Thursday, May 31, 2007
Dearborn Underground also took a look at this earlier in the week (“UM-Dearborn Teaches How One Foot Washes the Other”).
I was amazed to learn in Debbie's post that the University Vice Chancellor, Robert G. Behrens, was the only individual responsible for funding the Muslim foot baths. According to Debbie, UM–Dearborn spokesman Terry Gallagher “confirmed that…Behrens made the decision to install the footbaths. Behrens was the sole decisionmaker. He did not have to go before a committee of University Regents to get the approval or consult with anyone else.”
This sounds awfully strange to me. I don't get how a Vice Chancellor can make a decision to spend money from the University’s general fund for any building project, especially one requiring retaining an outside architect’s services, without first having to obtain approval of the University Regents. (Not to mention one also involving compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act: Behrens must have consulted with the University's legal counsel). Or does the Vice Chancellor have his own discretionary budget, upon which he can draw if need be to facilitate, say, a religious accommodation? Even one that violates both State and Federal Constitutions?
On a more practical plane, I can understand why the Vice Chancellor did not go to the Regents, knowing as he must have that his decision would be objectionable to lots of people if it became known beforehand. If he went to the Board, there'd have to be discussion in a public meeting, where he would have to face questions about the legality of the decision and the necessity of installing Muslim foot baths, and these discussions would have been preserved in the minutes and available now for folks like us to review. This way, it was all but a fait accompli before we knew what hit us. I say "all but" because the baths haven't been installed yet.
UM's decision goes way past the “reasonable accommodation” standard required under our laws. This is not accommodating a religion, but facilitating one. This is not permitting a religious practice, but affirmatively assisting one. Past religious-accomodation disputes that were a lot less cut-and-dried than this one have made huge headlines, entailing epic battles, and were fought all the way to the Supreme Court. And to think that now we no longer have Justice O'Connor shuttling her way back and forth from one legal church-state standard to the other.
But this whole story is being vastly ignored by the local press. I think that's because the press likes to report conflict and drama, and it's hard to get conflict when one side is getting all its own way without opposition. If a man punches his wife it just isn't news. It's only news when she hits him back. So far, UM and the Muslim students haven't encountered any conflict.
The best way to change that and get the University’s attention is by filing a lawsuit. But that's a fairly forbidding prospect for isolated citizens without lots of resources. And we all know the ACLU isn’t going to stand up for the right side on this one. That’s what UM was counting on when they tried this.
According to Debbie Schlussel, the University says it's prepared to defend against a lawsuit if one is filed. Personally, I would love to see them try. And if a lawsuit ever were filed, the press would have to pay attention (if not necessarily full and fair attention).
In spite of UM's claim to being ready to defend this nonsense if a lawsuit is filed, I actually believe that a lawsuit would make them drop their whole project as indefensible. If that's so, all that's needed to get UM in that defensive posture where they belong is: a Michigan plaintiff, a local lawyer who understands civil rights laws, (or better yet, a national advocacy group), and a few thousand bucks to get things started.
Let’s hope someone finds all that before construction begins.
I couldn’t find a copy of the resolution on Cohen's website, so it’s unclear to me whether his proposed apology to slaves also includes a clause expressing the House's profound sorrow for allowing blacks in America to be evangelized into Christianity. One can only hope so.
Cohen earlier in the year thought he could achieve honorary black status by becoming the first white member of the Congressional Black Caucus. But the CBC refused on the basis that its historical mission to combat the evils of discrimination and segregation demanded that the Caucus remain “exclusively African-American.” ("Congressional Black Caucus vows to remain racially segregated").
In a letter sent out to obtain support for the apology, Cohen writes, "Slavery and Jim Crow laws were able to survive in our country because they were protected by the actions and acquiescence of the United States government, including Congress; we are still fighting their enduring legacies to this day."
Cohen has a point that slavery and Jim Crow were protected by government acquiescence, including in the Congress, but he may have wanted to mention the key and leading role played in both those institutions just by his own Democratic Party (“The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow”).
At least one proponent of the reparations movement out there gets this. (“Inner City Minister Sues Democratic Party for Reparations”). In 2004 the plaintiff in that suit, the Rev. Wayne Perryman, argued how
“in an effort to impede and or deny African Americans the same constitutional rights afforded to all American citizens, the Democratic Party established a pattern of (sic) practice by promoting, supporting, sponsoring and financing racially bias (sic) entertainment, education, legislation, litigations, and terrorist organizations from 1792 to 1962 and continued certain practices up to 2002.”
Perhaps if Cohen is unable to win an apology from the entire House, he can get an apology from just the Democratic Caucus, which would at least make some historical sense.
In any event, I think the logic of Cohen’s apology plan is pretty well contradicted by the truism, current among all grief counselors, that once someone has passed on it is too late to apologize.
In this vein, the News article does report that not all of Cohen’s constituents think the apology plan is such a great idea, either: “Fred Lincoln, a retiree outside Memphis, Tenn., said that it doesn't even make sense.
"’There are no slaves left and there are no slaveholders, so this is silly,’ he said.”
The aptly named Mr. Lincoln shows a lot more sense than Cohen, especially in his shrewd observation that neither party to the wrong are still around. But Lincoln clearly lacks appreciation for the Democratic Party’s ability to apportion blame without regard to rigid conventions about the actual relationships between parties, let along quaint notions of personal guilt—in other words, he has no idea that Democrats have never hesitated to adopt ideas merely because they’re silly.
In Wednesday’s print edition, for instance, (which hardly had any must-read news on the front page), there was a one-inch news brief reporting that Democratic presidential candidates Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson were dropping out of September’s Democratic candidate debate in Detroit, organized by the Congressional Black Caucus, but being broadcast by Fox News. (“Two more Dems shun Detroit debate”). A longer version runs in the online edition. “Dodd, Richardson make it 5 Democrats shunning Detroit debate").
Dodd and Richardson now join the rest of the courageous band: John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, in refusing to answer questions anywhere in shouting distance of either Brit Hume or Chris Wallace.
The rationale of these would-be leaders of the free world is: “Fox News is biased against Democrats, so we know their questions would be unfair and—and, just too hard!”
(John Edwards was the first one to cry “Never!” to the debate on the basis of anti-Democrat bias. He later added that Detroit also lacks a single decent hairdresser.)
