March 30, 2007

This Little Piggy Went to Prioritize

James Carville once referred to Pennsylvania as “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” Having lived in the Keystone State for quite some time, I can relate to that. It has a combination of political corruption à la Boss Tweed, backwards thinking, right-wing Democrats, and a populace that still holds onto the hope that the 1950s—when coal, steel, factories, and other blue-collar industry fueled the commonwealth’s economy—will somehow come back with a vengeance.

...That’s why it wasn’t a surprise to read about an ongoing controversy involving a municipality—or possibly now two—and two potbellied pigs. Yes, you read that correctly: potbellied pigs.

...Over the last year a burned-out coal town in eastern Pennsylvania called Lansford has been giving one of its residents grief over her pet potbellied pigs. The powers-that-be in the area, from councilmen to a local judge, have never heard of potbellied pigs (that’s what happens when you don’t realize that there’s actually a world outside your town’s border), and as such have declared that a pig is a pig is a pig. Citing a 1968 livestock ordinance which prohibits farm animals from living in residential areas, the pigs’ owner was forced to get rid of the little porkers. The pigs are now in a neighboring burned-out coal town, and the council there will most likely wage war against them, too.

...What’s really worrisome is this: Both the town of Lansford and the new town in which the potbellied pigs reside, Nesquehoning, are part of the Panther Valley School District. They’ve been in the news of late because the district, in an effort to make ends meet, has talked about eliminating its home economics teachers, industrial technology teachers, librarians, National Honor Society, and JROTC program. They’ve also recently had their superintendent arrested and charged with driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level of .22. Pennsylvania’s legal limit is .08.

...It appears that the folks in this region should have bigger concerns than little Vietnamese potbellied pigs.

The Times News
The Morning Call
The Times News

March 29, 2007

I Am Woman, Hear Me File a Formal Complaint

I’m beginning to think that the National Organization for Women might want to rename themselves to something more appropriate—perhaps something like the National Organization for Emasculation.

...I thought that it was an early April Fool’s Day joke from the Washington Post, but it’s not: NOW wants access to money that is allotted for a program called the Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative, which is designed to build job skills in men and help fathers connect better with their children. The women’s organization is saying that it’s discriminatory to fund such a program, since a program for fathers focuses on men only.

...Post reporter Christopher Lee writes:

NOW and Legal Momentum, another advocacy group, filed complaints yesterday with the Department of Health and Human Services alleging sex discrimination in the initiative that is funding about 100 programs this year.


“What we’re asking them to do is to make sure that the grantees provide equal services to women and men,” said Kathy Rodgers, president of Legal Momentum. “It should be a parenthood initiative.”

Administration officials and grant recipients say the challenge is misguided. The programs may target men, they say, but helping men become better fathers will benefit women and children, too. Moreover, HHS officials say they have told grant recipients they must open their fatherhood programs to women.

“If a woman says she wants to apply and it’s not happening, we want to know about it,” said Tara Wall, at the Administration for Children and Families, the HHS agency that oversees the grants. “Yes, fathers are the target group, but at the same time allowing equal access is required.”


One of the grants NOW objects to is a five-year, $2 million-a-year award to the D.C. Department of Human Services. It expects to help as many as 2,500 low-income fathers with parenting skills, substance-abuse prevention and treatment, job training and educational development, said Debra Daniels, a D.C. spokeswoman.

...Shouldn’t a women’s organization be supportive of giving men parenting skills, substance-abuse prevention and treatment, job training, and educational development? Maybe not, since there are more programs in NOW’s crosshairs:

Another group under fire is the Latin American Youth Center in the District, which got a $250,000 annual grant to provide 30 young fathers a year with job training, language classes and parenting skills. But women can enroll, too, said Lori Kaplan, the executive director.

“It doesn’t mean that anywhere along the line our moms are getting excluded,” she said.

...Wouldn’t fathers who act like fathers be beneficial to women? Perhaps only a few people think so. That aside, since Ms. Rodgers of Legal Momentum suggested that this program should be a “parenthood initiative” instead of a “fatherhood initiative,” why isn’t Legal Momentum urging NOW to rename themselves the National Organization for People?

...Having an organization dedicated to one sex doesn’t seem very equal, does it?

Washington Post

March 28, 2007

Off-Base Percentage

It’s not often that I have the urge to just find someone else’s commentary and suggest that everyone else read it, but on occasion it has been known to happen. This instance is one of those occasions.

