A Cautious Man
March 30, 2004
Think it Over Judge, One More Time
Captain Yee's lawyer has filed an appeal of the reprimand (and refusal to clear his name of spy charges) he received from the Army. As recounted in this news report:
The attorney, Eugene Fidell, wrote "a grave miscarriage of justice has occurred. Decisions were made on insufficient evidence, and have had devastating effects.''

Fidell said the Army's decision to drop most of the charges and hold an Article 15 proceeding--used to settle minor disciplinary issues--hurt Yee's defense preparation and minimized media scrutiny. "This smacks of gamesmanship and bias,'' he wrote.

Fidell is requesting Gen. James T. Hill, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, recuse himself from the case and asks that the military return Yee's passport, restore him to duty and grant him a formal apology.
[Edited 3/31/04 to add] ... and in this morning's NY Times there is a letter continuing the smear and innuendo campaign, from one Lt. Col. Costello, a "public affairs" director with the U.S. Southern Command (sorry, the link may require registration). Lt. Col. Costello asserts:
Capt. James Yee was never charged with espionage or characterized as traitorous by government officials. He was found guilty on adultery and pornography charges and processed through nonjudicial punishment.

Official government spokesmen consistently stated that Captain Yee was part of a continuing interagency investigation, and that the public needed to allow the judicial process to work before jumping to conclusions.
That assertion is incredible, in light of the orchestrated release of information and charges (as previously noted here), as well as the fact that the Army went ahead with a public proceeding when (a) it never conclusively determined which documents were confidential, (b) it seems that exactly one expert concluded that Captain Yee had pornography (which the government knew nothing about before detaining the chaplain), and (c) the prima facie case for adultery never demonstrated circumstances or allegations which rose to the level of the military's own criteria for prosecution of such a charge.

In short, the Army appears to be continuing its strategy of parading allegations in order to discredit Chaplain Yee. The "public affairs" officer concludes:
It was Captain Yee, not the Army, who chose to abandon his luggage at an airport in Jacksonville and try to avoid Customs; who decided to commit adultery; who downloaded pornography onto a taxpayer-financed computer; and who sullied his reputation as a chaplain and a military officer.

As it turns out, in dropping the charges and punishing Captain Yee nonjudicially, the Army effectively gave him what he requested.
Want to guess again on that last point?

Is it as Simple as it Seems
Mr. Balkin at Balkinization has a good post concerning the "unintended consequences" of the "Unborn Victims of Violence Act". I had similar thoughts about the Act when I first heard of it, and after summarizing Mr. Balkin's thoughts, I'll add a few of my own (including about why a pregnancy test should now be a standard part of a Federal criminal investigation).

The dust-up about the Act comes not from the fact that harm to a fetus is now a separate crime under Federal law (something which was never really opposed, as further discussed below), but over how that's accomplished. The approach which prevailed, and which will be signed by the President, is to define "unborn child" as follows:
(d) As used in this section, the term 'unborn child' means a child in utero, and the term 'child in utero' or 'child, who is in utero' means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.
As Mr. Balkin points out, "the statute by its own terms does not reach abortions":
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the prosecution--
(1) of any person for conduct relating to an abortion for which the consent of the pregnant woman, or a person authorized by law to act on her behalf, has been obtained or for which such consent is implied by law;
(2) of any person for any medical treatment of the pregnant woman or her unborn child; or
(3) of any woman with respect to her unborn child.
He concludes:"This produces a perverse result for pro-life forces: Congress officially says that a fetus is a child, but also officially says that ending the life of this child through abortion is legal. Should a pro-life Senator vote for such a bill?" As he also points out, by the terms of the new law, the death of the unborn child is specifically not a crime for which the federal death penalty may be imposed.

Personally, I think it's obvious that getting the "child in utero" language into the bill was so important that its proponents were willing to overlook the fact that the law also affirms a woman's right to choose (indeed, it states an affirmative right for someone else to choose abortion for a woman, if that someone is "a person authorized by law to act on her behalf"). It did not have to be that way. Prior to final passage, the Senate rejected a compromise by a vote of 50-49, under which causing or attempting to cause the termination of a pregnancy, while committing a crime against a pregnant woman, would be a separate offense. That potential compromise still would have made termination of a pregnancy a separate, prosecutable crime; however, it did not require any language which could be used as part of the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Instead, proponents of the Act were motivated, not simply by the desire to enact a law to protect pregnant women, but by a need to do so in a manner that would be a political football in the abortion debate.

