Monday, January 30, 2006

New Blog Link

Thanks to Right Democrat for stumbling upon my blog an commenting. I've included a link to their blog on the BlogRoll. Right Democrat is a blog from the perspective of a conservative Democrat in Georgia. While surely not a conservative Democrat, I think their voices are important in the party. Unlike the Republican Party, I feel there's room for that "big tent" of ideas within the Democratic Party, while Republians tend to be homogoneus. Notice I said there are exceptions. See: Colin Powell.

Nonetheless, a good blog, and highly recommended.

Weekend Roundup

Pretty slow news weekend. Watched Meet the Press and saw Sen. Bill Frist's interview. Anyone else who watched it, did he not seem a bit defensive and at a loss for words at a time? Maybe it was just me.

Only story that really jumped out at me was one on James E. Hansen, a climate expert at NASA. He claims that NASA, and more specifically, the Bush administration censored his research on global warming.
The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.
In basketball roundup, Troy lost again, this time to Denver on the road, 69-61. Next game, again on the road in-conference at Arkansas State on Wednesday. It seems like the momentum from the big win vs. Western Kentucky.

Duke is back on a roll, beating up on Virginia at home 82-63. The Georgetown loss doesn't seem to be having any kind of long-term effect on the team. Next up, at Boston College on Wednesday, 8 PM on ESPN.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Good News For Me!

I've been out of the loop all day because I bought a car! Yay! I'm no longer vehicleless. It's a 1993 Ford Escort with only 63,000 miles on it. Got a great deal on it too.

Friday, January 27, 2006

International Media Watch

Via NYT: Zimbabwe Warns Journalists Who Criticize Government

I must admit that I know, well, nothing about Zimbabwe's politics, but this is very alarming no matter who you are.

Palestinian Election Reaction: Day II

Via NYT: After Crushing Defeat by Hamas, Fatah Militants Protest in Gaza

Just a few things I found of interest.

Apparently, the younger members of Fatah are taking the news of the election loss really well.
Several hundred protesters from Mr. Abbas's own Fatah party marched in the street outside his home in Gaza City. Gunmen fired automatic rifles into the air and the crowd chanted, "Go away Abu Mazen, go away Abu Mazen," referring to Mr. Abbas as he is commonly known.
You know, if only I had been in Boston in November of 2004...

And, and update on zebras changing their stripes:
"Why are we going to recognize Israel?" Dr. Zahar said. "Is Israel going to recognize the right of return of Palestinian refugees? Is Israel going to recognize Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital?"


"If Israel has anything to bring to the Palestinian people, we will consider this," he said. "But we are not going to give anything for free."

And I seriously doubt your average Palestinian worker had this in mind when they voted for change:
In Wednesday's election, 31 Palestinian candidates were in prisons, according to the Central Elections Commission. Fifteen of them accounting for more than 10 percent of the new parliament won seats, the Jerusalem Post reported Friday. Israel has said that the election will not bring any change in their status or any reduction in their sentences.

In addition, other election winners are wanted by Israel for suspected involvement in violence. Most are in semi-seclusion, and fear arrest if they try to travel to Ramallah, the site of the Palestinian parliament in the West Bank.

The Palestinians also have a parliament building in Gaza City, but since Israeli troops left Gaza last summer, Palestinians in Gaza face no restrictions when moving inside the territory.

In the past few years, the Palestinian parliament has held numerous sessions with a video conference connecting West Bank lawmakers in Ramallah and the Gaza legislators in Gaza City.

The new Palestinian cabinet could face a similar problem. Most senior Hamas leaders are in Gaza, though the cabinet is sure to have ministers from the West Bank as well.

Israel has generally allowed Palestinian cabinet ministers to travel between Gaza and the West Bank. But Israel appears unlikely to do the same with government ministers from Hamas.

A Parliment that can't meet because they can't get to one place because Israel won't let them travel and, well, they're in prison. That's smart thinkin' there, guys.

And this government is supposed to function better than the Fatah one?

Democrats and the Bible

This is a story that I wanted to get to yesterday, but I wasn't able to. Didn't have time to get to it. It seems, as Alabamian from Red States Diaries commented, that yesterday was backwards day in Montgomery as the Alabama House Education Committee, in a party-line vote, approved a high school Bible course using the textbook The Bible and Its Influence. So what was backwards about it? The party that voted to approve the measure was the Democrats.

Ironic, huh?

Even more ironic are quotes like this:
"I know what this is about. This is more than about God. This is about politics."
"This bill is unneeded and frivolous."
What's funny about these quotes? The first was by Rep. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and the second by Alabama Christian Coalition President John Giles.

