Tuesday, June 30, 2009

From Chief Executive to Chief Justice

On this date in 1921 the largest man to ever be President of the United States became the only man to serve as both President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. That man was the corpulent Cincinnatian William Howard Taft. Taft was nominated by then President Harding, a fellow Buckeye, and on the same day Taft was confirmed by the Senate as the Supreme Court's Chief Justice. As President, Taft had named six justices the high court; a record for a one term president. The largest man ever to occupy the White House was also one of the biggest disappointments as a Chief Executive.

Alphonso Taft’s third son, first with second wife Louise, was born in Cincinnati, OH on September 15, 1857 and named William Howard. Unlike his affluent contemporaries William Howard attended a local public school, Woodward High, from which he would graduate second in the class of 1874. From there he would follow the family tradition of attending Yale; Taft’s father and two older half-brothers were Yale men. At Yale the affable and avoirdupois Taft was a class favorite. Having already reached his full height of six feet two inches and tipping the scales at 225 pounds, Taft was an extraordinarily large man for his day. Despite his considerable frame, Taft was light on his feet and was a good wrestler and dancer. As a senior he was selected to the prestigious Skull and Bones society and, once again, finished his studies as the class salutatorian. Taft singled out William Graham Sumner, the high priest of social Darwinism in America, as his most influential teacher. Sumner was also an advocate of laissez-faire government. The adherence to this style of government would be a hallmark of the Taft presidency and a stark contrast to the leadership of Theodore Roosevelt. Yale evidently had a great impact on Taft. Not only did he teach at his alma-mater for eight years subsequent to leaving the White House, but during his term as President Taft said, “I love Yale as I love my mother."

William Howard Taft was the scion of family devoted to the practice of law; his father Alphonso and grandfather Peter Rawson Taft both having served as judges, the later as an Ohio superior court judge and the former judge in a Vermont county. This love of the law may have been hereditary for a seven year old Will Taft is reported to have said “To be Chief Justice of the United States is more than to be President in my estimation.” This is an opinion that Taft carried throughout his life and career, and it is the opinion of most, if not all, historians that Taft should only have been a Chief Justice and never the Chief Executive. Upon his graduation from Yale Taft returned to Cincinnati to study law. He earned his law degree from the Cincinnati Law School and admission to the bar in 1880.

In 1881 William Howard Taft was appointed as the assistant prosecuting attorney of Hamilton county Ohio. This appointment inaugurated Taft to a life of public service and set a precedent for the manner in which Taft would gain an office. Taft won only two elections in all his life as a public servant. His first was to the Ohio Superior Court, of which he was an incumbent due to his appointment following the retirement of Judge Judson Harmon. The second win was for the Presidency of the United States!! Taft jokingly commented that
“Like every well trained Ohio man I always had my plate right side up when offices were falling."
Taft’s rise to the top political office in the land is comparable to that of George Herbert Walker Bush. Both rose in the political ranks via appointments rather than elections. Both men were members of the upper-class, Yale graduates, lackluster leaders, had activist predecessors, never articulated a vision for the country, and both were denied a second term because a third party candidate split the Republican vote.

No doubt Taft’s presidency has suffered for the mere fact that he followed one of the most dynamic presidents in the nation’s history. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president since Lincoln to lead instead of being led. Andrew Johnson had been neutered by Congress, and, for the most part, every succeeding president until Roosevelt had abdicated leadership to the legislature. TR was an active progressive, pushing his reforms through Congress by the force of his personality and popularity; he stretched the Executive powers to the limit.

Taft was the antithesis of his predecessor. While Taft was a mild progressive, he was dedicated to the letter of the law and personally disagreed with Roosevelt’s heavy handed leadership. During the 1912 fight for the Republican nomination Taft contrasted himself against Roosevelt by articulating that he
“represent[ed] a safer and saner view of our government and its Constitution than does Theodore Roosevelt.”
Roosevelt walked softly and carried a “big stick”. Taft sleep-walked and traded in the big stick for dollar diplomacy, an initiative that the Wilson administration quickly disbanded upon coming to office.

William Taft would not have accepted or even sought the Republican nomination for President in 1908 had it not been for his wife. Nellie Taft was the one who desired to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and she made certain that her husband would not do anything to deny her that dream. Nellie had aspirations of being more than the wife of a Supreme Court Justice. On three different occasions TR offered a seat on the Supreme Court bench to Taft. Each time he declined, mainly at the instigation of his wife. Roosevelt finally decided that Taft should be his successor, much to the relief of Nellie but much to the chagrin of Louise Taft, William’s mother. In his book Nellie Taft: the Unconventional First Lady of the Ragtime Era, Carl Anthony cites Louise Taft as supporting Elihu Root, TR’s Secretary of State, for the GOP nomination. Louise Taft said,
“I do not want my son to be president. His is a judicial mind and he loves the law.”
In this case history has proven the old adage that “mother knows best”.

