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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

As I said on Friday, the question mark at the end of my commentary title was because I had no doubt that there would be lots more to say about the Terri Schiavo case - and indeed there is and no doubt will continue to be.

There haven’t been any new developments since last week on which to comment - but the rhetoric coming from and flying in every direction, is increasing in volume and variety - and that alone is reason enough for me to add some more comments of my own.

It’s truly astonishing how this one case has gripped the imagination of the nation and continues to be front page news and a lead story in broadcast news. It’s a subject that most of us rarely think about, but because of this case, we are being reminded that there are thousands of patients languishing in this condition and life support of different kinds is withdrawn from such patients every day.

As for me, I feel the same way about this case as I did when I first commented on it a few days ago - conflicted. I believe that the way Mrs. Schiavo is being "allowed to die" is horrendous - and I am sure that the thousands of people rushing to prepare living wills and durable power of attorney documents are throwing in the kind of caveat that I most certainly would include.

Do not - repeat not remove a feeding tube and allow me to starve to death. If you can’t kill me any other way, keep me alive until I die naturally.

Unfortunately, if one is in a basically vegetative state but not on a respirator or other kinds of life support that could be removed, resulting in fairly rapid death, there are no legal alternatives available to one’s care providers. They can’t give you a shot and let you go quickly and peacefully. That would be murder. Starving you to death has the approval of our courts. And keeping a body "alive" in Terri's condition seems just as horrendous to me.

It’s a cockeyed, upside down situation.

Having said all that, I have to say that I am appalled at what people are saying about this case. From the President to the Governor of Florida to the radio talk show hosts, to the people gathered outside the hospice in Pinellas Park, to ordinary people across this country.

Until a few weeks ago, most of us who are now concerned about the case had never heard of Terri Schiavo.

But suddenly, she and all of the other characters involved in the issue have become something akin to cast members of a tragic version of American Idol - or one of the "survivor" series, with just about everyone you talk to having an opinion on who should stay and who should go and why characters should be "kicked off the island."

Some of us are questioning everything Michael Schiavo has done since this tragedy befell his wife - as if he were answerable to anyone who expressed doubts about his honesty and sincerity. Why did he wait so many years before suddenly "remembering" that it was his wife’s wish not to be kept alive in a vegetative state? And where is the money he won in a malpractice lawsuit? And why won’t he agree to an MRI and a Pet Scan for his wife? And why won’t he agree to "unseal" the details of his wife’s accident?

People are asking such accusative questions having absolutely no knowledge of what went on during the past fifteen years. It doesn’t matter that we have no knowledge of the people involved in the tragedy or of their beliefs or motivations. They have been thrust upon the public consciousness like the cast of a daily soap opera and we have responded accordingly, cheering those we perceive as heroes and booing the villains.

Jesse Jackson was on the scene today, praying and protesting - and the report of his visit included the information that he wasn’t "permitted" to pray with Terri Schiavo. As if Terri Schiavo were public property. As if anyone who got up on a soap box to express an opinion about her condition and her life and her impending death, had some special "right" that was being denied them by Michael Schiavo.

People with no knowledge other than the newspaper reports they read and the images they see on television, are questioning medical and legal decisions made in the case and demanding that those decisions be put aside and new decisions made - decisions that would be responsive to the public outcry - like a sea of upturned thumbs in an ancient coliseum.

It might have been in response to such an outcry that Michael Schiavo decided to ask for an autopsy to be performed when the inevitable occurs - but even if the results prove beyond doubt that Terri Schiavo was in a condition that was beyond recovery, for many it will not be sufficient proof that he wasn’t somehow responsible for her condition in the first place - as members of her family have intimated again and again.

I have been as guilty as anyone of being swept up into the "soap opera" aspect of the situation, discussing it with people casually and sometimes heatedly when I try to suggest that we really don’t know enough about the people and the circumstances involved in the fifteen year history of the case to try to bring our opinion to bear on an outcome that we think would be the right one.

Some people are saying that no matter what happens, one good outcome will be that a lot of people will make sure that their wishes are known, should they ever find themselves in circumstances similar to Terri Schiavo’s.

But one bad thing that may linger for a while, perhaps for a very long while, is the knowledge that we as a people, are capable of becoming a national "MOB" when certain issues arouse our emotions.

And I find that a very scary bad thing!!

Friday, March 25, 2005

I put a question mark at the end of that subject title because I anticipate that efforts will continue to reverse all of the judicial decisions as long as Terri Schiavo remains alive - and there may be much more on which to comment.

But I have to make a note of this while it is frighteningly fresh in my mind. In the last few days, we have come perilously close to a seminal moment in our history. As Congress jumped into the Terri Schiavo controversy, the separation between powers became visibly narrower.

Although the Federal courts, resisting the pressure forced upon them by Congressional bigwigs and the President himself, reaffirmed that separation by refusing to interfere in the case - the zealots gave notice that they weren't through. Not by a long shot. There was Jeb Bush yesterday, petitioning the court to allow him to take Mrs. Schiavo into protective custody!! It was denied, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear that other efforts are underway. And there have been calls for President Bush to issue an executive order to override all of the court decisions that have been rendered.

What would happen if either Bush sent armed emissaries to rescue the poor lady while the courts were declaring such moves illegal and unconstitutional? A mini civil war?

You think such a thing isn't possible?

You might have thought that what has happened so far wasn't possible either. That members of Congress would rush back to Washington to take an issue away from state courts to try to get a different outcome in Federal court - and to have the President rush back from his ranch, just so that he would be available to sign such a bill.

They went through all the so called democratic motions, but the speed with which this power grab evolved was reminiscent of dictatorial powers, where no discussion is needed.

And now, those kinds of power moves are being tried by one Bush and urged upon the other.

And oh what is being spewed on conservative radio!! That Michael Schiavo is likely a criminal who caused his wife's collapse in the first place and that she should be kept alive while a criminal investigation is launched by Governor Bush.

And the worst part of what I'm hearing from the RWRAR, is that those who are not supportive of the Schindler's position, are cruel, heartless and Godless and have some sort of agenda!!!

How sick can these people be? Any normal person watching this tragedy unfold, no matter what their politics and no matter what they may think is the right thing to do, is touched and saddened by the pain it is inflicting on all involved.

Right wing talk show extremists don't ever seem to be able to understand a proposition as basic and simple as that. I guess that's what makes them extremist. And makes me sick every time I hear them spouting their ridiculous nonsense.

But it's somewhat heartening to see that those extremist view aren't echoed that much by those who listen to and support right wing radio pundits. At least not in this instance. If the polls are to be believed, a majority of Americans from across the entire political spectrum, think that the government should not get involved in these kinds of situations.

One last thought about the judicial branch of government that those on the right constantly malign as being "activist." Some are now virtually accusing Judge George Greer of being a co-conspitator with Michael Schiavo, and some are calling for his impeachment!!

They are complaining because Judge Greer and other judges in this case aren't being activist enough!! They would like to have it both ways. Complain when they disagree with judicial decisions,in some cases calling the judges "activists" and in others saying that they are not activist enough!!!

There are doubtless some lousy judges on the bench, from local municipalities to the Federal circuits. But I'm not too disturbed about any "activism" in which judges might engage. After witnessing the extraordinary actions of Congress and the President this past week, maybe judicial "activism" - whether it's from conservative or liberal judges - is what is needed to maintain the balance of power between the branches of government.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Many years ago, when I had an office in down town Chicago, I had a telephone number that was close to the number of a Catholic church. I may have mentioned this before some time - and if I have, I apologize for repeating the story, but I was reminded of it by another story that’s been getting a fair amount of attention recently.

