Saturday, October 31, 2009

Translated Text of Honduras Accord

This is a Google translation of the Honduras Accord, signed on 30 October 2009


We Honduran citizens, men and women convinced of the need to strengthen the rule of law under our Constitution and laws of our Republic, deepen democracy and ensure a climate of peace and tranquility to our people, we had a strong and frank political dialogue process to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis our country has been plunged in recent months.

As a result of this dialogue that sanity has prevailed, tolerance and the patriotic spirit of all its participants, we drafted a political settlement that will restore the peaceful coexistence of citizens and ensure a climate conducive to democratic governance in our country. This agreement, we are sure, will mark the path to peace, reconciliation and democracy, urgent demands of Honduran society.

The conclusion of this agreement demonstrates once again that the Hondurans are able to successfully practice dialogue and thank him and through it, achieve the lofty goals that society demands and the nation requires of us.

Under this, we have agreed to the following agreements.

To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy under a Government of Unity and National Reconciliation, composed of representatives of various political parties and social organizations, recognized for their ability, honesty, competence and willingness to talk, who will occupy the various secretaries and deputy secretaries, and other state agencies in accordance with article 246 and following of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras.

Given that prior to the June 28, the executive branch had sent to Congress the draft National General Budget of Revenue and Expenditures, in accordance with the provisions of Article 205, paragraph 32 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, the government of national unity and reconciliation, respect and operate on the basis of the general budget, recently approved by Congress for fiscal year 2009.

2 - ON THE WAIVER to convene a National Constituent Assembly Amend the Constitution AS unreformable.

Fundamental. To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy, we reiterate our respect for the Constitution and laws of our country, refraining from making appeals to the convocation of a Constituent National Assembly, directly or indirectly and also giving to promote or support any referendum with the aim of reforming the constitution to allow presidential reelection, modify the form of government or contravene any of the articles of our Constitution irrevocable.

In particular, we will not make public statements or exert any influence inconsistent with Articles 5, 239; 373 and 373 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, and strongly reject any expression contrary to the spirit of such items and special law regulates the referendum and the plebiscite.


To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy, we reiterate that, in accordance with Articles 44 and 51 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, the vote is universal, compulsory, equal, direct, free and secret, and for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal with full autonomy and independence, control and implement all related to the acts and election processes.

Also make an appeal to the Honduran people to participate peacefully in the next general election and avoid all demonstrations to oppose the election or its outcome, or promoting the insurrection, unlawful conduct, civil disobedience or other acts that could produce violent confrontations or breaches of the law.

In order to demonstrate the transparency and legitimacy of the electoral process, we urge the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which authorizes and certifies the presence of international missions from now until the declaration of the result of general elections and the hand over to take place in accordance with Article 237 of the Constitution of the Republic, 27 January 2010.


To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy, we reaffirm our willingness to abide in all respects Article 272 of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras, in accordance with which the Armed Forces, are available to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal from a month before the general elections, in order to guarantee the free exercise of suffrage, custody, transparent and monitoring of election materials and other aspects of process safety. We reaffirm the professional, apolitical, obedient and not deliberating the Honduran Armed Forces. Similarly, we agree that the national police must adhere strictly to what is prescribed special legislation.


To achieve reconciliation and strengthening democracy in the spirit of the themes of the proposed San Jose Accord, both negotiating committees have decided, respectfully, that the National Congress as an institutional expression of popular sovereignty, using its powers, in consultation with relevant bodies to consider as the Supreme Court and in accordance with law, resolve as appropriate in respect of "to roll back the ownership of the executive branch to its status prior to 28 June until the end of the current governmental period on 27 January 2010.

The decision to accept the Congress should provide the basis for achieving social peace, political peace and governance demanded by society and the country needs.


To achieve reconciliation and strengthen democracy, we have the creation of a Credentials Committee of the commitments made in this Agreement, and those derived from it, coordinated by the Organization of American States (OAS).The commission shall consist of two members of the international community and two members of the national community, the latter shall be chosen one by each of the parties.

The Credentials Committee will be responsible for attesting to the strict compliance with all points of this agreement and will receive for it the full cooperation of the Honduran public institutions.

Violation of any of the commitments contained in this Agreement, established and declared by the Credentials Committee, will produce the activation of measures developed by the Commission to the offender or offenders.

To clarify the events before and after 28 June 2009, it will also establish a Truth Commission to identify the actions that led to the current situation and to provide the people of Honduras elements to prevent these acts were repeated in the future.
This Dialogue Commission recommends that the next government, as part of a national consensus, constitutes the Truth Commission in the first half of 2010.


By committing to faithfully fulfill their commitments in this Agreement, we respectfully request the immediate revocation of those measures or sanctions taken bilaterally or multilaterally, that somehow affect reintegration and full participation of the Republic of Honduras in the international community and access to all forms of cooperation. We call upon the international community to relaunch as soon as possible the current projects of cooperation with the Republic of Honduras and continue with the negotiation of future. In particular, we urge that, at the request of the competent authority becomes effective international cooperation that is necessary and timely for the Verification Commission and the Truth Commission in the future to ensure the faithful implementation and monitoring of the commitments made in this Agreement.


Any differences in interpretation or application of this Agreement will be submitted to the Credentials Committee, shall determine, in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Honduras and current legislation and by an authentic interpretation of this Agreement, the solution appropriate.
Taking into account this Agreement is the product of understanding and brotherhood among Hondurans, strongly request the international community to respect the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras, and fully observe the principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations not interference in the internal affairs of other States.


Given the entry into force immediately after this agreement after your subscription date, and in order to clarify the time of implementation and monitoring of commitments made to achieve national reconciliation, agree to the following schedule of compliance.

* October 30, 2009
1 .- Subscription and entry into force of the agreement.
2 .- formal delivery of the agreements to Congress for the purpose of Section 5, the "Executive".
November 2, 2009
1 .- Establishment of the Credentials Committee.
* From the signing of this Agreement and no later than November 5.
1 .- Formation and installation of the Government of Unity and National Reconciliation.
* January 27, 2010
1 .- Celebrating hand over of government.
* First half of 2010
1 .- Establishment of a Truth Commission.


In the name of reconciliation and the patriotic spirit that has brought us together at the negotiating table, we undertake to comply in good faith under this Agreement and what you as a result.

The world is witness to this demonstration of unity and peace, which commits us our civic duty, and patriotic devotion. Together, we shall demonstrate our courage and resolve to strengthen the rule of law and build a tolerant, pluralist and democratic.
We signed this Agreement in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on 30 October 2009.

11 .- THANKS

We take this opportunity to thank the support and the good offices of the international community, especially the Organization of American States and its Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, the Missions of Foreign Ministers of the Hemisphere, the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, the final government of the United States, its President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

For internal purposes, the agreement takes full effect after its signing.
For purposes of protocol and ceremonial, will be held a public subscription on 2 November 2009.

Tegucigalpa Central District Municipality, 30 October 2009.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Yale University Press and a Book about Cartoons

First published on Blog Critics on 19 October 2009

Refusal to reprint dastardly cartoons offensive to Islam was a giant step forward for free speech.

The Yale University Press is dedicated to principles of independence, academic freedom and scholarship; it adheres steadfastly to those principles without fear or favor; without regard to whether its actions cause anger, adverse comment or praise. Its honorable decision to publish The Cartoons That Shook the World minus a reproduction of the actual cartoons demonstrates YUP's fearless adherence to its principles.

