International House of Dan: May 2005

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Beatin' Of The Week

So I've decided to pay homage to Saturday Night Live's "Good Morning, Brooklyn!" skit by launching my own "Beatin' Of The Week" segment. The host of SNL's ficticious show explains: "A'ight, here's how it goes, Brooklyn. Angelo tells us who needs a beatin' this week, you give him that beatin', you win a awesome prize, alright! Angelo! Come on out, bro!"*

So without further ado, this week's beatin' goes to Representative Spencer Bachus (R-Al) for his statements earlier this week about Bill Maher. The host of HBO's "Real Time" commented on May 13th's episode that "We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies." This in regard to the Army's failure to reach it's recruiting goals by 42%. Rep. Bachus saw a rerun of the show and said he thinks "it borders on treason ... In treason, one definition is to undermine the effort or national security of our country." Mr. Bachus took Maher's words to mean that the troops we have right now are "low-lying fruit" and demanded that the show be taken off the air. I, on the other hand, took them to mean that thanks to questionable recruitment our military picked up some "low-lying fruit" like Lynndie England, and I can't wait for the next season of "Real Time".

Treason is a crime so serious that the Framers of the Constitution decided to define it themselves, probably because they feared that subsequent legislatures made up of men like Mr. Bachus would let the passions of their time dictate the definition. Article III, Section 3(1) of the U.S. Constitution provides that: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." Now, I'm not an expert in Constitutional law, but I don't think Maher's comment quite cuts it for treason under the Constitution, especially after looking at the history of treason in America. It's comforting to know that Tom Delay seems to agree. I'm sure Mr. Bachus could find a dictionary definition of the word to support his accusation (that's the only one I could find), but I'm also quite sure that "" does not make the criminal laws of the United States. As far as calling for censorship as punishment, I'm pretty sure that the Sedition Act of 1918 has been off the books for over 80 years, and the 1798 version was either repealed or allowed to expire by Jefferson.

So Representative Bachus gets the "Beatin' Of The Week" for draping himself in the flag and using the best wartime rhetoric available to draw the spotlight after having watched a rerun of a political satire he found offensive. It's good that somebody is looking out for those who criticize Army recruitment, especially when they have the gall to call Lynndie England-types "low-lying fruit." It's good to be reminded that we're not allowed to criticize the military during the "war on terror", not even the bad apples that provide the material for Al Qaida's recruitment brochures.

Mr. Maher could not be reached for comment, probably because I never tried and wouldn't know how even if I wanted to.

*This "segment" is for entertainment purposes only, I am in no way, shape, or form inciting, suggesting, let alone calling for anyone to use violence against anyone else, especially not a Congressman.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Compromise My Foot...

Everybody's very excited about the "compromise" reached in the Senate over judicial filibusters. I say it's a thinly veiled act of surrender which was allowed to be presented as a compromise so that Democrats could save face while Republicans got their way. Basically, Republicans agree not to do away with judicial filibusters as long as Democrats promise not to use it. This is like a teenager saying he reached a compromise with his parents over borrowing the car for the weekend after they said he could borrow it as long as he didn't drive it...

Faith No More

It's time to address evangelical Christians, the reactionary Bible-beaters who are trying to return America to it's moral standing of yesteryear (according to them) or completely strip us of our freedom and subject us to theocracy (according to me). Let me preface this by admitting that I will roll all manner of religions when I write about "Christians": I will not split hairs over the differences between Baptists, Southern Baptists, Methodists, First Church of I Love Jesus, or whatever. It should become clear which groups I'm referring to, and if it isn't, well... sorry.

Today, the House is debating stem-cell research, the promise that it holds and the notion that America should be at the forefront of this groundbreaking technology. The two bills in question*, H.R. 596 (funding for umbilical cord blood stem cells) and H.R. 810 (funding for embryonic stem cells) enjoy widespread bipartisan support, but President Bush has already threatened to veto legislation to promote stem-cell use, particularly H.R. 810, because he views the destruction of embryos as contrary to his Christian beliefs. My dislike of evangelicals in politics has been stewing for some time, and I think this opposition to life-saving research, to securing our global leadership in emerging technologies, to science, has finally moved me to action.

