Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jena not quite as it seemed

Martin Luther King TalksWe must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools... Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sober fact checking after the circus left town found that the whole Jena incident was, in the words of one black citizen, no downright, racial affair, despite remaining questions. The AP report- read it, it's good work- includes these facts:

The “white” tree at Jena High wasn't. All races congregated under it at one time or another.

Two nooses were found in the tree and cut down because black and white students “were playing with them... swinging... and putting their heads through them,” according to a black teacher.

There was no connection between the September noose incident and the December attack, according a U.S. Justice Department attorney who investigated claims that the events might be race-related hate crimes.

Youths accused of hanging the nooses were not just suspended for three days; they were isolated at an alternative school for about a month, and then given in-school suspension for two weeks.

The six-member jury that convicted Bell was, indeed, all white. However, only one in 10 people in LaSalle Parish is African American, and though black residents were selected randomly by computer and summoned for jury selection, none showed up.

Agreement can be found among black and white townsfolk that young troublemakers of both races got out of hand. Authorities didn't respond as wisely as they might have but are muddling through. Hanging the nooses was wrong, the beating was dangerously wrong, and those responsible for any outrage like these should be punished severely regardless of race. Jena is no Eden, but people there are communicating a little more frankly than they were before this all happened and are on the way toward solving their problems.

Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other race-baiting carpetbaggers seeking to profit from the tribulations of others should leave the good folks of Jena alone to continue learning to live together, as we all are. Let them seek elsewhere for sensationalism to jumpstart their dead careers.

What's the count, gents? The Tawana Brawley affair was strike one. It's a swing and a miss in Jena. The folks in the bleachers are keeping score.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Police Taser Brutality

Heidi Gill TaserCBS carries shocking videos of Hannah Storm's solid interview of a Taser© victim on the Early Show last week. Heidi Gill was tased until unconscious by a power drunk uniformed thug who must outweigh her by 100 pounds. Heidi, celebrating after a wedding with friends, left a bar when asked to do so after a verbal confrontation with a bar employee. She was seated in a vehicle waiting for a ride home when jumped by taser - wielding Warren, Ohio, police officer Richard Kovachs. Police cruiser video shows him repeatedly tasing his terrified, uncomprehending, and unresisting victim. Interview video shows twenty to thirty marks from taser discharge burned into the white slacks she wore that evening.

A taser is a gas-powered handgun. It fires barbed darts with enough force to penetrate an inch of clothing and embed themselves in your flesh like fishhooks. A pull on the trigger sends a 50,000 volt shock through wires and into the darts for five seconds- or until the battery is drained, if the aggressor holds the trigger down. The shock interrupts muscular control, and you fall. It's incredibly painful.

Police agencies discuss the use of physical tactics along a Force Continuum graduated from mild (the mere presence of police) to severe. When introduced, tasers were considered one step below shooting someone. In six years they've slipped toward the bottom of that scale and displaced much milder forms of control. If you doubt this, search YouTube using the term taser, and prepare to be disgusted. Leaving decisions about the use of force to street cops has allowed tasing to creep from a rare to an almost everyday event.

Department policy in Warren, Ohio states that a taser may be used when someone physically assaults or threatens to assault an officer, physically tries to defeat an officer trying to gain control, or tells the officer of intent to resist. Heidi did none of those things. In another Hannah Storm interview on CBS you can watch Gregory Hicks, Warren's Law Director and Chief Prosecutor squirm as he tries to distance the city and its police department from this incident. Officer Kovachs remains on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

Tasers are now used by 11,000 agencies in 44 countries. According to the manufacturer's own press kit, tasers are used about 100,000 times each year. The risk is not from death in a single use, but from the growing unwarranted use against citizens by police across the country. We never hear about most taser use because it doesn't involve premium newscast material like attractive, white, blond, articulate 38-year-old single mother Heidi Gill.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Christ, His Christ... Awww, Christ. Stop it.

Reed Walters JenaAn estimated 20,000 protesters marched in Jena, Lousiana last week in a scene that evoked the early years of the civil rights movement among those who either are too young to remember it or bought into the Uncle Jesse and Cousin Al show. Despite the hype, the legal system there functioned well today as a key participant in the group beating of a high school student went free on bail after a misbegotten attempt to try him as an adult. Reed Walters, the District Attorney prosecuting the case, claimed divine guidance for the townspeople, beating a local pastor to the punch.

"The only way that I believe that me or this community has been able to endure the trauma that has been thrust upon us is through the prayers of the Christian people who have sent them up in this community. I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened.”

