Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gays in the Priesthood

The Vatican has released its long awaited pronouncement on the ordination of gays. Now all they need to do is issue an explanation of what the hell it means!

According to the Vatican if you've got "deep-rooted homosexual tendencies" or practice a "gay culture," then you can’t be ordained. However if you have "transitory" homosexual tendencies, which you have "overcome" for at least three years, then you’re ok.

Huh? Let me make sure I understand this. Errr, no, never mind, I admit I don’t understand it! If homosexuality is in fact genetic, as some people believe, this policy makes absolutely no sense. How does one “overcome” a genetic characteristic? That’s like asking someone to change their eye color from blue to brown.

The only way I can make sense out of this is if you’re still in the closet, come on down, but if you’re out of the closet, don’t bother. But all priests are supposed to be celibate aren’t they? So if you’ve had no sex for three years does that mean you’ve “overcome” your “transitory tendencies?” Do straight seminary candidates have to refrain from heterosexual sex for three years before entering the seminary? I’m confused as only the church can confuse you.

Then again, maybe one needs to look under the surface. Perhaps this is just the Vatican’s way of misdirecting the blame for the juvenile abuse scandal it’s been enduring by implying that it was those gays with "deep-rooted homosexual tendencies" that caused all the trouble and now we’ve resolved it. The only problem is that “gay” does not imply “pedophile” nor does it explain why it took so long for the church to face up to the problem.

So is this progress or a retreat into medieval thinking? If the Vatican is convinced that homosexuality is purely voluntary and the “tendency” can be “overcome” like a tendency to overeat can be overcome, then I vote for a retreat into medieval thinking.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Do we keep Jesus in the holdiays or succumb to the march of Political Correctness? It seems that there is a stronger than usual grumbling in the land among Christians about the former being replaced with the latter.

Yet secularism marches on. Snopes.com reports that even Wal-Mart, bastion of Red State America and the decline of good taste in general, has officially instructed its employees to use “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

I remember in my formative years thinking that Chanakkah was THE major Jewish holiday rather than a minor celebration on the Jewish calendar. “Merry Christmas” was the standard greeting since you assumed everyone was Christian, except those few you knew for a fact were Jews. No other religions counted because there were no other religions in the neighborhood and Kwanzaa hadn’t been invented yet. It was also common knowledge that atheists never celebrated anything worthwhile and didn’t exist in places where God fearing folks lived so they could be safely ignored.

Sending “Christmas Cards” got a bit tricky when you expanded your circle later on and couldn’t be 100% certain about religious affiliations. Under those circumstances “Happy Holidays” was a safe alternative. I’ve since solved that problem; I never send any cards around the holidays.

Needless to say this secularization on top of the rampant commercialization of Christmas has some folks, read that Conservative Evangelical Christians, up in arms. Now I tend to agree with the Evangelical Christian population in this country on absolutely nothing but this time they sort of have a point. Despite the fact that there are more Pagan traditions associated with Christmas today than Christian traditions, it is a Christian religious holiday isn't it? Isn't it bad enough that Jesus gets lost in the shopping spree without losing sight of why there is a shopping spree to begin with? Oh yeah, that’s right, there’s a shopping spree because the Romans used to give each other good luck gifts for the festival of Saturnalia, a tradition which the Church decided to tame and convert into a celebration of the birth of Jesus rather than abolish because it was so popular.

Well then, what about the sanctity of the day Jesus was born? Oh yeah, that's right, no one really knows what time of the year Jesus was born. December 25th was the date of the birth of Mithra and was also absorbed by early Christianity as a convenient date to celebrate the nativity. Oh yeah wise guy, well they only celebrated Mithra's birthday one day, what about the 12 days of Christmas? Oh yeah, that's right, that started in Mesopotamia with the festival of Zagmuk which was celebrated for 12 days before the New Year in order to assist the god Marduk in his struggle against the monsters of chaos. Yes, that's the same Marduk that supposedly dictated the Code of Hammurabi "so that the strong might not harm the weak."

Ahhh, but the sentiments of "Peace on Earth, Good will toward Men" are Christian and that's what Christmas should be all about right? Well, actually, the words may come from the Gospel of Luke but the sentiments also come from the Roman pagan winter solstice celebrations. By tradition, during the festival of Saturnalia, the courts were closed, the dispensing of punishments was suspended and, like with the Olympic Truce, even wars were halted during the celebration. The tradition of a "Christmas Truce" extends back to well before the birth of Jesus.

Ok, let’s face it, Christmas is never going to be a solemn Christian celebration ever again (assuming it ever was one to begin with). So does that mean the Christmas Season of happy memory should be totally absorbed by a secular Holiday Season? Instead of Christmas we have the combined holidays of Christmas, Chanukkah and Kwanzaa?

What the hell is Kwanzaa anyway? I had to look it up and, to be quite honest, I’m not sure I agree with all of its principles. I’m especially suspicious of Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) and Imani (Faith). The former strikes me as more than a tad clannish, always fraught with peril in a pluralistic society, and the latter strikes me as calling for unlimited faith in “leaders” which is always a bad idea. Besides, phrases like “the victory of our struggle” always cause me to raise an eyebrow or two. Bottom line, some of the Kwanzaa principles don’t strike me as particularly workable in a 21st century melting pot sort of country.

So where does that leave us? I sort of sympathize with Christians but I’m not particularly ready to promote the singing of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” at public school assemblies nor the putting up of 15 foot crèches, to the exclusion of other religious and secular symbols of the season, in front of the town hall. On the other hand, if a town that is 99.9% Christian decides to put up only a crèche, I wouldn’t necessarily be ready to sic the ACLU on them either. There is usually both a crèche and a menorah on display in my town. Although I don’t recall any Santas or Frostys contributing any secular content, I’m ok with that display as it is.

Simple courtesy says “Happy Holidays” is the way to go, but simple courtesy has never been a strong point of the average Evangelical Christian. So I guess this is another case of “do what you want” but don’t expect me to “do what you want.” Unfortunately that’s a message they don’t seem to get on any other question so there’s no reason to expect they’ll get it on this one.

Personally I tend to reverse my childhood strategy, now it’s “Happy Holidays,” unless I’m certain it’s a Christian I’m speaking to that would prefer “Merry Christmas.” Just for kicks, I think I’ll keep track of which people, and places, use which terms this year.

The 1,000th Execution

The 998th, 999th and 1,000th executions, since the resumption of the death penalty in 1977, are scheduled for the last week of November and would bring the number of executions in 2005 to 56.

The 998th is scheduled to occur in Arkansas, which would be the state’s first this year; the 999th is scheduled to occur in Ohio, which would be the state’s fourth in 2005 and the 1,000th is scheduled in Virginia which would be the first this year in that state and the 95th since executions resumed. Only Texas, with 355 executions, has executed more folks in the modern era than Virginia.

