Saturday, December 31, 2005

Dan Asmussen and Odds and Ends

Well, before I sign off for the rest of this year (what's left of it) I wanted to post the Dan Asmussen cartoons for the week. I would also suggest a visit to Andrew Sullivan's web blog, The Daily Dish for a few laughs. Mr. Sullivan has, as usual, posted his awards for the most outrageous, juicy, and hilarious quotes from right and left-wing pundits, politicians, and religious leaders. They are real good so scroll down and laugh.

To all I wish a Happy New Year.

The Washington Post's "Analysis" on Judge Alito

The Washington Post analyzed Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito's record on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Post reporters Amy Goldstein and Sarah Cohen say Mr. Alito, like most Republican-appointed judges, more often than not defers to the government on criminal procedures and votes against civil rights claims in most cases. Mr. Alito is also more skeptical towards legal immigrants facing deportation but strongly supports religious expression rights.

In U.S. v. Kauffmann, Judge Alito dissented from a Court panel ruling ordering a retrial for a defendant because his lawyer did not conduct any investigation that might have led his client (who ultimately pled guilty to firearms sales) to plead insanity.

How do the reporters use this information? Well, note here:

"U.S. v. Kauffman is typical of Alito's perspective on criminal cases. Of 33 such cases in the analysis, he sided with criminal defendants only three times, aligning with prosecutors more often than the average GOP-appointed judge in divided cases."

I'll get back to that case after I read the case but given what follows I wouldn't take their assertions at face value. The writers use two totally different cases which should not be compared to accuse Judge Alito of favoring a religious agenda. He, the reporters suggest, gives more deference to individuals invoking their free speech rights if it has religious content than he would if it implicated non-religious content.

What do they use to buffer that assertion? A case in which he sided with a classroom student who invoked his free speech right to quote bible passages in class in a limited open forum and a case in which he sided with prison officials denying inmates the right to have newspapers, magazines and photographs. Hmm. Is he granting more protection to the classroom student because he was invoking religion or was he granting the student more protection because he wasn't a criminal who in his view, forfeited some of his rights?






Irony: The Anarchist Professor

This New York Times feature story about the anarchist-believing professor amused me. For some reason I cannot understand how a professor, one who is charged with awesome responsiblities and authority over the pupils within his class, can subscribe to a belief that repudiates authority. He certainly must see the wisdom behind rules right? He ultimately bowed down to a sensible one - show up for class on time.


Friday, December 30, 2005

House Population Quotas in America?

Big brother not only watches, he counts in this town?

"Your nephew, under our law, is considered unrelated,"

Wow. But then again, a state which does not choose to respect the bonds created by same-sex couples can choose to disregard other types of familial ties as well - say that between an uncle's family and the nephew and girlfriend who rent living space from him. Can the town now, for the sake of controlling overcrowding limit families to two children per household? Not if Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Lawrence v. Texas and yes, even that most despised (in my view) opinion Roe v. Wade are still good law.

Hmmm. The law is designed to curb illegal immigration. I have no problem throwing the illegal immigrants out by sending the police into homes with search warrants and fining the businesses employing the illegal immigrants. But the power claim made with this law is too great to ignore.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Dan Asmussen

I apologize for the minimal blogging of late but I have been working very long hours this week and had not the mind to write about the news. I will return to my usual routine next week. I hope you enjoy your holiday weekend, be it the winter solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, or whatever it is you celebrate at this festive time of the year.

It would be a sin, however, to deny you this week's The Bad Reporter laughs for the week so without further ado, a look at Cheney and the toy wars.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

FISA Judge Quits

James Robertson would not be the kind of judge Mr. Bush would like in the White House. I'm sure those associated with the administration told him (the judge) not to hit the door on the war out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mr. Bush and Spying


--S.J.Res.23--

S.J.Res.23

One Hundred Seventh Congress

of the

United States of America

AT THE FIRST SESSION

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Wednesday,

the third day of January, two thousand and one

Joint Resolution

To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States.

Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens; and

Whereas, such acts render it both necessary and appropriate that the United States exercise its rights to self-defense and to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad; and

Whereas, in light of the threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by these grave acts of violence; and

Whereas, such acts continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States; and

Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for Use of Military Force'.

SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.

    (a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

    (b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

      (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

      (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Vice President of the United States and

President of the Senate.


From the president's news' conference. Full transcripts posted on The New York Times web site. Here are some highlights.

1. On Unchecked Power

Q. Well, go —

A. Hold on for a second, please. I — there is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're — we're talking to Congress all the time. And on this program to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times. It's a — a — this is an awesome responsibility, to make decisions on behalf of the American people and I understand that, [Baker?]. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor a program such as the one I've described to you to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say unchecked power, basically, is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.

Q. What limits to do you see, sir? What limits to do you see —

A. I — I just described limits on this particular program, Peter. And that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do and at the same time safeguarding the civil liberties of the country. John.

What checks against government power is the president talking about? Mr. Bush said he consulted with several members of Congress. So what? He might have consulted with several key, Republican establishment-oriented senators and congressmen who would support him while avoiding those who would in all likelihood oppose his latest effort to crack down on terrorism.
2. Concerning the Need to Know faster

"Q. It was why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts.

I'll be glad to answer some questions here, starting with you, Terry.

different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want.

We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent. We use FISA still - you're referring to the FISA court in your question. Of course we use FISA's.

But FISA's is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect.

Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question: is it legal to do so? I am - you know, I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is: absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress. Adam."

But a few questions later:

"Kelly. Q. Thank you, Mr. President. If you believe that present law needs to be faster, more agile, concerning this surveillance of conversations from someone in the United States to somewhere outside the country -

PRESIDENT BUSH. Right.

Q. Why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?

PRESIDENT BUSH. No, I appreciate that. First, I - I want to make clear to the people listening that this program is limited in nature to those that are known al Qaeda ties and/or affiliates. That's important. So it's a program that's limited. And you brought up something that I - I want to stress. And that is is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country or vice versa. So in other words, this is not, you know, a - if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that.

