Saturday, April 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Past Week

There have been a number of events this past week that have touched us in some way. I hardly know where to begin.

The Virginia Tech murders last Monday broke our hearts. I grieve for those who were killed and all their families and friends. I also feel sad for the family of Cho Seung-Hui. I don't know what to think about Cho himself. Just going off newspaper reports, it sounds like he had serious mental issues, but how much those affected the evil choices he made, I don't pretend to know. So I am left simply grieving for the tragedy of it all.

There were anniversaries for three past tragedies this past week, too. The Branch Davidian compound in Waco (14 years), the Oklahoma City bombing (12 years), and the Columbine murders (8 years). Even though I was about 3 miles north of the OKC bombing site, I still remember clearly walking across the office and feeling the ground shake beneath my feet.

On Wednesday the US Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the national ban on partial-birth abortion. I am thankful for that--that's a barbaric practice that shouldn't even exist. However, the whole abortion issue belongs to the states, not the Federal Government. Doesn't anyone ever read the Constitution anymore?

Abortion brings feminism to mind. I just do not understand feminists in general. I can understand a few basics, like being able to vote and own property, for example. What I don't understand is abortion, tearing men down in an attempt to build women up, and expecting men to become like women in their viewpoints. Men and women are different. We have marvelous freedom and equality in the USA. Yet our culture is permeated with accusations of sexism and oppression (among other things). I am constantly amazed at the contorted lengths feminists go to in order to show that everything is sexist and oppressive to women. The Middle East is one example of a place where it really is difficult to be a woman. We aren't living in those conditions. And I suspect that even there, most men love their wives and treat them well. I wonder--how respectful of their husbands and sons are feminists? Or do they consider that a one way street--in their own direction, of course.

I continue to ponder the issues of the day and try to think things through. Sometimes it is hard to sort it all out. I will keep working at untangling the threads.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

The View from Israel

At Jewish World Review writer Caroline B. Glick of The Jerusalem Post has a few instructive things to say about the war on terror. She has written two columns, "Must We Lose This War?" and "The Long Road to Victory," both of which are worth the few minutes it will take you to read them in their entirety.

In "Must We Lose This War?" posted 6 April 2007, Ms. Glick has this to say about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria:

The President's criticism was well-founded. By visiting Damascus, Pelosi strengthened Assad's view that the free world has no problem with his behavior. Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Muallem made this clear Tuesday when, speaking to a Kuwaiti newspaper Tuesday, Muallen said that Pelosi's visit proved that Syria's international isolation, which began after Damascus masterminded the Februaray 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, is officially over.

Other Syrian officials made clear that far from softening Syria's policies, Pelosi's visit, like those of European leaders will only toughen Syria's positions. As Imad Moustapha, Syria's ambassador in Washington put it, " Syria will not hurriedly offer concessions when it refused to offer them under much greater pressure from the United States in the past." Wednesday Pelosi stated triumphantly, "We were very pleased with the assurances we received from [Assad that] he was ready to resume the peace process. He's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel."

Yet this is a lie. Over the past several weeks, it has become abundantly clear that Syria is preparing to attack Israel in the coming months. If Pelosi had bothered to pay attention, she would have noted the terrorists from Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq passing her at the Damascus airport en route to training camps in Syria and Iran.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also visited Syria recently. Of her visit, Ms. Glick says:

On the face of it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also paid a visit to Syria this week, seems to take a stronger stand on the issues than Pelosi. While visiting Ramallah she called for Hamas to accept Israel. While in Lebanon she called for Syria to stop arming Hizbullah. While in Israel, as is her wont, she said that 70 years after her nation murdered a third of the Jewish people, she strongly opposes letting Iran acquire the means to kill another six million Jews.

