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Community Comment

Archive for September 2010

Man beats baby to death…

Good morning, Netizens…

I am utterly aghast at James R. Cooley’s murder of Santiago McCreight, a one year-old baby boy who was beaten to death by Cooley. Cooley has been arrested, which is perhaps “too little too late”, because according to various reports, he had already assaulted Santiago’s older brother, beating him and throwing him into the bathtub before killing the baby. This doesn’t include a previous instance of shaking a baby, on May 5 of this year that left his former girlfriend’s 6-month-old daughter blind and mentally disabled.

I suspect by now that many have seen the various television news interviews with the baby’s mother, Rebecca L. McCollough, and although I do not like watching public displays of private grief, in this instance it serves a function of holding Cooley’s life ending in the baby’s murder up to the light of public censure. I feel certain most people, including the police officers who investigated this case and made the arrest of Cooley, would agree with me that Cooley is sick, depraved and revolting beyond words. He beat a one year-old baby to death for crying.

As obtuse as it might seem, there are some lessons to be learned from this horrific murder.

I feel quite resolute in my belief that Rebecca McCollough had no warning of Cooley’s previous violence against children, nor of Cooley’s extensive criminal background which came to light just yesterday. There has to be a middle ground here, between protecting the privacy rights of citizens and allowing women, particularly with children, to learn about potential boyfriends previous violent crimes, particularly against children and infants.

A single woman with children who wants to know more information about potential boyfriends simply cannot get any information from authorities. In the case of James R. Cooley and Rebecca McCollough the system failed miserably at protecting her children. How can we make the system better? Cooley should have been arrested back in May of this year, yet he was able to convince investigators then of his innocence.

That plus we have a profound need in our sick society to understand and treat the mental illness of such men as James R. Cooley. We need to understand the long-term implications of drug abuse since it seems in addition to being a sick, perverted child abuser, Cooley also had a drug habit. How do drug habits and child abuse “fit” with one another? That seems like a damned good question.

All the recriminations and outpouring of public angst will do no good if we cannot learn from the errors of our ways, especially when an innocent one year-old baby is beaten to death by a man who had previous to this time, beaten a baby.

Rest in Peace, Santiago.


Demise of the South East Spokane County fair?

Good morning, Netizens…

This last weekend, I sat once more at a picnic table beneath the trees in South Spokane County’s cultural diadem, one of the few ties to our agricultural past that endures even today. It was time, once again, for the annual South East Spokane County Fair at Rockford, an event that my wife and I have attended sporadically for several years now.

According to fair manager Jack Bergstrom, the fair has been in existence for 66 years, no mean feat when you consider how isolated it is from the mainstream of Spokane County and the grudging respect it receives from the Spokane News Media. Two TV stations and the Spokesman-Review each gave little coverage to this year’s fair, and even then, KREM-2’s coverage overlooked some of the true beauty of the fair: the morning parade which wove through downtown Rockford, the vendors, the multi-class livestock in the barns, the kids and various political luminaries who made an appearance. The news media never has been particularly anxious to waste their resources on the South East Spokane County Fair and that seems such a shame, given the amount of hyperbole they expend each year on the Spokane Interstate Fair.

However, one thing seemed to resonate with KREM-2 TV. The fair and carnival, which is held each year in Rockford’s City Park, may be a thing of the past, as the State of Washington has given the fair $3,300 this year, which is less money than most people pay for a new car, having given them notice that unless state funding improves, 2011 will be the fair’s last year of state assistance. and without funding, the fair may simply fade away.

If KREM-2 had arrived on Saturday morning, however, they could have gotten the rest of the story, because the folks who have kept the three day fair running are not taking the news of the possible demise sitting on their hands. One of the highlights of Saturday’s schedule, which went off on-time at 1:00 PM, was when Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich kissed a cow for the fair. It seems there was an impromptu competition between Sheriff Ozzie and the Mayor of Rockford, Micki Harnois, to see who could raise the most money for the fair, and Ozzie won the dubious honors. I was standing there, when Ozzie kissed a black yearling cow fresh from the barn on the nose, and thus donated over $1,000 to the fair’s operating budget.

A few in the crowd speculated wildly about what Ozzie would do if the cow decided to stick out its tongue during the kiss, but alas, that didn’t happen, and despite the poor cow being anxious to get back to the relative serenity of the livestock barn, the audience applauded when Sheriff Ozzie kissed the cow. The things elected officials will do in an election year to help a good cause!

In closing, once the carnival rides closed for this year, the throngs of people standing patiently in line gone from the food booths and the incredible homespun music still echoing across the park, there is a durable sense of tranquility that will linger on, so long as everyone remembers this stately fair and the farms it celebrates each year.