I think I've got the authority to move forward, Kelly. I mean this is what it's - and the attorney general was out briefing this morning and I - about why it's legal to make the decision. I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties. I know that. And it's - I share the same concerns. I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you and we're doing that and at the same time protecting your civil liberties. Secondly, a open debate about law would say to the enemy: here's what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States. And we take that duty very seriously. Ah, let's see here. . .. . Working my way around the electronic media here.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. You say you have an obligation to protect us. Then why not monitor those calls between Houston and L.A.? If the threat is so great, and you use the same logic, why not monitor those calls? Americans thought they weren't being spied on in calls overseas. Why not within the country if the threat is so great?

PRESIDENT BUSH. We will, under current law, if we have to. We will monitor those calls. And that's why there is a FISA law. We will apply for the right to do so. And there's a difference. Let me finish. There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent and monitoring. And it's important to note the distinction between the two. Q. But preventing is one thing and you say the FISA laws essentially don't work because of the speed in monitoring calls overseas.

PRESIDENT BUSH. I said we used the FISA courts to monitor calls. It's a very important tool. And we do use it. I just want to make sure we've got all tools at our disposal. This is an enemy which is quick and it's lethal. And sometimes we have to move very, very quickly. But if there is a need, based upon evidence, we will take that evidence to a court in order to be able to monitor calls within the United States."

That was a good follow-up, for if the president thought it necessary to move with the speed that can only be obtained by shorcutting the legal process ofretrieving a warrant from FISA, why would he acquiesce and limit the surveillance to calls to those that orginate in another country? Surely the danger would be just as great, and the constitutional authority he claims to be his own just as strong, were it to be applied to a call originating from within our own country. I guess Mr. Bush does not believe it is the slam dunk case for him.

"This new threat required us to think and act differently. And as the 9/11 Commission pointed out, to prevent this from happening again, we need to connect the dots before the enemy attacks, not after.

And we need to recognize that dealing with al Qaeda is not simply a matter of law enforcement. It requires defending the country against an enemy that declared war against the United States of America.

As president and commander in chief, I have the constitutional responsibility and the constitutional authority to protect our country. Article II of the Constitution gives me that responsibility and the authority necessary to fulfill it. And after Sept. 11, the United States Congress also granted me additional authority to use military force against al Qaeda. After Sept. 11, one question my administration had to answer was how, using the authorities I have - how do we effectively detect enemies hiding in our midst and prevent them from striking us again. We know that a two-minute phone conversation between somebody linked to al Qaeda here and an operative overseas could lead directly to the loss of thousands of lives.

To save American lives, we must be able to act fast and to detect these conversations so we can prevent new attacks. So, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, I authorize the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."

I don't see anything in Article II of the Constitution which grants him that power. The constitution grants him the power to act as the armed forces' "commander in chief" in the event that Congress declares war and includes nothing which would negate our Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The president's argument is stronger when he relies upon the Congressional joint resolution authorizing the use of military force in Afghanistan.

"to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons."

Perhaps but that is open to interpretation. The "persons" referred to within the act may be interpreted narrowly (in which case it applies only to those who are attacking Americna military forces) or broadly (in which it gives the president precisely what he claims it gives him). Senators who thought Mr. Bush would use the authorization to use military ofrce might not, in theory, have voted for it. At the very least, Mr. Bush owed an explanation to those who would clealry have opposed that broad interpretation and provide those whom the government spys on a means to redress any wrongs as soon as the imminent threat of an attack orf major disaster is avoided.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dan Asmussen

The most recent Bad Reporter strip includes the relationship between the radical anti-Jewish Iranian president, Hitler Kong, and Wikipedia. Then, the media bubble.

Killing over School Grades

Watts was arraigned this afternoon on a charge of murder with two enhancements: using a firearm and lying in wait, said David Tomkins, assistant district attorney for Santa Clara County.

That charge requires that Watts be tried as an adult. However, because he is underage, prosecutors cannot seek the death penalty. If convicted, Watts will face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Okay. Fifteen-year old Ryan Alain Watts puts two bullets into his father's head so he wouldn't get in trouble since he was flunking a few courses. The Santa Clara High sophomore will be charged for first-degree murder as an adult but cannot be sentenced to death given the court's ruling in Roper v. Simmons. I could see why there is an enhancement for the premeditation. The kid did grab the gun and hide in the backyard before firing the shots into his father but why does the firearm use count as an enhancement? Would the crime be any less reprehensible if he used the knife?




Link

Friday, December 16, 2005

Border Control Legislation

The House passed a bill calling for a two-layered 700-mile long fence to curb the flow of illegal immigration. Three thoughts come to mind:

1. It should be built high enough so that men, women, and children cannot climb over them without putting severe physical stress upon themselves and consequently deter them from making the effort

2. It should be built wide enought to cover all gaps that exist so they don't find another point of entry.

3. The House and Senate should consider legislation denying the children of illegals American citizenship even if they are born within the United States.

4. Both houses should pass legislation cracking down on businesses which fail to request legal documentation proving Americna citizenship. The fines should be high enough to deter violations.

5. Then, after these measures are implemented it should consider a process whereby guest workers are allowed to enter the United States to work and a process whereby they can have that permit renewed.

6. And then, after these measures are implemented it may offer those illegal immigrants now within the United States, an amnesty period whereby they can apply for and receive preferential treatment in acquiring guest worker permits if they turn themselves into the INS or other federal agencies within a certain amount of time. (those who are caught after the amnesty period ends would be sent back to Mexico and denied a permit for an extended period of time).

7. The same will be needed with respect to the neighbor to our north. Yes, it's a long border and yes, the costs will be astronomical but this is exactly where we should be spending our money (as opposed to $200 million briges servicing a population of 5,000 or as opposed to spending healthcare money on people who shouldn't even be in this country).

Border control is a necessity in an age of terror and if we do not want give up some of ouor most cherished freedoms, we will need to know who enters and leaves our country, whether they come through the airports, seaports, or across the borders.



Thursday, December 15, 2005

Kissinger On Iraq and Calls for Withdrawal

This op-ed written by Dr. Henry Kissinger is a must-read. He argues (and I definitely concur with him on this and in fact have said this now twice or thrice before) that the administration's military and political goals cannot be separated. Iraq's armed forces need a political vision to rally behind or it will fail. The people will mock and dismiss it if it is created to defend what is in essence a political lie (Iraq's proclaimed unity as described in its new constitution).

