Friday, October 15, 2004

Presidential winner faces 'twin deficits' battle/ My Suggestions (Medley)

Bill's Opening Statement: The article will appear first, followed by my suggestions. Enjoy reading the whole piece!

Presidential winner faces 'twin deficits' battle

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Whoever wins the November 2 presidential election will inherit massive budget and trade deficits that pose huge economic challenges that will give little relief for President George W. Bush (news - web sites) or rival John Kerry (news - web sites).

Washington has gone from a federal budget surplus of 236 billion dollars in 2000 to an estimated deficit of 422 billion dollars for the fiscal year that ended September 30.

Moreover, in the area of trade and investment, the United States had a deficit of 166.2 billion dollars in the second quarter in the current account deficit, the broadest measure of trade and investment flows.

The twin deficits are telling the United States that it is consuming more than it is producing, and requiring foreign investors to fill the gap with capital.

But many economists say this is unsustainable and will further weaken the dollar, erode US living standards and destabilize the global economy.

Both candidates claim they will halve the deficit, but economists are skeptical.

"Both presidential candidates have made lofty promises with respect to deficit reduction, tax cuts, and expanded health care coverage. However, it would take a great deal of luck and skill for either candidate to deliver on all these promises," said Lehman Brothers economist Joseph Abate.

Abate noted that Kerry, who proposes to raise taxes on households earning more than 200,000 dollars per year while expanding tax releief to others and boosting health care credits, could increase the deficit.

But he said the Bush plan to make permanent the recent tax breaks enacted by Congress would be an even bigger fiscal drain.

According to congressional estimates, he said the cost of the full Bush package would exceed 2.2 trillion dollars over the next decade while Kerry's plan would likely increase debt by 1.1 trillion dollars over the same period.

"Neither candidate could reasonably be called a model of fiscal prudence," Abate said.

"Given the size of these estimates, neither candidate, despite talk of fiscal propriety, is likely to succeed in halving the budget deficit by 2009. Instead, over the next decade, these plans are likely to swell the Federal debt by between 30 and 50 percent."

Some analysts see a future in which a debt-crippled Washington crowds out the credit markets, leading to higher US interest rates and a weaker dollar that roils the global economy. But that has not been a campaign topic.

"This subject isn't going to be discussed honestly in an election. Bush and Kerry want to talk about what they're going to give people," said Peter Peterson, a former commerce secretary who heads the Concord Coalition, a group advocating balanced budgets.

"When this country consumes more than it produces, government drains our very limited national savings."

Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley said the United States has gone from being the world's biggest creditor two decades ago to the world's biggest debtor, and is squandering the money it is borrowing.

"America is no longer using surplus foreign saving to support 'good' growth," he said.

"Instead, it is currently absorbing about 80 percent of the world's surplus saving in order to finance open-ended government budget deficits and the excess spending of American consumers."

Sung Won Sohn, chief exonomist at Wells Fargo Bank, said the United States is likely to muddle through the deficits, but will pay through lower living standards and higher interest rates.

"We borrow 1.8 billion dollars every single day from overseas in order to offset the current-account deficit," Sohn said.

"The US will be able to raise enough money to fund the deficits. The issue is the source of funding and the price.

"The US will rely increasingly on less stable sources of funding and pay higher interest rates. It is a fait accompli that the dollar will depreciate further. The dollar depreciation will lead to higher inflation and interest rates, hurting the economy, including housing.

"If not corrected, our children might have to devote an increasing portion of their work day to pay interest, dividends and rents to foreign investors."

Bill's Comment: I have a few suggestions that may help out. A co-worker at my second job and I threw out some ideas during the debates on Wednesday. Here are some:

  1. Increase our exports. This should lower the trade deficit, if done right. If unions did not have to make such ridiculous demands when it comes to contracts, some of the jobs can stay here and not go overseas. By the way, in regards to outsourcing, the majority of the jobs being outsourced, in fact, STAY IN THE UNITED STATES! As my co-worker suggested, let's sign a trade agreement with China. It makes sense, especially since approximately one in five of the world's population resides there.
  2. Become less dependent on OPEC. Start drilling our own oil. Despite what the environmentalists clamor over, the technology is so advanced that you would hardly notice where the drills were. Also, can we get oil cheaper from Russia? Just a thought.
  3. Line-item veto. Remember the Contract With America from ten years ago? Of the ten items that were brought through Congress during the first one hundred days in 1995, this was the only one that did not pass. This should eliminate a lot of the pork barrel projects. Besides, how many more things are needed in West Virginia with Senator Robert Byrd's name on it? You want to hire an enforcer, or "sheriff" for the job? I have a name- Arizona Senator John McCain.
  4. Propose a proportional tax. This is more commonly known as a "flat tax". There is a track record of success for this, in Russia and the Scandanavian countries. Statistics show the countries involved have produced record levels of revenue. It would make the tax codes very simple, and you can close a lot of unnecessary loopholes (very subjective topic). This would put an end to the class warfare that the Democrats like to throw into our faces like spit. Hey, someone making one million dollars will always pay more than someone who makes ten thousand dollars. It is a win-win situation, especially if you can get a line-item veto passed. If you add points three and four together, this should control the wasteful spending in Washington., and finally
  5. Cap lawsuit awards. Should this ever become a reality, rates on insurance, healthcare, and other related fields in the vicious circle will be more affordable for everyone. I am sorry if I pissed off the trial lawyers with that one. Look at it this way. We have more lawyers in this country than the world combined! Maybe you should seek another line of work if you don't like it, besides being the snake oil salesmen that you are!

