Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gay Rights Victory in New Jersey

New Jersey's gay residents may not be able to marry yet, but their quest for equal recognition advanced significantly when the state's Supreme Court ordered state leglslators to either provide them with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities it gives to married heterosexual couples.

On Thursday, Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill (PDF document) establishing civil unions for gay couples, making New Jersey the third state to offer gay couples recognition via civil unions. Vermont and Connecticut tprovide their gay couples the right to enter into a civil union.

While gay couples and the political organizations backing them failed to win their state's recognition of gay unions as marriages, they did gain all of the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that go with it. New Jersey's civil union law grants civil union partners "the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under law, whether they derive from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as granted to spouses in a marriage." All laws concerning domestic relationships, including those concerning annulments, premarital agreements, separation, divorce, child custody,and spousal support. Like married heterosexula couples, gay civil union couples would be covered by victim's compensation benefits, laws relating to emergency and nonemergency medical care, hospital visitation and notification, family leave, Work First New Jersey benefits, state tax benefits and deductions provided to married couples, home ownership rights, spousal name changes, laws relating to title and survivorship, and laws concerning causes of action related to spousal status (wrongful death, etc).

Just as significantly, the restrictions imposed upon married heterosexuals would be applied to gay couples involved in civil unions. No gay can enter into a civil union with another person if he or she is committed to another person in a cil union and no gay can enter into a civil union with a brother, sister, ancestor or anyone who is related by full or half blood. Gays alone could register for civil union status and while those who have registered for the domestic partnership status established by the domestic partnership act signed into law by former Governor James McGreevey, the halfway measure will now only be provided to senior citizens who do not want to marry or remarry. Gay couples, in the future would be required to register for a civil union if they want benefits.

Gay couples in other words, will be required to live by the same standards as straight couples. They may either make the ultimate commitment through (in their case) a civil union for the benefits that go with it or forgo on the benefits. No halfway "domestic partnership" option will be granted to new gay couples. The state was required to grant gay couples equal treatment. It went further by taking it upon itself to assert its equal interest in preserving gay couples' families.

New Jersey's gay residents no doubt are disappointed. Many hoped for a Supreme Court ruling mandating the state recognition of gay unions as marriages. Their disappointment is understandable but progress on civil rights takes time. Emancipation from slavery did not lead to racial integration over night. Gains made after the civil war were lost after Union troops left. The fight for racial integration would continue way into the mid-20th century. The Supreme Court only recently heard two such challenges involving school districts combatting racism through forced integration.

Woman suffragists gained the constitutional right to vote in 1919 but equal access up the corporate ladder and equal legal treatment took time.

Prudence dictated this outcome, just as it dictated the outcomes reached above. Positions deemed moderate today seemed radical then, so efforts to grant full equal treatment would have set back the cause for the modest but significant changes achieved then.

Had the New Jersey couples won their argument, those who oppose gay rights would have rallied behind a popular constitutional amendment designed to overturn the court's ruling as they have effectively done in liberal Massachussetts. In two weeks' that state's legislators once again would be confronted with a dilemma - vote for a popular constitutional amendment overturning its court's enligthened decision or block a vote on an issue they may constitutionally be required to make (either by rejecting or granting voters the right to make this decision).

In New Jersey that rallying cry was denied. Gay couples were not given the right to marry. They could and should settle for this compromise legislation that grants them everything they wanted in all but name and wait for the day when New Jersey's voters overcome any prejudicial anti-gay views they may have.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Weekend Cartoons

First, Dan Asmussen:

Santa Claus stirs up some controversy with his "Axis of Naughty" speech while pink X-mas tree testifies about its nightmares at Walmart. Senator John Kerry explains his joke to the Iranians, Syrians and Lebanese while neoconservatives warn us that firing Miss USA would only embolden Miss Al Qaeda.

And then,

1. Dan Wasserman's December 19 cartoon on the president's mistakes in Iraq. Found in The Boston Globe.

2. Jim Morin of The Miami Herald on President Bush's listening tour.

3. Well, this isn't even a cartoon or for that matter, recent but it will do. Don't you wish the other senators would nr do modest? at The Onion.

4. Then, the Duke Rape Case is portrayed as portrayed in The Charlotte Observer.

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS

1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET): special holiday edition on faith in the United States. Guests include Dr. Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life," and editor Jon Meacham of Newsweek. (b) "Meet The Press Minute" with the famed poet Robert Frost 51 years ago. (c) special performance of holiday music from the United States Navy Band Brass Quartet. Host is Tim Russert.

2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET):
(a) interview with Second Lady Lynn Cheney. (b) faith and religion in America during the holiday season - discussion with the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and Billy Graham's daughter. (c) FOX News Panel - FOX News Managing Editor Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, NPR Political Respondent Mara Liasson, and NPR Senior National Correspondent Juan Williams. Host is Chris Wallace.

3. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET):
Interviews with the "top newsmakers of the year" on the best of 2006. Interviews with U.S. President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, General George Casey (commander of the multinational force now in Iraq), Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) of the Foreign Relations Committee, DNC Chairman and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Afghani President Hamid Karzai, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Lynn Cheney (wife of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney), and actor/director George Clooney. Host is Wolf Blitzer.

4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET): (a) Back from The Middle East - Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) on a possible troop surge and the president's admission that we are not winning the war in Iraq. (b) Sunday Exclusive - an interview with incoming United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to talk about the war in Iraq, genocide in Darfur, and his agenda for the United Nations. (c)Voices - former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush on the importance of volunteerism and the Salvation Army's work during the holiday season. (d) Roundtable - George Will of ABC News, Jonathan Karl of ABC News, and Melinda Henneberger of HuffingtonPost.com debate this week's politics. Host is George Stephanopoulos.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:00 AM ET): an exclusive interview with the First Lady, Laura Bush. Host is Bob Schieffer.

II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL INTERVIEW SHOWS

1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET): (a) Bush's agenda - President George W. Bush hinting at troop reinforcements and compromise on domestic issues. (b) Election 2008 - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) is "up." Co-hosts are Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): check back later. (a) Summing up in Iraq - President George W. Bush changing his strategy? (b) Free media publicity - Rosie and Trump. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler, and host Eric Burns.

3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
CNN doesn't offer a preview for this show but the Political Heretic posts this reminder for those who'd like to see it. Host is Howard Kurtz.

4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
2006. (a) A look back - the political highlights and lowlights of 2006. (b) the most significant news event of the year. Panelists to include Dan Rather of HDNet, Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune, Katty Kay of the BBC, and Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC and host Chris Matthews.

III. OTHER WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS

1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET): (a) The Duke Rape case - a former prosecutor weighs in on the charges dropped and those still asserted. (b) expert mixologist on keeping the holiday cheer. check back later. Host is Julie Banderas.

2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET): check back later. Host is John Kasich.

