The report that investigates the Texas GOP’s abuse of federal power is out. Whitewater it ain’t.
Ottawa Ties the Knot
Same sex marriage! The right is railing against the heathen ways of our neighbor to the North.
India wants the U.S. as its ally. But is it willing to go back on its anti-war stance?
Jane Roe’s 180
The erstwhile plaintiff never managed to have an abortion, but now she wants to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Regular readers of these pages may recall the case of the runaway Democrats, in which Texas state legislators skipped town to foil an unprecedented bit of Republican gerrymandering. Soon, the Democrat’s revolt became a full-blown scandal, as both state and national Republicans enlisted not just Texas police but the Department of Homeland Security in their efforts to arrest the Democrats, bring them home, and ram through a bill that would redraw the state’s congressional map in the Republicans’ favor.
While that might sound like an egregious misuse of federal powers, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t seem to think so. In a myopic report (available as a pdf download) released earlier this week, the agency cleared itself of all wrongdoing, declaring that the help it gave Texas Republicans was “nominal,” and that in any case it believed it was providing humanitarian assistance, not tracking down Tom DeLay’s political enemies. Case closed, right?
Well, no. Democrats are now screaming “whitewash,” as the Houston Chronicle‘s Karen Masterson and Armando Villafranca report.
“‘This attempt to filter the truth raises as many unanswered questions as it offers gaps and omissions. It’s really more of a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy than a comprehensive investigation,’ said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.”
Democrats have good reason to be suspicious. The report is so heavily redacted that it’s difficult to be sure of anything, and it does little to dispel lingering questions about exactly how much Homeland Security knew about the search for the missing aircraft. For instance, on page five a Homeland Security official offers up a less than convincing denial of a recent Washington Post story, in which officials insisted to R. Jeffrey Smith that the agency knew politics, not safety, was the sole purpose of the hunt:
“But at least three officials involved in the May 12 search said safety issues were not raised by the air interdiction center, which has no safety-related responsibilities.
‘There was never any inference that the plane might be down, or something like that,’ said Marvin Miller, an airport official in Plainview, Tex. — near Laney’s home — who said he was contacted by an ‘air interdiction’ official on the evening of May 12. ‘There was never any safety concern, or indication that it was missing or overdue,’ Miller said. ‘The guy said at the end, “This is just somebody looking for politicians they can’t find.”‘ “
One might assume that in these tough-on-terror times, the misuse of Homeland Security’s antiterrorist tracking facilities would be a big deal. But again, no. The report didn’t even try to determine who ordered the misuse of the tracking facilities in the first place. After all, Texas governor Rick Perry personally ordered the police to stake out a neo-natal hospital unit where a runaway Democrat’s babies were recuperating, so it’s not as if the APB on the missing Democrats was issued by accident.
But as the Austin American-Statesman‘s Chuck Lindell reports, Texas police stonewalled Homeland Security’s investigator, refusing to answer questions about who authorized the manhunt. And the agency, for whatever reason, didn’t press the issue.
“During questioning, the investigator ‘was consistently interrupted and challenged by DPS participants that questions were not within the scope of the DHS-OIG investigation,’ one document said.
When asked who instructed the officer to call the interdiction center, ‘(redacted) said several individuals,’ the document said. When asked for specifics, the investigator was told that ‘this question was outside the scope’ of the investigation, and the question was not answered.”
Astonishingly, Homeland Security isn’t even interested in figuring out who ordered Texas police to destroy all the documents related to the case. Instead, the agency passively referred the matter to the FBI, which — wait for it — says it won’t investigate either.
“Not exactly the Ken Starr treatment,” observes Joshua Micah Marshall, a pundit who’s been following the saga since its beginning. Anyone hoping for an exhaustive, Whitewater-style inquiry into Texasgate will be disappointed, he writes.
“In all seriousness, the report’s methods and conclusions are good examples of the difference between the hyper-aggressive investigations of the 1990s and the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil operations of today.”
Meanwhile, Governor Perry has announced that he’ll take another shot at the redistricting bill that prompted the Democratic walkout, when he reconvenes the legislature for a special session this summer. As the Associated Press reports, bringing the lawmakers back to Austin for an extra session isn’t cheap — it will cost $1.7 million in a time of statewide budget cuts. Democrats have vowed to fight the gerrymandering plan again, but how they’ll do it is anybody’s guess.
Ottawa Ties the Knot
Our northern neighbor is on its way to becoming the third nation in the world to recognize gay marriage.
Yesterday an Ontario appeals court ruled that Canada’s current definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien will file a bill, which the Parliament’s Liberal Party majority seems likely to pass. Until then, gay couples will only be allowed to wed in Ontario, as legislators in other regions of Canada are fighting to preserve the strictly heterosexual definition of marriage.
