Monday, February 28, 2005

More on Iran

I think I'm beginning to understand Mr. Bush's concession in a different light now. Since the International Atomic Energy Agency has found evidence that points to Iran's past measures to build up its nuclear arsenal and its current refusal to permit inspections at an important military site, the president may believe he won the intelligence legitimacy he needs to convince the Europeans of a need for unity in forcing the Iranians into compliance.

Alternative Viewpoint on Property Rights

The Washington Post editorial board comes out in favor of New London in its decision to force homeowners to sell their property for business development.

Wonderful priorities aren't they? An Italian dramatic club survives but a person's living quarters does not.

New Tactics on Iran

I do not know for sure if this was a decision made because we really had no options or if the Bush administration really believes the Europeans are firm in their committment to deny Iranians nuclear weapons but senior U.S. officials say that President Bush may join the Europeans in offering Iranians incentives for their cooperation.

It is suggested that during his visit to Europe, our president learned of the Europeans' deep commitment to a nuclear-free Iran and that this revelation has somehow made the president more willing to concede on some of the earlier tactics if the Europeans will agree on a set of sticks used at a later point.

I don't buy into this spin offered by senior administrative officials. For some time now the president and his administrators said the Iranians will try to cheat and secretly build up their nuclear weapons program and it hinted at its reluctance to back the European effort. In this however we were alone. The Russians and Chinese are trading with the Iranians and the European powers have pursued their own strategy to stop nuclear proliferation in Iran.

President Bush so far has said nothing about the concessions he would make, except to offer a more cooperative Iran entrance into the World Trade Organization. In so doing he made a tactical retreat, conceding in principle the desire to see the Iranians develop closer ties to the international community and the United States in particular without setting the deadline for a better relationship.

The offer made by the president would not be unreasonable if it was closely tied to Iran's cooperation with respect to nuclear weapons and the sponsorship of terrorist organizations. If we are to join the Europeans in this effort, we must at the very least convince them on a strict enforcement procedures including an intrusive weapons inspection regime and possble economic sanctions should the Iranians refuse to cooperate and dismantle all of its nuclear programs (be they declared for peaceful or military means).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Corruption, Development, and Property Rights

I have been meaning to write about the connection between corruption, eminent domain, and property rights but was unable to provide a link from to the stories provided in New Jersey's Gannet Newspapers (The Asbury Park Press, Courier Post, Courier-News, and The Home News Tribune) concerning the pay-offs among local politicians and the businesses seeking to do business with them.

Anyway, here's the gist of the story. Federal prosecutors arrested 11 officials (including three mayors) in Monmouth County, New Jersey after they accepted money from representativies of construction companies and others seeking no-bid contracts with municipal governments. Some were caught while taking money from FBI investigators and informants posed as construction company lobbyists.

The Gannett Papers have done a terrific job exposing the cesspool of corruption in New Jersey but I am sure it is not alone. Wherever possible, business owners will contribute large sums of money to the local politicians or to their election campaigns in the hope of gaining their when it comes time to contract out government services to private groups.

Just recently, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a homeowner's appeal to overturn lower court rulings supporting New London's decision to invoke eminent domain to take the property at "fair market value." Unfortunately for property rights activists, like the Institute for Justice representing the homeowner in this case, court watchers predict a ruling in New London's favor.

See the connection yet? A would-be developer meets with homeowners in an effort to buy their property for his or her commercial project. Failing that, the developer meets with the mayor and committee officials and committee members at a restaurant or a discreet place and slips them election campaign money in return for help in acquiring that property.

The bribed officials then force the homeowners to sell the property they have worked to live in for 10-15 years at "fair market value," and in turn sell it to the developer in return for more campaign money and when approval for the development is brought before the Planning Board, further contributions are given.

Does this seem right? Why should someone who used his or her hard-earned money be purchase the home or pay off the mortgage for the home be forced to sell that property for a developer to build a strip mall to make his or her fortune? Why should anybody?

Columnist Skeptical about Negotiating Process

I think our president wisely chose to hold off on any invasion of Iran and give negotiations a try but it is still good to get an opinion from someone who thinks differently. Jeffrey Bergner believes that the negotiations will ultimately end in failure because the Iranians have no intention of cooperating, and the Europeans will not unite behind a series of forceful measures should the Iranians fail to comply and we push for military strikes. Mr. Bergner said we may have to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities before nuclear weapons are produced.

Personally I am not ready to give up on negotiations. The Europeans may not have agreed with our invasion of Iraq but they do fear nuclear weapons and if not, they, the Chinese, and Russians may still agree to support the persident's new approach in return for help in something they need elsewhere.

Barnes Says Cheney Should Run

Fred Barnes, a columnist for neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard has all but (if he in fact did not already) encourage Vice President Richard Cheney to enter the unofficial and still very low-key race for the 2008 presidential elections. Although Vice President Richard Cheney has already pulled out of the running in order to reassure the president of his loyalty, Mr. Barnes says President Bush could relieve him of that promise and select him as his preferred Republican successor in two years.

I don't know if the president would like to make a formal announcement in public or even to his colleagues in private. The president would not want to legitimize any stories that refer or will refer to him as a lame-duck. By endorsing Mr. Cheney two years into his second term, the president will draw the attention from George Bush to Mr. Cheney. Republicans may or may not agree with Bush's selection but it will mark the beginning of the end for Bush's agenda, whatever it turns out to be.

The Speech Mob

"Giving in to the speech mob means that discourse is diverted from the real issues to a sideshow on who is punished for uttering the “wrong” ideas or words. Dissent is dead if it can be hounded out of the marketplace so effortlessly. Democracy is no match for demagoguery if good people won’t stand up to mob rule." - Paul K. McMasters


Paul McMasters' latest column asks all of us to refrain from the condemnatory tactics played out by those who take umbrage at the particular remarks that offend them and critique our opponents through rational discourse. Mr. McMasters' of course points to the latest punishment heaped on two academic officials for comments that were offensive to some (Ward Churchill from conservative "patriots" and Lawrence Summers from the feminists).

I tend to agree with him but of course, even those who wish to condemn others for speech they do not like have a right to do so. They need only be stopped from any attempt of theirs to deny the offenders their speech.

Asmussen Cartoon

The most recent here and of course, the Wed. cartoon. Wacko and irreverent as ever.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Sunday Talk Show Preview

1. This Week on ABC: Interview with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on immigration, his declining poll numbers and the oscar picks.

2. The Chris Matthews Show on CNBC: The president's trip to Europe and his plans on how to deal with the Iranians. Guests include Bob Woodward, Katty Kay, David Brooks, and Andrea Mitchell.

3. Face The Nation on CBS: The president's trip to Europe, social security reform, and the pope's health. Senators Jon Corzine, John Sununu, and Zbigniew Brzezinski are guests.

4. Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer on CNN: Judicial nominations and Senator Arlen Specter's battle with Hodgkin's disease. This week's guests include Senator Arlen Specter, Senator Lindsey Graham, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, German Ambassador to the U.S. Wolfgang Ischinger, French ambassador to the U.S. Jean-David Levitte, and British ambassador to the U.S. Sir David Manning.

5. Meet The Press on NBC: Social security reform and Iraq. Guests include Senator Joe Biden, Senator Rick Santorum, and three New York Times columnists in the roundtable discussion - Maureen Dowd, William Safire, and Thomas Friedman.

6. 60 Minutes Sunday on CBS: Leslie Stahl reports on one possible motive for the Watergate break-in that led to the late Richard Nixon's downfall - to see if the Democratic leadership knew of Howard Hughes' attempt to bribe the president.

7. Fox News Sunday on Fox News: The debate over the pope's health and resignation as well as the president's trip to Europe. Guests include former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn, Msgr. Thomas Hartman of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., Fox News Rome correspondent Greg Burke, and Senator John McCain. Regulars Juan Williams, William Kristol, Maura Liasson, and Charles Krauthmamer in the roundtable discussion afterwords.

Deep Thought

"Most histories of bioethics assert a generative force to medical technology. Technology is described as having "created" dilemmas, from the impact of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) in creating beginning of life dilemmas, to ventilators in creating end-of-life dilemmas. But I agree with those who argue that technology does not create new ethical dilemmas (Emanuel 1991: 11-13), but makes us aware of dilemmas already present which we had hitherto ignored. One of the effects of technology is to "denaturalize" (Bayertz 1992) things which we had taken for granted as unitary.

An example is IVF and the "deconstruction" of parenting (Stanworth 1988). IVF did not create a dilemma of conflicts between birth parents and social parents; that conflict has existed since prehistory as a result of adoption. On the other hand, IVF did make possible the conflict between genetic mothers and birth mothers, two roles which had previously been unitary.