YUP is to be commended for its willingness to court popular criticism. Few publishers of significance would be willing to risk outrage of the sort engendered by publication of only a bowdlerized version of The cartoons book. In an August 14, 2009 press release announcing its decision, YUP modestly declined to acknowledge that its courageous goal was to stimulate such criticism and thereby to encourage the sort of freedom of expression it well knew would be directed against it. Instead, it took the much disputed position that its decision was made to promote public safety.
After careful consideration, the Press has declined to reproduce the September 30, 2005, Jyllands-Posten newspaper page that included the cartoons, as well as other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that the author proposed to include.
The original publication in 2005 of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad led to a series of violent incidents, and repeated violent acts have followed republication as recently as June 2008, when a car bomb exploded outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring at least thirty. The next day Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it revenge for the "insulting drawings."
Republication of the cartoons—not just the original printing of them in Denmark—has repeatedly resulted in violence around the world. More than two hundred lives have been lost, and hundreds more have been injured. It is noteworthy that, at the time of the initial crisis over the cartoons in 2005–2006, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe declined to print them, as did every major newspaper in the United Kingdom.
Despite this self-effacing explanation, it should be obvious that YUP's motivation had nothing to do with public safety; the chances of violent attacks against YUP or even Yale University as a whole resulting from publication of the already widely seen three year old cartoons in a scholarly volume, likely to be read by few, are laughably remote. Any suggestion that the copious free publicity for YUP certain to result from its decision was a motivating factor must also be rejected. YUP does not need publicity, good or bad. It is already one of the top thousand or so academic book publishing companies in the United States and would be shocked at the prospect of massive demand for one of its learned books. YUP fears the publication of a best seller as the gods fear Sarah Palin. Even more ludicrous is the mean-spirited charge that Yale University was motivated by a desire for financial assistance from such Moslem countries as Saudi Arabia. YUP doubtless has plenty of money, and the thought that Yale University might stoop to such mercenary thoughts is unthinkable.

These nonsensical theses must be put aside. YUP was merely following cherished Yale University Guidelines, known to and respected by all members of the university community.
[T]he history of intellectual growth and discovery clearly demonstrates the need for unfettered freedom, the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.
YUP courageously desired to subject itself to violent criticism from the proponents of free speech precisely to encourage such attacks. And vehement attacks there have been. Here is an article reporting and elaborating upon some of them.
Cary Nelson, the President of American Association of University Professors (AAUP), quickly responded on August 13 with a biting letter, "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands." Yale's action struck the AAUP as creating much more harm. Yale violated "an author's academic freedom and [damaged] the reputation of the press and the university." These actions would impact "other university presses and publication venues" and "[had] the potential to encourage broader censorship of speech by faculty members or other authors."
It goes on and on, as do many other such articles; indeed, they continue to this day, more than two months after the initial announcement.

How better to encourage "unfettered freedom," thoughts of the "unthinkable", mention of the "unmentionable," and challenges to the "unchallengeable?" Indeed, how better to boldly go where no man had dared to boldly go before? By actively promoting a heretofore unthinkable freedom to suggest that YUP may have had some ulterior motive or, indeed, even that it was strangely misguided, was a truly courageous and brilliant exercise in generous self sacrifice of a type, magnitude and generosity rarely seen. Sadly, "the Yale faculty has mostly yawned."

It is, nevertheless regrettable that some even within the enlightened Yale Community were taken in by YUP's heroic hoax decision, and blamed it on cowardice. One undergraduate commendably proclaimed in the Yalie Daily that there are legitimate limits to freedom of speech.
While most of us would defend the free-speech rights of "birthers" or Klansmen or fraternity misogynists, we defend those rights in a manner that makes clear we don’t want to see those rights exercised in violation of our sensibilities and beliefs. Some ideas are not welcome at Yale, nor should they be.(emphasis added)
I cannot agree with that too much! Indeed, it warms the very cockles of my heart and sole (sic) to learn that Yale is a far better and more liberal place than when I floundered around intellectually there as an undergraduate more than forty years ago, and that only the right to exercise freedoms which do not offend is now desired.

Despite this entirely reasonable statement of principle, doubtless taught by the illustrious academics at Yale, the author attributed the YUP decision to fear, and expressed the odd view that
I would be prouder to belong to a university whose officials censored a book because of what they believed in, and not because of what they feared.
But, as demonstrated above, fear had nothing to do with YUP's selfless and productive decision. Voluntarily going into harm's way, by encouraging attacks on one's adherence to noble principle is not inspired by fear. It is inspired by courage and willingness to suffer the adverse consequences of one's actions. Lux et Vomitus Lux et Veritas! -- a motto now engraved on the hearts of all Yalies in Latin, Arabic, and also for the moment in Hebrew.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Robert E. Lee -- A Remembrance

There are and have been few like him.

General Robert E. Lee died one hundred and thirty-nine years ago on October 12, 1870 (now celebrated as Columbus Day) at the age of sixty-three. We, as a nation, have done with heroes and few remember him. The anniversary of his death will likely go generally unnoticed and unremarked upon. Yet he inspired a nation, or at least a fledgling nation, the Confederate States of America. Those who reminisce about him do so because of his devotion to honor, duty, integrity, for his compassion and for his wisdom. He had those now sadly rare qualities in rare abundance; although I (obviously) never knew him, I miss the likes of him today. When I read a news story dealing with our congresscritters, our president, or His administration, I scratch my balding head and wonder what happened.

The anniversary of General Lee's death having been called to my attention by an article in the Canada Free Press, I read again Rod Cragg's Robert E. Lee, General, A commitment to Valor. I could not find a link to the book on Amazon or even on Google, but somehow I had bought a copy at a used book store in rural Panamá. This article is largely based on it. This song is about General Lee's life.

General Lee's father, "Light-Horse Harry Lee," distinguished himself as a cavalry commander in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1829, Robert E. Lee eventually rose to the rank of Colonel as commander of the U.S. Army's Texas Department in 1860. Although he considered slavery a "moral and political evil," he declined command of U.S. forces when Virginia seceded and resigned from the U.S. Army to take command of Virginia's military forces. He felt that it was his duty to do so; his sense of honor compelled him. "I did only what my duty demanded; I could have taken no other course without dishonor." He valued honor highly, and because of it chose to fight on behalf of his home, Virginia, rather than for the Union. On April 20, 1861, he wrote to the Secretary of War:
Sir, I have the honor to tender my resignation of my command as colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry.
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
R.E. Lee, Colonel First Cavalry
In a letter to General Winfield Scott, Commanding, United States Army, Lee wrote on 20 April 1861,
General: Since my interview with you on the 18th instant, I have felt that I ought not longer retain my commission in the army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has caused me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed.
During the whole of that time -- more than a quarter of a century-- I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors, and the most cordial friendship from my comrades. To no one, General, have I been as much indebted as to yourself, for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, and your name and fame will always be dear to me.
Save in defence of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword. Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity, and believe me, most truly yours,
R.E. Lee.
When a substantial number of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy left to join the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the war, a special retreat ceremony was held at West Point, and Dixie is said to have been played in their honor.

Following many military successes and some defeats, Lee was promoted to General-in-Chief of all Confederate armies in 1865. Colonel Ives, an officer who served on General Lee's staff, wrote "His name might be audacity. He will take more desperate chances, and take them quicker than any other general in this country, North or South." Another wrote, "His soldiers reverenced him and had unbounded confidence in him, for he shared all their privations."

General Lee was compelled to surrender to General Grant at Appomattox Virginia on April 9, 1865. A Northern officer who observed him at Appomattox wrote, "In manner, [Lee was] grave and dignified. . . which gave him the air of a man who kept his pride to the last." A private soldier who had served with General Lee throughout the war wrote,
As Lee came riding alone into Richmond [after his surrender], his old followers immediately recognized him and followed him to his home where, with uncovered heads, they saw him to his door. Then they silently dispersed.
Later that year, he wrote to an English correspondent who had offered a place to escape the destruction of Virginia following the war. He said, "I cannot desert my native state in the hour of her adversity. I must abide by her fortunes, and share her fate."

There are many quotations from General Lee. Here is one of my favorites: "Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one; the man who requires you to do is dearly purchased at a sacrifice."

Here is the text of General Orders No. 9, HQ, Army of Northern Virginia, Appomattox Courthouse, April 10, 1865:
After four years' arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss which would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God may extend to you His blessing and protection. With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
Robert E. Lee, General
To compare General Lee with any living person of note would be an exercise in futility. He was a man perhaps unique to his time, no politician, and the world in which General Lee lived was vastly different from the world in which we now live. Any comparison would be as pointless as it would be futile. Still, General Lee's sense of honor and its necessary adjunct, integrity, stand out as remarkable, and both qualities are sadly missing from many of those who now strut on the world stage. We should perhaps spend a moment to reflect on the character of General Lee in evaluating those who now have become our leaders; I am afraid that nearly all of them would suffer from the comparison.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What's With the Birthers?

