Friday, December 17, 2004

The Validity of Jeremy Hinzman’s Refugee Claim

Last week a Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) heard the case of Jeremy Hinzman, a U.S. army deserter who is seeking refugee status in Canada. The hearing lasted about three days, and as far as I am aware no ruling has been issued and I don’t know when one will be. Hinzman is seeking refugee status in Canada. "We are allowed to argue that the conduct of the war on the ground is sufficiently outside the Geneva Conventions that Mr. Hinzman ought not to be associated with it. He should not be compelled to participate in an activity which is in violation of the Geneva Conventions," said his lawyer Jeffrey House. However, the IRB accepted the government’s ruling that the illegally of the Iraq war is irrelevant to the hearing, and that Hinzman’s refugee claim must be accepted on the basis of expected harm should he return to the United States.

I think the IRB’s decision is blatantly wrong. When one joins the army one makes a commitment to defend one’s country in return for certain benefits, including pay and education. Whether or not everyone who joins the army believes this, it seems evident that most people who volunteer for the army believe they will only be fighting in just wars. That is wars that satisfy the criteria of just war theory, that is both jus ad bellum and jus in bello. This is a reasonable expectation that most soldiers have; they do not join the army believing they will be called to duty to engage in wars that are fought for unjust purposes, be they imperial, territorial or unjust in some other manner.

To force someone to go to jail or face other persecution for disobeying an unjust order is criminal. We would not punish a policeman who disobeyed a commander’s order and refused to shoot an unarmed burglary suspect. We would not punish someone who disobeyed a commander’s orders in Vietnam and refused to engage in a village massacre. In fact, we would likely consider both men to be moral examples; heroes, in some manner. If one accepts the Iraq war as illegal, or even if one does not believe it conforms to the standards of just war theory, and I agree with both arguments, then I cannot see how Mr. Hinzman should be denied refugee status. Canada does not extradite murder suspects if they face the death penalty because as a society we consider the death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment. So it seems hypocritical to send Mr. Hinzman to face punishment for refusing to participate in something our society refused to participate in and which, while the government may not say so directly, we consider to be a wrong action.

Margaret Wente wrote a column about a week ago where she said we shouldn’t recognise Mr. Hinzman’s claim because there are plenty of gay Jamaicans facing persecution because of their sexual orientation. While that is true and the attitudes towards gays and lesbians in Jamaica is abhorrent, this is, as far as I can tell, a false dichotomy. I do not believe that granting Mr. Hinzman and his family refugee status will immediately lead the IRB to pick up the phone and tell a homosexual Jamaican, a Libyan democracy-advocate and an adulterous Saudi Arabian female that Canada can no longer accept their claims and that they must return to their home countries. I don’t believe the refugee system works with an exact quota like that, and if it does then it is quite an illogical and harmful way to operate. While Ms. Wente may have a case if Mr. Hinzman’s successful claim which allowed him to avoid 5 or 10 years in jail meant that someone had to return to Libya to face execution, it’s not the way the refugee system works. A successful claim by Mr. Hinzman will not have any substantial effect on the success or failure of anyone else’s claim, besides setting a precedent for similar cases.

At least in her column Ms. Wente recognised that Mr. Hinzman’s conscientious claim seemed to be legitimate and not the case of someone who joined the army but then found himself in over his head. Many people portray Mr. Hinzman as someone who wanted the benefits the army had to offer, but was unwilling to actually engage in warfare when the time came. He was a naïve and cowardly youngster who didn’t appreciate the consequences of what he committed to and one cannot accept such a refugee claim, the thinking goes. This line of thinking overlooks certain facts, which I found curiously underreported in most coverage of the Hinzman case. The fact that most contradicts this portrayal of Mr. Hinzman is that he served in active duty in Afghanistan, making many parachute jumps before transferring to non-combative duties. Despite already beginning his familiarity with the Quaker movement, Mr. Hinzman participated in the Afghanistan war. His pacifistic tendencies are obviously legitimate, but Mr. Hinzman did not desert from his duties in Afghanistan. He only did so in Iraq because he believed that war was unjust. His is an honest refugee claim founded on the basis of objection to a war that he believed is unjust, and therefore it would be unjust to participate in. There can be no basis for denying his claim, but by eliminating the legality question which serves as the basis for the objection, I fear the IRB board is setting themselves up to do just that.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Marine's True Love

This is too good not to post, even if it means a break from my pitiful studying session.

