Friday, September 30, 2005

On the Run: I'll be out most of next week. I'm heading down to Louisiana to cover the rebuilding efforts after Katrina and Rita. I'll let you know what I see. Take care.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Explain Yourself: Al Qaeda terrorists were recently arrested in France for planning to bomb the French subway (via Power Line). This comes more than a year after a bomb was found on a French rail line but was disarmed before it could cause any damage. Al Qaeda is also suspected of planting the bomb that was found on Spanish rail lines a month after the original Madrid bombings, and after Spain promised to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Any talk that the London bombings or the Australian attacks are reaction to those countries' involvement in Iraq is entirely inconsistent with what Al Qaeda has been saying and what Al Qaeda has been doing. All of us in Western Civilization are targets. There's nothing we can do to make the terrorists mad, because they already are mad. There's nothing we can do to stop them from getting mad, because they already are mad. The only thing we can do is defeat them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Inescapable: I'm not sure what you have to do to get the United Nation's attention nowadays. Break their sanctions, they do nothing. Commit mass genocide, they do nothing. I'd honestly like to think that liberal and conservative commenter alike can agree that the miserable failure Google bomb belongs with the United Nations. An update from the Coalition for Darfur.

Anarchy and the UN

As Darfur descends into anarchy, the United Nations appears unable to do any more than express concerns and continue to ask the parties involved to cease their violent attacks.

After rebels attacked and took control of the town of Sheiria last week, the Sudanese army said it was prepared to retake the town, to which the rebels replied that they would "repulse anything from the Sudanese government's army."

The upsurge in violence forced thousands more out of the villages, swelling the ranks of the internally displaced that already numbers nearly 2-million.

As the violence was raging, even the UN's own Special Representative Jan Pronk, a man who tends to see everything in Sudan through rose-colored glasses, was forced to admit that the violence was spiraling out of control. He was joined by the US government, which stated that the "uptick in violence ... is of concern to us" and the UN's genocide advisor, Juan Mendez, who acknowledged that Khartoum had done little to disarm militias or end the "culture of impunity" that exists in Darfur.

Pronk went on to state that the UN must give the Sudanese government and rebels an ultimatum to compel them to reach some sort of peace agreement and even made the startling admission that, thus far, the UN has utterly failed to deal with Darfur:

Pronk said that when the Darfur conflict began U.N. humanitarian officials agitated for the Security Council to take up the conflict, which it refused to do.

A "massive force" was needed [in 2003] then to guarantee security but instead several thousand African Union troops and monitors had to carry the burden. And now the council needed to plan for how to keep the peace in case a peace deal was signed.
Pronk was quoted elsewhere as saying:

He said the war situation in Sudan was "everybody's failure" and could have been avoided if the international community had acted quickly.

How could the present day situation have been avoided?

"I think there should have been intervention in 2003," Pronk said, adding that while the occurrence of genocide in the country was debatable, "There was mass slaughter of people. It needed humanitarian intervention."
Of course, the international community did not act quickly, nor are they acting quickly now.

In fact, while Darfur burned, the BBC reported that American and British intelligence officials, along with representatives of the UN, China and 12 African nations were in Khartoum discussing cooperation on counter-terrorism operations in the region.

Hosting the conference is part of a sustained diplomatic push by Sudan to shake off its pariah status ... When the opportunity for this second regional conference on counter-terrorism came up, Sudan competed for the right to host it ... The decision of the CIA to agree to come to Sudan shows the pragmatism of the intelligence community against the continuing political desire of America to punish Sudan for what has happened in Darfur.
Khartoum continues to work to "shake off its pariah status," with Sudanese Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed publishing an op-ed in the Washington Times today claiming that "After two decades of brutal civil war, Sudan is emerging as a reminder that engagement, dialogue and intensive diplomacy can resolve seemingly intractable problems and permit a country to look to the future with optimism."

Meanwhile, the violence and anarchy Khartoum unleashed is now spilling over into neighboring Chad, a country that is already host to an estimated 200,000 refugees from Darfur:

A group of unidentified armed men in military uniform crossed into Chad from Sudan early on Monday, killing 36 herders and stealing livestock, the Chadian government said.
The violence, in addition to threatening the people of Darfur, is also threatening the relief work that sustains them, as U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland noted yesterday:

"If it (the violence) continues to escalate, we may not be able to sustain our operations for 2.5-million people requiring life-saving assistance," he said, adding: "In Darfur, it (aid distribution) could all end tomorrow. It is as serious as that."
As Eric Reeves never fails to remind us, in December 2004, Egeland warned that 100,000 people could die a month if humanitarian organizations are forced to suspend operations in Darfur.

