Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Quote of the Day: Hezbollah & al-Qaeda

Jonah Goldberg makes an interesting (and, I think, accurate) comparison between the two terrorist organizations:
Immediately after 9/11, the argument was made repeatedly that al Qaeda should be treated like a bunch of militant Palestinians. It was our support for Israel, our military presence in Saudi Arabia, etc, etc, which "created" al Qaeda and sustained them. Stop doing what bothers them and they will go away. True or not, the fact is the question of what created al Qaeda in particular or Jihadism in general is irrelevant at this pont. Hezbollah was created by Israel's occupation of Lebabon. But until three weeks ago Israel no longer occupied Lebanon. This didn't make Hezbollah disappear. It made Hezbollah stronger. America could pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq tomorrow. This would not make al Qaeda weaker. It would make al Qaeda stronger. And not long thereafter we'd hear how if "we" only gave them Spain, we could have peace.

Correction of the Day: Wayne Scott

Remember last month's Willamette Week story on Rep. Wayne Scott? The one that accused the state House Majority Leader of using his position to push legislation that helped just his fireworks distribution company to the exclusion of all competitors?

Well, it turns out there were a few, um, minor errors in that story. I can't find the corrections on WW's website, but here's the version from the dead-tree issue:
WW made errors in a June 28, 2006, story it published about state House Majority Leader Wayne Scott (R-Canby) and his fireworks company, Western Fireworks. The story had to do with Senate Bill 667-A and an amendment that benefited one fireworks company to the exclusion of others. Our story said that the company that benefited from the bill (which is called Western Display) is owned by Scott and that Scott sponsored the legislation. While Scott owns a fireworks company (called Western Fireworks) and records show that it is a source of fireworks for Western Display, there is no factual support for the statement that he owns Western Display. While Scott was the only legislator to testify in favor of the bill in a House committee and carried the bill (meaning he was the floor manager) in the House, there is no factual support for the statement that he sponsored the legislation. It was sponsored by Sen. Kurt Schrader (D-Canby). We regret the errors.
In other words, either WW made stuff up, or someone worked reporter Andra Brosy to nurse a grudge. No wonder they "regret the errors."

Friday, July 28, 2006

Vocabularly of the Middle East

Victor Davis Hanson translates for us. A few examples:
Civilians” in Lebanon have munitions in their basements and deliberately wish to draw fire; in Israel they are in bunkers to avoid it. Israel uses precision weapons to avoid hitting them; Hezbollah sends random missiles into Israel to ensure they are struck.

Deliberate” reflects the accuracy of Israeli bombs hitting their targets; it never refers to Hezbollah rockets that are meant to destroy anything they can.
As usual, good reading from Hanson.

Pathetic reasoning by the O

Today's Oregonian editorial calls it "pathetic" that the U.S. Congress this week took up the issue of young girls who are taken across state lines to get an abortion in order to avoid parental notification.

What's really pathetic is the O's reasoning and straw men.

Let's start with the first paragraph:
Somewhere in Idaho, right this minute, a teenage girl may be asking her big sister to drive her to Oregon for a secret, scheduled abortion.
Never mind that Idaho's parental notification measure is suspended while the courts consider its constitutionality (and never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that such measures are constitutional), so such a drive to Oregon would be unnecessary. The key point in that paragraph is that, in this hypothetical situation, a big sister is willingly leaving her parents in the dark in order to help her little sister obtain an abortion.

Why is that significant? Because the parents are still responsible for this little sister. And, the big sister is not the parent, regardless of the nobility she places on her actions.

Paragraph 3:
Never mind that the nation's abortion rate continues to fall, or that today's teenagers are less likely to become pregnant than teenagers a generation ago. Never mind the global instability that might ideally capture Congress' attention. The Senate has concluded there are several, or even dozens, of pregnant teenage girls running wild in this country, and these girls must be grounded in time for the fall elections.
As I noted yesterday, it's great that the nation's abortion rate is dropping, but that doesn't sound so impressive when you consider that roughly 2,000 Oregon teens under the age of 18 got pregnant in 2004. And even though that rate has dropped about 10 percent since 2002, the fact that a crime rate is dropping does not mean we don't consider additional measures if the penalties are deemed insufficient. (I wrote yesterday that almost 10,000 teens got pregnant in 2000, but that included ages 18 and 19; I since found the data linked above.)

But my favorite straw man in this argument is the one liberals like to use often -- Why are you wasting our time with such unimportant issues when the world is falling apart at the seams? (Translation: we can't find any substantive arguments against the idea that a parent should be kept in the loop when their 15-year-old daughter is pregnant and considering her options, so we'll call it a waste of time.)

Let'e examine that a little more closely. On the Senate's Active Legislation page, we see these gems:
  • Extend daylight saving time
  • Drug testing standards for professional athletes
  • Constitutional amendment prohibiting flag desecration
  • Freedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005
  • Pledge Protection Act (limit court jurisdiction over constitutional issues)
Those are all clear examples of issues that, were they left to another day, would not hasten The End of the World As We Know It. I don't recall the Oregonian writing an editorial on any of them to protest that the Senate was wasting our time.

