Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Is US Greatest Nation on Earth?

I was reading an editorial written by Daniel S. Wheeler, executive director of the American Legion. It was about why we need laws to criminalize flag desecration.

He related a story about how, at a baseball game in the 1970s, a man from the crowd jumped on the field to rip the flag from a protester who was burning it. The crowd spontaneously burst into a rendition of “God Bless America.”

Why would they do that, he wondered. They weren’t born with the instinct to be patriotic.

He wrote, "Throughout their lives, (kids had) been taught that America was a good nation, in fact, the greatest nation on earth." And so, people feel compelled to sing its praises and to fight and die for their country.

Yes, many people are taught that America is great as children. But as freethinking adults, sometimes we realize that that is but one opinion among many. Perhaps America is not the "greatest nation on earth."

America is a free country, so to speak. But it is no freer than most Westernized nations of the world, including Canada, the UK, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, and in fact, most countries other than the remaining communist nations and those that have a theocracy in place.

America is the greatest nation on earth only because most Americans say it is. And by making it a crime to burn the flag, a symbol of the nation, not the nation itself, we lose one more of those freedoms that make us one of the great nations.

We have already lost a number of freedoms. Thanks to the knee-jerk reaction of the present administration, we have been under increased government scrutiny since 2002. The Department of Homeland Security sees to that, as Congress moves to extend the powers of that department into the future.

On top of that, the scruples of our president, which he has seen fit to force upon the masses, have hindered this nation’s scientific progress in the fields of medicine and genetics. So our freedoms have already been abridged.

I certainly believe that America’s weapons technology is far superior to any other country’s. So if that makes us the greatest nation on earth, so be it. It certainly makes us the strongest.

But the whole concept of nationality is archaic. It does nothing but promote divisiveness among nations.

In this day and age of instant communication and global markets, we need to start eliminating national boundaries altogether. That's what Europe is trying to do, and when they succeed, it may be the Europeans who can claim to have the "greatest nation on earth."

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-American. And I believe the sacrifices that have been made by patriots past and present are commendable.

But realistically, there is little threat from any nation. Who would invade us? Yes, terrorists might, so fighting a war on terrorism is necessary. But that’s a war that should be fought by all nations, since all nations are vulnerable.

The “patriotic” wars of the past are over. We are simply a member of the world of nations. We have taken on a leading role, but that doesn’t make us any better.

At any rate, we have far more important things to worry about than passing laws or constitutional amendments against those few protesters who burn the flag.

Wheeler’s point in his editorial was that if we don’t pass such laws, our children might grow up with the notion that the flag is just another symbol among many.

Well, what’s wrong with that? It’s a more realistic view than the bloated idealistic notion that we are the greatest nation on earth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Are Men Perverts?

Women may disagree, but men have had to adapt and conform to the established norms and standards of society to a greater degree than have women. Men have had to force themselves to act totally in opposition to their natural tendencies with regard to sex, whereas women may simply behave the way nature intended.

Consider an experiment performed at a university in which males aged 18 to 24 were told to ask young women, whom they had never met, for sex. The men were supposed to find a female college student who was alone at the time, strike up a casual conversation about the weather, and then say something like, "I find you very attractive. Would you like to go to my room and have sex?"

In the experiment, 100 percent of the women refused the proposition. And, in fact, the vast majority of them not only refused to have sex, but also seemed insulted or annoyed at having been asked.

The next phase of the experiment reversed the roles. This time, the women were supposed to find a male student and strike up a casual conversation, ending with the same question. And this time, the results were quite different. Seventy percent of the men who were propositioned agreed to have sex. And the reaction of almost all the rest was not disgust. Most were apologetic. Some said things like, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid my girlfriend might catch us," or, "I don't think I should because I'm kinda going with someone right now."

Why should the women have felt so insulted or annoyed at being asked the same question that didn't bother most men? Women might say the answer is because all men are jerks, or perverts. But that still begs the question, "why is that so?"

The real answer, of course, lies with evolution. In the earliest history of humankind, it was the male's responsibility to make sure the species was promulgated. It was the man's duty to successfully breed with as many females as possible. He was genetically inclined to reproduce with reckless abandon.

