans.
Maybe the Times just didn't have the information on McAuliffe. I'll be watching to see if they see fit to report the depth of McAuliffe's connection to the failed company.
The effort to link the Bush Administration continues, this time in a witty, but stupid column by the Washington Post's Richard Cohen entitled "Enronomics Explained."
The principle that the government can and should run a deficit to stimulate a sick economy was first propounded by John Maynard Keynes. This is called Keynesian Economics. The principle that the government can and should run a deficit when it does not have to was developed by George W. Bush. This is called Enronian Economics.
This is called a load of horse manure. What Cohen wants is to rollback the scheduled tax cuts. This alone will apparently cause the budget deficits to disappear. Not rolling the tax cuts back will apparently be the sole reason that deficits persist. Let's just ignore the general economic outlook or Congress' propensity to spend any money that finds its way to Washington on unnecessary programs, and even a lot of money that never made its way to Washington.
And so, as luck would have it, is the president's tax plan. He has managed, in a way that would make Kenny Boy green with envy, to make a projected $4 trillion budget surplus disappear. In this case, the money has not been parked in some offshore tax haven. Nosiree. Bush did it by giving tax breaks to the rich and the poor alike over a 10-year period.
Well, at least he admits that the poor get some tax breaks too.
The Washington Post is running a great series on how the President responded to the terrorist attacks in the days following Sept. 11. It's an eight-part series and the third part is out today. It's on their front page, so head on over and take a look. The link is at the left.
Monday, January 28, 2002
The Chinese man who faced a possible death sentence for smuggling Bibles into China has been sentenced to two years in prison. He may end up being freed right before President Bush visits China next month. The man, Li Guangqiang, has already served 18 months.
The truth is that he should never have been arrested in the first place. China has signed all sorts of treaties in recent years, including those pledging to allow people religious freedom, in an effort to gain acceptance in the international community. Of course, then they turn around and violate the treaties, and there is no outrage from democratic governments. European governments raise a ruckus because they think we are treating terrorists in a less than cushy fashion, but say nothing when a Christian is jailed for smuggling Bibles. Why? Because there's 1 billion Chinese that we'd like to buy our products.
Well, they can buy all of our products, except the Bibles.
Sunday, January 27, 2002
Well, I usually read Ann Landers and Dear Abby daily for a good laugh. A vast majority of the people who write in for advice lack the common sense God gave most people, it's amusing, but it's also good that there's someone with a lot of horse sense available for the wisdom-challenged.
Ann and I disagree on some things. We disagree on whether or not homosexuality is "just the way some people are born." And she is much more dismissive of the people who believe that homosexuality is morally wrong than she should be.
In today's column, Ann prints a letter from two judges and a lawyer offering suggestions to ensure that defendants facing the death penalty have fair and competent representation, in addition to ample opportunities to present evidence that could exonerate them. I agree with most of the recommendations, the exception being the call to bar the execution of people who committed the crime while they were juveniles.
But in her response, Ann lies and begins to go off the stupid end. It's infuriating, lazy and inane.
Your letter is one of the most important that has ever appeared in this space. It could save lives.
I am strictly opposed to the death penalty, no matter how heinous the crime. Unfortunately, 10 or 20 years after an execution, a confession often emerges from a criminal who is conscience-stricken or terminally ill. Alas – too late. However, even those who favor the death penalty should support your recommendations. They are compassionate and sensible.
A confession often emerges 10 or 20 years after an execution? I'm writing a letter to Ann challenging her to name ONE time that's happened. She's got tons of resources, assistants and gophers. I want the name of ONE person who's been executed in the U.S. in the last 30 years who was innocent of the crime for which they were convicted.
The truth is she will not be able to come up with a case. If there was such a case, every time the death penalty was debated, opponents would bring up the name of "John Doe" who was wrongly executed by the state. Opponents don't have someone like that to point to, so instead they point to the people spent many years on death row and then were freed after new evidence came to light. While it is unfortunate that wrongful convictions occur, the fact that the person's innocence is discovered and they are freed is proof that our system of justice works. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: It's the worst system there is, except for all of the others.
Well, I know how to program a VCR...I just can't seem to do it right. After spending the evening marking my friend Laura Little's imminent achievement of the quarter-century mark, I came home to watch the SDSU vs. UNLV mens basketball game. Which I had taped -- or so I believed. Turns out, instead of setting the recording for 2 1/2 hours, I set it for 1 1/2 hours. That was just long enough to see the Aztecs stink the place up, and not for their comeback to force OT.
They lost in the end anyway....so no big tragedy.
Saturday, January 26, 2002
Margaret Carlson is either lazy or a liar. On CNN's "Capitol Gang" the Time magazine columnist made the outrageous claim that, though Enron did not get bailed out, they got everything they wanted up to that point.
A few minutes later Robert Novak corrected her.
If you missed it, I already went through what Enron didn't get.
An article in today's Washington Post says that Secretary of State Colin Powell is urging the president to classify the captured Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners as "prisoners of war."
The al Qaeda and Taliban fighters that are being held in Afghanistan and Camp X-Ray are currently classified (accurately) as "unlawful combatants." They earned this classification for three reasons: They wear no identifying uniform; they hide in the civilian population; they deliberately target civilians. All of these things are prohibited under the Geneva Convention. But our "allies" in Europe and the far left of American politics.
To say that changing their classification is a bad idea is a gross understatement.
As prisoners of war, the prisoners are only required to reveal their name, rank, serial number and date of birth. As prisoners of war, they are repatriated after hostilities cease. These are dangerous to the security of Americans everywhere. We need to know what they know about future terrorist attacks, their fellow terrorists and we certainly can't let them go free.
The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer lays out an excellent defense for the way we are treating the prisoners. You can read it here.
Degrading the language: On Foxnews this morning, a former Enron employee/investor claimed that she was a victim of "corporate terrorism." Let's reserve the use of the term terrorism for acts that physically maim or kill people. Tacking terrorism onto the Enron failure is silly.
Also, let's please not use Enron as a verb.
Friday, January 25, 2002
In an op-ed piece in the New York Post, the American Enterprise Institute's John R. Lott takes aim at the major media and their treatment of guns.
At last week's shooting at the Appalachian Law School, the shooter was subdued by students after killing the dean of the law school and two other people.
What is so remarkable is that out of 280 separate news stories (from a computerized Nexis-Lexis search) in the week after the event, just four stories mentioned that the students who stopped the attack had guns.
Only two local newspapers (the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Charlotte Observer) mentioned that the students actually pointed their guns at the attacker.
Much more typical was the scenario described by the Washington Post, where the heroes had simply "helped subdue" the killer. The New York Times noted only that the attacker was "tackled by fellow students."
Most in the media who discussed how the attack was stopped said: "students overpowered a gunman," "students ended the rampage by tackling him," "the gunman was tackled by four male students before being arrested," or "Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, who dropped his weapon."
In all, 72, stories described how the attacker was stopped without mentioning that the student heroes had guns.
I remember that the gunman was stopped by students who had guns, but I also remember only hearing or reading that in one place. I don't remember where that was. It's troubling that a very important fact was left out of so many news stories, and the national discussion of gun control that it might have sparked never occurred.
*UPDATE* While getting my hair cut Saturday morning I had an opportunity to look at People magazine. Its report on the law school story also neglected to mention that the students who subdued the shooter had guns.
It's a little bit like deciding whether or not to give your kid sister a ride to the movies. I mean, you're going to go anyway, but do you really want to have that annoying, whining little brat with you?
Well, the U.S. has the same problem. The kid sister is Canada, and the movies is Afghanistan. It seems that 750 Canadian soldiers are supposed to go to Afghanistan as part of the United States' war on terror. The only problem is that they don't have any planes big enough to get them there.
