Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sun Spots: NASCAR gets permanent "no" from key senator

Granting that not everyone considers the prospect of a NASCAR speedway in Kitsap County to be a big deal, but most people are watching closely enough to have an idea about how things seem to be going in the legislature.

Apparently, the editors of the Kitsap Sun need some help in determining what is newsworthy about the speedway proposal.

In today's print edition of the Kitsap Sun is an Associated Press article comparing the situation for the speedway and another proposal in the legislature involving the professional basketball arena in Seattle.

So far, I haven't found the AP article on the Sun's web site, but it is available at the King County Journal, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The Olympian.

In fact, a very important part of the article is available on those three newspapers' web sites which is not in the Kitsap Sun's printed newspaper.

Referring to the speedway's chances for legislative approval, the Kitsap Sun included this part of the article:

The company, however, will still face a major roadblock for its plans in 2007 -- namely, Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton.

The Sonics' bid for an improved stadium appears to stand a better chance with lawmakers.

The article as published in The Olympian, the Post-Intelligencer, and the King County Journal contains a bit more:

The company, however, will still face a major roadblock for its plans in 2007 -- namely, state Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton.

Prentice, chairwoman of the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, thinks the raceway's boosters have not satisfied several concerns about the project, including worries about traffic flow.

``From now on, the answer permanently will be `no,''' she said. ``It will not get past my committee.''

Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a supporter of the NASCAR raceway plan, said Washington will be missing out on an economic boom if it lets the proposal slip away.

``What an awful mistake we would make if we literally let it go to Portland,'' he said. ``That would be a huge mistake.''

The Sonics' bid for an improved stadium appears to stand a better chance with lawmakers.
[Emphasis added.]

It sure looks as though Sen. Prentice intends to prevent the enactment of anything resembling the proposal made by International Speedway Corporation (through their subsidiary, Great Western Sports, Inc.) for the construction of a speedway in Kitsap County.

She isn't just talking about this legislative session, unless she has a peculiar understanding of the word "permanently."

It was clear from earlier articles that Sen. Prentice was, indeed, a "major roadblock," but this AP story indicates that she is an immovable obstruction. That's newsworthy.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Lawyers at Loggerheads

Newsweek has an interesting article about the infighting during the past few years among the Bush administration's lawyers on issues such as torture, eavesdropping, and the president's authority as commander in chief.

It's hard to know how reliable the account is, since -- as the reporters noted -- many key players refused to comment. (Perhaps with a roster of all the lawyers, a process of elimination would reveal their anonymous sources, since so many are identified as refusing to comment.)

Nevertheless, it is interesting. If you read the entire five-page article, keep an eye peeled for the times when Attorney General John Ashcroft was on the side of those who took a more limited view of the president's authority. Ashcroft took a pounding from the left-wing wackos, but this article indicates they were wrong about him. (What a surprise: Left-wing ideologues being wrong about their deeply held beliefs. Will wonders never cease?)

Cindy the Red

Just in case anyone had missed her allegiance to the murderous Marxist quasi-religion, Cindy Sheehan showed her true color in Venezuela at the "World Social Forum":

Chavez joins activist Sheehan to bash Bush
Sun Jan 29, 2006 5:11 PM ET
By Patrick Markey
CARACAS, Venezuela (
Reuters) - Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chavez, joined U.S. anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Sunday to attack President George W. Bush and the Iraq war at the close of the World Social Forum.

"The war in Iraq will end, our troops will come home, Bush will be impeached and he will be brought to justice," said Sheehan, who held a vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch.

Reuters thought it necessary to remind us that Cindy the Red spent quite a while near the president's ranch last year. Was it really that forgettable?

While they were busy reminding us about Cindy's antics, why omit a reminder that Venezuela's Chavez is a Marxist in the mold of the world-class murderer, Lenin? Is "left-wing" really the same thing in their opinion?

According to
the BBC, the forum included lots about Chavez. Is that a surprise? The weakness of the left for personality cults seems never to go away despite the 20th century's several clear cases of the horrible outcomes -- Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.