...While perusing ESPN’s baseball homepage, I discovered a link to a piece by Keith Law entitled “Baseball Needs a Backbone Regarding DUIs” that poses a question which needs to be asked: Why are we more offended when a professional athlete tests positive for illegal steroids than we are when a professional athlete is arrested for drunk driving?

...Law’s column stems from the recent DUI arrest of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, and how many fans have not only dismissed his arrest as a petty incident (one fan was more upset that the police didn’t let La Russa drive home drunk) but have literally applauded him for it (in his first spring training game after the arrest, La Russa received a standing ovation from the crowd). I can promise you that I wouldn’t have been one of the ones standing.

...Law’s column is worth reading, but his points (sadly) don’t shock me. I’m not a psychologist nor a sociologist, but I’m willing to bet that since a higher percentage of the American public at large engage in drunk driving more than engage in steroid use, people aren’t as willing to criticize getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. Their moral high-ground is to sooner go after performance-enhancing drug users while simultaneously looking at someone who can in an instant destroy dozens of lives and say, “Yep. I do that, too.”


March 24, 2007

The Department of Departmentalism

When the federal government (read: George W. Bush) created the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I—and hopefully a few other people—questioned why such a department needed to be established given that homeland security was something that was supposedly already covered by the Department of Defense, which has been in existence since 1789 (at the time it was called the War Department; it later became the Department of the Army and eventually the Department of Defense). If we’re already paying people to make decisions about defending the borders, and if they can’t do their job, why are we creating an additional department to cover the asses of those who messed up in the first place? Why aren’t we removing the incompetent bureaucrats and replacing them with competent ones (if they actually exist) instead of simply inventing what is essentially a pick-up-their-slack department?

...This is why the establishment of yet another cabinet-level department really shouldn’t be too shocking if its legislation is passed. As such, our nation’s penchant for a wide-reaching government has given us a push for yet another institution: the Department of Peace and Nonviolence.

...The bill (HR 808), which is sponsored by Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich (and yes, that’s the same guy who, along with several other politicians in Washington, is currently pushing to bring back the unconstitutional Fairness Doctrine law), will establish a Department of Peace and Nonviolence to set forth the following: (1) hold peace as an organizing principle; (2) endeavor to promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights; and (3) develop policies that promote national and international conflict prevention, nonviolent intervention, mediation, peaceful resolution of conflict, and structured mediation of conflict.

...I’m guessing that the last point is strictly for structured mediation, since you can’t legislate to have structured conflict. That aside, I’m beginning to wonder if we’re embarking on what might be a twenty-first century approach to life where everything with which we might deal will need a cabinet-level department to oversee it. Allow me to explain.

...Peace is something that we should want without having to be told by a federal institution. It’s something that we should recognize as being more conducive to progress than war. Civility should be quickly identified as being more worthwhile than violence. The concept of being cool, calm, and collected should be adopted by both individuals and organizations sooner than the idea of being agitated warmongers. Therefore, why do we need to bloat the federal government any more than it already is?

...I use the term “bloat” intentionally because it’s obvious that wasting taxpayers’ money is the status quo in Washington. The recent legislation that was passed to set a timetable on pulling our troops out of Iraq had so much Democratic pork in it that the Republican minority was probably thinking, “They’re our people!” It provided $25 million for spinach growers who lost money on the E. coli scare; $120 million to the shrimp industry to compensate for Hurricane Katrina; $238 million for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program, which wouldn’t be needed in the first place if the government would stop mandating what the price of milk is; and $74 million to pay farmers for peanut storage.

...I’m a huge supporter of peace, but establishing a federal cabinet-level department to promote it sounds like nothing more than a nice way to create more bureaucracy, get a few family members and friends public sector jobs, and spend millions of tax dollars that we, as working people, can’t afford.

...Real peace starts with us, as individuals, who want to find more reasonable solutions than violence. It doesn’t—and can’t—exist in a Washington office where politicians will dole it out via pamphlets, brochures, and public service announcements.

...Moreover, if we’re going to begin a journey down this road of increased government intervention, we might as well prepare ourselves for a regular barrage of department creation. Why not a Department of the Internet, Department of Entertainment and Recreation, or Department of Quality Living? Of course each of these departments sounds silly right now, but we could very easily offer grounds for supporting each of them.