IV. FEATURE NEWS PROGRAMS

1. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 9:00 PM ET):
a special two-hour edition with Barbara Walters. Heaven and how we get there.

2. "48 Hours" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): "Duty, Death, Dishonor." - an American soldier carrying secrets comes home from the war in Baghdad and then disappears. Correspondent for this story is Erin Moriarty.

3. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET): check back later. Host is Charles Osgood.

4. "60 Minutes" (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET):
(a) "Swimming to Antarctica" - Scott Pelley reports on Lynn Cox's latest effort to set a new world record - swimming one mile in the Antarctic in her swimsuit. (b) "Rex" - Leslie Stahl on musical savants whose brain impairments make living a normal life virtually impossible but their musical prowess extraordinary. This is a repeat. (c) "The Orphanage" - Bob Simon reports on the orphanage set up for elephants whose mothers were lost to poachers. This is a repeat. (d) Andy Rooney.


5. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 PM ET):
"After Jesus: The First Christians." - narrated by Liam Neeson.
V. WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT


1. "Law and Order" on NBC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): "Avatar" - crime scene of a slashed soccer mom is posted on the internet, leading to a series of 911 calls that eventually lead the detectives to the actual scene of the crime. The A.D.A. arraigns the suspect, a schizophrenic but further investigation into a social networking site leads them to the real culprit. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief, and Fred Thompson as the district attorney.

2. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET):
Guest host Jack Black with musical guest Neil Young.

3. "Cold Case" on CBS (Sunday at 8:00 PM ET):
"Colors" - Lilly and Jeffries reinvestigate the 1945 murder of baseball player Clyde "The Glide" Taylor who was beaten to death with his own bat. Stars include Kathryn Morris as Lila Rush, Danny Pilo as Scotty Valens, John Finn as John Stillman, Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera, Thom Barry as Willl Jeffries and Tracy Thomas as Kat Miller.

4. "A Very Married Christmas" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 PM ET): husband living an ordinar family life thinks all is well until his wife admits to an affair and desire to divorce. Husband, seeking to cheer himself up, lets a charismatic volunteer sign him up as one of the Santas to greet chidren at the local mall and spends some time with the Santa photographer who is trying to work things out with her estranged spouse. Stars Joe Mantegna as Frank Griffin (the husband), Jean Smart as Ellen Griffin (the wife), Charles Dunning (Ozzie, the charismatic volunteer Santa), and Jordy Benattar as Zoe Griffin (the 8-year old daughter).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

"Lack of Progress"

President George W. Bush isn't thinking of siding with the Shia is he? Or does this mean he will have American troops go after al Qaeda forces in Iraq?

"You got Shia discord in the south; you've got Sunni attacks, much of that -- many of them are caused by al-Qaeda. A lot of them, former Baathists and regimists who are angry that Saddam is no longer in power, and they are a source of conflict in al-Anbar."

The president seems to understate the challenges posed by Iraq's Shia militias and in particular, that led by Moqtada al-Sadr.

Note too the president's interpretation of the election results.

"I think what the people want is -- they want a couple of things. They want to see Democrats and Republicans work together to achieve a common objective, and they want us to win in Iraq. A lot of people understand that if we leave Iraq, there will be dire consequences -- in other words, if we leave before the job is done. There are some, a fair number of people, who say, "Get out now." So I view the election results as people are not satisfied with the progress being made in Iraq and expect to see a different strategy to achieve an important objective."


President Bush may get away with it if only because the Democratic Party did not offer the voting a clear alternative.

Note how many times President George W. Bush undersated the political and military crisis in Iraq:

1. "So I view the election results as people are not satisfied with the progress being made in Iraq and expect to see a different strategy to achieve an important objective."

2. "Look, I've got four constituencies I speak to on a regular basis; one is the American people, who are justifiably frustrated at the progress in Iraq."

3. "Obviously, the war has not -- the results on the ground haven't happened as quickly as I hoped, and part of this review process is to develop new strategies and tactics so that we can expedite success."

4. "People were troubled by the lack of progress. War is difficult for people, particularly the American people are very compassionate people."

5.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Romney and past Gay Rights

Governor Mitt Romney had worked hard to court the Republican Party's theoconservative voting base for the past two years. He challenged his state court's ruling that affirmed his state's gay marriage rights, sought to limit its effect to in-state residents, backed a state constitutional amendment that did not also affirm civil unions, called for a federal constitutional amendment banning states from recognizing gay marriages and just recently, challenging in court the legislature's alleged refusal to vote on the amendment.

The Massachussett's governor figured correctly that he could win the religious conservatives that did not trust in Senator John McCain's commitment to their cause. Arizona's senior senator has a strong anti-choice and anti-gay rights voting record but he distanced himself from the religious conservatives in his last run for the White House eight years ago and voted against their efforts to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. (This week, he apparently distanced himself further)

Mr. Romney's repositioning hit a snag, however, when gay-owned Bay Windows published this letter in which the governor, then a senatorial candidate, pledged to co-sponsor the Employment NonDiscrimination Act banning antigay employment and housing discrimination, work to pass a bill that would have a federal panel examining ways to reduce gay teenge suicide rates, and help lift the ban of openly serving gays in the military. The governor, said he, unlike his opponent, could and would help "make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern."

Gay rights activists
do not like him because they view his switch on civil unions and his vociferous opposition to gay marriage as an act of betrayal. Religious conservatives question whether he will support their agenda should he be elected president.

Some conservatives are still defending him. Dean Bartlett of Town Hall says Governor Mitt Romney offers the American public a nuanced approach to this issue - support for an inclusive gay tolerating society but opposition to gay marriage claims.

Mr. Bartlett offers a plausible explantion of Mr. Romney's past gay supportive rhetoric and his anti-gay marriage stance. Opposition to one item of the gay rights agenda does not necessarily lead to opposition to other measures designed to bolster their inclusion within society. Libertarian-oriented intellectuals generally oppose antidiscrimination, sensitivity training, and hate crime laws backed by gay rights activists while supporting marriage equality (either through privatization, gay marriage or gay/straight civil union legislation that replaces marriage law) and a lifting of the ban of gays in the military. Moderate to liberal political activists tend to support hate crime legislation and employment protection at minimum but their support for marriage equality varies.

But Governor Mitt Romney may have forfeited that chance to offer a nuanced position. He flip flopped on employment nondiscrimination legislation and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The senatorial candidate who said "will work" and has "worked to fight discrimination and to assure each American equal opportunity" and backed ENDA told Kathryn Jean Lopez that see the need for new or special legislation" since, in his "experience over the past several years as governor ... ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate and unfairly penalize employers at the hands of activist judges."

ENDA no doubt would have given those who felt wronged by their employers an opportunity to sue them and penalize them for any proven discrimination in the work place and the governor who was at that time running for the senate should have (if he didn't) know that. Laws that lack enforcement measures cannot redress wrongs or protect those which they are designed to protect.

