In order to protect freedom of religion, we must forbid freedom of religion. Case in point:
A Pennsylvania teacher's aide has been suspended for a year without pay for wearing a cross pendant in the classroom.
A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Brenda Nichol against Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit 28, a government agency in western Pennsylvania that provides educational services. Mrs. Nichol has been employed by the agency for eight years. Mrs. Nichol said she was notified April 4 that a 1¼-inch-long cross pendant she was wearing on a chain around her neck would have to be concealed by clothing or removed when she worked at Penns Manor Area Elementary School in Clymer.
Armstrong-Indiana officials say the Christian symbol violates the unit's policy, as well as the Pennsylvania Public School Code's prohibition against school employees wearing religious garb and insignia. The law dates to 1895.
What is so hard to understand? The simple expression of religious faith is so offensive to anyone who might have a different faith. Therefore, all expression of faith must be forbidden. Because, as you know, the Constitution protects us from being offended by anything.
Seriously, how stupid do these people think their students are? Do they really believe some poor student is going to be hypnotised into Christianity by the site of a cross hanging from a teacher's neck? Most likely, this is just another case of educational bureaucrats trying to avoid even the slightest criticism by taking a sledgehammer to the Bill of Rights.
Here's to hoping Brenda Nichol takes these jerks for many millions of dollars, gets her job back and the pinheads who run this school district find other jobs to which they are better suited. I hear they are hiring parking lot attendents in Peoria.
For the past several months, I heard nothing but praise for "X2: X-Men United." I left the theater feeling a little disappointed and somewhat surprised. I liked the movie, but didn't love it. The folks over at Aint it Cool News couldn't stop talking about how "X2" was a near perfect representation of comic book heroes into movie form. The same thing was said about the Spider-Man movie, and I agree. But, the same cannot be said about this "X2."
There are many problems with this movie, and most cannot be discussed without revealing important plot details.
Simply put, the movie includes so many plotlines and characters lifted from the pages of the decades old series that it bogs down the movie. Let us count them:
1. The Wolverine/Jean Grey/Scott Summers triangle. It would have worked well in a movie, had they bothered to give Scott Summers more than a dozen or so lines. Cyclops is the most boring mutant in the movie. Why does Jean love Scott when Wolverine is the most exciting character on screen?
2. The origin of Wolverine. This is a huge story and one that deserved bigger treatment than it got as a distracting, and highly coincidental subplot in this movie.
3. Stryker attacks. Col. Stryker is the big villain in this movie, and his attack on Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters provides the movies' major conflict. The character is loosely based on a Rev. Stryker from the graphic novel "God Loves, Man Kills." The comic book character had more depth. This guy is just another generically evil bad guy.
4. Rogue and Bobby, sitting in tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. Bobby at his parents' house. Bobby's parents reacting to his powers. This was a nice subplot. Too bad there wasn't room to develop it.
5. The Pyro subplot also would have worked better had it been further developed. His big scene with Magneto could have worked had Ian McKellen not been so intent on playing Magneto as a generically evil bad guy.
6. Jean Grey's increasing powers. This subplot was included, I am sure, to set the stage for the next movie. It just adds to the clutter, although I'm sure all the fanboys had heart palpations because of its implications.
7. The Halle Berry who walked onto the set of X2 is a far bigger star than one the who walked onto the set of the first X-Men. As a result, her role as Storm is far larger now than before. Even casual viewers will notice that she has completely abandoned her half-hearted attempt at speaking in an African accent. Dammit, this character is an African woman who was worshipped as a goddess. She is supposed to be regal! Why could they have found an actual, beautiful African woman. But, every time I saw her on screen, I thought "There's Halle Berry in that God-awful white wig."