But perhaps a better parallel would be Senate Resolution 39, which would apologize to victims and their descendants for the failure of the Senate to enact anti-lynching legislation. This, clearly, is important to African-Americans whose family members were put through mock trials in which they were found guilty of imagined offenses, and then strung up from the nearest tree. But is it more important than Iraq? Iran? Israel vs. Hezbollah? North Korea?

I'd argue the answer is no. But that doesn't mean it's unimportant. Just like the issues listed in the previous paragraph don't permanently relegate to the back burner a parent's right (and responsibility) to, well, be a parent.

Paragraph 4:
The Senate's newly passed legislation isn't just an effort to support parents, as its backers claim. It's part of the crusade to criminalize abortion and increase the power of Congress over private medical decisions, all under the guise of family values.
Um, the point is not to criminalize abortion -- it's to criminalize those who would deliberately keep parents from helping their children. And the Oregonian must think itself psychic, as it has ascribed a motivation to the measure's supporters that it has no way to know about. I'd appreciate it if the O could stick the facts instead of trying to invent motivations designed to belittle the other side.

Oh, by the way, the measure passed 65-34, with 14 Democrats voting aye, so it's not like it was an evil conspiracy by those right-wing Bible-thumping GOP wackos.

Paragraphs 6-7:
The Senate bill . . . is designed to isolate pregnant teenagers in distress and punish the people who would help them. The bill would make it a federal crime for anyone other than a parent to accompany a girl across state lines for an abortion, if the intent is to evade parental notification or consent laws.

Grandparents, aunts and older siblings would have no protections under this strict law.
Yep, they got it right again. We just want to distress our teenage daughters and punish their loving grandmas. Actually, read that again: it would be a crime for "anyone other than a parent" to avoid parental notification laws by taking a girl to another state for an abortion. That includes grandparents, aunts and older siblings. Why? Because grandparents, aunts and older siblings aren't the parents! There is an exception however -- if the grandparent, aunt and older sibling is the child's legal guardian, that relative can do whatever he or she feels is in the child's best interest.

So if Idaho's parental notification measure is upheld by the courts and goes into effect, big sister can't play mommy and take her little sister to Oregon for an abortion unless the law says she's in charge. This isn't exactly ground-breaking.

Paragraph 10:
The majority of Americans fall into the vast middle ground on abortion. They believe early-term abortions should be legal. They also believe that teenage girls should talk to their parents before making major health decisions, but they understand that rigid requirements for notification and consent can cause serious harm.
This has nothing to do with early-term abortions, but the O is right -- the majority of Americans (about 70 percent) believe that teenage girls should talk to their parents before making major health decisions. Forty-six states have some sort of notification measure on the books, though only 29 are in effect because of court action; and some are jokes of laws, like the ones that allow the abortion doctor to decide if a parent should be notified (in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland & West Virginia).

But requiring that a parent be involved in decisions about the major medical procedure of his teenage minor daughter -- not the big sister, not the aunt, not the grandma -- is not a "rigid" requirement, especially when notification measures allow judicial bypass in extenuating circumstances like rape, incest or abusive family situations.

It is common sense.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hezbollah animals

Thanks to James Taranto in today's Opinion Journal, we have a crystal-clear example of why Hezbollah should get no sympathy, no help, no pity and no reprieve from the Israelis or the free world. This is a brutal description, so be warned:
When Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, provoking the current conflagration, the Shiite terrorist outfit apparently intended to use them as bargaining chips to demand the release of prisoners. Press reports often discuss this as if there were an equivalence between the Israeli soldiers, who committed no crimes but were simply defending their own country within its borders, and Arab terrorists. So it's worth pointing out just who the "prisoners" in Israeli hands are.

According to the BBC "the prisoner Hezbollah wants most" is Samir Qantar. On April 22, 1979, Qantar murdered 28-year-old Danny Haran and his 4-year-old daughter and caused the death of another Haran daughter, age 2. Haran's widow, Smadar Haran Kaiser, describes the crime (she transliterates the murderer's name as "Kuntar"):
It had been a peaceful Sabbath day. My husband, Danny, and I had picnicked with our little girls, Einat, 4, and Yael, 2, on the beach not far from our home in Nahariya, a city on the northern coast of Israel, about six miles south of the Lebanese border.

Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer.

As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat.

They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.

By the time we were rescued from the crawl space, hours later, Yael, too, was dead. In trying to save all our lives, I had smothered her.
As the father of two girls, one the same age as Einat, I weep. As someone who continues to try to understand the Middle East conflict, I'm at a loss for words and understanding.

We can talk to the Iranians . . . really!

From Sunday's Daily Mail in London, we learn that guards along the border between Bulgaria and Romania intercepted a truck bound for Iran. Why did they stop it? Because a scanner indicated radiation levels 200 times above normal.
Border guards seized a British lorry on its way to make a delivery to the Iranian military -- after discovering it was packed with radioactive material that could be used to build a dirty bomb.
On board they found ten lead-lined boxes addressed to the Iranian Ministry of Defence. Inside each box was a soil-testing device, containing highly dangerous quantities of radioactive caesium 137 and americium-beryllium.

A spokesman for the Bulgarian customs office, said the documentation listed the shipment as destined for the Ministry of Transport in Tehran, although the final delivery address was the Iranian Ministry of Defence.
A leading British expert last night said the radioactive material could easily be removed and used to construct a dirty bomb.

