2007-05-31

Update

A number of recent developments in my personal life will likely have an effect on the shape of Dreams Into Lightning.  I'll go into more detail later (don't worry, it's all good stuff) but the bottom line is that I'm going to focus on using my blogging time more effectively and finding innovative ways to enhance the quality of this weblog.



For most of the last three years I've been posting mainly on a Mac in the Safari browser.  When Apple came out with Tiger, I started using the built-in RSS feature, and got hooked on RSS.  Now I'm trying to broaden my computer proficiency a little bit and I divide my time about equally between my two Macs and two PCs.  (A dual-core G5 PowerMac, a G4 PowerBook, a Toshiba Satellite, and a dual-cor HP Compaq.)  I'm making the switch over from Safari (and Explorer, which I used occasionally) to Firefox. 



Some friends clued me in to the option of online feed aggregators, and I've set up an account with Google Reader, which will probably take the place of Safari's RSS when I read and post.  I'm still getting used to composing in Firefox.  I have to say I don't like it quite as well as Safari for composing html, but the net advantages will probably come out in Fx's favor.  Meanwhile, please bear with me if you see glitches in the formatting of the posts.



I'm still mostly a novice at html, but planning to develop some more proficiency there too.  I didn't know what a bold tag was when I started blogging; now I know enough to compose a post, but not much more.  So I started a web page - got an account at a free hosting service, downloaded FTP clients (StaffFTP for Windows, Cyberduck for Mac ... with a name like Cyberduck, you know it's going to be for Mac), and started playing around with header fonts and RGB hexcodes.  I have Adobe GoLive for editing, too, but I'm probably not going to use it right away.



That's probably more information than you needed to know, but my point (and I do have one) is that I'm always looking for ways to improve the quality and functionality of DiL.  And here's one new item I can offer you tonight:  selected items from my Google News Reader, which I'm calling News1@DiL.  You are cordially invited to bookmark the link.

Night Flashes - May 31

US-Iran talks:  No goodies for the mullahs.  A subscription article from Debka gives a blunt assessment of the recent negotiations between Iranian and US diplomats:  "What they saw was a tough American front."  The analysis asserts that the Administration's "stance was strictly limited to an agenda dictated by US demands and direct Iranian responses to those demands".  Further underscoring the uncompromising position of the American side was the presence of a large and still growing strike force off the Iranian coast.  Debka's analysts, who are not always impressed with Washington's Middle East policy, saw the talks as a shrewd play to raise anxiety in the Iranian regime and exploit rifts between hardliners and pragmatists in Tehran.  While Bush is taking some heat back home for the talks, Debka asserts that the consensus in Tehran was quite different:  Bush was the clear winner.



ITM:  Bad guys killing bad guys.
  Iraq the Model:  'Fighting in a western Baghdad district between two insurgent groups continued for the 2nd day, eye witnesses told ITM.
The clashes erupted yesterday around noon between two groups of insurgents that are competing for control in the Amiriya district, one of Baghdad's most violent and lawless districts.  The two groups, teams actually, were later identified; on one side there's al-Qaeda and the Islamic state in Iraq and on the other there's the Islamic army and 'Jaish al-Mujahideen' (The brigades of the 1920 revolution in another account), the latter are know to be largely military and intelligence officers of the former regime as well as members of the Baath Party.  "I saw seven or eight bodies of militants who were killed in the clashes lying on the ground" one eyewitness said this morning. This was before the fighting resumed after a short pause.'



Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks out.
  Brisbane Times:  'AS A small girl, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's clitoris and labia were cut off with a pair of scissors. She was then sewn up with a piece of twine "to keep her chaste".  In the world in which she then lived, Ali was not alone: the World Health Organisation estimated in 2000 the number of girls and women who had undergone genital mutilation between 100 million and 140 million.  The practice is widespread in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Islam is dominant in these countries, and Ali links the mutilation to Islam.  "Islam is a totalitarian doctrine that puts women in a position that no other totalitarian doctrine, not even Communism, not even Nazism, did," says Ali. "In Islam, women come off the worst."'  Family Security Matters notes that she received death threats even when she spoke in Pennsylvania.



