John Wayne is the Duke. Elvis is the King.

John Wayne's Holster: September 2005
John Wayne's Holster
Visit my main blog at Monkey Wrench Revival. Visit my birdwatching blog at The Birding Nerd.

Friday, September 30, 2005

In Defense of Bill Bennett

Is Bill Bennett a racist? The Left would like you to think so.

On his radio show Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, Bennett and a caller were discussing the possibility that legalized abortion endangered Social Security because it has effectively reduced the tax base. Bennett responded by saying that “economic arguments should never be employed in discussions of moral issues.”

As an illustration of this point, Bennett alluded to a study published by Yale Law Professor John Donohue and Chicago Economics professor Steven Levitt, showing evidence that legalized abortion has contributed significantly to a reduction in crime. Bennett stated that one “could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down", but added that it would be a “ ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do."

The Left have picked up on the first part of Bennett's comment and have used it in a partisan attempt to denigrate his character. DNC chairman Howard Dean called Bennett's comments "hateful" and "inflammatory", and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy went as far as to call Bennett a "racist". Some of even called for the Federal Communications Commission suspend Bennett's show.

Bennett responded to the criticism of his remarks by stating that they were “mischaracterized”. He went on to explain that he was simply “pointing out that abortion should not be opposed for economic reasons, any more than racism…should be supported or opposed for economic reasons.

I think it is delusory and divisive for the Left to cast him as a racist. Kennedy and Dean are merely exploiting this event for their own political gain. They are also exposing themselves as hypocrites! Earlier this year, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia published his autobiography entitled Child Of The Appalachian Coalfields. Within the book, Byrd – the former Grand Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan – described the Klan as a "fraternal group" composed of "upstanding' people". I have heard nothing from Kennedy or Dean regarding that statement.

This is an example of politics at it’s worse. I would agree that Bennett’s words were poorly chosen, and for that he should apologize. But to call him a racist serves no purpose. It can only be seen as a disgraceful attempt by a few on the Left to further divide an already divided country for political gain.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Abusive Clergy in the City of Brotherly Love

Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul, Philadelphia

Scandals involving the sexual abuse of children are becoming all too common in the US. The perpetrators of these heinous acts come from all walks of life. However, when they come from professions that are supposed to look after and guide our children- like teachers or scout leaders or clergy - they are all the more disturbing.

Three years ago, a widespread sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic priests in the Archdiocese of Boston made big headlines. The fact that the perpetrators were ordained men of the cloth is bad enough; however, even worse is the fact that there was a organized effort by their ordained superiors to cover-up their crimes.

Now a similar scandal has broken in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. A grand jury report released by Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham documents hundreds of incidents of child sexual abuse committed by at least 63 different priests. The acts range from fondling all the way up to perverted acts of sodomy and masochism.

The cover-up of these abuse cases can be traced to the top ranks of the Archdiocese. According to the grand jury report, Archbishops Krol (1961-1988) and Bevilacqua (1988-2003) “left abuser priests in parishes where they had access to children, or reassigned them to other parishes without notifying even the pastor”. Now the Church is being asked to explain what happened. Instead of coming forth and admitting their complicity, the Church prefers to behind tardy apologies and lame excuses.

There is absolutely no excuse that will ever justify their behavior. The Church’s attempt to prevent embarrassment by hiding these crimes has created a shelter for these sociopathic priests to continue to molest hundreds of children - which in many cases destroyed the children’s lives. Equally disturbing is that fact that the statute of limitations on the vast majority of these cases has expired, meaning that guilty parties will go unpunished. I guess we should be content that the guilty priests have been suspended or are retired and comfortably residing in retirement communities where they can continue to draw support from the Sunday collection plate.