Fourteen states have executed someone this year and five are scheduled to perform their first execution of the year in the five weeks left in 2005. Some Holiday spirit.

If all of the ten executions scheduled between now and the end of the year occur, there will be a total of 63, an increase of four from the 59 last year. We’re going in the wrong direction.

Connecticut performed its first execution in the modern era, the fourth in the Northeast and the first in the Northeast outside of Pennsylvania. The prisoner executed in Connecticut was what is known as a “volunteer,” which implies that he waived some or all of the available appeals. In other words, for whatever reasons, he chose to die. All of the executions in the Northeast have been volunteers.

I harp on the Northeast because I find the disparity in the application of the death penalty between the South and the Northeast prima facie evidence that the administration of the death penalty is totally screwed up. There just can’t be that many more criminals deserving of the ultimate penalty in one region of the country as opposed to another region. It just ain’t freaking possible!

Even the healthy difference in the murder and violent crime rates doesn’t explain how the hell there have been 816 executions in the South since 1976 and only 4, yes that’s right FOUR, in the Northeast. Will someone please explain this to me? Assuming the three scheduled executions occur, 818 of the 1,000 executions will have occured in the South. For those REALLY bad at math, that's 81.8% of the executions!

The Supreme Court has decreed that the death penalty is to be reserved for only the most heinous crimes and the most culpable criminals. How the hell can there be that many more heinous crimes or culpable criminals in the South than in any other region of the country? I don’t care how you slice it or dice it, there is no way in pluperfect hell that this is “equal protection” under the law.

Live Lingerie Models?

Ok I confess, I check the Court TV website. It’s not that I enjoy wallowing in the depraved side of human nature it’s just that, well, hmmm, maybe I do enjoy wallowing in the depraved side of human nature. See, you learn something about yourself every day.

Anyway, Court TV reports that a store in Augusta Maine is raising some eyebrows by using live lingerie models in its window. I could have accepted New York or Los Angeles maybe, but Augusta Maine? Reactions range from “it attracts more customers” to “it’s morally reprehensible.” Well, I think calling it “morally reprehensible” is a tad strong, but where does one draw the line? Complaints to the police have been ignored because, it turns out, that there's nothing illegal about it. The town fathers, and mothers, of Augusta never, in their wildest dreams, ever thought that this might someday be an issue.

Ok, look, I’m no prude, but somehow the image of scantily clad ladies strutting their stuff in the store window while the family is strolling by on their Holiday shopping doesn’t do it for me. The image just has a sour taste about it. The story doesn’t say, but do you suppose the store window is also decorated merrily in the spirit of the season?

I’m sorry, while it may not be “morally reprehensible,” it’s sure in bad taste.

Giants at Seattle

What can I say? Oh Jay, OH JAY!! It must have been a really long trip home for Feely & the rest of the Giants yesterday. Three chances to win the game and Jay comes up empty on all three. Now that was a really awful way to lose.

When you're paid to do one thing, it would be nice if you could do it when the chips are down. To miss three straight game winning field goals of 40, 54 and 45 yards is pretty damn bad especially when prior to that you'd only missed three all year! Ok, the 54 yarder was a mistake to even try, but the other two you have to make. Then there was Holgram having the smarts to call time out on Shockey's bobbled catch to give the replay booth time to review it. Pretty slick.

So the special teams get the goat horns again this week while both the offense and defense got the job done. Amani's fantastic catch for the last second touchdown and a two point conversion to tie the game wasted. Final score, Seahawks 24, Giants 21.

The Eagles were the only winners in the NFC East this week as the plot thickens. All of the other teams lost in overtime games. I'm beginning to think God is an Eagles fan.

So it's the big game next week with Dallas coming into Giants Stadium. Unfortunately the game is occuring too early in the season. A lot can still happen in the four games to follow but let's play it one game at a time.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Legio XIII Gemina

I finally got around to looking up the 13th Legion or, more properly, the Legio XIII Gemina. This is the official title of the 13th Legion, of HBO’s Rome fame. The Legion was formed by Julius Caesar for the campaign in Gaul sometime around 57 BCE and was with Caesar at Alesia.

The 13th was in fact the sole Legion with Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon in 48 BCE. The legion, as Livy put it, with which Caesar assaulted the world. It was also with him at Pharsalus. After the defeat of Pompey the legion was pensioned off and decommissioned.

The 13th was reformed in 41 BCE by Octavian for a campaign in Sicily against Sextus Pompeius the son of Pompey the Great. One article claims that soldiers of the 13th saved Octavian’s life in Sicily. The 13th is also rumored to have been with Octavian at Actium.

Well, well, that’s encouraging. We can start off next season with Octavian reforming the 13th Legion and having Vorenus take command. I’m trying to imagine Pullo as a Centurion. Nah, it would never work.

After Actium the 13th got its title “Gemina” when it was reinforced from other disbanding legions. The legion appears to have remained active along the northern border of the Empire, primarily in the province of Dacia, until around 400 CE, when it appears to have simply dissolved as pay and supplies stopped coming from Rome. The symbol of the 13th was the Lion. History is silent about the fate of the Eagle of the 13th Legion.


Hmmm, well, I said I was going to be disappointed, and I was right. I will admit, while I saw diverting Vorenus by telling him about Lucius’ real parentage coming, I never in a million years thought they would kill off Niobi. I’m crushed. While she wasn’t anywhere near one of my favorites on the show, she was a bedrock that could be relied upon. Like I said, I’m crushed.

Will had Caesar say et tu Brute but not HBO. Unfortunately Brutus doesn’t strike such a heroic figure at the assassination waiting until the very end and looking for all the world like he was uncertain about what he was doing. Not the stuff that legends are made from.

Elsewhere, Antony didn’t look too thrilled, but he didn’t take any action either. Probably a good move on his part although I suspect he could have taken all of them out right then and there. Servilia gets a tremendous amount of pleasure explaining to Atia that Caesar’s gone to meet the gods and how she’s going to make Atia suffer. Threatening people is always a bad idea. If you’re going to nail them, then freaking nail them, don’t give them warning. Never telegraph your blows. In this particular instance Servilia has managed to make an enemy of Octavian which, although there’s no way she could know it, was a really bad idea.

Then there’s Pullo and Eirene. Eirene goes from holding a dagger to the throat of Pullo, to spitting in his porridge to, in the final scene, walking down a country lane with him hand in hand.
So when the hell do we get the second season? I can’t wait until next September! This is cruel and unusual punishment! What’s going to happen? Certainly we get the next round of civil war and, I would suspect, at least the start of the love affair between Antony and Cleopatra.

Historically, with the death of Caesar, the story should center on Octavian and his sister Octavia. Octavia ends up married to Antony by Senatorial decree and then discarded by Antony for Cleopatra.

