Friday, May 16, 2008


Some stories I found interesting enough to put on my inside pages this morning include:

This analysis of the California gay marriage ban's overturning:

Not long into the oral argument before the California Supreme Court in March over whether gay and lesbian couples have a constitutional right to marry, Chief Justice Ronald M. George showed his hand.

Three times he quoted from the court’s 1948 decision in Perez v. Sharp that struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, a high point in the history of a prestigious and influential court.

“The essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” Chief Justice George said, quoting Perez.

This piece on the dire need of U.S. intel agencies for help from immigrants, and the various reasons immigrants are reluctant to cooperate.

The U.S. is its own worst enemy when it comes to the desperately important task of recruiting immigrants as spies, analysts and translators in the war on terror, new Americans are telling intelligence officials. The government's policies raise suspicions and fear in the immigrants' home countries and disturb potential recruits here who might otherwise want to help.

The U.S. knows it needs the help. At the heart of a Friday summit with immigrant groups was a stark reality: The intelligence agencies lack people who can speak the languages that are needed most, such as Arabic, Farsi and Pashtu. More importantly, the agencies lack people with the cultural awareness that enables them to grasp the nuances embedded in dialect, body language and even street graffiti.

Complicated on many levels. I've already said I think our CIA is a rotten mistake. But if we've got it and we want it to have a halfway chance at competence (wouldn't that be nice?) we are going to need these people.

And if we're really serious that Islamism is a threat to our very survival as a nation, as a people, we really need them desperately. Which is why we ought to pay attention when some of the leaders among them suggest reasons more aren't enlisting in the intel forces.

What's perplexing to me is the same people in our commentariat who seem most fired up about the Islamist threat are most critical of the government when it pussyfoots around terminology like GWOT and Jihad and Islamofascism. If you read these sorts of stories, you'll see it's the intel chiefs and the military men, not the pointy heads in the State Department, who really want these sorts of changes. Sometimes pussyfooting is a policy.

But I also read the comments of the immigrant critics with some skepticism. Already, simply by being where they are, they have defined themselves as different from the mass of their fellows.

I know that America has a terrible image problem in the world right now, as they say repeatedly in this article. But is it really because of the Japanese internment camps? Is it even really because of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- yes, those hurt us in Europe, but Europe isn't what we're concerned about now.

When you read accounts of what is widely believed as ironclad truth about America and what it does, the things that are taken as truth in the Arab world and South Asia -- even in our putative allies like Turkey -- the facts that have come out about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are fairly petty by comparison. The truth of what we do when we commit crimes matters a great deal to us: Eliminating all those problems wouldn't solve our image problem among the populations where the hate and lies about us have been sown so well and so thoroughly for so long.

Finally, there's this one. My reaction to the FCLDS story has been visceral all along, and I sense most of the commenters don't agree with it. So, without comment, this:

When Texas child welfare authorities released statistics showing nearly 60 percent of the teen girls taken from a polygamist sect's ranch were pregnant or had children, they seemed to prove what was alleged all along: The sect commonly pushed girls into marriage and sex.

But in the past week, the state has twice been forced to admit "girls" who gave birth while in state custody are actually adults. One was 22 and claims she showed state officials a Utah birth certificate shortly after she and more than 400 minors were seized from the west Texas ranch in an April raid.

The state has in custody two dozen other young mothers and others whose ages are in dispute. If most of them also turn out to be adults, it would be a severe blow to the state's claim of widespread sexual abuse.

If it turns out the other 24 disputed minors are adults, the number of actual 14- to 17-year-old girls with children could drop to as low as five or six. That would amount to about one-fifth of the girls that age found at the ranch — substantially higher than the average rate of teen pregnancies in Texas but a far cry from 60 percent.