Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Par For the Course

Wal-Mart Will Use “Merry Christmas” in Advertising

Via an e-mail from Marshall Manson, PR honcho of Wal-Mart:
I know there’s some discussion out there today about Wal-Mart and Christmas. (Sheesh – it used to be, Christmas didn’t start until after Halloween.)

Wal-Mart’s policy is very simple: Associates can say whatever they want. If they want to say “Merry Christmas,” that’s fine. If they want to say something else, that’s fine, too. And Wal-Mart will be wishing its customers Merry Christmas in its advertising this year. Any suggestion to the contrary on either point is just plain wrong.
It seems Christians have won this battle in the War on Christmas.

Most Wal-Mart employees will say “Merry Christmas,” given the company’s concentration in conservative red states, and in working class and black urban areas. As for those who want to say something else, tolerance certainly demands that they be free to do so.

See also a message from Sam’s Club here.

The World Council of Churches Sides With Hezbollah

From Christianity Today:
In July, the World Council of Churches (WCC) released a statement expressing concern over the most recent acts of violence in the Middle East. It claimed that “the concept of the war on terror” puts “civilians at greatest risks” and argued that Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian territories” presents “the vortex of the region’s violent storm.”

While Israel attempts to secure its sheer survival, the member churches of the WCC express no word of compassion for Israel beyond a general regret for death and destruction “on all sides.”

In the form of a pastoral letter, the general secretary of the WCC, Samuel Kobia refuses to name Hezbollah and ultimately defends the terrorists and reproaches the victims for their self-defense. The letter attacks democratic countries, shields militia groups from blame, and challenges “the concept of war on terror.” The reader looks in vain for what is expected from a pastoral word of encouragement, consolation, or reconciliation. Without this, the WCC statement, intentionally or not, makes several points that, if followed, would strengthen terrorist groups.
This, of course, is the author’s interpretation of the WCC position. But read the article, which supports this interpretation with direct quotes.

More Discrimination Against Christians in the University of Wisconsin System

This time, it’s UW Superior. From the Duluth News Tribune:
Student leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Superior have a thorny question this fall.

Is the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s requirement that its student officers support Christian doctrines common sense or discrimination?

At stake is the fellowship’s status as a student organization, its eligibility for student funds and the possibility of a lawsuit.

“That’s not something we would prefer to do, but it is an option,” said Alec Hill, president of the national fellowship.

ICF has had a UWS chapter for about 40 years. The evangelical group was incorporated in 1941.

“We’re on about 560 campuses around the country,” Hill said. “We’re involved with about 33,000 students and faculty. We have a lot of students who go to urban projects and serve the poor.”

The organization has no membership requirements, Hill said.

“But we require student leaders to sign a statement of faith,” he said. “It is our belief that in order for us to truly be who we are, our student leaders need to be Christian.”

“Imagine young Republicans or young Democrats not being able to require that their leaders are indeed Republicans or Democrats,” Hill said.

The UWS student government decides which groups to recognize as student organizations or formal groups. Organizations are eligible for student funds. Groups are not, but can use university facilities.

Last year some student leaders felt the ICF’s officers requirement discriminates against non-Christians, meaning the organization shouldn’t receive student money.

“InterVarsity’s status was left pending” last year, said Stefan Fletcher, who became UWS’s student president in May. “They weren’t officially denied recognition.”
Of course, any “nondiscrimination” requirement used against Christians is going to be suspect, since “discrimination” is usually fine when the bureaucrats at a university like it. Several UW campuses, for example, have an active Greek system consisting of all male fraternities and all female sororities.

And programs limited to minorities are widespread throughout academia.

This is another case of an increasing bias against Christians in the UW system.

Monday, August 28, 2006

That Will Really Scare Them

Frederick Deligne

The Jews & The Republicans

From the Washington Post, an article about how demographics will help the Republicans get more of the Jewish vote.
Republicans are hoping a strong defense of Israel translates into greater support among Jewish voters this fall, but the biggest political benefits are likely to come long after the 2006 campaign concludes, according to political and demographic experts studying Jewish voting trends.

The Jewish group proving most receptive to Republican overtures over the past decade is among the smallest: Orthodox Jews. Right now, they account for roughly 10 percent of the estimated 5.3 million Jews in the United States, hardly enough to tip most elections.

This is likely to change significantly in the years ahead because Orthodox Jews are the fastest-growing segment of the Jewish population, raising the possibility that one of the most reliable Democratic voting blocs will be increasingly in play in future elections, according to surveys of Jewish voting and religious and social habits.

“The likelihood is there will be a very quick jump in the number of orthodox as the baby boomers age and die,” said David A. Harris of the American Jewish Committee, a nonpartisan organization that conducts an annual survey of Jews. “They will be increasingly replaced by Orthodox children who are more” in line with Republicans.

[. . .]

But it might take years for Republicans to benefit in elections.

Researchers commissioned by the American Jewish Committee found that the group most receptive to the GOP message is Orthodox Jews. They are much more likely to base their political decisions on a candidate’s view on Israel than other Jews, researchers have found.

The number of Jewish adults between 18 and 29 who describe themselves as Orthodox is 16 percent, nearly double those ages 30 to 39, the AJC-commissioned study found. The percentages are believed to be even higher among Jews under the age of 18, who account for about 20 percent of the overall Jewish population, according to Nathan Diament, director of public policy at the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. These Jews, who regularly attend synagogue and tend to be conservative on social issues, are also having children at a higher rate than other Jews, Harris said.

In many ways, their views are in sync with those of Christians who attend church regularly, which is one of the most reliable indicators of how a person votes in politics today. The more frequently a person attends church or synagogue, the more likely he or she is to vote Republican, polls show.

“Suddenly the Jewish landscape, based on current trends, will look very different,” Harris said. “That has implications for voting patterns [and] party affiliation.”
This, of course, is merely a particular instance of a broader trend. From the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal:
Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They’re not having enough of them, they haven’t for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That’s a “fertility gap” of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20% -- explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

Alarmingly for the Democrats, the gap is widening at a bit more than half a percentage point per year, meaning that today’s problem is nothing compared to what the future will most likely hold. . . .

The fertility gap doesn’t budge when we correct for factors like age, income, education, sex, race--or even religion. Indeed, if a conservative and a liberal are identical in all these ways, the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative. Some believe the gap reflects an authentic cultural difference between left and right in America today. As one liberal columnist in a major paper graphically put it, “Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation.” It would appear liberals have been quite successful controlling overpopulation--in the Democratic Party.
Of course, Republicans can’t really be certain that the future is theirs.

The liberals have control of a major part of the institutions of political socialization: the media, higher education and increasingly elementary and secondary schools.

Which is why the culture wars in elementary and secondary schools can be expected to heat up. If liberals are going to have any shot at future political power, they must indoctrinate other people’s children. They don’t have enough of their own.

Marquette Alumnus Is a Warrior

From a Nashville paper, an account of a Marquette alum who is a soldier.
John Krenson is a man of the cloth, a soldier of war, a Gospel preacher, a defender of the Iraq invasion.

Krenson, 42, is an ordained deacon at Catholic Cathedral of the Incarnation and a major in the Tennessee Army National Guard. He has led parish prayers in Nashville and endured rocket fire in Afghanistan.

Rarely does the conflict of war and peace unfold so dramatically in one soul. Krenson admits it’s a struggle, but it forces him to think with candor. He decided to write a book declaring his convictions as minister, soldier and family man — and why we must attain victory in Iraq.

He signs copies of “Crossfire: A Time for Peace, War & Love” at 10 a.m. Sept. 16 at St. Mary’s Bookstore.

Krenson was raised in a socially active Catholic household in Nashville. A high school year in Finland, 1980-81, was pivotal. He saw Soviet Russia, met European students facing compulsory military service and returned home eager to serve his country. At Marquette University, he did ROTC training.

His short book confronts military strategy and holy teaching. In Scripture, Jesus is Prince of Peace. But Krenson finds images of necessary aggression there in the name of peace — Jesus angrily driving people out of the temple, St. Paul praising soldiers who protect others from harm.

“Jesus lived the ideal, but he wasn’t married either; does that mean we shouldn’t be married? He didn’t kill anyone; does that mean we shouldn’t defend ourselves?” Krenson says.

Marquette Campus Ministry, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. Invite Gay Marriage Advocate to Campus

An e-mail sent to a large number of faculty:
To whom it may concern:

Peace and justice advocate Chuck Booker Hirsch will be speaking on Marquette’s campus at the Weasler Auditorium on October 12, 2006 at 7:30pm (Indigenous People Day) as part of a forum on the effort to close the School of the Americas/WHINSEC hosted by University Ministry and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. Besides practicing civil disobedience and working on immigration issues Chuck leads a parish in Ann Arbor, Mi and travels to universities around the country outlining the history of the United States foreign policy in Latin/South America and the effects it has had on the people of those countries. Chuck would be happy to make presentations to individual classes on the evening of the 11th of October or during the day on October 12. If this fits into your schedule or would like more information please contact [redacted]@marquette.edu

Chuck’s bio sketch is at the bottom of this note and please pass this on to whomever you believe might find it relevant.