I can just imagine how well received a marriage between Octavia and Antony would be received by Atia so that should be fun. So should watching the building conflict between Antony and Octavian. If they just follow the historical line, there’s enough drama to make everyone happy.

So far they've stayed only with the sketchiest outline of historical events. For instance Octavia's first husband was of Consular rank and they had three children. In the show, her first husband appears to have been of lower rank, and they had no children. Nor did they bother to have Caesar adopt Octavian and they skipped the Veni, Vidi, Vici Battle of Zela against King Pharnaces so it's hard to say how close they'll follow what actually occured.

As far as time frames are concerned, the assassination occurs in 44 BCE, and the battle of Phillippi in 42 BCE. Antony hooks up with Cleopatra around 38 BCE and the battle of Actium occurs in 31 BCE so there's plenty of time here. The first season ran from just before the crossing of the Rubicon (Iacta alea est!) in 48 BCE to the ides of march in 44 BCE. So if the second season runs about 4-6 years as well it could end with the beginning of the Antony and Cleopatra affair.

Oh yeah, we could have the Senatorial decree forcing the marriage of Antony and Octavia, Antony's funeral oration (Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears!), Antony settling Cicero's hash, and another reversal of fortune between Atia and Servilia. The very thing soap operas are made of.

As for Vorenus and Pullo, who knows? I’m still hoping that Vorenus, Pullo and Timon hook up with Octavian for the coming conflicts, first with Brutus, and then with Antony. I will give the show credit for one thing. Brutus is shaping up as the sole sympathetic character. Or at least he would be if he showed a little more backbone.

So far no sign of Lepidus or Agrippa. Lepidus isn't terribly necessary but Agrippa is. I wonder if the show would dare replace Agrippa with Vorenus? What's a little additional rewriting of history?

Oh, I can’t wait. I’m so excited. When are the DVDs going to be available? I’m a certified Rome junky. Yeah right. Oh well, it was fun, while it lasted.

Eagles at Giants

Ugly as sin, but anytime we beat the Eagles, I’ll take it. Both teams looked sluggish and meandering with the exception of Mike McMahon who looked like a man who had something to prove. I’d say he proved it. Final score Giants 27, Eagles 17.

Yeah but it was a lot closer than a 10 point game. Even with only 23 seconds left I’m glad the Eagles missed that field goal especially given the weird ways the Giants have lost to them over the years.

Again the defense looked good, the special teams were solid this week, after the disaster last week, and the offense sort of yucky through three quarters, and then kaboom, fourteen points in the last quarter. Is it that they have to tire the opposing defense out? I don’t get it. If Eli and company can ever start putting whole games together they way they play the 4th quarter, they’ll be dangerous.

Two weeks ago, after the T.O. suspension, I said the next two games could make or break the Eagles season. Two wins and they would be back in the hunt and two loses and they would be just about finished. They lost both but certainly weren’t blown away in either game. That reflects well on the players and coaching staff. After all the hullabaloo, and now with McNabb out, to still give both Eastern Conference rivals a run for their money was impressive. That being the case, even though they lost both games, I’m not quite ready to write them off although its a long, very long, shot.

The Giants have a tough last six games. Four of them are on the road including two on the West Coast, one at Philadelphia and the other at Washington. That’s no bed of roses and the two home games are Dallas and Kansas City. Dallas isn’t much better off with both Denver and Carolina on their schedule.

Assuming things stay close, the last weekend could be interesting. The Giants play Oakland on Saturday, New Years Eve at 8 PM. Philadelphia hosts Washington at 4 PM New Years Day and Dallas winds up the season against St. Louis at 8:30 PM New Years day.

The big problem Philly has is that the Giants and Cowboys play each other in two weeks and somebody has to win. At least I think somebody has to win. If there are two teams that could figure out how to both lose, these are the two.

Then there’s always Washington…

Friday, November 18, 2005

What to do if you miss the Rapture?

As I’ve said before, every once in a while you run across a web site that is, to say the least, "interesting."

Following a trail from DEFCON about the Vanity Fair article on Tim LaHaye, the author of the “Left Behind” series, I got to the page of an associated ministry entitled “The King is Coming.” One of its subpages is entitled “What to do if you miss the Rapture?”

Since they appeared quite serious about this, and I really wanted to know what kind of advice they were going to give, I decided to check it out.

What a gyp! They didn’t tell me what to do! They just hit me with the same tired story about how God is going to spirit away all the Christians just before things start going all to hell and then they tell me to send away for their free booklet about “What to do if you miss the Rapture?”

Oh well, how about we consider some of the information on the page.

“When will this amazing event (The Rapture) take place? It will take place at the onset of a terrible 7-year period of time the Bible calls the Tribulation.”

So it’s going to happen just before the Tribulation. And when is the Tribulation going to occur? Why just after the Rapture.

“During those gruesome days, over half the population of the world will die amidst wars, natural catastrophes, plagues, as the result of economic manipulation, and especially at the nefarious hand of an evil world ruler known in the Bible as the Antichrist.”

How the hell does one die “as the result of economic manipulation?”

“Are we close to that event even now? Well, if you are a Christian, the answer is ‘Happily, yes!’ The Bible is full of signs that indicate the approach of the Tribulation. Globalism, a united Europe, interlaced economies and mounting technology all point to the nearness of that time.”

Sigh, of course none of these signs are in fact in the bible. For example it doesn’t say when the “European Economic Community is formed,” rather it warns against things like a ten headed beast which in reality doesn’t make any more sense today than it did in the 2nd century. Come to think of it, it probably makes less sense today.

Notice that Christians are supposed to consider the end of the world a GOOD thing.

But never mind that, what I want to know is if God is going to save all the Christians from the Tribulation, why do you have a booklet about what to do if you’re left behind? You figure God might make a mistake?

“However if you are not a Christian, the answer for you is 'Sadly, yes!' Sadly, because if you do not move quickly and come to believe in Jesus as Savior before the Rapture, you will be left behind after the Rapture to take your chances with the Antichrist and the world of his oppression.”

Notice the assumption that “belief” is a choice. The fact of the matter is that I can no more control what I believe than I can control the color of my eyes. Let’s see now, since I really can’t control what I believe, I guess I’m going to be stuck in a world with no more Christians. ALRIGHT!!! The party is at my house!

“Your chances of survival will be less that 50/50, and most of those who will survive will be forced to join the new Satanic world economic system. But beware, the Bible says that joining that economic system (called the Mark of the Beast) will involve aligning yourself with the Antichrist, which will erase any chance you have to come to salvation.”

So is this a form of the unforgivable sin? According to Jesus, in Matthew 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

Let me make sure I understand this properly. Assuming I manage to survive, I’m going to be FORCED to align with this Antichrist dude, and that means I lose all chance of salvation. Being FORCED to join the “economic system” of the Antichrist is tantamount to a blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? What the hell kind of “economic system” could this possibly be?