This story should be a lot bigger in Detroit. The refusal of these candidates to participate in this debate insults Detroit, insults the Congressional Black Caucus, and especially insults Detroit's voters.
Is there any doubt that if this were a Republican debate, and any Republican candidate ever dared to bypass (or “shun”) it, for any reason whatever, that it wouldn't be a front page story for days? In articles quoting civil rights leaders condemning those racist Republicans for not caring about Detroit's African-American community? Or for intentionally intending to disrespect Detroit's majority black voters?
Sadly, this story shows up a lot more than just the cowardice of the leading Democratic candidates to face critical questioners on Fox. The real revelation is how cocksure all five candidates must be of Detroit's votes if they can scorn an opportunity to honor the city's primarily black voters in a debate featuring their city.
You can count on it that not one of these dropouts thinks he or she is risking any but the tiniest of political costs by staying away.
And that's because not one of these 5 candidates seriously doubts that, if nominated, he or she will carry Detroit in November 2008: no matter what he does, or fails to do, to either earn those votes--or earn that respect--from Detroit's voters.
Isn't it just common sense that Democratic candidates aren't going to break a sweat to earn what's always been given away for free?
Alas, and isn't this just the treatment Detroit’s black voters have earned from the party to whom they've always been so faithful--so faithful in spite of everything?
This is the real story, not some silly faux protest about the bias at Fox News started by that fake, John Edwards.
And that real story ought to be a lot bigger to Detroiters than a one-inch news brief on the fourth page.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Since then Dearborn Underground has obtained a letter sent out by UM Vice President Jerry May in reply to citizens concerned about the use of public money for an indulgence of a particular religious practice, an endorsement that would never be tolerated for any other religion.
U-M Vice President Jerry May wrote as follows:
I want to thank you for taking the time to share with me your concerns regarding the University. We will, of course, honor your request that we remove you from our distribution lists. I would, however, like to address some of the issues you raised in your email, if I may. The tradition of setting aside space for meditation or quiet reflection by University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff stretches back more than 150 years. In 1841, the UM student's day began with a required visit to chapel; and in 1872, Henry S. Frieze, then serving as Acting President of the University, presided over development of University Hall, which included a new auditorium and chapel. In 1897, the U-M Alumni Association convened its founding meeting in that same space.
The tradition continues. As our nation has become more pluralistic and diverse, chapels have been replaced by non-religious, non-denominational reflection rooms in public and private universities across the country. The University of Michigan believes that reflection is an important factor in a person's life, and we have worked to create opportunities to address this need by providing spaces for quiet reflection on all three of our campuses. These spaces are heavily used by students, faculty, and staff of all faiths.
On the UM-Dearborn campus, we have contracted with the Birmingham, Michigan, firm Niagara Murano, LLC, for design services on a couple of different projects, including foot-washing stations to provide appropriate and safe accommodations for a practice customary among a significant proportion of the campus community. Like the reflection rooms, the foot-washing stations will be open to all members of the UM-Dearborn community who wish to use them.
I assure you that the University of Michigan is, and always intends to, fully observe the law, which is our duty as shepherds of the trust of the citizens of this good State. Please let me know if there is anything more I may do for you.
Again, thank you for your comments.
Vice President May’s rationalization of the “tradition” of “setting aside space for meditation or quiet reflection” rings pretty hollow. As he himself explains, the practice of the University from its earliest policy of mandatory (Christian) chapel for all students, has tracked consistently in the opposite direction from preferential religious practices, and towards a more and more generalized view of religion in its most amorphous sense.
May explains this himself: “As our nation has become more pluralistic and diverse, chapels have been replaced by non-religious, non-denominational reflection rooms in public and private universities across the country.”
Exactly. You may like this trend or hate it, depending on your views of church-state separation, but clearly the legal trend (which the rest of us have to make do with) has been consistently away from requiring or even encouraging specific religious practices, all the way to merely allowing only “non-religious, non-denominational” spaces that are completely voluntary, and so bland and non-committal, that they neither inspire, nor offend, any religion, or lack thereof.
The punishment that Christian expression has undergone in the enforcement of this regime in public facilities is too well known for me to repeat here, except that even in its most indirect form (not just Santa has been deemed off-limits, but even Frosty the Snowman), Christianity in particular has effectively been driven off public campuses.
But after explaining how the UM tradition became embodied in the “non-religious, non-denominational” space provided to all, May unreasonably suggests that, given the historical progress from mandatory chapel down to religiously anonymous reflection rooms, the next logical step would be the construction of ritual foot baths to encourage a religious practice engaged in only by one religious group.
It is irrelevant that non-Muslims, theoretically, will be allowed to use the foot baths. The likelihood that any non-Muslim will use the foot baths at all is extremely small. (I admit that, since it is still a college campus, there's going to be the odd New Ager trying it out just to impress her Rasta boyfriend with how kicky and open she is).
Nor is it even conceivable that nonMuslim students or University personnel attempting to use the foot baths for a non-ritualistic purpose are going to be well tolerated by Muslim students. (For example, track team members washing their sweaty feet before rushing to class; janitors dumping their mop buckets). I can easily picture how complaints by offended Muslims witnessing any such irreverent uses would force the University to yet further clarify that--out of respect for the "significant proportion of the [Muslim] campus community," use of the foot baths is limited TO RITUAL WASHING FOOT WASHING ONLY.
Is there really any doubt the exclusive benefit of the foot baths is going to go towards facilitating the practice of a Muslim ritual by Muslim students?
The comparison with Bible study groups permitted to use empty classrooms only serves to show how different the foot baths will be.
University facilities such as classrooms already exist for a secular purpose (class instruction), and special interest student groups are allowed to use those existing facilities when they aren’t otherwise in use. It doesn't cost the public anything, because the rooms have to be heated and air conditioned anyway, and the nominal cost to turn the lights on for an hour are easily paid for by use fees all students have to pay, anyway. If the public are still offended that students are studying the Bible in unused college classrooms, (as many still are), they can at least console themselves that the classrooms weren't specially constructed for that purpose.
