Friday, May 27, 2005


Anti-Family Value Democrats

Click on the link above to see how the causes of assisted suicide and homosexual marriages have advanced in the last couple of days in the halls of Sacramento.

After your blood pressure settles, click here and then contact your reps to denounce these measures.


Where have the REAL Republicans gone?

The United States Senate has just approved an extension of the current highway bill for one month moments ago since it cannot resolve the differences it has with the House.

As noted by the Club for Growth:

"the Senate passed a budget-busting, pork-infested highway bill. The proposal passed 89-11, but the president has threatened a veto of any bill that spends that much. The fight is far from over, as the president, the House and the Senate will have to resolve their differences before it becomes law...

President Bush originally proposed $256 billion for a six-year surface transportation bill - a whopping 21% increase over the last six-year bill. After Congress last year found it impossible to spend within the confines of that double-digit increase, the President unfortunately upped his offer to $284 billion in his FY06 budget. The House then passed a bill spending $284 billion, but with a provision to allow additional spending during the 6-year window. Not to be outdone when it comes to wasting the taxpayers' money, the Senate has passed a bill to spend $295 billion.

Transportation funding is among the worst examples of misspending and pork barrel politics. Congress earmarks thousands of individual projects, many of which have nothing to do with transportation. In the House bill alone there are more than 4000 such projects.

Examples include:

$3 million to renovate and expand the National Packard Museum and adjacent historic Packard facilities in Ohio; $500,000 to improve sidewalks, upgrade lighting, and add landscaping in downtown Glennville, Georgia; $4 million to plan and construct bike/pedestrian crossings of the Washington-Palmetto Canal in the vicinity of Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana; and $1.3 million to construct a recreational visitor center on the Mesabi Trail in the City of Virginia, Minnesota. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan vetoed a transportation bill because it had excessive earmarks. The bill contained less than 200 overall.

Why is it that the Republicans have ceased to be Republicans? Or, why is it that the Republicans, especially those in the Senate, continue to behave as if it is 1970s and that the Democrats are in control?

The "country-club" Republicans who do not want to get there hair mussed take too much of a lead from their (barely) counterparts in the House of Lords of the United Kingdom. This was evident again in the filibuster issue which would have allowed for straight up-or-down votes on President Bush's nominees to the federal bench. Heck, the filibuster should have been used to kill the highway bill.

The Democrats "won" the original filibuster/judicial nomination round by refusing to be collegial. In fact, their behavior, both threatened and real, resembles the type of political style found more often in the House of Commons... and anyone who knows about politics realizes that the House of Commons generally gets their way when confronting an issue opposed by the House of Lords. This may seem a bit "apples and oranges." but my point is that polite behavior often leads to political loss in the halls of Congress. Some Republicans need to learn from the scrappy members of the House of Commons as well as some of our more politically astute members of the Democrat Party on the Hill.

I applaud President Bush for threatening to veto this silly bit of legislation, but I also implore him (and Hill Republicans) to stand for Republican principles elsewhere especially as it applies to our borders and our national security. On this point, the news (even from sources sympathetic to the President) indicate that the major problem of terrorism (liberal term = insurgents) in Iraq is that terrorists organizations from around the world are sneaking into Iraq. The obvious conclusion is to tighten up the Iraqi borders which the military tried to do recently along the Syrian border in Operation Matador.

Jon E. Dougherty's Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.- Mexico Border does an excellent job of exploding the myth that border security is not a real problem in the United States. REAL Republicans understand that. Why doesn't the President? Why don't most of the Republicans?

Thursday, May 26, 2005


ANWR and Oil Myths

With the rising cost of fuel coupled with dependency on foreign oil, there seems to be few if any reasons to "save" the desolate area known as ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) from oil drilling. Even Paul Driessen, is supported by one of the c0ofounders of Greenpeace (Patrick Moore) in the former's attack on bad energy and ecology ideas.

Fossil fuels currently provide 85% of our energy needs according to the Department of Energy. The information on the vast amounts of oil that could be taken from Alaska has been updated as of May 12.

Now some people may feel that by using Alaskan oil, we will reduce our need to import it (true) and that the other result will be that we will reduce the funding to terrorists (difficult to prove). In fact, I have been inundated with silly e-mails telling me where to buy my gasoline. These urban myths have been debunked. Those who are interested in actual figures should check out the DoE website. Based on DoE information for the calendar year of 2004, some of the companies attacked in the e-mail are not guilty of the charge!