John Olsen

A message written by John Olsen that needs to be heard…

Clear DayGood Morning folks,
I have been out of town for two months during the transition to the new schedules and service changes for our transit system.  I recognize the budget need to reduce service on selected routes, and to extend intervals between bus runs on weekends and late nights.  Those are all pretty much “quantifiable”  and can be determined in a linear and fair manner.  I don’t think anyone can quarrel much with that part of the plan.

What I am appalled at is the removal of many of the stops on most of the routes.  That decision is unkind, not service oriented and complicates many people’s lives while also putting them at physical risk.  The climate in Spokane is just fine from April through May,  and from September till the end of October.   The other 8 months are viscious to those of us that spend time out of doors waiting for our nicely air conditioned and heated bus to arrive.

I am a regular bus rider,  and am still quite physically and emotionally capable.  A very high percentage of people that ride the bus with me are encumbered in some one way or another…  grossly over weight, travelling with children, carrying two or three bags of groceries, without proper clothing for the weather, mentally ill, physically disabled, and on and on….  They are ALL uniformly grateful and thank the drivers for the rides they recieve.  

Transportation is a peace and justice issue,  that impacts many if not most of the people I am called to be with as a Christian. They are not being “served” well by the ludicrous increase in the distances between transit stops.  Busses all run late because they are a “service”  that includes stopping for up to four or five wheel chairs at one time… no on who rides the bus can or likely is on a tight time line..  Therefore “honing” time on routes by reducing the number of times the bus stops does not help any of my friends and community of other.  

It is clear to me from talking to several of my regular drivers that they find the changes in stops not to be condusive to any increased efficiency, and have observed the increased hardships placed on the riders by having to walk, or wheelchair, or carry their groceries or kids an extra 200 yards up hill.  On my ride this morning up Division there were two stops removed on the Division hill,  so your choice is at Foothills Blvd… or Bridgeport..   feels like more than a half mile up hill to me.  

I know the “process” whereby these changes in stops were made was open to comment,  buy my friends don’t write letters to the editor or blog or send email to folks like you.   I am doing that in their stead,  and am asking that before winter comes and someone dies falling down in the snow walking an extra 250 yards to their bus stop it be changed back.  

Come ride the bus and see how it is…    

I await your response.    

                                     John A. Olsen/ Volunteer Chef  Shalom Ministries
                                     Central Methodist Church  


“When I give food to the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist.”
Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara

WSP Detective shoots pregnant woman…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

All I know is that a WSP Detective involved with serving a search warrant on Spokane’s North Side shot a pregnant woman this morning. That’s not a lot of detail, for which I apologize, but I am engaged in a job this afternoon, and thus not able to fully discover what is going on.


Morning invocation…

Good morning, Netizens…

Thought you might enjoy this interesting prayer given in Kansas at the opening session of their Senate a few years ago. It seems prayer upset some people… When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!

The response was immediate. A number of legislators walked out during the prayer in protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than 5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls responding negatively.. The church received international requests for copies of this prayer from India, Africa, and Korea.

The late Paul Harvey even broadcast this prayer on his radio show. It pretty much says it all in my opinion.


Eddie Fisher dies…

Good morning, Netizens…

Pop vocalist Eddie Fisher, who sold millions of records with 32 hit songs including “Thinking of You,” “Any Time,” “Oh, My Pa-pa,” “I’m Yours,” “Wish You Were Here,” “Lady of Spain” and “Count Your Blessings,” has died at age 82.

He was married and divorced five times, to Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Connie Stevens, Terry Richard and Betty Lin.

In 1955 when he married movie darling Debbie Reynolds; they were touted as “America’s favorite couple”. Unfortunately that didn’t last long.

Their daughter Carrie Fisher became a film star herself in the first three “Star Wars” films as Princess Leia, and later as a best-selling author of “Postcards From the Edge” and other books.

In Fisher’s heyday he was an incredible pop star, with a clear voice that set millions of his young female fans screaming in the pre-Beatles era.

I remember listening to “Oh, My Pa-Pa” on a 45 RPM record a long time ago, and one night listening to him sing “Any Time” on a radio station outside of Dallas, Texas late into the night. That is the sort of saccharine sweet songs that made him into a star.

Rest in Peace, Eddie…


Spokane Police Guild says hell no to compromise…

Good morning, Netizens…

We knew the Spokane Police Guild was never our friends. In fact, as proven in numerous instances, they are very much arrogantly a power unto their own, despite what anyone says to the contrary. Now that the City of Spokane is down to cutting jobs as a last-ditch effort to balance the budget, you might think that the Guild would be saying something to the Mayor akin to, “How can we help? What can we do to avoid cutting jobs from the department?”