Quite often, I would answer calls that were meant for the church and I would politely tell the callers that they had dialed a wrong number - sometimes even telling them how they had dialed wrong. As I recall, they usually transposed two numbers.

But once in a while, when I picked up the phone and it was someone believing they had reached the church, the caller would launch into the reason they had called before I had a chance to tell them that they were talking to a business and not to a parish priest or some other church official.

And once in a while, the stated reason for their call was to ask if the church had a position on members of the flock reading a certain book. My memory of the specifics is dim because this took place decades ago, but I vaguely recall that there was a book that had stirred up some controversy at the time and there had been heated discussion about whether or not it was a book that should be eschewed by Catholics.

I’m not a Catholic, but this is my long delayed confession for evil deeds long past. When some of the callers, thinking they had reached the church, asked if it was permissible to read the book in question, I would tell them yes - it’s O.K. Read the book and make up your own mind about its truth and value.

To this day it astonishes me that adults living in a democratic society would check to see if their church approved of them reading a particular book. But some no doubt will heed the admonition of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to stay far away from The Da Vinci Code, the best selling novel by Dan Brown in which he suggests that Jesus was married and had children, contrary to the teachings of the Christian church.

Brown claims to have discovered a conspiracy that has hidden the "truth" about the life of Jesus for two thousand years, but Cardinal Bertone calls it a "sack full of lies" against the real history of Christianity and against Christ himself.

I haven’t read "The Da Vinci Code" and I have no expertise when it comes to evaluating any part of the Hebrew or Christian Bible for historical accuracy, but I would venture to say that there is probably as much accuracy in Dan Brown’s book as there is in the Bible upon which the good Cardinal is no doubt relying for his claim that Brown’s work is a sack full of lies.

At the very least, the author’s research and his conclusions can be examined and discussed by others - and all of the works - the book, the criticisms, the counter arguments, can be recorded and preserved in a manner that will assure the accuracy -if not the truth of their content, then certainly the substance. There will be no mysticism about the book and the body of work generated by and connected to it. Parts of it will not be discarded or re-written in some new interpretive manner over decades and centuries. What exists now of the book and the responses to it are clear and unambiguous, as they will be two thousand years from now, assuming there are some of our descendants around to make such an observation.

But the same cannot be said for the Bible upon which the Cardinal relies to call Brown’s book a pack of lies. The beauty of the Bible of course is that it is a collection of ancient writings, created at a time when there was no way to check or authenticate the accuracy of its content - particularly those parts that were written years after the events they describe. In today’s legalese, it could be called a collection of hearsay. So it comes to us - handed down to us if you will - as a Ripley like presentation - Believe it or Not. And on the basis of the millions who choose to believe it, it becomes the historical "truth" about matters religious - and any writings that challenge what the Bible says are thus "lies."

One would think that such "truth" could easily withstand any fictional assault on its accuracy - and you have to wonder why the Cardinal is urging Catholics not to read "The Da Vinci Code."

Could it be because it might persuade some of the "faithful" to actually think about what they’ve been told about the Bible and about faith, ever since they were able to understand language?

The Terri Schiavo "saviors" continue to boggle the mind

Right wing radio ranters and ravers (RWRAR) are going nuts over the Terri Schiavo case and some conservative politicians are not that far behind.

To hear the RWRAR report the story, it is a conspiracy that goes far deeper than the Kennedy assassination. There isn’t just suspicious activity on a grassy knoll, but noxious weeds planted all around the poor woman, all dedicated to squeezing the last breath of life from her vibrantly living body. It’s a conspiracy to end all conspiracies, influenced and led by her evil husband Michael.

The latest salvo fired in this astonishing battle to "save" Mrs. Schiavo was by Governor Jeb Bush who, introducing the potential mother of all malpractice cases, says that she may have been misdiagnosed and may not be in a vegetative state at all!!

I hate to overdo a frequently overdone expression - but I have to say that events continue to arise that boggle the mind.. After fifteen years of being seen, examined and tested by countless physicians and technicians, and with the patient perhaps days away from death, the Governor of the state posits the thought that what they all say is her condition simply isn’t so!!

The reports that are being quoted and published of physicians who are familiar with her condition, are that her brain stem remains intact, which allows her to breathe on her own, go through wake and sleep cycles, open and close her eyes, grimace and make sounds, but there is nothing functional left of her cerebral cortex.

Much as I appreciate the agony of Terri Schiavo’s parents and the sincerity of many people who support their position, that’s a description that could easily be applied to some of the braying members of Congress who continue to inject themselves into this highly personal and private matter.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Like millions of Americans, I am conflicted about the Terri Schiavo case. At times I feel like a cartoon character with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, arguing both sides of the issue. This one is so damned complicated, it calls for an angel and a devil on each shoulder!!

I am sure that there are thousands of bloggers penning their opinions as I pen mine and I both envy and have trouble understanding those who are not conflicted - who will be coming down strongly on one side or the other of the issue.

I find that hard to understand because there are so many issues involved. Her parents and siblings swear up and down that she is responsive, implying some degree of awareness. If that indeed is the case, I think about how I would feel inside that frozen body, unable to move, to speak, to urinate and defecate normally - to do anything that would be thought of as being a function of being alive. And I think that if I were in that condition and had some degree of awareness, it would be unbearable torture to be kept alive in that way and my mind would be screaming out to anyone who hovered over me to end it all. Quickly. Now. Today.

But then I think of the way in which that wish is being carried out as I type. She is being starved to death. I hear people who claim to be knowledgeable say that this isn’t a horrible death for someone in Schiavo’s condition, but I have to wonder how they know. Have they been in a coma for fifteen years and then starved to the point of death only to suddenly awake to describe how it felt? Obviously not.

I know that being deprived of food and water for someone who is not comatose can lead to a horrible death. Just try going without food and water for a day - or two days or three days. See how it feels as you become more and more dehydrated. See how it feels as you’re unable to produce any saliva and your throat becomes parched and painful and you can’t swallow.

I am all for the idea of ending a vegetative existence. It’s certainly what I would want for myself. But using a method that is not drawn out and potentially torturous. Simple, painless euthanasia. Give me a shot and let me go. But in most states, we live under the laws of madness. Euthanasia under any circumstances is murder. Murdering someone by depriving them of sustenance on the other hand, is not just permissible but sanctioned by the courts, as we have been witnessing in Florida.

Then we have the conflict between Terri’s husband and parents. And it is difficult to understand what motivates them to adopt the positions they have taken. If her husband is to be believed, she would not wish to continue to live in a vegetative state for years on end. The impression that one gets from her parents, who have no legal standing as long as the husband is alive, is simply that they do not want to let her go. I’m a parent and to a certain extent, I can understand how they feel. I can’t think of anything much worse than seeing a child die before you do. It isn’t meant to be that way. You have children, You grow old and die and your children mourn you and bury you or otherwise dispose of your remains. Not the other way round.