Alabama isn't the only state in which this is occuring. In an article in yesterday's New York Times, it was reported that the same battle is being played out in Georgia as well, with Democrats pushing the measure through and Republicans playing the part of the opposition.
In Georgia, the proposal marked a new course for the Democratic Party. The state's Democrats, including some sponsors of the bill, opposed a Republican proposal a few years ago to authorize the teaching of a different Bible course, which used a translation of the Scriptures as its text, calling it an inappropriate endorsement of religion. The sponsors say they are introducing their Bible measure now partly to pre-empt a potential Republican proposal seeking to display the Ten Commandments in schools.
And it gets even better:
"Their proposal makes them modern-day pharisees," State Senator Eric Johnson of Georgia, the Republican leader from Savannah, said in a statement. "This is election-year pandering using voters' deepest beliefs as a tool."

Saying he found "a little irony" in the fact that the Democratic sponsors had voted against a Republican proposal for a Bible course six years ago, Mr. Johnson added, "It should also be noted that the so-called Bible bill doesn't use the Bible as the textbook, and would allow teachers with no belief at all in the Bible to teach the course."

Betty Peters, a Republican on the Alabama school board who opposed the initiative in that state, also dismissed the initiative as "pandering." Democrats, she argued, had adopted a new strategy: "Let's just wrap ourselves in Jesus."

And how does the Republican Party's favorite Pharisee, Howard Dean, feel about all this?
"We have done it in a secular way, and we don't have to," he said, adding, "I think teaching the Bible as literature is a good thing."
Gee. That sounds almost...rational. My God. Democrats can talk about God. *collective gasp*

All of this contraversy is being centered around the textbook The Bible and Its Influence.
It was produced by the nonpartisan, ecumenical Bible Literacy Project and provides an assessment of the Bible's impact on history, literature and art that is academic and detached, if largely laudatory.
How teaching the Bible as literature is contraversial to Republicans is beyond me. Election year politics are always wacky.

Polling Wiretaps

This is a particularly tricky issue. How will it play out in the American public? It's hard to say right now. The New York Times today released some initial polling data on the subject. The results were particularly intersting. The question was asked two ways. For instance, when the question was posed like this:
After 9/11, President Bush authorized government wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants, saying this was necessary in order to reduce the threat of terrorism. Do you approve or disapprove of the President doing this?
the results were 53% approval and 46% disapproval.

However, when the question was then posed like this:
After 9/11, George W. Bush authorized government wiretaps on some phone calls in the U.S. without getting court warrants. Do you approve or disapprove of George W. Bush doing this?
the results were 46 % approval and 50 % disapproval.

This was something mentioned by the professor in my Contemporary American Foreign Policy class, Dr. James Rinehart. For instance, if you asked people if they supported the president fully using his powers as commander-in-chief of the armed forces to conduct domestic electronic surveillance in order to combat terrorism, a majority of people would say they supported such action. However, if you asked people if they approved of the president conducted warrantless wiretaps of American citizens to figt terroism, the support would decrease dramatically.

Dr. Steven L. Taylor, a professor here at Troy University in the Political Science Department posted on his personal blog, PoliBlog, about the same subject:
Two of the basic tenets of polling are 1) that polls are most useful when knowledge on the topic that is the subject of the poll is high, and 2) that to understand public opinion, the issue has to reduced to a series of simple questions that are as unambiguous as possible–the more complex the questions, the worse the information one is gathering.


Well, in regards to #1: since we don’t really know what the program is, it is rather hard to say that knowledge of the program is high in the population. Further, even what we do know about it is complex and is clearly affected by partisan orientation. Democrats are far more likely to believe that the President is acting improperly, and Republicans more likely to think the


In regards to #2: it is rather difficult to ask unambiguous questions on this topic. Moreover, it is clear from watching this process for the last several weeks, the way the question is worded influences the response.

Bush Quote of the Day

Via the White House:

May I -- if I might, you said that I have to circumvent it. There -- wait a minute. That's a -- there's something -- it's like saying, you know, you're breaking the law. I'm not. See, that's what you've got to understand. I am upholding my duty, and at the same time, doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That's just very important for you to understand.

Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It's an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also -- and we -- look -- I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do.

And so that's why I made the decision I made. And you know, "circumventing" is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I'm doing is legally right.
Did anyone else notice how he said he's not circumventing the law, then the said he is circumventing the law? Yeah, me too.

