[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: May 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Watch Out Father Alberto!!

Myriam Marquez delivers serious verbal haymakers to Alberto Cutié, his girlfriend and Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade. Although Marquez was, in my opinion, quite heavy-handed in her approach, I agree with most of the underlying sentiments.

A sample from her column:
What irks isn't so much Cutié's struggle to reconcile his desires as a man and his vows of celibacy as a priest or that he chose carnal knowledge over celestial approval, it's the way this sordid affair came down. The scandal not only damaged the Catholic church, it diminished Cutié's reputation among many of his followers who are true-blue Catholics. He hurt them.

And, yes, I know that there have been worse scandals in the church involving sexual abuse of boys and decades of denial by church leaders -- a disgrace that hurt Catholics, even bad ones like me, much more. But to excuse Cutié's lies for two years because he was in love -- lust? -- with a gal gives him a pass on his responsibility as a spiritual leader. He had choices to make and he sure took his sweet time to make them.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Padre Alberto Moves On

I've been insanely busy the past few days and will be for a few days more, so this will be rather brief.

I'm glad that Father Alberto has decided to remain in the Christian community as a minister, but feel saddened that he has chosen to leave the church he committed to many years ago. As I've stated in previous posts on the topic, I can go either way with Catholic priests being married, but what's gotten kind of lost in this case is that Padre Alberto broke his vows, whether you agree with them or not.

Also, and most importantly in the grand scheme of things; as influential and charismatic as Alberto was with Catholics in South Florida, he's only one man. I'm sure the many other young priests in the Archdiocese and around the world who struggle with temptation and other issues, just like Alberto did, and manage to keep their vows intact would appreciate a little credit on their part for doing what Alberto couldn't do. That's not to say that they should be awarded for "doing their job". But the outcry to allow Catholic priests to get married is overshadowing the simple but important fact that for every Father Alberto, there are many others who are rock solid with their vows and probably just as charismatic and influential on a smaller but still critical scale. No one is truly irreplaceable. The Episcopal Church has gained a talented clergyman. But the Catholic Church will surely survive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

More on the Waterboarding Issue

Here's an interesting and thought-provoking take on torture as well as waterboarding:
It is refreshing to see that so many liberals have discovered their moral compass. In their lust to claim the moral high ground over conservatives, along with their lust to discredit the previous administration and all of its conservative policies (and to prosecute as many of them as possible), liberals have decided that the "torture" of three al-Qaida figures in 2002 and 2003 is the issue with which to pursue their desired ends.

Liberals are throwing the word "torture" around much like they do the words "homophobe" and "racist." Those are popular "snarl" words that, when used, are intended to induce a negative response, appealing to a person's emotions rather than their reasoning. "Torture" is well on its way to becoming liberals' newest and most favorite "snarl" word.
This was in plain evidence in the comment thread to my post a few days ago. And, yes, waterboarding did work:

Near the heart-of-the-matter in this debate is the interrogation procedure with which we have all become too familiar: waterboarding. According to many different sources, waterboarding was used on only three al-Qaida figures: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Also, as many have recently pointed out, these "enhanced interrogations," as they were officially known, produced "high value information," as Obama's director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, acknowledges. Former CIA Director George Tenet in 2007 said, "I know that this program (of "enhanced interrogations") has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than (what) the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us."

Michael Hayden, another former director of the CIA, said recently that, "the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work."

The columnist doesn't hide the sticky points (and neither do I), including the Catholic Church's position on torture.

Of course, the mere fact that something worked and was approved by Congress doesn't make it right and just. There are significant legal and moral issues in play when it comes to such interrogation.

Given the ticking bomb scenario, even the very liberal Sen. Chuck Schumer admits, "I think there are probably very few people ... in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake."

Now I can respect an honest and consistent ethic (though I believe it is quite wrong) that lovingly honors human dignity (at every phase of life), and concludes that torture (whatever that is) is "intrinsically evil." The Catholic Church takes such a position.