Here's a romantic tale sure to warm many a girl's heart. From AP:

VICTORVILLE, Calif. - When Marine Lance Cpl. David Battle learned he'd
either have to sacrifice his ring finger or the wedding band he wore, he told
doctors at a field hospital in Iraq to cut off the finger.

The 19-year-old former high school football star suffered a
mangled left hand and serious wounds to his legs in a Nov. 13 fire fight in
Fallujah. Battle, who is recovering at his parents' home in this desert city 80
miles northeast of Los Angeles, came under attack as he and fellow Marines
entered a building. Eleven other Marines were wounded.

Doctors were preparing to cut off Battle's ring to save as much of his
finger as they could.
"But that would mean destroying my wedding ring," he
said. "My wife is the strongest woman I know. She's basically running two
people's lives since I've been gone. I don't think I could ever repay her or
show her how grateful ... how much I love my wife, my soul mate."

This couple met when they were in the 8th grade and were married in June, which is somewhat unfathomable to me. To marry someone when you are 18 seems so far removed from what I have know that it's hard to grasp making a lifetime committment to another person at that age. Let alone someone you met when you were in the 8th grade. In the 8th grade I was probably still telling fart jokes and trying to sneak into rated R movies, not preparing myself to meet the woman I'd marry.

However, this Corporal Battle is quite the gentleman. Never having been married myself, I can't say what I've done in that situation, but I'm a real fan of my fingers. If it was a toe, maybe I'd be more inclined not to destroy a symbol of love, but for a finger I'd probably have to pass. Still, this shows the devotion this marine has to his wife.

Nevertheless, the best part of the story is still to come

With his approval, doctors severed his finger, but somehow in the chaos that
followed, they lost his ring.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Rumsfeld’s Press Conference

What does it say about the current state of the U.S. media that one of the only times Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defence for a war that even conservatives must admit has been mismanaged and is facing severe resistance, is subject to sharp questions is when he addresses troops in the field? More than a little, I’d say.

Congratulations to people such as Specialist Thomas Wilson for doing the job the White House press corps has been unable, but more often unwilling, to do.

Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt to their trucks.

"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 soldiers assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary.

A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" that will affect National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

Mr. Rumsfeld, 72, said all organizations had equipment, materials and spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed it most. He said adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."


But the complaints by the soldiers here are likely to revive accusations that the Bush administration did not anticipate the kind of tenacious insurgency confronting troops in Iraq, and that the Pentagon is still struggling to provide enough basic supplies, such as body armor, and fortified Humvees and other vehicles.

In October, an Army Reserve unit disobeyed orders to deliver fuel to a base in Iraq, complaining that its vehicles had not been properly outfitted. This month, the Army raised its goal for replacing regular Humvee utility vehicles in Iraq with armored versions, to 8,000 vehicles from 4,000. The soldiers' concerns may also rekindle suspicions among many National Guard and Reserve troops that they are receiving equipment that is inferior to what their active-duty counterparts get, despite assurances from senior Army officials that all Army troops are treated equitably.

These sorts of concerns shouldn’t have to be “rekindled” only when Rumsfeld is held accountable by troops in the field, and his glib answers to serious questions say an awful lot. Yet, he will remain part of Bush’s cabinet for the next four years.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Friend Today, Criminal Tomorrow

I should be doing any number of things that aren’t blogging, but this gem from Atrios is too good not to pass on.

From Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s website and the Associated Press, posted on December 6, 2004:

<>Bush signs Tax Relief Act

By DAVID PITT Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

President Bush visited the swing state of Iowa on Monday to sign the Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004, which he said would mean lower tax bills for 94 million Americans.

"It comes at just the right time for America. Some of the provisions were set to expire at the end of 2004 ..." he said. "That would have been a setback for hardworking families of America and a setback for our economy."

Bush introduced Mike and Sharla Hintz, a couple from Clive, whom he said benefited from his tax plan.

Last year, because of the enhanced the child tax credit, they received an extra $1,600 in their tax refund, Bush said. With other tax cuts in the bill, they saved $2,800 on their income taxes.