The Christian right's assault on science and secularism has taken on many forms under President Bush's watch. We've seen the Ten Commandments popping up all over the place, a push to teach creationism (sorry, but I'm not inclined to adopt the innocent-sounding "intelligent design") in schools, cuts in needed foreign aid unless programs conform to Christian teachings, successful campaigns to eradicate the epidemic that (apparently) is gay marriage, the erosion of women's right to choose, and much, much more. In each of these cases, a Christian viewpoint pushes for action along lines which run counter to science and public policy. Let me be clear about the latter: in balancing interests when shaping policy, "community standards and morals" can be a factor to consider, but they are currently being allowed to trump other factors and they are not being based on the morals of the affected community, they are being handed down from one of many competing views. It is a very specific brand of Christianity that is used to define what public morality ought to be: the loud one.

The scientific and education community agree that evolution should be taught, and that creationism should not; in the fight against global AIDS, aid groups and governments should be expected to take whatever action best addresses the crisis, regardless of the moral objections of some in the donor nation; brain research is increasingly suggesting that homosexuality is no more a choice than race, and that benefits arise from same-sex marriage; medical groups support the legality of safe abortion despite the moral objections of some. The people we should be listening to on these matters, doctors, teachers, aid groups, etc. are being shouted down by the crazy bible lady down the street who won't let her children watch The Simpsons because it's sinful. The recent rash of Ten Commandment displays in public places (I have no data to support this, but I expect that in Red states there have been 3 such displays for every gay couple who tried to marry) may not have opposition rooted in the scientific community, but it follows the same pattern of policy-making and it certainly fuels the assault on science: can a community that feels so strongly about Jesus that it builds a monument on government grounds really be expected to sit idly by while that government strays from Jesus's teachings? Apparently not, and that brings me to my other beef with evangelicals: they are like locusts.

Religious freedom as envisioned by the framers likely focused less on the right of private citizens to convert their neighbors than it did on the right of the neighbors to be free from conversion by the government. It is especially telling that it is this American brand of Christianity, hell-bent on proselytizing (that was intentional) that keeps trying to take over the government: I promise that as you travel the world, you will not find people wearing "Jesus" t-shirts, or "Mohammed" or "Buddha" or "Vishnu" t-shirts for that matter. These people seem to be unique to America, their closest relatives being Islamic fundamentalists who do not wear t-shirts with slogans on them. These people are not content with their own righteousness, the world must be equally accepting of their God (who strangely seems to be not God, but Jesus). These people who find it more important that their children yell at frightened teenagers entering an abortion clinic than that they go to school and learn about the world, because obviously intimidation was Jesus's tactic of choice, these are the people who are driving this insane shift in our policies.

There was a recent piece in the Times and then again later on NPR about evangelicals in Ivy League schools. It was disturbing that these people are seeping out of the South and infiltrating secular America to the point that someone decides to write about it. It seems that it's partly the fault of the G.I. Bill, because good patriotic God-fearing Americans who went to war got more access to education, better jobs, and now their equally God-fearing children get to go to Brown and join a bible study (support group) to talk about how offensive their heathen professors are. There is much talk about hostility towards Christianity in the current political and legal environments, but this is simply a P.R. stunt. There is a perceived hostility only because courts tell evangelical Christians that they are not allowed to do what their faith inherently requires: go "save" everyone else around them. The hostility is not directed at Christians, it is directed at religious groups who try to use the state to spread their beliefs, it just so happens that in America only Christians do that.

In order to really understand this, and in order to wrap this up, consider the reactions of various religious groups with regard to church and state separation. Do we ever hear about the positions of Jewish, Catholic, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, or Amish groups on stem-cell research? On evolution? On foreign aid that includes abortion counseling? No, we usually don't, and I venture to guess that on these and other issues, when these religions' views are opposed to the government's they do not seek to impose themselves on it. These groups don't go out and build monuments on public property, they don't challenge academic curricula, and they don't try to make their God, their prayers, or their religious slogans a part of the daily political life of their community. The Christian right is the only group that is not content with being free from discrimination, it considers itself under assault when it is not given a prominent place from which to sermon the rest of us.

* When links to legislation have expired, simply type in the bill number in Thomas and it will direct you to them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

President Excited About "Episode III"

So to change gears from the last post, the Air Force is asking for permission to put weapons in space. To say that this is a monumentally idiotic idea would be an understatement of equally monumental proportions.

I can see no way, whatsoever that anything that could remotely be a good thing could ever, ever even remotely begin to come out of this. Security? No, contrary to Republican claims America is not under a constant state of attack by new and unseen enemies everywhere. This is not to say that we are universally loved, but over the history of our nation the times when our interests have been attacked are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the times during which they haven't. In fact one need only look at the fact that the WMD we so fear, nuclear and biological weapons, have been largely developed by us, presumably to enhance our own security. On what basis could we expect that this time will be different? Will we treat countries' space programs the same way we treat their nuclear programs? Not so simple, because I suspect that space technology does not require finite materials that we can track, I don't think satellite photos will be able to differentiate military and civilian space programs the way they do nuclear programs.