I won't go further and paste Trevor Thomas' thoughts on the hypocrisy of those who are against waterboarding but support a woman's choice to kill a human fetus, since that goes into another hot-button topic best saved for another day. I will, however, conclude by pointing out that no matter how you feel about waterboarding, it's a choice reasonable people arrive at after much thought and internal as well as external debate. I would imagine it's not easy on either side. Remember that the next time a liberal anti-waterboarder tries to browbeat you with personal and moral arguments against waterboarding.

(H/T Aymee)

Memorial Day

I have nothing special for this year's Memorial Day post, only my deepest respect and admiration for those who serve and have served this country as well as a heartfelt sympathy for those who have lost loved ones in active duty.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Just Give The Damned Ball Back

This guy is a real jerk for demanding something in return for catching a Marlins rookie's first career home run.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ana Menendez: Meteorologist

Just when you thought it was safe to open up your soggy copy of the Herald again...

Ana Menendez...yes THAT Ana Menendez...is back. At least for a cameo appearance and in a subject that, as you'll find out shortly, she knows little about (gotta say...I've kind of missed ol' Anita. It's just not the same agreeing most of the time with the right-wing lunatics that have invaded the Herald's columnist ranks).

Let's just say I know a thing or two about those weather systems that occasionally torture (oops) us between June and November. Here goes:

There's a little bit of the control freak in every scientist. And perhaps no profession is immune from the illusion that any problem eventually will yield to diligence and intelligence. But in the case of hurricane forecasting, human folly has given way to humbling hilarity.

Take the 2007 season, a fortune-telling exercise no less futile for erring in our favor.

Scientists predicted 17 named storms, including five intense ones. We got 14 storms, only two with winds over 110 miles per hour.

Geez, Ana. Good thing you're not my boss. 17...14...whatever. It was an above normal year. The overall categorization of the 2007 season was dead on, as it usually is.

I'm not suggesting an end to long-range hurricane predictions. But maybe, in the interest of full disclosure, they should come stamped: For Amusement Only.


Forecasting has come a long way since the invention of the umbrella. But there are still some things scientists can't predict with certainty -- and probably never will.

"I can't imagine the time in the future where on Jan. 1, they print the chart that goes on the Web and they hand it out to everyone, " said hurricane specialist Hugh Willoughby, now a research professor at Florida International University. "The reason, basically, is the Butterfly Effect: What the atmosphere does depends on its history, and a slightly different history will produce very different results."

The Butterfly Effect -- the notion that the flutter of a butterfly's wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas -- is an elegant illustration of one of the principles of chaos theory: that small variations in the present can produce large variations in the future.

In his 2000 book, Ubiquity, Mark Buchanan uses similar reasoning to explain why some natural phenomena, such as earthquakes and avalanches, elude prediction: "It appears that, at many levels, our world is at all times tuned to be on the verge of sudden, radical change, and that these and other upheavals may all be strictly unavoidable and unforeseeable, even just moments before they strike. Consequently, our human longing for explanation may be terribly misplaced, and doomed always to go unsatisfied."


When it comes to hurricane forecasting, the problem is not so much the science as the reaction to it. Call it the Mother-in-Law Effect: the principle that as the level of nagging increases, the ability to hear dramatically decreases.

The Miami Herald's Martin Merzer reported this week that some researchers worry that errors in the full-season prediction will undermine faith in forecasts of actual storms, which tend to be more accurate.

The researchers, while good-intentioned, are just plain wrong on that one. The vast majority of people understand the difference between a seasonal outlook and forecasts for individual storms.

Others suggested that forecasters have no business trying to predict an entire season before it even starts. "If [William] Gray were honest, " former NOAA hurricane researcher Jeff Masters said in referring to the forecaster, "he would say they have no skill in making predictions that far in advance."

If William Gray were honest, Jeff, he would tell you that he and his team have been right in the overall trend and state of the season (if not the exact numbers) much more than they've been wrong. There IS skill in assessing trends and forecasting the overall state of the season (active, inactive, near normal). You should know this.

Willoughby takes a softer stance, assuming that most people can tell the difference between wild six-month forecasts and real warnings about impending storms.