That's a full lid guys. More tomorrow, and, hopefully, less on the Middle East.

On Zebras Changing Stripes

Via Ha'aretz

Well, just don't expect Hamas to change theirs.
Regarding the group's armed struggle against Israel, all he [Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh] said was: "We will maintain our principles, our objection to the occupation, Jerusalem, the right of return, and the release of all the prisoners."

Quotes They Won't Print In American Press

Thanks to Ha'aretz, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper.
Responding to Hamas' victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that, "The state of 'Hamastan' has been created before our eyes - an Iranian satellite state in the image of the Taliban. It was created in close proximity to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion International Airport. We need to do some soul-searching, because the writing was on the wall. A policy of unilateral withdrawal rewarded Hamas terror."

Interesting New Blog

My first comment in my third foray into blogging comes from an interesting blog, Questing Parson, who is a retired United Methodist Elder who is now a supply pastor still within the church. Looks to be an examination of how society interacts with Christian faith. Only one post, but really good. I recommend you check it out. I'm going to add it to the BlogRoll and wish him better luck than I've had at keeping a blog.

College Basketball Roundup: 1/26/06

Okay, let's take a break from the serious and get to some fun stuff.

Or not so fun stuff.

Via Troy University Athletic Department: North Texas Has Just Enough Against Troy, 84-77

Not surprisingly, Bobby Dixon had a great night again, 28 points, 5 boards, 8 assists. However, man can't do it on his own. Troy shot only 36% from the field, while North Texas shot 10% better. That'll do it, my friends. Next game, Saturday night in a Sun Belt matchup versus Denver on the road.

In good news, AP via Williams' double-double powers No. 2 Duke past VaTech

Duke really had control of this game from the opening tip. Good rebound from Saturday's loss versus Georgetown, espically since Virginia Tech beat Duke at home last season and Duke needed a last second, half-court shot from Sean Dockery to pull past them to tip off the conference season in November.

Williams led the team in points and rebounds with his double-double, 24 and 15. J.J. Redick had 24 points as well, going 2-7 from behind the arc.

However, it must be mentioned that my favorite Methodist earn a demerit for breaking out the black jerseys. Really, is it necessary?

Next up, Virginia at home on Saturday.

So Just What Does Israel Do Now?

Via NYT: After Hamas Victory, Israel's Likely Course

The NYT seems to think that it means Israel acting unilaterally, and I tend to agree.
The Hamas landslide in Palestinian elections has stunned Israelis, but it may also have brought them a rare moment of clarity: with peace talks off the table, Israel will most likely pursue unilateral actions, drawing its own borders and separating itself from the Palestinians.
So, you know, keep building the fence the way you want it. Make your own territorial claims. Forget the Palestinian Authority. They won't negotiate with Hamas unless they recognize their right to exist anyway (which I seriously doubt would happen).

However, some Likud members have already begun piling on the criticism for even allowing Hamas on the ballot, as I mentioned earler.
Yuval Steinitz, a member of Parliament from Likud, said Israel should have prevented or canceled the Palestinian elections. He cited the 1993 Oslo accords, an interim peace agreement that bars the participation of armed groups and those that do not recognize Israel.
And, as far as March elections go, Likud is the clear winner in Hamas' victory.
Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the right-wing Likud Party, made clear that the Palestinian results offered an opportunity for his more hawkish message to be heard.


In previous Israeli campaigns, Hamas and other Palestinian factions have staged deadly attacks that pushed the Israeli electorate to the right.

In 1996, the Labor Party, led by the dovish Shimon Peres, seemed headed for victory after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by an ultranationalist Israeli. But after a series of Palestinian suicide bombings during the Israeli campaign, Mr. Netanyahu, of Likud, won a narrow victory.

The Palestinians started an uprising in September 2000, and in a February 2001 election for prime minister, Mr. Sharon trounced Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader, who had tried but failed to reach a comprehensive accord with the Palestinians.

I guess the clear winner is no one, though, when you step back and think about it. Perhaps the Palestinians will be able to have a stronger, more stable, less corrupt government under Hamas, which has a long history of providing excellent bureaucratic sense and governenance both within their organization and in the various municipalities in which they have taken control. But, in the long term, Hamas cannot provide the external security and stability that a Palestinian state would need. In fact, Hamas, as currently constructed, has no chance of even providing Palestinians with even a state.

Just so you you know...

