Thursday, August 31, 2006

WA-43 Democratic Primary

When it comes to races in the primary, few are more important than the race for the 43rd District seat (which spans the University District, Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Wallingford) in the Washington State House of Representatives. With the esteemed Ed Murray moving on to the State Senate, there is a void which six Democratic candidates seek to fill, and the winner will assuredly carry the seat in the general election this November. Having reviewed the websites, positions, and experience of all the candidates, allow me to briefly summarize my feelings on each.

Keep in mind that these are six of the best possible candidates for the State House of Representatives and I only dream that we could have such progressive candidates in each district. They share views on most issues, so it becomes important to find out which issues they will tirelessly advocate and what experience they have to demonstrate that.

Lynne Dodson

Lynne Dodson's campaign signs declare "Send a Teacher to Olympia!" and this captures the unique experience she brings to the race. Dodson has taught at the community college level, starting in 1993, and proposes some bold changes to our education system, such as eliminating inequalities in pay amongst educational staff (though I'd like more information on the specifics of this point - inequalities at a given level of instruction? Across geographic regions? Might it not make sense to offer incentives to teach in low income areas? Perhaps that's the reverse of the current problem, but let's be honest about our end goals see the comments; thank you to Lynne Dodson!), a publicly funded early learning education system, and increased state funding for all levels of education - including higher education. In addition, Dodson's website lays out specific proposals on numerous issues, from LGBT rights to gun control, to the environment. Even in this pack of well-qualified candidates, Lynne stands out.

Dick Kelley

In his profile by the Seattle P-I, Kelley makes it clear that his main priority will be campaign finance reform, arguing that no issue "...matters as much as curbing special-interest influence." In doing so, however, he commits the standard error of so many well-meaning politicians, for neither in the article, nor on his website, does he ever define what he means by "special interest groups." Is any organization that lobbies legislators a special interest group? Aren't many such organizations simply formed by citizens banding together to advance their collective interests (the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the PIRGs, etc)? To remove this power of citizens to form organizations to lobby their legislators enhances the power of politicians vis-a-vis their constituents, something with which I am exceedingly uncomfortable. Campaign finance reform is important, but Kelley's plan simply isn't well thought-out enough for my comfort. To his credit, however, Kelley has put his money where his mouth is, limiting campaign contributions to no more than $100 from any person or organization. Additionally, Kelley has worked in government since the mid-1980's, giving him experience with the system.

Jamie Pedersen

Jamie Pedersen is an attorney with a good deal of experience fighting for civil rights. Recently, he served as one of the lead attorneys for Lambda Legal in the court battle for marriage equality, winning twice in the state court system, only to be overturned by a narrow 5-4 majority of the Washington State Supreme Court in a suspect ruling. Jamie has proven himself a tireless advocate of civil rights for all, including LGBTQ individuals. With the departure of Rep. Ed Murray, this is precisely what the 43rd needs. For Pedersen's committed leadership on this issue, he has earned the endorsement of Equal Rights Washington. Though the other candidates suport marriage equality, they do not have the experience of bringing together so many communities in support of it.

Stephanie Pure

As her profile in the Seattle P-I points out, Pure is the youngest candidate for the 43rd. She has served as a legislative aide to Peter Steinbrueck on the Seattle City Council and has been an activist in the Seattle community. In those capacities, Pure has led a successful effort to defeat the Teen Dance Ordinance, protected a city crossing guard program, and helped to expand funding for Seattle's public libraries. In Olympia, Pure promises to focus on improving our educational system through smaller classes and higher teacher salaries, support marrigage equality efforts, and find solutions to provide insurance to more Washingtonians. What strikes me about Pure is her lack of experience in any single field. While I laud her work as an activist, I'm not sure her experience yet qualifies her for the 43rd seat in the same way the other candidates are qualified.

Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman has positioned himself as the candidate with the greatest focus on the environment. His background certainly gives him credibility on this issue: as an attorney, he fought to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for the Prince William Sound oil spill; as an employee at the Department of the Interior, he aided in efforts to block the Repbulican Congress's attempts to undermine environmental protections. As a legislator in Olympia, Sherman promises to enact measures protecting Puget Sound and limiting CO2 emissions in Washington State. In an era where the federal government buries its head further in the sand on global warming and environmental dangers, Washington State will have to lead its own efforts to protect the environment. Sherman is a great candidate to do that.