The point being that it's UM's facilitation of the foot-washing that runs afoul of the strictly religiously-neutral scheme all the rest of us have had to go along with. For UM to allow use of existing, unused classroom space to a Bible study group, a chess club, or any other group of students with a lawful purpose is nothing more than a passive accommodation, which in this context is just another term for “tolerating.” Beyond the nominal use of lights, classroom furniture, and air conditioning, no Bible study group would expect their Bibles and songbooks to be provided by the University, nor does the chess group expect to play with boards and pieces provided by the administration. In one sense, all the University is contributing these different groups is the barest permission to use empty space off hours.
By the same token, I doubt any one would object to Muslim students using existing restroom facilities if they need to engage in ritual washing, provided it did not interfere with the ordinary use of facilities by other students.
But in stark contrast to the granting of permission to use classroom space, the Muslim foot baths are not existing University facilities purpose-built for a secular educational function, and thereafter lent to Muslim students from time to time by way of accommodation. The foot baths don't compare because they have to be purpose-built facilities, and will need to be designed, constructed, and maintained, at public expense, for no other reason than facilitating the practice of a ritual distinctively practiced by Muslims. No one pretends they will be of use for any other purpose, educational or otherwise.
As the verb “facilitate” suggests, the baths are being provided to make it easier, to smooth the way for, and in effect, to encourage a ritual practice of the Muslim religion.
And that is why it is an unlawful endorsement of religion.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
REP. STEPHEN I. COHEN, D-TENN.:Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Goodling, I've read your vitae and it says that you grew up and you mostly went -- you went to public schools.Is that K through 12?
COHEN:And it says you went to Christian universities in part because of the value they placed on service.
What was the other part, that you chose Christian universities?
GOODLING:I chose them because I had a faith system, and in some cases -- I went to American University for my first year of law school.And then I transferred.
GOODLING:And I enjoyed studying with people that shares a similar belief system that I did.It didn't mean that there wasn't a lot of diversity of discussion, because in some cases I actually found the debate at Regent was much more vigorous than it was at American University my first year of law school.But I enjoyed being surrounded by people that had the same belief system.
COHEN:The mission of the law school you attended, Regent, is to bring to bear upon legal education and the legal profession the will of almighty God, our creator.What is the will of almighty God, our creator, on the legal profession?
GOODLING:I'm not sure that I could define that question for you.
COHEN:Did you ask people who applied for jobs as AUSAs anything about their religion?
GOODLING:No, I certainly did not.
COHEN:Ever had religion discussions come up?
GOODLING:Not to the best of my recollection.
COHEN:Is there a type of student, a type of person that you thought embodied that philosophy of Regent University that you sought out as AUSAs?
GOODLING:In most cases the people at Regent are good people trying to do the right thing who wanted to make a difference in the world.If the question is if I was looking for people like that, the answer is yes.I wasn't necessarily looking for people who shared a particular faith system.I don't have any recollection that that entered into my mind at any point.But certainly there are a lot of people who applied to work for this president because they share his same faith system and they did apply for jobs.
COHEN:Are there a lot of -- an inordinate number of people from Regent University Law School that were hired by the Department of Justice while you were there?
GOODLING:I think we have a lot more people from Harvard and Yale.
(Cohen's crack in favor of a Harvard-Yale majority at Justice over Christian-educated lawyers drew a vocal response from the Republican side, including mention of the word, "bigot." Cohen continued unphased).
COHEN: Is it a fact -- are you aware of the fact that in your graduating class 50 to 60 percent of the students failed the bar the first time?
GOODLING:I'm not -- I don't remember the statistics, but I know it wasn't good. I was happy I passed the first time.
COHEN:Thank you. That was good.
The last bit, “that was good,” was muttered to himself, meant to show that her well-played reply about passing the bar on her first try was oh-so-clever, but wasn't going to fool this Congressman, who knew exactly what she was and what she was guilty of.
Immediately after Cohen's examination a lunch recess was called. First questioning after the committee re-convened went to Representative Randy Forbes, who immediately took the opportunity to place into perspective Cohen's disgraceful display.
REP. J. RANDY FORBES, R-VA.:Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Goodling, many of us feared this day would come, but we did not realize it would arrive so soon, when the fact that someone was a Christian would be the subject of a line of questioning as to how someone performed their job at the Department of Justice or any other agency in the United States government.
It's not a good day, nor a good sign of things to come, and I just hope those individuals watching this across the country realize the sea change that's taken place.
In addition, since my district is contiguous to Regent University, I'd like to point out that not only is the attorney general of Virginia a graduate of Regent University, but this year, Regent University students won the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competition February 11, not only beating out 220 teams, but also beating the former winner, Harvard University.
And the American Bar Association, not exactly a bastion of conservatism, has chosen Regent University to compete internationally in their competition.And that Regent has won the ABA's National Appellate Advocacy Competition 11 out of the last 14 years, including placing first for the best brief.
Cohen managed to establish two facts about himself, even if he produced nothing incriminating about Ms. Goodling: One, that he considered Ms. Goodling's committed Christian faith and background a self-evident character flaw that he finds personally repulsive, and, Two, that in his eyes her Christian faith disaqualifies her, and those similarly devout, from ever entering public service in the first place--disqualified for lacking both morals and intelligence. (We've always have Harvard grads and Yalies for that, thank God, or whatever deity Cohen may actually respect).
Cohen never had any context for these questions about Ms. Goodling's faith. Even his own examination made clear that it had never been a work-related issue. No one involved in this infernal investigation before or after Wednesday ever breathed this ever breathed the least suggestion that Ms. Goodling lacked either outstanding morals or brains in the performance of her job. Cohen simply regards Christians as ipso facto stupid.
Not least among the many, many ways this exchange signals something grievously wrong in the majority party is that so far not even the wildest slanderous of the Democratic withhunters on the Congressional committees conducting this witchhunt have suggested that anyone in the DOJ, even including Ms. Goodling, ever engaged in any religious-based discrimination against DOJ officials or employees. Cohen simply believed he could impeach Ms. Goodling's character by holding up to the shame and disapprobation of a sympathetic public as--ugh--a Christian.
As Rep. Forbes warned, the course signaled by this brazen display made Wednesday "not a good day, nor a good sign of things to come." Along with him, I also hope people watching across the country and following all this realize "the sea change that's taken place" in the first year of the new Congress of 2007.