First published by BlogCritics on 7 August 2009

Even if President Obama was born in Kenya, it's too late to do much about it.

According to a 2 August "breaking news" item from WorldNetDaily, a purported copy of President Obama's 1961 Kenyan birth certificate, certified by a Kenyan official in February 1964, has been found. The linked article reproduces a copy. As the article properly notes, a few weeks ago a different Kenyan "birth certificate" had been discovered by someone else and attempted to be marketed on e-bay; it was determined to be a fraud. It seems likely that this one may also be a fraud; it has been so claimed, and the some of the claims at first glance make some sense. On 4 August, an article published in Australasia seemed to claim that the Kenyan "birth certificate" was a forgery based on an Australian birth certificate issued to an Australian. Oh well. Maybe the Birthers are just as nuts as the Truthers, an apparently more reputable bunch who believe that 9-11 was a put up job by President Bush. Then there are those who think that President Obama's policies are increasing the national debt. How could seventy-one percent of the voters believe in such heresy? Still, "88% of Republicans blame the president’s policies, compared to 52% of Democrats. But 79% of voters not affiliated with either party agree." Tsk Tsk! And, as all good people know, those who oppose President Obama's magnificent health care reforms are part of a wicked Republican cabal, mendaciously spreading falsehoods. President Obama and his friends have told us so. We're going to get Obamacare, like it or not; we need it! We had better like it.

I have no absolutely no idea where President Obama was born. However, in view of the recurrent discussion about birth certificates, it seems worthwhile to suspend disbelief briefly and to explore what could likely happen were a bona fide Kenyan birth certificate for President Obama to appear. Such an appearance would raise the important constitutional and practical question of --- "So What?"

As most everyone is by now well aware, Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution provides:
No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
It seems clear on the face of things that if President Obama was born in Kenya, he is not a "natural born Citizen" of the United States and is therefore constitutionally unqualified to be the President. The practical and legal problems revolve around the fact that he was elected to the office, sworn in as president, and in the intervening more than six months has signed into law several major pieces of legislation.

The only constitutional process for removing a sitting president is impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate under Article II, Section 4 for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Under Article III, Section 3, treason
against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. (emphasis added)
Anything may be possible, but it would be a big stretch to characterize presidential lack of constitutional qualification as "treason" as defined in the Constitution. No element of bribery has thus far surfaced, and it seems unlikely that any will. That leaves "high crimes and misdemeanors," the meanings of which are more ambiguous.

If President Obama took office knowing that he was not a natural born citizen of the United States, that might possibly constitute a high crime or misdemeanor. However, this is unclear because there generally must be a law prohibiting specific conduct to make it a crime. There is no federal statute making it a crime to become the president knowing that one does not possess the requisite constitutional qualifications. There probably should be, but there isn't. Until recently, there had been no apparent need for one.

If these hurdles could be got over, there would be others. What is meant by "knowing?" No one actually has personal knowledge as to when or where he was born. I "know" that I was born in Washington, D.C. on 17 June 1941, not only because my parents later told me and I trust them, but also because I have seen the original of my birth certificate which so states. But I have no first hand, personal knowledge. Even had I been fully aware of my immediate surroundings at the moment of birth, a state of awareness which no other infant has ever experienced, there is no way that I could then have differentiated between a maternity hospital room in Washington, D.C. and one in Kenya. Despite my lack of actual personal knowledge, I have many times claimed to have been born on that date and at that place, in official documents executed subject to penalties for perjury.

If Obama falsely and knowingly swore in an official document that he was born in Hawaii, he could perhaps be impeached and convicted on the basis of perjury. There is no evidence of which I am aware of his having taken an oath to that effect; if such evidence exists, and should it be proved that he was not born in Hawaii, perjury would probably be an impeachable offense.

In any event, for impeachment and conviction of "high crimes and misdemeanors," on the basis of perjury or (improbably) without a criminal statute, it would be necessary for President Obama to have had some clear knowledge that he was not a "natural born Citizen" when he assumed office. Where might evidence of such knowledge be found?

If Candidate Obama actually believed that he had not been born in the United States, but knowingly claimed falsely that he had been, evidence of that would certainly be relevant to his state of mind. Proving what someone "believes" is never an easy task, unless the believer has written or spoken of his beliefs. President Obama has probably never expressed, publicly at least, a belief that he is not a "natural born" citizen. It has been claimed (probably correctly) that President Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate is not probative of his birth in Hawaii, even though copies of it were posted on his campaign web site. It seems reasonable to presume that Candidate Obama was aware of the posting. Whether he believed that the Hawaiian birth certificate was spurious is a different question, and a big one.

If President Obama, as a youth, travelled on a passport issued by a foreign country, that could be probative that he was then a citizen of another country. There are two possibilities here:
1. Obama was a United States citizen but obtained and used a foreign passport. If he did not thereby intend to renounce United States citizenship, then he did not forfeit it.
2. Obama was not then in fact a United States citizen, and therefore used a foreign passport. This would be very good evidence that he knew that he was not constitutionally qualified as "natural born" when he sought and accepted the presidency.
There are many questions and few answers. In any event, it seems very unlikely that the present House of Representatives would impeach President Obama even if a newly discovered and clearly valid Kenyan birth certificate proved beyond question that he was born in Kenya; it also seems unlikely that the present Senate would convict. In practice, an impeachable offense boils down to what the House and the Senate say is it is. Former President Ford said substantially the same thing. Currently, the Democrats control both houses of the Congress, and President Obama seems to control the Democrats -- if not completely, then still sufficiently to ward off a successful impeachment. The very first impeachment and conviction in United States history of a (Democratic) president seem so unlikely to occur while there is a Democratic Party majority that the subject may not even be worth discussing.

Impeached and convicted or not, the constitutional crisis would be draconian in the extreme. One possible solution would be for President Obama to resign in order to spare the country lots of turmoil. Then, or if President Obama were removed by the impeachment process, Vice President Biden would become the president, making Speaker Pelosi next in line. This might well be even worse than having President Obama remain in office. Alternatively, President Obama might simply remain in office, a much weakened "lame duck" president, quite probably facing an opposition Congress following the 2010 elections. That might well be the best possible outcome.

There is at least one other possibility, although it holds at best modest facial appeal. All of the laws enacted since 20 January might be attacked as invalid because signed by a spurious president. Aside from the fact that these attacks would take a long time to make their tortured ways through the courts, they would if successful cause a big mess. What about appropriations bills? The Government needs funding. We joke that it would be neat if the Government simply stopped, but realistically that would have some pretty undesirable consequences: the military needs to pay troops and even to feed and arm some of them. Could troops remain active in Iraq and elsewhere? Could they even be brought home? Perhaps they could hitchhike. Like it or not, the Government needs to function, and this requires such mundane things as electricity, salaries, aircraft fuel, and lots more, all of which costs money.

No matter what happens, President Obama will most likely remain in office at least until 20 January 2013. There is a useful teaching point in all of this, however. The "forth estate," the press, let the country down very badly during the primaries and general election campaigns. Rather than pursue even tepidly the question of Candidate Obama's constitutional qualifications, the press grossly disparaged anyone who raised such questions and made sick jokes of the whole thing. That spectacle continues. If a valid Kenyan birth certificate were to surface, it might wake up the press; if that were not to do so, then nothing would.

There are a few things which might be done to avoid similar crises in the future. The states could require proof of constitutional qualification before any candidacy is certified. There are constitutional qualifications for all federal elected officials, and the constitutions of many states likely also specify qualifications for office. There is a move afoot to push for a federal law so providing. The political parties could impose requirements that prior to primaries, candidates make reasonable showings, under oath, of their constitutional qualifications. The Congress might some day pass legislation criminalizing the assumption of the presidency knowing that one is not constitutionally qualified. Maybe some day, another president might sign such legislation, making it the law of the land. Until now, these have been pipe dreams. Now, in the probably unlikely event that a valid Kenyan birth surfaces, there may be sufficient impetus.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Strange Events May Be Brewing and Honduras is Their Focus.