Females, on the other hand, were genetically predisposed to seek out the single male that she thought would give her the best and strongest children. And then, her job was to stay at home and raise her family. This behavior was not something she considered consciously; it was simply pre-programmed in her genes. Genetically, she was not interested in having many partners in rapid succession. She simply wanted the best man to get her pregnant, after which time she would refuse sex until she was ready for her next child. In prehistoric times, it was nature's way of making sure the species survived.

The social morés that exist in today's society more nearly reflect the attitude of the early cave women, that is, don't have casual sex with multiple partners, and be true to the one you're with for life. But the men of today still have that genetic predisposition to fertilize as many women as possible in the shortest amount of time.

For that reason, it is the men who have had to adapt their behavior and suppress their tendencies in order to conform to what society says is acceptable behavior. Women have had to change little. These are, of course, general tendencies. There are men who have no repressed sexual desires; as there are some women whose sex drive rivals any man's.

For the most part, every man that approaches a woman that he finds attractive, and then gets tongue-tied as he tries to compliment her or ask her out, and every man who behaves like a jerk, whistling and winking at women on the street; all they really want to do is simply go up to that woman and say, "Hey, babe, let's have sex." But how many women have ever had a man come up to them out of the blue and ask that question? Probably very few have.

So the men, although they may behave like perverts occasionally from a woman's perspective, are actually suppressing a lot more of their true sexual desires than the women give them credit for. Women, therefore, should not react as though all men are jerks or perverts when the men occasionally regress to an earlier era. Men are simply doing the best they can at repressing their natural genetic tendencies.

That certainly doesn't excuse a man for behaving poorly. It just means that women should try to understand a man's view of sex from a biological point of view, as men have been forced to understand, or at least reluctantly accept, the nature of women. After all, for both sexes, it's all in the genes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Some Music Lasts Forever; Some shouldn't Last 10 Minutes

I don’t listen to radio very often. About the only time I listen to it is when my daughter turns it on in the car when she’s riding with me.

The reason I seldom listen to radio is because most of the stuff they play on it is pure garbage. There are a few decent tunes, but it’s like trying to dig through a pile of trash to find a quarter; it’s just not worth it.

Even though I don’t listen to much radio, I do listen to music a lot. Most of my music is downloaded from the Internet, so I can buy only the tracks off an album that I really like.

When it comes to music I have my own bias. Sometimes, you just know when you like a song, but don’t really know why. Most often, you don’t care to analyze why – if you like it, you like it.

However, with all due respect for their intelligence, I’m fairly certain that many teenagers decide what music is good by its popularity. It’s another “chicken-and-egg” conundrum. Is the music popular because it is good, or is it perceived as being good because the recording industry and radio stations have made it popular?

Granted, there is a lot of variety within popular music. Some of it is truly original, artful, and produced with talent and passion. Most of it, however, was poured straight from the rim of a mass-produced tin can.

Country music is going strong right now, even among young people. When I was in high school, I listened to Country, but it wasn’t “cool.” I had to listen to it clandestinely.

My daughter, who was once an avid country music fan, doesn’t listen to it much anymore. She had heard enough of it after she first heard the song, “Drugs or Jesus.”

And I stopped listening to the genre years ago. The domain of the once-great Don Williams, Glen Campbell, and Marty Robbins has become pathetic in its simplicity and lack of any form of artistic expression, except for the obligatory pronounced Texas drawl. It’s trite and humdrum.

And today’s Pop music isn’t any better. Most of it is overly simple and lacking in originality. A few Pop stars, such as Avril Lavigne and Mandy Moore, are talented and original, but they are the exceptions.

I also love the more mature music of Diana Krall and Norah Jones. But the radio airwaves don’t carry much of that kind of art. They carry hype. Hype is what sells and it’s what draws the younger crowd, the ones who buy most music, to the radio.

Physical appearance is also a bigger factor. How else could a young girl named Britney, who has a voice like Bart Simpson, make it to the top of the music charts? It certainly can’t be her musical talent.