Will the "mainstream media" in the U.S.A. tell people much about this forum and Cindy's enthusiasm for Chavez and his ilk?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Canada's Uncold January

So this is what's happening to Europe:

Canadians catch break from winter's worst
Saturday, January 28, 2006 Posted at 10:18 AM EST
Globe and Mail Update
Most Canadian cities are seeing temperatures that are way above normal. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the Prairies, where one cold capital -- known, until recently, as "Winterpeg, Manisnowba" to many -- is fully 10 degrees warmer than usual.
Not that many people are complaining. Given high oil prices, the weather has pleasantly surprised a lot of homeowners.

So what exactly is going on?

Laymen may be tempted to attribute the phenomenon to global warming, but if climate change was as rapid as all that, Canadians would be planting citrus groves in five years and living in deserts within a few generations. "This may be a dry run, a dress rehearsal, of what winters might be like in the future," Mr. Phillips said. "But we can't say that this is the beginning of the permanent change."
A polar vortex that usually resides around Hudson's Bay this time of year has decided to linger in Northern Europe instead. That's good news for people in Canada and bad news for people in Russia, who are freezing. "It's like a Sumo wrestler: You just can't kick it out," Mr. Phillips said.

Usually we in the U.S.A. get visited by a couple of "polar air masses" during the winter. It seems that Europe has a visitor that overstayed its welcome.

Since computer models that predict global warming from a greenhouse effect show most of the warming happening in places like Canada and Siberia, I wonder if the Canadians will think about the benefit to them if global warming models accurately predict future climate. Is this "uncold" January really all that bad for them?

Did anyone else notice the surname of the reporter assigned to do this article?

Twelfth Whatever

It's pretty clear that the Aggies have a claim on the use of the term "Twelfth Man," so why not settle this quickly by applying the spirit, if not the letter, of our new law against "gender" discrimination?

Call the Seahawks' fans the "Twelfth Person."

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Emperor's New Indigo Aura

It's really hard to believe this fantasy about "indigo children" has been around since the 1980s, yet I hadn't heard of it until today.

Some self-proclaimed psychic claimed back then to be able to see an indigo aura around these special children, and it just kept growing from there.

Here's a representative sample of the newspaper reports -- this one from today's Allentown Morning Call online edition:

The ''indigo evolution'' has created its own cottage industry and melted into the public consciousness. Some therapists in the Lehigh Valley region say they counsel indigo children and their parents. Books on the subject are flying off the shelves, and tickets are selling rapidly for a new documentary about the movement airing this weekend.

Mainstream mental health professionals dismiss the indigo label as a fantasy parents adopt to feel better about their children's unruly behavior, or in some cases, a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Many parents of indigos choose to view their children's behavior instead through a New Age lens, one that reveals them as advanced souls reincarnated to help usher in an era of peace and environmental renewal.

There was a time when people joked about the tendency of new parents to believe that their first child possessed amazing intelligence and talent. It was worth a chuckle or two.

This idea of children with a telltale indigo aura who have returned to Earth to save us and the planet is worth a horselaugh followed by a guffaw and finished off with a good belly laugh -- right after getting over the shock of finding out that thousands of people actually believe it!

Some of them even think that most -- maybe 90 percent -- of the children born in the past ten years are "indigo children."

Apparently they haven't noticed those Moslem children who are filled with irrational, murderous hatred from the time they can begin to speak in complete sentences. Or, are those children the other 10 percent?

The old story of the emperor's new clothes involved people who weren't willing to say that they couldn't see the new clothes, but this indigo aura does that one better: It isn't supposed to be visible to anyone other than a "psychic" who can see auras. Hardly anyone expects to see it, but they like what it means, and that's apparently enough for them.

Fatah vs. Hamas

Those barbarians don't seem to get the idea of settling matters with ballots, not bullets.

Hamas, Fatah gunmen battle over election results
Fri Jan 27, 2006 5:04 PM ET
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas and Fatah gunmen exchanged fire on Friday amid political turmoil as the long-dominant Fatah faction was threatened with a violent backlash from within after its crushing election defeat by the Islamic militant group.

How long do we have to wait for them to become civilized? More important: How can we keep them where they are -- killing each other and no one else -- until they get it?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

GOP dreaming for 2008

If only he were a little farther along in his political career, so we would know a little more about him, this guy could be a very interesting GOP candidate for the White House in 2008. Assuming he wins the Ohio gubernatorial election, he won't be available to make a presidential bid; and if he loses the gubernatorial election, he won't be a rising star anyway.