In the same way, the on-going redefinition of death and social death is the result of the technological deconstruction of dying. Instead of a relatively instantaneous process, death is now more like a "syndrome" (Botkin and Post 1992), a cluster of related attributes. This disaggregation requires that we decide how many of these attributes are required before we begin treating someone as "dead," just as physicians must decide how many psychiatric traits are required before making a diagnosis of "schizophrenia." In the case of brain death, ventilators did not create the question, but forced us to face it once ventilation disaggregated brain injuries and somatic death."
- James J. Hughes

Bold phrases my emphasis.

Abbas' Challenge

Yesterday's suicide bombing near a Tel Aviv club marks the first major break in the unofficial cease-fire announced during the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a serious threat to the negotiations between the two sides and the Palestinian leader's first real test on whether he could deliver himself as the trusted peace negotiator and keeper Israelis are seeking.

President Abbas and Saeb Erekat condemned the terrorist act and vowed to find and bring to justice the culprits responsible for yesterday's attacks. The president called an emergency meeting with those responsible for security and publicly called for a joint Israeli-Palestinian investigation into the bombing.

It is not yet known what the leader of the Palestinian people will instruct his security chiefs to do. Until recently the president has opted for negotiations with the terrorists with a voluntary cease-fire but that can only be a short-term solution for a long-term problem. If Israelis believe that the Palestinian leaders can only obtain temporary, strategic cease-fire agreements designed to win over Israeli concessions, the Israelis won't bargain. One can in part blame the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat for the breakdown in peace negotiations because he failed to crack down on terrorist organizations and he failed to blockade a major arms shipment to the Palestinian territories.

The President's honeymoon period is over as can be seen from the Israeli response delivered by Gideon Meir, a senior official in the Foreign Ministry as quoted by the Washington Post:

"The agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the terrorist organizations, or the understanding between them, has no meaning whatsoever. There's only one language terrorist organizations understand, which is total war."

"This homicide attack in Tel Aviv illustrates once again why Israel is insisting on the dismantling of the infrastructure of terror. "



The expectations could not have been higher nor any lower. Mr. Abbas must renounce terrorism and commit his administration and country to the eradication of terrorist elements within Palestinian-administered territory. If the terrorist organizations themselves cannot enforce an agreed-upong cease-fire worked out with the legitimate Palestinian authorities, Mr. Abbas himself must use whatever resources are within his disposal to enforce it himself. The Israelis won't negotiate with a group unwilling to deliver their people freedom from terrorist-induced fear.

So far, our response has been measured. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice strongly urged Palestinian leaders find and punish those responsible for the attack but stopped short of demanding a change in peace-negotiating strategies conducted by the Palestinian leader.

Mr. Abbas may as of yet still prove too weak to engage in a search-and-destroy mission against all armed terrorist groups, but he might obtain some vital information leading to the successful arrest and prosecution of known terrorists from those within those very organizations who view terrorism aso only one legtimate means to win Israeli concessions (as opposed to those who join because they seek the complete destruction of the Israeli nation).

The burden for continued peace negotations have shifted yet again. Israelis were pressured to compromise once Yasser Arafat died and Mr. Abbas took his place. Now the Palestinians will have to deliver. The Israelis are planning to withdraw fromt he Gaza Strip within a few months. What Mr. Abbas does here may indicate what happens when the Israelis transfer security and other goernmental responsibilities over to the Palestinians.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Free Speech Victory in Philadelphia

Yep! I know I'm a few days late on this but a Philadelphia judge has dismissed the charges against those "Repent America" protestors at the gay street festival. Our free speech rights should not be limited to that which is popular, non-ideological, nonreligious or unoffensive. That speech which we do not agree with can be refuted through more speech or it could be ignored.

If you find something offensive on TV or the radio, change the channel or the station. If a CD is filled is filled with offensive lyrics or the book on display deals with a topic you find offensive, don't buy it. If you think porn is evil, no problem. Don't look at it. And if you find the preacher on the streets offensive, there's no problem; walk on by. Hell, that's what I did when there was a religious right wacko preaching at college several years ago. No one is forcing you to hear another person's point of view and no one is forcing you to act as they would.

0The Pennsylvania affiliate for the American Family Association, of course has to make some news and have done what all offended groups do when they hear something they don't like by calling on the judge to apologize for comparing their right to free speech with that of the KKK and that of the Nazis. Move over President Summers. The feminist who almost fainted at your comments and left in tears has some new company. Apparently some Christian nutjobs cannot withstand having their views labeled unpopular let alone bear the sufferings of their crucified hero. I'm still curious why these people believe they have the special right not to be offended while gays and feminists do not.

No apology was needed. The judge compared their right to speak about their unpopular beliefs with that of others in the same situation. No where did the judge compare the religious right's horrible beliefs (and I do call view their beliefs as horrible) with the more serious Iand I do mean serious) acts of genoside and lynchings.

Social Security Debate

I'm still uncommitted to any approach but I do want to point out a new article in the Washington Post that provides a general overview of three plans being discussed.

Allawi and Iraq

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi formally announced his candidacy to maintain his job as prime minister even though his secular party came in third behind the United Iraqi Front and the Kurdish alliance. Mr. Ahmad Chalabi backed out and endorsed Ibrahim al-Jafari of the Dawa Party.

Mr. Allawi probably will fail in his bid because he could not even win a majority vote, let alone the 2/3 necessary to win, with the Kurds and minority parties united behind him. As much as that may not please our administration that is probably a good thing. Had the Iraqi people seen the man of a party they ousted remain in power, the entire democratic system would have been thorougly discredited. Better to bite the bullet now and win new supporters from the Iraqi people then have them join with the Baathist and Islamofascist terrorists fighting the government.

Mr. Allawi can, however, deny al-Jafari the post and consequently when some important concessions for their cause and that too is good. His challenge will help force the United Iraqi Alliance to make the concessions necessary to get everyone behind a new, pluralistic and ultimately stable Iraqi government. The Shi'ite government must reach out to the disenchanted Sunnis and promise to respect their religious practices and promise the Kurds some autonomy.

Putin and Bush

Later on today, U.S. President George W. Bush will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, Slovakia. The two are expected to announce an agreement reached within these last two weeks to secure Russia's nuclear weapons from the terrorists seeking to acquire them. The president is also expected to call Mr. Putin up on democratic backslide in Russia, arms sales to Iran, Russia's military presence in Georgia, and the repressive tactics used against the breakaway Chechen region.

The meeting and the agreement reached by the two sides comes none too soon. CIA Director Peter Goss could not say whether or not terrorists have acquired nuclear material that originated from Russia and we have only pushed to reach an agreement two weeks ago? Now the two sides will agree to joint emergency response exercises, updgrades in Russian security, and

The Iron Curtain may have fallen and communism all but vanquished but the euphoria associated with those events gone too. Russo-American relationships have cooled long before President Bush said he knew Mr. Putin's heart and have only gotten worse. We intervened in territories that once fell within Russia's sphere of influence. Ex-President Bill Clinton put troops into Bosnia to secure that state's territorial integrity and then the breakaway Muslim-dominated Yugoslav province of Kosovo in order to put an end to the Serbian genocidal campaign waged there even though the Russians have long considered themselves the Serbians' protectors.

The Russians protested as our administration welcomed the three Baltic states into NATO. We have repeatedlya criticzed the Russian-backed governments in Belarus and Ukraine and backed opposition leader Yushchenko's successful quest for the presidency. The weaker Russian sate is developing closer ties with the Chinese and Iranians in order to compete with our emerging influence in the Middle East and ex-Soviet territory.

I have joined the president in supporting Ukraine's opposition movement and our efforts to incorporate the Eastern bloc countries into NATO. I will continue to support efforts to convince Mr. Putin to reverse course on Iran, and push for a Russian troop withdrawal from Moldova and other formerly Soviet territories.

But some criticism is unwarranted and/or unjustified. Russia's territorial integrity must be protected if we are to prevent the emerging Chinese superpower from heading west into the former Soviet republics and terrorists from using those same republics as a base for operations. Russia's nuclear weaponry must be secured.

With that in mind we should do nothing that would encourage the Chechen separatists or any other group seeking independence from Russia and our criticism towards Putin's autocratic practices should be minimal. As much as we may find his politics distasteful, we must exercise discretion and pick our battles accordingly. Some disagreements weigh far heavier than others. Let the Russians take care of their own internal affairs and confine the arguments to any Russian imperialistic measures and trade with our sworn enemies.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Property Rights Update

The Supreme Court heard a case involving one New London, Connecticut homeowner's fight to save their home for "prime" office and development space. The libertarian Institute for Justice took the case on behalf of the homeowner.

Property rights supporters who were obviously pleased when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case probably were disappointed after oral arguments. Justices Souter, Breyer, Kennedy, and O'Connor appeared unwilling to overturn the necessary precedents needed to re-establish stronger property rights protections nor were they able to find a way to distinguish between a government's decision to make room for retail and the government's past efforts to support the corporations that built our railroads.