All the wealth of earth and heaven,
Pat Kennelly
[phone number redacted]
The following biographical sketch was included in the e-mail:
The Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch has served as Pastor of Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor since June 1998 (see www.NorthsidePres.org for more about this dynamic congregation). From 1989-93, Chuck worked in the Sanctuary Movement in California and Arizona, an underground railroad of faith communities assisting hundreds of thousands of Central American refugees as they fled U.S.-backed political oppression, particularly in Guatemala and El Salvador.

In the mid-1990s, aided by the Academy Award-nominated documentary short School of Assassins, Chuck and many others were introduced to the strong link between the refugee outbreak and the terrorist training received by Latin American military at the School of Americas (SOA) in Ft. Benning, GA. In November 1998, Chuck joined over 2300 in trespassing onto Ft. Benning in an annual nonviolent protest of this school – a protest that now draws nearly 20,000 persons annually to its rally and vigil outside the gates.

No one was arrested that year; all who “crossed the line” were transported to a nearby city park in school buses and dumped there. But when Chuck joined approximately 100 others in a solemn nonviolent funeral procession onto the base in November 2001 – circumventing the post-911 chain-link fence in the process – all were arrested. Five months later, Chuck was among 43 trespassers selected for indictment. After a five-day trial in Georgia, 30 received prison time for this Class B misdemeanor, ranging from 90 days (Chuck’s tour of duty) to six months. Fines ranging from $500 to $5000 were also levied.

With the full support of his family, congregation, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), Chuck served his three months at a minimum security federal penitentiary in NW Pennsylvania from September to December 2002. He has addressed over 40 university and church audiences in five U.S. states and Canada about the importance of closing the SOA – renamed in 2001 the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) – and has debated both an Army lieutenant colonel and WHINSEC’s public relations officer in a public forum at their request.

Chuck met his life partner, the Rev. Amy Booker-Hirsch, while they were working with refugees in Tucson, AZ in 1992. They have an eight-year-old son, basketball fiend Andrew Booker.
OK, so we have the leftist University Ministry and leftist J.U.S.T.I.C.E. bringing in a leftist speaker.

Dog bites man. Not news.

But what’s interesting is what’s not mentioned.

Brooker-Hirsch is a big advocate of gay marriage. Indeed, he is such an advocate that he refuses to sign marriage licenses for heterosexuals until gays can get married too.

Pastor refuses to sign marriage licenses - Lack of gay marriage recognition protested

by Catherine O’Donnell

As a Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Charles Booker-Hirsch has signed dozens of marriage licenses.

But for the foreseeable future, he won’t be signing any.

Earlier this month, Booker-Hirsch told leaders of Northside Presbyterian Church that he will no longer be an agent of the state at weddings until both gay and straight couples can enter into legal marriages.

“It’s all about being on a level playing ground; it’s a simple matter of justice,” said the 45-year-old minister, who has led his north Ann Arbor congregation almost eight years and has been ordained for almost 11.

“It’s hypocritical for me to collect money from couples who can be legally married when there are others who can’t.”

Booker-Hirsch’s decision could mean turning his back on $3,000 to $4,000 worth of wedding fees each year. He has officiated at weddings not only for his own congregation, but in the past has made himself available for weddings at Weller’s Carriage House in Saline.

He estimates that one of four people in his 60-member congregation is gay. Booker-Hirsch has officiated at ceremonies for both gay and straight couples at Northside and said he will continue to do so. “But I won’t sign marriage licenses,” he said. “Couples will have to go to a justice of the peace for that.”

Booker-Hirsch added more about his beliefs in an e-mail published on the same web page:
Friends, this is a matter of living w/ my conscience. It is my hope and prayer that we as progressive clergy will stop trumpeting equal rights rhetoric for same gender weddings -- as weddings or holy unions or however the couple chooses to call it -- all the while holding our hands behind our backs and raking in big dough from heterosexual couples because we are coopted by Caesar to be agents of the state. In other words: Is Caesar Lord, or is Jesus Lord? I think we really need to choose, at least here. It at least sends a strong statement about where we really stand.

Grace & Peace, Chuck B-H
Pastor, Northside/Ann Arbor, MI
Booker-Hirsch’s church, in fact has (or at least had as of 2003) a policy of performing gay marriages.
We have a marriage policy. Five years young, as of this fall. Revised, if you can call it that, by our Session last February.

. . . [A]ny couple, regardless of gender, who meets the Book of Order-based premarital counseling standards I use (and they’re not that easy) as well as a few Session standards (not easy, either), can celebrate a blessing of their lifelong, loving commitment here at Northside – regardless of what the couple chooses to call the blessing.

How does presbytery feel about about our marriage policy, you may wonder? Hear these words from an erstwhile ally serving on the Committee on Ministry, the committee to which we officially report such things.

“Of course, we know about your policy”, he said to me in May. “Just don’t use it.”

“Just … don’t … use it.” Well … we’ve used it. And, if the gracious occasion offers itself again, we will continue to use it.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having an advocate of gay marriage speak on campus -- although it might be nice to have somebody on the other side of the issue speak too (fat chance that J.U.S.T.I.C.E. or the University Ministry will arrange that).

But isn’t it interesting that the blurb announcing his visit to campus says nothing about the issue?

There is, quite simply, a leftist axis around the University Ministry, J.U.S.T.I.C.E., and the Office of Student Development which views pretty much any issue the same way secular leftists do. Indeed, for practical purposes they are secular leftists.

But they apparently find it worthwhile to show at least a bit of deference to the Cathoic mission of the University. But full-hearted support? Never.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

How To Get the Democrats Mad At the Terrorists

Eric Allie

Canadian Regulators Refuse to Block U.S. Hate Speech Site

From our Canadian correspondent, news that the Canadian government has refused to censor a rather nasty U.S. website.
TORONTO (CP) - Canada’s telecommunications regulator has rejected a bid by an Ottawa lawyer to block access to two U.S.-based hate websites that call for the “violent overthrow” of the Canadian government and the “extermination” of Jews in this country.

In an application filed to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Monday, Richard Warman said websites by a Nazi sympathizer contain material intended to incite violence against him that has caused him to fear for his life.

The application to the CRTC described Bill White of Roanoke, Va., as a neo-Nazi who has encouraged people to “take violent action” against Warman and even posted his home address on the sites.

Warman argued the websites communicate hate and advocate genocide, which are offences under the Criminal Code.

Although the sites are beyond the reach of Canadian law, the CRTC has the rarely used power to order Internet providers to temporarily block them from Canadian web surfers.

But the regulatory body must first issue an interim order allowing Internet carriers to do so voluntarily.

On Thursday, the CRTC said the unprecedented nature of Warman’s request raises “serious and fundamental issues.”

In a letter to the law firm representing Warman, the commission said it would be inappropriate to consider granting the interim order without first giving Internet carriers and other interested parties the opportunity to comment.

“Such a public process would allow for consideration of the broader policy and legal issues regarding the scope, and appropriate use, of the commission’s powers,” wrote secretary-general Diane Rheaume.

Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he’s disappointed in the decision because of what he considers the “considerable danger” to Warman.

“Procedure seems to have trumped the safety of a Canadian citizen here,” Farber said.

“I think it’s very disconcerting that a Canadian citizen can become the subject of a murder warrant and there doesn’t seem to be any procedures in place by the government body that regulates the Internet to in any way intercede on his behalf.”

The congress will be looking at re-submitting its application, as well as other avenues with the CRTC, Farber said.

Warman was outside of the country and unable to comment on Friday.

One of the websites, hosted by Google’s weblog service Blogger, was taken offline Wednesday.

“We want Blogger to enable free expression, including the hosting of views and opinions that are unpopular,” Google spokesman Steve Langdon said.

“However, advocating violence against a person is not acceptable.”
Our first response is that it’s good that Canada is slow to censor a web site, even a thoroughly nasty web site. It’s a bit more complicated, however.

A web site that appears to be quite sympathetic toward White says the following:
White has encouraged people to “take violent action” against the lawyer and even posted his home address on the site. It’s believed to be the first time the CRTC has been asked to block Canadian access to a foreign website, said telecommunications industry consultant Mark Goldberg. “This is precedent-setting work,” said Goldberg, who is also a member of the Ontario executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
Even in the U.S., where speech has much more protection than in other democracies, incitement to a violent act is not protected under the First Amendment.

We are happy that Blogger has taken one of White’s sites offline. Google is a private business, and they can have any editorial policy they want. They have as much right to censor anti-Semitic hate speech as local radio stations have to refuse to play the Dixie Chicks, or as the New York Times has to refuse to run a political ad with which they disagree.

But no matter what theoretical notions we might have as to how some speech can legitimately be censored, as a practical matter, it’s probably futile on the Internet.

We had no difficulty, for example, getting a current version of White’s site. We don’t know whether Blogger changed their mind, or whether White, as he claimed, found a way to hack into Blogger and put the site back up.