That doesn’t seem possible based upon what written by Ernie Wuthrich, the head of the Spokane Police Guild, in a letter to Mayor Mary Verner. He has said no way. This is not a good thing.

According to the Spokesman-Reviews’ Shawn Vestal at there is an alternative to laying off police officers. Give back some of the planned pay raises for police in 2011 and pay a bigger proportion of the medical insurance. Wuthrich has already stated that if the job cuts in the police department take place, the Police Guild will “lawyer up” and file a complaint with labor relations.

It is painfully-obvious that the Guild will have to take a few cuts in pay increases and pay a bit more into their medical insurance or else sacrifice police officers’ jobs. A lot of other people in City Hall have already taken cuts; it seems certain that unless cuts are made, men and women of the Spokane Police Department will lose their jobs.

Accepting pay cuts seems like a good compromise, but the Guild has never been known as one to compromise, even when the stakes are high.


Payroll cuts at City Hall…

Good morning, Netizens…

I love it! Actually I’m revulsed by the news from the hallowed halls of City Hall, because the news is simply that bad! According to Queen Mary, officials are preparing to give 120 city employees pink slips next week, with more than half of those being given the boot in the police and fire departments. While that news is still settling uneasily on the voters’ ears, the news that Queen Mary is not delivering with vapid smiles for all is that in contrast to this bad news, some city employees are getting pretty wild pay increases, some of them in the $5,000 to $10,000 range, are based on either pre-negotiated labor contracts or civil service step increases.


One example that rankles me is after receiving a 10.9-percent wage hike in 2009 this year the city’s finance director is picking up another 9.6-percent increase to bring his salary up to $108,000. Not even our Mayor, Queen Mary Verner makes that kind of money, because her salary is capped at $100,000. Perhaps given my predictable distrust and dislike for our city attorneys, it rankles me further that five assistant city attorneys received 32-percent pay raises last year and 14-percent pay raises this year, putting their individual annual salaries well above $100,000 ostensibly designed to keep the city’s lawyers from being lured away by private law firms. Aw gee, folks, we cannot have the barrister class of public employees being lured into private service, now can we?

Now let’s take a brief look at some of the damage. If all the cutbacks take effect the first of the month as planned, 45 police jobs and 28 fire fighters are on the block. Unfortunately, no one in City Hall named any other departments losing employees, but I assume they are there.

On top of the layoffs there’s talk of either closing a fire station within the city or doing rolling firehouse brown outs where stations are periodically closed, according to that bastion of upbeat news, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. Good news abounds.

Who are you going to complain to? You might try the Mayor’s office, or perhaps your favorite City Council person. Ask the abrupt question is why the mayor didn’t – or wasn’t able to – make those wage freezes a reality before the current budget crisis that’s forcing more than a hundred city employees out of their jobs.

Ye Gods! The City is falling into mayhem.


Democrats in the headlights?

Good morning, Netizens…

Having driven the back roads and byways of Eastern Washington perhaps more than is seemly, it somehow seems miraculous to me that I haven’t hit more than one animal that got caught and frozen by my headlights. Cartoonist David Horsey captures a bit of this in a cartoon and dexterously applies it to the upcoming election(s), and in this case makes the Democratic Party the foil of his wit.

Or, if you twist this a bit further and put a Republican Elephant in the headlights, you could have a bit more fun looking at it from a different angle, as it seems the Republicans are perhaps just as paralyzed as the Democratic party, for they haven’t decided whether to jump right or left.

The Tea Party movement has raised havoc with the upcoming vote on both sides of the political system. What frightens me, to some degree, is that according to some, they are actually an ultra-right-wing faction of the political all. Do we really need the ultra-right-wing running our government at any level? I submit not.

Of course, there are some, myself included, who submit you cannot entirely trust anything you read (regardless of its source) or see on television these days. However, discernment is always keyed to knowledge and learning, two elements which I believe are often in short supply these days.

Your results, of course, may differ.


Rainy days and Sundays…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

I live in a culture of noise. Unfortunately, most of that racket is man-made, stuff like cars, the television, radio and conversation in between. On days like today, when it rains out-of-doors, I cannot hear it fall, with the possible exception of the distant noise as the rainwater comes down the gutter downspout, and only then if I have a nearby window open. However, although not at their utmost best, life is good these days.