First published at BlogCritics on 9 July 2009

Mediation of the Honduran Situation by President Arias May Well be a Good thing.

The selection of Costa Rican President Arias to mediate the dispute between former Honduran President Zelaya and the Government of interim President Micheletti appears to have been a wise one. It may be useful to speculate a bit about why and by whom President Arias was selected, as well as about the likely impact of these things on the power of Venezuelan President Chávez in Latin America.

The possible role of President Arias as a mediator was suggested to Zelaya during his 7 July Washington meeting with Secretary Clinton, and Zelaya agreed to it. Secretary Clinton promptly telephoned President Arias to ask for his help and he agreed. However, her's was not the only contact with President Arias regarding the Honduran situation: he had been asked the day before by Honduran interim President Micheletti to consider playing such a role. I am unaware of any reports indicating that Chávez had sought Arias' selection, and the United States Government has said nothing to indicate that it has been in discussions with the interim Government of Honduras; it seems not to have been.

Zelaya and Micheletti went to Costa Rica as contemplated, and are to meet separately with Arias. Their positions, at least for now, are unchanged: Zelaya says he must be reinstated and Micheletti says that's out of the question. As I suggested in the linked article, this may prevent, or at least postpone, a military confrontation between the Honduran military and forces from other countries, principally Chávez ally, Nicaragua.

During the 1980s, President Arias played a substantial role in efforts to decrease the influence of the United States over much of Latin America and to bring some measure of stability to the region. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for doing so. However, President Arias is not very chummy with Chávez. During his barely successful campaign for reelection as President of Costa Rica in 2006, Arias' principal opponent was Ottón Solis, much favored by Chávez.

Things seem to be happening behind—but not all that far behind—the curtain. On 7 July, the same day that she met with Zelaya and telephoned President Arias, Secretary Clinton submitted to an interview by Globovisión. The interview was at the State Department in Washington. Globovisión, one of the very few broadcast outlets in Venezuela still able to criticize the Chávez government, has been under vigorous attack by that Government, and may soon be closed; its principals are under criminal charges. Here are comments by a blogger in Venezuela, who does not much care for Chávez:
Questions were standard and Hillary responses standard . . . Still, she made it clear that things in Venezuela are not kosher and that she is aware of it.
No matter what, the interview does not solve anything, does not protect Globovisión from being closed though it makes very clear that the price Chavez will have to pay for it will be very high. Interestingly, the Honduras part . . . revealed how irrelevant Venezuela will become as negotiations keep going.
As soon as the interview was over I switched to VTV to watch La Hojilla reaction. I was not disappointed as Mario Silva was livid, as furious as I ever saw him. . . . Proving that the interview hit a raw nerve. The top was Silva belching "who named Arias?" betraying his resentment at 1) his boss not being on the forefront anymore and 2) that Arias did the most to block a commie takeover of Central America 20 years ago.
According to Alberto Federico Ravell, head of Globovisión, interviewed on 8 July in Miami as he returned to Venezuela from Washington, he is convinced that
Clinton supports Globovisión's efforts to speak out against Hugo Chávez's government. . . .In every thing she said I was seeing a red beret . . . .It was incredible that the same day she met with ousted Honduran President Zelaya, she also met with representatives from a television channel that is seen by Chávez as part of the opposition.
I think that the full transcript of the Clinton interview confirms that she was, indeed, talking about Chávez, whose media censorship continues unabated. A somewhat different take on the interview is provided here. If, as claimed in that article, Secretary Clinton wanted to "to lower the temperature" in the United States' relations with Venezuela, neither her Globovisión appearance itself, nor statements such as these may have been the best way to go about it:
Clinton said that what the White House hopes to see "over the next months in Venezuela is a recognition that you can be a very strong leader and have very strong opinions without trying to take on too much power and trying to silence all your critics."

"So I think there are ways that the current government in Venezuela could maintain a very strong presence without, in any way, raising questions about the commitment to democracy," the secretary said.
A reminder to viewers of the television station which Chávez is about to close that he shouldn't silence all his critics could hardly have been warmly received by Chávez.

Zelaya's attempt to amend the Honduran Constitution to eliminate the presidential term limit, and later his attempt to return to Honduras, had been vigorously supported by Chávez, who had supplied the aircraft in which he attempted to return to Honduras. It has been reported that Chávez was simultaneously on the telephone with Zelaya, Ortega of Nicaragua and Fidel Castro of Cuba during Zelaya's aborted flight to Honduras. It seems obvious that Chávez's standing in Latin America would have been enhanced by a spectacularly bloody reception of the former President on 6 July, and that it has been diminished by the failure of Zelaya's return and by the selection of President Arias as a mediator.

Despite Chávez's apparent earlier successes in helping to create the Constitutional crisis in Honduras and in pushing the UN, the OAS and ALBA to make it worse, things were not going entirely as he might have wished.

* Shortly before Zelaya's attempted return, several members of the OAS—an organization dominated by Chávez and his allies-- apparently tried to dissuade Zelaya from making the attempt.

* Argentine President Kirchner was one of the dignitaries who flew to El Salvador and thence to Nicaragua to be with Zelaya following his attempt to enter Honduras. Her Peronista party had lost very badly in Argentina's 28 June congressional elections, and her husband resigned as the head of the Peronista party on 30 June; Chávez had been among the principal supporters of their party.

* The current President of Panama in June won a decisive victory with more than sixty percent of the vote over his opponent, a big Chávez supporter. During his inauguration address he announced, "As president, I will do everything within my reach to advance the ideals of a free economy, challenging the different ideological pendulum that Latin America has."
Nor are things going well for Chávez domestically. Here is a link to an article I wrote about that just over a month ago.

Hope perhaps springs eternal, and I may have too much of it. Still, during the days immediately after the "coup" in Honduras, Secretary Clinton's State Department seemed to be at least marginally less supportive of Zelaya's position than was President Obama. At a 30 June State Department briefing, it was stated that "it’s not up to us to determine what’s in line with the [Honduran] constitution." President Obama was quoted, at about the same time, as saying that the weekend ouster of Zelaya was a "not legal" coup and that Zelaya remains the country's president. These statements can be read to suggest a difference of opinion.

According to an article in Power Line by an author with whom I frequently agree, and with whom I very much agree on the nature of the Honduran "coup,"
Obama's position on Honduras is part of an emerging, and very sad, pattern. His bogus catchphrases may vary ("meddling," "illegal," or whatever), but the result always seems to be the same. Whether the venue is Honduras, Russia, or Iran, Obama instinctively sides, in the first instance, with the enemies of freedom and the rule of law. And it doesn't hurt at all if that party is also hostile towards the U.S.
I don't know whether Secretary Clinton's interview on Globovisión was cleared by President Obama. However, her appearance on a Venezuelan television station sufficiently at odds with Chávez that it is likely to be thrown off the air soon, and in the course of the interview to appear to challenge Chávez's silencing of his critics—was certainly a major step. It was one which I suspect would ordinarily have had to be approved by the President. Might these things at least hint that President Obama may yet see that Chávez et al are not the sort of friends he or the United States want? Or might they indicate that Secretary Clinton is looking for a graceful exit from the Obama administration ostensibly over foreign policy? She is a crafty person whom I don't much like, but it will be quite interesting to see what happens over the next few months.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Presidents Chávez, Obama et al Are Meddling Egregiously with Honduras.

First published by BlogCritics on 30 June 2009

The United States gave the lawfully deposed President of Honduras full support, after giving meager support to the Iranian protesters.

Over the weekend, Honduras was about to have a referendum on whether its Constitutional prohibition against a sitting president running for a second term should be modified. This referendum was proposed by President Zelaya, whose term in office expires next year; an election is to be held in November.

The Constitution expressly states that its provisions concerning the presidential term of office and prohibiting reelection are among the very few provisions not subject to change.