The simple truth is that it’s hard to really block something on the Internet. As White explained to a PBS reporter:
I have servers and backups and off-shored mirrors and whatnot all over the world. The last time a lawyer seriously came after me for alleged ‘harassment,’ I had to move the site to Malaysia for a few weeks until my attorneys could put the guy down.

I have two law firms on retainer and enough money to pay for the computer equipment necessary to keep myself publishing regardless.
So what we like about the Internet when the issue is censorship in China doesn’t sound so nice when the issue is a Neo-Nazi. But it’s the same Internet.

On the whole, we think it’s good that authorities in Canada are being slow to censor the Internet. What should happen to White is that private individuals, reaching their own conclusions, should decide that he is scum.

We don’t need government to help us reach that conclusion. Indeed, we don’t want government to make any kind of victim of this fellow.

Friday, August 25, 2006

As Effective As We’ve Come to Expect

Liberal Los Angeles Times Defends Wal-Mart

The Los Angeles Times is a liberal newspaper, but apparently not all liberals are hostile to Wal-Mart.
EDITORIAL
Democrats’ Shameful Wal-Mart Demonization
Presidential hopefuls only hurt themselves when pandering to unions by bashing the country’s largest employer.
August 23, 2006

WITH ONE EYE ON 2008 and one on their labor union base, Democratic luminaries are canvassing Iowa and other states this summer to campaign against the nation’s incumbent . . . retailer. They obviously see Wal-Mart as this season’s Enron, the one corporation that represents all that is wrong with America.

Too bad the party can’t simply draft Costco or Target to run for president. Instead, Democratic presidential aspirants — including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico — feel compelled to bash one company, the largest employer in the U.S., to score points with labor organizers. The candidates are so intent on gaining tactical advantage in the primary season that they risk alienating possible supporters in the general election.

Most Americans do not want their politicians ganging up on one company. Wal-Mart may be a behemoth that employs 1.3 million people in this country and earned $11 billion in profit last year, but it still looks like bullying when politicians single out one business to scapegoat for larger societal ills. And when they start passing laws aimed at their scapegoat — as the Maryland Legislature did when it passed legislation forcing Wal-Mart to spend a certain amount on employee healthcare — the judiciary rightly balks. A federal judge struck down the regulation, holding that it violates laws requiring equal treatment of employers.

But there is no stopping the campaign rhetoric. At an anti-Wal-Mart rally last week in Iowa, Biden noted that the retailer pays people $10 an hour, and then asked: “How can you live a middle-class life on that?” It’s clearly the company’s fault, at least from a skewed senatorial perspective, that all Americans cannot live a comfortable middle-class life. How dare it pay prevailing retail wages? Bayh, who appeared at another rally, was quoted as saying that Wal-Mart is “emblematic of the anxiety around the country.” That may be true. But if it’s the emblem he’s worried about, he should stay in Washington and work to make healthcare more affordable for working families.

The gusto with which even moderate Democrats are bashing Wal-Mart is bound to backfire. Not only does it take the party back to the pre-Clinton era, when Democrats were perceived as reflexively anti-business, it manages to make Democrats seem like out-of-touch elitists to the millions of Americans who work and shop at Wal-Mart.

One reason the Democrats may have a tin ear on this subject is demographic. Certainly most of the party’s urban liberal activists are far removed from the Wal-Mart phenomenon. The retailer has thrived mainly in small towns and exurbs, which is one reason a Zogby poll found that three-quarters of weekly Wal-Mart shoppers voted for President Bush in 2004, and why 8 out of 10 people who have never shopped at Wal-Mart voted for John Kerry. Denouncing the retailer may make sense if the goal is to woo primary activists, but it’s a disastrous way to reach out to the general electorate. Or to govern, for that matter.
Both American political parties, lacking the things that strong parties have (control of nominations, a majority of all campaign money, activists loyal to the party and not to a cause or candidate) have to appeal to their activist core.

This may require taking positions that are unpopular with the general public. This is true for the Republicans with embryonic stem cell research, and the Democrats with partial birth abortion.

But not all appeals to the “core” are equal.

Some are simply ill-advised, giving the activist core more concessions than they deserve, with too much damage to the party’s standing with moderate voters.

And some are simply dishonest. The candidates know better. This is the situation with gas prices and the Democrats demonization of the oil companies.

Quite likely, the attacks on Wal-Mart are ill-advised. Most certainly, they are dishonest.

Letter to Editor: Racial Profiling

In response to a post on racial profiling, we got the following e-mail:
I’ve never quite gotten the point of racial or ethnic profiling. There are many instances of white people hijacking planes or trying to hijack planes. Most of the people caught trying sneak weapons onto planes are acutally white, and there are white or non-Arabic terrorists (Timothy McVeigh, Richard Reid who is half Britsh / half Jamaican).

What seems to make much more sense to me is gender profiling. While there have been women suicide bombers in Israel, the terror directed at America and Europe seems to be carried out exclusively by men, typically younger adults or middle aged men.

The examples of passenger screening that people seem outraged by are when a young girl or an elderly woman are taken aside. I seriously doubt people will shed any tears over a 21 year old frat boy or a 45 year old white businessman being screened (well, except for frat boys and businessmen). It also helps to focus the resources of screening personnel on the actual people who have a track record of terrorism and hijacking -- young and middle aged males of any ethnicity.
In the first place, isn’t “frat boys” derisive? Every style manual we have seen says it should be “high school boys and girls” and “college men and women.”

In the second place, once we concede the validity of any kind of racial, ethnic or gender profiling, we have to take that to its logical conclusion.

Gender profiling, in plenty of cases, is justified, since men commit many more crimes than women.

But “frat boys” don’t have any history of hijacking aircraft. It simply doesn’t make any sense to hassle them at the airport. If the issue is underage drinking, that’s different.

Likewise middle-aged white businessmen (even if they are Muslim), are unlikely to hijack aircraft. If the IRS wants to pay particular attention to their returns, that’s fine with us. Middle aged businessmen are more likely to cheat on their taxes than “frat boys.”

But the simple fact is that young male Muslims are the people most likely to hijack aircraft, and use them as cruise missiles.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Marquette’s Training of Freshman Orientation Staff: Politically Correct Boot Camp

An e-mail from a student who has, this past week, been training to be Group Discussion Leader during Freshman Orientation, which is currently taking place. It was conducted by the Orientation staff, from the Office of Student Development.

Here is what happened on Monday night (August 21st).

There was a teambuilding activity that was to take the ideas and themes discussed during another activity the previous evening. That activity was called “Building an Inclusive Community.” That activity was meant for us to brainstorm how to be inclusive of all people (meaning not offending anyone) so they won’t feel left out, marginalized, etc. But the conversation that night moved to “who has advantages in society/in the Marquette community?” One girl said “White, heterosexual males.” And essentially the entire group agreed. The discussion that night ended.

The way Duane Bruce introduced Monday night’s activity was, we are going to take last night’s discussion a little further and deeper.

Duane and the other student leaders had us line up on the teal strip of carpet in the AMU Ballrooms. He told us that we would take a step forward (or back) based on the statement he would read. For example, he would read: “Take a step back if you are a victim of a hate crime.” “Take a step forward if your parents went to college.” “Take a step forward if you went to a private school.” “Take a step back if you are openly gay, lesbian, bisexual.” “Take a step forward if your religion’s holidays are celebrated openly in public.” After 30-40 statements, everyone was scattered throughout the room. At the end, Duane said something to the effect, “To those sitting in the front, you are living the American Dream.” And said the opposite equivalent in order to address the people sitting in the back. Basically the activity exposed “privileged” and who was “underprivileged.”

The OStaff Leadership said that the activity was to help us not make assumptions based on outward appearances. And they also said this was not to make us feel guilty, but how could someone sitting in the front help from feeling guilty? These statements exposed all material-based aspects of us. Most students reactions were (to paraphrase) “Seeing this just makes me hate society.” Another student lamented about how there are so much inequality within the Marquette Community. She said it was unfair that not everyone could afford to go on M.A.P. trips or study abroad. Another girl said that people in the front don’t have to work as hard as people in the back.

As someone who was sitting in the very front, I was deeply offended. I do not need to be told I am “lucky” or “privileged.” I can understand myself that I am blessed with opportunities, and I do not need to be told I do not work hard. I excel far more academically than most of that staff through hard work and diligence. I hold jobs in the summer to help pay for my expenses. I am involved in many student groups at school so I can work harder to become a more well-rounded person. It seems it is okay to ridicule the “privileged, wealthier” students, but it would be atrocious to act the same towards “marginalized, poor” students. This activity victimized people, which only fosters the divisions that these people are claiming they are trying to dissolve.

I spoke up towards the end. I told them that I disagreed with Duane’s statement about the American Dream.

(Though I said something different, I think that the American Dream is a sort of a rags-to-riches sort of story. I have construed it to be that you work as hard as you can to get where you are, whether or not you have material things by birth/default.)