By the way, I think there's another unintended consequence of the Act. Once the Act is signed into law by President Bush, then presumably every Federal prosecutor will be required to investigate whether a crime has been committed under the Act, if circumstances warrant. And which circumstances will those be? Well, where the commission of a crime against a woman causes the death or injury of her child "in utero", "at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb". If that is the law of the land, then the only responsible conduct for a prosecutor would be for any female crime victim of child-bearing age to undergo a pregnancy test, to see if she is (or had been) carrying a child in utero at the time of the commission of the offense.

You're free to tell me that such a thought is absurd. But if it's absurd, then tell me where a prosecutor is to draw the line at investigating and prosecuting a crime under the Act. Would you only apply the law to situations where the woman already knew she was pregnant? Why would that be, especially since the Act does not require that the criminal know that his victim is pregnant? And if the crime only exists if the mother knows that she is pregnant, how again does that make this a "pro-life" enactment?

March 23, 2004
Radio, Radio, Hear My Tale of Heartbreak
As if the news isn't bad enough, today brings this announcement from NPR:
Bob Edwards, the award-winning broadcaster whose voice has been associated with NPR's Morning Edition since the show's beginning in 1979, is leaving the morning news program effective April 30.

Edwards, a native of Louisville, Ky., who joined NPR in 1974 and became co-host of All Things Considered before moving to Morning Edition, will take on a new assignment as senior correspondent for NPR News.

"Morning Edition, the most popular morning program in all of broadcasting, enjoys a well-earned reputation for integrity in journalism," Edwards says. "I am proud to have served with my Morning Edition, colleagues, who perform a daily miracle at ridiculous hours when resources are not abundant. I am grateful for the many years of support from NPR member stations and look forward to continuing to visit them and meet our listeners. That audience is the best and the brightest in broadcasting, and it's a challenge to meet its expectations. Morning Edition, will continue to be my first source for news. I wish all the best to its new host."
Of course, you have to know that's not the real story. As further recounted by the Washington Post:
"I would have preferred to remain on Morning Edition," he said in a telephone interview.
NPR spokeswoman Laura Gross said NPR's programmers and news managers made the decision as "part of a natural evolution. New hosts bring new ideas," she said.

Edwards said, however, that today's news release from NPR was a bit "premature. We haven't settled up on what I'm going to do and what I'm going to be paid for it." Nor, he said, was he given specifics as to why he is being replaced. "They're going to find something else for me to do," he said. "That's pretty much what I heard. Seriously. . . . "One day you change flavors at Baskin Robbins. I think that's what this is. . . . I just stayed too long. . . ."
And as recounted by the AP via CNN:
He said he was given no specific reasons for his ouster. "It's the old 'move the program in a new direction.' There was no Janet Jackson incident," he said.
Spokeswoman Laura Gross said NPR's programming and news management made the change because they're trying to refresh all the network's broadcasts.
Now hold on a minute. This is a morning news program, heck, it's the morning news program. It's exactly what we want in the morning - a no-nonsense, straightforward discussion of the news, with a little more in-depth consideration than may have been possible the night before when the first impressions of the day's news were reported. What kind of "natural evolution", "new ideas", or for gosh sakes "new direction" are they going for at NPR? They clearly don't know, so we’re supposed to hope for the best, I guess?

It's my morning news program, I like it just the way it is, I don't want it to change, so - fix this right away. Thank you.

March 21, 2004
Sorry for the Things That We Done
Note to government: Real people are being hurt by these games.
A day after the Army dropped its charges that Muslim chaplain Capt. James Yee mishandled secrets at a prison for terror suspects, his mother said military officials owe him and the family an apology. Fong Yee of Springfield called the dismissal of charges against her 35-year-old son "a victory," but said the family remains "crushed" by the six-month ordeal.

Those charges were dropped Friday by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the joint task force that oversees the Guantánamo base. Military officials said they could not proceed with the case because presenting evidence in court would raise national security concerns.

