Friday, March 31, 2006

Iran's President: An Interpretation

Ray Takeyh has a piece in the most recent edition of "The National Interest" on Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad that is worth reading.

Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit

Alabama's highest court refused to dismiss a lawsuit against the makers of "Grand Theft Auto" and two stores that sold the game. The $600 million lawsuit was filed by the relatives of three police officers who were shot in Fayette, Alabama in 2003. Devin Moore, who was 18 at the time he murdered the three police officers, was already sentenced to death but the relatives say the makers of "Grand Theft Auto" share in the blame since Moore borrowed the idea and method for killing the officers from the video game which he was obsessed with.

In "Grand Theft Auto" the goal is to rise to the top of the criminal enterprise system by whatever means possible - auto theft, narcotic running, and even cop killing. The condemned man reportedly told investigators that "life is a videogame" and that "everybody has to die sometime." Moore's distorted world vision will be used by the victims' relatives in their $600 million lawsuit.

Any jury would find it difficult to find in Take-Two Interactive's favor. The gaming company made a videogame that glorifies the life of crime while inviting the player to associate his or her fun game playing with that criminal activity. The relatives on the other hand, represent the victims of a brutal crime that was inspired in part by the condemned man's fascination with the game.

But however much it may want to punish Take-Two Interactive for the message it condones and seek relief for the plaintiffs the company hurt, the jury should question the plaintiff's dubious assumption that it is partially responsible for the murder of three police officers on the night shift.

"Grand Theft Auto" may glorify violence and the life in crime but it is only a message that one can either buy into, ignore, or condemn. Moore was confronted with that choice when he saw the game on display in the stores. Did he find the message repulsive enough to pass it buy? No he did not, and no rule forbidding the sale of the game to a minor like himself was going to deter him. He was confronted with the choice when he continued to play the game.

The images did not repulse him enough to return the game to the store and ask for a refund and they didn't lead him to throw the game away. And the parents who could have been there to guide him towards a better video gaming choice were not there. They were either uninformed, informed and didn't care, or informed and resigned to the fact that he wanted to play "Grand Theft Auto."

"Take-Two Interactive" may have provided Mr. Devin Moore with the idea of killing three innocent police officers but the same can be said of many books, plays, or movies. William Shakespeare's tragedies are filled with intrigue, violence, murder and death. Today's movies are filled with sex and violence and yet the average person who watches these do not go out of their way to kill somebody or have sex with the next person they see. "Take-Two Interactive" at worst, offered or reminded Devin Moore of a poor choice he could make and a distorted world vision he could buy into and adopt as his own.

It is a choice we are all confronted with and not only with respect to cop killing. The informed person should know by now that fast-food restaurants and Dunkin Donuts offer its patrons an artery-clogging nutrient-free diet. It's okay to binge a little every now and then but the person who goes to these places for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desert every other day will end up in the hospital sooner rather than later. The patrons are free to go and they are free to seek an alternative - just as we are confronted with the choice between the bagged carrot sticks and potato chips in the grocery store.

The jury can pick the easy route and look to a disfavored company with a morally dubious message to blame for this crime, but in doing so it will buy into a message that we are no better at moral decision-making than infants.

Dan Asmussen

The scientologist threat to quit the movie business and fun news make the headlines in The Bad Reporter.

Quote as Promised With Two More Links

Meanshile, to be fair to the other side:

"Most have roots in their communities. Their children born here are U.S. citizens. We are not going to take the draconian police measures necessary to deport 11 million people. They would fill 200,000 buses in a caravan stretching bumper-to-bumper from San Diego to Alaska -- where, by the way, 26,000 Latinos live. And there are no plausible incentives to get the 11 million to board the buses." - George F. Will in The Washington Post

"That willful blindness is why the debate on illegal immigration is so hypocritical. If we lump undocumented immigrants into an undifferentiated mass of Those People, we can avoid really looking at the immigrant experience. And we can convince ourselves that it is somehow different from the periodic waves of immigration that have shaped this nation -- that suddenly it is not an issue, or even a problem, but an urgent crisis." - Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post


Two Ways to Compromise

"Here are two ways to compromise. You either dilute each side of the compromise until it becomes both unobjectionable or ineffective, or you attempt to create balance by having a strong component on one side added to a strong component on the other side." - Colin Hanna on "The Situation" with Tucker Carlson

"Not only that they be balanced, Tucker, but that they also be sequenced properly. And if they are, our opinion research shows that the actual support for the combination is greater than the individual constituencies for each of its parts. "

The sale for amnesty would be more palatable if there was effective border control. I am sure there are some reasonable border control advocates who, as much as they hate rewarding those who broke the law in order to get here, would hold their noses vote or support a vote for amnesty they had every reason to believe this would be the last time amnesty was given to illegal immigrants.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration Links Continued

Over at the National Review, Jim Boulet Jr. questions how we will pay for the illegal immigrants' health care once they are legalized why the editorial board for the conservative political magazine suggests a protect the borders first approach to discourage future crossings and another amnesty bill 20 years from now.

Here's the money quote:

"The Senate’s approach to immigration so far might thus be described by Mary Poppins: A spoonful of enforcement helps the amnesty go down."

Some links on Immigration Bills

"The changes are vitally important for Mr. Fox, who is leaving office at the end of this year and has staked much of his legacy on seeking reforms to benefit the estimated six million illegal Mexicans working in the United States, along with the estimated hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who abandon their homeland to move north of the border every year." - excerpt from this March 30 edition article in The New York Times.

Interesting choice of words. Mexicans (and those immigrants from Central and South America who snuck across Mexico's borders) head north and sneak across the Mexican-American border to find better jobs and now Mexican President Vincente Fox gets to play the role of illegal immigrant hero and advocate on behalf of those he has been unable to provide for in their own country.

The National Immigration Forum (and the Senate web site) has provided a link to the immigration bills various senators and house members have drafted. Below are the links to the bills now under consideration. The NIF has this useful side-by-side comparison of the bills as well.

The light blogging has been due, in part, to ThePoliticalHeretic's reading of two fairly tough sounding (good law and order) drafted by Senators Benjamin Nelson and Pete Domenici immigration bills that as of how have two co-sponsors and probably won't make it through both houses. (Note: PDF files)

1. The Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act of 2005 (Senator Cornyn and Senator Kyle) -
2. The Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 (Senator John McCain and Edward Kennedy)
2. Senator Hagel's four bills: S. 1916, S.1917, S. 1918, and S. 1919
3. Senator Benjamin Nelson's bill (this one will get nowhere. He actually has three)
4. Senator Pete V. Domenici's bill
5. Senator Johnny Isacson's bill.
6. Congressman James F. Sensenbrenner's bill
7. Congressman Jim Kolbe's bill
8. Congressman John N. Hostettler's bill

The PoliticalHeretic hopes to weigh in and support one or aspects of one or more of the bills by Monday (Tuesday at the latest) . In the meantime he would like everyone to consider one thought made by one of Tucker Carlson's guests on The Situation last night:

Compromise can be made in one of either two ways:
(1) by watering down the aspects of the bills opposing camps find objectionable, making the very passage of any law inconsequential. In this case, call for stronger border security (without increasing border patrols or going after lawbreakers) and create a guest worker program (that burdens the immigrants enough to force them out of participation)
(2) by accepting the prinicple values endorsed by the opposing camps and incorporating a means to substantially address the concerns raised by those on both sides. In this case (a fence with increased border controls and financial penalties for businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens but provide for a 2nd or 3rd chance for illegals through guest worker program for those already here).