Justice Scalia appeared more skeptical towards New London's claim to do what it wants but even he was not ready to jump on the property rights bandwagon. To win, they will need the votes from Justices Scalia, Thomas (who was silent), Stevens (not present due to airplane flight cancellation), Rehnquist (not present due to illness, and one of those already leaning in the government's favor.

Too bad. Homeowners, families beware. You may pay taxes to the government for your property but it cannot match the political donations rich would-be developers give to your local township committeeman (woman) or city/boroguh councilman (woman).
Your property rights are dependent upon the value developers give to your land.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Iraq

Ahmad Chalabi withdrew from the race for Iraq's new prime minister today, leaving Ibraham al-Jaafari the sole remaining major candidate from the United Iraqi Alliance to seek the post. Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the secular Iraqi List but his party came a distant third in Iraq's first elections so he probably will not get the post. Mr. al-Jaafari will have to win a 2/3 vote majority from the National Assembly and consequently will need to win support from some Kurdish legislators.

Mr. al-Jaafari is affiliated with the Dawa Party, one of the more conservative parties associated with Iraq's Shi'ite clerics. The clerics believe Iraq should be governed in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law) though it is unclear how they will incorporate it into their country. Iran and Saudi Arabia incorporate Sharia into their practices but they are governed very differently, and there is always the question of how they could accomplish that feat without Kurdish and Sunni objections.

Some fear a closer alliance between the Iranians and Iraqis now that al-Jaafari, known for his association with some in Iran, is expected to replace Mr. Allawi, but this is unknown by all but he himself (and perhaps even he does not know). It is not unlikely that he will try to establish a closer relationship with the Iranians, but as Senators John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested on "Meet The Press," many in his party are probably nationalists as well as conservative Muslims and would reject anything that would make them dependent upon the Iranians.

Mr. al-Jaafari is certainly not our preferred candidate. I am sure we were rooting for Mr. Allawi before the elections but of course the remaining finalists included an conservative Muslim and a secular candidate we had a falling out with after we found out that he misled us into a war toppling Saddam Hussein. Al-Jaafari represents the party Iraqi citizens voted for, however, and that means it will be harder for the terrorists to link him with us.

The challenges he faces are enormous. He must somehow unite a country of diverse people united in only their hatred towards their oppressor behind a political agenda of constitutional reform and nationalization. He must reconcile with the Kurds, the Turkomens and the Sunnis. He must rebuild his army and make it a strong stabilizing force that would seek and take out the terrorists before they strike again. The fate of Iraq's political legitimacy and territorial integrity is in his hands. May he govern with that always in his mind.

Gays In The Navy

The British Navy apparently is making an effort to recruit gays and is suggesting an advertisement campaign in gay publications. The courts banned discrimination in the military but even so the navy is taking a pro-active approach. One would think we would catch on and gradually bring gays into the military, perhaps in those areas where there is no need for close quarters.

hmm.

Summers

Will Professor and Harvard President Lawrence Summers survive the PC police? Probably, but he learned a very sad lesson. Say something controversial and you put your job at risk. That's not the lesson we should be teaching college students in the very years they should be exercising their full political rights and responsibilities as American citizens.

We must repudiate pc from the left and the right equally, and it would be nice to see freedom lovers across the United States call their friends to task when they deny rights to even their worst enemies.

Important Property Rights Case Today

The Supreme Court will hear a very important challenge on eminent domain concerning the rights of a family to maintain its property and the prerogatives of governments to take that property away for shopping centers and other "job-creating" endeavors to raise the standard of living. As you well know I first commented on this and provided a link from Mother Jones magazine in December (at least I think it was then).

Personally, I'm rooting for the homeowners. That's their property and to see it go to developers that could easily pay off the government officials they could use to run for office disgusts me. Families are just as entitled to property rights as corporations.

I'll have more when the papers report on how the oral arguments went and if the tapes are released to Oyez I'll let you know.

Transcripts for President's Speech in Europe

can be found here.

Touching

"What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark."

From this rescue mission feature story in the Post.

The Meaning of Words and North Korea

I generally favor the New York Times' international coverage over that of the Washington Post but today's Post has a must-read article on the importance language serves in diplomacy. The reporter focuses on our recent dealings with the North Koreans and the words "no hostile intent."

The writer points to the North Koreans' desire to hear those words and the reluctance of some within the administration to use those words. Condoleeza Rice's predecessor used the word on several occasions though the president himself didn't. The current Secretary of State opposed using those words and the general consensus from the administration today is to openly declare that we have "no intention of invading North Korea."

A casual reader who picks up the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any other newspaper of record would not pick up on the significance of this shift in language. The former confers a certain level of legitimacy; the latter merely a specified act of restraint. Even if our governmetn said we had "no intention of invading" the country, the North Koreans (or whoever else we are threatening) would still have reason to fear other measures short of war at our disposal to topple their regime. We probably would foreclose such options (or at least they would believe we repudiate such measures) for regime change if our president says we have "no hostile intent."

Obviously there are limits to this word-reading. The phrases used above convey our general attitude towards the North Koreans but by no means suggests a specific course of action. Hypothetically, such phrases do not rule out the use of force. Should our administration believe that North Koreans are planning an act against us, or if they choose to sell nuclear, chemical or biological weapons to other countries or to terrorists we might invade the country because we do have the "intention" of protecting ourselves from those who would harm us. The context in which the word or phrase is used means as much as the actual word or phrase itsself.

What does this mean in North Korea? The administration believes it cannot use that language without repudiating the president's own "axis of evil" phrase and without ruling out the use of force should we believe it necessary to protect our own interests. It further believes such language would rule out other measures, short of military attacks, that would prevent the North Koreans from selling weapons of mass destruction to our sworn enemies in the Middle East. It does not want to rule out "regime change" and it does not want to give away a very important bargaining chip (a shift in attitude towards the government and country) without first gaining North Korean concessions.

At this moment the administration is pursuing the right course - balancing its "hostile" attitude towards a government that might be selling weapons to our enemy with an open invitation to return from its current isolation through multi-party talks.

But the president raised the stakes earlier in his first term when he included the North Koreans in his "axis of evil" along with Iran and Iraq and when he spoke in favor of regime change in these countries. In so doing, he made the North Koreans pay even closer attention to the language our administration used and now it would expect a declared change of attitude towards their government in return for its cooperation. Pyongyang obviously has no reason to comply with an administrative power that would undermine its authority in spite of its cooperation.

And that is precisely what we don't want to do until we can be assured of some enforcement mechanism that prevents the North Korean government from increasing its weaponry production and sales - enforcement measurements that obviously were not present when Pyongygang reached a nuclear arms agreement with the Clinton administration.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Tapes on Bush

So it has now come out that Doug Weade, a conservative with close ties to the evangelical community was secretly tape recording his conversations with the current president. Mr. Weade revealed only a portion of those tapes to the public, and what he released touched upon the president's ties to the evangelical community, and allegations concerning past drug use.

The New York Times broke the story in its Sunday edition and the Washington Post has now done a follow-up with Mr. Weade, who denies doing anything that would hurt the president. He uses as his support the fact that he only partially released some of the information, which of course would make us wonder about the rest which was not revealed to the public. An act of betrayal?

Well, he says it would depend upon what else is on the tapes. Why would Mr. Weade say that? If something else, say something bad was revealed, it would be an act of betrayal? Ah, I guess it depends upon the meaning of the word "act." "If by act you mean..." Nevermind, been there, done that. Suffice it to say, he betrayed the president not only by taping conversations a White House spokesman describes as "casual," but also by suggesting that a betrayal would depend upon what he released. That should increase the speculation and get the media big shots salivating over what on those tapes would make his act a "betrayal."

Nothing that was released would damage the president. Quotes attributed to the president suggest that he smoked marijuana and that he did not use cocaine (even though he refused to deny using it during his first campaign and only denied using any illegal substance for the past 15 years). Mr. Bush grew up in a time when it was socially permissible to experiment with those substances in college. Former Senator Bill Bradley, Vice President Al Gore, and even former President Bill Clinton (in his own nonsensical way) admitted to using the controlled substance back when they were in college.

If the president was caught snorting cocaine while in the White House I would be quite troubled but the fact that at one time he might have experimented with it does not concern me nor should it concern anyone else for that matter. I never gave it a thought. My vote for a third party candidate at that time was not at all decided on the president's past drug habits and was not in any way a part of the mental process that led me to hold my nose and vote for Senator John Kerry.

It is also suggested that the president was concerned about his ties to the evangelical community, that he wanted to appeal to them when he ran for the presidency. No kidding. Everybody knew that when he went before the audience at Bob Jones University, when he spoke about Jesus Christ being his favorite philosopher, when he made known his turn to God and his alcoholic past to save his marriage, and on the numerous times he spoke about morality and religion in public life.

More surprising were his comments about gays. The president obviously believes they are sinners, and like the religious right supporters he catered to, opposed same-sex marriage but the quotes Mr. Weaver attributes to him portray the president as a tolerant man who refused to demagogue and attack people of that sexual nature and he refused in spite of the fact that he believed it was expected of him.