I explained to them that my dad - who was the first one to go to college, who commuted to school, who worked three jobs to pay for his education (his parents paid $100 total) - worked as hard as he did so his children would not have to go through what he did to succeed. He wanted to make the problems he had to deal with nonexistent for me. He would be sitting further back had he participated. My parents had an ironing board for their kitchen table because they couldn’t afford one. And now, 30 years later, they made decisions and pooled their talents and resources to send me and my two brothers to first-rate, Catholic, private grade schools, high schools, and colleges (the last part I did not share with the group). I was quickly shut down by a black girl sitting farther back. She said her parents were also the first ones to go to college, but since she has been discriminated by her race, she is sitting farther back. She insinuated that my parents struggles and triumphs are less valuable because of race.

Duane said we didn’t have to participate if we didn’t want to. I could have abstained from taking steps forward/back, but I could not have avoided listening to this leftist political indoctrination and being potentially socially ostracized. I did not push my point further because they would have jumped all over me. As someone with often dissenting views, I do not feel I can contribute to the group because I will have serious social consequences if I would. The group advocates that we are not supposed to judge based on looks and appearances. They certainly fulfill that. But they do judge (quite harshly) and discriminate those based on opinions, an aspect of someone that is more substantive and important than race, ethnicity, sex, etc.

That activity alone made me not want to rejoin OStaff, and at times made me regret reapplying. I care about helping the freshmen just as much as the next person on staff. This is why I volunteer a lot of time, effort, and energy into my participation in the program. I love orientation but dread and despise training. I do not want to have to feel personally and politically violated for three straight days just so I can help ease the transition for incoming students. OStaff is going to have to do without me next year.

This, of course, is standard politically correct indoctrination, in which the “privileged” are supposed to feel guilty (and acquiesce in every liberal policy proposal, no matter how ill considered) and the “oppressed” are supposed to feel aggrieved.

Rather than being “inclusive,” it exalts politically correct minorities (gays, blacks, Hispanics) and demeans white, middle-class kids, especially if they are conservative.

Consider, for a moment, the instructions that were not given at this at this Stalinist reeducation session.
  • If you have ever been derided for your religious beliefs, take a step backward
  • If you have ever taken part in a program limited to minorities, take a step forward
  • If you are a Republican, and have ever had a teacher or other authority figure attack Republicans, take a step back
  • If you are a member of a minority group, and could not have gotten into Marquette had you been a white with your test scores and high school grades, take a step forward
  • If you have ever been derided for saying that you don’t intend to have sex until marriage, take a step back
  • If you have ever been called a “homophobe,” take a step back
As these examples make clear, the point that the Office of Student Development is pushing is not “inclusiveness.” It’s pushing a divisive doctrine that says that the worth of a student is based on race, income, family background, religion and political views.

And that, indeed, is the essence of political correctness.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Marquette to Employees: Snitch On Your Lying, Cheating Cohorts

From an e-mail recently sent to all Marquette faculty and staff:
4. New reporting hotline, Web site for university financial operations available to faculty and staff

A new service being launched at Marquette today will continue the universitys effort to promote sound financial operations in departments and offices across campus. Providing an ethical workplace for every faculty and staff member helps fulfill the universitys mission of excellence as well as our obligation to students, colleagues and others with whom Marquette has contact.

All Marquette faculty and staff share in the responsibility of promoting a positive working environment. As part of the effort, Marquette has chosen a third party, EthicsPoint, to provide the university with a phone and Web reporting system that employees can use to report any concerns or issues about financial operations they may have in an anonymous and confidential way. Among the reporting categories are accounting and auditing issues, improper actions and waste of university resources.

The new service is available anywhere around the clock and while university areas will respond as appropriate, the system is managed by EthicsPoint for Marquette in order to keep correspondence confidential. Further, Marquette will not tolerate any action taken against an employee for making a good faith report.

Please see the Web site or call (800) 445-7068 to learn more.
When one goes to the link provided, one finds a list of the infractions being asked about. They include:
  • Accounting and Auditing Matters
  • Falsification of Contracts, Reports or Records
  • Fraud
  • Improper Disclosure of Financial Records
  • Improper Giving or Receiving of Gifts
  • Improper Supplier or Contractor Activity
  • Theft/Embezzlement
  • Waste, Abuse or Misuse of University Resources
  • Donor Stewardship
People who visit the site are asked to submit a report of wrongdoing, and are assured that they will remain anonymous.

Are all of these activities rife around the University?

We know where several bodies are buried, and a few closets that have skeletons in them. We talked to a couple of colleagues who know about more bodies and skeletons than we do.

Our conclusion: corruption is pretty rare around Marquette. There have been a few cases, and those have pretty much been small potatoes.

Most departments and programs have very little discretionary money that could be used for corrupt purposes. Those that do should be audited routinely and efficiently.

We are all for “blowing the whistle” on unethical and corrupt actions. But this initiative sends the wrong message. It appears to be yet another policy that serves the interests of University bureaucrats -- justifying their salaries, staking a claim to bigger budgets, and augmenting their résumés.

Not Really Surprised, Are We?

Censoring Smoking in Classic Cartoons

From the Office of Homeland Security, news that Turner Broadcasting has decided to censor smoking scenes in classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

One (that’s right, just one) viewer complained to British regulatory authorities.

“Regulatory authorities” is a scarier concept in the U.K. than in the U.S., where free speech prevails on cable.

What scenes did the viewer find objectionable?
In the first, “Texas Tom,” the hapless cat Tom tries to impress a feline female by rolling a cigarette, lighting it and smoking it with one hand. In the second, “Tennis Chumps,” Tom’s opponent in a match smokes a large cigar.
Quite obviously, these scenes are integral to the content of the cartoons. Cut them, and you’ve gutted the entire concept.

The aggrieved viewer complained the scenes “were not appropriate in a cartoon aimed at children.”

We suppose, in this new era of the nanny state, parents should be spared the labor of telling their children about smoking, about how widely accepted it once was, and why they should not do it.

Of course, none of the nanny types wants to spare conservative parents the labor of having to combat the messages about sexuality the media send.

Blogger Joe Kastner asks:
Furthermore, what’s to prevent Time Warner or any other movie studio for that matter from making this a stepping-stone and going one step further? How long are classic live-action feature films like Casablanca or Citizen Kane which feature smoking prominently safe from censorship?
The answer is: probably not long.

Interestingly, AOL Entertainment News is running a poll on this, and as of right now, the results are as follows:

“When should scenes of smoking be cut from old cartoons?”
  • Never 71%
  • In every instance 15%
  • When it glamorizes it 14%
Total Votes: 32,485

While the poll isn’t strictly scientific, the message comes through: “we don’t want classic cartoons censored.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Foie Gras & Chicago: Restaurants Fight the Trendy Left

From the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the fact that restaurants in Chicago are fighting back against the animal rights busy-bodies.
A restaurant coalition has filed a lawsuit today challenging the Chicago City Council’s ban on the sale of foie gras, which takes effect this week. Here’s a copy of the complaint.

The Illinois Restaurant Association and Allen’s New American Cafe, a popular Chicago restaurant, claim that the ban violates the Illinois constitution and is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop the rule from taking effect. The IRA and a farmers’ alliance says the ban will cost the Chicago economy an estimated $18 million per year.

Barry Rosen, a partner at Chicago’s Sachnoff & Weaver, which represents the plaintiffs, says the Illinois Constitution only permits municipalities to legislate regarding local problems and not activities that are more properly dealt with by other state or local governments. “The issue in this lawsuit is not whether the production of foie gras is or is not humane. The lawsuit is about the bounds of local governmental power,” Rosen said. Here’s the nub of his constiutional argument:

Local governments are empowered under the Illinois constitution to deal with local problems. All of the foie gras sold in Chicago restaurants is lawfully produced in other states or countries. None is produced in Chicago. So, the City Council ban on restaurant sale is not designed to address any local problems, such as how animals are treated in Chicago. Since local governments are empowered by the Illinois Constitution to deal only with local issues, this ordinance is unconstitutional.
Stephen Bainbridge, at Tech Central Station, notes the fact that the “City of the Big Shoulders” has become the city of the trendy effete types.

Bainbridge gets a lot of milage out of the fact that liberals, when the issue is (say) legalizing sodomy, piously intone “you can’t impose your moral views on other people.”

But outlawing foie gras is nothing if not the imposition of a particular set of moral views.

[Update]

Check here for the latest update on this situation.

Ignorance at NPR

From the Media Research Center, this tidbit from an article in USA Today about Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio.
Daniel Schorr is used to producers popping into his Washington, D.C., office at National Public Radio to ask, on deadline: Which war came first, Korea or Vietnam? (Answer: Korea.)

But when one asked, “You covered the Spanish-American War, didn’t you?” Schorr couldn’t help but respond, matter-of-factly: “That was 1898.”

“Oh, sorry, of course,” the younger man said, excusing himself.