The PoliticalHeretic will post the actual quote and a a link to the transcripts from last night's show tonight after they are made available to the public from the MSNBC web site.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Social Security Reform Proposal by Saletan: Base Aid on Work Eligibility and Not Age

"It's wonderful that Social Security brought so many old people out of poverty. But the point was to subsidize those who couldn't work, not those who could. The program's founding document said it would support old people who were "dependent," "beyond the productive period," and "without means of self-support." In 1935, that described people around age 65. Today, it more accurately describes people a decade older." - William Saletan in Slate Magazine (though it was also published in The Washington Post last week too).

William Saletan says we should cut cut the link between age and social security benefits and link eligibility to employment disability. Those who can work at the age of 65 or 70 should be required to do so and forgo the benefits (or at least drastic cuts) while those who cannot work will continue to get the aid.

Point taken. It certain merits the debate on Capitol Hill our president and Congress have so far avoided successfully. Mr. Saletan does not address, however, those who can only find work in low-wage non-self-supporting jobs. Another option? Do with social security what Congress did with welfare. Link aid to work but with the modification for means-testing. Aid generously those who really are disabled and means test those who are not disabled while depriving those who don't but can work of all aid whatsoever.

But will Congress even debate this issue? Don't count on it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Border Control and Dirty Bomb Smuggling

This really shouldn't surprise us if drugs can be smuggled across our southern and northern borders but should nevertheless disturb us that material used to make "dirty" bombs was smuggled across the border by Congressional investigators testing our border security.

I guess that would make for a good response to Mr. Eugene Robinson, who in his column in today's The Washington Post, who endorsed the Senator John McCain immigration amnesty bill:

"There are an estimated 12 million immigrants in the United States illegally. That many people don't just fade into the woodwork. The fact is, we see undocumented immigrants every day.

Maybe they vacuum your office at night. Maybe they landscape your garden or clean your house or cook the food at your favorite restaurant. You probably don't know where they live. You probably don't know their children's names or where they go to school. You probably don't know what it was like for them to buy a car or even get a driver's license. You probably don't know where they get medical care."

Exactly. We don't know who they are, where they come from, their criminal background, the state of their health (diseases), the goods they are bringing with them (guns, drugs, "dirty bombs") , why they are entering, (job, terrorist training, citizenship, political asylum, family, or visitation) and where they will find a home or job once they enter our country at the very point when its most important for the federal, state and local authorities to know. If we don't want our government monitoring our day-to-day activities on screen, it must be given the authority and responsibility of policing our borders.

"Those people" could have applied for a work permit or "legal residency" but they did not.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Quotes of Interest

Chris Matthews On Iraq:

"There’s a difference between chasing terrorists around the world, which we all agree we should do. In fact, the world believes we should be doing. And going into a country to bring down a government and then continue in that government, in that country, to try to build the government of our liking, a Democratic government where the majority rules. But in this case, the majority simply means one faction overrules the other faction. The faction that’s being overruled is fighting the majority faction. What’s our role then?" - Chris Matthews on the Wednesday, March edition of his show "Hardball" on MSNBC

On Rahman's Apostasy Trial and Potential Death Sentence

1. "I have supported the Bush administration’s foreign policy because I came to believe that the best way to stop Islamo-fascism was by promoting democracy. But if we can’t guarantee fundamental religious freedoms in the countries where we establish democratic reforms, then the whole credibility of our foreign policy is thrown into serious question. I hope the president and the administration can recognize what a devastating setback Rahman’s execution would be to the cause of democracy and freedom." - Chuck Colson as quoted in Nia Shea in her column found on The National Review's web site.

2. "Afghanistan does not have any obligation under international laws. The prophet says, when somebody changes religion, he must be killed." - Maulavi Habibullah as quoted in the March 25 edition of The New York Times.

GOP Presidential Hopeful Mitt Romney in The Vatican City:

“There are a lot of people who came here from all over the world to recognize this great man’s elevation, and they didn’t come about politics,” - Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) quoted in the March 25 edition of The Boston Herald. Governor Mitt Romney went to The Vatican City to honor recently installed Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston. Mr. Romney, while speaking to reporters, said he was there to honor Rev. O'Malley's faithfulness and elevation and not for politicking.

On Gay Love and Polygamy

1. "The average guy would love to bang his neighbor's wife. He just doesn't want his wife banging his neighbor. Fidelity isn't natural, but jealousy is. ...

... Gays who seek to marry want the same thing. They're not looking for the right to sleep around. They already have that. It's called dating. A friend once explained to me why gay men have sex on the first date: Nobody says no. Your partner, being of the same sex, is as eager as you are to get it on. But he's also as eager as you are to get it on with somebody else. And if you really like him, you don't want that." - William Saletan in his column called "Don't Do Unto Others"

2. "After all, if traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender, and if, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one's autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement -- the number restriction (two and only two) -- is a similarly arbitrary, discriminatory and indefensible denial of individual choice. ...

... I can understand why they do not want to be in the same room as polygamists. But I'm not the one who put them there. Their argument does. Blogger and author Andrew Sullivan, who had the courage to advocate gay marriage at a time when it was considered pretty crazy, has called this the "polygamy diversion," arguing that homosexuality and polygamy are categorically different because polygamy is a mere "activity" while homosexuality is an intrinsic state that "occupies a deeper level of human consciousness."

But this distinction between higher and lower orders of love is precisely what gay rights activists so vigorously protest when the general culture "privileges" (as they say in the English departments) heterosexual unions over homosexual ones." -- Charles Krauthammer writing in the March 17, 2006 edition of The Washington Post.

Give us another point of view, when it seems to me that a lot of this is becoming pretty clear to the American people.

The Weekend Preview (without the links)

A. The NewsMakers

1. Face The Nation: Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley speak about the war in Iraq, the quest to keep Iran nuclear-free, and the immigration reform bills that will be considered this week.

2. This Week: (a) Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Representative Tom Tancredo debate immigration reform. George Stephanopoulos will ask Mr. Specter if he can get his committee to pass an immigration bill by Tuesday and if so, whether Tancredo could support it. (b) Then, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will tell host Stephanopoulis what his administration is doing to confront global warming. Footage will include the suspected after-effects of global warming in Glacier National Park.(c) Roundtable discussion includes Newsweek's Fareed Zakararia,
syndicated columnist George F. Will, and The Nation's Katrina vandeb Heuvel. (d) Voices segment includes Naomi Wolf and Harvey Mansfield on the battle of the sexes.

3. Meet The Press: (a) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the war in Iraq, our efforts to keep Iran nuclear-free and foreign policy in general. Expect Mr. Russert to ask Mrs. Rice about the trial of Christian convert Abdul Rahman. (b) Roundtable discussion includes David Broder of The Washington Post, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, political analyst Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report and John Harwood of The Wall Street Journal.

4. FoxNews Sunday: (a)Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the political progress or lackthereof in Iraq. (b) then, war critic Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan).

5. Late Edition: (a) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice talks about the war in Iraq. (b) Other guests include Retired General Bernard Trainor (author of "COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq"), Retired General and former NATO supreme allied commander George Joulwan, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Armed Services Committee member Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Qubad Talbany (the autonomous Kurdish region's representative to the United States).