Despite all of this, Pronk still managed to recently declare that progress was being made on implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the North and South and on efforts to reach peace in Darfur.

Such a statement is utterly feckless and shameful.

As Gerald Caplan, author of "Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide," wrote last week:

But what we are learning from Darfur, which we never remotely imagined, is that even naming a genocide is an utterly inconsequential exercise in hot air ... despite the apparent concern of many western leaders, despite the pressure from elements of civil society, the catastrophe in Darfur is explicitly allowed to continue ... As always, everything takes precedence over the suffering and death of hundreds of thousands of distant, exotic others. It won't be the last time."
After two years, 400,000 deaths, and an estimated 3.5 million now entirely dependent on humanitarian aid, it must be stated that the UN and every one of its member nations have failed the people of Darfur and, in all likelihood, will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Caught Sitting in Front of the White House Too Long? Tom DeLay has been indicted on conspiracy charges, and he is temporarily stepping down from his leadership position. I call for a loooong, in-depth investigation during this trial. That way, no matter what the final result, Tom DeLay will cease to be House Majority Leader for as long as possible.

I say that tongue in cheek of course. We all know that the World's Biggest Asshole will continue running things from the dark corner in which he lurks.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gung Ho: I don't know if Bush is panicking from his low approval ratings, overreacting to the whopping criticism he got from the Katrina issue, or is being an opportunistic fool.

But now he wants to put the Pentagon in charge of domestic disaster responses. This almost seems like the type of government fallacy that goes something along the lines of:

We must do something.

This is something.

Therefore, we must do this.
There's a reason why the military should stick to destroying things. I don't want our armed forces having a larger presence in domestic affairs any more than they have to. Now, they do have a role in the domestic portion of War on Terrorism, because it is a war that's being fought, in part, on U.S. soil. But natural disasters, while they have some similar characteristics to unnatural ones, are a different breed. We can fix FEMA without militarizing it.

The military operates as a force that doesn't mesh well with a free society. Granted, in major disasters you sometimes have to temporarily curtail some rights. But militarizing every big disaster is overkill. Plus, I don't want the military to become the default answer for every domestic problem in the future.

Enough! I really didn't approve of Cindy Sheehan before, but I sympathized with her being the mother of a dead soldier. Now after her concocted arrest, I have lost all respect for that woman.

It's one thing to for a mother to embarrass her son when he's still alive. It's reprehensible for her to dishonor Casey after he's dead. Casey Sheehan was not some child victimized by President Bush. He was an adult who volunteered to join the military, finished his tour of duty, then re-enlisted to continue fighting in Iraq. He believed in what he was doing.

Cindy started this whole scene by trying to meet with the president -- even though Bush had already met with her and spoken with her. Now she's just trying to bring attention to herself. She has become a media whore, barely able to stand the few moments that the news focuses on hurricanes and more noteworthy stories, that she has to go and pull a stunt like this.

Cindy Sheehan and the rest of the "antiwar" protesters from over the weekend are a bunch of frauds. These people aren't against war. They are just for the other side. They vocalize support for the terrorists and insurgents and celebrate every downturn in our fight.

I'm not saying that as some right-wing, if-you-don't-vote-for-Bush-you-hate-America nut. The liberals I know love this country -- they are critical of the war effort because they want us to win, and they don't like how Iraq is being handled. But many of the left-wing nuts who gathered this past weekend really do hate America. But for some reason the press doesn't have the balls to report this, and actually tries to depict these people as ordinary Americans. This is a complete lie.

It's a shame that these people have such loud voices and command so much attention from the media. There is a valid debate to be had about the war. Unfortunately, the voices we hear are those who support the enemy and hope they defeat our American troops.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Oops: Hamas terrorists accidently blow themselves up during a celebration in Gaza. Children were among the casualties. I only hope that the Palestinian people will now see what stupidity they have fighting in their name.

Shot Down: The NRA filed a lawsuit against New Orleans officials for seizing guns from law-abiding citizens, and it appears the group has won a temporary injunction while the case is being tried. No more guns are to be taken without valid reason.