Dr Frank Barnaby from the Oxford Research Group, said: "You would need a few of these devices to harvest sufficient material for a dirty bomb. Americium-beryllium is an extremely effective element for the construction of a dirty bomb as it has a very long half-life, but I would be amazed to find it out on the street.

"I don't know how you would come by it as it is mainly found in spent reactor-fuel elements and is not at all easy to get hold of. I find it very hard to believe it is so easily available in this device."
(HT: Chas Sprague)

Post No. 500

This is my 500th post on this blog. And it will say nothing. Because I feel like it.

Ridiculous Statement of the Day

With apologies to whats-his-name at Fox News, today's Ridiculous Statement of the Day comes from Planned Parenthood of Oregon, reacting to the news that state residents will vote on a ballot measure requiring that parents receive 48 hours' notification prior to their teenage daughter's abortion:
Planned Parenthood says the measure is unnecessary because teen pregnancy has declined 39 percent since Oregon voters defeated a similar measure in 1990.
That's great that teen pregnancy has declined. But replace the abortion issue with something else. How about:
A measure increasing penalties against child kidnapping is unnecessary because the rate of child kidnapping has declined 39 percent in the last 15 years.
Or maybe:
A measure imposing harsher penalties on adults involved in child pornography is unnecessary because the rate of child porn has declined 39 percent in the last 15 years.
Leave it to PPO to dwell on the minutae in their search for excuses why I shouldn't know about my daughter's major surgery. In any other issue, the rate of decline would be irrelevant if kids were still in harm's way. And the fact that teen pregnancy has declined 39 percent in the last 15 years is somewhat irrelevant when you learn that, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, almost 10,000 Oregon teens got pregnant in the year 2000.

Ten thousand. That's as many people as live in 2-1/2 square miles of Portland.

Never mind that parents must be informed about any other procedure (ear piercing, tattoos, over-the-counter medication, etc.). Never mind that 44 states have such a measure on the books, and that such notification has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Never mind that the measure has a judicial process in place for a minor child to bypass the notification in cases of rape, incest or other unpleasant situations at home (don't let opponents tell you otherwise -- they're lying).

It's not necessary because 10,000 of your daughters (but it's down from 13,000 a few years ago!) could have walked into Planned Parenthood, paid for major surgery (possibly on the credit card of their adult boyfriend?) and walked out again without you ever hearing about it?


Bias watch?

From today's Register-Guard, in a story by David Steves on the upcoming state Republican convention (emphasis mine):
2006, a great year for Republicans?

As the state's party faithful prepare to descend on Eugene this weekend for their convention, they are expressing optimism about what they see as a grand election year for the Grand Old Party in Oregon.

Nevermind that, nationally, it's been a tough year for Republicans. Their president led the United States into a war that, according to recent surveys, has split the country. And his poll numbers are sagging. GOP majorities in the U.S. House and Senate are more vulnerable than they've been since their 1994 takeover.
OK, maybe Steves meant nothing by that phrasing. Still, anyone wanna bet whether he has one of these on his car?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Which superhero are you?

Superman's OK, but I really like Spidey, and I'm intrigued by the idea that I'm not that far from the Hulk. Must be my temper.

Your results:
You are Superman

Green Lantern
The Flash
Iron Man
Wonder Woman
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

(HT: Brian)

Brian's back

and he's discovering the joys and challenges of life as a Stay-at-Home Dad (SAHD).
For one thing, the loss of adult socialization cannot be overstated. Oh, man, does it get lonely. The poor grocery clerks get an earful. I plan to do some research on playgroups in this area. Finding fellow parents with whom to socialize has been more challenging that I first expected -- there is a sort of reverse gender bias, and while people smile approvingly of my choice to be a SAHD, a man alone at a park with a toddler is not as quickly welcomed by the rest of the parents there as a mom would be.
I'm right there with ya, Brian. It's strange being the only adult male at a park teeming with moms and tykes, and I couldn't possibly remember all the times I watched two previously-unknown-to-each-other moms strike up a conversation while pushing their kids in the swing, but do their best to ignore me as I give my kid an underdog next to them.

"The fate of our country and yours is tied."

So said Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, in a speech this morning before a joint session of Congress.

He made it clear that Iraq was transforming into a democracy thanks to the sacrifice of the United States and its coalition partners; that our troops should come home when the Iraqi forces were fully able to defend their country; and that it was critical to defeat the terrorists in Iraq or face the prospect of losing the larger War on Terror.

"The journey has been perilous, and the future is not guaranteed," he said. "Yet many around the world who underestimated the resolve of Iraq's people and were sure that we would never reach this stage. Few believed in us. But you, the American people, did, and we are grateful for this."

He added: "The fate of our country and yours is tied. Should democracy be allowed to fail in Iraq and terror permitted to triumph, then the war on terror will never be won elsewhere.

But the most critical part of his speech came near the end. I've highlighted the critical lines:
The greatest threat Iraq's people face is terror: terror inflicted by extremists who value no life and who depend on the fear their wanton murder and destruction creates.

