Thursday, March 16, 2006


I am hoping to revive this blog. It brought me great joy and I hope it shall again. With your help, it shall. The idea for Continuum: From Left to Right was to provide a forum for people from all points on the political spectrum to express their opinions on various topics in a manner that was open to any point of view and expressed in a respectful manner. If anyone who is familiar with the format of the recently closed site would like to revive the spirit of that blog, leave a comment and let's talk about it.

As I say above, this isn't my site, it's yours.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Celebrate Women!

Jude Nagurney Camwell, at Iddybud, posts a very interesting poem by Rachel Raza, a Muslim woman. She takes up the cause of Muslim women throughout the Middle-East in a powerful fashion. I heartily commend it to you. Please read it. My comments are somewhat colored by my recent comment conversations with Ms. Camwell about the relative merits of the military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

I am all for lifting up and equalizing the position of women regardless of where in the world they live or in what culture. Muslim women, especially in the less developed countries and where politics and religion join to suppress any aspiration other than servitude, are in a similar situation as Japanese women, although the situation for women in Japan are, I believe improving. They are in a similar situation as women in this country were prior to such advances as the opening of institutions of higher learning to women, the franchise, the opening of professions to women and the loosening of sexual mores. I celebrate them altogether. I would not be me, however, if I found nothing within this poem with which to take exception.

The first stanza, while not mourning the Taliban's removal, certainly takes exception to the way in which women's oppressors were removed. Perhaps she has some alternate method of their removal that, well, a poem did not seem the proper vehical for proposing or which did not find a place within the poem's topic. The poet closes the first stanza with the demand, EDUCATE ME. Reading this made me think, "Educate her, indeed!" Interesting that, under the Taliban, the mere suggestion by a woman, the mere request to become educated, would have gotten her a public beating and no token beating at that. It would have been the last request of that sort that she made. Does this woman really not understand that those bombs are the only reason that she may now demand to be educated? I am not surprised that Muslim women might see the Burqa as protection. Going without the Burqa, under the Taliban, would have gotten her dead. Apparently some Muslim men have such poor self-control that the mere glimps of female flesh inflames their passions so much that they are forced either to beat the woman or rape her--no oppression there, none at all.

It may be objected that my blaming the Taliban for these things is misleading. It is true that many of the things that Ms. Raza protests about the mistreatment of Muslim women are endemic, not only to Afghanistan under the Taliban, but to many Muslim cultures. This is certainly true. However, what made the Taliban particularly egregious is that they would enforce these rules absolutely. For example, if a woman's husband were a particularly progressive sort, permitting his wife to be educated, if the Taliban found out about this, BOTH the woman AND her husband would be punished. They simply would force the oppression of women to be, well, enforced.

It may be suggested, as an alternative to bombs, that the Ghandi method might have been employed from within the Muslim culture of Afghanistan. Women might have risen up and demanded their rights and taken whatever punishment came their way for what the Taliban and male Muslims in general would surely have seen as impudence or worse. It is questionable, of course, whether such a tactic would have worked under such an oppressive regime. The image that comes to my mind is of women peacefully and silently marching on schools to be educated only to be beaten with rods, even as the natives of India were beaten by British troops in the movie, Ghandi, for peacefully and unarmed approaching the salt factory to take what was so obviously their right: Salt. Would the Taliban and misogynistic Muslim men really beat bloody and to death hundreds of thousands of Muslim women for the crime of wanting to learn? Both the law and the culture, of course, would not only permit such barbarity, it would demand it but would such brutality continue to every last woman in Afghanistan? I profess ignorance.

According to the movie, Ghandi, that one occurence was the straw that broke the camel's back. As the Sheen journalist character called in to his News outlet, "Whatever moral ascendency the West may have once had has been lost." So, judging from the movie, one might have reason for hope for such a tactic carried out by Muslim women, even under the Taliban. However, there are distinct differences between Imperial Britain and the Muslim culture that call such hope into question. The reason that the tactic worked in India is that Britain, for all of her racism and prejudice, knew that brutally murdering unarmed citizens that they were there, presumably, to protect and help, was morally wrong.