8. Magneto returns. Supposedly, the word "united" in the movie's title refers to mutants uniting to fight for a common cause, preventing the genocide of mutants. It just didn't ring true for me. There was no real sense of coming together to battle a common foe. The characters started working together almost immediately. Although the scene where ticked-off Rogue whips off her glove and closes in on Magneto is a brief shining moment. In the first movie, Magneto's motivations were well-explained. One could understand where he was coming from. In this one, his dialog and his actions - especially at the end of the movie -- made him seem, well, like a generic comic book villain. The character is far more complicated.
9. In the last movie, Professor X was incapacitated by drugs while attached to Cerebro. In this movie, Professor X is incapacitated by drugs before being hooked up to Cerebro. Nothing like originality.
10. Lady Deathstrike is a great villainess and was dispatched all too easily, considering she is a female version of Wolverine.
11. Nightcrawler. Alan Cumming was wrong for this part and his German accent was so thick it was not understandable. Again, a potentially interesting subplot suffered from lack of development.
12. The big battle climax suffered from too many characters on too many rescue missions inside the same generic secret government complex -- which, in a major plot hole, is located in northern Canada because this contrived script has Stryker involved in Wolverine's origin.
13. The ending in the Oval Office. I'll believe the X-Men can sneak into the White House. I'll believe Professor X can "freeze" all the White House aides, reporters and cameramen who have already started broadcasting a live presidential address. But, I will not believe all this can happen and end with the President changing a major policy decision on mutants without someone watching at home who wasn't "frozen" wondering if, maybe, mutants pulled something sneaky. It's a major plot hole.
The X-Men comic book has been around since the 1960s, but the book's popularity soared with the release of Giant Size X-Men No. 1, which brought Wolverine, Storm and Nightcrawler into the team on a mission to rescue the original X-Men. I bought that comic and treasured it, until Mom sold it at a garage sale. That issue ended with the question: "What are we going to do with 13 X-Men?" The makers of this movie should have looked at this script and asked themselves: "What are we doing with 13 subplots?"
I will be seeing it today and posting a review tonight. I've heard nothing but good things. I just hope I don't act like a pathetic fanboy and shout whenever one of my favorite mutants makes an appearance.
Charges have been dropped against a University of Cincinnati student who was arrested after attempting to assist a shooting victim. Andrew November, 19, asked an off-duty Cincinnati police officer, Michael Baxter, to come out of a restaurant on Vine Street in Corryville on April 15 to help a man who had been shot, WLWT Eyewitness News 5 reported. But instead of coming out of the restaurant to help the shooting victim, Baxter arrested November and charged him with disorderly conduct, according to Cincinnati police records.
Jeff Theisen woke up early Thursday morning to find his house on fire. Then things really turned bad. With firefighters and police swarming in the back half of his burning camelback at 910 Elysian Fields Ave., Theisen ran outside in his bedclothes and stocking feet. Despite the commotion, he found that at least one part of his morning routine would not be interrupted: the fresh-from-sleep call of nature. Because his bathroom was in flames, Theisen ducked behind a large oak tree in his back yard to relieve himself. Before he could finish, though, one of the police officers at the scene declared he was under arrest for lewd conduct. "I tried to tell him, 'Sir, my bathroom is burning. It's on fire.' But he didn't seem to care. As soon as I zipped up, he put handcuffs on me," Theisen said.
ALAMEDA -- Just a stone's throw from Encinal High School on this island town's western end sits the once-bustling but now-shuttered Alameda Naval Air Station. The proximity is not merely physical: The school's athletic teams are the Jets, its newspaper is the Jet Blast, and its mascot is a smiling cartoon plane. But the harmony between school and armed services is under strain now as a small group of Encinal's teachers and parents attempts to bar the return of a retired Marine Corps jet to a display on the school's front yard.
Moments after I posted the previous column on Seymour Hersh's prediction that no weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq, I noticed the page linked to thisWashington Post article:
A suspected mobile biological weapons lab has been recovered in northern Iraq, a development that senior U.S. officials said yesterday would lend support to Bush administration allegations of a banned weapons program by the government of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
A SENIOR administration official said the Pentagon will announce today the results of a two-week investigation into a tractor-trailer truck that was stolen from a government depot in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul and later handed over to U.S. forces. He said equipment found on the truck included a fermenter bolted to the floor that could be used for the production of biological agents.