Jim Steet

Jim Street recently received the endorsement of the Seattle P-I Editorial Board for his wealth of experience as a former City Council member and Superior Court judge. He is the Director of "Reinvesting in Youth," an effort to reform the juvenile justice system. As the representative of the 43rd District, Street plans to focus on issues of transportation, giving public transit, bicycles, pedestrians the priority in transportation matters. Closely related to this, Street wants Olympia to take a stronger stance in support of the environment. Street is yet another exceptionally strong candidate for this position and would undoubtedly represent 43rd District in a strong and sincere manner.


As already stated, all six of these candidates are high caliber and even against most progressives in other districts, any of the six would have my complete support. That said, they are running against one another in the 43rd. Below is my ranking of the candidates, based on their priorities for Olympia and track record of success on those issues:

1.) Jamie Pedersen
2.) Jim Street
3.) Lynne Dodson
4.) Bill Sherman
5.) Stephanie Pure
6.) Dick Kelley

Remember, the primary is September 19th!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Appeal in Marriage Equality Case

Supporters of marriage equality today asked the Washington State Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision upholding Washington State's so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act. Attorneys for Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Northwest Women's Law Center contend that the Court's decision was flawed. Following is a brief overview of several of the arguments:

  • The Court's opinion establishes such a great deference to the legislature that, "...the rights of all Washingtonians [are] subject to infringement at the whim of the barest legislative authority."

  • Any law creating legal distinctions between groups must find a legitimate purpose underlying the law. Those purposes relied upon by the Court (procreation and the welfare of children) are illegitimate (the link between marriage and procreation is a distant one and the law protects the welfare of only some children - not children of same-sex couples).

  • The Court misconstrued Washington State's Equal Rights Amendment as applying to groups (women and men) as opposed to individuals. "...[T]he right to marry a person of one's choosing is an individual right.... The State cannot deprive an individual of a constitutional right by imposing that deprivation equally, as the United States Supreme Court has made repeatedly clear."

    I come away from this motion with a much more detailed understanding of the ways in which the Court's ruling was flawed. This response was precisely what I was waiting for in reserving judgment on the previous decision. To be honest, I hold out relatively little hope of the Court revisiting the matter, but I believe it would do well to do so - justice, and the law, have not been well-served here.

    The motion to reconsider can be viewed in full here (.pdf). It's an easy read - no legal training required (just skip over the case citations) - and creates persuasive arguments for all of the points I briefly outlined above.
  • Monday, August 28, 2006

    RIP, Vashti McCollum

    She may not have been a GI Joe, but she was a true American hero.

    In 1948, Mrs. McCollum won her case before the United States Supreme Court. In an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that not only is it impermissible for the government to privilege one religion over another, it is also impermissible to privilege religion over non-religion.

    For Mrs. McCollum and her family, such a stand was not an easy one:

    In the three-year legal battle, Mrs. McCollum received physical threats and was fired from her job as a dance instructor at the university. At Halloween, a mob of trick-or-treaters pelted the McCollum family with rotten tomatoes and cabbages. The family cat was lynched.

    It strikes me how little has changed: outspoken supporters of public school-sponsored religion are numerous and politically powerful, and fanatics continue to physically threaten those who would oppose them. I only hope there are enough courageous Americans, like Mrs. McCollum, around today to stand up for their principles and ensure justice for all.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Two churches

    USA Today is the paper that longingly waits for a beautiful princess to kiss it on the forehead so that it might one day turn into a handsome and charming cable news program. I never thought I'd see the day when I linked to an article from USA Today, but I guess I was wrong:

    Archbishop tells church to stay in Lebanon: 'You'll make it'

    The article quotes a sermon given just this past Sunday by Archbishop Chrucrallah Nabil Hage, the leader of the Catholic Church in Southern Lebanon:
    "Wherever you are — in Hajji or Tyre or Marjayoun — if you're patient and believe, you'll make it through this," Hage told a standing-room congregation at St. George's Church in this southern Lebanese village... "The Christian message is the same everywhere: a message of peace, a message of love and a message of tolerance," he said. "Even if we have different beliefs, it doesn't mean it should lead to conflict."
    The archbishop criss-crossed the battered fragments of southern Lebanon and through it all, he delivered this message of defiance against extremism and violence: one that has echoed the impassioned pleas given by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has been similarly criss-crossing what remains of Lebanon's civil infrastructure and calling Israel's actions what they are: crimes against humanity.