Personally, I find the lack of justice to be reprehensible! I grew up in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. I knew several of the charged priests. They were posted in my home parish after their crimes were known by the Church - where they were free to strike again! As such, my friends and family were put at risk. Were any of them abused? Has the Church conducted its own internal investigation to determine how many unreported incidents have occurred? Has the Church provided counseling to the known victims? Or don't they care that sexual abuse is a crime that perpetuates itself, as uncounseled victims are more likely to become abusers themselves. I know this to be all too true, for I myself was sexually abused as a child. While my abuser was not a priest, he was a man who himself had been abused by a priest – a priest from the Philadelphia Archdiocese who incidentally is not named in the grand jury report. How many other unnamed priests are there?

The priests who committed these ignominious acts, and the Church leaders who sheltered them need to be held accountable. For starters, all these men – whether they are common priests or the Archbishop - should be defrocked and removed from service in the Church. Those convicted of lesser crimes, such as fondling or inappropriate behavior should be prevented from any contact with children and should be placed on probation where appropriate. Those convicted of more heinous acts, such as sodomy, oral copulation, or masochism should be forced to perform extensive community services or be imprisoned, depending on the severity of and the time elapsed from their crimes.

We also need to take a step back to gain some perspective on this scandal and its affects on the Church. As opprobrious and inexcusable as the sex scandal is, we should not allow the vile behavior of a few sociopathic priests to tarnish the image of the vast majority of God-fearing priests who have served their communities and their Church well. I myself owe a great deal to the priests and nuns of the Philadelphia Archdiocese for the education and guidance I have received over the years. It is a debt that I can not possibly repay. It is a shame that all their work and dedication is being overshadowed by the actions of a few. Unfortunately for the righteous, they only have the Church to blame.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Roach Blogging

I have viewed countless blogs on the web. A recurrent theme that I have seen among them is pet blogging. People love their pets and love even more to show them off. There is cat blogging, dog blogging and even ferret and hamster blogging.

My house is like a miniature zoo. We have turtles, carnivorous fish, lizards, hamsters, cats, and gold fish (i.e. turtle food).

I intend to join the crowd and take my stab at pet blogging, but I don't want to give you the same old boring pet pics. As such, you will not see pics of my cat or my fish. Rather, I intend to show pics of our newest addition to the Verica zoo. A breeding pair of Madagscar Hissing Cockroaches.

At the present, the roaches remain nameless. The kids are tossing some ideas around. Hopefully they will decide on something soon. Bush and Cheney have been put forth as possibilities, but being conservative myself, I am not to fond of it. Anyway, here are the roaches.

Here is a side view of the female.

Here is LeAnn holding one of the lovable critters!

The roaches are quite loquatious when manipulated. It's a defense mechanism. Click HERE for a listen. Be sure to turn the volume up.

I bought the pair for a song - only $8. What a deal! Because they are a breeding pair, I expect the stork to stop by in the not-to-distant future. Anyone interested in adopting one of these adorable creatures should let me know. My wife will be more than glad for me to send one (or two) your way.

Now for a personal update!

For those of you who may be interested, I am falling apart piece by piece. I recently turned 38! The back is going, the mind is going (what's left of it), I have developed allergies, and I need to take naps in the afternoon. For crying out loud, I am getting old. If that were not enough, the vision is starting to go. I went to the optometrist last week and I found out that I need glasses. I guess I should have expected it. The priest has been warning me about everytime I go to confession (LOL). I decided to get the nerdiest looking glasses I could find.

Someone told me chicks really dig nerds. Of course I was eager to believe! So far, no luck, but I will keep you posted.

Ann Coulter, are you out there!?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sayonara Kyoto

The first day of the Clinton Global Initiative is in the books. The initiative was established to “identify…solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems…to reduce poverty; use religion as a force for reconciliation and conflict resolution; implement new business strategies and technologies to combat climate change; and strengthen governance.

Although it has not received much attention, the first day was noteworthy for the simple fact that British Primer Minister Tony Blair essentially pronounced the Kyoto Treaty dead in the water.

Blair has apparently changed his thinking over the past several years. Just last year, the Prime Minister declared that Kyoto “provides a solid foundation for the next stage of climate diplomacy." Now it seems that Blair sees Kyoto with the same lenses as President Bush.