I hope that this case is appealed to a high enough level that it sets a precedent for these types of situations. It would be nice for the Supreme Court to maintain that state or federal government is not allowed to disarm the population without due cause, especially when people are left vulnerable because regular law enforcement duties cannot be carried out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Slow Motion: It's taking 16 hours for Houston residents to drive to Dallas. That's a trip that can usually be done in four. Cars are being abandoned on the road as they run out of gas. At least Houston officials have opened southbound lanes on Interstate-45 to northbound traffic. Still, there's no way that all of these people will be able to escape in time. All we can do is hope for the best, and say a little prayer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who's Acting Like Children Here? I'm scanning for children's books. My niece is turning 3, and she loves to read -- or at least look at the pictures while Mommy reads to her. In addition to the classics are some new books that have become popular within the Amazon rankings, including No, George, No! The Re-Parenting of George W. Bush and Help! Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed!

In case your kids aren't indoctrinated enough, you can teach them valuable lessons of mistrust by depicting our president as a malicious doofus.

This is a book about a President named George who has a dream. In this dream, George becomes a little boy, and he meets a Truth Fairy who is trying to teach him lessons about How to not manipulate the Media, How to treat Veterans, How to be honest, How to be respectful with families who have lost soldiers in war, How to go to War only when necessary, How not to label people as Boogeymen, How not to invade countries, How to control greed, How to hold fair elections, and How to behave as a leader.
And while painting is fun for kids, they should have even more fun learning to paint political enemies in broad brush strokes that are easy to vilify.

This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.
Luckily my family isn't at all political, so my nieces won't be getting either of these books. I think I'll just stick with Harold and the Purple Crayon.

The Downward Spiral: There's that old joke -- The pessimist says, "This is awful. It cannot possibly get any worse." The optimist responds, "Oh, yes it can."

The situation in Darfur has already been determined to be genocide (at least by U.S. officials and others who are paying attention). The ceasefire has yet to cease any firepower. Now the situation is in danger of deteriorating. The latest from the Coalition for Darfur.

The Descent into Anarchy

One week ago, experts and observers warned that Darfur risked "sliding into a perpetual state of lawlessness." At a time when Khartoum and the Darfur rebels were preparing to meet in an attempt to move the essentially non-existent peace process forward, IRIN was reporting:

Banditry and continuous attacks by armed groups on humanitarian workers, Arab nomads and villages in Darfur have increased significantly over the past weeks and threaten to destabilise the fragile ceasefire in the volatile western Sudanese region.
The "fragile ceasefire" has never really existed and fears of "perpetual" lawlessness are misplaced considering that Darfur has been essentially lawless for more than two years.

Last week, the World Food Program reported that "security levels deteriorated in Darfur during the reporting week." This week, the WFP reported that "despite precautionary security measures, attacks on commercial and humanitarian vehicles continue in Darfur."

And as the UN was expressing its concern "about the recurrent attacks carried out by armed men and gangs in Darfur states, which target civilians and commercial vehicles hired by relief organizations," Norwegian Church Aid was reporting that a "relief convoy has been raided at gunpoint by bandits in Darfur for the second time in a short period. The security situation in Darfur shows signs of deterioration":

A growing problem is also that aid convoys are now being ambushed with increasing regularity by bandits on horses and camels. Norwegian Church Aid vehicles have been raided at gunpoint twice in a matter of weeks ... The field teams who travel most often through the western and southern parts of Darfur regularly encounter en route, and are often chased by, heavily armed men riding on horses and camels. Since the aid operation began just over a year ago, security has presented a great challenge for the agencies. Yet whereas assault, exchanges of fire and attacks on villages were previously politically motivated, much of the violence seems now to be criminal in nature.
And the violence continues.

Just yesterday, it was reported that 40 were killed in fighting after an attack on the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army by "armed nomadic tribesmen" [aka "the Janjaweed"]. This was followed by another report that 80 government soldiers had been killed by the SLM when they captured the town of Sheiria in a surprise attack in retaliation for earlier government attacks on rebel-held territory.

The attack on Sheiria put at risk some 33,000 civilians who rely on humanitarian assistance after staff from three NGO's were withdrawn due to the fighting. And for good measure, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) "reported that the security situation in the Kalma camp housing displaced persons has further deteriorated with a large number of security incidents, including some 60 reported attacks on women over the last week alone."

All of this took place while the sixth round of peace talks were being held in Nigeria.