Whether or not you agree with my views, it should give you something to think about. I would defintely love feedback on these proposals.

AP: Report Finds Lavish Spending at TSA

Bill's Comment: This is what happens when you get the federal governments and unions in collaboration.

AP: Report Finds Lavish Spending at TSA

WASHINGTON - The government agency in charge of airport security spent nearly a half-million dollars on an awards ceremony at a lavish hotel, including $81,000 for plaques and $500 for cheese displays, according to an internal report obtained by The Associated Press.

Awards were presented to 543 Transportation Security Administration employees and 30 organizations, including a "lifetime achievement award" for one worker with the 2-year-old agency. Almost $200,000 was spent on travel and lodging for attendees.

The investigation by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general, Clark Kent Ervin, also found the TSA gave its senior executives bonuses averaging $16,000, higher than at any other federal government agency, and failed to provide adequate justification in more than a third of the 88 cases examined.

The report said lower-level employees were shortchanged, with a far lower percentage receiving bonuses.

"A substantial inequity exists in TSA's performance recognition program between executive and non-executive employees," the report said.

TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter said the agency believes the bonuses and party were justified "given the hours and productivity of the work force during this critical period."

This year, said von Walter, the TSA will conduct awards ceremonies at individual airports, as well as a much smaller and less expensive event at its headquarters in November.

Congressional skeptics have criticized the TSA's hiring and spending practices during its short existence. Republicans say the agency has grown far larger than they envisioned when it was created following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Ervin also is investigating why the agency's private recruiters worked out of lush resort hotels with golf courses, pools and spas.

Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D., said that he had not seen the full report but that it indicated "a colossal waste of money."

"There's something terribly wrong with that agency," Dorgan said. "Of all the agencies, that's the one that's supposed to be working full-time against terrorist attacks."

The awards banquet, which cost $461,745, was held at the Grand Hyatt, which bills itself as "one of the most magnificent" hotels in the nation's capital. According to the report, the agency chose that site because it was the only hotel available on Nov. 19, 2003, the agency's second anniversary. It also was one of the few places that could accommodate about 600 honorees and as many guests.

While the inspector general noted the agency sought competitive bids for the party planner and chose the company with the lowest estimate, it found the "costs of the ceremony and reception were higher than necessary."

The event planning company, MarCom Group Inc. of Fairfax, Va., was paid $85,552 for its work and given an additional $81,767 for plaques, $5,196 for official photographs, $1,486 for three balloon arches and $1,509 for signs.

The reception included finger food, coffee and cake that averaged $33 per person. Seven cakes cost a total of $1,850; three cheese displays, $1,500.

In a written response, the TSA said the costs "were neither extraordinary nor incurred without careful consideration of the amount, the reasonableness of the cost, and value the activities would have to the employees."

The inspector general also expressed concern that the TSA was more generous than most other federal agencies in awarding bonuses to executives. Federal agencies on average gave cash awards to 49 percent of their executives in 2002, while 76 percent of TSA executives received them in 2003.

The inspector general reviewed 88 employees' files and found that 38 percent "had no individual recommendation and justification for the performance award."

"The legitimacy of such large awards is called into question by the lack of an appropriate selection process and the reliance on boilerplate justifications that could be applicable to anyone," the report said.

The report also noted that fewer than 3 percent of nonexecutive employees received bonuses in 2003.

In its response, the TSA said that executives who got a bonus didn't get a pay increase and weren't eligible for a presidential awards program that can amount to as much as 35 percent of their base pay. The agency agreed, however, that more could be done to equalize treatment of top executives and lower-level employees.