They have poured acid into Iraq's dictatorial wounds and created many of their own. Iraq is free, and the terrorists cannot stand this. They hope to undermine our democratically elected government through the random killing of civilians. They want to destroy Iraq's future by assassinating our leading scientific, political and community leaders. Above all, they wish to spread fear.

Do not think that this is an Iraqi problem. This terrorist front is a threat to every free country in the world and their citizens. What is at stake is nothing less than our freedom and liberty. Confronting and dealing with this challenge is the responsibility of every liberal democracy that values its freedom. Iraq is the battle that will determine the war. If, in continued partnership, we have the strength of mind and commitment to defeat the terrorists and their ideology in Iraq, they will never be able to recover.
Did you catch that? Every democracy has the responsibility to join in the war on terror, and the front line of that war is Iraq.

Prior to the speech, I was listening to National Public Radio, which tried to paint al-Maliki as stuck in a vise created by the myriad political parties in Iraq, some of whom (maybe even most of whom) want the troops to leave now. But al-Maliki's speech made it clear that NPR's analysis was simply wrong -- al-Maliki and the Iraqi people appreciate our help, and need it to continue until the terrorists are defeated and the Iraqi army is able to defend the country.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bass ackwards

Mike Burton, presumably the former Metro executive and current head of PSU's Extended Studies department, wrote a "Short Take" in yesterday's Oregonian opinion page that sounded elegantly angry at President Bush. Since the Short Takes (letters of 35 words or less) aren't available online, here it is:
Stem cell research, which could save lives, is declared immoral by Bush, but he feels the war in Iraq, which is killing thousands, is moral. The president's moral compass is broken and we all suffer.
I hesitate to take on Mr. Burton, as he's probably infinitely smarter than me, but his comments seemed exactly backwards from reality. Here's my attempt -- a little longer than 35 words, so unqualified for Short Takes -- to straighten out his rhetoric:
Federal funding of stem cell research -- which kills human lives while proving to benefit no one -- is vetoed by Bush because Congress was too lazy and too interested in making political points to explore the moral alternatives that have proven effective. (Stem cell research, by the way, remains legal and is pursued in the private sector.) Meanwhile, the war in Iraq has cost us thousands of our family, friends and neighbors, which is a tragedy; but it has also rid the world of a dictator who killed millions of his countrymen and neighbors, and has saved the lives of millions of Iraqis. We suffer in mourning those deaths, but our country thrives in embracing a debate that exposes the collective moral compass of our political parties and our nation.
That's my two cents.

Quote of the Day: why oppose a cease-fire?

Yesterday, Portland blogger Bill McDonald (HT: Jack) noted a graphic in Britain's The Independent newspaper that showed the US was one of just three countries -- the others being the United Kingdom and Israel -- who hadn't backed the UN call for a cease-fire in the Middle East.

And who can argue with the idea of a cease-fire? Who wouldn't be in favor of the cessation of hostilities to save human life? How stupid can the US and UK be, when every other country of the world is against them?

Unfortunately, it's not that simple, says the incomparable Andrew McCarthy on NRO's The Corner. McCarthy reminds us that a cease-fire is an idea based upon the false premise that Hezbollah is a legitimate world partner, instead of the fact that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization supported by terrorists sympathizers Syria and Iran. McCarthy notes that a cease-fire treats Hezbollah like a sovereign nation instead of "a terrorist organization which exists outside the civilizing norms on which much of diplomacy (like much of international law) is premised." He continues:
Wouldn't a "sustainable cease-fire" implicitly acknowledge Hezbollah's right to continue existing as a terrorist organization (and, by definition, prevent "firing" on it, which is the only realistic way it can be destroyed)? Wouldn't it, moreover, reward Hezbollah — by virtue of nothing other than its savagery — with the elevated status of a sovereign?

Is that how you defeat terrorism?
In other words, Hezbollah hasn't followed the "rules" of diplomacy for decades, and isn't about to start now. Thus, a cease-fire (which inherently implies that negotiations will follow) offers rewards based on a track record that directly and unavoidably contradicts the reasons for such rewards.

McCarthy bases all this on the idea that Hezbollah should be destroyed, with which I agree. Unfortunately, I don't think it's going to happen. It's like claiming that Islamic terrorism would stop with the destruction of al Qaeda. There are too many bad guys out there all-too-willing to take the place of an Osama bin Laden or Hassan Nasrallah -- especially when the goal is the eradication of Israel -- should they make their final descent into Hell.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Quote of the Day: Michael Totten on Israel

Portland's Michael Totten has made several trips and written extensively about the middle east. As such, he has more knowledge of Israel, Lebanon and vicinity in his little finger than I have in my entire body.

He's out of the country for a while, but he made a short post on Wednesday, which included this gem (the gist of which I borrowed in my previous post):
The people of both Lebanon and Israel have my deepest sympathies. The Israelis do not deserve to be bombed by Hezbollah, and the Lebanese do not deserve to be bombed because of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, though, deserves every last bomb that lands on their heads. There is a special circle in Hell dedicated to terrorists who hijack countries and use civilian populations as human shields. Hassan Nasrallah is using some of my personal friends as human shields, and for that I hope he dies twice.

By the way, Michael's previous posts are well-worth the read.