But how long to you fight to keep a child alive when the overwhelming medical opinion is that she will never emerge from this comatose, vegetative state - and why?? Is there not a point in time when you are no longer making all of this effort for the benefit of the child, but for yourself? You want to hang on as long as you can, hoping for a miracle. Not that long ago there was a case of a Kansas woman waking from a 20 year coma and saying a few words. She will never be able to leave the institution where she is hospitalized, but she has moved from a comatose state to at least one of limited self awareness. But the chances of something like that happening for Terri Schiavo or for ninety nine and nine tenths of all patients living in a comatose state for that many years, are almost too small to measure. So are Terri’s parents battling to "save" their daughter or battling so hard because they don’t want to lose her - no matter in what state she "survives" or what the quality of "life" is for her?

Then there’s the astonishing spectacle of the whole issue being taken up by Congress with the President standing by in Washington to sign any bill that it passes. The leaders of the battle to take the matter away from the Florida courts are the same crowd that champions states rights, that claim that government is too big and too intrusive and that government should stay out of people’s private affairs. It boggles the mind!!

I’m conflicted here too, because the angel and devil on my left shoulder are arguing that if her parents are willing to care for her for the rest of their lives and maybe the rest of her life, why not let them do it? But the combo on my other shoulder keeps asking - would Terri want this? Is there any evidence to suggest that she would want to be kept "alive" interminably in a comatose state? Could she possibly be experiencing any kind of joy or satisfaction existing like this?

And finally, there are the most extraordinary statements being made by three of the principles in this whole affair.

The leader of the Senate - a doctor - saying the most astonishing things in support of the Federal government intruding in this private family disagreement and substituting its judgment for the wishes of Terry Schiavo herself, if we can believe her husband. After watching an hour of amateur videotape, Dr. Frist says that all of the doctors who have attended Terri Schiavo have been wrong. That she is able to breathe on her own and is because of that and whatever it is that he observed from her grimaces or involuntary movements which he interprets as conscious reaction to visual stimuli, she is not in a vegetative state . It’s hard to know just how to classify that kind of a statement made by a medical doctor on the floor of the Senate. "Political Quackery" seems to have the right kind of ring to it.

Then there’s Mrs. Schiavo’s mother, who stood before a battery of cameras and microphones and pleaded with Democratic Senators and Representatives not to use their vote on the issue to advance a "personal agenda." Those who would not support the Federal government getting involved in the case would be doing so because of their "personal agenda!!!" They are the ones who have a "personal agenda" in this affair. An already boggled mind takes another blow to its tenuous hold on sanity.

And finally, the topper of all toppers from who else but the President of the United States. His reasoning for signing the bill intended to take matters away from Terri Schiavo’s husband, from the doctors who have attended her over the years and from the Florida courts?

It’s always best to err on the side of life!!!!

This from the man who oversaw the execution of more than 150 people during his tenure as Governor of Texas, the most of any governor in the history of the United States and who declared on more than one occasion that each and every one of those executed was guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.

There is of course the possibility that neither the Texas courts not its former Governor were infallible and that some of those executed might not have been guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. But in those days, George W Bush was erring on the side of death.

I suppose we should be grateful for his change of heart. I just wish he would apply the same principle to other areas of his governance, particularly in the international arena - and not just to an isolated individual matter in the state where his brother happens to govern.

Friday, March 18, 2005

On "The Daily Show" the other night, it was suggested that the explanation for some of the strange appointments being made by Mr. Bush was the fact that the man has balls!! In fact, the specifics of each appointment could be attributed to the size of the President’s balls. They had graphics to show that the mass of the Presidential testicles grew exponentially in concert with the strangeness of each appointment.

It’s an interesting theory, based I am sure upon the work of the great philosopher
Seymour Butt, who wrote those immortal lines:

Hitler has only got one ball

Goerring has two, but very small

Himmler has something similar

But poor Goebbels has no balls at all

I have a somewhat different theory. I believe the President's balls have become dehydrated from becoming born again and swearing off the hard stuff, and that his body, seeking to correct the deficiency, has diverted small amounts of gray matter which the spleen and kidney liquefies - taking turns depending on the time of day - and transports down to the arid scrotal regions.

Normally, this would not present any problem. The human body has the ability to adapt to many changing conditions and we hardly notice the steps it takes to achieve equilibrium

But I have it on the highest scientific authority that in this case, the Presidential body made a mistake, skimming gray matter from an area of the brain that determines which Presidential acts should be of a serious nature and which should be acts of obvious whimsy - so that an act intended to be serious cannot be distinguished from one intended to be totally humorous.

I have to defer to the scientists because for sure I can’t come up with a better explanation for the string of appointments that have been announced in the last few days.

First we have the Robert Bolton choice to represent us at the United Nations. Considering this guy’s reputation, that’s a little like appointing a Bull as National Inspector of China Shops!!

But I suppose his nomination could be intended to send a variety of messages to that body. It could be to say that we’re getting ready to lead the Security Council through a few weeks of bullshit as a precursor for Operation Iranian Freedom - and who better to do this than a bull in a china shop personality?? Or maybe we are telling the rest of the world that we have changed so much - that we are now so respectful of their views and opinions - that we have appointed the last man in the country that you would think would qualify for this job, because he has become a born again believer in world order. Or maybe he was appointed as a gesture towards the United Nations. The gesture of thumb to nose. You want to know what we think of the U.N? Here’s our new Ambassador - the guy who says there is no U.N.

But I think the scientists in all those foreign countries will be able to figure out what really happened.

Then there’s Karen Hughes. When she first appeared on the national scene during Bush’s first run for the Presidency, my impression of her was that she was an extremely loyal, hard nosed , no nonsense lady - but not one that you would want to put out front as cover for your errors and misdeeds. Not the kind of lady you’d want out there, gently stroking your critics and skeptics and winning them over with her overwhelming charm.

But then, I was observing her from a distance. Close up and personal, she might be the most charming and most persuasive person in the world.

So why was I shaking my head in disbelief when Condoleezza Rice was telling us that she couldn’t think of anyone more qualified to take on the task of improving our relations with the rest of the world and particularly with the Muslin world?

Was there no one willing to serve the President who had what you would think would be the major background he would be looking for - years of experience at stroking the movers and shakers of other countries? Was there no one steeped in the history, culture and customs of those parts of the world with whom we have the most trouble? Was there no one who could speak the languages of some of these countries - particularly the language of the Arab Muslim world ?

There probably was. They probably abounded. But they probably didn’t have the most important set of qualifications needed for this most sensitive job. Understanding that their President is never wrong about anything. And hailing from Texas. If you want to be the leader of the world and have everyone love you, you’ve got to get your priorities straight..

And finally Paul Wolfowitz to head up the World Bank.

A lot of people are questioning the recommendation - asking if the hawkish architect of our Iraq policy has the appropriate background for the job - and there’s been speculation that the Bank’s board may not blindly follow our nominee as they have done in the past.

But to me, knowing the condition of the Presidential testicles, the selection of Mr. Wolfowitz is a stroke of brilliance.

First of all, he continues the tradition established by Bill Clinton of having a Wolf at the bank. With the substitution of Wolfowitz for Wolfensohn, most people dealing with the bank won’t notice the difference.

But more importantly, Paul will have his hands on all that money that he could use to keep funding his pet project and head off a U.S. taxpayer’s revolt at the pass!!

Remember his Congressional testimony about how little Iraq was going to cost us? Heck, the country’s got oil bubbling out of the toilets!! They’ll be able to earn all the money they need to pay for building a free society and have enough left over to buy the world a coke.