There was a time many years ago when my personal times were much-harder than they are now. I was living in a converted bread truck north of Spokane in Dragoon Creek Campground eking out an existence by whatever means necessary. I actually had a delightful environment, with various kinds of wildlife wandering through my camp each day, and a creek that flowed right by my campsite that chuckled and laughed to itself as it wove its way through the campground. I cooked meals on a cast-off Coleman stove that had broken DNA, which would refuse to light on days when the ambient temperature fell below a certain degree without a blowtorch. I had enough money to pay for a campsite and a few groceries and a tank of gas a week, and that was about it.

There were certain advantages to my subsistence living back then, as distant a concept as that might seem. I would awaken on most mornings to the sounds of songbirds eagerly broadcasting their joy at the rising sun and fields of grain to eat and on those days when the campground was largely vacant, I could sit at a rustic picnic table in the ambiance of the great outdoors clad in only jeans and sandals. Since I had boxes of books in the truck, I could read whatever I wanted almost any time of the day.

Several years later, after I had moved into my cabin above Springdale, I found I also relished the sound of the rain on my metal roof overhead.

But I felt some of the greatest joys of living there alongside the creek on rainy days when visitors were either limited to occasional. I would build a neat country fire in my Franklin Stove, open a book and sit sublimely content inside my metal cocoon with the fire crackling and the sounds of raindrops falling on the metal roof overhead.

On rainy days, such as today, I miss that isolation, listening to the rain on the metal roof, despite how good life may be now.


Who wins and who loses?

Good morning, Netizens…

Here we have a David Horsey depiction of what might happen if the Republicans ever hitched a ride with the Tea Party faithful. Say, didn’t anyone notice that neither of the two Republican faithful have their seat belts fastened? In Washington State that could get them a pricey ticket, now couldn’t it? Shame, shame. But it’s only a cartoon, right?

If one can believe this cartoon, could it be possible that the Tea Party faithful could turn moderate Republican party members into an endangered species? Or, on the other hand, once Republican moderates actually begin reading the fine print on the Tea Party agenda, perhaps the opposite is true, that the Tea Party might become endangered, themselves.

Or, perhaps what the Tea Party faithful might fondly wish for, the Democratic Party might end up being an endangered species, themselves.

Which is it? Who actually ends up losing if the Tea Partiers succeed?


Spokesman-Review wins awards…

Good morning, Netizens…

Detractors probably are muttering something (typically beneath their breath) about “it’s only the Cowles”. However, it is difficult to support such a statement when the Spokesman-Review continues to win awards for excellence in reporting and photography year after year.

This year The Spokesman-Review brought home six awards from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association convention in Portland.

The paper won three C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for Distinguished Newspaper Reporting, in the over 50,000 circulation category. Kevin Graman, Sara Leaming and Jody Lawrence-Turner share a second place award in the deadline reporting category for their coverage of the escape of mental patient Phillip Paul from the Spokane County Interstate Fair. Becky Kramer won second place in enterprise reporting for a story on the health effects of a Trail, B.C., lead smelter on the residents of Northport, Washington. Lawrence-Turner also won a second place in investigative reporting for her story on purchases made by the Spokane Police Department Special Investigations Unit, in violation of city and state laws.

In the photo contest, Kathy Plonka took second place in the metro news category for her photo of Jacenta Bonagofski, grieving the death of her mother. Dan Pelle won third place in metro portrait, for a picture of Carissa Outen, an 18-year-old facing cancer. Pelle also won a second place award in the metro multiple category for his work photographing Outen’s story.

However, look as I might, I could not find an award category for excellence in Blog journalism. I do believe this is long overdue.

Congratulations to everyone who won awards for excellence this year.


A lawman speaks in the Ballroom…,

Good evening, Netizens…

Upon first re-arriving at The Virtual Ballroom after a prolonged and somewhat vexing business trip, I thought perhaps the ghost of the late Pastor Wayne Scott Creach perhaps had chosen the ethereal ballroom as his next step on his pathway to Heaven, given the number of ghosts that were clustered in a huge group in the corner of the ballroom where, occasionally, the ballroom musicians gather after one of their ongoing performances. However, such was not the case. Rather, the gathering was like watching a living cornucopia of colors and shapes, constantly revolving, evolving and reforming itself in the fading lights of that corner of the musty old ballroom, but with no discernible figure as its focus.

Before I waded into the ghostly throng, however, no return home to the Ballroom would be complete without first stopping at the Virtual Espresso Bar for a cup of whatever the fates would have me drink. Sidling up to the bar, a ghost with half his noble brow creased by what I presumed was an old scar greeted me profusely by name, and obliquely slid a blue enamel cup of something resembling my Aunt Bertha’s homemade cold remedy in front of me, adding softly, “This is good for whatever ails people in a time of misconception or disbelief.”