Eleventh Israeli killed by Qassams.
  'Thirteen-year-old Chai Shalom suffered from cerebral palsy, and was deaf, mute, and confined to a wheel-chair. He was hospitalized after a rocket landed next to a bus transporting him and three other disabled children.' - JPost.  Via IRIS.



RNC hears a giant sucking sound.
  Tammy Bruce isn't surprised by this report from the Washington Times:  'Faced with an estimated 40 percent fall-off in small-donor contributions and aging phone-bank equipment that the RNC said would cost too much to update, Anne Hathaway, the committee's chief of staff, summoned the solicitations staff last week and told them they were out of work, effective immediately, the fired staffers told The Times...  There has been a sharp decline in contributions from RNC phone solicitations, another fired staffer said, reporting that many former donors flatly refuse to give more money to the national party if Mr. Bush and the Senate Republicans insist on supporting what these angry contributors call "amnesty" for illegal aliens.  "Everyone donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue," said the former employee.'  Tammy adds:  'To force the RNC to shut its phone fundraising operation is a remarkable accomplishment. Congratulations. This is what hurts them the most and is immediately felt, let; McConnell fantasize about what '08 may or may not bring. What Senate Monkeys like him must face, as Howard Beale made so clear, is we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.  I want to make one thing very clear--you must not let up. ... Our job will not be over until that bill is dead.'

The Apple Guy and the PC Guy

Via Ars Technica, here's an interview with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

2007-05-30

Fifty-one kinds of North American quarters.

Note to self:

If it has a picture of Queen Elizabeth on one side and a caribou on the other, it's Canadian.

Otherwise, you can do your laundry with it. This includes bisons (Kansas), palmettos (South Carolina), Minutemen (Massachusetts), ships at Jamestown (Virginia), peaches (Georgia), and the Statue of Liberty (New York).

Note to the United States Mint:

OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE PEOPLE. 

Is there some sinister plot by Al-Qaeda to flood the American economy with worthless counterfeit twenty-five-cent pieces?  Perhaps Osama bin Laden wants to plunge the innocent people of the United States into an abyss of abject misery with a lifetime of expired parking meters, jammed vending machines, and wet underwear.

Or maybe the good people at the Treasury Department just have way too much time (and money - duh) on their hands.  I'm betting on the latter.

Is it oxymoronic to say that "the Mint is making too much money"?

Grrrrr.

2007-05-29

Iraq: Awakening from Terror

Via Michael Ledeen, here's JD Johannes at Outside the Wire:
"In fact, there is a civil war in progress in Iraq, one comparable in important respects to other civil wars that have occurred in postcolonial states with weak institutions. Those cases suggest that the Bush administration's political objective in Iraq--creating a stable, peaceful, somewhat democratic regime that can survive the departure of U.S. troops--is unrealistic." Professor James D. Fearon, writing in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs.

There is one problem with Professor Fearon's thesis--the facts on the ground that I am seeing right now and that he has not seen in person or not seen recently.

A major part of Fearon's well reasoned argument is that U.S. support for the Maliki government, "encourages Sunni nationalists to turn to al Qaeda in Iraq for support against Shiite militias and the Iraqi army."

His argument is logical and would be correct if the Sunnis of Anbar cooperated with his argument--but they are not cooperating with the good professor's thesis. In fact, they are doing just the opposite. The Sunnis of Anbar are now siding with the coalition and fighting Al Qaeda.

Go to the post to find out what happened in Shiabi when a new sheriff named General Sadoon came to town.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the strategy and the surge:
The Strategy: Virtually all the U.S. officials with whom I spoke feel that American strategy now boils down to a single goal: strategic disengagement. That is, the U.S. wants to strengthen the Iraqi government to the point that it is self-sustaining enough that the country will not collapse into chaos as U.S. troops are brought back home. ...

U.S. strategy is not just military in nature. Rather, it is designed to eliminate some of the underlying conditions that sap the average Iraqi's faith in the country's civil society. For example, in the districts that 2-32 patrols -- Yarmouk and Hateen -- there are four lines of operation: security, governance, economy, and essential services. According to Major Brynt Parmeter, who works at the brigade level, the overall goals are to reduce sectarian fighting, increase the Iraqi security forces' capabilities, and improve local government to empower it to provide the services that Iraqis need. ...