Here's the money quote:

"The actual combat performance of new units cannot be measured by training criteria alone. The ultimate metrics – to use Pentagon jargon – is to what extent they are motivated toward ultimate political goals. What they fight for will importantly determine how well they will fight.

A responsible exit strategy can only emerge from a subtle interplay of political and security elements – above all, the consolidation of a national government. Real progress requires that the Iraqi armed forces view themselves – and are seen by the population – as defenders of the national interests, not sectarian or regional ones. They will have become a national force when they are able to carry the fight into Sunni areas and grow willing to disarm militias, especially in the Shia regions from which the majority of them are recruited." - Henry Kissinger

But of course the reverse is also true. A central government which has no formidable armed forces to speak of can do nothing to ward off the competing sectarian forces competing for power. An Iraqi armed force infiltrated by militia loyalists, an institution so constituted as to include those with divided loyalties, would be an ineffective fighting force. Dr. Kissinger has not explictly stated it but it is implicit in his argument and in the arguments I have made in the past:

"For the decision to start withdrawals will have a profound psychological impact, the most immediate of which will be on the Iraqi political structure. Will the initial reductions – set to begin sometime after the December election – be viewed as the first step of an inexorable process to rapid and complete withdrawal or as a stage of an agreed process dependent on tangible and definable political and security progress?

If the former, the political factions in Iraq will maneuver to protect their immediate assets in preparation for the coming test of strength that will seem to them inevitable between the various groups. The incentive to consider American preferences for a secular and inclusive government in a unified Iraq will shrink. It will be difficult to broaden the base of a government at the very moment it thinks it is losing its key military support. In these circumstances, even a limited withdrawal not formally geared to a fixed timetable and designed to placate American public opinion can acquire an irreversible character."

This is no time to withdraw from Iraq. The argument that the Iraqi invasion made things worse by providing al Qaeda a chance to regain what they had lost in Afghanistan strenthens (and does not weaken) President George W. Bush's case to stay. Clearly those who now lambast Mr. Bush for gambling away our strategic position in the Middle East would be hard pressed to explain why we should not fight to get it back (or, if as is more likely the case, where our strategic position is tenously held but not lost -preserved).

"For the jihad phenomenon is more than the sum of individual terrorist acts extending from Bali through Jakarta, to New Delhi, Tunisia, Riyadh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Madrid and London. It is an ideological outpouring comparable to the early days of Islam by which Islam's radical wing seeks to sweep away secularism, pluralistic values and Western institutions wherever Muslims live.

Its dynamism is fueled by the conviction that the designated victims are on the decline and lacking the will to resist. Any event that seems to confirm these convictions compounds the revolutionary dynamism. If a fundamentalist regime is installed in Baghdad or in any of the other major cities, such as Mosul or Basra, if terrorists secure substantial territory for training and sanctuaries, or if chaos and civil war mark the end of the American intervention, jihadists would gain momentum wherever there are significant Islamic populations or nonfundamentalist Islamic governments. No country within reach of jihad would be spared the consequences of the resulting upheavals sparked by the many individual centers of fanaticism that make up the jihad."


The PoliticalHeretic does not share Mr. Kissinger's confidence in President George W. Bush. The administration has released for public consumption its "plan" for Iraq after losing public support in the polls. But Mr. Bush's "plan" reads more like a a good "vision" that is in need of a plan, and the conduct of the war has up to now been lacking. Religious zealots cross over into Iraq from Syria and Iran with impunity. Men loyal to parochial militias have infiltrated Iraq's armed forces. Bombings occur on a daily basis and the administration has failed to press negotiators from the principal factions (Kurd, Shi'ite, Sunni) to unite behind a common vision.

Iraqis went to the polls today and if the press reports are accurate voter turnout was high. This would be good news if only because it gives the president a little more time with the growingly impatient American public he has up to this week failed to speak to. But the next decision will be made by the Iraqis. Will the Sunnis gain enough seats to win for themselves a favorable negotiating position? Will the secularist Shi'ites align with the Sunnis and deny their fundamentalist brethren a mini-state to call their own?

The PoliticalHeretic hopes so and urges Mr. Bush and his supporters to push the principal factions ot make the concessions needed to preserve Iraq's sovereign integrity.



Housing Discrimination

Now I thought we moved beyond this. Who would care if the homebuyer were white, black, Indian, or Aisan? The homeowner said he thought the property was deed restricted so that no one of a particular minority can live within the neighborhood. Wow.

Nation-Building

Better late than never. If we are going to remove uncooperative governments who may be cavorting with the enemy from power, our military should know how to fill in the gaps by acting as a temporary replacement. Ah, if only attention was paid to this earlier. Former President William Jefferson Clinton sent American troops into Bosnia and the Serbian province of Kosovo and had our troops fight the Somali warlords starving the poor to death.

It's a shame. Had he started the process, the transition in Iraq might have gone a little smoother. There would still be some problems (particularly on the political front) but we might have prevented the arms raid, cut down on the border infiltration, and marginalized the militias. Maybe I'm being to optimistic but we never got that chance to fail.

Maybe the DOD will learn from the mistakes made in Afghanistan and Iraq. These mistakes were costly and we are now paying the price.



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

All Eyes on Specter

Senator Arlen Specter says he could go either way on Judge Sam A. Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Iraq's December 2005 Elections

Tomorrow voters in Iraq will once again go to the polls and vote. The Iraqis will obstensibly be voting for the National Assembly but much more is at stake. Strong Kurdish and Shi'ite backing all but guaranteed passage of Iraq's draft constitution when Iraqis went to the polls in October but they need to win support from the Sunnis who have rejected it by equally strong margins if Iraq will remain a strong and viable independent state.

A provision in Iraq's constitution was designed to do just that by giving tomorrow's National Assembly another chance to review and make recommendations for changes that would have to be approved by Iraqi voters again. If the Sunni turnout is strong enough to increase their voting bloc within the National Assembly, the Shi'ite and Kurdish factions might be forced to yield on Iraq's confederationist structure and oil revenue sharing. Should the Kurdish and Shi'ite factions solidify their hold within the National Assembly, however, major concessions seem unlikely.

