Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Two of my three daughters graduated this May. One got her Bachelors from Hofstra and the other her J.D. from Seton Hall Law. It’s funny how my expenses don’t seem to have gone down any though. As a matter of fact, they may have gone up, as I had to stake the job hunting Hofstra grad to a car.

That’s not what I want to talk about though. I want to talk about the graduations themselves.

The Hofstra commencement was held in the football stadium. Luckily the rain stopped before things got underway and we ended up with a fairly pleasant sunny day. The speaker was Eileen Futter, President of the Museum of Natural History, but Senator Charles Schumer of New York also showed to speak although he wasn’t on the program. I guess you don’t turn down a U.S. Senator.

Schumer’s speech was a well worn entertaining piece of fluff that he was apparently giving at commencements around the state. I suspect this because a couple in back of us was predicting what he would say based upon his appearance the day before at a SUNY school commencement. Futter was more to the point, and focused upon changes the graduates could expect to see over their lifetime, such as the changes the current generation has seen. The graduates pretty much ignored most of what was occurring on the podium.

After the speeches we got some 2,000 graduate names run off as each kid got the opportunity to walk across the platform. The only organization was in the school of graduation which didn’t do me much good as my daughter graduated from the school of Liberal Arts (duh!). Hofstra did have an interesting process however, since the kids were coming up in totally random order, each handed the announcer his or her name on a card, which was read off as the graduate moved on to shake hands with the President of the College, and Dean of the School from which they graduated. The poor college president looked like his arm was going to fall off by the time he was done. The kids got nothing as their final grades weren’t even in so it’s possible that some of them didn’t actually graduate.

The Seton Hall Law graduation was held in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark. The featured dignitary and speaker was Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito but the Archbishop of Newark was there to read the invocation and there was also a 3rd U.S. Circuit judge to introduce Alito.

I expected stuffy from Seton Hall, especially with a statue of Mother Seton keeping an eye on the whole process, but instead got some rock music as well as a student band, also doing rock, as part of the ceremony. While it sort of seemed a little out of phase, given all the caps and gowns, it certainly made the whole thing a bit more lively.

Alito’s commencement speech, I thought, was pretty good. He started with a joke about finally making it to the stage of the NJPAC and thus providing his mother some return on ten years of piano lessons. He followed that up with an observation that only a lawyer could make such a statement as, while it was completely accurate, it was also totally misleading.

The main part of his speech revolved around how one could apply the lessons of the U.S. Constitution to ones personal life and career. While it’s dangerous to read much into a commencement speech, Alito did focus on two interesting points. The first was the principle of Stare Decisis which he defined as the necessity to recognize, and respect, previous rulings even if one doesn’t agree with them personally. Something that might fit this category for Alito would be Roe v. Wade. Maybe Sam can’t be relied upon to overturn a woman’s right to choose?

The other focus was on Freedom of Religion. He expressed support for the Constitution’s prohibition against a religious qualification for public office, (no big surprise there), and support for the separation of church and state where he specifically called out the choice NOT to have a religion as equivalent to Freedom of Religion. I felt a lot better about the future of the Republic after listening to Alito’s speech.

While Schumer left right after speaking and avoided the seemingly endless parade of graduates, Alito was there for the entire exercise. He marched in with the faculty at the beginning and marched out with them at the end.

The role call at Seton Hall was in alphabetical order and each graduate got his actual diploma on the stage. During the role call of graduates, Alito took a photo, along with the law school dean, with each and every graduate. I have to admit that impressed me. Here’s a man who has lots of very important things to do, and would probably like to spend any free time he can scrounge up with his family or doing things for himself, yet he stayed through the whole deal.

A while back I started to ask where have all the heroes gone? Where are the John Kennedy’s, the Robert Kennedy’s, the Martin Luther Kings, the Muhammed Ali’s and the Malcom X’s of this generation? Perhaps I was seeing one of them at the NJPAC the other day.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why the Scandal at Justice is a Scandal

I keep hearing Republicans moaning that the uproar over the firings of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush Administration is just a trumped up political witch hunt because Presidents, including Bill Clinton, have routinely replaced all 93 attorneys without so much as a whimper from anyone.

This sound bite is typical of why I think the GOP has lost its sense of integrity. I know, and they know, that the move by the Bush Administration was NOT typical. Wholesale replacements of U.S. Attorneys occur upon a change of administration and NOT during an administration.

Even that wouldn’t have been such a big deal, (I mean, let’s face it, sometimes some people just need to be shown the door), if it weren’t for the apparent motive behind the firings. In other words, the issue isn’t that they were fired, the issue is WHY they were fired and, as a corollary, why some of the folks chosen to replace them were chosen.

The criteria appear to have been loyalty to the Bush Administration and willingness to use the office to benefit the Republican Party rather than competence and the ability to perform the duties of the office. Yes the U.S. Attorneys are technically political appointees, but they are also expected to be competent prosecutors and individuals that, once appointed, will operate in an independent, bipartisan manner and according to the law. Their oath of office is to uphold the Constitution of the United States and not one of loyalty to a particular administration, political party or individual.