The Surge: Multiple military sources stated that my patrols with 2-32 provided a snapshot of the fruits of the surge. One of the surge's stated goals was to stabilize Baghdad. In Yarmouk, the surge functioned just as military leadership hoped. I spoke with a large number of soldiers in 2-32 about the state of Yarmouk when they arrived, and all of them painted the same picture: the soldiers would routinely find corpses and there were a large number of IEDs and VBIEDs (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices). On one dangerous road that the U.S. military calls Whitesnake (other Baghdad road names form a virtual tribute to Eighties bands), there was only one checkpoint. There are now three, and the Iraqi army presence makes it harder for insurgents to plant IEDs.

Multiple sources informed me that since 2-32 moved to Yarmouk as part of the surge, a lot of residents who had previously left have moved back, and a number of stores have opened up. ...

Read the full article at The Fourth Rail.

MNF-Iraq:
In the first days after his battalion began operating in east Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood, Capt. Will Canda said he often saw the beds of Iraqi police trucks stained red with dried blood.

“It was like they had just come from a butcher shop,” said Canda, a Westcliffe, Colo. native and commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.

Like wagons rolling through plague-stricken villages in medieval times, the police trucks were being used to pick up the bodies of murder victims found littering the neighborhood.

That was in February, when Canda’s battalion became one of the first units to move into a battle space as part of Operation Fardh al Qanoon – which translated, means “enforcing the law” and is the name for the strategy to stabilize violence in Baghdad by pushing thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces into the city’s neighborhoods.

Since then, troops have continued to pour in, dotting Baghdad with small outposts and joint security stations.

Top U.S. commanders have cautioned that any verdict on the overall success of the plan will have to wait until after all units are in place and conducting operations. But Canda and his paratroopers have been on the ground long enough to begin drawing their own conclusions.

Three months after they arrived in Sha’ab, the bodies are gone, the murders have stopped, and the neighborhood has come back to life, Canda said.

“It’s night and day from when we got here,” he said. ...


Remarks. As Steve at ThreatsWatch observes, the real "surge" in Iraq is The Awakening:
Led by Sheikh Abd al-Sattar from Ramadi, The Awakening is the national anti-al-Qaeda grassroots movement that sprang from the Anbar Salvation Council. Its significance for Iraq and Iraqis going forward is difficult to overstate.

2007-05-25

Mary Cheney's Baby, Samuel David Cheney, Born Wednesday

One of our favorite lesbian Republicans has just become a mom.

Fox News:
WASHINGTON — Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter Mary delivered an 8-pound, 6-ounce baby boy on Wednesday, the first child for her and her female partner of 15 years, Heather Poe.

Samuel David Cheney was born at 9:46 a.m. at Sibley Hospital in Washington, the vice president's office announced. Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne, paid a visit to their new — and sixth — grandchild a few hours later.

Gay Patriot bloggers weigh in:

Mary Cheney's baby and her father's quality.
While gay activists seem to love to bash the Vice President because they don’t like his conservative politics, they should bear in mind that they claim to working to improve the lives of gay Americans. They may not agree with the Vice President on a whole host of issues, notably foreign and defense policy, but they should note that the one time he has publicly distanced himself from the president (since he was tapped to be his VP) was when he came out against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Not only that. Just to see that image of the beaming Grandpa makes us realize what kind of man Dick Cheney is. That he loves his daughter, knowing she’s gay. That he welcomes her partner Heather Poe into his family. And that he welcomes their child into his family. What better way to support the mainstreaming of gay couples — and gay families — than this open and loving acceptance. Kudos, Mr. Vice President.

Mailroom error.
If Dick and Lynn Cheney were as evil as the Gay Left wants us to believe, they’d take this opportunity to come out and make an example of how wrong they think homosexuality is and their abhorrence for homosexuals having babies. After all, what better platform from which to speak, a baby born to lesbians in their own family? Quite the contrary, they are proud and happy grandparents.