B. The Talk Shows
1. The Chris Matthews Show: (a) Question 1 - whether President George W. Bush will back tougher immigration laws. (b) whether Senator John McCain will lose the support of independents and moderate Democrats as he shifts to the right.

2. The Beltway Boys: (a) the Bush administration pushes the Iraqis to form a new government. (b) Immigration Reform Proposals before Congress this week. (c) Charlie Sheen's comments on 9-11.

3. The Heartland: (a)Authors of Barry Bonds books sound off. (2) keeping inner city problems out of the "Heartland". (3) part ii of the judging of the judges (probably with respect to these sex offender cases).

C. News Features

1. Dateline Saturday: Jim Sullivan's murder trial. Interview with the family included, plus the verdict.

2. Dateline Sunday: Michael Schiavo and his new wife speak for the first time after he won the right to let his former wife, Terri Schiavo die. Doctors who examined her said Mrs. Schiavo was in a permanent vegetative state. Mr. Schiavo said she wanted to die if found in this state but the parents fought a decade-plus long battle to keep her alive on a feeding tube.

3. 60 Minutes: (1) Ed Bradley interviews Tiger Woods on golf, his family, and his personal life story before he became a golfing sensation. (2) Leslie Stahl reports on one hedge fund which is being accused of betting on one major companies' financial fall after spreading negative information about it.

D. Entertainment

1. Saturday Night Live: Actor Steve Martin with musical guest Prince. I think this is a repeat.

2. Law and Order Criminal Intent: Detectives Goren (Vince Vincent D'Onofrio) and Eames (Kathryn Erbe)are called to investigate the murder of a thief who stole information valuable in a $20 million lawsuit.

3. Cold Case: The squad investigates the murder of a female tennis prodigy who won a tennis match against the college's best male player.

What Rahman Could Teach Us

While the American and Afghani adminsitrations find a compromise that will free them from this politically embarrassing episode, the American voting public should consider why they consider this denial of religious freedom so offensive. Does Mr. Rahman's religious views entitle him to his right to life or would he be afforded the same right if he converted from Christianity to Islam? Would the offense against the person's religious and (assuming for the moment, the two can be separated) moral convictions be any different were to convert to atheism, or declare himself to be an agnostic? If not, what is the limiting principle that entitles one to his or her own religious preference while denying the other that privilege?

Would you support the evangelical conservative's vision for a state-mandated religious preferences if the state were to pick Islam as it beneficiary? Would you accept a school administration's decision to expose non-Christian parents to classroom-led school prayer in some school districts if it meant exposing your children to classrom-led Islamic prayer?

The Trial of Rahman and What We should Expect

Abdul Rahman as the press reported on this week, may be sentenced to death because he converted from Islam to Christianity in Afghanistan. One Afghan cleric quoted in The Washington Post article posted today said Mr. Rahman "committed the greatest sin" while a judge who may be trying this case should it not be dropped appeared defiant by asserting that no one has a right to pressure Afghanistan into violating its own constitutional laws.

The controversy has caused some embarrassment for the Karzai and Bush administrations even though neither expected it. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is forced to choose between the president who helped put him in power and an influential bloc of clerics who could shift their support towards a more radical alternative in future elections.

For President George W. Bush, this controversy tarnishes the image he sold to the American public - one in which the American forces toppled a tyrannical regime which destroyed a Buddhist temple, forced women to where veils in public while depriving them of an education, executed gays, and denied Afghan citizens the right to worship as they chose. Mr. Bush could not speak out for democratic regime change and ignore this now highly publicized violation of human rights go unanswered. His political supporters would not allow him to ignore this violation even if they wanted to or if they felt Mr. Bush had to. The person whose life is on trial could be sentenced to death for something which Bush's evangelical supporters encourage people like Mr. Rahman to do - convert or "find Christ."

In all likelihood Mr. Karzai will pressure those who push the legal authorities handling this matter to drop the case due to "mental incompetence" or some other pretext. This will spare both administrations for the moment but another case may arise between now and the time a new administration is voted into power in either the United States or Afghanistan.

Mr. Karzai has more room to maneuver politically. While Mr. Bush has to rely upon his base for support, President Karzai can offer the public a third way by complying with our request for religious tolerance and mandating preferential state treatment towards Islam in a manner similar to that Christian religious conservatives conservatives propose here - school prayer, preferential Koran-study courses in the classroom, and bans on pornographic material. To us this approach would appear uneligtened since it does not appear to meet with the expectations of a truly free people but we had 250 + years to figure that out. The Afghans did not.

Conservative Islamic clerics cannot rely upon the Aghani people's support since the people did not fight against the Americans who overthrew their government. However, the people may not be ready for religious equality or moral freedom. The conservatives here cannot expect Mr. Karzai to impose upon his people the notions of religious equality and neutrality they fight against here and Bush's advisors, knowing that, wouldn't do that.

Dan Asmussen

For whatever reason the task bar that allows me to post links has disappeared so the PoliticalHeretic would just like to remind any of his readers that stop by that Dan Asmussen's political cartoons can be found in the opinion section of The San Francisco Chronicle (that's right, I can't even italicize the newspaper's title). Go to if you want to check them out.

Suggested reading for the weekend:
1. Damon Linker's examination of Rev. John Neuhaus's view on the call for submission to religious authorities in a democratic state. for those with free registration.

-Quote taken from The New Republic article
"To those who would accuse him of having a "felt need for authority," Neuhaus proudly declares that "of course" he does, "as should we all." We must submit to an authority that will provide us with criteria and standards for deciding between rival claims to truth, he believes, because relying on ourselves alone (on our own "private judgment") inevitably produces confusion and indecision. But how can we know, by what authority can we determine, which authority is the right authority? This is a significant problem for anyone who combines a longing to obey with a refusal to recognize as authoritative the traditions into which he happens to have been born.
-- End quote

And here:

--Quote taken from that same The New Republic article
"Neuhaus employs the same form of self-validating argumentation in response to more recent shifts in Church teaching. Change, after all, implies a past error. But of course we know from Christ's promise that the Church cannot err. Therefore, all seeming discontinuities--from Rome's assault on democracy and toleration in the nineteenth century to its embrace of human rights after Vatican II--must somehow be treated as continuities, regardless of how historically implausible it is to believe so."
--End quote

2. Jonathan Chait's political diary on the "parenthesis states." lol. A little partisan but humorous take on the color divide. Also in The New Republic.

3. William Slate has an interesting article on Slate Magazine. He critiques the slippery slope argument used by many conservatives (most prominently Stanley Kurtz) that gay marriage will lead to polygamy in "Don't Do Unto Others". Then, a look back

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Secretary Rumsfeld's Op-ed

On Monday, the PoliticalHeretic linked to an op-ed written by Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld's op-ed was published in The Washington Post last Sunday. In it, the defense secretary dismisses the main claim posed by the president's skeptics - that we are losing the war in Iraq. The defense secretary would have us believe that it is Al Qaeda terrorist al-Zarqawi and not us, who is losing the war in Iraq.

To refute the skeptics claims, he points to several known but limited political and military achievements. Saddam Hussein was removed from power, giving the Iraqi people the chance to vote in free elections for the first time in their lives. They voted for a provisional government twice and approved late last year, Iraq's new constitution. Sunnis boycotted the first elections but their particpation increased dramatically in time for the second election for a provisional government. Iraqi armed forces are, Mr. Rusmfeld claims, increasingly particpating in joint military exercises with the American-led coalition forces and in some cases even partake in the planning of these offensives.