So maybe his calculator was off that day. We’re pouring billions of our money into Iraq with no end in sight. But now there’s a brilliant solution. The new Wolf can siphon off all he needs to keep his grand Mid-East strategy going while Bob Bolton distracts the Security Council and the General Assembly with his stand up act and Karen Hughes gently strokes any raised eyebrows until the eyes beneath them close in blissful submission.

Bolton, Hughes and Wolfowitz. A trio of modern day musketeers to lead us into the wonderful new world of peace and democracy envisioned by our President.

And we owe it all to the balls of George W Bush.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Watching the story surrounding Ayaan Hirsi Ali's movie "submission" on Sixty Minutes last Sunday , reinforced my awareness of the world we live in today.

You’ve probably seen the "history test" that’s been floating around the Internet for some time now. A cousin of mine reminded me of it the other day. It’s an argument in favor of racial profiling at airports and at other sensitive sites.

There are those who would "tsk tsk" at the notion that racial profiling has any place in the battle against world wide terrorism and who would argue that you can’t condemn an entire religion because of the actions of a few who happen to be members of that religion. But there comes a point where that argument loses touch with reality - and this "history quiz" strongly suggests that we’ve long ago reached that point. As I said, you can find it all over the Internet and now here’s just one more place.

In 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by

a. Superman

b. Jay Leno

c. Harry Potter

d. a Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by

a. Olga Corbett

b. Sitting Bull

c Arnold Schwarzenegger

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by

a. Lost Norwegians

b. Elvis

c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by

a. John Dillinger

b. The King of Sweden

c. The Boy Scouts

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by

a. A pizza delivery boy

b. Pee Wee Herman

c. Geraldo Rivera

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by

a. The Smurfs

b. Davy Jones

c. The Little Mermaid

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescue passengers was murdered by

a. Captain Kidd

b. Charles Lindberg

c. Mother Teresa

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by

a. Scooby Doo

b. The Tooth Fairy

c. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by

a. Richard Simmons

b. Grandma Moses

c. Michael Jordan

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by

a. Mr. Rogers

b. Hillary Clinton, to distract attention from Wild Bill' s women problems

c. The World Wrestling Federation

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by

a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd

b. The Supreme Court of Florida

c. Mr. Bean

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against

a. Enron

b. The Lutheran Church

c. The NFL

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by

a. Bonnie and Clyde

b. Captain Kangaroo

c. Billy Graham

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40

Opponents of racial profiling say that it’s perfectly logical to conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President's security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winning and former Governor Joe Foss - but not Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 .

I’m an opponent of racial profiling but I’m a stronger opponent of risking my life because I don’t want to offend someone who happens to look like the people who took the lives of thousands of my fellow citizens and those who we know are trying to take the lives of thousands more of us. The innocent Muslim male between the age of 17 and 40 will recover from the insult of being "profiled." Dead citizens don’t have that chance to recover.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There was a time when people living across the pond could look to the west and shake their heads in sympathy over our bad manners, our loudness and our crime. Oh how they would shake their heads at our crime. Guns everywhere. Senseless murders. And certainly the past few days have added up to the week that was. The murders in Atlanta. The berserk church member in Wisconsin.

But in this shrinking world, it doesn’t seem to matter where one lives and which direction one looks. The madness is everywhere, and today I’m sitting in a Chicago suburb, looking east, and shaking my head in sympathy at the kind of horrors that family members of mine living in England have to contend with.
An upscale neighborhood. Broad daylight. A smartly dressed man who looked like he belonged in such a neighborhood - hacking an older man to death on the sidewalk - with an axe!!

When I heard the story, one of my first reactions was that apart from it being a horror story, it was typical of the kind of murder that we think of as taking place in the British Isles - unusual, bizarre - and very different from the type of senseless street killings that occur here, with easily acquired guns. And then I brought up the page of the Guardian that reported the story and saw the link on that page to "gun violence in Britain" - and the further link to a site with the caption
Recent research suggests that the proliferation of illegal weapons in some of Britain's most deprived communities - particularly replica and converted ones - is now such that there is a gun or an imitation firearm easily available for almost everyone who wants one.
I couldn’t offer proof, but I’d be willing to bet that the line of demarcation between the Britain of old, where more murders were of the Agatha Christie type, dignified and committed with class - and the new Britain, where the influence seems to be weighted in the direction of Mickey Spillane, classless and bloody - or maybe just bloody classless - can be traced to the opening of the first McDonald’s in the West End of London.

All that damned ground up meat sliding down the gullet and trying to make common cause with fish and chips. I could have told them they were courting disaster, but would they listen? Of course not. Now they’re paying the price. Axe murders not far from Swiss Cottage, where we once stayed at the local Holiday Inn.. I’ll ask for a discount if we ever stay there again.

And while I’m talking about murder and murderers

The 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision barring execution of felons who committed murder before their eighteenth birthday still resonates, particularly from the right of the political spectrum, where the mention of world wide opinion tacked on to the decision, is sticking in many a conservative craw.

What the rest of the world thinks? We should allow world opinion to have influence on our internal affairs? Those Supreme Court traitors should be taken out and hung. Or shot. Or maybe hacked with axes. Or better yet, made to go and live in those countries whose opinions they value so highly.

On the other hand, world opinion, or the opinion or the will of the "international community" is frequently cited by our President in support of his demands that one country or another change the way it conducts itself. He doesn’t quite suggest that whatever might be a particular country’s version of our Supreme Court enact the kind of laws that we would like to see enacted - but he comes pretty darn close. And I don’t hear the anti Supremes complaining about that!!

Frankly, I think that the acknowledgment by some Supremes that most other countries in the world totally disagree with us on the most fundamental of all issues - who we put to death in the name of the state - and whether or not anyone should be put to death in the name of the state, is a healthy thing.

They didn’t make their decision on the basis of what the rest of the world thinks, but they made something clear in case we didn’t already realize it. We are the world’s only super power - and whatever we do, we have to be aware that the whole world is watching. If we’re disdainful to them and their views, we shouldn’t complain too loudly when they don’t always follow our lead.

Geeks invade blog!!!

I’m disappointed. Fellow blogger Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has gone high tech.

His blog has been taken over by a gang of cyberspace geeks. Pictures. Graphs. "Continue reading the story." Nowhere near as comfortable looking as the old format and layout.

And not a single link to be seen!!! I’m no great fan of long columns of links. My blog isn’t an information blog, so I don’t feel the need to direct visitors to informational sites. I keep a couple of links on my home page for my own convenience, but I enjoyed occasionally clicking on links to sites that Zorn had found of interest (including mine).

Maybe it’s an oversight and he plans to put them back. Meanwhile, I’m saving a link to his links from his old site- and if he doesn’t put them back, maybe I’ll install them on the left hand side of this screen as "Zorn’s Links.

Nuttier than Limbaugh??

I didn’t think that is was possible, but there may be worse right wing ranters and raver (RWRAR’s)s on the radio than Rush Limbaugh!!! A Chicago station that I listened to years ago when it had a balanced and fairly listenable format, has joined the ranks of the RWRAR outlets and carries some of the most bombastic card carrying members of the COTOR (conscious of their own rectitude) society. I’ve listened to a few minutes here and there of the Dennis Prager and Michael Medved shows. It’s hard to know what to say about some of their nutty views, but maybe I’ll try in the future. There’s lots of fodder there for this blog if I care to strap on the feedbag they’re offering.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Health problems are temporarily slowing down my blogging, but I’ll be getting to the computer as often as I can while I attend to my aches and pains.