Taking my first tentative sip, I was not terribly surprised to sense well-being that slipped over my soul like an old, comfortable pair of loafers would fit my tired feet. One minute I was filled with trepidation over the events of the last weeks, including two officer-involved shootings in the Spokane area, and the bad economic news from across the country. The next minute I simply had stopped worrying about misconceived mischief and began relaxing.

Turning my back to the bar, while I continued to sip my drink, I finally meandered over to where the throng had gathered, curious to see what had triggered such a mass of spectral figures in our otherwise tranquil Ballroom.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, at the center of the throng, the ghost of a Texas Ranger attired in the manner of the late 18th century, complete with weathered chaps, a pair of what appeared to be dragoon pistols strapped around his waist and a weathered star glowing softly upon his chest. Despite being a ghost, he appeared drawn and perhaps even travel-weary, and was discoursing with several of the ghosts about the criminals he had helped bring to justice before he, himself, was brought down by a shot in his back while everyone else listening raptly in.

“Sometimes,” he said hitching his thumbs in his gunbelt in the historically time-honored way, “It is extremely difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys. They may look to be good honest citizens that pay their way and always abide by the law when, in fact, they are hideous gangsters wearing false faces. Sometimes it is the other way around, where good honest citizens are mistaken for the most onerous persons of evil intent and they get caught up in something they are unprepared to handle.”

“Just remember,” he added softly, “If a lawman gives you a command, always do what he says to do. If it turns out later to be a bad command, that is why we always have lawyers.”

“Fortunately I never shot anyone who didn’t richly-deserve it, although I have known a few that did,” he added introspectively. “On the other hand, I never let a bad guy get away from me, either.”

Mulling his words over carefully, I slipped back out into the Virtual Garden and observed the puffs of smoke rising from the underground havens of the Garden Gnomes. At least somewhere there is still peace, even in the Virtual Ballroom.


Obituary for Edwin Newman…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

The world has lost a fastidious grammarian as well as an award-winning news broadcaster as Edwin Newman has passed away yesterday.

Newman died peacefully of pneumonia Aug. 13 in Oxford, England, his lawyer Rupert Mead told Reuters. His wife and daughter wanted to wait before announcing his death to come to terms with the loss, Mead said.

Newman was regarded as a master journalist — a newsman, a commentator and an esteemed critic. He received the George Foster Peabody Award in 1966 for “wit and depth of understanding” for his radio news broadcasts.

After earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1940, Newman joined the Navy and upon discharge in 1945, he worked at a variety of journalistic posts, highlighted by a period of learning under Eric Sevareid at CBS’ Washington bureau.

An enthusiastic grammarian, Newman also chaired the usage panel of American Heritage Dictionary. He wrote four books on language, including “Strictly Speaking, Will America Be the Death of English? (1984), “A Civil Tongue” (1976) and “I Must Say” (1989).

A story attributed to him by NPR states, “I remember when the bulletin came on the AP wire that Spiro Agnew had resigned as vice president. I ran to the announcer’s booth. There was an American League playoff game on. Whoever was in charge of operations control wanted me to wait until the end of the inning. I said, ‘The next time the pitcher delivers the pitch and you see the ball in the catcher’s mitt, switch to me and I’ll be off before the pitcher throws another ball.’”

We are slowly, inexorably losing the great voices of news, one by one. Rest in Peace…


A special Gathering request…

Good morning, Netizens…

Do you know this man? Have you seen this man in the past?

Nearly 25 years ago a personal friend of mine convinced me I should continue writing, and at first (this was well before Community Comment came into being) I wrote fiction and non-fiction which I posted on various Usenet news forums, a few of which I owned/operated outright. Over the years Bob Kirkpatrick and I became the best of friends, and our combined stories can still be found laying around in various places on the Internet. Our friendship, however, has never dimmed over the passage of years.

Unfortunately, Bob is now suffering from myeloma cancer, and has been writing on his blog about that process of dying, as well as his terrible treatment at the hands of the Veterans Hospital here in Spokane. You can read the entire history at but a word to the wise, bring a hanky when you sit down. Many are the times I have simply walked away from my workstation in tears of frustration and anger at the manner in which the VA has treated my friend and hero.

His time is growing limited, but he still continues to function at a fairly strong level, even now in the face of nearly-insurmountable pain.

After a great deal of introspection, and because of the years we go back together, I decided I should hold a Gathering in his name while he is still marginally able to participate. However, unlike other Gatherings in the past, this one will be strictly an RSVP event for those who once knew or still remember Bob. This event, which will take place approximately the middle of October, at a restaurant which few would recognize, and dinner will be served. My lovely friends at Cutting Edge Communications and I are springing for the meal, providing you know Bob somewhere in your past.