This Isn’t Looking Good For the Dove

This feature may not be reproduced or distributed electronically, in print or otherwise without the written permission of uclick and Universal Press Syndicate

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Media Bias on Female Priests

Via the Christianity Today blog, an observation about how the Mainstream Media cover the issue of whether women should be ordained as priests in the Catholic Church.

Between their reflexive committment to feminism, and their secular ideology that distrusts religion, it would he heroic for the media to produce fair articles. And heroism is, as usual, in short supply.

Consider a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. Christianity Today correctly describes the article as follows:
Weblog is trying to think of appropriate analogues: A teenager, upset that his parents won’t let him take the car out with friends, decides to do it anyway; an employee, bothered that his boss won’t let him manage a project, decides to create a team and do it anyway, knowing he may be fired.

This story of a female “Catholic priest” who started her own church because the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t allow female priests sounds too whiny, too full of “it’s not fair” complaints. Perhaps that’s because the article only quotes people complaining about the Catholic church’s policy.

The L.A. Times profiles Jane Via’s first solo mass at the independent “Catholic” church she started. The service “marked her congregation’s first gathering since she met with San Diego Bishop Robert Brom to discuss the consequences of her ordination, which could ultimately include excommunication.”

The Times goes on to note that while other denominations allow female priests, the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t. “The Vatican’s position on women entering the priesthood has not budged, despite polls showing a majority of American Catholics favor allowing them to do so.”

The article quotes no one, including Bishop Brom, who opposes female ordination. It doesn’t explain the church’s theological basis for its opposition. The article, as well as others recently, simply champion women’s ordination. Again, since there seems to be no chance of Via’s protest having any effect on the church, why is this news?

More On Phony Photos From Middle East

The Mainstream Media don’t like being scrutinized by those outside the fraternity, and especially not by bloggers, and especially not by conservative bloggers.

Which is why we are pleasantly surprised by an article in the Los Angeles Times about a fellow named Charles Johnson, the blogger who runs Little Green Footballs.

Johnson has been at the forefront in debunking phony photos from the Middle East exaggerating the damage done to innocent civilians by Israeli bombing.

After a bit of thumb-sucking rhetoric, the author gets to the conclusion:
What the major news organizations ought to be doing is to make their own analysis of the images coming out of Lebanon and if, as seems more than likely, they find widespread malfeasance, some hard questions need to be asked about why it occurred. Some of it may stem from the urge every photographer feels to make a photo perfect. Some of it probably flows from a simple economic imperative — a freelancer who produces dramatic images gets picked up more and paid more. Moreover, the obscenely anti-Israeli tenor of most of the European and world press means there’s an eager market for pictures of dead Lebanese babies.

It’s worth noting in this context that there is no similar flow of propagandistic images coming from the Israeli side of the border. That’s because one side — the democratically elected government of Israel — views death as a tragedy and the other — the Iranian financed terrorist organization Hezbollah — sees it as an opportunity. In this case, turning their own dead children into material creates an opportunity to cloud the fact that every Lebanese casualty, tragic as he or she is, was killed or injured as an unavoidable consequence of Israel’s pursuit of terrorists who use their own people as human shields. Every Israeli civilian killed or injured was the victim of a terrorist attack intended to harm civilians. That alone ought to wash away any blood-stained suggestion of moral equivalency.

That brings us to the most troubling of the possible explanations for these fraudulent photos, which is that some of the photojournalists involved are either intimidated by or sympathetic to the Hezbollah terrorists. It’s a possibility fraught with harsh implications, but it needs to be examined thoroughly and openly.

Johnson and his colleagues have done the serious news media a service. Failure to follow up on it would be worse than churlish; it would be irresponsible.
We frankly doubt that any genuine soul searching will come out of this fiasco, any more than Rathergate produced any genuine soul searching at CBS.

Rather, this will be first attacked as a fantasy of right-wing bloggers, and when the media are forced to admit error, it will be dismissed as an isolated instance, rather than evidence of any systematic bias.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Case For Racial Profiling

From a libertarian blog (yes, it really is) “The case for ethnic profiling” (which everybody calls “racial profiling”).

In reality, a young male Jew getting off an El Al flight from Tel Aviv is likely racially little different from a young male Muslim getting off an EgyptAir flight from Cairo. But the former is highly unlikely to be a terrorist. The latter is merely unlikely to be a terrorist.

Blogger Rogier van Bakel argues:
It simply doesn’t hold water to insist on subjecting Southern Baptists, Scottish pensioners and kindergartners from Paducah to the same scrutiny as young muslim men, for fear of offending the latter.

Suspicion falls more easily on muslims because muslims have turned out to be responsible for one major terrorist act after another. No amount of pussyfooting or sugarcoating will change that fact. The sooner all sides face it honestly and squarely, the safer we all will be.
Dealing with several arguments against profiling, he mentions the following:
Argument Two: Focusing on muslims alienates the very people — peaceful members of muslim communities — whose tips authorities rely on to help them catch terrorists.

Muslims will have to face the music just like everyone else. Again, the radicals who would visit large-scale violence upon innocent civilians are not Italian septuagenarians or high-school-age Chilean exchange students. If I were a law-abiding muslim in my prime, I believe I’d understand why screeners would want to take a closer look at me and my luggage, and why law enforcement officials might take an interest in my affiliations. It would all be burdensome and inconvenient, for sure — invasive, even. But it would only strengthen my desire to help root out potential mass murderers who, after all, cause all that scrutiny, and who abuse and insult my faith to justify their actions. I’d also understand — from taking an unflinching look at terrorism’s bloody record — why police officers and intelligence operators would focus more on muslim areas than on Hindu communities and Amish neighborhoods.
It’s clear that this isn’t true of the loud Muslim political lobby. It’s also true that aggrieved Muslims would be egged on by the secular liberals in places like the ACLU.

But if society has the guts to tell both groups to “stuff it,” in the long run not only will terror be more effectively fought, but Muslims will be the winners as Americans feel more secure.

Judge That Ruled NSA Wiretaps Illegal Has History of Ignoring the Law

From JackLewis.net, a bit of information about the liberal, Jimmy Carter appointed judge who ruled that the National Security Administration wiretaps on calls to overseas terror suspects are illegal. It seems that in a case involving Affirmative Action preferences at the University of Michigan, she was slapped down hard by a higher court for blatantly disobeying the law. From Opinion and Order by Judge Bernard A. Friedman Denying Defendant’s Motion to Designate Gratz v. Michigan and Grutter v. Michigan as Companion Cases, August 17, 1998...
Judges Feikens and Cook lacked authority for several reasons. First, their designation by the Chief Judge was unlawful. When Chief Judge Taylor disqualified herself, a federal statute required that she assign the portion of defendants’ motion addressed to her to “the district judge in active service, present in the district and able and qualified to act, who is next in precedence.” 28 U.S.C. § 136(e).4 If for whatever reason Chief Judge Taylor believed this statute did not apply, she might instead have elected to reassign the portion of defendants’ motion addressed to her to another judge by blind draw pursuant to E.D. Mich. LR 83.11(d)(1).5 This alternative procedure would at least have protected the appearance of fairness and impartiality. However, Chief Judge Taylor followed neither § 136(a) nor Local Rule 83.11(d)(1), but instead devised her own, novel procedure, whereby she reassigned the entire motion (not just the portion addressed to her) to two judges whom she personally selected to act as a special two-judge panel. . . .

While Chief Judge Taylor recognized that she must disqualify herself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455,6 she nonetheless violated her legal and ethical duty by selecting the judicial officers who were to act in her stead....

By continuing to act after disqualifying herself, Chief Judge Taylor clearly violated § 455, and any action taken subsequent to her disqualification is a nullity. See id § 22.4.1 (“When a judge presumes to take substantive action in a case despite having recused himself from it . . . any such action is often considered a nullity and any orders issued by such a judge are considered absolutely void for want of jurisdiction.”). . . .

The court concludes that Chief Judge Taylor acted without authority when she reassigned both portions of defendants’ motion to a hand-picked, two-judge panel. Because this two-judge panel was constituted unlawfully, it lacked any authority to convene, to hear argument, to issue any opinion or decision, or to take any action of any kind whatsoever in this case....

For these reasons, the court concludes that Chief Judge Taylor lacked authority to refer defendants’ motion, or any portion thereof, to Judges Feikens and Cook; and that the August 6, 1998, “opinion” of Judges Feikens and Cook is unlawful, void and must be stricken. [emphasis added]
Even the Washington Post blasted the arbitrary piece of judicial fiat that claimed to be a ruling from Taylor.
Unfortunately, the decision yesterday by a federal district court in Detroit, striking down the NSA’s program, is neither careful nor scholarly, and it is hard-hitting only in the sense that a bludgeon is hard-hitting. The angry rhetoric of U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor will no doubt grab headlines. But as a piece of judicial work -- that is, as a guide to what the law requires and how it either restrains or permits the NSA’s program -- her opinion will not be helpful.