...If we really are to the point where we need a federal agency to “teach” us how to be peaceful, we might as well also create a Department of It’s-the-End-of-American-Civilization-As-We-Know-It.

Department of Defense
Library of Congress
Washington Post

March 22, 2007

Share and Share Alike

It’s becoming too easy to spot instances when both liberals and conservatives oppose tenets that are traditionally attributed to them. The left, who supposedly support free speech, is currently pushing to have the Fairness Doctrine, which is nothing more than legislation to have the government not only regulate but mandate particular speech, brought back in an effort to promote “fairness” on television and radio talk shows. It appears that this morning conservatives have had a bit of a position switch, too.

...A federal judge recently struck down the unconstitutional 1998 Child Online Protection Act (HR 3783), which made it illegal for commercial Website operators to allow children to access information that was deemed “harmful.” The judge explained that parents can do the protecting by utilizing filters and blocking software that wouldn’t restrict the free speech rights of others.

...We see a rather interesting change of ideological stance by way of a quote near the end of the story. We usually hear conservatives say that they parents should be the ones to raise—and educate, in the case of public versus private schools and the topic of vouchers—children, free from government intrusion.

...Oddly enough, government attorney Peter D. Keisler said, “It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children, rather than the government’s addressing the problem at its source.”

...Parents paying attention to their children’s Internet surfing is a burden? I thought that the right-wing view of parenting was that parents should have more power in raising their children than the state. Wasn’t it usually a left-wing view that the government should have more say in parenting than the parents? Isn’t that where the concept of “it takes a village to raise a child” originated?

...These are strange days when conservatives and liberals are borrowing ideological points from each other.

Houston Chronicle
Library of Congress

Clipped Wings

St. Louis Cardinals beat reporter Matthew Leach wrote the following:

JUPITER, Fla. — Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was arrested overnight for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, a misdemeanor in the state of Florida, the Jupiter Police Department said Thursday.

According to police, La Russa was arrested at approximately midnight ET on Wednesday night/Thursday morning at the intersection of Frederick Small Boulevard and Military Trail in Jupiter. Undercover officers noticed that the manager’s vehicle stopped, but his car was running at the intersection, sitting through two cycles of a traffic light.

When Jupiter police officers approached the vehicle, they saw La Russa “slumped over in the driver's seat” and knocked on the window. After the knocks were not met with a response, a field officer came to the scene.

After further knocking on the window, La Russa responded. He was given standard field sobriety tests, and the officers believed they had probable cause to arrest the manager on suspicion of DUI.

When La Russa was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail, he underwent a breath test and was determined to have a blood alcohol level of .093, higher than Florida's legal limit of .08.

He was booked at Palm Beach County's Main Detention center at 4:07 a.m. ET and held until approximately 8 a.m.

...I’ve been a hardcore Cardinals fan for almost 20 years. All that I can ask is, “How the fuck could you be so stupid?”


The Right to Remain Afraid

The spirit of Al Capone is still alive and well in Chicago. Unfortunately, nowadays it can be found in the Chicago Police Department instead of the mob.

...CBS 2 Chicago reports the following:

A woman was injured during a frightening attack and it was all caught on tape. The attacker was an off-duty Chicago police officer who has now been charged. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini reports.

Shocking surveillance video shows off-duty Chicago police officer Anthony Abbate, 38, a 12-year veteran of the force, brutally beating a female bartender.


“He was drunk in a bar. She refused to serve him anymore so he went behind the bar and threw her around like a sack of potatoes,” said Attorney Terry Ekl who represents the alleged victim.

...As if that weren’t bad enough, here’s something even scarier:

“The Chicago Police Department made a unilateral decision that they were going to charge him only with a misdemeanor without telling the State's Attorney’s Office,” said Ekl.

But prosecutors took over and filed felony aggravated battery charges.

...Abbate is caught on tape savagely beating a woman and Chicago’s so-called finest view it as nothing more than a misdemeanor? I wish that that were the end of it, but there’s more:

Prosecutors are investigating adding possible obstruction of justice and intimidating a witness charges.

“Another individual came in moments after the attack and attempted to offer the victim money in order for her not to prosecute the defendant,” Navarro said.

The February attack, caught on the Tavern’s surveillance camera, was Abbatte’s second assault of the evening, say prosecutors.


