Saturday, February 25, 2006

Talk Show Preview

The Newsmaking Shows

1. Late Edition: U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Iraqi National Security Advisor Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie. Issue is the effect the days of bloodshed and potential civil war in Iraq on our troops within the region.

2. This Week: Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) on the port deal and civil strife in Iraq. Roundtable punditry includes Fareed Zakaria, Torie Clarke, George F. Will and E.J. Dionne.

3. FoxNews Sunday: Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend and Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) ono the port deal. Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachussetts), and Joe Gibbs - the head coach of The Washington Redskins.

4. Meet The Press: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) in a one-on-one interview. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Virginia) and Homeland Security Security Committee Chairman Representative Peter King (R-New York) on the port security deal and the civil strife in Iraq.

5. Face The Nation: National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on the latest sectarian violence in Iraq. Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York) on legislation he will be introducing blocking the port deal. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on the port deal as well. Tom Friedman is on throughot the show.

The Pundit Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: site notupdated yet.

2. Beltway Boys: The Dubai Deal, the potential of civil war in Iraq, and Hollywood money going to Texas Democrats.

Othe News Shows

1. 60 Minutes: Steve Kroff reports on U.S. Customs Agents and the very small percentage of cargo containers arriving at American ports. Lesley Stahl on GovernorBrian Schweitzer's idea for decreased dependence on foreign oil - the conversion of coal into diesel fuel. Ed Bradley speaks to scientist who used stem cells to help paralyzed rats walk to see what, if any hope, that gives to people with similar problems.

2. Dateline NBC: still pre-empted by the Olympic coverage.


Friday, February 24, 2006

"Undocumented" Immigrants

Just a link about a state assemblyman in New Jersey sending the wrong message about illegal immigrants. Sorry, undocumented residents should not driver's licenses.

Dan Asmussen

The Bad Reporter links the Republicans' anti-gay agenda and Katrina mess with its war against Al Qaeda. It's real good. Then, well, I don't get this one but that doesn't mean you won't.

Carter's Wrong on Palestinian Aid

Last week, former President Jimmy Carter wrote a column in The Washington Post, urging the American and Israeli administrations to back away from their promises to withold financial aid to the Palestinian people. Mr. Carter said our efforts to undermine the new Hamas led government by witholding the money needed to pay for the salaries of teachers, social workers, police, and maintenance workers because the Palestinian Authority was $900 million in debt will backfire and further alienate the "already oppressed and innocent Palestinians, incite violence, and increase the domestic influence and international esteem of Hamas" while doing nothing but undermine Mahmoud Abbas's moderate and still politically relevant Palestinian adminstration. H would give the money to third parties which in turn would aid the Palestinian people.

The Europeans, unfortunately, seem to agree with Mr. Carter's argument. Pasted below is Mr. Carter's argument in full as published in The Washington Post. Inserted are my comments in bold:

"As the results of the recent Palestinian elections are implemented, it's important to understand how the transition process works and also how important to it are actions by Israel and the United States.

Although Hamas won 74 of the 132 parliamentary seats, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas retains the right to propose and veto legislation, with 88 votes required to override his veto. With nine of its elected members remaining in prison, Hamas has only 65 votes, plus whatever third-party support it can attract. Abbas also has the power to select and remove the prime minister, to issue decrees with the force of law when parliament is not in session, and to declare a state of emergency. As commander in chief, he also retains ultimate influence over the National Security Force and Palestinian intelligence.

[Can we expect Mr. Abbas, who to this day refused to press Hamas to disarm and recognize Israel when they were not in power, do so now that they have won a majority in the Parliament?]

After the first session of the new legislature, which was Saturday, the members will elect a speaker, two deputies and a secretary. These legislative officials are not permitted to hold any position in the executive branch, so top Hamas leaders may choose to concentrate their influence in the parliament and propose moderates or technocrats for prime minister and cabinet posts. Three weeks are allotted for the prime minister to form the cabinet, and a majority vote of the parliament is required for final approval.

The role of the prime minister was greatly strengthened while Abbas and Ahmed Qureia served in that position under Yasser Arafat, and Abbas has announced that he will not choose a prime minister who does not recognize Israel or adhere to the basic principles of the "road map." This could result in a stalemated process, but my conversations with representatives of both sides indicate that they wish to avoid such an imbroglio. The spokesman for Hamas claimed, "We want a peaceful unity government." If this is a truthful statement, it needs to be given a chance.

[Again, who will back down? The winning party with convictions or the chastened representative of the losing party who to this day has not challenged the winners when they were not in power?]

During this time of fluidity in the formation of the new government, it is important that Israel and the United States play positive roles. Any tacit or formal collusion between the two powers to disrupt the process by punishing the Palestinian people could be counterproductive and have devastating consequences.

Unfortunately, these steps are already underway and are well known throughout the Palestinian territories and the world. Israel moved yesterday to withhold funds (about $50 million per month) that the Palestinians earn from customs and tax revenue. Perhaps a greater aggravation by the Israelis is their decision to hinder movement of elected Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council members through any of more than a hundred Israeli checkpoints around and throughout the Palestinian territories. This will present significant obstacles to a government's functioning effectively. Abbas informed me after the election that the Palestinian Authority was $900 million in debt and that he would be unable to meet payrolls during February. Knowing that Hamas would inherit a bankrupt government, U.S. officials have announced that all funding for the new government will be withheld, including what is needed to pay salaries for schoolteachers, nurses, social workers, police and maintenance personnel. So far they have not agreed to bypass the Hamas-led government and let humanitarian funds be channeled to Palestinians through United Nations agencies responsible for refugees, health and other human services.

This common commitment to eviscerate the government of elected Hamas officials by punishing private citizens may accomplish this narrow purpose, but the likely results will be to alienate the already oppressed and innocent Palestinians, to incite violence, and to increase the domestic influence and international esteem of Hamas. It will certainly not be an inducement to Hamas or other militants to moderate their policies.

[Oppressed? Innocent? Did they not vote these Hamas radicals into power?]

The election of Hamas candidates cannot adversely affect genuine peace talks, since such talks have been nonexistent for over five years. A negotiated agreement is the only path to a permanent two-state solution, providing peace for Israel and justice for the Palestinians. In fact, if Israel is willing to include the Palestinians in the process, Abbas can still play this unique negotiating role as the unchallenged leader of the PLO (not the government that includes Hamas).

[So why fund Abbas if there have been no genuine peace talks and why fund a group that has no incentive to change that? Would wouldn't Hamas take credit for the change in fortune if the people get financial aid? And what makes him believe that Mr. Abbas' moral credibility as the "unchallenged leader of the PLO give him a "unique negotiating role" that allows him to avoid his role as the president in a Hamas-led government?]

It was under this umbrella and not the Palestinian Authority that Arafat negotiated with Israeli leaders to conclude the Oslo peace agreement. Abbas has sought peace talks with Israel since his election a year ago, and there is nothing to prevent direct talks with him, even if Hamas does not soon take the ultimately inevitable steps of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's right to exist.

It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through U.N. and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace."

Mr. Carter just doesn't get it. But then again, it would be hard to have anything but low expectations for this one-term failure-in-chief. May the historians that write his biographies remember his politically irrelevant post-presidency.

Addendum Link for Democratic Vision Article

Mr. Bush's democracy in process.

Iraq: Bush's Democratic Visision for the Middle East vs Friendly Authoritarian Regimes

President George W. Bush today defended his administration's Middle East strategy, which was again challenged when Sunni and Shi'ite fanatics took turns bombing their opponents' worship sites. While admitting that "the comming days [in Iraq] will be tense," Mr. Bush said he remained optimistic "because the Iraqi people have spoken" through democratic elections held in December.