The Reverend Donald Sibley, a Jena pastor late out of the gate in the Jesus race, was outraged that Walters credited divine intervention for the community's responsible behavior. Sibley told CNN that Walters had insulted the protesters by making a false separation between "his Christ and our Christ."

"I can't diminish Christ at all. But for him to use it in the sense that because his Christ, his Jesus, because he prayed, because of his police, that everything was peaceful and was decent and in order — that's not the truth."

Noted Diety Jesus H. Christ, reached for comment at home, spoke with some passion about the unsanctioned use of his name. “I've been ignoring this freak show as hard as I can. Neither one of these clowns speaks for me, no more than those other two do - you know who I'm talking about. Those white kids and black kids are completely off the rails. I pity the parents, they have their hands full. These folks claiming to speak for me will have their own hands full when I catch up with them, trust me.”

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jena isn't Selma

The news is full of the sad result of misbehavior among white and black punks in Jena, Lousiana. Mychal Bell, a black high school kid, faces prison for being one of a group of six who beat up a white classmate in a town torn by racial tensions. Accusers protest that other fights following a schoolyard turf dispute didn't result in arrests and prosecutions because white punks beat up black punks instead. Bell's conviction for aggravated second-degree battery was thrown out because he was wrongly tried as an adult. That, and a poor job by his public defender, raise legitimate concern that justice will not be served.

That being said, this isn't Selma. This isn't Little Rock. This is punk rock, white punks and black punks doing what they do best. A whole collection of idiots of all ages and all shades of grey deserve a major beat-down.

The ACLU and the NAACP, veterans of honest fights and recognizing a Bad Idea when they see it, haven't become involved in any substantive way and probably won't. Both are marginally involved through passive participation, filing information requests, presenting petitions, and organizing marches and prayer vigils.

Civil rights footnotes and media whores Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, desperate for face time, jumped in with both feet. Both are milking the incident for another shot at relevance. Jena was Jesse's chance to link arms with marchers and link his name with Barack Obama's in the press by accusing him of not being “black enough” for ignoring the march. Sharpton didn't miss the chance to invoke the patron saint of civil rights:

This is the beginning of the 21st century civil rights movement... Martin Luther King Jr. faced Jim Crow. We've come to Jena to face James Crow Jr., Esq."

Don't be taken in by the rhetoric. Don't mistake morons for icons. Leaders are shaped by their cause. Jena is about punks misbehaving, not a nationwide struggle against Jim Crow laws. The “Jena Six” are no more the Little Rock Nine than Tawana Brawley is Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Finally, Useful Research

i can has bacon n eggsA major advance is signaled today as doctors unveil details of a technique that will allow breakfast to be grown in the laboratory from human tissue samples. It will allow career women, or those waiting to meet the right partner, to delay learning to prepare meals for years.

The first stage of the technique involves removing slivers of ovarian tissue through keyhole surgery. Though just millimeters wide, each sample contains thousands of immature eggs. In the second stage, slabs, or “rashers”, of heavily marbled tissue are removed from the thighs or buttocks of the donor. The tissue is then frozen until ready to fry breakfast. At that time, it will be stimulated with hormones to grow the immature eggs and bacon slices into mature ones ready for use.

Researchers said the technique would be of "huge benefit" because women could avoid the process of injecting themselves daily with hormones to stimulate their interest in marketing, having to endure an uncomfortable trip to harvest the eggs in the ordinary manner.

Doctors working on the new method at the Tunnel Fertility and Breakfast Centre in London say different elements of the technique are already in use but it will take some time before the whole process is pieced together and perfected. Sadly, though the human reproductive system is well known as a source of yeast, bread for toast and English muffins must still be purchased at the grocery for the forseeable future.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary's socialist beachhead

Sieg HillarySocialist democracy is not a luxury but an absolute, essential necessity for overthrowing capitalism and building socialism. Ernest Mandel

Yesterday in Iowa, America's crypto-socialist Hillary Clinton announced that she plans to force you to purchase health insurance before you can get a job. "You (will) have to show proof to your employer that you're insured as a part of the job interview...” She doesn't plan punitive measures other than the prospect of unemployment to force you to do comply. Yet. "At this point, we don't have anything punitive that we have proposed," she said in an interview with The A.P.

In a bold move to extend the federal government's control of your life, she plans to force every American to buy health insurance, bribing those who can't afford it with credits and subsidies funded by taxing money away from those who can.