So, in 2004, which companies did not buy from the Persian Gulf region (defined as: Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates)? Among names who deal in retail gasoline are:

SUNOCO INC (the offical fuel of NASCAR



The other big players named in the silly e-mail appear to have impoted oil from the Persian Gulf region even though some were "shown" to have not imported anything from the region.

Ahh, well...

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Remember these guys (or should I write, "this organization")?

Anyway... they didn't go away after Kerry was knocked off by Bush. In fact the researchers of this groups is still analyzing the political claims of both sides of the aisle. As a Republican, it is interesting to note that they have exposed the Democrats silly social INsecurity calculator. The link to the actual calculator is found at their site. The sad thing is that Senator Reid still has the calculator up and running even though it has been debunked for several days.

Oh, well...

Monday, May 23, 2005


Glendale's Tammany Hall, Part II

Before the special election which allowed for the creation of the costly Americana at Brand project in Glendale and then prior to the city election, I blogged about how machine politics were ruining Glendale while political cronies of those in power were rewareded. Today's Glendale News-Press and the Los Angeles Daily News features stories backing my conclusion.

The idiots who backed the Americana mall fiasco currently under construction in Glendale are led by councilman Bob Yousefian. Under his incompetent leadership, the city paid $5,000,000 for property owned by the Armenian Society of Los Angeles without having it appraised. The city is now faced with plans for the society's new headquarters and the fincial headaches it will impose on the city (not the society directly, but its development of property).

Meanwhile, the city is faced with the fact that more than 1,000 apartment units are in the planning stages to be added to the already overwhelmed infrastructure of the city. The city manager argues that "the housing in downtown is an absolutely critical component to our maintaining the vitality fo the downtown area." Oh, really? I thought the Americana mall in and of itself was enough... or were the Hall Bosses just feeding us a line? Additional housing simply means additional problems ranging from crime, to traffic, to sanitation issues and more.

While the quality of life has been trashed by the new power brokers in the last twenty years, the voices of reason have also been squashed. I guess you can't go home again... but who would want to if it has been subdivided and overbuilt like this?


California's Tumor

Below is an excerpt from an update I just read from a fellow teacher:

On a District level, the May Governors revision confirms that the Governor is following through with his plan to mandate that school districts now must pick up the State's share of contributions to your retirement (STRS). According to the District's business office, this will cost our District around 1.1 Million(!) out of it's budget next year (money that should really go for schools) and every year after. It could also later fall upon the employees to have this contribution or a portion of it taken out of their paycheck. As the Governor is saying that he is increasing funds for schools, he is also passing along new costs. For comparison sake, that 1.1 million in in new costs for this district is comparable to about a 3% salary increase for teachers.

On a statewide level, the governor and his allies are sponsoring a three state fundraising blitz this week in Florida, Texas, and Illinois. Wealthy donors in Tampa, Orlando, Miami, Chicago, and Dallas will be putting their money into the California Political Debate. If you wish to attend, it'll cost you $10,000 to $50,000 a plate. Just last week a wealthy Idaho individual made a single contribution of One Million Dollars for the Schwarzenegger sponsored initiatives. These powerful out of state interests are making a very large contribution to the anti-teacher war chest that the Governor and his allies are amassing. It appears that this may only be the beginning in a long drawn out struggle.

Additionally, this week the Governor has changed strategy and is now saying that there was never any deal to borrow two billion from the education budget and pay it back. All along he has acknowledged that there was an agreement (in writing), but now he is changing his story. And now he and his aides are calling everyone a "liar" who says that there is a agreement, including the State Supt. of Education, head of PTA, head of CTA., etc.

This is our chance to prevail and show that the task of educating our youth is not a special interest to be derided.

Meanwhile, there isn't enough money to supply my classroom with adequate maps (I'm nearing the end of my sixth year in this district)>

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


The Errors of Citizens to Save California, Part II

In the Put the Kids First Act (PKFA), the goal of the governor and his misguided supporters is to put the teachers last. The text of the initiative has virtually no content that actually appears to focus on "the kids." Rather, it is a blatant attempt to kill the power of a political opponent (teachers and their unions) that is intellectually dishonest and against the great traditions of republican democracy as seen in the Federalist Papers.