The official said the truck and the equipment inside it had been cleaned with bleach and, therefore, did not show any identifiable residue of biological agents. But intelligence analysts have concluded that "there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate use for it, other than as a biolab."
Yes, I know that earlier WMD discoveries did not pan out. But why would Iraq have mobile laboratory in the first place? Why was it bleached down?
I have a gut feeling this is the smoking gun. And unlike those who predicted massive civilian casualties and other dire consequences, I will admit it if my gut feeling turns out to be wrong.
Romenesko links to an nice Press Box piece by Jack Shafer on legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. It begins:
George W. Bush had a good war. Donald Rumsfeld had a good war. Tommy Franks had a good war. New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh had a terrible war. And he's not doing too great in the aftermath, either.
At almost every critical turn since the events of 9/11, Hersh has leapt to the front of the editorial pack with a bracing, well-researched, and controversial explication of the war on terror. And almost every time, Hersh's predictive take on the course of events has been wrong. Boneheaded-dumb wrong.
Sy predicted George Tenet would be fired as director of the CIA. He wasn't. Sy predicted that special forces could not remove the Taliban. They did. Sy said that the war in Iraq had faltered and reinforcement would be needed. They weren't.
So now Sy says that his sources believe weapons of mass destruction will not be found in Iraq. Says Shafer:
If Hersh's interpretive/predictive streak holds, we should expect to find proof of WMD and a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaida within the next two weeks.
This is a special notice for those folks who subscribed to daily updates from my OLD site, Bill's Content. When I lost my server (billdennis.net) , I switched to Blogspot, then to Tripod and I plan to switch again once I have the cash to get a decent hosting service. When all this happened, I ditched Bloglet, a free service that gives subscribers a daily update of my posts. Well, I decided to start doing it again. So THAT is why you have something in your mail this morning from Peoria Pundit, the new name for my blog. If you want to unsubscribe, then you will have to contact Bloglet, because believe it or not, I don't have the power to unsubscribe you. If you forgot your subscription's password, just use your email address, and the password will be mailed to that address.
A Peoria landlord got arrested for shooting a man he found trespassing on his property early one morning. He walked into the home -- which was supposed to be empty -- and found a man sleeping inside. When the man reached for what turned out to be his glasses, the landlord shot him. His explanation?
At the scene, [Willie] Venable told police he "was not going to take any chances because people get shot in this neighborhood all the time for nothing."
Venable said he's had an ongoing problem with people getting inside and using the place for illegal activity. The back door does not lock, and the window is broken from previous problems, according to the police report.
I can vouch for Venable's statement about the safety of this neighborhood. In college, I delivered pizzas in that part of town. Gangs control that street, not the police. I would carry a gun if I had business there. It's no wonder that Venable has ongoing problems that the police have not solved.
The man who was shot was listed in fair condition the next day.
It's easy to be sympathetic with Mr. Venable. How is an elderly man supposed to be able to distinguish between a dangerous trespasser and one who is not? Ordinary citizens do not have the training a police officer has in determining who is and is not an immediate threat? Must the ordinary wait until after a trespasser actually attacks? A trespasser is, by definition, a criminal and a person has the right to assume that when confronted by a criminal, that criminal poses a threat to his life.
Police at the scene arrested Veneble on charges of aggravated battery and failing to possess a firearm owner's identification card.
Will the prosecution go forward? That depends on whether Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons, a Democrat, has any respect for the Second Amendment and is more concerned with the rights of criminals than their victims.
The Peoria Journal Star's Phil Luciano devoted his May 6 column to one of those controversies that always seem to simmer in small towns. On March 22, 23-year-old Stark County deputy Adam Streicher was shot and killed while serving an arrest warrant. The man who is accused of killing him awaits trial for this and two other murders.