Debate Inaccuracies Turning Into Classics

Debate Inaccuracies Turning Into Classics

Thu Oct 14, 8:03 AM ET

By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The last presidential debate highlighted words President Bush (news - web sites) forgot he had spoken, a meeting John Kerry (news - web sites) thought never happened, but did, and a refusal on both sides to back off questionable statements that have practically become classics through repetition.

Kerry claimed once more that Bush has lost 1.6 million jobs, about twice as many as have actually disappeared. The persistent discrepancy comes from his not saying that the losses he speaks of are in the private sector, and are mitigated by job gains in public service. He let go of another regular misstatement, however, this time using an accurate figure on the cost of the Iraq (news - web sites) war.

Bush again declared of his opponent, "He voted to increase taxes 98 times," which should not be taken at all to mean Kerry has voted for that many tax increases. Independent analysis has found the list of 98 includes multiple votes for single measures and votes that set targets without having any effect on the tax code.

Beyond those familiar features of the debates, ads and more, the candidates slipped or stretched in fresh ways in their final encounter before the Nov. 2 election.

Kerry accurately quoted Bush as saying he does not think much about Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) and is not all that concerned about him. The president protested: "I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations."

But in March 2002, Bush indeed said, "I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run." He described the terrorist leader as "marginalized," and said, "I just don't spend that much time on him."

Kerry, trying to show Bush has paid too little heed to civil rights, stated flatly, "This is a president who hasn't met with the black congressional caucus." Actually, Bush met the Congressional Black Caucus (news - web sites) at the White House within two weeks of taking office, and called his opponent on it.

Also in the debate:

_ Kerry declared, "I have a plan to cover all Americans" with health insurance, but even his campaign does not contend his blueprint would eliminate the ranks of the uninsured. Independent analysts say full implementation of Kerry's plan would extend coverage to about 25 million of the nearly 45 million uninsured.

He also said Bush has cut Pell grants, but later altered the accusation when the president pointed out accurately that about 1 million more students are getting the aid than when he took office. Kerry then said Bush has not raised the maximum Pell grant as much as promised.

"They're not getting the $5,100 the president promised them," he said. Education Secretary Rod Paige said the month after Bush took office that the maximum grant for first-year students would go up by more than half, to $5,100. But the maximum now is $4,050.

_ Bush talked about how he signed the bill creating the Homeland Security Department, putting that on his list of actions that have made the country safer. But he was a convert to that cause, at first opposing the massive government reorganization.

_ Kerry reverted to what is believed to be the accurate figure for the cost of the Iraq war so far, after he and his running mate John Edwards (news - web sites) had been suggesting $200 billion had already been spent. "America now is paying, already $120 billion, up to $200 billion before we're finished and much more, probably," Kerry said, citing solid budget figures and a plausible scenario for the months to come.

_ Kerry sharply criticized Bush on port security inspections of ship cargo, saying "95 percent come in today uninspected. That's not good enough."

Kerry's claim ignores that the manifests of all U.S.-bound cargo are screened before they reach American ports and all high-risk cargo is identified. U.S. officials then physically inspect the high-risk cargo — which accounts for about 5 percent of the overall total.

On whether the inspections are adequate, a new report by the Homeland Security Department internal investigator that surfaced Wednesday concluded federal inspectors of oceangoing shipping containers still need to improve their detection equipment and search procedures to prevent terrorists from sneaking weapons of mass destruction into the United States.

_ Bush acknowledged his current support for a constitutional amendment mandating marriage as a union between a man and a woman without acknowledging that back in the 2000 Republican primary, he said the issue of banning gay marriage belonged to the states. It's a position Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) still holds today.

"So if a state were voting on gay marriage, you would suggest to that state not to approve it?" Bush was asked back in 2000. "The state can do what they want to do," he said then. "Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into."
He said Wednesday, "I proposed a constitutional amendment" on the issue, although technically he came on board the proposal floated in Congress.
Associated Press writer Siobhan McDonough contributed to this report.

How Low Can They Go?

Bill's Comment: At the time of this post, we only have eighteen more days to endure of this. Please let time fly like the wind.

Election protests already started

Fri Oct 15, 7:03 AM ET

By Jim Drinkard and Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY

More than two weeks before the presidential election, Democrats and Republicans in key states are trading accusations of fraud and voter intimidation, foreshadowing an Election Day on which lawyers may be almost as important as voters.

Complaints from both parties, routine in election years, have reached a fever pitch earlier and in more places than usual. From Oregon to Florida, shenanigans with voter registration forms are being alleged, and authorities are looking into the charges.