PKFA's "Findings and Declarations" section is a collection of unsubstantiated claims about the teaching profession (unfortunately, most initiatives have this type of section). The PKFA makes it sound as if teachers make all the decisions in teaching assignments. This claim is so silly, it would make one laugh if the charge were not so serious. If the claims are true in any school district, then those districts and their boards need to fix the problem if it is seen as a problem. A state-mandated solution is not a cure-all for all districts in this particular case.

PKFA has several serious problems, but the two most glaring ones deal with tenure and political association. PKFA would not do away with tenure, but those who are granted tenure at the end of this fiscal year would actually lose it under the proposed changes. Thus, the rules of the game are being changed after the outcome has been decided so that the outcome may be changed. Also, the proposed change to a five-year plan (sounds like something Stalin would have liked) for tenure relies on the silliness found in The Excellence in Teaching Act upon which I commented yesterday.

Further, the proposed new law has several subsections which makes firing a teacher a matter of personal whim. For example, one cause for firing a "permanent" employee reads, "evident unfitness for service." What is "evident unfitness?" The PKFA fails to address this point.

One can also be fired for "immoral of unprofessional conduct." Immoral? I certainly hope that administrators do not take to sitting outside of the confessionals of their Catholic employees to see who comes out. Immoral is not defined.

One can also be fired for "physical or mental condition unfitting him or her to instruct or associate with children." The governor seems to want to yank your job, health plan, and the plug in one pull. Once again, not providing specifics allows for people to be fired for minor infractions or problems. How can this possibly entice people to enter the profession or for young teachers to stay in it?

Speaking of old Uncle Joe, the new law would allow a permanent employee to be fired if there was a "knowing membership by the employee in the Communist Party." The governor seems to want to borrow from the ideas of both Joes: Stalin and McCarthy. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

Ronald Reagan, a former governor of California who had much better poltical judgement than our current one, testified before the HUAC during the red scare about communists in the Screen Actors Guild when he was president of that organization. Although he was a strong anti-communist (as am I), he did not think that the party should be outlawed. In fact, his position can be traced to Madison's position on how our system of government deals with factions. Below is part of Reagan's testimony (which can also be seen in the A&E Biography of him):

"So that fundamentally I would say in opposing those people that the best thing to do is to make democracy work. In the Screen Actors Guild we make it work by insuring everyone a vote and by keeping everyone informed. I believe that, as Thomas Jefferson put it, if all the American people know all of the facts they will never make a mistake.

Whether the party should be outlawed, I agree with the gentlemen that preceded me that that is a matter for the Government to decide. As a citizen I would hesitate, or not like, to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology. We have spent 170 years in this country on the basis that democracy is strong enough to stand up and fight against the inroads of any ideology."

The governor's silliness needs to be stopped before he further wrecks the public education system of California.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


The Errors of Citizens to Save California, Part I

(Please note that I am using a new spell check system; I hope there are not too many errors!)

Governor Schwarzenegger's Citizens to Save California has become a formidable force in California politics even though its proposed policies are the result of simplistic and myopic thinking. I will take a look at the good and bad of his organization's ideas in the next few days. Today, the focus is on The Excellence in Teaching Act (TETA).

TETA is based on the premise that teachers are primarily to blame for underachievinig students and poorly performing schools. The initiative, titled "Excellence in Teaching Act," would "solve" the problem of having bad teachers in the classroom by: (1) abolishing the collective bargaining power of teachers; (2) radically changing the tenure process; and (3) installing a vague teacher evaluation process (that is likely to raise more problems than it allegedly would solve).

Under the section "Findings and Declarations," TETA leads with the statement that, "California children deserve the best teachers available." No sane person would argue with that statement. However, sane and informed people should easily see the problems with TETA's proposed amendment to Education Code section 44929.21. First TETA dismisses the idea that experience matters at all when it states "employee seniority shall not be considered in making any employment decision." This idea contradicts the premise underlying the section on tenure in TETA. TETA would mandate that tenure could only be given after five years since that is a more reasonable time period in which to evaluate a teacher. The underlying premise is that teachers show improvement over time, but TETA would only take this into consideration for the purposes of tenure and not for merit increases in salary. This concept also serves as a disincentive to joining the mentally, emotionally, and financially taxing career of teaching. Very few qualified people would be tempted to switch careers and go into teaching (bringing in their outside expertise in critical fields like science and math) with such a system in place.

