Sunday, April 03, 2005

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Mitchell decries nuclear option threat (CNN)
Saturday, April 2, 2005 Posted: 2:13 PM EST (1913 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell called on senators Saturday to reject a Republican plan to ban filibusters of judicial nominees, calling it "unprecedented, unfair and unwise."

"Neither I nor any other senator, Republican or Democrat, ever dreamed of taking the kind of drastic action now being proposed," said Mitchell, a former federal judge himself who was majority leader from 1988-95 as a senator from Maine.

"We had the power to do so, but we refrained from exercising that power because it was as wrong then as it is now. The end does not justify the means," he said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.

Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, the majority leader, has threatened to try to push through a rule change to eliminate the ability to filibuster judicial nominees.

Democrats have been using filibuster threats -- to stall the nomination through extended debate -- on 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees, which requires 60 votes to overcome. The Senate has confirmed 204 of the president's 214 trial and appellate judicial nominees.

Observers expect Frist to attempt the rules change before Memorial Day in case of a possible Supreme Court nomination during Bush's second term. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 80, is fighting thyroid cancer.

Mitchell said the ability to block judges is an important part of Congress's power to check the presidency. "The Senate's power to confirm or reject judicial nominations balances the president's authority to nominate them," he said Frist's plan is called "the nuclear option" because "it will destroy any hope of bipartisanship and permanently change the Senate for the worse," Mitchell said.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has threatened to shut down the Republican legislative agenda, which would cripple the Senate, if Frist succeeds in stopping the filibusters.

Republicans want to "silence the minority," Mitchell said. "What they are proposing is unprecedented, unfair and unwise. Our democracy works best when the parties work together in the interest of all Americans."

Mitchell served as a U.S. District Court judge from 1979-80 before filling the Senate seat vacated by Edmund Muskie.

A rather bleak indictment of the pope's legacy

A papacy and church transformed
John Paul II ushered in 'new springtime of Christianity'
By Hanna Rosin
The Washington Post
April 3, 2005

The title is misleading given that the conclusion of the piece was diametrically opposite it and rather unfair, akin to criticizing a Fortune 500 CEO for failing to win a popularity contest. Obviously, comparing apples to pork loins; he wasn’t a rock-star CEO, but rather an apostle to Christ, and as such held an altogether different, more pressing set of obligations. John Paul’s moral authority was derived from his broad consistency evangelizing the substantive values he firmly concluded from Christendom’s core doctrines & beliefs as well as an unspoiled laser-focus on the original spirit of Christ’s teachings.

I didn’t see fault in his voice being irrespective of the whims & malleable moral-vane of fickle, huddled masses that are oftentimes swayed to stand behind actions contrary to Christ’s original message. In the midst of it all, he stood a true apostle: From apologizing for earlier this century when Catholics & Christians did little as Jews endured the concentration camps, to castigating today’s moral tolerance for the pro-war, pro-life yet pro-death penalty, idolizing wealth & power while abandoning the weak, slide of Western culture onto a long slippery slope of moral bankruptcy.

And if one was a religious cynic, all an early prelude to Armageddon.

This piece was more thorough:
The Church Loses Its Light
In John Paul II, World Found a Direct, Dynamic Leader
By J.Y. Smith
Special to The Washington Post
April 3, 2005
"...In "Witness to Hope," a noted biography of the pope, author George Weigel said John Paul believed that culture, rather than politics or economics, was the engine that drove history. It was clear from the beginning of his papacy that he had a particular interest in bringing Eastern Europe back to its Christian traditions..."

...Practicality vs. Principle
John Paul was fascinated by science. In contrast to the church's traditional wary approach to the subject, he established a Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a body made up of eminent scholars, Catholics and non-Catholics, to advise him on developments in the field. He also commemorated the 100th birthday of Albert Einstein and directed that Galileo, imprisoned by the Inquisition in 1633 for asserting the truth of Copernicus's theory that the Earth circles the sun, be fully rehabilitated...

In October 1996, he declared that physical evolution is "more than just a theory," advancing the church's view, held for a half-century, that the process was worthy of discussion but still open to question.

...At the same time, he deplored the Enlightenment, the 18th-century movement that gave the Western world many of its scientific, economic and humanitarian glories. Its triumphs included the Industrial Revolution and the propositions embodied in the Constitution of the United States. But its central idea was that the human being, not God, is the center of the universe. This struck at the heart of Catholic dogma.

In "Crossing the Threshold of Hope," a book of reflections that became a bestseller in 1994, John Paul traced these developments to Rene Descartes, the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician. His dictum, "Cogito, ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am"), countered the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the landmark theologian who said being was a gift from God that preceded every human activity, including thought.

John Paul spoke repeatedly and movingly against the modern tendency to make profit and efficiency the measures of success. He blamed this trend for the alienation of individuals, the disintegration of the family and the abandonment of objective standards of behavior in modern society. In 1993, he used the occasion of a World Youth Day gathering in Cherry Creek State Park near Denver, one of a series of biennial events he began in 1986, to summarize his thoughts on the "culture of death":

"In a technological culture in which people are used to dominating matter, discovering its laws and mechanisms in order to transform it according to their wishes, the danger arises of also wanting to manipulate conscience and its demands. In a culture which holds that no universally valid truths are possible, nothing is absolute. . . . Good comes to mean what is pleasing or useful at a particular moment. Evil means what contradicts our subjective wishes. Each person can build a private system of values."

At a Mass the next day, he cut short a homily that said, in its widely quoted prepared text: "In our own century, as at no other time in history, the 'culture of death' has assumed a social and institutional form of legality to justify the most horrible crimes against humanity: genocide, 'final solutions,' 'ethnic cleansings' and the massive 'taking of lives of human beings even before they are born or before they reach the natural point of death.'"

Sin City rocks

Haven't seen it, trying to make up your mind, and need that extra push after having read the critics' jibber-jabber reviews? Go. It really hits the spot for an action movie. The rich plot development, the various arcs & storylines, super acting, and slick cinematography made it an all around 5-star flick.