Israel, as it seems to me

I hesitated to post on this topic, as the Israel-Arab conflict has always been something I have struggled to understand. But presidential candidate Michael Smith of Corvallis wrote something about it on Sunday (which I didn't get a chance to read until yesterday), and I felt he was wrong on so many levels that I had to chip in my two cents.

First is his concern that Israel is hypocritical because its attacks are hitting residential areas in Lebanon. This is a prime example of why the Geneva Conventions (other than humane treatment provisions) should not apply to terrorists. They have no qualms about putting Katyusha rockets in someone's bedroom or a mosque or a streetmarket, and then waiting for that location to be destroyed so they can accuse their opponents (read: Israel or America) of deliberately targeting civilians.

Israel is shooting at terrorists who have embedded themselves and their weapons in houses. Terrorists who have crossed an international border without provocation and kidnapped Israeli soldiers (coordinated with another terrorist group, Hamas). Terrorists who have killed hundreds of Americans, not to mention thousands of Israelis. Terrorists who are supported by a loose-cannon government that is most assuredly seeking the capability to literally wipe Israel off the map.

Hezbollah is even setting up roadblocks in Lebanese cities so people can't leave their homes near Hezbollah strongholds, and preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the same people. In other words, they're ensuring civilian casualties that will make Israel look bad.

The Lebanese people are being held hostage by terrorists and their own government, which is unable to control their own territory, and certainly don't deserve to be bombed. But what should Israel do? Ignore the provocation? Tell Lebanon to take care of it? (Considering that the Syrians control the Lebanese parliament, and Syria is a Hezbollah supporter, that's extremely unlikely.)

Or maybe, as Smith and many others hint, the Israelis should respond "proportionally." Does that mean they should just kill a few Hezbollah terrorists, kidnap a few more, throw a few bombs over the border and call it a day? How is it proportional when the Israeli soldiers want to live, and the Hezbollah terrorist want to die in the most glorious way possible? And how was it "proportionate" for Hezbollah to start this battle, anyway?

Any "proportionate" response is open to a wide range of interpretation -- whose do you follow? As this post by Lionel Beehner at the Council on Foreign Relations shows, it's not an easy question.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah has launched more than 1,500 missiles at Israeli neighborhoods over the past nine days. Those are most certainly NOT military targets, and a potential innocent death every 9 minutes, 24 hours a day. Missiles, by the way, that were made by Iran.

Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst for National Public Radio, makes a few interesting observations about this (emphasis mine):
According to American intelligence, Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon have an agreement for joint attacks on Israel. That may explain the look-alike forays across Israel's southern and northern borders. On June 25, Hamas fighters entered Israel by tunnel from Gaza, killing two Israeli soldiers and capturing one. On July 12, Hizbullah fighters crossed Israel's northern border, killing eight soldiers and capturing two.

They could be sure that their provocations would draw a violent response from Israel, and they did. Israel has unleashed a series of rocket and bomber attacks on facilities in Lebanon. Hizbullah is responding in kind. The organization appears to have several thousand missiles made in Iran and shipped through Syria. Some of them have a longer range than Israel has seen before, reaching to Haifa and farther.

As the conflict goes on, the Lebanese government is basically a helpless spectator to an Iranian-Syrian war fought through Hizbullah in Lebanon.
. . .
And meanwhile, Iran has already gained one advantage from the conflict that it helped to launch. It has diverted attention from the issue of Iran's nuclear program.
Smith also claims that Israel has "relatively few defenders," and hints that the US has somehow strong-armed the G8 leaders to take Israel's side. Gee, I thought everyone hated the Americans. I thought we had lost the respect of the world. How could George W. Bush strong-arm the French, the Russians and the Germans -- not to mention the European union -- into anything? Relatively few defenders? Even Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis are critical of Hezbollah.

Smith wants to be president, and his appeal for the middle ground has some draw to it in today's polarized society. I refuse to side with those who link a lack of Israel support with anti-Semitism, but if he's unwilling to offer more than luke-warm support for a strategic ally in the struggle against militant Islam, I will have a hard time supporting his candidacy.

As I said at the start, I've got a lot to learn about this conflict, and I'm sure I'm wrong about something in this rant. But that's how it seems to me.

UPDATE: Welcome, readers of One Jerusalem!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Enlightening mailings from Rep. David Wu

It's funny how, during odd-numbered years, I don't hear much from my congressman, Rep. David Wu. But in even-numbered years (read: election years), I start to get mailings from the esteemed four-term congressman.

And they're expensive mailings, as I wrote about when I received one in February. Arriving in the mail today was another full-color mailing -- "prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense" -- from Wu on the topic of gas prices.

Among the gems was this info under the heading, "Congressman David Wu shares tips to conserve gasoline while driving":
  • Drive sensibly
  • Observe the speed limit
  • Remove excess weight from the car
  • Avoid excessive idling
  • Use cruise control
  • Keep tires properly inflated
Other earth-shattering ideas included:
  • Checking insulation and potential air leaks in your home
  • Using lighting controls like dimmers or timers
  • Replacing standard light bulbs with fluorescent lamps
And that was just the back page! Inside, we learned that buildings consume 65.2 percent of all US electricity. Not listed was the fact that buildings contain nearly 100 percent of all jobs and housing.