"The more people realize that a tiny number of votes can have a huge impact, the more aggressively they are going to fight," says Doug Chapin, director of, which monitors voting practices. "The closer we get to the election, the more we're going to hear about this." For example:

• In Nevada, a company hired by the Republican Party to register voters was accused by a former employee of throwing Democrats' registration forms into the trash. The company, Sproul & Associates, denied that it was registering only Republicans, as the employee charged in a report on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. The company also has been registering voters in Oregon, West Virginia, Minnesota and other battleground states.

• In Florida, scene of the 36-day recount in 2000, the state's Southern Christian Leadership Conference asked the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate activities "designed to cause confusion and suppress the African-American vote" in the Tallahassee area. Labor and voting-rights groups also sued this week to prevent the disqualification of more than 10,000 incomplete registration forms. They said such disqualifications would disadvantage minority voters.

• Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a local co-chairman of Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites)'s campaign, wants the county to print 938,000 ballots, far more than the usual number, to accommodate a flood of new voters. But County Executive Scott Walker, a local co-chairman of President Bush (news - web sites)'s re-election campaign, is giving the city 679,000 ballots - 10,000 more than were printed for the last presidential election. He says having a large number of excess ballots would be an opportunity for fraud. Local District Attorney Mike McCann plans to deploy more than 30 lawyers on Nov. 2 to mediate polling-place disputes. He says "malevolent challenges" by partisans could interfere with voting.

• Republicans circulated excerpts of a national Democratic Party election manual urging recruitment of local minority leaders to launch pre-emptive strikes against voter intimidation, even if there's no evidence it's going on. Democratic spokesman Jano Cabrera said the material was taken out of context. He released a fuller excerpt that stated, "The best way to combat minority intimidation tactics is to prevent them."

• In Denver, an estimated 165,000 new voter sign-ups brought warnings of potential vote fraud. State officials have sent several hundred registrations to the attorney general for review, and the Denver district attorney is investigating 200 more. Both parties have enlisted hundreds of lawyers for Election Day challenges and for post-election fights over disputed ballots.

Rep. Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, noted that four counties in his state have voter registration numbers that exceed the number of voting-age residents in the counties in the last Census. "When you have an election so close, and every vote makes a difference, these things get argued about, and probably lawsuits will decide them," Tiberi said.

Final word from Bill: Is there a chance that we can make The Temptations "Ball of Confusion" the official song? We all know this all stems from the 2000 Election, and the bitterness of the Democratic Party, and their quest for power. Their thirst is so bad that they are frothing at the mouth worse than the Saint Bernard in "Cujo".

For those who do not get it yet, the Democratic Party needs the majority to promote their socialistic programs that only hold people back, not help them. They feed off of the misery of the plebians. (Yes, that is how they view us.) They are the party of the trial lawyers (John Edwards), and eight of the top ten wealthiest members of the United States Senate (John Kerry, Edward Kennedy).

I personally hope that President George W. Bush wins re-election by a landslide, so we don't have to hear the word lawsuit. Let us pray.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Black Voters Should Be Wary by Star Parker

Bill's Comment: I found this article in Sunday's The Trentonian newspaper. I am unable, though to find a link, so I will have to type it out myself. I cannot let this one slip through.

Black Voters Should Be Wary
by Star Parker
Scripps Howard News Service

Recent polling by the Pew Research Center shows a notable change in black sentiment for the presidential candidates. Black Support for Sen. John Kerry is now 73 percent, down from 83 percent in August, and black support for President Bush has doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent. The Democrats clearly are nervous and are taking the gloves off in ads aimed at black voters.

The current ad campaign, financed by the pro-Kerry Media Fund, uses hip ghetto slang to attack Republicans, "wealthy white boys" (as if this doesn't describe Kerry and John Edwards), for causing every imaginable ill and misfortune in black America. The ads are essentially the voice of a field boss trying to scare folks from believing that life might actually be better off the plantation.

Blacks need to listen to listen to these ads carefully. What is Kerry for? No one will ever find out listening to this ad campaign. There is not a single idea, a single proposal or thought about what might be ailing blacks other than the fact that a Republican is in the White House. The Democrats are running a pure campaign of fear and smear in their message to a community desperately in need of real ideas.

Kerry has attacked bush foreign policy by calling it "more of the same." This is, in fact, what Kerry offers black voters. More of the same government answers for everything, more of the same blame on everyone else for black problems.

It is time for black children to stop hearing that they can't make it, and it this is exactly what they are hearing from Democrats.

I recently came across an article reporting a correlation between income and height. It is a fact of life that tall people earn more, on average, than short people. Researchers have even got the disparity down to inches. On average, income increases by $1,500 per year for every additional inch in height. Don't ask me why people pay for this kind of research, but it's out there.

Additional work has been done trying to account for the disparity, but no definitive answer has emerged. We just have the fact. Tall people earn more.

