Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Weekend Preview

The News Making Interview Shows

1. This Week: (a) U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns on the ongoing diplomatic campaign for a cease-fire and end to the war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon. (b) Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Daniel Ayalon on the war between Israel and Hizbollah. (c) Political Roundtable discussion with Fareed Zakaria, Jay Carney, Caire Shipman and George F. Will. (d) Voices Segment - Lance Armstrong seeks a cure for cancer.

2. Fox News Sunday: (a) U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns on the latest diplomatic efforts for a cease-fire in Lebanon. (b) Paul Bremer, ambassador and former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, on the new plan to move American forces into Baghdad to stop the latest violence in the capital. (c) Panel discussion on the latest developments in the Middle East include Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Juan Williams of NPR, Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, and Mara Liasson of NPR. (d) Power Play of the Week goes to David Rosenberg of the National Cancer Institute.

3. Face The Nation: Israel's ongoing war against Hizbollah in Lebanon. Guests include Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Lebanonese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

4. Late Edition: Wolf Blitzer broadcasts live from Jerusalem on the latest crisis in Lebanon. No guest names are posted on the web site as of yet.

5. Meet The Press: The war in Lebanon. (a) the latest developments from correspondents in the Middle East. (b) Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman and Lebanese Special Envoy Nouhad Mahmoud on the war in the Middle East. (c) The New York Times columnist and Middle East expert Tom Friedman on the steps that may help resolve this crisis.

The Political Talk Shows

1. Big Story Weekend: "In-depth reports" from the Middle East region.

2. Big Story Primetime: (a) More news coverage fromt he Middle East region. (b) an interview with the wife of one Israeli soldier that Hizbollah kidnapped. (c) Ollie North on the crisis in the Middle East.

3. The Beltway Boys: (a) The Israelis and Hizbollah continue fighting as pressure mounts for a cease-fire. (b) The Iraqi Prime Minister's mixed reception from the U.S. Congress. (c) Former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's comments that "had the Democrats cringing."

4. Fox News Watch: Whether Hizbollah is manipulating reporters now covering the war between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon.

5. The Chris Matthews Show: (a) Whether Hizbollah can deliver on its new threats. (b) whether the new DNC primary calendar will hurt Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) if she runs for the White House in 2008. Guests include Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Kelly O'Donnell of NBC News, Andrew Sullivan of Time Magazine and his The Daily Dish, and Gloria Borger of CBS News.

Feature News Shows

1. 48 Hours Mystery: the brutal slaying of newspaper editor Kent Heitholt in Columbia, Missouri on Halloween. Two years later, a young man named Chuck Errickson tells a friend that he had a dream in which he killed the editor and named the accomplice.

2. CBS Sunday Morning: (a) Cover Story - philanthropy as the celebrities' latest trend. (b) Almanac segment - the decision to build the first light house in America in 1715. (c) History segment - the sinking of the Andrea Doria.

3. 60 Minutes: a probable repeat. (a) Interview with Osama bin Laden's personal bodyguard. (b) a NASA scientist accuses the Bush administration of censoring what he can say about global warming. (c) a profile of U2.

4. Dateline NBC: an update on the Susan Polk murder story. She married her therapist and lover, then claims self-defense when he is killed.

5. Dateline NBC Sunday: a two-hour special on the murder of Mary Greineder while she was walking in the park with her husband. Speculation about a potential serial killer or pyschopathic stranger subside and the police arrest the husband four months into the investigation.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Dan Asmussen

Bush wars on gays, while opposing Congress' pre-emptive declaration of war against parkinson's disease.

Warren Christopher's Opposing View and a Response

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher offers theopposing view here. Note that Mr. Christopher speaks of "Israeli vioence" even as he suggests that Hizbollah started the wars he himself helped broker a cease fire to.

"What do these episodes teach us?" he asks.

"First, as in 1996, an immediate cease-fire must take priority, with negotiations on longer-term arrangements to follow. Achieving a cease-fire will be difficult enough without overloading the initial negotiations with a search for permanent solutions.

Second, if a cease-fire is the goal, the United States has an indispensable role to play. A succession of Israeli leaders has turned to us, and only us, when they have concluded that retaliation for Hezbollah attacks has become counterproductive. Israel plainly trusts no one else to negotiate on its behalf and will accept no settlement in which we are not deeply involved. Further, based upon my experience in helping bring an end to the fighting in the Balkans, the Europeans are unlikely to participate in a multinational enforcement action until the United States commits to putting its own troops on the ground.

Finally, Syria may well be a critical participant in any cease-fire arrangement, just as it was in 1993 and 1996. "

Yes, if but only if the negotiators seek a temporary cease fire. But what else do "these episodes teach us?" That Lebanon's fate as a thriving democracy is bound to the fate of Lebanon. Hizbollah has no country of its own so it launches its attacks from southern Lebanon. Forced to respond, the Israelis bomb Hizbollah strongholds within southern and northern Lebanon. The Lebanese suffer because, as Krauthammer notes, Hizbollah profits from the death of both, Israeli and Lebanese citizens. The Lebanese suffer because Hizbollah launches its rockets from that country and the Lebanese suffer because Israel responds by launching its rockets into their country.

Mr. Warren Christopher may get his wish. In their press conference today, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair backed calls for a cease-fire and pressed for a multinational peace force charged with implementing U.N. Resolution 1559. Yesterday, the Israelis opted against a full-scale ground offensive.

But no cease fire will be permanent so long as Hizbollah wages its war against the Israeli people, and anything rebuilt will easily be destroyed so long as Hizbollah and Israel fight their battle on Lebanese soil


Eminent Domain Victory in Ohio

While several New London, Connecticut residents lost their fight against developers who wanted their land, Ohio residents successfully warded them off in that state's courts.

Krauthammer Right On Israel

"The perversity of today's international outcry lies in the fact that there is indeed a disproportion in this war, a radical moral asymmetry between Hezbollah and Israel: Hezbollah is deliberately trying to create civilian casualties on both sides while Israel is deliberately trying to minimize civilian casualties, also on both sides.

In perhaps the most blatant terror campaign from the air since the London Blitz, Hezbollah is raining rockets on Israeli cities and villages. These rockets are packed with ball bearings that can penetrate automobiles and shred human flesh. They are meant to kill and maim. And they do.

But it is a dual campaign. Israeli innocents must die in order for Israel to be terrorized. But Lebanese innocents must also die in order for Israel to be demonized, which is why Hezbollah hides its fighters, its rockets, its launchers, its entire infrastructure among civilians. Creating human shields is a war crime. It is also a Hezbollah specialty." - Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. In his op-ed, Mr. Krauthammer points to the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Shangai and the declaration of war following Pearl Harbor to justify Israel's "disproportionate" response to attacks upon its people, be they military or civilians that are attacked.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


"We walked into a wasp's nest and we knew it would be a wasp's nest," - Israeli Major Zvika Golan in The Washington Post.

