Friday, June 30, 2006

Dan Asmussen

Banning flag hate crimes and Superman's illegal immigrant credentials.

Hamdan: About Curbing Political Executive Overreach

Blog writer Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic, and Time Magazine though, has it right on the principles.

"Absorbing the Hamdan decision today prompts the following thoughts. This is not an unprecedented moment in America's constitutional history. In war-time, presidents have over-reached before, and they will over-reach again. The over-reach is often for good reasons; and after 9/11, it's understandable that some corners were cut. What this decision represents is therefore the re-balancing of the constitutional order, after the heat of the moment. Think of it as the moment when King George's crown was yanked off his head. The Congress has tried a couple of times, but been foiled by "signing statements." So the judiciary has stepped in. Other presidents have tried mini-coronations. What we are seeing is the end of the latest monarchical pretension.

This time, however, the relief is greater for a few reasons. The first is that this war has no clearly defined enemy and no clearly defined end-point. So the presidential over-reach was particularly grave because it threatened a permanent expansion of law-free executive power (which is another word for an elected tyranny). As Orwell understood, a permanent war is integral to the maintenance of tyranny; and in our current predicament, vigilance is warranted perhaps more than in any previous, more discretely formulated conflict."

Hamdan: A Chance for Republicans To Win

Jonah Goldberg, while disagreeing with the Court's decision in Hamdan, thinks it gave the Republicans a winning issue. No one wants a terrorist, let alone Osama bin Laden's personal driver, go free so the Republicans could write legislation giving such "war combatants" the minimum (and maybe even less) of trial rights while authorizing the use of military tribunals our president took it upon himself to create. Democrats who fight the Republicans on this would look foolish because they are putting the rights of the enemy combatants above the security of United States citizens.

Basically the Court threw the whole issue in Congress' lap. Right? They have to decide what to do with detainees.

Well, here you have Nancy Pelosi saying the decision was not only a "triumph" but that “Today’s Supreme Court decision reaffirms the American ideal that all are entitled to the basic guarantees of our justice system."

If you were running for Congress as a Republican, wouldn't you be tempted to run that quote over pictures of the 9/11 hijackers and the World Trade Center crashing down? Hamdan makes national security and terrorism a central issue of the Congressional elections, again.That's good news for the GOP, I think.

Besides, while I think the Court probably should have stayed out of this, it does sound like Congress has some leeway here. Andy and others will correct me if I'm wrong, but the Court said that the status quo is illegal, not unconstitutional. So, as inconvenient as it may be to the executive branch, we'll have the legislative branch step up to the plate for a change and rewrite the law. As a matter of simple democracy and getting both the public and the Congress to buy into the war on terror, debating what America should do with these guys strikes me as a perfectly healthy subject for an election year — and one that is ultimately advantageous for the GOP."

It's a fair point but would the Democrats take the bait? They might.

A Progressive Trend?

Jonah Goldberg things so:

"As a matter of analysis, Brooks is right. Much of intellectual conservatism has bought into the logic of progressivism. The war on terror has hastened the classically Progressive yearning for security. The arguments between the political parties for the foreseeable future will not be between champions of state intervention and laissez-faire. They’ll be between those who want the state to do “liberal” things, on race and the environment, for example, and those who want it to do “conservative” things, such as faith-based initiatives and national education standards. Forced to choose, I’ll take the latter. But I won’t like it."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court to the President of The United States: No Blank Check

"The Court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a "blank check." Cf. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U. S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legisla-
tive authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.

Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation's ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation's ability to determine--through democratic means--how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same." - Justice Stephen Breyer in his concurring opinion.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Advice from Scholars On A Struggle Closer to Home: Iraq

Option 1: Bring the Arab Neighbors to the Negotiating Table

Biddle and those using the Vietnam analogy have made good abstract cases for a deeper, larger, and longer U.S. military role in Iraq.
Unfortunately, the political basis for such a commitment is absent in both U.S. and Iraqi societies. U.S. economic assistance to Iraq has already largely dried up. And the U.S. military presence seems likely to diminish over the coming year. If the United States is to avert a wider civil war in Iraq, it must supplement the influence it derives from these two waning assets with a much more deft and active campaign of regional diplomacy. ...

... When states disintegrate, the competing claimants to power inevitably turn to external sponsors for support. Faced with the prospect of a neighboring state's failure, the governments of adjoining states inevitably develop local clientele in the failing state and back rival aspirants to power. Much as one may regret and deplore such activity, neighbors can be neither safely ignored nor effectively barred from exercising their considerable influence. It has always proved wise, therefore, to find ways to engage them constructively.

Washington's vocal commitment to regional democratization and its concomitant challenge to the legitimacy of neighboring regimes work at cross-purposes to its effort to form, consolidate, and support a government of national unity in Iraq. Iraqi political leaders will work together only if and when they receive convergent signals from their various external sponsors. The administration's drive for democratization in the region, therefore, should be subordinated (at least for the next several years) to its efforts to avert civil war in Iraq. Unless Washington can craft a vision of Iraq and of its neighborhood that all the governments of the region can buy into, it will have no chance of securing those governments' help in holding that country together. The central objective of U.S. diplomacy, therefore, should shift from the transformation of Iraq to its stabilization, with an emphasis on power sharing, sovereignty, and regional cooperation, all concepts that Iraq's neighbors can reasonably be asked to endorse." - James Dobbins in Foreign Policy

Option 2: Protect Ethnic Migrants Who Wish to Move to Ethnic Enclaves, Side with the Shi'ite Faction to Miniize the Damage in the Expected Civil War, Then Leave.

In any case, it is beyond the power of any Iraqi government to stop the violence between the communities if they are not separated first. Although the main Shiite militias are controlled by factions within the uia, they do not answer to it or to one another. The most active death squads seem to be those of the Badr Brigades, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which controls the Interior Ministry. Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army has also killed many people. ...

As such, it will have one remaining duty: the moral obligation to minimize the damage, human and otherwise, caused by ethnic cleansing. This is also a U.S. national security interest: the U.S. government is -- and will continue to be -- blamed by most of the world for all of the harm that befalls the people of Iraq. The shorter that bill of indictment, the better.

Satisfying this obligation would mean using U.S. military strength to protect Iraqi refugees who wish to relocate. U.S. forces must defend the most vulnerable mixed towns and urban neighborhoods from both Sunni and Shiite attackers for long enough to organize transport for those who want to move to safer locations. ...

... In the longer run, it will be important to ensure that the Shiites remain the stronger side militarily, as any change in the balance of power could encourage Sunni factions to challenge them again. The outcome of a civil war tends to be more stable when the party that is most satisfied is also the stronger one." - Chaim Kaufmann

Leslie Gelb and Stephen Biddle offer their advice as well. I won't say who if anyone is right and wrong. A comprehensive plan might include elements from all of the above. But one who is concerned about the ongoing debate over Iraq and the American soldiers who were sent to die fighting for its political future should look into these options before they take a stand for the opposing solutions offered by those urging for a withdrawal or "redeployment" and those urging us to "stay the course."

Foreign Policy Realism: Quotes from Two That Know

The National Interest has two interviews - one with Senator and presidential prospect Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and the second with former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger. I have posted excerpts from both, but I recommend a full reading.

1. Interview with Senator Chuck Hagel

TNI: Iran is increasingly becoming the top U.S. foreign policy priority.