    Unfortunately, the Christian message doesn't appear to be the same everywhere as the archbishop claims - not in America, at least. Pastor John Hagee continues to spearhead the totally unfounded evangelical movement to support Israel unconditionally. Let's dissect this one later... for now, here is the top Associated Press religion headline from a few moments ago:

    Church fires teacher for being woman

    The headline says it all, really. The best quote from this story comes from the town's mayor, who is talking about a letter written by the church's pastor defending the decision:

    "...those are disturbing remarks in this day and age... Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."
    While this Baptist church valiantly protected children from the demonic machinations of the female, Archbishop Hage was telling the war-torn Lebanese in his congregations that if they were patient, they would make it. Is this the same religion?

    The archbishop's message that is doubtblessly being repeated throughout the globe wherever people feel an oppression of circumstances that they cannot see or name, but somehow manages to impair their lives nonetheless. What are they supposed to be patient for? Archbishop Hage's sermon should strike luxuriated American Christians as especially ironic - why can't we ask ourselves what the rest of the world seems to be waiting for? Throughout the global south and the third world, people are trying to "make it through" - through what? And where did it come from?

    Let's ponder these questions as we sit in the cushioned pews at John Hagee's air-conditioned megachurch in Texas, listening to how Christians in America can "become a part of biblical prophecy."

    The thing about prophecy, of course, is that it's supposed to get fulfilled no matter what we do or don't do.
    Prophecy implies that God is doing the work alone. But that's not what Christians believe - we (supposedly) believe that the Church exists on Earth in order to do the work of God.

    Christians like me are watching the destruction of the world around them. We must aspire to do work OTHER than "preserving marriage" and keeping women silent in the churches. Archbishop Hage's sermon is telling the Lebanese to be patient and believe - his sermon is telling Americans to start giving a shit about "thy neighbor" and to believe in what Christ really said.

    God have mercy on me, a sinner.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    U.S. Connection

    I came across an article today from John Sugg discussing the U.S. role in the Israeli attack on Hezbollah and Lebanon. His claims would strike me as outrageous from a lesser journalist, but are closely supported by investigative pieces by the well-known Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry (not to mention that following the deception we saw in the leadup to the Iraq war, this falls within the realm of possibility). Here is a brief excerpt, but I urge you to read the entire article.
    On May 23, according to Parry, Bush encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to find a provocation to launch an attack against Hezbollah. No doubt, Hezbollah would unwittingly comply, and did by capturing two Israeli soldiers. (Few in the American media would ever note that Israel holds thousands of Arabs prisoners, most guilty of nothing but their ancestry, including almost 1,000 children.) Now, according to Parry, Israeli generals are blaming Bush for pushing them into a quagmire in which, rather than neutering Hezbollah, we've made it into a rallying point for Arabs.


    Israelis, with justification, wanted an end to the Hezbollah harassment. Rather than seek multi-national cooperation, Israel has done to Lebanon what we've done to Iraq -- destroy the country with no exit strategy and no victory. Israeli anger undoubtedly will turn on Olmert, a man who, like Bush, has no combat military experience.

    America is the other loser, in spades. Again. Most of the world perceives us as being delusional at best. We allowed the systematic destruction of a friendly nation and cheered the onslaught. Condi Rice's pathetic statements about "birth pangs" of a new Middle East, and Bush's again-demonstrated incompetence, make us a laughingstock and a pariah.

    If true, our complicity in the destruction of civilian infrastructure increases. We must change our foreign policy to one will will make the world a safer place, and by that I clearly do not mean a foreign policy led by warfare. War may at times be necessary, but it should be the *last* resort, certainly not the first.


    It is not lost on me that we are rapidly approaching primary elections time (September 19th here in Washington) and it's high-time we started looking closely at the candidates and issues coming up. Some matters will be decided in the primary (43rd District State Representative, possibly state Supreme Court judicial elections), others need to be addressed now because decisions are usually made long before election day.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Lebanon, Post Bellum

    Following Monday's UN-imposed ceasefire, Israel and Hezbollah have largely ceased hostilities within Lebanon. It is important, however, to view this not as an end, but as a beginning. A beginning of what, you ask? That is precisely the question.