The United States rejected the Kyoto treaty because it felt that its regulations would be overly burdensome and harmful to the economy. Blair essentially echoed these sentiments yesterday when he acknowledged that “no country is going to cut its growth."

Currently, India and the growing Asian economies are not covered by Kyoto. And it is unlikely that they would sign-on to any such treaty when the current Kyoto treaty expires in 2012. If the United States or the UK were to accept the steep cuts mandated by Kyoto, they would not be able to remain competitive with those emerging economies on the global market.

The bottom line is that the Kyoto protocol was not cost effective. According to a recently released report by Lombard Street Research, “preventing global warming would cost the world economy…$18 trillion. The cost, equivalent to 45 per cent of world gross domestic product for a year, is much greater than any conceivable benefit…”

So Kyoto is DOA.

It should be made clear that Prime Minister Blair and President Bush are not ignoring the environment, as some have suggested. They recognize that the problems presented by global warming are real; however, they are both seeking a more realistic solution.

According to Blair, finding a solution to the problem of greenhouse emissions and global warming “can only be done by the major players coming together and pooling their resources… [to] develop the science and technology to do it...

Just what those "technologies" are and how long it will take to implement them is not clear. Until that time, it is expected that emissions of greenhouse gases will not only continue, but will in fact increase - primarily due to increased oil and coal production from the growing Asian and Indian economies.

And what about alternative energy strategies? If President Bush has his way, we will be going the way of France. That is, we will be going nuclear! Presently France genrated nearly 80% of its energy from nuclear sources. Although nuclear energy has its own inherent risks and problems, it is viewed as more friendly from the global warming perspective.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Securing the Syrian Border

Since the beginning of the Iraq War, Syria has served as a major source for supplying money, weapons and terrorists to the Iraqi insurgency. The Iraqi provinces of Ninawa (NW. Iraq) and Anbar (W. Iraq) share a border with Syria. Within these regions, the insurgents maintain a number of safe holds used for hiding terrorists and storing the weapons smuggled across the Syrian border. In addition, these regions often serve as a haven for planning and staging their attacks.

A guide for jihadists with aspirations of joining the insurgency was recently uncovered. The guide lays out in detail how and where one could cross the Syrian border into Iraq. Accordingly, the three main crossing areas are Rabi’ah (Ninawa, NW. Iraq - near Tal Afar), al Qa’im (Anbar, W. Iraq - along Euphrates River) and ar Rutbah (Anbar. W. Iraq – along the major highway into Syria).

The preferred entry point appears to be al Qa’im. This point is favored due to is relatively good terrain and its tribal sympathies towards the insurgents. In fact, the better part of the Euphrates valley, stretching from Qa’im at the Syrian border, through Hiditha, all the way to Fallujah (just west of Baghdad) is dotted with insurgency safe holds.

A counter-insurgency effort aimed at eliminating these jihadist safe holds is currently underway. The campaign, led by combined US and Iraqi forces, is initially focused on the northern-most and southern-most border crossings, in Rabi’ah and Rutbah respectively. The plan appears to be to close the border in those regions, bomb the known safe holds and staging grounds, and thus force the insurgents into the corridor along the Euphrates Valley.

In the last few days, the Iraqi government has closed the entry point at Rabi’ah. In addition, coalition forces have swept through near-by Tal Afar to uproot insurgents from their safe houses. The offensive began with targeted air strikes, and was followed by door to door searches. The town was also cordoned off to prevent the escape of insurgents.

Similarly, coalition forces have also launched cordoned and search operation against the town of Rutbah in S. Anbar province.

According the Iraqi defense minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi, once the cities are secure, coalition forces will “go down the Euphrates Valley.” This phase of the battle plan already appears to have been started. Last week, the US Marines took out two bridges across the Euphrates River near Qa’im and destroyed several safe houses. Most of the city has been abandonded, and coalition forces have moved into the towns outskirts, but the town itself is still apparently under insurgent control.