The Canadian military is still waiting to see whether the U.S. will be able to send some of its planes to pick up Canadian troops and fly them to Afghanistan.
The problem is the U.S. is already flying in its own soldiers.
Canada is looking at renting a civilian cargo plane to transport the troops and their equipment. But so far, it's been unable to find anything suitable.
Maybe if they'll quit their complaining about how we run the war and the terrorists on Gitmo, we might give them a ride.
Well, it's been called the Anti-Christian Liberal Union, but the ACLU had really outdone itself this time. Foxnews reported on its Web site earlier this week that the ACLU has said it would file a lawsuit against the mayor of Inglis, Fla. (population 1,400) if a proclamation banning Satan from the town limits isn't removed from posts at the town's limits.
"We have constitutional protections against the establishment of religions," ACLU attorney Gary S. Edinger said. "When it is not followed, and in fact rubbed in the nose of the public, it becomes a little more important."
A few things to note:
1. The proclamation was issued on Halloween.
2. There is no evidence that Satan is actually abiding by the proclamation.
3. Does the ACLU have permission to represent Satan?
4. If it doesn't, does this mean that the ACLU is Satan?
Thursday, January 24, 2002
Good news on a story I told you about earlier.
The Pentagon has finally relented on its silly dress code for women troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Seven years after the Air Force's top-ranked female fighter pilot began a one-woman crusade, the Defense Department yesterday dropped its requirement that female military personnel in Saudi Arabia put on black, head-to-toe gowns when leaving their base.
The action comes at a time when some congressional leaders are questioning whether the United States should withdraw its military forces from the kingdom. Saudi officials are reportedly considering whether American troops should leave.
Lt. Col. Martha McSally had sued Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over the dress code. She contended that the policy on abayas, a form of head-to-toe gown similar to the burqa worn by many women in Afghanistan, discriminates against women and violates their religious freedom by forcing them to adopt the garb of another faith.
McSally also is fighting regulations that prohibit the nearly 1,000 military women stationed in Saudi Arabia from driving, sitting in the front seat of vehicles and leaving base except in the company of men. Those restrictions apparently remain.
I think that the rest of the "culturally sensitive" regulations should be thrown out the window too. Hopefully, that is going to happen soon.
I'm listening to my recording of Alan Keyes new show. It's not the greatest, but it certainly shows promise. As I've said before, Keyes is probably one of the best speakers in America today. I must admit that I was amused by Keyes segment tonight where he talks with "ordinary people, just like you." He had several students on and he wasn't so much listening to them, but challenging them to think logically.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, USA Today ran a half-page article highlighting the fact that there is currently not a single black or hispanic governor or senator. CNN's Jeff Greenfield followed on Tuesday night with the following:
1982, Tom Bradley running for governor of California. Ahead in the polls on election day, loses. 1989, Doug Wilder, big lead in the polls in Virginia. You know this barely squeaks by. A year later, Harvey Ganton, North Carolina, five, six points ahead of Jesse Helms in the polls, loses by five points.
What this seems to suggest is that there still is, or least those 10 years ago, a chunk of white voters who simply will not acknowledge that they don't intend to vote for the black candidates. Still true?
While it is certainly true that some whites will never vote for a black candidate, I think that the same can be said about just about any race. There are white racists. There are black racists.
Greenfield uses polls in an effort to illustrate racism. I think that is a big mistake, because there is a much simpler explanation: the polls were inaccurate. Each of illustrations occurred more than five years ago. Just over 1 year ago, every single poll but one had George W. Bush leading in the days before the election. Al Gore ended up winning the popular vote handily. Occam's Razor, Jeff. Look it up.
If blacks are having a hard time winning a statewide election, I like John J. Miller of the National Review's explanation. Miller posits that the creation gerrymandered districts to maximize the influence of a specific racial group has the effect of promoting politicians on the extremes.
Kiely makes it seem that if there were only more gerrymandering, there would be a better "farm team" of minority officeholders who might then advance as senators and governors. But this is exactly wrong. What gerrymandering has done is create a generation of Bobby Rushes and Maxine Waters — radical-left politicians who have no ability or even desire to build multiracial voting coalitions that can succeed at the statewide level.
And that's the most important — and unstated — reason why there weren't any black or Hispanic faces illustrating yesterday's cover story in USA Today.
Tuesday, January 22, 2002
In today's "Best of the Web Today" at the Wall Street Journal's Web site reports that my least favorite attorney, Alan Dershowitz, has come out for allowing the torture of terror suspects. In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Dershowitz proposes:
The suspect would be given immunity from prosecution based on information elicited by the torture. The warrant would limit the torture to nonlethal means, such as sterile needles, being inserted beneath the nails to cause excruciating pain without endangering life.
I'm not sure where I come down on the subject of torture, but I'm inclined to be against it, for the simple reason that Dershowitz is for it.
Oh, the Wall Street Journal item on this is headlined: "If only we had ways of making him not talk."
It didn't take long, The New York Times has come out with the curious conclusion that the Enron debacle will provide a new impetus for the passage of campaign-finance reform. Thankfully, this wouldn't be the first time that the Times' page was wrong.
First off, let's recount what happened. As Moody's was pondering whether or not to downgrade Enron's credit rating, Enron CEO Kenneth Lay made calls to the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department, asking them to intervene on the company's behalf. Both Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans declined, despite the fact that Enron and its officers had contributed thousands of dollars to President George W. Bush's campaign.
They contributed a lot of money and got....nothing in return for it. No one lifted a finger. Campaign-finance reform is based on the premise that politicians will put the interests of big-money donors ahead of those of their constitutents. It presupposes that politicians are nothing more than a vending machine; put the money in and make your selection -- the politician delivers.
The Times acknowledges that Enron received no help, but the Bush Administration's inaction isn't enough to deter the Times from it's campaign-finance reform jihad.
Aides to President Bush assert that since no one in the administration seems to have tried to rescue Enron, Enron's campaign money cannot be an issue. That is nonsense. In the last election cycle, Enron was one of the nation's biggest donors. The company and its executives doled out $2.4 million, more than two-thirds of it in unregulated soft money. What the administration fails to see is that, as Representative Christopher Shays points out, campaign money is given to obtain two things, influence and access. Enron clearly got what it paid for. Its executives were able to get through on the phone to virtually everyone they wanted.
So, Enron didn't get influence, but it got access because of its money. Though it would be difficult to prove, because large corporations give money to both Republicans and Democrats, I doubt that Enron CEO Lay got to talk to O'Neill and Evans due to the contributions he made to the Bush/Cheney campaign. I doubt that those offices keep a database listing of big donors and reference it whenever a call comes in.
"Hello, Secretary O'Neill's office. Who, may I ask, is calling? Mr. Lay, let me look you up in our database. You contributed $100,000. You have two calls remaining. One moment, please."
No, Lay didn't get through because of his connections, he got through because he was the chairman of the seventh-largest corporation in the country. The owner of Joe's Marketplace on 5th Street wouldn't get the same consideration, but Enron employed tens of thousands of people. I would expect the heads of companies like Microsoft, Ford and Boeing to be able to get through to people high up in the administration when they need to.
The Times acknowledges that Enron didn't get what it wanted when it came to its very survival, but maybe it got something from the Administration anyway.
Although Enron did not get everything it wanted from Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, the administration's regulatory policies were tailored to Enron's specifications. Last year's economic stimulus bill contained a tax break estimated at $250 million for the company.