One criterion I use to judge whether a piece of music is really good is its longevity. If it’s a song that is truly good, it will last forever.

Forty years ago, the Beatles recorded a song called “Yesterday.” It has become one of the most-played Pop songs in all history. The Eagle’s “Desperado” is another fine example of a song that will last forever.

About 300 years ago a man named Johann Pachelbel wrote a piece of music that he simply called “Canon in D Major.” Today Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the most often played pieces of music from any generation.

People can listen to talentless hype if they desire. But it is hard to argue with the longevity and appeal these artful tunes possess. It took real talent to create them.

It is difficult to imagine any one of the songs by Britney Spears, 50 Cent, Alan Jackson, or any Rap artist known to man keeping their popularity for 30 years, let alone 300.

Give Roberts Benefit of Doubt

As I and most everyone else expected, Pres. Bush nominated a solid conservative to replace Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court. And, in keeping with his persona of doing things his way, his choice was not a woman, as some had expected.

John Roberts is a rock solid conservative. But, unlike some of the other possibilities on Bush’s short list, he is, thankfully, not an activist. If his nomination is approved by the Senate, the big question that will eventually be answered is will he tip the balance on the High Court significantly toward the right?

Roberts grew up in Long Beach, a small town in Northwest Indiana along the shore of Lake Michigan. He graduated from a private school in LaPorte, Ind. So he grew up with solid Midwestern values.

He was a former clerk to William Rehnquist before he became Chief Justice. Roberts was also a Justice Department official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and was appointed by the current president to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit two years ago. He was approved by the Senate for that position by voice vote.

But O’Conner was a moderate conservative. She was often the swing vote on major divisive issues such as abortion rights and affirmative action. She most recently was the swing vote on a decision that allowed a Texas courthouse to keep its monument of the Ten Commandments while denying a Kentucky court the right to hang a plaque of the same inside its lobby.

Roberts may not be so centrist. When he was solicitor general for the elder Bush, he spoke out against abortion rights, saying that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

Advocates for Roberts say that he was only doing his job when he made that statement. It was made as a lawyer on behalf of his client, Bush.

Even Roberts later said, “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land.”

But as a conservative, one has to believe that Robert’s views on abortion and the former Supreme Court case that made it legal is similar to his former boss’s.

Still, one has to give Roberts credit. The Harvard graduate has impeccable credentials, is brilliant, and has remained largely free from controversy, although he has been a federal judge for only two years.

During those two years, he has not written any opinions that stand out as being reactionary. One might hope that he will adjudicate from a strictly legal and constitutional standpoint, not an ideological one.

Bush claims that’s one of the reasons he settled on Roberts. “John Roberts has devoted his entire professional life to the cause of justice and is widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment and his personal decency,” Bush said.

Bush previously said that he wanted someone who would interpret the Constitution strictly and not try to legislate from the bench. During Robert’s short tenure as a federal judge, he seems so far to have opined without much legislative rhetoric.

But both his foes and his supporters are gearing up for a battle in the Senate. They have been raising funds is anticipation of a fight over confirmation and I don’t look for either side to disappoint.

And it is imperative that all Robert’s written opinions while on the bench be perused for any sign of advocacy. A judge’s job, especially one on the High Court, is to interpret the law and the Constitution from a neutral standpoint.

Justice Anthony Kennedy once wrote, “The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point.”

That is a good philosophy for all justices to keep in mind. The law of the land is supreme, regardless of how inconvenient it makes things or how distasteful it might be to some.

If Roberts is confirmed, as I’m sure he will be, I hope he keeps that in mind. The Constitution gave Congress powers to legislate, not the courts.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Build Foundation on Ethics, Not Religion

Do we as a nation really need a moral foundation?

Most people would answer yes. And I would agree, as long as our moral foundation is not based on, or rooted in, any particular religion.

History tells us that nations founded on religion, or that have religion thrust upon them, usually end up marred in despotism.

There is a difference between being moral and being ethical. Our nation should certainly have a foundation based on good ethics. But morality has a religious connotation.