What is the mother of a short child to do? Should she tell the child he or she is doomed? Should we form the National Association for the Advancement of Short People? Affirmative-action programs to address the inherent unfairness of this biologically dictated disparity? This is, of course, ridiculous. but, this is what racial politics has become.

A wonderful book was published several years ago called "Getting Rich in America." Written by Dwight R. Lee, a professor from the college of Business at the University of Georgia, and Richard R. McKenzie, a professor at the Graduate School of Business at the University of California, this is no 'how to get rich quick" manual. The book discusses the results of research of the behavior of successful Americans. According to the authors, anyone following their rules for success is virtually certain to get wealthy in our country.

What are the rules? Think of America as the Land of choices. Be optimistic about the possibilities. take the power of compound interest seriously-then save. Resist temptation. Take control of your life. Get a good education. Get married and stay married. Take care of yourself. Take responsibility for your mind and body. Take prudent risks. Strivre for balance. Recognize traditional virtues like honesty and commitment.

According to the authors, every American who follows these rules will become wealthy over the course of their life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.

Blacks should take note of this on Election Day because these rules read like the Republican Party platform. Personal responsibility, private Social Security accounts, healthcare savings accounts, school choice, traditional values and marriage.

It's time for blacks to be more concerned with what is going on in their own house than having a Democrat in the White House.

By the way, the richest American, multibillionaire Bill Gates of Microsoft, at 5 feet, 10 inches, is an inch taller than the national average for males.

In Memoriam: Ken Caminiti

Bill's Comment: After Mike Schmidt retired, Ken Caminiti was probabbly my favorite third baseman. If I remember correctly, he made his major league debut against the Phillies. Boy, he was a Phillie-killer, similar to Florida's Jeff Conine today. To me, this is as much of a shock as the death of Christopher Reeve.

Ken Caminiti, 1996 NL MVP, Dies at Age 41

1 hour, 47 minutes ago

By BEN WALKER, AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK - Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League MVP who later admitted using steroids during his major league career, died Sunday. He was 41.

Caminiti died of a heart attack in the Bronx, said his agent-lawyer Rick Licht. The city medical examiner's office said an autopsy would be performed Monday, spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said.

"I'm still in shock," San Diego Padres (news) general manager Kevin Towers said. "He was one of my favorite all-time players."

The three-time All-Star third baseman often was in trouble the last few years. His 15-year big league career ended in 2001, five seasons after he led the Padres to a division title and was a unanimous pick for MVP.

Just last Tuesday, he admitted in a Houston court that he violated his probation by testing positive for cocaine last month, and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

But state District Judge William Harmon gave Caminiti credit for the 189 days he already served in jail and a treatment facility since he was sentenced to three years probation for a cocaine arrest in March 2001.

In May 2002, Caminiti told Sports Illustrated that he used steroids during his MVP season, when he hit a career-high .326 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. He estimated half the players in the big leagues were also using them.

Licht said Caminiti hoped to get back into the game, possibly in a position that would allow him to mentor younger players about avoiding the mistakes he made. Caminiti did return to baseball this year, serving as a spring training instructor with San Diego.

"He didn't look good," Towers said. "I'm not surprised.

"The best way to describe him is that he was a warrior in every sense of the word. I can't tell you how many times I remember him hobbling into the manager's office, barely able to walk, and saying, `Put me in the lineup.'"

Licht said Caminiti was in New York this past weekend to help a friend, but did not go into detail.

"Man, that's just a tough one. I played with him for eight years," Dodgers outfielder Steve Finley said Sunday night, learning of Caminiti's death after St. Louis eliminated Los Angeles from the playoffs.

"He was a great player, but he got mixed up in the wrong things — taking drugs. It's a sad reminder of how bad drugs are and what they can do to your body. It's a loss all of us will feel."

Caminiti batted .272 with 239 homers and 983 RBIs with Houston, San Diego, Texas and Atlanta.

Caminiti's defining moment during his MVP season came on Aug. 18, 1996, in the oppressive heat of Monterrey, Mexico, as the Padres prepared to face the New York Mets (news) in the finale of the first regular-season series played outside the United States and Canada.

Battling dehydration and an upset stomach, Caminiti took two liters of intravenous fluid, then hit two home runs for four RBIs in an 8-0 victory.

"I didn't think I was going to play that day," he recalled after the season. "I'd have to thank the training staff for getting me on the field that day. They made a bigger deal than I thought it was."

Towers and Licht both recalled the enormous ovation Caminiti received during a 2003 ceremony marking the Padres' farewell at Qualcomm Stadium. The team moved into a new ballpark this season.