Well, what specifically did Enron not get that it wanted? It didn't get the Bush administration to sign on to the Kyoto Global Warming accord. Enron wanted the adminstration to sign the treaty that would have been an incredible burden on the U.S. economy because Enron wanted to create a market for trading carbon dioxide reduction credits. It saw a new market for its business. However, what was good for Enron in Kyoto was not good for the United States. When Enron got things it asked for it got them not because they were good for the company, but because the administration believed it was good for the country.
The Times goes on to attack House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for being in the pocket of companies like Enron when the time to vote on campaign-finance reform comes.
Tom DeLay is practically Mr. Enron in Congress. His Texas district is near the company's headquarters. He has raised money from Enron for himself, the Republican Party and advocate groups, in return backing energy deregulation, the company's favorite issue.
Maybe the Times hasn't thought of this, but maybe the reason why DeLay supports energy deregulation is because he supports the concept, not that he supports it because of the money from Enron. Maybe Enron gave him money because they are like-minded on the issue.
All of Washington has been blackened by Enron's shameful conduct. Campaign finance reform is the path back to respectability.
All of Washington has been blackened? All of the evidence thus far is that Washington is unaffected by this scandal. Enron executives and Arthur Andersen auditors appear to be the criminals, not those politicians in Washington (for once). It's classic inside-the-beltway egotism that everything that happens in this country is somehow tied back to the government. These were big-money crooks, nothing more. Washington may want to look at rules and regulations that would prevent other companies from using Enron's creative accounting practices, but no one in government appears to blame for the fall of Enron.
If politicians in Washington want respect, they should behave like adults, avoid name-calling and demagoguery and be honest with the American people. Campaign finance reform is a mere fig leaf, and a transparent one at that.
There's reports out that we may have bugged a plane intended for use by Chinese President Jiang Zemin. I'm going to echo the statement made by Wall Street Journal columnist Tunku Varadarajan: "I'm glad our spooks are doing their job. And I hope that those 27 bugs were the ones the Chinese were meant to find. Especially the one in the toilet."
You can read the entire article here.
Zero-Tolerence Stupidity: I've never been impressed by the so-called zero-tolerance craze. Too often it takes common sense out of the equation, and just ends up being stupid. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the airlines have taken to confiscating toenail clippers in passengers carry-on bags. Sorry, but if someone tries to hijack a plane using toenail clippers, every single passenger would just whack them up-side the head...after they'd finished laughing. A toenail clipper is not a threat. More of a threat would be some women's inch-long fingernails...maybe they should have those trimmed before passengers are allowed on planes.
The latest case of stupidity is perpetrated by America West Airlines. Retired Gen. Joseph J. Foss was stopped and delayed for nearly an hour because he had the temerity to try to bring his Medal of Honor onto the aircraft. Yep, that's right, Gen. Foss, 86, is one of approximately 150 living Americans who have been awarded the highest commedation the military can bestow. Foss was awarded the medal by FDR for shooting down 26 Japanese planes during WWII. Foss is also the former governor of South Dakota and a former commissioner of the old American Football League.
So, what does America West have to say about the incident?
Patty Nowack, spokeswoman for America West, said she could not respond to specific questions about the Foss case, as she cannot verify he flew on the airline. She could not say whether there would be any security concerns about a medal but that it would cause a metal detector to go off.
"Our primary objective is to ensure the safety and security of all passengers and employees. We're not trying to single out any individual," she said yesterday.
Lessee, an 86-year-old white guy with a MEDAL OF HONOR needs to be harassed. Let's bring some sanity back to this issue. Memo to airlines: Old, white guys aren't hijacking planes and flying them into buildings.
You can read the entire story here.
Monday, January 21, 2002
National Review's Larry Kudlow addresses the Enron failure -- and he's got it exactly right. This isn't about politics or campaign-finance reform -- it's about the law. The Enron and Arthur Andersen folks are crooks. Big-time crooks, but crooks nonetheless.
Jail 'em. All the Enron and Arthur Andersen principals, and then some. Why? To save our system of corporate governance, which used to be the best in the world. To save investor confidence. Maybe even to save our entire free-market system of capitalism.
Now, I'm a pro-business guy. I can't stand it when the Tom Daschles or Ted Kennedys of the world start bashing business or rich people. Business is the center of the American economy. You can't have jobs without healthy businesses. And business is what we do best in this country -- better than any other nation on the planet.
But the characters at Enron and Arthur Andersen are wrecking the very foundation of American business. Their shenanigans, chicanery, fraud, insider dealing, self-serving excuses, and hubris are undermining everything this free and democratic nation stands for.
You can read the rest of the article here.
I've never been particularly enamored of so-called human rights watchdogs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. They're havens for limousine liberals whose main concern is cop-killers like Mumia Abu Jamal, and not for truly oppressed, like Christians in Sudan, Indonesia and China.
An excellent article in today's Wall Street Journal echoes this complaint and further marginalizes what should be important work.
Afghans may have danced in the street and ripped off their burkhas when the war on terror liberated them from the Taliban. But judging from the latest survey by Human Rights Watch, the world might have been better off had the Taliban liberated Washington, D.C., instead.
We exaggerate only slightly. In its annual survey of rights around the world, released last week, Human Rights Watch devotes at least three times as much critical space to America as to any other country. And it treats the war on terror as a far greater threat to humanity than terrorism itself. Many of our liberal friends have been bragging that the blame-America-first left has vanished since September 11. Well, it's back, and running Human Rights Watch.
Start with the war in Afghanistan, where it says U.S. "conduct so far has not been auspicious." Apparently those dancing Afghans on TV were hallucinating. According to Human Rights Watch, all the war has accomplished is a return to "political fragmentation" and perhaps new oppression. Its report barely acknowledges America's role in removing the hated Taliban, except to criticize U.S. use of cluster bombs and to suggest that the small number of civilian casualties constitute "possible violations of international humanitarian law."
This is a moral slander against the U.S. military, which went to lengths unknown in history to avoid such casualties, including the insertion of special forces, at great personal risk, to direct laser-guided bombs.
And the hate-America screed just gets worse.
Saturday, January 19, 2002
Bernard Goldberg, author of the best-selling book Bias, strikes back in an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post. Both Michael Kinsley and Tom Shales had assailed Goldberg's work, using mainly ad hominem attacks. After presenting his liberal bona fides -- Goldberg voted for presidential candidate George McGovern -- Goldberg tackles the bias issue again. While trying to keep it relatively simple for the mentally challenged, like Kinsley and Shales.
I got interested in liberal bias not because of my conservative views but because what I saw happening violated my liberal sense of fair play. Why, I kept wondering, do we so often identify conservatives in our stories, yet rarely identify liberals? Over the years, I began to realize that this need to identify one side but not the other is a central component of liberal bias. There are right-wing Republicans and right-wing Christians and right-wing radio talk show hosts. The only time we journalists use the term "left-wing" is if we're talking about a part on an airplane.
During the impeachment proceedings a few years back, Peter Jennings was doing a live play-by-play on ABC as senators went up to sign the oath book, in which they promised they would be fair and impartial. He described Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as a "very determined conservative," Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as "one of the younger members of the Senate, Republican, very determined conservative," and Bob Smith of New Hampshire as "another very, very conservative Republican."
I have no problem with any of this. Viewers needed to know that these senators were conservative and that it might influence their votes. But Barbara Boxer was simply "Senator Boxer," Ted Kennedy just "Senator Kennedy," Paul Wellstone "Senator Wellstone." No liberal labels necessary. Did Peter Jennings, a first-rate, intelligent newsman, really think their liberalism would not affect their votes?
Read the whole article. It only takes a few minutes.
My crack about accounting firm Arthur Andersen and energy giant Enron's accounting practices being those heretofore used only by the federal government seems to have resonated.
I'm not saying that Cartoonist Tom Toles got his idea from me, but great minds do think alike.