Mr. Bush has yet to explain how the Kurdish and Shi'ite factions (let's set aside for the moment consideration of the Sunni faction) can speak with one voice if they overwhelmingly voted for a political document that binds the two together in nothing more than a political lie (de jure statehood and union) while granting the two parties the means for a de facto partition or separation from Iraq.

The president's misplaced optimism matches his misrepresentation of the facts on the ground. He points to several isolated terrorist incidents - the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, a series of bombings of US embassies in East Africa, and the two (one largely unsuccessful and one successful) attacks on the World Trade Center in New York to prove his assertion that the status quo in the Middle East was not working.

If the president had limited his assertion to the status quo then present in Afghanistan - that is, the anti-American Talibani regime then in power, he would be correct. The Talibanic regime provided al Qaeda personnel safe harbor and camp grounds for terrorist training which eventually were used against us.

But the president imposed no such limit on his assertion and several counterexamples can be cited. If, as the neoconservatives (and some traditionalist conservatives as well) claim, the authoritarian Egyptian and theo-monarchical Saudi regimes allow radical fundamentalist groups the chance to indoctrinate their children with anti-American messages in religious fundamentalist schools, the situation could only get worse when these converted are then given the power to vote. As of now, these pragmatic-minded authoritarians are the only things standing in the zealots' way.

One need only look to the elections recently conducted in the Palestinian occupied territories or for that matter, what is happening in Iraq today. Mr. Bush says Hamas will, over time, moderate its political agenda with respect to Israel and the United States once it is forced to govern the territory allotted to the people it claims to represent. One would only hope he would be right, and in fact, this blogger suggested that may happen in the long run and there is some hope, given Hamas' prior agreement to a ceasefire. But there is no such guarantee.

In the meantime, Hamas' victory strenthened the radical Zionist and Islamic causes while undermining the strategies adopted by the moderates on both sides of this political divide, further destablizing the region.

Notwithstanding our president's repeated assertions, our geopolitical national interests have been, as of now, undermined more than furthered by Saddam Hussein's removal from power. Mr. Hussein was, no doubt, an enemy but he was, in hindsight a contained enemy. The weapons the international community believed he was hiding were never found, which suggests that however much he may have desired such weapons, he didn't have them.

To this day, the PoliticalHeretic supports the justification used to remove Saddam Hussein. Hostile regimes in possession of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons may feel constrained enough from launching a direct attack upon the United States, but nothing may "contain" them from giving such weapons to our enemies like al Qaeda who have nothing to lose. Mr. Hussein's armed forces fired on the American forces patrolling the no-fly zone, through weapons inspectors out of Iraq for a long period of time, and did everything he could to undermine further weapons inspections just before he was removed from power.

But the intelligence adopted by the international community was faulty and we found out the hard way. Saddam Hussein did not have the means to indirectly attack us. He did not have the chemical and biological weapons to sell to those who would use them against us.

A disarmed Hussein served American interests. His ruthless administration suppressed the competing and radial Islamist factions now battling over Iraq's future. His Iraq rivaled the Iranians in political and military power and consequently checked any westward expansion from a theo-imperialist driven Iran. And finally, the Kurdish claim for autonomy was satisfied while providing a check upon Turkey's Kurdish population which poses a threat to our only Muslim-populated NATO ally.

Whatever danger Mr. Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed to the United States pales in comparison to the one we created when we removed him. We have unleashed sectarian impulses that are now way beyond our control. The adminstration's inept handling of the occupation is in part to blame for this. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't even match up to his own "we go to war with the army that we have" rhetoric. The administration's under-manned occupation force was further compromised when it bowed to the defeatists' arguments and withdrew prematurely more American forces.

The Shi'ites and Kurds have signed onto their country's political breakup that could only undermine our geopolitical interest within the region. Al Qaeda, once deprived of a homeland following the Taliban's removal from power in Afghanistan, have been afforded a second chance in Iraq while the Iranians exploit the rivalry between Sunni and Shi'ite in the new Iraq "proper" (that is, non-Kurdish dominated Iraq).

In the north, the Kurdish regional government will be tempted to shelter the Kurdish militants fighting for its people's independence from Turkey, provoking Turkish intervention into northern Iraq. The Russians might secretly aid the Kurds with the hope of dividing the NATO alliance which has to this date fought its designs to reclaim what it had lost in eastern Europe.

The democratic vision Mr. Bush is staunchly defending is not working but we cannot leave Iraq now. If the three major factions can not agree upon a unified political vision for their country, one that actually unites them behind a viable nation-state, we may be forced to pick a side in the civil war which could follow and support any potential Iraqi dictator that will look for our support and who will, in turn, fight on our side in the war on terror.



"Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. " - President George W. Bush

Nearly 2.75 years have passed since President George W. Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared an end to "major combat operations in Iraq." Sunni Iraqis by large boycotted the first elections - an atonishing fact given this was their first opportunity to help shape their country's future. Religious zealots crossed over Syria's porous borders and made common cause with the Baathist insurgents fighting the American-led forces that removed them from power and its benefactors in "control" over Iraq's future. Sectarian-minded soldiers affiliated with the militias have infiltrated Iraq's army and police forces.

Success on the diplomatic front has also eluded us. The negotiators, hoping to draw the Sunni base of support away from the Baathist radicals and bolster the interim government's legitimacy, pressed its benefactors in power to include Sunni moderates within the government and at the negotiations over Iraq's constitution but that ultimately failed. The Kurdish and Shi'ite factions supported a draft constitution that all but emaciated their county's unity.

The Kurdish-dominated north was given de facto independence and its regional government charged with enforcing the federal powers officially given to the central government in Baghdad. Its Kurdish-populated militia, the Persh Merga was not required to disarm.

While the draft constitution officially recognized only one autonomous region, references were included to allow other Iraqi provinces the option of receiving by itself or in combination with its neighbors, autonomous regional status not unlike that given to the Kurdish-dominated north.
Sunni Iraqis thought this provided Iraq's Shi'ite population with the same bail out proposal the Kurds won. An autonomous Shi'ite region, the Sunnis feared. would look to the Iranians as their protectors. While the Kurds and Shi'ites draw up the regional boundaries in such a way as to provide themselves with sufficient oil revenue (the Kurds are fighting to reclaim Kirkuk), the Sunnis would be left to fend for themselves with little more than an oil-deprived wasteland.

The Shi'ites are not as united as the Sunni population fears, butwith the aid of Kurdish team, they were strong enough to impose upon the negotiators their own vision for Iraq's future. Defeated at the negotiating table, the Sunni moderates vowed to get the anti-constitution vote out with success, though not enough. The vote was stacked against them, in so far as they had to win a 2/3 "no" vote in at least three Iraqi provinces. To win enough Sunni voters over to their side, the Shi'ite and Kurdish negotiators incorporated within the constitution a process whereby the constitution and any amendments would be reconsidered by a panel appointed by a new government. It did not work.

Shi'ite and Kurdish voters supported the constitution just as strongly as Sunni voters rejected it, so while the constitution was ratified, its very legitimacy as a binding document for all of Iraq's people was cast in doubt. The Shi'ites and Kurds agreed to a legal separation short of divorce separated them from each other, while the Sunnis rejected a separation that in no way benefitted them.