Licht said he had to go to Houston to persuade Caminiti to make an appearance, and Towers remembered the former star was nervous.

"He didn't know what kind of reaction he would get," Towers said.

After being showered with cheers, Caminiti told Licht it was his greatest day in baseball.

"It's a shame for his family as much as it is for his friends," former Padres teammate Andy Ashby said. "He's got three daughters who are going to miss having dad around. It's a shame. It's a terrible thing."

Caminiti teamed with Tony Gwynn and Greg Vaughn in the middle of the Padres' 1998 lineup, leading them to the World Series (news - web sites), where they got swept by the New York Yankees (news).

"I'm saddened by the news. He was a terrific kid, it's unfortunate," Houston manager Phil Garner, who coached Caminiti, said from Atlanta. "What we all loved about Cammy was his devotion to the game and his desire for the game. But it went into uncontrollable levels with no discipline."

AP Sports Writers Bernie Wilson and Joel Anderson contributed to this story.

Update on 10/15/04


10/15/2004 5:09 PM ET
Report: Caminiti died of overdose

Caminiti dies at 41

Preliminary results of the autopsy performed on Ken Caminiti show that the 1996 National League MVP died of a drug overdose, ESPN reported Friday.

Caminiti, 41, died Sunday after collapsing in a Bronx, N.Y., apartment. His agent, Rick Licht, said afterward that Caminiti died of a heart attack.

The medical examiner's office performed the autopsy on Monday, but a spokesperson for the medical examiner said Thursday that no official cause of death would be announced until the completion of a toxicology report, which could take up to 10 days.

Caminiti, who played 15 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Astros, Padres, Rangers and Braves and was a three-time All-Star, admitted in a Houston court last week that he used he cocaine, in violation of his probation. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

re: Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)

Bill's Comment: For those who may not know, my co-contributor, Joyce, is a huge fan of Mr. Reeve. She is also an assistant to his homepage. I will provide the link for any that may be interested:

`Superman' Star Christopher Reeve Dies

3 minutes ago

BEDFORD, N.Y. - Christopher Reeve, the star of the "Superman" movies whose near-fatal riding accident nine years ago turned him into a worldwide advocate for spinal cord research, died Sunday of heart failure, his publicist said. He was 52.

Reeve fell into a coma Saturday after going into cardiac arrest while at his New York home, his publicist, Wesley Combs told The Associated Press by phone from Washington, D.C., on Sunday night. His family was at his side at the time of death.

Reeve was being treated at Northern Westchester Hospital for a pressure wound, a common complication for people living with paralysis. In the past week, the wound had become severely infected, resulting in a serious systemic infection.

"On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank Northern Westchester Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my husband," Dana Reeve, Christopher's wife, said in a statement. "I also want to thank his personal staff of nurses and aides, as well as the millions of fans from around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years."

Reeve broke his neck in May 1995 when he was thrown from his horse during an equestrian competition in Culpeper, VA.

Enduring months of therapy to allow him to breathe for longer and longer periods without a respirator, Reeve emerged to lobby Congress for better insurance protection against catastrophic injury and to move an Academy Award audience to tears with a call for more films about social issues.

"Hollywood needs to do more," he said in the March 1996 Oscar awards appearance. "Let's continue to take risks. Let's tackle the issues. In many ways our film community can do it better than anyone else. There is no challenge, artistic or otherwise, that we can't meet."

He returned to directing, and even returned to acting in a 1998 production of "Rear Window," a modern update of the Hitchcock thriller about a man in a wheelchair who becomes convinced a neighbor has been murdered. Reeve won a Screen Actors Guild (news - web sites) award for best actor.

"I was worried that only acting with my voice and my face, I might not be able to communicate effectively enough to tell the story," Reeve said. "But I was surprised to find that if I really concentrated, and just let the thoughts happen, that they would read on my face. With so many close-ups, I knew that my every thought would count."

In 2000, Reeve was able to move his index finger, and a specialized workout regimen made his legs and arms stronger. He also regained sensation in other parts of his body. He had vowed to walk again.

"I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I live my life. I don't mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful toward recovery," Reeve said.

Reeve's support of stem cell research helped it emerge as a major campaign issue between President Bush (news - web sites) and John Kerry (news - web sites). His name was even mentioned by Kerry earlier this month during the second presidential debate.

His athletic, 6-foot-4-inch frame and love of adventure made him a natural, if largely unknown, choice for the title role in the first "Superman" movie in 1978. He insisted on performing his own stunts.

Although he reprised the role three times, Reeve often worried about being typecast as an action hero.

"Look, I've flown, I've become evil, loved, stopped and turned the world backward, I've faced my peers, I've befriended children and small animals and I've rescued cats from trees," Reeve told the Los Angeles Times in 1983. "What else is there left for Superman to do that hasn't been done?"