So, China has found about 20 bugs on a plane built in the U.S. for President Jiang Zemin. Well, what do you expect? We just wanted to know how much money the Chinese would be demanding the next time one of their hot-shot pilots rams into one of our surveillance planes over international waters.
Friday, January 18, 2002
The Nation is the political left's answer to National Review...only a lot more stupid. In today's "Best of the Web Today" column, James Taranto points out an egregious mistake in the first sentence of an article trying to connect Bush to the Enron bankruptcy.
When George W. Bush co-owned the Houston Astros and construction began on a new stadium, Kenneth Lay agreed to spend $100 million over thirty years for rights to name the park after Enron.
Of course, Bush used to co-own the Texas Rangers, not the Houston Astros. How can you mix-up an AL and an NL team?
Anyway, if you go to the article now, they've fixed it -- kinda.
When George W. Bush co-owned the Texas Rangers and construction began on a new stadium, Kenneth Lay agreed to spend $100 million over thirty years for rights to name the park after Enron.
Like I said, they kinda fixed it. Enron field is the home of the Astros, not the Rangers. The Rangers play at the Ballpark at Arlington, which curiously, is one of the very few new ballparks in this country that has no corporate sponsor.
The Nation needs to cut the entire first sentence and start over again.
I know it may be hard to believe, but Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman is at it again. Waxman is leading the charge trying to find some way to tie the Enron bankruptcy to the Bush Administration. Thankfully, it doesn't appear to be working thus far, mainly because there's no evidence to support claims of preferential treatment.
But that's not stopping Waxman. Waxman commissioned a "report" detailing benefits which Enron gained from Bush's proposed energy policy. Ignore for a moment that Bush's energy plan has not been approved by either house of Congress. Also ignore that all of these "benefits" did little to prevent Enron from filing for bankruptcy.
If you can ignore all of that, then the report tries say that it wasn't really important anyway.
Even in areas where Enron did not get every policy it advocated, the White House energy plan is helpful to the company. In the area of global warming, for example, the plan does not support the mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions sought by Enron. But the plan does direct federal agencies to identify “market mechanisms” to address global warming, which would help develop the type of market in carbon credits sought by Enron.
Enron didn't get what it wanted, but it still got something that benefited it. Waxman is focusing on Enron because it went bankrupt. But this report is next to meaningless. Waxman has found 17 policies that benefited Enron. Well, let's look at all the other energy companies out there. Would they too have benefited from some of the proposals? Yes. Would the American people have benefited from the new policies? Hopefully so, but you can never tell with politicians, Republican or Democrat.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the report a waste of taxpayer money. Well, that's what Washington is there for. I would've hoped, with all of the money spent on the report, you'd have thought they could write a better conclusion.
The White House energy plan is intended to be “a national energy policy designed to help the private sector, and as necessary and appropriate, State and local governments, promote dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for the future.” In large part, however, the plan contains policies recommended by Enron. There are at least 17 separate policies in the White House energy plan track policies that were supported by and would benefit Enron. These policies include a large number of proposals to deregulate the electric utility industry, as well as proposals that promote trading in energy derivatives and open federal lands to natural gas drilling. The White House energy plan even contains proposals that would assist Enron operations in foreign countries such as India.
The last sentence is hilarious, when you realize that it was the Clinton Administration that helped Enron with building a power plant in India. Shortly after the plant was completed, the Democratic Party got a $100,000 donation from Enron. If Waxman's looking for a quid pro quo maybe he ought to be investigating the Clinton Administration, which he spent so much time defending.
Wednesday, January 16, 2002
The Wall Street Journal's John Fund takes on the issue of greed and history in a column in today's paper. The family of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. have held tight to the rights to his speeches and words, to the detriment of history and education. Anyone attempting to use the late Dr. King's words to educate or inspire have found themselves faced with King's family with a hand out.
Hosea Williams, who in 1968 stood with Dr. King on the motel balcony where he was shot, told the Ottawa Citizen that the profiteering has sullied the King message of humility. "It wasn't white racists, nor was it the white government that did it; the people who killed King's dream are those closest to him, and that's the nightmare," he said.
King's family should allow his words to be freely used when it comes to historical projects, such as documentaries, textbooks and newspaper articles. It is perfectly OK to demand payment when they are used for commercial endeavors, such as recent commercials for Cingular Wireless that contained a portion of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. But to charge for educational and historical uses is an insult to King's memory.
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
Well, I saw a television commercial for the upcoming movie "A Walk to Remember," based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. The TV spot concerned me, so I went onto the Internet looking for the longer trailer. I found it here. You can watch it yourself, but after reading the novel, I'm afraid that Hollywood has gone and royally screwed up the movie.
The central theme of the book, is Jamie's faith and her relationship with God. In the book, Jamie is mocked and ridiculed at school because she is always carrying around a tattered, old Bible. In the trailer for the film, she appears to be carrying around astronomy charts.
I'll go out to see the film when it comes out, but I have this feeling of dread. Hollywood has taken a great movie about God, the power of prayer and love and turned it into just another teen movie without the moral underpinnings of the novel. What made the novel great and so popular was Jamie's Christian faith. That appears to be gone, and without it the movie is going to be one big disappointment.
Comedian Larry Miller, who had roles in "10 Things I Hate About You" and other films wrote a column for the Weekly Standard. It's a funny take on New Year's resolutions in a post-9/11 world.
SO HERE'S what I resolve for the new year: To never forget our murdered brothers and sisters. To never let the relativists get away with their immoral thinking. After all, no matter what your daughter's political science professor says, we didn't start this. Have you seen that bumper sticker that says, "No More Hiroshimas"? I wish I had one that says, "You First. No More Pearl Harbors."
I haven't seen the "No More Hiroshimas" bumper sticker. But I think I'd have the same response as Miller.
Secretary of State Colin Powell asked Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for an explanation for the 50 tons of arms that Israel interdicted en route to the Palestinian Authority. Readers of the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" wrote in with excuses for Arafat.
Michael Flynn: "It was all part of my plan to clamp down on terrorists. See, it works like this. I get all the weapons in Gaza. I hand them out to whoever wants them. If they use them, bingo, we know they're a terrorist and we can round them up. It was perfect."
It's a great read for anyone interested.
Leave it to the Washington Post's Richard Cohen to apparently play both sides of the street. In an article in today's Post, Cohen tackles the Enron collapse, calling it "a (expletive deleted) outrage." This case most definitely is that. Of course, Cohen is a learned man and a highly-paid, highly-talented columnist, so he should have been able to come up with something better than "(expletive deleted)."
It does not matter that Bob Rubin called Treasury about Enron. He is the chairman of Citigroup's executive committee, and Citigroup had lent Enron at least $750 million. Rubin was merely doing his job -- as was the Treasury official who said thanks for calling. It does not matter that various Enron officials called the White House or some Cabinet department and warned that the company was about to tank. This, after all, was going to be the largest bankruptcy in American history and might have what economists call "macro" consequences. The Great Depression, for instance, was very macro.
No, this is not a political scandal.
Actually, Rubin's call to the Treasury Department on behalf of his new employer, Citigroup, asking Treasury to do something to help prop up Enron's bond rating, probably is the most scandalous thing involving the federal government. The claim that Rubin was just doing his job is bogus. I'm sure Citigroup had other highly-paid employees who are not former treasury secretaries who could've made the call. And, being a former treasury secretary, Rubin should've known that making the call was the wrong thing to do.
So, after saying that the Enron collapse isn't a political scandal, what does Cohen try to do? He resorts to the old guilt-by-association argument.
The fact remains that these guys -- these pals of Bush and Cheney and others in the administration -- made money off a shell game.
