- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Muslim rally

The first Muslim elected to Congress told a cheering crowd of Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., late Sunday night that they should remain steadfast in their faith and push for justice, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“You can’t back down. You can’t chicken out. You can’t be afraid. You’ve got to have faith in Allah, and you’ve got to stand up and be a real Muslim,” Detroit native Keith Ellison said to loud applause.

Many in the crowd replied “Allahu akbar” — “God is great.”

Mr. Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat elected to the U.S. House in November, has been the center of a national debate in recent weeks over Islam and its role in politics. Mr. Ellison has said he would take his oath of office on the Koran, the Muslim holy book, drawing criticism from some commentators.

But Mr. Ellison, speaking at the annual convention of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, said that Muslims can help teach America about justice and equal protection.

“Muslims, you’re up to bat right now,” he said. “How do you know that you were not brought right here to this place to learn how to make this world better?”

The convention, which ended Monday, drew more than 3,000 Muslims from across the country for the event aimed at revival and reform. Mr. Ellison, who converted to Islam during college, made his remarks at the Hyatt Regency, the site of the five-day convention.

Wage myth

“The latest reports on wages and income have been rolling in, and with them we can discount one more canard about the current economic expansion — namely, that wages are stagnant and workers are doing far more poorly than they did in that second Age of Pericles known as the 1990s,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“Over the past year, the real average wage for non-supervisory employees has risen 2.8 percent. That equates to about a $1,200 increase in purchasing power for the typical household this year. Last year, real median household income was also up 1.1 percent after inflation. This rise in take-home pay helps to explain how Americans have had the disposable income this Christmas shopping season to pay $600 for PlayStation 3 computer games and $150 for the Kid-Tough Digital Camera for 3-year-olds,” the newspaper said.

“It is true that income and wages are still about 2 percent below the peak they hit in 2000 before the dot-com bust and recession. But a new Treasury Department analysis finds that, measuring from the start of the peak of each expansion, wages so far in this decade’s cycle are running ahead of the recovery pace during the 1990s. Thus the ‘stagnant wages’ story can join the ‘jobless recovery,’ the ‘outsourcing’ crisis and the runaway budget deficit as other tales of woe that have all turned out to be evanescent.”

Arnold’s surgery

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger underwent surgery yesterday to repair a broken leg and was expected to make a full recovery, although he probably will be on crutches for his second inauguration next month, officials said.

The 59-year-old governor, actor and former bodybuilder fractured his right femur while skiing with his family in Sun Valley, Idaho, during the weekend.

He underwent a 90-minute operation in which cables and screws were used to wire the broken bone back together, the Associated Press reports.

“Following the surgery, the governor was awake, alert and talking in the recovery room,” said Dr. Kevin Ehrhart, who performed the operation at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica and also repaired former President Reagan’s broken hip in 2001.

No pardons

New York Gov. George E. Pataki, leaving office next month and eyeing a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, won’t be granting clemency to any prisoners this year.

It marks the third time in Mr. Pataki’s 12-year tenure that he has issued no clemencies during the holiday season. None was granted in 1998 or 2004. The decision yesterday drew a rebuke from an advocate for inmates, the Associated Press reports.

“He’s going out as Ebenezer Scrooge before the ghost of Jacob Marley appeared rather than the Ebenezer Scrooge who has seen the light of what Christmas should be — a joyful and merciful season,” said Robert Gangi, executive director of the Correctional Association of New York.

Mr. Pataki, who did not seek a fourth term as governor, has issued 32 clemencies or pardons.

“This isn’t the Clinton White House,” said Pataki spokesman David Catalfamo, alluding to last-minute pardons issued by President Clinton as he left office in early 2001. “We aren’t having a going-out-of-business sale on justice.”

Advantage McCain

“Despite a flurry of reports that Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani are surging in the 2008 presidential primary race, many Republican strategists believe that Sen. John McCain remains in firm control of the contest,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

” ‘He’s doing everything right, has the funding, and is ready to take on the opponents,’ says one GOP adviser to the White House. Another key Republican political strategist says that it is significant that none of the opponents have so far taken shots at McCain: ‘They are leaving him alone; nobody’s gone after him, and that’s crazy.’

“Over the past week, strategists in interviews have laid out McCain’s advantages over the competition. First, he has huge name recognition and a good reputation. Second, he has the ability to outraise most of his opponents. And third, he is well organized in key primary and caucus states and has built an aggressive staff. In fact, the strategists see the fingerprints of the McCain campaign in recent stories about how Romney has moved to grab the conservative mantle by switching his positions on gays and abortion.”

A felon’s bill

A bill that would automatically return voting rights to felons after they complete their sentences has been introduced by a Florida legislator who is still in office even though he is a convicted felon.

The bill introduced Thursday by state Sen. Gary Siplin would change the state’s long-standing constitutional ban on felon voting. Now, a felon’s rights can only be restored by the state’s clemency board, which must hear each case in a process that can take months or years, the Associated Press reports.

Florida is one of just three states that don’t automatically restore voting rights after completion of a sentence, said Senate Minority Leader Steven Geller.

Mr. Siplin, a two-term Democrat from Orlando, was convicted in August on felony grand theft charges for having employees work on his 2004 re-election campaign on state time. He was sentenced last month to three years’ probation and 300 hours of community service, but that has been postponed pending his appeal.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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