Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "The GOP's Latino outreach," Sept. 28, 2002

New neighbors

Gay activist Mel White and his partner Gary Nixon this month moved into a rented cottage across the street from Jerry Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. Mr. White leads Soulforce, a protest group that pushes the homosexual agenda among churches and denominations. Before he declared his homosexuality, he was an evangelical writer who ghost-wrote Rev. Falwell's autobiography. He told reporters that he and his partner came to town to correct "misinformation" by Rev. Falwell about homosexuals. He said Soulforce plans several events in Lynchburg to support homosexuals and gay rights. Rev. Falwell said the couple's temporary move is a publicity stunt but they are welcome at his church. "I can't think of anyone who needs it more," he added.

Three strikes, and you walk?

Six years ago, Leandro Andrade was sent to prison for 50 years-for shoplifting. Why such a harsh sentence? Mr. Andrade was busted for felony theft under the three-strikes rule. His challenge to his sentence goes to the Supreme Court in November, and if he wins, he could rock the justice system, reports columnist James J. Kilpatrick. Mr. Andrade, a heroin addict who stole $153 worth of videotapes from Kmart, was sentenced harshly for a crime that ordinarily nets a few months in jail. His record, which stretches to the 1980s, included convictions for burglaries and thefts. So under the three-strikes rule, he struck out. He challenged his sentence, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his conviction. Mr. Kilpatrick predicts that the high court will agree with the appeals court. "If this is the outcome, it could trigger an explosion of appeals by third-strike prisoners everywhere," he concludes. "A thousand such prisoners in California alone are behind bars for a third offense involving drugs or petty theft. One way or another, whether the 9th Circuit is affirmed or reversed, we will get a new pronouncement on the power of the states to define their criminal laws. A third strike won't necessarily mean 'out' any more."

Wing nuts

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Is The West Wing worth $10 million per episode? The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Collins reported that the show's studio wants to massively increase the fees NBC pays for each episode, far above today's $1.6 million. Some call the show "Left Wing" due to its portrayal of a liberal president, and apparently it reaches a Limousine Liberal audience. "Beyond its status as a Top 15 hit, the John Wells Prods./Warner Bros. TV series draws far and away the most upscale audience in primetime, which in turn helps NBC pitch itself to advertisers as a haven for the affluent," Mr. Collins reports.

French justice

French writer Michel Houellebecq is an obnoxious guy. His novels are sexually profane and his beliefs are nihilistic. But his real offense seems to be telling a magazine interviewer that Islam is a "stupid" religion. "Sacre Bleu!" shouted France's large Muslim community, and four Islamic groups are suing him. Mr. Houellebecq faces a year in jail or about $51,000 in fines if he loses his court battle. "It is anti-Muslim racism that is at the heart of the trial, not the personality or the provocative tastes of one successful author or another," the BBC quotes the plaintiffs' lawyer as saying. The author, however, will not retract his comments. "When you read the Koran, you're shattered. The Bible at least is beautifully written because the Jews have a heck of a literary talent," he told the French journal Lire.

Dutiful Democrats

The Democrats fiddle around while President Bush leads. That's what liberal commentator Morton Kondracke writes in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. "Democrats seem totally confused-forced to cheer Bush's latest moves even as they resist GOP demands to force an early, blanket vote of support for his policies," Mr. Kondracke reports. "With the exception of Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who called for Hussein's ouster last October, lately joined by Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Democratic presidential contenders look distinctly un-presidential on Iraq." Mr. Kondracke argues that the Dems are wandering around aimlessly, devoid of ideas about how to handle Iraq. "Sen. John Kerry told me last week that he'll probably end up supporting Bush," he reports, "but he writes and speaks like a philosophizing Hamlet, musing that the United States should go to war only if it has to, not because it wants to. The real question is: Should we go to war?" President Bush has made war seem inevitable: "If the United States achieved such a victory without war, it would be a Bush triumph of the first order."

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