Abbatte is no stranger to drunken behavior.

He was one of 100 Chicago police officers who had been hired despite having prior drug or alcohol related driving offenses.

Abbate had also been arrested for drag racing and driving on a suspended license.

...The only difference between the Chicago Police Department and common criminals is that one party poses a threat to the public while the other party doesn’t wear badges.

CBS 2 Chicago

March 21, 2007

If It's Free, It's for Me

Having been on a work-related blogging hiatus for several months, and having come back to the blogosphere with a new site, I haven’t had the opportunity to vent about the threat of the Fairness Doctrine, which is being spearheaded by Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

...At first, one would think that a law that regulates speech—obviously excluding such things as slander or yelling, “Fire!” in a crowded theater—would be something that was being pushed by conservative Republicans. After all, over the last few years we’ve had to worry about our free speech rights being raped via the Patriot Act, which would supposedly identify potential terrorists and protect us—at least those of us who are good patriotic Americans—from the evils of…um…well…everything. That’s not to mention the routine attacks on our First Amendment rights from fundamentalist religious organizations, which are “protecting” us from Satanic books, movies, and music by way of trying to ban these blasphemous tools of the devil.

...Sadly, regulating speech has turned into a bipartisan tool.

...For anyone who isn’t aware of what the Fairness Doctrine is, the best description of it has been made by Adam Thierer of the Cato Institute:

The so-called Fairness Doctrine was put in place by the FCC in 1949 to require broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” After coming under attack by the courts, the FCC discarded the rule in 1987 because, contrary to its purpose, the doctrine failed to encourage the discussion of more controversial issues. Still, regulatory revisionists seem to pretend that the world would be a better place if government officials sat in judgment of “fairness” on the broadcast airwaves and have attempted to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine a few times since it was abolished. By requiring, under threat of potential license revocation, that broadcasters “fairly” represent both sides of a given issue, advocates of the doctrine argue that more opinions will be aired while the editorial content of the station can remain unaltered.

...Imagine having a country where the government requires a television or radio talk show host to say something that he or she might not want to say, simply because it’s “fair.” Imagine how far we could go with a law like that now that we have more outlets for speech than we did in the 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine was suspended. Imagine having a blog on which you want to say something in particular, but you quickly find yourself being told that you have to offer an opposing point of view under the guise of “fairness.”

...You might think that such an assertion is a large jump, but how big a jump is it really? Isn’t it a rather large jump in the first place to go from having a First Amendment that guarantees speech that is free from government regulation to speech that is mandated by the federal government?

...In a 2005 Salon article, New York Representative Louise Slaughter, who has authored the Fairness and Accountability in Media Act to bring back the Fairness Doctrine “with new requirements,” said that a speech-regulating law like this is “for the public benefit.” Really? How much does the public benefit from having the state tell them what to say?

...What’s most disturbing is that this issue of regulated speech isn’t a one-side-only debate. The regulation of free speech has now become bipartisan and has become viewed as an implement to silence the opposition—no matter which side of the aisle the opposition happens to be.

...Many liberals have jumped aboard the bring-back-the-Fairness-Doctrine bandwagon because conservative talk radio might be affected the most. The idea seems to be that if the enemy is affected, then raping the Constitution is well worth it. Essentially, the end justifies the means.

...My question thus becomes this: If liberals, who routinely talk about how much they support free speech, are willing to adopt right-wing tactics and push their own laws that mirror conservative anti-First Amendment actions, who will actually defend free speech? Moreover, how can anyone suggest that there’s actually a difference between the two sides?

...It appears as if liberals and conservatives have more in common than they’d like to admit: Both sides want to force their views on us and both sides are willing to craft laws to do it “legally.”

The Cato Institute

March 19, 2007

…and Daisy Pushed Back Women’s Rights

They were able to avoid an incompetent police force and corrupt county commissioner, but former Dukes of Hazzard stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat have found themselves handcuffed by an institution bigger than Boss Hogg’s belly: the NAACP.

...After having signed contracts to perform with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Schneider and Wopat were informed that their concerts were cancelled after the NAACP expressed opposition to their performing, citing the use of the Confederate flag on the car that was used in the show, which was named after General Robert E. Lee. A statement from the orchestra said that “the messages conveyed in the program are not consistent with the efforts of the Pops to reach out to all members of [the] community.” Those “messages” weren’t listed, though.