Iraq's National Assembly elections conducted in December affirmed that status-quo with the Shi'ite faction winning enough votes to govern with the aid of the Kurdish faction, casting in doubt any chance of passage the constitutional reforms necessary to preserve Iraq's sovereign and territorial integrity.

So much for Mr. Bush's "mission accomplished." This week, a Shi'ite mosque was almost destroyed by Sunni radicals, so their Shi'ite counterparts retaliated, destroying dozens of Sunni mosques (that's the nuber destroyed; not the number of those attacked which surpass 100). The leaders from both sides are calling for a peaceful solution but Iraq is one step away from civil war. The American-led "coalition of the willing" haplessly stood by. Left to be seen is the Iraqi government's response. Will its army suppress the insurrection and maintain law and order or will the so-called progress in training the Iraqi-led army be proven a waste in time?

As the PoliticalHeretic said last December, the Iraqi people will mock and dismiss their army and national police forces if it is charged with defending what is essentially a political lie but a national government lacking a formidable army could not ward off the challenges posed by the numerous sectarian groups competing for power.

The leaders may very well do what is necessary to quell this week's uprising and in fact there is some hope since the attacks, according to press reports, have lessoned somewhat, but this is only a short-terem solution. Iraq's future cannot depend upon the goodwell of the sectarian leaders now calling for peace. Leaders come and go. The country needs the united political vision that now eludes its people.The American forces which our leaders has prematurely withdrawn may very well have to return and support, as George F. Will had once said we should be prepared to settle for, a pro-American autocratic regime not unlike those in the Middle East and Mr. Bush will, like the time he stood in front of a "mission accomplished" banner and declared an end to "major combat operations" eat his words on making the world safe for democracy.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Postal Delivery

I guess United States Postal Service employees will be advised against leaving packages at the door. What a pain. If the package is too big to fit in the mailbox, the postal employees will have return another time when the resident, who is usually out of the house during work hours, is homel. And why? because some idiot knows not to watch her step? I'm not blaming the Court, which may well have been in the right to let her move forward with the law suit but this is ridiculous. We all at one point were taught to watch where we walk and this person who failed to do so had only herself to blame.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

If it Walks Like a Duck...

"The clear game plan of the measure's supporters was to keep the issue in play in the hope that a change of Supreme Court personnel would reverse the outcome the next time around. Now the new case reaches the court just as Justice Alito takes his seat, succeeding Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast the deciding vote in the 2000 case.

Justice Alito is likely to be more sympathetic to legislative efforts to restrict abortion. But for the Supreme Court to reverse so quickly a significant ruling in this contentious area in response to some obvious political machinations would undermine not just abortion rights, but the court's own authority. It's a dangerous game, and a wise court would not play it." - The New York Times

Exactly. The Supreme Court already considered an identical case five years ago and ruled against the state's prohibition with Sandra Day O'Connor providing the crucial fifth vote for partial birth abortion rights. Now she is gone and for that matter, was replaced by a justice who voted to uphold a spousal notification law of all things (yes, wives, you must notify your family landlord the husband before doing something to your own body) or, alternatively for the pro-life crowld (yes, wives, you must notify your family landlord before killing this baby. He is entitled to know if and when you choose to kill the prenatal being). Now it's time for him to deliver yet again. Overturn the ruling made by the justice who rejected his dissenting view on spousal notification laws.

It's so obvious. The conservatives on the Court believe they have the votes. Justice Kennedy voted for the state law, as did two of the three conservatives now on the court. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. is expected, as is Samuel A. Alito Jr., to vote for it as well providing a 5-4 majority to overturn Stenberg v. Carhart. Whether the court ruled correctly then is besides the point.

The Court has not considered any new groundbreaking cases before then. It tossed back to the lower courts for further litigation a parental notification law passed in New Hampshire and that was it. Now it will reconsider a decision based on what? a "finding of fact" made in a publicly-elected body susceptible to public pressure.

Stare decisis requires more from our justices. Do we want them overturning supreme court precedents made within a five-year span every time a new justice is appointed to the Supreme Court?

Supreme Court Ruling: RFRA Voids Court's Deference to Government Given in Employment Division v Smith

This conclusion is reinforced by the Controlled Substances
Act itself. The Act contains a provision authorizing
the Attorney General to “waive the requirement for
registration of certain manufacturers, distributors, or
dispensers if he finds it consistent with the public health
and safety.” 21 U. S. C. §822(d). The fact that the Act
itself contemplates that exempting certain people from its
requirements would be “consistent with the public health
and safety” indicates that congressional findings with"
respect to Schedule I substances should not carry the
determinative weight, for RFRA purposes, that the Government
would ascribe to them.

And in fact an exception has been made to the Schedule
I ban for religious use. For the past 35 years, there has
been a regulatory exemption for use of peyote—a Schedule
I substance—by the Native American Church. See 21
CFR §1307.31 (2005). In 1994, Congress extended that
exemption to all members of every recognized Indian
Tribe. See 42 U. S. C. §1996a(b)(1). Everything the Government
says about the DMT in hoasca—that, as a Schedule
I substance, Congress has determined that it “has a
high potential for abuse,” “has no currently accepted medical
use,” and has “a lack of accepted safety for use . . .
under medical supervision,” 21 U. S. C. §812(b)(1)—
applies in equal measure to the mescaline in peyote, yet
both the Executive and Congress itself have decreed an
exception from the Controlled Substances Act for Native
American religious use of peyote. If such use is permitted
in the face of the congressional findings in §812(b)(1) for
hundreds of thousands of Native Americans practicing
their faith, it is difficult to see how those same findings
alone can preclude any consideration of a similar exception
for the 130 or so American members of the UDV who
want to practice theirs. See Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye,
Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U. S. 520, 547 (1993) (“It is established
in our strict scrutiny jurisprudence that ‘a law cannot be
regarded as protecting an interest ‘of the highest order’ . . .
when it leaves appreciable damage to that supposedly
vital interest unprohibited’ ” (quoting Florida Star v.
B. J. F., 491 U. S. 524, 541–542 (1989) (SCALIA, J., concurring
in part and concurring in judgment))).

We do not doubt that there may be instances in which a

need for uniformity precludes the recognition of exceptions
to generally applicable laws under RFRA. But it would
have been surprising to find that this was such a case,
given the longstanding exemption from the Controlled
Substances Act for religious use of peyote, and the fact
that the very reason Congress enacted RFRA was to respond
to a decision denying a claimed right to sacramental
use of a controlled substance. See 42 U. S. C.
§2000bb(a)(4)." - Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. writing for the Court.

In a blow for religious freedom the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a preliminary injunction protecting the O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, a Christian spiritist sect with Brazilian origins right to the sacramental use of hoasca during their communion observance. Hoasca is a hallucinogen made from two plants, one of which contains dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a schedule I drug. These drugs are classified as such because they purportedly have no medical use (this is disputable) and are highly addictive and consequently prone to abuse.

The Supreme Court did not repudiate Employment Division v. Smith but then again it didn't have to for it invoked the Congressionally-mandated Religious Freedom and Restoration Act of 1993 in such a way to give back to vulnerable religious adherents what the Court had wrongly taken from them.

"RFRA, and the strict scrutiny test it adopted, contemplate
an inquiry more focused than the Government’s
categorical approach. RFRA requires the Government to
demonstrate that the compelling interest test is satisfied
through application of the challenged law “to the person
”—the particular claimant whose sincere exercise of
religion is being substantially burdened. 42 U. S. C.
§2000bb–1(b). RFRA expressly adopted the compelling
interest test “as set forth in Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U. S.
398 (1963) and Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U. S. 205 (1972).”
42 U. S. C. §2000bb(b)(1). In each of those cases, this
Court looked beyond broadly formulated interests justifying
the general applicability of government mandates and
scrutinized the asserted harm of granting specific exemptions
to particular religious claimants."