There is also little reason to expect that we would be able to retain a military monopoly on space, especially in light of the recent advent of privately funded space exploration. We are also not the only member of the nuclear club with satellite launching capabilities, just a few weeks ago India launched a satellite. How far behind is Pakistan? North Korea? Israel? Why on earth would we possibly want to invite this kind of nuclear space race? For what it's worth, if Mr. Bush is reading this: tell the Air Force "no", real explosions in space are not like in the movies Mr. President.

This of course says nothing of the legal implications of arming space. The Times article is not entirely correct in stating that there is no legal barrier to the ambitions of the USAF. The U.S. is actually a party to several treaties limiting the arming of space. The Limited Test Ban Treaty(1963) prevents nuclear tests or explosions in space, and the Outer Space Treaty (1967) preserves the peaceful exploration of space for all mankind. I wonder if there are also Constitutional implications, would the deployment of troops to space require Congressional approval or are they Executive actions? Surely, this is one cookie that the founders didn't think of.

Finally, there are fiscal and policy implications to the arming of space. It is obscene to cut funding for education and social services while devoting an ever-growing fortune to our existing military adventures, let alone to this. Additionally, I'm not even sure that we have the know-how to do what the Air Force wants. "After spending 22 years and nearly $100 billion, Pentagon officials say they cannot reliably detect and destroy a threat today." So if the Pentagon went through all this and failed, and now the Air Force takes a crack at it and succeeds, then what does it say about our armed forces that the Air Force didn't chip in a little earlier? The only possible use I can see for this is to stop gays from getting married in space after the administration forces every country in the world to accept Jesus and ban gay marriage. Thousands of voters in the South are now in favor of it...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Are Sex Offenders People Too?

I heard something on NPR while leaving Kansas City last Friday and I had wanted to comment on it. Let me preface this by saying that I find child molesters as odious as the next guy, but I am writing this because I dislike mob mentality and due process violations almost as much.

There is perhaps no pariah quite as objectionable today as the convicted sex offender. We make bold assumptions about these people and direct our rage accordingly. But who are these people monsters? Are they mentally ill? Can they be treated? Can they be cured? The quick answer is "no, just look at how often they reoffend." The show mentioned that sex offenders actually have a much lower recidivism rate than other criminals, and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it's true. Sort of. "Sex offenders were less likely than non-sex offenders to be rearrested for any offense - 43 percent of sex offenders versus 68 percent of non-sex offenders." But then again, they "were about four times more likely than non-sex offenders to be arrested for another sex crime after their discharge from prison - 5.3 percent of sex offenders versus 1.3 percent of non-sex offenders." Compare with 1.2% of homicide releases that end in another homicide within 3 years, as is the case with 2.5% of rapists. If I'm reading those numbers right, if you're a sex offender who commits another crime after release, it is more likely that you'll have committed another sex crime than it is that a rapist who reoffends after release will have committed another rape; but at the same time, the rapist is more likely to commit another crime at all. This stuff is complicated, and I don't like it oversimplified by politicians trying to show how "tough on crime" they are.

That last set of stats is very important, because I think it undercuts some of the rationale for registration, monitoring, etc. At first glance I thought "maybe the lower recidivism is thanks to the post release restraints we place upon sex offenders," but then I realized that that makes no sense. Why would not living near a school zone or putting a picture on a web site make one less likely to, say, steal a car? Perhaps there's something about the nature of the offender that accounts for the recidivism rate, and this point was made on the show as well: there is a difference between opportunistic and predatory offenders. Opportunistic offenders don't plan their crimes, they give in to a spontaneous urge, while predatory offenders make plans and act on them. In other words, there is uncle Joe who gives in to some terrible desire while babysitting his niece, and there's the sex offender as we tend to imagine him: the creepy guy down the street who will snatch your children from your driveway unless you always watch them and him.

This distinction is important, according to the panelists, and I tend to agree. Creepy guy is likely the reoffender for whom safeguards need to be adopted, but uncle Joe likely knows he has a problem but lacks channels for treatment. Many laws in place require therapists and others to report offenders to the authorities, for example, so people who know they have a problem can't get help unless they're willing to submit to the scorn and vigilance of society. If our aim is to prevent the victimization of children, shouldn't our approach focus on treating these people before they strike than on creative ways to punish them after it's too late?