Whatever the case the media had no reason to air these taped conversations. His past drug habbits (assuming they are true) are of no concern to us now provided there are no new allegations concerning more recent drug treatment. His other comments do suggest something of a public nature but most already knew that our president identified with the religious right even while refusing to bring his politics down to gutter.

His views concerning Al Gore and Bill Clinton (negative they are) are of no concern to us either. So he didn't like the guys. I am sure there are many guys he likes and many he does not like, just as you or I will find people we like and don't like walking down the street.

The news outlets really should not have bothered making this into a story. His past drug use is of no relevance today and everything that is relevant was already known. Unless some new serious allegations of criminal conduct are brought forward, I hope media outlets will let this story go.

Iraq article in The Nation

The Nation has an interesting article that provides an overview of some complications in Iraq's future that were pointed to on this blog (Kurdish autonomy v. Iraq's territorial integrity, secularists v. religious fundamentalists) and some not discussed (the splits within the Kurdish community being one).

I find the Kurdish splits particularly intriguing and wonder how many on that Kurdish slate that will be in power side with Jalal Talibani and who sides with Massoud Barzani with the Kurds split on the constitution that is finally drafted. The Shi'ites might exploit that division with respect to autonomy and more likely, with respect to the role of religion in Iraq. If the Kurds are granted their autonomous state to the north (one bound only in foreign policy say), they'd have no problem with a religious state in Iraq proper.

In return for power, the clerics might offer a share in Kirkuk revenue as opposed to absolute Kurdish control over it and one group might take the deal. This is only speculation but worth considering since the alliances are fluid and can shift as time goes on.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

No Rules

Everything seemed so easy during the Cold War. There were two superpowers that competed for influence among countries in the Third World and military power emerged as the means by the two countries would exert their influcence and they both played by certain rules to prevent nuclear armageddon.

Not anymore.

Bipartisan Unity on Meet The Press

Well, as promised, Tim Russert interviewed Senators John McCain of Arizona and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York about post-war Iraq, Russia, and Iran but there was no mention of North Korea. Both senators opposed a timeline for our withdrawal from Iraq, suggesting that it would encourage the terrorists who might later use Iraq in the same way Afghanistan was used - as a breeding ground for terrorist activities around the world.

This blogger shares in that assessment as you well know, which is why regime change in moderate Arab governments should be the last option on the table in Middle Eastern countries. Regime change invites political competition, competition Al Quaida and like-minded organizations would capitalize on. This band of terrorists lost Afghanistan but there is little deterring them from using another country as their base of operations.

The two senators largely agreed on the possibility of an Iraqi-Iranian alliance should Datwa's candidate win the Iraqi seat for prime minister. Senators John McCain and Clinton urged caution but expected Iraq to have its own political agenda no matter who was elected president.

The senator from New York pointed to the difficulties in implementing a pro-Iranian Islamic state in a country where its people are divided into three major factions and the senator from Arizona said those Islamists would consider themselves Iraqis before they consider themselves Iranians.

Point taken. Our over-emphasis on the Vietcong's shared ideological viewpoints with the Soviet Union and China caused us a lot of needless trouble in an unwarranted war because we overlooked their nationalist aspirations and historical mistrust towards China. Those who fear an Iranian-Iraqi alliance might very well be over-reacting and making the same mistaken analysis. The Iraqi clerics may view their new-found power as a chance to fulfill the Iraqi people's "destiny" to export its version of a religious but democratic state to counter-balance the fundamentalist Iranian, secular Syrian and royal theocratic Saudis.

On the other hand we may expect the new Iraqi government to make some overtures to the Iranians and we still do not know if it would join with the Iranians and Syrians against the Israelis or not. I guess we can leverage their support with the Kurds but even so they will probably try to establish some times with their neighbors, if only to avoid future warfare.

The two expressed somewhat different positions with respect to our attitudes toward Russia and Iran. Senator John McCain urged more hawkish positions as expected, suggesting that our administration urge President Putin to reverse course in Georgia, Chechenya, and Iran or demand that they withdraw from the G-8. Senator Clinton said further negotiations should take place first and if they prove unsuccessful we could then ask for them to leave.

Senator Clinton suggests the more promising approach in this matter considering the areas of potential cooperation. We do need the Russians to help us fight nuclear proliferation so we do not want to push them any closer to the Iranians than they already are. Our criticisms should be measured and limited to those areas where our concerns are highest - Georgia and Iran. We must insist on the independence of each country bordering Russia and persuade them to reverse course on Iran. Chechenya is officially a part of Russia so anything that takes place in that province is a concern for the Chechens and the Russians only. We need not concern ourselves about what clearly is an internal matter and nor should we further disrupt the world order's reliance on the territorial integrity of each state.

With respect to Iran, Senator McCain urges our administration to persuade the Europeans to enforce their agreement and join with us in warning the Iranians about the possible consequences for nonmcompliance. The senator from New York urges more diplomacy with the Iranians.

On this matter Senator McCain offers the better approach. Diplomacy must include carrots and sticks and so far the Europeans have promised carrots. Getting everyone on board should be our immediate concern. Diplomacy could always follow.

I said enough about this for now and before this entry gets any longer I thought it would be wise to share some excerpts from the "Meet The Press" transcripts for today's show, so without further ado, here they are:

John McCain Says Iraq Could Become The New Breeding Ground For Terrorists

"MR. RUSSERT: Senator McCain, the director of the CIA, Porter Goss, said this week that Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the new breeding ground for international terrorists. Have you learned anything about that during your trip so far?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think that there's anything illogical about that. Iraq has attracted people from all over the Middle East to come and fight, and they are being financed at least to some degree, by the same people that financed Al-Qaeda, including some who didn't. And I think it's a major challenge, and it argues for success. If we fail, then this place would become a breeding ground, and I think we all understand that we're not going to win the war on terror inside the borders of the United States of America. That, I think, indicates how much is at stake here. John McCain on "Meet The Press"


Hillary Clinton Breaks With Ted Kennedy: Timeline for Withdrawal Encourages Terrorists

"MR. RUSSERT: Then you would disagree with any call for immediate withdrawal of some troops or a specific timetable?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I understand the feelings behind that call. I mean, there is a lot of reason when we're back at home to argue about this policy. But at this point in time, I think that would be a mistake. I don't believe we should tie our hands or the hands of the new Iraqi government. Now obviously, as this government has stood up and takes responsibility, there may come a time when it decides for its own internal reasons that we should set such a deadline and withdrawal agenda. But right now I think it would be a mistake.

We don't want to send a signal to the insurgents, to the terrorists that we are going to be out of here at some, you know, date certain. I think that would be like a green light to go ahead and just bide your time. We want to send a message of solidarity. And in addition, I would hope that at this point now, we could get more international support. It is not in anyone's interests, not, you know, the people in this region, in Europe or elsewhere around the world, for the Iraqi government to be brought down before it even can get itself together by violent insurgents. So it's not only U.S. commitment, I think and hope that there should be commitment from others as well."



Senators Not Buy Into Fundamentalist Domino Threat
"Iran is certainly a threat. When I say that, Iran has had designs on this country, they've fought a couple of wars, as you know. But I do not believe that Persians are going to be that popular with Arabs, number one. Number two is that just because they share the same religious ideals does not necessarily mean that they want the Iranians to have an inordinate influence on Iraq. I think they are nationalists first and Shias second, at least that's my hope.

But I also want to emphasize again, this is going to be long, hard, tough, difficult. These people have never had this experience. And we're asking them to set up a very delicate process, and it's going to be extremely tough. We're going have setbacks, is what I'm trying to say." - Senator John McCain

"First, it is a historical fact that he, along with the Dawa Party, have had connections with Iran. Now, part that was because, you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and there was an effort in the opposition to Saddam Hussein to get support from anywhere you could. So naturally, given Saddam Hussein's attitude toward Iran and toward the Shias and the Kurds, people were looking for help and support. There are also family ties and religious ties." - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

Israeli Cabinet's Step Forward and Step Back

In some good news Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet voted for the withdrawal plan agreed to by himself and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The approximately 8,500 Israelis settlers would have to July 20 to remove themselves from the territory but obviously would be compensated for their loss.

This, Reuters News Service notes is an important symbolic move confirming Israel's commitment to make some of the tough choices necessary for a Palestinian state and peace within the region. The Palestinians could use this period in which they and the Israeli officials are expected to coordinate the withdrawal to rebuild their damaged relationship with the Israelis. Significant cooperation in this endeavor could go a long way in winning over future withdrawal plans.

At the same time, Israelis are pushing forward on their wall that separates Palestinian areas from Israeli settlements. Israeli officials insist that it is used for security purposes and not, as Palestinians suggest, as a means of carving up the Palestinian and Israeli territories. The wall does protect Israeli settlements within the West Bank.

