Lottery Post Journal

NYP column: It's about the tragedy - not more Bush-bashing

THE political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief - were it not for the fact that nothing these days is beyond belief.

Even as tears spring into the most hard-hearted person's eyes at both the unimaginable scope of the tragedy and at the wrenching individual stories of loss, opinion leaders just can't help themselves.

They are using this cataclysm as little more than cheap debate fodder about the nature and character of the United States, its president and its citizens.

Don't misunderstand.

It is fine and proper to have a debate and discussion about the degree of generosity the United States could, should and must show in the wake of this literally earth-shaking event.

But at this moment, the United States is not the issue.

The foreign-aid budget of the United States is not the issue.

Our government should not be the focal point of the discussion right now.

Don't we owe the dead, dying and injured the minimal grace not to convert their suffering into a chat-show segment - the latest left-right clash over the Bush presidency?

And couldn't the editorialists at The New York Times have forborne - even just for a week - making use of the tsunami to complain about U.S. government spending on "development aid"?

Development aid is the blanket term for American grant money handed out to other countries, supposedly to help their economies grow. Development aid has nothing - nothing - to do with what has happened.

The aid at issue now is disaster relief.

Secretary of State Colin Powell found himself in the position of having to remind the world that over the past four years the United States has provided more such aid than all other nations on the planet combined.

It is appalling that he had to mention this, and that President Bush was compelled to cite the same innormation on Wednesday, because you're not supposed to brag about how charitable you are. But once a United Nations official decried the American aid pledge as "stingy," the administration had little choice.

Any rational person would have understood without having to be told what the president told the world on Wednesday morning, which is that the $35 million pledge "is only the beginning of our help."

But maybe people are looking for a sideshow to distract them from the sickening pictures and the keening cries of the untold numbers of mothers whose babies were swept away.

And To All A Goodnight

This poem was written by a Marine.

The Christmas season is here and some credit is due to our U.S. service men and women for our being able to celebrate these festivities.  We should all stop and think of our heroes, living and dead, who sacrificed themselves for us.


Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
in a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone. 
I had come down the chimney with presents to give 
and to see just who in this home did live. 

As I looked all about, a strange sight did I did see... 
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree. 
No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand. 
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges, awards of all kind,
a sobering thought soon came to my mind.
For this house was different, unlike any I'd seen. 
This was the home of a U.S. Marine.

I'd heard stories about them, I had to see more, 
so I walked down the hall and pushed open the door. 
And there he lay sleeping, silent, alone. 
Curled up on the floor of his one bedroom home.

He seemed so gentle, his face so serene. 
Not how I pictured a U.S. Marine. 
Was this the hero of whom I'd just read? 
Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

His head was clean shaven, his face weathered tan.
I soon understood this was more than a man. 
For I realized the families that I saw that night, 
owed their lives to these men, who were willing to fight.

Soon around the nation, the children would play, 
and grown-ups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day. 
They all enjoyed freedom, each month and all year,
because of Marines like this one lying here.

I couldn't help wonder how many lay alone, 
on a cold Christmas eve in a land far from home. 
Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye. 
I dropped to my knees and I started to cry.

He must have awoken, for I heard a rough voice,
"Santa, don't cry. This is my choice. 
I fight for freedom, I don't ask for more. 
My life is my God, my Country, my Corps."

With that he rolled over, drifted off into sleep.
I couldn't control it, I continued to weep. 
I watched him for hours, so silent and still.
I noticed he shivered from the cold night's chill.

So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,
and covered this Marine from his toes to his head. 
Then I put on his T-shirt of scarlet and gold, 
with an eagle, globe and anchor emblazoned so bold.

And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride, 
and for one shining moment, I was Marine Corps deep inside. 
I didn't want to leave him, so quiet in the night, 
this guardian of honor so willing to fight.

But half asleep he rolled over, and in a voice clean and pure, said, 
"Carry on Santa. It's Christmas Day, all secure." 
One look at my watch and I knew he was right. 
Merry Christmas my friend, Semper Fi, and goodnight.

Students Fighting Back!