These acccomplishments cannot be dismissed but they are modest successes at best. The increased Sunni participation can be attributed to a shift in tactics more than a growing national consensus on Iraq's political future. Before Iraqis went to the polls for the first time since we deposed Saddam Hussiein, Sunnis leaders called for a boycott. That tactic backfired, giving them far less than the representation their population entitles them to. Sunni leaders joined their Shi'ite and Kurdish counterparts at the negotiating table over Iraq's draft constitution but they ultimately rejectd the draft pushed by the Kurds and Shi'ites. When the Iraqis went to the polls to ratify this constitution, the Sh'ite and Kurdish blocs voted overwhelmingly for it while the Sunnis rejected it by almost equal margins.

The draft constitution passed overwhelmingly with 80% of the vote but that unity is itself limitd considering what that constitution says. It on the one hand recognizes a right to religious freedom but then describes the country as a predominantly Islamic state. It charges the Iraqi national govenrment with the protection of its borders and foreign policy but then recognizes the Kurdish regional government as both a regional and "federal" authority. The militais have not been disbanded and the Shi'ites were givent he opportunity to do what the Kurds have done and form their own, relatively autonomous ethnic region. If anything, the Kurds and Shi'ites are united to the limited extent that they support an unofficial separation.

Iraqis voted for their second provisional government earlier this year but the factions have yet to agree on a prime minister and cabinet. Some Kurdish, Sunni and secular Shi'ite factions have called for a new prime minister, something that has so far been rejected by the party in power. The wrangling is taking exceptionally long and once a new government is in place the jockeying over the committee which will look into constitutional revisions will begin (if it has not already begun).

Al Qaeda terrorist al-Zarqawi may or may not be losing this war as of now but that could easily change. The Defense Secretary himself says an immediate troop withdrawal will hamper our efforts to unite the Iraqis behind a common political destiny.

"Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries."

There would be no "vacuum" if the political leaders from all three major factions if the Iraqis firmly united behind a single political agenda and there would be no "vacuum" if the military was sufficiently united and trained enough to put down the sectarian factions on its own.

Mr. al-Zarqawi doesn't have to win for us to lose for our enemies do not march under one banner. We could still lose the war in Iraq even if al Qaeda is deprived of a new safe haven. The anti-American mullahs could benefit from a weakened Iran. Many religious Shi'ites look to Iran for their support so they may look to their more powerful Iran if they cannot reach an understanding with the Sunni enemies and Kurds. And Al Qaeda would still benefit, albeit not as strongly, if the United States is forced to chose between the Kurds of northern Iraq and NATO ally Turkey should Iraq's Kurds choose to support the emboldened demands made by Turkey's own Kurds.

Mr. Rumsfeld's reassurances notwithstanding, we are not winning this war as of yet. Stalemate is not an option. Nothing short of an emerging viable, and politically unified Iraqi state which could rival an emerging Iranian regional power would convince me otherwise.


Philadelphia: Opportunity to Get the Illegals

As unseemly as this may appear, I wouldn't mind if the Philadelphia police used this opportunity to check the protestors' ID to round up those who are illegal before they get to the protest site and cameras for deportation. Then let those foreigners who were granted the privilege of working and living in here as well as those who, because they are citizens, are entitled to live and work here go to the protest. It might not look good and some on illegal immigrants' side probably will probably mischaracterize this sweep as a crackdown on free speech but reasonable observers would note the distinction between the arrest of those who aren't even supposed to be here and an arrest of all of those who are expected to protest on their behalf.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Some Links and Highlights to the Bush Press Conference

"You just don't take the lid off and overnight have a democratic experiment. The lid of authority has to be changed and replaced. There is a benign kind of dictatorial authority, a transition between one and the other, which in this case could have been through a provisional government that was profoundly influenced by the United States. Now, after the fact, all of this is too late, but we might've had a different dynamic." - Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Mr. Chandrasekaran's interview is in The Washington Post. He believes today's sectarian divide in Iraq was manufactured. It's real because its there but created by the politicians who have replaced Saddam Hussein.

Excerpts from Mr. Bush's press conference are posted below but here are the links to George F. Will's op-ed on Iraq and another written by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. I have to agree with Mr. Will yet again. By hammering in to the public the risk of withdrawing, Mr. Bush presses his opponents to offer a solution of their own.

From the White House Press Conference posted on The Washington Post's web site.

There I No Civil War

QUESTION: Do you agree with Mr. Allawi that Iraq has fallen into civil war?

BUSH: I do not. There are other voices coming out of Iraq, by the way, other than Mr. Allawi -- who I know, by the way; like; he's a good fellow.

President Talabani has spoken. General Casey the other day was quite eloquent on the subject. Zal Khalilzad, who I talk to quite frequently -- listen, we all recognize that there is a violence, that there's sectarian violence. But the way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war.

A couple of indicators are that the army didn't bust up into sectarian divisions. The army stayed united. And, as General Casey pointed out, they did, arguably, a good job in helping to make sure the country stayed united.

Secondly, I was pleased to see the religious leaders stand up. Ayatollah Sistani, for example, was very clear in his denunciation of violence and the need for the country to remain united.

The political leaders, who represent different factions of the Iraqi society, have committed themselves to moving forward on a unity government.

And no question that the enemy has tried to spread sectarian violence.

BUSH: They use violence as a tool to do that. You know, they're willing to kill innocent people.

The reports of bound Sunnis that were executed are horrific. And it's obviously something we're going to have to deal with; and, more importantly, the Iraqis are going to have to deal with it.

But I see progress. You know, I've heard people say, "Oh, you know, he's just kind of optimistic for the sake of optimism." Well, look, I believe we're going to succeed.

And I understand how tough it is. Don't get me wrong. I mean, you make it abundantly clear how tough it is.

I hear it from our troops. I read the reports every night.

But I believe the Iraqis -- this is a moment when the Iraqis had a chance to fall apart and they didn't. And that's a positive development.

But What Will We Do If Civil War Breaks Out?

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld has said that if civil war should break out in Iraq, he's hopeful that Iraqi forces can handle it.

If they can't, sir, are you willing to sacrifice American lives to keep Iraqis from killing one another?

BUSH: I think the first step is to make sure a civil war doesn't break out. And that's why we're working with the leaders there in Baghdad to form a unity government.

Obviously, if there is difficulty on the streets, the first line of defense for that difficulty will be the Iraqi forces, which have proved themselves in the face of potential sectarian violence, right after the bombing of the mosque in Samarra.

BUSH: The forces are -- part of our strategy for victory is to give the forces the skills and the tools and the training necessary to defend their own country, whether it be against Zarqawi and the killers or whether it be those who are trying to spread sectarian violence. And they have proven themselves.

And so our position is, one, get a unity government formed; and secondly, prepare the Iraqi troops, and support Iraqi troops if need be, to prevent sectarian violence from breaking out.

Helen: Now Tell Me The Truth: Why Did We Really Go To War In Iraq:

Helen, after that brilliant performance at the Gridiron, I am...

QUESTION: You're going to be sorry.


BUSH: Well, then, let me take it back.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President -- your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime.

Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is: Why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, your Cabinet officers, former Cabinet officers, intelligence people and so forth -- but what's your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil, the quest for oil. It hasn't been Israel or anything else. What was it?

BUSH: I think your premise, in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- that I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect.