Yeah...they were also pals of Clinton and Gore. Lay played golf with Clinton, and slept in the Lincoln Bedroom during Clinton's term. Why the throwaway line Mr. Cohen?
But I am here to tell you what you already know in your gut: This is not a political scandal. It is not another Whitewater, where you can't figure out what happened. We all know what happened. A bunch of bastards picked the pockets of their own employees. That's not a scandal. It's a blinkin' outrage.
Well, you've got that much right Mr. Cohen.
Monday, January 14, 2002
Kudos to Andrew Sullivan and OpinionJournal.com for highlighting the following evidence of the kind of unthinking liberal bias that Bernard Goldberg points out in his bestselling book.
Andrew Sullivan has been doing a brilliant job rebutting liberal media folks who pooh-pooh Bernard Goldberg's best-selling book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News." We particularly like this exchange, which Sullivan found in the Dec. 18 transcript of CNN's "Newsnight With Aaron Brown":
Brown: Some conservatives jumped on [John] Walker, saying he is a product of cultural liberalism--the California kind--helping to turn an impressionable kid against his own country.
Joining us from Salinas, California, one of those conservatives, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution. Mr. Steele wrote a provocative article the other day in The Wall Street Journal--a column in the Journal.
And here in New York, a columnist who thinks Mr. Steele is making an awfully broad generalization. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. It's nice to have both of you here. Mr. Steele.
Steele: First of all, let me interrupt you just a minute.
Steele: Is Richard Cohen a liberal?
Brown: Yeah, Richard Cohen's a liberal. I think he would say that, wouldn't he? . . .
Cohen: On this issue.
Brown: On this issue. OK. Everyone is now branded, I guess.
Steele: OK. Great.
Brown: Now let me try . . .
Steele: If I'm going to be, everybody is going to be.
Of course no one suggests Brown is deliberately being unfair, but this does seem to be an indisputable example of the kind of unthinking bias about which Goldberg writes.
Sunday, January 13, 2002
The guys running Enron are a bunch of white-collar crooks. They apparently used accounting principles heretofore limited to the U.S. government. Enron created a series of complex partnerships in order to keep billions of dollars in debt off their books.With these debts hidden, Enron was able to continue borrowing cash to run its trading business. According to Friday's Union-Tribune, company officials admitted that they had overstated their profits by $580 million since 1997.
Democrats are already readying their scandal machine -- despite the lack of any evidence of wrongdoing by the Bush administration -- the Democrats repeatedly refer to Enron Chairman Ken Lay's close relationship with Bush. Well, Lay had a close relationship with Bill Clinton too. The head of the nation's 7th-largest company is going to have access to powerful people, including whoever is in the oval office.
In the weeks and months before Enron declared bankruptcy, Lay contacted Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. Both of them refused to intervene on behalf of the company with bond analyst Moody's.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who would have been screaming bloody murder if it appeared as though Enron's campaign contributions had resulted in preferential treatment for the failing company, decided to scream bloody murder instead, because the company did not receive preferential treatment.
"The White House had knowledge that Enron was likely to collapse, but did nothing to try to protect innocent employees and shareholders who ultimately lost their life savings," Waxman said. " I am deeply troubled that the White House stood by and let this happen to thousands of families."
What was the White House supposed to do? What would Waxman have had them do?
On NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday Commerce Secretary Evans answered some of Waxman's spurious charges:
MR. RUSSERT: This is what Waxman’s concern is, however, in August, he says, that Ken Lay, he believes, sent this e-mail to all Enron employees: “I want to assure you that I have never felt better about the prospects for the company. ...Our performance has never been stronger; our business model has never been more robust; our growth has never been more certain. ...We have the finest organization in American business today.”
And during that time, 29 executives of Enron were taking out about a billion dollars over the last year, selling their stock. But the average guy was locked down and being told this in e-mails. So if the Bush administration is told in September, October, “We got some real problems. We need some help with the credit agency,” should the administration been more assertive in saying, “What about the little guy?”
SEC’Y EVANS: Well, you know, again, I mean, in terms of what we knew in September and October—I mean, I didn’t hear from Ken on this particular subject until October the 29, so at the very end of October. At that time, everything he told me was already in the public domain. The public knew about it. The shareholders knew about it. Wall Street knew about it. Yet, on Wall Street, 11, 12 research analysts still had a strong buy on Enron.
But let me go a little bit further, Tim. If I had of stepped in—and, again, I mean, I think it would have been an egregious abuse of the office of the secretary of commerce, the United States of America, for me to step in. I’m not confused about whose office that is. That office belongs to the people of America. It’s not my office. And I’m going to do everything I can to protect the integrity and the trust of that office. And my judgment was to protect the integrity of that office, not to step in. But if I had of stepped in, if I had of stepped in and made a call to Moody’s and in some way influenced some examiner’s opinion and he had decided at that point not to take the credit down, he had said, “Let’s leave it right where it is,” what do I say to the lady who bought the stock that day, that put her life savings into the stock that day, when it was $10 a share—I had played a role in stabilizing the stock for a week or two.
And guess what? Thirty days later they were bankrupt. What do I say to her?
Russert didn't answer Evans question, because it's not his place to. Someone needs to get Waxman on TV and ask him those questions.
Well, I just got back from my weekend up in Julian. A good time was had by all. Updates to Hoystory are en route.
Thursday, January 10, 2002
You can't necessarily tell how smart, or how talented a writer is by reading their book, essay or newpaper article. An individual who can barely put a complete sentence together can look like a genius with one simple thing -- an editor. When you're a young reporter looking for a job or looking to take the next step up in the rat race that is professional journalism, clips are your lifeblood. Editors always want to see clips, but they are also aware that a clip is really a combination of two things -- a reporter AND an editor. One of the dangers editors face when hiring a reporter is that the writer's gross incompetence may be masked by a talented editor.
Editors often save reporters from themselves -- here at Hoystory there is no editor, therefore there's no one to save me when I open my mouth and insert my foot. But I have edited many stories throughout my career and I have saved reporters from looking like total and complete idiots. My favorite was a reporter who started a story about killer bee infestations with the following line: "Don't pet that bee. It could be an Africanized killer bee." Yeah, who pets a bee in the first place?
Tom Shales is a movie critic for the Washington Post, one of the best newspapers in the country. The Washington Post has several movie critics. Stephen Hunter is my favorite, he is the author of several novels about Bob Swagger aka Bob the Nailer.
Shales, who should be condemned to watch "Showgirls" for the remainder of his life, recently tried his hand at a book review, specifically, Bernard Goldberg's Bias.
Shales' review is more in the nature of a childish rant. The review isn't posted on the Washington Post's Web site, probably because it's such a piece of drivel. I suspect that if Shales had submitted his piece to an editor (and maybe he did), it would have been thrown in a circular file. But reporters are a proud and arrogant bunch, so Shales found another forum.
Shales doesn't really address the substance of Goldberg's book, instead resorting to name-calling, including: "no-talent hack" and "full-time addlepated windbag."
While attacking Goldberg, Shales not only shows his hatred and bias of anyone who would dare claim that the major media leans left, he also shows his own ignorance of the way newspapers work.
Obviously hoping to follow in the footsteps of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, two intellectual giants by comparison, Goldberg has fashioned his rantings into a book succinctly titled "Bias," which, appropriately enough, won the dubious honor of a commendatory editorial from The Wall Street Journal. And we all know how unbiased those Journal editorials are. Gosh it is soooo hard to figure out where they're coming from.
Geez Shales, where did you go to J-school? EDITORIALS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO BE UNBIASED!
First up, Reuters "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom-figher" news service is making some news again.
