There was an error in this gadget

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oh, No! It's Making Well-Reasoned Arguments Backed With Facts! Run!

I…I think it's finally over. Our reactionary emotional response seems to have stopped it dead in its tracks. If I'm right, all we have to do now is smugly reiterate our half-formed thesis and—oh, no! For the love of God, no! It's thoughtfully mulling things over!

Run! Run! It's making reasonable, fact-based arguments!

Quickly! Hide behind self-righteousness! The ad hominem rejoinders—ready the ad hominem rejoinders! Watch out! Dodge the issue at hand! Question its character and keep moving haphazardly from one flawed point to the next!

All together now! Put every bit of secondhand conjecture into it you've got!

Goddamn it, nothing's working! It's trapped us in our own unsubstantiated claims! We need to switch fundamentally unsound tactics. Hurry, throw up the straw man! Look, I think it's going for it. C'mon…c'mon…yes, it's going for it! Now hit it with the thing that one guy told us once while it's distracted by our ludicrous rationalizations!

Gah! It's calmly and evenhandedly deflecting everything we're throwing at it. Our deductive fallacies are only making it stronger! Wait…what on earth is it doing now? Oh, no, it has sources! My God, it's defending itself with ironclad sources! Someone stop the citing! Please, please stop the citing!

The language is impenetrable! For all that is good and holy, backpedal with all your might!

Where are the children? Someone overprotect the children! They cannot be exposed to this kind of illuminative reasoning. Their young, open minds are much too vulnerable to independent thought. We have to shield them behind our unshakeable intolerance for critical thinking.

What?!? Noooooooooo! Richard! For the love of God, it's convinced Richard!

No time for tears now. Richard's mind has been changed forever. But we mustn't let it weaken our resolve. Mark my words, our ignorance will hold, no matter the cost. Now, more than ever, we have to keep floundering ahead with blind faith in our increasingly fallacious worldview.

For Richard's sake.

What's that? Now it's making an appeal to reason? Never! Do you hear me, you eloquent, well-read behemoth? Never! We'll die before we recognize what we secretly know to be true! The cognitive dissonance only makes our denial stronger!

We have but one hope left: passive-aggressive slights disguised as impersonal discourse.† Okay, everyone, careful now…careful…if this is going to work, we have to arrogantly assume that it won't be smart enough to catch on to our attempt to salvage some feeling of superiority and—oh, God, it's calling us out! Quick, avoid eye contact and stammer an apology! Tell it we were just joking! Tell it we were joking!

Arrgh! Our pride! Oh, Lord, our pride! It burns!

All is lost. We don't stand a chance against its relentless onslaught of exhaustive research and immaculate rhetoric. We may as well lie down and—Christ, how it pains me to say it—admit that it's right. My friends, I would like to take these last few moments of stubborn close-mindedness to say that it's been an honor to dig myself into this hole with you.

Unless…wait, of course! Why didn't we think of it before? Volume! Sheer volume! It's so simple. Quickly now, we don't have much time! Don't let it get a word in edgewise! Derisively cut it off mid-sentence! Now, launch the sophomoric personal attacks! Louder, yes, that's it, louder! Be repetitive, juvenile, and obstinate! It's working! It's working!

We've done it! It's walking away and shaking its head in disgust! Huzzah! Finally—defeated with a single three-minute volley of irrelevant, off-topic shouting!

Will the Antichrist be a homosexual?

In answering this question, it is important to assert the question does not originate with me, lest someone out there think that I am bringing some new doctrine out to bolster the political climate. But as the study of Bible prophecy includes verbiage as to the behavior of the one called “that Wicked” by Paul in II Thessalonians, it is not only a legitimate question to ask, but also one to answer.

While the word “homosexual” is not in the Bible, the behavior of those who practice homosexuality, and God’s estimation of them, very definitely is. When the word came into existence I cannot tell you, but what we can say for sure is that when Noah Webster published his first dictionary in 1828, it was not included. This means that homosexuality is a modern word invented to replace the word Noah Webster did include, sodomy, defined as a crime against nature. This is historical revisionism in action.

Sodomy is defined in scripture by two things, the first being that of where it began: Sodom. In Genesis 13:13 we have the first mention of the men of Sodom, pronouncing that they “were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Their saga is continued in chapters 18 and 19 with their sin being so great that not only does God say that it “is very grievous,” but he himself comes down to destroy them with fire, the rubble of which still stands as a warning to us today.


While the Genesis account does not graphically describe their sin, leading some to deny it as being the same as homosexuality, their sin is obviously just that by how it is described: lying with mankind as with womankind. What other conclusion can be reached when they want to “know” the men who were in Lot’s house, the same word the Bible uses in Genesis 4 in relation to the conception of Cain? And that Lot himself understood their intentions is clear; not only did he call such behavior wicked, but he also offered his virgin daughters as substitutes, which the men of Sodom refused.