It has taken several decades, but I could have predicted what happened in the Senate last week by what happened to me more than 40 years ago.

In comments made here on December 18, 2003, mostly about the indictment of former Illinois governor George Ryan, I mentioned the fact that grand juries can sometimes be convened because of pressure from powerful corporations or industries and that such a grand jury was once convened that finished up indicting me for an alleged "crime" that was never committed.

Those powerful industry forces were the same ones celebrating last Thursday at the passage of the new bankruptcy bill.

Finance companies, credit card companies, banks and all to whom some consumers are indebted way over their heads, are the beneficiaries of this legislative largesse. The losers? Average citizens who get into terrible financial trouble resulting in enormous mental distress, may now have more distress piled on when they try to approach the bankruptcy courts for relief. Way to go Congress!!!

The Predictable Jackson Judge

At the beginning of last year - on January 19,2004 in fact, I said here that Michael Jackson needed to watch out for the judge in his child molestation case. My feeling then was that this judge was pretty much in tune with the prosecutor - that he had disdain for Jackson and would like to "get" him.

It sure looked that way when Jackson’s defense team was trying to explain that Jackson had had an accident and had been taken to the hospital. " I don’t give a shit" was the implication in Judge Melville’s words and in his attitude. Instead of asking if Jackson would be able to attend that day’s hearing, he issued an arrest warrant and warned that if Jackson wasn’t in court in an hour, he would be arrested and his three million dollar bond revoked.

Of course Jackson doesn’t help matters when he shows up in pajama bottoms and one of his usual tops. Of course he needed to hurry to beat this seemingly vindictive judge’s time limit, but how long would it have taken to remove his pajama bottoms and put on some sequined pantaloons or a kilt or whatever would be normal street clothes for the King of Pop?

By the time this case gets to the jury, the issues in the trial may be overshadowed by the attitudes and rulings of the judge and the sartorial nonsense of the defendant.

I’ll have more to say on this piece of nonsensical Americana down the road, including a whole series of questions that Jackson’s attorney could ask that would explain everything to the jury that it needs to know - if the judge will let him ask them.

Some violent outbreaks that can be prevented by being predictable

Mary Schmich wrote a lyrical piece in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune about the killer of Judge Joan Lefkow’s husband and mother - about the fact that he wasn’t just some walking embodiment of Satan on earth, but a sad, beaten down human being whose descent into misery and despair robbed him of rational thought. Yet even as he committed these horrible murders, the written confession that he left behind revealed his inner humanity. He felt that what he had done was necessary, but he regretted it. In a sense, he apologized before killing himself.

Once the killer had been identified and his story began to unfold in the press, I had similar thoughts about him and about similar cases from the past - about people who had been driven to the depths of despair and for whom one more blow was enough to provoke them to commit senseless acts of violence - sometimes against themselves. And what came through to me was that all of these acts could have been prevented if only someone had realized the depths of their despair and understood how it could end if it wasn’t recognized and dealt with before it became inevitable.

I remember an automobile dealership that advertised heavily on the television station where I worked decades ago. They sold new and used cars and some were lemons. Some customers had to pay a high rate of interest and very little leeway was afforded anyone who fell behind on payments. It was the same with buyers whose cars didn’t live up to the hype of the sales staff. Just too bad. Cars would be repossessed, wages would be attached I don’t remember the precise details, but one such customer of this dealership snapped at the perceived indifference to his complaints and the continued pressure being applied to pay for what was likely a piece of junk. He walked into the dealership and shot two of the owners to death. There was no way that the crime was excusable, but it could have been avoided if the dealership had realized that what was routine to them, could eventually become unbearable to someone who was the victim of that "routine."

Someone I know went through a messy divorce not too long ago. Her husband had total control of the family finances, which were considerable, but refused to comply with court orders to provide financial support to her and to fulfill other financial obligations. The court did virtually nothing about it. Instead, she was subjected to what appeared to be the indifference of judges and the interminable delays and postponements the court allowed, that stretched out for years, putting her under enormous physical, mental and financial pressure .

This was normal for the court. "Delay" should be part of the court’s official name. But it would be easy to see how someone who had to deal with what was the daily routine for the courthouse, could snap after having been forced to deal with it for months and often for years on end.

What is even more tragic about the Lefkow case, is that the killer had been tagged years ago as someone who might be a danger to law enforcement personnel after sending threatening letters to the Illinois Attorney General. Finding out why he was so angry at the legal system and perhaps trying to work out his problems with him instead of simply dismissing his claims and tagging him as a potential danger, might have averted the ultimate tragedy that ended his life and the lives of his two innocent victims.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

There’s been a lot of crowing of late - mostly from the right - about all of the great "changes" that are taking place in the Middle East. And all because we invaded Iraq. The reasoning and the analysis is that we have put enough pressure on the first domino to have set in motion this great freedom wave that will change the world.

"See," say the taunters - aiming their barbs at "liberals" who they define as being against the idea of people wanting to be free. That sort of thing is at the very core of far right conservative belief..The defining of people who are opposed to them politically as believers and promoters of every evil imaginable - from Satan worship to a preference for abortion over the procreation of the human race. If it wasn’t so damned sinister and if it wasn’t for the fact that millions actually buy into this crap, it would be laughable.

Yes, given the choice between being free and not free, most people would choose to be free. The exception perhaps would be religious nuts who believe that their whole lives must be dedicated to "God" and "God’s laws," and in that sense they are not "free" and have no desire to be free.

Of course the sane among us want to see freedom and democracy flourish, not just in the Middle East, but everywhere where people are not free. And any encouraging signs are to be praised and encouraged. But there’s a big difference between hope and promise and reality. Mr. Bush can preach to his choir every day about this so called new wave of freedom and imply that he’s the leader of the wave and that it all began because of actions that he has taken, but saying so doesn’t make it so.

Even those who oppose the President are being taken in by this rhetoric and asking out loud if maybe Mr. Bush was "right." Right about what? That most people want to be free? Of course. But that there’s this huge, unstoppable wave of freedom sweeping across the Middle East that he precipitated? I don’t see it.

That the Israelis and Palestinians are talking and making some effort to accommodate each other can be attributed almost entirely to the removal of Yasser Arafat from the scene. But before we become too sanguine about the "progress" being made and about "windows of opportunity," we also need to pay attention to what , so far, hasn’t really changed at all. Such as Mr. Abbas taking up where Arafat left off.

Before drawing conclusions about progress between Israel and the Palestinians, it would be prudent - as Bush senior used to say - to listen to the voices coming out of those territories and not just the cheer leading of our President.

The so called "pressure" on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon was precipitated by the murder of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The subsequent street protests against Syria were countered by far greater protests by pro Syrian groups and the Prime Minister Omar Karani who resigned after the first wave of protests, to the expressed delight of all who believed that the Bush freedom crusade was gathering steam, has been re-appointed to that job. No domino there yet. Here’s a local take on the subject from Israeli commentator Yisreal Ne’eman. It comes in the form of a news letter, which is produced here in total since I can’t provide a link to it.

Western demands for free and democratic elections in Lebanon continue to be all the rage, despite the pro-Islamic fundamentalist messages sent by the Hizbollah in recent days.