To attend this event you will need to send an e-mail to and you will receive instructions as to where and when this event will take place.

We will have tall tales to tell, perhaps laugh a little, perhaps even cry a little, but we will rejoice in Bob’s life with us.

Now back to our regularly-scheduled events on this fine Tuesday morning.


What defense is there for hatred?

Good morning, Netizens…

I am not Islamaphobic. I am not a follower of the Dr. Terry Jones , nor of Reverend Fred Phelps, Sr. and his Westboro Baptist Church, There are far too many ugly consequences of portraying our country as Islamic-hating, Koran-burning radicals bent upon characterizing all persons of Islamic faith as terrorists. What these fringe elements of Christianity have done is portray Americans to the rest of the world as hateful, racist and homophobic and the whole world is watching.

Isn’t there already enough hatred in the world today to go around? What repulses me, event frightens me is that these pastors and others have become synonymous with being American, which to my way of thinking, not only inflames the world awareness; such thinking endangers not just Americans, both Christian and non-Christian alike. It preaches and advocates hatred, poorly disguised beneath theology.

Yesterday and earlier today I chanced to read the web sites of both Dr. Jones and the Reverend Fred Phelps, Sr., and although this morning at 3:00 AM Fred Phelps web site is down, it doesn’t change the hatred that both men espouse as part of their belief in God. Their rather-lengthy records speak sadly of their rise to world fame.

If, as Terry Phelps has promised, he burns a copy of the Koran as an act of hatred, thus alienating and perhaps even inciting members of Islam into other acts of hatred, what will he have accomplished?

Radicalism when used to distort religious faith is still just radicalism. Hatred when hidden beneath religious faith is still simply hatred. Preaching hatred results in more hatred.

What part of this can we not understand?


Look in the mirror…

Good morning, Netizens…

In this morning’s David Horsey cartoon, we are called upon to take a long look into the mirror the better to see two clerics, each bearing their individual animosities. Granted, the zealot who threatened to burn a copy of the Koran has now stated he no longer will consider continue his plot, but the ugly match between the two religious worlds is still quite striking.

It should be noted that the Koran is most-simply put just a book, published around the world and representative of the Islamic Faith, much the same as the American flag is representative of the United States of America. Zealotry has its price, regardless of which side of the mirror you stand on.

Either way, whether the mirror depicts Islamic or fundamentalist Christian beliefs, you still see hatred; you do not see the Godlike quality both religions espouse, and thus we are playing with fire.


When is capital punishment mandated?

Good morning, Netizens…

Cal Coburn Brown was executed early today by lethal injection for the rape, torture and murder of a Seattle-area woman, in Washington state’s first use of capital punishment in nine years.

Prison officials say Brown, 52, died at 12:56 a.m. PDT, after a four-member team injected a lethal one-drug cocktail in the execution chamber of the Washington State Penitentiary.

There are some who believe that justice finally was served in the case of Brown, and then there are others who refuse to believe that the taking of a life for a life is wrong. During his appeals process, Brown claimed that he suffered from bipolar disorder, and should have his sentence commuted to life.

Brown, who is from San Jose, Calif., had a history of violence against women, including a 1977 conviction in California for assaulting a woman with a knife at a shopping center. He also served 7 1/2 years — the minimum sentence — for assaulting another woman in Oregon in1984.

It remains to be seen whether capital punishment should be allowed to continue or be discontinued entirely. It is, after all, another form of murder, albeit one sanctioned by the law, especially when circumstances of mental illness are involved.

When do we stop capital punishment?


Why literacy?

Good morning, Netizens…

Today, September 8, 2010 is International Literacy Day. I was pleasantly-surprised the other day when so many people responded to the message thread “Why Bother Learning to Spell?”. Endorsed by UNESCO, this day is proclaimed for disseminating literacy awareness amongst world’s illiterate community.

Adopted in the year 1965 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Literacy Day is observed every year, on this day with a new mission.

Since its very inception, this day became a special occasion to mark literacy awareness and many educational programs feature this particular day in their year round events. But in the year 1990, the United Nations General Assembly provided a bolster to global literacy by proclaiming the year as International Literacy Year. The special year marked the ongoing commitment of the world community to boost and support literacy as a key to personal progress and to the socio-economic development of nations.

Despite many, diverse efforts, the literacy rate across the world looks alarming. According to UN analysis there are close to four billion literate people world wide and some 776 million people lack minimum literacy skills, that mean one in five adults are illiterate; 75 million children did not attend school and many more attend irregularly or are drop outs. Almost 35 countries have a literacy rate of less than 50% and a population of more than 10 million people who are illiterate. 85% percent of the world’s illiterate population dwells in these countries, and two-thirds are fairer sex.