They used the money to buy a wood-burning stove to more efficiently heat their home, made some home improvements and went on a vacation to Minnesota, the president said.

"Next year, maybe they'll want to come to Texas," Bush quipped.

Mike Hintz, a First Assembly of God youth pastor, said the tax cuts also gave him additional money to use for health care.

He said he supports Bush's values.

"The American people are starting to see what kind of leader President Bush is. People know where he stands," he said.

"Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that's going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that's going to stand by what he believes.

"Everybody that I've talked to are saying that things are going to start going his way," Hintz said.

Surrounded by Republican members of Iowa's congressional delegation, Bush signed the bill and handed the pen to Sen. Charles Grassley, giving him credit for getting the bill passed.

White House spokesman Jim Morrell said last week that the bill-signing ceremony was a way "for the president to show his appreciation for Sen. Grassley's leadership on this issue."

Grassley, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, also took some gentle ribbing from the president for a current campaign commercial that shows him mowing his lawn. In the ad, Grassley is on a riding lawnmower, towing two push-mowers on ropes behind him to broaden his path.

"The south lawn of the White House has a lot of grass. I'm looking for somebody to mow it," Bush told Grassley. "Mr. Chairman, you should now be known as grass-mower."

And today, from KCCI Channel 8 in

First Assembly Of God Church Fires Reverend

POSTED: 6:49 am CST December 7, 2004
11:40 am CST December 7, 2004

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A Des Moines youth pastor is charged with sexual exploitation by a counselor.

KCCI learned that the married father of four recently turned himself in to Johnston police.

Rev. Mike Hintz was fired from the First Assembly of God Church, located at 2725 Merle Hay Road, on Oct. 30. Hintz was the youth pastor there for three years.

Police said he started an affair with a 17-year-old woman in the church youth group this spring.

Church officials fired Hintz immediately after hearing the allegations.

"They did acknowledge with their congregation that Mr. Hintz had made apparently some admissions to his inappropriate activity, and they took a proactive approach and immediately terminated him from his position," Johnston police Sgt. Lynn Aswegan said.

Now, if that happened to Clinton, what are the odds it would have been a minor scandal, complete with front page coverage on the newspapers, and would have remained fodder for the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter for months? I suspect very high.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Wonderful Laws of Kentucky

Most cities in Kentucky, including Louisville as an example, do not outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, Kentucky is not stingy when it comes to outlawing discrimination. It’s just peculiarly picky:

[u]Kentucky Revised Statues, Sec. 344.040[em]

It is an unlawful practice for an employer:

(1) To fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against an individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of the individual's race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age forty (40) and over, because the person is a qualified individual with a disability, or because the individual is a smoker or nonsmoker, as long as the person complies with any workplace policy concerning smoking;. . . .

No comment necessary. However, I wonder if the tobacco lobby could get me out of this exam I have to write Thursday….

Damn Library

Now for a rare personal story. I am really pissed with my university’s library. I was at the library today and I got bored of “studying” so I decided to see what baseball books they had. I found the surprisingly large section and began to look through the books. Then I nearly shit my pants.

They had a copy of a 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract. That probably means nothing to most people, but if you know about baseball you’ll know what a rare find that is. Bill James, even if you question some of his conclusions, is a god in the analytic baseball community. His story is fascinating, but I won’t go into here. Suffice to say he began self-publishing annuals in 1977 that were revolutionary. James created new, and better, stats to analyse players with and he investigated myths that often got bandied about in the baseball world (and still do), and tried to determine if they are true. He’s made huge strides in all sorts of fields from aging analysis to measuring defensive ability to predicting future performance.

Anyhow, his old baseball abstracts, which he stopped publishing in 1988, I believe, are extremely rare to find (I’ve never seen one in person) and only seen a couple for sale on the internet that were quite expensive. So as I was freaking out I looked at the back and saw that this book hadn’t been checked out since May, 1989.

Then I got a brainstorm. I could buy the book from the library, and they could use my money to go buy a book on hydraulic engines or the philosophy of impressionist art, and I would get to own my very own abstract. So I went to the checkout counter to ask the guy and he said, “We don’t sell books.” So I pointed out that it hasn’t been checked out since 1989, and seeing as how it contains baseball stats from 1981, I doubt it will ever be used again. He replied, “Sorry, we just don’t have procedure in place to sell books at this time. If we decide to remove a book from circulation, we will give it to charity.”