Strong words. Unfortunately, Germany's actions tell a different story. As German political scientist Matthias Kuntzel pointed out in a recent paper, through its support for German trade with Iran, Merkel's government is a central driver of the Iranian economy and so enables Iran to finance both the global jihad and its nuclear weapons program.
When I read these things, I am left wondering why anyone thinks negotiations in the Middle East are even possible, if no one bothers to be truthful or to state their positions accurately. Ms. Glick writes about several other recent actions and words, including some from Britain, the EU, and the Bush White House, that are causing the Middle East problems to worsen. She ends with these statements, however:

If maintained, the current policy trend will lead us directly to the worst-case scenario. In this scenario, after the US leaves Iraq in shame, or remains only to watch the country officially become an Iranian proxy, Israelwill find itself encircled and under attack from Iran's proxies as Iran itself becomes a nuclear power.

But it is far from inevitable that the current trend will continue. For every step that takes us towards the worst-case scenario, there are multiple counter-steps that can lead us away from it. This week British could have honorably confronted the Iranians. They still can.

The Americans can attack Iran's nuclear facilities.

Germany can destroy Iran's economy.

Israel can initiate a campaign against the Palestinians or Hizbullah or Syria and so weaken Iran's creeping regional hegemony and at least partially extricate itself from its present encirclement. (To this end, of course, the Knesset must vote for new elections and the people must elect a government capable of crafting policies to defeat our enemies.)

Iran grows stronger in the face of Western weakness and hypocrisy. But it still isn't all that strong.

The fact remains that even at this late date, we alone will determine whether we win or lose.

The United States, Israel, and Western civilization are worth saving. We just need to work toward that end instead of stumbling around in the dark and allowing rogue politicians to interfere with national foreign policy.

Ms. Glick's other column, "The Long Road to Victory" discusses some of the mistakes that have been made and ways they might be corrected. She writes:

"Right-thinking" people these days claim that if the US and Britain hadn't invaded Iraq, everything today would have been perfect. The US would have been loved. The Europeans, Arabs and the UN would be standing on line to support the US in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

As British commentator Simon Jenkins put it in *The Guardian* on Tuesday, "If ever [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair hoped to carry his 'western values agenda' on a white charger to the gates of Tehran, that hope vanished in the mire of Iraq."

Yet this is untrue. The US's difficulties with confronting Iran have little to do with the decision to invade Iraq. Rather, America's feckless diplomacy towards Iran to date is the result of the administration's early misunderstanding of Iraq and of Iranian and Arab interests.
So, what kinds of misunderstanding are we talking about here? Well, there is this:

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration identified certain basic guiding realities and missed others. First there was the issue of Arab tyranny. As Bush recalled last September, "For decades, American policy sought to achieve peace in the Middle East by pursuing stability at the expense of liberty. The lack of freedom in that region helped create conditions where anger and resentment grew, and radicalism thrived, and terrorists found willing recruits."

Yet recognizing this basic reality did not lead the administration to adopt appropriate policies. Rather than promote liberty, which at its core revolves around a certain foundational understanding of human dignity, the administration promoted elections — fast elections — in Iraq and throughout the region.

In so doing, the administration placed the cart before the horse, with predictable results. The legacy of tyranny is hatred and dependence. And the values of hatred and dependence were those that were expressed at the ballot boxes in Iraq, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority. In all jihadists, often allied with Iran, were empowered while those that were considered moderates modified their positions in opposition to the US.
If you are like me, you saw the early elections in Iraq as nothing but positive--and to some extent they were--but perhaps better groundwork could have been laid first. Ms. Glick gives other examples and offers some ideas for solutions. I think that reading her articles will give you a broader understanding of the Middle East situation--what is at stake and what needs to be done. She concludes this last article with the following:

The success the US is now experiencing in Iraq is the result of a process of identifying and correcting mistakes. If such learning could take place regarding the US's regional strategy, there is every reason to believe that it will contend successfully with Iran and the Arab world. But to correct mistakes it is first necessary to recognize them.

The US is not failing to contend with Iran because it went to war in Iraq. It is failing because it is implementing policies that prefer imaginary silver bullets to real solutions to real problems.

There are no shortcuts in this war. But victory is still waiting at the end of the long and difficult road.