Friday, May 25, 2007
According to the New York Times, ("Shiite Cleric Appears in Iraq After Stay in Iran), "The cleric, addressing a large crowd amid heavy security, called for American forces to leave Iraq, but pointedly did not say how quickly those troops should leave, as he has in the past."
Ever watchful for significant connections to the bigger picture, the Times reporters went on to say,
“Mr. Sadr’s appearance came as the American military announced today that six more soldiers had died in Iraq, five on Thursday and one on Tuesday, according to Reuters. April was the worst month this year for the American military since the invasion, with 104 soldiers killed. About 90 have been killed in May so far.”
It is unclear why the Times reporters associate Sadr's sermon with American deaths on the same day, since none of the deaths appeared to have anything to do with Sadr.
Anyway, I thought I saw another significant connection—one strangely not picked up by the Times reporters--in that Sadr’s conspicuous failure to call for timelines on American troop withdrawals also came on the very day the US Congress finally passed an Iraq war funding bill after removing demands for withdrawal timelines.
This more than coincidence might lead one to think Sadr had been, for some odd reason, monitoring the whole American timeline debate from his hidey-hole in Iran.
The Times article continues:
“The prevailing view among American officials familiar with intelligence reports about Mr. Sadr’s return is that the cleric’s aim at a minimum is to raise his political profile in Iraq and possibly strengthen his position in anticipation that provincial elections may be held next year.”
His political profile?? Isn't Sadr most famous for being a jihadist firebrand and anti-American militia leader? Isn't he a fugitive from the Iraqi government crackdown on he and his Mahdi army? And suddenly he's testing the waters to strengthen his position in provincial elections next year?
How is it that Sadr could be so unaware that Iraq is “a broken state,” (so we're told), one in the throes of an endless and irresolvable civil war, where by next year things will be even worse than, (according to the American left), things already are now, that is, at the point where things can’t possibly get any worse?
I’m almost inclined to suspect that Sadr thinks President Bush’s hopeless, failed policy in Iraq is going to work out after all.
The New York Times continues,
“There have also been reports that his militia has been splintering during his absence, and he may also be trying to reinforce his influence over his supporters….
“The broader question is whether Mr. Sadr plans to step up his oratory against the American-led coalition and try to mobilize pressure for an American withdrawal or seek a new political accommodation.”
Am I the only one who thinks Sadr is re-enacting the cogitations of the Democratic Congressional caucus in miniature?
Compare them. Since the November election Reid, Pelosi, et al, have been steadily increasing their “oratory against the American-led coalition” to “try to mobilize pressure for an American withdrawal.” Then finally, in the face of Bush’s principled refusal to let them force surrender and throw away four years of coalition progress, Democrats now suddenly broke ranks and sought “a new political accommodation”—namely, dropping their demands for a scheduled surrender.
Sadr is a horrible murderer and a dangerous demagogue, and I wished he'd been arrested or killed by the coalition years ago. Now I suppose Shia politics in Iraq makes that impossible. If things go the way it looks like they're going, he may hang up his guns and transform into some smaller-scale Arafat-like local potentate. He wouldn’t be the world's first terrorist to end up as a municipal kleptocrat handing out political patronage to his fellow jihadists.
But the bigger point is that Sadr--triggered by Bush's triumphant turning back of the Congressional surrender policy--has drawn closer to accepting the inevitability of democracy's triumph in Iraq, a future in which he’d be better off trying to wield power through popular political means instead of by terrorism. In other words, what happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington--it even reaches the fevered eyes of militia-leading maniacs in their hidey-holes.
It is not unimaginable that Sadr’s thinking right now is that Bush and the Americans are going to win in Iraq after all. Sadr is canny enough to realize that if the anti-war Congress can't condemn Iraq to a real civil war and collapse--the kind of chaos that would lend itself to a reconstituted Mahdi army led by himself--then he may as well hang it up and just go into politics. Couldn't this also explain why he's suddenly dropped his calls for American withdrawal, and is now seeking "a political accommodation"? (That, and that if he doesn't straighten up the Americans or Mailiki may just kill him this time).
I hope if Sadr does run next year he loses. But whether he wins or loses it will be a mark of victory for Iraq. In fact, it would be a vindication of Bush’s entire war aim in Iraq as well.
I wonder how many of the anti-war Democrats in Congress think the exact same thing?
As an irreducible political fact, Congress and the President squared off on this issue, and the President got what he wanted. In other words, he clearly won.
(Or, as Jimmy Carter might phrase it, the worst President in history once again bests outfoxed the smarter and morally superior Congress.)
(Or, as the elitist press would phrase it, the stupidest moron to ever occupy the Oval Office once again gets the majority smarter party to go along with what he wants.)
Clearly the President's victory, even if you don't agree with it, is the real newsworthy nugget. And had a liberal President prevailed over a stubborn Republican majority in a similar standoff, is there any doubt the headlines would all have been some variation of “Congress Blinks”?
Instead, the media is presenting Bush’s victory, and the defeat of the Pelosi and Reid “new direction” on Iraq, as a neutral event:
“Congress voted Thursday to meet President Bush's demand for about $95 billion to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan through September, providing a momentary truce in a bitter struggle over war policy.”
A momentary truce? Does that mean that the two sides are going to go back to fighting about this bill after the President has signed it?
And according to the headlines in the Detroit News, the Democrats did not lose: “Congress approves $95B for Iraq war: Dems back off, take out troop pullout timetable after earlier Bush veto."
So the Dems didn’t lose, they just “backed off.” There are no losers here, especially the Democrats; nor is there a winner, especially the illiterate Moron in Chief.
And the New York Times, from which the identical Detroit News report was taken, has this interesting headline: “Congress Passes War Funds Bill, Ending Impasse.”
So you see, it isn’t that Bush stuck to his guns, or did exactly what he said he would do, and wrested a proper bill from Congress, and handed the Democratic caucus a major loss in return. Nor did the Democratic majority back down after one of the most overheated rhetorical grandstanding ever. Rather, Congress ended an “impasse,” not only avoiding being the loser, but getting credit for initiative and doing something actually rather positive.
A similar headline may have been written in April 1865, "Army of Norther Virginia Surrenders to Federal Troops at Appamatox Courthouse, Ending Impasse."