What literacy is all about is developing persons who can, with understanding, both read and write a short statement relevant to routine life, and capable of analytical understanding of mankind’s condition in the world. Literacy is a means of personal liberation, development and delivering individuals educational efforts.

While making the entire world literate may seem a far-fetched goal, without making the entire world literate we cannot expect global development.

On this special day, let us take an oath to make our country as well as the world literate. It is possible if we take the very first step ourselves by sparing some time for uneducated people living around us we may see literacy around the world in our lifetime.


A baton blow leaves a mark, you know…

Good morning, Netizens…

The story of the officer-involved shooting of the late Pastor Wayne Scott Creach has become a bit more convoluted over this Labor Day weekend, and frankly the news media reports that Creach was hit by Deputy Brian Hirzel’s baton at least once adds little to this otherwise incredible story of how Pastor Creach died of a single gunshot to the chest.

Details, particularly when involved in official police reports, are everything. Without them, you do not have enough information to make or form a cogent and well-defined opinion of what actually took place.

According to several news sources, Deputy Hirzel struck Pastor Wayne Scott Creach at least once with his police baton in an effort to force Creach to the ground.

How many readers have ever been hit by a police baton? Without a great deal of explanation, I will state with absolute clarity that once upon a time in far-off Berkeley, California an Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy hit me once in the leg during the People’s Park Riot that took place several times in the 70’s. I was not arrested; in fact once the Deputy saw that what I had in my hand was a sack lunch and not a weapon, he left me laying on the sidewalk and went down the street in search of better game. Later on, I discovered where he hit me had left a brilliant blue bruise that later on turned amazing hues of the rainbow as it healed. Fact: My experience is you do not hit someone with a police baton without leaving a mark.

Fact: One of the principal functions of a coroner’s report is to officially record any scars, lesions, bruises, injuries or other breaks in the skin of the deceased. These would include, but are not limited to the bruise(s) that being hit by a police baton would leave behind and, obviously, the bullet wound to Pastor Creach’s chest, including the bullet exit wound, if any. If Creach had been, in fact, hit with a police baton on the leg prior to being shot in the chest, as some news sources state, there would be a bruise or contusion on Creach’s leg that would most certainly be noted in the coroner’s report.

However, since we still do not have the coroner’s report regarding Wayne Scott Creach in hand, we have no way of verifying that Deputy Hirzel hit Pastor Creach with his nightstick prior to shooting him.

At present we have a lot of conjecture, in the form of hearsay, that the baton blow took place; hence lacking the true evidence in the form of a coroner’s report, we have no evidence at all. If either the Spokane Police Department or the Washington State Patrol wish to anonymously leak information to the news media, they could do themselves and public a service by releasing the coroner’s report, which would clarify this issue without further question.

Until that time, or until the coroner’s report becomes public knowledge, we may never know whether the baton blow in question ever took place. That is nearly as troublesome as the various other aspects of the death of Wayne Scott Creach.

Of course, your results may differ.


The Space Odyssey?

Good morning, Netizens…

If you are really a member of the antique generation, or failing that, an avid fan of cinematography, you will undoubtedly remember Stanley Kubrick’s award-winning “2001- A Space Odyssey” where a black obelisk possessing certain incredible powers plays a role. Thus perhaps this Associated Press picture from the Saudi Press Agency will seem as a bit other-worldly.

Rather than Kubrick-art, this photo depicts tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque during the last week of Ramadan in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Some authorities suggest the stone is a meteorite while others offer various other explanations how it came to be.

However, the similarity between the Kaaba and the black obelisk from 2001 A Space Odyssey is somewhat striking.


Why bother learning to spell?

Good morning, Netizens…

Last week students in Oregon got a heck of a message from their state school board. They no longer need to learn to spell when a computer can do it for them. From now on, seventh-graders and high-school students can use automated spelling checkers to correct their mistakes when they take state writing tests. School officials explained that spell-checkers are an acceptable part of life in in the workplace, college, post-secondary training and the military. Welcome to the newest standard of the “dumbing down of America”.

I have some problems with this.

Next year, you can count on students getting better grade scores on their writing tests. Hey, that could give parents and educators the false impression that their kids’ writing is doing just fine, their spelling is getting better, couldn’t it? Impeccably-written texts, all checked by a spell-checker, free of any errors, while the kids are incapable of writing a sentence in longhand. If you demote spelling from a requisite skill to an optional frill, it sends a message from adults and educators that kids are incapable of learning how to spell well, hence kids won’t bother to attempt to learn how.