William Howard Taft may not have been as dynamic a president as his predecessor of his successor, but Taft did achieve several firsts as President. He was the first President to be an avid golfer. He was the first president to throw out the opening pitch to begin the baseball season. He was the first president to have an automobile. He was the first President (and maybe the only one) to get stuck in the bath-tub. He had to have an over-sized model brought in for his use. Taft was the first president to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

He also enjoyed a most productive post-presidential career; perhaps more productive than any other Chief executive before or since. He was an immensely popular law professor at Yale for eight years. During that time Taft was asked about the possibility of a return to politics, to which the robust former president turned professor replied
“I am now in a respectable profession! I love judges, and I love courts…They are my ideals, they typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter under a just God.”
Taft was ideally suited for the judicial bench, and it was not until 1921 that his dream of being the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court would be fulfilled. President Warren G. Harding, who had delivered Taft’s nomination speech in 1912, appointed Taft to the position he had always coveted. His sluggishness as the Chief Executive was contrasted by his activity as the Chief Justice. Taft wrote 253 opinions and obtained Congressional approval for the Supreme Court building. He left the bench in February of 1930 due to poor health and died one month later.

William Howard Taft was the Chief Executive who became Chief Justice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From Love Letters to 'Sexting'

Students used to be fearful of being caught with a steamy love letter or provocative note while in class. Teens don't pass notes anymore, and few are fearful of being caught. Today they 'sext.' For the uninitiated, 'sexting' is the sending of sexually suggestive, nude or semi-nude photos from cell phone to cell phone. USAToday has reported on a new survey which reveals that 20% of teens sext. As this study shows, young adults sext at an even higher rate.

This data is disturbing on so many levels. The mere fact that teens are snapping nude pics of themselves is bad. To then send those pics to others is really bad. But according to the information compiled by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (linked above):
Most teens and young adults who send sexually suggestive content are sending it to boyfriends/girlfriends, others say they are sending such material to those they want to hook up with or to someone they only know online.
Everything about that statement is wrong.

This type of behavior is obviously immoral, but it is also criminal. According to this Washington Times report New Jersey police earlier this year arrested a 14-year-old girl for posting nude pictures of herself on a social-networking site. Prosecutors charged her with distribution of child pornography. I have no problem with those who post, send, and/or pass on this pornographic material being treated as child pornographers, but isn't it distressing that the one charged with the sexual exploitation of a minor is the minor in question?

This excerpt from the USAToday article explains much of the problem
Many teens say their parents are clueless: 40% tell their parents very little or nothing about what they do online.
I have three boys, and they do not have and are no where near having their own cell phones. I have, however, allowed the two oldest (13 and 12) to each have an email account, and in the case of the oldest, a Facebook profile. I allow this because I believe both forms of media are useful, and fun, communication tools. The media is not the problem. How the media is used is the issue. My boys' media usage is closely monitored, and the reasons why it is so closely monitored is regularly explained to them. Yes, my boys have heard of sexting, because I've talked with them about it. Why? Because, while they don't have cell phones, many of their friends do.

Negligence, like that quoted above, is never an acceptable excuse.

USA 2 - Spain 0

This is the first ever soccer post on the Oxgoad, but I just could not allow the scintillating defeat of Spain by the U.S. side to go without a post. The Spaniards were the number one ranked team in the world, European champions, and winners of fifteen straight matches. The last time Spain lost was November of 2006 - to Romania - a record-tying 35 straight matches (32-0-3). The victory is the first time the USA has beaten Spain in international play. Spain had also not allowed a goal during this Confederations Cup tournament in South Africa, site of the 2010 World Cup. But the youthful U.S. side scored early in the game, and added an insurance goal in the second half to defeat the powerful European side 2

The squad has recently come under fire , and needed a near miracle to even advance to this stage of the Confederations Cup. They did advance. Hardly anyone gave them a chance against Spain, but they have won by two goals. Now they await the winner of the Brazil vs. South Africa match. Hopefully, they will give the same spirited play they displayed today and upset the soccer world again by defeating Brazil!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Enjoying the Country View

This morning I was blessed to be in the County View Baptist Church, a wonderful church pastored by my good friend Sam Bynum. This is my first time in west Kansas (or Kansas period for that matter) and I am surprised at how green it is right now. Evidently, they have experienced more than normal levels of rain fall. I'll be speaking at a youth camp hosted by Country View at the Black Mesa state park in Kenton, OK. Obviously, there won't be any blog posts for a few days. I ask you to please prayer for the camp, and I look forward to blogging about it - once I've recovered!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A "racist, genocidal act"

That is how Ms. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr., described abortion. Her statement is true. Abortion ends more black lives than heart disease, cancer, accidents, AIDS, and violent crime combined. About 36 percent of the abortions in the United States are performed on blacks, who comprise just 17 percent of the live births. About 80% of Planned Parenthood’s abortion centers are in or near minority communities. Alveda King is an African-American pro-life advocate; so it is not surprising for her to describe abortion as a"racist, genocidal act," but her comment was recently given in response to the aftermath of Dr. George Tiller's murder.