To his credit the outgoing governor does not engage in the kind of gay-bashing led by the religious demagogues within his party. Governor Mitt Romney says he "opposed unjust discrimination against anyone, for racial or religious reasons, or for sexual preference. Americans are a tolerant, generous, and kind people. We all oppose bigotry and disparagement.

But the Governor has not offered us the criteria he would use to determine if the sexual orientation-based discrimination claims he wopuld be confronted with are just or unjust. The just/"unjust discrimination" distinction was also used by the Roman Catholic Church and by any organization that wants to appear tolerant whithout commiting to any gay rights claim.

javascript:void(0)
Publish
Mr. Romney's repositioning should be taken and what it is - a cynical ploy designed to capture the Republican Party's religious conservative base.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Political Cartoons

First Dan Asmussen, The Bad Reporter

The Iraq Study Group's nude calendar while air flights are grounded after banned X-mas tree passes through security checkpoints.

Then,

1. Mike Keefe on the "unhappy meals" we order. Found in The Denver Post.

2. Benson on Santa getting stuck in the chimney. Found in The Arizona Republic.

3. Stores' Christmas displays as portrayed by Neil Obermeyer in The Lincoln Journal Star.

4. Eric Devericks on The Holocaust Deniers. Found in The Seattle Times.

5. All We Are Saying ... from The Cape Cod Times.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS

1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET): Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) on the war in Iraq, the future of the Republican Party and the race for the White House. (b) Roundtable discussion on David Brooks of The Washington Post and Tom Friedman of The New York Times. Host is Tim Russert.

2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET): (a) Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Massachussetts) in his first appearance on FOX News Sunday. (b) FOX News Panel discussion on this week's politics with FOX News Managing Editor Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, NPR National Correspondent Juan Williams and NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. (c) Power Player of the Week - Morrill Worcester of Worcester Wreaths honors American vets. Host is Chris Wallace

3. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET): A rough week in Iraq. Guests include Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Ret. Lt. Gen. Dan Christman of the US Army, Vali Nasr of the Council of Foreign Relations, former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute Danielle Pletka, Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institute, Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Senator Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island). Host is Wolf Blitzer.

4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET): (a) Sunday Exclusive - Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on Senator Tim Johnson's (D-South Dakota) recovery, the war in Iraq, and the Democratic agenda for the 110th Congress. (b) Roundtable - George Will of ABC News, EJ Dionne of The Washington Post, Richard Stengel of Time Magazine, and Torie Clarke on this week's politics. (c)Voices - a star of Grey's Anatomy on ridding the world from malaria. Host is George Stephanopoulos.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:30 AM ET): the war in Iraq - Guest is former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Host is Bob Schieffer.


II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET): (a) possible balance of power shift in the senate as Senator Tim Johnson falls ill. (b) Changing of the Guard at the Department of Defense - Donald Rumsfeld is replaced by Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Check back later. Co-hosts are Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.

2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): (a) Senator Tim Johnson's surgery - appropriate coverage? (b) "Ipswitch Ripper" - the media's fascination with serial killers. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, and Neil Gabler. Host is Eric Burns.

3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): CNN doesn't offer a preview for this show but the Political Heretic posts this reminder for those who'd like to see it. Host is Howard Kurtz.

4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
(a) the 2008 Democratic nomination process - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) v. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois). (b) the war in Iraq - the political fallout for Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) should the president keep the troops in Iraq. Host is Chris Matthews. Guests include David Brooks of The New York Times and The NewsHour, Howard Fineman of Newsweek, Michele Norris of NPR, and Jennifer Senior of New York Magazine.

III. OTHER WEEKEND AND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS

1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET):
(a) the Duke Rape Case - the latest revelations. (b) Mt. Hood - the search for the missing hikers. Host is Julie Banderas.

2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
(a) sex secrets hidden in the handwriting. (b) college dorm rooms - going coed. (c) Blood, terror and Santa Claus - a Christmas horro movie opens on Christmas Day. (d) Muslims unfairly targeted during the holiday season? Check back later. Host is John Kasich.

IV. FEATURE NEWS PROGRAMS


1. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 9:00 PM ET):
(a)"The Pursuity of Happyness" - Will Smith's portraying stock broker Chris Gardner's rag's to riches story. (b) "Buyer Beware: Shopping Secrets" - avoiding holiday shopping scams. This show, which is being replayed at 9:00 PM ET, originally aired in November, 2005. (c) "Bulking Up on Savings" - purchasing bulk items at Costco and Sam's Club. Originally aired on November 18 and replayed during the 9:00 PM ET edition this Friday). (d) The Nativity Story - fact and fiction. Host is John Stossel.

2. "48 Hours" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): "The Mystery of Christmas" - the secrets of Mary and the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Correspondent of Maureen Maher reports.

3. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET):
(a) Cover Story: A Long Way Home - visiting the wounded at Fisher House at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (b) History - The Fountains of Rome. (c) Almanac - the end of the UFO. (d) 'Tis the Season - Janet Maslin. (e) 'Tis the Season - Bill Flanagan. (f) People - Art Buchwald on his return from the hospice. (g) A Christmas Card - Jose Feliciano. (h) Opinion - MoRocca on Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois). (i) Legos. (j) Nature - polar bears. (k) Holiday Vignettes. Host is Charles Osgood.

4. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET):
(a) "Hitler's Secret Archive" - Scott Pelley interviews three Jewish survivors see their Holocaust Records for the first time. (b) "The Loneliest People" - Leslie Stahl profiles "Family Finding," who try to help foster children find a permanent home. (c) "The King of Comedy" - Bob Simon on Dan Whitney a.k.a. Larry the Cable Guy. (d) Andy Rooney.

V. WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT


1. "Law and Order" on NBC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): "Fame" - a cop is murdered in a failed burglary attempt that is may be connected to one "stalkerazzi's" incriminating photos on a tabloid sensation and her estranged husband. Guest stars include Barbara King as tabloid sensation Sky Sweet, Wayne Wilcox as her estranged husband "J-Tain" Smoika and Khan Baykal as "stalkerazzi" Gary Blanchard. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief and, Fred Thompson as the district attorney.

2. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET):
Live with Justin Timberlake as the host and musical guest.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stupid Bill Watch

"Among other ideas proposed for 2007, lawmakers want the state to limit the number of helium balloons released into the sky, make Election Day a holiday and allow motorists to opt out of displaying "Live Free or Die" on their license plates." excerpt from The Kenne Sentinel

Residing in the "Live Free or Die" state apparently does not protect the average American from frivolous laws. Just how the state is going to enforce this or measure the amount of helium sent in the air is beyond me.