    Will we see a strengthening of the Lebanese democracy as the government exerts control over all of its territory or will extremists capitalize on civilian losses to consolidate power politically and socially? The U.S. and Israel have a great deal of say in this matter, depending on their commitment to rebuilding Lebanese infrastructure and their continuing support for democracy in country (and as we have learned, democracy is not always convenient to the U.S. national interest - consider Hamas's win in Palestine or the existence of democracies in Europe that would not support our misadventures in Iraq).

    What lessons will be taken from this conflict? Has Hezbollah learned that it cannot continue to assault Israeli military outposts without fear of retaliation? Has Israel learned that it cannot engage in the destruction of a country's infrastructure without facing determined opposition? What opinions of Israel have been created or cemented in the minds of the Lebanese people? These are questions to which answers do not you exist, but answers to them will be critical in determining what this ceasefire is the beginning of.

    One lesson I, as an American, have learned, is that the American government will actively support Israeli military actions (through munitions, etc.) regardless of civilian deaths. We should not support any nation in such manner, not Israel, not Saudi Arabia, not Great Britain, no one. Civilian lives matter, and when we supply the bombs, we share in the complicity, something we must actively resist.

    And when I say this is not an ending, I mean both in Lebanon and Gaza, where incursions continue (that link is a damn good article, btw), and the West Bank, where the number of those illegally settling on Palestinian lands has grown.

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Staying on Message

    Apologies for blatantly disregarding Alex's call for a 'lighter note' but I hope I may be forgiven for sharing some troubling thoughts based on today's rally. The event was billed as a "Protest to Defend the People of Lebanon and Palestine", the very matter I have spent a significant amount of time on here. The title, then, was promising.

    The first sign that something might be amiss was the list of groups endorsing the event. The groups on that list of particular concern to me were the likes of the Freedom Socialist Party, the International Socialist Organization, and the Socialist Alternative. My experience has shown me that these organizations are notoriously bad at putting forth a unified message. Indeed, because of their non-mainstream and unfocused messages, they are sufficient to destroy the legitimacy of an event. I would go so far as to argue that having them at a rally is worse than having no rally at all - we aim to persuade those who are not yet on our side, but their messages alienate mainstream members of society. More on this shortly.

    The second sign that something was awry was that I found out there was another rally for the same purpose in Kirkland at the same time today. Now this should never, EVER happen - especially not in a city the size of Seattle. Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many organizations in Seattle all working on this same issue - ANSWER Seattle, the Arab American Community Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Voices of Palestine, Youth Against War and Racism, the Council on American Islamic Relations, etc. I'm not necessarily saying they need to consolidate, but there absolutely must be better communication amongst them.

    So this is the my state of mind as I arrived. And then I saw this...

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    Upon closer inspection, I found a number of signs perfectly demonstrating what I mean about unfocused messages. Keep in mind that this was a rally to 'defend the people of Lebanon and Palestine'.

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    These signs all failed to communicate the message that we must end the suffering of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in this conflict. Don't get me wrong, the Iraq War is a great parallel, where a nation is struck and retaliates not only against the wrongdoers, but also against hundreds of thousands of uninvolved civilians, but that dog sign, along with all the other signs, detracted from the true message of today's rally. Even the speakers were suspect. We heard from a man from New Orleans decrying practices agaisnt African-Americans there; we heard about the American occupation of the Philippines; we heard all about why we should vote for a particular candidate. But there were streches of 20 minutes at a time where we heard nothing about the people of Lebanon and Palestine.

    This issue is too important for progressives to sabotage the message through dilution. Solidarity is important, but not at the expense of spreading a unified message on a particular subject. We must learn to support one another's causes, not hijack them for our own ends. Until we can do that, success will continue to elude us.

    On a lighter note

    Pretty insightful, I'd say. What do you think, Karl?

    By the way, I've finally finished the book I've been reading - Covering: The Hidden Threat to Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino. The final chapter was fascinating... and something I'm itching to ask you about.

    I plan on posting about this book a bit later. In the meantime, anyone interested in a poetic, compelling memoir blended with legal treatise... this book should be irresistable.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Upcoming Events for Lebanon

    Three upcoming events where you can make your voice heard and get involved. In chronological order:

    Rally to End the Attacks on Civilians in Lebanon and Gaza
    Friday, Aug. 11 5:00 - 6:00pm
    Westlake Plaza (4th and Pine)

    National Emergency Protest to Defend the People of Lebanon and Palestine
    Saturday, Aug. 12 12:00pm
    Seattle Federal Building (2nd Ave. & Marion)

    Reverse the Crisis Fundraiser
    August 13, 2006 6:00 - 9:00pm
    Red Lion Bellevue Inn (11211 Main Street / Bellevue, WA 98004)
    Donations: $30 for adults, $15 for children (4-10)

    This event is being put on by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Arab American Community Coalition to "...raise relief funds for victims of violence in Lebanon and Palestine. A group of recent evacuees from the affected region will be at the event and will recount the conditions there.