At the Springfield home where Yee was raised, his mother said yesterday there was little celebration. She chided military officials for branding her son a spy and jailing him for 76 days, then dropping the charges without clearing his name. "Realize you made a mistake and apologize," Fong Yee said in a telephone interview. "What's wrong with that? It's an honorable thing to do. That's just basic human decency."
Instead, she said, officials have continued to say that Yee may have been carrying classified documents at the time of his arrest, adding to what she called a pattern of efforts by the military to save face even as its case unraveled.

"People will always remember this spy stuff," she said. "I want to impress on the government how many people that they hurt."
This refusal to concede error means that Captain Yee will continue to be demonized by those for whom "Muslim=Terrorist" is an article of faith. That's a simplistically erroneous view which Captain Yee himself worked to overcome, as demonstrated by his writings in the Guantanamo base newsletter a year ago:
September 11th, the pending war on Iraq, and our own day to day experiences of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission have all contributed to the picture many of us as Americans have painted about Islam and Muslims. And now, this universal religion of more than one billion followers worldwide is scrutinized by a population that has little knowledge of its basic tenets and practices. It is with a fearful eye that Islam and its worshippers are now being examined with the notion that they have become our nation's greatest enemy. However, a truly objective look makes it quite clear that Islam is really nothing to be afraid of at all.
Captain Yee was trying to explain that Americans should not fear all Muslims. Unfortunately, our government's behavior suggests that the converse is not true.

Are You Tough Enough to Play the Game They Play?
The government has tired of its efforts to ruin Captain James Yee's life, so they came up with a lame excuse to drop the charges, while still trying to make him look guilty.

Sorry to have such a jaundiced view of the facts of this case. In the short time, and limited posts, on this site I've posted thoughts about this accused Muslim army chaplain here, here, here, and here. I won't repeat everything I've posted previously, but I do think that there are some serious questions which still need to be answered:

Why was he ever detained? This is how the Washington Times described the basis for his arrest:
The Bush administration decided to arrest Army Capt. James J. Yee because it feared he would reveal information that could aid terrorists and endanger the lives of military guards at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba, a law-enforcement source said.
Really? In addition it was reported that the "highest levels" of government made the decision to detain and arrest him. It's interesting to note that testimony in his preliminary hearing indicated that he was stopped only after he had traveled to the mainland:
Special Agent Sean Rafferty, who works as a U.S. Customs inspector in Jacksonville, testified he was tipped off to watch for Yee at the airport when he returned from the Cuba base.

Rafferty said he stopped Yee and found two pocket-size notebooks, a paper on Syria and a typed list of names and numbers with the top torn off in the backpack Yee carried off the plane.

"It was determined the documents were of interest to national security," Rafferty said during a conference call to the courtroom.

He acknowledged none of the material was marked "secret" or "classified," and defense lawyer Eugene Fidell said the paper on Syria was part of Yee's work as a graduate student.

Rafferty refused to say who in federal law enforcement told him to look for Yee.
At the time, it was claimed that he had documents "that a chaplain shouldn't have," and ties to radical Islamists. Now, of course, we know that the government was never able to establish exactly what the "classified" nature of this information was. So, to sum up, the "highest levels" of government wanted this guy arrested, so they search him when he returns to the U.S., claim that the documents he is carrying are classified, and therefore he's a spy!