Just a quick note on the terrorist/freedom-fighter issue. As my father, the first teacher of Hoystory, has pointed out, there can be some truth in that statement. During the Revolutionary War, British loyalists would likely have considered Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Roger Sherman and other revolutionary colonists terrorists for their attacks on British interests. Nowadays we consider them freedom fighters and patriots.
There is a difference, however. Freedom fighters, by definition, fight for freedom. Are Muslims oppressed in the U.S.? No. Is there anyone in the U.S. who doesn't have freedom? Criminals, yes. But they had it and lost it after due process of law.
Therefore, anyone attacking the United States by, say, flying an airliner into a skyscraper, is NOT A FREEDOM FIGHTER -- THEY ARE A TERRORST.
There is disturbing evidence that Reuters is not the unbiased, balanced, middle-of-the-road news service it presents itself to be. In a Thursday story regarding the seized arms ship with 50 tons of weapons destined for the Palestinian Authority, the following paragraph appeared:
(State Department Spokesman Richard) Boucher said the United States, which gives Israel about $2 billion a year in weaponry used to kill Palestinians, objected to the $100 million shipment to the Palestinians on the grounds that it contributed to the escalation of violence. (emphasis added)
The United States sells Israel weaponry to protect itself. This makes it sound like the American people are in some sort of conspiracy to wipe out the Palestinians. It's not the case, and that clause is a twisted, biased cheap shot. It is reflective of a radical Islamist mindset that the Great Satan and the Little Satan are plotting to wipe them out.
Reuters is just becoming more and more useless as an information source.
Well, my vacation has officially started. I'm not sure what that means as far as posting -- maybe more, maybe less. For now, I'm going to catch up on some posts I wanted to make earlier, but didn't have the time.
Phil Kloer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wins today's "Best lede" contest with this one:
Oh yeah, baby, give me the news. You are just sooo . . . credible.
The story is a good analysis of the whole CNN Paula Zahn promo flap.
Thinking about running a Super Bowl office pool? Well, you might want to think twice.
Manager of office football pool is arrested on gambling charges
SOUTH BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) … A middle manager with AT&T was arrested for running an office football pool in which he took a
10 percent cut of the action equal to nearly $3,000, authorities said.
Wayne Davis, 34, of New York City was charged with promoting gambling and could get up to five years in prison, though prosecutors said he is unlikely to do any jail time.
"Look, I do not consider Wayne Davis to be Public Enemy No. 1," prosecutor Ron Kercado said. "Nonetheless, he is in
violation of the statute."
Kercado said Davis ran afoul of the law when he took a 10 percent cut.
His lawyer, John Murphy, countered: "He's nothing other than a guy in the office who was asked to draw the grid for a
Wednesday, January 09, 2002
Blogger is apparently on the blink. I've got stuff to say...but you can't really complain too much about a free service.
Well, we have a new idiot of the day, the lawyer for Michael Lasseter. Lasseter made news when he ran through a security checkpoint to get a camera bag, resulting in the shutdown of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport for several hours. Thousands of airline passengers had to leave the terminal and be rescreened because of Lasseter's stupidity. Unfortunately the maximum fine is only $3,300.
So what does his lawyer have to say?
Lasseter's lawyer, Robert Lipman, said he was unaware of the fine, but questioned the FAA's right to impose the penalty.
"At this point I'm in between astonished and amused," Lipman said.
Well, at this point I'm in between astonished and amused that Lipman is astonished and amused.
Tuesday, January 08, 2002
There's a great op-ed piece in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal by Pete Du Pont on anti-missile defense.
As to cost, Mr. (Joe) Biden estimates that an antimissile defense system would have a price tag "well over $100 billion." To put that in perspective, the Sept. 11 attacks cost the economy maybe twice that. Recently 54 senators voted in support of a farm subsidy bill that would have added $75 billion to existing farm subsidy programs. In any case, to paraphrase humorist P.J. O'Rourke, a missile defense is cheaper than filling the hole that used to be San Francisco.
If we can make an anti-missile defense that saves just one U.S. city from a foreign attack, then it's worth the money.
Well, we've finally got a great compare/contrast situation with security at our nation's airports. I thought it was kinda silly when ABC News' Barbara Walters was forced to have all of her bags searched. I mean, she doesn't exactly fit the terrorist profile.
Well, word came out today that Michigan Democratic congressman John Dingell was forced to strip down to his boxer shorts to get through security at Regan National Airport. Dingell has had a hip replacement which is apparently notorious for setting off metal detectors.
"They felt me up and down like a prize steer," said Dingell, 75. "I was very nice, but I probably showed I was displeased."
The experiences of Dingell and Walters should make all Arab-Americans feel as though they aren't the only ones suffering indignities at America's airports, even if there is no evidence that elderly white people have plotted to take over planes and fly them into skyscrapers.
Contrast this with the American Airlines/Muslim Secret Service Agent tiff. The agent is apparently incapable of properly filling out a form, gets ticked off and has to take a later flight. Next thing you know he's got a bunch of lawyers and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is throwing a hissy fit.
Then today comes word that a Muslim teenager was asked to take off her head scarf after passing through security at Baltimore/Washington International airport. Removal of the head scarf in public is forbidden under Islamic tenets. The girl could've easily asked that it be done in private, but said she was intimidated by the security guards.
Sansour said she did not protest the screener's demands to remove her head scarf because she was afraid after Army National Guard troops with automatic weapons surrounded her.
"I want an apology, because there was a nun covered from head to toe, and they didn't make her take it off," Sansour said. "I only cover my head, and they didn't do anything to her."
Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but Catholics haven't been flying planes into buildings lately. We need to get away from this aversion to racial profiling for the time being. We're in a war against terrorists who are Muslim and from the Middle East. Until this war is over, Arabs in America need to be understanding and accomodating. How would they feel plunging into the ground in a new wave of terrorist attacks because security was afraid to offend Arab sensibilities by conducting thorough searches?
These searches are for everyone's safety. CAIR would have more clout and more respect from the majority of the American people if they would fight for truly serious cases where Arab-Americans lives and freedoms are in danger -- rather than just the inconveniences that everyone is having to go through.
I've talked quite a bit about the persecution that Christians suffer in Islamic states around the globe, but don't think that those are the only places where Christians suffer persecution. China is still one country where Christians are jailed, tortured and executed for their faith.
The latest incident regards a Christian sect known as the "Shouters." Now, I've searched the Internet high and low and have had difficulty finding information on exactly what this group's doctrinal beliefs are. About the only thing I've found is that they believe that prayers should be shouted to God, hence their name. If anyone can point me to more information, I'd appreciate it.
Apparently the Shouters were trying to get some Bibles into China -- 33,080 to be exact. What is the penalty for bringing Bibles into China? Death.
President Bush has expressed his concern to the Chinese government, but that's not enough. Now that the U.S. has extended Permanent Normal Trade Relations to China, we don't have the annual review of their human-rights record to use as a stick. Not that we ever used it as a stick. China needs the U.S. much more than the U.S. needs China. I've been boycotting Chinese-made products ever since they shot down our surveillance plane. I'd like to encourage everyone else to do the same until China has a Democratic government that does not brutalize Christians.
Monday, January 07, 2002
The United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph warns people not to mess with the United States.
AN American special forces team was credited yesterday with the deaths of 1,300 Taliban and al-Qa'eda fighters and the destruction of more than 50 tanks and other pieces of heavy weaponry.
The so-called A-team, codenamed Tiger 03, which directed American bombers to enemy positions, helped to unseat the Taliban and made a huge contribution to the war, its commander said.
The first details of the covert operations of the A-teams, each composed of up to 18 lightly armed infantrymen and air controllers, were released after the Pentagon allowed reporters to spend three days with different units operating within Afghanistan.