North Korea Negotiations Start Next Week

Negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program will begin next week. the Chosun Ibo offers a preview. Negotiations for heavy oil, electricity, a peace settlement, and its frozen accounts will begin when the North Koreans appear willing to dismantle their nucelar weapons program. North Korea's agreement on the process for nuclear dismantlement would determine the level of progress reached with the other working groups (on heavy oil, electricity, etc). Some do not believe the United States and North Korea will make a deal.

The PoliticalHeretic doesn't have much hope in this process eiher, given the South Korean and Chinese governmens' reluctance to threaten North Korea with economically crippling sanctions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report

The Iraq Study Group Report released last week confirmed what to many both inside and outside of Washington have long suspected - the mission was not accomplished. We are not winning the war for Iraq and a major course adjustment is needed if we are going to have any, let alone a guaranteed, chance to stabilize Iraq. The Study Group (from here on after referred to as "the Group"), however, fell short from its mission to provide us with a new strategy for stabilizing Iraq.

It may have failed because that outcome can no longer be expected. The Study Group offered a bleak assessment of the ongoing war in Iraq. "The situation in Baghdad and several provinces is dire," the study group co-chaired by former Secretary of State Howard Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton (D-Indiana), said in their report. "Saddam Hussein has been removed from power and the Iraqi people have a democratically elected government that is broadly representative of Iraq's population, yet the government is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering services." It repeatedly noted our inability to win this war through military force alone.

Coalition forces have failed to stem the violence which has, in the Group's words, "is increasing in scope, complexity, and lethality." Sunni insurgents, foreign and native al Qaeda jihadists, Shia militias, Shia militia offshoots, and opportunistic criminal elements each bear responsibility for Iraq's plight.

"Iraq," the Group asserts, "is in the grip of a deadly cycle: Sunni insurgent attacks spark large-scale Shia reprisals, and vice versa. Groups of Iraqis are often found bound and executed, their bodies dumped in rivers and fields. The perception of unchecked violence emboldens militias, shakes confidence in the government, and leads Iraqis to fell to places where their sect is the majority and where they feel they are in less danger. The Shiite militas "undermine the authority of the Iraqi government and security forces, as well as the ability of the Sunnis to join a peaceful political process."

Moqtada al-Sadr leads by far the largest of the militias, with estimated troop strenth potentially numbering 60,000. His political influence caused Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki to order the American forces blockading "Sadr City" (Sadr-controlled Baghdad) and searching for a kidnapped American soldier to back down last month.

The coalition forces that were sent to remove Saddam Hussein from power and back Iraq's government is undermanned and under-equipped. Nearly every American combat unit has either served at least one tour of duty in Iraq. National Guard and reserve units were pulled from the United States to serve tours of duty as well. Iraq's army is "making fitful progress toward becominga reliable and disciplined fighting force" but "significant questions remain about the ethnic composition and loyalties of some Iraqi units" while its police force engages in sectarian violence on a daily basis.

Iraq's stabilization can only be ahcieved through the political negotiations (which the Group coins "national reconciliation") that protects every faction's interests. The solutions no doubt were obvious to many. The Kurds need their autonomy preserved, the Sunnis a share in the oil revenue and protection from the Shia, and the Shia in maintaining their newly acquired power and exacting their vengeance upon their former Sunni oppressors.

The Group's report includes: (a) some recommendations that Iraq's government should have adopted long before now had it the incentive to do so, (b) some overly ambitious recommendations that probably wouldn't solve the Shia-Sunni political dispute, and (c) some essentially meaningless recommendations that we have acted upon that to date haven't worked.

It's call for constitutional review, for example, had been recommended by some policy analysts and this writer long before the Iraqi Study Group came out with this report. Sunnis balked when Iraq's then draft constitution included provisions that (a) allowed regional governments the right to control oil production from newly discovered reserves and (b) allowed the oil rich Shiite provinces, the right to form an autonomous regional government like the one given to the Kurds. The Sunni insurgents will not submit to an Iraq dominated by an oppresive Shiite government or one that denies them a fair share in the oil revenue. "National reconciliation" cannot be obtained without a change that protects the Sunnis' interests.

The Group suggests Al-Maliki support efforts to nationalize its oil production. Doing so would sustantially increase the chances for political compromise on federalism and Iraq's subnational sectarian borders and it is hoped, lead to a sharp reduction in sectarian violence. This too, was recommended before but neither Iraq's Shia nor its Kurds have any reason to share their oil reserves with the other faction let alone the Sunnis. Their call for a broad amnesty proposal, the reintegration of former low-ranking Baathist technocrats, and the disbanding of the militias have fallen on deaf ears to date.

Mr. Al-Maliki owes his political power to Moqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army so the threats to withold our military, logistical, economic, and political support should he refuse to meet certain benchmarks on national reconciliation and security as called for in the report will not work. Iraq's prime minister ordered our forces to back down from its pursuit of a missing American soldier and siege on Sadr City. Our influcnce will only diminish now that the polical momentum has shifted in the pro-troop withdrawal advocates' favor. This threat to withdraw our support from an Iraqi government that invevitably will side with the militias does nothing but offer those who want out a graceful exit strategy.

Likewise, calls to embed more American trainers in Iraq's army units won't help if the the loyalty of the army units being trained is suspect. In fact, training units supected of collaborating with the Sunni insurgents or the Shiite militias may only increase the factions' confidence in vanquishing their enemy in the civil war.

The Group's rejection of a federalist solution offered by Leslie Gelb and Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) is also disturbing. The Kurds would accept nothing less than complete autonomy in domestic affairs and once the Sunnis realize they will not regain the privilege status they had under Saddam Hussein, they will have to settle for a federalist system that protects them from Shiite oppression.

Federalism need not lead to the feared increase in sectarian violence already taking place, or to Sunni-Shite, Kurdish-Shiite, and Kurdish-Sunni border disputes if the three factions compromise on an oil revenue distribution scheme. The Kirkuk oil field revenue, for instance, could be equally split among the three major factions (this guarantees Kurds a set amount whether non-Kurds live or move into the Kirkuk region or not) while the southern fields split by population (guaranteeing the Shi'ites 60% of the oil). American troops could assist those who want to move into the enclave where they would be guaranteed safety.

The "new diplomatic offensive" is by far the most ambitious af the Iraq Study Group's solutions to the problem. The Group calls for the creation of an Iraq Study Group that includes the Iraqi government, Iraq's neighbors, the Arab League, the members of the United Nations Security Council, the European Community, and any other nation or group that wants to help stabilize Iraq. In particular, the Group suggests we negotiate with the Iranians and the Syrians who, it is suggested, have no interest in seeing the iraqi state collapse.

Iran's government officially welcomed the call for engagement but insisted upon a complete withdrawal of American troops before it lent its support. Our president no doubt would reject this offer, which is wholly dependent upon the goodwill of a state that is aiding the Shiite militias and benefitting from an American army tied down in Iraq to worry about Iran's nuclear weapons plans. The incentives which the Study Group offers are limited. The Iranians do not seem too worried about a destabilzed Iraq as of yet, their support for a stabilized Afghanistan seem questionable, and their fear of American-led regime change insubstantial. They might demand the right to build nuclear weapons.