Title VII, with two chapters, outlines the process of amending the constitution and sets forth the principle of constitutional inviolability. The constitution may be amended by the National Congress after a two-thirds vote of all its members in two consecutive regular annual sessions. However, several constitutional provisions may not be amended. These consist of the amendment process itself, as well as provisions covering the form of government, national territory, and several articles covering the presidency, including term of office and prohibition from reelection.
The text, in Spanish, of Article VII is provided in a footnote. Despite a ruling by the Honduran Supreme Court that he could not constitutionally do so, President Zelaya determined to go forward with the referendum.

The news reports on what happened next are often unclear and frequently contradictory; to some extent, the massive media coverage of Michael Jackson's death may have displaced them. Here, however, is my best effort at offering a summary distilled from multiple sources: Sometime earlier this year, President Zelaya decided that the Constitution should be amended to permit him to run for another term. The Congress -- controlled by the party of which President Zelaya is a member -- refused to go along. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela provided the necessary ballots, and President Zelaya ordered the military to distribute them for a referendum to be held on 28 June. The Supreme Court determined that the referendum was violative of the Constitution, and ordered the top military commander, Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, neither to distribute the ballots nor in any other way to carry out the logistics of the vote as the military would normally do in elections. General Vásquez Velásquez so advised President Zelaya, who promptly fired him. The Supreme Court ordered him reinstated, and President Zelaya refused. On 28 June, President Zelaya led a group of his followers to the military installation where the ballots were being stored, took them, and had his followers distribute them. The Congress voted unanimously to appoint a committee to analyze the situation and investigate President Zelaya for his refusal to respect the Constitution and the orders issued by other branches of government. He nevertheless carried on with his preparations, and offered only a cosmetic change to the referendum: on Saturday night (27 June), he verbally stated that the referendum would not be binding, but confirmed that it would go ahead as planned the next day. A few hours before the opening of the polling stations, the Supreme Court ordered the president’s arrest and removal from office. The army carried out the order, arrested Mr. Zelaya and transported him to Costa Rica. A reason for doing so was to avoid a bloodbath in the face of the threat of other governments interfering in Honduras’ internal affairs, among them Venezuela and Nicaragua. The likelihood of substantial popular protests over the ouster of Mr. Zelaya seemed small, since Mr. Zelaya had low support -- polls showed around 30 percent before his ouster -- "as many Hondurans were uncomfortable with his tilt to the left in a country with a long conservative, pro-Washington position." As indicated below, that bloodbath now seems quite possible, largely due to outside interference from Washington, Caracas and elsewhere. The referendum was not held, and the Legislature, in emergency session, unanimously selected its president as the interim President of Honduras as provided by Honduran law, and stated that a presidential election would be held in November, as scheduled. The interim President is of the same political party as former President Zelaya.

The ouster of President Zelaya has frequently been termed a "coup." That seems, to me at least, to stretch the word well beyond its commonly understood meaning. The Honduran military acted to execute the lawful orders of the Supreme Court and with the blessing of the "democratically elected" legislature; I have seen no indication that the military instigated the ouster. Nor is Honduras under military control; it has an interim civilian president, properly selected by unanimous vote of the legislature in compliance with the laws of presidential succession.

The United States Government was very active during the days leading up the exile of Mr. Zelaya. According to an article in the New York Times,
American officials did not believe that Mr. Zelaya’s plans for the referendum were in line with the Constitution, and were worried that it would further inflame tensions with the military and other political factions, administration officials said.

Even so, one administration official said that while the United States thought the referendum was a bad idea, it did not justify a coup.

I do not understand that it is the proper business of the United States Government to dictate to a foreign government on such matters; the decision whether another country should ignore its Constitution in order to maintain tranquility and thereby please the United States Government is not for the United States Government to make. This is particularly the case here, since the United States Government recognized that the proposed referendum was not "in line with the Constitution" and was a "bad idea."

The situation in Honduras provides an interesting comparison to the recent situation in Iran. President Chávez of Venezuela, who had expressed great solidarity with his ally, the ruling theocracy in Iran, during the recent unpleasantness there, came quickly and vigorously to the defense of one of his other allies, President Zelaya.  President Chávez said on state television that if his ambassador to Honduras were killed, or if troops entered the Venezuelan Embassy, the "military junta" would be entering a de facto state of war. Although he cited no credible evidence that these things were likely to occur, he put the armed forces of Venezuela on alert. "We will bring them down, we will bring them down, I tell you," he said, while hundreds of his supporters gathered outside Venezuela's presidential palace in solidarity with Zelaya. References to the current Honduran Government as a "military junta" were certainly erroneous; that, and characterizing the transition of power as a "coup" certainly are conducive to massive unrest. They would appear to serve no any other, legitimate, purpose. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, an ally of President Chávez, said that he would also support military action if Ecuador's diplomats or those of its allies were threatened.

President Obama came quickly but with slightly less vigor to Mr. Zelaya's defense as well.

"I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter," Obama said. "Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference."

Although that doesn't sound like much interference, and in fact asserts that there should be none, it omits any mention of President Zelaya's refusal to engage in dialogue, even with the active encouragement of the United States Government. Moreover, the Obama Administration inconsistently "called for Mr. Zelaya's return to office as legitimate president of Honduras. Secretary Clinton accused Honduras of violating "the precepts of the Interamerican Democratic Charter" and said it "should be condemned by all." The Governments of the United States and of Venezuela thus supported the Honduran status quo ante; both ignored President Zelaya's defiance of Honduran law, of the Honduran Constitution, of the Honduran Supreme Court and of the Honduran Legislative branch. The new Interim President of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti said, "nobody, not Barack Obama and much less Hugo Chavez, has any right to threaten this country."

President Chávez was to meet with Mr. Zelaya in Nicaragua on 29 June. Now, Argentina's president and the head of the OAS plan to accompany Mr. Zelaya as he tries to return to Honduras. The World Bank has "paused" all program lending. Mr. Zelaya plans to speak at the United Nations on 30 June. Meanwhile, President Chávez and his friends are trying their best to cause all of the confusion and violence of which they are capable.

President Chávez had rejected the recent Iranian protests and blamed them on outside interference:

"We call on the world to respect Iran because there are attempts to undermine the strength of the Iranian revolution," said Chavez on Sunday in his weekly radio and television address.

"Ahmadinejad's triumph was a triumph all the way. They are trying to stain Ahmadinejad's triumph and through that weaken the government and the Islamic revolution. I know they will not succeed," Chavez said.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry also issued a statement blasting "the fierce and unfounded campaign from outside [of Iran] to discredit" Iran's president.
President Obama had tried to walk a very fine line in Iran -- too fine a line, in my opinion -- so as not to appear to "meddle" in its internal affairs.

The United States Government evidently viewed expressions of support for the Iranian protesters as meddling in internal Iranian affairs, yet it saw fit to express extraordinary support for Mr. Zelaya by demanding that Honduras  depose an interim president unanimously selected as provided for in the Honduran Constitution, and return to power a president who had sought to violate the Honduran Constitution and whose arrest had been ordered by the Supreme Court. Although President Obama called on Honduras to respect "democratic norms and the rule of law," he evidently did not mean the norms, Honduran laws and Honduran Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Honduras.

If it is the policy of the United States Government not to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, there are stark differences in its treatment of the Iranian theocracy and the Government of Honduras. There are no significant differences in the treatment of the Iranian theocracy and the Government of Honduras by President Chávez of Venezuela, and I would expect none; he desires permanent and total power over Venezuela for himself, and evidently views any attempts at diminishing the power of governments sympathetic toward him as counterrevolutionary and therefore very bad. I do not think that President Obama shares such views, and certainly hope that he does not. Nevertheless, I consider the current Washington approach to the crisis in Honduras to be grossly confused.  Whatever may be President Obama's motives, I think that the United States Government made a very bad mistake in trying to upset the orderly transfer of power in Honduras.

*Article VII states, in Spanish:

ARTICULO 373.- La reforma de esta Constitución podrá decretarse por el Congreso Nacional, en sesiones ordinarias, con dos tercios de votos de la totalidad de sus miembros. El decreto señalará al efecto el artículo o artículos que hayan de reformarse, debiendo ratificarse por la subsiguiente legislatura ordinaria, por igual número de votos, para que entre en vigencia.

