Asking Questions; Questioning Answers

Slave to greed: It’s not called “something for nothing,” of course, but that’s what the rash of reparations-for-slavery scams amounts to. Those growing legions of black taxpayers taken in by promises of reparation refunds are enslaved by nothing other than old-fashioned opportunism. The operative color here is greed green.

It’s also poetic justice for those trying to find another way to play the victim card — trying to cash in an I.O.U. earned by somebody else.

But for those who continue to push reparations as some sort of principled recompense for historical affronts, how’s this for intriguing irony? According to the 1860 census, more than 6,000 blacks owned slaves, mostly Indian but in rare cases white. Any of those slave-owning descendents want to step forward and settle ancestral matters with certain Native Americans and whites?

Wholly unresponsive: The sexual abuse scandal involving Roman Catholic priests of the Archdiocese of Boston continues to grow and fester. Too much attention, however, has been focused on Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law and whether he should resign.

What Law should resign himself to is coming to grips with a fundamental flaw of the church: requiring its priests to lead celibate lives. From Boston to Rome, church leaders need to examine whom it expects to attract, recruit and retain with such an unnatural qualifying commitment.

This is not a matter of transferring and counseling priests; defrocking the few outed in public; and paying hush money. It’s a matter of acknowledging a fatal flaw and doing what makes moral — and common — sense. To do otherwise is as outrageous and harmful as it is sinful. Remember sin?

Honoring Elian: Last week Al Neuharth, founder of the Freedom Forum, a non-partisan foundation dedicated to free press and free speech, was in Havana to present the Free Spirit Award to Elian Gonzalez. Previous winners include former Supreme Court Justices William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall.

What wasn’t quite clear is why Neuharth, who’s also the founder of USA Today, found time to bestow this honor for activism on the erstwhile shipwreck survivor and focus of an international custody confrontation. Was he honored for allowing himself to be saved?

Gutsy move: Not only is it the “Axis of Evil” trio that is taking a rhetorical pounding. Even Haiti is taking one on the chops — but also in the wallet. Secretary of State Colin Powell has told that beleaguered country that the Bush administration will not release $200 million in international aid until President Jean-Bertrand Aristide takes steps to end the country’s political crisis and make its democracy work better. As if.

That should shape-up Haiti, a geopolitical and economic basketcase where literacy and arable land are as scarce as corruption-free politicians.

Meanwhile, two countries that have a lot to say about whether the world turns toward Armageddon, keep raking it in from the U.S. Israel receives $3 billion annually in U.S. foreign aid, while Egypt’s take is $2 billion.

Perhaps Powell should consider getting $5 billion worth of leverage from these deals.

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