This would have been a good spot for a quote from scripture to demonstrate that the bible says any such thing. The "Antichrist" and "The Mark of the Beast" comes from Revelations which is such gibberish you could convince yourself it says almost anything you want it to. The synod must have been either drunk or hung over when they decided to include John's Apocalypse in the canon. The fact that they thought, incorrectly, that the author was the Apostle John probably was a factor too. So much for the idea of infallibility.

I can’t believe that there are people out there that actually believe this crap. The folks sponsoring these web pages don’t believe it, because on virtually every page they unabashedly ask for donations, so it’s easy to figure out where they’re coming from.

This is hucksterism at its worst. First you try to scare the hell out of someone who’s too ignorant to realize what you’re up to, then you hold out salvation and then you ask for money. This con game as been going on since the day after the first hooker opened up shop.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Denying the Holocaust

Let’s get one thing straight right off the top, I think anyone that denies that the Holocaust, the murder of some 6 million Jews by the Nazis in WW II, is either seriously misguided, a fascist or an idiot.

That being said, I’m absolutely stunned by a report in the Associated Press that David Irving, a sort of rump historian from the UK, was ARRESTED in Austria and charged with denying the Holocaust!

In seems the Austrians have a law against that and Irving could face up to 20 years in prison.

This is Political Correctness run amuck. I have my problems with Irving’s apparent admiration for Hitler as well as the position he takes in his book “Hitler’s War” that Hitler may have been unaware of what his underlings, especially Himmler, were up to, and that the extent of the Holocaust was less than believed, BUT I’m not about to throw him in jail for it!

On the plus side, there is some doubt as to whether there are sufficient legal grounds for continuing to hold Irving so many years after the “crimes” occurred. Read that, he wrote the damn book over a decade ago.

Excuse me while I go curl up with my copy of the 1st Amendment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Christmas Taste

Or, rather, the lack of it. The local Stop & Shop has a nice salad bar that I walk over to in order to get lunch. A while back, they got in a shipment of 8 foot tall soft plastic Christmas Snow Globes which I assume are for lawn ornamentation. They had a Santa and an elf inside and tiny styrofoam spheres being blown about to simulate snow.

They set one up on display and, I mean, IT WAS TRULY HIDEOUS LOOKING. To make matters even worse, they had a price tag of $149.99. There were about 20 of them to begin with and, believe it or not, just about all of them are gone. There’s only three left and they’re still selling for $149.99. It’s not like they were reduced to $10 or anything.

Why the hell would anybody want something like that? I can think of a lot of good stuff I could buy for $149.99! Somebody is actually going to put this thing on their lawn? Can you get a ticket for poor taste? Give me a break! I’m sure you can do a lot better than this!

Christmas distaste in alive and well and living in the vicinity of Clifton New Jersey.

Church Sign Generator

Every once in a while you run across a truely delicious web site. On this one you can generate your very own church sign and then, for a modest fee, even get it made into a magnet.

You can waste hours playing with this Church Sign Generator.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Birmingham News Changes Death Penalty Stance

The Birmingham News has now declared itself as opposed to the death penalty. The newspaper gave a number of reasons, both practical ones, and ethical ones. In terms of ethics, which the newspaper declared as the foremost reason, the News declared “this newspaper's editorial board is committed to a culture of life. . . . We believe all life is sacred. And in embracing a culture of life, we cannot make distinctions between those we deem 'innocents' and those flawed humans who populate Death Row.”

The News went on to cite numerous issues with the manner in which the death penalty is administered including “disturbing questions about the fallibility of our justice system,” and the arbitrariness of death sentences.

This is an important declaration from an influential newspaper, in a death penalty state, in the region of the country which applies the death penalty most often. Of the 994 executions in the United States since 1976, 813 have been in the South, and 34, including 4 this year, have been in Alabama.

I can’t fault the logic of the Birmingham News. The justice system is fallible, perhaps even more fallible than usually with respect to the death penalty, and even a cursory look shows that the application of the death penalty is arbitrary. Not only does it vary by region of the country, it varies by state, by county within a state, by race of the victim and even by the personal inclination of the prosecutor.

Due to the high profile nature of death penalty cases and the pressure to obtain convictions, there have been repeated instances of prosecutorial and police misconduct associated with capital cases including withholding exculpatory evidence, coaching witnesses and using illegal means to obtain, often bogus, confessions.

This isn’t justice, its freaking chaos.

How the hell can anybody justify a penalty that has been exercised, since 1976, 813 times in the South, 115 times in the Midwest, 62 in the West and only 4 times in the Northeast, 353 times in Texas and NEVER in New York. To make things even worse, all 4 of the executions in the Northeast have been of so-called “volunteers,” people who refused to appeal their sentence for one reason or another.

Are people that much more evil in Texas than in New York? What makes southerners so much more likely to execute people than folks in other regions of the country?

It’s the South that yells about “moral values” and the “sanctity of life” yet has the highest murder rate, the highest execution rate and the highest violent crime rate in the country. Is the word “hypocrisy” coming into anyone’s mind?

Ok, enough South bashing, at least the Birmingham News is facing up to the unpleasant facts and has the courage to change it’s position based upon those facts.

Of course saying that they "believe all life is sacred" probably means we disagree on the question of abortion access, but we'll fight that one out some other day. Today the Birmingham News gets a Good Guy star.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Worrying about Alito

Ok, I’ll admit it, my early wait and see attitude toward Judge Samuel Alito was probably based in large part upon my relief that Miers was out of the picture. While I was perfectly aware that this might have been precisely the strategy, after an initial review of Alito’s decisions, while it was clear he was conservative, I didn’t see any evidence that he had much of an agenda.

Now the AP report on the contents of some papers written by Alito during the Reagan administration has me a bit concerned. Actually it has me more than a bit concerned. Alito is quoted by the AP as saying “I am particularly proud of my contributions in recent cases in which the government argued that racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion,”

Coupling this statement with the AP's report that Alito told a group of senators in a private meeting “that he had ‘great respect’ for the precedent set by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion, but he did not commit to upholding it,” implies a lot more than his dissent in Casey that Roe v. Wade might be in big trouble with Alito on the bench.

Maybe he has promised his aging mother to overturn the case.

Even more troubling are reported statements to the effect that he supported “the legitimacy of a government role in protecting traditional values” and disagreed with Warren Court decisions in the area of the Establishment Clause.

I’d for damn sure like to know WHAT Warren Court decisions in the area of the Establishment Clause he disagreed with and why as well as what is his definition of “traditional values?”

#2 daughter reports that in private assessments, rather than public pronouncements, some of the faculty at Seton Hall is saying that while Alito is a nice guy, he’s SO conservative that he thinks poodle skirts and bobby socks are the height of risqué fashion.