This fellow is also impressive, though I came away from reading his positions on issues with a feeling that he may not be quite far enough to the right for me. He, too, is probably a step away from being ready for a White House bid; so 2008 may not work. Besides, he appears to be a perfect match for the Senate from what little I've seen.

She's truly an impressive person, but is there any particular part of her experience that shows she has the makings of a chief executive?

Where the heck is an obvious choice in the GOP?

To Eat or Not To Eat

For quite a while it has seemed odd that so much is proposed -- and done -- to preserve salmon habitat and so little to preserve the salmon themselves. Are they endangered species or not? We didn't catch and eat eagles when they were endangered did we?

Finally, according to an article in today's Kitsap Sun, a group has indicated an intent to sue:

The lawsuit proposed by the conservation groups is focused on Puget Sound chinook, said Kurt Beardslee of the Washington Trout group.

The goal is not to shut down all fishing, he said, but to make sure enough salmon survive for spawning and producing a greater number of fish in the next generation.

Millions of dollars are being spent to improve salmon habitat in streams and shorelines, he said, but harvest levels don’t produce enough spawners to utilize the available habitat. [Emphasis added.]

It may be hyperbole, but wouldn't it be really odd if there are too few salmon getting past the nets to take full advantage of the expensively preserved habitat?

Friday, January 20, 2006

SKIA Sub-Area Plan and NASCAR

It's hard to imagine what kinds of development might be attracted to the South Kitsap Industrial Area by the presence of a NASCAR speedway -- other than retail businesses that are specifically excluded from that area by the sub-area plan.

An article in today's Kitsap Sun indicates that retail development is exactly what occurred in the Kansas City speedway's locale:

The Kansas respondents nearly all said that retail development around the speedway has been brisk, with stores and a movie theaters going up in places that were once home to farms.

Granting that the sub-area plan allows retail businesses which support the primary uses, it also notes that the SKIA isn't intended to provide for the retail business needs of the region:

Page 36 of the plan: "6. Retail uses, except those in service to primary uses, will not be permitted."

Page 38: "The SKIA Plan is intended to provide for integrated groupings of medium to large size businesses using a master plan approach. The goal is to provide sites to support the creation, development and retention of primary wage employment in the professional, technical and manufacturing fields and not to site the general retail commercial needs of the region."

What gives? Is there follow-on development that would be spurred by the construction of a speedway and would also be permissible without changing the sub-area plan?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Puzzling "Smart Growth"

Why would a developer need to surrender development rights out in the hinterlands in order to get permission to develop a piece of urban property more intensely?

Isn't the idea of "growth management" and "smart growth" to develop urban areas more densely? If so, then why deny permission for intensive development in the city?

The article in today's Seattle P-I doesn't offer any rationale for the way the system apparently works. (Maybe there isn't one, other than extorting money from those who would develop urban property.)

An affiliate of Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc. paid the Girl Scouts $210,000 for development rights through a King County program that protects farmland, forests, open space and wildlife habitat.

The deal allows the urban developer to build an additional 28,000 square feet of residential space at its Westlake project in the Denny Triangle, expected to break ground this year. It will include 121 condominiums, office space and retail stores.

So, Allen's group pays to prevent development outside the city so they can build in the city. Strange.

Nuance with Nukes

Via Best of the Web Today: According to Reuters, French President Jacques Chirac said France may use nuclear weapons in response to a terrorist attack that involved weapons of mass destruction.

"The leaders of states who would use terrorist means against us, as well as those who would consider using in one way or another weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would lay themselves open to a firm and adapted response on our part," Chirac said during a visit to a nuclear submarine base in northwestern France.

"This response could be a conventional one. It could also be of a different kind."
# # #
"Against a regional power, our choice would not be between inaction or annihilation," Chirac said in his first major speech on France's nuclear arms strategy since 2001.

"The flexibility and reactivity of our strategic forces would enable us to exercise our response directly against its centers of power and its capacity to act."

What Chirac described is a limited nuclear war -- limited both in the French use of such weapons and in the adversary's ability to respond in kind. Note that he referred to "a regional power" and stated that the use of nuclear weapons would be intended to cause something less than annihilation. During the Cold War, two world powers faced off against each other and adopted a policy of "mutual assured destruction" -- recognizing that a limited exchange of nuclear weapons would be an unlikely scenario.