ARTICULO 374.- No podrán reformarse, en ningún caso, el artículo anterior, el presente artículo, los artículos constitucionales que se refieren a la forma de gobierno, al territorio nacional, al período presidencial, a la prohibición para ser nuevamente Presidente de la República, el ciudadano que lo haya desempeñado bajo cualquier título y el referente a quienes no pueden ser Presidentes de la República por el período subsiguiente.


ARTICULO 375.- Esta Constitución no pierde su vigencia ni deja de cumplirse por acto de fuerza o cuando fuere supuestamente derogada o modificada por cualquier otro medio y procedimiento distintos del que ella mismo dispone. En estos casos, todo ciudadano investido o no de autoridad, tiene el deber de colaborar en el mantenimiento o restablecimiento de su afectiva vigencia.
Serán juzgados, según esta misma constitución y las leyes expedidas en conformidad con ella, los responsables de los hechos señalados en la primera parte del párrafo anterior, lo mismo que los principales funcionarios de los gobiernos que se organicen subsecuentemente, si no han contribuido a restablecer inmediatamente el imperio de esta Constitución y a las autoridades constituidas conforme a ella. El Congreso puede decretar con el voto de la mayoría absoluta de sus miembros, la incautación de todo o parte de los bienes de esas mismas personas y de quienes se hayan enriquecido al amparo de la suplantación.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The United States Government Should Not Remain Neutral During the Iranian Protests.

First published at BlogCritics on 23 June 2009.

There are circumstances when neutrality is wise; neutrality in the face of outrageous human rights violations is unwise.

Corporations, in my view, have one basic obligation, and it is to those who invested money in them. That obligation, in most circumstances, is to make money for its investors -- not to promote freedom and not to ensure the well being and comfort of corporate employees, except as doing so increases their earnings. It is for those who invested in the corporation to decide whether and how to use their own resources to support worthy causes. A business corporation has no mandate to diminish the gains of its investors by using what should be their money to support what its officers and directors consider to be worthy causes.

The United States Government is, in many respects, similar to a corporation. Her primary obligation is to her citizens, which she should meet by keeping them safe and otherwise generally staying out of their way. In most circumstances, the United States Government should offer support to, or oppose, other governments only when that benefits her own citizens. On this basis, if Country A attacks Country B, and there are no pesky treaty obligations standing in the way, the United States Government should normally intervene only when it appears to be in the best interests of United States citizens for her to do so; no matter that Country B may be a democratic, freedom loving country or that Country A may be a dictatorship lusting after the resources of Country B.

The problem here, as I see it, lies in the words "in most circumstances;" those words suggest that there may be cases in which the United States Government should seriously consider doing things not likely to promote the safety of her own citizens -- directly or even indirectly. Such cases are probably uncommon. They may include providing relief to people in other countries suffering from natural disasters. They may include spending money to support literacy and medical efforts in other countries. Some would probably say that they include sending food to the people of North Korea, many of whom are starving, even though this may help North Korea to keep her armed forces well fed and better able to attack our ally South Korea. These things cost money and detract, pro tanto, from the ability of the United States Government to ensure the safety of her own citizens and otherwise to stay out of their way. Contrary to the apparent opinion of some, the United States Government's supplies of money and other resources are finite.

Most of those now protesting the Iranian election are not starving, nor are they the innocent victims of a natural disaster. Still, I think it the obligation of the United States Government to come to their aid in whatever way is within her means and is likely to assist them. There are times when even a country should strive to encourage those freedoms which she claims to hold dear -- even if it costs money and even if a consequence may be to irritate an existing, already hostile, Government such as that of Iran.

It is claimed by some that, due to her horrible record in the past, the United States Government has no moral authority now to encourage freedoms elsewhere. I don't accept that basic thesis, but even accepting it for the sake of argument, it seems very unlikely that by remaining indifferent to the situation of the Iranian protesters will help the United States Government to regain any moral authority; to the contrary, it will further erode what little she is said to have.

The United States Government is not a human being, and generally should not behave as though she were. A human being, seeing another human or a dog lying injured in the road should, I think, stop and render such assistance as he can. If a delay in getting to the grocery store or even worse results, so be it. "Good" people do that sort of thing. That human reaction is probably at the root of many of the cases in which the United States Government uses the resources of her citizens to assist those elsewhere in time of crisis.

I think that's what the United States Government should do in the present Iranian situation. Even if the United States has not done enough to support human freedom in the past, it is now high time for her to do so.

What can't and shouldn't the United States Government do? I have not heard any cries for her to send in troops, and think that to do so would be a very bad mistake. The imposition of further sanctions on the Iranian Government would not likely help, and would do far more harm to the Iranian citizens who are now opposing that Government than to the Government itself. At best, further sanctions would reiterate to the Iranian Government what she already knows -- that other countries are unhappy with her actions. That has not worked well in the past, and seems unlikely to do so now.

The United States Government should and can come down firmly on the side of the Iranian protesters by stating, clearly and not in "diplospeak," that the protesters are right to oppose their Government's actions, and that their Government is wrong in violently repressing them. President Obama has done this to a minor extent, and he continues to do a bit more, a little at a time. However, he still needs to do more; with passion and not as though he had to. He should use the office of the Presidency to emphasize the recent news coverage of the Iranian Government's highly dubious election and of the violent repression of those protesting it, as well possibly as any independent intelligence gathered by the United States Government and (with their consent) by her allies; he should say that He, personally and as the President of the United States, agrees with the voices in the United States and elsewhere damning the Iranian Government's actions. He should say that the United States Government will provide all of the moral support it can, but will not send in troops or otherwise meddle in any physical sense. He should express the strong hope that those willing to give their blood and their lives succeed in overthrowing an illegitimate Iranian Government, and the belief that if they do not give up, they will succeed. He might even consider using a minor variation on his campaign phrase, "Yes You Can!"  He should extend the hand of the United States People to them, and promise that when they succeed, he will make it his priority to extend diplomatic recognition to their new Government and to provide whatever assistance it may request and which does not undermine United States treaty obligations. If, as I understand to be the case, the Iranian people seek and badly need such support, he should give it to them, unstintingly and without unnecessary reservations. Unlike a corporation looking only after its profits, or a government looking only after her own the parochial interests, the United States Government should do all within its power to assist those Iranians who want voices in a legitimate  Government of their own.

President Obama has said that having such voices is a universal human right.
Democracy, rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion — those are not simply principles of the West to be hoisted on these countries, but rather what I believe to be universal principles that they can embrace and affirm as part of their national identity.
Now, President Obama has a very good chance to show that he meant what he said. He should do it before it's too late.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Judge Sotomayor Belongs to a (GASP) Women's Organization!

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

First published by BlogCritics on 19 June 2009

Judge Sotomayor is catching flack for having accepted, about one year ago, an invitation to join Belizean Grove, a  small, (from one hundred and fifteen to one hundred and twenty five members), apparently intimate and rather exclusive, invitation-only organization which has only female members. According to its website, Belizean Grove is

a constellation of influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, non-profit and social sectors; who build long term mutually beneficial relationships in order to both take charge of their own destinies and help others to do the same.
To this end, the organization invites
members [who] are highly accomplished leaders in a wide venue of fields, are dedicated to giving back to their communities, have a sense of humor and excitement about life and are willing to mentor and share connections. With this vision in mind, members are invited not only for their professional accomplishments but also for their generosity and compatibility.
According to the founder of the organization,
Ms. Stautberg, who founded the private club nine years ago, . . . the group is a response to the all-male clubs that have long fostered business connections and policy links for powerful men.

"I think we all need support in our lives," Ms. Stautberg said. "We need time to relax; we need time to think. We're all being nibbled at constantly all day, by e-mail." (emphasis added)

The principal legal question involved in this minor kerfuffle is whether membership in such organizations as the Belizean Grove violates Canon 2C of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which discourages judicial membership in organizations which "invidiously discriminate" on the basis of sex, race and national origin, unless they try to eliminate the discrimination. Obviously, the Belizean Grove discriminates on the basis of sex; men aren't invited and presumably can't join no matter how greatly accomplished, sharing or humorous they may be. But does it discriminate invidiously?