Allow me to make a very strong statement. There is no ethical difference between the Bush Administration’s attempt to use the power of the U.S. Attorney’s office to influence the outcome of the political process and Adolf Hitler’s use of his Brown Shirts to intimidate voters and influence the outcome of the political process. One action is subtle and hidden and the other crass and open, but ethically they are both a betrayal of the electorate and the democratic process.

Talk about hitting a new low. I never thought I would be seriously comparing the actions of an American President to the actions of Adolf Hitler.

I had to shake my head at the pundits on Fox News laughing at Jimmy Carter calling the Bush Administration the worst in history and implying that he shouldn’t talk as his four years were an unmitigated disaster of their own. But there is a difference. There is a very BIG difference. Carter’s Administration may have been one of the most incompetent administrations in history, but no one could ever accuse Carter of lying or willfully trying to subvert the political process. In other words, no one ever questioned Carter’s integrity or his motives. With the Bush Administration on the other hand, it’s not just simple incompetence. It’s lying, underhandedness and deceit as well as incompetence!

They have repeatedly lied to the American people for political advantage. They have started a war for no apparent reason other than Georgie wanted to play War President. They have twisted and subverted the civil rights of Americans and others and they have consciously sacrificed the democratic principles upon which this country was founded for political gain. And on top of all that, they’re incompetent as hell! Just ask the folks that had the misfortune to be in the path of Katrina.

And that, young padawan, is WHY this is the worst administration in history.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Thoughts on the Death of Jerry Falwell

It’s quite possible that we agreed upon absolutely nothing (unless he happened to like chocolate ice cream). I think his demonizing the gay minority was a betrayal of American values as well as a betrayal of the values espoused by Jesus of Nazareth, the man Falwell claimed as his savior. I think the country is weaker because of his misleading evangelical Christians into supporting the questionable political positions associated with his homophobia. I think those misled evangelical Christians, in the final analysis, will be the ones to suffer most from his demagoguery.

In other words, I’m not going to shed any tears over his demise. Still, although I hated everything he stood for, at least I always knew where he stood. I’m sure there are many that will miss him. I’m just not one of them.

So long Jerry. I know you aren’t basking in the glory of God, but here’s hoping you’re not languishing in hell for threatening so many of God’s children with that fate.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hectic, Hectic, HECTIC!!!

I don't know about you, but my life seems to go in cycles. Either nothing is happening or it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week.

Did they shorten the week when I wasn't looking? I haven't even been able to steal a half-hour or so to update my poor neglected little blog. Yes, I miss you darling.

The biggest things seem to be Bush and Congress at logger heads over Iraq, Seat Beltless Johnny Corsine and the poor memory of Alberto Gonzalez.

Here's hoping the Democrats, and those Republicans with some integrity left, show some backbone and let Bush the Unhinged and his cronies understand that it's still the Meandering Herd that runs this country. I can hope, but I'm not going to bet any of my hard earned shekels on it.

I don't believe Corzine. Careening down the highway at 90 miles an hour heading to a meeting between Imus and the Rutgers girls basketball team, that he probably should have kept out of anyway, without a seat belt! Bada-bing, bada-boom, a little accident and he ends up in the hospital. This guy is not impressing me. How did he get his money anyway? He must have inherited it. The only good part about it was Cody took over while Seat Beltless Johnny was recovering. Probably got more accomplished in those few days then Johnny did the past year.

Which brings us to Alberto of the faulty memory. Anybody checked this guy for a loose brain? How could you not be able to recall so many things associated with your freaking job? You don't suppose he could have been fibbing do you? What a surprise; a Bush crony fibbing. You'd think they'd at least TRY to look competent.

Oh yeah, one other thing, I got a copy of Brian Flemming's "The God that Wasn't There." It's excellent when Flemming focuses on his main theme about Jesus being a myth, but is sort of uneven when it strays from the main argument. I thought his "Story of Jesus in Under Six Minutes" was simply great. Flemming puts together a combined gospels biography using archive film footage from a 1905 vintage French silent film and a 1950's vintage biblical serial. The combined result is an absolute hoot and well worth the price of the DVD.

To be honest Flemming doesn't convince me any more than Earl Doherty convinced me that Jesus of Nazareth was a mythical creation. Nor have they convinced me that Paul doesn't refer to Jesus. He does when has to, and only when he has to, because Paul is totally focused on the brilliance of Paul. Even Jesus plays a back seat to Paul in Paul's mind. Heaven forbid that Paul should allow his own importance to be eclipsed by anyone, including the Son of God. At least that's how I figure Paul viewed things.

At the very end, Flemming films himself committing the Unforgivable Sin in the Chapel where he went to school as a child. The inclusion of the response to the Blashemy Challenge was a bit of a surprise. Personally I don't see the point of doing that, but I'm sort of weird.

Still, the Flemming film is certainly worth a look. I recommend that everyone watch it and come to their own conclusions. That reminds me, I really need to send Flemming an e-mail telling him how much I enjoyed his God film and expressing how much I'm not looking forward to his next Bat Boy film.