The problem with morality is that few people agree on what constitutes it. Is it morally acceptable to engage in premarital sex, to use birth control, to have an abortion, to masturbate, or to use cloning techniques to produce embryonic stem cells for the purpose of curing diseases?

That’s a single question, but there are a multitude of answers. A faithful Catholic could probably answer that question with a resounding "no." On the other hand, a Methodist or a Lutheran might have different answers for different parts of that question. Some might even answer in the affirmative for all its parts.

But is it morally acceptable to tell a lie, take someone’s property without their knowledge, kill someone, or do bodily harm to a person? Few people, regardless of their religious affiliations, would answer that question in the affirmative.

So there is a line drawn somewhere between using birth control and murdering someone. The problem is that different groups of people want to draw that line in different places.

When talking about morality, or even ethics, not much is truly black and white. That is why it should be painfully obvious that those who draw the line separating what is right from what is not should err on the side of tolerance.
Our moral foundation should read something like this: A person should have the right to do whatever that person desires, so long as his actions do not bring harm to another person or his property.

Of course, that brings up the question of what constitutes a person. Is a newly-formed human embryo a person? What about a first-trimester fetus? What about a 38-week fetus?

Those are questions for the legal experts and courts to ponder with the input of all those concerned. But even lacking a firm answer to that question should not hinder the moral foundation statement from being readily applied to everything else. We can all agree that once a child is born, he or she is a person.

The thing that must be stressed is that religion, of any species, should not be allowed to play any part in determining the moral imperative of the nation as a whole. Not everyone in America is of the same religion. Not everyone even subscribes to a religion at all, and their rights need protecting, too.

Also, contrary to what some right-wing activists might tell you, this country was not founded on any religion, including Christianity. So there is no reason to include it in our moral foundation.

On that subject, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."

Jefferson also offered this warning about religion, "In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty."

Thomas Paine added, "I do not believe in the creed professed by…any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."

Pres. Bush has used his construct of morality to thrust his personal agenda onto society, even over the objections of most members of Congress. And that flies in the face of what the Founding Fathers had in mind for the way their government should run.

"Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion," wrote John Adams.

Religion and liberty seldom go hand in hand. There is just too much orthodoxy to justify liberty. In America, personal liberties should always trump religion when it applies to the masses.

I have no problem whatsoever in allowing people to believe whatever they want, as long as they do not attempt to transcribe their beliefs into the laws of the land.

Some people find safety and solace in religion, and that’s fine. But Benjamin Franklin wrote, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain…safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We, as a nation, should in fact be well grounded. Our moral fabric should be strong and unwavering. We just need to keep religion out of it; else our liberty will be at risk.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Who Will Become the Walter Cronkite of Podcasters?

Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, and Walter Cronkite – those are just three of the names you might think of if asked to name some of the most influential broadcast journalists of all time.

But what about names like Dave Miller or Juliette Wallack? They’re not exactly household names. They’re not exactly broadcast journalists, either. They are what has been termed podcasters.

A podcast is kind of like a hybrid of a news broadcast and a letter to the editor. They are audio files created on a computer and served up to anyone who cares to listen to them over various Web sites. And anybody, well almost anybody, can create one.

They are the new rage on the Internet these days, along with Web logs, or blogs. But they really took off when Apple Computer’s iTunes Web site started to make podcasts downloadable to iPod mp3 players.

In case some of you don’t yet know what an mp3 player is, it is a device that can download audio files, usually music files created in the mp3 format, from the Internet and play it back through headphones. The players are tiny, and so very portable.

But now, in addition to listening to your favorite music, you can listen to your favorite rant about the topic du jour by your favorite podcaster.

There are several Web sites that offer podcast services. One of the newest sites, with thousands of podcasts available for download, is called It stores them and sorts them into categories. It even lets you subscribe to your favorite “channel” so that its podcasts are automatically downloaded to your computer or mp3 player.

Topics are as varied as they are in the real world. There are channels devoted to everything from religion to politics and current events, or from eating out to sewing.