Is Chirac adopting a policy of limited nuclear war in the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons?

How confident does Chirac think he must be in the accuracy of any information tending to identify a state sponsoring a terrorist attack on France before he launches a missile carrying a nuclear bomb in retaliation? Is there a "global test" that would have to be satisfied?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Are they dead, or not?

What does it mean when the BBC puts quotation marks around the word "killed" in this headline?

Three al-Qaeda members 'killed'

Three al-Qaeda members were among those killed by a US missile strike last week in Pakistan, security officials say.

Among them was Midhat Mursi, an explosives expert who had a $5m reward offered for his capture.

If they doubt that the people who were killed were actually terrorists, shouldn't they put "al-Qaeda members" within quotation marks? Do they doubt that they were killed? Strange.

And the what shall lie down with what?

Today's sign that the end is near:

TOKYO Jan 18, 2006 (AP) — Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 3.5-inch dwarf hamster; the other is a four-foot rat snake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster whose name means "meal" in Japanese to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice.
But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.

It's not quite the same as lions and calves, or wolves and lambs, but we take our omens as we find them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Islamic Democracy in Action

We cannot change the way Iraqis (or Egyptians) vote. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a truly democratic republic.

Nevertheless, this article in today's Seattle Times makes a good point:

Islamists gain ground from American push for Mideast democracy
By Warren P. Strobel, Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Call it a case of why you should be careful what you wish for.

President Bush's efforts to spread democracy to the Middle East have strengthened Islamists across the region, posing fresh challenges for the United States, according to U.S. officials, foreign diplomats and democracy experts.

Islamist parties trounced secular opponents in recent elections in Iraq and Egypt.

Perhaps someone ought to point out to the radical Islamists that if we have to come back because of a renewed threat or an attack on America, we won't be making any distinction between the country's leadership and the people who elected them. The absence of any distinction may be one of the reasons democracies are often reluctant to go to war.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Murtha the Mooncalf

Congressman Murtha will be on CBS -- "60 Minutes," naturally -- to tell the bad guys in Iraq: "Hang on, 'cause we're leaving."

(CBS) Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., believes the vast majority of U.S. troops in Iraq will be out by the end of the year and maybe even sooner. In his boldest words yet on the subject, the outspoken critic of the war predicts the withdrawal and tells 60 minutes correspondent Mike Wallace why he thinks the Bush administration will do it.

Murtha is despicable.

Our friends at Agence France Presse have picked up the story:

'Vast majority' of US troops forced to leave
Iraq by year's end: top congressman

Saturday, January 14, 4:55 PM (AFP) -- A veteran US congressman who set off a firestorm in November by calling for a quick American withdrawal from Iraq is now predicting "the vast majority" of US troops will leave the country by year's end, or maybe even sooner.

John Murtha, the top Democrat of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, said late Friday that President George W. Bush would be forced to accept an Iraq pullout plan because inaction will likely result in Republicans losing control of Congress in the November midterm elections.

"I think the vast majority will be out by the end of the year and I'm hopeful it will be sooner than that," he told CBS's "60 Minutes" program, according to excerpts of the interview released by the network.

I haven't watched "60 Minutes" in the past decade or so. Somebody who has the stomach for it will just have to let the rest of us know if there is anything of interest in tomorrow's show. Anything other than Murtha's treasonous behavior, that is. The "excerpts" released by CBS tell all we need to know on that point.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cohoon the Prophet

A letter to the editor published in the Kitsap Sun today is an almost perfect illustration of the snobbish attitude of many people on the left end of the political spectrum. (Having read other letters from this same fellow, I can attest to the fact that he is a leftist.)

Troy and the Track

The tragedy of this letter to local NASCAR promoters is that they won’t get my literary reference. Like Cassandra’s at Troy, my warnings against bringing NASCAR into Kitsap County will go unheeded. NASCAR fans won’t get it. It won’t matter one whit that the reference comes from one of the earliest and most important literary underpinnings of Western Culture.

I’m talking, of course, about Homer’s Illiad — but I doubt many NASCAR fans will have even heard of it, let alone read and understood it.

And that’s the problem. When I say I can’t talk to those people, this is what I mean. They’ve become too culturally vapid to fully grasp the erosion of Western values and tradition represented in everything associated with NASCAR.