It has now been more than a year since the United States declared the situation in Darfur a "genocide" - and the security situation on the ground is now even arguably worse. While government-orchestrated attacks on civilians have diminished, mainly because "there are not many villages left to burn down and destroy," the rampant insecurity in all likelihood still qualifies as part of Khartoum's genocidal campaign to "deliberately [inflict] on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

The genocide is not ending and the situation is not improving. The people of Darfur have, for all intents and purposes, been abandoned.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nuclear-Free Zone: The big news this week is that North Korea has agreed not to pursue its development of nuclear weapons. This doesn't mean much. That country has made the same promises before, and then it went on doing what it wasn't supposed to behind our backs.

(Didn't North Korea announce that it already has nuclear weapons? I guess there's no point trusting our intelligence agencies to find out the truth in the matter.)

Still, this is good news for now. The concession we had to make was to promise not to invade North Korea in the near future. Some people wonder why we didn't just make that agreement a few years ago so we could be done with it. The answer is simply: Iraq.

Our invasion of Iraq was supposed to demonstrate America's might to the rest of the world, including any terrorists who might be paying attention. We hoped to put Iran, Syria, North Korea, and the Palestinians on notice.

That didn't happen. No country is afraid that we may attack them now, considering the ongoing conflict in Iraq in addition to the continuing clean up in Afghanistan.

Some critics would argue that this equals failure. I don't agree. It's not ideal, for sure. But it doesn't mean we're not doing some good. Iraq has become the new Ground Zero in the War on Terrorism. Al Qaeda knows that they have to win their, or else they're movement will be seriously hurt. They will lose, and they will be hurt.

Others wonder whether the difficulties in Iraq make us look weaker. No, just not perfect. But if we hadn't invaded and let Saddam Hussein thumb his nose at us for another decade, we'd look even more impotent. Sure, North Korea can rest assured we won't invade anytime soon. But if we didn't have the guts to invade Iraq, Kim Jong Il would have come to the same conclusion regardless.

So Iraq didn't go as smoothly as we would have liked. But that's no reason to give up on the place. The war has changed, and we're meeting the challenge.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dey-tuk-yer-jerb! Who says the illegal immigrants who come into this country aren't real Americans? Because they certainly are talking like them.

NPR had a piece this morning on how some recent immigrants want new immigrants to stop coming to this country. All these dang foreigners keep taking jobs away from the foreigners who are already here, they say.

The NPR broadcast focuses on Brazilians in Boston who have published ads on the Internet and in South American newspapers asking their people to stop coming here. "The United States is far from being the promised land," the ad says.

Illegal immigrants have to face a growing shortage of jobs, police raids, poor living conditions -- and that's only if they survive the deadly task of getting smuggled into this country.

Of course, this won't stop anybody from coming. The people leaving Central and South America usually have nothing, and they realize that they have more of a chance up here. The only way they may be convinced to stay were if many of the illegals moved back home empty handed. Since that's not happening, neither will the slow down of illegal immigration.

Friday, September 16, 2005

This Sucks: First, the bad news. We never caught the anthrax bandit.

Yeah, remember that whole anthrax issue we had right after 9/11? A few people died. It caused a national scare. They had to seal off government buildings as Tom Daschle and other lawmakers became targets. We vowed to get the evildoer(s). Well, the leads have dried up, and the case has grown cold. In the end, nothing.

In other news, more teens are having oral sex, and more women in their teens and 20s are experimenting with bisexuality. Looks like I picked the wrong time to turn 30.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Don't Let Him Bug You: The Boston Globe is highlighting a portion of a speech by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in which he calls for wiretapping mosques. Here's the actual quote from the Republican governor.

"How about people who are in settings -- mosques, for instance -- that may be teaching doctrines of hate and terror," Romney continued. "Are we monitoring that? Are we wiretapping? Are we following what's going on?"
I'm not too worried about this "proposal". It sounds like the kind of political misspeak that Romney's campaign team will quickly downplay tomorrow, if not later today. But The Globe is correct in calling him on such a stupid utterance right now.

As most of us know, Romney is considering a run for president in 2008. In preparation, he's trying to beef up his national-security persona.

He was elected as a moderate. But he has lately shifted sharply to the right, much to the dismay of his constituents. I guess he thinks that while Republicans will always ridicule the "Massachusetts Liberal", his becoming a "Massachusetts Conservative" may convince primary voters that he's the right-winger that can win in the Blue states. I'm skeptical.