They did what they did in the misbegotten attempt to protect their economic monopoly and thus, their control over India. I suspect that, even had word of the atrocity not reached the general population back in England, the occupation was over at that point. Those committing the atrocities knew that they were committing atrocities. The sort of culture that spawns Governments such as the Taliban have no such awareness. To them, beating and even killing uppity women is not only permitted but demanded by their culture and Law. If hundreds of thousands, or even millions of women had risen up in peaceful protest within Taliban era Afghanistan, it is quite possible that there would be no compunction whatsoever about beating every last one to death.

What such action would have done, however, assuming that word of it got out to the general world population, is to so inflame public opinion that much of the world would have risen up and, threatened to bomb the country back to well before the stone-age unless the Taliban immediately stepped down. In this way, it may be that the Taliban might have been deposed without dropping a bomb. The cost to life, in Afghanistan, might easily have been as high, or higher than during the war to depose the Taliban.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Cause and Effect or Mere Coincidence?

After 9/11, the US quickly and, as it turned out, accurately pinned the attacks on Usama bin Ladin and al Qaeda. They demanded that the Taliban government of Afghanistan, where UBL had been training radical militant Islamists to carry out attacks against the West, deliver him over to the US for prosecution. The Taliban, quite reasonably, I thought at the time, demanded to see the evidence against UBL. After all, here in America, if someone commits a crime in state A and is subsequently found to be in living in State B, the accused has a right to a hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant his extradition. What is true between States of the US, I reasoned, is at least reasonable to hold among Countries. The US declined the invitation, causing me to think that the evidence was not so certain as President Bush was making out. In any case, the US took the Taliban's refusal to extradite as an act of war under the new Bush doctrine that nations that give safe harbor and or aid to Terrorists are as guilty as the Terrorists whom they harbor. Long made short, with broad international support, we sent in CIA and special forces and air support to assist anti-Taliban forces within Afghanistan and the Taliban was quickly removed. UBL, however, eluded capture and, to this day, remains a fugitive.

On October 9th, 2004, Afghani men and women elected Hamid Karzai, their choice of national leadership in the first direct Presidential constitutional election in Afghanistan's history. Their display of ink-stained fingers, proof of their having voted, was an inspiration to the world. This is the first exhibit in Bush's other doctrine: that Democracy is contagious even in Muslim nations.

Afghanistan is the first domino.

Not that this next occurrence resulted from US action, although the US did play an indirect part in the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, but the theory that democracy is contagious does not require that the US play any role. The revolution began as a result of the most recent Presidential elections in the Ukraine, the first round of which took place on October 31, 2004, over which there were many, credible allegations of election irregularities, including the poisoning of one of the candidates. The first round of voting was close enough to require a second round. Initially, the second round was given to the outgoing President’s favored candidate, Yanukovych but, again there were complaints of voting fraud. People rose up in support of the opposition candidate, Yuschenko, and gathered, in freezing weather, in Kiev to protest the results. The popular, peaceful uprising, publicized worldwide on television, lead to the official rejection of the revote results and a new vote under a new elections board. The result is that Yuschenko was elected and the power of the people of the Ukraine won a victory over corrupt Government. Aside from vocal support by the Bush administration, the US played no direct role.

Domino two has fallen.

Now a historical note. On January 20, 2005, George W. Bush gave a controversial inaugural speech. It was controversial, primarily because in it the President declared it to be the United States policy to work for and support the growth of Democracy throughout the world. He said, in part:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth. Across the generations, we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause


We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right. America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people. America's belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed. In the long run, there is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world:

All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.
As we shall later see, it seems that the world was listening. And, it seems, people have dared to believe our President. I will have more to say on that later.

On March 19, 2003, with far less international support than we had for the Afghanistan action, the US led an attack on Iraq with air and ground troops. The immediate objective, the removal of the Saddam led Ba'athist government, controversially celebrated on an Air Craft Carrier with a banner proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished", was brought to pass in three weeks. Unfortunately, chaos that the coalition forces failed to quell, in the form of violent looting, ensued. This was followed by an, apparently pre-prepared, insurgency—one that has caused the death of some 1,500 US military forces, and has left some 10,000 US soldiers wounded, not to mention perhaps several hundred thousand Iraqis dead—that continues to the present day.