Prospects for cooperation appear stronger with the Syrians. They will demand the least and potentially can deliver the most. Their government coulld deny Hizbollah and Hamas access to weapon supply routes if the Israelis agree to return the Golan Heights to Syria. We could, with little cost to ourselves, cut off our support for the Hariri and Gemayel murder investigations now being conducted in Lebanon and cede control over Lebanon to Syria (the Siniora government has proven itself to be a useless ally anyway).

The Israelis however, will only sign a political settlement they can live with (one that protects their interest in peace) not one designed to speed up the withdrawal of American armed force units from Iraq. This negotiated peace settlement will not, moreover, solve the political dispute between Iraq's Shiites and Sunnis.

Nothing short of a 50,000 - 100,000 troop increase and a push for an Iraqi federal state would suffice. This alone would bolster our negotiating power enough to push the Iraqis to a negotiated settlement. This alone could alter the balance of power so that Iraq's Shiite factions are forced to make a political deal with the Sunni insurgents.

The Iraq Study Group's report, sadly, calls for a "stay the course" strategy for a limited period of time before we give up and let the Middle East inch closer to a regional war.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Weekend Cartoons

The Vince Vaughn Study Group Report releases its report to Jennifer Aniston and Wiggle's polonium 210 bears striking similarities to purple teletubby's 2005 murder.

Then,

1. Pat Oliphant depicting junior and the Iraq Study Group in The Washington Post.

2. Ben Sargent on why the president would find the Iraq Stugy Group's report appealing. Also found in The Washington Post.

3. For those who seeking criticism of both, the president and the Iraq Study Group, check Glenn McCoy's cartoon in The New York Times.

4. And then, in time for the season, Mike Thompson links the holiday season rush to the 2008 presidential elections in The Detroit Free Press. Tell me about it.

5. The Manchester Union Leader has an editorial cartoon on Congressional investigations.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS

1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET): (a) The Iraq Study Group Co-Chairs, former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State Howard Baker. (b) Roundtable discussion among military and foreign policy experts - Ken Adelman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board, Eliot Cohen of the John Hopkins School of International Studies, Richard Haass, and Thomas Ricks. Host is Tim Russert.

2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET): (a) The Iraq Study Group Co-Chairs - Former Secretary of State Howard Baker and Congressman Lee Hamilton on how the president will react to the report their group issued. (b) Congressional reaction from Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas). (c)FOX Sunday Panel - FOX Managing Editor Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, NPR Senior National Correspondent Juan Williams, NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. Host is Chris Wallace.

3. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET): A New Strategy in Iraq. Guests include the two co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group - former Representative Lee Hamilton and former Secretary of State Howard Baker, Representative Jane Harman (D-California) of the Select Intelligence Committee, Representative Chris Shays (R-Connecticut) of the Homeland Security Committee, Israeli Vice Presmier Shimon Peres, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post, John Burns of The New York Times, and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq leader Abdul Aziz al Hakim. Host is Wolf Blitzer.


4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET):
(a)Sunday Exclusive - U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair on the Iraq Study Group Report. (b) Sunday Exclusive - Incoming Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Senator Gordan Smith (R-Oregon) react to the release of the Iraq Study Group Report. (c)Roundtable - George Will, Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, and Fareed Zakaria on the Iraq Study Group report and the rest of this week's politics.

5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:30 AM ET):Have We Lost Iraq? Guests include the two co-chairmen of the Iraq Study Group, former Secretary of State Howard Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) who is the incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Incoming Senate Minority Whip Senator Trent Lott (R-Mississippi). Host is Bob Schieffer.

II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS


1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET):
(a)Decision time in Iraq - President George W. Bush's next move now that the Iraqi Study Group released its report. (b) Election 2008 - How Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-New York) will change her plans while Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) gathers support. (c) Dissed - former President Jimmy Carter. Co-hosts are Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.


2. "Fox News Watch" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET):
Iraqi study Group press coverage. (b) Carter Controversy - a former aid to President Jimmy Carter publicly criticizes his former boss' latest book. (c) Kim family's ordeal in the media. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Neal Gabler, and host Eric Burns.


3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
CNN doesn't offer any previews for this show but the Political Heretic still posts on this web site to remind viewers that it is on. Host is Howard Kurtz.


4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
not posted yet. Host is Chris Matthews.

III. OTHER WEEKEND AND POLITICAL INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET):
(a) Taco Bell e-coli contamination scare spreading. (b) Iraq Study Group: Tony Snow v. David Gregory. (c) holding Sony liable for crimes committed over the PS3s. nothing posted yet. Host is Julie Banderas.


2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
(a) the underground childhood predator ring that is hard to break. (b)Apprentice winner Kendra Todd on how to make millions in real estate. (c)'Robotrippin' is on the rise.


IV. FEATURE NEWS PROGRAMS


1. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET): Combat Hospital - a look at the United States' main war hospital in Baghdad, the 10th Combat Support Hospital.


2. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET):
(a) "Give Me A Break" segment features a look at a charity that offers home-cooked meals that is burdened by health regulations. (b)Investigative Report - Nigerial e-mail scammers target's America's churches for money. Brian Ross reports. Host is John Stossel.

3. "48 Hours" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): Murder on Lockhart Road - former Indiana state trooper David Camm was convicted of the execution murder of his wife and two young children but the conviction is overturned when a new suspect is found. Richard Schlesinger reports on this unfolding drama.

4. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET): (a) Muppet Diplomacy. (b) Almanac - Nobel Prizes. (c) Art - Silhouttes. (d) Behind The Headlines - Which Way Out? (e) 'Tis The Season - Holiday Movies. (f) How It Works - Wikipedia. (g) Sunday Passage. (h) Sunday Profile - Johnny Matthis. (i) Opinion - Nancy Giles on transfats. (j) Bill Geist - real v. artificial trees. (k) Nature - Penguins. Host is Charles Osgood.


5. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET):
(a) Exposing the Truth - Anderson Cooper reports on whistleblower Joe Darby's descent from American soldier to pariah after he turned his fellow soldiers responsible for the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse in. (b) The Phamtom of Corleone - Steven Kroft reports on the capture of Sicilian mobster Bernardo Provenzano and why it probably won't stop the mafia from its business. (c) A New Kind of Fight - Scott Pelley on the rise of mixed martial arts, a sport that combined boxing, wrestling, and jujitsu. (d) Andy Rooney - commentary.

6. "Dateline NBC" on NBC: nothing posted yet.

V. WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT


1. "Law and Order" on NBC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): "Corner Office" - the attorney in a high profile wiretapping case is found dead. After the alibi for the first suspect is confirmed the focus turns to an escort who was last seen with the deceased. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief and, Fred Thompson as the district attorney.


2. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET):
Live. Host Annette Bening with musical guest Gwen Stefani.


3. "Cold Case" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 PM ET):
"The Red and The Blue" - the 2000 case of a male singer is re-opened after Jeffries' former partner offers some new information. Stars include Kathryn Morris as Lila Rush, Danny Pilo as Scotty Valens, John Finn as John Stillman, Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera, Thom Barry as Willl Jeffries and Tracy Thomas as Kat Miller.

4. "Without A Trace" on CBS (Sunday at 10:00 PM ET): "Fade Away" - a 17-year old highschool basketball star disappears after he scores the winning basket that secures his team's place in the state championship. Stars Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone, Poppy Montgomery as Samantha Spade, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Vivian Johnson, Enrique Murciano as Danny Taylor, Eric Close as Martin Fitzgerald, and Roselyn Sanchez as Elena Delgado.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Understatement of the Year

"I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed. I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped," - Presideng George W. Bush as quoted in The Washington Post

Mr. Bush's denials do him and the credibility he needs to continue the mission in Iraq no service. The Iraqi Study Report, which the PoliticalHeretic will comment on when he is done reading it (he's halfway there), does not say we are slowly but succeeding. It says we are close to losing this war because Iraq's leaders at this time have neither the will nor the capacity to settle their political differences through negotiations.


One other comment before the PoliticalHeretic continues his reading: Linking a political settlement over the Arab-Israeli dispute to a political settlement in Iraq probably is extremely risky. The Israelis won't save our face by making a deal with a peace partner it cannot trust. The Palestinians, wary of our support for Israel's negotiating position, are even less likely to cave in order to save Iraq. The parties won't find our negotiating position credible if they feel we are pushing for the political settlement between the Israelis and their neighbors that would help us stabilize Iraq.

The negotiations for both disputes (the Arab-Israeli, and the Iraqi) must be resolved separately.

Iran and Syria - from the former Secretary of State James Baker

KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE with co-chairmen James Baker and Lee Hamilton of the Iraq Study Group. Their report issued today.

Jim, you want the United States to sit down and talk with Syria and Iran. They have avoided that.

Why should they do it? And do you think they will?

BAKER: Well, I can't speculate as to whether they will, Larry. But let me say that they did when we went into Afghanistan. We approached Iran directly and asked them for some assistance in there and they cooperated and they helped us. All we're suggesting in this report, with respect to Iran, is that we do the same thing with them in Iraq, that we approach them to attend a multilateral meeting of Iraq's neighbors and some other countries and see if they have any interest in helping us stabilize the situation in Iraq.

Iran has no interest whatsoever in a chaotic Iraq. And the representatives of the Iranian government that we have talked to during the development of this report have told us that.

So we ought to make sure we understand what we're talking about when we say talk to Iran. We're talking about talking to them about doing the same thing they did for us and with us in Afghanistan.

We make it very clear that the nuclear issue should remain off to the side here and in the United Nations Security Council.


Syria is a different proposition. We have diplomatic relations with Syria. We pass messages with Syria. We talk to Syria. But Syria is in a position probably to, perhaps, be more helpful even than Iran, because Syria is the transit point for all weapons that go to Hezbollah.

If we could somehow pull Syria away from Iran -- and my sense is they'd much rather be close to the United States and to the moderate Arabs nations they used to be friends with -- than they would in their marriage of convenience with Iran. We could solve Israel's Hezbollah problem.

Furthermore, Iran is in a position -- I'm sorry -- Syria is in a position to get Hamas, in the Palestinian Territories, get Hamas to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. That would give Israel a negotiating partner on the Palestinian track and would be extraordinarily helpful toward eventual peace between Arabs and Israelis.
from Larry King Live

Reminding us, like Robert Gates' that all enemies need not be treated equally.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gates on The Problem if The United States Withdraws from Iraq

MR. GATES: Senator, I suppose I should just say I agree. (Soft laughter.) Well-stated.

My greatest worry if we mishandle the next year or two and if we leave Iraq in chaos is that a variety of regional powers will become involved in Iraq, and we will have a regional conflict on our hands.

Iran is already involved in Iraq, and, as I suggested earlier to Senator Byrd, could become much more so. The Syrians have not been helpful in Iraq but could become much more harmful to our effort.

But I think that you will -- it would be very surprising if the other Sunni countries in the Middle East would allow the Sunni population in Iraq to be the victims of an ethnic cleansing. I think that the Turks would not sit by idly if they saw Iraq beginning to fall apart. So I think that you could have Saudi Arabia, you could have Turkey, Syria, Iran -- all would be involved. We’re already seeing Hezbollah involved in training fighters for Iraq. I think all of that could spread fairly dramatically. And as you suggest, I think the manner of our managing the next phase in Iraq has very strong lessons for other countries in the world. There’s no question -- in fact, Osama bin Laden’s been very straightforward about the impact on him of our withdrawal from Somalia after our soldiers were killed there. And so I think that there is a risk that others looking around the world would see that we don’t have the patience and we don’t have the will. So I think those are some of the concerns that we would face if we ended up leaving Iraq in chaos.
Robert Gates


Nothing new here. Some foreign policy experts, Senator Biden and this writer have already brought this point up. Mr. Gates might be giving the president his latest justification for continuing this fight.

Gates Questioned on a Potential War with Iran and Syria

Note this interesting exchange between Bush nominee Robert M. Gates'and Senator Robert Byrd.

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): Mr. Chairman, I thank you.

Dr. Gates, our relationship goes back over a number of years.

Do you support -- now we hear all these rumors about the potential for an attack on Iran, due to its nuclear weapons program, or on Syria, due to its support of terrorism. Do you support an attack on Iran?

MR. GATES: Senator Byrd, I think that military action against Iran would be an absolute last resort; that any problems that we have with Iran, our first option should be diplomacy and working with our allies to try and deal with the problems that Iran is posing to us. I think that we have seen in Iraq that once war is unleashed, it becomes unpredictable. And I think that the consequences of a conflict -- a military conflict with Iran could be quite dramatic. And therefore, I would counsel against military action, except as a last resort and if we felt that our vital interests were threatened.

SEN. BYRD: Do you support an attack on Syria?

MR. GATES: No, sir, I do not.


Note the difference between his answer to a military attack launched against the Iranians and one launched against the Syrians. Mr. Gates says he "would counsel against military action" taken against the Iranians but would not rule it out as "a last resort" if "our vital interests were threatened." No such caveat was offered when he stated his opposition to military strikes launched against Syria.

Was it an oversight on his part or is it a reflection of his understanding that one state (Iran) may one day threaten us in the way Syria cannot?

Probably the latter.