Why the adultery charge? This was something which the government learned about after his arrest, apparently. The only evidence given was immunized testimony from the other alleged party, who held a rank equivalent to Captain Yee's. Even if Captain Yee was cheating on his wife (a bad thing), the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), the military's own rules, do not call for prosecution of this conduct, without more. The elements of the offense are set out in Article 134 of the UCMJ:
(1) That the accused wrongfully had sexual intercourse with a certain person;
(2) That, at the time, the accused or the other person was married to someone else; and
(3) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. .
The fact that private, apparently unknown conduct between two officers serving in different units would not normally be prosecuted is indicated in an Executive Order issued by President Bush in 2002, adding explanations to the UCMJ, including guidance for adultery prosecutions:
To constitute an offense under the UCMJ, the adulterous conduct must either be directly prejudicial to good order and discipline or service discrediting. Adulterous conduct that is directly prejudicial includes conduct that has an obvious, and measurably divisive effect on unit or organization discipline, morale, or cohesion, or is clearly detrimental to the authority or stature of or respect toward a servicemember. Adultery may also be service discrediting, even though the conduct is only indirectly or remotely prejudicial to good order and discipline. Discredit means to injure the reputation of the armed forces and includes adulterous conduct that has a tendency, because of its open or notorious nature, to bring the service into disrepute, make it subject to public ridicule, or lower it in public esteem.
But, this conduct was unknown, and only disclosed as part of the prosecution of Captain Yee. Public exposure of this alleged affair has certainly damaged Captain Yee's reputation; can it honestly be said that prosecution of Captain Yee was called for, under the military's own code?

And pornography? We'll never know exactly what it was that was considered pornographic. As was reported with respect to the only witness on this issue:
Also testifying was Warrant Officer Jennie Callahan with the Army Computer Crimes Unit in Washington, who said she found evidence that Yee's computer hard drive had been used to access adult Web sites.

She said she considered some of the images on the hard drive pornographic.

"I'm not labeling all those pictures on that disk as pornographic," she said. "I've been in the Army 10 years, and there's not a lot that I consider pornographic."
Now Captain Yee is "free", but with an official statement which makes him look guilty:
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, dismissed all charges related to the alleged mishandling of classified information pending against Army Chaplain James J. Yee, ending an investigation that began with his apprehension at the airport in Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., in September 2003. Citing national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence, Miller decided to drop these charges. Miller made his decision after consultation with government lawyers and intelligence officials. Although Miller considered Yee's offer to undergo a debriefing in exchange for the government dropping the charges, granting him immunity and supporting his resignation, relevant law enforcement agencies could not support Yee's request for immunity.
So, some more questions. If they can't prosecute Captain Yee for mishandling classified information (becuase that would disclose the information), does that mean that they can't prosecute anybody? What "relevant law enforcement agencies" wanted the Army just to drop this, and are they the same ones who told Special Agent Rafferty to detain Captain Yee in the first place? And finally, will anybody in the news media bother to pursue any of these questions?

March 19, 2004
Local Hero
Leaving aside that the following is from Tina Brown (with an assist from Jann Wenner), I liked the point:
When I called to congratulate Wenner, he had waxed on about the need to defeat Bush. "This election is simple," he said. "Whose values do you want? Bruce Springsteen's or Wayne Newton's?"

The trouble is, though, that John Kerry ain't Bruce Springsteen. Democrats know this, but they are so fixated on ousting Bush that they don't want to talk about that awkward fact, even to each other. It's why they suddenly get so excited when they hear a rumor about a possible John Kerry-John McCain ticket. They think that Kerry plus McCain equals Bruce.

The Lies That Leave You Nothing But Lost and Brokenhearted
Two items from today's papers. First, the New York Times carries a guest column by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (sorry, the link requires registration). In it, he provides the current rationale for the war which started one year ago today:
Today, in a world of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and states that sponsor the former and pursue the latter, defending freedom means we must confront dangers before it is too late. In Iraq, for 12 years, through 17 United Nations Security Council resolutions, the world gave Saddam Hussein every opportunity to avoid war. He was being held to a simple standard: live up to your agreement at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf war; disarm and prove you have done so. Instead of disarming — as Kazakhstan, South Africa and Ukraine did, and as Libya is doing today — Saddam Hussein chose deception and defiance.

Repeatedly, he rejected those resolutions and he systematically deceived United Nations inspectors about his weapons and his intent. The world knew his record: he used chemical weapons against Iran and his own citizens; he invaded Iran and Kuwait; he launched ballistic missiles at Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain; and his troops repeatedly fired on American and British aircraft patrolling the no-flight zones.

Recognizing the threat, in September 2002 President Bush went to the United Nations, which gave Iraq still another "final opportunity" to disarm and to prove it had done so. The next month the president went to Congress, which voted to support the use of force if Iraq did not.