On the other hand, if the Gay Left were as dedicated to forwarding the message that gay and lesbian parents are just as loving and deserving of rights because they’re just like any other family, they’d be praising the birth and looking for fans of the Vice President and his family to follow his loving example.

The White House - Office of the Vice President. 'Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, welcomed their sixth grandchild, Samuel David Cheney, Wednesday, May 23, 2007. He weighed 8 lbs., 6 oz and was born at 9:46 a.m. at Sibley Hospital in Washington, D.C. His parents are the Cheneys’ daughter Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe.'

Related.
Mary Cheney's baby.

Remarks. I'm not going to make any more political comments on this. I'm just going to say congratulations and wish all the best to Mary, Heather, and Samuel David Cheney. And let's keep working together for fairness for all families.

More Uppity Middle Eastern Women

Sand Gets In My Eyes
Wajeha Al-Huwaider is a rare woman in Saudi Arabia. She is an outspoken feminist, an activist, a writer and poet, a fearless reformist, and an advocate for women’s rights in a place where the rights of half the population are severely and routinely determined by the whims of the other half.

Al-Huwaider has a lot to say about Saudi Arabia, and she’s not afraid to hit the country’s hot buttons or talk out loud about the many hush-hush issues.

On Arab Men – "With regard to the sons of the Gulf countries, and particularly the men from the oil countries: They were raised to think that they are the best, and that there is nothing in front of them or behind them. What they aspire to more than anything else, after sitting in a chair labeled 'manager,' is [the finer points of dress]... They are narcissistic, and suffer from a malignant and chronic tumor - that is, [they think that] maintaining guardianship [of women] is manly...”

On the treatment of women – "In Arab countries, and particularly in the Gulf countries, the cycle of discrimination against the woman begins when she is a fetus in her mother's womb; [it continues] when she emerges into the air of the world, and goes on until her death. According to men's interpretation, the woman is always 'lewdness' and sometimes 'impure'... The woman is [flawed in mind and in religion] - yet it was the Muslim mothers [i.e. the wives of the Prophet Muhammad] who taught the people a great deal about the commandments of the religion and its foundations. The woman is 'weak and her emotions rule her' - yet at the same time she has the responsibility for educating the younger generation, the basis of the pride of the homeland... The woman is 'temptation' - yet she was created for the man to trust, and to bring him serenity. The woman's 'tricks are greater than the tricks of Satan' - yet a man takes two, three, or four wives. The woman is a '[delicate] vase' that must be treated gently, so it will not be scratched - yet [if she is disobedient, her husband] keeps her away from [the marital] bed and beats her soundly. From cradle to grave, the woman cannot be her own guardian - because she is 'limited and incapable of taking on responsibility for her affairs' - yet the Prophet's dearest and most beloved wife ['Aisha] headed the first opposition in Islam, led an entire army, and waged an historic and critical battle [the Battle of the Camel]...

On Western apathy toward the treatment of Arab women - "I wish I knew why the situation of the women in certain Arab states is not condemned by the countries of the world, and does not enrage their citizens. Why do the human rights activists ignore their suffering as though they do not even exist? Why isn't the cry of these millions of women heard, and why isn't it answered by anyone, anywhere [in the world]? Why? Why? Why? Is it because they are women, while our patriarchal world is ruled by men without an ounce of compassion in their hearts? Maybe that is [indeed the case]."


More writings by Wajeha al-Huwaider appear in English at MEMRI.
The reason most women who are depressed, submissive, and subject to various types of injustice accept their wretched situation is their increasing fear. The fear gnaws away at their sense of being independent entities, and harms their self confidence every day. Thus they always fail at removing the oppression. The real reason for this fear among Saudi women is that there is no law to protect them from violence and discrimination.

In a world of technology, rapid globalization, and continuous international challenges, improving the lot of Saudi women and mobilizing them is no longer a matter of choice and luxury; it is a necessity. The Saudi government must increase its efforts to remove the fear from the hearts of the women, who are half of society, so that they can participate in building [society]...

We must open our eyes to the truth... and that is that all the men, the oil revolution, military force, and financial liquidity [in Saudi Arabia] cannot build a strong homeland when the role of the woman is ignored...