Sometimes it just hurts to watch the bad guys win a symbolic victory like this. It must be hard on the Israelis. These terrorists sneak into Israeli territory, raid a military post, kill a few soldiers and kidnap two others before leaving. The Israelis understandably want to go in, rescue their troops, defend their honor, and bring to justice those who are responsible and what happens? They are the ones ambushed in a battle that the terrorists need only survive because the world community that had done nothing to uphold a UN resolution calling upon the disarmament of these terrorists limits the time the Israelis have to make things right.

Washington Gay Marriage Loss: Some Math

Glen Lavy of the anti-gay Alliance Defense Fund praises five justices for some "cool, clear thinking." Lisa M. Stone and Patricia Novoty of the pro-gay Northwest Women's Law Center now place "their hope in you," the residents of Washington now that five justices voted against their clients and Washington's gay residents in general. By the way, as much as they hoped for a different outcome, Stone and Novoty
"believe Justices Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson and Gerry Alexander did their duty honorably and as they saw it."

Note that while they give that nod of respect to the three who signed onto the controlling plurality opinion, they would did not offer any kind words to the two remaining members of the five-justice vote who signed onto the concurring outwardly anti-gay concurring opinion. Good for them. As this blogger said on prior occasions, many, but not all of those who oppose gay marriage are bigots.

(One might say gay couples are entitled to some respect and accommodation through civil unions while offering heterosexual couples special status through marriage because their relationship sustains human life).

While the three mentioned justices expressed some concern and sympathy for the gay residents' plight and in fact suggested that they might have ruled differently had the petitioners asked them to rule on the merits of denying them hospital visitation and the like, the two who joined in a concurring opinion all but vowed to deny gay couples any kind of relief. One group of justices tried to be understanding; the other was openly hostile towards gays. The three who signed onto the plurality were entitled to some deference and respect. The two who signed onto the concurring opinion deserve no such respect from the larger gay community.

More on Gay Marriage Loss In Washington

"This was a God moment. I don't want anyone to think otherwise," said Ken Hutcherson, pastor at Antioch Bible Church in Redmond. "No one expected this court to rule this way." - Reverend Ken Hutcherson.

Comment: As was 9-11? Mr. Reverend Hutcherson should be careful when he attributes to God actions taken by people, for there is no limiting principle that will guide us into knowing what can be and what can't be attributed to this god that he speaks of.

"We are not against homosexuals; we are for marriage." - Jeff Kemp of Families Northwest.
Comment: Well, for heterosexual marriages and that means that Mr. Kemp considers any pain or hurt such exclusion imposes upon gays and lesbians is of no consequence.

"It's time we had a discussion around the state about whether it makes sense to have an intermediate step, and that would be civil unions," - Lisa Stone of the Northwest Women's Law Center.

Comment: Now you push for civil unions - that is, now that gay Washingtonians lost their quest for marriage. That is, after the two theoconservative ideologues on the Supreme Court signed onto a concurring opinion that only a self-loathing gay won't find insulting. Those who push for civil union or domestic partnership legislation now do so from a point of weakness. Had they first proposed this step before they pushed for marital equality they might have succeeded by scaring enough swing voting politicians who wanted to appear gay tolerant.

Well, if there is one thing gay Washingtonians won for themselves it is another talking point in the battle over a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage: "We lost and we will continue to lose so why bother? The conservatives don't like us. The moderates hide from us and the liberals distance themselves from us."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Judicial Overeach from Some in the Gay Community Again.

"All parties agree that the legislature has the authority to define marriage within constitutional limits. However, we note that the record is replete with examples as to how the definition of marriage negatively impacts gay and lesbian couples and their children. The plaintiffs and their amici have clearly demonstrated that many day-to-day decisions that are routine for married couples them in a myriad of laws and policies such as those surrounding medical conditions (e.g., the right to be present in the hospital and to help make difficult decisions), probate (e.g., the right to inherit property), and health insurance (e.g., the ability to obtain coverage for a spouse through employment policies). Many local governments and businesses have recognized the difficulties facing same-sex couples and, nationally, many leading companies provide for equivalent work benefit packages for gay and lesbian employees. As discussed above, however,
the plaintiffs expressly requested that this court not consider whether denial of statutory rights and obligations to same-sex couples that apply to married couples violates the state or federal constitution. Thus, our opinion does not address those issues. There may be “more just and humane" ways to further the State’s interests, Murgia, 427 U.S. at 317, but the State has met its burden in demonstrating that DOMA meets the minimum scrutiny required by the constitution. However, given the clear hardship faced by same sex couples evidenced in this lawsuit, the legislature may want to reexamine the impact of the marriage laws on all citizens
of this state." - Washington State Supreme Court ruling.

In other words, they overreached. Which state court will turn gay marrital rights next? California or New Jersey? If the couples' lawyers asked the court to consider the vast hardships gay couples endure at the hands of those who to this day still deny them legal recognition, they might have won themselves civil unions. Justice Barbara Madsen and Chief Justice Gerry Alexander would have voted with the dissenters to recognize on the legal rights generally associated with marriage and voted with the two justices who signed onto a far less accommodating and sympathetic opinion in preserving the hetero-exclusive terminology.

The activists ruined it for us in liberal New York and conservative Tennessee. They now gave the religious right a boost in liberal Washington and I believe, shortly, in liberal New Jersey and liberal California.

Why not focus on civill union legislation for now?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Time Magazine: New Immigration Reform Proposal

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-texas) and Representative Mike Pence (R-Indiana) will, according to Mike Allen of Time Magazine, unveil their compromise immigration reform measure that includes some elements from the Bush plan and some proposals conservatives would find appealing. The details can be found here and it is hoped more information will be released within the coming days.

Businesses which hire these legal guest workers should be required to pay into the hospital contribution fund and the proposal to encourage guest workers to return to their home country when their time runs out by returning their social security contributions should be considered.

However, one thing above all else must be addressed - border security. If the president can, as Mike Allen says he might under this proposal, unilaterally declare the borders secure after two years, immigration control can be seriously undermined. Delaying tactics might be employed. Strict guidelines should be met before administrative officials can say the borders are secured. The temporary guest worker program should not be enacted until a nearly insurmountable wall separating Mexico from the United States is constructed (or at least such construction is underway and in the meantime supplemented with hundreds of thousands of troops guarding the border).