They’ll argue with typical anti-intellectual verve that we’ve moved on to new values. Tragically, they’re right. We have so removed ourselves from our cultural heritage that we do, indeed, now celebrate the inane and glory in the worthless. We have cut ourselves off from our roots and are now adrift in a world of valueless bread and circuses.

I must warn you all, and please believe me, not to bring that NASCAR horse inside the walls or the destruction of all we hold dear is assured.

John C. Cohoon

What a surprise: He can't talk to "those people." I wonder why. Could it be that "those people" don't take kindly to having him look down his nose at them while he's talking?

Cassandra was cursed, so that she had the gift of prophecy but no one would believe her.

Cohoon isn't cursed -- he just has a tragic flaw, i.e., an overweening pride.

Cassandra's prophecy regarding the Trojan horse isn't mentioned in Homer's Iliad. It's in a work done by a Roman several hundred years later -- Virgil's Aeneid.

In his effort to portray himself as a person who is far more culturally refined and educated than "those people," Cohoon's tragic flaw led him to reveal his own carelessness. Had he spent a few minutes checking to see which work of literature told the story to which he wanted to refer, he wouldn't have made such an obvious mistake.

Has he also been careless in forming his opinion about the proposal to build a NASCAR speedway in Kitsap county?

The smart money would bet on "yes." Cohoon's dogmatic approach to most issues ordinarily mutes the impact of the facts on the formation of his opinions. His tragic flaw simply makes matters worse.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sun Spots: Error in correction of a correction

If a correction of a statement in an editorial opinion piece is itself incorrect, is it a "correction" or an "incorrection"?

Stepping into the Twilight Zone, apparently, The Kitsap Sun printed this statement on today's editorial page (A10):

Kindergartners: Thursday's [sic] editorial on early learning incorrectly reported the improvement rate of Bremerton kindergartners who scored well on a reading aptitude test. The percentage increased from less than 40 percent to nearly 60 percent.

Today is Thursday, January 12, 2006. The editorial referred to in the "incorrection" was published on Wednesday, January 11, 2006.

Yesterday's editorial was indeed about early learning programs, and it said this about Bremerton's program (also page A10):

And it's working. Between 2001 and 2004, the number of kindergartners doing well on a reading aptitude test increased from less than 40 percent to nearly 60 percent.

If the "incorrection" says the same thing as the original editorial, is one of them wrong?

Update, 4:20 p.m. -- The Wednesday editorial was posted online with this version of the percentages:

And it’s working. Between 2001 and 2004, the number of kindergartners doing well on a reading aptitude test increased from less than 40 percent to nearly 20 percent.

So, the "incorrection" was obviously meant as a correction of the error made in the online version, while the print version delivered to my home had already been corrected. The Tuesday news article on which the editorial writer relied stated: "Between 2001 and 2004, kindergartners who fared well on a reading aptitude test increased from less than 40 percent to nearly 60 percent."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kyoto Protocol's Counterpart or Nemesis?

The BBC has a good article about the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

It's an interesting mixture of states in the "partnership." While Japan is a party to the Kyoto Protocol, the others are either not parties (U.S.A. and Australia) or are not required by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce their emissions (China, India and South Korea).

Here's the article's summary of the different approach to reducing emissions and the predictably negative reaction of the "greens":

The first ministerial meeting of a controversial alliance promising economic growth with low carbon emissions has opened in Sydney.

The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate aims to develop and promote technologies such as "clean coal", nuclear and renewables.

Green groups say the body aims to emasculate the Kyoto Protocol.

The meeting involves politicians and industrialists from Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the US.

It will probably be quite a while before we know if this approach will make any difference, but with the Kyoto parties faltering in their supposedly mandatory efforts to reduce emissions it seems best to push another way of going at the problem. Kyoto's reliance on mandatory reductions at the cost of slower economic growth or even stagnation seems doomed by the fact that no country is likely to take steps it knows will slow its economy -- no matter what the treaty says.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Liberal Democrat Kennedy Admits Drinking Problem and Resigns

Too bad that it's not the honorable senator from Massachusetts.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What has The New York Times done?

There's some interesting speculation at "Power Line" about the disclosure by The New York Times that the NSA has been conducting warrantless surveillance of electronic communications.