Freedom for Egyptians
When I was a little girl, I read so many children's stories classics in Arabic and in English. It was my mom's treat to take me to a bookstore Down Town to buy the books I like.

Most of the girls' stories were ending in victory because the prince fell in love with her. The girl's happiness was always dependent on winning the heart of the prince. The only way to get out of her misry is by marrying her prince..

In today's world, men and women equally create their own happiness and such stories are no longer valid that's what got today in the new fairy tale.....

This is the fairy tale that should have been read to us when we were little:

Once upon a time
~~~~~~~~
in a land far away,
~~~~~~~~
a beautiful, independent,
self-assured princess
~~~~~~~~
happened upon a frog as she sat
contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted pond
in a verdant meadow near her castle.
~~~~~~~~
The frog hopped into the princess' lap
and said: " Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell upon me.
~~~~~~~~
One kiss from you, however,
and I will turn back
into the dapper, young prince that I am
~~~~~~~~
and then, my sweet, we can marry
~~~~~~~~
and set up housekeeping in your castle
~~~~~~~~
with my mother,
~~~~~~~~
where you can prepare my meals,
~~~~~~~~
clean my clothes, bear my children,
~~~~~~~~
and forever feel
grateful and happy doing so. "
~~~~~~~~
That night,
~~~~~~~~
as the princess dined sumptuously
~~~~~~~~
on lightly sauteed frog legs
~~~~~~~~
seasoned in a white wine
~~~~~~~
and onion cream sauce,
~~~~~~~~
she chuckled and thought to herself:
~~~~~~~~
I don't freakin think so


Related.
Saudi women are happy!

2007-05-24

TNR looks at Giuliani, finds socially moderate Republicans.

Thomas B. Edsall's article on Rudy Giuliani in The New Republic (registration required) indicates that someone at TNR has figured out what many of us have known for some time: that the Republican Party of today is no longer the domain of unchallenged social conservatism that it was in the 1970s - and that this bodes well for the Giuliani campaign.
What if we are witnessing not Rudy moving toward the rest of the Republican Party, but rather the Republican Party moving toward Rudy? What if the salience of a certain kind of social conservatism is now in decline among GOP voters and a new set of conservative principles are emerging to take its place? What if Giuilianism represents the future of the Republican Party?

I haven't had the chance to read the article carefully yet, but it looks fairly positive and appears to hit some of the main points that the liberal media have generally missed: that social moderates are now a strong force in the GOP; that Republicans see in Rudy Giuliani a much-needed managerial competence; and that Giuliani's no-nonsense manner and his 9/11 "street cred" are strong assets in his favor.

Here's one more snip from the article:
In brief, among Republican voters, the litmus test issues of abortion and gay marriage have been losing traction, subordinated to the Iraq war and terrorism. According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of GOP voters name Iraq as their top priority, and 17 percent choose terrorism and security. Just 7 percent name abortion and 1 percent name gay marriage.

The roots of this transformation predate September 11 and are partly the result of demographics. The lions of the Christian right--Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson--no longer dominate Republican politics as they once did. Their grip is slackening as their older followers are slowly replaced by a generation for which the social, cultural, and sexual mores that were overturned by the 1960s are history, not memory. In retrospect, these men reached the height of their power in the late '80s, when, by a 51-to-42 majority, voters agreed that "school boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals." Now a decisive 66-to-28 majority disagrees, according to Pew. In 1987, the electorate was roughly split on the question of whether "aids might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior." Today, 72 percent disagree with that statement, while just 23 percent concur.

Giuliani is on the cutting edge of these trends, seeking to exploit new ideological lines between conservatism and liberalism. ...


Related.
Desperately seeking Archie Bunker.
Mary Cheney's baby.

2007-05-15

Mullah Dadullah

Welcome, Mullah Dadullah, to the exclusive but ever-growing ranks of the Dead Terrorists. We hope you enjoy your stay.

Wikipedia - Mullah Dadullah:
Mullah Dadullah or Dadullah Akhund (1966? – May 12, 2007) was an ethnic Pashtun from Uruzgan province in Afghanistan. He was the Taliban's senior military commander until his death in 2007.