The PoliticalHeretic believes Iraq is at a crossroads. The constitution passed in October is deeply flawed because it all but guarantees the state's split into two or more mini-states that are united in name only. The federal government is required to "preserve the unity, integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Iraq" but then recognizes Kurdistan and its "regional and federal authorities at the time this constitution comes into force."

This provision all but ensures Kurdistan de facto independence, bringing instability to the surrounding region. If this wasn't bad enough, the constitution grants the other Iraqi provinces the same right to either separately or in unison with other provinces, form a region of their own with rights like those granted to the Kurds. The Syrians, Turkish and Iranian neighbors will vie for control over these weaker mini-states or play one rival mini-state against another.

The very freedom Kurdish and Shi'ite Iraqis crave will be undermined by the course of action they now support. Today the Sunnis oppose Iraq's carve up and have pushed for a stronger central government. The PoliticalHeretic supports them and believes Iraq's democratic and pluralistic values need not be compromised to do so. Our own bold and noble experiment should provide the Iraqi people with an idea of what is possible.

The United States Constitution was devised to remedy a dilemma that differed very little from the one now before the Iraqis. The poweres given to the states were strong enough to ensure protection from the central government while bounding them together in matters of security and economic trade. The Iraqis would never compete or negotiate with their neighbors on equal terms if they remain divided.

Speaking candidly for once, President George W. Bush has finally admitted to the difficult road ahead. Tomorrow's elections will not end the insurgency. The Saddam Hussein loyalists adn Al Qaeda fundamentalists will continue to blow up buildings, and kill Iraqi and American lives in their quest to have us leave so they could create the Iraq of their dreams. But a genuine commitment to political negotiations may win more Sunnis over to our side and strenthen the Iraqi government in its quest to isolate those who engage in terror and gain for it the confidence and legitimacy it will need to quash the resurrection on its own.

The PoliticalHeretic believes calls for troop withdrawal at this point are premature. Tomorrow the Iraqi people will vote on a National Assembly which will have one more chance to get their act together and unite behind a viable Iraqi state for the good of its people. If they can reach an agreement, we can then focus our efforts on a purge of Iraq's military forces so that those who are associated with the parochial militias are eliminated or removed and continued Iraqi military training. We should not abandon them as long as that chance for success and political negotiation remains open. Should they fail to reach an agreement, however, then no amount of training could help the Iraqi people and we will be forced to withdraw.






























Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Southern Democrat

While Senator Hillary Clinton remains silent, Virginia Governor and presidential wannabe Mark Warner says we should stick it out in Iraq.



Charles C. Haynes Making Sense Again

Now for the article on what everyone should have done but as usual, never do.

Some communities fall into the same trap by trying to celebrate the season by excluding Jesus. Denver was the poster child for this mistake last year when city officials banned a religious float from participating in the annual Parade of Lights. All kinds of “holiday” floats were approved, but not the one from a local church. After a major brouhaha, the city has seen the light. This year the Nativity scene will be featured on a float created by local Christian groups.

What schools and communities need to remember is that the First Amendment separates church from state, but not religion from school assemblies or holiday parades. Of course, city and school officials have no business promoting religion in December or at any other time of year. But allowing all private religious groups to express their faith at public events or in public spaces along with other groups doesn’t violate the Constitution. And educationally sound teaching about religion, including what Christians actually believe about Christmas or including religious music in the school concert along with other music, is not only constitutional — it’s a good idea.

If all sides take a deep breath and relax, we can work this out. But first we need to stop turning “happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas” into fighting words. Declaring a ceasefire in the Christmas wars might be the best way to celebrate the season of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”




Will there be a Debate On Embryonic Stem Cell Research?

Granted it concerns testing on mice but the scientific advances are progressing rapidly enough that we might have success coaxing adult stem cells (as opposed to the more controversial embryonic stem cells) into specialized cells soon.


Keeping in Touch with the Faithful

I pity the Catholics of the Chicago Archdiocese. They can be forced to listen to a boring, nind-numbing, meandering and pointless 45-minute homily at a mass but if a loved one dies they cannot give 7-10 minute eulogies? Hmm. Isn't there something better to make a rule for?

The relative who would deliver the eulogy isn't a speech writer. Why constrain the surviving spouse or close relative from saying what he or she really feels about the loved one that died? The archdiocese should reverse course and give those attending funeral masses some more time.






Monday, December 12, 2005

Hillary Clinton and The War

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is favored to win her party's nomination should she enter the race for the White House. The former first lady and Democratic senator from New York has high name recognition, free press coverage, and political connections through her husband and former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton.

She would not be the first to run. Senator Elizabeth Dole, a Republican representing North Carolina, formed an exploratory committee to help her run for the White House in 2000 but she ultimately withdrew from the race.

To date, however, Senator Clinton is not acting like a presidential candidate because she may want to run for re-election in the senate first. The former First Lady is hedging her bets on an on the war in Iraq. The junior senator from New York released for public review a letter in which criticizes Mr. Bush for his failure to win international support or provide credible evidence to justify the war and says she "acknowledges her responsibility" for her vote without admitting to a mistake.

If the support for the war takes a turn for the worse, she will use that statement as her means to call Mr. Bush a liar and say she would never have voted for the war in the first place. If the support for the war increases she will dismiss the naysayers now calling for a troop withdrawal and say she only insisted upon a plan for winning the war, not a troop withdrawal.

Mrs. Clinton says cannot set a time table for an American troop withdrawal which will bolster the terrorist morale or give them a new base of operations but then says we cannot support an endless commitment either. One would be hardpressed to develop a time table which deprives al Qaeda terrorists of their chance for a new base for training camps or does not bolster their morale. Ultimately, Mrs. Clinton will have to pick a side.

She gives those who are calling for such a timetable some advice as to how to bolster their argument but refuses to hold a press conference or appear on a news talk show to give her own opinion.

The PoliticalHeretic believes Hillary Clinton must be called to answer for her decision to have it both ways. Statesmanship is required when American lives and national security is at stake.

Ulimately she will have to pick a side if she is going to win her re-election campaign to the senate and run for the White House. The Dec. 15 Iraqi elections will be over and the political factions will either have united behind a vision for their country's future or they did not. Senator Clinton will then have to choose between an endless commitment or withdraw and cede Iraq to the winning faction - be it Al Qaeda or not.