Here’s hoping our hero, Sir Russell of Feingold, shall, shining armor all aglow, advance to do battle with the Alito! Hazzah Sir Russell! Nah, only kidding, I’m still keeping an open mind here, but I am a lot more nervous now than I was before and I'll be watching the performance of the Judiciary Committee with fingers crossed that they do the right thing by the American people. We don't need another justice with a personal agenda like Thomas and Scalia.

Is it possible that Alito is a WORSE choice than Miers? No, I don’t believe that as I’m sure Alito’s qualifications are a lot better than simply admiration for Dubyah’s special brand of incompetence. The idea of a Supreme Court Justice going around saying “Oh George, you were simply the bestest governor and now you’re simply the bestest president in the whole wide world” made me nauseous.

Feingold in 2008!

Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is my early favorite for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. Why you ask? Because there is NO QUESTION about where this man stands on things and he's a maverick who’s not afraid to go against the flow when it’s necessary.

Let’s get down to specifics shall we.

This is the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act. I’ll bet a lot of Democrats would like to make that claim now. Russ has said “the Congress will fulfill its duty only when it protects both the American people and the freedoms at the foundation of American society.”

Ben Franklin said one time, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. “

Russell Feingold appears to understand that.

On Civil Rights Feingold says "America was founded on the principle of freedom for all people, and I strongly believe that the civil rights of all individuals should be vigorously upheld regardless of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, genetic make-up, or sexual orientation.”

That’s what I call giving it to you right from the shoulder. There’s nothing tentative about this guy.

“Upholding the rights of all citizens has proven to be a struggle throughout our history, but nothing worthwhile is achieved without a struggle.”

Like Thomas Paine once said, the harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

Moving on to the death penalty, Russ says, “I oppose the death penalty in all cases.”

That’s pretty damn clear. Are we sure this guy is really a politician? Isn’t there a rule about senators establishing clear cut sensible positions? Aren’t they supposed to be more wishy washy?

On the environment, Russ says, “I will continue to work hard to protect our public lands, ensure safe drinking water and breathable air, end environmentally harmful subsidies, and preserve the quality of Wisconsin's environment."

The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, which consists of 84 hunting and trapping organizations in the state, and the National Wildlife Federation presented Senator Feingold with the 2004 Conservation Service Citation for his efforts to protect water quality and fight for wetlands protections. The National Parks and Conservation Association has recognized Senator Feingold’s perfect 100% voting record for supporting legislation to protect and conserve our national parks AND the senator was a volunteer ranger at Devil's Island on Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

I’d say this guy puts his money where his mouth is on the ecology. I assume he would extend his concern for the environment to the whole country as President. What a concept! A President who actually wants to do good things for the American ecology!

On education, the senator says, “I am dedicated to improving educational opportunities for every American at every level, from preschool and beyond.”

Citing that every district is unique Feingold has opposed federal testing standards and supports maintaining local control.

Federal testing standards make absolutely no sense. Not only is every district different but every child is different too. We need more teaching not more testing and it's the local level that's best qualified to know the best way to make this happen. The Federal Government should send money when necessary but otherwise keep it's inefficient nose out.

The senator has also worked to expand the availability of Pell Grants to help insure access to a college education for those perhaps less able to afford one.

On the issue of choice, Russ says, “I support the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade to uphold a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and I believe that abortions should be rare, legal, and safe.”

Rare, legal and safe PRECISELY matches my thoughts on the subject. I just never heard it expressed that well before. Sorry Russ, but I'm stealing that way of expressing a position on abortion. I'll give you credit occasionally, when I remember.

And the senator says, “Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land, but that promise remains unfulfilled for many…unfair wage disparities continue to be a problem.”

There’s only one area where we disagree. He only has two daughters while I have three.

Clearly it’s way too early to know how corrupted Feingold will become if things really get serious, but, at least for the moment, Feingold’s my man.

The senator is on the Senate Judiciary committee so I'll be tracking any interchanges with Samuel Alito rather closely. Feingberg, correctly in my opinion, supported Judge Roberts. Should be interesting to see how he reacts to Alito.

Want to learn more about Russ? Go here, Senator Russell Feingold.

Wrongful Life?

CourtTV reports on a case in Australia where a permanently disabled woman is suing the doctor that “allowed her to be born.” The plaintiff is asking for the expenses associated with a lifetime of being “mentally retarded, spastic, deaf and blind.”

Allegedly the doctor misdiagnosed a case of rubella in the first trimester of the mother’s pregnancy. The mother claims if she had known, she would have opted for an abortion rather than give birth to a potentially seriously disabled child.

It’s the child, now 24 years old, that has brought the case, or perhaps more accurately, a guardian has filed the case on her behalf. A statute of limitations prevents the parents from suing.

Well, well, what does one make of this? Interestingly the article says that this isn’t the first case in this vein and discuses three others, a second Australian case, one in New York and another in California. Only the case in California appears to have had any success. There, reports CourtTV, “an appeals court found a testing laboratory responsible for the medical costs associated with the care of a child whose parents were not informed of the potential for a certain genetic disease being passed onto the fetus.”

I guess I can understand folks suing under these circumstances. If they had been given the proper information, an abortion might have been an option which raises an interesting moral question. Under these circumstance, how is preventing the fetus from developing any different from infanticide once the child is born?

They’re different only because one is legal and the other isn’t. I would imagine this would be the line of the Right to Life Tribe. But what kind of quality of life are we talking about? Doesn’t that matter?

Of course it does. I don’t see condemning the unborn child to a lifetime of misery as particularly taking the moral high ground.

HBO’s Rome, Episode 11

Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about! Blood and guts and veins in my teeth! Go 13th! Wow, the arena stuff was simply brutal even for HBO, but you notice how the sex and nudity has just about disappeared. Very strange.

Only one episode left and things are coming to a head. The Ides of March are right around the corner, but I’m having lots of trouble figuring out where we’re going after that. Octavian tries to help Pullo out, which at least demonstrates that he has some sense of loyalty, but it’s Vorenus that rescues Pullo, despite the fact that Pullo is an admitted murderer several times over. I got a kick out of Timon’s antics in this show. Here’s hoping he plays a bigger role in future shows (assuming there are any future shows).

So, Brutus has decided to play hero of the Republic (duh, surprise, surprise), Antony is back shacking up with Atia and Cleopatra is still lost to the world. I’m wondering if the interchange with Caesar’s veterans isn’t an indication that Vorenus may still have a key role to play with the army, not to mention the antics in the arena where Pullo and Vorenus uphold the honor of the 13th Legion. You’ll notice none of the legionaries guarding the arena tried to stop them from leaving. The final scene with Posca and Erastes makes it plain that Caesar is in fact a tyrant hiring murderers in the night, but Vorenus owes allegiance to Antony and Pullo to Octavian.