Most writing is done on computers today, and spell-checking is nearly ubiquitous. Learning how to use or abuse Microsoft Word is nearly mandatory in high schools these days, despite the inherent errors in the spell-checking code. Of course, as former President Andrew Jackson wisely once stated, “It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.”

The relationship between spelling and reading comprehension is high. The more deeply and thoroughly a student knows and understands a word, the more likely he or she is likely to recognize, spell, define and use it both in writing and speech.

Aren’t words such lovely things? Students who learn how to navigate the world of the printed word also learn how to think quickly and independently even when disconnected from a computer. Egods, imagining a world bereft of cogent spelling places us in intellectual poverty, does it not?

Unfortunately, that seems to be the direction we are heading, at least according to some educators.


A wicked holiday doth approach…

Good evening, Netizens…

At least I am speaking of those of you who haven’t already fled Spokane for your favorite vacation spots, as the Labor Day weekend begins to unravel this evening. Some of my favorite neighbors have already fled the pop stand, heading for their precious “cabin on the lake” while the rest of us are still here, wondering what, if anything, we should do to celebrate a holiday that seems more synonymous with the last big fling of the summer before fall truly begins to arrive than anything of moral significance.

We could always go to Pig Out in the Park and gorge ourselves on all kinds of culinary magic, although being a Type-II Diabetic, in recent years I have come to avoid this event, simply because of my lack of self-control, rather than anything associated with that wonderful event.

Most of the kids already have gone back to school. I can hear a collective sigh that comes from their parents who, until next summer (or unless the kids get into serious trouble) have got their daytime hours back after this weekend, and daycare will now provided by the school systems. I couldn’t help but notice a few parents walking their pre-school/kindergarten children to the first day in class yesterday morning, which warmed the cockles of my wicked old heart, since for some parents, that may be the last time they actually commune with their pre-pubescent offspring other than cries of outrage and confusion.

I just did a quick poll outside the Virtual Ballroom and discovered half of the neighborhood have already fled while the rest are hiding behind their porch lights, taking solace in technological mediocrity by watching television or DVD’s in their living rooms. In the distance, despite what the talking heads of weather have suggested, a lonesome rain squall meanders its way across the West Plains, rain falling as virga, water that never hits the soil.

I think tomorrow I am going to write some fiction for Community Comment if for no other reason than to see if I can still do that with any effectiveness. Given some of the fiction being bandied about by our elected officials, perhaps I’ll simply be keeping up with a regional trend. Of course, your results may differ.


What happened and when?

Good morning, Netizens…

Now let’s have a sensible discussion about the Deputy Brian Hirzel and the resulting death of Pastor Wayne Scott Creach. After reading a number of blog post comments regarding the confrontation that took place in the parking lot of Creach’s business, The Plant Farm, we still do not know precisely what took place that ill-fated night. We appear to have a lot of speculation, but the facts are few.

Hearing what he thought was a prowler, Pastor Creach grabbed his pistol and went outside to see what was going on, whereupon he was shot in the chest by Hirzel and died shortly thereafter.

During the hours afterward, Knezovich announced that Hirzel would not be making a public statement regarding Creach’s death for 48 hours; Detectives from the Spokane Police Department and Washington State Patrol officers would be involved in investigating the shooting because of a protocol negotiated by the Police Union. Knezovich also pointed out that even without the protocol Hirzel could exercise his constitutional right to not speak with detectives.

Two days passed before Knezovich mentioned that Hirzel had departed on vacation and was not available to police detectives.

According to Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich Deputy Hirzel scheduled his vacation in December or January, and left the day after the shooting for points unknown. There is the matter of cost-prohibitive plane tickets and travel costs that Hirzel would have to pay and as a result, Knezovich allowed Hirzel to take his vacation.

Thus the interview between Hirzel and detectives was put on hold until his return Friday morning.

Will we have an answer then about what took place outside The Plant Farm? Perhaps, perhaps not. It is most-troublesome that two days passed before anyone knew of Deputy Hirzel’s previously-unannounced vacation. Did Ozzie know about it at the time he made the statement about when the investigation would take place? We don’t know that.

So now we wait, perhaps to see what actually took place. My suggestion is, given past investigations by the Spokane Police Department, don’t hold your breath.


The War is Over, what were the lessons?

Good morning, Netizens…

What were the lessons of Iraq? Cartoonist David Horsey asks a few difficult questions, and offers a few answers.

Was the war worth it? Would we as a nation be better off if we hadn’t entered the war with Saddam Hussein?

Did we learn anything? Judging from the War in Vietnam it wouldn’t seem as if we did.

Take another look at the War in Afghanistan. Then decide what price we want to pay for the head of Osama bin Laden.


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