Never mind that if Congress had passed the same goddamned bill in January when the President first asked for it, and before creating the impasse that the Times is now crediting them with ending, the troops would have had the money by now.
As if we didn’t know the difference.
By way of reminder of just how much Pelosi and Reid anted up in their losing hand against the President, here is a brief remider, from her own website, of how Pelosi’s fans were raving her up in March for her brave position on imeidate withdrawals,
Pelosi war-bill gamble pays off; The House speaker's triumph was anything but assured when she announced the measure -- without votes
By Noam Levey
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced an angry group of liberal lawmakers when she stepped into her red-walled Capitol office on the afternoon of March 8.
That morning, the San Francisco Democrat had announced plans to push legislation requiring President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008 -- at the latest.
But the antiwar members of her party who gathered in the large conference room overlooking the National Mall wanted the war over sooner. Many were threatening to defy their leader and vote against the bill.
For 2 1/2 hours Pelosi listened, parrying each complaint with an argument she would make hundreds of times over the next two weeks: Democrats had to unite behind a bill that challenged Bush's management of the war.
Friday, Pelosi carried the day.
In the most difficult trial of her speakership, Pelosi pushed through the first legislation mandating an end to U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.
The 218-212 vote vindicated the risk she took in championing the controversial withdrawal plan before she had the votes.
And it rewarded the round-the-clock cajoling, lobbying and pleading by Pelosi and her top lieutenants, who worked until just before the vote to keep Democrats united behind the bill. In the end, only 14 Democrats voted against it.
"She was the general here, and there wasn't a stone left unturned, a person left uncontacted or a member whose position was left unknown," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the chamber's staunchest war opponents, whose decision to back the bill helped put it over the edge. "It was a brilliant campaign."
Pelosi, who closed the debate for the Democrats on Friday, afterward called the vote the beginning of a "new direction."
"This new Congress voted to bring an end to the war in Iraq," she said.
Less than a month ago, it was far from clear that the new speaker could get her party there. Democrats united behind a nonbinding resolution criticizing Bush's plan to deploy additional troops to Iraq, but they appeared to be splintering over what to do next when they took up an emergency spending bill to pay for the war.
Moderates, worried about meddling in military affairs, rebelled over a plan to require troops to meet a set of readiness standards before they could be sent to Iraq.
And lawmakers in the Out of Iraq Caucus, which has more than 80 members, demanded that the spending bill include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces -- an idea that party leaders had largely dismissed when they took power.
But after days of huddling with party leaders, Pelosi decided to embrace a timeline. On the morning of March 8, she strode into the ceremonial speaker's office to announce that Democrats would force the president to begin withdrawing U.S. troops no later than next year.
Pelosi acknowledged she didn't have votes to pass the measure. In fact, the bill was still in the drafting stage. But the speaker left no doubt about the stakes. "We have to pass it," she told dozens of journalists packed into the office….
Later, Pelosi’s website quoted these editorials with approval in response to Bush’s veto of the withdrawal bill:
Rocky Mountain News: Bush’s Farwell (sic) Tantrum
By Paul Campos
May 1, 2007
“Whatever one thought of the original decision to invade Iraq, the political question the nation now faces could not be clearer: Should we ask our troops to continue to fight this war, and our children to pay for it through future tax increases…
“The American people have already answered that question, and their answer is ‘No.’… Every opinion poll shows that, by large majorities, Americans support the efforts of Democrats to force President Bush to begin withdrawing our troops…
“In the end, President Bush's failure to heed the will of the people isn't so much an act of principle, but rather an outburst of sheer peevishness. With Democrats in control of Congress, he's no longer getting a blank check to fund his military adventures.”
The Miami Herald: Congress Declares Vote of No Confidence
May 1, 2007
“By sending President Bush an Iraq spending bill with a timetable for withdrawal, Congress has declared itself unequivocally against the war even though the nation's troops are still on the battlefield. This is an unmistakable, and we believe deserved, vote of no confidence in the way the administration has managed the war…
“Congress is responding to the popular will and, more important, fulfilling a constitutional duty.”
And there was there was Harry Reid’s speech on April 23rd, in which he said,
“Now in the fifth year of President Bush's mismanagement and mistakes, there is no magic formula. But, there is a way forward that gives us our best chance for a responsible end to the war - that protects our strategic interests, strengthens our security, and brings our troops home.
“That way forward is being forged today in Congress, with the help and advice of Democrats and Republicans, civilian experts and retired generals, as well as the good judgment of the American people, who have made their voices heard loud and clear.
“Today, I speak of where things stand on the ground in Iraq and in the public discourse at home. I also speak of why an Iraq strategy that a bipartisan majority in Congress supports is our best way forward.”
If the Miami Herald is correct that the original bill requiring withdrawal timelines was Congress's way of “Responding to the popular will and, more important, fulfilling a constitutional duty.” then yesterday Congress either ignored the popular will, failed in their Constitutional duty, or just revealed itself as the posturing, political windbags that they are.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Democratic House, continuing its impressive record of passing meaningless symbolic legislation, approved the bill 354-72.
From the AP:
"We don't have to stand by and watch OPEC dictate the price of gas," Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers D-Mich., the bill's chief sponsor, declared, reflecting the frustration lawmakers have felt over their inability to address people's worries about high summer fuel costs…. Conyers accused the OPEC engaging in a "price fixing conspiracy" that has "unfairly driven up the price" of crude oil and, in turn gasoline.
His measure would change antitrust laws so that the Justice Department can sue OPEC member countries for price-fixing, and would remove the immunity given a sovereign state against such lawsuits.
Experts testifying at House hearings explained to congressmen that “that crude oil prices have played a relatively minor role in the sharp increase in gasoline costs over the last three months, putting the blame on lower gasoline imports, refinery outages and continuing growth in demand from motorists.”
In addition, there is also the issue of the respect for the sovereignty of foreign oil-producing states, and the possibility that the bill could lead to retaliatory measures and further market disruptions.
“Nevertheless, the House felt it was important to take on OPEC, the major player in oil production.”
The House has a real thing for symbolism these days.
Maybe it isn’t exactly blood for oil. But isn’t war really just legislative diplomacy by other means?