Hmmm, the best ending would find Brutus and Cassius fleeing Rome after the assassination of Caesar and Antony, Vorenus, Pullo and Octavian joining forces to avenge Caesar’s death. Antony would be accepting Octavian just to keep Atia happy not considering him to be much help or any threat, but happy to have his name. Perhaps Antony could even assign Vorenus and Pullo as Octavian’s personal guards. Then we can watch Octavian develop into Augustus next season.

But, the critical question is, will Niobe develop some fashion sense? Tsk, tsk, apparently the dress she wore to Caesar’s party wasn’t at the cutting edge of fashion at all.

I’m sure I’ll be disappointed in the finale next week and if they have another season, by the time it comes around, I’ll have forgotten this one but it’s been fun. I wonder when the DVDs will be available?

Vikings at Giants

OH MY GOD WHAT A DISASTER!!! Talk about weirdness. The Vikings became the first team in NFL history to return an interception, a kick-off AND a punt for touchdowns. At the start of the second half, after the kick-off return, the Vikings had more than twice as many points, 14, as they had offensive yards!

And then, the topper, after holding the Vikings to zippo all day, the Giant defense lets them mount the winning drive in the last minute of the game. Like I said, talk about weird.

Final score Vikings 24, Giants 21. I give up on giving ratings. It’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks. Aside from rating the Special Teams AWFUL, how does one rate an offense that was miserable the entire game but came through in the clutch to tie things up, and a defense that was spectacular the whole game but caved in the final minute? Clutch and Choke? Like I said, I give up.

Yup, yesterday was one for the books. Too bad we came out on the short end of it. Here’s hoping this isn’t the beginning of another total collapse. I said that 8-8 would be a good year and, looking at the remaining schedule, I’m still thinking 8-8 or 9-7 is about the best we’re going to do.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Florida and Narnia

A statewide contest to encourage reading scheduled to coincide with the release of a major motion picture? Sounds like a great idea! So why are these people complaining?

CourtTV reports on a brewing controversy in Florida. The state has set up a reading contest around C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” which is scheduled to be released as a motion picture on December 9, 2005. The Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS) has pointed out that the Narnia series is widely viewed as a Christian Allegory intended to convey the fundamental truth of Christianity and therefore the contest violates the principle of “religious neutrality” in schools.

The AUSCS is not asking the book be removed from the contest, simply that other books be made available. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian advocacy group, has said they will support in court any school threatened with a legal claim free of charge.

A spokesman for the ADF is quoted as saying "I am dumbfounded how they believe students shouldn't be reading this book in the contest. It violates freedom of speech."

The same spokesman is also quoted as saying that numerous books encouraged to be read in schools have religious undertones, including "The Lord of the Rings," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "The Diary of Anne Frank."

Oh boy, where to start with this one. I guess a couple of observations.

First of all the ADF, since I’m certain they can comprehend the English language, is clearly being dishonest when it implies that the AUSCS wants to prevent anyone from reading the book. The AUSCS has no problem with the book being part of the contest it simply is asking for alternate choices. What the hell is the problem with that? The “numerous books” with “religious undertones” especially “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” strike me as a pretty good list of alternates!

Not that I agree that these books are in the same class as the admittedly Christian Allegory of C.S. Lewis. “The Lord of the Rings” does include a weak pagan fantasy mythology that I would hardly call a “religious undertone” and any “religious undertones” in the “The Diary of Anne Frank” or “To Kill a Mockingbird” are INCIDENTAL to the story and not a central theme.

If there isn’t a Christian Agenda here why is the ADF getting involved? I could understand if the AUSCS wanted to censor the book or have it removed from the contest, but that’s not the case. It simply wants other choices. Why not include Harry Potter? The next HP movie is due on November 18.

This strikes as another example of Christianity claiming rights for itself that no one else has. It’s ok to push a Christian allegory in a public reading contest and no one has the right to complain. I’m still looking for an explanation as to WHY adding other books would be a problem if the sole purpose is to encourage reading? Wouldn’t a LARGE selection of quality books do a better job of encouraging kids to read?

While I believe the legal case is a bit shaky as there is clearly a secular purpose here, the state of Florida and Jeb Bush could be a little more aware that even Florida is a plural society and not everyone believes Christianity is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Victory for Choice in California

In another election result, the good people of California, in addition to telling Governor Arnie where to get off, defeated, by a healthy margin, an Abortion Notification measure which would have required the notification of the parents of girls 17 and under getting an abortion. California would have been the 35th state with such a notification law.

Generally the American public approves of Abortion Notification measures especially where minors are concerned. Exactly why the California measure was so soundly defeated is open to debate. It could indicate a shift away from favoring notification measures. Another possibility is that the strong language in the measure defining abortion as an act that causes "the death of the unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born," which is very different from the more neutral language used in statutes elsewhere, might have been too much for Californians to swallow.

Or perhaps, while voting NO on all of Arnie's propositions, some California voters got in a rut and voted NO on this too. Let's hope that wasn't the case and the measure was rejected due to its lack of merit.

Election Roundup 2005

The off-off-year election is over and while, in general, the Republicans and Dubyah took a minor drubbing, I wouldn’t read too much into the results.

Both Virginia and New Jersey elected new Democratic Governors. Virginia to replace an existing elected Democratic governor who was restricted from seeking another term and New Jersey to replace an interim Democratic governor. The margin of victory in both states was surprisingly large but there was no net gain or loss for either party.

I don’t know much about the Virginia race other than Dubyah came out to campaign near the end. The joke is that Dubyah's appearance cemented the victory for Democrat Tim Kaine who won easily by 5 points.

The New Jersey race was an exercise in mud slinging. The low point came when Republican Doug Forrester created a commercial publicizing Democrat Jon Corzine’s ex-wife’s criticism of him. Forrester also had a commercial featuring his own wife claiming that he was pro-choice. The people of the State of New Jersey rejected both messages giving Corzine an easy 10 point victory.

In Medieval Kansas the state school board, to no ones surprise, approved the new state science standards including the recognition of Intelligent Design as an alternative to Evolution and a redefinition of science to include supernatural conclusions. It’s rumored that the University of Kansas is working on updated courses in keeping with the new theory of science in the state. I’ve been told that next semester the University will offer the following science electives:

- Alchemy 101
- Astrology and Tea Leaves
- Understanding the Natural World through the Interpretation of Scripture
- Witch Detection 101
- Modern Black Magic – a National Disgrace

I’ve been unable to verify whether or not the Department of Biology at the U of K has been closed down but I have it on good authority that a bill outlawing electricity in favor of candles has been presented to the Kansas State Legislature.

In California Arnie’s four initiatives all went down to defeat. In Texas a constitutional amendment outlawing same sex marriage was overwhelmingly approved. Hehe, I read the text of that amendment a while back and it’s so poorly written that technically it outlaws ALL marriages, including those between one man and one woman, although obviously that isn’t the intent.