From what Mike Allen says, the bill does not provide illegal aliens now residing within the United States with a "pathway toward citizenship." While illegal aliens can be given a pardon for their crime against the United States and offered as a gesture of our own good will the chance to sign up for the guest worker program, no illegal alien should be given a chance to gain the citizenship that others others who have applied for through the normal process were denied.

UN Humanitarian Chief: Hizbollah, no Israel, no Hizbollah is to blame?

. "I heard they were proud because they lost very few fighters and that it was the civilians bearing the brunt of this. I don't think anyone should be proud of having many more children and women dead than armed men." - UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland in Cyprus.

"Consistently, from the Hizbullah heartland, my message was that Hizbullah must stop this cowardly blending ... among women and children." - UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland.

Mr. Egeland recently criticized Israel which he considers its "disproportionate" response to Hizbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers. The UN humanitarian chief said it is a "violation of international humanitarian law" because its attacks lead to the death of innocent Lebanese civilians. But how can he attack the Israelis for these deaths when he simultaneously blames Hizbollah for hiding among innocent Lebanese women and children?

What, therefore did the Israelis do wrong? Relatiate against those who crossed over into Israel from Lebanon and killed several Israeli soldiers before taking two as hostages? Would the UN humanitarian chief have the Israelis let this flagrant violation of its territorial integrity and its citizenry go unpunished?

Shaba Farms

Was this war started to reacquire the Israeli occupied Syrian territory known as the Shaba Farms?
Did Syria encourage Hizbollah to fight for this reason?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Time Off

The Political Heretic will be taking a brief three-day hiatus and will return to normal blogging on Monday, July 24. The Dan Asmussen cartoons published this weekend will be linked to on Friday along with the latest batch. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

President's Stem Cell Veto

In his first veto since he took office five years ago, President George W. Bush rejected a bill that would have loosened funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The president said he could not support, as this bill does, "the taking of innocent life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others."

Like his "pro-life" activist supporters, the president believes that human life begins at the moment of conception. Since the stem cell cannot be removed for study without destroying the embryo, "pro-life" activists say the embryo's right to life is violated.

Mr. Bush compromised with stem cell research supporters by a funding research on a line for stem cells derived from embryos that were previously destroyed. In theory anyway, the president could say he was not encouraging the destruction of embryos since the act of "taking the innocent life" was employed before federal funds were distributed.

In reality, Democrats who want to make this a campaign issue can draft a compromise bill that loosens funding restrictions on stem cells derived from embryos that were recently destroyed and force the president to either sign onto legislation that follows the prinicple applied during the first compromise or reverse course and put a hault to all future research.

While the president and his "pro-life" activist backers would say that such a compromise would further encourage the embryonic research they wish to discourage by offering the hope of new lines once embryos are destroyed, such legislation would substantially weaken their main argument - that it supports the taking of life in order to help others obtain medical benefits.

In reality, no such conflict in rights exists. The fate of these embryos which activists on both sides of this political issue are fighting over was already determined. Most, if not all, will be discarded because few would make a claim to them. They were purposesly created in excess through IVF with hope that at most one or two of any given set would grow up into a baby girl or boy. Their destruction was, is, and will be a foregone conclusion so long as IVF and other unnatural birth techniques are employed.

But, as I said here, the "pro-life" activists' argument suffers from another defect - that the embryo's life interest equals if not trumps the interest a disease-afflicted patient has to be cured. Opponents say these embryos are humans and consequently must be afforded the dignity given to any other human. They rely
in part upon what is by now generally accepted as a given and and a questionable assumption.

"Pro-life" activists say life begins at conception and if by life we mean that the creation and growth of a new living organism they are right. The zygote has its own DNA structure, one that differs from that of the both parents and if it is given time would develop unimpeded it will grow into a human being with two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, a nose, a four-chambered heart, and the capacity to add, subtract, do algebraic formulas, speak English or any other language, and think critically.

But the embryos are not frozen early within the development process - long before it acquires the capacity to suffer or for that matter, enjoy life. It is destroyed of frozen when the embryo is a blastocyst, a ball of 40-50 undifferentiated cells and cavity arranged into the inner cells that will later develop into fetal tissue and organs and the outer cells which will develop into the placenta. It lacks a nervous system that would give it the capacity to react to and respond to its surroundings through taste, touch, sight, or sound. I

In sum, the blastocyst has no means to enjoy its life or suffer. It has no interest in living or dying. The frozen embryo's growth process can be put on hold by freezing them and re-started at a whim (which is ultimately why the "pro-life" activists believe frozen embryos are not dead), a feature that makes its situation comparable to that of a virus that functions like a parasitic organism.

Compare that to the terminally ill 12 year old suffering from tay sachs disease and suddenly loses his or her ability to move his arms and legs. Compare the embryo's situation to that of the person who suffers from Parkinson's disease or alzheimers disease. Compare that to the person who suffers from malignant cancer.

Someone is bound to suffer from these and other diseases. Stem cell research may one day lead us to a cure for some, all, or none of these and other diseases or it may lead us towards a means to alleviate the suffering associated with them. We don't know but the potential gains are real and will be appreciated by those afflicted with these diseases.

Yesterday the president, adhering to some mistaken principles, voted to deprive scientists of the means to one day alleviate the suffering of real people to protect the "rights" of those who are not even cognizant enough to appreciate and acknowlege their own existence.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

George F. Will on Neoconservative Democratic Nation-Building

George F. Will goes after the neoconservatives' Wilsonian penchant for "making the world safe for democracy" and does so by touting the obvious. The administration's plans did not turn out as they expected.

You get the drift. So, the Weekly Standard says:

"We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? That the current regime will negotiate in good faith? It would be easier to act sooner rather than later. Yes, there would be repercussions -- and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement."

"Why wait?" Perhaps because the U.S. military has enough on its plate in the deteriorating wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which both border Iran. And perhaps because containment, although of uncertain success, did work against Stalin and his successors, and might be preferable to a war against a nation much larger and more formidable than Iraq. And if Bashar Assad's regime does not fall after the Weekly Standard's hoped-for third war, with Iran, does the magazine hope for a fourth?

As for the "healthy" repercussions that the Weekly Standard is so eager to experience from yet another war: One envies that publication's powers of prophecy but wishes it had exercised them on the nation's behalf before all of the surprises -- all of them unpleasant -- that Iraq has inflicted. And regarding the "appeasement" that the Weekly Standard decries: Does the magazine really wish the administration had heeded its earlier (Dec. 20, 2004) editorial advocating war with yet another nation -- the bombing of Syria?

Neoconservatives have much to learn, even from Buddy Bell, manager of the Kansas City Royals. After his team lost its 10th consecutive game in April, Bell said, "I never say it can't get worse." In their next game, the Royals extended their losing streak to 11 and in May lost 13 in a row.