A prayer service was held on the first anniversary of the murders, and police officers from all over the state attended. Luciano reported that no one from the Stark County Sheriff's Department attended. None were seen at a state ceremony for fallen officers held last week. Luciano quoted relatives questioning whether Sheriff Jim Dison cared about Streicher. Luciano passed along speculation that Dison won't allow his officers to attend because his own father -- himself a former sheriff -- failed to arrest the man accused of the murder for earlier misdeeds.
Small town residents have long memories and hold grudges for a long time, and that is what is feeding this story. If the root cause of this controversy -- murder -- were not so serious, I would be tempted to describe this controversy as silly. Luciano is silly for wading into the mess.
The Chicago Tribune reported a fascinating story on May 4:
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has searched four years for Shalis Gama, a mother who fled with her son to prevent the state from taking the boy because of her drug use.
"Mother and child seem to have dropped from the face of the Earth," said one DCFS report about the search.
In fact, they have been living in northern Indiana for some time, using their own names. On a recent afternoon, the boy stepped out of his school and ran into his mother's arms.Using public records and the boy's DCFS case file, the Tribune located the boy and his mother in a matter of hours.
A review of DCFS' efforts to find the boy and several others listed as abducted from state care shows the searches have been hampered by bureaucratic bungling and a willingness to give up.
It's a great story. DCFS declined to answer any questions, except those submitted in writing. The official contacted for comment didn't even bother to ask the reporter for missing child's location. In some cases, the agency failed to notify police that children in its care were missing, and in others the agency tried to close case files on still-missing children. Fortunately, this child and his mother seem to be doing fine. In all fairness, the story also notes that the agency's workers operate under a tremendous workload.
It is impossible to read a Chicago Tribune article about abused and neglected children without thinking about Bob Greene.
This is the kind of story Greene would sink his teeth into shake like a terrier shakes a rat. Greene's coverage of the Baby Richard case -- in which a four-year-old boy was removed from the only home he ever knew -- drove James D. Heiple to resign as chief of the Illinois Supreme Court.
But Bob Greene was fired because 12 years ago, he had a brief affair with a young woman in high school, but above the age of consent. He had written a column about her, and his bosses decided this constituted receiving a benefit from his column.
This pleased Greene's critics, who disliked him for many reasons, including focus on child abuse cases. His most vocal critic accused him of cruising trailer parks for such stories.
Well, we won't have to endure a Greene crusade this time. Instead, the Tribune will write a few more stories, then move on to other tales of bureaucracy, politics and corruption. Illinois, after all, offers a smorgasbord of such stories.
Virtually every interesting link I have about the Iran situation comes via a link I find on Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine. That includes this one on The Iranian, in which Massud Alemi writes about how Iranians feel close to America after enduring years of fundamentalist rule:
As a result of this ironic twist of fate, a quarter century after taking part in the most popular and vehement anti-American revolutions in the world, the Iranian people are feeling closer to America in their hearts and minds than most other nations on earth. Judging from the emails and faxes and telephone messages that are left on the answering machine of the Persian Service at the Voice of America, George Bush now enjoys more support in Iran than here at home.
Given the intensity of the anti-American fervor 25 years ago in Iran, one would never have imagined such a reversal of sentiments after just one generation. Can America afford to ignore such overflow of support and enthusiasm in what must be the most hostile region of the world? Is this not a perfect opportunity thrown in America's lap with the note: your 1953 faux pas is water under the bridge, let's talk?
Hooman, another Iranian blogger has this to say about Iraq:
I don't understand why some people are in such a rush to jump into certain conclusions. Like the conclusion that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And yet worse, they wave this conclusion in the face of the US administrations as a reason that the administration was lying all along. Hey people what's the rush? Calm down. You have to give the weapon inspections more time ;) till those weapons are found, and you will see that Iraq had defied the UN and didn't demolish those weapons. That's why the US defied the UN and invaded Iraq ;)