...Edith Thrower, who is president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, explained, “It’s very clear how we feel about the Confederate flag and the long and arduous fight we have conducted to get rid of that symbol of a very unpleasant time in our history.”

...Ben Jones, who played Cooter on the series and eventually became a Democratic representative in Congress after the show ended, has gone on record as calling the move by the orchestra “blacklisting” and “McCarthyism.” He said, “I have fought racism and bigotry my whole life and worked in the civil rights movement, and there is nothing racist about [the show].”

...When I was younger I watched the Dukes of Hazzard on a regular basis and didn’t take from any episode a feeling of racism, bigotry, hate, or negativity in any form. Therefore, I have no choice but view the accusations of racism as being based on nothing more than the fact that the car used in the show had a Confederate flag painted on the roof.

...If this point is to be our litmus test for racism, we could easily say that every history book with photos of Confederate flags is promoting a racist agenda; every Time-Life Civil War book is teeming with hatred and bigotry. Should we push to have them removed and altered as to have all images of the southern battle flag erased from our memories? Should we edit history in an effort to provide a kinder, gentler past?

...Another question that I have is: Is this really what the NAACP has become? Have they gone from the once-mighty organization that helped to champion Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka and legislation like the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to a group that is spending most of its time fighting against any and all images of the Confederate flag? Would W.E.B. Du Bois be happy about such an evolution?

...I personally think that our country’s two biggest historical black marks have been our treatment of Native Americans and our institution of slavery. Sadly, it seems as if now we have a new problem with which we must deal: people becoming offended at something even if that something isn’t present.

Kansas City Star

March 18, 2007

Mush or Die?

Iditarod participant Ramy Brooks has a new way of dealing with his dogs when they become exhausted: beat them.

...MSNBC reports the following:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Two-time runner-up Ramy Brooks was disqualified from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race for abusing his dogs.

The 38-year-old Brooks hit each of his 10 dogs with a trail marking lathe, similar to a surveyor’s stake, after two refused to get up and continue running on an ice field, race marshal Mark Nordman told The Associated Press from Nome on Sunday.


One of Brooks’ dogs died the next day on the trail, between White Mountain and Safety, the last checkpoint before Nome.

...Is there any possibility that we can stick Brooks in a harness, make him run the length of the Iditarod course, and beat him a few times if he doesn’t move fast enough? I’d pay to see that.

...It’ll be interesting to see if Cellular One—not to mention all the other companies—continues to sponsor his Website.


Dude, You Still Don't Want a Dell

Early last year, my brother experienced one of the scams that Dell Computer pulls in order to garner a few more PC purchases. It was a classic bait-and-switch in which they originally told him that he qualified for an interest-free payment plan, but after a few months he received a letter in the mail telling him that after further review—almost like instant replay in a football game—he suddenly didn’t qualify for the interest-free promotion anymore. As such, he had the choice of either paying in installments with an absurd interest rate or he could pay it off at once. He dipped into his checking account and freed himself of Dell’s chains. He also vowed to never purchase anything with the name “Dell” on it again.

...Sadly, now my parents have fallen prey to the incompetence of Dell’s billing department and have received multiple harassing phone calls regarding a bill that was sent after the due date (the check for the bill was sent the day after the bill arrived). They know that it was sent late because of the postmark on the envelope: the postmark is March 12; the due date is March 1. Unfortunately, now two more people have found themselves the victims of a company which—after doing some research on it—looks as if it might have one of the worst customer service records in the field.

...As far back as 2005, BusinessWeek reported that from 2003 to 2004, complaints to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) rose 23 percent for Dell. From 2004 to 2005, complaints rose another five percent.

...I couldn’t count all of them, but has what looks like over 100 complaints listed, most of which appear to be related to Dell’s customer service. Perhaps worded it best when they offered:

We’d say Dell offers good equipment at a great price but if you never want to open the lid of your computer and have no patience with troubleshooting by phone, then you should probably by a machine from a local geek-owned computer store. Then, when trouble strikes, you’ll have a place to go where, as they say, when you go there, they’ll have to take you in.

BusinessWeek (complaints) (evaluation of Dell)

March 15, 2007

Under the Sea

Two weeks ago, a group of divers went swimming and picture-taking off the coast of the Dominican Republic. Their photography subjects were a mother humpback whale and her baby, which had been sleeping on the mother’s back. The diver who videotaped the event explained, “[The other divers] were basically right on top of the whale.”