The Palestinian response so far has been restrained. Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat said it "will undermine efforts being exerted to revive the peace process" and that it "preempts and prejudges issues reserved for the final status negotiations." A Hamas spokesman remarkably did not use this move to call for an end to the cease-fire. He merely urged the Palestinian administration to distance itself and not cooperate with the Israelis on its withdrawal plan.

The Israelis should postpone any further construction of this wall at least until the Palestinians and Israelis settle on the boundary between the two nations. Peace requires both sides to recognize the territorial integrity of the other state. Neither side must feel as if the terroritory they must cede (the Israelis) or abandon their claim to (the Palestinians) was forced upon them. The wall obviously separates Palestinian from Israeli land and the Israelis will not spend the money on a wall to protect land they obviously are willing to give up.

Palestinian moderates should ignore Hamas' suggestion and continue its negotiations over the Gaza Strip withdrawal in good faith. Hamas has unofficially agreed to a cease-fire but it by no means has renounced the future use of terrorism. In fact, it used the Israeli withdrawal as a sign that its tactics work in getting the Israelis to give up its claim on Palestinian lands. Should Hamas get control of the Gaza Strip settlements before Mr. Abbas has a chance to establish political and military authority, Hamas might use that land to attack Israelis in the future, and consequently undermine future efforts on Abbas' part to obtain Israeli compliance with future settlement withdrawals in the West Bank.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Talk Shows for This Weekend

This week we are fortunate to have a whole wide array of topics discussed, from social security reform, to veternas benefits to the war on terror and Iraq, to Negroponte's challenges as the president's new intelligence czar. And the guests differ from program to program as well! ABC has Ahamad Chalabi. Fox News Sunday one set of senators, Face The Nation another.

1. Meet The Press on NBC: Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and John McCain (R-Arizona) about Iraq. Katty Kay, Andrea Mitchell, Dana Priest & Robin Wright join in a round-table discussion with Tim Russert as well.

2. FoxNews Sunday on Fox NewsSenator Pat Roberts(R-Kansas) and Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) on John D. Negroponte's nomination and the turf wars he will face as he takes control over the intelligence agencies. Former Presidents George H. Bush and Bill Clinton update viewers on their fundraising efforts for tsunami relief. Britt Hume, Ceci Connolly, William Bristol and Juan Williams in round-table discussion.

3. Late Edition on CNN: Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on their tsunami relief fundraising, Iraq, and the war on terrorism. Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Barbara Boxer (D-California) also make an appearance.

4. This Week on ABC: John Edwards speaks about his new role as University of North Carolina Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity. Ahmad Chalabi, one of two prime minister contenders speaks.

5. 60 Minutes on CBS: Chris Rock on the Oscars.

6. Face The Nation on CBS: Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) on social security reform and veterans' benefits.

7. The Chris Matthews Show on CNBC: not see an update as yet. Will let you know when I do.

TheWeekend Asmussen Cartoon

This weekend's Asmussen treat includes the on-going baseball steroids scandal and the pro-euthanasia message coming from "The Passion of The Christ."

"Smarter Intelligence"

"Law enforcement's focus is to collect evidence after a crime is committed in order to support prosecution in a court of law. The FBI is reluctant to share with other government agencies the information obtained from its informants for fear of compromising future court action. On the other hand, the CIA collects and analyzes information in order to forewarn the government before an act occurs. The CIA is reluctant to give the FBI information obtained from CIA agents for fear that its sources and methods for gaining that information will be revealed in court." - Jeffrey H. Smith, John Deutch


John Deutch and Smith on the need for more coordination among the intelligence branches. It's a thought-provoking article regarding intelligence and obviously Negroponte will have to do his best to get everyone within his agency on board. The two make some other recommendations as well.

It will be interesting to see how Negroponte, Gonzalez, Donald Rumsfeld's successor (I still hold out some hope there, however faint) and Chertoff define the goals of their two agencies so that the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and the intelligence agencies work together and do so without increasing the shape and size of our government's prerogatives at the expense of our civil liberties.

Powell's article in Foreign Policy

Condoleeza Rice's predecessor in the Bush administration has written a short piece in Foreign Policy highlighting the "soft power" agenda items he and the president worked on in the last four years and argues for continued aid that links efforts to reduce poverty with broad economic and political reforms within the countries where people desperately need the help.

It's an interesting read worth discussion on so if anyone is interested in reading the article here it is.

When Roommate Searches Are Too Serious

Way back towards the end of my sophomore year at college I remember receiving the letter that I would have to find living accommodations off campus (we were guaranteed housing for only two years) and then after two minutes of speaking with someone with the same problem, finding a roommate.

Not so for this reporter, who had to go to a formal interview process and get a formal rejection letter.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Russia

Take a look at this article in today's Washington Post.

Just a reminder that the Cold War between the communists and democrats/democratic socialists is over but competing interests will linger. As President Vladimir Putin turns his head south and to the Middle East, (now that Ukraine is lost), expect Turkey and, I hope, a pro-American Iraq, will become more important strategic partners.

Syria

Still too early to tell how far the opposition got in bolstering opinion for an independent Lebanese state. I guess we'll know when the peaceful "independent uprising" takes place.

The anti-Israeli terrorist groups may lose a lot of their support if the Lebanese gain their independence from the Syrians but it is not known if the Lebanese would be able to control them. What this does to the peace process is not known. It could help bolster the forces for peace and negotiations within Israeli society or, if the terrorists are still able to carry out their attacks with impunity, do nothing.

Kurdish Demands

Well, if the New York Times article is accurate the Kurds are demanding something more like a confederation than a federation in which they get to control how much oil the Iraqis get out of Kirkuk, the tax revenue allotted to the Iraqis and when the Iraqis could send their mlitary forces into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Obviously the Shi'ites and Sunnis are not too enthusiastic about the list of demands but it is quite possible that Shi'ite fundamentalists, would be inclined to deal with them and give them a lot if not all of what the Kurds want if the Kurds support the clerics' vision of an Islamic state. The Kurds obviously wouldn't care how sectarian Iraq is provided it has no control over what goes on in the north anyway.

No government would nor could be expected to give up so much to a breakaway group. The Kirkuk oil fields provide major revenue source to help provide for its people and governments need the power to tax in order to raise armies and provide for the general welfare.

A more workable deal would include fixed (and not alterable without the consent of both parties) tax-sharing and oil-revenue sharing agreements, in which case the two parties split the revenue and costs associated with the operation of the Kirkuk oil fields and split the spending power of any taxes levied on the Kurds. The Kurds would maintain control over a smaller police force which would be responsible for law and order in the region and most social service programs maintained by the Kurds.

Our interest in an economically viable Iraq is essential. We must protect the territorial intergrity of Iraq as it stands now and support the central government in Baghdad resist the more unworkable and far-out of Kurdish demands. Should the Kurds get what they want, they will be surrounded by countries that fear them and will do everything to destroy them. The Turks have a sizable Kurdish population within their own country which will be inspired by the Iraqi Kurds' successful demands for independence and the Iranian and Syrian Kurds would be too. The Turks are our NATO allies and given our current problems with Russia it appears as if NATO has not outlived its usefulness.

The Kurds could enjoy freedom without seceding from Iraq and without destroying the foundation upon which the world does its business.

The Band and Religion in School

In my last blog I commended a school board's decision to uphold a policy that allows its schools to release its students from class to attend Bible Study clases off campus at the wish of their parents. The school was seeking to respect the parents' own religious practices by making some accommodations for them.

Measures designed to accommodate one's religious beliefs must be distinguished from those that are designed to proselytize, endorse, or push onto others one's religious beliefs. Bearing that in mind, the school officials in Toledo, Ohio correctly turned down a Christian bands' request to play at an anti-drug assmebly at Rossford High School.

Although the band members promised to confine their music to those songs that do not hint at religious beliefs, they might have justified their anti-drug message on religious grounds at a mandatory assmebly that was clearly authorized by school officials. Stidents are forced to attend these assmeblies for their own good. They should not be exposed to religious beliefs or have the school's message bound to and justified on religious grounds.

Had attendance at the meeting been voluntary and done after school, the Christian band would be justified in demanding public space. That is no the case here.

Release-Time

The Board of Education for Staunton, Virginia made the right decision in continuing its release-time policy, which allows parents to withdraw their students from school mid-day for a half hour class in Bible Study. It allows parents to raise their children according to their own religious beliefs off school grounds without imposing those moral values on non-believers.

The board should, however, clarify its statement so that it permits not only release for instruction in Bible study, but also for instruction in any number of religious texts provided and written by the authors of diverse religious backgrounds. It's failure to do so may violate the establishment clause and send the unfortunate message that some people's religious beliefs are worth more protection than other people's religious beliefs.

The board's decision to offer those who remain on campus some worthy class time should is also welcomed. Such students should be allowed to choose among electives, hold their lunch at that time, have a study period, or recreation time while those at religious classes are off campus.