According to this Washington Times report, Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Omaha, NE, one of several doctors who periodically assisted Dr. Tiller's practice, stated at a Monday news conference that Tiller's murder was "the equivalent of Martin Luther King being assassinated," and compared pro-life displays of crosses to the KKK.

This suprememly stupid remark rightly outraged the niece of the slain civil rights leader. Beyond describing abortion as a "racial, genocidal act," she also had this to say to the Washington Times:
For LeRoy Carhart to mention the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who worked through peaceful and nonviolent means, in the same breath with that of George Tiller, whose work ended peace and brought violence to babies in the womb, is offensive beyond belief. The analogy is just wrong.
Of course, she is absolutely right.

Ms. Lagondino has Second Child

Tracy Lagondino, a woman who has surgically and hormonally altered her appearance to look like a man and who has been legally recognized as such, is once again in the news. She has given birth to a second child, an as yet unnamed baby boy. This comes just little over a year after she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Susan Juliette. According to the news report linked above Ms. Lagondino said:
We are a man, woman and child. It's ironic that we are so different but yet, we're just a family, just the same as anyone else.
In fact, they are a woman, woman, and now children - boy and girl - and they are unlike everyone else.

Last year I blogged about this issue. I encourage you to read the posts again, or perhaps for the first time. Here are the links:

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Partnership between America and Islam?

I wonder what these guys thought of the President's speech in Cairo? Do they always sit around like that, or do the masks get donned only when the camera comes on?

If you haven't heard or read the speech you should. Our President is certainly eloquent. I enjoy hearing him speak, even when I disagree with what he may say. I like the fact that he is engaging the Muslim world. I think that engagement is almost always preferable to isolation.

The President arranged his speech to cover seven "tension areas".
  1. Violent Extremism
  2. Israel/Palestine
  3. Nuclear Weapons
  4. Democracy
  5. Religious Liberty
  6. Women's Rights
  7. Economic Development

There was much good in what the President had to say. For instance, I appreciate that he spoke about religious liberty. I completely agree with religious tolerance. The idea that one's personal religion should be tolerated, not the idea that all religions and truth claims are equal. They are not. I'm just not convinced that Muslim countries are as tolerant of other religions as the President stated.

I appreciate the fact that President Obama plainly stated that:
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
It's just too bad that he turned right around and spoke more harshly of Israel than he did of the Palestinians, including Hamas (those pleasant gentlemen pictured above). He did say, "Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist." That's good. But here is what he said to Israel:
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. (Applause.) This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop. (Applause.)
(I didn't add the "applause". This is copied from the above linked transcript.) It doesn't sound as if Obama really has Israel's back!

The aspect of the speech that I most disliked (other than the Presidents frequent allusions to and even quotations from the Quran) may be found in this quote:
I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear. (Applause.) (The applause is not mine, but the emphasis is!)
While I am all for the U.S. partnering with Islamic nations I do not agree with the U.S. partnering with Islam. There is a difference. I'm sure the President would never have said anything about partnering with Christianity or Judaism. That was a silly statement.

Silly as it was, his assertion that one of his presidential responsibilities is "to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear." Really?! I didn't hear anything about that when he took the oath of office. What does that mean? It's one of the most regrettable aspects of his talk.

I don't believe that the United States has or needs any partnership with Islam. Dialogue with Muslin nations? Yes. Partnerships with Muslim nations? I'm all for it. But partnership with Islam? No chance! And I am certain that the President of the United States has zero responsibility of fighting against negative Islamic stereotypes.

Left on a Roll...Returned on a Skid

We came in here and took care of business. We'll go on the road on a roll with some momentum. We plan on coming back [home] in first place.

As Lee Corso is fond of saying, "Not so fast, my friend!" The Cincinnati Reds did indeed embark on the most important road trip of this still young season on a four game winning streak, their longest of the year; the pitching was tight, the hitting timely, and the defense solid. The team was one and a half games removed from first place, and the only two teams ahead of them were the two teams they would square off against over the next seven games.

Today the Reds are two and half games back. The Brewers and Cardinals are tied for first.

The road trip had a bad beginning when blooming star 1B Joey Votto left the game early - again - and pitching ace Aaron Harang proceeded to be beaten around like a rented mule. Often the victim of little run support, he was spotted an early lead that he couldn't hold. The following day Votto was placed on the 15 day DL for stress related issues, left the club, and the Reds rallied to lose the next two games; five of the seven total games on the trip.