1. The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon led to a coalition government that includes an armed terrorist organization that is allowed to roam free near Israel. Syrian troops pull out of Lebanon as demanded, letting Hizbollah do what it wants. A new ally in the war on terror? Hardly.

2. The Iraqi Revolution has led to inter-state fighting and terrorist activities that have led to many deaths. Kurds, Turkomens, Sunnis, and Shi'ites battle for the Kirkuk oil fields and freedom in the north. Sunnis and Shi'ite militias battle over control in non-Kurdish populated Iraq while al Qaeda foreigners and domestic supporters use Iraq as a new battlefield to attack American-led forces. A new ally in the war on terror? Nope.

3. We rightfully push the Israelis and Palestinians towards a peace process but then push for democratization within the Palestinian territories. That backfires and the people vote into power Hamas, a terrorist organization that vows to destroy Israel. More like a new ally for Iran's War on Terror on the United States.

4. Democratization push in Ukraine is relatively successful because the Ukrainian people fought for it.

When will the administration get it? Democratic governments do not inevitably make those nations less prone to warfare or make them more pro-American. Some democratic nations to be sure do support us - Austrailia, the European nations, Canada, India, and Israel but our allies in the war against terror include those whom we'd like to associate with least - Mubarak's Egypt, Musharraf's Pakistan, Hussein's Jordan, the Sheiks' Saudi Arabia, the inept and corrupt and now severely discredited PLO, and the tyrants now running Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Do we really want to give the Islamic extremists who oppose us in whatever we do a chance to win power through elections where they have a built-in political advantage?

The Cease Fire

In response to international concerns that the Israelie-Hizbollah war may widen, and lead to the collapse of the Lebanese government, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and UN Secretary General Kofi Anan said they would back a proposal to send an international peace force into the region to put an end to the fighting that plagued Israeli and Lebanese citizens alike.

The peace force would in theory anyway, be charged with the enforcement of an agreed upon cease fire which would be enacted once Hizbollah returns the two Israeli soldiers it took hostage earlier this month. Hizbollah forces, which have no intention to disarm as required by UN Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680 so the peace keeping force would be forced to forcibly remove Hizbollah or content itself with a compromise in which Hizbollah retreats to a position further north.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice , may go to the Middle East next week to call for a cease fire before any futher casualties or damage to Lebanon's infrastructure causes its government to collapse. Once she commits to a day or weak, the political dynamic will turn in Hizbollah's favor. The Israelis, for good reason, seek to wipe Hizbollah out but the terrorist organization need only wait them out.

No international peace force, whether authorized to or not, will force Hizbollah since to disarm since it would be constituted precisely to minimize Lebanon's losses by enforcing a cease-fire. Any attempt to forcibly disarm Hizbollah would require the very ground offensive some in conservative forces now urge Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to consider.

Hizbollah, the organization that started this war, ironically may offer everyone who seeks it the only way out. By releasing the Israeli troops unconditionally and withdrawing its troops further north, it offers the Israelis a grace-saving way out of a war that may cause it to destroy Lebanon that will fuel anti-Israeli hatred and the United States a way to save its one fragile "success" story without denying its members the chance to fight another day.

The Israelis would claim they pushed Hizbollah further north, depriving them of the means to shell Israeli cities with the missiles they currently have. The Lebanese would be get to rebuild what the Israelis shelled and the Arab governments which moderated the cease-fire agreement would have deprived Iran and Syria a regional war that may exacerbate the anti-establishment attitudes growing within their own countries.

In turn Hizbollah would minimize the political damage it inflicted upon itself and win the chance to cast itself as the moderate party that is willing to cut its losses. It would claim that Israel started the war by bombing the civilian targets its soldiers hide behind while merely leveling the playing field by capturing the very people it needed to trade hostages.

No cease-fire that allows Hizbollah to maintain its army will solve Israel and Lebanon's problems. An army that is pushed back far enough to deny it a chance to raid Israel with its short distance missiles may at one time acquire the long-range missiles it could use from a position further back. The militia and its sponsors in Syria and Iran will in the future still call the shots, deciding when and how to start their regional war and this time.

Ironically, the international peace force that is sent to enforce a cease fire will provide Hizbollah with the means to continue its attacks. An army that separates Hizbollah and Israel would deprive the counterattacking forces of the means to launch a ground offensive. Israel's attacks would be confined to the bombing raids that could weaken but cannot not cripple Hizbollah - an option that it can take now.

However much it may want to preserve Lebanon's government, it should delay Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's trip to the Middle East for two or three more weeks and give the Israelis the time it needs to launch a counteroffensive using ground troops. No international peace force will have the will to fight Hizbollah on the very lands it was sent to preserve from Israel's bombings and no permanent and just peace can be enforced with Hizbollah's army still in tact.

The Worst Result for a Cease Fire

"It follows that the only satisfactory outcome to the conflict would be a decisive defeat for those extremist forces. Should Hamas and Hezbollah fail militarily, Arab democrats and those who favor the creation of a peaceful Palestine alongside Israel would see the removal of their largest obstacle, while the pernicious influence of Iran and Syria in the region would be curtailed.

The worst result would be that suggested yesterday by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki following consultations with his allies in Damascus: "a cease-fire followed by a prisoner swap." Such an outcome would legitimize the terrorist operations by Hamas and Hezbollah that began the conflict and further empower their rogue military organizations at the expense of the Lebanese government and the Palestinian Authority. It would restore Syrian influence in Lebanon and grant Tehran the ability to ignite a new Middle East conflagration at its convenience. "- editorial in The Washington Post

The G8 Statement on the War Against Hizbollah

Middle East

St. Petersburg, July 16, 2006

"Today, we the G-8 Leaders express our deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure. We are united in our determination to pursue efforts to restore peace. We offer our full support for the UN Secretary General's mission presently in the region.

The root cause of the problems in the region is the absence of a comprehensive Middle East peace.

The immediate crisis results from efforts by extremist forces to destabilize the region and to frustrate the aspirations of the Palestinian, Israeli and Lebanese people for democracy and peace. In Gaza, elements of Hamas launched rocket attacks against Israeli territory and abducted an Israeli soldier. In Lebanon, Hizbollah, in violation of the Blue Line, attacked Israel from Lebanese territory and killed and captured Israeli soldiers, reversing the positive trends that began with the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, and undermining the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.

These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict. The extremists must immediately halt their attacks.

It is also critical that Israel, while exercising the right to defend itself, be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions. We call upon Israel to exercise utmost restraint, seeking to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and damage to civilian infrastructure and to refrain from acts that would destabilize the Lebanese government.