To say that there is a negative stigma attached to someone who is a convicted sex offender would be a gross understatement, and as a result, perhaps our society does not devote sufficient discussion to them other than to say who they are and how much we hate them. I wonder if there is not a better way to protect the young from sex crimes. The panelists on the program pointed out some interesting data. We are all familiar with the fact that most children who are molested are victimized by someone close to them, a family member or friend: why then, it was asked, do we obsess so much more about the stranger down the street than about uncle Joe? I think this is a valid point.

While I more than understand the societal interest in tracking offenders who are paroled or released from prison, I feel uncomfortable with requiring somebody who has served the statutorily mandated sentence to engage in a series of additional steps designed to restrict their freedom. Doesn't the same societal interest exist with regard to protecting our children from drug dealers? Don't I also have a right to know that the woman moving in next door was twice convicted for breaking and entering? I'm not sure where the line is drawn on when it is ok to require someone who has served their time to continue to subject themselves to punishment. If we, as a society, look at science and medicine and decide that child molesters are irredeemable, then I see no problem in changing the sentence for the offense to reflect this. But until we do that, it smacks of double jeopardy to continue to restrict the life and liberty of someone who, for any other crime, would be deemed to have "paid his debt to society." Of course it is less objectionable to place constraints upon probationers and parolees, but whenever someone's sentence ends or is cut short, then that person has been deemed to have been punished. Longer sentences are one thing, it is a very different thing to extend the punishment beyond the length of the sentence.

I would never imagine to have any answers as to how we can eradicate the tragic exploitation of children, I understand that this is an ugly discourse for society to engage in, but we cannot give in to the temptation to simply ignore the issue and shout down any proposal that does not involve crueler punishment for those who commit these unthinkable crimes. Serious problems are not solved without serious thought, and we should face these difficult questions head on and expect our leaders to do the same. Vote Quimby.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Connecticut + New Hampshire = Texas?

Just after 2 a.m. on Friday, May 13th Michael Ross was executed by lethal injection in the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, for the rape and murder of 8 young women in Connecticut and New York in the 1980's. It had been the first execution in New England in 45 years. Connecticut has six other men on death row, while New Hampshire, the only other New England state with the death penalty, has none, and has not executed anyone since 1939. Vermont has someone on death row for the first time in 40 years, but it's for a Federal conviction.

Ross had essentially asked to be executed, and declined assistance from family members and abolitionist groups who had tried to save his life. It is especially tragic that this happened in New England, all of it. It's tragic that such horrific crimes took place there, but that tragedy is compounded by the tarnishment of a long record of progressive government and peaceful coexistence. New England has stood as a bastion of America's ideals from its very inception. It's policies were progressive from the time when most "red states" didn't exist. The cluster of tiny states, whose names had to be listed off to the side of the map, seemed a nicer America, our own Canada, if you will, and it's unfortunate that this had to happen there.

The death penalty is wrong and needs to be abolished. There are countless reasons why, these are but a few. Executing murderers does not deter murder, anybody who says otherwise is lying or mistaken. When they tell you "you're less likely to kill someone if you'll get the chair" like it just makes sense, remind them that when people kill, they either weren't thinking about anything but killing, or they thought they'd get away with it so that punishment would be irrelevant. The only deterrent effect of execution is that the executed will not reoffend, but the same is true of life without parole. Proponents of state execution point to the dramatic drop in crime seen by New York after reinstating the death penalty, as if there hadn't been contemporaneous improvements to law enforcement and 911 response.

I have to go, but I'm not done with this issue... It's important for us to realize the immensity of what a day, let alone a decade or a lifetime in prison entails. Dante explained that the true pain in purgatory and hell arose solely from the absolute absence of God. The same is true of liberty, and I don't care if prisons have cable TV, video games, or saunas, the complete revocation of liberty cannot be merely dismissed as a given, a slap on the wrist upon which we must pile more suffering if punishment is truly to be exacted upon the guilty. It is crucial as we determine our penal policies to bear in mind that Michael Ross was not convicted of killing his specific victims, he was convicted of violating the laws of the state, of crimes not against people, but against society. There is no place for vengeance in such a system of laws, killing the friendless is the same as killing a beloved child in the eyes of society, and so it should be punished, without bloodlust. That New Englanders were ok with executing Michael Ross, though otherwise opposed to the death penalty, is understandable because of his crimes, but it's not right.