And, when Saddam Hussein passed up that final opportunity, he was given a last chance to avoid war: 48 hours to leave the country. Only then, after every peaceful option had been exhausted, did the president and our coalition partners order the liberation of Iraq.
I do not know if by this he means the threat was "imminent". From reading this, it appears that the reason we went to war was because Saddam Hussein neither left town, nor proved to the satisfaction of the United States that he had disarmed. The claims made one year ago, that Iraq actually had WMD that they were poised to use, are slowly being obscured by today's after-the-fact rationales. In this regard, a recent article provided by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace details five "themes" in the Administration's backing away from its prior claims, and is worth reading (heads-up on the article was provided by "The War in Context").

As I noted yesterday, the fact that inspectors were in Iraq until we told them to get out, is something which the Administration would prefer that the public forget. But really, is it true that "every peaceful option had been exhausted"? Whether the threat was "imminent", "immediate", "gathering", or whatever, can we honestly say that our leaders chose the wisest course of action? The real question is not, "Are we better off without Saddam?" Instead, the real question should be, "Was this the right way to reach our goal?"

The second item in this morning's papers: a full page of photographs of the members of the military from my state, who lost their lives in the past year in Iraq. Included is a photo of a young man from my area, Army Specialist Simeon Hunte, a husband and father who was killed last fall, long after "Mission Accomplished". Looking at his face, and all the other faces, I think it's legitimate to question whether the Administration really considered the cost of the course of action they chose.

In the upcoming election, the armchair warriors will continue to speak of the bravery and sacrifice of soldiers such as Specialist Hunte, as if the fact of their deaths justifies the decision to plunge into war. In that discussion, we should keep in mind that those sacrifices are, in fact, a reason to question the decision-makers and demand accountability. As my favorite contemporary philospher has put it (in a statement I've quoted before):
"The question of whether we were misled in the war with Iraq is neither a liberal or conservative question or Democratic or Republican question. It's an American question. And protecting the democracy we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and it's our trust. And demanding accountability is our job as citizens. That's the American way so that truth will out."

March 18, 2004
There's a Lot of People Leaving Town Now
Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of President Bush's ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Both of those events are being commemorated and commented upon. But, there's one event which seems to be getting less attention. Today is the one-year anniversary of the U.N. weapons inspectors leaving Iraq:
U.N. weapons inspectors climbed aboard a plane and pulled out of Iraq on Tuesday after President Bush issued a final ultimatum for Saddam Hussein to step down or face war. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday ordered all U.N. inspectors and support staff, humanitarian workers and U.N. observers along the Iraq-Kuwait border to evacuate Iraq after U.S. threats to launch war.

After failing to secure U.N. authorization to use force to disarm Iraq, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to step down or face war in a speech Monday night.

U.N. weapons inspectors arrived in Baghdad for the first time in four years on Nov. 27, 2002, and resumed inspections two days later. During four months of inspections, arms experts traveled the length of the country hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction.

Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix has said that during those inspections, inspectors never found any "smoking gun."
The fact that there actually were inspectors in Iraq right up to the start of the war, is a little detail which the Administration would like people to forget. For example, Vice President Cheney in a speech this past January:
Against that background, the Congress of the United States voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in Iraq. The U.N. Security Council unanimously found Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowed serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not comply. When Saddam Hussein continued his defiance, our coalition acted to deliver those serious consequences.
And President Bush, during his "Meet the Press" interview with Tim Russert in February:
You remember U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 clearly stated “show us your arms and destroy them, or your programs and destroy them.” And we said, “There are serious consequences if you don't” and that was a unanimous verdict. In other words, the worlds of the U.N. Security Council said we're unanimous and you're a danger. So, it wasn't just me and the United States. The world thought he was dangerous and needed to be disarmed.
And, of course, he defied the world once again.
So, let's observe the one-year anniversary of the U.N. weapons inspectors being chased out of Iraq, not by Saddam Hussein, but by President Bush's threat to start a war.

[Edited to add] In the comments, Damfa pointed out an even more absurd statement in the same vein, made by the President back in July (scroll to bottom of linked page), while sitting next to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan:
The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power, along with other nations, so as to make sure he was not a threat to the United States and our friends and allies in the region.