Public schools are owned by and serve the general public. To the best of their ability, the board members and administrators entrusted with the care for the children should do their best to accommodate the diverse parents who send their childrent to school. The profound respect for one's right to the private exercise of their religious belifs is to be commended.

The Intelligence Czar's Problem

Yesterday President Bush nominated John D. Negroponte, his current ambassador to Iraq, our first intelligence czar. As a new cabinet-level official, Mr. Negroponte will presumably oversee 15 spy agencies, decide who briefs the president, and distribute allotted funding among the 15 agencies among other responsibilities.

If his nomination is confirmed by the senate, Mr. Negroponte's task could not be any more daunting. Mr. Negroponte will be vying for the president's attention with cabinet officials like Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who already have a close working relationship with the president. Rumsfeld and Negroponte are bound to argue over the administration of mlitary intelligence and it is not unlikely for him to compete with the Department of Homeland Security as well since their jobs overlap in many respects. His subordinates in these agencies may know more than he does, and they may have closer ties to the departments their agencies originally came from.

The president's confidence in Mr. Negroponte is absolutely critical if Mr. Negroponte is to have any chance of effectively bind these 15 agencies from other departments together behind a uniform strategy. Bush already undermined Mr. Negroponte's position in several respects, first in endorsing the creation of this post reluctantly. Even when he announced his appointment for Mr. Negroponte, the president said it is his wish to have the CIA director, the czar's presumed subordinate, attend cabinet meetings and have direct access to him. To make matters worse, the New York Times compares the relative ease in selecting the deputy chief with the more difficult task of choosing the czar.

Mr. Negroponte's work is cut out for him. He will have to win not only the confidence and respect of the president and the other cabinet officials, but also those who are charged to work under him. His take-charge persona and aggressive style will serve him well in this endeavor. He'll need it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

No to the PC

It's a good thing the Berkshire elementary school did not cave in and ban the play. Students should not be reared to think it is okay to silence opinions thought unpopular or stupid.

Iraqi elections

Well the votes were certified and as expected, the United Iraqi Front, a group of mainly religious Shi'ite parties, won a slim majority of the seats even though they failed to gain a majority of the Iraqi votes. The Kurds have won themselves a lot of bargaining power with their 75 seats, as did the Shi'ite secularlists led by Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, which only helps the Shi'ite clerics as both vie for kingmaker status. Then again, a Kurdish alliance has more to offer in that the Shi'ite majority is even bigger than the one offered by Allawi's party.

The Sunnis faired poorly as expected. The Sunni's seats were not mentioned at all in either the New York Times and Washington Post, suggesting that they have obtained a fairly insignificant number of seats at best.

It is suggested that the two main contenders for the job of prime minister include none other than a moderate within the religiously conservative Dawa Pary and the man who gave us the "evidence" we needed to invade Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi. The former will feel the pressure from his more Koranically-inspired party members to push towards an Islamic Republic we don't want. The latter would not forget our decision to discredit him after we found out about the misleading evidence he gave to us.

Whatever the case, Iraq's future depends upon a stable government. The Kurdish gains were good in so far as they force the Shi'ite majority to address most if not all of their concerns and in so far as the Kurds refuse to support an Islamofascist regime. The challenge at the negotiating table is what will be done for the Sunnis, who have, for the most part, led the insurgency against the elections and Iraqi interim government. Let's hope the administration appeals to Iraqi citizens across the religious and ethnic spectrum, that it appoint Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'ites and perhaps even a Christian to demonstrate its commitment to a pluralistic democratic state.

Dead People Don't Just Vote

They farm! Makes me wonder if there's a problem with necrophilia.

Maya Keyes Responds Online

Okay, I'm not quite sure of her own language issues but Maya Keyes has the right attitude about those sending her the hate mail and idiotic religious mail after she came out. I love her humor (see the italizcized portion below) but really hate her font size! You really need a lens to read the font size two in purple background.

I'm afraid of recommending her web site. No lawsuits over eyestrain okay? That's your fair warning.


Also, I'd started getting a little suspicious - I'd noticed a huge increase in the number of vicious, venomous, hate-filled, and horribly, pathetically misspelled emails/comments/chatterbox posts I was getting. So I checked my logs to see where people were coming in from and sure enough - where there is illiterate hate, there must be FREEPERS! And today there is even more "Repent sinner" going on, because I have not only freepers but people from WND coming in. People tell me I should delete their posts, but I'm all in favor of free speech. Besides, isn't it better to let the world see the kind of people they are?

So hi, to all the Freepers and World Net people! Hate all you want to hate, but kindly learn the difference between "your" and "you're".

from the Chicago Times

"If you're going to move to private accounts, which I approve of, I think you have to do it in a cautious, gradual way," Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.

Good Advice from Gays' Friend

Richard Cohen writes on safer sex, promiscuity, bath houses and crystal meth and how stupid it is for some in the community to support the anything-goes mentality. I'd just add one suggestion - gay monogamy.

Update on the Iranian investigations

In an important off-shoot of the investigations the IAEA is investigating the "how one gets" as well as the "does one have" question of nuclear materials. The Pakistanis agreed to loan the agency some of its equaipment for this endeavor.

Let's hope they are able to use this and share it with the governments so we could put an end to this nuclear proliferation. If there are three foreign policy issues I I want this and future American administrations to focus on it's nuclear proliferation, pre-emption and foreign intelligence. Kyoto, human rights-based wars, and international trade are important but I really do think the manner in which we fight the war on terrorism is priority.

Just Walk Out Rummy

Wouldn't the American troops want to have it so easy on their job? Thanks Rumsfeld. You are an inspiration for those who fight to death. Go whine about your lunch and leave when you want to. Just do us a favor and don't go back to the Pentagon.

Treason and Terrorism in Palestine

The Jerusalem Post reports on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to uphold the death sentences of three Palestinians "found" guilty of collaborating with Israeli security forces.

The three were obviously charged with treason since they sided with the Israelis during the last Intifada so the grounds for prosecuting the three were obviously with just cause. You cannot expect a state to look the other way when its citizens fight against it in war. The administration must be allowed to prosecute the accused and, upon successfully conficting them, punish the traitors.

However, since Mr. Abbas has at this time refused to crack down on the militants and instead opted to negotiate for a cease-fire, he should at the very least balance the need to try those who do betray the Palestinians with due consideration for the Israelis' need for security.

The Palestinian president should issue a statement suggesting that:

(1) this decision to uphold the death sentences is based purely on the convicted criminals' decision to fight against the Palestinians and for the Israelis during a time of war.

(2) the war is over so such warnings to the Israelis are no longer considered treasonous acts.

(3) those who assist terrorists in their quest to attack Palestinians would be in violation of Palestine's stated goals and consequently put themselves at risk to prosecution for treason.

and (4) that Palestinians who hear of planned terrorists should alert the Palestinian authorities immediately for prevention purposes.


Absent such a declaration, Mr. Abbas gives his Israeli negotiating partners and the militants seeking to start a new intifada the false impression that he accepts terrorist activities.

The Morality Police

It's okay for the military to force naked prisoners to lay on top of one another but it's not okay to look at sexual acts? Yes to torture, no to porn. That's the legacy Alberto Gonzales wants to leave behind.

Kudos to the District Judge for his ruling. It was nice seeing him skirt the First Amendment obscenity issue for one five justices might get behind, privacy. Kindof like the distribution of condoms at issue in Eisenstadt v. Baird.

Governments have at most, a very narrow, limited right to push its morality down the people's throats. Free people have a right to look deep within themselves and make their own moral judgements unless their decisions infringe on another person's right to do the same.


Now, for related issue but in a country afar. The Saudis apparently banned Valentine's Day saying they only recognize Muslim holidays. Their morality police were out as usual, taking down hearts and arresting those who didn't agree. Banning love. Wow. How humane is that?

You're just kidding, right?

Isac Aguero, a 24-year old forklifter for Miller Brewing Company's distributor, CJW, was fired after his employers found his picture in the local papers holding a Budd Lite during Mardi Gras. - from Abram's Report

Couldn't Aguero and his employer just agree to say he was too sloshed to choose the right beer?

Mr. Derbyshire on Homosexuality

John Derbyshire has an interesting column on homosexuality within the National Review. It's interesting for one because he is for once, speaking about the issue in a rational, scientific way (and not with the usual disgust he has with it) and second because his views, complicated and mixed as they are, point to the problems those on both sides have in winning their cause. The religious right can't get rid of homosexuality and the gays can't seem to pass the ick factor that most people have concerning the topic.

And okay, I admit it. It is nice read an article from someone who usually has nothing good to say for those on our side of the issue to actually point to some of the merits in our arguments.