Here is a list of the countries that have the death penalty for ordinary crimes, that is, not just for things like military trials or other special circumstances:

yeah... that's not a nice list, it has too many points to form an axis, but it's definitely evil. The international community has soundly denounced capital punishment as inhumane, an uneffective deterrent, and unacceptably irreversible.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Wrap Up Of Recent Events

Thursday night I wrote (all modesty aside) a fantastic piece about Iraq's attempted ratification of the Rome Statute, but my computer shut down and I lost it. Grrr. Anyway, what's past is past, right? I've been slacking on this thing for too long, and now, unfortunately, I have to write a series of little blurbs on a lot of topics. Here goes:

This is ridiculous: As I left Kansas City (Missouri) yesterday, the Kansas Board of Education was wrapping up debate on whether Kansas schools should teach science. Aside from the much publicized "intelligent design" fiasco they debated changing the definition of "science" to "a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Sounds innocent enough, but it replaces a definition which included that "These explanations are based on observations, experiments, and logical arguments that adhere to strict empirical standards and a healthy skeptical perspective." Also ridiculous are the Kansas City Royals this year, who at 9-27 look to lose 100 games before they win 10.

This is illustrative: The Supreme Court, the Capitol, and the White House were evacuated when a Cessna 150 flew into restricted air space over D.C. The only person not evacuated was the President, because he was not told that the threat level was at "red". I wonder if he was not told to make sure we wouldn't see footage of him falling off his mountain bike and staring blankly ahead for a little while a la the morning of 9/11. Seriously, though, I think the panicked over-reaction to a Cessna is indicative of the larger mood of fear this administration lives in, and would have the rest of us adopt. I do find it telling that the terror level got raised and there was talk of shooting down the plane over D.C. without the President even knowing about it... I guess I always assumed he'd have to be in on that sort of thing...

This is good: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Bolton out to the full body along party lines and without endorsing him. He is still expected to be approved, but the recent firestorm he's endured gives cause for optimism. If nothing else, the controversy surrounding his nomination will serve as another straw on the back of the camel that is the continued force-feeding of the Bush agenda down the throats of the nation by a very slim majority in the Senate. It's easy to call for "an up and down" vote and claim that it represents the will of the people when you know that you'll win by a whopping 55-45. As these straws continue to pile up, though, Senators who seek re-election will have to re-assess their allegiance to the President's agenda, as his priorities continue to drop in the polls.

This is fitting: The BRAC (Base Realignment And Closure) Commission is proposing cuts in the defense budget ($50 billion), and the closure of 33 major bases. Their final report will not be acted upon until the Fall, but it will be nice to see Mr. Bush defend making "defense cuts in a time of war" without exposing Republicans to criticism of the sort they piled on President Clinton when he made cuts to pull us out of "Cold War mode." The truth of the matter is that these closures and realignments are necessary as conflicts and technologies evolve. We no longer need forts in South Dakota to stave off the indians, or lots of arctic bases in Alaska to fend off the Soviets. Base closings are politically unpopular, communities live and die from military bases (literally if enough pollutants are left behind), and it is tempting to use this necessary adjustment against Bush the way Republicans used it against Clinton, but I won't. I don't need to, others will do it in my place, and it will hasten the demise of Republican Congressmen from districts with bases facing the axe, but who ran on the promise that they could keep the bases open because as Republicans they had "the ear of the President."

OK, this is not nearly as much as I'd intended to cover, but the blurbs are getting longer than I'd hoped. Check back soon, as I will praise the Dominican Republic for becoming the 99th State party to the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (hmm... I guess I just did) and explain why the first execution in New England in over 40 years should not have been carried out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Joy of Loopholes

Few things are as satisfying as finding and exploiting loopholes. Some might say that the practice of law is based entirely on this, and perhaps that was what drew me to it. Perusing the BBC's website I came across what may be the mother of all loopholes, and it's right here in America. Law Professor Brian Kalt of Michigan State speculates that one can escape prosecution in parts of Yellowstone National Park because since nobody lives there, it would be impossible to assemble a jury as required for conviction under the Sixth Amendment. Intriguing as his argument is, what really excited me is the thought of engaging in the Yogi Bearish crime spree he envisions: "you make some moonshine, you poach some wildlife, you strangle some people and steal their picnic baskets." I don't know, to me that sounds like fun... Kalt's paper, "The Perfect Crime" is available here.