Judge Taylor’s opinion is certainly long on throat-clearing sound bites. “There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution,” she thunders. She declares that “the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution.” And she insists that Mr. Bush has “undisputedly” violated the First and Fourth Amendments, the constitutional separation of powers, and federal surveillance law.

But the administration does, in fact, vigorously dispute these conclusions. Nor is its dispute frivolous. The NSA’s program, about which many facts are still undisclosed, exists at the nexus of inherent presidential powers, laws purporting to constrict those powers, the constitutional right of the people to be free from unreasonable surveillance, and a broad congressional authorization to use force against al-Qaeda. That authorization, the administration argues, permits the wiretapping notwithstanding existing federal surveillance law; inherent presidential powers, it suggests, allow it to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance on its own authority. You don’t have to accept either contention to acknowledge that these are complicated, difficult issues. Judge Taylor devotes a scant few pages to dismissing them, without even discussing key precedents.
Taylor, a black woman, is in fact a one-person argument against judicial affirmative action.

Anti-Christian Bias in University of Wisconsin System

From Owen of Boots & Sabers, a column that reviews the recent history of the hostility of the University of Wisconsin system to Christians and Christian organizations.

In cases like these, secular governmental institutions usually try to defend their actions in terms of a “separation of church and state.”

The problem is that there is no such thing in the Constitution, and the founders of this country never intended such a thing.

Not only that, current court decisions usually favor the concept “viewpoint neutrality,” meaning that state institutions can neither favor nor discriminate against Christian viewpoints.

Thus there is simply no Constitutional basis for these anti-Christian actions. What they reveal is the biases of the people running the system.

Marquette Coaches Have Hummers as Perq

From Brandon Henak at the GOP3.COM blog:

Information on one of the perquisites that comes with being a coach at Marquette:
A recent sighting of 7 brand new, shiney yellow Hummer H3s in the parking lot outside the Al McGuire Center sparked even more interest in which perks are personal and which are funded by the school.

A source within the MU Athletics program has confirmed that these new Hummer H3s were leased by Marquette University for the assistant coaches of the Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams.
We have independently confirmed, also through a source at the Athletic Department, that these vehicles are leased by Marquette, and are a perq written into the contracts of several coaches.

As Henak notes, supplying gas guzzling vehicles to coaches at the University’s expense runs counter to claim that “social justice” guides the purchasing decisions of the institution.

This claim was wheeled out to justify the University’s switch from Alterra to Stone Creek coffee.

We personally have no problem with people driving Hummers. But we don’t much care for hypocrisy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Nonsense

From Popular Mechanics, a book debunking 9/11 conspiracy nonsense.

Any casual search of the Internet will show that the conspiracy buffs, who think the U.S. government actually mounted the 9/11 attacks, dominate the discourse.

But there is a counter movement, and this is an important part of it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Prohibitively High Rocket-Fuel Prices Bring Mideast Crisis To Standstill

From The Onion:
BEIRUT, LEBANON—As the cost of rocket fuel soared to $630 per gallon Monday, Middle Easterners who depend on the non-renewable propellant to power 10-kilogram rockets have been forced to severely restrict their daily bombing routines, bringing this latest round of fighting to an unexpected halt.

Frustrated Hezbollah fighters face astronomical rocket-fuel prices at the pump.

“The way things are going, I won’t have any money left over for other necessities, such as anti-aircraft missiles, land mines, and machine guns,” said Hezbollah guerrilla Mahmoud Hamoui, who is just one of hundreds of Islamic militants compelled to scale back their killing until rocket-fuel prices return to their pre-2006 levels.

Regions in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, once bursting with the sounds of exploding rockets and air attacks, now lay eerily silent. Even the Gaza Strip, another scene of turmoil, is enduring an unsettling calm.

Since the start of this year, the average Palestinian and Lebanese militant’s rocket-fuel consumption has surged from three gallons to 22 gallons per week—second only to Cape Canaveral, FL in propellant consumption.

Experts have warned for months that factors including Hezbollah’s insatiable demand for larger rockets, the increased dependence on gas-guzzling car bombs, and the war in the Middle East would all drive up demand for rocket fuel while putting a severe strain on its supply. However, most ignored the threat, finding it difficult to change their way of life.

“I admit I had grown accustomed to waking up every morning, driving my multiple-rocket-launcher to the launching site, and firing one unguided Katyusha rocket after another, even when it wasn’t absolutely necessary,” Lebanese militia member Omar Cheaib said. “But at these prices, I can’t even afford short-range launches over the border. I don’t know what to do with myself.”

Added Cheaib: “I only hope our leaders do something soon to get life back to normal.”

The shortage has also resulted in long lines at military fuel dumps, frustrating citizens trying to purchase as much rocket fuel as they can before prices climb even higher. At a Hezbollah installation outside Sidon, dozens of guerrillas slowly rolled Katyusha rockets in the direction of a holding tank containing the precious propellant.

“I waited for two hours to fill up my Qassam-2 rocket yesterday, and I could only afford half a tank,” said Hezbollah militant Amin Hammoud, who admitted to siphoning fuel from other rockets in his neighborhood. “Do you know how fast a Qassam-2 burns through half a tank of rocket fuel? Even if I launched it from An Naqurah, it still wouldn’t make the trip to Nahariyya.”

“It’s sad, but the only thing that’s blowing up right now is prices,” Hammoud added.

The increase in fuel costs has even prompted the much more powerful Israeli military to suspend wider-scale rocket attacks on public places and completely cut out orphanage bombings, relying instead on targeted precision attacks that kill only seven or eight people at a time.

Experts said that had Mideast citizens made a more conscious effort to reduce their daily bombings by the recommended 15 percent last year, they would still be able to affordably wage war today.

“A helpful list of rocket-fuel-conservation tips was issued by the Lebanese government in early June, but it was virtually ignored,” Beirut Arab University environmental studies Professor Farid Issa said. “It suggested taking public transportation to the border to launch missiles, or simply gunning down Israelis with AK-47s. Instead, Hezbollah members chose to fire rockets from the convenience of their own backyards, as if rocket fuel grew on trees.”

The unexpected jump in prices has many Islamic militants asking themselves for the first time whether the price they pay for rocket fuel is worth the price further paid by a handful of Zionists.

“The possibility that the world may run out of rocket fuel has left us radicals wondering if our children, or our children’s children, will enjoy the same level of militancy,” said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who feared that if the crisis continues, it could eventually spell the restoration of Middle Eastern infrastructure and prosperity, renewed relations with neighboring countries, and a “worst-case-scenario peace gridlock.”

“Now the question becomes: What can we do to prevent this from ever happening?” Nasrallah said. “None of us want to live in a world in which we have to give up driving Israel into the sea, but we must face reality.”

According to reports, Hezbollah is considering investing in an experimental new technology, still in its theoretical stages, that uses the clean-burning, inexpensive, yet highly combustible element hydrogen.

British System Pays Off Against Terror

Via McBride’s Media Matters, a salient point about the success the British had in rolling up a plot to destroy airliners with liquid-based explosives.

The New York Times explains key differences between the U.S. and the British legal systems.
The differences in counterterrorism strategy reflect an important distinction between the legal systems of the United States and Britain and their definitions of civil liberties, with MI5 and British police agencies given far greater authority in general than their American counterparts to conduct domestic surveillance and detain terrorism suspects.

Britain’s newly revised terrorism laws permit the detention of suspects for 28 days without charge. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government had been pressing for 90 days, but Parliament blocked the proposal. In the United States, suspects must be brought before a judge as soon as possible, which courts have interpreted to mean within 48 hours. Law enforcement officials have detained some terrorism suspects designated material witnesses for far longer. (The United States has also taken into custody overseas several hundred people suspected of terrorist activity and detained them at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants.)

At the same time, Britain has far stricter contempt-of-court laws intended to prevent the prejudicing of trials. Anything that is said or reported about the suspects rounded up this week could, the police contend, prejudice their trial and prevent their prosecution.

Andrew C. McCarthy, a former terrorism prosecutor at the Justice Department, said he believed that British authorities were willing to allow terrorist plots to progress further because, if an attack appeared imminent, they could immediately round up the suspects, even without formal criminal charges.

“They have this fail-safe,” he said. “They can arrest people without charging them with a crime, which would make a big difference in how long you’d be willing to let things run.” He said F.B.I. agents, who are required to bring criminal charges if they wanted to arrest a suspect, had a justifiable fear that they might be unable to short-circuit an attack at the last minute.
The net effect of these differences is that the British are more likely to watch a plot develop, perhaps expand to include more plotters, who are given time to engage in acts that make a conviction likely.

This in contrast to American officials who will break up a plot as early as possible -- and perhaps prematurely.

McBride notices the bizarre irony of finding this story appearing in the New York Times, a newspaper that has been staunch in its opposition to giving law enforcement more tools to deal with terrorism.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Racine: David Spenner Steps Down as Police Chief

In a case we have followed, but not commented on, Racine Police Chief David Spenner has stepped down, as least partially as the result of a dust-up with Racine Mayor Gary Becker. A citizen called Spenner to report the mayor driving erratically, and Spenner sent his cops out to investigate.