Somehow the outpouring of tens of thousands of opposition demonstrators demanding a full Syrian withdrawal after the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri was interpreted by the West as the popular will, par excellence. Images from the pro-democracy rally were exactly what Americans and Europeans wanted to see. Beautiful young buxom Lebanese girls in jeans and tee shirts with crosses hanging from necklaces projected democracy, freedom, liberation from the oppressive Syrians and especially change.

The West unfortunately is blind to the real forces of change driving Lebanon, call it a Lebanese "New Middle East." It is Shi'ite fundamentalist and led by the Hizbollah. Rallying with hundreds of thousands, Hizbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah demanded that the West stay out of Lebanese issues and let Syrian troops remain.

As usual he condemned the "US – Israel alliance," accusing it of a conspiracy to destroy Lebanon. Such is the Lebanese wave of the future and not the combined forces of the Christians, Druze and the Moslem Sunnis, said to be the pro-democracy faction. Hizbollah has 20,000 men under arms and if it wanted to could face down the ineffective 70,000 man Lebanese army. It may be fun to fantasize but no one will give the order to liquidate or even curtail Hizbollah activities.

Nasrallah and Hizbollah are diocentric, taking their orders from God, and no one else. And God resides within the spiritual collective thinking ayatollahs in Tehran. Yet the US is leading the charge demanding the removal of Syrian forces in preparation for the May elections. More than before, it appears the pro-Syrian forces may win that election.

Hariri physically rebuilt Lebanon, but the radical Shi'ite spirit is increasingly dominant over the years. Many are extremely devout and lower class, seeing their salvation in the next world. The other communities and especially the Christians raise much smaller families and have emigrated in increasing numbers since the 1970s. The Shi'ites are approaching demographic and political domination. Shi'ite martyrdom in the name of Allah is a much more powerful symbol than the frivolous western style "poster girl" image wearing the latest fashions (and often a size too small).

And then there is the Israeli angle. Washington is aggravated with Jerusalem for vociferous public repetition of its demands for a Syrian withdrawal. Everyone knows that such Israeli demands will always gain the diametrically opposed response. What about the conclusion that Israel really wants Syria to remain in Lebanon? A non-democratic Lebanon with Hizbollah reigned in by Damascus is greatly preferable to Jerusalem than a supposedly free Lebanon with Hizbollah as a loose cannon (literally of course). The greatest taboo is to admit that Syria is a stabilizing force, but it is.

The point is that Israel, Syria and the Hizbollah agree that it is best for Damascus to keep troops in Lebanon. Just that no one can admit it. If Syria remains in Lebanon then Israel can remain in the Golan satisfying interests on both sides.

As for the West, it is perfectly legitimate to push for democracy and a Syrian withdrawal (UN Res. 1559), but a bit of caution would be advisable. Massive Middle Eastern destabilization in the name of an ineffective Lebanese democracy or one dominated by the Hizbollah will only explode in everyone's face.

Then there are the exciting elections coming in Egypt. Opposition parties will be able to field candidates. More waves. More dominoes. But I wouldn’t bet the house on it. If I had to make a prediction , I would say that the change will be about as effective as the recent "elections" in Saudi Arabia.

The big success of course - the one that has precipitated all of the rising freedom tide, is the elections in Iraq. It was heartening to see people turn out to vote for someone other than Saddam Hussein. But the vote took place in a country under military occupation. As will the next vote. And that occupation is likely to last for years. When it’s no longer a country under military occupation, the true test of the "freedom" wave will come.

A while back there was a letter that appeared in the Chicago Tribune that took people to task who didn’t buy into the cheer leading analysis of what is happening in the Middle East. The writer called such people "conjunctive Democrats" and I wrote a tongue-in-cheek response to his letter on February 18, 2005.

I don’t think it’s inappropriate to be hopeful about the spread of freedom and democracy, but in the real world, it’s even more appropriate to pay close attention to the "yes, but" aspects of what we hope for. In fact, in this armchair philosopher’s opinion, it would be downright dangerous not to do so.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Matthew Hale is a scumbag of the first degree. He and his ilk should be locked away forever or given the option of being treated with some healthy doses of bug spray. Vermin that they are, it should eliminate them from the environment.

Right now, Hale is sitting in a Federal lock-up waiting to be sentenced for soliciting the murder of Federal Judge Joan Lefkow .

On October 17, 2003, I expressed doubt that Hale had actually committed such a crime and suggested that the Feds were out to get this piece of human excrement and were using the solicitation allegation as a way to get him. They had recordings on which the murder of the judge was discussed, and while Hale didn’t solicit it and said he couldn’t be involved in such activity, he didn’t discourage or forbid it.

In my comments on the same topic of April 22, 2004, I acknowledged that by not forcefully condemning and forbidding any attempt to inflict physical harm on Judge Lefkow, his non actions could be interpreted as tacit approval of the suggested crime. Still, I wasn’t sure that I could vote a guilty verdict on that kind of evidence, even for a monster like Matthew Hale.

But now, I find him guilty of the most flagrant kind. Guilty of unadulterated hypocrisy. The murder of Judge Lefkow’s husband and mother, has all the earmarks of an execution by just the kind of hate group of which Hale promotes himself as a leader. But Hale doesn’t approve of this particular execution. In fact he calls it a "heinous crime." He wants the perpetrator caught and prosecuted. He wants the "animal" who committed this "heinous" crime to be apprehended.

But back in July of 1999, one of Hale’s followers, one Benjamin Smith, went on a killing rampage, targeting blacks, Jews and other minorities. One of his victims was Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong. An FBI informant recorded Hale’s somewhat different reaction to those murders. Here are some of the things Hale said five years ago about Smith and apparently the not so heinous murders that particular "animal" committed..

"He shook up a lot of people, you know, I mean driving from state to state," (Then he laughs and makes the sound of gunfire) "His aim got better as he went along." (Laughing as he says this)

"The first person he shot at, the first Jew, didn't even hit him. Didn't hit their clothes or anything. He chased them around the house. He was chasing this Jew around his house"

"And then finally by Byrdsong, he planted a few ones, you know, in his back, and that was it for him."

He says he’s "not sorry for the mud families." (That’s a word these idiots use for non-whites.)

And, most telling of all: "We're sorry for Brother Smith and his family."

And he thinks the murder of Judge Lefkow’s family is "heinous?"

Lock this cretin up and throw away the key!


Across the pond , an equally disgusting scenario is unfolding and contributing to the erosion of all that was once wonderful about the British Isles.

On February 23, 2005 - writing about the forthcoming marriage between Prince Charles and his Camilla - and citing that whole affair as an example of the disintegration of Britain’s national character and traditions, I also introduced readers to London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone - and the furor he has created over his hosting of a notorious sheik who believes that killing Americans is a religious duty - and asking a reporter whose questions he didn’t like if he was a "German War Criminal."

Now Mr. Livingstone has truly revealed himself. The Guardian - a respected newspaper that I read when I’m in England and occasionally on line, allowed him to pen an op-ed piece - an opportunity which he used to voice his opinion that Ariel Sharon was "a war criminal who should be in prison and not in office!!"

Can you imagine the elected mayor of any major American city making such a statement? Can you imagine Daley of Chicago writing such a piece in the Chicago Tribune or Bloomburg of New York writing in the New York Times?