According to FOX News, the Marines currently near Qa’im are concerned that they lack sufficient forces to secure the area properly. Now that the Iraqi security forces and troops appear to be coming on line, it is hoped that they will be able to assist in holding and securing these cities.

Coalition forces are vowing to expand the offensive as they move down the Euphrates Valley.

Clearly, US forces – when given the opportunity and resources - are more than capable of carrying out their missions with great precision and effectiveness. Although the current operations to secure the Syrian border are going well, I am forced to question why the Washington bureaucrats made the military wait 2.5 years to start securing the border. Shouldn’t that have been one of the major priorities? And why are our forces still privately expressing concerns about insufficient forces to do a job that they know they are capable of doing?

Have they not learned what author and former Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters calls the “butcher’s paradox”. Wars can not be fought on the cheap. Either you pay your butcher’s bill up-front, or you encounter a more expensive protracted cost down the line. We need more men and equipment in Iraq now. Our military is the finest in the world. Stop making them fight battles with an arm tied behind their back.

Will someone please get Secretary of the Defense Industry Don Rumsfeld a cup of coffee and wake him up?

Friday, September 09, 2005

Maintaining World Supremacy

The United States is currently the world’s lone super power. Most of our competitors (European Union, Russia, etc) are beset with internal problems and are unlikely to present any real challenge to us in the foreseeable future.

Among developed nations, the US is the leader in economic growth. Last year, our GDP growth was 4.4%, more than twice that of the European Union. The US is also the world leader in technological innovations, science and education. Our ability to attract and cultivate the brightest minds from around the globe is largely responsible for this. But we must be careful not rest on our laurels.

Maintaining our global supremacy is dependent on continued economic growth and a sustained military presence in strategic regions. In political terms, that requires the implementation of strong foreign policy initiatives and building global alliances.

Driving a strong economy requires the input of energy. For the US, and many of its competitors, that means OIL. No sensible person can deny that oil is the life blood of the US economy. Without it (or an affordable alternative), our economy collapses. Revenues dry up. Then we can no longer afford to maintain the military muscle required to safeguard our people and our national interests.

The world’s oil supply is limited and the demand is high. With the continuing emergence of the Chinese and Indian economies, the demand for oil is increasing and will continue to do so. As such, gaining control of the access to oil is vital to maintaining our global supremacy.

A large portion of the affordably refineable oil reserves are located in the greater Middle East – in a region stretching from the Caucasus Mountains in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from Morrocco in the west to Kashmir in the east. Unfortunately, this region is politically unstable. Ethnic and religious conflicts are commonplace. In recent years, the region has also become a spawning bed for international terrorism.

This instability coupled with the rise of terrorism has the potential to adversely affect the economies of not only the US, but also a good portion of the western world and the emerging economies of Asia. This is something that the United States CAN NOT and WILL NOT allow to happen.

Over the years, the US has attempted to implement foreign policy initiatives aimed at bringing some stability to a chaotic region. Unfortunately, the initiatives have too often been short-sighted and self-serving. In many cases, the outcome of these initiatives has had exactly the opposite effect of what was intended. However, the majority of the blame for instability rests at the feet of the regions corrupt leaders.

Military intervention is now our vehicle of choice to stabilize the region. Ostensibly, our primary goals are to stop the spread of international terrorism, halt the proliferation of WMDs, and initiate democratic reforms. To these ends, the “war on terror” is justified. These efforts are noble and should have been carried out long ago.

But don’t let our noble gestures fool you. If there were no oil buried under the sand, we would have no interest in the region or it’s long-suffering people. If you don’t believe it, take a look at our interventions (or lack thereof) in Rawanda and Dafur.

Our real raison de guerre is to establish political, military and economic footholds in the region to ensure our access to oil. If we could keep the cruel dictatorships in place and therby ensure our access to oil, we would do it. In fact, that is essentially a thumbnail sketch of what our Middle East foreign policy has been in recent years. This short-sighted approach has proven to be a collosal failure.