But it's way too early to be speculating about the 2008 election anyhow, so please disregard this post.

Another Chance? After every big mistake, there's always a loud effort to fix the system so the same mistake isn't made "next time". This applies to 9/11, Katrina, and whatever genocide happens to be going on at any given time. Now the United Nations is trying to reword its mission to play down the corruption angle. Having already missed an opportunity to stop the Rwandan genocide, and continuing to miss an opportunity to react against the Sudan genocide, the esteemed international organization is trying to figure out what to do for "next time". But the Coalition for Darfur shows that the words the United Nations utters are as worthless as its actions.

A Meaningless Pledge

Some are hailing the inclusion of language regarding a "responsibility to protect" in the draft declaration on UN reform to be discussed during the three-day summit being held in New York.

The "Responsibility to Protect" is, according to the seminal report on the topic:

[T]he idea that sovereign states have a responsibility to protect their own citizens from avoidable catastrophe, but that when they are unwilling or unable to do so, that responsibility must be borne by the broader community of states.
The report, and the idea, were generated by the international community's ignominious failure to intervene in situations such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The thinking was that it was necessary to shift the debate away from a "right to intervene," which carries serious implications for the cherished idea of national sovereignty, and toward a "responsibility to protect" those people in danger.

After much debate, compromise and rewriting, the final text included in the draft declaration came out looking like this:

The international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapter VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. In this context, we are prepared to take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter, including Chapter VII, on a case by case basis and in cooperation with relevant regional organizations as appropriate, should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. We stress the need for the General Assembly to continue consideration of the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity and its implications, bearing in mind the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law. We also intend to commit ourselves, as necessary and appropriate, to help states build capacity to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and to assist those which are under stress before crises and conflicts break out.
Nowhere has the Security Council or the UN member states actually pledged to do anything. This section carries no legal obligations; rather, it merely reiterates that the UN has a responsibility "to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity," which something they already an obligation to prevent under the Genocide Convention.

Note also that it doesn't say that the UN has a "responsibility to protect" but rather a responsibility ... to help protect" those at risk. That is a big difference.

As such, it is a little difficult to share Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin's excitement:

But a Canadian-inspired initiative highlighting the world's responsibility to protect threatened people and prevent genocides is a clear move forward, Martin said.

The doctrine "essentially says that if Rwanda occurred today that the United Nations would act," he said, referring to the genocide that took an estimated 800,000 lives in the African country in the mid-1990s.
Considering that there is "another Rwanda" currently taking place in Darfur, why are we to expect that suddenly the UN is going to take seriously its "responsibility to protect"? Has the UN failed to act thus far solely because it lacked this one resolution? The UN has resisted acting on Darfur for two years and there is absolutely no reason to believe that this recognition of a theoretical "responsibility to protect" will have any impact on the legal or political concerns that have thus far prevented action.

If the UN and its members truly believed in the "responsibility to protect," they would be protecting the people of Darfur, not writing resolutions vaguely promising to act when Darfur-like situations arise in the future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mass. Demonstration: If you ever meet a copy editor whose job at a newspaper is to write headlines, you're in for a treat -- so long as you consider unbearable puns as treats. I've always thought that they have one of the most fun jobs in journalism, dreaming up witty headlines. (I envy the movie reviewers, too. I sit in dreadful committee meetings all day while they get paid to go to movies and make fun of them.)

The New York Times was definitely going for the double entendre with this headline for an AP article: Gay Marriage Ban Is Rejected in Mass.

Puns only work if they ring true. And in this case, the Massachusetts Legislature really did reject a homophobic amendment en mass: 157 to 39.

Republicans claim that they don't want "activist judges" making decisions about gay marriage, that it should be left up to the state legislatures. Well, here's one legislature that made the right decision, and made sure everyone knew.

Update: Apparently some NYT editor with no sense of humor changed it to the dry, "Mass. Lawmakers Reject Gay Marriage Ban".

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Now What? Bush has quickly gotten rid of a top administrator largely believed to have ineptly handled the federal disaster relief effort. And now the president has taken full responsibility for any federal mishaps during the Katrina rescue.

Let's see whether critics ease their complaints, especially since they always accuse Bush of not admitting that anything goes wrong or punishing incompetence in his administration.