So did the Supreme Court eviscerate the government's potential use of Employment v. Smith when it claims the right to bar religious practices which violate laws of general applicabiliy? One would think so, but only to the extent that a new Congress chooses to keep the RFRA on the books.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Stenberg v Carhart Revisited

Well, the conservative coup d'etat has begun. The Supreme Court is going to reconsider its ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart, in which it struck down as unconstitutional Nebraska's partial birth abortion ban by a 5 to 4 vote because it did not include a health exception to the mother. Then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor provided the crucial fifth vote in that case.

Today, the Court said it will hear a challenge to a nation-wide partial birth abortion ban passed by Congress in 2003 in reaction to that ruling, using language challenging the findings of a federal district court higher level of courts (the Appeals and Supreme Courts) are obliged to accept. The conservative members of the Supreme Court may use the factual assertions adopted in the language of this statute to overturn Stenberg v. Carhart now that they have a new member on the Court. While the Court was bound to accept the facts given to it from lower courts (it is not a trial of facts court), it can accept (or not) the evidence provided by Congress.

Wel'll see if the Court votes to reverse, and whether it can do so without becoming another political branch in government. Given that it had not considered other major ground-breaking nd well-known abortion rights cases between since Stenberg, its very legitimacy is at risk should it overturn that decision. A ruling on the New Hampshire parental notification law would have been preferred first. Now abortion rights supporters will undermine the Court's legitimacy, claiming that a power/ideological shift on the Court has caused it to reverse itself.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Good Article On Neoconservative Interventions To Read:

Francis Fukuyama has written a thought-provoking essay on American-led interventions in The New York Times' magazine section. The PoliticalHeretic will comment later when he has more time, but for now it is suggested reading.

Scary Thought on Terrorism Brought to You By The New York Times'mMagazine

But Jordan's prisons were not so much a barrier to jihad as a hothouse. Jihadi prisoners developed the hierarchies and loyalties typical of any prison gang. At the same time, according to those Jordanian journalists who report regularly on jihadis in newspapers like Al Ghad, the prisoners exerted an attraction on the less pious. Criminals converted to a strict Islam and brought to their new comrades skills that would be valuable in waging war. "Jail was very good for the movement," Wasfi told me. "Jail enhanced the personalities of prisoners and let them know how large was the cause they believed in. Inside jail is a good environment to get supporters and proselytize." Wasfi admitted that he and his comrades recruited from criminal ranks. "When you talk to them with Islam," he told me, "they see the difference between a system of punishment made by humans and a system made by God. This made them supporters of dawa" — the "call" to Islam — "and enemies of oppression." - excerpt from Nir Rosen's "Iraq's Jordan Jihadis" found in The New York Times magazine in yesterday's paper.

Ironic and troubling. Incarcerating these radicals only made them stronger and now they have won themselves new converts among former criminals. It really shouldn't be that surprising. Christians organize and go to prisons to convert the incarcerated. These jihadists had the same idea.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Weekend Show Preview

The Newsmaking Interview Shows:

1. Late Edition: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Hurricane Katrina and ex-FEMA director Michael Brown's testimony, the House panel report, and the government's future preparedness for other regional and national emergencies. Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) of the Senate Intelligence Committee and Representaive Jane Harman (D-California) of the House Intelligence Committee will be interviewed as well. Other guests include the United Kingdom's ambassador to the United States (David Manning), Germany's ambassador to the United States (Wolfgang Ischinger), France's ambassador to the United States (Jean-David Levitte), and retired Major General Paul Eaton of the U.S. Army. Major General Eaton was involved in the ongoing effort to train Iraqi troops.

2. Face The Nation: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) of the Foreign Relations Committee, and New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller.

3. FoxNews Sunday: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senator (and potential Democratic White House hopeful) Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) talk about the government's response to Hurricane Katrina and the press coverage surrounding the accidental shooting of Harry Whittington by Vice President Richard Cheny during a quail hunt. Former Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyoming) comments on the press coverage as well.

4. Meet The Press: Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff is interviewed by Tim Russert on the department's response to Hurricane Katrina. Roundtable discussion on the hunting mishap includes former Cheney counselor Mary Matalin, New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd, Wall Street Journal Editorial Page editor Paul Gigot, and NBC Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory.

5. This Week: Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, and Representative Thomas Davis (R-Virginia) of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina. Roundtable discussion includes syndicated columnist George F. Will (as almost always), Editor
Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and Cokie Roberts.

The Pundit Talk Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: Speculation as to who is calling the shots at the White House follows now that the news concerning the shooting incident was briefly held. Plus, speculation as to whom President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney will back in the Republican primary for the White House. Sunday's panel includes Gloria Borger of U.S News and World Report, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Julia Reed of Vogue Magazine, and Michael Duffy of Time Magazine.

2. The Beltway Boys: Why Oprah Winfrey and Sean Penn are singled out in a Congressional report on Hurricane Katrina. The "conventional wisdom" surrounding the Cheney shooting incident is "challenged."

Other News Programs

1. 60 Minutes: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an oscar-nominee for his role in playing Truman Capote, talks about his time in rehab to overcome substance abuse. Bob Simon reports on the anti-Muhammad cartoon fallout in Denmark. Scott Pelley interviews Bob Correll in Greenland, where he believes there is proof of global warming.

2. Dateline NBC: Pre-empted by the Olympics coverage.

Church Membership Directories and Political Campaigns

Note that North Carolina's Republican Party asked for church directories. We have yet to discover if their campaign for voters (and that's probably why they requested the list - to see what fliers they should mail to whom) also included requests for synagogue, mosque, or temple directories. Could people who worship at those other institutions be good North Carolina Republicans? Hmm. The verdict is still out. Let's see if the press follows up.

And kudos go to the evangelical ministers who refused to back down and betray the trust provided by their church's members. They did not register their names, addresses, or phone numbers for an advertisement campaign of any sort - be it political or not.

Free Speech Tolerates No Sacred Cows: Quotes and Links

"Facing complaints from the pro-Kremlin United Russia Party and Islamic organizations over the depiction of the prophet Muhammad, the city administration ordered the closure of Gorodskiye Vesti and the municipal corporation that publishes it to prevent religious "hostilities" and to "stop the abuse of freedom of mass information."

Of course, one can't abuse "freedom of mass information" if it really is not free.

But this editorial writer from The Columbian from Vancouver, Washington gets it.

"We need better boundaries. People opposing homosexuality need to come to terms with the fact that not everyone believes the way they do about sexual orientation, just as those on the other side of the issue should stop trying to take their issue to schoolhouses behind parents' backs."

Granted, she is speaking in terms of homosexuality and not political cartoons but the same logic applies. The same logic applies.

"We need better boundaries. "People opposing" offensive or blasphemous cartoons "need to come to terms with the fact that not everyone believes the way they do" about faith and god, "just as those on the other side of the issue should stop trying to impose their will on those who do consider those views sacred.

Father Hesburgh at Notre Dame gets it too.

"I think the real test of a great university," he said, "is that you are fair to the opposition and that you get their point of view out there. You engage them. You want to get students' minds working. You don't want mindless Catholics. You want intelligent, successful Catholics."

Kudos to the Rev. Hesburgh. Invite everyone to say what they have to say and then, if you agree, buffer that argument or if you disagree, refute it.