In the meantime New York City returned Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg to office by an overwhelming 19 points, rejecting “stuck in the 60’s” Democratic candidate Fernando Ferrar. Last, but certainly not least, the good people of Maine soundly rejected an attempt by a church group to repeal a law outlawing discrimination against gays.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

When Cleaner Air is a Biblical Obligation

“When Cleaner Air is a Biblical Obligation” is the title of a New York Times article which talks about a position paper on “global warming” being circulated among the leadership of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) that would encourage legislation on controlling carbon emissions.

The article quotes a Mr. Richard Cizik of the NAE: “Mr. Cizik said the alliance's draft position on global warming was still under review by its leaders and would not be issued unless they voted unanimously to support it.”

That doesn’t sound like a statement is imminent. It sounds to me like some members of the NAE, including Mr. Cizik in particular, are pushing for such a statement but the jury is still out on whether they will succeed. I suspect that getting “unanimous” agreement from the leaders isn’t going to be easy.

I just LOVE the reason given in the article by John Green of the Pew Forum as to why many (most?) Evangelicals don’t support environmental protections. “On the other hand, he (Green) added, ‘they don't like environmentalists. They associate environmentalists with the Sierra Club and with people who have nontraditional religiosity.’”

So because some of the people that want to protect the environment have “non-traditional religiosity,” that’s an adequate reason for NOT protecting the environment?

Excuse me while I go bang my head up against the wall for an hour or two.

So some folks that belong to the NAE, which strongly opposes choice, gay marriage and stem cell research, perhaps aren’t 100% irrational, they’re only 80% irrational. Although I might suggest that deciding whether or not ecological protections are a good thing based upon an obscure passage in Genesis is as irrational as opposing them because you think (hope?) the second coming is imminent! Of course Senator James Inhofe’s, the Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, response to the potential NAE statement is even more irrational. Inhofe believes that the idea that human activities contribute to global warming is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

Personally I think James Inhofe is the greatest joke ever played upon the rest of the United States by the people of Oklahoma. Inhofe is what keeps Oklahoma in a neck and neck race with Kansas to see which state can deteriote into a medieval society the fastest.

While it’s always good to see disagreement within the ranks of the enemy, you'll excuse me if I don't get all bubbly and congratulatory. Cizik is basing support for environmental protections not on recognizing what anyone with half a brain should recognize, that the future of the human race is tied to the future of the earth's ecology, but on a minority interpretation of Genesis 2:15!

The disdain for the ecology is usually based upon Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

It’s that word “dominion” that causes all the trouble.

Maybe Cizik and company can convince Bush to instigate a "faith-based" initiative to address global warming? Maybe they can organize prayer meetings to reduce pollution?

Isn’t it amazing how we praise religious organizations for doing what we would condemn other people for NOT doing.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Whole Terrell Owens Thing

I don't get it; I just don't get it. T.O. finally went too far. I've always taken the position that anyone who can play like this guy can play can celebrate any way he wants. As a matter of fact I was in the minority that found his antics amusing, but I could never understand his apparent feud with Donovan McNabb.

I mean McNabb is the man that is going to get you a ring. This is the guy that, despite hurting, is still playing his heart out week in and week out. So how the hell can you say something like "if Brett Favre were quarterback we'd be undefeated."

What the heck man? While not taking anything away from future hall of famer Brett, that was a really dumb thing to say. Now at least have the guts to admit it was a dumb thing to say and apologize. I suspect it's too late to be welcomed back with open arms in Philadelphia, but at least you won't go out looking like a total fool.

In the meantime an Owensless Eagles got bounced by the Redskins 17-10 last night, which, if I'm not mistaken, drops the 4-4 Eagles into the cellar in the NFC East. Next week they get Dallas, coming off a bye, at home, and then it's a trip to the very unfriendly confines of Giant's Stadium. The Eagle's season might be on the line in the next two weeks.

Two wins and they're back in the hunt; two loses and they're just about through. How could it have come to this?

HBO’s Rome, Episode 10

Bah, I think someone should check calendars and such. I’m supposed to buy that the little kid limping behind Vorenus became the love interest for Eirene who was a full grown woman in the same episode? I think not. What a DUMB twist.

So now, after Pullo kills the kid in a jealous rage, he and Vorenus are at odds. It looked like the objective was to make everyone feel sorry for Pullo, Vorenus keeps climbing the ladder of success, the 13th Legion won’t let him march in Caesar’s triumph and now he’s lost the love of his life. The problem is it’s a little hard to feel sorry for anyone that bashes people’s heads in! Now the teaser at the end of the episode is that Pullo will go to work for Erastes who still has it in for Vorenus. Hmmm, I wonder where this is going in the last two episodes?

On the historic front, we have Vorenus getting a lesson in practical Roman politics from Posca, which he doesn’t look all that happy about and the introduction of Cassius. I have to compliment the casting director on the actor playing Cassius. He certainly, at least so far, seems to be putting an adequate amount of oiliness into the portrayal.

I found the whole Vercingetorix thing a little confusing. First he gets executed at Caesar’s triumph, then he gets dumped with the trash and finally his body is rescued and given an honorable funeral by, what I assume were, loyal Gauls. None of this struck me as either historically accurate or particularly important to the plot. More important might have been where the hell is Cleopatra and when is Antony going to meet her?

I’m also having some trouble figuring out the whole Octavian and Octavia thing and where the hell Atia is coming from in all this. I’m having this impression that the script writers sort of ran out of ideas.

As far as I can tell, Atia is absolutely reveling in Servilia’s misfortunes. Misfortunes Atia has helped to bring about. Not only is she reveling in them, she’s actually rubbing Servilia’s nose in it because, given Caesar’s position, there’s not much Servilia can do about it. As a result, Servilia’s directs her anger at Brutus going so far as to forge a pamphlet critical of Caesar and sign her son’s name to it.

In the meantime, it’s Octavian that rescues Octavia from the Temple of Cybele and anoints Caesar for his triumph. Like I said, where does this all end? I suspect it will be with the Ides of March, but I’ve been way off before on where this series is going. Do you think the various authors had a plan or that each just made up the next episode as they went along?

Giants at 49ers

We are talking UGLY! That game reminded me of a blind date I had one time. I mean UGLY! Still ugly wins on the road are always welcome. Final score Giants 24, 49ers 6.

I actually suffered through the whole game on the tube yesterday which is like, really unusual for me as I cannot stand the freaking commercials. Again the defense looked pretty good; then again, against that offense, eleven grannies with canes would probably look pretty good.

