Monthly Archives: March 2006

>OBSERVATION: What a country America is.

>You have to admit that this is one great country. Sure, we are having a spat of bad publicity at the hands of foreigners who are hatefully jealous, competitor nations eager to gain global market share and a bunch of local liberal whiners. However, the carping of critics, left and right, cannot negate the implication of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens within our national embrace demonstrating their desire to become part of America.

Many of my conservative colleagues are offended by televisions images of foreign nationals protesting efforts to deport them. I was not offended. In fact, I found the coast-to-coast demonstrations a reaffirmation of the meaning of America. The demonstrators not only represented themselves, but the millions of people from all over the world who want to be in America … work in America … and become American citizens.

You tell me what country on earth has millions of foreigners risking life and limb to gain entry every year. Cubans drowning at sea and Mexicans suffocating in sealed trucks? Where else on earth have you witnessed so many non-citizens assembled to protest against a government only prospectively their own. In what other country would they have been allowed to exercise their right to assemble and speak freely? “Right?,” you may ask. How can they have a right if they are not citizens – worse yet, here illegally?

It is very simple. The United States Constitution does not grant our citizens the right of free speech or the right to peacefully assembly. It is an inalienable right, some believe granted by God, that is only recognized and protected by the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence makes that very point. The rights are inherent to the person … each and every person. You and me. AND the illegal alien on the streets of Los Angeles. The rights they exercise are not the possession of government to be granted or withdrawn by legislation, adjudication or edict. Government has no right to suspend or limit our inalienable rights.

However those demonstrators arrived in America, they brought with them their basic human rights – and they brought them to one of the few places on earth were they could exercise them freely and openly. That is the attraction of America.

Of course, there is no inherent right of citizenship. Our government has the rightful power to bestow or strip citizenship. That is a whole ‘nother issue. More about that later. For now I prefer to ponder the uncomplicated truth of human rights.

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>REACT: The passing of a great American: Cap Weinberger

> He has been described as “the best Cabinet member ever.” While there is no way to prove such a subjective observation, an honest history will most certainly determine that Casper Weinberger was certainly in the first rank of not only Cabinet members, but also of patriots, in the very best sense of the word, and of human beings.

He was a combination of enormous intellect and compassion. He was determinedly persuasive and yet gently tolerant. He negotiated with the power of the rightness and justice of his causes. He had the ability of being comfortable among the powerful, and of making the less exalted comfortable in his presence.

Among his many great services to America, nothing could be more notable than his alliance with President Ronald Reagan in strategizing and implementing the downfall of the old Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. This was not something that just happened on their watch. It was with intent and foresight that these two men hatched the remarkable plan to bring down half the Communist world. (The Asian half of the Communist world was brought down less dramatically, but no less effectively, by an infectious dose of free market capitalism first administered by President Richard Nixon. Cap played his role in that, too.)

Without his role in ending the Cold War, Weinberger’s accomplishments would have been extraordinary. In world affairs he was the Michael Jordan, the Tiger Woods — a person of singular accomplishments so unique that words cannot adequately describe them.

His books should be re-read, not for their delineation of accomplishment, but for the humble tone and simple language that so well reflected his human side.

It was my great honor to have known him even a little bit. I am thankful for the times we spent together when he visited Chicago. The last time I saw Cap, his slightly hunched and noticeably fragile body was negated by the steadiness in his baritone voice, the clarity of his recollections and the infallibility of his wisdom.

In today’s cynical world, Cap Weinberger will not be given the eulogy he so well deserves. Ironically, he would not have sought such post mortem praise, anyway. So, to Cap Weinberger, I say thank you for changing the course of history and for taking time out to spend some of your precious hours with me and my family.

>REACT: Machine vs. Machine

>The election is over and the ancient Chicago political machine, tuned up by Mayor Daley, is still purring along. The most contested race pitted old-time machine candidate John Stroger against the young whipper-snapper machine candidate Forrest Claypool. Last minute sympathy, the possibility of committeemen hand picking the next county board president and low turnout seem to have combined to deny Claypool the victory.