Conservative students sue over academic freedom

(AP) - At the University of North Carolina, three incoming freshmen sue over a reading assignment they say offends their Christian beliefs.

In Colorado and Indiana, a national conservative group publicizes student allegations of left-wing bias by professors. Faculty get hate mail and are pictured in mock "wanted" posters; at least one college says a teacher received a death threat.

And at Columbia University in New York, a documentary film alleging that teachers intimidate students who support Israel draws the attention of administrators.

The three episodes differ in important ways, but all touch on an issue of growing prominence on college campuses.

Traditionally, clashes over academic freedom have pitted politicians or administrators against instructors who wanted to express their opinions and teach as they saw fit. But increasingly, it is students who are invoking academic freedom, claiming biased professors are violating their right to a classroom free from indoctrination.

In many ways, the trend echoes past campus conflicts -- but turns them around. Once, it was liberal campus activists who cited the importance of "diversity" in pressing their agendas for curriculum change. Now, conservatives have adopted much of the same language in calling for a greater openness to their viewpoints.

Similarly, academic freedom guidelines have traditionally been cited to protect left-leaning students from punishment for disagreeing with teachers about such issues as American neutrality before World War II and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Now, those same guidelines are being invoked by conservative students who support the war in Iraq.

To many professors, there's a new and deeply troubling aspect to this latest chapter in the debate over academic freedom: students trying to dictate what they don't want to be taught.

"Even the most contentious or disaffected of students in the '60s or early '70s never really pressed this kind of issue," said Robert O'Neil, normer president of the University of Virginia and now director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression.

Those behind the trend call it an antidote to the overwhelming liberal dominance of university faculties. But many educators, while agreeing students should never feel bullied, worry that they just want to avoid exposure to ideas that challenge their core beliefs -- an essential part of education.

Some also fear teachers will shy away from sensitive topics, or fend off criticism by "balancing" their syllabuses with opposing viewpoints, even if they represent inferior scholarship.

"Faculty retrench. They are less willing to discuss contemporary problems and I think everyone loses out," said Joe Losco, a professor of political science at Ball State University in Indiana who has supported two colleagues targeted for alleged bias. "It puts a chill in the air."

Conservatives say a chill is in order.

A recent study by Santa Clara University researcher Daniel Klein estimated that among social science and humanities faculty members nationwide, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least seven to one; in some fields it's as high as 30 to one. And in the last election, the two employers whose workers contributed the most to Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign were the University of California system and Harvard University.

Many teachers insist personal politics don't affect teaching. But in a recent survey of students at 50 top schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that has argued there is too little intellectual diversity on campuses, 49 percent reported at least some professors frequently commented on politics in class even if it was outside the subject matter.

Thirty-one percent said they felt there were some courses in which they needed to agree with a professor's political or social views to get a good grade.

Leading the movement is the group Students for Academic Freedom, with chapters on 135 campuses and close ties to David Horowitz, a one-time liberal campus activist turned conservative agitator. The group posts student complaints on its Web site about alleged episodes of grading bias and unbalanced, anti-American propaganda by professors -- often in classes, such as literature, in which it's off-topic.

Instructors "need to make students aware of the spectrum of scholarly opinion," Horowitz said. "You can't get a good education if you're only getting half the story."

Conservatives claim they are discouraged from expressing their views in class, and are even blackballed from graduate school slots and jobs.

"I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them," said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus.

"A lot of students feel like they're being discriminated against," he said.

So far, his and other efforts are having mixed results. At UNC, the students lost their legal case, but the university no longer uses the word "required" in describing the reading program for incoming students (the plaintiffs' main objection).

In Colorado, conservatives withdrew a legislative proposal for an "academic bill of rights" backed by Horowitz, but only after state universities agreed to adopt its principles.

At Ball State, the school's provost sided with Professor George Wolfe after a student published complaints about Wolfe's peace studies course, but the episode has attracted local attention. Horowitz and backers of the academic bill of rights plan to introduce it in the Indiana legislature -- as well as in up to 20 other states.