StrategyPage:
May 14, 2007: In a major setback, the senior Taliban field commander, Mullah Dadullah, was cornered and killed by NATO forces in Helmand province over the weekend. NATO and Afghan troops have been chasing Dadullah around southern Afghanistan for a month. Dadullah knew he was being tracked, and his pursuers knew he was trying to get to safety in Pakistan. This time, Dadullah didn't make it.

Dadullah was a member of the Council of Ten that runs the Taliban, and the chief military strategist. Getting killed may have been a good career move, because his terror strategy wasn't working. The Taliban were getting battered worse this year than last, and Taliban popularity was declining in the south. Now the Taliban can simultaneously praise Dadullah as a martyr for the cause, and the reason the cause is failing. The Taliban first denied, then admitted Dadullah was dead. Dadullah was a big fan of terrorism, but he was also important because he managed to get normally hostile groups to cooperate with each other. The government will probably be able to get more Taliban groups to negotiate peace deals now, without the threat of Dadullah "punishing traitors."


Stratfor:
Geopolitical Diary: Examining Mullah Dadullah's Death
Stratfor, 5/14/07, 8:00 CDT

Afghan intelligence announced on Sunday that top Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah was killed early Saturday during a battle with an Afghan-NATO force in Helmand province. The 40-year-old Taliban leader had emerged as the most important operational commander on which Mullah Mohammad Omar could rely in pressing ahead with the jihadist insurgency in the country. Under his leadership, the Pashtun jihadist movement adopted the tactic of suicide bombings, and he represented the faction close to al Qaeda.

Dadullah's killing is the first major success for Kabul and NATO against the Pashtun jihadists since the resurgence of the Taliban shortly after the ouster of their regime in
2001.


CTB:
On May 10, 2007, the Nine Eleven Finding Answers (NEFA) Foundation was able to secure access to an exclusive interview with Taliban military commander Mullah Dadullah--only 24 hours before Dadullah was killed by Afghan and NATO military forces. During what would become his final interview, Dadullah stated that American and British Al-Qaida recruits are in the midst of planning and training for new terrorist strikes in their home countries: "We will be executing attacks in Britain and the U.S. to demonstrate our sincerity," he explained in Pashto, "to destroy their cities as they have destroyed our cities." A senior U.S. official told the Blotter on ABCNews.com that recent intelligence reports confirmed Dadullah's claim that U.S. citizens were being trained in Taliban and al Qaeda camps. "The number is small, not large, but even once is dangerous," the official said.


ABC News:
Thirty-six hours before he was killed by U.S. forces, Taliban Commander Mullah Dadullah said he was training American and British citizens to carry out suicide missions in their home countries, according to a videotape interview to be broadcast on ABC News' "World News" Monday.

"We will be executing attacks in Britain and the U.S. to demonstrate our sincerity," he told an Afghan interviewer, "to destroy their cities as they have destroyed our cities."


Linda:
I hope it hurt. I hope it hurt a lot.

State Representative Dan Zwonitzer of Wyoming Supports Marriage Equality

From Alas, a Blog:
This is kind of old news, but I missed it at the time, and maybe some “Alas” readers did too. Wyoming State Rep Dan Zwonitzer, who is straight and a Republican, in February of this year voted against a measure that would have forbidden Wyoming from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. ...

Thanks to Ampersand for passing this on. Pandagon has more. Here is an excerpt from Zwonitzer's speech:
Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.

In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long. ...

And here is Zwonitzer's message, posted at Pandagon:
I have obviously thought about this issue a great deal in the last 24 hours, and have truly come to realize that marriage in any form is greater than allowing a group of our citizens to continually be persecuted; and I’ve come to understand that many of the reasons they are vilified in our society is directly related to the fact there is not an opportunity to form recognized, committed long-term relationships.
It is my sincere hope that the outside world does not continue to believe Wyoming to be an intolerant and bigoted state. We have a low population which does not allow a lot of room for intolerance here as everyone knows everyone. When people come to know others who are different and accept them, their attitudes change.