Here's what he said concerning the repercussions should we attack Iran:

"It’s always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real. They are certainly not being helpful in Iraq and are doing us -- I think doing damage to our interests there, but I think they could do a lot more to hurt our effort in Iraq.

I think that they could provide certain kinds of weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical and biological weapons, to terrorist groups. Their ability to get Hezbollah to further destabilize Lebanon I think is very real. So I think that while their ability to retaliate against us in a conventional military way is quite limited, they have the capacity to do all of the things, and perhaps more, that I just described."


And Syria?

"I think the Syrian capacity to do harm to us is far more limited than that in -- of Iran, but I believe that a military attack by the United States on Syria would have dramatic consequences for us throughout the Middle East in terms of our relationships with a wide range of countries in that area. I think that it would give rise to significantly greater anti-Americanism than we have seen to date. I think it would immensely complicate our relationships with virtually every country in the region."

So, (a) the case for war against Iran is stronger given the stronger challenge (if not threat) it poses to the United States + Middle East region and (b) the political damage in terms of our regional allies (though not the military and economic damage which Iran definitely unleash) would be greater.

Link to the Hearings

The link to the Armed Services Committee hearings on Gates' nomination, brought to you by The New York Times.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Free Speech and the Anti-Drug Message

Joseph Frederick was an 18-year old senior at Juneau-Douglas High School four years ago when he was suspended by Deborah Morse, the school's principal at the time, after he and some friends unfurled and refused to take down a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Mr. Frederick, a legal adult at the time, was told his display violated the school board's code forbidding the display of pro-drug messages during school sponsored events whether they occurred on or off campus. When the young adult objected on First Amendment free speech grounds, Mrs. Morse suspended him for 10 days.

His appeals before the school board and the federal district court failed but the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in his favor. Juneau's Board of Education enlisted support from former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and appealed.

Last week, the Supreme Court voted to consider the school board's appeal to undo Mr. Frederick's hard-earned victory and sharply curtail students' free speech rights upheld in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District. (Two court rulings, Bethel School District v. Fraser and Hazelwood v. Kulheimer permit restrictions but those are limited to school sponsored events and school newspapers). Four justices might want to reverse this decision and deny the student his free speech rights but caution is warranted. the 9th Ciruict Appeals Court also voted to deny the school principal who punished him immunity from Mr. Frederick's civil suit so the one or two justices might be seeking to vacate that part of the ruling while upholding the student's free speech rights.

Mr. Starr says the court should uphold the school district's policy forbidding pro-drug messages because the contested speech is "offensive and inconsistent with the mission of schools to promote healthy lifestyles."

"Specifically, the Court can (and should) clarify the relevance, if any, of Tinker in situations that do not involve a specific evidentiary showing of disruption." To be fair, Mr. Starr does not ask the Court to overturn its ruling in Tinker. He is asking the Court to permit viewpoint discrimination designed to bolster the school's anti-drug message:

"Messages matter. As Congress recognized in passing the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Community Acts, 20 U.S.C. &7101 et. seq., drug use is a social phenomenon. To state the painfully obvious, impressionable adolescents face strong pressures to use drugs as they face strong pressures to use drugs as they confront pro-drug messages from peers, adults, and the media. In view of the devastating impact illegal drug use has both on students and the learning environment, schools should be afforded significant lattitude in discouraging substance abuse. Part of maintaining a drug free environment is ensuring that students are not confronted with inconsistent messages, particularly while school is in session."

Mr. Starr's reasoning, however, can be applied to other speech which conflicts with the school's message on any given "social phenomenon." Sex between unmarried individuals is a social phenomena. Homosexuality is a social phenomenom. Red neck rights is a social phenomenom. High-carb dieting is a social phenomenom.

If a public school can bar its students from advocating for drug legalization (this student did not but the school board is claiming that it could bar such advocacy) because it undermines its anti-drug message the school could bar the gay or straight student from offering the "safer sex" message because it undermines the school's abstinence only message. The evangelical conservative Christian school might also find his or her viewpoint censored if it undermines the school's pro-diversity or value in tolerance.

"Impressionable adolescents" face strong pressure to engage in premarital sex. Those same "impressionable adolescents" will face the "pressure" to engage in premarital intercourse, join in the bullying of unpopular students, eat the unhealthy food sold in the cafeteria, and buy what their friends wear.

This "pressure" does not end once the adolescent reaches maturity. They will be exposed to many ideas which their parents successfully or unsuccessfully tried to shield them from at high school and they once again will be confronted with the opportunity to be intimate, smoke pot, or shoot up some other drug that is readily available on campus.

School administrators, teachers, and parent teacher associations can invite police officers, former drug addicts, former chemo patients who suffered from smoking, and the parents of children who died from drinking and driving into their classrooms to warn their students about drug use.

That anti-drug witness testimony would eclipse in value any counterargument made by a student who wears a pro-drug shirt or holds a pro-drug banner at a school event, or in this case, at an event that was not sponsored by the school. It need not and should not punish the dissenting student, particularly when that student is an adult and freely expressing himself at an event not sponsored by the school.

Censoring this message, like censoring all messages, undermines the students' own faith, value,and understanding in the First Amendmen which was designed to protect their right to speak up for themselves.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Cartoons

First, Dan Asmussen's.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki with Parish Hilton, the pulonium 10 coming from Britney Spears, the Bush twins' exit strategy (this is real good), Mitt Romney'head (ahem, heart perhaps?) of stone, and comedian Michael Richards' new starring role in the box offices (this is reallly good).

Then,

1. Steve Kelley has something MIchael Richards could use over at The Times-Picayune.

2. Michael Keefe on alternative energy in The Standard Times of Bedford, Massachussetts.

3. Dana Summers on Prime Minister al-Maliki's problem in The Orlando Sentinel.

New Iraq Strategy: Side with the Sunnis or Fight Moqtada al-Sadr

Last month's election results forced President George W. Bush to re-examine his unsuccessful military policy in Iraq. The opposition’s failure to offer an alternative provides him one more chance to stabilize Iraq.

He could do that by altering the balance of power so that Iraq’s Shiites negotiate with the state's Kurdish and Sunni minorities.

This requires intensive negotiations between Iraq’s Kurdish and Sunni factions and diplomatic efforts to isolate Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia now hindering political negotiations between Iraq’s prime minister and the Sunnis. The Sunni-Shi'ite polical compromise is essential to stabilizing Iraq, minimizing Iranian's influence in Iraq, and protecting American allies within the region. Iraq's Kurds will secede if the state cannot protect its minorities' rights.

The president and the United States could ill afford the political repercussions should they exercise their claim to do so. NATO ally Turkey's 15 million Kurds would clamor for the same right, forcing Turkey to collude with the Iranian and Syrian regimes that are now hostile to American interests in order to protect their own mutually shared interest in suppressing any Kurdish demands for statehood. Abandoning Iraq's Sunnis to Sadr's death squads would weaken our troubled relationship with the oil rich Saudi monarchy.