At Columbia, anguished debate followed the screening of a film by an advocacy group called The David Project that alleges some faculty violate students' rights by using the classroom as a platnorm for anti-Israeli political propaganda (one Israeli student claims a professor taunted him by asking, "How many Palestinians did you kill?"). Administrators responded this month by setting up a new committee to investigate students complaints.

In the wider debate, both sides cite the guidelines on academic freedom first set out in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors.

The objecting students emphasize the portion calling on teachers to "set forth justly ... the divergent opinions of other investigators." But many teachers note the guidelines also say instructors need not "hide (their) own opinions under a mountain of equivocal verbiage," and that their job is teaching students "to think for themselves."

Horowitz believes the AAUP, which opposes his bill of rights, and liberals in general are now the establishment and have abandoned their commitment to real diversity and student rights.

But critics say Horowitz is pushing a political agenda, not an academic one.

"It's often phrased in the language of academic freedom. That's what's so strange about it," said Ellen Schrecker, a Yeshiva University historian who has written about academic freedom during the McCarthy area. "What they're saying is, 'We want people to reflect our point of view."'

Horowitz's critics also insist his campaign is getting more attention than it deserves, riling conservative bloggers but attracting little alarm from most students. They insist even most liberal professors give fair grades to conservative students who work hard and support their arguments.

Often, the facts of particular cases are disputed. At Ball State, senior Brett Mock published a detailed account accusing Wolfe of anti-Americanism in a peace studies class and of refusing to tolerate the view that the U.S. invasion of Iraq might have been justified. In a telephone interview, Wolfe vigorously disputed Mock's allegations. He provided copies of a letter of support from other students in the class, and from the provost saying she had found nothing wrong with the course.

Horowitz, who has also criticized Ball State's program, had little sympathy when asked if Wolfe deserved to get hate e-mails from strangers.

"These people are such sissies," he said. "I get hate mail every single day. What can I do about it? It's called the Internet."

Woman Jailed for Lying to Leave Jury Duty

This should be a lessen for anyone looking to escape Jury Duty.

CINCINNATI (AP) - A juror has ended up behind bars. Rachelle Thomas told a judge in Cincinnati last year that she couldn't serve on a jury because she had to take her son to a doctor's appointment. But she had already filled out a juror's questionnaire and wrote she had no children.

Thomas was sentenced to nine days in jail for contempt, but moved to Nevada. This week she returned to Cincinnati to clear up the matter. She pleaded no contest to the contempt charge. Thomas was ordered to complete her jail sentence, pernorm 200 hours of community service and pay a $250 fine.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick sentenced Thomas, 31, on Monday.

When Thomas told Helmick in May 2003 that she couldn't serve, he excused her rather than taint other potential jurors. Later, he issued a contempt-of-court warrant for her arrest and sentenced her to nine days in jail, a period equal to the rest of her jury obligation.

Thomas was released on bond after serving three days. The 1st Ohio District Court of Appeals overturned her sentence in February, saying the judge violated her civil rights when he jailed her without a hearing.

A contempt hearing was scheduled for October, but when Thomas failed to appear, Helmick ordered her arrest.

Thomas, who now lives in Nevada, returned Monday to enter her no contest plea and receive her sentence.

Thomas, who said she was under pressure at work when she lied to the judge, apologized in a letter to Helmick.

"Due to a series of highly stressful events going on in my life during my (jury) service, I made a perilous error in judgment," she wrote.

Helmick chastised Thomas for her actions.

"There are minimal duties imposed on citizens, and one is being a juror," Helmick said. "I understand you had a research project. If you would have said that, I would have taken it into consideration. We trust jurors to be honest."

Enjoying the speed

How nice it is to see the forums zipping along quickly now!  There's still a few more things I could do to tweak the pernormance, but ... too damn tired. 

Finished Performance Increases

This evening I finished a number of pernormance increases across Lottery Post.  I targeted key areas like the forums pages, active topics page, and the main page.  Also, functions like posting and deleting messages, and searching.

Next year when the latest version of MS SQL Server is released I will be implementing an even more powerfull and faster search capability, but it doesn't make sense to spend any more time on it until the software is released.

Anyone reading this who discovers a bug or problem somewhere, please drop me a PM and let me know.