Now we find ourselves at war in Afghanistan and Iraq - mopping up messes we helped to create. Other regional conflicts may follow, perhaps in Iran. In all likelihood, we will maintain a long-term military presence in the region. This will go a long way to keep the oil flowing.

At least we hope so, for our future depends on it!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Calls for Bush’s Impeachment - From the RIGHT!

”I. George W. Bush, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Those were the word spoken by President Bush at his Inauguration in 2001, and again in 2005. As President, Bush is expected to uphold the laws of the United States. For the most part, he has fulfilled that duty. However, he has not performed so well in all areas. For example, Bush has done a very poor job at protecting our borders – particularly the Mexican border.

Each year, approximately one million people attempt to illegally cross the Mexican border into the United States – and many of them are successful. Most are decent people who come looking for work. Some are not. Regardless, illegal immigration brings with it many problems for Americans to deal with (joblessness, crime, and a disintegration of our culture) – not to mention the trafficking of drugs and of humans. Illegal immigrants also place an undue burden on our medical, judicial and law enforcement systems. In addition, there is evidence that al Quaeda operatives have also crossed the border and may have brought nuclear weapons to be detonated in American cities.

In response, Governor’s of some border states (Arizona, California & New Mexico) have declared states of emergency. President Bush has responded by revealing his intentions to introduce a worker amnesty program – a program which essentially rewards illegal immigrants and does absolutely nothing to safeguard the border.

Why would Bush intentionally neglect his sworn duty to safeguard the border? It appears that the REAL powers that be (i.e. corporations, not the President) want it that way. And Bush seems more than happy to concede.

Corporate proponents of the President’s border policy defend their stance by duping us into believing that the Mexicans are “doing the kind of jobs that Americans don’t want to do”. But anyone with half a mind knows that it is not true. Find a man or woman who needs a job and ask them if they would be willing to take one of the jobs currently granted to an illegal alien.

Truth be told, corporations support the “open border” policy because it is a source of cheap labor for them. They can exploit the migrant workers. They pay them substantially less, and they offer them little or no benefits. It is you, the tax payer, that absorbs these costs. You may not be able to afford your own health care insurance, but you are paying for theirs. In addition, you are paying their social costs – schools, courts, prisons, etc.

Due to his pitiful actions in safeguarding our border, some have begun calling for a member in the House to step forward and introduce of bill of impeachment charging President Bush with a willful dereliction of duty. Surprisingly, these calls have come from the RIGHT – from the President’s own base.

Some may argue that it is pointless to pursue such a plan of action. The Republicans control the Congress and it is unlikely that such a bid would succeed.

Perhaps this is true, but as Joseph Farrah and Pat Buchanan point out, this may serve as a kick in the pants for the President, as well as his successor.

For that reason, I think the impeachment idea has some merit!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Left Plays the Race Card in Katrina's Wake

The left continues to heap blame for Hurricane Katrina in President Bush. True, Bush was caught flat-footed the day after Katrina. Perhaps it is also fair to criticize him for not breaking off his working vacation at his Crawford Ranch. But to play the race card and insinuate that Bush doesn’t care about the people of New Orleans who were most affected because of the fact that they are black is disingenuous, insidious and disgraceful.

Then again, being disingenuous, insidious and disgraceful never stopped New York Times columnist Bob Herbert before. Herbert’s editorial piece, entitled A Failure of Leadership, claims that Bush" would have noticed if the majority of these stricken folks had been white and prosperous. But they weren't. Most were black and poor, and thus, to the George W. Bush administration, still invisible.”

This is completely ridiculous! It's another steaming pile from the mouth of Herbert. It is nothing more than bomb-throwing by a half-baked pseudo-journalist with a liberal agenda. Howard Dean would be proud!