Second, TETA proposes that employee performance should be assessed as follows,"as to school administrators and teachers, employee performance shall be assessed based upon an appropriate combination, as determined by the governing board of the school district, of individual annual performance evaluations and improvements in pupil academic achievement as measured by state-adopted standardized tests." The governor's new assessment proposal is riddled with problems. It is entirely unclear as to how an appropriate combination can ever be reached since the tasks of teachers varies from department to department. For example, an assessment rubric for a social studies teacher who teaches regular college track students would not be a fair rubric for a special education teacher, a physical education teacher, nor a social studies teacher who teaches Advanced Placement classes. TETA seems to imply that the school board will magically devise the correct rubric. Since teachers and our unions appear to be the problem, then it would be wrong to assume that the school boards would consult us for our input, leaving it to, well, who exactly? TETA does not specify the answer. Additionally, if a school board wanted to, it could make the assessment rubric based on 99% evaluation and 1% test result or the exact opposite!

Unlike some teachers, I am not opposed to state-adopted standardized tests being used for evaluative purposes. As E.D. Hirsch, Jr., wrote in The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them, "(tests) function as achievement incentives for students and teachers, as ways of monitoring students' progress in order to remedy their deficiencies, and as essential helps in the administrative monitoring of classrooms, schools, and districts. Without effective monitoring, neither good teaching nor good educational administration is possible. Finally, and above all, objective tests are needed for academic fairness and social equity." But, the question of how to use the tests as an evaluation needs to be reshaped in light of the fact that TETA proponents fail to include the community and parents in its consideration of what is wrong with education. Although we have students of a variety of backgrounds and cultures in our public school system, we can learn from studies on Latino high school students. In Latino High School Graduation: Defying the Odds, Harriet D. Romo and Toni Falbo found that the parents of high school graduates used seven strategies to keep their children in school long enough to earn a diploma. The key to the seven strategies was parental involvement. Governor Schwarzenegger's TETA ignores the parental component of education entirely. Hence, TETA is fatally flawed, and will not produce the dramatic changes that the governor wants.

But how can we use test scores and make them matter to all the stake-holders (administrators, parents, teachers, students, and the local community)? We should begin a discussion on how state test scores can be incorporated into the accreditation process for each school. Currently, the WASC process seems to look at scores on a selective basis. In fact, the WASC process seems a bit vague overall and in need of an overhaul. The revamping of the WASC process should include test scores among its factors of evaluation. Schools that that do not show improvement may be subject to the loss of accreditation at the end of a certain time period unless they show improvement. An immediate penalty would be to freeze the salaries of administrators and teachers for a time period based on the severity of the test results. Individual students who perform poorly or do not show improvement would not be allowed to participate in after-school activities. State test results should be made available immediately so that they can be used in the calculation of the grades of the students and provide immediate feedback. One of the problems with the current test is that it takes months to get the results. As a result, many students simply do not care about how "well" they do on the tests since their scores do not immediately or visibly impact them. Immediate test results could also help counselors place students in appropriate classes.

The above is an idea in the rough. Although I could ramble on and provide more details, I think my point is clear: student achievement is the product of many factors, and to increase student achievement all the factors must be addressed. TETA is myopic and misguided. If passed, it will ultimately fail. I welcome discussion on this issue.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Archbishop Levada and core Catholic Teachings

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a decent article on Archbishop Levada on Saturday. The comforting aspect of the article (in a paper not know for its empathy for traditional Catholic values) is that the good archbishop seems to be hated by liberals!

Given his public confrontation with the mayor of San Francisco on the issue of gay marriage (the former against, the latter for), and the fact that he worked closely under Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) in Rome, leads me to believe that when it comes to defining issues of Catholic faith, Levada will not bow to liberal pressure. However, we will have to wait and see how much of an enforcer he will be. Levada was a classmate of Cardinal Mahony, and worked under him in Los Angeles. Hopefully, little, if any, of the silliness of Los Angles will find its way into official proclamations from the Vatican's CFD.