You Best Remember Who Your Friends Are
In the last few days, the Bush campaign has been ramping up its claims that Democratic challenger John Kerry is weak on defense. Looks like Senator Kerry is getting a little help from one of his friends:
Bush's chief Republican rival in 2000, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he does not believe Kerry is weak on defense even though they disagree on some issues. McCain, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is a friend of the Massachusetts senator, said a discussion of Medicare and other issues should replace negative campaigning.

"He's responsible for his voting record, as we all are responsible for our records, and he'll have to explain it," McCain said of Kerry on "Today" on NBC. "But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don't agree with him on some issues, clearly. But I decry this negativism that's going on on both sides. The American people don't need it, and the end result will be lower voter turnout, particularly amongst younger Americans."
Mr. Bush may start to regret having his "nasty boys" work over Senator McCain four years ago. As Senator Kerry has said, "Bring it on!"

[Edited to add] This is priceless. Senator McCain appears to have made the rounds of the morning news programs.
Asked on NBC’s “Today” if he thought Kerry was weak on defense, McCain said: “No, I do not believe that he is, quote, weak on defense. He’s responsible for his voting record, as we are all responsible for our records, and he’ll have to explain it. But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don’t agree with him on some issues, clearly. But I decry this negativism that’s going on on both sides. The American people don’t need it.”

When asked on “The Early Show” if Kerry’s election would compromise national security, McCain responded: “I don’t think that — I think that John Kerry is a good and decent man. I think he has served his country.”

March 10, 2004
They're Ringin' the Flag Down
The same-sex marriage amendment may not be working for the Republican campaign. Looks like they're switching to the flag burning amendment:

March 3, 2004 - NOTICE OF HEARING :
"The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 10, 2004, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 106 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building on 'Letting the People Decide: The Constitutional Amendment Authorizing Congress to Prohibit Physical Desecration of the Flag of the United States.' "
The heads-up on the hearing is from How Appealing. Say, would "physical desecration" include whipping out a Sharpie pen and signing your name on a flag? Yes, of course I'm going to link to the picture of President Bush signing a flag last August.

I can think of a lot of things which are more disrespectful of the American flag, than some jack-ass buying a flag and burning it. Trying to accuse people of being unpatriotic, because they think that tolerating dissent is more respectful of the flag, is one of them.

March 09, 2004
Two Hearts Are Better Than One
Well, the most famous guys from Asbury Park these days are not in the E Street Band. Louis Navarrete and Ric Best were issued a marriage license by the Asbury Park city clerk, and were married yesterday. According to this news story, they've been together for fifteen years; and, despite the fact that people have differing opinions of same-sex marriage, actually being married was something which was very important to this couple:
Nearby, best man Ed Johnson, 41, said he was glad his best friends had waited to get married. When Johnson married his partner, Jeff Lundenberger, last summer in Canada, Best and Navarrete almost tagged along.

Johnson said his friends' union was sweet not just because it represented the first New Jersey same-sex marriage.

"Marriage really does change things. We feel finalized and steady. It stabilized a lot of things that other people take for granted," Johnson said.
An interesting perspective was provided by the Deputy Mayor, who performed the ceremony:
Partying with Best and Navarrete cost Deputy Mayor James Bruno a bit of soul-searching.

"I really wrestled with it," said Bruno, who is Catholic.

When he got a phone call asking him to perform the ceremony, he thought about what his constituents faced, agonized for a little while, and decided to officiate.

"I've had gay neighbors for 17 years. They cut their grass like everybody else. They argue like everybody else. It seems to me, they're married like everybody else. If you take the sex thing out of it, I think people would say, 'OK, I have no problem with it,' " Bruno said.

March 03, 2004
Well You Say You Got No New Dreams
There's a column in today's New York Times by Stephen Gillers, a professor of law at New York University, proposing that among the speculation about a Vice Presidential selection by John Kerry, "one name is conspicuously absent: Bill Clinton". See The Next Best Thing to Being President (link requires registration). After explaining that the Constitution only bars Mr. Clinton from being elected President again, he writes:
For Mr. Clinton, the appeal of the vice presidency is both political and personal. First, he could help his party win. Yes, Mr. Clinton remains a divisive figure in American politics — but not so much among Democrats. And surely many voters long for the strong economy and economic stewardship that was one of the hallmarks of his administration.