Despite the fact that the majority of Canadians support the “radical” notion of allowing the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (queer) community to exercise its full civil rights — the case is kicking up a storm around the dangers of redefining the sanctity of marriage.
Toronto’s the Globe and Mail came down hard to defend what it considers the correct, “core elements” of marriage.
“Without implying that there is one comprehensive understanding of marriage to which everyone ought to give full assent, nevertheless there are core elements, purposes, and aspirations of marriage that have won wide approval and deserve to be handed on from one generation to the next:
“Marriage is based on the free consent of one man and one woman to join as husband and wife in a union of life together.
Marriage is truest to its nature when monogamous and faithful.
Marriage serves the vast and complex social-sexual ecology of male-female bonding (99.5% of all couples in Canada are heterosexual).
Marriage serves the procreativity of male/female bonding; conjugal union between a man and a woman is the only social union that can be a reproductive union.
Marriage, as an institution, has a child-centered dimension; it directs mothers and fathers to the care and support of their children.
Marriage is generational and genealogical; it binds together the past and the future.
Marriage pre-exists the state and religion; while it is appropriately recognized, regulated and affirmed by the state and religions, nevertheless, it is not created or determined by the state or religions.”
One has to wonder which Globe and Mail editor was the expert on “social-sexual ecology.” Next the G and M staff is going to start denouncing straight couples who are not exercising the “true nature” of their “conjugal union” by not raising a flock of miniature heterosexuals. Most adopter parents would have a hard time being told that they didn’t “care and support” their children simply because the children weren’t actually born into the marriage. And since when did marriage guarantee that parents will adequately care for their children?
But the G and M is not the only publication worried about the slippery slope of gay marriage. Back on the conservative homefront, National Review columnist, David Frum has been warning readers that, eek,
“Canadians can expect new battles in the years ahead as the authorities impose ever stricter restrictions on their freedom to express traditional views of homosexuality. And while the pressure groups and the courts may exempt the churches at first, it is hard to imagine that they will exempt them for long. The Canadian churches receive, after all, all kinds of public support. Not only are they exempt from taxes, but Catholic schools are subsidized from public funds. Would we permit people who receive public money to refuse to marry inter-racial couples? Hardly! So how can we allow them to persist in refusing to marry same-sex couples?
Nor is marriage the end of the story. There are battles ahead too over adoption, over new reproductive technologies, even over language — it’s already true, for example, that progressive-minded Canadians eschew the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife,’ with their heterosexist connotations, in favor of the gender-neutral ‘partner’ or ‘spouse.’
So it’s not over. It’s far from over. And it’s coming your way.”
In addition to fears regarding religious freedom, conservative legislators are attempting to undermine the court’s decision. Dave Hancock, Alberta’s Justice Minister, complained to the Nation Post that the Ontario court should not have gone ahead with the ruling and instead waited for the Supreme Court to pass judgement on gay marriage. Such a move would have required all Canadian jurisdictions to participate in the discussion, obviously greatly prolonging any decision and preventing Ontario’s gay couples from marrying.
But some commentators are pointing out that there is room for all of us within the house of the wedded. James Travers of the Star wisely points out that homosexual marriage does no damage to the right to a heterosexual marriage.
“While traditionalists cringe, others grasp, however painfully or slowly, that one caring, consenting relationship takes nothing away from another. To insist otherwise suggests a meanness of spirit that is in conflict with all that is readily apparent.
In one of those moments that strips the strangeness from what is essentially ordinary, the three Ontario judges unanimously found, ‘Same-sex couples are capable of forming long, lasting, loving and intimate relationships.'”
Jane Roe’s 180
Norma McCorvey is the Roe v. Wade ex-poster child turned pro-life/born-again Christian. She was one of the plaintiffs in that watershed case, known as “Jane Roe.” But at a news conference in Dallas, Texas earlier this week, McCorvey addressed her fellow pro-lifers who were decked out in “I regret my abortion” t-shirts — rallying them to support her effort to overturn the legislation she helped create. The Associated Press writes:
“‘We’re getting our babies back,’ a jubilant McCorvey said at a news conference while flanked by about 60 women, some who sobbed and held signs that read ‘I regret my abortion.’
‘I feel like the weight of the world has just been lifted off my shoulders,’ said McCorvey, 55.”
McCorvey filed a motion on Tuesday in the Texas Supreme Court asking the court to overturn Roe on the grounds that “it hurts women.” McCorvey’s claim rests on “scientific and anecdotal” evidence that shows abortion is harmful. She has provided the court with 5,400 pages of “evidence” including 1,000 affidavits from women saying they regret their abortion. She also claims that her attorney in Roe, Sara Weddington, failed to inform her about the possible consequences of the suit.