Notre Dame's new president, Rev. John I Jenkins, does not get it. Get a load of this statement.

"Precisely because academic freedom is such a sacred value, we must be clear about its appropriate limits,"

Wow. how can the principle of academic freedom be treated as "a sacred value" if there are limits? Would not the practice of imposing ideological litmus tests on "academic freedom" be inconsistent with the claim that it is "a sacred value" in its own right? He does not get it.

It's an unfortunate lesson these two editors at a university newspaper learned the hard way.
Yes, there are many in this country who believe that one can censor speech that he or she considers offensive.

Colorado Immigration

I was perplexed after reading this Rocky Mountain News excerpt from a story on the Colorado state legislatures' upcoming focus on illegal immigration, something which every state legislature should be doing at this point.

Rep. Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, chairman of the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, said he runs a great risk by putting all the immigration bills together. But he said during a meeting with bill sponsors Friday that he wants to make sure everyone who wants to testify gets their say, and that all the bills get a fair shake.

Schultheis said he expects dozens, if not more than 100 people, to want to testify at the hearing.

"There's going to be people testifying on both sides that are going to be extremely passionate," Schultheis said.

He said the Republican bills, three of which he has sponsored, are designed to make "Colorado unfriendly to people living here illegally . . . which means that they will either A, return to Mexico, or more probably they will move to states . . . where it's comparatively less uncomfortable to live."

Good. That would be in conformance with the bill's purpose which is to discourage illegal immigration (that is, the practice of sneaking past the borders). If those who wished to flee to the United States thought they would be unwelcomed and treated as social outcasts or pariahs if they disrespected our laws, they'd think twice and maybe, just maybe, follow the legal process.

Colorado should do two things so as not to give would-be immigrants a false impression. It should extend fair worker treatment legislation to those who, while not American citizens, have sought and been granted the privilege of working in this country while doing everything within its legal power to make illegal immigrants feel unwelcomed. Enforce the law and get rid of them and punish those who employ them, those who rent apartments to them or otherwise shelter them, and those who traffic them into this country.

Good Muslim v. Islam Cartoon

Can be found at The Richmond Times Disptach. Go to the opinion cartoon page and look for the February 7 Gary Brookins cartoon.

Umm. Poor Reporting

This excerpt, from The Richmond Times Dispatch, needed some basic editing before it made it to the press.

  • The House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee yesterday tabled a bill that had sailed through the Senate unanimously and sent another bill unanimously endorsed by the Senate to a different House committee to consider. With the Senate and House now at the point where they consider each other's legislation, differences in the House and Senate temperaments are showing.

Okay, and what bill did they table and why, given the unanimous approval it received? Hmmm. Journalism 101. I guess Mrs. Tammie Smith forgot.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dan Asmussen

Keeping in line with the line of jokes coming from The Daily Show, Dan Asmussen links Cheney'' bird hunting with faulty CIA intelligence. Still more jokes on the hunting.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Domestic Spying and Two Inadequate Proposals

"Why would future presidents ask, if the present administration successfully asserts its current doctrine? It is that whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be." - George F. Will in The Washington Post

George F. Will, it should be noted, does not object to the domestic spying program per se. In fact, he endorses it:

"Immediately after Sept. 11, the president rightly did what he thought the emergency required, and rightly thought that the 1978 law was inadequate to new threats posed by a new kind of enemy using new technologies of communication. Arguably he should have begun surveillance of domestic-to-domestic calls -- the kind the Sept. 11 terrorists made.

But 53 months later, Congress should make all necessary actions lawful by authorizing the president to take those actions, with suitable supervision. It should do so with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous."

His solution isn't that far off from the one proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) . The president's "monarchical doctrine" must be refuted and the separations of power doctrine re-affirmed. Where the two part is on the matter of who should look into the domestic spying program. Mr. Specter would have FISA rule on the program's constitutionality while Mr. will would have Congress re-assert itself and pass a law legitimizing what the president did while refuting at the same time, anything that suggests its "authorization is superfluous."

Mr. Will's suggested recourse solves only one of the two constitutional questions at issue - the separation of powers dispute between Congress and the President. Left unanswered are the privacy, due process, and search/seizure claims raised by those who discover in future court proceedings that the government spied on them. Also disputable is Mr. Will's contention that Congress can successfully distinguish between that legislation which is "superflous" and that which is not. The president will and can with the aura of legitimacy, declare victory if Congress affirms the very practices he engaged in. Nothing but the firm repudiation of the administration's domestic spying program would suffice.

Mr. Specter's suggested plan of action, while preferred over Mr. Will's, is no substitute for the legal process in place today. The FISA court has rarely turned down an administration's application for a surveillance warrant but by having the FISA court review each case, due process rights are affirmed. Mr. Specter, by empowering the FISA court to constitutionalize Mr. Bush's policy in general, removes that check on it and allows the president to with impunity spy on whoever it wants, even in those rare cases where the FISA court would have suggested that such methods were not warranted.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gay News in New Jersey

Berkeley Township has joined the growing list of New Jersey townships providing domestic partnership benefits to its employees, making it the third in Republican-dominated Ocean County to do so. Jackson passed a similar domestic partnership ordinance earlier in the month and last week, Brick Township (which is either the most populated or second-most populated municipality in Ocean) passed a domestic partnership bill last week.

Today, the New Jersey Supreme Court heard the case of two women who wish to marry. Gay advocates are optimistic after their arguments were shot in the lower courts but religious conservatives believe they, and not the lesbians seeking a marriage license, will win. Whether a victory in the courts will help the gay movement or cause a backlash in New Jersey is anyone's guess.

The Things You Take For Granted

Every day students who are not dropped off by their parents take the bus ride to and from school and its sporting events if they are on a team. Seniors may band together and take the bus down to Atlantic City. A travelor may take a shuttle to the airport. City residents may take public transportation to work and stores.

What do they all have in common? They expect their driver to get them to their destination safely. The students on this bus ride got something else. Their substitute driver died shortly after beginning her route.
One student waiting at the bus stop said her upper body collapsed into the steering wheel shortly after she opened the bus doors. The bus began to roll forward until one student got on the bus to stop it.

They were lucky, but imagine a scenario where a bus driver has a heart attack and dies while doing 65 - 70 mph on a major highway. It could happen at anytime.

Illegal Immigration Protestors

Opponents of the
Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, a bill designed to cut down on illegal immigration and secure our borders gathered at the Independence Mall. The 1,000 protestors oppose this measure which they consider the most draconian of several rival bills under consideration (This is a major plus in ThePoliticalHeretic's opinion. The more 'draconian,' the better).

The bill purportedly would allow for the incarceration of illegal immigrants and increase the fines levied on those who knowingly hire them. I haven't read it thorougly yet, but from what is described in The Philadelphia Inquirer the PoliticalHeretic has no objection as of yet

. One would think that a measure which punishes the immigrant smuggler or the one who harbors or employs those who make it across the border illegally could win broad bipartisan support after 9-11. If an illegal immigrantwho is looking for a job could sneak across the border looking, an Al Qaeda operative planning his next attack could do so as well. Libertarians and civil liberatian alike should back this push for tighter borders. Tighter border would undermine whatever case existed for the president's domestic spying program and the Patriot Act. The number of al Qaeda cells operating in this country would go down after every incident if the terrorists were stopped at the border.