Eighteen guys on the ground was all it took to wreak a lot of havoc. Hopefully as stories like this come out, nations that house, train and support terrorists will think that no jihad is worth what we'll do to them.
This just in: Geraldo has killed Osama bin Laden!
If the Palestinians really wanted peace with Israel, why were they seeking 50 tons of weapons? The captain of the ship that Israeli forces stopped last week has said that the arms were destined for the Palestinian Authority, in violation of the Oslo Accords. Of course, those have been worthless for quite awhile.
There's a pretty good piece in The New Yorker about the New York Times biographical sketches of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The features, entitled "Portraits of Grief" were short, but insightful and cathartic.
Otherwise, as Jan Hoffman, who began working on "Portraits of Grief" during its second week and eventually wrote almost seventy of them, noted the other day, "The hardball rules of journalism went out the window. You can never presume to say, 'I know how you feel.' Because you don't.
"I did all my reporting over the phone," Hoffman went on. "For most of the people I talked to, I think that was liberating. It's almost like they're on the couch talking to a shrink. They don't have to look at your face, they free-associate, and when they hear a long silence they rush to fill the space. The way in which the reporter is not really a shrink, though, is that you cry. I have never wept so much while working. I would often cry before the person I was speaking with would. It was the crispness of their memories, the way they described these poignant, funny, heroic moments. I can't emphasize enough how humbling this work was. As a reporter, you have to be patient enough to keep probing until you have that click where you can see the person and how they moved on the planet.
"I made a call the other day that I resisted because it was the parents. I usually don't get much from parents. But this was one of the more enthralling interviews I had. It was a fireman, and he was the ninth of their ten children. The parents were exuberantly articulate. They were blunt. They said, 'You know, he wasn't a saint. He was a giant pain in the ass.' But they told me these stories about him in such a way that I couldn't help myself. I fell in love with the guy."
I understand what reporters like Hoffman had to go through. When I was working at my college paper, I had to make a similar phone call once to a father whose son had just died. It was one of the toughest things I've ever had to do.
Well, the New York Times has finally joined the chorus calling for the Senate to act on President Bush's nominations of Eugene Scalia and Otto Reich.
Today's Washington Post has an excellent article on the lawsuit by Air Force Lt. Col. Martha McSally's lawsuit contending that the U.S. policy that women stationed in Saudi Arabia wear the dress of the women in that nation, and follow the strict Islamic customs is in violation of the First Amendment.
Women in Saudi Arabia must wear clothing similar to, but not quite as confining, as the burka that was required under Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Women must not drive a car. They must ride in the back seat.
While I may not agree with having women flying combat aircraft (McSally flies an A-10 Warthog) -- call me old-fashioned. I also don't think that she should be forced into wearing this Islamic garb -- men stationed in Saudi Arabia are not required to wear turbans.
The (National Cathedral School) girls ask smart and tough questions. They hunt for compromise. They question her timing. "In this time of heightened hostility, isn't this a safety issue?" one asks. "I recently heard about force protection."
McSally asks them to envision the scenario the policy outlines -- an American woman covered head to toe in black, surrounded in downtown Riyadh by studly blond guys in crewcuts and jeans. "We hardly blend in," she says with a broad smile, and everybody cracks up at the image.
Here in America, another girl ventures, we accept people from other countries and don't disrespect those peoples' cultures. "So isn't it a question of respect, for you to not adopt their dress?" she asks.
"Here's the difference," parries McSally. "We let them choose to wear whatever they wish. When you value people, you give them freedom. That is who we are."
The military she loves has stripped her of that choice, McSally suggests. She is an observant Christian required against her will to represent herself as an adherent of a religion, Islam, which is not her own. Her attorneys, who have been hired by the Rutherford Institute, best known for its role in Paula Jones's suit against President Clinton, contend the abaya policy violates her First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion.
"If it were in our national security to deploy to South Africa under apartheid, would we have found it acceptable or customary to segregate African American soldiers from other American soldiers, and say, 'It's just a cultural thing?' " McSally asks. "I don't think so. I would hope not.
"When those customs and values conflict with ones that our Constitution is based on, and that women and men in uniform died for in the past, that is where you draw the line."
Once again we see the difference between a Christian-created, secular nation like the United States and those ruled by Islam. Tolerance vsl. Intolerance. Freedom vs. Oppression.
"We can respect their customs," she says. "We don't need to impose their values and faith on us."
Sunday, January 06, 2002
Note to Sen. Tom Daschle and the Democrats critical of last year's tax cut. If the tax cut is the problem, like you say it was, then REPEAL IT. Don't even bring it up if you're not opposed to it enough to propose getting rid of it.
Friday, January 04, 2002
Even before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 increased the media's focus Afghanistan, stories of what Afghan Christians faced could be found buried in the back pages of newspapers across the country. Saturday's Washington Post recounts the story of a learned Afghan man who owned two Bibles, but was not a Christian.
The Taliban guards again tied him on the table. This time, they poured water on his feet, then wound electrical wires around both of his big toes. The wires were attached to an old Soviet military field telephone. The guards turned the telephone's crank, sending a searing electrical current into Sayed's feet. It went on for more than an hour. He felt as if some powerful force was lifting him high off the table, then slamming him down again, over and over.
"Do you want to write (a confession) now?"
Sayed thought that if he continued to refuse he would convince them of his innocence. And he thought that if he confessed, they would kill him, probably in Kabul Stadium, where the Taliban held public executions. He imagined his body hanging there before the screaming crowd, with his own family too scared to claim it.
He couldn't pick up the pen.
They cranked the phone.
This is radical Islam. This is the purported religion of peace.
Looks like the record industry's efforts to put copy protection on their CDs may be illegal. According to a CNET news report, a 1992 law allows consumers to make personal copies of music, in return, the record labels get a few cents for each blank, recordable CD sold.
On Friday, Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., sent a letter to executives of the recording industry's trade association, asking whether anti-piracy technology on CDs might override consumers' abilities to copy albums they have purchased for personal use.
A 1992 law allows music listeners to make some personal digital copies of their music. In return, recording companies collect royalties on the blank media used for this purpose. For every digital audio tape (DAT), blank audio CD, or minidisc sold, a few cents go to record labels.
"I am particularly concerned that some of these technologies may prevent or inhibit consumer home-recording using recorders and media covered by the" Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA), Boucher wrote. "Any deliberate change to a CD by a content owner that makes (the allowed personal copies) no longer possible would appear to violate the content owner's obligations."
I must admit that I do not like the copy-protection idea, simply because I like having my music available at my fingertips on my computer. It's also nice for a backup if I lose a CD. Which has happened a couple of times. I've got copies on my computer, so I can burn a new one.
This week's "Houses of Worship" essay in the Wall Street Journal makes several important points. One of the most important points is the falsity of the argument that America's "War on Terror" is a modern-day crusade against Islam.
The United States is looking to kill terrorists, who happen to be Muslim. There is no effort being made by the U.S. government to convert any of these people to Christianity.
It's the Muslims, those followers of Wahhabism and Islamism, that are on a crusade.
Western statesmen almost desperately declare at every opportunity these days that true Islam is a tolerant faith. But even "moderate" Muslim countries today are half-hearted at best in condemning Islamic extremists who not only stamp out Christianity and other religions at home but dream of violently establishing Islam as the one true faith throughout the world.
The situation in Indonesia, which I mention below, is a perfect example of this Jihad. For hundreds of years, Christians and Muslims lived together in relative peace. The Lasker Jihad is on a crusade -- to kill Christians.