Getting the Supreme Court to overturn precedent that six of the nine justices support will be no easy task for McCorvey. CNN.com’s legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin suggests that it is not likely that the supreme court will overturn Roe:
“I think as a legal matter it is really about as clear as it can be that the Supreme Court in general does not do this with cases. And you have six of the nine justices on the court currently who have said that Roe v. Wade is a precedent that they are standing with, that they are going to support. Whether that’s true when there are new appointments is a separate question.
But today, you can’t file this kind of motion 30 years later, and this court is not changing its mind on Roe v. Wade.”
McCorvey’s journey is a strange one. She worked for almost two decades in abortion clinics, before being converted by the Operation Rescue workers next door. It’s important to note that when McCorvey cries “we want our babies back,” she does not mean her own aborted fetus — she never had an abortion herself. As a carnival barker pregnant with her third child, she had her baby after the Supreme Court case was resolved. It was the third child she put up for adoption.
Weddington, McCorvey’s former attorney, and Naral Pro-Choice America charge that McCorvey’s motion is merely a ham-handed attempt at publicity. Harvey Price of the Houston Chronicle reports:
“‘The chances of it getting to the Supreme Court are so small that we might as well talk about the moon falling out of the sky first,’ Weddington said. ‘The only thing I can imagine is that Norma McCorvey hasn’t been getting much publicity lately.’
NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a statement calling the motion ‘nothing more than another sad anti-choice publicity stunt.'”
Despite the fact that pro-choice feminists and legal analysts don’t take McCorvey seriously, she may actually be able to do some damage to reproductive rights. Allen Parker Jr., McCorvey’s attorney with the Texas Justice Foundation, has filed a motion asking the court to set aside the original motion filed in the Roe case on the grounds that “it is no longer just.” McCorvey’s motion attempts to prove that the facts in the case or the law have changed since Roe. The change in fact: sworn affidavits by women who have found abortion emotionally damaging. The change in law: more than 40 states have enacted laws that guarantee the state will take care of unwanted children. Ergo, says McCorvey, Roe should be overturned.
That a medical procedure may sometimes be (legitimately) traumatic may seem like meager evidence upon which to overturn legal precedent, at least to the six justices standing behind Roe. But, if justices O’Connor and Rehnquist decide to retire this year, reproductive rights will surely be in the hot-seat once again.
Hoping to compel the Indian government to deploy peacekeeping troops to help “liberate” Iraq, the Bush administration has offered to sanction the export of military hardware. if such troops were mobilized, reports Indian Wire Service PTI. The potential contribution of troops puts India in a difficult position. The UK’s BBC News reports that the Indian public adamantly opposed the US’s invasion of Iraq, and officials in Dehli would much rather answer a call for troops via UN mandate.
Sudha Ramachandran of the Asia Times reports that pressure from the US to deploy troops came on last week when India’s Deputy Prime Minister, L K Advani, visited Washington, D.C. Eager to encourage India’s cooperation, several Pentagon officials flew to Dehli to “sort out some of India’s concerns with regard to troop deployment.”
India’s Deccan Herald reports that Indian officials questioned the role Indian troops would play in Iraq’s reconstruction, and sought clarification regarding the activities of the interim administration and the humanitarian aid to Iraq.
According to Ramachandran, the invite to contribute troops has deeply divided the Indian administration. India hopes to gain recognition as a politically powerful country and would benefit from a strong alliance with the US. Economically, deploying troops is in the country’s best interest, with the sanction of exports and with the possible gain of Iraqi reconstruction contracts.
Nonetheless, India’s fears of losing both international credibility and its public’s confidence are making the country wary of being seen as “guilty of holding hands with an occupation force,” Ramachandran writes. As India’s past peacekeeping efforts created an international picture of the country as generally reputable and diplomatic, Dehli fears being seen as a pawn in the US’s volatile power struggle in the Middle East. Some Dehli officials also worry that the country’s power and independence may be discredited if they soften their anti-invasion stance to please the US, “which is used to developing countries making u-turns in their foreign policies at its bidding.” Ramachandran reports that the country’s desire to gain economic and political stature as a US ally might compromise some of the nation’s perceived sovereignty:
“So, should India send its troops to Iraq? Many reasons are advanced as to why India should not under the existing circumstances. For one, the US might have won a quick victory against Iraq. However, that does not change the fact that its war against Iraq was illegal, not sanctioned by the UN and completely immoral. India had opposed that war. In April, the Indian parliament in a unanimous resolution ‘deplored’ the US attack on Iraq and called for a quick withdrawal of coalition forces from that country. If India were to send its forces to Iraq now, it would be going against the spirit of that resolution.”