But loopholes are not always this wonderful invitation to mischief, they can also lead to impunity for the authors of acts of unspeakable evil. Following World War II, the international community struggled with the legality of prosecuting Nazis for crimes which had not been illegal at the time of their commission. Nobody had ever actually said "you're not allowed to kill 6 million people." The world finally decided that the doctrines of nullum crimen sine lege and nulla pena sine lege were outweighed by the need to punish genocide, and so the trials went forward and we looked the other way. The ICC is an important step in the closing of this loophole, but even the Rome Statute (Part III, Arts. 22 and 23) recognizes that its jurisdiction is limited by time, place, and the existing body of law applicable to the crimes before it: the non-retroactivity of criminal law.

Not all is lost, though, as loopholes cut both for and against tyrants and despots. One of the problems human rights advocates face in Latin America is the investigation and prosecution of past atrocities within legal frameworks that are often designed to frustrate them. Forward thinking dictators gave themselves immunity, or implemented statutes of limitation to prevent their prosecution after stepping down, a good example is Argentina's "full stop and due obedience laws" (leyes de punto final y obediencia debida), by which the outgoing military regime effectively insulated itself from domestic prosecution. The laws were later declared null and void, but non-retroactivity prevented the nullification from applying to past crimes. A loophole was used by prosecutors to get ex-dictators to admit that thousands of disappeared Argentinians had been killed. The loophole was in the kidnapping laws, which consider the offense ongoing until the kidnapped person is recovered or known dead. Changes in sentencing for kidnapping would have applied to the disappeared because they are not retroactive justice, rather the offense never ended. Facing tougher penalties for ongoing crimes, the military instead admitted to its role in the deaths of thousands.

More on the subject of loopholes in the future, I need to book a flight to Yellowstone...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Senator Lugar Owes Me $28.50

Yesterday I attended a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations talk by Senator Dick Lugar on "America's Role in the World". I had heard Senator Lugar speak before, at a Beta Theta Pi Convention where he was awarded the Oxford Cup, joining recipients such as Sam Walton and Kenneth Lay. I knew he was a good speaker, but I digress... The CCFR event was described as follows:
New challenges face the United States as we enter the 21st century as the leading world power. American power and leadership are crucial for spreading democracy and freedom, combating terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and reforming international organizations. America needs international creditability to include its allies, such as those in the transatlantic and Pacific relationships or the Americas. In light of the importance of leading the global community, how must the U.S. exercise its power and leadership to remain a credible world power?

Senator Lugar did a great job of covering the first part of that. He spoke eloquently and without the use of notes about how we are "spreading democracy and freedom, combating terrorism, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and reforming international organizations." Namely, he talked about his visits to former Soviet countries prior to the recent revolutions, he relayed anecdotes he'd heard from soldiers in Afghanistan... I don't remember what he said about WMD... and he talked about how the U.N. needs to be reformed. To his credit, he did acknowledge that some American business interests should share the blame being cast on the U.N. over the "Oil for Food" scandal, but he said nothing about our need for international credibility... not a word... Rachel was there, she saw the whole thing.

I know that "creditability" and "credibility" are not exactly the same thing, but when our need to "remain a credible world power" is mentioned I lean away from taking "creditable" to mean "deserving credit" and towards it meaning "worthy of belief." I wanted to hear about our need for international credibility. I wanted to be there as a delegate of my nascent ICC group, specifically to ask him about that very subject. An October 2004 study by the CCFR found that upwards of 70% of both Americans and Congressmembers support U.S. participation in the ICC, as well as Kyoto, non-proliferation and a host of other issues on which our policy of non-participation has been a source of reduced credibility in the international community. The only people who were out of step with Congressional and public opinion were generally Republican staffers (on the ICC, for instance, 15% of them support participation while 74% of Democrat staffers do). One reason why Congress continues to vote against the ICC is that they wrongly believe that their constituents oppose it, though public support held constant even in the districts of its Congressional opponents. Senator Lugar did not vote on H.R. 4814, Section 581 of which adopted the anti-ICC "Nethercutt Amendment."

My question to the Senator would have been something along the lines of "if these polls are accurate, and both Congress and the American people support restoring our international credibility by bringing our foreign policy in line with that of the rest of the world, then what will it take for us to do that?" But even if I'd been one of the 4 people who got to ask a question, it would've seemed completely unrelated to anything he talked about.

It cost me $28.50: $25 to get in, plus $1.75 each way for the train, not to mention close to 3 hours of my life that I will never have back. The way I see it, the Senator can either send me a check for that amount, or else send me what he would have said on our need for international credibility had he remembered to stay on topic... I suppose if he's taking the time to do that he might as well throw in the answer to my question too...