I've built a career that enables me to require my employer to provide health care as part of my compensation. I don't need her plan. I don't deserve to be punished with taxation for planning ahead; nor does any professional; nor does any union member. She claims she wants to “build on the current employer-based system” but this scheme is planned to supplant it entirely. All this will build is American socialism.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

America - compatible Islam?

In a post below I wonder at the apparent silence of American Muslims concerning the possibility of reform in their faith. The web being what it is I don't know quite what to make of the Free Muslim Coalition site. I advise you to follow the link and investigate for yourself. Taken at face value, it seems to want to be the voice of some Muslims in America. This statement appears on its home page:

We believe in the re-interpretation of Islam for the 21st century where terrorism is not justified under any circumstances.
We believe in the separation of religion and state.
We believe that democracy is the best form of government.
We believe in the promotion of secularism in all forms of political activity.
We believe that equality for women is an inalienable right.
We believe that religion is a personal relationship between the individual and his or her God and is not to be forced on anyone.

They seem to profess quite another version of Islam than we read about in the news. The site cautiously repudiates many practices and beliefs that make Islam incompatible with western civilization. I would love to see any American Muslim's reaction to these ideas and sentiments.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brave Muslim Apostates call for Reform

Last week the Times carried an exciting article about brave Muslims' campaign to make it safe to leave their religion. This news comes from the Netherlands:

A group of young Muslim apostates launches a campaign today... to make it easier to renounce Islam... The provocative move reflects a growing rift between traditionalists and a younger generation raised on a diet of Dutch tolerance... Similar organisations campaigning for reform of the religion have sprung up across Europe and representatives from Britain and Germany will join the launch in The Hague today.

This may not seem like a big deal to you. Members of traditional churches in the U.S. may suffer if they commit a grave offense against or renounce their faith, but repercussions are generally limited to the religious life. Excommunicated, you're free to go on with some emotional bruises and your principles intact to find a church that suits you- or no church at all, if you please. That's not the case with Islam.

The Koran teaches that believers must kill anyone who turns from Islam. Read this for yourself. Search the online Koran provided by the University of Michigan for the word “kill”- you'll find that Sura 4:89 reads as described in the Times article. The hadith, a collection of tradition and legend about Muhammad and his followers, is just as harsh. It tells of a special reward in paradise for killers of apostates.

The founder of the Committee for Ex-Muslims , Ehsan Jami, says in the article:

Sharia schools say that they will kill the ones who leave Islam... In Islam you are born Muslim. You do not even choose to be Muslim. We want that to change, so that people are free to choose who they want to be and what they want to believe in.”

The freedom to choose terrifies the European Muslim community and its authorities, who fear the competition among ideas that flourishes in a free state. This can't be stopped by any power short of totalitarianism. Islam will reform or it will die after a long, disappointing and increasingly irrelevant senescence.

Major questions remain. When will enlightened NON-apostate Muslims be brave enough to stand up for this important freedom? Secondly, the article and references linked cite participants from Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands. When will American Muslims stand up and add their voices to this call for reform?

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Friday, September 14, 2007

It's night time, Blinky, it's supposed to be dark

light trespass
"The stars awaken a certain reverence, because though always present, they are inaccessible." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I live in on a quiet street in a rural town. My bedroom window overlooks the back yard from the second floor. The view is charming after dark, especially under a full moon- I can't see that the grass needs mowing and the acorns fallen from the oak have taken root and crowd the hostas in the rock garden. I'll pull blankets from the cedar chest up to my chin so I can keep the sash up. Even on cold winter nights it's worth a shiver to hear the old pine sigh in the wind and watch cats move in the blue shadows.

Since midsummer I need to be careful which way I look to keep that spell intact. My neighbor has installed unshielded garden lights along his rear fence and the glare is awful until a timer shuts them off at eleven. This kind of trespass isn't new for him. Since spring I haven't been able to step out on my back porch without triggering the clear glass bulb over his side door. Since last summer I can't set up my telescope in the middle of my back yard without tripping the sensor that turns on the floodlights on the back of his garage. The year before that he installed a post light with a milk glass globe on his front lawn that stays lit all night long.

I don't know what his problem is, exactly, but I just learned from a great article in the New Yorker that there's a name for this rudeness: light trespass. Light doesn't respect property lines any more than loud music does. Many communities have laws to prohibit objectionably loud music or mufflers, especially after dark. An anonymous phone call will bring cops to your door with a noise complaint.