Nevertheless, on January 30, 2005, elections were held under threat of death by insurgents. While the openness of these elections is questionable and it is clear that certain groups of Iraqis, due to calls by Sunni religious leaders to boycott the elections and threats by insurgents, were under represented, the sight of some 8 million Iraqis, again with ink-stained fingers, voting for a governing council that would select a Prime Minister and construct a Constitution was, if anything, even more inspiring than the Afghanistan elections held months before. The elections were seen to be so successful that even Sunni leaders, who had called for the boycott, reconsidered that decision and requested to be included in the governing council, a request that has been complied with.

Witness domino number three has fallen.

On February 10, 2005, local elections were held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with others to be held elsewhere in the country on March 3, 2005 and later in April 21, 2005. These are municipal elections, there will be elections to fill seats in 178 councils. There are questions of just how much power these councils will have and, as with any election, there are questions about how fair the elections in Riyadh were. Women were not allowed to run for Office, nor did women vote. There is no question yet of competitors for the national Government. All of this is to say that Democracy has a long way to go in Saudi Arabia, but can anyone seriously question that President Bush’s policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and his stance against oppressive governments and for Democracy have not influenced the decision to hold even these limited elections in there?

Domino four has, however weakly, fallen as well.

On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minster of Lebanon, Rafik Al-Hariri, was assassinated. Although there is no proof, yet, it is widely supposed that this was the work of Syria. This act has outraged a great many Lebanese who, like Ukrainians before them, have risen up in protest and applied such popular and, thanks to television coverage, international pressure that, on February 28, 2005, the Syrian backed Government of Lebanon stepped down—a move that surprised virtually everyone. Apparently, the Government felt that it could not count on the Syrian troops, that have occupied Lebanon since the 70’s, to quell the uprising or they felt that any such repression would bring reprisals from the US and the International community. Perhaps the Lebanese people were listening when President Bush promised to stand by them in their fight against oppression.

In a display of people power, domino number five has fallen.

Within the last few days, Syria has promised to remove its troops from Lebanon, a promise that has been made before and reneged upon. The US has been joined by, of all nations, France as well as Egypt and Saudi Arabia in urging—some might say threatening—Syria to keep its promise this time. Time alone will tell whether Syria believed President Bush.

Not a domino, yet.

As recently as January 2005, Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, turned a deaf ear to calls for Democratic reforms in his country. On February 27, 2005, Mr. Mubarak reversed himself, ordering a change to his Country’s Constitution allowing competitive elections, the first challenge to his 23 year reign. Although the reforms fall far short of real Democracy—it is unlikely that Mubarak’s Presidency is in any danger of falling—it is a step in the right direction. It is clear that pressure will need to continue to be brought to bear upon him so that genuinely Democratic elections may take place. Clearly, however, Mubarak has been paying attention to Democracy’s march and it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that President Bush’s second Inaugural Address played some part in this event. There can be little doubt that the world takes Bush at his word or there would be little reason to suppose that this small step in the direction of Democracy would have taken place.

Yet another domino has fallen.

In the title of this piece, I asked: “Cause and Effect or Mere Coincidence?” There should be little doubt in any reader’s mind how I answer the question. Democracy is clearly on the march, in fits and starts, feebly in places it is true but it is marching none the less. I clearly believe that President Bush has played a key part in moving that march along.

Update: Doh! I completely forgot the elections in Palestine. It is still questionable whether Abbas will be able to rein in the more militant terrorist groups or whether continued attacks upon Israel will destroy the possitive things that have been occurring in the region since Arafat's death. Nevertheless, The Palestinians have partaken in the Democratic process, chosen their own leader and positive steps toward peace have been taken by Palestinians and Israel, both.

Yet another Domino has fallen.

Update: Is another Domino being set up? According to this article, women in Kuwait are demanding the vote. Kuwait is already a democracy but only half of the adult population are allowed to vote. So, does Bush's promise to stand by those seeking democratic reforms have anything to do with this? Well, at least one of the protest signs was in English, a language even a Texan can understand.

