Shuttle to Space Station

Liftoff of NASA’s fifth and final shuttle mission of the year happens Monday. Read about it on

The space shuttle is cool. It’s about the best thing the U.S.A. has going in the space department these days. Not that it’s a bad thing, but in the last twenty years, haven’t we moved past it?

Sadly, the answer is a resounding “No!”. Space technology has been in stasis around the world for at least 2 decades. Where has the pioneering spirit gone?

Jury Room Camera Debate

The battle described Monday over the use of cameras in the jury room of a Houston-area murder trial rages on. Reas the Houston Chronicle story.

As of this morning’s NPR broadcast, this case is now national news. That is highly unfortunate as this bad idea hardly deserves additional attention. One hopes that at least jurors’ identities will be protected on tape.

Meanwhile in regards to the case itself, which has become something of an afterthought in the commotion, the defendant is apparently relying on the dubious legal strategy of “temporary insanity while under the influence of drugs.” Charming.

‘Beauty Queen’ Editor Threatened

Is it Salman Rushdie redux? A Nigerian government official today threatened the life of the newspaper writer who aptly noted ‘Muhammed…might have wanted to marry one of the contestants’.

The author of the death threat is a provincial deputy governor. Is it any wonder the best and brightest flee from places like Nigeria to the U.S.? Where is the central government of Nigeria in this debacle? Can U.S. businesses deal with such an unstable nation? The list of questions is endless, it seems.

Cameras Don’t Belong in Jury Room

State District Judge Ted Poe is planning to allow cameras in the deliberation room of a capital murder trial. Read the story in the Houston Chronicle.

Judge Poe is known for his unconventional approach to jurisprudence and is very popular in his district and in the greater Houston area. However, in this case, he is simply in error.

Taping of deliberations for a judge’s review would be one thing. Filming for the purpose of creating a publicly available work inherently interferes with the integrity of the jury function.

The educational benefits of having this record available not withstanding, Prosecutor Diepraam’s well-justified concern that jurors “could fear retaliation from prosecution witnesses” is ample reason to disallow this practice.

Life and Death in Houston

Watch out for your children in Hockley, Texas. It seems that some people, and here I’m talking about those who persist in owning dangerous dogs, cannot be taught new tricks.

What will it take to convice these dim-wits that these animals have no place in human society?Naturally it takes a real tragedy for the obvious to penetrate their thick skulls.

A friend owns an american bulldog that has been known to be aggressive for several years. Recently it attacked and killed a full-grown black lab that I had given him two years ago. When I asked him if he intended to shoot the dog, I was stunned when he replied negatively. This man has a one year-old toddler to care for.

I can’t understand the value system that’s involved, and frankly I don’t care to. I’m afraid that whatever they’ve got might rub off on me.

Judge Saves Oak Tree

“To kill one of these trees in order to lay a telephone cable is wrong,” Judge Davidson said, noting that the tree could easily be 90 years old or more.

If there’s anything downtown Houston needs, it’s more trees. Nice going, Judge.

Beauty Pageant Enrages Muslims

In Nigeria, religously-oriented riots killed over 100 people. The cause? A beauty pageant. What is going on in that country? Put those people to work, give them something to do! Read the story.

Of course, there’s more kindling here than just the bathing suit competition. One person figuring prominently in the fighting is Isioma Daniel, who wrote in an article Saturday:

“What would (the prophet) Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them (the contestants).”

Truer words were never written, I suspect, and apparently the taste of them was sour in the mouths of muslims with riots and murder the result.

What was Daniel’s superiors’ response? A sincere, abject apology to the rioters. Now, for the un-named editor this sop to the religious radicals may be necessary simply to escape the situation with life intact. So it’s difficult to fault him or her in that respect.

Court to Veterans: No Promised Medical Care

A federal appeals court agreed with the Defense Department that veterans promised they would get free lifetime health care if they stayed in the service 20 years do not have valid contracts because the assurances were not backed up by law. Read the AP story on Yahoo.

What goes through the mind of the bureaucrats and judges involved in this malarkey? Whose idea was it to cut benefits to the one group of people in this country who have done something to earn them?

Bureaucrats are easy to predict, and given a mission to cut costs, they did so. The fact that their judgement was poor is magnified because no one on the chain of command cared enough to put a stop to this pettiness. How sad it must be for veterans who must feel slighted by the very people they served under.

The judges in the appellate court are, unfortunately, also easy to predict. Judges are, in too many cases, interested primarily in the letter of law, not the intent behind it. True justice is not allowed to enter the equation. The result: verdicts like this one. With a vote of 9-4 against the veterans’ claim to what they were promised by the federal government, it’s obvious they did not consider right and wrong in making their decision.

Islamic Conspiracy Showing Itself

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiah, a radical Islamic group in Indonesia says the Bali bombing was an American conspiracy to justify and prove this argument that Indonesia was a terrorist cell. “Because of their hatred towards Islam they are pointing their accusation to me,” he says with self-pity.Read the BBC story.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein claims the U.S. has bullied everyone to submit to its evil intentions toward Iraq. Read a N.Y. Daily News editorial.

Osama Bin Laden makes video tapes praising acts of violence against non-Islamic people and promising more bloodshed to come.

What is the common thread? Simply put, the use of religion as a device to cower behind and cry persecution while attacking their perceived enemies. It is a pre-meditated strategy these and other extremists are taking in lock-step to achieve a goal. That goal is to divide moderate Islamic people from those of the western democracies, the U.S. in particular.

Like the true cowards that they are, these religious zealots take on the mantle of legitimate religious belief to blend in and form solidarity with the people of that faith. The success they have at engendering sympathy among those whose beliefs they mock determines their level of operational ability.

But will this approach work? To the extent that the people in these states are held captive by lack of education and opportunity, the likelihood of success on the part of religious terrorists increases. Is it a coincidence that literacy rates have fallen below 50% in Iraq? Doubtful. Ignorance has always been the weapon of the religious zealots. Perhaps its opposite is our best ally in the war we are engaged in.

New Zealand Toughens Immigration: Whither the US?

New Zealand will toughen immigration laws in an attempt to keep out “less productive” immigrants. Read the BBC article.

The U.S. should do the same, at least on a temporary basis. Persons from countries known to support terrorist should be thoroughly vetted or denied entry. Countries we have solid relationships with, such as Canada, Mexico and western European nations, should be favored over those we don’t.

Is doing so discriminatory? Absolutely. Does that make it wrong? Absolutely not. America is under no obligation to allow foreigners onto our soil. Those who do come do so at our pleasure, not the other way around. It’s time that our government remember that.