CH: Yes, and in both India and Pakistan, Iran was a question that we talked about in some specificity. After all, they live in that part of that world. Iran borders Pakistan. India has a relationship with Iran based on energy. These two countries, Pakistan and India, have as much to win or lose with the outcome of a showdown with Iran as anyone. And they are concerned that we, the United States, seem at times to arbitrarily make policies and do not take into account what impact our actions may have on their national interests, since "we don't live there."

We first have to recognize that the world is now completely interconnected. In a global community underpinned by the global economy, we must resolve our differences rationally, peacefully and diplomatically. The world is too dangerous to do otherwise. Weapons of mass destruction have changed everything. We must be very mindful of the fact that we live in a hair-trigger world. That's why these agreements and relationships that bind us together in ways of mutual interest are so important, because we all have interests in these relationships. And so when you intertwine that fabric with all these countries and interests, it is more difficult for countries to break away or become isolated or take precipitous action that might lead to some real trouble in the world. Closer strategic relations for the United States with India, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia will be critical to address the challenges and opportunities of an interconnected world.

That's why I believe that the United States should deal directly with Iran. We should be talking directly with Iran about the entire framework of issues, including the nuclear issue. I do not know of any other way to deal with these kinds of complex dangerous issues than to talk. What do we have to lose, and what are we afraid of? We are the greatest power on earth. We are not negotiating with them in order to be giving anything away to them. But by refusing to talk--this is what leads to real dangerous predicaments, when you isolate countries, when you don't talk to countries, and you somehow think that you're accomplishing something. I think the world is far more dangerous today in the Middle East than it's ever been. And I think part of that is because our policies have been wrong.

2. Interview with Dr. Henry Kissinger

TNI: Is there a danger that other major powers, including China and Russia, may decide to work more closely together to frustrate U.S. interests?

HK: In purely military terms, it is very hard to construct a counter-balancing coalition to the United States. At the same time, the number of issues susceptible to military solutions is also shrinking.

Equilibrium has to be seen in terms of who lines up with whom on international issues. In the Iran negotiations we certainly cannot say that we have had an easy time achieving consensus. There is a sort of counter-balancing-not in direct confrontation-but in toning down what we are proposing.

Russia may be tempted to pursue tactical rapprochement with China. But any meaningful strategic rapprochement with China would move Russia further away from the United States and into a position of dependence on Chinese support. This would run counter to the strategic realities Russia faces on its far-eastern border, given the decline in its population and negative demographic trends.

We cannot be fixated by things that are in the power of Russia and China to do. The wise American policy is to establish close relations with both Russia and China. And we should conduct it on the basis that whenever possible there should always be at least equal-if not greater-incentives or prospect of risks to cooperate with the United States than with each other. I think that should be doable.

I do not see any sense in speculating how we should keep two countries from working with each other that have the power to do so and who believe it is in their benefit to do so. Our concern should be, what is our relationship with these countries.

Flag Amendment Fails By One Vote

Flag burning amendment proponents failed to acquire the two-third majority required to send S.J. 12, an amendment designed to give Congress the authority to define and ban flag desecration, today.

Three Republicans - Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Senator Robert Bennett of Utah, and Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island - voted against the amendment.

Fourteen Democrats - Senator Max Baucas of Montana, Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senator Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Senator Kenneth Salazar of Colorado, and Senator Debbie Stabenaw of Michigan - voted for it.

All Republican senators who may run for president - Senator George Allen of Virginia, Senator John McCain of Arizaona, and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska - voted for the amendment. The Democrats who may run by far and large voted against it. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts voted against it but Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana voted for it.

It was a close call, but those of us who viewed this as First Amendment desecration could sigh in relief. We won a reprieve. May the next Congress find itself less willing to vote for this abomination.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Flag Amendment Note

This Tuesday, the Senate (look to the right) will continue its "deliberation" on the flag amendment which was discussed in a post written last week.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Remembering Lawrence on It's Anniversary

Three years ago today, the United States Supreme Court overturned a conviction based upon a a couple's violation of Texas' Homosexual Conduct Law by a vote of 6-3. Many court watchers believed it would strike the law down on narrow equal protection grounds since the law criminalized that conduct performed by homosexual conducts while decriminalizing those same activities when conducted within the confines of an unmarried heterosexual relationship. But they were surprised when Justice Anthony Kennedy, then one of two moderately conservative swing justices wrote the far-reaching opinion acknowleding a homosexual person's same liberty interest right to private intimate conduct. (He was joined by the more liberal members of the Supreme Court - John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and moderately liberal swing justice Stephen Breyer. The other moderately conservative swing justice, retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, wrote a concurring opinion in which voted to overturn the conviction based upon other grounds).

His timing for the gay-sensitive and liberty-enhancing decision's release could not have been more perfect. Homosexual Americans were celebrating gay pride month and the 4th of July, the day we all celebrate our freedom, was just around the corner.

Most heterosexual Americans take intimacy rights for granted but until recently homosexual Americans did not. The court in Bowers v. Hardwick denied Hardwick the rights it granted to heterosexual Americans in a series of cases beginning in Griswold v. Connecticut. In 2003, the Supreme Court corrected itself in an opinion noted for its sensitive attitude towards gays. It did not grant homosexuals marital rights or for that matter, any public duty to acknowledge their choices as one equal to that of a heterosexual marriage but for the first time in its history, the United States Supreme Court compared homosexual intimacy concerns with those of heterosexuals who bind themselves in marriage as well as those who do not and it acknowledged the very real personal autonomy and liberty interests implicated by the kind of prohibition upheld in Bowers.

Today, in honor of Kennedy's enlightened views, I will post some excerpts from the decision:

1. The Court began its substantive discussion in Bowers as follows: “The issue presented is whether the Federal Constitution confers a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy and hence invalidates the laws of the many States that still make such conduct illegal and have done so for a very long time.” Id., at 190. That statement, we now conclude, discloses the Court’s own failure to appreciate the extent of the liberty at stake. To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward, just as it would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse. The laws involved in Bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more far-reaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home.

This, as a general rule, should counsel against attempts by the State, or a court, to define the meaning of the relationship or to set its boundaries absent injury to a person or abuse of an institution the law protects. It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons.

2. "It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Court in Bowers was making the broader point that for centuries there have been powerful voices to condemn homosexual conduct as immoral. The condemnation has been shaped by religious beliefs, conceptions of right and acceptable behavior, and respect for the traditional family. For many persons these are not trivial concerns but profound and deep convictions accepted as ethical and moral principles to which they aspire and which thus determine the course of their lives. These considerations do not answer the question before us, however. The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through operation of the criminal law. “Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code."

3. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), the Court reaffirmed the substantive force of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause. The Casey decision again confirmed that our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education. Id., at 851. In explaining the respect the Constitution demands for the autonomy of the person in making these choices, we stated as follows:

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.” Ibid.

Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.

4. Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled. The present case does not involve minors. It does not involve persons who might be injured or coerced or who are situated in relationships where consent might not easily be refused. It does not involve public conduct or prostitution. It does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter. The case does involve two adults who, with full and mutual consent from each other, engaged in sexual practices common to a homosexual lifestyle. The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.