The most urgent priority is to create conditions for a cessation of violence that will be sustainable and lay the foundation for a more permanent solution. This, in our judgment, requires:

  • - The return of the Israeli soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon unharmed;
  • - An end to the shelling of Israeli territory;
  • - An end to Israeli military operations and the early withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza;
  • - The release of the arrested Palestinian ministers and parliamentarians.

The framework for resolving these disputes is already established by international consensus.

In Lebanon, UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1680 address the underlying conditions that gave rise to this crisis. We urge the UN Security Council to develop a plan for the full implementation of these resolutions.

We extend to the Government of Lebanon our full support in asserting its sovereign authority over all its territory in fulfillment of UNSCR 1559. This includes the deployment of Lebanese Armed Forces to all parts of the country, in particular the South, and the disarming of militias. We would welcome an examination by the UN Security Council of the possibility of an international security/monitoring presence.

We also support the initiation of a political dialogue between Lebanese and Israeli officials on all issues of concern to both parties. In addition, we will support the economic and humanitarian needs of the Lebanese people, including the convening at the right time of a donors conference.

In Gaza, the disengagement of Israel provided an opportunity to move a further step toward a two state solution under the Road Map. All Palestinian parties should accept the existence of Israel, reject violence, and accept all previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap. For its part, Israel needs to refrain from unilateral acts that could prejudice a final settlement and agree to negotiate in good faith.

Our goal is an immediate end to the current violence, a resumption of security cooperation and of a political engagement both among Palestinians and with Israel. This requires:

- An end to terrorist attacks against Israel;

- A resumption of the efforts of President Abbas to ensure that the Palestinian government complies with the Quartet principles;

- Immediate expansion of the temporary international mechanism for donors established under the direction of the Quartet;

- Israeli compliance with the Agreement on Movement and Access of November 2005 and action on other steps to ease the humanitarian plight of the people of Gaza and the West Bank;

- Resumption of security cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis;

- Action to ensure that the Palestinian security forces comply with Palestinian law and with the Roadmap, so that they are unified and effective in providing security for the Palestinian people;

- Resumption of dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli political officials.

These proposals are our contribution to the international effort underway to restore calm to the Middle East and provide a basis for progress towards a sustainable peace, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. The Quartet will continue to play a central role. The G-8 welcomes the positive efforts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as well as other responsible regional actors to return the region to peace. We look forward to the report of the Secretary General's mission to the Security Council later this week which we believe could provide a framework for achieving our common objectives." - from the official web site.

Why The Israelis Fight

"But the main problem is political. Israel is currently waging the most just war in its history. Not a war of occupation, but rather a war of defense. Not a settlements war, but rather a Green Line war. A war over the validity of an international border that was drawn, defined and recognized by the United Nations. Therefore, anyone who yearns for Israel to withdraw in future from occupied territories to recognized permanent borders must stand by Israel in this war. Anyone who wants peace, stability and an end to the occupation must back up Israel in its just war. The alternative is a violent and hemorrhaging Middle East chaos." - Ari Shavit

Mr. Shavit urges his government to declare a 72 hour cease fire and engage in a public education campaign and embarrass the international community into resolving this crisis in its favor.

"Make it clear that Israel is not an unthinking bully that lashes out in every direction, but rather a responsible, orderly country, which is demanding that a zealous terrorist organization be removed from its border, that it stop threatening the lives of Israel's citizens and that it release the soldiers it kidnapped entirely unprovoked from Israel's sovereign territory. ...

... But, above all, the cease-fire would serve to redefine what is now mistakenly perceived as a savage war between two savage and bloodthirsty tribes. It would serve to make clear to Israel's civilians, to Israel's soldiers and to the international community what we are killing for in this war, and for what we are being killed. We are killing and being killed for our border. We are killing and being killed for our liberty. We are killing and being killed for our very existence as a free society."

Well put. But more precisely they are killing so they could go to their local delicatessen without getting shot at. They are killing so their children can play outside, and go to school to have a better, peaceful future. They are killing so they their 20-30 yr old sons,daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends can go to night clubs in Tel Aviv without getting blown to bits.

French President Jacques Chirac say Israel's attacks were "disproportionate." "Disproportionate?" I don't think so. No country would let an attack upon its citizens go unanswered. Its people would insist upon the release of those it is charged with defending and seek justice for the crime imposed upon its people.

What would the French president do if the citizens of his country were bombed or taken hostage? Would he suggest the course of action used by the Spanish when Madrid is bombed? Would he give up? Would the French people he is charged to defend punish him for retaliating and insist that he give the assailants what they want or would they reward him for it? Does Mr. Chirac think about that? Don't blame if he doesn't; his people do not live under the shadows of those who call for his country's destruction.

While the French and most European governments focus on Israel's retaliatory/pre-emptive (pre-emptive with respect to future attacks), the theomonoarchical Saudi, monarchchical Jordanian and the authoritarian Egyptian regimes blame Hizbollah, Hamas, Syria, and Iran for this crisis. They fear an escalation that benefits Iran and inspires Islamic revolutionaries within their own countries.

Good for them. This shift in policy from countries that once invaded Israel (Egypt and Jordan) and called for its destruction are not only unwilling to join Hamas and Hizbollah in their monstrous crusade, they will distance themselves from it and condemn them even at the risk of angering their pro-Hizbollah subjects.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Weekend Talk Show Preview

The News Making Political Interview Shows

1. Meet The Press: Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) interviewed on the war in Iraq, the standoff over North Korea, and Israel's two front war against Hizbollah and Hamas.

2. Fox News Sunday: (a) Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on whether the reality on the ground in the Middle East and Korean peninsula is undercutting our foreign policy. (b) Senator George Allen (R-Virginia) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut).

3. Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer: Guests include Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Syrian Ambassador to the U.S. Imad Moustapha, Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Pakistani Foreign Minister Kurshood Mahmood Kasuri, Professor of Middle East studies at John Hopkins University Fouad Ajami and the astronauts of space shuttle Discovery. Topics include the ongoing war in Iraq, the latest crisis between Israel, Lebanon, and the Palestinians, the bombing at Bombay in India, and the space shuttle.

4. This Week: Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on the war against Hizbollah and Hamas. Round table discussion with Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts, George F. Will, and Fareed Zakariah. Olympic gymnist Kerri Strug in the voices segment.

5. Face The Nation: The War in the Middle East. Guests include Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Council of Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, Representative Jane Harmon (D-California) of the Select Intelligence Committee, CBS Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan, and CBS Chief White House Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

The Political Talk Shows

1. The Chris Matthews Show: (a) How much the ongoing war in Iraq has deterred the United States from solving the erupting political and military crises in North Korea, Iran, and Lebanon. Then, whether (b) New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is running and can get nominated. Guests include Dan Rather of HDNet, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Katty Kay of the BBC, and David Brooks of The New York Times.