The solution to the problem is for the Muslim world to come to respect Christians -- and defend the Christians' rights to worship wherever they wish. That freedom is extended to Muslims everywhere in the western world. Many defenders of Islam repeat the mantra that it is a religion of peace. They'd do better putting their money where their mouths are. Call a spade a spade. Agitate for the freedoms of everyone to worship as they please.
Columnist John Ringo tells of bureaucratic stupidity in the State Department and INS that is dooming children to a short, cruel, hellish life.
JUST before Christmas, a dozen happy American families were ready to bring a group of newly adopted kids home from Cambodia - when the U.S. government stepped in and aborted the adoptions on spurious charges of slavery.
I heard about it because one of the parents caught in the blender is a colleague. But every American ought to care. For one thing, the war we're in is going to be showing us pictures of orphans on a daily basis and figuring out how to manage them is going to matter. But even more important, this story tells us that key people in the U.S. government think it's better for a child to die in Cambodia than be raised in Akron.
In parts of the Third World children, mostly female, are sold by their families to slave traders. Others are stolen or simply dumped as too expensive to feed. Most end up in brothels, mines or sweat shops. A few end up in orphanages, who then pass them on to people from the First World who are desperate for children.
Many Americans go overseas to adopt children. This is a good thing, giving these children a shot at the American dream, and many infertile couples children to love.
The sad thing is that so many abortions occur in the U.S., when there are so many couples who sometimes spend years waiting to adopt a child.
All of God's children have worth. All are a treasure.
Children in the United States should not be brutally "aborted." And children overseas should not be sold into slavery. But in this fallen world, these things happen. There is no reason for the U.S. government to bar American families from adopting these children and giving them a chance at a better life.
Thursday, January 03, 2002
Somalia may be next for the war on terror, but there is probably a greater need for U.S. troops in Indonesia. A group called the Laskar Jihad, which even has its own Web site, is amassing in a region called Sulawesi in an effort to wipe out Christians. It would be nice if the Indonesia government would protect all of its citizens, but it is not, according to a Time magazine report.
When the first Laskar commandos arrived in Sulawesi in July, they were formally received by the Governor of Central Sulawesi province and the head of the local parliament. Such a welcome underscores what the group's opponents and many independent analysts say is the greatest challenge to controlling the militants: their support at the highest levels of Indonesia's government. From direct infusions of cash to fund the fighters to phone calls to local military commanders to prevent crackdowns, sympathizers have ensured that the Laskar Jihad can operate with impunity.
As Julia Duin reports in National Review:
Christians who refused to convert to Islam were killed; those who did convert were then separated from their families, given Muslim names, and forcibly circumcised — without anaesthetic, and with dirty instruments. Scissors were used on the adults. They were then told to wash in the sea to disinfect their wounds. The women underwent female genital circumcision.
One Washington, D.C.-based group, International Christian Concern, interviewed a woman with a horribly disfigured face who had been attacked in Duma, a Moluccan village on the island of Halmahera.
"When I saw the jihad warriors approaching," the woman told the interviewer, "I cried out, 'Lord help me.' Then a jihad warrior came up to me and said, 'I'll show you how God helps you,' and then placed the pistol in my mouth and pulled the trigger."
The U.S. has intervened in various nations (Serbia, Kuwait, Somalia) in an effort to save Muslim lives, and gotten nothing but grief for it. Now is the time for the U.S. to do something that many people in America feel is unnecessary, defend Christians from Muslim jihadists. The mantra that Islam is a religion of peace is becomes more and more of a farce as Muslims in Sudan and Indonesia massacre and enslave their Christian neighbors. In Saudi Arabia, Muslims who covert to Christianity are beheaded.
We should pray for the Christians and the Muslims in Indonesia, that this sort of thing would stop, but we should also urge our elected representatives and President Bush to intervene militarily to keep the two sides apart.
Hackers would also do the world a great service if they would bring down the Laskar Jihad Web site.
As the military action in Afghanistan begins to wind down, military planners, pundits and the press are beginning to look for around for the next target for the U.S. military. Iraq will come eventually, I'm sure, but it appears as though Somalia may be the next phase, according to a report by Bill Gertz in The Washington Times. I don't always trust what I read in the Times because of its ownership, but Gertz has proven over the years to be one of the most resourceful and accurate military reporters in Washington.
U.S. and allied military forces are stepping up aerial-reconnaissance flights over Somalia in preparation for raids against al Qaeda terrorist bases in the north African nation, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Intelligence reports also disclosed that some 100 al Qaeda terrorists were identified recently in Somalia. The terrorists were spotted as part of the Islamic rebel group there known as Al-Ittihad Al-Islam, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Mogadishu-based group, known as AIAI, is linked to Somali warlord Hussein Mohammed Aideed and has close ties to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist group in Afghanistan.
"Somalia will likely be next," said one defense official familiar with defense planning.
Aideed is the same piece of scum former President Bill Clinton was trying to get back in 1993. After 18 American soldiers were killed, and one soldier's body was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the mission collapsed. Instead of reinforcing Clinton's desire to do what was right by killing Aideed, Clinton pulled out all the troops.
Though years may pass, some things stay the same. When I was taking a media criticism class many years ago at Cal Poly SLO. Our professor showed us a videotape of a "protest" by the militant gay group ACT-UP. It wasn't really a protest as much as it was the destruction of a Catholic Church. The professor was using the tape to set up a dilemma that we might encounter as reporters. The Catholic Church was wronged by the destruction of the "activists." The "activists" were "wronged" by the Catholic's church position that condoms should not be used, thus increasing the spread of AIDS.
After the professor had set up the sides, I immediately trashed the balance of his lecture.
First, you have to take all of the Catholic Church's teachings as a whole.
Second, the Catholic Church says you shouldn't have sex outside of marriage.
Third, the Catholic Church says you shouldn't use condoms.
Fourth, the Catholic Church says you shouldn't engage in homosexual sex.
Well, if you follow all of the rules, you won't get AIDS. The activists are only "wronged" if they ignore all of the Catholic Church's teachings, except the one about condoms. Seriously, if you're going to ignore the church's teaching on sex outside of marriage, then why don't you go all the way and ignore the prohibition on condoms? ACT-UP's argument is so lame, that after I presented my rebuttal, the professor, and everyone else in class, dropped their defense of it.
Well, nearly a decade has passed since I made that case, but some intellectually stunted liberals are presenting the same argument again.
In an article in today's Washington Post, details an ad campaign on Metrorail shelters and buses that blames the policies of the Catholic Church for the spread of AIDS.
The ads posted at 50 bus shelters in the District include such statements as "Because the bishops ban condoms, innocent people die" and "Catholic people care. Do our bishops?" Similar ads are running in 134 Metrorail cars.
OK, let's say this slowly for the people who sponsored the ad, members of Catholics for a Free Choice (sort of like Democrats for Limited Government): If you don't have sex outside of marriage, you won't get AIDS.
Secondly, bishops can't ban condoms. You can get them at every convenience store.
The story also notes that Metro officials have received only a few complaints about the anti-Catholic ad campaign, compared to the several hundred they received over ads early last year advocating the legalization of marijuana.
Hopefully most Metro riders aren't complaining because the ads are so stupid on their face. On the other hand, this is Washington, D.C., so you can't always be so sure.
(The ads) are part of an international campaign sponsored by Catholics for a Free Choice, a Washington-based religious advocacy group. The campaign was launched Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, to promote the distribution of condoms among sexually active teenagers and adults as a means of helping prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, said Frances Kissling, president of the group.
To quote Sgt. Hulka: "Lighten up, Frances."
Word has it that the AOL Instant Messenger security hole has been fixed. I'd still be cautious about who you accept instant messages from though, especially if someone unknown asks you to click on a link of some type.