Mike Nolan didn’t look particularly pleased when actually, he should have. I mean the worse they are now, the more it will look like he’s accomplished. I still remember his dad’s billboard commercial in Times Square back when smoking was still cool. Those were the days of Dick Lynch, Dick Nolan and Erich Barnes. No big surprise that the 49er defense is already looking formidable with Mike at the helm.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Alito Under Fire

Whoa, there are an awful lot of people throwing fits about Judge Alito’s view on abortion! There are also an unusual number of liberal leaning folks, including judges and clerks that have worked with Alito, that are supporting the nomination and warning against putting a label on him.

So what the hell is going on? What I’ve observed is the difference between considering the question based upon the detailed facts as opposed to based upon general descriptions.

In the most famous case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito was a dissenting voice on a spousal notification provision in a Pennsylvania abortion law on the 3rd Circuit. A provision which was subsequently also found unconstitutional, by a vote of 5-4, by the Supreme Court. In his dissent from the Supreme Court opinion, Chief Justice Rheinquist quoted judge Alito’s opinion on the spousal notification provision.

This single decision appears to have mushroomed into howls of outrage about Alito’s disdain for the right of a woman to choose and dire predictions about the imminent demise of Roe v. Wade. One quote, from DEFCON, was “I find it hard to accept a nominee who so unabashedly argued that women do not have the right to make decisions without the blessing of the man of the house.”

Well I would have a hard time accepting him too IF he said anything of the sort. First of all, the Pennsylvania Law in question required simply spousal notification and not spousal consent. In other words the “blessing of the man of the house” was not in any way, manner, shape or form required. As a matter of fact, it only required a non-noterized statement from the woman saying that the spouse had been told. In addition, there was a significant list of exceptions under which no claim of notification was even required.

(1) Her spouse is not the father of the child.
(2) Her spouse, after diligent effort, could not be located. [505 U.S. 833, 909]
(3) The pregnancy is a result of spousal sexual assault as described in section 3128 (relating to spousal sexual assault), which has been reported to a law enforcement agency having the requisite jurisdiction.
(4) The woman has reason to believe that the furnishing of notice to her spouse is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her by her spouse or by another individual.”

Note that exception number (4), technically, resolves the concerns about women stuck in an abusive relationship and being in fear of their husbands.

The fact is that whether you agree with spousal notification or not, polls have shown that somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of Americans do so such a decision by Alito is certainly within the definition of “mainstream.”

If Judge Alito is guilty of anything in Planned Parenthood v. Casey it is of thinking with his brain rather than with his heart. If one places oneself into the shoes of a woman, probably a poor woman, perhaps even a woman at or below the poverty level that has decided on an abortion without already informing her “spouse,” you can be certain she’s too terrified of him to do so and too terrified to think straight if told she has to certify that she has told him even if the situation falls under one of the restrictions.

So yes, this is an “undue burden” and should not be allowed to stand. The Supreme Court majority was right and Alito and Rheinquist were wrong BUT they were wrong for very different reasons.

Rheinquist, in his dissent, makes it crystal clear that he believes the right to an abortion is not, and never has been, a right protection from regulation by the states. Rheinquist clearly states that Roe v. Wade is simply bad law that should be overturned at the first opportunity and that the concept of “undue burden” is totally unworkable and ill defined.

Alito, on the other hand, applies the concept of “undue burden,” as it was then defined, and concludes that the Pennsylvania law’s spousal notification provision, given the ease of declaration and wide range of exceptions, did not present an “undue burden.”

I might also point out the Supreme Court definition of an “undue burden” was far narrower prior to Casey. The prevailing definition was from Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health which stated that a statute imposes an "undue burden" if it imposes "absolute obstacles or severe limitations on the abortion decision.”

In Casey it was “determined that a burden is ‘undue’ if it merely imposes a substantial’ obstacle to abortion decisions.”

So Judge Alito was working with a much narrower definition of “undue burden.” The definition was only widened when the case got to the Supreme Court.

I may be wrong and the Alito nomination may be the biggest threat to Roe v. Wade in recent memory and maybe the judge has promised his aging mother to overturn the decision the first chance he gets, but I see no evidence of that. I see no evidence that Alito has an ideological axe to grind with Roe as Scalia and Thomas do and Rheinquist had. I find his decisions, including his decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, reasonable and well within the definition of mainstream. If anything I think he needs to have a little more empathy for those who are less fortunate, but who knows, that may come with the added responsibility.

This is another liberal who cannot, in good conscience, at this time oppose the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Just as a footnote, even the ACLU, while they identify some of his decisions as troubling, is not quite ready to oppose Judge Alito. In a newsletter on the subject, they promised to compile a report of his civil liberties record, both the good and the bad. When that report is ready, I’ll re-evaluate my position.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

More on Samuel Alito

I don't see any benefit in opposing the nomination of Judge Alito for the Supreme Court. I've reviewed some of Alito's opinions. Yes, he is clearly a conservative and no, I don't agree with all of his positions, but I do find them reasonable.

Given the right wing slant of this administration and congress, the next nominee WILL be an apparent conservative. I say apparent because good people, of integrity and intelligence, often grow when they become a member of the Supreme Court and realize that the buck now stops with them, that there ain't no Supremes looking over their shoulder to correct mistakes and that THEY now have the final responsibility for the protection of the rights of all citizens in their hands. It is now up to them to defend the minority from the tyranny of the majority.

Judge Alito certainly has the credentials. I don't see ANY justification for the current foaming at the mouth of some Democrats. Alito may be the best option we're going to get. The Democrats need to understand that this isn't a battle they can win. If they decide to fight it anyway, it's just going to divert attention away from other issues and they're going to look like obstructionist idiots at the same time. In other words, they're going to play right into the Republicans hands.

Unless some new information comes to light from private papers or speeches, I don't think it makes any sense to oppose this nomination especially given the fact that he was unanimously approved for the 3rd Circuit. Trust me, this guy is MUCH better than Miers. At least Alito doesn't go around saying "golly gee, George, you're just the bestest president ever (*clutch hands & rapidly blink eyes*).

My daughter is at Seton Hall Law, which is far from a conservative bastion despite being a Roman Catholic institution, and Judge Alito has apparently taught there as an adjunct professor. Here's what Seton Hall Law has to say about him.

"Samuel A. Alito began serving as an adjunct professor at the Law School in 1999, teaching Constitutional Law I during the fall semester. In the spring of 2000, he taught Constitutional Law II. In both the spring of 2003 and 2004, he taught a course on Terrorism and Civil Liberties, which he developed. That course examined constitutional and other legal questions presented by antiterrorism measures adopted by the U.S.

In 1995, Judge Alito was presented with the Law School’s Saint Thomas More Medal in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the field of law.

'Judge Alito is a man of outstanding character and qualifications whom we are proud to see nominated for this position,' said Dean Patrick E. Hobbs upon learning of the nomination."

I find it hard to oppose the nomination of a man for the Supreme Court who has developed a law school course on "Terrorism and Civil Liberties," who has been a professor of Constitutional Law and who has been a Federal Court of Appeals judge for 15 years!