2. Beltway Boys: (1) the role Iran may be playing in turning this Middle East violence into a regional war. (2) Russo-American relationship on display during the G-8 Summit.

3. FoxNews Watch: (a) whether the president is being "re-shaped" by the media, (b) whether the media has taken sides in the latest war between Israel and Hizbollah (c) and a French soccer team player's head butt.

4. Big Story Weekend: A "top Israeli government advisor" is asked if an escalation in the war in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip inevitable and why this crisis is important to the United States.

5. Big Story Primetime: More coverage on the war in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, including a live update and interview with an American tourist now stuck in Lebanon. Other guests include NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, conservative pundit Ann Coulter, and the "juiciest splits" in Hollywood couples.

Feature News Programs

1. Heartland: (a) Secret terror videos and who is behind them. (b) the escalating warfare in the Middle East.

2. Dateline NBC: a former 9-1-1 dispatcher is charged with the murder of her live-in boyfriend and husband after both died from a mysterious illness.

3. 48 Hours: the Marty Tankleff case - a new suspect turns up after son is convicted of murdering his parents.

4. 60 Minutes: employers' efforts to control the health lifestyles (like smoking) of their workers.

5. CBS Sunday Morning: (a) internet sale for those desperate for organs, (b) Almanac segement on the first parking meter installed in the United States, (c) interview with Ken Bruen - a famous prize winning Irish crime novelist, and (d) a repeat segment on the best coffee flavors.

Dan Asmussen

First up, Kobayashi defuses the missile crisis in North Korea. Then, Osama bin Laden defends Star Jones while Bush complains about how the New York Times' coverage of the avian flu will tip chickens off.

Friday, July 14, 2006

In Support of Israel

Nearly one year has passed since the Israelis did something that the Palestinian peace process started by the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestinian Liberation Army Chairman Yasser Arafat called for - the withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. There have been, to date major setbacks to the now suspended peace process and both parties deserve some of the blame.

PLO Chairman Arafat discredited himself and the moderate wing of the Palestinian liberation movement for good when he not only refused to arrest those implicated in terrorist attacks but allowed armed shipments to enter Palestinian controlled territory. Prime minister after prime minister lost some of their credibility when they backed the ongoing construction of Israeli West Bank settlements near Jerusalem.

But the blame for the latest wave of bombing and counter bombing falls entirely upon the milita groups that took three Israeli soldiers as hostages. No Israeli settlers or troops were occupying the Gaza Strip when Hamas-inspired Palestinian militants tunnelled their way into Israel proper and raided an Israeli watchtower. Two unsuspecting Israeli troops who were merely watching the border were killed, three were wounded and a third taken hostage.

In an ideal world, the Israelis would have given the President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian territories some time to negotiate for the Israeli soldier's release and the militants' peaceful surrender but this is not an ideal world. Mr. Abbas, like his predecessor, has refused to disarm the paramilitary jihadists and nationalists now operating from the formerly occupied territories and had opted to negotiate with them.

Today, however, the Palestinians' Neville Chamberlain for Israel negotiates with Hamas from an even weaker position no doubt because the Palestinians did what our president wants everyone who hates the United States, Israel, or any western ally of ours to do - they voted. Israel's enemies, Hamas, was voted into power in last year's national legislative elections so the Olmert administration could not expect Mr. Abbas, a man who lacked the political will do do something of significance when his party was in power to do anything now that it was booted out of power.

With this in mind, the Israeli offensive into the Gaza Strip was justifiable. No state should be expected to let an attack upon its citizenry, its troops, and its sovereignty go by unanswered. Soldiers may be killed in the battlefield but no on expects them to be attacked in a surprise attack when the two parties are not in war. The Palestinian militants intentionally crossed into Israel's internationally recognized sovereign territory and attacked those charged to defend it.

The president has publicly backed the Israelis to date but have called for restraint. They have acted with restraint, first in waiting for nearly a year before waging a comprehensive attack and then in warning the at-risk residents to seek cover.

Isreali toops first moved their troops into the southern portion of the Gaza Strip. They set up camp at an unused airport and sought to isolate Rafah (where the militants came from) from Egypt, Israel, and the rest of the Gaza Strip. Further attacks were directed at Hamas' political offices, and the power plant.

They quartered their troops in Palestinian homes while they continued their search for Palestinian militants. To minimize collateral damage and civilian deaths, they warned Palestinians to seek cover in spite of any risk that such a warning would trickle down to militants.

No doubt there will be accusations of human rights violations. Even a well-disciplined army that generally treats the civilians under its occupied territory will have its rogues. Such conduct, if in deed it does occur, must of course be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the war. But this should not detract from Israel's right and responsibility to defend itself, its people, and any foreigners legally visiting or residing within it.

These same principle of self-defense applies to its war in southern Lebanon. Though it, unlike the Palestinian territories, is an internationally recognized sovereign state, its leadership has failed to disarm the terrorists now operating at the Israeli-Lebanese border. Since its inception, Hizbollah had been fighting for Israel's destruction. The terrorist organization, without provocation from Israel, joined Hamas in common cause by kidnapping two Israeli troops.

Again, in an ideal world the Israelis would have given the Lebanese some time to neogiate for the surrender of Hizbollah militants and the release of the two Israeli hostages they took in retaliation (and perhaps egged on by Iran and Syria) for Israel's justified raid into the Gaza Strip. But the Lebanese government, like the Palestinian one, had not acted.

Hizbollah maintains a seat within Beirut's government and negotiations for its surrender of arms have broken down because it refuses to give up its control over Southern Lebanon. They receive their military and economic support from the Iranians (and before the Syrians were pushed out of Lebanon, from them too).

They have bombed an airport which can be used to fly the hostages to Iran and Syria, roads that could be used to ship them to other countries, a Hizbollah radio station headquarters and Hizbollah offices. Those who think this would not justify Israel's response should answer the question Senator Barbara Boxer posed on Larry King earlier this week:

"My goodness think about what would happen, how would we respond? How would we respond if our soldiers were in the homeland and nabbed and kidnapped? We would use everything at our disposal and that's why this is so dangerous."