Speaking of pawns in the game of politics, Rep. Conyers, and his wife, Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, have been themselves either pawns, or doing some political pawning themselves, regarding the left’s hobby-horse of impeaching the President.
As we noted here Saturday, (“Councilwoman Conyers Skips Vote on Her Own Impeachment Resolution”), the Detroit City Council’s ridiculous and utterly pointless resolution to impeach the President and Vice President, co-sponsored by Monica Conyers, was candidly explained by its lefty originators as a means to pressure John Conyers into getting back onto the impeachment track Nancy Pelosi derailed him from.
Democrats don’t seem as put off by inserting politics into, well, politics, when they are the ones doing the inserting. In this case, we are to accept as a legitimate political activity the co-opting of mechanisms of Detroit city government for the naked political object of pressuring a councilwoman’s powerful husband in Congress to work to impeach a Republican President and Vice President.
If there were anything even close to this sort of political incest in the US Attorney case, impeachment articles would already have been passed.
Why are Democrats immune?
The Pew report has in only one day devolved into two stories: the story of the results themselves, and the story of the media spin. For instance, the headline of the online version of Niraj Warikoo's Detroit Free Press’s article reporting the poll, (“Younger U.S. Muslims more likely to support suicide bombings, poll shows” ) changed from yesterday to today so as now to read “Nearly 80% of U.S. Muslims call suicide bombings unjustifiable,” a clearly more chipper heading. Maybe the change is explained by the optimist copy editor coming in overnight to relieve the pessimist copy editor.
Meanwhile, over at the Detroit News, today's edition of Gregg Krupa’s story had the interesting half-headline “Most Muslims are moderate, but.”
That isn't a typo: it really ends with the word, "but." This headline was also a re-do of the previous day’s, which read, “Survey: Muslims largely assimilated in U.S.”
Perhaps at the News the pessimist editor relieved the optimist editor. Or maybe the News headline writer simply recognized that it was ludicrous to report that 26% of young American Muslims endorse suicide bombing under a headline suggesting that this state of affairs qualifies American Muslims as “largely assimilated.”
Krupa’s story, which was better written, included this reaction from one local Muslim leader:
“'Our tradition leaves no place and no justification for suicide bombings,' said Imam Mohammed Ali Elahi, the leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights. 'I think that if other Americans read this stuff they'll say, "Wow, and they are right next door."'Elahi said. 'But I am 17 years in this country and I haven't faced any young individuals who say it is OK in Islam to have a suicide bomb and to support suicide bombings.'"
Clearly, Imam Elahi was not part of the Pew survey team, or he would have faced about 273 members of the sample population telling him exactly that.
The 26% number is going to be well worked over by the time I post this, and I have nothing of interest to add. What is more shocking to me anyway is the percentage of all Muslims (as downplayed by the Free Press’s Niraj Warikoo), that, of all Muslims polled, “only 40% said they believe Arab men carried out the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” Stated another, and more logical way, the same result ought to be stated 60% of Muslims polled do not believe Arab men carried out the attacks.
60%. That represents a significant majority of American Arabs. Which raises a few questions for me.
Number one, If Arab men did not carry out the attacks, what kind of men did? Or do they simply not believe that the attacks ever took place? (The poll results do not indicate how many American Muslims get their information from Rosie O’Donnell.)
Number two, If 60% of all American Muslims do not believe that Arab men carried out the 9/11 attacks, then how does that translate into their support, or lack of support, for America’s war on Al Qaeda, which is directly linked to the terrorist group’s 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?
In partial answer, there is this interesting finding: according to the poll, “Only 5% of U.S. Muslims expressed favorable views of the terrorist group al Qaeda, though about a fourth did not express an opinion.”
No opinion on Al Qaeda?
Really now, since I’m not obliged to follow any rules of statistics nor any other social science, I’ll just take the liberty of adding the coy 25% who have never given AQ any thought to the 5% admitted AQ admirers, which rounds up to a neat 30%. I don’t think this is so unfair, especially considering that 60% of Muslims polled do not believe Arab men carried out the attacks, which pretty much means Al Qaeda did not do it.
And, of course, if Al Qaeda didn’t do it, then UBL and the Taliban were innocent, at least of 9/11, and did not deserve to be chased out of Afghanistan by the USA. It turns out that this conclusion actually does track nicely with the Pew result that “a third” of respondents thought the US was “wrong” to invade Afghanistan.
Which raises one more question, namely, why doesn't this sizeable minority translate into more than 5% AQ admirers? For forty years we have been given to understand that the victim status of Palestinians at the hands of Israel so stirred the chords of sympathy of all the world’s Muslims, that the Palestinian cause has been a bottomless well of justification fueling wave after wave of terrorist armies and terrorist atrocities around the world.
So why isn’t AQ also viewed with sympathy and admiration as a victim group, similarly mistreated by the world on the false charge that Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks?
Polls are designed to tell us about what Americans think, but I can’t help becoming alarmed about what they tell us about what Americans know, think they know, or don’t know, about fundamental historical facts. And I use the term “historical” in its broadest sense, to describe not only prominent events that happened long ago, like Pearl Harbor or Ghettysburg, but also to include things that happened practically yesterday, (on an historical scale), like the Congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq, or the overwhelming consensus on the evidence of Al Qaeda’s guilt for the attacks on 9/11—things that most of us concerned actually lived through--and about which millions of Americans, and not only Muslim Americans, suddenly are displaying the most shocking ignorance now.
In other words, much more troubling to me than the opinions revealed in these polls is the predicate credulity, ignorance, and disinformation that can only explain such opinions.
Not only did the Detroit Police Department call the shooting self-defense, they even had to give the potential victim his gun back. They didn’t have much choice, thanks to Michigan’s “shall-issue” concealed weapons permit law.
For those of you who remember the bad old days before the Michigan Legislature reclaimed the Second Amendment by adopting a “shall-issue” concealed weapons permit law, this situation may have ended with the potential victim facing possible homicide charges, concealed weapons charges, and at the very least having his handgun confiscated by police.
Under the old regime, when unelected gun boards made up of law enforcement officials had complete discretion when and to whom to issue CCWs, they were rarely issued, and the decisions were almost certainly driven by favoritism and local politics.