Few small towns treat light pollution the same way. Larger cities have larger problems. Some limit street, mall, and building lighting and require fixture design to direct light onto the ground or road while shielding the eyes from glare. You can find model lighting ordinances online. Even so, I've flown over the country at night and have been astonished by how few and far between are the lovely dark islands among blazes of light. Read the Whole Post (opens in a new tab or window)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Illegal immigrant child abuse

Today's article headlined “Boy leads protest over deported mother” is another brass-balled example of biased reporting by the Associated Press. Yahoo's carrying it and the Drudge Report links it using the headline provided by the AP. Let's desconstruct this...

An 8-year old boy... led a chanting crowd of about 150 pro-immigration activists through the halls of Congress on Wednesday.

The boy didn't lead anything. The conscience-free protestors shamelessly shoved a banner into his hands and herded him along in front of them, an unwilling poster child for their cause. Note that this isn't about promoting LEGAL immigration, it's about letting illegal immigration proceed unabated.

Asked by a demonstrator whether he wanted to speak, he shook his head no... looking distracted, (he) then joined other children at the front of an unruly procession through the halls and basements of two House office buildings.

He was leading this protest the same way a bug splattered on a windshield leads a car speeding down an interstate highway.

In Tijuana, Mexico, across the border from San Diego, (his mother) Elvira Arellano spoke about her son to several dozen demonstrators. “He is a boy who has been suffering because the U.S. Government told his mother she couldn't stay in their country anymore because she was undocumented,” she said.

No, he's suffering because mommy (intone that blessed word with hand on heart and eyes raised to heaven), deported once before his birth as an illegal immigrant, returned for a repeat engagement, got pregnant but not married, and stayed undocumented for several years before getting caught using a false social security number to illegally hold a job. She was ordered to report for deportation but instead stayed for another year in the sanctuary provided by a well-meaning church group near Chicago. She was finally arrested and deported only after thumbing her nose at La Migra by traveling to Los Angeles to lead immigration protests.

So, si se puede. Yes, you can. You can lie. You can use your kid as media bait. You can't, however, play the Mommy Card in this round. That card's been trumped by the truth. Leave that poor kid out of your protests.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 thoughts on the Reform of Islam

Though Muslims seem to have cornered the market on crazy for the last few years, Islam isn't the only strange faith out there. All religions teach some very odd things. Honest believers admit that they swallow whole beliefs that make no sense to anyone but their coreligionists. They're unprovable; that's why it's called faith, and to be fair, all religions have exactly the same degree of proof that their beliefs are true.

This is the reason for fellowship. People who think like you reinforce your beliefs instead of rolling their eyes and making little circles in the air next to their ear with their index finger. It feels good to belong to a group that has exclusive rights to The Truth. Generally nobody else cares that you believe this unless you are obnoxious about it. Evangelists, take note.

The poisonous mix of culture and religion that is Islam today takes this a step too far and teaches that it's OK to commit mayhem upon those who believe differently. This unforgivable idea makes Islam intolerable to civilized people. It's not the first religion to feature this error. Remember crusades and pogroms? Other religions have, at one time or another, entertained this perverse notion. Those that have survived have outgrown it. Islam hasn't, yet. It hasn't had the time and recently hasn't been exposed to competing ideas.

Judaism and Christianity are far older than Islam. They no longer exist in their pristine forms in any significant way. They've adapted over centuries of urban coexistence; their sharper corners rounded by bumping up against diverse ideas at large in the western world. Heterogeneous society is good for civilization. Homogeneity and isolation allow pathological belief systems to fester unchallenged. Dissenting voices are brutally silenced.

Muslims in the west are free to discuss their beliefs in an open market of ideas and are asking the hard questions, trying to reconcile their beliefs with the reality of life in their new homes. See if you don't recognize the questions they ask about their faith as the ones you ask about your own. From the ranks of writers and thinkers like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Salman Rushdie, and Taslima Nasrin may come the first reformers of Islam.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Exploding Mexican Trucks- coming soon to a highway near You

Today a truck hauling dynamite collided with another vehicle on a busy highway in Mexico, leaving a crater in the concrete 40 feet long and 10 feet wide, killing at least 34 people, and injuring more than 150. The explosion was powerful enough to blow the windows out of a bus a quarter mile away.

Last weekend, Mexico sent its first tractor-trailers into the U.S. as permitted under a long-delayed, NAFTA-mandated program. They used to be restricted to a zone 25 miles wide near the border. Supposedly trucks hauling hazardous materials aren't included in the new program. Yet.

Imagine the effect this explosion would have in your hometown. Picture it happening along I-94 between Detroit and Chicago, on I-80 across the top of northwest Indiana, or on I-70 between Columbus and Indianapolis. Imagine the effect during rush hour where homes crowd the margins of the highway.