Derbyshire is on a role. After supporting torture Mr. Derbyshire started a turn to the left - his repudiation of creation science and intelligent desiggn and a very slight turn to the left on homosexuality. (I won't count his call for our withdrawal from Iraq since foreign policy is one area in which the divide is not between right and left).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Our Intelligence Credibility Problem and Iran

In my very first post "Never Cry Wolf Until You Can Point To One" (well, second if you include the "Welcome" entry, I said we have a serious intelligence credibility problem brought on by our failure to discover the chemical and biological weapons program Saddam Hussein allegedly possessed. Our failures there have now, as I predicted, come back to haunt us.

On Tuesday, Mohamed ElBaradei of The International Atomic Energy Agency said there have been no discoveries that support our administration's contention that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, though the agency is waiting for results to come back from an Iranian military base.

The Iranian government's failure to disclose its nuclear program (which they insist is for energy production), and report those who sold them the technology have led our administration to suspect the worst - that the Iranians are seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Their suspicions are warranted and their fears warranted considering Iran's known sponsorship of terrorist organizations and after the terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center we must be forever vigilant.

But our credibility is not up to par now that the administration staked it on the non-existent chemical and biological weapons program in Iraq. Now, should the administration adamantly insist on Iran's hostile intentions, the mullahs could remind the world of ElBaradei's statements suggesting otherwise, and the administration's own intelligence failure in Iraq.

If President Bush had anything going for himself it is Mr. ElBaradei's own decision to stray from his as-a-matter-of-fact reporting to his insistence on us joining the Iranians in negotiations. The president might try to discredit him and suggest he has an agenda that he is justifying by his failure to find Iran's weapons or say he was easily duped by the Iranians by confusing an inability to find such weapons now with their decision to continue that program after he leaves.

Negotiations with Iran at this point seem premature. The Iranians still sponsor terrorist organizations, are suspected of supporting the Iraqi insurgents, and are ruled by those who support the very jihadist philosophy used to bring down the World Trade Center. We cannot reward their terrorist and overtly anti-American foreign policy by dealing with their government.

But our options are limited. We cannot invade the Iranians at this point and we can not justify such an invasion given our intelligence community's seriously questionable reputation and blockades only work when everyone is willing to cooperate. (The Russians and Chinese are developing closer ties with the Iranians. The Europeans want to trade with them and more inclined to make a deal on nuclear power). Had the administration more convincing evidence, we might win some of nations over to our way of thinking. But absent some smoking gun, some irrefutable piece of evidence like a picture of a nuclear warhead going into a bomb, how would we be able to get them to believe our interpretative evidence in light of what happened in Iraq?

Haynes on "Buster" and Spellman

"With her quick and highly public reaction, Spellings sent two chilling messages: First, she is secretary of education for some, but not all, Americans. Second, she’s ready to use the power of the government purse to influence content in public-broadcasting programs – a stance that violates the spirit, and possibly the letter, of the First Amendment." Charles C. Haynes


"Here’s the reality: Thousands of gay men and lesbians in committed relationships are raising thousands of children every day. According to the American Psychological Association, studies show that kids with same-sex parents do no better or worse than kids with heterosexual parents.

Spellings is no doubt correct in saying some parents don’t want to expose their kids to the reality of gay and lesbian families. Other parents might oppose including single-parent families, or Muslim or Pentecostal families.

But the secretary of education isn’t the appointed arbiter of which families get in and which are left out. Nor should she interpret the legitimate role of her office in monitoring quality and meeting educational goals in PBS programming as a license to dictate content for ideological or political motives." - Charles C. Haynes


Actually, Haynes, doesn't go far enough. It violates the spirit of the First Amendment by violating it. Viewpoint discrimination. Other than that a very good attack upon Spellman and the right wing pc crowd.

Reporters

"Though we often say the public has a right to know, the press is the conduit for the public's knowledge," Cox said. "If reporters have to fear jail every time they get a confidential tip, we will all know less." - Reid Cox of the Center for Individual Freedom.

Yes, the Court of Appeals struck a blow against freedom with its ruling today. The privilege the reporters seek in protecting their sources from public knowledge helps the reporters retrieve very important information about the workings of our government. People who would otherwise be afraid to speak out because they suspect retribution from the government official they are exposing for corruption or inept management need some assurance of protection from reporters. Remember Watergate and Deep Throat? We couldn't get rid of Nixon's corrupt and powerthirsty administration if it wasn't for Deep Throat and the ability to keep informers' identities like Deep Throat quiet.

Lebanon

Everyone who keeps themselves up-to-date on current events would know by now that Rafiq Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who stood up against the Syrian occupation of his country, was assassinated on Monday. To protest alleged Syrian involvement in the attacks,our administration recalled our ambassador to Syria for an unannounced period of time and reiterated our demands for the withdrawal from Lebanaon.

At this point no one can say for sure who was involved in the murder. The Syrians obviously had every reason to get their revenge and teach other dissidents a lesson by killing the man who called for their troop withdrawal but an unknown terrorist group has taken the credit. Some in the Arab community are already blaming Israel and that would make sense as a pretext to justify an invasion or get the United States to pressure the Syrians out of Israel but our past failures in Lebanon would counsel them against those activities, making this anti-Israeli theory a stretch.

Our administration correctly views Lebanon as a key ingredient to peace and regional stability in the Middle East. Israelis might question why they would force their fellow citizens out of Palestinian settlements for peace if the war against terror is merely transferred to terrorist organizations based in Lebanon and Syria.

The administration's tactics are more questionable. The Lebanese may have trouble containing terrorist activity whether acting independently or with Syrian help. We had, ourselves, failed to contain their terrorist program when we occupied Beirut in the early 1980s. Whether Syrian troops are in that country or not, the terrorists will remain to fight the Israelis.

As much as we may want the Lebanese to have their freedom it might be wiser for us to pressure the Syrians to re-establish order and punish them for noncompliance. The Syrians are more likely to respond to that then give up the one thing they have in future negotiations.

The Withdrawal

Palestinian President Abbas will be presented with a new test should Israeli Prime MInister Ariel Sharon follow through on promise to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The prime minister said he would like to work with President Abbas on the proper steps to hand control over to his troops and prevent its fall to terrorist organizations like Hamas.

The Palestinian president will have to cooperate, and join Sharon in forumulating a serious proposal for the handover. Mr. Abbas will have to restore order, secure its borders, and do whatever is necessary to prevent the terrorists from attacking Israeli settlements.

If he fails, President Abbas will shatter the Israelis' already weakened faith in a peaceful solution. If he succeeds he will have more support from within Israel and around the world and the Isralis will be forced back to the negotiating table.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Maya Keyes

If she could talk to her parents now, she would tell them she does not intend to hurt them by going public. "I wish the fact that I was gay was not something that would hurt them either," she says. "It wasn't anything they did that made me this way. I really don't see why what I think should affect him in any way." - The quotes belong to Maya Keyes, the self-identified "liberal queer" daughter to conservative talk show host and one-time senate candidate Alan Keyes. The paragraph to columnist Marc Fisher.


Maya Keyes publicly came out yesterday while speaking before a gay rights rally organized by Equality Maryland. For some her outing confirms what many have long suspected and suggested while her father was running for the senate seat.

I feel for Maya Keyes and the many gays who struggle with the conflicting emotions about their more conservative and intolerant parents and wonder what it would be like to have a very integral part of your humanity frowned upon by the very people who raised you. I'm fortunate in that I did not have that problem.

Maya Keyes obviously cares for her parents. You could see the sadness in her eyes and the discomfort she felt when interviewed by Wolf Blitzer. Poised, and respectable but still sad. Blitzer asked what she would tell her parents if they could hear her and Maya said she would tell them she still loves them.

Maya Keyes lived with them and was raised by them. They taught her how to walk, and eat. They provided her shelter. Now, because she stood up for herself she faces their rejection. She was told to move out, and would not provide for her education at Brown University. They never deserved to raise her or receive her kind treatment in the television interview. That she knows this and still took the high road is a credit to her.

I wish her the best of luck as she deals with this struggle. Though one gay group known for providing aid to rejected children are trying to finance her college education at Brown University, she will still have the emotional scars her parents and the church they belong to gave her. It's too bad the group has limited resources and must choose who gets the help and who does not.

Buchanan vs. Sharansky

"In my judgment, what happened on 9/11 was a result of interventionism. Interventionism is the cause of terror. It is not a cure for terror. The idea that the president of the United States, as he said in his inaugural, is going to help democratic institutions in every region in every nation on earth is a formula for permanent war, Tim." - Pat Buchanan on "Meet The Press"

"MR. NATAN SHARANSKY: The president said that he always felt that freedom is not kind of American invention, but it's the gift of God to all the mankind. And he is right. In the book, which summarizes his views of this issue in such a good way." - Natan Sharansky on "Meet The Press"


Rare it is when I agree with Mr. Patrick Buchanan but he points to one question the president has yet to offer the American people - a clear definition of what is and is not a threat and what would justify our intervention abroad to protect us from those threats. To date the president has rejected military intervention in Syria, Iran and North Korea but it still appears as if the president is making these decisions from crisis to crisis.