But the worst of it was that the government got to decide, arbitrarily, which citizens were or were not allowed to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Bill of Rights was drafted specifically to get government out of these kinds of decisions, yet this situation was tolerated in Michigan until 2000. Of course, the whole idea behind the Bill of Rights was to reserve rights to the People and keep the Government out of it.
As its name suggest, a “shall-issue” law requires government officials to issue CCWs to qualified citizens without recourse to arbitrary, capricious, political, or ideological obstructions they may want to impose. If the issuing authority has objections, the burden of proof is on the government to disauqlaify the applicant, rather than on the citizen to prove he is entitled to exercise his Constitutional right.
Senator Carl Levin hated this bill, and called for its defeat in 2000. Levin cited this from the Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition: "The Michigan Law Enforcement Coalition opposes any legislation which strips local gun boards of their discretion and shifts the burden of proof from the applicant to the gun board." He objected also that the “'shall issue' legislation would make us less safe according to those best in a position to know,” i.e., law enforcement officials and law enforcement political action groups.
Though some of these groups may serve commendable functions, they are still the arm of the government. Put another way, Levin was comfortable with the government’s law-enforcement arm acting as gatekeeper for the Second Amendment right to carry a weapon. If you think this makes constitutional sense, ask yourself if you think decisions about where and how you can worship or what speech you can engage in are decisions best left to government agents “best in a position to know.”
When Levin complained that “shall-issue” legislation “would take discretion away from local law enforcement and allow virtually any applicant to carry a concealed handgun,” he was absolutely right: it would, and it did.
As it happened, on May 17 the 18-year-old Detroit, Charles Parker, Jr., and a bunch of his pals set out on a string of robberies in northwest Detroit. Parker had an unloaded .22. First they robbed a teenager of his cellphone, chains, and wallet. Then they tried to carjack a couple in their driveway. One of the suspects pointed the .22 at the couple and pulled the trigger. (Apparently, this is when the carjacking went wrong, as the “teens fled without the car.”) Personally, I think there is a lesson here for the Democratic Congress about the effect that clicking an empty weapon has on one’s negotiating position, but I don’t have time to work it out.
Anyway, these guys then tried to rob a man at a self-serve car wash, two suspects approaching him, one with the .22 and one with a ball bat. That’s when the victim shot Parker, the one brandishing his weapon. The poor kid was DOA.
According to the Detroit Free Press,
“After the shooting, police questioned the 53-year-old man and released him, noting that he had a valid concealed weapons permit.
“Then they gave him back his gun.”
This is exactly what Carl Levin was afraid of.
Joining the 5-4 majority to deny the protection for buses were Detroit City Councilwomen Monica Conyers and JoAnn Watson. The Council has been twiddling their thumbs over this for more than a year. The alleged sticking points are questions over liability if a passenger is injured by a deputy, (as opposed to say, being shot, robbed, or sexually assaulted by a fellow passenger), and the Council’s fear that allowing deputies to ride would somehow lead to "privatizing" the bus system. Since the City has its very own law department chockful of lawyers sending checks to successful plaintiffs suing the Detroit Police Department for abuse, it shouldn't take more than a year to get a legal opinion on the liability question. As for the "privatization"concern, that's just local code meaning Detroit’s elected officials fear loss of control over the D-DOT’s budget. They'd vote to let the City-County Building burn down before they'd allow a private contractor to stamp out a trash fire in a public rest room.
But the kicky thing is that Councilwomen Monica Conyers and JoAnn Watson are the same city leaders who co-sponsored last week’s Council resolution to impeach the President and Vice President of the United States, an historic and significant national statement Conyers was prevented from voting on herself due to an urgent Hawaiian trip she was duty-bound to take. "Councilwoman Conyers Skips Vote on Her Own Impeachment Resolution").
In spite of the absence of Councilwoman Conyers, the impeachment resolution was widely reported to have passed unanimously. Yet only four of nine Council members voted in favor of providing security on city buses.
Yet I'm confident that from Councilwoman Conyers's point of view her priorities are just about right in terms of the big picture. In the big picture, Councilwoman Conyers knows that once Bush and Cheney have been impeached and President Pelosi and Vice President Murtha have finally ended the war on terror and redeemed America’s fair-haired status in the community of nations, all those frightened bus passengers will realize (parochial worries about muggings and shootings aside) that the Council has always had nothing but Detroiters'--and the world's--best interests in mind.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
As if that is not silly enough, Councilwoman Monica Conyers, wife of Michigan’s own impeachment-crazed Rep. John Conyers, sponsored the resolution, and then couldn’t be bothered to vote on it because she was junketing in Hawaii.
On the subject of defrauding the United States, husband Conyers himself only recently slithered out of a Congressional ethics investigation of his own use of paid staffers to help in his campaigns, do personal chores, babysit his kids, and help his wife with her law-school homework, in addition to other “allegations that his aides also worked on the Carol Mosely-Braun presidential campaign and JoAnn Watson’s Detroit City Council race." (“Editorial: Is Pelosi serious about cleaning up the House?") By an amazing coincidence, Councilwoman JoAnn Watson was Councilwoman Conyers’s co-sponsor on the impeachment resolution. Watson recently revealed the stuff she's made of by gushing that Louis Farakhan is a role model. ("When it Comes to Role Models, Allah Knows Best").
In short, the Council and its resolution come across as cynical, half-baked, and frivolous. Nevertheless, as explained by Detroit attorney Bill Goodman of the National Layers Guild, (the lefty group actually originating the resolution), the resolution was “significant…not only because of the Conyers relationship, but because Detroit is the largest city to date to approve a resolution endorsing impeachment.”
Of course, it doesn’t mean a damn thing that Detroit is the largest city endorsing the resolution, both because the resolution is a legally meaningless symbol, and moreso because Detroit's status as a large city is getting smaller and weaker all the time, thanks in part to the witless leadership and goofy priorities of Detroit city government.
In spite of how Goodman explains it, the real significance of the resolution isn't the immense prestige Detroit brings to it, but “the Conyers relationship.” Goodman “said he met Monday with Conyers and the resolution's co-sponsor, Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. At that time, Goodman said Councilwoman Conyers told him she was ‘very interested in pursuing this and would share her views with her husband.’”