Though he owed his fame to it, Reeve made a concerted effort to, as he often put it, "escape the cape." He played an embittered, crippled Vietnam veteran in the 1980 Broadway play "Fifth of July," a lovestruck time-traveler in the 1980 movie "Somewhere in Time," and an aspiring playwright in the 1982 suspense thriller "Deathtrap."

More recent films included John Carpenter's "Village of the Damned," and the HBO movies "Above Suspicion" and "In the Gloaming," which he directed. Among his other film credits are "The Remains of the Day," "The Aviator," and "Morning Glory."

Reeve was born Sept. 25, 1952, in New York City, son of a novelist and a newspaper reporter. About the age of 10, he made his first stage appearance — in Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Yeoman of the Guard" at McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, he landed a part as coldhearted bigamist Ben Harper (news) on the television soap opera "Love of Life." He also performed frequently on stage, winning his first Broadway role as the grandson of a character played by Katharine Hepburn (news) in "A Matter of Gravity."

Reeve's first movie role was a minor one in the submarine disaster movie "Gray Lady Down," released in 1978. "Superman" soon followed. Reeve was selected for the title role from among about 200 aspirants.

Active in many sports, Reeve owned several horses and competed in equestrian events regularly. Witnesses to the 1995 accident said Reeve's horse had cleared two of 15 fences during the jumping event and stopped abruptly at the third, flinging the actor headlong to the ground. Doctors said he fractured the top two vertebrae in his neck and damaged his spinal cord.

While filming "Superman" in London, Reeve met modeling agency co-founder Gae Exton, and the two began a relationship that lasted several years. The couple had two sons, but were never wed.

Reeve later married Dana Morosini; they had one son, Will, 11. Reeve also is survived by his mother, Barbara Johnson; his father, Franklin Reeve; his brother, Benjamin Reeve; and his two children from his relationship with Exton, Matthew, 25, and Alexandra, 21.

No plans for a funeral were immediately announced.

A few months after the accident, he told interviewer Barbara Walters that he considered suicide in the first dark days after he was injured. But he quickly overcame such thoughts when he saw his children.

"I could see how much they needed me and wanted me... and how lucky we all are and that my brain is on straight."

On the Net:

Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation:

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Sunday, October 10, 2004

NAACP Legal Group's Integrity Called Into Question

NAACP Legal Group's Integrity Called Into Question

Robert B. Bluey,
Thursday, Apr. 15, 2004 -- Fifty years after the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the integrity of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund is being challenged because of an alleged plot by its president to delay the confirmation of one of President Bush's judicial nominees.

A controversial memo reveals that Elaine R. Jones, president of the Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), used her relationship with an aide to Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to seek a delay in the confirmation of Julia Smith Gibbons to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals two years ago.

At the time, the appeals court was embroiled in two high-stakes affirmative action cases involving the University of Michigan. Jones was trying to prevent Gibbons from being seated in time to cast a vote, according to a memo that outlines the strategy. The LDF defended the affirmative action policy in one of the cases, and thus had a stake in the outcome.

Jones' role in "Memogate" has cast a shadow over the LDF as it prepares to celebrate the Brown anniversary next month. The landmark ruling forced public education to be desegregated and thrust Thurgood Marshall, the LDF's winning attorney in the case, onto the national stage. Marshall went on to become the U.S. Supreme Court's first black justice.

The LDF's possible influence on the University of Michigan case has prompted Peter N. Kirsanow, a black Republican on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, to urge a full-scale investigation of Memogate. Kirsanow plans to pursue the matter at the commission's May meeting.

"If 50 years ago the Board of Education [in Brown] contacted a bunch of Dixiecrats and said, 'Hey, why don't you hold up the nomination of certain judges who are going to decide this case so we can continue to perpetuate segregation of our schools,' I think a few people would be a little upset," Kirsanow said.

"In this case," he added, "we have a memorandum that indicates someone was trying to affect the outcome in a case by holding up the confirmation of an otherwise uncontroversial judge. I'd like the [commission's] staff director to take a look at whether there was any prejudice to the administration of justice as a result of this."

The LDF is also facing a barrage of criticism from conservatives like commentator Armstrong Williams, Congress of Racial Equality national spokesman Niger Innis and Project 21 Director David Almasi.

Not only do they have a credibility problem, they are arrogant enough to believe they can get away with it," said Williams, a black columnist and talk show host. "This will become a story. It is not going away like they're hoping it will."