Truth be told, Bush has appointed more minorities to high-level positions, including positions in his own cabinet, than most Democratic Presidents have. Moreover, Herbert conveniently fails to mention that the majority of the blame belongs in New Orleans and Louisiana itself. Bush is being scapegoated for the failures of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, and Lousiana governor Kathleen Blanco.

For starters, FEMA has been warning New Orleans for several years that the city was vulnerable to this type of catastrophe should a hurricane strike. Why did the mayor and governor not order a mandatory evacuation of the city before hand? In the aftermath of the hurricane and levee break, Governor Blanco was tardy in implementing marial law. As a result, the city was thrown into chaos, as hoodlums overran the city and looted.

New Orleanians themselves also have to share part of the blame. Although many heeded government warnings and left voluntarily, those that stayed behind were thoroughly unprepared. I lived in San Francisco for a three years. Locals there know the threat posed by earthquakes – and most are prepared. They have “earthquake” kits in both their homes and their vehicles, and rations to last several days until help arrives. Why didn’t the citizens of New Orleans have any provisions?

Perhaps to the vipers on the left, it is not a point worth raising. It suits their agenda to lay all the blame at the feet of Bush.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans or New Atlantis

New Orleans is under water! The damage from Hurricane Katrina is estimated to run over $15 billion. And that money only represents the insurable losses of property. Rebuilding the city will cost considerably more, and that money will come largely from federal coffers. That’s your tax dollars. Let's hope the government uses them wisely.

The better part of the devastation in New Orleans did not come directly from Katrina herself. Actually, Mississippi got the brunt of the storm. The damage in New Orleans is largely the result of flooding that occurred following several breaches in the levee system protecting the city from Lake Pontchartrain. Once the breaches have been repaired, it is estimated that it will take over two months to pump out all the water. Then all the sewage, toxic sludge and debris will need to be cleaned up. Then the bulldozers will move in and scoop up the city. Finding a landfill large enough to hold the better part of New Orleans is another question that has yet to be answered.

Then comes the rebuilding, right! Not so fast.

Many, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, have raised serious questions regarding the wisdom of rebuilding the city. Hastert is not suggesting that the city be abandoned, but rather he raises serious considerations as to how the city should be rebuilt.

I believe he makes a valid point. One should question the wisdom of building a city on the floodplains of the Mississippi River. In addition, the better part of New Orleans lies 5-10 feet below sea level and 10-20 feet below the high water marks for Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. The city essentially sits at the bottom of a giant bathtub waiting to be filled by the next hurricane. And hurricanes are not exactly a rare occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico.

So, if the city is rebuilt, how can a repeat performance of Katrina be prevented in the future? Here are three ideas. For starters, the levee system around New Orleans was built to withstand a category 3 hurricane (110 mph winds, 15 foot storm surge). It needs to be upgraded to withstand the larger storms that occasionaly come up the Gulf, such as Katrina which was a category 5 (150 mph winds, 25 foot surge). Second, we should take a lesson from the Dutch who routinely build double or triple levees around their vulnerable cities to serve as a precaution in case of a breach. Third, the lowest lying parts of the city should be out of consideration for rebuilding – especially for housing - in case another flood does occur.

Another point that needs to be considered involves weighing the cost of the rebuilding against the risk of another natural catastrophe! Certainly it would be a great loss to the people who lived and grew up there, and to the country as a whole, to lose a city of such great personal, historical and cultural significance. But from an economic and public safety stand point, perhaps it would be a better to relocate the city. But where? And what do you do with all the refugees in the mean time? No ideas have been put forth as to possible relocation sites, but several ideas of where to house people have been put forward. For example, political commentator Michael Savage suggests housing the refugees on military bases recently designated for closure. I think this is an idea the government should look into.

Although it may be a bit too early to make these decisions, it is certainly not too early to begin thinking about them and doing a little planning. My gut feeling is that the U.S. will rebuild New Orleans on it's current site. Hopefully they put a little thought into it before hand and do not simply rebuild it as it was. That would be a mistake - a stubborn and arrogant challenge of nature.

It could be a modern-day Atlantis in the making.