"I've never taken year-to-year predictions seriously other than as an exercise in public relations and as a good publicity move to get people started thinking, " he said.

Most accurate quote of the article.

So perhaps the best way to approach the long-term predictions is with the same joyful skepticism with which one would greet the tarot lady at the county fair.

In the meantime, I'm not going to begrudge nature for failing to live up to human prediction. I'm quite glad all those scientists were wrong in May, not least because the hurricane windows I ordered on their advice have yet to arrive. But I could have predicted that.

OK, Ana. Next time interview the scientists that actually help to MAKE those predictions you're so fond of. After all, they know a little more than you do about the subject.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cheney On America's Post 9-11 Policies

Dick Cheney's speech today to the American Enterprise Institute was dead-on. Every single word of it. Too bad it took a former VP to speak so clearly and eloquently about why we must do everything we can to stop terrorists (that's right...terrorists) from hurting and killing Americans again. Imagine if John McCain would have uttered even half of Cheney's words. To those of you who go into convulsions at the mere mention of Cheney's name but go into a coma upon hearing his voice...don't worry. Here's the transcript.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pitts Gets All Boo-Hoo on Us

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Marco Rubio Gets the MSM Treatment

Fearless warrior. Unhinged zealot. Doomed martyr.

Those are three of the categories the St. Pete Times' Adam Smith (with a little help from his friends at the Herald) is trying to place Marco Rubio in. Nice, right?

Poor Marco. He's not "reasonably moderate" like our good Governor Crist, say the MSM. Of course, it's perfectly OK for Barack Obama to not be a moderate (he had the Senate's most liberal record) because he's, after all, a LIBERAL. To the MSM, Barack is right down Flagler Street.

Remember. The MSM does not have a liberal bias. Remember. The MSM does not have a liberal bias. Repeat it enough and you too may end up believing it.

Brutal Pompoms

The Florida Marlins gave away silver pompoms as a promotion for yesterday's game. Breezy conditions and fans shaking the pompoms in the air in excitement over the Marlins actually leading in (and winning) a game, for a change, led to strands of nylon, plastic...whatever....littering the field.

Here's local reaction to this:

"Brutal", stated Marlins second baseman "His Name is" Dan Uggla. Uggla was apparently referring to the distracting strands of shiny silver, not his season-long slump.

"Absolutely brutal", said Marlins catcher John Baker. Baker found conditions not-so-distracting-enough to hit a two-run homer.

"We're a Banana Republic", blurted local radio sports commentator Joe Zagacki this morning. That's OK, Joe. I know it's tough to make interesting and intelligent commentary at 8 AM on a Sunday morning on a show in which probably 5 people were listening (including yours truly). Therefore, it's perfectly fine to make an absolutely moronic and insulting comment about your own community over something so incredibly insignificant.

OK, so what about The. Game??

Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama-Care Hits South Florida

Well...at least some people in the local medical field have some ideas for our president on how to reform medical care and cut costs. There are some logical and good ideas, such as eliminating needless tests and creating an electronic healthcare database.

Then there are these:
(Hollywood surgeon) Arthur Palamara said another key is eliminating ''futile care'' -- treatment given after it is clear that a patient is on an irreversible path to imminent death. Determining when and what care is wasted, of course, can be difficult. Palamara said he has co-authored a proposal about the subject to the American Medical Association, which now has put together a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue.
(Miami health insurance broker Santiago) Leon supports integrated healthcare delivery systems, in which doctors, hospitals and others work together to treat an illness, perhaps for a lump sum. If physicians were employees of an integrated system, rather than independent businessmen, then they wouldn't be concerned with ordering more tests, Leon said.
So we have what amounts to rationed health care which de-emphasizes care for those who are terminally ill (an insensitive policy if I ever heard one) and pushing independent doctors out in favor of an "integrated system".

Yep. Those lunatics on the right may have be on to something after all.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confessions of An Ex-Liberal

This has been going around the internet, but if you haven't read the confessions of an Berkely ex-liberal originally posted at American Thinker, here you go.