5. As an alternative argument in this case, counsel for the petitioners and some amici contend that Romer provides the basis for declaring the Texas statute invalid under the Equal Protection Clause. That is a tenable argument, but we conclude the instant case requires us to address whether Bowers itself has continuing validity. Were we to hold the statute invalid under the Equal Protection Clause some might question whether a prohibition would be valid if drawn differently, say, to prohibit the conduct both between same-sex and different-sex participants. Equality of treatment and the due process right to demand respect for conduct protected by the substantive guarantee of liberty are linked in important respects, and a decision on the latter point advances both interests. If protected conduct is made criminal and the law which does so remains unexamined for its substantive validity, its stigma might remain even if it were not enforceable as drawn for equal protection reasons. When homosexual conduct is made criminal by the law of the State, that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.

Now retired Justice O'Connor did not join in the opinion of the court but she called a spade a spade when she rejected Texas' claim that it was not discriminating against people with a homosexual orientation and conseuqnetly used the equal protection clause to strike the law down. Here are some quotes from her concurring opinion.

1. Texas argues, however, that the sodomy law does not discriminate against homosexual persons. Instead, the State maintains that the law discriminates only against homosexual conduct. While it is true that the law applies only to conduct, the conduct targeted by this law is conduct that is closely correlated with being homosexual. Under such circumstances, Texas’ sodomy law is targeted at more than conduct. It is instead directed toward gay persons as a class. “After all, there can hardly be more palpable discrimination against a class than making the conduct that defines the class criminal.” Id., at 641 (Scalia, J., dissenting) (internal quotation marks omitted). When a State makes homosexual conduct criminal, and not “deviate sexual intercourse” committed by persons of different sexes, “that declaration in and of itself is an invitation to subject homosexual persons to discrimination both in the public and in the private spheres.” Ante, at 14.

Indeed, Texas law confirms that the sodomy statute is directed toward homosexuals as a class. In Texas, calling a person a homosexual is slander per se because the word “homosexual” “impute[s] the commission of a crime.” Plumley v. Landmark Chevrolet, Inc., 122 F.3d 308, 310 (CA5 1997) (applying Texas law); see also Head v. Newton, 596 S. W. 2d 209, 210 (Tex. App. 1980). The State has admitted that because of the sodomy law, being homosexual carries the presumption of being a criminal. See State v. Morales, 826 S. W. 2d, at 202—203 (“[T]he statute brands lesbians and gay men as criminals and thereby legally sanctions discrimination against them in a variety of ways unrelated to the criminal law”). Texas’ sodomy law therefore results in discrimination against homosexuals as a class in an array of areas outside the criminal law. See ibid. In Romer v. Evans, we refused to sanction a law that singled out homosexuals “for disfavored legal status.” 517 U.S., at 633. The same is true here. The Equal Protection Clause “ ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’ ” Id., at 623 (quoting Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 559 (1896) (Harlan, J. dissenting)).

2. A State can of course assign certain consequences to a violation of its criminal law. But the State cannot single out one identifiable class of citizens for punishment that does not apply to everyone else, with moral disapproval as the only asserted state interest for the law. The Texas sodomy statute subjects homosexuals to “a lifelong penalty and stigma. A legislative classification that threatens the creation of an underclass … cannot be reconciled with” the Equal Protection Clause. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S., at 239 (Powell, J., concurring).

3. This case raises a different issue than Bowers: whether, under the Equal Protection Clause, moral disapproval is a legitimate state interest to justify by itself a statute that bans homosexual sodomy, but not heterosexual sodomy. It is not. Moral disapproval of this group, like a bare desire to harm the group, is an interest that is insufficient to satisfy rational basis review under the Equal Protection Clause. See, e.g., Department of Agriculture v. Moreno, supra, at 534; Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S., at 634—635. Indeed, we have never held that moral disapproval, without any other asserted state interest, is a sufficient rationale under the Equal Protection Clause to justify a law that discriminates among groups of persons.

Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate governmental interest under the Equal Protection Clause because legal classifications must not be “drawn for the purpose of disadvantaging the group burdened by the law.” Id., at 633. Texas’ invocation of moral disapproval as a legitimate state interest proves nothing more than Texas’ desire to criminalize homosexual sodomy. But the Equal Protection Clause prevents a State from creating “a classification of persons undertaken for its own sake.” Id., at 635. And because Texas so rarely enforces its sodomy law as applied to private, consensual acts, the law serves more as a statement of dislike and disapproval against homosexuals than as a tool to stop criminal behavior. The Texas sodomy law “raise[s] the inevitable inference that the disadvantage imposed is born of animosity toward the class of persons affected.” Id., at 634.

Suggested Options for North Korea

"The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.Therefore, if North Korea persists in its launch preparations, the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched. " - former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Assistant Secretary of State Ashton B. Carter, making the case for a limited pre-emptive strike against North Korea's missile launch cite in the June 22 edition of The Washington Post.

"I think that it's very important to keep a military option on the table. But I believe that what we're seeing here is a complete failure in diplomacy. And as President Bush determined the axis of evil, each of those countries has gotten more dangerous.

I hold no brief for Kim Jong Il, but I think the fact that there have been very limited discussions with him in the last five years is a sign that this administration has not wanted to deal with the issue of very dangerous North Korea.

And I do think that it is absolutely necessary to revive diplomatic talks and keep a military option on the table. " - Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, pushing for more diplomacy and downplaying the use of force on "Late Edition" Sunday.

"Well, let's understand what is going on. There are six-party talks that are taking place in Beijing which are supposed to deal with this issue.

North Korea has refused to return to these six-party talks in which we participate, as well as China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia, that is the nation that are bordering Korea and that are most immediately affected by these weapons.

I have no question that, if these six-party talks resume and, if even the slightest progress is made, that part of them will be bilateral talks with North Korea.

But for North Korea to have blocked these talks, now, for near nearly a year, to emerge out of them through a bilateral talk with the United States and thereby marginalize the other nations would be the wrong way to proceed.

I believe -- I agree with Madeleine on the proposition that we should force the diplomatic pace now. And I believe the six nations should make a proposal to North Korea, as they have made to Iran, with at least an implied time limit and move to severe sanctions if that proposal is rejected. ...

... The issue, first of all, isn't the missile but the nuclear capability of North Korea. And if anything is to be knocked out, it should be the North Korean nuclear capability.

The capability that North Korea has always been assumed to have and has is the massive artillery that they have amassed north of the demilitarized zone, which could cause enormous destruction in Seoul among the civilian population.

And therefore, if we take any military action against North Korea, with which I agree with Madeleine, should not be excluded, it should be a more comprehensive one that is aimed at its nuclear capability and to knock out that artillery concentration north of Seoul.

But we cannot do this and we should not do this until we have gone through another intense diplomatic phase in which it is clearly understood what we have offered and what we are asking for and the time limit within which that should take place." - Former National Security Adivor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on CNN Late Edition suggesting further talks backed by severe sanctions and the threat of broader strikes should negotations fail.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Weekend Preview

The News Making Interview Shows

1. Meet The Press:
(1) Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) will talk about the war in Iraq, why he supported a time table for a withdrawal, and his presidential prospects. (2) Round table discussion will focus on Senator Joseph Lieberman's tough primary race and how the war in Iraq is affecting the mid-term and presidential elections. Round table contributors include David Broder of The Washington Post, Ron Brownstein of The Los Angeles Times, David Gregory of NBC News, and Anne Kornblut of The New York Times.

2. Fox News Sunday: (1) Debate on the timetable for withdrawal with Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and John Warner (R-Virginia). (2) Immigration debate with Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Representative Pete King (R-NY).