The adverb "invidiously" presumably is not redundant, and must therefore have some meaning; otherwise it would not be there. That's why the commentary associated with Canon 2C goes on at some length trying to explain what "invidious" means in context. This is
often a complex question to which judges should be sensitive. The answer cannot be determined from a mere examination of an organization's current membership rolls but rather depends on how the organization selects members and other relevant factors, such as that the organization is dedicated to the preservation of religious, ethnic or cultural values of legitimate common interest to its members, or that it is in fact and effect an intimate, purely private organization whose membership limitations could not be constitutionally prohibited. . . . Other relevant factors include the size and nature of the organization and the diversity of persons in the locale who might reasonably be considered potential members. Thus the mere absence of diverse membership does not by itself demonstrate a violation unless reasonable persons with knowledge of all the relevant circumstances would expect that the membership would be diverse in the absence of invidious discrimination. Absent such factors, an organization is generally said to discriminate invidiously if it arbitrarily excludes from membership on the basis of race, religion, sex, or national origin persons who would otherwise be admitted to membership. (emphasis added)

The commentary associated with Canon 2C cites for guidance by analogy several Supreme Court cases in which organizations had been found discriminatory and therefore subject to adverse action under State statutes.  One case involved a popular eating establishment open only to men.  Another involved Rotary Clubs International, with "19,788 Rotary Clubs in 157 countries, with a total membership of about 907,750."  Membership was limited to men. Another involved the United States Jaycees, with "295,000 members in 7,400 local chapters affiliated with 51 state organizations." Full membership was restricted to young men. In each case, no Constitutional right of association was found to be sufficiently infringed to outweigh State interests in eliminating discrimination on the basis of sex. A key factor in each case was that the group involved was so large as to vitiate any suggestion that "it is in fact and effect an intimate, purely private organization . . . ." 

Hence, it is apparently not in contravention of Canon 2C for a judge to belong to a very small, private and selective organization membership in which is limited to women and which is dedicated to the preservation of "religious, ethnic or cultural values of legitimate common interest to its members." Belizean Grove is very small, and it apparently invites for membership only a few women with "particular cultural values," which they presumably share. It does not appear to matter whether those values are unique to women.

There has been some discussion of the meaning of Canon 2C, as to which there is probably legitimate disagreement. For example, here a writer for the National Review seems to come to a different conclusion. Here a writer for Power Line agrees with him. Legal issues frequently produce divergent views, and that's probably a good thing; otherwise, what would lawyers do?

There are those who claim that membership in such an organization is bad, since it discriminates on the basis of sex, and that Judge Sotomayor's membership must somehow be explained away during her confirmation hearings.  Based on my reading of opinions in which she joined as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, there appears to be little in them, or in other matters, to bring her qualifications seriously into question.  I hope that my fellow "conservatives" don't engage in silliness by elevating Judge Sotomayor's Belizean Grove membership to an obstacle of greater importance than, in my opinion, it warrants. It would, I think, be a bad thing were "conservative" Republicans to attack Judge Sotomayor as "liberal" Democrats attacked Judge D. Brooks Smith when he was nominated to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002, based on his then former membership in the Spruce Creek Rod and Gun Club, a men's fishing club. One basis for opposition was that the fishing club provided

important business and professional contacts . . . where business and professional men interact and bond with each other and with important political figures and judges.
The same is clearly true of Belizean Grove, the web site of which states that it is dedicated to "influential women who are key decision makers in the profit, non-profit and social sectors; who build long term mutually beneficial relationships."  Judge Smith was eventually confirmed by the Senate, sixty-four to thirty-five.
The attack was beaten back to considerable degree because of an interesting fact neither Leahy nor Schumer knew. On the wall of the club was a photograph of Marine One landing at Spruce Creek. . . . The president in question was a Spruce Creek devotee -- Jimmy Carter. . . . a frequent visitor to what Leahy and Schumer were painting as a sewer of gender discrimination, he was still coming there long after his White House days were over.
That Democrats sometimes do silly things should not be an excuse for Republicans to do those same silly things; silliness begets silliness, and the selection of a Supreme Court justice is too important for that sort of nonsense. And, of course, by not acting silly, the Republicans can help to make the Democrats look silly by comparison.

I do think that some explanation of Judge Sotomayor's membership in Belizean Grove is in order, and I hope it goes beyond what she has said thus far, that men are invited to some social events and that she is unaware of any instance in which a man has sought but been denied membership. These comments do not appear to have been fully considered and, based on my understanding of the commentary associated with Canon 2C, seem inadequate.

I hope for some interesting questions and answers on other, but related, matters -- such as "reverse discrimination." The Belizean Grove matter may well be the only context in which such questions can be raised with a legitimate hope for a responsive answer.  I would very much like to hear Judge Sotomayor agree with Ms. Stautberg's idea that "we all need support in our lives" (emphasis added), from members of our own genders and, I would suggest, possibly from members of our own races as well. I see no reason why women should not join similar organizations comprised solely of women; why gays or lesbians should not join similar organizations comprised solely of gays or lesbians, nor why Black or Hispanic people should not join similar organizations comprised solely of Black or Hispanic people. Consistently, I see no valid reason why they should be disparaged for doing so, and I very much hope that Judge Sotomayor holds a similar view.

Nor do I see any valid reason why Whites, males, "straights" and others who join comparable small and intimate organizations comprised solely of those who resemble them should be disparaged for doing so. And there's the rub; they are.
Gender politics have proved a minefield for male Supreme Court nominees. . . .

Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy quit all-male clubs when they were being considered for the Supreme Court in the late 1980s, and Justice Harry Blackmun resigned his membership in the exclusive Cosmos Club in 1988.
The Boy Scouts of America has been under fire for its membership policies, which preclude Agnostics, Atheists, gays and -- yes -- girls. The Girl Scouts of America have been under attack for discriminating against some people, but generally not against boys. Just as women who think that they should have an organization to respond to "the all-male clubs that have long fostered business connections and policy links for powerful men," so perhaps should men, Caucasians, "straights" and others - boys and girls included.

I would challenge neither their right to do so nor the morality of such organizations. I would, however challenge the hypocrisy of those who think it is fine for women, but not for men, fine for Blacks, Hispanics and other "minority" group members, but not for White folks, fine for gays and lesbians but not for "straights." I will be very interested to learn whether Judge Sotomayor holds a similar, or divergent, view.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sarah Palin is an Angry White Man

First published on BlogCritics on 14 June 2009.

PARODY or SATIRES I can't figure out which.

This is to honor all true patriots as they go boldly forth to silence evil voices.

The United States is distressingly full of angry white men, most of them inflamed by the vast hate media now infesting the country.

The number of angry white men in America is getting larger, said Chip Berlet, senior analyst with Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass., a think tank that studies right-wing extremists.

In particular, the heterosexual, white, Christian men in America feel they've been pushed out of the way, Berlet said. Attacking the Holocaust Museum is a no-brainer, he said, because white supremacists blame Jews for the advancement of black people.

"The idea that blacks are put in positions of power by crafty Jews is central to their conspiracy theory," Berlet said.
Sarah Palin, previously known primarily for hunting endangered species and for her perverted penchant for expensive clothing and "makeup from Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight attendant look," recently called for an uprising against one of America's most beloved liberal communicators, Mr. David Letterman. Ms. Palin -- who masquerades as a woman but is only a non-woman thing in heels -- had the unmitigated gall to tell her minions that what she (and other conservative fanatics) strangely perceived as a grievous insult to her young tramp of a daughter should be met with violence against the greatly respected Mr. Letterman! Soon, there will be calls from Faux News, the Washington Slimes and the other purveyors of conservative filth for violence toward all who support President Obama's excellent and necessary reforms of the wickedness known as the United States. That wickedness, for which President Obama has had to spend most of his time in office apologizing, must not be revived.

Any conservative, but seemingly peaceful, slob could be a secret terrorist, insanely angered by the malicious reporting he so adores, and moved to strike without warning; it does not take a village, or even a well organized militia of evil doers:
"It could be anyone. It could be the guy next door, living in the basement of his mother's place, on the Internet just building himself up with hate, building himself up to a boiling point and finally using what he's learned," said John Perren, head of the counterterrorism branch at the FBI's Washington field office.