As much as they might want to declare their independence; however, the Kurds' liberty interests are better protected through the establishment of a federal state of three relatively autonomous regions. An independent Kurdistan would be surrounded by hostile regimes to the north, south, east and west.

Neither faction commands the trust and respect of the other potential negotiating partners. Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated Baathists brutally suppressed uprisings in the Kurdish populated north and Shiite-populated south after American led forces liberated Kuwait. Neither group would accept the Sunnis' return to power. The Sunnis, however, justly fear retribution. The Shi'ite militias are pushing the Sunnis out of mixed neighborhoods around Baghdad and the central government is not protecting them.

Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni factions as of yet have no incentive to compromise. The Sunnis are too weak to exact substantive concessions from Iraq’s Shiites through diplomacy, and the Shiites are too powerful and beholden to the cleric’s militia to offer anything they can win through force. Any threat to side with Iraq’s Sunnis to alter this balance of power could unite Iraq’s feuding Shiite factions. Their negotiating position may be strengthened if our forces, aided by anti-Sadr Shiites, conducted a limited but sustained military campaign against his militia.

Should Iraq’s prime minister expel our troops from his country, we could arm the Sunnis and force the country into a bloodier war until they reach a potlical settlement comparable to the three-region compromise offered by Senator Joseph Biden.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS

1. "Meet The Press" on NBC (10:30 AM ET): (a) National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on the war in Iraq. (b) Senators
John Warner (R-Virginia) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) of the Armed Services Committee on the war in Iraq and Gates' confirmation hearing. (c) former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on the Middle East. Host is Tim Russert.


2. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (10:00 AM ET):
(a) Senators Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina). (b)Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. (c)FOX News Panel - FOX News Managing Editor Brit Hume, The Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, NPR Senior National Correspondent Juan Williams, and NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson. Host is Chris Wallace. Check back later for more information.


3. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (11:00 AM ET):
the Iraqi government crisis and the Saudi role in the Middle East. Guests to include U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Iraqi Industry Minister Fawzi Hariri, Senator John Kerry (D-Massachussetts) of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) of the Select Intelligence and the Senate Judiciary Committees, and Senator Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) of the Judiciary Committee. Host is Wolf Blitzer.

4. "This Week" on ABC (10:00 AM ET): (a) On The Trail - Interview with Governor Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa), the first candidate to officially declare himself a candidate for the White House. (b) Roundtable - George F. Will, Martha Raddatz, and David Corn. (c) Voices - Actor Richard Dreyfuss on public school civics education. Host is George Stephanopoulos.


5. "Face The Nation" on CBS (10:30 AM ET):
what to do in Iraq. Guests include National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut) of the Armed Services Committee, and Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) of the Foreign Relations Committee.

II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS

1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET): (a) why Senator-Elect Jim Webb (D-Virginia) won't be invited to the White House. (b) Reverend Rick Warren v. anti-abortion groups. (c)President George W. Bush and the Iraq-study group. Co-hosts are Morton Kondracke and Fred Barnes.

2. FOX News Watch on FOX News (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): (a)NBC News' civil war declaration. (b)Danny DeVito drunk on "The View." (c)Muslims and Christians in the media. Panlists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Neal Gabler, and host Eric Burns.


3. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
CNN doesn't offer any previews for this show but the Political Heretic still posts on this web site to remind viewers that it is on. Host is Howard Kurtz.


4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
check back later. Host is Chris Matthews.


III. OTHER WEEKEND NEWS AND POLITICAL INTERVIEW SHOWS



1. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET):
(a) the latest onwinter weather in American cities. (b) YouTube as a liability for Google. Host is Julie Banderas.


2. "Heartland" on FOX News (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
(a) paying less than face value during the holiday season - some tricks and tips to saving money. (b)Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois) on World AIDS Day. (c)Bill O'Reilly. Host is John Kasich.


IV. FEATURE NEWS PROGRAMS


1. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Satuday at 3:00 PM): "Autism is a World" - a look at autism from a young woman living it.


2. "CNN Presents" on CNN (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
"Where have all the Parents gone?" - from the villages of Kenya where AIDS has left millions orphaned. Hosted by Christianne Amanpour.


3. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET):
(a) strip show on the restraurant shift. (b)"Mike's Math" making mathematics problems fun. (c)"Boy" Fabian Basabe and the life of those who inherit their fortunes. (d)billionaires who give back. Host is John Stossel.

4. "48 Hours" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): "Deadly Proposal" - an already-married college professor falls in love then disappears. Questions concerning husband's knowledge surface. Host is Peter Van Sant.

5. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET): (a) Cover Story - guide to the holiday shopping season. (b) Sunday Almanac - the last run of the Twentieth Century Limited. (c) Books - former Senator John Edwards' (D-North Carolina) "on Home" and other matters. (d) Trends - names. (e) Sunday Profile - Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens. (f)Opinion - Mo Rocca on the $pirit of the season. (g) Bill Geist - Dark Dining for the idle rich. (h) Nature - Colorado snowfall. Host is Charles Osgood.


6. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET):
(a) Netflix - interview with Reed Hastings, the founder of a no late rental fee movie rental business that became the largest online dvd rental business - Leslie Stahl reports. (b)"Hiding From Death" - Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza's story from Bob Simon. (c) "The Gift" - Piano virtuosa Gabriela Montero profiled by Morley Safer. (d) Andy Rooney commentary.

7. "Dateline NBC" on NBC (Friday at 8:00 PM ET): repeat - a charismatic 18-year old who convinced other kids to kill for him.

V. WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT


1. "Law and Order" on NBC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET):
a repeat. live next on December 8. The regular stars include Sam Waterston as Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy, Alana De La Garza as Connie Rubirosa, Jessie L. Martin as Detective Ed Green, Milena Govich as Nina Cassidy, S. Epatha Merkerson as the politce chief and, Fred Thompson as the district attorney.


2. "Saturday Night Live" on NBC (Saturday at 11:29 PM ET):
Host Matthew Fox and guest star Tenacious D.


3. "Cold Case" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 PM ET):
the 1968 killing of a cop suspected of being an in-the closet homosexual is re-opened. Stars include Kathryn Morris as Lila Rush, Danny Pilo as Scotty Valens, John Finn as John Stillman, Jeremy Ratchford as Nick Vera, Thom Barry as Willl Jeffries and Tracy Thomas as Kat Miller.


4. "Without a Trace" on CBS (Sunday at 10:00 PM ET):
case of a dishonorably discharged U.S. Marine disappears after returning to the United States after serving a five-year prison sentence for rape. Stars Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone, Poppy Montgomery as Samantha Spade, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Vivian Johnson, Enrique Murciano as Danny Taylor, Eric Close as Martin Fitzgerald, and Roselyn Sanchez as Elena Delgado.