(H/T Aymee)


Jackie Bueno Sousa must have heard the same homily I heard yesterday.

Not every priest is living such a lie, though media reports make it easy to believe otherwise. We don't focus on them because it's impossible to really know who they are. Instead, we focus on the significance of broken vows, as if it proves anything other than not everyone is worthy of the priesthood. Yes, priests will fail to keep their vow of celibacy, but, in the call for devotion and sacrifice, that may not really matter.

What matters are the unnoticed many who will succeed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Padre Alberto: One More Perspective

After doing a little research and digging for a perspective with which to address the issue of Catholic priests and celibacy, I was going to present a few articles which downplay the "crisis" the Catholic Church: that they're really not losing all that many members (compared to other denominations where priests and ministers are free to marry), religious affiliation in the U.S. is very fluid, and the number of Catholic priests actually increased worldwide in 2008 (but fell slightly in Europe and the Americas).

If you believe the media and have been following the Father Alberto situation closely, you could get the impression that the Catholic Church is facing a major crisis because of its "outdated" laws and doctrines, one it may not survive over the course of the next few decades unless it goes through serious reforms. Although there is always room for some reform, the reality isn't so dire, fortunately.

Anyway, what I really want to express in this post is something that's been gradually gaining momentum inside of me but was confirmed at Mass this evening. That is, the Catholic Church is more than one charismatic priest who has done a world of good. Father Alberto, no matter how talented and influential, is not irreplaceable. Just as he - as a celibate priest, mind you - gave wonderful insights and advice to many people on faith and life, so can many others.

One group of people we have heard very little from in the past few days regarding Father Alberto are his fellow Catholic clergy. This is likely because of "professional courtesy" or perhaps it's an order from the Archdiocese, but one thing the media has lacked in its reporting is a perspective from other Catholic priests. Well, I think I got a good dose of perspective from that angle this evening. This weekend happened to be the first anniversary of the ordainment of one of my parish priests and 5 of his fellow classmates. All 6 priests - plus the parish pastor - officiated the Mass, and while no direct mention of Father Alberto was made, the issue was addressed implicitly. The highlight was when one of the visiting young priests delivered the homily and remarked on how there are many "holy" priests devoted to their calling. He then pointed emphatically at the other priests behind him and expressed their deep commitment to the priesthood. That got a rousing applause from the congregation filling the nearly-full pews, and frankly it was a reminder that all of us needed to hear after a week in which the Church has been dragged through the mud. You almost had to wonder if Catholic priests were becoming resentful of the attention one of their own was receiving for breaking his vows, when most go through similar struggles but manage to remain firm and faithful to those same vows. From a strictly professional standpoint, some resentment is understandable and perhaps even expected.

Our parish priest then talked about the lives his fellow classmates led before joining the priesthood: architect, accountant, banker, rock musician...and so on. He talked about how they were in our shoes before they accepted their calling, how they still relate to us through their life stories. The bottom line for me: each of us has a story and the ability to relate to others.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Marquez is New Herald Editorial Board Chief

Very interesting, and a move that I see as mostly positive, despite my recent disagreements on a few of her metro columns.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bias? What Bias?

Oh Manny

In light of this news, the Florida Marlins are probably breathing a sigh of relief in that they didn't win the Manny Ramirez sweepstakes last summer.

The guy's too much trouble than he's worth.

Father Alberto: "A Blessing"

As the Father Alberto scandal continues to boil and South Floridians debate the merits of celibacy vs letting priests marry...a lot of noise, mostly good but with one minor incident this morning in front of the Father's church on South Beach, is being made by Catholics.

In the post below this one I alluded to the diverse range of opinions on the matter. Most of the opinions are reasonable and well-thought out with the best interest of Father Alberto in mind. There are also a few which can be considered to be borderline insane, but that's to be expected.