Our support this war has been tested on numerous occasions. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman remain committed to the cause and have not backed down in spite of our waning confidence in President Bush. Representative John Murtha has called for a troop withdrawal so no more American lives are lost in vain for a war he deems unwinnable. Kudos to them. Whether you agree with McCain and Lieberman or Murtha they deserve the credit. American lives and national security interests are at stake. By taking a position they are doing their job.

Senator Clinton has remained silent. She has failed to give her imprimatur of support for either side before the camera. The public should remember this. When statesmanship was called for, Hillary chose shrewd but unprincipled political maneuvering.



College Admission Standards the Latest Battleground in the Culture Wars

The latest front in the culture war over the school curriculum - what high school courses colleges and universities will accept for credit and which ones it will not. Can and should a college reject credit for Christian-centric history, science, and English courses? Hmmn.

First Amendment scholar and advocate Charles C. Haynes has his doubts. At issue is The University of California's authority to use content-based criteria when its admission standards and by rejecting courses pushed by Cavelry Chapel Christian School it stifles its ability to push its Christian-centric ideological slant on American history, literature, and science.

In a 107-page complaint (pdf), the Association of Christian Schools, accuses the Regents for the University of California of rejecting their courses for denying as educationally unsuitable because they contest within the class the required standardized course material it nevertheless teaches. The organization does not in this case anyway, reject as constitutionally unfound the school admission office's requirement that all applicants have a basic knowledge of scientific theories like evolution or the mainstream''s understanding of American history - only the office's decision to to forbid the Christian schools of the means to reject or dispute that secular interpretation within the lesson plan of the approved subjects.

On the merits I think the Association of Christian Schools has a point. The university has an interest in providing those who wish to apply basic knowledge in science. Secondary schools that do not teach evolution or the laws of nature deny their students knowledge that was obtained after years of research and impose upon them a severe disadvantage in college when they are first exposed to subject material first introduced in middle and high schools across the country. And the University of California certainly has an interest in knowing that its students are introduced to the main events in American and world history.

But its interests end there. The underlying causes for those events in American history are open to interpretation. Economic, cultural, religious, and political interpretations have been proffered to explain events in our history. Plausible arguments concerning the Founders' purported attitudes about church-state separation can be made on either sides. Were we a moral-do gooder or an imperialistic, European-like superpower in the early 1990s. Arguments can be made on either side.

A state which sides with the UC gives the state the ultimate authority to present history in the way it would like it to be betrayed. Others may no doubt write books contesting its assertion but cannot meaningfully challenge those claims when the state has the power to instill, from the age of 6, its preferred interpretation. The impartation of knowledge in subjects which we have no interest in stops after college, so the dissenting historian or scientists' (for that matter) audience and converts is potentially small.

Some within the religious community would, I'm sure, censor materials which offer an interpretation of history or science which conflicts with their beliefs if they had the ability to do so but any such effort is thwarted by the required mandatory teaching of the state's theory. Students at these Christian schools are exposed to at minimum, two interpretations. One may be true and one false but the student at least knows that history and science are open to varying degrees of interpretation. That in itself is a valuable lesson we can all benefit from.

I don't know if this should have gone to court. The two sides could have reached a compromise. Cavalry Chapel Christian School could have offered its students an elective on Christian history or the Christian thoughts on Evolution and consequently increased the time it used denigrating the mainstream understandings in science and history while offering the required standardized courses untouched by Christian interpretation and the UC for its part, could have accepted the private school's decision not to do so knowing full well it could provide a solid refutation of that religious interpretation in a curriculum of its own.

But why, the leaders from both parties must be asking, should they compromises when they can impose their will on the other side? Hmmm. Scary sentiment isn't it?












Where and How Stanley Tookie Williams Will Die


"Space is tight in the 7.5-foot-wide, octagonal chamber, which was designed for two lethal gas chairs but has been nearly filled with a lethal injection gurney since William Bonin became the first California prisoner executed by injection on Feb. 24, 1996. Williams is a bulky man, so there will undoubtedly be slight jostling as he is laid upon the cross-shaped gurney, and his arms and legs are strapped down.

The guards will take about five minutes to secure him, and then they leave. One medic and an assistant then come in and attach a cardiac monitor, plus needles into two veins, usually one in each arm. This takes about five minutes -- unless there are difficulties, such as with Donald Beardslee on Jan. 19 this year. In that execution, the medic had trouble finding a good second vein, and dragged through a tense 11 minutes before finally seating the needle.

Once the needles are inserted, with long intravenous lines snaking from them into the back wall of the death chamber, the warden will ask Williams if he has any last words to say. Then the warden will leave, the door will be shut, and Williams will be left alone.

From behind the walls of the chamber, out of view of the witnesses, a prison official will press three plungers in succession to send poison through the intravenous lines into Williams' veins.

The first plunger will administer 5 grams of sodium pentothal to put him to sleep. The lines will be flushed with saline solution, and the second plunger will inject 50 cc of pancuronium bromide to stop his breathing. The lines will be flushed again, and the third plunger will send in 50cc of potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Once a doctor watching the cardiac monitor -- again, out of view of the witnesses -- determines Williams is dead, a prison official will write up a short notice announcing that the execution is over. He or she will push it through a slot in a door in the back of the witness room to a guard, who will read it to the gathering.

The witnesses will immediately be led outside, the media going first. Williams' body will be delivered in the next few hours to his relatives or anyone else who has been designated to handle his remains.

The entire execution usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. " from this San Francisco Chronicle article.

A Quote from the condemned man:

"I don't want food or water or sympathy from the place that is going to kill me," he said in an interview with the paper last month. "I don't want anyone present for the sick and perverted spectacle. The thought of that is appalling and inhumane. It is disgusting for a human to sit and watch another human die.''


Yes, it is a sick and perverted spectacle. Mr. Williams' personal experience taught him that. The condemned man was convicted and sentenced to death for the execution-style murder of four. It's a shame, for the lesson came four dead bodies too late. And its a shame because the state has not.









Friday, December 09, 2005

Am I Dreaming?