The PoliticalHeretic supports the upgrade in penalty for the illegal immigrants as well. Prison time might seem harsh on the illegal immigrant who seeks nothing more than a job but it may be the only means to discourage them from entering our country illegally. Illegal immigrants have nothing to lose knowing they will, at worst, be released once they are returned to their country. Suceed and they win themselves a new job and a better way of life. Fail and they can always try again.

That many who sneak across the border are not terrorists but poor, industrious workers is besides the point. Knowing who sneaked across the border at any given time is fundamental to our security. Many people who are looking for higher wages and a better way of life seek entry into our country but they respect our country and so so legally. We know they entered or are seeking the permission to live within the United States. We know who they are but we don't know of those who do sneak across the border.

ThePoliticalHeretic considers himself a free-trader and the free movement of people across borders. He believes in the goodwill this country can offer to those who are fleeing oppression or genocide in their homeland and he once mocked the idea of a wall. But 9-11 changed that and now there have to be some limits. Background checks have to be performed. Health vaccinations have to be given. Diseases have to be tested for and equipment needs to be inspected. The illegal immigrant is distinguished from the legal one in his or her propensity to break the laws. The legal immigrant followed the law and has every intention of doing so. The illegal one already demonstrated his or her noncompliance. This applies across the board. Security must be enhanced not only at the borders (northern as well as southern) but also at our airports and ports of entry. If there is one area where the rights to privacy can violated (albeit in a limited way), it is at the airport, port, or border. We can no longer reward those who sneak across the border. The Cubans whom we spared deportation have to go just as much as the Haitians we turned away and the Mexicans that now cross our border with impunity. Health care costs are on the rise and terrorists are out to get us and we have to start behaving as if we are aware of that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Utah Gay Bill Update

Nothing yet, though the lower house will be debated in a house committee on Wednesday. This bill does nothing but undermine the students' respect and understanding of the rights our American ancestors fought for. The First Amendment means nothing if the only speech it protects is that which no one would forbid in the first place. It means nothing if the only groups that are given the right to assemble and meet are those which we do not find objectionable. And yet that is is being fought over right now in Utah, Virginia, and every other state. The gay-straight alliances, in the view of those who oppose gay tolerance, are a threat. They challenge the conventional wisdom. They buck the moral establishment in the conservative state. They provide those who join them (all with an opposing ideology of that shared by the legislators pushing for this bill) self-empowerment and they provide a message and argument the moral establishment in Utah does not like.

Anti-gay opponents can form a group of their own, work with the "Good News Clubs" they would protect in the name of free speech (a hypocritical stand given their stance on gay-straight alliances), or promote abstinence-only through the school body without barring those whose views dissent from theirs a means to get their own message out. No one is forcing you to join the group, and the Constitution requires no such thing. It only requires fairness. What is good for you is good for me and vice versa. The rights you have are guaranteed for all Americans.

An Even Better Eminent Domain Bill

This weekend I posted a link on the Virginia General Assembly's attempt to restrict eminent domain. Del. Johnny S. Joannou's proposal, unlike the one briefly described in an earlier post, would bar the condemnation and turnover of any private land to another private developer.
Delegate Terrie L. Suit's bill would have permitted such takings provided that property was not taken for revenue enhancement. (Some believe that provided a loophole, since revenue enhancement could be one but not the decisive factor in any taking, thereby allowing local government officials to rationalize any revenuee-enhancement scheme). A similarly-worded bill will be considered in the senate.

Mr. Joannnou's bill will not offer Virginia resident's a perfect solution. Local governments would, under his bill, be authorized to invoke eminent domain to eradicate blight in the poorer run-down neighborhoods of any community but no bill could protect the every homeowner's property from condemnation. Hospitals, water sewers, road construction and schools are needed in every community, and as the population grows, so too does the demand for each of these services.

But Mr. Joannou's bill is preferred over the senate bill. It will limit the potential abuse that follows when the government has been granted this awesome power over that which it does not known. Housing in blighted neighborhoods may be condemned but this bill will curtail efforts toto push working-and middle class homeowners from their community to make room for a pirvate developers' upscale condomium building project.

Eminent domain should be be used sparingly. Hospitals, roads, police stationms, schools, utilities, and prisons are needed and they serve the community as a whole. Shopping centers and malls, restaurants, office parks, and ball parks are not.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Virginia, Meet Utah

Virginia is not the only state whose legislature may pass a bill that allows schools a right to prohibit the formation of gay-straight alliances. Utah apparently is competing for the intolerance award of the year. While Virginia considers a bill that "merely" permits anti-gay school discrimination, Utah's legislature considers one that mandates it. Lets hope this one dies in the Senate Education Committee.

These bans really get on my nerve. Not only do they express animosity towards a particular group of people, they teach students, yes, those who are learning about the politics of the country they live in, that the value of defending freedom of speech and freedom of association depends upon the ideological position of the ones seeking it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Stanley Fish's Op-ed

"But I would bet that the editors who have run the cartoons do not believe that Muslims are evil infidels who must either be converted or vanquished. They do not publish the offending cartoons in an effort to further some religious or political vision; they do it gratuitously, almost accidentally. Concerned only to stand up for an abstract principle — free speech — they seize on whatever content happens to come their way and use it as an example of what the principle should be protecting. The fact that for others the content may be life itself is beside their point. ...

...This is why calls for "dialogue," issued so frequently of late by the pundits with an unbearable smugness — you can just see them thinking, "What's wrong with these people?" — are unlikely to fall on receptive ears. The belief in the therapeutic and redemptive force of dialogue depends on the assumption (central to liberalism's theology) that, after all, no idea is worth fighting over to the death and that we can always reach a position of accommodation if only we will sit down and talk it out.

But a firm adherent of a comprehensive religion doesn't want dialogue about his beliefs; he wants those beliefs to prevail. Dialogue is not a tenet in his creed, and invoking it is unlikely to do anything but further persuade him that you have missed the point — as, indeed, you are pledged to do, so long as liberalism is the name of your faith." Stanely Fish in The New York Times

To some degree right. Liberty functions as our political religion. The state must justify its regulations and such rationales are not possible with respect to the forced adherence of religious beliefs. " I'm sure many within the conservative community will take issue with what he says. Afterall, he is pitting religion against liberty, a position which I share. At least he's being honest.

We fight for a culture of freedom, where all can worship as they please. Some of us would act cautiously and go out of our way to not offend those we disagree with. Others will egg our opponents on. But most liberals, be we progressives, libertarians or civil libertarians, say we have a right to proselytize. What we fight against are the efforts of some to use the government for that purpose.

The fundamentalists within the religious communities (and this includes the Christian right in this country and the Orthodox Jews in Israel), like the Wahabbi Muslims, do not believe in that political religion. They want their own religious path to prevail at the expense of the religious paths chosen by those who disagree with them.

They are free to believe what they want, but the very freedom that makes this country great requires their defeat not only at the ballot box but in the courts. What they believe (and they are free to believe in it and free to proselytize their faith) cannot be forced upon the public at large if this is to remain a free country.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Eminent Domain Victory in Georgia

one minor but heart-warming eminent domain victory down in Georgia.

Offensive, but That's All

See, as a gay man I would find this cartoon offensive. You won't find me inciting a riot or threatening to kill the cartoonist.

Jury Tosses Out Fat/Race Discrimination Claim

"Thompson also felt she was disadvantaged by the all-white jury. Her lawyer, Neil Osborne, said he believed that her lawsuit is the furthest a discrimination case against Southwest has gotten." - excerpt from an Associated Press article published in New Hampshire's The Concord Monitor

and disadvantaged by the fact that maybe, just maybe, she took up too much room on what would have been another peron's seat and of course no one in today's politically correct world had the courage to tell her why, not that it was needed. She just needed to look down and see if she fit in one seat.