Here's one left at the Miami Herald comment page for the linked article above that puts the current situation in its proper perspective:
As a Catholic Priest and Physician, I can attest I have seen more cases of this situation. The Archbishop is not dismissing him but allowing him some space. He asked for the time for reflection and it was granted. Now, it is up to Father to decide what he wants as God's will for him. No Bishop I know of would not be more than happy to reinstate a priest who, as in the case of Father Cutie, is a marvelous example of ministry. However, this is in the hands of Father himself. If anything the Church and its Shepards are to be an example of forgiveness. This is not an argument over celibacy but one of a person ascribing to this condition voluntarily. No matter how anachronistic or whatever the extenuating circumstances, the Church's policy will not be changed. In a perfect world maybe, but not this one. He took the oath and now needs to decide if he wants to re-commit or move into a relationship. Whatever his decision, the Church or a future wife family would be truly blessed.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Father Alberto Followup

Talk of Father Alberto's photos with a woman continues to be the talk of the town. This blog has had about 200 visits as of 10 PM tonight, about 3 times the average, most of them web engine searches for Father Alberto which stumbled onto my post yesterday. Many views have been expressed on all sides of the issue, a lot of them critical of the Catholic Church's dogma on celibate priests. Many others express sympathy for Father Alberto and blame the Church's "out of touch" and "unrealistic" stance on priestly celibacy for his misstep. Some are misguidedly drawing parallels to the pedophile priest scandal of a few years ago. Generation Miami has even started a petition to immediately restore Father Alberto to his positions in the Church.

As I stated in my previous post, I feel very bad about this. I feel bad that my faith has to go through another scandal in which it will be mercilessly and unfairly attacked. But I mostly feel bad for a good man such as Father Alberto, his parishioners and his legion of devoted followers for what they are all going through right now. Nevertheless, I feel we need to accept something: Father Alberto committed a big error. He broke his vow of celibacy. No matter how much we forgive him, and I do, we can't excuse what he did. I don't think Father Alberto himself does. Otherwise, how can WE hold ourselves accountable when we sin?

My only hope is that this issue is resolved in a respectful manner, one that respects and upholds the traditions of the Catholic Church and the many great accomplishments of Father Alberto.

One-Way Moderation

I like Myriam Marquez and her attempt to cover issues fairly and "moderately", and moderation is indeed good for most things, but when moderation means criticizing only one side for it's uncompromising stance, sitting on that fence doesn't feel so good.

Marquez joins the chorus asking for the GOP to moderate, presumably because they've lost a couple of elections. Here are some excerpts from her column today with my comments interspersed:

And that's the crux of the GOP's problem. The party's hard right can't reconcile that most God-fearing Americans are socially moderate. The GOP has strayed from an individual-rights and economic opportunity agenda to a party controlled by uncompromising zealots.

Really? When even liberal California votes against legalizing gay marriage, that should say something. Most Americans don't want a pure merger of church and state, but they're much more conservative on social issues than Marquez gives them credit for. And who exactly are the "zealots" running the GOP, I'd like to know? Don't throw accusations without supporting evidence.
Everyone loves a tax break, but most people also want strong public schools, healthcare for needy children, transportation systems that work and safe streets. Can Bush's new group find a balance?
And most people want government to be efficient, too. We've seen how wonderful government runs our schools, healthcare and transportation. It's not about balance, it's about making government less intrusive and more responsive to people's needs. In other words, less bureaucracy. Less government.
President Barack Obama so far has the public's support because he talks moderation. We'll see if he delivers.
So I guess talking is enough to convince folks. Sad.
No doubt Bush governed Florida as a conservative and delivered strong growth during most of his eight years in office. But listen: Voters no longer look to the private sector as the only way. Can this new GOP group accept the wisdom of regulation?
So what happened? People in only a few years forgot that Bush's formula mostly worked? No reasonable person believes that the private sector is the ONLY way. But give me an excess of private sector over an excess of government any day. And regulation goes farther towards producing excess in government than excess in liberty.
Toning down the angry, reactionary rhetoric of the GOP's far right won't be enough if the GOP of the 21st century refuses to work with Democrats and reach a middle ground. Voters have tired of partisan intransigence.
So what's the reactionary (and hateful) rhetoric from the hard left the past 8 years considered? Mere "politics as usual"? I mean, let's at least be fair - or shall I say - moderate, by calling out BOTH sides. As far as reaching a middle ground, has Marquez forgotten who rammed the stimulus bill down our throats? It sure as hell wasn't angry and intransigent Republicans. Where is the Democrats' move to the compromising middle, or are they exempt because their leader talks moderation (and wins)?