Archbishop Levada on War and Terrorism

It would appear that the new head of the CFD takes a French view of our national security. The two paragraphs below are taken from his homily during the Mass for the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001:

"That call resounded throughout the world as hope and prayer. And how we need to let it echo in our hearts each time there is a new crisis in our world. To call these terrorists to justice will require patience on the part of us all and especially of our government leaders. It may well require the use of force, and the use of such force may be morally justified.

But I ask you, my brothers and sisters, to join with me today in urging our president, our Congress, our government officials not to lead us and our world down the path of war. I urge them not to speak quickly the words of war, which too easily ignite the flames of hatred and vengeance when calm and patience are the chosen tools of true justice."

Patience would have allowed the Al Quaeda network to remian in tact and grow stronger. Patience would have allowed the Taliban to continue to use the national soccer field of Afghanistan as a killing ground. Patience would have allowed the Taliban to continue to allow its territory as a training ground for vicious killers while maiming its own populace and abusing the women of Afghanistan. Patinece may very well have led to more dead Americans on our soil.

Archbishop Levada's poorly formed concept of effective foreign policy should be of concern to all lovers of freedom.

Friday, May 13, 2005


An American Goes to Rome

Pope Benedict has named the Southern California born and current Archbishop of San Francisco, William Joseph Levada to replace him as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

I will comment when time allows.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


California, Mexico

Think it cannot happen? Then check out today's feature article on the anti-United States official memorial in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Here are some of the words found on the monument, erected in 1993:

"This land was Mexican once, was Indian always and is, and will be again" and "It was better before they came." The "they" meaning us "evil" white people. This quote is from Gloria Anzaldua, a self-described "chicana dyke-feminist, tejana patlache poet, writer, and cultural theorist."

The organization, Save Our State is behind the attempts to have the City of Baldwin Park remove the anti-American monument. I don't know whether or not they are a crackpot group or a group of citizens who are tired of the denigration of our great country and the breaking of its laws. Check them out and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


An Effective Band-Aid?

The Bush administration has decided to try and "help" some border states and their health-care systems by providing 1 billion dollars in federal aid to help offset funds lost due to the care of illegal immigrants (who don't pay their bills). How does this help when the real problem is that these people shouldn't be here in the first place! Why wouldn't this policy just encourage more people to abuse the system?

Perhaps the Bush administration can forward the bill to the government of Mexico for reimbursement.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Weekend Oddities

Just things I saw this last weekend...

1) A man driving a mini-van with conservative political markings wearing a brand new Thomas the Tank Engine shirt while screaming the lyrics to an Offspring song (oooooops, that was me in the rear view mirror) and that was on Friday morning;

2) An old man, wearing a hat, driving the speed limit plus some, with an AAA sticker on his bumper that was put on STRAIGHT;

3) A jay-skater in Santa Barbara on his cell phone and sucking down a milk shake while crossing busy State Street near the freeway on-ramp;

4) Two ladies in their 70's sitting at the Starbucks with their feet up on the chairs and railings (while wearing short dresses) and checking out the people biking by in Santa Barbara;

5) Blogger working with MAC (well, with 10.4... it didn't with 10.3.9);

6) Listening to my kindly next-door-neighbor-Lutheran-minister-to-the-prisons tell me about all the gays in the Catholic seminary while finding it difficult to rebut him since the last priest (two weeks ago) I heard promoting the seminary was gay (well, it sure seemed that way).

7) Wondering about the two black helicopters flying over me in Ventura and then again several hours later in Glendale (and there were four in Glendale);

8) A car with a bumper sticker that read, "My Child is an HONOR Student at XXXX Elementary" next to a bumper sticker that read, "Kerry-Edwards in '04 - Reinstoring Integrity." I guess he didn't believe the Swiftboat Vets;

9) The new Budweiser Light billboard on the 210 near the Miller plant that proclaimed that it was "real" even though the two people in the ad were drawings of an artist;

10) Ascencion Sunday... the reason given a few years ago for the change was that people were just too busy to come to Mass on a Thursday... I guess this year they were too busy celebrating a meaningless battle in a foreign country.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Rewarding the Criminals

The top of the fold headline in the Los Angles Daily News reads Backdoor license plan: Bill would protect illegal-immigrant drivers' cars from impound lot.

Silly State Senator Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) argues that the money that law enforcement spends on impounding the cars of illegal aliens who do not have a license would be better spent on more serious crimes. This conclusion erroneously assumes that a police officer can either immediately know that the person he is about to pull over for a traffic violation is an illegal alien, so why bother doing so in the first place; or, illegal aliens who do not have a license should receive less of a penalty than legal residents and citizens who do not have a license as the latter group would still have its cars impounded.