And what would be the reaction coming out of the White House at the revelation that the mayor of a major American city was an avowed anti-Semite? And make no mistake about it. The cumulative actions and statements of the man who presides over one of the great cities of the western world, is an anti-Semite. A man who hates Jews and welcomes with open arms, Muslim clerics who applaud the mass murder of Americans.

I don’t know when the next mayoral election takes place in London, but when it does happen, it will be a test for the citizens of that city. They will have the opportunity to tell me that I’m wrong in my view that England has, for a long time now, been slowly losing its character, its nobility and its innate sense of decency. They can do that by throwing this bum out of office.

If they should re-elect him, I wouldn’t know what to say. I’m sure I would find the words, but it will be a sad day indeed if I ever have to find them!!

Friday, March 04, 2005

I don’t know if Martha Stewart was ever in the habit of saying TGIF as the week wound down. Probably not in her successful years. Every day was likely the same to her. Comfortably rich. But not this Friday.

I was in jail once. It was for less time than Martha served. Just 28 days. And it was an army jail. Caught for taking the week-end off when my unit was suddenly called out on maneuvers I know those 28 days seemed like an eternity to me and I know when I got out, I swore that I’d never allow myself to be incarcerated in any kind of jail ever again.

So I have an idea how Martha must feel today, even though her service was a much different one from mine. I wasn’t allowed any visitors. I couldn’t make any ‘phone calls. There were no arts and crafts contests to enter. But once I walked through the prison gates, it was over. The army doesn’t have parole or parole officers.

What on earth is the purpose of putting Martha on five months home "confinement" and having her under the supervision of a parole officer to whom she has to apply for permission to jet off to Paris for lunch?

I don’t know how similar New Hampshire’s criminal code is to New York and other states, but it seems to me that its description of the purpose of parole is what I’ve always believed it to be.

I know that Martha’s original sentence was the five months in the hoosegow followed by five more of home confinement, but that home confinement is more or less the equivalent of parole for a released felon who has to conform to the same set of rules as her, without the home confinement bit.

But in some ways, Martha’s punishment is worse than that of the average paroled felon. After she finishes her five months of home confinement, she will then begin a two year period of being on parole!!!

As I commented here last July 19th, I think Martha got screwed by the Feds, even though she was her own worst enemy when she tried playing fast and loose with the truth of what happened.

But after serving five months in a Federal prison, she’s more popular than ever. She has a packed business schedule ahead of her. She’s not about to flee the country - except for that possible lunch at Le Domaine de Lintillac on rue Saint Augustin. She’s not about to consort with felons and plan some new caper. (Of course, she has to be careful not to give direct and personal help to any one of her ex fellow inmates. That would be a rule breaker that could land her right back in the pokey). She doesn’t need any help making the transition from prison to society.

So what is the point of the extended humiliation - the protracted screwing? And what kind of cockamamie parole is it that won’t let her work in her garden but will let her leave her house for 48 hours a week for the first five months following her release? ? Doesn’t that allow her to work a six day week back at Martha Stewart Living? Or five days with overtime?

Yet she has a "parole officer." She has to "report" to that "parole officer" within 72 hours of leaving jail last night and hopping a private jet back to her jail away from jail. She has to wear an electronic anklet so that the authorities can monitor her every move. In case she tries to set up a secret meeting in Jacques Pepin’s kitchen. She has to get permission from that parole officer to do anything beyond the rules that have been established for her five months of home confinement.

One has to wonder who that parole officer is and will it be the same one for the five months of home confinement as for the subsequent two years? Can you imagine Martha Stewart having to ask permission to attend some business meeting out of town or having to explain what she’s doing to integrate herself back into lawful society a year or eighteen months from now?

How will the parole officer react? Will he or she be embarrassed at having to ride herd over Martha or will the assignment give the officer a heightened sense of power. "I don’t care if you’re richer than Bill Gates and fifty million American women wait for you to tell them what to wear each morning. I want you to fill out these forms and tell me everything you did all of last week and what you’ve learned about how to be an honest citizen!!"

All felons are supposed to be treated equally. Fame and fortune isn’t supposed to entitle you to any different treatment from the nameless and faceless bunko artist who’s in the cell next door.

And parole is parole. The rules are the same whether you live in a cold water fifth floor walk-up in the Bronx or occupy the entire fifth floor of the Essex House.

But there is a point at which the strict application of a sentence makes absolutely no sense and the home confinement and subsequent two years of probation for Martha Stewart - treating her as you would a paroled career criminal - is a perfect example of nonsensical waste of time and taxpayer money.

I can imagine what another Stewart (no relation) will make of all this. Probably more sense than the Feds ever did

1:15 p.m.

Apropos of my comments two days ago about Condoleezza Rice’s praise for Israelis and Palestinians exhibiting "considerable maturity" in the wake of the Tel Aviv suicide murder attack, I wonder when she will ever say anything about the kind of duplicity still being practiced by the PLO. If she doesn’t know about it, maybe she should take up reading The Jerusalem Post, where she can find a typical example of Palestinian "maturity."

Thursday, March 03, 2005
All on one stage!!

One of the most important issues that was virtually overlooked in the last presidential election -in fact in the last two presidential elections - is the power of the President to appoint Supreme Court Justices.

Not that it wasn’t discussed at all, but it was way down on the list headed by "moral values" and "the war on terror."

A President serves a maximum of eight years and the country can survive his or her views on "moral values" and ideas about how to fight "wars" against "terror." But a Supreme Court Justice who gets nominated and confirmed by the Senate, can have an influence over the affairs of this nation for thirty, forty or even fifty years!!!

The issue of Supreme Court appointments came sharply into focus the other day with the narrow five to four decision banning execution of felons who committed murder when they were under the age of eighteen.

While a victory for sanity in an area of the law that many people believe is totally insane to begin with, it was nonetheless a scary decision from the point of view of the dissenting minority and in particular the vitriolic attack on the reasoning of the majority by Antonin Scalia.

According to Scalia, the decision puts the court in the position of being the "sole arbiter of the nation’s moral standards." In other words, since nineteen states still have laws that allow them to execute young offenders who might have killed at the age of sixteen or seventeen , the court shouldn’t interfere at all.

That sure makes a lot of sense doesn’t it? If states have laws on the books that says blacks and whites should go to separate schools, what right has the Supreme Court to impose its moral values on them? If Scalia had been sitting on the court in 1954, no doubt Brown versus Board of Education would have been eight to one instead of unanimous.

Conservatives have complained for years about "activist courts." They would like to see "strict constructionists" sitting on the nation’s benches, handing down decisions on the basis of laws that were written before their grandparents were born - unless of course those decisions clashed with their conservative doctrines and beliefs.

There are 72 people sitting on death rows around the country, having been sentenced for crimes committed when they were children. Before they were old enough to vote. Before they were old enough to buy and consume alcoholic drinks. In some cases, before they were old enough to drive - even with a learner’s permit. Now they’ll probably spend twenty or thirty years in prison. Maybe the rest of their lives. But their punishment will no longer put us on a par with Iran and Saudi Arabia. It will bring us into line with the vast majority of the world’s nations that do not permit the execution of their citizens for crimes they commit as children.

Justice Kennedy took note of this world wide trend and that didn’t sit well with Scalia either. "Who gives a #$@#%! what the rest of the world thinks or does," you could almost hear him saying to himself. Maybe he didn’t get the memo from the White House. That was the line for the first four years. The theme for the second four years is renewed friendships and respect for the opinions of our "allies."