Luckily, I have not had significant negative feedback today from people in my District. Yes, there has certainly been some comment from citizens from the “deep red” portions of my state. I am hoping that the silent majority of Wyoming understands and agrees with me, as I am fairly confident they do. It was greatly controversial right up until it was killed in committee, and within a day things have settled back down.

2007-05-10

HR 1592

I'm supporting HR 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.

There seem to be a lot of objections to it from the conservative world, some reasonable, most (in my opinion) not. In the interests of cogency, I'll begin with the reasonable objections.

The basic argument against H.R. 1592 is the argument against "hate crimes" legislation in general: that it clutters the lawbooks with unnecessary and redundant laws, and that it differentiates between "classes" of citizens (in this case, crime victims) - thus enshrining the very inequality it purports to fight. What is needed, the conservative argument goes, is not special laws to protect certain classes of people, but better enforcement of existing laws against common crime.

I have some respect for this position, but I think it misses a couple of key points. First, the purpose of hate crimes laws is to target bias-motivated crime; that is, it's the motive of the aggressor, not the identity of the vicitm, that's the determining factor. Now you may agree or disagree with that on principle, but there's no basis for the claim that the law operates on the basis of the victim's identity. Here's what HR 1592 says:
Sec. 249. Hate crime acts

`(a) In General-

`(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person--

`(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

`(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--

`(i) death results from the offense; or

`(ii) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-

`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person--

`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if--

`(I) death results from the offense; or

`(II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

There's a lot more at the link, of course. Now I think the language of "actual or perceived race, etc." is a problem because it seems to suggest the opposite, i.e. that the victim's race (or other status) is itself part of the law's concern. It would be better if the text read only "perceived race, etc." because it's the perp's perceptions that we care about. But a little farther down you can find the following:
`(b) Certification Requirement- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General that--

`(1) such certifying individual has reasonable cause to believe that the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person was a motivating factor underlying the alleged conduct of the defendant;

which ought to clear things up. Bottom line: the victim doesn't automatically get to claim "bias crime" just because he or she is a different race (or whatever) from the perpetrator.

The second point I want to make is that bias laws don't just apply to certain groups or "minorities". But don't take my word for it. Here's a clip from the FBI's 2004 hate crime statistics:
Racial bias motivated crimes against 5,119 hate crime victims of single-bias incidents. Nearly 68 percent (67.9) of the victims were the object of an anti-black bias. Slightly more than 20 percent (20.1) were victims of an anti-white bias, 5.2 percent were victimized because of an anti-Asian or Pacific Islander bias, and 2.0 percent were victims due to an anti-American Indian or Alaskan native bias. Victims of anti-multiple races bias, i.e., groups in which more than one race was represented, comprised 4.9 percent of hate crime victims.

In 2004, law enforcement agencies reported that there were 1,586 victims of crimes motivated by a religious bias (single-bias incidents only). Most (67.8 percent) were victimized because of an anti-Jewish bias. An anti-Islamic bias motivated offenses against 12.7 percent of victims, and an anti-Catholic bias provoked crimes against 4.3 percent. Victims of an anti-Protestant bias made up 3.0 percent of victims of hate crimes resulting from a religious bias; other religions, 9.3 percent; and multiple religions, group, 2.5 percent. The remaining 0.4 percent of hate crime victims were targeted because of the offender’s anti-Atheism or anti-Agnosticism bias.

In terms of single-bias incidents motivated by a sexual-orientation bias, law enforcement reported 1,482 victims, most of which (60.9 percent) were victims of crimes motivated by an anti-male homosexual bias. In addition, 21.2 percent of victims were targets of an anti-homosexual (male and female) bias. Slightly more than 14 percent (14.3) were victims of an anti-female homosexual bias, 2.4 percent were victimized because of an anti-heterosexual bias, and 1.2 percent were targets of an anti-bisexual bias.

Obviously I've added the bolding here; the point is that phrases like "race" and "sexual orientation" mean what they say; the law recognizes a bias crime as a bias crime. So, does anti-bias law protect straight white Protestant males? Yes.

You can go to the Wikipedia article on hate crime laws in the United States for an informative, readable, jargon-free roundup of information on the subject. Here's what Wiki says about federal law:
Current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity (see 1969 law, infra). Legislation is currently pending that would add gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity, and disability to this list, as well as remove the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity ...