We learn that Wu wants to raise the average fuel mileage from 27.5 mpg to 33 mpg (no word on the cost to consumers) and provide tax incentives for alternative fuel vehicles (no word on whether the tax incentives will make the more expensive cars pencil out cost-wise in comparison to standard fuel cars).

Thank goodness Congressman Wu spent our money to tell us these important things, less than four months before he takes on Derrick Kitts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

No money to the GOP

It's crap like this that may cause me never -- ever -- to give money to the Republican Party.

UPDATE: link fixed. Thanks, jeff.


That should have been the headline on today's "story" in the Oregonian -- the actual headline was Conservative coalition hears private speech -- by veteran political reporter Harry Esteve.

The story notes that Republican Ron Saxton spoke Tuesday to a group of roughly 20 people "representing a variety of conservative causes in Oregon," but a reporter for the Oregonian (read: Esteve) was "ejected" just before the speech.

I love that word: it evokes images of burly bouncers picking up the diminutive reporter and hurling him through a window. And don't come back!

In reality, it was a meeting that was mentioned on Saxton's website as a lunch appearance with the "Center-Right Coalition." Does its mention on the website mean anyone can come? I don't know -- Saxton campaign manager Felix Schein (note to Esteve: Felix's last name is Schein, not -- as you spelled it -- Stein) said his candidate had nothing to do with the reporter's "ejection," but noted that listing a private meeting on the website was a mistake.

But it's plain from the tenor of the story (not to mention its placement on Page 1 of the Metro section, and its listing under the "Top Stories" section of the O's website) that Esteve wasn't happy that he drove all way the way to Wilsonville only to be excluded.

I've been reading Esteve since I was a journalism major at the University of Oregon more than 20 years ago and he was working at the Register-Guard, and I can't remember ever seeing something from him that was so temper-tantrum-ish. Since he wasn't given the proper recognition as an important political reporter (wah!) for the state's largest and most influential newspaper (wah!), he did almost everything he could to register his displeasure in print.

The meeting included several groups, including anti-tax, property rights, crime, abortion, the libertarian Cascade Policy Institute, and -- gasp! -- a Republican legislative staffer. The "Center-Right Coalition," Esteve wrote, is associated with "national anti-tax activist Grover Norquist," and a representative of Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, was at the meeting. ATR has contributed to petition drives for measures that would restrict state spending and limit legislative terms.

The only thing missing from the description, surprisingly, was that Norquist has been linked to Jack Abramoff.

Esteve also noted that an editor from Brainstorm Magazine was also present, and that she distributed copies of the magazine. Esteve didn't say if she was allowed to stay after he was "ejected," but you could almost hear Esteve's whine through the story: "But, but, but . . . you let her in! No fair!"

Jason Williams, executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon and the meeting organizer, told Esteve that the group decided not to allow reporters because "there are some things that people share when there's not a reporter there." In other words, we can trust the Brainstorm editor to be fair; we're not sure the same can be said about you.

Esteve went on to note that the group has no official policy about news media at its meetings (indicating, I guess, that it was playing favorites; wah!); and quoted Ted Kulongoski's campaign manager as labeling the group "the far right wing of the Republican Party" and claiming Kulongoski gives the same speech, "whether it's business, labor or a civic group."

As if that somehow adds something to the story. I guess it's meant to insinuate that Saxton was giving secret messages to his cabal of neocon advisors. Never mind that Schein said Saxton gave his standard speech.


UPDATE: Rob Kremer is on the same page as me, except he has more knowledge -- he sometimes goes to these meetings.

Why does 'traditional' marriage matter?

We get some good answers from, of all places, the New York Supreme Court, which ruled last week that "the New York Constitution does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex. Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature."

(Gee, what a concept -- a judicial body recognizing that it is not a legislature, and leaving the legislating to the proper body.)

Here's the court's 4-2 majority opinion, on why traditional marriage matters (emphasis mine):
We conclude . . . that there are at least two grounds that rationally support the limitation on marriage that the Legislature has enacted . . . both of which are derived from the undisputed assumption that marriage is important to the welfare of children.

First, the Legislature could rationally decide that, for the welfare of children, it is more important to promote stability, and to avoid instability, in opposite-sex than in same-sex relationships. Heterosexual intercourse has a natural tendency to lead to the birth of children; homosexual intercourse does not. Despite the advances of science, it remains true that the vast majority of children are born as a result of a sexual relationship between a man and a woman, and the Legislature could find that this will continue to be true. The Legislature could also find that such relationships are all too often casual or temporary. It could find that an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born. It thus could choose to offer an inducement -- in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits -- to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.
. . .
There is a second reason: The Legislature could rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father. Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like. It is obvious that there are exceptions to this general rule -- some children who never know their fathers, or their mothers, do far better than some who grow up with parents of both sexes -- but the Legislature could find that the general rule will usually hold.
When that argument -- that children benefit from having "living models of what both a man and a woman are like," which the court later calls a "common-sense premise" -- is made by opponents of same-sex marriage, it's dismissed as so much discrimination and bigotry. Are they same dismissals so easy to issue toward New York's highest court? If not, why not? I'd argue that it's because the court, like the state, has a history of embracing more liberal outcomes, so it's not so easy to put the court in a little bigotry box like same-sex marriage supporters try to do with their other opponents. Will that lend credibility to the argument? Probably not.