I'm still not sure what people were expecting to happen when we were suddenly forced to evacuate an entire U.S. city, after it had been completely flooded, for the first time in history. Most major cities' traffic grinds to a hault at 5 p.m. every weekday as workers flea to the suburbs. Yet somehow we were supposed to empty out an impoverished city after its transportation infrastructure had been decimated.

Hopefully we can get some lessons out of this for next time. But I honestly believe that when the next big event happens, we'll be on our own for awhile before our government can come and rescue us, no matter who's in charge.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Not Bad: Everybody has been commemorating the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. While it's important that we never forget that fateful day, let's also take notice that we have not had a terrorist attack on this country in the past four years.

The reasons for such fortune are debatable. I attribute much of it to taking the fight overseas. Al Qaeda sees the action in Iraq as a much more desperate situation for them than the need to conduct attacks here. Combine that with vigilant law enforcement on this end, and we've succeeded far beyond what we thought we would have accomplished four years ago when we began the War on Terrorism.

That being said, we will be attacked again. It's just too easy to commit violence in a free society. So the presence of any attack in the near or distant future won't necessarily signal any vast failure on our part, just the determination of our enemies. And even though this country is fractured politically, let's hope that we meet future threats and attacks with a solid front that cannot be broken.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gun Fight: Officials in New Orleans are confiscating guns from residents being rescued (Hat Tip, Volokh Conspiracy). The article doesn't say exactly why firearms are being collected, but I imagine the thought is to limit incidents of rescuers getting shot at.

I'll hold off on the debate as to whether this is constitutional (Normally I'd say no, but emergency situations sometimes call for temporary moratoriums on certain civil rights). However, this is bad policy, period.

The thugs aren't just shooting at the rescuers. They are holding up residents all over the city. And those citizens have a right to protect their homes and themselves from such a threat. This is especially true now since the police are largely occupied with rescue efforts and can't maintain law and order.

Disarming law-abiding citizens only puts more people's lives in danger as criminals hold onto their guns. If we've learned anything from this incident, it's that sometimes the government can't be there to take care of all the problems that arise. It's counterproductive to confiscate the tools people need to take care of themselves.

Same-Old Politics: I support same-sex marriage. None of this "civil union" half-way stuff, but legitimate marriage. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I heard that California Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to veto the first bill ever passed by a state legislature to legally recognize same-sex marriage.

His excuse: the voters of California passed Proposition 22 in 2000 defining a marriage as being between one man and one woman.

Well, he's right. And I can't help but think that, as short-sighted as that vote was, that's the way the process works. Just imagine if the situation were reversed. If the voters passed a proposition legalizing same-sex marriage, and the legislature overturned it, that would be a disastrous abuse of legislative authority.

All that said, this as a civil rights issue -- meaning homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else, regardless of how the populous votes. If the public voted to outlaw interracial marriage (again), I believe the courts should overturn that under the 9th and 14th Amendments, as they did in the past.

So although the Governator made a sound principled decision, he still made the wrong decision. And I believe the courts in this country would be correct to protect the rights of homosexuals by granting them the civil rights they deserve, just like it was largely the courts that pulled us out of the Jim Crow era.

Hopefully the California Legislature's action will keep this issue in the spotlight, and Californians will overturn their own proposition soon. This will take time, but it's a fight worth fighting.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Imagine: What if the situation in New Orleans lasted for years? What if the National Guard troops were murdering civilians instead of rescuing them? Well, then it would be almost as bad as the situation in Darfur. And I guess that would mean that the news media would immediately stop covering it:

Darfur in the Dark

Two weeks ago, the "Be a Witness" campaign reported that it couldn't even pay TV networks to cover the genocide in Darfur:

American Progress created a television advertisement for, our netroots campaign that calls out the television news media for their deplorable coverage of the genocide in Darfur. Over the last few days, three Washington DC television affiliates, NBC-4, CBS-9, and ABC-7, informed us that they refuse to air the ad.

Since the major networks seem to have their hands full covering stories like Natalee Holloway and the Runaway Bride, the ad does what the media won't -- puts the spotlight on Darfur, and suggests that genocide warrants increased coverage.

ABC News broadcast just 18 minutes of Darfur coverage in its nightly newscasts in all of 2004 -- "and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings," as Nicholas Kristof pointed out. NBC News featured five minutes, and CBS only had three, "about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths." Now they won't allow us to pay for 30 seconds to urge better coverage of the genocide.
While this is obviously inexcusable, it is at least somewhat understandable that TV networks would be reluctant to run ads criticizing their own failings.