3. Late Edition: (1) Interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on al Qaeda's renewed battle for control over the country. (2) Senators Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) of the Foreign Relations Committee and Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) of the Foreign Relations and Select Intelligence Committees talk about the war in Iraq, the latest terrorist incidents in the United States, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and North Korea's threat to test one of its nuclear missiles. (3) Other prominent guests talking about the world's current events include Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani, Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

4. Face The Nation: Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Doyle McManus of The Los Angeles Times talk about the war in Iraq and the latest on North Korea's missile threat.

5. This Week: (1) Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senate Minority Whip Rich Durbin (D-Illinois) talk about the strategy and politics of the war on politics. (2) Interview with outgoing Harvard University President Larry Summers on the controversies surrounding his administration and his statements concerning women. (3) Roundtable discusion includes Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, White House correspondent Martha Raddatz of ABC News, and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs. (4) John Stoessel of "20/20" explains why "everything you know is wrong."

The Political Talk Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: (1) Debate on whether the war in Iraq will mobilize anti-war Democrats as much as the Vietnam War did. (2) Discussion on whether Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is saving the president from political peril. Guests include Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News, Joe Klein of Time Magazine, Andrew Sullivan of Time Magazine, The Daily Dish, and The New Republic, and Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times.

2. Fox News Watch: (1) the mainstream media's values when covering the war on terror and the president's intelligence gathering information - is it about " getting the big scoop" or protecting national security. (2) Dan Rather leaving CBS, and (3) the coverage surrounding the brutal murder of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

3. The Beltway Boys: (1) Republicans beginning to coalesce around the president's Iraqi war strategy after months of bad coverage. (2) Why Democrats are losing their political advantage on this topic.

The Feature News Shows

1. CBS Sunday Morning: (1) Cover Story: A second look at using nuclear power in the wake of rising energy costs and our dependence on foreign oil. (2) Almanac: the 1867 barbed wire patent. (3) Summer Preview on "hot summer music," (4) Interview with AIDS activist and playright Larry Kramer.

2. 48 Hours Mystery: Back From The Dead - a presumed victim of a serial killer shows up at his trial.

3. 60 Minutes: (1) report on Alberta's oil boom and its very large oil reserves. (2) musicians whose impaired brains make normal life impossible but their musical prowess incredible.

4. Heartland with John Kasich: (1) Violent girls caught fighting on videotape. Is this a trend? (2) Bono on life as a rock star and America's relationship with the rest of the world.

5. Big Story Weekend: (1) Terrorism expert Ann Hayes on the indictment of seven "home grown" terrorists in Miami, Florida. (2) Former Army Secretary Togo West comments on North Korea's long range nuclear missile threat. (3) "Wicket weather pummels the northeast."

6. Big Story Primetime: (1) update on the foild Sears Tower terror plot. (2) "TeenVirtue 2" author Vicki Courtney comments on what kids are looking at online. (3) "In Touch Weekly" editor Tom O'Neill has the latest celebrity dirt on Brad, Angelina, Britney, Vince, and Jen.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dan Asmussen

Our socer team fails to defend us from incoming illegal North Korea's missiles so one-time presidential candidate and SEnator John kerry urges us to pull out of the United States.

Republicans Who Stand Up for Gays Deserve Some Credit

Republicans aren't known for their positive attitude toward gay people. More often than not they ignore gays unless their religiously conservative anti-gay voting base tells them to vote against any number of perceived "special rights" legislation crafted to protect them.

Most Republicans this month voted for the failed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Senator John McCain of Arizona voted against it but said he is doing so only because it is state issue. The former Vietnam War hero has endorsed a far more restrictive proposed constitutional amendment under consideration in his own state. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska voted against the amendment the last time for the same cited reason but was travelling with the president while the vote was being conducted last week. Other Republicans with stronger gay rights voting records (that is, Senator Arlen Specter of PA, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine) said this was a state's right issue as well).

President Bush said all would benefit from this marriage ban in his weekend address but failed to acknowledge any concern let alone express any "compassion" for the gay Americans this proposed amendment would stigmatize. He has yet to meet with the Log Cabin Republicans or the Republican Unity Coalition, and now that he is no longer running for president Mr. Bush can do that at little political cost to himself and others (provided of course, he speaks after the mid-term elections).

Federal law protects racial, ethnic, and religious minorities as well as those who are attacked because of their gender, from hate crimes but efforts to extend coverage for gays and transgendered people have stalled. And the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, arguably the least controversial of the gay rights' legislation, has failed to pass in the Republican-controlled Congress.

So when a Republican or conservative stands up for their gay constituents, they deserve our praise. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is by far and large one of the most gay-friendly Republican politicians. He supported domestic partnership legislation, and still professes his support for civil unions. but more important he taught by example. The mayor defied gender expectations by dressing in drag without fear of embarrassment and did not shy away from the fact that, during his divorce proceedings, he lived with a few gay friends. Mr. Giuliani showed by way of example how straight Americans should interact with their gay neighbors.

Outgoing New York Governor George Pataki upheld his promise to Empire State Pride and pushed through a previously recalcitrant senate his state's version of the employment nondiscrimination act while California Governor's Arnold Schwartzenegger and former Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell signed into law domestic partnershp legislation that made it to their desks.

Last week we on the gay rights side of the political aisle were treated to yet another instance of courage (for Republicans, anyway) when Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. fired Metro Board Member Robert J. Smith after he called gay Americans "persons of sexual deviance" during a political roundtable discussion on television. In response, the theoconservative American Family Association had issued a "press alert" condemning the governor for being "intolerant to any view that opposes the full acceptance of homosexual behavior and its promotion in government" - something its author says anyone who states his or opposition to homosexuality may confront.

In response to a question about the gay Americans' intimate liberty rights and gay marriage, the former Ehrlich appointtee said we as a society should not offer "persons of sexual deviance" a "special place of entitlement. This was a gratuitious comment which wasn't needed to answer the question and given that he referred to such people in a negative way (they are persons of "sexual deviance" and not gays, homosexuals, persons with same-sex attraction, or even "persons with and not of a sexual deviance) gay Metro Board employees, could not with any degree of confidence, believe he would act fairly toward them on matters not pertaining to their sexual orientation.

The governor, whose gay rights voting record is mixed, said Robert J. Smith's comments were "inappropriate, insensitive, and unacceptable" and they are in "direct conflict with the governor's commitment to inclusiveness, tolerance and opportunity." Mr. Smith's own free speech rights were not violated.He was appointed by the governor and while he serves within the Ehrlich administration, he like any other appointee, must choose his or her words carefully. Hi comments were unwelcomed in an administration that wants to show respect towards all of its workers.

Mr. Ehrlich will and has been criticized. He may lose the conservative votes he will need to win a tough re-electioncampaign against a state-wide known Democratic candidate in the heavily Democratic-leaning state, fand he deserves kudos for that. Not because he disagreed with Mr. Smith. Reasonable people can disagree on any given issue. No. The governor deserves kudos because he told the religious conservatives he may need to win against a popular state-wide known Democratic challenger in this Democratic-leaning state that he considered their views intolerant, offensive and unacceptable and by firing Mr. Robert Smith, Governor Ehrlich said he was embarrassed to be associated with the religious conservative's line of thinking.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Next Week's Flag Amendment Debate

Barely two weeks have passed since our senators voted down a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage but the senate is poised to vote on yet another proposed constitutional amendment next week. S.J. 112, like the version that passed in the House with the prerequesite 2/3 majority, would not ban any resident from burning an American flag if passed nor would it ban such unpopular conduct if ratified by the states.