BUSH: Hold on for a second, please. Excuse me. Excuse me.

No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true.

BUSH: My attitude about the defense of this country changed in September the 11th. When we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people.

Our foreign policy changed on that day. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life.

And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people, that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy, and that's why I went into Iraq.


BUSH: Hold on for a second. Excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for Al Qaida.

BUSH: That's where Al Qaida trained and that's where...


BUSH: Helen, excuse me.

That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for Al Qaida. That's where they trained, that's where they plotted, that's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council. That's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed.

And the world said, "Disarm, disclose or face serious consequences." And therefore, we worked with the world. We worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world.

And when he chose to deny the inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did. And the world is safer for it.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Secretary Rumsfeld...

BUSH: You're welcome.

I didn't really regret it. I kind of semi-regretted it.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

BUSH: That's right.

Anyway, your performance at the Gridiron was just brilliant, unlike Holland's (ph) which was a little weak.




Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Weekend Show Preview

The Newsmaker Shows

1. Late Edition:
Progress report on Iraq and commentary on the latest military offensive. Guests: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, Senator and Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) of the Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) of the Foreign Relations Committee, Afghanistan Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Abdullah, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

2. FoxNews Sunday: Controversy over the new medicare prescription drug benefit and Senator Russ Feingold's call for a censure over President George W. Bush's wiretapping program. Known Guest: Senator Richard Durbin.

3. Face The Nation: Interview with Vice President Richard Cheney

4. Meet The Press: Progress report on Iraq. Guests include the commander of the multi-national force in Iraq General George Casey, and Representative Jack Murtha (D-Pennsylvania).

5. This Week: Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Senator Jack Reed (Rhode Island) rate our progress in Iraq. Roundtable discussion includes George F. Will, Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson.

The Talk Shows

1. The Beltway Boys: The public anxiety over the war in Iraq as the military launches a new offensive. The White House staff under fire due to president's falling poll numbers.

2. The Chris Matthews Show: Whether President Bush faces all-out rebellion from the Republicans on Capitol Hill. Then, whether Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) will be challenged from the left in the 2008 presidential primaries. Guests include Cynthia Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Andrew Sullivan of Time Magazine and The New Republic, David Gregory of NBC News, and Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times.

The Shows

1. 60 Minutes: Ed Bradlee profiles New York City's 37,000 member police force as it takes on its relatively new job of fighting terrorism. Scott Pelley speaks to a top scientist at NASA who accuses President George W. Bush of censoring information concerning global warming. Steve Kroft reports on how a web site has allowed siblings to meet their anonymous donor fathers.

2. Dateline NBC: Bed Bugs. I'm serious.


1. Saturday Night Live: Guest Host Alec Baldwin with musical host Sharkira.

2. Law and Order Criminal Intent: Detectives Logan (Christopher Noth) and Barek (Annabella Sciorra) investigate the death of a secret service agent. Suspicion falls on a well-connected lobbyist who works for and against an unpopular Indian tribe and the husband of the deceased. David Alan Basche guest stars.

3. Cold Case: Interrogation used to solve a "demented killer's puzzle" to save a boy's life.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Maybe the PoliticalHeretic Gave Away Too Much on Surveillance

On March 7 The PoliticalHeretic expressed support for a proposal that would allow the present and in all likelihood future administrations conduct the unauthorized wiretapping that got the President heated criticism from the civil libertarians, moderates and liberals in both parties.

The proposed agreement, whose chief sponsors includes Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), and Chuck Hagel (D-Nebraska),. Senators Hagel and Snowe threatened who promised to back a Democratic led effort to conduct hearings into the unauthorized wiretapping program if the president could not reach an agreement which brought the program under senate and FISA Court monitoring.

Under the proposed agreement, the administration could authorize such warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days on a case by case basis with no oversight before it would be required to seek a warrant from the FISA Court or an exemption from a special subcommittee made up of senators and members of the House.

The PoliticalHeretic does not object to the extension in time given for warrantless surveillance. Planning for terrorist bombings and the like take some time. The participants have to develop a strategy to evade the security systems in place and acquire unnoticed the means to execute their plan. Continued surveillance provides law enforcement officials more time to learn more about the plot as those wiretapped draft and revise their plot.

Senator DeWine's proposal goes further by allowing this and future presidents a means to avoid a FISA court hearing period. If, after the 45 days, the president said he cannot afford to subject to scrutiny the wiretapping of a specific group of people or series of calls abroad, he can avoid the a FISA court hearing by appearing before a newly-created legislative subcommittee.

To their credit the senate co-sponsors drafted a proposal that gives the proposed subcommittee full access to the wiretapping program and a mandate to require an explanation for every 46 + day wiretapping program. Their draft proposal removes from the president the means to selectively decide who and who does not have the right to scrutinize the program.

My prior support was based on two things: (1) a fear that if the program is constitutionally challenged before the FISA court as Senator Arlen Specter suggests and the president wins, there would be no incentive for an emboldened president to compromise away his newly-achieved power and (2) it gives the president a leeway he claims to need without giving him the means to act as trial judge and executive at the same time.

But the proposed subcommittee, unlike the FISA court, may not be trained to evaluate each president's claim case-by-case nor would it have the time when its members are busy crafting legislation on other committees and their independence may be compromised by their desire to win over funding for their state or house district. The disclosure rules that forbid senators and house members from revealing sensitive intelligence activity could be used to silence the lone senator or house member who believes an extension is unwarranted. The FISA court is trained to hear these cases and would not be distracted by that potential conflict of interest.

Under this proposal, Mr. Bush and his successors could repeatedly go before Congress and ask for an extension for warrantless surveillance for each case.

The PoliticalHeretic would support a measure that gives the president his 45 days of warrantless surveillance and maybe one 10-20 day extension granted by Congress but then insist upon a warrant before the surveillance continues. If this or future administrations find nothing that would point to a planned terrorist activities, chances are there is no reason for continued surveillance.

Dan Asmussen

Interactive news programming, abstinence for aliens and pink trianglular-shaped crop circles in South Dakota! Can't get better than that!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Detente in the Cold School Culture War

Representatives from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and the Christian Educators Association International did what most would consider unthinkable - they signed onto a series of consensus guidelines which would help shools deal with the issues surrounding the homosexual orientation.

These two groups have absolutely nothing in common with respect to this issue. The GLSEN has advocated for a more welcoming educational environment for sexual minorities and the primary sponsor for the National Day of Silence - an annual event in which gay tolerant students remain silent out of respect for those who remained silent because they feared the social ostracism that would follow if they rebuked their peers for making anti-gay epithets - and No Name Calling Week. The GLSEN obviously sponsors and otherwise supports those who form the gay-straight alliance after-school clubs designed to provide those who wish to speak about these issues a nonjudgmental attitude and promote tolerance.

The CEAI sponsors the so-called Day of Truth, which is designed to counteract the message pushed through the National Day of Silence. Its members believe homosexuality is a sin that accordingly needs to be actively discouraged within the public school system, advocates for "Good News" Christian after-school clubs and encourages those students who abide by their religious values to share them with those who do not.

No one would expect representatives from these two groups to meet, let alone reach an agreement on some principles. One group considers homosexuality an abomination which must be fought against while the other, like your humble blogging correspondent, considers it an unchangeable and important personal characteristic that guides our romantic destiny. Opposing gay rights the GLSEN believes, denies those with this sexual personality their humanity. The outside observer would find no middleground, nuanced position being advocated by the members of either of these two groups.