It seems the leftists believe no harm was done by that disclosure, as indicated by this excerpt of an e-mail to Power Line:

OK, geniuses. One more time. How does disclosing that the Bush mob is using warrantless secret surveillance instead of secret surveillance based on a FISA warrant, which the entire world knows has been used since 1978, compromise national security?

John at Power Line offers an explanation, but doesn't note what seems obvious. The New York Times has revealed to the terrorist enemies of the U.S.A. that we have the ability to find their communications and "listen in." A warrant would be sought if suspicion had centered on an individual, but it appears NSA may have the ability to find the proverbial needle in a haystack before the owner of the needle has been identified.

Perhaps we will never find out what "sources and methods" have been compromised by The New York Times; and, if we are extremely fortunate, maybe it won't matter.

Since the publisher and editors of The New York Times couldn't know whether it would matter, how dare they?

Murtha the Mole

Congressman Murtha of Pennsylvania may be a "mole" or at the least an agent provocateur.

Via James Taranto's Best of the Web Today, I learned of Byron York's article in National Review Online, which reports Murtha's latest anti-war statements.

As Taranto noted, Murtha appears to be afraid of anything that might look like a U.S.A. victory in Iraq:

Appearing at a town meeting in Arlington, Virginia, with fellow Democratic Rep. James Moran, Murtha said, "A year ago, I said we can't win this militarily, and I got all kinds of criticism." Now, Murtha told the strongly antiwar audience, "I worry about a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there's a victory when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing."

Take a look, also, at Murtha's claimed advice to potential Democratic presidential candidates:

Murtha said he has told some Democrats who are considering a run for president that they are missing an opportunity by declining to call for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. "A number of senators who are running for president have called me," Murtha said. "And I told them there's only two policies. That's the policy of redeployment, which I've suggested, and the president's policy — stay the course is not a policy. And you folks, you're in between, you're missing an opportunity to show leadership. If you want to run for president, you can show leadership."

"Redeployment" is Murtha's fancy word for "retreat."

It might appear that "stay the course" is the counterpart to "redeployment," but Murtha says that's not even a policy. He seems to recognize that the president's policy is to "win," but Murtha counsels would-be presidential contenders among the Democrats to advocate the opposite of "win" as a policy.

Who would offer such advice -- other than an agent provocateur with a hidden agenda that includes a desire to crush the Democrats as a viable party?

Go Murtha! You tell 'em!

Sun Spots: Breathless in Bremerton

The Sun publishes only the letters to the editor that meet their standards. Could it be that they like long sentences? Or, was it the libelous allegation of murders committed by Americans in uniform that made this a "winning" letter? (For a chuckle, try reading it aloud without taking another breath before finishing.)


Can’t Support Killing Innocents

While I can’t say I necessarily support those who choose to join a military that they know to be carrying out the murders of innocent, helpless people (there comes a time when every person must listen to their own conscience and "just say no"), often for nothing more than the promise of a buck, yet it’s clear some at least, are not entirely aware of all the facts, are deluded about what they are getting into and, for that reason, can be forgiven, to some extent, though I doubt those they are killing, and the families and friends of those they have killed, will forgive them.

Gerri Thomas

Some people say the darnedest things.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Vouchers Too Good for Florida's Students

Apparently recognizing that "strict construction" provides a path to their desired conclusion, Florida's supreme court determined that the "Opportunity Scholarship Program" violated the Florida constitution.

The opinion stated, in part:

pages 2-3--

Because a state statute was declared unconstitutional by the First District Court of Appeal, this Court is required by the Florida Constitution to hear this appeal. See art. V, § 3(b)(1), Fla. Const. The issue we decide is whether the State of Florida is prohibited by the Florida Constitution from expending public funds to allow students to obtain a private school education in kindergarten through grade twelve, as an alternative to a public school education. The law in question, now codified at section 1002.38, Florida Statutes (2005), authorizes a system of school vouchers and is known as the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP).