Then, the court addresses, head-on, the claim that same-sex marriage opponents are prejudiced or engaged in sex discrimination:
If we were convinced that the restriction plaintiffs attack were founded on nothing but prejudice -- if we agreed with the plaintiffs that it is comparable to the restriction in Loving v Virginia, a prohibition on interracial marriage that was plainly "designed to maintain White Supremacy" -- we would hold it invalid, no matter how long its history. As the dissent points out, a long and shameful history of racism lay behind the kind of statute invalidated in Loving.

But the historical background of Loving is different from the history underlying this case. Racism has been recognized for centuries -- at first by a few people, and later by many more -- as a revolting moral evil. This country fought a civil war to eliminate racism's worst manifestation, slavery, and passed three constitutional amendments to eliminate that curse and its vestiges. Loving was part of the civil rights revolution of the 1950's and 1960's, the triumph of a cause for which many heroes and many ordinary people had struggled since our nation began.

It is true that there has been serious injustice in the treatment of homosexuals also, a wrong that has been widely recognized only in the relatively recent past, and one our Legislature tried to address when it enacted the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act four years ago. But the traditional definition of marriage is not merely a byproduct of historical injustice. Its history is of a different kind.

The idea that same-sex marriage is even possible is a relatively new one. Until a few decades ago, it was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex. A court should not lightly conclude that everyone who held this belief was irrational, ignorant or bigoted. We do not so conclude.
. . .
By limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples, New York is not engaging in sex discrimination. The limitation does not put men and women in different classes, and give one class a benefit not given to the other. Women and men are treated alike -- they are permitted to marry people of the opposite sex, but not people of their own sex. This is not the kind of sham equality that the Supreme Court confronted in Loving; the statute there, prohibiting black and white people from marrying each other, was in substance anti-black legislation. Plaintiffs do not argue here that the legislation they challenge is designed to subordinate either men to women or women to men as a class.
The court then addresses the argument that it doesn't matter if a child is raised by two men, two women, or one of each:
Plaintiffs, and amici supporting them, argue that . . . a home with two parents of different sexes has no advantage, from the point of view of raising children, over a home with two parents of the same sex . . . To support their argument, plaintiffs and amici supporting them refer to social science literature reporting studies of same-sex parents and their children. Some opponents of same-sex marriage criticize these studies, but we need not consider the criticism, for the studies on their face do not establish beyond doubt that children fare equally well in same-sex and opposite-sex households. What they show, at most, is that rather limited observation has detected no marked differences. More definitive results could hardly be expected, for until recently few children have been raised in same-sex households, and there has not been enough time to study the longterm results of such child-rearing.
And, I might add, there are studies from countries with longer-term experience that show the stability of same-sex marriages is much lower than in traditional marriage.

Finally, the court notes the argument -- a taunt, really -- that it would be nice to win now, but in the long run it won't matter; those interested in obliterating traditional marriage will eventually be victorious:
The dissenters assert confidently that "future generations" will agree with their view of this case. We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives. We therefore express our hope that the participants in the controversy over same-sex marriage will address their arguments to the Legislature; that the Legislature will listen and decide as wisely as it can; and that those unhappy with the result -- as many undoubtedly will be -- will respect it as people in a democratic state should respect choices democratically made.
Realistically, this practically guarantees that the leftward-tilting New York Legislature will impose gay marriage in New York, so I'm not convinced that the Legislature is a better option than a vote of the people, but it's certainly better than imposition by judicial fiat.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Mac vs. PC commercials...no, really!

There's a bleeped-out F-word at the end, but this is pretty funny. Especially for me, a Mac user in a PC world.

(HT: Jonah on the Corner)

Read Daniel

I don't always agree with him, but he's relentless in uncovering idiocy in state government, particularly in the area of illegal immigration.

Yesterday provided two particularly good examples: one on inconsistency from the state regarding the issue of assisted suicide, the other on curious omission by the state's print media regarding a fraud case related to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Go forth and read.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Quote of the Day: do Dems despise their netroots?

That's what David Brooks of the New York Times claimed on PBS Friday night, referring to the intense anger by the left-leaning Blogosphere in the direction of people like Connecticut's Joe Lieberman.

This morning, NRO's Jim Geraghty notes the Brooks comments, and asks:
if Brooks' anecdote is true . . . how sad is that? How could I entrust a Democratic lawmaker to stand up to al-Qaeda, Iran, North Korea or some other angry extremist, if he or she won't stand up to Daily Kos?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Another terror plot discovered . . . yawn

From the Oregonian this morning:
Authorities have disrupted planning by foreign terrorists who wanted to attack the New York City-area transportation system, the federal government announced Friday.

The planning appeared to be in the early stages, and the tunnels and other transportation routes weren't believed to have ever been at serious risk.
. . .
Lebanese authorities, working with U.S. law enforcement agencies, arrested an al-Qaida operative who admitted to plotting a terror attack in New York City, a senior Lebanese security official said Friday.
. . .
In the latest case, a federal official said FBI agents monitoring Internet chat rooms used by extremists learned of the plot in recent months and determined that tunnels were possibly being targeted after investigators pieced together code words from their conversations.
Guess what? That al-Qaeda operative was interrogated by Lebanese and U.S. officials, and his interrogation generated more leads in this case. If you think that interrogation was just a casual conversation between old friends, if you think it unnecessary to utilize coercion to produce information, you're living in a dream world. This guy knew of a plot to kill Americans and destroy American property simply because the word "American" was the adjective, and I don't care what the U.S. and Lebanese authorities had to do in order to foil that plot.