This is not a Middle Eastern politics blog. Nor is it even a foreign policy blog. It just so happens that my first day back blogging this huge story of incredible interest to me comes across. Perhaps I'm just exaggerating it a bit, but this is the biggest shift of the sand in the Middle Eastern peace process, possibly since the assassination of Yitzak Rabin. Perhaps the beginning of the second infadta or even Sharon's coma. But, I don't know. This just seems bigger. I will get on to other issues, trust me. But, for now, I want to cover this story as well as possible. Hang in there if you're bored of this, because I'm not quite yet.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bush and Europeans React to Election

Via NYT: Bush Defends His Goal of Spreading Democracy to the Mideast

President Bush seems to be taking a "middle road" in dealing with the Hamas victory in Palestine. Bush can't exactly criticize the Palestinian people for electing Hamas to a majority in Parliment for a few reasons.

First, the President's stated goal to spread democracy, particularly to the Middle East. What's ironic about this, is the first true terrorist-led state came to power in a free, democratic election.
"There was a peaceful process as people went to the polls, and that's positive," Mr. Bush said.
Second, President Bush also has to admit that Fatah has been inept in their rule over Palestine. Over a decade of Fatah rule had led to corruption within the Palestinian Authority.
"But what's also positive is that it's a wake-up call to the leadership. Obviously people were not happy with the status quo. The people are demanding honest government. The people want services."
However, President Bush's problem is, obviously, a terrorist organization in control of a legally elected government that we not only recognize, but contribute roughly one-third of their foreign aid. This is, of course, a problem.

How do you combat this problem? Play nice.
Mr. Bush joined a chorus of world leaders — including the so-called quartet of principal parties in the moribund peace process — in calling on Hamas to renounce terrorism, disarm its militias and recognize the legitimacy of Israel now that it has won the elections. But his tone was less confrontational than invitational — in effect, inviting Hamas to embrace reconciliation.
Put away your guns. Please.

As for the Europeans, the Times claims that they will propose a similar approach to that done towards the IRA in the 1990s.

As for dealing with Hamas, the Europeans are considered likely to see the problem differently, many diplomats say. Regarding both Hamas and Hezbollah, the Europeans have called for the West to use the template of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, when dealing with them.

In other words, they say, talking to Hamas may help coax it toward eventual partnership in a peace negotiation. The problem, many diplomats and experts say, is that no one even pretends that there are truly separate wings of Hamas. Its armed forces and its political leaders are married to each other inextricably.

A problem indeed.

A final piece of interest in this same article, but a bit off topic from the rest of the post. Some foreign policy experts are now beginning to question President Bush's push for democratizing the Middle East as naively optimistic.

The Hamas victory was the fifth case recently of militants' winning significant gains through elections. They included the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, a radical president in Iran, and Shiites backed by militias in Iraq.

As these elections unfolded, there has been increasing criticism in some quarters — notably among the self-described "realists" in foreign policy, many of them veterans of past Republican administrations — that President Bush has naively pushed for democracy in countries without the civil society components to support it.

"The Hamas victory is a disillusioning result showing that democracy and American interests don't always coincide," said Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a Russia expert who is editor of The National Interest, a publication that echoes with debate about this subject.

More Palestinian Election Reaction

NYT has added a bit to their prevoius article mentioned in this entry. Some interesting further reaction from both governments.

While Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei resigned just before the announcment of the elections, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose job remains intact despite the Hamas victory in Parlimentary elections, will continue to serve.
"I am committed to implementing the program on which you elected me a year ago," he said. "It is a program based on negotiations and peaceful settlement with Israel."
And, despite all the celebration, not everyone's so peachy keen about all this Hamas in charge business.
In Gaza City, however, Kamilia Barghouti, 26, a waitress, said she was in shock. "I'm worried about the way this victory will affect how I can dress in public, and even if it will affect where I can work," she said."
I would be worried if I were you too.

The Arab Reaction

Reuters via NYT: Arabs See US Changing Stance on Hamas

It seems like they're keeping as quiet as the Israeli government is. However, Arab commentators are saying that the United States and Israel will have to alter their approach to Hamas.
``The Americans will start secret contacts with Hamas and in fact they have already started. But in the first moments they will exert public pressure to try to make Hamas change some of its ideas,'' added Diaa Rashwan, an Egyptian specialist on Islamist movements in the Middle East.
Forgive me if I find that hard to believe. Until Hamas recognizes Israel as a state, I don't see Israel, the US, or the EU doing much negotiating, secret or not, with Hamas. There's a longstanding policy in the United States not the negotiate with terrorist organizations. It's a pretty clear extension of that policy to not deal with terrorist states.