Some, especially those Republicans who are pushing this through in order to maintain their hold on if not build upon Republican control in Congress, will view this as the gift that keeps giving. The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist has called it the "visible symbol embodying our nation" which millions of Americans regard with "an almost mystical reverence." Justice John Paul Stevens said it is "a symbol of freedom, of equal opportunity, of religious tolerance, and of goodwill for other peoples who share our aspirations." Soldiers have died under that flag and others, victors in war, planted it on the battlefield. Burning it to many is a sign of disrespect and dishonor towards both, those who fought under it and the country that guarantees their freedom.

These Republicans believe this is a winning issue. Democrats will have to vote on this proposed amendment and put their names on record before the mid-term elections so the Republicans could tie them to the extremist anti-American leftists. This issue will not go away. States would have to ratifythe proposed amendment, giving it a life of its own until it is either voted down by enough states or added to our Constitution. In the meantime, congressional candidates would be pressed on their likely vote on such a ban should the amendment pass, thereby giving the voters another chance to vote for flag "protecting" Republicans. (This amendment would empower Congress to debate and legislate on this issue).

Their plan may backfire if the public catches on to their cynical ploy, for the question which the Democrats should encourage the voting public should ask is why they would subject each state to a lengthy debate on flag burning if the thing the states are going to decide is if Congress should vote on a flag burning amendment? If the Republicans genuinely want to protect the American flag, they should have gone all the way by proposing an amendment which does just that by outlawing flag desecration.

Its supporters by far and large claim they are not unconstitutionally infringing upon a dissenter's right to free speech. Americans, they would argue, have every right to hold a flyer in front of the White House claiming "God Hates America," or "I Hate Amerika," or any other variation upon that theme short of burning an American flag. A ban on flag desecration, they would argue, would ban conduct and not the speech associated with it.

Their argument is flawed. Pictures ARE worth a thousand words. The environmental activist who ties himself to a tree, the anti-abortion protestor holding a picture of a sonogram while "blocking the woman from entering an abortion clinic, the black who sat at a white man's table when segregation was still legal, the anti-war protestor burning an American flag, the Reverend Phelps' protest at a funeral honoring a fallen American soldier, the counter-protestor that surrounds the grieving family to shield them from the hateful venom and the Hindu or Buddhist monk who sets himself on fire in public set themselves a part from the typical protestor by rejecting social convention.

A given political participant may opt for civilized debate when that participant respects the opposing party's viewpoint enough to warrant a fair hearing or when that opposing participant's viewpoint is so misguided and out of the mainstream that he or she believes it will be easy to discredit. But if any given participant believes he or she is at a disadvantage, if he or she believes the system is rigged against him or her, or if the system in his or her mind is so corrupted and the activites which it protects are so vile that they are not worthy of respect, the expected forum would never fully provide them with the means to express their outrage and contempt.

The Nazi and the Jew cannot be forced to stand side by side at a podium, shake hands, look each other in the eye and say they agree to disagree. No word would fully convey the sense of rage any given Jew would have at a Nazi short of the burning of a Nazi flag and nothing would convey the sense of hate any Nazi of Ku Klux Klansman would have better than the burning of an Israeli flag or the burning of a cross (aside from a lynching or gas chamber). Nothing would better convey the anti-abortionist's view that abortionists are killing children than a sonogram of a live fetus. Deprive the anti-abortionist protestor from holding a sonogram and you deny him or her the evidence used to make the point.

Reverend (he is not revered on this blog) Phelps firmly believes homosexuality is a sin, so much so that he found it necessary to protest at gay college student's Matthew Shepherd's grave year after year. (Matthew Shepherd was brutalized and left to die on a fence in Laramie, Wyoming after having a few drinks). In this case, the place for the protest is just as important as the words that come out of his voice. Rev. Phelps and his clan from the Westboro Baptist Church would hold signs counting how many days Matthew Shepherd was in hell. By holding his protests at the funerals he reminds those who would listen and believe in him of the afterlife and of the ultimate consequence for moral disobedience (eternity in hell) and the "sin" is so grave that no one, not even one who dies protecting a country which allows people the right to engage in the associated intimate conduct in private, deserve peace in death.

Today, many who support our troops have borrowed a tactic used by Philadelphia's gay rights organization when Repent America protests against Philadelphia gay pride. They surround Rev. Phelp's intended audience to shield them from the Mr. Phelps and his clan. Their action, doubles as speech. By shielding the mourners, these counter-protestors tell Mr. Phelps and all who are there listening that his words are so vile, malicious, and hurtful that no one should ever be forced to hear them and no one should ever be forced to read his signs.

If, as the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist said in his dissenting opinion, the flag is THE "symbol embodying our nation," and if it consequently does not "merely represent any particiular political philosophy," and if for millions it had come to be viewed with "mystical reverence," there is no better or more effective way for the dissenter to express his or her contempt for our political system and policies than to burn an American flag in front of us.

Congress no doubt can propose this amendment to the Constitution and the states can rafity it, thereby giving our representatives in Washington the power to ban flag desecration if they are so inclined to do so. Our constitution was written in such a way as to allow for such changes through the explicitly spelled out process that move forward next week.

Whatever we gain from this amendment, however, won't outweigh the costs associated with its passsage. The flag burnings already conducted in private won't be affected one bit and few, knowing how unpopular it is, burn American flags when they get angry. Should we see any on tv, we can turn the channel and if one is planned, counter-protestors could always hold a flag-waving rally in response to such an occurrence.

But the price in freedom should this proposed amendment be added to our Constitution cannot be dismissed. We would forever bar those who in fact do believe that our government's policies are so abhorrent that a flab burning is warranted from their freedom to do so. What do we say about ourselves and our country if the mass of people who wave their small American flags at a political rally held for their favored political candidate cannot tolerate the objectionable flag burning actions of those few who despise us and the ideals which we fight for? And how do we tell our children about the land of the free if it only applies for those whose viewpoints are not deemed offensive?

One day, our government may do something that we may consider gravely immoral. Great as this nation is, we may one day find it led by an elected charloton not unlike the late Adolf Hitler, leading this nation into a holocaust on a scale much greater than 1944 or drop a nuclear bomb on a densely populated city as a pre-emptive strike against a potential agressor. The United States may one day support abortion policies not unlike those now practiced in China or it may support and encourage genetically selective abortions. The anti-abortionist and disability rights protestors, finding our government and society at large complicit in what they view as a gross violation of human rights, express their contempt and burn the American flag. The "pro-choice" feminist, one day may see abortion rights Court rulings overturned and Congress pass a law banning abortion and birth control. They too may feel compelled to express their outrage and burn an American flag.

This amendment's protestors may seek to ban a practice they cannot fathom, but they will end up banning a practice any one of us may one day feel compelled to use in the future.

Immigration Note

Just so that everybody knows, some countries do not automatically consider those children born to illegal aliens citizens, even if they were born in the host country.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So There Will Be Fewer Terri Schiavos

Kudos go to New Hampshire John Lynch governor for signing into law a bill making it easier for New Hampshire residents to decide what efforts doctors and nurses can provide to keep them alive should they be incapacitated and cannot relay that information to their medical care provider at that time.