When it was discovered that the tip came from a political rival of the mayor, the mayor attacked Spenner. The reality of law enforcement, of course, is that valid tips often come from rivals and enemies.

An independent investigation vindicated Spenner, noting:
“The investigation showed the Racine Police Department aggressively investigates alleged driving and OWI complaints. The fact that the possible involved subject is an elected official makes the handling of cases like this even more delicate. If a complaint of this nature is not investigated thoroughly, law enforcement will be criticized for covering up,” according to the findings. “Aggressive investigation could be perceived as harassment. No matter how a situation like this is handled, it will be scrutinized intensely after the fact,” according to the findings.
We know Dave Spenner very well. He is one of the Elders at our church. He is mister straight arrow.

A good cop and dedicated public servant, he has fallen afoul of petty small city politics.

Becker told the Associated Press “Some trust had been lost between the mayor’s office and chief.”

Right. Becker no longer trusts that he will be given the special treatment that he thinks mayors deserve.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hating Condoleezza Rice

From Ann Althouse, two examples of hatred of America’s Secretary of State.

One is from Syria (no suprise) and the other . . . well, you’ll see.

I can tell you they are equally vile.

Law, Money & Politics

From Eminent Domain Blog, a couple of dandy posts on so called “campaign finance reform.”

Which, of course, should be called “regulation of political speech.”

One post reviews a sensible article in the New York Times by two fellows named Barah and Bauer.

The article observes:
Some reformers genuinely believe that it is possible to drive money out of politics and still observe the command of the First Amendment. Others see practical advantages. Many politicians favored McCain-Feingold because it prohibited certain advertising that mentioned opponents’ names, or because it authorized them to raise more money if they were challenged by wealthy, free-spending opponents. The bill also attempted to strike at “negative” political speech — known to ordinary Americans by its other name, “criticism” — by requiring candidates to publicly approve their ad content.
But, the conclude, “campaign finance reform” is unavoidably partisan.
Partisans will continue to demand restrictions calculated to hurt their opponents or help themselves; the press will inveigh against the nefarious role of money in politics (without explaining how candidates are supposed to communicate, cost-free, with millions of voters); and “good government” groups will explain that we are just one or two reforms away from cleaner, brighter, more wholesome politics.
Thus McCain-Feingold was a Democratic measure because the Democrats sincerely believe that money favors the Republicans.

If campaigns are deprived of money, which they need to take their case directly to the voters, citizens would be entirely dependent on the media for political information.

Which, of course, Democrats would love.

Of course, money doesn’t favor the Republicans as much as it once did, and the media (since the advent of the Internet, talk radio and Fox News) doesn’t favor the Democrats so much, either.

But partisans tend to fight old battles.

The other post cites a post on the (libertarian) Cato Institute blog. The post addresses the Connecticut Democratic senatorial primary:
There is not a line in McCain-Feingold that isn’t designed to protect incumbents. The so-called Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act makes it a crime to even mention the name of a candidate for federal office in a radio or television ad within 60 days of a general election. No criticizing incumbents! But the worst part of these laws came with the 1974 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act, which instituted a $1000 contribution limit to candidates running for federal office (now slightly more than $2000, but less in real terms than the ’74 limits). Incumbents have earmarks to pass around and large mailing lists. Challengers do not. Advantage, incumbents.

Ned Lamont’s remarkable victory over three-term incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman yesterday exposes the true nature of contribution limits. They aren’t about the “appearance of corruption.” They’re about preventing a challenger from having a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. The one “loophole” the Supremes created with their incoherent 1976 decision in Buckley v. Valeo was that candidates have rights the rest of us don’t have. Apparently, they can’t be corrupted by their own money, so there are no limits on what they can spend on their own campaigns.

More than 60 percent of Ned’s campaign expenditures came from Ned. Without Ned, Ned loses. In fact, no political observer thought any candidate dependent on a $2000 contribution limit had any kind of chance of ousting Lieberman. Ned was a very poor candidate. Inarticulate with zero charisma. But by spending his own money he enfranchised the Democrats of Connecticut who otherwise, given the contribution limits, were disenfranchised. The Democrats in Connecticut hate the war in Iraq, Lieberman has rather energetically endorsed it. Yet the federal election laws would have assured Lieberman reelection were it not for the “loophole.”
Campaign finance reform puts the lie to any notion that Congress can “reform” politics. When we take the crass partisanship that afflicts so much that Congress does, and add the prissy moralism of people like John McCain, we have a recipe for disaster.

But the Mainstream Media does and will continue to like the concept.

Anything that takes power over elections from candidates and parties expands their power.

Friday, August 11, 2006

When Will It End?

Alterra Statement On Loss of Marquette Relationship

The following came to us via e-mail, in response to our post about Marquette’s dropping Alterra as the coffee supplier for the Brew Bayou (and other coffee outlets on campus) and going to Stone Creek.
John -

I was forwarded your blog regarding the recent change from Alterra coffee at Marquette.

All of us at Alterra were sad to see this relationship interrupted. We have already received many communications from staff and students that they were displeased by the change and that they hoped to enjoy our coffee (on campus) again. We will continue to do what we do best...and work to reestablish our relationship with the university. Both the university and the students/student groups were valued partners in our pursuit of great coffee and great grower relationships.

We were similarly mystified when the suggestion was made that Marquette was changing coffee suppliers to better pursue its social mission. As one of the top ten fair trade roasters in the country, Alterra has had a significantly greater impact on grower cooperatives than any other roaster in the area. Similarly, our other relationships with growers (both fair trade and estates) bring benefits regarding pre-financing, quality control, infrastructure development and create a stable purchasing partner for many groups of farmers. I can say with certainty that no other roaster in southeast Wisconsin has developed a similar platform of benefits . . . nor one with the years of track record we have.

Alterra has always been long on action and short on communication. Perhaps we have not done our job when communicating our efforts in the realm of grower benefits to the decision makers at the university. If our relationship with the university has changed because of our lack of communication . . . well, that’s our bad. We would hope, though, that the university would not punish those they seek to support for our lack of self-promotion.

We wish the university our best in their continued pursuit of educational excellence and appreciate Marquette’s role as a valued fixture on Milwaukee’s landscape. We are all confident that if the benefits to the growers of your coffee are paramount in the decision making process, the students will be able to enjoy Alterra’s finest again sometime soon.

best regards -
Lincoln Fowler
Dan Suhr at GOP3.COM first raised this issue, noting that the “social justice” arguments made in favor of Stone Creek don’t seem to hold water.

If Fair Trade was the issue, the simple fact is that Alterra has a larger selection of Fair Trade coffees than does Stone Creek. It’s now typical in the Brew Bayou to find three of the four coffees offered to be Fair Trade coffee. There will almost certainly be fewer from Stone Creek.

So then why did Marquette make the change?

Photographic Fraud From Lebanon

Via Moonbattery, a video showing how fraudlent photos from Lebanon have been used to discredit the Israeli military effort there.

Among those complicit: Reuters, Associated Press, the New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.

These instances of photo fakery have been exposed by bloggers.

Which makes it rather obvious why the mainstream media don’t much like the blogosphere.

About Time, Don’t You Think?

War On Terror: Democrats In Opposition

From the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, drawing the obvious conclusions from the British terror plot that was recently broken.
. . . British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because “a large number of people” had been under surveillance, with police monitoring “spending, travel and communications.”

Let’s emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success. Harry Reid, who’s bidding to run the Senate as Majority Leader, saw it as one more opportunity to insist that “the Iraq war has diverted our focus and more than $300 billion in resources from the war on terrorism and has created a rallying cry for international terrorists.”

Ted Kennedy chimed in that “it is clear that our misguided policies are making America more hated in the world and making the war on terrorism harder to win.” Mr. Kennedy somehow overlooked that the foiled plan was nearly identical to the “Bojinka” plot led by Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to blow up airliners over the Pacific Ocean in 1995. Did the Clinton Administration’s “misguided policies” invite that plot? And if the Iraq war is a diversion and provocation, just what policies would Senators Reid and Kennedy have us “focus” on?

Surveillance? Hmmm. Democrats and their media allies screamed bloody murder last year when it was leaked that the government was monitoring some communications outside the context of a law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA wasn’t designed for, nor does it forbid, the timely exploitation of what are often anonymous phone numbers, and the calls monitored had at least one overseas connection. But Mr. Reid labeled such surveillance “illegal” and an “NSA domestic spying program.” Other Democrats are still saying they will censure, or even impeach, Mr. Bush over the FISA program if they win control of Congress.

This year the attempt to paint Bush Administration policies as a clear and present danger to civil liberties continued when USA Today hyped a story on how some U.S. phone companies were keeping call logs. The obvious reason for such logs is that the government might need them to trace the communications of a captured terror suspect. And then there was the recent brouhaha when the New York Times decided news of a secret, successful and entirely legal program to monitor bank transfers between bad guys was somehow in the “public interest” to expose.