(I note that Councilwoman Conyers was once accused, though without being charged, of punching out a fellow bar patron in December 2005. ("Wife of Congressman Involved in Bar Fight"), but that is no reason to assume that she has the ability to exercise more than ordinary marital influence over her hubby.)
According to Goodman, passage of the resolution “‘ may tell us that … the Democratic leadership is closer than one may have thought to looking at the crimes of this administration.'"
No one would suggest that JoAnn Watson or Monica Conyers qualify as among the national "Democratic leadership." As Goodman unashamedly explains, the object of the resolution, (and of using the wife of a US Congressman to sponsor it) is to pressure husband Conyers back into the impeachment mode he was forced to surrender when Nancy Pelosi warned him off before making him House Judiciary Committee chairman.
Which is all politics as usual, I suppose.
But when I observe this kind of politicizing of the Conyers’ marriage (otherwise exemplary, I have no reason to doubt), for the purpose of pushing an anti-Bush agenda by means of a powerful Congressional committee, it clashes badly with the harping of Chuck Schumer, Russ Feingold, and John Conyers himself that the Bush White House is guilty of “politicizing” the Justice Department by participating in the incontrovertibly legal decisions to fire eight US Attorneys.
As a matter of simple justice, which do you think is more egregious--that the City Council of a once-great American metropolis (and desperately in need of leadership) can be played by a group of activist lawyers into forcing a powerful Congressman—by means of his spouse—to initiate impeachment proceedings against a President in wartime, or that a President and his staff participate in decisions regarding replacement of appointed US Attorneys explicitly serving at the pleasure of the President?
Monday, May 14, 2007
Here's an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing:
Terrorists are parasites. They rely on a host body to support them. Now they can terrorize a host body into providing them support, but that will only go so far. Ultimately, the host body must be somewhat sympathetic to the terrorists, or else, by sheer dint of numbers, the members of the host body will be able to reject the terrorists. These two principles explain the entire history of Al Qaeda’s reign over Al Anbar. Al Anbar, like Al Qaeda, is a Sunni entity. The people of Al Anbar were sympathetic enough to Al Qaeda that they provided them sanctuary, support and even manpower - which is to say, the very lifeblood that this parasite required. Finally, the Sunnis of Al Anbar had enough of the bleak and empty future, and very bloody present, that comprised the entirety of Al Qaeda’s offerings. And so the host body rejected the parasite. The parasite is now in its last possible refuge, the mixed Sunni/Shiite Triangle of Death & Diyala Province areas, just south and northeast of Baghdad, respectively. My time in Iraq started there, and will likely end there. Along with Al Qaeda’s.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Local accountant and Palestinian activist Sharif Shamroukh was quoted to say, "These were historical events that changed the whole map of the area in the Middle East.”
Speaking of historical events, the historical event of the complete withdrawal of Israel from Gaza and delivery of that piece of land to Palestinian Authority lawlessness in summer 2005 would make the 40th anniversary of an occupation that ended after 38 years a bit of nonsense.
But, as Detroit News reporter Gregg Krupa relays, “While Israel says it pulled forces out of the Gaza Strip and yielded the land to the Palestinian Authority, many Palestinians-- including residents of Metro Detroit -- assert that security arrangements by the Israelis are tantamount to occupation.”
While Israel says it pulled forces out? We've noticed before that Krupa likes to be as helpful as possible while acting as a mouthpiece for local Muslim activists, but even he couldn’t seriously challenge that Israel really did withdraw from Gaza, as it was widely reported even in the pro-Palestinian press like the BBC. ("Israel completes Gaza withdrawal"). Then again, perhaps Krupa was depending for his information on tidbits picked up at Friday’s rally.
Along similar lines of historical voodoo, Palestinian poet and activist Hasan Newash said, "We wanted to do something that marked the disappearance of Palestine as a political entity.”
The problem being, that in order to disappear as a political entity, a political entity must first exist, and no such political entity as Palestine ever did exist, except in the feverish imaginations of anti-Semitic professors and revisionist Middle Eastern propagandists.
Why is this necessary? Because, as City Council president Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. explains, he “still hears stories of young African-American men stopped because they are driving expensive vehicles, and white people stopped because they are in certain neighborhoods at certain times of the day.”
As a person of noncolor (i.e., white), I for one am greatly relieved that I will no longer face being stopped for being in certain neighborhoods at certain times of the day.
While federal prosecutors alleged in their court filings that some of the skimmed money went to support Hezbollah, neither Chahine nor his wife are being charged with supporting terrorism.
I find this quite strange, but consistent with US Attorney Stephen Murphy’s consistent bashfulness about charging Middle Eastern suspects with links to terrorism.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Is this true or false?
April 26, 2007
Russ, You may have heard the uproar over the University of Minnesota constructing foot baths and prayer rooms for Muslim students. Those against this action are citing separation of church and state principles since the University of Minnesota is a state funded school and feel that any public finds should not be used for such purposes. Well, it's our turn now to be outraged. The University of Michigan Dearborn is planning on doing the same thing at its Fairlane Center Campus. Architects (Canadian architects at that) are now drawing up plans to convert restrooms and storage rooms to be used as foot baths and a prayer room. They have for some time provided a prayer room (they use the politically corrrect term "Reflection Room"). If a non-Muslim happens into the room when Muslim is using it, you get an evil eye and are asked to leave. By the way, this is the same campus that last year refused to dislpay a Christmas Tree in its lobby...or any other Christmas decoaration, stating it might offend a non-CHristian student. I am hoping that in bringing this to the public's attention (you are the first I have written to) it will bring about the same concerns that the citizens of Minnesota have. Please post this on your website so people know the two-faced and discrimitory practices used by ur state funded University of Michigan. By the way, I work at this facility, so please understand, I MUST remain anonymous
This apparently is part of a nationwide effort by the Muslim Accomodation Task Force and CAIR to accomodate Muslim preferences in all kinds of public settings. It is already happening at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and for cabbies at the Kansas City International Airport.
The ritual foot-washing, known as wudhu, is a Muslim ritual made in preparation for prayers. Officials at MTCT say it has nothing to do with religious preference, but is a safety issue, as a student was injured last year while trying to wash her feet in the rest room sink.
Maybe this isn't so far fetched. Don't most efforts to accommodate Muslims boil down to someone's idea of a safety issue?