Biden's Running

"I'm running for president - flat out," - Senator Joseph Biden, speaking in Dover, New Hampshire.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Border Control Is Doable

Now, if the Border Patrol, U.S. Marshalls and local officials expanded their application of this zero-tolerance policy to include the entire Mexican-American border while the administration worked with our representatives in Washington to build a wall and substantially increase the fines and prison terms for repeat illegal repeat borders and the employers who knowingly hire them we may yet win back control over our borders. They are hurting us in our own pocketbooks using our own social security numbers.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Weekend Preview

News making Interview Shows

1. Face The Nation: White House Press Scretary Tony Snow, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) of the Foreign Relations Committee speak about the war in Iraq and the president's surprise trip to the country.

2. This Week: Pre-empted by the World Cup Soccer Games which ABC News is covering.

3. Fox News Sunday: (1) White House Press Secretary Tony Snow comments on the voters' patience or inpatience with the president's Iraqi War strategy. (2) John Podesta and Simon Rosenberg address questions concerning the Democrats' political strategy concerning the war in Iraq and whether they can win back the House if they present a united front.

4. Late Edition: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Former SEcretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Forner National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) of the intelligence committee weigh in on the president's poll numbers, the war in Iraq and the larger war on terrorism.

5. Meet The Press: Representative John Murtha (D-PA) on the war in Iraq, followed by an interview with three top oil executives: President John Hofmeister of Shell Oil, Chairman and CEO James Mulva of ConocoPhillips and David O'Reilly of Chevron.

News Commentary Shows

1. The Beltway Boys: (1) Why the Republicans' new political offensive on the war in Iraq and the new Iraqi offensive against the insurgents may change the politics surrounding our Iraq strategy. (2) The Democrats' New Legislative Agenda.

2. The Chris Matthews Show: No update as of yet.

3. Fox News Watch: (1) Press coverage surrounding the president's surprise trip to Iraq. (2) Whether political strategist Karl Rove is receiving unfair press treatment now that the prosecutor looking into unlawful White House leaks will not be prosecuted. (3) "Wheel of Justice" on television.

Feature News Programs

1.Dateline: update on the on-line predators caught in NBC Datelin's sting operation.

2. Heartland: (1) photos of what some claim to be Noah's arc are found in Iran. (2) Marine Lt. Illario Pantano speaks out after being cleared for killing two Iraqi insurgents.

3. 60 Minutes: (1) Swimmers and surfers face greater threats from sharks now that they are being fed food by those who capture them, (2) eco-terrorism from the fringe of the environmental movement, (3) Jewish country singer Kinky Friedman running for Texas governor.

4. 48 Hour Mystory: Boys who wrote screenplay possible suspects in murder by those who view their play as a possible confession.

5. CNN Presents-Deadwrong: What went wrong with the pre-war intelligence in Iraq.

6. CBS Morning: (1) The roles of fathers around the world - how much is biological and how much is influenced by culture. (2) A look back at time travel in movies, (3) Food presentation takes a new turn.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Quotes from Larry King Panel on Gays in The Church

"MOHLER: There is always the danger that we will read our interpretation of it. That's why for one thing we're dependent upon how Christians have read the scriptures for centuries in which there has been a universal consensus about what the scriptures had to say about sexuality. The old testament text you mentioned were addressed to the ancient theocracy of Israel. If we were the ancient theocracy of Israel, we would be obligated to those texts, but we are Christians here talking about the church in the new testament and there we find the amazing teaching from the apostle Paul that we're made up as the church as those who come from many different kinds of sins, all of us, as sinners, speaking of homosexuality, as well as swindlers and others, Paul said such were some of you, speaking to Christians." - Reverend Albert Mohler, the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explaining why, in his view, Christians can ignore Biblical passages calling for the execution of unruly children while feeling obligated to upholding the rigid anti-gay Biblical standard found in The Book of Leviticus.
Comment on Mohler: Assuming that the Bible is the literal word of God (an assumption I do not share), there can be no picking and choosing. Misbehaving children should be executed, adulterers should be stoned to death as should gays. Polygamy and slavery are perfectly acceptable (though not obligatory) and if God so orders, sacrificing your "one and only" son an an alter is mandatory.

If, on the other hand, you believe some biblical passages can be ignored, the burden for upholding as moral Biblical truth any passage has increased significantly.

While Mr. Mohler has discredited his position through his inconsistency, Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson's argument makes us question why we would even need a Bible, a Torah, a Koran, or any other religious text.

"Yes, Larry, I think it's really important to understand that being certain about something does not necessarily -- even if you're certain about it for 2,000 years doesn't make it right. The church was pretty certain that scripture justified slavery and that only changed about 150 years ago. We were pretty certain for 2,000 years that women had no place in the leadership of the church. But we worship a God who is not locked up in scripture 2,000 years ago, but continues to reveal God's self to us. It's not God that's changing. It's our understanding. We're being led by the Holy Spirit to understand in a new way what God was intending. The question before us right now is, might God be intending something different in our welcome of gay and lesbian people that's not been true for the last 2,000 years? And would that not be God's will for us?"

Then again so what? Would it really hurt is if Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoarastrian, Sikh, Wiccan, Satanist, Native American pagan religionists, deists, agnostics, and atheists found within themselves the humility they would need to recognize that they don't have all of the answers concerning the afterlife, the path this God or gods chose or didn't choose for us? Can a Christian with any real degree of confidence say Jesus is the Word of God or a Jew say with any real confidence that the Messiah did not come, or the Muslim say with any degree of confidence that Muhammad was the last prophet or that any of them could say their revered religious figure were not some deranged cultists out to manipulate the crowd? Who cares? Wouldn't it be enough for us if we didn't steal from each other or try to kill each other, or manipulate people into doing things they don't want to do and didn't cheat on each other and didn't leave someone bleeding to death outside? Is one's religious beliefs really that important?

Now on to Catholic Reverend Michael Manning:

"One of the things that we find as Catholics, it's a word we use, the natural law. It gets down to the basics of who we are as male and female and what was the orientation of male and female, its orientation of male and female to generate children. That's where we're called to and there is a real desire to try to make sure that we're continually keeping in line with that, that call."

What is natural law? What makes it natural. I guess Rev. Manning is suggesting that man and female were created in nature to procreate. That's nice but it only takes us so far, because we must also assume that sexual desire was created to lead us to that result. Or was it? Why then are some created with a disincentive to procreate? (gays and eunichs). Reverend Manning would say we should place a greater emphasis on the man and females different sex organs to suggest that all care created for that procreative purpose but I can just as easily suggest with equal validity that sex has other purposes aside from and in no way dependent upon its procreative potential just as one would drive a car for different purposes or use a knife in different ways. And of course Andrew Sullivan would make that same point after first answering Larry King's question on gay torment.

"Ihave in the past to be perfectly honest with you, of course. When you're told as a child that what you know to be yourself is somehow evil and wrong, it's a terrible wound that the church places in the souls of so many young people and it continues to torment those souls and one of the things that one can do as a believing person of faith, who is also gay, is to tell those kids out there, do not despair. God does loves you. Do not believe some of the things that are taught to you. Know in your heart who you are and that God loves you and don't listen to this. One thing I want to say is that being gay is not about sex as such, although that's part of it. It's a tiny part of it. What it's about, my relationship is about love and friendship and commitment and fidelity and all the virtues that we're called for and called to in our tradition. And God's creation is more diverse than we understand and I think we should have a little bit more humility in the face of God's creation than some of the things we've been hearing about tonight. We don't know what God necessarily means by nature. We're learning all sorts of things about what nature is. Maybe homosexuality as it's part of so many other species, is a part of nature, part of what God created and he want us to be whole and part of that human family."