More on Eminent Domain

Virginia's General Assembly may vote on a bill limiting eminent domain within the state. According to this press article, the courts in Virginia already protect homeowners from the exercise of taking private property when it is designed to primarily increase a local government's tax revenue base but it if the courts were to reverse course, homeowners could rely upon this legislation.

Some oppose it thinking there is a loophole that government officials seeking to invoke eminent domain will exploit. The law allows for the taking of property if increased tax revenue is one but not the primary reason used to justify the action in the first place. That could negate the benefits this law was crafted to uphold. We'll find out over time, I am sure.

Free Speech Tolerates No Sacred Cows

"There, you can mock my mother. You can mock my father. We all do that to one another all the time. But don't mock my religion or my God," - Walid Kildani in today's Newport News Daily Press.

Free speech is no longer free when the state can protect any one group's sacred cow. If the Muslims can ban religious cartoons that offend them, Catholics can do the same and ban art work not unlike the Mary with elephant dung picture once on display in New York City, gays can silence their opponents, Christian evangelicals could silence gays, Jews could ban Christian evangelism drives, PETA couldn't protest against the Santeria's animal sacrifice rituals, "pro-life" demonstrators couldn't hold posters depicting aborted human fetuses and Muslims could not proselytize against the "infidels'" religions. We can all find something which may offend us but there are ways of dealing with it short of violence and censorship.

My answer to Mr. Kildani is the same I make to all the other would-be censorers. If you don't like what is on the tv station, hit the remote button to change the channel until you find something you do like. There are many cable channels that could satisfy your particular niche (black, Latino, gay, sports, sci-fi, women's issues, music video, home and gardening, food, news and political punditry, classical movies, comedy, etc).

If you don't like the radio program, find another station. Let the religious right have their Laura Schlessengers and the left whatever programs they have. If you don't like Howard Stern, move on to another station or channel. If you don't like pornography, don't by it. If you don't like blasphemy, don't read about it.If you don't want to hear about the latest anti-black housing campaign do not go to the KKK's website. If you don't want a preacher or a salesman at your door, don't open it.

No one can make you read The Da Vinci Code, the Bible, or the latest diet book nor can anyone force you to listen to Eminem, Kanye West, or for that matter, Neil Diamond.

If you don't like the cartoon found in your paper, flip to the next page, write a letter to the news editor or submit your own cartoon proposal. Confront the issue. Debate it and condemn it if need be but whatever you do, don't suppress it. The solution to hate or offensive speech is more speech.

To all who think like Mr. Kildani (be you a right-wing or left-wing activist) I say the following: many do not share your belief as to what is or is not sacred. You can try to win some converts over to your side, but others will not, in exercising their own free will, join you. Get over it and move on. Let them be. And if you don't get over it, well, I guess you have a right to that too, but know it is your loss.

Preview of Talk Shows

The PoliticalHeretic will post the previews for the weekend talk shows for those who are interested before continuing with his blogging.

A. The Newsmakers

1. Meet The Press: Senate Intelligence Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), House Intelligence Department Chairperson Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) and ranking member Representative Jane Harmon (D-California) on the president's domestic spying program.

2. FoxNews Sunday: Senator George Allen (R-Virginia), Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), Dr. John Grant of the National Air and Space Museum, civil rights activist Rev. Jason Lowery (one of the speakers at the Coretta King funeral) and author/former White House Public Policy Strategist Ron Christie.

3. Late Edition: Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the purportedly anti-Muslim cartoons. Other guests include Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) of the Select Intelligence Committee, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) of the Armed Services Committee, former Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Egyptian ambassador to the United States Nabil Fahmy, Israeli ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon, and Palestinian representative to the United States Afif Safieh.

4. Face The Nation: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller.

5. This Week: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware). Former Pittsburgh Steelers player Lynn Swann is interviewed on his campaign to unseat Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. Roundtable discussion includes syndicated columnist George F. Will, Democratic campaign strategist and pundit Dana Brazile, and former White House aid and current editor-at-large for U.S. News & World Report David Gergen.

B. The Pundits

1. The Chris Matthews Show: Senator Rodham Hillary Clinton's (D-NY) presidential campaign tactics and the Muslim riots' effect on the war against terror are debated by Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Time Magazine's Joe Klein, MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell, and columnist David Brooks of The New York Times.

2. Beltway Boys: A look at the frontrunners for the upcoming race for The White House and debate over whether Congress or the President has the upper hand on the domestic spying controversy.

3. The McLaughlin Group: One-on-one interview with Representative John Murtha (D-PA) on the war in Iraq. Competition with China and India over trade.

C. Feature News Shows

1. Dateline NBC:
pre-empted by NBC coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics.

2. 60 Minutes: The debate over embryonic stem cell research, and war profiteering in Iraq.

D. Comedy

1. Saturday Night Live: seems like a re-run. It goes on live again early in March.

Kelo Decision's Affect on Religious Freedom

Last year the Supreme Court upheld New London's invocation of eminent domain power to seize the property of several homeowners for private redevelopment including a hotel, several restaurants and shops, research and office space among other things. Excerpts from both the opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens and the dissent written by retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor are posted below. As usual, the PoliticalHeretic highlights in bold the most pertinent information. Pay attention and be forewarned.
Liberals who supported Kelo have just written their own death sentence. The legal groundwork has already been set. Local government agencies can or in the future will use its eminent domain power to sidestep constitutional challenges involving the religious establishment and expression clauses.

1. "Petitioners contend that using eminent domain for economic development impermissibly blurs the boundary between public and private takings. Again, our cases foreclose this objection. Quite simply, the government’s pursuit of a public purpose will often benefit individual private parties. For example, in Midkiff, the forced transfer of property conferred a direct and significant benefit on those lessees who were previously unable to purchase their homes. In Monsanto, we recognized that the “most direct beneficiaries” of the data-sharing provisions were the subsequent pesticide applicants, but benefiting them in this way was necessary to promoting competition in the pesticide market. 467 U.S., at 1014.14 The owner of the department store in Berman objected to “taking from one businessman for the benefit of another businessman,” 348 U.S., at 33, referring to the fact that under the redevelopment plan land would be leased or sold to private developers for redevelopment.15 Our rejection of that contention has particular relevance to the instant case: “The public end may be as well or better served through an agency of private enterprise than through a department of government–or so the Congress might conclude. We cannot say that public ownership is the sole method of promoting the public purposes of community redevelopment projects. Id., at 34." - U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the Court in Kelo v. New London, a ruling upholding the forced sale of homeowners' private property so the government could in turn sell it to private developer.

2. "Where is the line between “public” and “private” property use? We give considerable deference to legislatures’ determinations about what governmental activities will advantage the public. But were the political branches the sole arbiters of the public-private distinction, the Public Use Clause would amount to little more than hortatory fluff. An external, judicial check on how the public use requirement is interpreted, however limited, is necessary if this constraint on government power is to retain any meaning. See Cincinnati v. Vester, 281 U.S. 439, 446 (1930) (“It is well established that … the question [of] what is a public use is a judicial one”). ...