But agree they did on some guidelines (pdf file) if not the cause which they advocate promoted by the really "fair and balanced" First Amendment Center and BridgeBuilders. The recommendations which the two groups signed on to are basic statements of principles which any fair-minded person could sign onto if not for excessive partisanship and the mutual distrust shared by those on opposite sides of the cultural divide - the constitutional right to free speech and religious freedom that protects me also protects you, and the respect that I am entitled to should also be given to you.

"It would serve us all to remember that the core mission of public schools is to prepare young people for citizenship in a democratic society. This means, first and foremost, maintaining
a school environment that respects the rights of students to free speech and free exercise of religion while simultaneously ensuring that student speech does not degenerate into namecalling, bullying, or attempts to silence other views. Under the First Amendment, a school is both safe and free when students, parents, educators and all members of the school
community commit to addressing their religious and political differences with civility and respect. A safe school is free of bullying and harassment. And a free school is safe for student
speech even about issues that divide us.

When Americans disagree deeply about religious or political questions, public schools should try hard to avoid taking sides. School officials should address the controversy fairly and openly by including all of the stakeholders in the effort to develop policies that promote fairness for all and practices that can be widely supported."

As I said, this would be a no-brainer if not for the intense partisanship and muddled legal thinking with respecto to Church-state separation. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Michael McConnell himself suggested a similar course of action with respect to the teaching of religious pluralism and holiday displays within the classroom.

But the two sides' agreement is neverthless remarkable and the language they adopted strikingly forceful.

"As American citizens, we have a civic responsibility to respect these rights for others, including those with whom we deeply disagree. Rights are best guarded and responsibilities best exercised when each person and group guards for all others those rights they wish guarded for themselves."


"If schools are going to win the peace, it will not be by choosing a side and coercing others to accept it.When matters of conscience are at stake, this strategy is both unjust and counterproductive. It is possible, however, to find areas of agreement if school officials create a climate of mutual respect and honest dialogue."

and finally, here:

"In light of these passionate differences, it is important to reaffirm that public schools belong to all Americans. The role of school officials, therefore, is to be fair, honest brokers of a dialogue that involves all stakeholders and seeks the common good."

Local school boards are called to appoint local but ideologically diverse local task forces charged to examine the issues surrounding homosexuality in the classrooms. These groups, which should include teachers, students, parents, local community leaders (religious and secular) would advise the board as to how it could provide a balanced curricula and balance the need for individual student expression with the need for a harrassment-free learning environment. Its leaders would be committed to work with those whose views they find distasteful and both sides would commit to a harrassment free classroom.

In other words, neither side will press the button, launching the nuclear bomb. Neither side will deny the other a side at the negotiating table. Neither side will silence the viewpoints of those students whose viewpoint they find misguided, distasteful, politically incorrect, blasphemous, unorthodox or otherwise offensive or immoral.

The PoliticalHeretic welcomes this adoption of principles. It reinforces the message we should all hope to give to those who one day will be given the right to go to the polls and vote and one day invoke their constitutional rights to hold or participate in a rally or protest - that their opinion counts whether we agree with it or not. It commits the signers to work towards a solution that empowers school boards to resist the would-be censorers who oppose student-led efforts to form Christian "Good News" or gay-straight alliance after-school clubs. It helps separate us from the tactics and attitudes that shaped the radical Muslim protests following the cartoon depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. And most importantly, it may help remove the suspicions which undermine the schools' credibility as an institution for learning (as opposed to a place for indoctrination).

May the consenting parties build upon the principles adopted in this document and may it serve as an inspiration and useful guide for school boards everywhere that is forced to confront this issue.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Budget Vote: And the Administration's Position Was...

What did the administration think of the senate vote that, if passed would have required a 60-v0te margin for new tax cuts or spending. Vice President Cheney wasn't there to break the tie.


Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shouldn't need to justify troop increase by an expected pilgrimage. With civil strife in Iraq increasing, and the political consensus on the country's future nowhere near settled, it is strikingly inconceivable that Mr. Rumsfeld would merely consider an 800 troop increase or that our president would set a goal for an American withdrawal.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Propaganda or Free Speech in the Classroom: The Aftermath

So Mr. Bennish, the teacher who was taperecorded for spouting his one-sided propaganda,, gets to return to the classroom while the student, probably fearing his wrath (grade-wise) flees to another disctrict and says nice things about Mr. Bennish. Go figure. Will Sean Allen pay the price for his actions? Will his new teacher or teachers, knowing what he did, be fair to him?

Pat Robertson v. "Crazed Fanatics"

"These people are crazed fanatics, and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power. It is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with." Pat Robertson as quoted in The Rocky Mountain Herald

Pat Robertson calling the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists "crazed fanatics?" Hmm. Who is he to call them "crazed fanatics?" He called for nuisance Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' death while making no such call for the very real threatening Iranian president.

And when did he say this? After he watched his Christian Broadcasting Network clip on the Muslim European protests over the Muhammad cartoons. These protestors may be fanatics but would you describe those who can find a means to achieve their goal "crazed?" Pat Robertson would rely upon hurricanes and divine providence. Which brings me to a question. Who is the real "crazed fanatic?"

Nuanced Thinking on Abortion

Andrew Sullivan believes a Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade may hamper the "pro-life" movement as much as it helps it. Force the public to think this through and they might not decide to value the zygote, blastomere, or gastromere or even 2-month old embryonic natal being as the infant's equal. Or, in the alternative, they might not want to punish the pregant woman who commits the murder of such a being in the way that it would punish anyone else who is guilty of first degree or second-degree murder. South Dakota's law does not prosecute the pregant woman who seeks and obtains an abortion but the doctor who performs the abortion can get 5 years. That's nothing if, as the "pro-life" community believes, he or she is guilty of murder.

But the Andrew Sullivan/Chris Matthews (yes, he raised it before to) sentencing question is only the tip of the iceberg. Pro-life advocates (but also pro-choice advocates too) will have to steer their ideological ship into questions not unlike those raised by yours truly after his post-Schiavo ephiphany and Elizabeth Wehl here in Sunday's The New York Times magazine article.

"If given the chance, and by necessity, the obligation to do so (as I believe it must) the state could set up a tier system which weighs the interest of a fetus to life to its potential interest as a fully grown human with a minimum quality of life. The pending debate over genetic testing and re-engineering might force the public to exercise discretion and balance the sometimes competing interests between a life and a quality of life (or in the alternative, the avoidance of an unbearable life).

The public might decide that a pregnant woman may be forced to carry her fetus to term if her own life is not threatened and the quality of the fetus' life is predictably bearable but forced to abort the fetus if it has a disease that would cause it unnecessary suffering, and give her the option of choosing what to do if here life is threatened or the nature of the disease's threat to the unborn's quality of life is in doubt. It may decide to give the pregnant woman the right to regulated "choice" up to the point of sentience and prohibition with exceptions thereafter. Or it may adopt what is essentially an absolutist position favored by one of the two opposing camps.

The debate will be intense and the distinctions between those diseases which are bearable and which ones are not may be too fine or blurry to say beyond a doubt. But that is to be expected. A teacher of mine once said that the world is gray, not black and white. I agree, but it is gray because it is hard to decide where it is black and white." - ThePoliticalHeretic

The post-Roe generations to come, assuming Roe v. Wade is overturned, will have to decide not only if abortion in general should be criminalized and how to punish would-be transgressors if it is criminalized, but also when it should be criminalized, when it should be optional, and when it should be mandated. And neither side, it can be argued, has the advantage on that one.