Of course, on the eve of the election, Stroger supporters and hangers-on made it sound like the incumbent would be bounding out of bed at any moment. That is not only not the case, but Stroger is not likely to be seen sitting in the presidents chair for some time – maybe never again. If he is as seriously ill as rumor has it, a resignation could come sooner than later.

There has been understandable whispered speculation regarding a successor. However, that eventuality can be affected by the person who will serve as interim president. With or without Stroger at the helm, there WILL be a person making all those contract and patronage decisions. Who will that be? If scandal does not zap his shillelagh, it could be the Daley Dynasty sibling, Commissioner John Daley, the board’s current finance guy. In that case, the absent Stroger may be kept in office regardless of his condition for as long as the public will allow. Or maybe the narrowly defeated Claypool is elevated by the mayor – sort of like the runner up getting the Miss America title if the winner cannot serve. Either way, the machine prevails.

In all the other races, the machine carried the day – without the faux drama that ultimately meant so little. Difference is not reform, and only “difference” was on the Democrat ballot.

Even as the dark clouds of scandal may be gathering over City Hall, the recent election results must have put a wry smile on the face of Mayor Daley, the Mechanic-in-Chief.

>REACT: Stroger stroke creates inevitability

>The election eve stroke suffered by Cook County Board President John Stroger may turn out to be a stroke of good luck for Forrest Claypool and Mayor Richard Daley.

Why Daley? After all, isn’t he backing Stroger over his former Chief of Staff? The answer is “yes” … and “no.” Officially, Daley has endorsed his long time African American ally. He had little choice in that. Switching to his close colleague, Claypool, would have set off a “blacklash” that the mayor can ill afford given his increasing scandal-caused vulnerability.

Let there be no mistake. Claypool would not have entered the race without a behind-the-scenes understanding. The optimum situation for Daley is a Stroger defeat without blame. That has been the strategy from day one.

The fact that a number of Daley loyalists have joined the Claypool “insurgency,” including Rahm Emanuel, indicates the tepidity of the mayor’s formal endorsement. The fact that Daley’s favorite campaign consultant, David Axelrod, is managing the Claypool campaign is more than a hint of the mayor’s real sentiment. Daley “captains” in the precincts have not been ordered to push to the limit for Stroger. Expect Daley’s white precincts and wards to “defy” the mayor and cast a ballot for Claypool.

The understanding is that IF Stroger entered the final stretch with a insurmountable lead, Daley would stand tall for the incumbent, and take credit for the victory. On the other hand, IF Stroger is looking vulnerable – say less than a ten point lead – the mayor will pay lip service loyalty to Stroger while releasing the trap door under the county board president’s seat. As the race shaped up, Stroger was looking weak, and the trap door creaking.

This idea of supporting, and then undermining at the last minute (if the climate is right), is not a new trick. Candidates on both sides of the aisle have experienced it — usually resulting in concession speeches.

The mayor talked the talk for Dan Rostenkowski, but his “machine” precinct captains did not walk the walk in Rosty’s district. (They were too busy scuttling the campaing of Glenn Poshard over Daely bud George Ryan). In Rosty’s case, it was not Daley’s opposition to re-election, but a realization that The Chairman was beyond salvation. Though they knew “the numbers” well, the Democrat mouthpieces kept spewing out optimistic predictions to the very end. The compliant Chicago Tribune kindly refrained from publishing earlier polling results that would have foretold the Rostenkowski defeat.

For a GOP example, we only need to recall a visibly shaken and shocked States Attorney Jack O’Malley conceding his election. Three months before, a top Daley “machinist” told me they intended to “take out” O’Malley despite the mayor’s private assurances that they were giving the gullible Republican a pass. I had two meetings with O’Malley’s top campaign aide where I passed along the less than secret information. He scoffed at my report. O’Malley campaigned so confident of victory that he actually slowed down is spending based on bogus polling numbers printed in the Chicago Tribune – a poll my machinist friend claimed they planted “to put O’Malley to sleep.”