Are Mexican trucks subject to the same safety regulations as American trucks? Are they as well serviced? Do they have the same weight limitations? Do they pay the same tolls and fuel and highway taxes? Are they subject to the same traffic enforcement and the same DOT regulations? Do they have the same exhaust pollution restrictions?

Do Mexican drivers have the same time-behind-the-wheel safety limitations as American drivers? Do they have the same training? How many American driving jobs will be lost to Mexican truckers?

Never mind that plunging Mexican trucking into the heartland provides a toehold for the NAFTA Superhighway. Trucks must be inspected by customs officials before they enter U.S. Territory, not at some terminal in Kansas City. Expect customs officials to rack up a lot of overtime. Expect the cost of street drugs to plummet. Expect terrorists to have a far easier means of entry than they do now. If we let the border become this porous we raise the specter of tons of explosives, even a dirty bomb, deliberately trucked to within striking distance of an American city in the name of Free Trade.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Immigrate Legally

A few weeks ago the Chicago Tribune carried the story of Elvira Arellano, a criminal fugitive who was deported once and returned for a repeat engagement. She was caught again. Rather than report for deportation, she sought sanctuary in a Humboldt Park church and reimagined herself as an activist and a national symbol for illegal immigrant parents . There she was left alone for months until she traveled to Los Angeles to speak at an immigration rally and was arrested afterwards. She had this to say:

''They were in a hurry to deport me because they saw that I was threatening to mobilize and organize the people to fight for legalization,'' Arellano said in Spanish outside the Tijuana apartment building where she was staying. ''I have a fighting spirit and I'm going to continue fighting.''

Something was lost in translation unless "fighting" means "sitting on my butt in a church for a year and doing nothing much" in Spanish. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wasn't threatened by her efforts. They weren't in much of a hurry, either. They deported her because after months of very vocal attention whoring she left the sanctuary provided by the goodhearted but misguided congregation of the Adalberto United Methodist Church. ICE just avoided the hysterical press that would have followed a raid on a midwestern church.

The saddest note in her story is that she had to choose either to leave her US-born son in the land of his birthright or take him to Mexico with her. Her decision to leave him with his godmother in Chicago is somehow seen as a great tragedy rather than simple common sense and the easily foreseen direct result of Elvira's own choices.

The September print edition of The Progressive magazine tells of two more indocumentados in similar straits. One of them, a young woman with infant in tow, has taken refuge in yet another church acting as part of what's called the New Sanctuary Movement. Supporters of this movement apparently see no difference between Central American political refugees of the 80's and opportunist scofflaws of the 00's. Hidden behind the pain and disrupted lives of all three families are stories with this simple pattern:

I'm not a political refugee fleeing for my life from an oppressive regime. I came to the US to work at a better paying job. I forged documents (birth certificate, social security number) to legitimize myself. I lived under the radar for years, not paying taxes, and got away with it because immigration laws are as weakly enforced as I had hoped. I married a naturalized citizen and we have a US- born child. During all my years in the States I did not avail myself of existing means to work toward citizenship. Now the law has caught up with me and I will be separated from my family and deported. I've been a model citizen with the exception of my illegal status. Isn't this sad? Won't you let me slide?

No. Send us the tired, the poor, the homeless, the tempest-tossed. Many Americans still like those sentiments even though they're not and never were policy. We will insist on citizenship, however. This worked for the Irish, the Italian, the German, the Pole, the Jew, the Muslim, and the Hindu, for refugees and immigrants from too many lands to mention, and we think it should work for you too. Don't drag little Saulito or Pablito out as Poster Child for the Fabricated Cause when rules you knew about and dodged are finally enforced after years of grace.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Some things are true

See, I knew this was true- Guinness really IS good for you. Like I need a reason to enjoy a pint. At home, of course, for there's no decent pub within forty miles of here. Bars and pubs are endangered species thanks to the sad fantasy that a drop of alcohol in your blood is a major threat to society. This does generate easy gigs for cops who'd rather strut through sobriety checkpoints than do any actual work.
Twenty years ago you could stop after work for a social pint or four and a game of darts at the millgate inn or the corner local without worrying about lurking malcontents with badges. No more. What progress. Read the Whole Post (opens in a new tab or window)


Welcome to a new blog. Do comment, do explore the links, and do stop in as the blog develops. I have no idea how the road will turn. I'll stick with the layout provided by Blogspot, for a start, and tweak as I go. I still want to add some features and discard others I won't be using. As for content- we'll see. Read the Whole Post (opens in a new tab or window)