What bullshit. No poor kid is going to want a 1982 Bill James Baseball Abstract. He’ll just use it as toilet paper. So I went back and read one of the other baseball books for an hour and then I asked a different librarian how much they charge for a lost book. “$100,” she says. “Or else you can see the librarian to try to work something out.”

So I checked out the book. I might fake having lost it and I’ll see what they say, but it’ll have to be casual, because I obviously don’t want to pay $100 for it, so I’ll have to use words like “I think I lost it” and “you certainly look lovely today.”

Man, this is a book of baseball stats about the 1981 season that hasn’t been checked out in 15 years. It has no use to anyone in a university setting. I could come back to Queen’s in 20 years and I bet the book would still be there, and wouldn’t have been read since 2004. Stupid lending library that doesn’t double as a bookstore.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Pitcher Arrested for Receiving Oral Sex from Prostitute

Colorado Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle was arrested Friday for receiving a blowjob from a prostitute. This story from the Rocky Mountain News is worth a read, because it’s funny.

Some gems include:

Neagle, 36, of Morrison, told Lakewood police he was "being stupid," according to a police report.

When Neagle reached for his wallet, the officer noticed the pitcher's belt was undone.

When asked why it was unbuckled, Neagle told the officer he was just getting comfortable.

But the woman who was in the car with Neagle, Jill Russell, 40, told police that she had performed oral sex on him for $40. She was issued a summons for prostitution.

Smooth excuse, Denny. You’d think for $40 he could maybe get someone a bit younger. Or maybe I’ve got the prostitution market all wrong. Regardless, here is a picture of Neagle’s wife, and while I don’t know what this woman looks like, based on these photos of recent prostitution arrests in St. Paul, I have to question Neagle’s sanity.

And finally, in what was by far the funniest line of the article:

Police ticketed Neagle for solicitation of prostitution, seized his $40 as evidence and explained his upcoming court date, to which Neagle responded:


Friday, December 03, 2004

Anna Benson: Baseball’s Hottest Wife

Anna Benson, wife of New York Mets pitcher Kris Benson, was recently voted the hottest wife in baseball by FHM magazine. She returned the favour by doing a photo spread for them. I’m not that impressed, but they are only four photos and my thoughts are obviously pretty irrelevant in the whole matter. Furthermore, she looks better here, here and here. She has her own official website. Not bad for an ex-stripper and model, but a baseball player having a good-looking wife is not news in itself.

What is news, that even non-baseball fans should enjoy, is that Mrs. Benson recently appeared on the Howard Stern radio show. As reported by The New York Post (see their archives for December 1st) here are some quotes:

"I told him [Kris] — because that's the biggest thing in athletics, they cheat all the time — I told him, cheat on me all you want. If you get caught, I'm going to s- - -w everybody on your entire team — coaches, trainers, players. I would do everybody on his whole team."

"Everybody would get a turn," Anna pledged. "If my husband cheated on me and embarrassed me like that, I will embarrass him more than he could ever imagine."

Even Robin Quivers got in on it: "What about groundskeepers?"

"If I'm lining them up," Anna said, "I'll [also] circle into other teams. Whatever team he's playing, I will s- - -w all them too."

Stern asked: "What if your husband, the great pitcher, comes to you and says, 'Honey, I need two women at the same time. I need you to do that for me?' "

Anna replied, "You know, if that's what he came to me and said that he needed, then that's what he would get, because he is my entire universe. I adore my husband. He's a saint . . . he took me out of hell" — a reference to her years on her own.

I’m not sure what I’d say if my wife said that. Well, I think I know what I’d say if she said the latter, but with regards to the other comments, I don’t know. What I do know is that, my personal thoughts on her looks included, if I was a New York Mets trainer or groundskeeper I’d send whores back to Benson’s hotel room every night. Every single night. She’s not unattractive, she sound like a good lay (read her comments over at FHM about their frequency of sex and blowjobs in the car) and I’d love to see the shit hit the fan. If Kris Benson is careless this could be one of countless intriguing stories in the 2005 baseball season.

(Posts around here will grow less frequent as I enter a busy exam period and end what has been, pretty generally, a shitty term.)