The majority decision cited the eighth amendment and called the execution of juvenile offenders "cruel and unusual" punishment. The framers didn’t leave a laundry list of what should be considered cruel and unusual. How could they? How could they have looked into the future and seen the evolution of society?

Appropriately, the courts of each generation examine the laws on the books and determine what might be considered contemporarily "cruel and unusual." Forty lashes for a seaman’s infraction of the rules aboard ship might have been an acceptable punishment a hundred years ago. Times, standards and understandings change.

I applaud the majority decision. I’m disappointed in O’Connor’s separate dissent. And on the day that Clarence Thomas doesn’t fall lock step in line with whatever the conservative position is on any issue - and maybe even directs a question from the bench - I’ll start getting ready for the rapture.

Now the nine wise ones have to decide on where the ten commandments can be displayed. I’m all for letting it be displayed everywhere. Apart from the "I am the Lord They God" part, I think it’s the best set of rules ever contrived. Although the Christian Justices outnumber the Jewish members, seven to two - I have a hunch that the Supremes will come down on the side of Moses, Jesus and the two historic figure’s religion and that could almost make Judaism the national religion of the United States!!!

I know a lot of those Red State stalwarts like to call it "Judeo-Christian" faith. That’s so they can co-opt the Hebrew ten commandments and be good old boy bigoted rednecks at the same time.

As Yakov Smirnoff used to say - WHAT A COUNTRY!!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Out of curiosity I re-visited Google to see if there had been any change in what happened if one typed in the word "Jew." There was no change. It's still displayed, in the number one position - the despicable hate site "Jew Watch." A few days ago, at the top of the page, there was an apology from Google saying that they had no control over which site would come up first using their complicated search criteria.

If one typed in Judaism they said, their search engine would produce a different result, which is true. "Jew Watch" is nowhere to be seen - at least on the first couple of pages. And yesterday, the Google apology and explanation was also nowhere to be seen either. But if one types in Jonathan Pollard, "Jew Watch" pops up again, this time in the number 10 spot!!

There’s something a little strange going on here. If you type in the word "Jew" in the Yahoo search engine, "Jew Watch" is there, but in the number twelve spot. The first eleven sites are all legitimate. And type in Jonathan Pollard on Yahoo and if "Jew Watch" is there at all, it’s many hundreds of listings down, far beyond where most people would want or need to look for information about Pollard.

The Google apology and explanation of why they can’t prevent this hate site from coming up number one on its search engine can be found simply by typing in "Jew" plus google - either on Google or Yahoo and presumably on other search engines also - but as of yesterday and today, they no longer are putting it at the top of the page - above the "Jew Watch" search result.

Obviously there are differences in the way the major search engines work, but I can't buy the Google explanation. There are all kinds of sites with the word "Jew" as a prominent part of the site’s name or subject, so why would "Jew Watch" - an acknowledged hate site, come up number one? I think the answer has to be that the sub-humanoids who run this site have figured a way to fool Google into believing that they have the most relevant material relating to the word "Jew," and are thus "entitled" to be in the number one spot.

I happen to know someone in business who has achieved the same thing and in the same way. He has figured out how to get Google to recognize his company before any other in the same business. His business is no bigger nor any more legitimate than others in his field, but he comes out number one. That sort of enterprise doesn't bother me. One would expect a legitimate business to try to make itself as recognizable as possible to Google and to other search engines - and if it's successful, more power to it.

But there's a huge flaw in search engine technology if a hate web site is recognized and acknowledged as such, yet still appears at the number one site to visit - the most relevant site if you will - when someone is doing a serious search having nothing to do with hate.

As wonderful as search engines may be, they have huge problems in "understanding" the relevance of a web site to the search being conducted. Search engines that bring up sites for each word in a search request can produce hundreds of thousands of "hits" in microseconds, but huge numbers of them are totally worthless and misleading. And as far as Google is concerned, using quotes to eliminate the irrelevant sites, often produces zero results.

There have been some efforts to dislodge the "Jew Watch" web site from it's lofty position by sincere people trying to manipulate Google's recognition technology. It hasn't worked. It shouldn't have to. The technology geniuses at Google need to write the appropriate code that would prevent a site like "Jew Watch" from coming up unless the searcher types in something like "Jew + Hate," or "anti-Semitic hate groups." ("Jew + Hate" brings up "Jew Watch" in the number 12 position).

If it can't do something as simple as that. If it can't prevent "Jew Watch" from appearing in the top ten results in response to typing "Jonathan Pollard," then it leaves a gaping opening for other search engines to lure people to their sites and poke a few well deserved holes in the exalted leadership position that Google currently holds. And more power to them!!


Unlike other commentary blogs, I don't have a lot of links to similar blogs, mostly because I don't have time to click on them and read their content. But I may try adding a few after I've monitored what they're all about. Here's one that I plan to monitor for a week or two.

Diplomatic Skills on Display

On January 19, 2005, I expressed some reservations about the diplomatic skills of newly appointed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, much of such skills resting on the selection of appropriate diplomatic language when dealing with world leaders or members of the Senate or just making pronouncements for attribution and publication.

She’s since been on some trips and, from what has been reported, done quite well.

Then came the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last Friday, putting Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas under big time pressure to prevent the illusion of the "peace process" from being revealed as little more than an illusion. The pressure is strongest on Sharon, who is being asked to sit still and do nothing while the IDF continues to thwart as many such attacks as they can - which aren't supposed to be happening at all - and in the full knowledge that not all of them can be thwarted and more Israeli blood will be spilled.

Meanwhile, the usual condemnations come from the usual sources and the usual platitudes are being uttered about peace being impossible unless the terrorism can be stopped (Dah!!!)

And then, acknowledging the lack of any military response from Israel and the addition of Abbas to the chorus of condemners, Rice praises Israelis and Palestinians for showing "considerable maturity."

"Considerable Maturity??"

"Yes Mrs. Sharon. You can be proud of little Ariel. A nasty boy from his Arab language class hit him on the back of the head with a brick and Ariel didn’t even bloody his nose. And you should be proud too Mrs. Abbas. Your little Mahmoud didn’t cheer like some of the other boys. He said it was wrong to throw bricks at Ariel because that would just make Ariel mad and he might not share any of his doughnuts with the rest of the class. And they all know that Ariel is the only one who has doughnuts to share because the Sharon bakery is the one that makes all the doughnuts. Yes Mrs. Sharon and Mrs. Abbas. You should be really proud. Your young boys are growing up. They’re really showing considerable maturity!! "

Words Condoleezza. These two sides have been at each other's throats a lot longer than you've been alive. The sane among them have always striven for a peaceful solution. They've always hoped that restraint would begat restraint. The hopeful among the Israelis have always wrestled with their consciences and their sense of agonizing obligation about how to achieve peace with their neighbors as they've gathered up shreds of bloodied bodies from the sidewalks and from the wreckages of buses.

Leaders on both sides are struggling with the same gut wrenching issues again today. They don't need you to tell them how much "maturity" they're exhibiting as they hold their breath in anticipation of the next onslaught of the mad ones and pray that it won't happen or that alert Israeli soldiers will prevent it.

Words Condoleezza. This isn't Stanford University where it might be appropriate to praise the "considerable maturity" being displayed by your students. This is the world of life and death. There's a different language being spoken here. You need to learn it.