Claims that Israelis are collectively punishing the innocent with the criminals also are not credible. Governments speak for their people when they are chosen by them. A voting public that votes terrorists into office have no problem dealing with them.. The Palestinian people, for whatever reason, have opted to at best overlook and at worst support Hamas' continued attacks upon Israeli civilians. They should not be surprised by the Israelis' decision to respond in kind by overlooking the misfires that result in the death of "innocent" Palestinian citizens. If the Palestinians, who have by now have proven themselves to be an unreliable peace partner, will vote for terrorists, the Israelis have no choice but to vote for a war on terrorism.

The same principle applies with respect to Lebanon. While the government has done everything rhetocially to distance itself from this egregiously irresponsible and deplorable act conducted by Hizbollah, it has done nothing to stop Hizbollah. No calls were made to force the one Hizbollah member of Lebanon's cabinet to resign and the negotiations for its surrender of arms have broken down because the paramilitary organization refuses to give up its control over Southern Lebanon. Hizbollah continues to receive their military support from the Syrians and Iranians - two regimes that are openly hostile to the United States and Israel.

The Israeli government says it will not back down until Corporal
Galid Shalit is returned. This may not happen. For all we know, he may die, either at the hands of the terrorists that now hold him captive or an Israeli bomb that kills them. But they have every right and every future expectation to insist upon it and of course, Hizbollah's withdrawal from southern Lebanon. If the Lebanese cannot control its southern borders and comply with its obligation to respect Israel's borders and its people by disarming Hizbollah, the Israeli forces have the right and obligation to do it for them. It cannot sit by and let the terrorists attacks go by unanswered. We didn't sit back when Afghan-backed terrorists hijacked four planes to crash into New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As an alternative, tHamas, last week suggested a trade - a trade that was again proposed by Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador to the United States, on Larry King Live this week.

"What is happening today in the Middle East is the following: The Palestinians have one Israeli soldier, and the Hezbollah has two Israeli soldiers. Israel has 9,000 plus Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners. What they want is fair and square. They want an exchange.

This has happened before. Israel has twice engaged with the Hezbollah in prisoner exchange. Hezbollah wants to free their prisoners, the Lebanese prisoners taken by Israel. And the Palestinians want to free, to exchange the soldier, the military soldier that was taken with the thousands of kids, women and Palestinian prisoners that were abducted by Israel.

I think this is a very fair deal. Please do remember, Lebanese and Palestinian human beings are equal to Israeli human beings."

With all due respect (and perhaps none is due), the Lebanese and Palestinian human beings which he seeks to trade for the Israeli soldiers are not equal. The militants apparently will release three soldiers who did nothing to justify their imprisonment if the Israelis release those who in the past and perhaps in the future would join in attack upon their country.

No reward should be given to those who engage in blatant acts of terrorism. The president, while publicly backing Israel, is negotiating behind the scenes because it understandably does not want the Lebanese government to collapse. But it cannot expect Israel to back down if Hizbollah is not forced to disarm.

It must use these forced negotiations to once again impress upon our allies why Iran should be denied any chance of acquiring nuclear weapons or any other weapon that it could possibly sell to Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, or any other anti-American and anti-Western terrorist organization. The Bush administration can ask for a demilitarized zone in southern Lebanon would be enforced by either NATO or United Nations troops and the treat of cruiser missile strikes at Syria and Lebanon when they do not comply.

In the meantime, the United Nations Security Council must back economically and politically painful sanctions on Syria and Iran until their administrations are toppled by more responsible leaders.

Gaza and Palestinian Timeline

The Guardian offers terrific coverage, including this flashpoint timeline, that starts with the raid upon an Israeli watchtower located within Israel proper.

1. Palestinian gunmen tunnel their way from Rafah, Gaza Strip to the region surrounding Karem Salom. They kill two Israeli soldiers, wound three and take one, Corporal Galid Shalit, as a hostage while attacking a military watchtower and armored vehicles. Two Palestinian gunmen died in the raid.

2. June 28: Israelis respond through military force. They bomb three bridges and the electricity power station. Israeli tanks invade the Gaza Strip, seize an unused airport, and seal Rafah off from Israel, Egypt, and the rest of the Gaza Strip.

3. Israelis then bomb offices used by Hamas,' government officials, bridges, and a power plant near Gaza City.

(Hamas is a paramilitary terrorist organization that vows to fight for Palestine's independence and Israel's destruction. To date they do not recognize and have vehemently opposed, Israel's right to exist and the peace process leading to Palestine's independence. Their slate of candidates won control over the occupied territories' legislative body in last year's Palestinian elections).

4. July 3: Israeli troops move in to Beit Hanoun and quarter their troops in Palestinian homes.

5. July 4: The 6 am deadline for Hamas' demand for a trade (release of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of Corporal Shalit) passes "without incident."

6. Palestinians launched missile strikes into Ashkelon, an Israeli town 10 miles up the coast.

7. Israelis respond by seizing abandoned Israeli settlements near Beit Lahiya in the northeastern corner of the Gaza Strip. Their stated intention is to create a buffer zone to deny Palestinians access to Ashkelon among other Israeli cities and towns. Death count by end of day: 17 Palestinians and 1 Israeli.

8. Hizbollah militants based in Lebanon seize an Israeli soldier and kill eight.

9. July 12: Israelis attack Lebanon in pursuit. They bomb militant positions as well as roads and bridges Hizbollah might use to transfer their hostage further north.

10. July 13 events in no particular order.

a. July 13: Israelis bomb the international airport located in Lebanon's capital, Beirut and threaten to blockade Lebanon by air and sea. (The Israeli administration blames the Lebanonese government for its failure to disarm Hizbollah and patrol its own borders, as well as Iran and Syria for the support they give to Hizbollah).

b. July 13: Hizbollah guerrillas launch missiles into the northeastern Israeli town of Nahariya, an northwestern Israeli coastal town and Kiryat Schmona, killing 1 and wounding 21. Kiryat Schmona is located in northeastern Israeli.

c. July 13: Overnight Israeli attacks into Lebanon kill at minimum 22 people. 60 Palestinians, including 14 civilians, have been killed (what is not clear is whether these 60 were killed on this one day or if this is the mounting total from when the strikes began in June).