Even more silly was this gem:
``The (Palestinian) voters have answered Israeli extremism with a Palestinian counterpart and I believe only those more extreme sides will produce peace,'' said Anani.
Forgive me if I find it skeptical that fighting fire with fire will bring peace.

How's Israel Reacting?

AP Via NYT: Israel Ponders Response After Hamas Win

Shock from the cabinet.
Before the vote, Israel had assumed Hamas would at best be a junior partner in the government, and formulated no public position on how to deal with it.

The militants' surprisingly strong showing threw officials scrambling into action.
Oops. Even if you thought that Hamas wouldn't win a majority of seats, why didn't the cabinet at least have a backup plan to deal with this? It makes no sense to me. To be caught totally unprepared. As for whether or not to deal with Hamas:
''After Hamas is elected, can the world not talk to them?'' former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio. ''The world will speak to them saying that they were elected in a democratic process ... I think if we had prevented them from participating in the elections this wouldn't have happened.''
How true. Speaking of "prevented them from participating," this article told me something I did not know about the Oslo Accords. After all, they were before my time.
Mideast peace accords of the 1990s stipulated that no terror group could participate in Palestinian elections, but Israel was unable to drum up international support for barring the group from contesting the democratic vote.
You're kidding me right. You could have kicked them out?! They shouldn't even be eligable?! This can't be real. Unable to drum up international support? You don't think that the US and EU wouldn't have been behind an effort to keep them out of the election? You don't think Israel could have offered the withdrawl from Gaza in exchange for keeping Hamas off the ballot? These people have no idea what they're doing.

And all this with Israeli elections in just two months. And what does this do to that election? The obvious.
Political analyst Hanan Crystal said Hamas' election win would be the main issue in Israel's March elections, predicting it could hurt center-left parties and benefit the hawkish Likud, which opposed Israel's summer withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
I also have a feeling Kadima is dead. Kadima officials are going to be blamed for allowing this to happen. This is the worst-case scenario. Sharon is incapacitated, a terrorist organization has won a free and democratic election in the Middle East, and it looks like the Israeli elections are going to tilt things even more to the right. This could get messy.

Never Trust Palestinian Exit Polls

Via NYT: Hamas Wins Majority in Palestinian Vote

This isn't a huge surprise. Well, it is considering I went to bed thinking that Fatah had won. But local elections had been showing the trend of people voting for Hamas.

The question is, what does this mean for the Palestinian Authority? Hamas mayors and city councils throughout Palestine have cleaned up a lot of the corruption of mismanagment of government funds. However, as well as they may be able to handle domestic policy, the important part is the foreign policy. How are they going to plot out a foreign policy with Israel, the United States, and the European Union, all of which believe they are a terrorist organization.

Israel, of course, is not taking it well.
"For Israelis, this is the definitive end of the illusion of a comprehensive peace," said Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at Jerusalem's Shalem Center. "There is no more credible hope of Palestinian moderation. For Israelis, it will only confirm what the last five years of terror have taught them: that the war is not about settlements, but about Israel's right to exist."
As far as who will lead this government, some are saying it won't be a member of Hamas.
But it is also possible that some Fatah members who have good relations with Hamas, like the Gazan legislator Ziad Abu Amr, who ran as an independent with Hamas support, will agree to join Hamas in a cabinet that probably will be led by a non-Hamas prime minister.
As for the scene in Palestine:
Even before the results were announced, the Fatah prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, who had warned President Mahmoud Abbas against holding these elections, resigned, and in a series of clashes here, Hamas supporters raised their green flag over the parliament building. They celebrated throughout Gaza and the West Bank, holding victory marches in major cities and hanging enormous green banners on public buildings.
So, what happens now? Does the Palestinian Authority declare war on Israel? How will moderate governments in the region, such as Jordan and Kuwait, deal with a Hamas led governement. And, how does President Bush deal with this? This is his "nightmare scenario." A radical, extremist, terrorist government operating in the heart of the Middle East. The irony is, they were democratically elected.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Thank God Hamas Didn't Win

Via NYT: Narrow Win for Fatah Expected in Palestinian Elections

If for no other reason than the peace process would stall. Because, well, when you state that your goal is the descrution of Israel, it's hard for, well, Israel to negotiate with you. So, bravo for the Palestinian people for keeping the prime minister's position with Fatah.

However, contraversial props to the Palestinians for allowing Hamas on the ballot. Regardless of how twisted their agenda is, no one should be kept off a ballot.

Let's Try This One More Time

This time, we're not creating a blog. We're seeing how long we can go without a stoppage of blogging.