Is Kuwait a tottering Domino? You decide!

The question is, what do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Our Next Topic for Discussion

National Security seems to have attracted no takers as a topic of discussion so I'll try something else. Everyone, no doubt, has heard of the case of Terri Shiavo, the Florida woman who had a heart attack in 1990 and has since been declared to be in a persistent vegitative state. The woman's husband says that his wife did not want to have her life maintained under such conditions; her family, on the other hand, disputes the husbands claim. In fact, the family goes further, claiming, as this most recent article reports, that Terri "is able to communicate and could improve with therapy". Today there was more legal wrangling. Terri's husband won a decision from the Florida State appeals court permitting feeding tubes to be removed. Just hours later, the family rejoiced at the announcement of a 24 hour stay by the Pinellas County Circuit Court.

Personally, in the absence of a "Living Will" or a "Do Not Revive" request on the part of the patient, signed freely and in his or her right mind, the state should err on the side of life rather than death. Furthermore, we're not talking about removing equipment that is artificially maintaining Terri's life; we're talking about removing food and causing her to starve to death. To my mind, this is barbaric and indefensible. I leave it to someone else to defend it.

Together, we are smarter than any one of us alone so what do you think?

As always, there are ground rules for our discussions, which are:

1. I'm looking for reasoned debate, not ad hominem attack.
2. Foul language will be edited or even form grounds for rejection.
3. Articles will be expected to remain on the given topic.
4. Articles should be no longer than 1,000 to 1,500 words
5. Please frame views that do not agree with yours in positive terms
that proponents of said view use with respect to their views.

Other than that, any position on the topic is acceptable. Please submit your contributions to me at

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ward Churchill, Free Speech, and Academic Freedom

There has, as yet, been no interest in discussing Homeland Security. Perhaps that's not edgy enough. Very well, how about a discussion revolving around the question:

Should the University of Colorado fire Ward Churchill?

If you don't know who Ward Churchill is or why there are many folks who think that he should be fired (and many who do not) allow me to give a quick overview. Ward Churchill is presently a tenured Professor in U of C, Boulder's Department of Ethnic Studies. He also wrote an Essay on 9/12/2001 entitled "Some People Push Back" On the Justice of Roosting Chickens in which he enumerates what he views as the United States's crimes against the rest of the world in general and against the Muslim world in particular in order to show that the attacks of 9/11 were both justified and inevitable. In this essay, he says that the Pentagon is obviously a military target and thus the attack against it was absolutely justified. He also said that, while the occupants of the Twin Towers were "civilians of a sort", they were hardly innocent, calling them "little Eichmanns"--modern day Nazis carrying out a deliberate genocidal pogrom against Islam. They were, he wrote, "willingly and knowingly" feeding the military, whose crimes he writes at length to document and were therefore also justified targets. [Post slightly edited on 2/11/05 to remove an offensive sentence].

As for my opinion, which you can read in the comments section here [note: the article and many of the comments at this site definitely do not meet the standards of discussion at Continuum and I express my opinion in this regard in the same comments section], you will find that I was definitely against firing Churchill upon First Amendment freedom of speech grounds. I find many of his comments, particularly the little Eichmanns comment, to be odious in the extreme and for this he deserves to be shunned and despised by all Americans whether within the academy or without. However, he should not, in my opinion, be fired for them. Aside from the free speech issues, the academy has long had a tradition of encouraging the exploration of competing ideas, including odious ones, through academic freedom.

Recently, however, I have become aware, through this article, of allegations that, if true, are definitely grounds, not only for firing Churchill from the U of C but for his being banned from the academy altogether. His alleged offense is academic fraud. If true (and while the charges appear to be true I am not in a position to confirm them in a "peer" sense), Churchill has made up, out of almost whole cloth, an incident of US military genocide against the Mandan Indians in 1837. The source that he cites as supporting his claim appears to do nothing of the kind. The fact that he originally made this claim in court under oath in his own defense makes his offense doubly offensive: not only has he misrepresented a source to make wholly false charges against the US military, he committed perjury in the process. He also seems to have repeated his false claims at a later date, making up new details without attribution. This is precisely the sort of action that is, and deserves to be, a virtual death sentence in the academic world.