Blogs have been around for a few years and they have started to gain some respect, even from network news anchors. Blogs are Web journals that, again, can vary widely in subject matter. But some of the more widely-read bloggers have been earning press credentials to national events, like the political conventions last year.

Some podcasters believe their method of news casting will also eventually earn the respect of the big guys in the business. It remains to be seen.

But the more widespread a cultural phenomenon becomes, the more likely it is to become a permanent fixture in society. Podcasts have all the earmarks of becoming that important.

To create a podcast, all you need is a computer connected to the Internet, a microphone to record your voice, and something to say. You can even sing, if you have the talent and want to share it.

Then, just upload your recorded creation to one of the podcast sites. That’s all there is to publishing a podcast.

You can then tell your friends and relatives about your “channel” that contains all your material so they can download it and listen to it. Or, you can have it indexed in a public directory, as on, and let anyone in the world hear it.

Naturally, the uncontrolled nature of podcasts makes them less reliable than network news. On the other hand, like blogs, they can be an almost instantaneous source for news and information, and they can give you a perspective on an event or topic that you wouldn’t hear from mainstream media outlets.

I look for some of today’s more talented podcasters to join the ranks of professional news broadcasters some day. And for those who don’t make it to the networks, at least they can still say that have an audience of their own.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Why No Holidays in August?

Has it really been more than two weeks since the Fourth of July?

This is the first summer since 1989 that I have had an official summer break, because it’s my first year back as a public school teacher since 1990.

I spent 13 years teaching and, truthfully, I was getting burned out. But, despite having a couple of excellent career changes during the intervening years, I had started yearning to get back into the classroom again.

Although the vast majority of teachers are in the profession because they love to help kids to learn, there is also something to the old adage that the three best things about teaching are June, July, and August. But school seems to start much earlier these days than when I first started teaching; there aren’t very many school-less days in August any more.

And that brings me back to my lament about the Fourth of July being over. July 4 is just about the half-way point in the summer break. But the first half, the time during June, seems to move by slowly enough. The latter half zooms by very quickly.

At least that’s the way it seems. I guess it’s because I’m getting used to being out of school now, but in early June, it was new and different.

Anyway, we have entered the longest stretch of the year during which there are no holidays or significant observances.

In fact, August is the only month of the year that lacks anything resembling a holiday. Even April has April Fools Day. August has nothing - zilch!

Not only is the month of August holiday poor, it connects up with the last 3-and-a-half weeks of July, which also offers nothing of significance besides stifling summertime heat and humidity.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like summer. Most people do. You get to go outside without having to bundle up. You get to go swimming and picnicking. And most vacations are taken in the summer.

But still, there are no holidays.

Although it is not a cause for celebration, that period of heat and humidity in mid-summer does have a name. They call it Dog Days, the period of time running from July 3 to August 15.

The ancients believed that this time of year was so hot because the “dog star,” Sirius, which is the brightest star in the sky during the winter, is in conjunction with the sun during much of July and August. They reasoned that Sirius must be adding its heat to that of the sun.

They were wrong, of course.

Since there are no holidays in August, it would be nice to have a formal celebration on August 15, signifying the end of Dog Days, the most uncomfortable time of the summer.

I know it’s a stretch. But I’m grasping at straws here. Teachers and students need one more summer celebration before having to crack the books again.

Years ago, that holiday was Labor Day, which typically occurred on the Monday following the start of school.

That’s not the case any more, so celebrating the end of Dog Days was the only thing I could come up with.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Dealing with Internet Curses

There are lots of threats to individuals today, some of which were not dreamed of 50 years ago. Yes, we still have our traditional crimes of violence, like armed robbery, as well as threats from those who take a more clandestine approach to relieving us of our goods like the burglars and embezzlers.

Add to that the terrorists. They don’t need to strike often. As their title suggests, their job is to strike terror. They want us to live in fear. They control us that way. And an occasional terrorist strike is usually all it takes.

But we are often assaulted on another front today. The assaults are certainly less menacing than terrorist activity, or even armed robbery. But they still can result in everything from simple annoyances to wiped out bank accounts.