... In moving away from our decisions sanctioning the condemnation of harmful property use, the Court today significantly expands the meaning of public use. It holds that the sovereign may take private property currently put to ordinary private use, and give it over for new, ordinary private use, so long as the new use is predicted to generate some secondary benefit for the public–such as increased tax revenue, more jobs, maybe even aesthetic pleasure. But nearly any lawful use of real private property can be said to generate some incidental benefit to the public. Thus, if predicted (or even guaranteed) positive side-effects are enough to render transfer from one private party to another constitutional, then the words “for public use” do not realistically exclude any takings, and thus do not exert any constraint on the eminent domain power. ...

... Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result. “[T]hat alone is a just government,” wrote James Madison, “which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.” For the National Gazette, Property, (Mar. 29, 1792), reprinted in 14 Papers of James Madison 266 (R. Rutland et al. eds. 1983)."

- Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor writing for the dissent in Kelo v. New London

Can you imagine the can of worms the Supreme Court opened up?

Sand Springs, Oklahoma may force a church to sell its property for a Home Depot and other "super stores." I linked to that in late January. Yesterday, a Pennsylvania state appeals court turned down a Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority's decision to invoke eminent domain against a homeowner so it could sell the property to a school owned and run by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and the Sisters of Mercy, a religious organization, becaused it purportedly violates the First Amendment's prohibition of Religious Establishment. But this may be appealed in the future for all we know and a higher court, as well as lower courts throughout the United States, may reach a different conclusion and declare it constitutional for the government to evict a person from his or her private dwelling to build a religious school.

This shouldn't sound far-fetched. Since he came to office, President George W. Bush has expanded upon the Charitable Choice program started under President William Jefferson Clinton, whereby public money is doled out to those religious organizations whose programs for combatting poverty and social decay "show promise." The rationale follows that of Supreme Court Establishment rulings going back go Everson v. Board of Education and Zelman v. Simmons Harris (2 court decisions I agree with) in which the Court held that federal money can go to those programs as a part of a general welfare program and that money can go to an individual knowing he or she will then use for religious purposes.

With religious free expression rights undermined by Employment Division v. Smith, nothing will prevent a local agency empowered by it and the Kelodecision from seizing Jewish synagogue in a Christian town to make room for a Christian school to provide for the blighted in a failing school district (as a part of the Charitable Choice program) or a Jewish-dominated board or council from seizing a Christian church to make room for Jewish school for the same reason.

Where does it end? What constitutional principle will the Court invoke to prevent this should it choose to take such a case? By granting government agencies the means to take private property whenever it wants in Kelo, the Supreme Court effectively gave them the power to sidestep constitutional disputes over the religious establishment and free exercise clauses. Imagine that. The Court decimated our First Amendment's religious protections without even hearing a First Amendment challenge. Will a newly-constituted Supreme Court overrule itself and overturn Smith, Zelman, or Kelo? One or two of them have to go if we are going to preserve the rights granted to us in the First Amendment.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Dan Asmussen

The Bad Reporter pokes some fun at the fundamentalist zealots rioting over the cartoons here and here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

FISA and the Court

Information discovered through the president's eavesdropping through wiretaps are then used to obtain those very warrants to justify them. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the member of the FISA Court who was alerted of this by a member of the Justice Department who appears before it on a regular basis, apparently was troubled but agreed to hear such cases and play into this legal fraud if the names of those whose information was obtained through extra-legal means were tagged. I wonder how the other members, who were not alerted of this, feel now that they were used as pawns to legalize what was obtained illegally and I wonder how they feel about their colleague on the bench.

The president says we must promote freedom abroad, even when it does not serve the national interest while mocking the very legal system that protects it in our own country. This disgusts me.

Free Association Not for Thee

"We feel like gays should change their lifestyle and not promote it," - Faith Christian minister Clyde George, as quoted in The Roanoke Times

Translation: Though shall not be a heretic or disobey my God. You have no constitutional right to do so.

Assisted Suicide in Washington?

Oregon won a round in what probably will turn into a long battle between it and the federal government over the issue of assisted suicide. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the attorney general's contention that he has the authority under the Controlled Substances Act to bar physicians from prescribing lethal doses of medication. The Court, however, was not confronted with a challenge concerning a Congressional law banning assisted suicide in each of the states yet.

Booth Gardner, a former governor of Washington, said he will push for a referendum giving Washington's terminally ill a right to assisted suicide. I wish him luck.

Dissent Award

The teens who defy the school-endorsed food program and who can blame them. They are required to get up at maybe 6:30 in the morning to catch the bus that takes them to school at what, 8 am and they can't have their caffeine and sugar rush? Please. They are heading to the Starbucks in the morning, the gas station for their sodas and eating out. No surprise. The school deserves to lose money.

Comical Hillary

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging Democrats to speak up and says she takes "a back seat to nobody when it comes to fighting terrorism and standing up for national homeland security." So where does she stand on the war in Iraq? Should we increase redeploy more troops to the region or withdraw? Does she believe Iraq has to revise its constitution? Does she favor a unitary stystem, a federalist one or a confederationist one? What does she believe our strategy will be?

The junior senator from New York hasn't said much on the talk shows lately. Maybe Mrs. Clinton should speak up for herself and let the others fend for themself.

Free Speech ion Homeowners' Association Property

Can a homeowners' association bar you from posting campaign posters? Here's an excerpt from The Times. One would hope not but since they are private entitites that may be disputed across the country. I don't know, but yesterday a New Jersey State Appeals Court ruled for homeowner and against the association.

First an excerpt from the opinion that was put quoted in the paper.

"We disagree with the trial court's determination that (the association) is not subject to constitutional limitations, such as those imposed on (government entities)," Appellate Division Presiding Judge Howard Kestin wrote in a 67-page ruling.

Because of the state Constitution's "broadly applicable right to free speech, we conclude, in balancing the interests of the parties, that . . . (the homeowners') rights to engage in expressive exercises, including those relating to public issues in their own community, . . . must take precedence over the TRHA's private property interests," Kestin wrote.

Now, an excerpt citing two instances where homeowners were punished.

Yesterday's decision follows a series of events in recent years in which homeowners associations have come under public fire for fining residents for putting up political signs or flags supporting American troops in Iraq.

In Hamilton, Ralph and Dori McIlvaine, who live in the Evergreen development, were forced to pay $1,000 in 2003 after they disobeyed their homeowners association order not to fly a POW-MIA flag after Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch was taken prisoner in Iraq.

In Bordentown Township, George Shafer, who lives in the Village Grande community, was fined $600 by his homeowners association for putting up a Bush-Cheney campaign sign on his lawn about a week before the 2004.

An opposing view quoted in the paper:

Ronald Perl, a West Windsor lawyer and president-elect of CAI, said the decision is troubling.

"The main area of concern is the blanket imposition of constitutional protection on the whole governance scheme of community associations," he said. "Imposing the same standards on community associations that apply to government entities may have gone too far.

"Many people have selected the association form of ownership," Perl said. "They don't want their neighbors to be able to put signs on their lawns. They don't want their neighbors to be able to paint their houses gaudy colors. They want protection of their property values. Face it, restrictions are not all bad."

Gay Rights Progress in Central New Jersey

The effort to keep the status quo and deny a dying policewoman in central New Jersey her request to give her pension death benefit to her partner has backfired. The Republican-dominated Ocean County Board of Freeholders has reversed course after gay organizations from across the state threatened to wage a political campaign unseating those in power. Gays made headway in two other counties as a result and now, two municipalities in Ocean County have followed suit and are now offering domestic partnership benefits to their benefits - Jackson and Brick.

Did gays win marital rights in New Jersey yet? No, but progress was made and in Republican territory. Those who thought they could ignore Mrs. Hesters' plight in Ocean County were proven wrong.