This is dreadful!  They must all be put under surveillance and stopped.

When will this travesty end? Is the United States doomed by these conservative cretins? Must the sane majority sit idly by and just watch it happen? NO! We must demand that all who reject the wise guidance and mercy of our President, and of the mainstream media which quite properly support him, be banished. Then, and only then, can joyous apathy prevail.

Soon after President Obama ascended bodily to the Presidency,  the Department of Homeland Security, responsibly and correctly, pointed out that those most pitiful of all creatures in the United States -- those who cling to their guns, their bibles, their religion and their patently false right wing opinions about such trash as the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution -- present a clear and present danger to the United States.  Partisans on the right pretended, in their uniquely obnoxious way, to be offended, and claimed that the notion was insulting and absurd. They did so even though President Obama himself had used many of the very same words in his widely acclaimed California speech during his successful campaign for a mandate to ascend to the Presidency! They have sunk far lower than ever before; they are the national village idiot and must be stopped, now. Boy, were we wrong ever to listen to them!

For a lucid analysis of the problem, here's an opinion piece -- surprisingly,  from a lamentably popular right wing rag, the New York Times. It is a "must read" for all sane people interested in saving the United States from certain death and destruction.

There is . . . one important thing that the D.H.S. report didn’t say: Today, as in the early years of the Clinton administration but to an even greater extent, right-wing extremism is being systematically fed by the conservative media and political establishment.


[W]hatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.
Despite the barely veiled racist reference to "black" helicopters, it is refreshing that even a far right smear sheet such as the New York Times has finally mustered the courage to abandon its ludicrous Conservative stance, at least briefly, to tell us this.

The immensely wise President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, may his holy name be praised, has thoughtfully provided guidance: the perpetrators of this vicious right wing treason must be deprived of all opportunity to spew their filth and disorder; they must be severely punished. Tea Parties, formerly known as necktie parties, are symptomatic of the evils which threaten Democracy as we have, albeit recently, come to know and love it in the United States; even the minds of the very few "moderate" conservatives are warped by them. Indeed, Republicans
have become embarrassing to watch. And it doesn’t feel right to make fun of crazy people. Better, perhaps, to focus on the real policy debates, which are all among Democrats.
Tea Parties -- and, truth to tell, Republicans and all other Conservatives as well -- need to be prohibited, NOW, as were their predecessor necktie parties.

We need a new and improved Fairness Doctrine, which will bring true fairness and justice to the public airwaves, as well as to the ubiquitous and very public internet. We won, we own them, and we must control them! The mere fact that conservatives, of all stripes, oppose this salutary change in which we can and must believe shows only that it is badly needed. Only when it has been restored, with greater fairness and impact than ever before, will the catatonic clamoring of the cretinous, backward (and also backwoods) far right be stopped.

After being tried, convicted and justly punished for their heinous crimes against humanity, those who oppose democracy, justice and freedom, as we have come to know and love them under President Obama, must be deported, never again to mock the name of the United States from her own shores. Yes! We Can!  Even though no sanely governed country would take them, we must continue to try as best we can to rid the United States of this despicable scourge.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

President Obama's Cairo Speech -- a Worthwhile Effort or an Exercise in Narcissism?

President Obama's Cairo speech was full of sound and peacefulness, but signified little.

First published by Blogcritics on 9 June 2009.

President Obama delivered an historic -- some would say "masterful" -- speech in Cairo on 4 June 2009. Some have disparaged it and some have praised it to the heavens, going even so far as to suggest that President Obama is godlike.

"I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God."


"I think the President's speech yesterday was the reason we Americans elected him. It was grand. It was positive. Hopeful...But what I liked about the President's speech in Cairo was that it showed a complete humility...The question now is whether the President we elected and spoke for us so grandly yesterday can carry out the great vision he gave us and to the world."
Hope is generally a good thing, even for obviously terminal cancer patients; change is sometimes a good thing. However, there are times when hope is delusional and change is for the worse. There are also times when delusional hope can lead to disastrous change.

Superficially, President Obama's Cairo speech appears to have been intended to demonstrate to the Islamic World that the United States should no longer be viewed as an enemy of Islam and that Islam is not and should not be an enemy of the United States. So far, so good. His speech may well appeal to some of the Islamic "moderates" who are already in full agreement with the "Islam is the religion of Peace" notion; it will probably appeal to those in the United States and elsewhere who very much want to believe that Islam is, in fact, a religion of peace, and that to avoid future problems it is only necessary that the United States recognize this and act accordingly. However, that's rather like preaching to the choir -- not a bad thing to do on occasion, but unlikely to change many minds.

What about those who seem accept the idea that "Islam is a religion of peace" only in the sense that true peace is found exclusively in death: those who cheered the obliteration of the World Trade Center in New York City, the attempted obliteration of other places in the United States and the deaths which those actions caused? What about those who send small children off bearing instruments of violent suicide in order to kill their enemies? What about those who hate the United States and the "universal principles" for which she is said to stand -- democracy, the rule of law, the rights of all, including minorities and women, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and all that sort of thing? What about those who do not accept the notion that such treasures should be universal, as President Obama had proclaimed earlier and as he reiterated in his 4 June speech? What about those who look forward with glee to the death of Israel and of her citizens? Are their minds likely to be changed? I doubt it. Nor does it seem likely that those who view all Islamists, collectively, as their sworn enemy are likely to be persuaded to see the error of their ways; that the lion and lamb will henceforth lie down and enjoy a lasting peace with one another.

It was sad that President Obama felt it necessary to point out that the Holocaust actually happened and was evil, that Israel should be accepted as a legitimate state and that nuclear weapons should not proliferate. It was sad because many in his audience reject these notions; it seems unlikely that more than a very few of those who previously rejected these notions changed their views as a result of the Cairo speech.

President Obama went on at some length to promote his "two state solution" for Israel and her rather quarrelsome neighbors as the keystone for peace in the region. He did not mention the previous failures of similar solutions.

It seems to me that Israel is considered by many of her neighbors to be a thorn in their sides principally because she approaches democracy and the freedoms which are thought to accompany democracy to a far greater extent than does any other collection of people in the region; because she has thereby turned her previously barren lands into fertile and prosperous ones; and because she has thereby become a leader in various areas of military and commercial technology. If this is so, then the "two state" solution embraced by President Obama in his Cairo speech and elsewhere as the policy of the United States will not produce a scintilla of change -- at least not for the better. If Israel survives the two state solution, she will presumably continue to have these same pesky attributes, she will continue to be an unwelcome example to her neighbors, her neighbors will continue to lob missiles and suicide bombers at her, and she will have no choice but to try to make them stop. Should the interesting but hardly novel two state experiment fail, as seems quite likely to me, it will not be exclusively at the expense of the United States; it will be at the expense of another sovereign state, Israel, as well. It will also be at the expense of those "universal principles" which President Obama praised in Cairo and elsewhere.

Perhaps the gushing reactions of President Obama's supporters to his Cairo speech noted in paragraph one above accurately reflect President Obama's own views. If so, his narcissism knows no bounds. In any event, he clearly wants to be remembered as the Great Peace Maker. That is a worthy ambition; it would be even more worthy if his words and deeds had a realistic chance of success in actually bringing forth the blessings of peace. However, I fear, that they are little more likely of success than was the spectacular willingness of Neville Chamberlain to turn Czechoslovakia and other countries (but not, of course, England herself) over to the Nazis in 1938.
Chamberlain believed passionately in peace for many reasons . . . thinking it his job as Britain's leader to maintain stability in Europe; like many people in Britain and elsewhere, he thought that the best way to deal with Germany's belligerence was to treat it with kindness and meet its demands. He also believed that the leaders of people are essentially rational beings, and that Hitler must necessarily be rational as well. Most historians believe that Chamberlain, in holding to these views, pursued the policy of appeasement far longer than was justifiable . . . (emphasis added)
I very much wish that President Obama did indeed have at least a chance-- for the first time in recorded human history-- of producing a lasting "peace in our time." However pure may be his motives, as things now stand, I consider this very unlikely.