One reason it's not going away is the Center for Individual Freedom's continued pursuit of the matter. Its director, Jeffrey Mazzella, has led a campaign to expose the LDF's involvement. The group has filed ethics complaints against both Jones and the Kennedy aide, Olati Johnson.

"Under the leadership of people like Thurgood Marshall, LDF built a distinguished reputation," Mazzella said. "However, Thurgood Marshall sought to win victories in the courts, under the law. Ms. Jones and Ms. Johnson have flouted the law, sacrificing their ethics and damaging LDF's reputation."

As a result, Almasi of the black leadership group Project 21, said the LDF has lost much of the respect it earned in the pursuit of an equal society for black Americans.

"The NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund has tarnished its image," Almasi said. "When they were afraid they wouldn't get what they wanted, they employed their friends in the Senate to make sure it went their way."

The Kennedy Memo

Kennedy's former counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Johnson, wrote the April 17, 2002, memo outlining Jones' request for a delay in the Gibbons confirmation. Prior to joining Kennedy's staff, Johnson worked at the LDF, where she worked on the University of Michigan case.

The LDF served as lead counsel for students defending affirmative action in the undergraduate case. A separate case, involving students at the University of Michigan Law School was also before the court.

The memo spells out the rationale for delaying Gibbons' confirmation: "The thinking is that the current 6th Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able, under 6th Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it."

Gibbons was eventually confirmed, but not until July 29, 2002. That was two months after the appeals court upheld the affirmative action policy at the university's law school. That case and the one involving undergraduate students were later appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Not long after the Supreme Court preserved the use of affirmative action in higher education, the memo naming Jones surfaced.

Jones' decision "produced widespread shock," according to a Jan. 16 New York Times report. Theodore M. Shaw, the LDF's associate director-counsel, told the Times, "The staff was genuinely caught off guard."

Jones worked at the LDF for 32 years, including 11 as its president. Even though she said the decision was based solely on her health and personal life, conservative critics questioned the timing of her decision.

"It stinks to high heaven," said Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary. "The timing of it all stinks."

Daly's organization was one of four conservative groups to file a grievance against Jones with the Virginia State Bar in December. The complaint charged Jones with "intentionally attempting to improperly influence the outcome of a pending case."

Jones has assembled an impressive legal team that includes Williams & Connolly partner David Kendall, former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, and New York University law professor Anthony Amsterdam. Kendall, who was President Bill Clinton's former attorney, did not return a call regarding the status of the ethics grievance against Jones.

The LDF Keeps Quiet

The LDF has remained silent on the entire controversy. Its public relations firm, McKinney & Associates, declined on behalf of the LDF to discuss the matter with Spokeswoman Erica Clark said, "LDF has not released any comment on this issue and they don't plan on making any comments."

Innis, whose Congress of Racial Equality signed onto the ethics complaint against Jones, said the LDF's silence is troubling, but he blamed the mainstream news media for not pursuing the story.

"This should raise a great deal of doubt in a lot of people's minds," Innis said. "But the sad thing is that it's not on anyone's mind because it's not being covered. They don't feel the heat or the necessity to respond to it."

Some prominent black leaders contacted by failed to respond to interview requests. Among them were Congressional Black Caucus chairman Elijah E. Cummings, Nancy M. Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and George Mason University professor Roger W. Wilkins.

Others declined to comment. Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the late Rev. Oliver L. Brown, namesake of the historic Brown decision, said she didn't want to weigh in on the controversy. Neither did the Rev. Fred D. Taylor of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or National Bar Association President Clyde Bailey.

Only Shirley J. Wilcher, a former Clinton administration official who later headed Americans for a Fair Chance, which promotes affirmative action, was willing to talk about the LDF.

"The reputation and the hard work of this organization precedes itself," Wilcher said. "It dates back decades and I have no doubt that it will continue to serve causes of equal justice in society. I've lived in this town long enough to know that issues like this blow over. What's important is that we continue to keep the doors of opportunity open."

Daly, of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, counters that argument. She said the LDF pre-judged how Gibbons would vote on the affirmative action case and decided to take action.

"Equal justice under the law is probably one of the most worthy goals, yet I don't see this as equal justice," Daly said. "A Kennedy thumb was put on the scale because [the LDF] wanted a certain outcome and they were going to do anything it took to have the outcome they wanted."

This fight isn't going to end anytime soon, said Sean Rushton, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice. He said the LDF has aligned itself with Senate liberals, and as a result carries weight even with uncontroversial nominees like Gibbons.

"The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has had a tremendous positive impact and in the past a good legacy," Rushton said "But in recent decades it has allowed itself to become just another Democratic attack group. It increasingly takes an ends-justify-the-means approach to the battle over the courts."

Bills Comment: When will minorities stop taking folks like these for granted?