For that matter, we don’t recall most advocates of a narrowly “focused” war on terror having many kind words for the Patriot Act, which broke down what in the 1990s was a crippling “wall” of separation between our own intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. Senator Reid was “focused” enough on this issue to brag, prematurely as it turned out, that he had “killed” its reauthorization.

And what about interrogating terror suspects when we capture them? It is elite conventional wisdom these days that techniques no worse than psychological pressure and stress positions constitute “torture.” There is also continued angst about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, even as Senators and self-styled civil libertarians fight Bush Administration attempts to process them through military tribunals that won’t compromise sources and methods.

In short, Democrats who claim to want “focus” on the war on terror have wanted it fought without the intelligence, interrogation and detention tools necessary to win it. And if they cite “cooperation” with our allies as some kind of magical answer, they should be reminded that the British and other European legal systems generally permit far more intrusive surveillance and detention policies than the Bush Administration has ever contemplated. Does anyone think that when the British interrogate those 20 or so suspects this week that they will recoil at harsh or stressful questioning?
Good points all. And finally, one key bugaboo of the politically correct, ethnic profiling.
We’d be shocked if such profiling wasn’t a factor in the selection of surveillance targets that resulted in yesterday’s arrests. Here in the U.S., the arrests should be a reminder of the dangers posed by a politically correct system of searching 80-year-old airplane passengers with the same vigor as screeners search young men of Muslim origin. There is no civil right to board an airplane without extra hassle, any more than drivers in high-risk demographics have a right to the same insurance rates as a soccer mom.
The simple political truth of this is that it’s going to be a huge political boon to the Republicans.

And it will not give the Republicans a cheap, unfair political advantage. It will give the Republicans a well-deserved advantage over Democrats who, with Pavlovian consistency, oppose anything that American might actually do to fight terror.

In that context, Democratic claims that they can fight the war on terror more effectively will ring hollow. When you oppose all the methods that are obviously needed to fight the war, people get the idea that you don’t really want to win it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

That Will Scare Them Good

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Chicago: “Big Box Ordinance” Aimed at Wal-Mart Threatens Lowe’s, Target Stores

In Chicago, where labor unions are strong and liberal Yuppies pretty numerous, the City Council passed a “Big Box” ordinance setting a very high minimum wage on big box stores and mandating lavish spending for benefits. According to the Chicago Tribune:
The big-box measure applies to stores of at least 90,000 square feet operated by firms with $1 billion or more in annual sales. By 2010, the minimum wage for employees will be $10 an hour and $3 in fringe benefits. Automatic annual cost-of-living increases will apply thereafter.

By comparison, the federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, while the state minimum is $6.50, though both amounts can be less if employees receive tips.
People who favor such legislation appear to be economic illiterates who think that government can set prices (including the price of labor) at any level it wants, without unfortunate consequences.

But the economic consequences have not been long coming in Chicago.
Lowe’s has halted plans for two home-improvement centers in Chicago while Mayor Richard Daley weighs whether he will try to block the city’s new “big-box” minimum-wage ordinance, a South Side alderman said Tuesday.

The company’s concerns about the law caused it to shelve plans for stores at 83rd Street and Stewart Avenue and at 79th Street and Cicero Avenue, said Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st).

“They changed their mind,” said Brookins, whose ward includes the proposed store at 83rd and Stewart. “They now want to wait and see what happens.”

Daley opposes the ordinance, which was passed by the City Council on July 26, but he has refused to say whether he would veto it. He has until Sept. 13 to decide whether he will exercise his veto power for the first time in his 17-year tenure as mayor.

David Katz of Northbrook-based A&R Management Inc., which manages the Scottsdale Shopping Center at 79th and Cicero, confirmed that Lowe’s officials have postponed closing the deal for a new store there.

“They won’t sign the lease at this point,” Katz said. “They are waiting to see if the mayor will veto the ordinance. Chances are they will pull out” unless the ordinance is vetoed.

Officials of Wal-Mart Stores have said that as many as 20 new outlets in Chicago that had been in the planning stages were on hold because of the ordinance. And last week, it was revealed that Target Corp. has taken a similar stance on a list of planned stores here. They include one that was to have been an anchor of a $90 million shopping center on a long-vacant site at 119th Street and Marshfield Avenue and another that was to have anchored the Wilson Yard development, a $113 million project in Uptown.

Meanwhile, Daley stepped up the rhetoric against the ordinance Tuesday, contending that suburban mayors are salivating at the prospect of getting retail development that won’t be coming to Chicago.
In a modern, globalized, highly mobile economy, old-style notions about how business can be coerced into paying more than the market dictates become less and less viable.

Chicago used to be known as “the city that works” (in contrast to New York, which was the city that didn’t). If the ordinance stands, Chicago will be known as a city addicted to yesterday’s economic ideas.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Got to Get Them Earlier


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Marquette Dumps Alterra, Goes to Stone Creek

Via Daniel Suhr at GOP3.COM: the fact that Marquette is dumping Alterra as the vendor of coffee served on campus, and going to Stone Creek.

The rationale? A lot of politically correct nonsense.
“Stone Creek’s concern for others, particularly the poor and marginalized, reflects Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit tradition of service,” says Toby Peters, associate vice president for administration. “Our partnership with Stone Creek not only provides our students, faculty, staff and visitors with excellent coffee, it also gives us the opportunity to explore additional opportunities for community outreach, both here and abroad.”
But, as Suhr points out, Alterra is also a “Fair Trade” brand, and most of the coffees they serve are organic.

So isn’t that politically correct enough?

The reality is that Marquette has a long history of picking pet vendors and giving them a monopoly on sales on campus.

Peters himself was a big supporter of computer vendor CDW, which once had an outlet in the Union. Peters, in 2004, gave a contract to Follet to run Marquette’s “official” bookstore (the Book Marq) in spite of the widespread dissatisfaction found in a survey of students and faculty. According to an April 20, 2004 story in the Marquette Tribune:
A February survey done on the Book Marq revealed some customers are dissatisfied with the way the store prices its books.

According to a survey of 1,380 students and 97 faculty members, over-priced books are a major concern when purchasing from Book Marq, 818 N. 16th Street. Of the 1,380 students who filled out the survey — which was sent online to students and faculty members, according to Todd Vicker, executive director of auxiliary services — 66 percent said pricing was their main motive for buying books from a given place.

Most students and faculty who chose to fill in a write-in section complained in some manner or another that pricing at Book Marq is not fair to college students.

One student wrote, “The Book Marq is ridiculously over-priced. Sweeney’s is a much better bargain and I have been going there because of that.”
As for Sweeney’s, Peters was active in trying to stop University staff from telling new students they can get better prices there. In 2001, Carrie Pruhs, Assistant Director for Administration in the Graduate School, sent an innocent e-mail to Ed Sweeney and Book Marq manager Barry Waters, asking both for information to be passed along to graduate students.

Waters responded with a stern admonition:
Basically, per Toby Peters in Administration, Marquette should not recognize Sweeney’s for any reason. Sweeney’s has no affiliation to Marquette what so ever. By providing Sweeney’s the information that you have, for example, it shows that you are promoting Sweeney’s to your Graduate students and that has an adverse effect on the campus bookstore, Book Marq, and also an adverse effect on Marquette University.
Pruhs wrote Peters, asking about this, and Peters responded as follows:
The exclusive arrangement we have with Follett has not only brought improved service but has also contributed significantly to the bottom line of the University. Over five years this amount is into the millions. At a time when we are looking for ways to bolster the salary of our employees, this is very significant.

Carrie, I can understand that on the surface competition is a good thing, frankly, in this case it is detrimental to the University and its students. Every dollar spent at Sweeney’s is money out of the University’s pocket. So to answer your question do we need to work exclusively with the Book Marq? Yes we do.
We leaked this e-mail to be Marquette Tribune, and the resulting articles created a firestorm.

It developed that Peters, a bureaucrat on the business side of the University, had no business giving any such instructions to anybody on the academic side. Then Academic Vice President Dave Buckholdt made it clear that faculty were under no obligation to withhold information or support from Sweeny’s.

The Omnitech Monopoly

Among faculty and staff, perhaps the most notorious exclusive purchasing agreement on campus was the Omnitech computer monopoly. Under former Information Technology Services director Art Scheuber, departments at Marquette were required to pay $400-500 per workstation more than a competitive vendor would charge.

When departments complained, administrators on the academic side of the University, unwilling to challenge the monopoly, usually ponied up the money to reimburse departments for the extra cost they had to pay.

And then, of course, there is the Pepsi Cola monopoly. No soft drink products other than those sold by Pepsi are allowed served in campus food outlets. There is one exception, however. When the Trustees meet, they have their choice of Coke or Pepsi.

Marquette administrators, in sum, have a history of giving sweetheart contracts to favored vendors. They will claim that these monopolies serve the interests of the University. They may have convinced themselves that this is true.

But their judgment is biased by their bureaucratic interest, and the notion that a monopoly serves the interests of consumers is one no student should risk writing in a blue book during an economics exam.