The world is not black and white; it is gray but it is gray precisely because it is hard to decide where it is black and white.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Weekend Preview

The NewsMaker Shows

1. This Week:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconson) on the collapse of the Dubai Ports World Deal. Both will be questioned on the political fallout, the national security politics leading up to the mid-term elections, and the administration's wiretapping program.

Then Time Magazine Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney, Democratic Strategist and ABC News Consultant Donna Brazile, ABC News' Claire Shipman, and syndicated columnist George F. Will join host George Stephanopoulos in the weekly roundtable.

2. Meet The Press: Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and George Allen (R-Virginia) debate Iraq and politics. Host Tim Russert will ask them about the civil unrest in Iraq and the response from our troops should the situation deteriorate further, the latest in the standoff between Iran and the West, and the effect that the Dubai Ports World deal will have on the White House.

Then, a preview of a book on the war and occupation of Iraq from its co-authors, Retired General Bernard Trainor and New York Times chief military correspondent Michael Gordon.

3. Face The Nation: Guests include The New York Times reporter Elisebeth Bumiller, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tennessee) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California).

4. FoxNews Sunday: Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-California) and Mike Pence (R-Indiana) on whether the Dubai Port World House vote should be categorized as a GOP-led revolt. Host Chris Wallace will interview Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut).

5. Late Edition: Democratic National Committee Chairperson Howard Dean tells host Wolf Blitzer why he believes the Dubai Ports World fell through.

The Talking Head Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: Tribune Newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker, Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune, Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News, and Howard Fineman of Newsweek join Chris Matthews and comment on the Dubai Port World deal and how it could effect the relationship President George W. Bush and Congress, and a debate on Governor Mitt Romney (R-Massachusetts) as a presidential candidate and how the public will react to his Mormon religious affiliation.

2. The Beltway Boys: Fred Barnicle and Mort Kondracke on whether Mr. Bush ducked a politically damaging showdown with Congress or whether the damage was already done. Then, Iran's quest for nuclear weapons and what the United Nations Security Council will do to stop them.

Feature Story News Programs

1. 60 Minutes: Ed Bradley interviews Kevin Weeks, the man who helped James "Whitey" Bulger in his criminal ventures. Mr. Weeks says he almost shot The Boston Herald's Howard Carr but decided against it when he saw the columnist with his daughter. Lara Logan reports on the U.S. military's campaign to re-take Tal Afar, an Iraqi town once controlled by Al Qaeda.
Then, Leslie Stahl reports on the sexual orientation manipulation in rodents.

2. Dateline NBC: Rob Stafford met the mother and sister of murder-victim Immette St. Guillen.

3. Dateline NBC Saturday: The Don Moringiello murder case. An otherwise meticulous engineer is accused of a sloppy murder. The evidence used against him includes the king-size bed sheets police believe he wrapped his murdered wife in and the concrete blocs from his garden (which were used to weigh down the corpse that otherwise would be floating in the bay nearby. His defense uses that very evidence against the prosecution.


1. Saturday Night Live: Matt Dillon from the Oscar winning movie Crash and musical guest Arctic Monkeys.

2. Law and Order Criminal Intent: Malcolm McDowell guest stars as a a tycoon with a "killer instinct."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Olmert's Ultimatum to the Palestinians

"If after a reasonable time passes it becomes clear that the PA is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act." - Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in The Jersualem Post

"The PA is one authority, the minute the dominant force in the PA is Hamas, then why [meet]"? - Ehud Olmert

We do not meet as two graduates from the same high school. There can only be a reason for a meeting if it serves a political purpose. If the government is a Hamas one, what political purpose can it serve?" - Ehud Olmert

Four years, Mr. Olmert gave the Palestinians. Four years to decide whether they will do what they promised to do 12 years ago and negotiate in good faith for a mutually-agreed upon partition or reject the path of peace and force the Israelis to draw the borders in its own favor.

The acting prime minister had no choice. Israeli voters will go to the polls later this month so Mr. Olmert has to convince them that he can be a tough negotiator who will stand up to the newly-elected Hamas government in the Palestinian occupied territories.

He says Israel won't deal with a Hamas-controlled government so long as it refuses to back down from its stated goal (Israel's political destruction) and the violent means (terrorism) it uses to achieve that goal. He says there would be no use in another meeting with the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because he ultimately will be presiding over a government that has no intention of making its peace with Israel's right to existence.

Looked one way, Mr. Olmert is making a threat, and he is capitalizing on his country's economic, political and military superiority. The Israelis have the land which the Palestinians crave. Israeli settlements have to be moved before Palestinians can build for themselvs a politically viable independent state of their own. The Israelis have the jobs that provide many Palestinians with their source of income and access to those jobs could be shut off. Mr. Olmert warned the Palestinians - the Israelis will leave the Palestinians with a politically doomed state which the Palestinians may not care for if they fail to renounce terrorism and crack down on terrorist bombings.

Looked at another way, Mr. Olmert conceded defeat. Israel can build its wall separating the Palestinians from the Israelis but its economic growth will be limited if its Palestinian neighbor resents it for its decision to draw its boundaries in a way most beneficial to the Israelis without palestinian input. Recognizing this, the acting prime minister is resigned to the grim reality that he would need to negotiate with the Palestinians no matter whom they elect. A country that never dreamed it would have to negotiate with Hamas has now resigned itself to meeting with the new authorities if they could do the bare minimum (and little else) that the Palestinian Liberation Organization did back in 1993.

The more conservative Likud Party apparently will campaign against Mr. Olmert's Kadima Party based upon that second interpretation. Its eventual party leader will portray Mr. Olmert's speech as the mask for what really is a political sellout to the second Palestinian group (the PLO being the first) that will refuse to deliver on what Israel will expect in return for its land.

Dan Asmussen

Gee and I thought we had enough about levees in Iraq and accidental shootings. Then, baseball in drag.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

South Dakota's Abortion Law and Sentencing

A simple yahoo search resulted in a link to a law professor's website which in turn provided for a link here. So a doctor who provides for an abortion from the moment of conception can get a 5-year prison term and a $5,000 fine. The mother who asks for and receives an abortion will not be punished. So a procedure which the pro-life group considers a murder from the moment zygote-hood on up is not classified as such and the person who took the initiative and first planned for this murder gets away scott free. Go figure.

Andrew Sullivan has some questions to ask and then offers a nuanced position on an issue the die-hard believing advocates on both sides won't appreciate.

Agreement on Surveillance

Yesterday, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee took an important first step to reclaim power that the current president claimed for himself when it voted along partisan lines to set up a subcommittee which would monitor the domestic spying program now run by the Bush administration.

Should the House of Representatives and Senate pass this proposed bill into law, the administration's domestic spying program will be preserved and in one important respect, enhanced, but it would ulimately give a newsly created subcommittee the needed oversight over the program. The administration will be given a 45-day period to conduct warrantless suveillance of international calls involving "terrorist organizations." afterwhich it would have to report to the committee and either drop the surveillance, apply for a warrant or explain to Congress why it would need to continue its warrantless surveillance.

As of now the president has a 15-day period in which it could authorize warrantless surveillance after which it must report to the FISA court. The newsly-created subcommittee would be entitled to access to the program's operations and review each warrantless surveillance claim on a case-by-case basis.