    The charities which will be present to receive pledges from attendees at this event will be Islamic Relief Worldwide ( and Mercy Corps International ( We will be accepting phone-pledges to either of these charities from 6pm till 9pm on the day of the event. The three numbers to call to do so are: 206.306.5243, 206.661.8887, and 206.714.8269. These numbers will only be activated during the event."


    I'll likely post on this later, but I wish we could hold an event and not invite the socialists. They are instant death to the legitimacy of any rally and generally spread a message that distracts from the true intent of the rally.

    Also, in a previous post I expressed concern that Israel's actions were "marginalizing centrist voices." According to the New York Times today, that seem to be precisely what is occurring. It's not that I'm clairvoyant, it's that this was entirely predictable, and Israel ignores the repercussions of its actions at its own peril.

    Re-open wound

    "World Trade Center" comes out today. The film resurrects the Twin Towers so that they may be cinematically destroyed - in turn resurrecting our fearful memories of the date that President Bush (in fact, the entire American government and echoing press) has since turned into a cheap Pavlovian trigger. [Aug 29: I previously mistaked this as a "Skinnerian" response - while the two psychologists conducted similar research, my friend Tim pointed out the error.] Like the bell that makes the dog salivate - ringing "9/11" somehow works to make our nation a little more innocent, our conquests a little more justified, our ignorance a little more reasonable, and our obedience a little more necessary. The collective effect seems to be a profound chilling of public discourse about what really has happened since September 11, 2001.

    When the first plane hit in New York City, it was about 5:30am here in Seattle and I was a junior in high school. As a member of the jazz band, I had daily jazz rehearsal at 6:30am, and so I was surprised to awake to confused NPR voices reporting a very unusual airplane accident. I turned my alarm clock off and listed into the shower, silently remembering to flip on the television downstairs before I left for school to see some pictures of what the radio was talking about.

    My initial reaction was: what was wrong with this pilot? I also felt a little weird... and then as I stared at the billowing smoke in the corner of the living room, the reporter suddenly began to scream and the camera panned out to show a dark spot racing towards the other tower. The second plane disappeared into the first fireball I'd ever seen on live TV. I'm shivering a bit as I write this.

    A few kids in the jazz band knew what was happening, but most didn't - most weren't news junkies like me. But when first period started and the rest of the band arrived for symphonic rehearsal, the towers were all that anyone talked about. My friend Tim tried to convince me that the Pentagon had been hit, but I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard. Mr. Rice left the classroom to find out what was going on. Someone stood on a chair to turn on the TV in the band room, and we all gathered around to watch. One of the towers was now missing. The camera showed footage of trapped office workers jumping. And in front of our eyes, the other tower sank into itself, leaving dust and an image I'll never forget.

    The next morning, our ASB president went on the school intercom to urge careful consideration of what had happened, and especially respect for students from the similar backgrounds as those who had perpetrated the attack. Many of my friends joined bands of students on freeway overpasses to wave gigantic American flags. I almost went too. I found myself chanting "USA! USA! USA!" at least twice within that school year. I remember supporting completely our invasion of Afghanistan. Editorial cartoonists across the country drew Lady Liberty with her head in her hands, weeping. I cried when I first saw it.

    About one-and-a-half years later... President Bush delivered his cowboy ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, threatening destruction if he didn't comply. By this time, America had succeeded in completely alienating the entire diplomatic community except for Tony Blair and Ariel Sharon. That night, I recall an acute sense of shame for being a citizen, a voter, in a country that was committing a gross abuse of power. I knew back then that Iraq had no weapons - as did France, Russia, and China. The former chief U.N. inspector, an American named Scott Ritter, had been making an exhaustive circuit of Sunday morning news programs to call the Bush Administration on its lie and to appeal to Americans to demand more evidence of Iraq's capability and belligerence. Unfortunately, he failed.

    Joe Lieberman has only just now paid the price for kneeling to Bush's clutch of arrows. But Lieberman is hardly the only one to lose due to the American conquest - 40,000 Iraqi civilians, 2,500 American soldiers, and countless families displaced and wounded...