I found this link From The Corner.

Coffee for breakfast and desert, coke for lunch and dinner. Coke blak for brunch? Sounds good to me though I can't imagine what a combination of coffee and coke would taste like.




Over-reacting

Huntington didn't have to back down or compromise on this Holiday display. Their display included a Christmas tree, two signs saying "Peace on Earth" and a menorah. Symbols for both, the Jewish and Christian traditions celebrated during this season were on display. What's that but an expression of pluralism?

But the township board decided to settle and have the Knights of Columbus and
Chabad-Lubavitch erect signs saying they donated the menorah and tree for the display so as to avoid any appearance that the town endorsed Christianity.

Had the township put up a Nativity scene and made no effort to include a menorah and secular symbols than Mr. Mitchell Pashkin would have a stronger case.

Dan Asmussen

The Bad Reporter pokes some fun at cop videotapes in San Fancisco and the Bush administration.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Religious Right Looking Really, Really Stupid and Hypocritical

The Overstatement

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," - William A. Donohue of The Catholic League of Religious and Civil Rights

What has the Bush administration done? Is he cavorting with child molesters? Al Qaeda separatists, mass murderers, or rapists? Nah. His administration mailed out cards wishing his friends and supporters a happy "holiday season." But I guess Mr. Donohue believes Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and even the occasional atheistic Bush supporter are the "worst elements in our culture."


The Child Temper Tantrum Award

"I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it." - Joseph Farah

How childish. And we admonish our children when they bitch about the Nintendo they get when they wanted the newest X-Box? Puh-lease. Wah. Wah! Wah. There's no picture of Jesus on the card. I wanted a "Merry Christmas" greeting. Not a "happy Holiday" greeting. Wah. Wah. Wah.


PC Must Only Come from The Left?

"Sometimes it's hard to tell whether this is sinister -- it's the purging of Christ from Christmas -- or whether it's just political correctness run amok," - Tom Wildman of the American Family Association.

This is what he said in this press release calling for a boycott of Target found here.

TTENTION! Expect Target To Try To Confuse You

When you call Target, they will no doubt try to confuse you. You may be told their employees are free to greet people with a "Merry Christmas." You may be told that they support the Salvation Army. You may be told many things in order to confuse you.

Therefore, ask this one simple basic question and don't allow them to confuse you. "Do you use the term 'Christmas' in your in-store promotions developed by Target (not products you have for sale) and do you include the term 'Christmas' in your retail advertising?"

Target refuses to use "Christmas" in their in-store promotions or in their retail advertising. If you are told they do, you are being mislead.


Mr. Wildman would be the first to complain if a school deprived school chorus members from performing Christmas songs and he certainly cried censorhip when some within the gay community boycotted Dr. Laura Schlessenger off the air. What do you think he would do if parents boycotted the Boy Scouts of America in order to get it to reverse its anti-gay stance? I know he supported it when the state of New Jersey errantly tried to force it to associate with the view that homosexuality was at least tolerable. Would he be one to distinguish between public and private actions designed to silence an opposing or objectionable viewpoint? Don't count on it.

Will Mr. Wildman or Donohue stand up for the Wal-Mart customer relations employee who was fired for linking Christianity to "Siberian Shaminism?" Don't count on that either.

Does the Psalms Reference Pass the Test?

1. "There's a verse from Scripture in it. I don't mind that at all, as long as we don't try to pretend we're not a nation under God," - Reverend Jerry Falwell

2. At the Catholic League, Donohue had just announced a boycott of the Lands' End catalogue when he received his White House holiday card. True, he said, the Bushes included a verse from Psalm 28, but Psalms are in the Old Testament and do not mention Jesus' birth.

"They'd better address this, because they're no better than the retailers who have lost the will to say 'Merry Christmas,' " he said.

What a pathetic group of "witnesses!" Were they not taught that their religious hero supposedly knew that he would be rejected? That he would suffer a cruel, slow death at the hands of those he loved? When these guys fail to impose their moral tyranny on the rest of mankind they play the "victimhood" card which would and have decried when performed by those on the left.











Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Down With Ford!

Ford will apparently stop its advertising in gay magazines for all but its Volvo brand after it was boycotted by religious conservatives who called for it at the American Family Association. One unidentified Fords spokesperson dismissed claims that right-wing organization had anything to do with it. It was "strictly business." Right. They didn't want to lose their "religious" right customers so they decided to dump the gays. "Strictly business."

I guess they should get offended then if gay Americans and their straight allies decide to boycott their products in favor of car companies which do want us to buy their cars. We're not worth their advertising so I guess they wouldn't mind if we didn't buy their products.

Okay. Let's not waste the car dealers' time buying Fords either. Gaywheels.com will have to update their gay-friendly cars list but, it does provide an alternative for those who now have no intention of buying a Ford until they think better of us.


Getting Serious About Immigration

"Our borders and immigration system, including law enforcement, ought to send a message of welcome, tolerance, and justice to members of immigrant communities in the United States and in their countries of origin. We should reach out to immigrant communities. Good immigration services are one way of doing so that is valuable in every way-including intelligence.

It is elemental to border security to know who is coming into the country. Today more than 9 million people are in the United States outside the legal immigration system. We must also be able to monitor and respond to entrances between our ports of entry, working with Canada and Mexico as much as possible.

There is a growing role for state and local law enforcement agencies. They need more training and work with federal agencies so that they can cooperate more effectively with those federal authorities in identifying terrorist suspects.

All but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of U.S. identification document, some by fraud. Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities." - National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States

President George W. Bush and Congress has so far done little to protect this country's borders and that should be astonishing. One would think that after the World Trade Center bombings, the need to know who is living and working within our country would be obvious but the feared political fallout has stymied efforts to do just that. The businesses profit off of cheap labor. Immigrant rights groups might brand as bigots or fear-mongerers those who are pushing for tighter border control while those who fight against those efforts and push for amnesty and lower immigration standards are praised. The Republicans are seeking to win the Latino vote and most Democrats, fearing that, would not provide them with a reason to do just that.

But there are those within the Republican and Democratic parties who want tighter border security. House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr will be introducing a bill that will help the government do just that. Businesses will be required to verify the authenticity of legal documents submitted by prospective employers through a database, something which was done on a voluntary basis up to now.

Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill does not include a provision for a guest worker provision for now but I don't know if it will include increased penalties for non-compliance. Businesses would have no incentive if it could write off a fine that is easily made up by the gains it makes in hiring cheap labor. Employers should be required to report to the appropriate legal authorities those job applicants it had to reject because they failed to provide sufficient documentation. Failure to comply should be met with stiff fines and jail time for those who knowingly hire or fail to report to authorities, those who provide insufficient documentation.

Immigrant rights groups might call for and win from those who fear immigrant voter backlash, an amendment providing for a guest worker program. The PoliticalHeretic believes we should push for tighter border control first. The appeal of pro-immigrant policies might lead businesses and government officials to focus their efforts on the program at the expense of tighter border control enforcement.

The bill should also include a provision mandating background checks for immigrants now working for businesses within our country. Illegal immigrants could be granted an amnesty period to step forward and apply for legal status without repercussion and businesses could be provided with the same in which they will not be fined but the need to know who has received and who has not received clearance to work in this country is important.

Support for tighter border security may not be popular with those now in Washington but it is important. Mr. Sensenbrenner's bill may or may not require changes to it but the push for immigration reform is definitely warranted and the failure to agree upon a reform package nothing short of a national disgrace.





Friday, December 02, 2005

Standardized Vacancy Standards Please

The vacancy created when Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after pleading guilty to bribery will be filled by a special election. No interim representative will be appointed by Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger.

In New Jersey, however, Governor-elect Jon Corzine will appoint his successor to the position he is vacating - a seat in the U.S. Senate. This successor will be allowed to fill out the remainder of his term - giving the appointee an advantage of incumbency should he or she run for a first full year term one year later. According to this Star Ledger article, New Jersey's state law gives the governor the full authority to fill out House vacancies as well.

The discrepancy needs to be changed. Representatives and senators are elected by the voters in their district or states but they make laws that effect everyone across the United States. The California representative's vote to send an American into war equals that of the New Jersey representative and the vote for a vacant Supreme Court seat made by an unelected interim senator from New Jersey would equal that of that made by a popularly-elected one in California.

Vacancy standards for the House and Senate should not vary from state to state when the body as a whole is charged with decisions that may affect the nation as a whole. If and when a vacancy occurs, the governor of that state should call for a special election and let the winner fill out the remainder of the term.





Liquor Store Raids in California and Terrorism

Last Wednesday, a day when many people would buy wine for the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, men dressed in suits and bow ties entered two liquor stores (San Pablo Market and Liquors, and New York Market), and smashed liquor bottles before they left. New York Market was burned five days later. One New York Market employee was kidnapped and found 12 hours later in the trunk of a car by another man.

Two vandalists, including the presumed ring leader, were arrested recently and charged on counts of vandalism, false imprisonment, and civil rights violations. The counts hate crime clauses which could add another four years to their prison sentences should they be convicted (I obviously object to the hate crime clauses for what are now obvious reasons but that was not my reason for linking to this post).

What is striking is the motive. The vandalists were not there to rob the store or the average drunk punk looking for a good time. The defendants were associated with a fringe black Muslim group and the motive, as described by those who are following the case, religious. The well-dressed vandalists accosted employees in both stores for selling alcohol in violation of Islamic law (the owners are Muslim) and told them they did not want employees selling their liquor to the black Muslims in the neighborhood.

This was by far no 9-11 incident. No one died and neither defendant attempted to kill anyone as far as we know yet. However, this incident serves as a powerful reminder that no one is safe. These vandalists may not be associated with the al Qaeda terrorist cells operating here and abroad but they do share their disdain for our culture and a willingness to terrorize us into conformance to their religious beliefs. And here's the really scary part - we are fighting a fundamentalist ideology - one that is not dependent upon al Qaeda's survival.





Brokeback Mountain: How Far We Have Come and How Far We Have Yet to Go

How Far We Have Come: A Gay Romance Movie will be Released to Limited Audiences on Dec 9 and then Wide on December 16


from The San Francisco Chronicle


1."On a chilly night, Jack invites his work partner into his tent to keep warm. Jack takes the sleepy Ennis' hand, and the two begin to kiss. Initially reluctant, Ennis is overcome by lust. The only sounds are of them moaning and of their belts being hastily unbuckled.

From the time Lee began working on the film, based on Annie Proulx's memorable 1997 New Yorker short story, he decided to imply more than he showed in the men's first sexual encounter.

"Some people will see the sex scene as pretty bland, but for others it will be too heavy. For me, it's just right," Lee recently told me. The lovemaking is intended to imply that this is no wild one-night stand but the spark for a deeply felt forbidden love affair that would intensify over the years. Ennis and Jack's inability to control their excitement as they wait to see each other again for the first time in four years provoked some laughter at the San Francisco premiere.

The ads play up their romantic as well as sexual attachment, depicting the actors in cowboy hats looking pensive with the words "Love is a force of nature."

2. And a positive or at least gay-neutral quote from supporting Jake Gyllenhaal.

Laughing, Gyllenhaal compares his experience with the intimacy he's had to feign with actresses. "I've done sex scenes with women I haven't been attracted to at all and some with women I probably shouldn't be as attracted to as I was. I'd say Heath fits somewhere in between."


But Note How Far We Have Yet To Go: Quotes from one of the principal actors Heath Ledger, having to boast of his heterosexuality

1."We really respected each other for being brave enough to play these characters."

2."If for a second I stopped and realized this is Heath kissing Jake, then it would have freaked me out and I would not have been able to do it convincingly." (Hey I could screw a girl for love scenes too. No kidding).

3. And then there is this excerpt with a quote from the director, Ang Lee:

"I only stopped to change rolls. I didn't want to break their concentration," he recalled. "The countenance on their faces, everything they did seems very genuine. When you are watching, you are almost embarrassed for them. I think they are pretty brave."

But then again, maybe we should blame the writer of this feature story, whose focus on the story had more to do with how two straight actors learn how to cope while playing gay lovers then on the story itself.

Ah, alas. The movie theatre will be packed with straight women and gay men. It would really be a miracle if we saw straight men packing the theatres to see a gay romance story.




