Saturday, September 03, 2005

Chief Justice Rehnquist Dies at Home

Image hosted by

It was announced that Justice Rehnquist passed away earlier this evening. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last October, but decided to continue serving on the Court as ong as his health permitted. He was the 16th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

His death ends a 33-year career on the land's highest bench and will allow President Bush to appoint a second nominee to the court since the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Confirmation hearings are to begin on Tuesday for John Roberts, nominated to replace Justice O'Connor, but it's not known how Justice Rehnquist's death will affect the hearings. Note: FoxNews reports that it's been announced that the hearings will gone on as scheduled.

From MyWay News:

In 1999, he presided over Bill Clinton's impeachment trial from the presiding officer's chair seat in the Senate, something only one other chief justice had done. A year later he was one of five Republican-nominated justices who voted to stop presidential ballot recounts in Florida, effectively deciding the election for Bush over Democrat Al Gore.

"The Supreme Court of Florida ordered recounts of tens of thousands of so-called 'undervotes' spread through 64 of the state's 67 counties. This was done in a search for elusive - perhaps delusive - certainty as to the exact count of 6 million votes," he wrote.

Rehnquist, who championed states' rights and helped speed up executions, is the only member still on the court who voted on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. He opposed that decision, writing: "Even today, when society's views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the 'right' to an abortion is not so universally accepted as (Roe) would have us believe."

He believed there was a place for some religion in government. He wrote the 5-4 decision in 2002 that said parents may use public tax money to send their children to religious schools. Two years later, he was distressed when the court passed up a chance to declare that the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is constitutional.

"The phrase 'under God' in the pledge seems, as a historical matter, to sum up the attitude of the nation's leaders, and to manifest itself in many of our public observances," he wrote.
Rehnquist's grandparents emigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1880 and settled in Chicago. His grandfather was a tailor, his grandmother a school teacher. Rehnquist grew up in Wisconsin, the son of paper salesman and a translator.

He at first had planned to be a college professor, but a test showed him suited to the legal field. In 1952, he graduated first in his class at Stanford University's law school, where he briefly dated O'Connor, the high court's first female justice.

Rehnquist caused great amusement when he departed from tradition by adding four shiny gold stripes to each sleeve of his black robe in 1995. The flourish was inspired by a costume in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

A close student of the Supreme Court's traditions and history, he was a stickler for decorum. He frequently admonished hapless lawyers who did not show what Rehnquist regarded as proper courtesy in the courtroom. His gravelly monotone silenced any who kept talking past their allotted time.

He was the enthusiastic host of an annual, old-fashioned employee Christmas party at the court. At a time when many schools, government offices and private businesses quietly did away with overtly Christian holiday symbols, Rehnquist led the singing of traditional Christmas carols.

Rehnquist has led a quiet social life outside the court (a widower since 1991-editor). Until recently, he walked daily, as tonic for a chronic bad back, and played tennis with his law clerks. He enjoyed bridge, spending time with his eight grandchildren, charades and a monthly poker game with Scalia and a revolving cast of powerful Washington men. He liked beer, and smoked in private.

The only chief justice older than Rehnquist was Roger Taney, who presided over the high court in the mid-1800s until his death at 87. Rehnquist was also closing in on the record for longest-serving justice. Only four men were on the court 34 years or longer.

Possible replacements include Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and federal courts of appeals judges J. Michael Luttig, Edith Clement, Samuel A. Alito Jr., Michael McConnell, Emilio Garza, and James Harvie Wilkinson III. Others mentioned are former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, lawyer Miguel Estrada and former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I Stand Corrected

And I'm happy about it. The following countries and organizations have offered aid in the relief effort:

Australia, Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, China, Columbia, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, the European Union, France, Germany, Guatemala, Greece, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, NATO, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Organization of American States, Paraguay, Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Health Organization to name a few.

Cuban President Fidel Castro, calling a "truce" in Havana's ideological enmity with Washington, offered to fly 1,100 doctors to Houston with 26 tons of medicine to treat people in the disaster area.

Castro's leftist ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered to send cheap fuel but the State Department said a decision had not been made on whether to accept this offer.

In Mexico City, a Foreign Ministry official told reporters Mexico was sending 15 truckloads of water, food and medical supplies via Texas, and the Mexican navy had offered to send two ships, two helicopters and 15 amphibious vehicles.

The U.N. created a special task force to dispatch disaster experts, while the European Union volunteered to send water supply specialists.

via Reuters

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stated that no offer will be refused, but will defer use of some resources to later when they may be more urgently needed. Makes sense to me. Some resources may be desparately needed now, but others will be needed later. I remember after the WTC bombings, thousands of people heeded the request for blood donations (and rightly so). I personally held off, knowing that even with the thousands of pints donated in the first days after the bombing, blood supplies would run low. And another call went out a week or so later. My personal philosophy is to allow others to jump in right away and I'll make my donations later when supplies are again running low. That doesn't mean I think I'm "better" than those at the head of the line. I just know that supplies can be depleted and will need to be filled.
The Entertainment World

has also responded.

Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Master P and Dave Matthews are contributing star power to relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

DeGeneres, a New Orleans native whose 82-year-old aunt, cousins and friends had their Gulf Coast homes destroyed, has taped an episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" to air on Monday, the start of the syndicated talk show's third season that will discuss the disaster. Warner Bros. Entertainment, producer of "Ellen", will dontate $500,000 and match viewer contributions up to $500,000.

A Harley-Davidson motorcyle will be put up for auction on eBay later in September. Tonight Show host Jay Leno is going to go with an idea that worked raising funds for Tsunami victims. Tuesday night he will begin to ask his guests to sign a Harley-Davidson motorcycle which will be put up for auction on eBay later in September.

Rapper Master P has formed a foundation called Team Rescue to "save the neighborhood and rebuild our communities."

The Dave Matthews Band, announced a Sept. 12 benefit concert in Denver.

E! Networks announced that it would produce a public service announcement to support the American Red Cross featuring Eva Longoria, Pamela Anderson, Destiny's Child, Steve Carell, Nicole Richie, John Larroquette, Mariah Carey, Carlos Santana and Paula Abdul. Larroquette, a New Orleans native, said Friday he would also contribute artwork to an online auction organized by actor Morgan Freeman.

Alan Jackson, Keith Urban and Alison Krauss will perform a Grand Ole Opry benefit concert in Nashville, Tenn., on Sept. 27. It will air live on cable network Great American Country.

Velvet Revolver will play a benefit concert at the Orlando, Fla., Hard Rock live concert venue.

Jazz will also get into the act. Wynton Marsalis, Bill Cosby, Elvis Costello and Diana Krall will perform the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert for Jazz at Lincoln Center Sept. 17 in New York.

Many stars have also pledged money directly to the Red Cross.

Celine Dion and the partners of her Las Vegas show, "A New Day" - companies Concerts West/AEG Live and Dragone - pledged $1 million.

Sean "Diddy" Combs and Jay-Z jointly pledged $1 million.

Nicolas Cage, who has a home in New Orleans, also pledged $1 million.

Hilary Duff said she will give $200,000 to the Red Cross and $50,000 to USA Harvest, which is supplying food to shelters. The 17-year-old actress-singer is encouraging fans to bring canned food donations to her concerts.

Pat Sajak, who was taping "Wheel of Fortune" in New Orleans last week before the show canceled early to get out of town, said he had donated $100,000 through the Lesley and Pat Sajak Foundation.

Some of the most visible work by celebrities will be seen on TV.

NBC's "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," to air Friday night on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC, was to include Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., Tim McGraw and Aaron Neville. Also appear on the special: Leonardo DiCaprio, Lindsay Lohan, Mike Myers, Hilary Swank, Claire Danes and John Goodman.

Jerry Lewis said his annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which begins Sunday night (check local listings), would also include appeals for donations to hurricane victims.

Chris Rock, Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Diddy, Russell Simmons, Wynton Marsalis and Master P will participate in a telethon Sept. 9 on BET.

The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Green Day, Paul McCartney, Kanye West, Brian Wilson, Sheryl Crow, Ludacris, Gretchen Wilson, Usher, Alicia Keys, John Mellencamp and Rob Thomas are set to appear on a Sept. 10 special that will air on MTV, VH1 and CMT.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Lit A Candle

I found a website where you can light a candle. In many countries lighting a candle is a sacred action. When words fail, or you feel helpless or hopeless. something as seemingly insignificant as lighting a candle will make things seem a little better.

When I visited the site, there were 5,244 candles lit from 80 different countries. I'm sure for many, many different reasons.

You can light your own candle here. You can view different candles and read what the lighter wrote as a dedication. Each candle will continue to "burn" for 48 hours and you can watch as it "burns" down, just as a real candle does.

As of today, I will have certain options available to me in two years. I will be eligible for my full retirement benefits in two years. That doesn't mean I will put in my retirement papers in one year, eleven months and twenty-nine days (who's counting?) but, I will have options at that point.

As of today, unless things drastically change, I will probably work another six years and then go into what the Florida Retirement System calls the DROP program. It's a deferred retirement program where I will officially retire. I will be able to continue to work at my current job for (at least one month, but up to) five years (teachers can work for six years). At the end of the five years I will leave my job. While I continue to work, my retirement pay will go into an account where it will accrue interest until I have completely retired. At the end of five years, I should have in excess of $100K in my account. The amount will be determined by the average of the last five years of salary. There is a formula that goes along with it, but you don't really care about that, I'm sure.

As I understand the program, I have to retire by age 57 or lose the option of going into the DROP (I think it has something to do with being able to get SS at age 62). I don't have to DROP, but I feel that it would be foolish not to take advantage of the program. After all, $100K is $100K.

What I mean about options is that once I reach the target date of September 1, 2007, I will be able to retire or go into the DROP at any time. If I retire, I'll have my full pension every month. If financially able to, I won't have to work, which is of course everyone's goal. I might work part time or I might start a new career. Who knows? The thing is, I'll have options knowing that I'll have my retirement check coming in. Of course, if I DROP, I'll have the comfort of knowing that I have money going into a retirement account that is mine. $100K isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but, knowing I have that account, plus my monthly retirement check, savings, some investments, and when I reach SS age, I'll have that check coming in. Still not enough to go wild on, but it my health holds out, I should have a comfortable retirement at an early (sort of) age.