What is odd is that the networks' collective refusal to run this ad generated almost no print media coverage. And judging by the print media's own lack of coverage of Darfur, it is easy to see why.

A search of US newspapers for the number of stories that mentioned the word "Darfur" at least 2 times over the last 19 months shows how coverage of the genocide increased during 2004, only to all but disappear in 2005 (we looked for stories that mention Darfur at least twice in order try to eliminate pieces that mentioned it only in passing)

January 2004: 8

February 2004: 20

March 2004: 29

April 2004: 72

May 2004: 186

June 2004: 327

July 2004: 713

August 2004: 891

September 2004: 659

October 2004: 369

November 2004: 517

December 2004: 269

January 2005: 397

February 2005: 271

March 2005: 240

April 2005: 275

May 2005: 199

June 2005: 227

July 2005: 260

August 2005: 115
The most staggering thing about these numbers is that they reveal that there has been a nearly eight-fold decrease in the number of stories about Darfur between last August and this August.

The other amazing thing is that, on August 1st of this year, former Sudanese rebel leader John Garang died in a helicopter crash. Garang, who only three weeks earlier had been sworn in as vice president under the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between North and South Sudan, was seen by many as a man who might be able to bring peace to Darfur. Yet, despite his death and the implications it holds for the future of Darfur, coverage of Darfur plummeted.

Nearly one year after the United States called the situation in Darfur "genocide" and the United Nations found overwhelming evidence of "serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including crimes against humanity or war crimes" in Darfur, the genocide is receiving less print coverage than it did before many had even heard the word "Darfur."

We cannot "be a witness" to the genocide in Darfur if the media continues to keep us in the dark.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Heartbroken: I'm a Texan, but New Orleans has always been my favorite place on Earth to visit. The food, the music, the culture, the fun, and the women -- absolute Heaven.

Now it's almost all under water. Thousands are feared dead. I know the city will bounce back. But it breaks my heart to see such a disaster.

Of course, we can't have a widespread catastrophe without a good controversy. An entire large American city has been destroyed and has had to be evacuated, and unfortunately things aren't going swimmingly. Even though this is a purely natural disaster, people can't help but blame somebody.

I've been on vacation away from the Internet, so all I've gathered about the controversy is from tidbits reported on cable news -- which never seems to offer much analysis or comprehension, just allegations.

I'm sure that our government agencies could have done a better job in handling the crisis. There's always room for improvement. But there seems to be this idea that government can magically solve big problems. Sure, the United States has more resources than any other country. But if those resources can't make it to the intended destination, they won't do any good. And after they get there, it takes time to make it work.

Remember, Katrina initially missed the New Orleans bull's eye. At first people thought we dodged a bullet. Then the levees broke and the flood waters began rising.

When we realized that we really did have a crisis, we couldn't just drive in supplies. Interstate 10 was broken and battered, along with much of the rest of the transportation infrastructure. And boats don't have easy access. Crushed buildings and other floating debris clogged most routes. It would be like trying to drive a boat through a swampy junk yard.

People are even trying to throw in racial accusations, considering that most of the neglected are black. Well, the ones hurt worst by this tragedy are poor, and most of the poor in New Orleans are black. While that is a significant problem on its own, that can't be fixed next week by the National Guard.

Wealthy white people were able to get out. Poor black people could not easily escape before Katrina landed. As far as I can tell, the rescue missions are helping everyone they can. And from day one rescuers were able to help save thousands of people and send them to surrounding states and cities. Yes, it's unfortunate that some people were left behind. But we only have the capacity to move so many people at a time, especially under such dire circumstances.

And the violence in the affected areas will continue to hamper rescue efforts. A rescuer can't rescue anybody if he is hurt or killed -- in fact he becomes a serious liability. So with so many rescuers being shot at, you can expect delays.

(On the issue of crime, though, I'm confused about this whole notion of "looting". Some people are stealing televisions and stereos from stores. Yes, that's looting, especially since there is no electricity for such appliances. But other people are taking food, clothing, and medicine. Let's give these people a break, please.)

With all that said, bring on the investigations. Let's figure out what went wrong and what went right. We can learn from this incident for next time -- and there will be a next time. But we need to maintain proper perspective and realistic expectations.

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