Based on the article, it appears that Cedillo did not bother to consult the Los Angeles Police Department about whether or not the time and money it takes to impound the vehicles is worth it. Cedillo does not even consider the fact that some of the people involved may also be involved in accidents and are uninsured. The legal resident with a drivers license is given the short end of the stick in Cedillo's world whereas the illegal gets off without having to be responsible for his or her action in an accident. Additionally, Lt. Steven Allen of the LAPD argues that there is no reason not to have a valid license since law enforcement is required to recognize valid licenses from other countries.

Politicians like Cedillo are a cancer that must be removed from office much like tumors need to be removed from a healthy body. If you live in his district, then vote against him. If you don't live in his district, send money to his next opponent if he is not termed-out.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Which Benedict?

A great deal of discussion has gone on since Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI and chose the name Benedict. It would appear that the reason why he chose the name is his attachment to the original St. Benedict. This will come as a schock to the liberals and realtivists who remain nominal Catholics since the original Benedict withdrew from the world in order to save it.

One of the auxilary bishops of Los Angeles, Bishop Zavala, who is also a member of Pax Christi (the leftist "Catholic" organization) had this to say upon the elevation of Ratzinger to the papacy: "In taking the name Pope Benedict XVI, this Pope is acknowledging the role of his predecessors, particularly Benedict XV, in promoting reconciliation and justice as a priority in the global Catholic Church."

He is very wrong.

The moral decay of the church in Europe, the historical seat of Christendom is the real focus of our new pope. Fr. Neuhas of First Things recently wrote:

"I very much doubt that Pope Benedict is going to engage in wholesale excommunications, but I have no doubt he will encourage people to ponder anew what is entailed in being in communion with the Church. He has over the years made evident that he believes we are engaged in a great battle for the soul of Western Civilization and, indeed, the soul of the world. The choice of the name is important. He is not John Paul III. That might have invited invidious comparisons with his illustrious and inimitable predecessor, John Paul the Great, now entombed close by St. Peter. It might also have suggested that the curtain has not fallen on the dramatization of the mythology of 'the spirit of Vatican II.' The first round of commentaries proposed that the choice of a name is an allusion is Benedict XV, an early twentieth-century pope of limited distinction apart from his failed effort to stop World War I. I am rather confident, however, that the proper allusion is to the original St. Benedict, the father of western monasticism. In a time of deep shadows, the Benedictine movement sparked the spiritual, cultural, and moral rejuvenation of Europe."

Pope Benededict's last public homily as a cardinal decried the moral relativism of much of the "first world" especially that of Europe. He has also decried the onslaught of Mass abuse which can be seen as an answer to appeal to the relativists of the world. This new pope is more likely to re-introduce and require heavy medicinal doses of latin; and he will undoubtedly challenge the cafeteria catholics to pick the single dish of the Holy Roman Cathlolic Faith or kindly leave.


And this from Mark Steyn:

"I'll bet Pope Benedict XVI is glad that his conclave doesn't include either Cardinal Biden or Cardinal Voinovich, or his church would be pontiff-less indefinitely while they 'investigated' last-minute rumors that he'd been off-hand to some guy in seminary 55 years ago. I had no strong views about the new pope one way or another, but I'd have voted for him just for the pleasure of seeing him drive the U.S. media bananas. Apparently, the New York Times was stunned that their short list of Cardinal Gloria Steinem, Cardinal Rupert Everett and Cardinal Rosie O'Donnell were defeated at the last moment by some guy who came out of left field and isn't even gay or female but instead belongs to the discredited 'Catholic' faction of the Catholic Church.

Unlike the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the conclave of cardinals takes its job seriously. They understand the demands of the New York Times: women priests, gay sex, condoms for all. But, as befits an ancient institution, they take the long view: They think that radical secularism is weak and that the consequences of its weakness will prove dangerous and possibly fatal for the Western world. Therefore, there's no point accommodating it - and, after all, those churches that do (the Episcopalians, for example) are already in steep decline. You can disagree with this, particularly if you're as shrill and parochial as Pope Benedict's American critics. But the conclave at least addressed the big issues.


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