Ms. Glick's insights are valuable reading. If we can gain some greater understanding of the entire situation, it can be handled better. Nothing is simple, of course, but persistance pays off.

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Friends of Science

There is a website with a focus on climate change. It has some good articles and a section on myths and facts. The website is called Friends of Science.

There is also science news, science background, and scientific references. There is also Kyoto/Climate News. These sections have information and links to information.



Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Logan Act

I have some serious concerns about the way so many politicians (from both parties, present and former office holders) feel free to go to foreign countries with whom we have conflicts. It is one thing to go on a fact-finding mission, but another entirely to meet with leaders of these countries and discuss current situations, diplomatic matters, and so forth when they are not authorized to do so by the government of the United States. The latter is what concerns me so much.

Obviously, my thoughts turn to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her recent sojourn to Syria, but there is also Jimmy Carter with his various trips attempting to arrange agreements with countries with whom we are in conflict. And there have been Republicans and others, as well as Democrats, who do this type of thing.

It should go without saying that this interference can ruin any hope of the governments reaching some solution. In addition, it is illegal. There is the Logan Act, which has been on the books since 1799, addressing this very situation. For a good explanation, complete with the wording of the act itself plus background information, see this link for a pdf file from the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress.

At Jewish World Review, David Limbaugh writes a column about Speaker Pelosi's trip to Syria. The title is "Gen. Pelosi's Gift to Our Enemies". Have a look and see what you think. He says:
President Bush strongly urged Pelosi not to go. But in keeping with her flagrant disrespect for President Bush and, manifestly, for the presidency itself, she openly defied him and went anyway.

Her action is indefensible. She was not legally representing the United States, since the president refused to authorize her mission. And if she wasn't purporting to represent the United States, her trip was pointless. But she was.

Pelosi and her delegation were clearly attempting to influence American foreign policy by pressuring the Bush administration to open a dialogue with Syria.

If you believe the Pelosi delegation was merely "fact-finding," which characterization is laughable, listen to its own post-trip assessment. Delegation member Tom Lantos boasted that the meeting "reinforced sharply" the potential benefits of talking to Syria. "This is only the beginning of our constructive dialogue with Syria, and we hope to build on this visit."

And then there is this to consider:
Under the Constitution, President Bush is in charge of U.S. foreign policy. In that capacity, he has attempted to isolate Syria and has persuaded our allies to do likewise. Pelosi, in direct contravention of presidential authority, directly contradicted the U.S. policy toward Syria by sending the unmistakable signal that Syria is part of the international mainstream when it is our policy to discourage that notion. As the highest-ranking member of the House of Representatives, she colluded with a terrorist tyrant to humiliate the commander in chief and countermand his foreign policy.

It wasn't just the US foreign policy she was interfering with--it was also Israel's policy:
Pelosi not only undermined the United States through her unconstitutional usurpation and contradiction of executive authority. She also intermeddled with Israeli policy and caused great harm there, too, by misrepresenting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in implying he had softened Israel's stance toward Syria and wanted to renew peace negotiations. This reckless blunder incensed the Olmert administration, which strongly denied it had changed its position. Olmert said that until Syria changes its sponsorship of terrorism, peace talks will be meaningless.

Mr. Limbaugh concludes with these two paragraphs:
If there is any doubt about Pelosi's collusion with Syria to weaken the president and thus the United States, or if there is any doubt about the poisonous fruits of that infernal collusion, hear the words of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem following the Assad-Pelosi meeting. He said, "These people in the United States who are opposing dialogue, I tell them one thing: Dialogue is … the only method to close the gap existing between the two countries. … We are happy that Mrs. Pelosi and her delegation had the courage and determination to bridge these differences."

Pelosi has caused enormous anxiety to our allies, but has given great comfort to our enemies who seek to divide and conquer us, by doing the dividing part for them. Her actions were disgraceful.
I believe that we elect Senators and Congressmen to support our country, not to tear it down and cause further problems. Speaker Pelosi has shown on more than one occasion that she is not working to support our country. So what is she doing? I'll leave it to you to answer that.

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