Internet crimes are becoming much more prevalent as more and more people become wired. And I use the term “crime” loosely here, because some of the perpetrators are not technically breaking any laws. Their lawyers see to that.

Let’s start with the simply menacing activity. Recent studies have shown that more than half of all Internet users who have computers at home or work are bothered by what is generally termed spyware or adware.

Adware is a concept that allows software developers to give away their programs to computer users because they contain built-in ads. If you are willing to put up with a banner ad or two, you get to use the software for free.

The trouble is, some of the more unscrupulous programmers also build in code that causes the ads to pop up at any time, no matter what program you’re running. It is not only quite annoying; it can cut into your productivity by slowing down your computer.

Spyware is similar to adware except that it also traces your computer activity and then sends that information to the company who developed it. Every keystroke you take or every Web page you visit is recorded and sent to some company who uses that information to tailor even more ads to your personal habits.

In 1999 a TV movie was produced called Netforce. It starred Kris Kristoferson and Scott Bakula as agents in a division of the FBI, the Netforce division. It was charged with preventing Internet crime. The movie was set in 2005 when everything literally depended on the Internet.

The plot twist was that the person who was in charge of developing Netforce, its leader, was ultimately responsible for trying to bring the whole Internet down because it had become too sleazy.

The Internet certainly has its sleazy side, but it has become like the television. You might be able to live without it, but you are loathe to give it up. To some people, it’s become as important a part of their lives as their automobiles. They utterly depend on it.

I am one of those people. I use it for not only communicating, keeping informed, and playing; I also use it to earn part of my income. If the Internet suddenly went away, it would create a severe hardship for me and others like me.

It is also a tremendous labor-saving device and convenience tool. I use it to pay all my bills, balance my bank account, buy Christmas presents, and download most of my music. It is as much a part of my life today as the pencil used to be.

But between all the computer viruses, e-mail spam, adware, spyware, and now phishing scams, one has to stay on their toes to prevent chaos or disaster.

Phishing is the e-mail device whereby unscrupulous spammers try to gain access to your bank accounts by sending e-mail messages claiming that your account is in danger of being closed unless you confirm your personal information, such as account numbers and passwords.

The e-mail messages look so authentic that it’s easy to fall into the trap. It has already claimed many unsuspecting victims who have had their accounts wiped out.

The Internet is here to stay. It is a vital and necessary part of the world economy. But, like the brick and mortar world, the cyberworld is full of criminals and deceitful individuals who are always coming up with new and innovative ways to part you from your money.

Let the surfer beware.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Comet Impact Screws Up Horoscopes

NASA, it seems, likes to do big things on July 4. Several important unmanned space probes have either been launched or have gotten to their destination on that date, including the first Mars space rover.

This year on July 4, NASA sent a washing-machine-sized probe crashing into a comet, Tempel 1. It was the first time a man-made object has ever touched a comet.

The probe punched a crater in the comet’s surface, produced a huge explosion and fireball, caused outgassing of primordial comet debris, caused the comet to brighten by a factor of five, and ruined the natural balance of forces in the universe, deforming a Russian woman’s horoscope.

Well, those last things are contentions made by Marina Bai, a Russian astrologer who apparently makes a living at telling people’s horoscopes. She claims the probe's impact on the comet upset the balance of nature in the universe and, thus, has thwarted her own horoscope as well as her ability to chart the stars for others.

She, therefore, is suing NASA for $300 million. That happens to be the approximate total cost of the suicide mission to the comet. So, if she wins, it would end up costing U.S. taxpayers twice as much to crash an object on a comet.

A Russian court judge has scheduled hearings on the suit for later this month. NASA refused comment.

However, scientists in charge of studying the collision say that the collision did not significantly alter the comet’s course and that it did not result in any increased threat to Earth.

The story of the Russian woman’s lawsuit appeared on a CBS News Web site. But it belonged in the strange news department. In fact, it might fit well on the comic page of most newspapers.

But it really did happen. A woman has sued NASA for sending a probe to collide with a comet because she claims it messed up her horoscope. Late night comedy hosts are bound to have a field day with this one.