Dan Asmussen

The Bush administration reaches a turning point on the war against anti-development terrorists while Cindy Flaghan condemns Bush and the Republicans for using her son's burning for political gain.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Debate Over The War

Partisan politics is, for better or worse (and the PoliticalHeretic believes for the worse) a fact of life but it is grossly irresponsible and particularly distasteful when our representatives in Washington use national security, military conduct and foreign policy for political gain. American troops are, or, as a result of a chosen course in diplomatic discourse, may be asked to risk their lives and the lives of those whom they were sent to defend.

While genuine disagreement over war policy and national security is inevitable and welcomed since it could enhance the deliberations needed before any serious military action is taken, our elected representatives in Washington should be expected to keep their election strategy out of it so that they are truly working for the common good.

Unfortunately, our representatives in the House have not met up to those standards. Yesterday our representatives held a "debate" on a superfluous nonbinding resolution declaring our intention to support our troops,
"prevail in the Global War on Terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary" and contine the fight for a "sovereign, free, secure, and United Iraq" as well as the fight to protect Afghanistan's new democratic government.

To any extent that this resolution was crafted to bolster support for our president's war policy, it is unnecessary and late. Confidence in Mr. Bush's war strategy in Iraq has waned considerably since he first stood under a "mission accomplished" sign on a navy aircraft carrier, so a resolution of support would have been useful long before American forces killed Al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and not after American voters were given this new sign for hope.

The Republicans of course did introduce this legislation to endorse Mr. Bush's war in Iraq. Hours before Republican and Democratic House members began their "debate" over this war resolution, the House voted 351-67 to allocate $66 billion for the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Obscene as it may sound, the Republicans have pushed this resolution to the floor to dare their opponents to vote against a declaration stating our support for American troops and our resolve to win this war against terror. Democrats who opopsed the war in Iraq would either have to sign onto a war which they do not believe in or vote against a resolution declaring our intention to "prevail in the Global War on Terror,
the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary."

The war for Iraq and the war for Afghanistan are not equal. American-led allied forces are fighting against a resurgent Taliban army in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban sheltered Al Qaeda spiritual leader Osama bin Laden and let him use their land for terrorist training. Al Qeda affiliates, Sunni insurgents, foreigner Islamofascists, and militias alike are fighting for control over Iraq.

Congressmen and women may think one battle more winnable than the other and consequently think it wise to devote our resources to one and not the other battlefield. By combining the debate on both warfronts to one resolution, however, the Republicans are depriving Democrats and the public at large of a meaningful vote on two different wars.

The PoliticalHeretic opposes any timetable for an American withdrawal at this time since the prerequesite conditions for a safe, stable, and unified Iraq have not been met. The Shi'ite and Kurdish militias have not been disarmed and disbanded. Sunni insurgents have not laid down their arms, and the constitution which all but carves Iraq up into two or more mini-states has not been amended. If we leave now, Iraq's territorial integrity would be compromised and at the expense of friend (Turkey) and foe (Syria and Iran) alike. But this vote isn't needed, and the debate is being conducted for partisan gain.

Health Care for Illegals

Politically, California's Republicans will probably lose more than they gain because the pro-amnesty crowd will blame them for denying children who have no control over their living conditions vaccines, emergency care and and visits to the doctor but those who want to hold out until this provision is removed from the budget have enough justifications to do so.

Since homeowners and tenants would not be expected to pay for the healthcare of the potential intruder who enters their home or apartments, California's residents should not have to pay for those who by law were not entitled to enter this country and acquire those benefits generally given to those who live here.

The emotional blackmail pro-amnesty supporters would impose upon those who care for the children can and should be dismissed. The parents who are legally responsible for their cildren had no right to expect our help since they by defintion were not entitled to be here. Pro-immigration control citizens should urge their politicians in Sacramento to deny illegals the same hospitality given to those who respected our laws and entered this country legally.

Colorado residents were, unfortunately, were temporarily denied a chance to deny illegal immigrants any non-emergency care that is not required by federal law when their state Supreme Court through the proposition out on a technicality (the state's single subject law). The court's own reasoning would appear to invalidate almost any law since they define "subject" in such a way as to mean "purpose" and any law could be justified by having two or more purposes. Governor Bill Owen (R-Colorad0) said he may call the legislature back into a special session to push through a new immigration reform bill if the Court does not reverse its decision.
Good for him.

Illegal Sexual Predators Released

The good - the illegals were deported. The bad- Most were released from prison before they caught in a sweep for deportation. The ugly - they were sexual predators. May they never return.


"Our research findings suggest that it increases peoples' ability to correctly evaluate the merits of a particular argument," - Pearl Martin, talking about how caffeine makes us think more critically.

So why are the schools banning this stuff? Maybe they should get the caffeinated orange juice.

No Oversight?

Taxpayer money at work.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

San Francisco's Newly Regained Gun Freedom

In a blow for freedom, a San Francisco Supreme Court judge struck down as unconstitutional Proposition H, a voter-approved ordinance banning the sale of and possession of handguns within San Francisco. Judge James Warren said San Francisco unconstitutionally intruded upon a governmental prerogative reserved for the state as a whole.

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly voted to deny themselves the right to possess let alone purchase and sell, hand guns. The law neednessly restricts the behavior of responsible law-abiding citizens who would locke their guns up or keep them out of the reach of their children but otherwise keep them for their own protection.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Iran Nuclear Inevitable?

"MR. RUSSERT: So it’s inevitable they get the nuclear bomb, in your opinion?

GEN. McCAFFREY: I think so. I think they’re going nuclear five, 10 years from now. We’ll be confronted. And that’s not a good outcome. That argues that perhaps Saudi money and Egyptian technology gets a Arab Sunni bomb to confront the Persian Shia bomb. None of us want to see proliferation in the Gulf. This is a time for serious diplomatic interventions." - from Meet The Press

Monday, June 12, 2006

Where Derbyshire's Faux Realism Leads Us

"One reason I supported the initial attack, and the destruction of the Saddam regime, was that I hoped it would serve as an example, deliver a psychic shock to the whole region. It would have done, if we’d just rubbled the place then left. As it is, the shock value has all been frittered away. Far from being seen as a nation willing to act resolutely, a nation that knows how to punish our enemies, a nation that can smash one of those ramshackle Mideast despotisms with one blow from our mailed fist, a nation to be feared and respected, we are perceived as a soft and foolish nation, that squanders its victories and permits its mighty military power to be held to standoff by teenagers with homemade bombs—that lets crooks and bandits tie it down, Gulliver-like, with a thousand little threads of blackmail, trickery, lies, and petty violence. "
- John Derbyshire at The National Review

But at what cost? Say we took Mr. Derbyshire's advice by toppling Saddam Hussein and then left? How would the Iraqis have reacted? Who would have replaced Saddam Hussein? Would the Iraqis have united behind a pro-American Iraqi government, an anti-American Iraqi government, or split? Would the Iraqis have carved Iraq into three or four mini-states or would the chaos we now see in which ethnic strife, militia rivalry, former Baathists and Islamofascist Al Qaeda sympathizers competed for respect, power, and legitimacy within Iraq?