The Bush administration insists to this day that it had the authority to conduct these warrantless searches without oversight but some Republicans disagreed and have called for stronger judicial or congressional oversight. Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) threatened to vote with the Democrats for a fuller inquiry into the administration's surveillance program and conduct but voted with the Republicans after this compromise deal on domestic spying was crafted. Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) another critic who had suggested a review of the program by the FISA courts, has not taken a position as of yet.

Some Democrats publicly condemned the Republicans because they voted against a Democratic proposal to conduct hearings into the National Security Agency's spying practices but some who supported this deal were surprised. The vote to scuttle such an investigation to be sure was disappointing but it should be used as a pretext to battle the Republicans on this deal.

In one very important respect, the plan sponsored by Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) is better than Senator Specter's - it calls for a case-by-case review of each warrantless surveillance operation within the 45 day period - an oversight provision that would not be guaranteed should the FISA court declare President George W. Bush's domestic spying program constitutional as is. The FISA court will remain under this bill, the first and preferred course of legal recourse for the administration. Mr. Bush and future presidents will have to justify any warrantless domestic spying with a group of senators he could not select.

Monday, March 06, 2006

John Roberts' FAIR Ruling

Today the Supreme Court unanimously(8-0) rejected law school coalition's quest to invalidate the Solomon Amendment, which barred federal aid to colleges and universities that barred the U.S. military recruitment opportunities afforded to the other employers on campus. The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. (FAIR), a coalition of law schools and associated faculty, challenged the law on free speech and free association grounds. Law schools within the coalition did not want to associate with an institution which discriminates against gays.

Under the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy implemented under President William Jefferson Clinton, military officials supposedly do not ask their officers and enlisted men and women about their sexual orientation but if a person's homosexual orientation or the sexual conduct associated with that orientation become known the military will discharge that person from the military.

The Solomon Act, law schools claimed, violated their First Amendment right to free speech by forcing them to disseminate military recruitment campaign materials and their First Amendment right to free association by requiring them to treat the U.S. military like the nondiscriminatory employers even though they consider its anti-gay disciminatory policies as morally reprehensible as some of the policies used to bar some private recruiters from campus. In sum, FAIR says its member law schools's free association rights were violated because they must treat as legally respectable a policy it believes indistinguishable from that they would normally bar from campus.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. rejected the law schools' free speech and free association challenges in the opinion released today. This should come of no surprise to most court watchers since liberal and conservative justice alike expressed skepticism during oral arguments. And as this blog writer noted months before oral arguments took place, a Supreme Court majority that distinguished between after-school religious clubs (Good News clubs for instance) and public school administrators (the latter but not the former speak for the school government) in First Amendment Religious Establishment cases would be hard pressed to refrain from applying that same principle here.

"We have held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so, pursuant to an equal access policy. Board of Ed. of Westside Community Schools (Dist. 66) v. Mergens, 496 U. S. 226, 250 (1990) (plurality opinion); accord, id., at 268 (Marshall, J., concurring in judgment); see also Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 841 (1995) (attribution concern "not a plausible fear"). Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."

Right. The law schools in question were not barred from organizing protests against the military or posting signs discouraging military recruitments so there were plenty of opportunities for the law schools to distance themselves from policies which they did not like and as Chief Justice Roberts said in his concisely-worded opinion,.

"The Solomon Amendment neither limits what law schools may say nor requires them to say anything. Law schools remain free under the statute to express whatever views they may have on the military's congressionally mandated employment policy, all the while retaining eligibility for federal funds. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 25 (Solicitor General acknowledging that law schools "could put signs on the bulletin board next to the door, they could engage in speech, they could help organize student protests"). As a general matter, the Solomon Amendment regulates conduct, not speech. It affects what law schools must do--afford equal access to military recruiters--not what they may or may not say."

In fact, the Solomon Amendment does not per se require law schools to accept military recruiters. A university or law school might opt to forgo federal aid and try to make up the difference through private fundraisers. Most of course would not given expenses needed to maintain a school but they could do this even though all eight Supreme Court justices said Congress could go further and mandate this military-inclusive recruitment policy whether universities and colleges accept financial aid from Washington or not.

The Supreme Court has, to be fair, extended free speech rights to those who say they don't want to speak about or convey a message of endorsement towards a particular viewpoint on any given issue. In Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Group of Boston Inc. it unanimously supported Irish parade organizers who did not want to include a group which endorse a gay-inclusive message. And in Boy Scouts v. Dale, the Supreme Court followed that same logic by stating that one's right to free association must include the right to not associate.

FAIR said it was merely seeking the same rights for its member law schools but their logic did not hold. The Irish parade organizers in Boston were allowed to select its participants' messages because the parade was its own message that was negatively impacted by the forced inclusion of the gay organization. And the Boy Scouts challenged the application of a law on it because the forced inclusion of a gay member negatively affected the moral image it wanted to convey to would-be parent clients.

The Solomon Amendment were only forced to allow one outside organization with an opposing viewpoint on discrimination the same opportunity to recruit that other private employers get. Any claim that the schools are forced to treat anti-gay discrimination differently from race-based discrimination are easily refutable since the law does not require such access to other privately-or-publicly-run antigay organizations.


"We have held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so, pursuant to an equal access policy. Board of Ed. of Westside Community Schools (Dist. 66) v. Mergens, 496 U. S. 226, 250 (1990) (plurality opinion); accord, id., at 268 (Marshall, J., concurring in judgment); see also Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, 841 (1995) (attribution concern "not a plausible fear"). Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."

I would certainly hope students would not lose that ability by the time they enter law schools for it would be all down hill if they are taught by the professors who challenged this amendment in the courts.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Weekend Talkshow Preview

The Newsmakers

1. FoxNews Sunday: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace on the prospects of civil war in Iraq. Former FEMA director Michael Brown interviewed as well.

2. This Week: Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and Repreesentative Duncan Hunter (R-California) of the House Armed Services Committee on port security and whether foreign companies should have "a stake" in areas of our vital infrastructure. Retired General Wesley Clark on the growing instability in Iraq, our strategy to contain the violence, and his presidential aspirations. Roundtable discussion includes Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, The Washington Examiner's Bill Sammon and syndicated columnist George F. Will.

3. Meet The Press: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace on Iraq, then Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina) and Jack Kemp (R) preview their upcoming report on Russo-American relations.

4. Late Edition: NATO Supreme Allied Commander General James Jones and former Iraqi Foreign Minister/current Parliament member Adnan Pachachi. Plus, the port controversy and whether the delay will help the U.A.E.-owned company power.

5. Face The Nation: nothing posted for tomorrow.

Talking Head Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: The Iraq Civil War and a question of whether there is a politicalshowdown over The Oscar nominations. Joe Klein, Katty Kay, Andrea Mitchell, and David Brooks.

2. The Beltway Boys: Congressional Republicans begin distancing themselves from the president now that his approval rating dropped and the political movies that will dominate The Oscars.

Other News Shows

1. 60 Minutes: Convicted soldier Willie Brand speaks out about the incident that led him to jail - his conviction for the death of one of two Afghan prisoners on March 5, 2002. "Prince of Pot" Canadian Marc Emery.

2. Dateline NBC: the murder of
Imette St. Guillen.


1. Saturday Night Live: Guest Host Natalie Portman and musical guest Fall Out Boy.

2. The Oscars