11. July 14 Events in no Particular order

a. Israelis bomb the Beirut airport for a third time, a Hizbollah TV station, and several Hizbollah airports. The Jiyyeh power station, Beirut's southern residential zone, and targets in the Bekaa Valley, and the main road leading into Damascus, Syria are hit as well.

b. Hizbollah missile launching count since July 13: 200 into the heavily populated Israeli city of Haifa, Hatzor, and Nahariya again.

c. Death count: 60 Lebanonese, 2 Israelis.

d. The latest from The Jerusalem Post: 100 Hizbollah rockets launched into
Nahariya, Safed, Hatzor, Yesod Ha'ma'ala, Bar'am, Kiryat Shmona, Mahanayim, Horfesh, Biranit, Meron, Ma'alot, Matat, near Rosh Pina, Sasa, Karmiel, Pki'in, Misgav Am, Metula, Beit Hillel, Shar Yishuv and near Kibbutz Hagoshrim and Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch kill 2 and wound 50.

e. While the Europeans condemn Israel for its "disproportionate" use of force, the Syrian administration said it is "not interested in joining the battle" which the Saudis refer to as "uncalculated adventures." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak apparently told an Egyptian president he worked out a cease-fire deal which Hizbollah backed out of at a "third party's" suggestion - Iran? Interesting. Those that usually blame Israel for any attack are once again blaming Israel and those which usually back Israel are of course supporting it now. And the usual negotiators (President Mubarak of Egypt, King Hussein of Jordan, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) caught in the middle are once again caught in the middle.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Massachusetts Gay Marriage Amendment Vote

“They will absolutely vote their conscience because there’s no campaign issue or no election in front of them” - State Rep. Thomas Sannicandro as quoted in The Boston Herald

Gay marriage advocates won themselves a reprieve when the state legislature decided to postpone their vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage until November 9 - two days after Massachusetts residents would have gone to the polls to vote for their state legislators.

Amendment supporters believe they had the minimal 50 votes needed in the first session and the opponents, fearing that, think the delay would buy them more time to pressure enough legislators to kill the amendment. Legislators who might otherwise be pressured into voting for a popular initiative may may now, as State Reprsentative Thomas Sannicandro (D) suggests, be free to "vote their conscience" without any repercussions. Likewise, Democrats who were inclined to vote for the propsoed amendment would now be allowed to do so without inviting a primary challenge led by gay marriage supporters.

Massachussetts residents would vote on the proposed amendment if it wins the backing of 50 legislators in a second constitutional convention held in 2007.

Residents have voted overwhelmingly to ban gay marriage in every state where a vote on a proposed constitutional amendment was conducted. While most barred the states and their subdivisions from granting homosexual families any legal recognition of their unions short of marriage (generally referred to as civil unions and domestic partnerships) the one proposed here would allow the state as a whole and/or its local subdivisions to pass civil union and domestic partnership legislation.

(This support for a narrower ban has less to do with their concern for any harm imposed upon gay couples and more to do with their desire to win over those legislators and voters who might otherwise reject a broader ban. Most anti-gay activists rejected the last proposed amendment since it mandated recognition of gay civil unions).

The 100 state legislators who voted to postpone its consideration for the proposed constitutional amendment took the cowardly way out, denying their constituents a chance to see how they would vote on this hotly debated issue. For those of us who believe this amendment is designed to insult and demean gay people (and this blogger counts himself among those who take this view), this should have been a no-brainer. The state's legislators should have resoundedly voted to send this amendment to the trash can. That anyone would vote for it is a travesty. But Massachussetts' assemblymen and senators didn't vote against it today. Their vote for self-preservation trumped their moral obligation to stand up for our rights. Those too gutless to stand up for our dignity when it counts are no better or deserving of our support than those who openly spit in our face.

Likewise, those who want Massachussetts' constitutional amended to conform with their religious beliefs have every reason to be offended by today's votes. These religiously motivated voters believe their god condemns gay unions so the legislators who voted to delay further debate until November 8 defied their god in the name of political expediency.

Bellweather friends like these should not be returned to office.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

North Korea's Missile Test

Last month two former high-ranking officials within the Clinton administration's Defense Department suggested that we strike North Korea's Taepodong 2 missile before it could be launched. They said we should not allow a nation which is openly hostile to the United States the opportunity to perfect a missile that can potentially deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States.

The Bush administration did not take their advice and for now that was probably the right choice. Yesterday, the North Koreans conducted a missile test, launching six short-range scud missiles, but the one long-range intercontinental Taepodong 2 missile that was designed to reach Alaska and the Californian coast, fell into the Sea of Japan without completing stage one. Their missiles cannot reach our shores yet, so the United States can wait until we can win over the support from North Korea's neighbors. Their cooperation would be needed if any political and economic sanctions are going to be effective into getting North Korea into compliance with our demands. China is North Korea's chief patron and supplier of food.

The South Koreans have promised to give North Korea a continual flow of nuclear energy from one of its facilities in return for its promise to forego its nuclear weapons and comply with a given inspection regime. Its citizens would bare the brunt of any North Korean retaliatory strikes, so the United States must guarantee their protection before conducting any military strike against the North Norea.

If North Korea fails to comply or seriously negotiate away its nuclear weapons program, they may sign onto stringent economic and political sanctions and if that doesn't bring the government into compliance, they may reluctantly support a comprehensive U.S. military strike.

Some former Clinton administration officials, most prominent among them being former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, have urged Mr. Bush to re-open its talks with the North Korean regime. No such renewed diplomatic effort is warranted. Our negotiating position is weak. The Chinese and Russians have not yet signed onto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning North Korea for its missile test and have yet to support any American-led effort to bring the North Koreans into compliance and Pyongyang has no incentive to bargain away their one and only bargaining tool. There is no reason to believe they will give their nuclear weapons program up and every reason they will use it to win new concessions from its neighbors and the United States. One need only look back to the approach developed by the Clinton administration.

It tried to negotiate with the North Koreans but failed. The Clinton administration promised to build, with some financial backing from South Korea and Japan, two lightwater nuclear reactors for North Korea if it promised to give up its nuclear weapons program and comply with United Nations weapons inspectors. When they failed to comply, the United States wisely backed out.

The Bush administration must renew its efforts to isolate North Korean until it complies with our demands for denuclearlization. It should exert whatever pressure it can on the South Koreans, Russians, and Chinese to win the backing it needs for stronger economic and political sanctions.

For now, they have more to lose from North Korea's cold war antics than we do since Pyongyang's missiles can reach their but not our shores. Any land war will hurt the South Koreans more than it would hurt us. Seoul and Toykyl can be pummeled by missile attacks. Los Angeles, Washington, and New York will not. Refugees from North Korea will smuggle their way into China and Russia before they will reach our shores. But that may one day change. The North Korean regime may one day decide to sell its nuclear weapons and nuclear information to the highest bidder - be it a terrorist, another third world country, or a known terrorist-sponsoring state and one day they may successfully launch a taepodong 2 missile that can reach our shores.

The day we we reach the breaking point - that is, that point in time when North Korea's nuclear technology will force us to weigh our security concerns of a North Korean strike against their (China's South Korea's, Japan's and Russia's) concern of a second, far bloodier and regionally destabilizing Korean war - all bets are off and what the president declined to consider at this point in time he or his successors may need to reconsider in the future.