I almost feel bad for tearing Myriam Marquez's column. I really like her, but to ask that a political party "moderate" its values because they've lost a couple of election cycles is bad enough. Not demanding the same from the other side - the side in power - when our debt has reached rarefied heights, is bordering on hypocrisy.

The GOP has plenty of problems right now. Lack of strong any leadership. Not enough people within the party articulating a clear vision. Turning against their own values and trying to be too moderate, ironically enough. But it's definitely not because they're too extreme.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Father Alberto and Celibacy for Priests (UPDATED)

This is a difficult post to write.

As a Catholic, my reaction to news of the pictures of Father Alberto Cutié at the beach with a woman was one of disappointment and sadness. It's sad enough when any priest breaks his vow of celibacy, but when someone the likes of Father Alberto does it, it's especially hard to take. Father Alberto is an extraordinary man, devoted to his vocation, his belief, and God in such a public and outspoken way. His outreach has undoubtedly inspired others to follow in his footsteps or to renew and/or discover their faith. I'm disappointed in the fact that he won't be able to continue his duties as a priest, but also sad because Father Alberto is a very good man who made a mistake, a pardonable one in the eyes of God, showing us that he is indeed human just like the rest of us. After all, isn't it "perfectly" human to have sexual desires, especially a good-looking 40-year-old man in his intellectual and physical peak who could have his pick of practically any woman out there? Alas, this is the very reason we're so disappointed: we thought that Father Alberto, by rising above the unimaginable temptations and challenges of a celibate priesthood, showed us what an inspirational figure he is.

There are those who will cynically use this incident as another way to lash out at the Catholic Church, and Christianity in general, for it's "hypocrisy". Those folks need to know this: Father Alberto's relationship with a woman, while a clear and shocking violation of his vow of celibacy, is a forgiveable act in the eyes of God. Christians are supposed to be forgiving. Perhaps that also something practicing Christians need to remember as well.

There are also those who are calling for the Catholic Church to revisit its dogma requiring celibacy for priests. On this issue I am ambivalent. Not because it's easy to not take a side, but because I feel there are valid arguments to be made on both sides, and it's tough for me to decide which one holds more weight. If the primary justification for allowing Catholic priests to marry is to encourage more intelligent and well-rounded men to take up the priesthood and whom can also capably handle being the head of a family AND a congregation, then I can go along with that. After all, relationships are a bedrock of Christian faith, and Christians hold marriage and the family in high esteem. But if the primary justification for removing the celibacy requirement for priests is that it will prevent another Father Alberto incident from taking place, forget it. Just as you occasionally hear about the non-Catholic married clergy getting caught in extramartial affairs (or worse), the same would happen with a minority of married Catholic priests.

Just as there were secular or even economic reasons for the Catholic Church adopting the celibacy requirement for priests, there are also logical and scriptural reasons. As this site shows, certain passages from Scripture clearly express a preference for priestly celibacy. with Jesus as the primary example. From a logical perspective, one that is obviously not lost in the Gospel of Matthew, one's commitment to family takes precedence over anything else on this Earth. Juggling a family and the needs of a congregation, while certainly possible, are daunting tasks that are reserved for people of extraordinary faith and dedication. It's clear that being a priest is not a M-F 9-5 job. It's also clear that a priest, even a married one, is held to a much higher standard than Average Joe. It's tough enough being a single, celibate priest. Being married with kids and having to juggle the responsibilities of a Catholic priest is arguably tougher. In this sense, the Catholic dogma of priestly celibacy makes sense in that it focuses attention solely on his primary mission, an extraordinary effort indeed.

We can discuss the merits and pitfalls of celibacy vs marriage all day, but one thing is certain: a good man went down today. My thoughts and prayers are with Father Alberto. May he find peace and comfort in this troubling and soul-shaking time.