...In response, the baby became frightened and the mother whale duly protected her offspring, resulting in one diver’s broken femur and another diver breaking ribs and being knocked unconscious. The diver with the broken leg is planning on doing it “again in a heartbeat.”

...Some whale experts are concerned about the impact on the whales that increased human contact might have. One study showed that whale-watching boats and divers bothered the whales so much that their food intake dropped by 18 percent.

...We can assume that these divers wouldn’t mind having people stop by their homes for the afternoon to photograph them for a few hours, can’t we? I mean, they’d be supportive of having a camera crew show up to film them in their natural habitat without permission, right?

ABC News

March 14, 2007

Viva Book Talk!

Over the last year, the children’s book Discovering Cultures: Cuba has become quite popular in Florida. Unfortunately it’s not because of any awards; it’s because it has become the center of an ongoing dispute with one party crying “Propaganda!” and the other party crying “Censorship!”

...The book first gained popularity last April when some Cubans wanted the book pulled from the shelves of Bossard Elementary School, after they claimed that the book makes Cuban dictator Fidel Castro look much nicer than what his documented tyrannical history has shown.

...A few weeks ago, mother Dalila Rodriguez checked the book out and never returned it, hoping to “protect” other students from the book’s “lies.” Critics have labeled Rodriguez’s action not only theft but censorship; supporters have said that the book is propaganda and doesn’t belong in a school library.

...I haven’t had the opportunity to read Discovering Cultures: Cuba, but the purpose of this post isn’t to defend the theft of library books for any reason. The purpose of this post is to question if those who are ready to all but hang Rodriguez are vehemently opposed to her actions because her move is a form of censorship, or if they’re opposed because they’re angry that someone might question a potentially propagandized book about Fidel Castro.

...I pose such a question because it’s no secret that Castro is embraced by many self-professed progressives, most of whom claim to oppose censorship and any limitations on book access. Moreover, many are in the field of education, where such issues need to be discussed as often as possible.

...What if this book were nothing more than a piece of propaganda that was used to paint a rosy image of a person whose ideological bent is that of the far-right? What if, for instance, a children’s book were published to do nothing but offer a polished image of someone such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld? Would those who want Dalila Rodriguez’s head brought to them on a silver platter be as opposed to a librarian or parent trying to pull a pro-conservative book from the shelves? I won’t answer that with certainty, but I have my gut feelings because I’m not sold on the idea that liberals are as anti-censorship as they claim to be. I’ll get to that in a moment.

...While researching this topic, I found one blogger who wants the police to “throw [Rodriguez’s] sorry ass in jail” for having taken the book (he didn’t say if he wanted all patrons with overdue books to have their sorry asses thrown in jail, too, or just Rodriguez). Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. has vowed to replace Discovering Cultures: Cuba at his own expense whenever someone signs it out and keeps it.

...Would that blogger want a patron who stole a pro-Bush or pro-Cheney to have their “sorry ass” thrown in prison, too? Would Pitts be willing to replace stolen books if they painted a pretty picture of Bush or Cheney?

...My concern is that many people who claim to be adamantly opposed to censorship and book bans are actually more talk than substance. Columnist Nat Hentoff recently pointed out that the American Library Association, which supposedly fights against censorship, has routinely refused to call for the release of imprisoned Cuban librarians who have criticized Fidel Castro—librarians who have been deemed “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty International.

...Hentoff points out that the ALA has actually gone so far as to refuse to make any mention of the farcical trials which put these librarians in prison in the first place. The judges of these trials ordered that books from Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Orwell be burned. As if that weren’t bad enough, Judith Krug, who is the chief goon at the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, went so far as to say that she “dug in [her] heels” against the supporters of the imprisoned librarians because they have “an agenda” (damn them for wanting to see political prisoners set free). Krug then wished that she could “drown” the entire issue because it “wouldn’t die.” Imagine that: A fight against tyranny not dying.

...My position on book selection is just that: selection. Librarians owe it to their patrons to provide nonfiction books if they’re indeed offering them under the guise of being nonfiction. Otherwise, they should be identified as fiction and offered as such.

...As I’ve said before, I haven’t read Discovering Cultures: Cuba, and as such I can’t call it either propaganda or quality nonfiction. I do, however, long for the day when censorship is a one-way street. Until that day comes, I have a feeling that I’ll have to get used to having people view some censors as fascists and other censors as heroes.