Now, I'd originally planned to spend a lot of space rebutting Andrew Jaffee's rant at Israpundit but I don't think it's really worth the effort. In Jaffee's favor, though, I'll point out that the section he quotes about eliminating "the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery" has been stricken from the text of the bill, and rightly so, in my opinion; and as I've already said, I have a problem with the "real or perceived" business for the same reason Jaffee does.

Jaffee goes on to quote a WND article which alleges that 1592 is
similar to a state law that already has been used to send grandmothers to jail for their "crime" of sharing the Gospel of Jesus on a Philadelphia public sidewalk.

I'm not familiar with the specifics of this case, but I take everything WingNutDaily says with a grain of salt. So I'll just zip right to my next main point, and that's on religion, free speech, and homosexuality.

As I posted two years ago, I absolutely support the right of social conservatives to exercise their right to free speech, regardless of whether their views about homosexuality are the same as mine. In the 2005 incident, students at South Windsor High School (my old school, BTW) were denied the right to wear T-shirts with Biblical quotes about homosexuality on the grounds that it was "hate speech".

But the business of "hate speech" is entirely different from the "hate crimes" I've discussed above. In the Connecticut case, school officials acted arbitrarily and high-handedly (and unencumbered by any legal system) to enforce an ad-hoc speech code on their students. No acts of violence or property damage were committed or threatened by the conservative students; they were simply expressing their beliefs about homosexuality, in the context of an ongoing debate over pending gay-rights legislation in the state. (That bill was later signed into law by Republican Governor Jodi Rell, making Connecticut the first state in the US to recognize civil unions through the legislative process).

Now back to hate crimes. A hate crime is, by definition, an act which is already criminal in and of itself - threat, vandalism, assault, murder - and which is legally exacerbated by the bias motive. No hate crime law is going to make it illegal to express your belief that homosexuality is wrong, immoral, or a sin - unless your idea of "expressing your belief" means doing harm to somebody else. If you don't know the difference, maybe you need to sign up for a refresher course in Civilized Debate 101.

But here's the thing. There are people out there who are unable or unwilling to draw that very distinction. Do I have to spell it out for you? Do I have to name names?

There are people out there who would like to cut your head off just because you don't believe in the same religion they do. And their views about "lifestyle choices" would make any Baptist preacher look like a free-love apostle by comparison. Regardless of what CAIR may think this legislation will do for them, hate-crime laws are there to make life harder for people who want to do violence based on prejudice - and we in the counter-jihad world ought to remember that and use it to our advantage.

Think of Ilan Halimi. Was he killed because he was a Jew? Does it matter? I think he was, and I think it does. Now think of the immigrant women in places like the Netherlands who live in fear of honor killings if they step out of line. A crime is a crime is a crime, you say? Hmmm.

All right then. This is turning into a long post, so it's time for my bottom line.

Maybe it bugs you that the same law that protects Jews and Christians from religious persecution, might also protect lesbian and gay people from homophobic hate crimes. Well, think about this. HR 1592 is about the crime, not about the victim. It's about the use of gender to justify violence and religion to justify killing gays.

H.R. 1592 isn't there to tell you what to think or what to say. It's not there to tell a preacher in a church or an imam in a mosque that he can't speak about his beliefs on homosexuality. What it does do is bring down a whole lot of firepower on people who use certain kinds of hate to justify illegal and immoral acts against other people.

If you feel that cramps your style, then maybe we'd better have a long talk.

2007-05-01

Iranian Gay Rights Activist Mani Zaniar on CBC

CBC spotlights Iranian gay activist:
He is followed by secret police. His friends are routinely whipped. Some are executed. His name is Mani Zaniar and he is the leader of Iran’s secret gay rights movement.

It is the most dangerous civil rights movement in the world. And for the first time ever, Mani, and many others, have risked their lives to come on camera and tell their story.

In this startling and unique documentary, Out in Iran, we go to Iran and get the world’s first look at life inside Iran’s persecuted gay community. We meet an astonishing group of courageous people with heartbreaking stories.


HT: Or Does It Explode