Under the OSP, a student from a public school that fails to meet certain minimum state standards has two options. The first is to move to another public school with a satisfactory record under the state standards. The second option is to receive funds from the public treasury, which would otherwise have gone to the student’s school district, to pay the student’s tuition at a private school. The narrow question we address is whether the second option violates a part of the Florida Constitution requiring the state to both provide for “the education of all children residing within its borders” and provide “by law for a uniform, efficient,
- 3 -
safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education.” Art. IX, § 1(a), Fla. Const.

pages 4-5--

Our inquiry begins with the plain language of the second and third sentences of article IX, section 1(a) of the Constitution. The relevant words are these: “It is . . . a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Using the same term, “adequate provision,” article IX, section 1(a) further states: “Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools.” For reasons expressed more fully below, we find that the OSP violates this language. It diverts public dollars into separate private systems parallel to and in competition with the free public schools that are the sole means set out in the Constitution for the state to provide for the education of Florida’s children. This diversion not only reduces money available to the free schools, but also funds private schools that are not “uniform” when compared with each other or the public system. Many standards imposed by law on the public schools are inapplicable to the private schools receiving public monies. In sum, through the OSP the state is fostering plural, nonuniform systems of education in direct violation of the constitutional mandate for a uniform system of free public schools.
- 5 -
Because we determine that the OSP is unconstitutional as a violation of article IX, section 1(a), we find it unnecessary to address whether the OSP is a violation of the “no aid” provision in article I, section 3 of the Constitution, as held by the First District.

page 22--

The second sentence of article IX, section 1(a) provides that it is the “paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” The third sentence of article IX, section 1(a) provides a restriction on the exercise of this mandate by specifying that the adequate provision required in the second sentence “shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools.” (Emphasis supplied.) The OSP violates this provision by devoting the state’s resources to the education of children within our state through means other than a system of free public schools.

page 25--

Although parents certainly have the right to choose how to educate their children, article IX, section (1)(a) does not, as the Attorney General asserts, establish a “floor” of what the state can do to provide for the education of Florida’s children. The provision mandates that the state’s obligation is to provide for the education of Florida’s children, specifies that the manner of fulfilling this obligation is by providing a uniform, high quality system of free public education, and does not authorize additional equivalent alternatives.

All in all, it's a great day for strict constructionism and maintenance of the public schools' monopoly, but a sad day for the few Florida students who had been able to escape from the miserable public schools to which they had been assigned.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Putin Follows Well-Trodden Path

Russia may be heading down what is for them a familiar path. In this article in the Sunday edition of the London Times, Mark Franchetti summarizes the steps taken by Putin. Russia will take its turn as leader of the "G8" after going so far back from being free and democratic that it might not even qualify for membership, if that were now the question:

The admission of a country once derided as the heart of the “evil empire” to the top table of international capitalism was nevertheless a potent symbol of how far Russia had come since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But the Kremlin’s relations with the West have worsened since, as Putin, 53, has moved to consolidate his power by closing down independent sources of opposition and extending state control of the “commanding heights” of the Russian economy.
The Kremlin leader’s opponents point to the fact that since coming to power nearly six years ago Putin, who served 16 years in the KGB, has crushed all opposition in the media, parliament and in the regions.

He has surrounded himself with former KGB officers and cancelled regional elections, supported the tyrannical regimes of Belarus and Uzbekistan and sold weapons to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran — two states accused by Washington of sponsoring terrorism.

It has been thus for so long that there may be few people in Russia who can imagine a different way of doing things. Alexis de Tocqueville is justly famous for his observations on the American experiment in democracy, but he also had something to say about Russia:

There are now two great nations in the world which, starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans. Both have grown in obscurity, and while the world’s attention was occupied elsewhere, they have suddenly taken their place among the leading nations, making the world take note of their birth and of their greatness almost at the same instant. All other peoples seem to have nearly reached their natural limits and to need nothing but to preserve them; but these two are growing…. The American fights against natural obstacles; the Russian is at grips with men. The former combats the wilderness and barbarism; the latter, civilization with all its arms. America’s conquests are made with the plowshare, Russia’s with the sword. To attain their aims, the former relies on personal interest and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of individuals. The latter in a sense concentrates the whole power of society in one man. One has freedom as the principal means of action; the other has servitude. Their point of departure is different and their paths diverse; nevertheless, each seems called by some secret desire of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world.

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, Democracy in America, ed. J. P. Mayer, trans. George Lawrence, vol. 1, part 2, Conclusion, final paragraphs, pp. 412–13 (1969). Originally published in 1835–1840.

China's rise during the past two decades might be the one surprise for Alexis de Tocqueville, if he were able to step out of a time machine into the present and see how things look 165 years after his astute observations.