Our pre-emptive strike in Iraq was predicated on Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programs, past irrational behavior and violations of the cease-fire terms made after his troops were kicked out of Kuwait.

I do not, unlike Patrick J. Buchanan, believe we can protect ourselves by withdrawing from the world nor do I believe terrorism will take place after such a withdrawal. The world is a smaller place and countries are growing more dependent upon one another. Our need for oil fuels our involvement in the Arabian peninsula and without that involvement we could see higher gas prices here at home and worse, a real energy crisis that would bring our country's economy to a halt.

Mr. Buchanan believes detente is possible with the Islamofascists that teach hatred against our country. On the larger nation-state level this may be possible because the leaders in each country have a multiple list of concerns and obligations towards their people. Mr. Buchanan's former boss, President Richard Milhous Nixon made deals with the leaders of both communist superpowers, China and the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Even President Ronald Reagan signed onto arms control agreements with the Soviets after first imprudently calling the Soviet Union and "evil empire."

However, Mr. Buchanan's vision is ultimately flawed in always increasingly complicated world, which now includes many non-state actors. Terrorism has proliferated and generations of children are being taught to hate us in countries we once thought of as our allies. Nuclear proliferation represents a major challenge for most of us, particularly when those weapons are sold to nonrational entities.

In some places warlords, drug dealers, and terrorist organizations vie for power or agree to share it with the legally legitimate power. In other places these people are thwarted by oppressive regimes which co-opt their message so long as they do not overthow their administration.

Corporations themselves have become major international actors, which protect their business interests and sometimes dividing the public within the very countries they operate (big corporations vs. domestic businesses) and ethnic constituencies within countries have also played important roles in the development and destruction of their own countries and anyone who thinks otherwise should look to how many politicians in this country have dealt with the hot button issue of immigration reform. The United Nations has grown in size and other global bodies have grown as well.

We cannot run from a world in which the very states which are recognized as the legitimate power brokers are growing increasingly interdependent upon one another, the corporations that bring them jobs and spur economic growth.

Some terrorist organizations can be persuaded to make peace but others, like Al Quaida probably could not without trading away the very socio-political vision that has given it its purpose and legitimacy. Al Quaida, unlike some of those terrorist groups bombing Israeli citizens and other groups fighting for a people's independence, seek to uphold a world vision just as unlimiting as the president's foreign policy.

Mr. Buchanan and I may disagree on the need and effectiveness of our involvement abroad but my differences with Mr. Sharanky are much broader and fundamental. I do not share Mr. Sharansky's optimism about a democracy's peaceful tendencies. Public opinion could be goaded in one direction by demagogues interested in promoting warfare. Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussulini both obtained power first by appealing to the very people necessary to establish democratic legitimacy and they both did so by appealing to their nationalist pride, economic strife, and retribution on those that cheated their countries. The democratic people of this country waged war against the Indian nations that previously governed the lands between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and supported our wars for Panama's "independence." Permanent minorities wouldn't recognize democratic government if they believed there was no hope of their needs being satisfied.

Nor do I, for one moment believe democracy is naturally ingrained within the human spirit. People may have a natural urge to protect themselves and care for their own welfare but they define it in different ways. Some view their economic interests, primarily their interet in shelter, others in religion and still others in liberty.
The care that one shows for liberty or democracy depends in part on their own sense of entitlement and the conviction and courage to fight for that entitlement.

For years blacks were enslaved, gays lived in the closet, women refused the right to vote or hold a traditionally male job, religious minorities oppressed and yet few rose up against their oppressors. The Iraqis may be glad Saddam Hussein is gone but they did nothing to remove him. The Iranians are still living under theocratic despots. One must first view themselves as equal and recognize the injustice of watching his or her equal get better treatment before one can fight for him or herself. The dictatorial regimes in this world are far too numerous for me to believe democracy is hardwired into each and every one of us. It can only be taught.

We have been struggling to define our role in the world since the Soviet Union broke apart and the Cold War ended. The paleoconservative realists led by Patrick J. Buchanan urge a tactical retreat to our borders before we overextend ourselves and fall like the Roman Empire. Neoconservatives led by William Kristol have joined forces with liberal human rights activists in advocating for more democracy and human rights.

We are now at war with Islamic fundamentalists. The president has yet to offer a plan for our future involvement.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Kurds, the Elections, and the Post

Cliff May basically has the same interpretation I have regarding the election results. A Washington Post reporter has a different, more pessimistic interpretation here. Of course this reporter has not considered why the Iraqi Kurds were close to the Iranian government and why that may change. Does anyone remember the rivalry between the Iranians and the Iraqis? And does anyone see why the Iranians might have developed a working relationship with Iraq's Kurds?

I think the Kurds don't need anyone to make their beds for them at this point. They have developed a working relationship with the Iranians and they have also developed one with us. Why wouldn't the Iraqi government try to win them over? And why would the Kurds reject a deal if they get what they need and want out of it?

Make no mistake about it. The Kurds are free agents looking after their own interests and they will side with whoever gives them those rights.


"IRAQI ELECTION RESULTS [Cliff May]
The ballots have been counted and there is reason for optimism. Starting at the back of the pack, Iyad Allawi, perceived by many as America’s candidate, came in third. What does that prove? That this election was decided by Iraqis, not by Americans. That’s how we wanted it. That’s how we said it should be. That’s how it was.

The Kurds came in second. That’s good, too. Not just because the Kurds are Iraqis who suffered greatly under Saddam and did indeed celebrate the arrival of America troops by cheering, waving flags and throwing flowers (far from CNN’s cameras, unfortunately) but also because the Kurds will insist on minority rights -- not just for themselves but also for the Sunnis. (Actually, most Kurds are Sunnis – but they are Kurdish Sunnis, not Arab Sunnis and relatively few of them are Salafists, that is radical Islamic fundamentalists.

The Shia, who also were oppressed and slaughtered under Baathist rule, came in first – but with a plurality, not a majority. If they are smart, they will understand that to govern Iraq will require forming alliances, making compromises, working issues out in the political sphere (a concept with which few in the Middle East have had experience). In other words, they will need to develop democratic habits which can lead to democratic values which will give solidity to democratic institutions.

It is true that many Sunni did not participate in the voting. Two explanations: Some were afraid to vote, intimidated by the terrorists. So we have to work with freedom-loving Iraqis to eliminate those who prevented their fellow Iraqis from exercising their rights. Others may have chosen not to vote. That does not de-legitimize the elections, any more than it would have de-legitimized the election of Nelson Mandela had white South Africans chosen not to participate. It is to be expected that some Sunnis chose not participate in an election that would bring to power groups that had long been subject to the will and whims of an unelected minority. But such people can not hold democracies hostage.

The American interest here is straightforward: We want an Iraqi government that isn’t hostile to us, that isn’t vowing revenge and shouting “Death to America!”, that isn’t sponsoring terrorism, that isn’t developing WMDs, that isn’t slaughtering, torturing and raping its own people.

An Iraq that is a free and democratic, that provides opportunity and, in time, prosperity – that would be a bonus. Yes, we do hope for such a bonus. That, along with our desire to leave Iraq rather than rule Iraqi, is a big part of what makes us different from the imperialists and interventionists of the past.
Posted at 09:29 AM"

More On North Korea

The administration is considering plans to freeze Pyongyang's financial transactions in an effor to prevent the government from drug-trafficking and nuclear proliferation. It will also seek more cooperation from the surrounding countries and at some future point lobby for UN sanctions should Pyongyang refuse to back down on its nuclear development and arms sales.

So far the administration has responded to North Korea's declaration with restraint and this is to be commended. President Bush and his advisors recognize there is no satisfactory military option on the table this moment. The North Koreans could retaliate by launching its nuclear weapons at Japan or South Korea and unleash massive destruction, loss of life, and panic in Asia.

This must be uncomfortable for a president whose first instinct is to use military force and go it alone when he does not have the support of his potential allies but the North Korean dilemma proves the limits of military force. Had the administration been more careful in its earlier dealings with the Chinese government and worked more closely with its a;lies in Western Europe and Aisa our diplomatic hurdles might have been less difficult but we should move beyond this now. Let's hope the president learned his lesson.

In the meantime the Bush administration should pursue a two-pronged approach with pressure and hope for the North Korean government. Our government must work with our allies to jointly insist on the six-nation negotiations, a freeze on North Korea's nuclear development, the means to enforce the agreement, and deliver it to Pyongyang. In turn our government must tone down its rhetoric on regime change, promise not to attack a comliant North Korea and suggest a path towardss a closer working relationship with the isolated country.

The rpeorter says economic sanctions may be difficult to enforce. Our embargo on Cuba is not working because our European and Latin American allies trade with it. I believe the comparison of Cuba's embargo with potential North Korean sanctions is faulty. The risks associated with failure are much higher and Pyongyang's neighbors will treat nuclear proliferation very seriously. Cuba has done nothing recently to convince our allies of the need for collaborative efforts against their own government.