Peoria Pundit
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Nat Hentoff

Higher (Priced) Education

It’s been said that Pennsylvania might have the most corrupt state legislators in the entire union. Sadly, we keep reading more and more stories that only provide evidence for such an accusation.

...It was recently discovered—after numerous attempts to hide the truth—that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) ripped off taxpayers for at least the last seven years and then attempted to cover it up when news outlets began to question their spending activities.

...For those who don’t know, PHEAA dispenses roughly $500 million a year—all taxpayers’ money—in the forms of grants and subsidies for college students. The PHEAA staff consists of 20 members, 16 of whom just happen to be elected legislators, and they were asked by three news organizations to turn over their expense records under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. The politicians, most likely aware that they’d have to explain why they were blowing tax dollars on dinners, golf, and spa treatments, refused to turn over the documents. In fact, they tried to sue the news agencies for requesting the information. That’s probably because PHEAA was hiding the following expenses:

• A November 2001 trip to the Meadowood Napa Valley in California: $156,000.
• Two trips to The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: $185,000.
• Three days at a retreat south of Pittsburgh: $135,000. (For this one, the dinner tab alone was $47,000; the bar tab was over $10,000.)
• Spa visits amounting to $9,542.
• Additional golf outings costing just under $9,000.

...Associated Press writer Martha Raffaele put together an easy-to-use timeline of events. I’ll reprint it here, adding a few comments of my own to it. This should give you a better idea of what kind of politicians we have in Pennsylvania.

July 22, 2005: WTAE-TV requests PHEAA documents showing their travel expenses.
July 31, 2005: The Patriot-News of Harrisburg reports that PHEAAA spent roughly $885,000 since 2000 on trips.
August 1, 2005: The Patriot-News requests expense records related to PHEAA trips from 2000 to 2005.
August 15, 2005: The Associated Press requests expense records for a PHEAA trip in June 2005.
September 6, 2005: PHEAA, realizing that they have a lot to hide, refuses to honor the news agencies’ requests.
September 9, 2005: PHEAA decides to sue WTAE for their attempts at exposing PHEAA’s corruption.
October 4, 2005: The news agencies sue PHEAA to release their spending records.
November 2005: Both sides agree to suspend their lawsuits against each other and take the case before a judge.
April 4, 2006: Both sides testify before retired judge Warren Morgan.
June 7, 2006: PHEAA releases Morgan’s nonbinding recommendation calling for it to release the spending records. PHEAA, however, refuses to honor the actual recommendation and still refuses to make their records public.
June 30, 2006: The news organizations appeal to Commonwealth Court.
November 15, 2006: The Court rules that PHEAA has violated the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law.
December 18, 2006: PHEAA asks the Court to stay the order and files papers for permission to appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.
December 22, 2006: The news agencies file a request with Commonwealth Court to enforce the November 15 ruling.
January 16, 2007: A Commonwealth Court judge denies PHEAA’s request for a stay and orders the immediate release of the documents.
January 26, 2007: PHEAA says that it will release the documents, but doesn’t actually do so after the state Supreme Court grants a request to temporarily stay the Commonwealth Court ruling.
February 21, 2007: The state Supreme Court dismisses PHEAA’s appeals and lifts the stay.
February 28, 2007: PHEAA releases only half of the documents that they were ordered to make public.
March 12, 2007: PHEAA finally abides by the law and releases the remaining documents.

...Who are these crooks that freely spend our hard-earned money? Here’s a list as taken directly from their Website:

• Rep. William F. Adolph, Jr. – Chairman
• Senator Sean Logan – Vice Chairman
• Rep. Ronald I. Buxton
• Senator Jake Corman
• Hon. J. Doyle Corman
• Rep. Craig A. Dally
• Senator Jane M. Earll
• Senator Vincent J. Fumo
• Senator Vincent J. Hughes
• Rep. Sandra J. Major
• Rep. Jennifer L. Mann
• Rep. Joseph F. Markosek
• Senator Michael A. O’Pake
• Hon. Ray Reinard
• Senator James J. Rhoades
• Rep. James R. Roebuck, Jr.
• Rep. Jess M. Stairs
• Senator Robert M. Tomlinson
• Gerald L. Zahorchak (Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Education)