(UPDATE: Please take five minutes of your time to read Jorge's thoughts on this)

Marco Rubio to Run for U.S. Senate

Marco is in. I'll wait to see who else jumps in on the (R) side, but I have to say I like him at the present time.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Drifting Away

Haven't posted a reaction on Arlen Specter's defection to the (D) side of the house, so here goes. It was a cynical move by a politician who found himself desperately behind in his re-election bid and decided to lash out at the party that has supported him in the past, but which hasn't felt too hot about him in recent times because of his less-than-conservative stance on key issues. How else to stick it to the jerks at the GOP than through switching sides to potentially become the 60th vote, right Sen. Specter?

While the GOP needs to be as inclusive as it can, it cannot be accepting or tolerant of those who don't stand up for conservatives values that the party is supposed to represent. We all know there are many in the GOP who have failed conservatives and conservatism, big time. The left makes a mistake by interpreting Specter's move as a result of the GOP drifting too far right. Wrong. The GOP is supposed to be in the dead center of the right. It's folks like Specter and other RINOs who have drifted left. To those folks I say...keep on drifting. Drift away and stay there.

Costa Rica Gets It

(Sorry for the relatively light posting the past week. It's a crazy time of year for me at the old salt mine)

Andres Oppenheimer writes today about a response given by Costa Rican president Oscar Arias at the recent Summit of the Americas that didn't receive a lot of attention - compared to clowns like Daniel Ortega, Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa.

Oscar Arias responded to Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa's "blame the USA" screed in a closed-door session. Here's some of what Arias said:

In his speech, whose written version is entitled ''We must have done something wrong,'' Arias started out saying, ``I have the impression that each time Caribbean and Latin American countries meet with the president of the United States, it's to . . . blame the United States for our past, present and future problems. I don't think this is entirely fair.''

He continued: ``We cannot forget that Latin America had universities before the United States created Harvard, and William & Mary, which were the first universities in that country. We cannot forget that in this hemisphere, like elsewhere in the world, until 1750, all of us in the Americas were more or less the same: We were all poor.

``When the Industrial Revolution started in Great Britain, other countries joined that train, including Germany, France, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But the industrial revolution passed over Latin America like a comet, and we didn't even notice. We certainly lost an opportunity.

``Fifty years ago, Mexico was richer than Portugal. In 1950, a country like Brazil had a per capita income that was higher than that of South Korea. Sixty years ago, Honduras had a bigger per capita income than Singapore. . . . We in Latin America must have done something wrong .

''What did we do wrong?'' Arias asked. Among other things, he listed the fact that Latin America have an average schooling of only seven years, that the region has one of the world's lowest tax collection rates, and that it spends an absurd $50 billion a year on weapons and other military expenditures. ''That's nobody else's fault but our own,'' he said.

''So I ask myself: who is our enemy?'' Arias went on. ``Our enemy, President Correa, is that inequality that you rightly refer to. It's the lack of education. It's illiteracy. It's the fact that we don't spend on our people's health.''

This part, however, I'm not too crazy about:

Noting that the 21st century is likely to be the Asian -- rather than Latin American -- century, and that China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty since it opened its economy three decades ago, Arias concluded: ''While we continue debating about ideologies, and about which ``isms'' are the best, whether capitalism, socialism, communism, liberalism, neo-liberalism, etc., Asians have found an ''ism'' that is much more realistic for the XXI Century: pragmatism.''

I guess Arias was just trying to make a point on how other parts of the world have adapted faster and better than Latin America, but the only "ism" that's proven to work is capitalism, plain and simple. Let's see how far China's "pragamatism" takes them.

Anyway, I thought I'd point this article out because while I am very critical of many Latin American leaders for their lack of integrity, USA-bashing, castro-supporting and corruption, there are some that get it, and it's always good to point it out. Bravo, Mr. Arias. Perhaps that's why you usually don't hear much from/about Costa Rica. They keep their noses clean and don't cause any trouble. Good for them.