Dan Asmussen

Get a load of The Bad Reporter's reader poll here and a ban on gay fashion designers which was not as funny.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"A Man's Right To Choose"

From Dalton Conley's thought-provoking op-ed in today's The New York Times



"Other such tactics include the attempted appointment of a state guardian for the fetus of a severely retarded woman by Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. In the face of such strategies, the pro-choice movement has desperately clung to the notion that the fetus is part of the mother and not a separate person. Pro-choice advocates argue that the debate is really about a woman's control over her body. Hence my lack of rights to have any say in whether my seed comes to fruition.

Of course, most Americans seem to fall somewhere between these two positions. They support abortion rights, but they are also willing to accept restrictions on those rights. They do not think a fetus is the same as a person, but neither do they think of it as part and parcel of a woman's body like her appendix, a kidney or a tumor. They see a fetus as an individual under construction. Hence the almost universal support for abortion in the case of risk to the mother - why not opt for protecting life that is already here on earth over something that is still, ultimately, potential?"

and here:

"NOBODY is arguing that we should let my friend who impregnated his girlfriend off the hook. If you play, you must pay. But if you pay, you should get some say. If a father is willing to legally commit to supporting and raising the child himself, why should a woman be able to end a pregnancy that she knew was a possibility of consensual sex? Why couldn't I make the same claim - that I am going to keep the baby regardless of whether she wants it or not?"


1. With Respect to Equality in "Choice"
I don't think I could get behind his idea on this one. Insofar as either parent has a right to decide what happens to the fetus (and for the sake of argument I'll grant that it is even though I have my doubts in most cases), the mother has the stronger claim because she ultimately is the one who would be carrying the fetus to term. It grows within her body and, as a result, may cause her morning sickness, and leg cramps. She has to change her eating diet to conform with the needs of the child, while he need not. And she has to go to the hospital to give birth.

Theoretically, the mother who may want to bring the child to term could be forced to abort if the husband or partner does not want it. And the mother who does not want it would be forced to comply with the wish of a man who had no intention of staying with her to begin with. The financial contributions Mr. Conley supports would not erase or make up for any trauama associated with childbirth or the forced dilemma which follows it - giving it up or raising it by herself. (Nor does he account for the unfair stigma attached to the mother for conceiving out of wed lock that does not carry over to that of the "father)."

Mr. Conley's assertion notwithstanding, his solution imposes upon the mother an unfair obligation to a person whose burden is much lighter.

2. With respect to the Fetus' Status
Mr. Conley says we the public see the fetus "as an individual under construction" as opposed to a "parcel of a woman's body" or "the same as a person." I don't know if the public as a whole has reached that conclusion. His supportive evidence (that a mother would have a right to an abortion if her life was in danger) is easily justifiable by its support of one's right to self-defense or self-preservation regardless of whether the threat comes from a person or "an individual in construction." Support for abortion rights might be attributed to the society's reluctance to throw the aborting woman in jail, and a one's belief that the right to privacy and religious freedom must be necessity protect this right to an abortion.

That said I concur with his description of the fetus and have written extensively on this subject before. (See might comments on Down Syndrome and the abortion debate for more).














The President's Speech

As expected, President George W. Bush rejected a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in a speech he gave at theUnited States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland yesterday and released to the press his administration's strategy (pdf format) to win the peace in Iraq. Mr. Bush delivered his speech before the largely friendly crowd at a time when support for the war in Iraq is waning. The senate fearing a voter backlash not unlike that which they credited in part to the Democrats' gubernatorial victory in Republican-leaning Virginia, voted 79-19 to call for monthly progress reports after rejecting a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal.

Mr. Bush wins the political argument when he casts the debate as one taking place between those who are calling for a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal and those who are calling for us to stay until the Iraqis can fight the terrorists on their own. Americans do not want to be on the losing side of any war. One was more than enough, and the consequences for losing this one would, as the president and his administration rightly note, be far more disastrous than the one lost in the early 1970s.

Whether we opposed the invasion or supported it, regret our decision to support it (yours truly) or stand solidly behind it, we know that losing is not an option. Under no circumstances can we leave the Jihadist, al Qaeda elements a chance to regain for themselves a base of operations they lost in Afghanistan in a strategically more vital region of the Middle East. Nor can we sit aside and let the country be carved up into three or four mini-states which are dominated by the regional powers that surround it.

And that is why he frames the debate in this manner when his polls begin to slip. Our confidence in his ability to conduct the war, has slipped but the opposition has failed to provide a viable alternative to the one now presented by the administration.

But ultimately this is an inaccurate portrayal of the debate we are having. Former war supporter Representative John Murtha (D-Pa) called for a withdrawal but his colleagues overwhelmingly rejected that approach in both houses. A moderate but still costly withdrawal is planneed for after the December 15 elections. The public doubts our president's strategy but have no other plan to fall back on since the opposition has offered no viable alternative.

Mr. Bush added nothing to boost this blogger's confidence in his war strategy. In his speech, the president opted to cast the war in Iraq as a struggle between three groups of "rejectionists" and those who support democratic governance while dismissing as inconsequential the fundamental disagreement among the Sunnis, Kurds, and Shi'ites who are seeking to achieve their seemingly incompatible ends through political agreement.

The released document says little if anything about those disagreements. We are somehow expected to believe that a long repressed ethno-linguistic group in northern Iraq, and two rival religious-based communities will unite behind a single vision. The Constitution which Iraqis have voted on assure assure us of no such thing.

If anything, it provides those who wish to do so a means to carve Iraq up into two or more mini-states. The now touted increase in Sunni particpation has more to do with a change in tactics than a desire to support the new Iraqi constitution. Their boycott of the first national elections backfired, depriving them of the significant representation in the National Assembly they needed to give them a strong negotiating position when the parties sat down to talk over the Constitution. They voted overwhelmingly against the Constitution and the promised voter turnout is designed to increase their representation in the legislative body that would enable them to make changes to the document they rejected.

I don't know if the president will boost his image with more speeches like this but whether he does or does not, the victory we seek will depend more and more upon the negotiators at the table and less on his "resolve." and steadfast opposition to the "cut and run" plan rejected by an overwhelming majority of Americans.