Mr. Derbyshire apparently didn't care. In his mind, Saddam Hussein violated our agreements and needed to be punished before the dictator thought he could get away with anything:

"[M]y attitude to the war is really just punitive, and Iraq was a target of opportunity. I am not a Wilsonian nation-builder. I don’t want to “bring democracy to Iraq.” I don’t, in fact, give a fig about the Iraqis. I am happy to leave barbarians alone to practice their unspeakable folkways, so long as they do not bother civilized peoples. When they do bother us, though, I want them smacked down with great ferocity. Saddam Hussein had been scoffing for years at the very concept of international order, in the belief that we would never pass from words to deeds. I wanted to see that belief confounded, and I am pleased that it has been. If the civilized world is never willing to back up its agreements, resolutions, and communiqués with force, then those fine documents are all worthless and civilization is impotent against its enemies. I am very glad to know that we have not yet reached that sorry pass."

Yes, "agreements, resolutions, and communiques" that are not backed up with the threat of force are worthless pieces of paper and we should do everything within our resolve to punish would be transgressors who have no respect for the international order and global stability. Saddam Hussein was punished by an American-led coalition in the first Persian Gulf War after he violated Kuwait's sovereignty, and again after he brutally suppressed the Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq.

But Mr. Derbshire's faux realism is no better than the neoconservative Wilsonian idealism now embraced by officials within the White House. He, like those who support the nation-building he dismisses, would have us conform to a set of principles even when doing so may lead to the very repercussions those "agreements, resolutions and communiques" were crafted to prevent.

The demilitarized zones and the weapons inspection regime were created to presserve the precarious regional stability preserved after winning the first Persian Gulf War by denying Saddam Hussein the means and temptations that would lead him (but also others) to invade another country. If we left after removing Saddam Hussein, his would be successor could have used those same biological and chemical weapons, or bluff his way through negotation blackmail knowing that we couldn't be sure if he possessed those weapons or not.

The United States and its allies imposed upon the Iraqis a no-fly zone in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds form his inhumane treatment and Turkey from a regionally destabilizing war that would challenge its sovereign territorial integrity in a Kurdish-populated eastern portion of its own country. Had we left after removing Saddam Hussein, the Kurdish and Iraqi forces could have renewed their war for their socioeconomic political dispute over the Kirkuk oil fields and Kurdistan's independence through war.

Maybe Derbyshire was right to want Saddam Hussein punished. His refusal to comply with United Nationsl weapons inspectors in hndsight should have been answered with the threat of force at the time he first kicked weapons inspectors out. Had we done that, we would have known if and when his chemical and biological weapons inspections program was dismantled, saving us the need to topple and replace him.

But unfortunately we waited, allowing him to the time to either re-start his weapons program or as it turned out, bluff about his program's operation. Had he kept his program operational, something which we did not know for certain of at the time we invaded Iraq, Mr. Hussein could have sold them to Al Qaeda terrorists, Hezbollah, or other radical anti-Israeli and anti-American terrorist groups that want to remake the Middle East and/or the world in their image.

I don't know if Mr. Derbyshire is right or wrong but whatever the case a reliance on the credibility power doctrine and some legal documents made after the Iraqis were pushed out of Kuwait is misplaced.

Power should not be squandered for trivial violations of legal agreements forged at the end of a war. Some violations can be overlooked. It is to be asserted when our national interests are at stake and then in a manner that preserves the conditions necessary for sustaining what we were fighting for. By focusing on the need to punish Mr. Hussein, Mr. Derbyshire overlooked our need to preserve that which those legal documents and communiques Saddam Hussein violated were forged to protect and had the war been conducted his way, the regional stability and respect for sovereign integrity we were fighting for during the first Persian Gulf War would have been lost.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Realist Attitude

"Lacking mainstream advocacy, realism has indeed fallen into the hands of cranks on the left and the right, who propound bastardized versions -- the Far Left out of pacifism and hatred of Bush, the Far Right out of isolationism and cultural chauvinism. The pity is that no one in public life is making the respectable case for what is an eminently respectable doctrine.

Or, really, a respectable attitude. Realism is not so much a doctrine, aspiration, or policy as a sense of how the world works. Properly understood, it does not define U.S. interests narrowly or cynically, dismiss human rights as sissy stuff, or espouse indifference to regimes' internal structure. The essence of realism, rather, is seeing the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. Specifically, realism understands that:

· U.S. influence is a limited resource that needs conservation, and that using it requires leaders to make distasteful trade-offs and to deal with bad guys.

· Because human beings are not easily governable and because chaos is a first-order strategic menace, stability should be a top-tier priority, never a mere afterthought.

· However idealistic its self-image, America has too many status quo interests ever to be a revolutionary power.

· Except in the short run, the American people care more about interests than ideals and will tolerate idealistic adventurism only briefly. ...

... From a realist point of view, neoconservatives and unilateralists are too aggressive, isolationists and pacifists too passive, idealists and moralists too scrupulous, and Wilsonian reformers too destabilizing. Realists can be criticized for not proffering a specific agenda of their own, and that, too, is a fair rap. Realism does not define, and should not limit, America's aims in the world.

It is, however, an indispensable ingredient of a grown-up foreign policy. If realism had the advocacy it deserves, it would be enjoying a renaissance it has earned."

- Jonathan Rauch in The National Journal. Hat tip to Eugene Volokh over at "The Volukh Conspiracy"

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Apocalypse Dream

"Hordes of the ultra-pious, decked out in "I (Heart) Jimmy Swaggart's Flop Sweat" T-shirts and black socks with sandals, rise to the heavens in giant peach-colored Ford Aerostars to gather in enormous hugging throngs where they are met by a wary and bleary-eyed St. Peter who offers them processed cold cuts and Kraft Singles and lukewarm Diet Dr. Pepper.

There are rusty swing sets with exposed bolts. There are inflatable pools. There is watery decaf coffee. There are large fleets of beige 1997 Honda Civics with cassette players locked down and preloaded with only Mariah Carey and Yanni. Everyone is slowly but surely driven giddily insane by the incessant harp music and the unmistakable scent of angel droppings. All thought ceases.

Yes, Jesus is there, smiling and rocking back and forth and looking just weirdly happy, and the minions gather 'round him in swooning, narcotized glee, everyone feeling more than a little justified for all their nasty deeds while on Earth, all the abortion clinic firebombings and all the protests of "The Da Vinci Code" and that morally nauseating thing with Terri Schiavo back in '05.

Finally, finally they have arrived at a place where no one is having sex and no one wants to marry someone from their same gender and all experience has been filed down to a dull nub of vague, tasteless sensation as liquid Prozac is misted into the air via a giant Glade Plug-In the size of Florida.

Except something is a little off. Something is not quite right. Let us look closer. Why, that's not Jesus at all -- it's actually a big blow-up doll of Jesus, a giant swaying latex toy, a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man painted to look like Jesus, bobbing back and forth like a car salesman on meth." - Columnist Mark Morford in The San Francisco Chronicle

The PoliticalHeretic doesn't have to know what Mark Morford was on to come up with these thoughts so long as the columnist offers them more often.