(You're worried that they won't be nice to us because we might treat prisoners roughly? Hello? They were plotting to kill Americans who were driving to work! You think they'd abandon such a plan if we promised to handle prisoners with kid gloves?)

Interesting thing, that story from the Oregonian -- it wasn't on the O's website for long. It was under the News Flash heading around 9 a.m., but by 10 it was replaced by the death of a Coalition soldier in Afghanistan, and when the New Jersey casinos would reopen. By 11, you had to dig deep into the archives just to find it.

As Max would say, nothing to see. Move along. Just another story

After all, this wasn't a real conspiracy to blow anything up. It was just a bunch of yahoos talking in an internet chat room. No harm, no foul. Just like those guys in Miami who talked about blowing up the Sears Tower. Wanna bet whether the guys who blew up subway tunnels in London one year ago today started in a similar way?

By the way, contrast the tame AP report in the O to the story in today's New York Daily News:
The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.

The terrorists sought to drown the Financial District as New Orleans was by Hurricane Katrina, sources said. They also wanted to attack subways and other tunnels.

Counterterrorism officials are alarmed by the "lone wolf" terror plot because they allegedly got a pledge of financial and tactical support from Jordanian associates of top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi before he was killed in Iraq, a counterterrorism source told The News.
A pledge of financial support from Al-Qaeda. Wanna bet whether authorities were able to gain leads in this case because of the SWIFT program that was recently castrated by the New York Times? Wanna bet whether the same leads will be obtainable a year from now, thanks to the aforementioned castration?

(Oh, by the way, one source told the Daily News: "This is more advanced than the Miami Seven." How many small-time plots are we willing to dismiss as irrelevant to the War on Terror before one of them blossoms into the next New York or London or Madrid or USS Cole or Khobar Towers or . . . )

And how long will it be before the Times publishes a Page One story about a Justice Department program that monitors internet chat rooms, revealing clues that will help terrorists avoid detection in the future?

UPDATE: One thing I thought about, but forgot to mention in the rush to get out the door today, and was reminded of while reading Hugh Hewitt this afternoon: the New York Daily News is not exactly immune from criticism for its decision to print details of this story. Someone leaked the investigation before all the bad guys were rounded up, and now they have advance notice that they're in deep soup.

Mark Mershon, former assistant FBI director in New York, blasted the leaks during a press conference Friday:
The person who leaked the investigation is "clearly someone who doesn't understand the fragility of international relations," Mershon said.

"The release makes the investigation more difficult for us; it has greatly complicated what otherwise would be a very smooth relationship, a very smooth partnership, with a number of overseas allied agencies," Mershon added.

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, added, "It would have been better if this had not been disclosed."
The more the press tries to act as independent oversight of the government, the more its lack of knowledge and lack of accountability become more glaringly apparent.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Saxton is "Public Enemy No. 1"?

I meant to comment on this story when it came out Friday, but other events -- a few birthdays, one of which was our country's -- precluded that. (In other words, I got busy with other things and forgot.)

So the public employee unions have made a video labeling Ron Saxton as "Public Enemy No. 1" in this year's race for governor. My reaction?

More, please. And quickly.

The more the unions engage in this type of completely out-of-touch, over-the-top rhetoric, the easier it will be for Oregonians to see the truth about the unions. That the only people unions are interested in helping are . . . their members. Not the school kids. Not the residents who rely on state and municipal services. Not the people whose services are being cut in order to feed the monster that is PERS.

So, to the unions in Oregon and their buddies in the Democratic Party -- the only thing you demonstrate is that you don't have a clue about Oregonians, and that your goals to bankrupt the state will continue with Ted Kulongsoski in Mahonia Hall for another four years.

Keep it up.

Quote of the Day: Flyover-State Yahooism

That's what Jonah Goldberg lists as one of two plausible motives -- at least according to the press -- for complaints about the revelation of secret government programs to fight terrorism (the other is Republican chicanery). Regardless of the motives, however, Goldberg rightly notes the spin that the press puts on any such criticism:
What infuriates me is how anybody who raises these criticisms is caught in a Catch-22. It works like this: The media gets to reveal anything it wants for any reason it sees fit in the name of “the people’s right to know.” But when the people, in their common sense, object to the disclosure of secret programs they expected their government to be conducting all along, the cognoscenti immediately ridicule the people for their ignorance. And when politicians or pundits echo the same concerns, the press immediately circles the wagons, declaring in its coverage and commentary that any such criticism is out of bounds, even un-American. It seems that for many of these people, free speech is a lot like government secrecy. Both are only legitimate when the New York Times says so.
So, if you're one of the hundreds of millions of Americans who think the New York Times should keep its big trap shut, you're a flyover-state yahoo. Or a Republican. Why? Because Bill Keller and his colleagues said so.