First of all, the woman is an astrologer, not an astronomer. There is a big difference. Astrology is an age-old superstition. It might be fun to read one’s horoscope in the newspaper, but nobody should take them seriously.

As far as creating horoscopes for other people, well what difference does it make if a comet is nudged off path slightly? Comets, unless they strike the earth, have absolutely no effect on anyone’s destiny. Neither do the position of the planets.

At one time, ancients believed that the position of the planets at the time of one’s birth could determine that person’s personality and even predict future events in the person’s life. This was also during the time when ancient astrologers were learning how to predict things like the rising and setting times of the sun, moon, stars, and known planets.

Before astronomy, the true science of the stars and planets, astrology was all we had.

We know now that there is absolutely no connection between a person’s destiny and the position of the planets, let alone a comet. And even if there were such a connection, modern astrologers continue to use ancient star charts. Because of the wobble of the earth’s axis, those star charts are about two months out of synch with the true position of celestial bodies.

NASA probably doesn’t have much to worry about from the misguided Russian astrologer. But it did give me a good chuckle when I read it. I can thank her for that.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bush Likely to Appoint Ultra-Conservative to Court

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner dropped a bombshell last Friday when she announced her retirement from the High Court. It caught everyone, including Pres. Bush, off guard.

The Bush administration was expecting to have to replace one of the justices, Chief Justice William Renquist, who has been battling thyroid cancer. He may yet tender his resignation, though some believe if he hasn’t done so by now, he may go for yet another term.

O’Conner was the type of justice that should be on the Supreme Court. She made her decisions based on the law and the Constitution, not on her own ideology. For that reason, she was known as a moderate and was often on the majority side of the fence as she cast the swing votes in a number of important cases, including abortion rights.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Bush will replace her with another moderate. It is more likely that her replacement will be a conservative Christian who will decide cases on his own value system, much the way Bush runs the country.

That would be extremely detrimental to our democracy as it might eventually lead to a lessoning of religious tolerance. As Justice David Souter wrote in his remarks in the recent Ten Commandments ruling, “A purpose to favor one faith over another, or adherence to religion generally, clashes with the understanding that liberty and social stability demand a tolerance that respects the religious views of all citizens.”

Bush is under pressure from conservatives to appoint someone with a history of opposing abortion rights. But Bush stated he would select someone who would faithfully interpret the laws and the Constitution.

That would be nice, but what he really meant was he would appoint someone who would faithfully interpret the laws and the Constitution from the perspective of the Bush Administration. He has a strong track record of making such appointments.

Obviously, any president would be tempted to appoint federal justices with an ideological slant similar to their own. That is why there are currently four conservatives and four liberals on the High Court.

But sometimes, a president gets it right. Ronald Reagan was a conservative. Yet he appointed O’Conner in 1981, the first woman to ever sit on the Supreme Court, and a moderate.

Not everyone always agreed with her decisions, including me. That’s not the point. She didn’t decide cases based on popularity of opinion or by referendum of the masses. She seldom tipped her hand in advance of a decision because she wanted to be very deliberate in making it.

Although in a perfect world, all judges would be completely neutral, we’re not living in a perfect world. Knowing there is no way Bush will ever appoint a moderate, let alone a liberal, even most Democrats are willing to go along with a conservative, at least up to a point.

But if Bush appoints another ultra-conservative to replace a moderate, don’t rule out the possibility of another Senate filibuster.

Bush said that the country deserves a “dignified process of confirmation.” I agree, except that’s just more Bush-speak for “Let me have my way without arguing over it.” The only way we can have a dignified confirmation process is if he appoints someone who is ideologically neutral.
Bush has never had to replace a Supreme Court justice. In fact, it has been 11 years since the last time one was appointed.

He might offer up a surprise nominee. He has taken a lot of flack lately over some of his other appointees, including his choice for U.N. ambassador, John Bolton. He may not be in the mood for yet another confirmation battle.

But don’t look forward to any moderation on Bush’s part. He is one of the most obstinate presidents in decades. So his nominee will probably be an arch-conservative. If so, anything’s possible in the Senate.