While the five losses are the ugliest aspects of the trip they are not the end of the ugly. Jay Bruce, who confidently predicted a triumphant return to the Queen City, notched one hit during the entire trip. This basically meant that the Reds were without Votto and Bruce for all seven games. Edinson Volquez' return from the DL lasted exactly an inning. Wily Taveras missed time with a tweaked hamstring, said he was ready to return when he wasn't, and as a result played CF like a one-legged man. The pitching was inconsistent.

In my opinion there were only two bright spots of the trip, and I'm not talking about the wins. First, Brandon Phillips is toughing out an injured hand. He has a broken thumb, but is still playing a superb 2B, hitting the ball well, driving in runs, and stealing bases. He knows how much the team needs him, and he is out there doing the job. Second, Laynce Nix had a good trip. He hit three homers in the St. Louis series, and has played above average in left field, leading Phillips to say, "It's good to have a guy in left field that can hit the ball and who can catch the ball."

Beginning tonight at GABP the Reds square off against the Cubbies for three games. Still without the stressed out Votto, the injured Volquez, the hobbled Taveras, and with Jay Bruce who may need a refresher course in hitting.

I hope the ugly has ended.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Bronzed Gipper

I am happy that Ronald W. Reagan, the 40th President of the United States (and the greatest of my lifetime so far), was honored with a bronze statue in the rotunda of the US Capitol. The statue contains a piece of the Berlin Wall, which Reagan famously challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down.

I have to admit it's a bit odd to see Nancy Pelosi standing behind Mrs. Reagan, smiling and applauding! (I have not been able to confirm the reports that after the unveiling, Rep. Pelosi immediately claimed that the statue had lied to her.)

In a statement released by the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, Grover Norquist, who is Chairman of the RRLR, said:
The need for a statue of Reagan in the United States Capitol is long overdue. Reagan’s leadership left a resounding impact on the lives of citizens worldwide. At home we saw his policies lead us out of double-digit inflation, twenty percent plus interest rates, and double-digit unemployment. Abroad, his disdain for communism moved him to set in place policies that would see the Soviet Union fall.
How ironic that during an era when the US government has become the owner of GM, that the champion of small-government is so honored in Statuary Hall.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perfect Attendance

During my freshman and sophomore years at South Dearborn high school I took advantage of an unusual school policy - perfect attendance = NO FINALS! For doing what we were supposed to do - attend class everyday - we were richly rewarded. That policy changed by the start of my junior year (the teachers hated it). My only absence during those first two years was because of pneumonia. Once the policy was abandoned, however, my perfect attendance record disappeared. Who could, or would, I thought, trudge along to school everyday without a little extra insentive?

Brittani McAlister of Terre Haute graduated from West Vigo high school this past weekend. This young lady never missed a day of school; not just high school but school. Period. From kindergarten to high school, 2,340 days of perfect attendance! Not only was her attendance spotless, but she was never even tardy!! Every medical or dental appointment, for the past thirteen years, was scheduled for after school hours.

That's impressive. That takes discipline and self-motivation. Well done, Ms. McAlister!

Walking Wounded

The Reds desperately needed to win last night. They did; even though Edinson Volquez's return from the 15-day DL lasted exactly one inning before "tingling" felt from his elbow down to his fingers forced him to exit the game. The Reds' pitching has been superb this season but sub-par of late, and the return of Volquez to the rotation should have been a much needed boost. Instead, it was a too familiar bust. Just two months into the 2009 campaign the Reds are the walking wounded, or, as the venerable Hal McCoy writes in the Dayton Daily News, "All the Cincinnati Reds need is a third baseman with a bandaged head playing the flute and the picture would be complete." Here is the sick call:
  • Edwin Encarnacion wrist - he has missed most of the season.
  • Wily Taveras - hamstring
  • Jarry Hairston, Jr - flu
  • Brandon Phillips played last night, but with a fractured thumb
  • 1B Joey Votto. His lost is felt the most. Votto has missed most of the last three weeks with the flu and then an inner ear infection. A couple of nights ago he was placed on the 15-day DL because of stress related issues.

Considering all of the above I'm amazed the Reds won last night. Their recent collapse in Milwaukee was a mammoth disappointment, but the team has shown character in the face of all thesee injuries.

I've enjoyed the play of Adam Rosales and Ryan Hanigan, and Ramon Hernandez has been great at the plate, behind it, and at 1B in place of Votto. Phillips has recovered from a horible April, has played banged up and played well. After seeing the Brewers, Cardinals, and Cubs - supposedly the three best teams in the NL Central - I have no doubt that the Reds can be competitive with them, but the pitching staff must be more consistent and Joey Votto has to be in the line-up every day. The replacements have stepped up, but how long will that last?