Second, he could burnish his legacy. In exchange for joining the ticket, Mr. Clinton could negotiate for plum assignments as vice president. Mideast peace? National health care? Racial equality? He could focus on any or all of them. And from a purely personal standpoint, it might be especially gratifying for Mr. Clinton to be part of the team that defeats the man who four years ago promised to restore "character" to Mr. Clinton's own White House.
With all due respect, I think Professor Gillers is thinking too small, here. Instead of VP, Senator Kerry should announce that, as President, when the Chief Justice retires the job will go to Bill Clinton.

Seriously, can you picture it? Women would faint, and strong men weep, at the prospect of Chief Justice Clinton. Appointed for life, he could reign on and rain down from his judicial pinnacle for decades (at the same time still collecting hefty book royalties and honoraria). Sure, his confirmation hearing could be a little bumpy, but the same Senate that wouldn't convict him may also be more wary of a journey through the skeletons in their own closets. Republicans might even be reluctant to threaten such action during the election, considering that they are looking forward to the appointment of Justice Antonin "Duck Season" Scalia to that post.

Yes, I do believe that dangling the prospect of Bill Clinton in charge of our most sacred document, would finally make this Presidential election interesting.

March 02, 2004
When It's All a Storybook Story
From the "Good News/Bad News" department:

First the, um, "bad" news, I guess. I usually don't get to the Arts section of the NY Times until the end of the day, when I get home from work. When I opened it up, I found a great big, two page ad trumpeting the fact that Disney and Walden Media will be bringing us the first movie installment of The Chronicles of Narnia at Christmas, 2005. For those who do not know already, the Narnia books were written by C.S. Lewis, a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, and both were members of a literary circle at Oxford known as the "Inklings". Lewis and Tolkien would read to each other, from their "works in progress". In many ways, Tolkien's work influenced the development of Lewis's more overt Christian allegory.

Anyway, the movies would apparently start with (of course) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. According to E!Online:
Disney and Walden are betting that Lewis' fantasy franchise--which also includes the prequel, The Magician's Nephew, and the sequels The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle--will follow Warner Bros.' Harry Potter and New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings series by casting a spell at the box office.

"With an exciting and meaningful plot and well-drawn, emotional characters, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has the potential to be just the start of an extraordinary series of films; the exceptional imagination present in the novels follows in the best Disney tradition," said Disney chairman Dick Cook. "I think this is just the kind of movie audiences are looking for, and we're thrilled to be able to bring it to the screen."
The Narnia books are wonderful, but nevertheless I think a little trepidation is in order. I already know that there were several false starts with respect to the dramatization of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and only the extensive and dedicated effort and creativity of Peter Jackson was able to finally bring about the trilogy of films which have been so deservedly honored. So, I think this means that, for fans of the works, who makes the film is an important issue.

For these films, Disney has joined with Walden Media, which has apparently been buying the film rights to "beloved" works. Walden originally optioned the Lewis books in 2001. The company was launched in earlier that year by, among others, billionaire investor Philip Anschutz with the mandate of "marrying popular entertainment and education." Apparently, Anschutz (the 16th richest American according to Forbes) not only owns Walden, but also one-fifth of America's movie screens. According to a September 1999 Fortune article, Anschutz was "working deliberately and diligently" to do "something significant in American Christianity." He also is, apparently, active in conservative circles. Recently, he purchased the San Francisco Examiner, and it has been reported that in the 1990s "Anschutz backed Colorado's Amendment 2, which tried to restrict that state's cities from adopting civil rights protections specifically for gays and lesbians."

I remember reading that the publishers of the Narnia books were trying to figure out a way to de-emphasize the Christian allegory in the works. That would be unfortunate, but it would also be unfortunate to go too far the other way. If the movie-makers can avoid the temptation to "hit us over the head", we can always hope for something as enjoyable as LOTR.

Oh, I said that was the "bad news" part. The "good news" is that there is no indication that Mel Gibson has been signed to direct.

March 01, 2004
Well the Man on the Street Believes What the Bible Tells Him So ...
Sorry if anyone is offended, but this guy is great:
God Hates Shrimp.com


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