If this proves to be true, neither the University of California nor any other University should have anything to do with Ward Churchill ever again.

Update 02/10/05: This article, too (warning, it's a long PDF file), documents Churchill's tenuous relationship with facts. Again I am no scholar and have no expertise in the area of US Government - Native American relations so I am not qualified to judge, in any peer review sense, the truth of the claims made in this article. I, rather, provide it for you're study so that you may make up your own mind whether Ward Churchill is a scholar or a fraud.

Update 02/16/05: Apparently, Ward Churchill is a plagiarist, too.
What do you think?

By the way, I will also be accepting articles concerning Homeland Security, if you'd rather talk about that. Please remember the groundrules for articles and comments, to wit:

1. I'm looking for reasoned debate, not ad hominem attack.
2. Foul language will be edited or even form grounds for rejection.
3. Articles will be expected to remain on the given topic.
4. Articles should be no longer than 1,000 to 1,500 words
5. Please frame views that do not agree with yours in positive terms
that proponents of said view use with respect to their views.

Other than that, any position on the topic is acceptable. Please submit your contributions to me at

Friday, February 04, 2005

Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage?

I have a quickly expressed opinion on the manditory health insurance coverage issue in California: if this idea becomes law (and it may, I live in California, I know that we will vote for all sorts of kooky stuff), businesses will be run out of the state faster that we can hold a special election to recind the measure. Businesses like argi-business will be forced to increase crop prices giving a national impact to the nation's food supply and lowering our exports. This is a bad deal, no matter how you look at it. I agree, more people need health insurance, but this is not the way...


Mandatory Health Insurance Coverage?

According to this CNN article, California lawmakers are considering making health care coverage mandatory, like mandatory auto insurance in Indiana, where I live, and elsewhere. It is an attempt to rein in spiraling emergency medical care debt and deal with some six million uninsured in their state. There are a number of plans being investigated. Clearly the State will have to subsidize, to some extent, those who are unable to afford coverage, placing a further strain upon the State's already strained financial situation.

My thoughts are mixed. I am for personal liberty. I am uncomfortable with the government mandating that its citizens do things. On the other hand, my home State has mandated Auto Insurance coverage, which I favor. Nothing is more infuriating than being involved in a fender-bender with a driver with no insurance, no money, and few assets. What becomes really dire is when said accident involves serious personal injury that can quickly become financially ruinous atop the pain and grief. I am for mandated auto insurance because I think it is criminal to get behind the wheel of a ton or more of steel that may end up maiming another individual without the means to reimburse the victim for medical expenses and suffering. Necessary coverage, for my car, is like $80 per month, which I gladly pay.

Health care coverage, however, is quite a different thing. I think every family ought to have health care coverage, it's the responsible thing to do but I view such a mandate as an infringement of personal liberty.

My question to you is,
what do you think of a State mandating that its citizens purchase and maintain health insurance?

In composing a post or comment for our discussion, remember the ground rules which are:

1. I'm looking for reasoned debate, not ad hominem attack.
2. Foul language will be edited or even form grounds for rejection.
3. Articles will be expected to remain on the given topic.
4. Articles should be no longer than 1,000 to 1,500 words
5. Please frame views that do not agree with yours in positive terms
that proponents of said view use with respect to their views.

Other than that, any position on the topic is acceptable. Please submit your contributions to me at

Saturday, January 29, 2005

It's official...

Iraqis are voting! I congratulate them and wish them well.

Update 1/30/05: Polls are closed. An early report of up to 72% turn out seems to have been somewhat high. Estimates now peg the number at 60% of eligible voter turn out, or about 8 million. Pretty impressive considering the threats of carnage by al Zarqawi, even in the Sunni Triangle. Sadly, there were 35 innocents killed plus 9 dead bombing scum reported but even in Fallujah, women and men came out to vote! If this is all al Zarqawi has left in his atrocious bag of tricks, he's on the tail end of his joy ride. Little Green Footballs has two emails from Iraq that are definitely worth a read.