It's a good feeling to know that you have options. Even if they are two years away.
September Holidays

Here are the holidays and observances for September.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Relief

Links are on the sidebar. I find it very difficult to write about what's happened in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida right now. It's just so overwhelming.

If you are concerned with how much of your monetary donations actually go to the people or event you want it to go to, go to where you can find out just how your money is distributed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

American Tsunami

I wasn't the first to say it, and probably won't be the last. And it might be a bit of hyperbole, but I don't think so. We may not have lost nearly as many people, hundreds (the numbers are still coming in) instead of a hundred thousand plus, but we still had death and destruction.

I think I can safely say the property damage is equivalent. Homes and businesses destroyed, lives shattered. Lives that will have to be rebuilt. And yes, as long as there is life there is hope. And lives can be rebuilt. I wouldn't say it to anyone who lost their home, their business or any other material possession right now, but it was just "stuff". The important thing was saved - their lives.

Now, that the skies have cleared and we can begin to see just how much damage has occurred, I wonder how the rest of the world will view their role in the relief effort. America was charged with being "stingy" after the Tsunmai relief efforts began; will we see the same type of aid that we gave? Has the UN sent in teams to help rebuild? Not to my knowledge, and in my own opinion, they would be better off staying away. And yes, I realize that most of the areas effected by the Tsunami were poor and in need of help. The Tsunami was just overwhelming. Villages were wiped out and the governments just didn't have the ability to even begin to start relief efforts. So the rest of the world stepped up and pitched in. The UN stood around, when 5-star hotels were available, and were generally pains in the you-know-where.

Since the US "contributes" what? 25% of the UN budget? shouldn't we be entitled to some help from the UN? But on the other hand, do we really want the kind of help the UN will give? I don't think we have to worry about it.

Americans will do what we've always done. Start the assessment, clean up, and then start rebuilding.

With or without the help of the rest of the world.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Laud Deo!

My father-in-law sent this to me in email. I don't know who the author is or I would give credit.

Laud Deo

One detail that is not mentioned, in DC, there can never be a building of greater height than the Washington Monument.

With all the uproar about removing the ten commandments, etc... This is worth a moment or two of your time. I was not aware of this historical information.

On the aluminum cap, atop the Washington Monument in Washington DC, are displayed two words: Laud Deo. No one can see these words. In fact, most visitors to the monument are totally unaware they are even there and for that matter, probably couldn't care less.

Once you know Laud Deo's history, you will want to share this with everyone you know. But! these words have been there for many years; they are 555 feet, 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument, facing skyward to the Father of our nation, overlooking the 69 square miles which comprise the District of Columbia, capital of the United States of America.

Laud Deo!

Two seemingly insignificant, un-noticed words. Out of sight and, one might think, out of mind, but very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what is the most powerful city in the most successful nation in the world

So, what do those two words, in Latin, composed of just four syllables and only seven letters, possibly mean? Very simply, they say "Praise be to God!"

Though construction of this giant obelisk began in 1848, when James Polk was President of the United States, it was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty- five years to finally cap the memorial with a tribute to the Father of our nation, Laud Deo .......... Praise be to God!

From atop this magnificent granite and marble structure, visitors may take in the beautiful panoramic view of the city with it's division into four major segments. From that vantage point, one can also easily see the original plan of the designer, Pierre Charles l'Enfant...a perfect cross imposed upon the landscape, with the White House to the north. The Jefferson Memorial is to the south, the Capitol to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west.

A cross you ask ? Why a cross? What about separation of church and state? Yes, a cross; separation of church and state was not, is not, in the Constitution. So, read on. How interesting and, no doubt, intended to carry a profound meaning for those who bother to notice.

Praise be to God! Within the monument itself are 898 steps and 50 landings. As one climbs the steps and pauses at the landings the memorial stones share a message. On the 12th landing is a prayer offered by the City of Baltimore; on the 20th is a memorial presented by some Chinese Christians; on the 24th a presentation made by Sunday School children from New York and Philadelphia quoting Proverbs 10:7, Luke 18:16 and Proverbs 22:6. Praise be to God!

When the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid on July 4th, 1848 deposited within it were many items including the Holy Bible presented by the Bible Society. Praise be to God! Such was the discipline, the moral direction, and the spiritual mood given by the founder and first President of our unique democracy.

One Nation, Under God.

I am awed by Washington's prayer for America. Have you never read it? Well, now is your unique opportunity, so read on!

"Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United States at large.

"And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Laud Deo!

When one stops to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation's capitol, he or she will easily find the signature of God, as it is unmistakably inscribed everywhere you look.

You may forget the width and height of "Laud Deo", it's location, or the architects, but no one who reads this will be able to forget it's meaning, or these words: "Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain." (Psalm 127: 1)."

It is hoped you will send this to every child you know; to every sister, brother, father, mother or friend. They will not find offense, because you have given them a lesson in history that they probably never learned in school. With that, be not ashamed, or afraid, but have pity on those who will never see."

Praise be to God