The Stroger lead in the recent Tribune poll is no more predictive of the outcome than that old 18 point lead O’Malley trusted. The Stroger stroke will only give the newspaper a more credible explanation for the last minute shift in voter preference.

Now, with Stroger too infirmed to campaign, and likely to debilitated to serve in office, more of the mayor’s clout can surreptitiously tilt the election to Claypool – an election I personally believe he was poised to win anyway – only now it will not be such and upset.

>REACT: Fox Death Both Tragic and Ironic

>It is right for every American to mourn the death of Tom Fox, the man kidnapped and executed by Muslim terrorists. It is wrong for those who cannot know his heart to disparage his motives, sincerity and faith. I am willing to believe he was a well meaning good man. It is appropriate, however, to point out the tragic irony of his death and the fundamental wrongness of his cause. The news reports say much about the captors. Fox was “executed,” “shot in the head,” and there were “signs of torture.” He was “dumped on a roadside” to amplify the horror – for the world to see the contempt of the executioners.

Fox is dead and his fellow captives remain imperiled because they joined in unholy communion with terrorist elements who have declared “holy” war on the world’s “infidels”, with the United States as the most publicized enemy. The Christian Peacemaker Teams has parroted the terrorist language to cast America as the international villain. Perhaps they expected some protection from the terrorists for they willingness to promote anti-American propaganda. In this, they were terribly and tragically misguided.

In a previous blog, I hoped and prayed for their safe return – reformed of their misaligned views, to be sure. After serving the terrorist cause, they found themselves brutally kidnapped and mistreated by the very people with whom the declared common cause. Rather than receiving the hospitality of their “friends,” they were treated like no less an infidel than our soldiers in Baghdad.

The death of Fox at the hands of his Iraqi captors makes three very important statements. First: The Christian Peacemaker Teams is wrong. For whatever their beliefs, they are on the side of evil in opposition to good. Dupes, at best.

Also, it should be clear to the world that the infractions of jailer/prisoner etiquette that had produced such international outrage against the United States pales in comparison to the atrocities against captives committed by the murderous enemies we face in Iraq and around the world. Naked pics and cartoons should not horrify the world as much as the ubiquitous torture and curbside executions that are carried out on a daily basis by the international terrorist network.

Finally, we should understand that the righteous are not always right. Belief and zeal do not automatically confer morality and justification. In fact, it is misguided belief and maniacal zeal that are at the very root of what can be oxymoronically referred to as “religious terrorism.”

It is most ironic that the kidnapping, torture and now death has come from a common cause between “terrorists” and “peacemakers.” Both the terrorist and the Christian Peacemaker Teams have produced this tragedy by their respective zealous belief in their own mistaken and unworthy causes.

>REACT: Organs for Sale

>This is not about the kind you play on (and don’t go THERE, either). We are talking human internal organs of the type we take from the unfortunate deceased and install in needy human beings. Not much different than when we go to the auto salvage yard for a whachamacallit from a totaled car to replace the defective whachamacallit in our own car. The “vehicle” is quite different but the concept is the same.

Recently, there was yet another story of how eBay rejects individuals who want to sell their body parts online. Of course, the idea of a market in human body parts is shocking … awful … horrifying … repugnant … and otherwise distasteful to our human sensibilities. It is also illegal. We are not about to let such practice compromise the sanctity of our human bodies, and violate some ancient medical oath.

Then again, why not? I once shared the knee jerk disgust at the idea. Then my logical brain kicked in. What’s the big wuss??

Taking a “spare” human organ from a healthy person is not something new. In fact, we often read heart rendering (no pun intended) stories about people who have donated a kidney or liver to a loved one heading to Gods’ embrace without the healthy organ. We call those donors heroes. But let a person offer that same non-critical part of their own body for much needed money, and we go nuts.

A kidney is a lot more “my” body than a fetus, since there are three claims to life for a fetus – mom, dad and self. Clearly, the Kidney is mine. I own it. No controversy on that point. So, if I want to sell it, why should society care? Donate or sell, the organ is still a gift of life. We are told over and over of the many who die waiting for a new organ.