    When the Twin Towers go up and down again on the silver screen these next few weeks, there's no reason we shouldn't remember and venerate those moments that day that brought out a nationalism in even someone as resistant to it as me. But to stop there would be to DENY the lives lost since then in the name of that same day. To take away only pride and self-righteousness from this film would be to close our eyes to the destruction America has wrought upon its neighbors worldwide, and to ignore the fear that has spread within the Republic itself. This film must also remind us of what those in power have used 9/11 for: empire, profit, polarization, and crusade.

    The wound of 9/11 was bandaged with snake-oil. Now a film opens the cut again - this time, with the benefit of history, we can begin to set things right. The balm for deception is resistance.

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    The Right to Kill

    The NRA has long contended that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Well, now they're lobbying state legislatures around the country to allow people to do just that and so far 15 states have gone for it. The New York Times article has a few examples of the laws invocation to avoid legal penalty, such as:

  • A prostitute who took a 72-year-old client's gun and killed him rather than just walk away;
  • A man who shot his neighbor after an argument about the number of garbage cans he had put out;
  • A cab driver who killed an inebriated passenger after dropping him off.

    In the words of a professor from the Brooklyn Law School, "In effect, the law allows citizens to kill other citizens in defense of property." And conservatives accuse liberals of being materialistic? Right, I'll be sure to take that one seriously next time....

    Think about it friends, if this law would have been around in 18th century France, none of us would have had to endure Les Miserables, for Valjean would be dead! Oh, expansion of extrajudicial death penalties, thank you legislatures! Go NRA, huh?

    I doubt they'll target Washington State, but if so we will absolutely revisit this issue.
  • Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Back in Seattle

    Hawaii is now simply a memory (but the pounds gained from the loco moco and to be gained from the chocolate covered macadamia nuts are my destiny). The time away gave me some time to reflect on matters and receive feedback on this blog, particularly on my discussion of the situation in Lebanon.

    First, I'd like to respond to a bit of misunderstanding. What Hezbollah does when it indiscriminately targets Israeli civilians is morally reprehensible. The reason I spend less time discussing this point is that there is little disagreement that this is wrong. My point here is to persuade and if we agree, that is a subject I needn't spend my time on. Instead I write about the actions of Israel, which have taken the lives of hundreds Lebanese civilians and yet there is disagreement as to whether or not that is acceptable. (Keeping everything in perspective, where Hezbollah claims it is trying to kill civilians and the Israeli military claims it is trying not to, the Israeli military has killed somewhere to the effect of ten times as many.)

    Should Hezbollah be disarmed? Absolutely. But Israel is not the power to do that. Israel cannot militarily stop foreign organizations, terrorist or otherwise - only the people of Lebanon can do so in the long term. And here's the kicker, as Israel invades Lebanon and wreaks havoc on its infrastructure, killing hundreds of civilians, to the Lebanese people Israel appears as exactly the threat that Hezbollah has always claimed it was. Such a situation only serves to marginalize centrist voices, the very centrist voices necessary to marginalize extremist voices.

    Obviously many things have gone wrong to this point, but that's no excuse to make it worse. What we need to begin with is a ceasefire. Hezbollah said it would cease its rocket attacks if Israel were to cease its aerial bombardments on Lebanese cities (aerial bombardments killing hundreds of civilians which should cease anyway). In the long-run the Lebanese military will need to assert control over the south of Lebanon - everyone agrees on that. In the meantime a truly international force must take over. Wwhat cannot happen is for a U.S., NATO, or, heaven forbid, Israeli force to lead peacekeeping efforts - any of those options would not be seen as legitimate. Israel and the U.S. must immediately and publicly commit to completely rebuilding the Lebanese infrastructure. They must also provide military assistance to the Lebanese government that it will be possible for it to disarm Hezbollah. Israel must demonstrate, not simply articulate, its desire to see Lebanon prosper as a democratic state. Once Israel appears as a symbol of regional humanitarian assistance, economic development, and stability extremist voices in the region can be marginalized, but so long as it appears as a symbol of occupation and regional instability, the extremists can flourish.

    For now, U.S. policy is key. If the U.S. were to call for a ceasefire, Israel would agree to a ceasefire. Key to U.S. policy is the will of the American public, and that is what we are here to address. Stay tuned for information about upcoming events.