I am not sure of the moral soundness of a society that promotes the destruction of a human fetal life at the willy nilly will of a woman, and finds the sale of an extraneous body part to save a life so darn horrific.

If a doctor’s oath to “do no harm” was a real consideration, the donated organs would be no less a problem.

For eons, we have allowed people to sell their blood, even for enough money to produce a good drunken binge. We beg them to come into the local blood dealer out of the highest of humanitarian modtives. But suggest selling a kidney and we lose the rational line of thought.

Some argue that the wealthy would be able to buy up the organs, and the poor would be left to those that come on the market by conventional means – tragic death. In actuality, the poor would benefit by getting all the wealthy folks out of line ahead of them. Those with less income are more likely to get the organ they need. And keep in mind, those now getting them are above average in income. Like in all things, we just have to get over the fact that the wealthy enjoy the benefits of wealth – and communist-like notions of redistribution are doomed to failure.

Further more, that sale of organs would produce a much larger number. More lives saved – rich and poor. Apart from the humanitarian good, such practice would reduce the cost of organs (that old free-market supply and demand stuff).

It would also reduce the incentive for the black market in organs. “Stealing” organs from healthy people, and occasionally killing them in the process, is much more common that we would like to admit. Organ commerce has a seedy underside not unlike the days of prohibition. Just witness the scandal over purloined body parts in New England. Granted, a lot of those parts are not available from the living, but a lot are.

Outside of some primitive emotional taboo-like irrationality, what is so wrong with letting people sell an organ or two in a non-life threatening manner. I am not proposing direct sales over the counter. The system of organ transfer would have to be within the rules and regulations. Certainly, we would have to establish some legal guidelines, but that is a no brainer for legislators. They have done far worse with little effort and minimal guilt.

If you had a young child … a spouse … a mother … dying for lack of an organ, would you find it repugnant to put out some cash to save them?

>DUH! Milosevic avoids death penality

>I had to create a new category. Some news just has a person wondering where sanity has gone for vacation. This first item will show the need for “DUH!”

AOL announced the death of the “Beast of the Balkins,” Slobodan Milosevic, who has been on trial in the Hague for crimes against humanity. That is a euphmisim for a mass-murdering blood-thirsty miscreant. The AOL headline read; “Milosevic death ends trial.” DUH! (See how that works?) Anyway, I guess there is no value in speniding millions of dollars to convict a person beyond the reach of the death penality. Maybe they would havehad to give him credit for “time served” — in the grave. Of course he was accused of “grave” offenses. Okay … slap my hand and make me stop making up puns over the death of another human being. I shall just stop here with a big happy grin on my face — wishing that we could find such a swift and happy solution to the Saddam Hussein circus.

>OP ED: Dan Webb, a Desperate Man

>Former Governor George Ryan’s freebie lawyer, Dan Webb, is one smart attorney. He is smart enough to be desperate. The use of character witnesses, such as the doorman and out of state individuals who hardly know Ryan, is desperation. Sending the ex guv’s wife on a round of television appearances to promote the “angel of death row” defense in the public press is an extremely desperate ploy. Using the accused to “accidentally” leak to the press with sealed information about a problem juror … that is desperation.

The proverbial bloody sweat was on Webb’s brow when he used his closing argument to … encourage … beg … plead … grovel … for any juror, or two, to not change their minds in deliberation. His eyes roamed for any juror who would hold out against all evidence and closed-door arguments … who would hang the jury instead of his client.

This is not a man who expects an acquittal. This is a man who now sees no decision as his best hope. A new trial or an appeal is foremost in Webb’s mind. It is dangerous to predict the outcome of jury deliberations, but as the betting man he is, I am sure Webb would not wager his last farthing on an acquittal.

His plea for a holdout is more desperate than honest. Webb well knows that without jurors changing their minds, through deliberation, a fresh look at the evidence or fatigue, at least half the trials in the nation would end in hung juries. The entire idea of jury deliberation is to take divergent viewpoints and reach consensus – a consensus that requires any number of jurors to change their minds.