And one more thing: Sodomy is the only sin for which God came down from heaven to destroy. Though God dealt with many other sins in various ways, there is no other for which he came down from heaven to verify and destroy. In the New Testament, sodomy is declared to be “against nature.” And of the men, Paul in Romans 1 says they leave “the natural use of the woman....” In effect, there is no greater sin against God than to reject how he made you, and no greater sin against women than to reject how God made them.

But will the Antichrist be a homosexual? Having seen what the Bible says of sodomy, we have no further to look than the book of Daniel, chapter 11 to find our answer. It says, “Neither shall he [Antichrist] regard... the desire of women....” As I said at the onset, I am not the first to draw attention to this, but the verbiage is clear.

From a lost perspective, the reason sex sells, pornography is profitable, and prostitution is “the world’s oldest profession” is mankind’s desire of women. From Christianity’s position, it is part of the glue for the bond of marriage and the propagation of a godly heritage. But homosexuality does not regard this — in their unbridled lusts they burn for their own gender.

But consider this: The time is ripe for such a leader. Indeed, it should not be surprising that the one who is against everything Biblical and Christian should be a partaker of so great a sin; there is no greater way to reject the Creator than to reject your gender and his design for it. And at what other time have we seen such perversion come out of the closets onto our streets, threatening violence if we do not accept their ways?

Is it any wonder that Revelation 13 says that this same Antichrist will make war with the saints of the tribulation, and overcome them? Are they not now readying themselves to make it illegal to “offend” them in any way, calling it hatred to preach against their sin? Is it because they love us? The time is ripe for such a man.

But remember that sodomy is the one sin that God left heaven and came to earth to destroy. Could it be that this will be the predominate sin on earth when Christ descends from the clouds to fight against the armies of wickedness? And will it be just a coincidence that the Antichrist will be the very first occupant of the lake of fire, tasting eternal death 1,000 years before even the devil himself?

Drug Czar's Pot-Potency Claims Go Up In Smoke

A newly released report about marijuana potency undermines previous claims by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) that the drug's potency has hit record highs.

In May, the media ran wild with stories of highly potent pot sweeping the nation, as the ONDCP announced that their testing showed average marijuana potency had topped 10 percent THC-level for the first time ever. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.

"According to the latest data on marijuana samples analyzed to date, the average amount of THC in seized samples has reached a new high of 10.1 percent," reads the announcement by Gil Kerlikowske, the Drug Czar.

But the full report is now available and it shows that the 10-percent bar is only crossed by throwing hash into the equation. Without hash, the average potency was 8.52 percent. The average potency of hash was 20.76 percent.

The Marijuana Policy Project obtained the full report, which is produced by the Marijuana Potency Monitoring Project at the University of Mississippi.

Connoisseurs would enjoy reading the whole thing, which is available here, as it breaks seizures and potency-measurement into "Buds," "Kilobricks," "Loose leaf," "Loose other," "Thai Sticks" and other categories.

There is also debate over whether there is actually a problem with higher-potency marijuana, with advocates arguing that stronger pot means that users end up smoking less for the same effect, thus sparing their lungs.

UPDATED: PA newspaper runs ad calling for assassination of Obama

The Warren Pennsylvania Times-Observer (www.timesobserver.com) published an ad on Thursday calling for the assassination of President Barack Obama.

In our conversation with the publisher, John Elchert, he indicated that his paper was sorry that the ad was published. Today, however, there is no retraction and no apology.

If you believe an apology is in order, you can contact Mr. Elchert at 814... or jelchert@timesobserver.com

The Warren Pennsylvania Times-Observer (http://www.timesobserver.com) published an ad today calling for the assassination of President Barack Obama.

The text of the small classified ad reads, "May Obama follow in the footsteps of Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy!" There is no other text and it has no attribution. The ad may be viewed here http://morrillmajority.org/....

Keystone Progress called the Times-Observer for comment and got a return call from John T. Elchert, the paper’s publisher. Mr. Elchert was extremely apologetic and wanted to make it clear that the ad did not reflect the paper’s policy.

"It is unfortunate that it made it to press," said Elchert. "The person who took the ad didn’t recognize the significance of the names. We cancelled the ad and turned the information over to the authorities."
Mr . Elchert said that he contacted the local police who were forwarding the information to federal authorities.

"Unfortunately, the attitude of the person who placed the ad is too prevalent in Pennsylvania," said Michael Morrill, the executive director of Keystone Progress. "In the last few days we’ve gotten emails calling the president ‘chimp’ and the n-word after he nominated Judge Sotomayor. It makes it very difficult to organize around issues when the opposition to the president’s policies is so racially charged. "

Keystone Progress http://www.keystoneprogress.org is the organization that exposed the racism and hatred at McCain and Palin rallies in Pennsylvania http://www.youtube.com/... They are also helping to organize the campaign to get Governor Rendell to speak out against the beating death of Latino immigrant Luis Ramirez last year in Schuylkill County. http://presente.org/...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments

supremecourtpost The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments

Rumor has it that BHO may break with tradition in making his first Supreme Court pick. He could nominate an African-American or Hispanic woman, or he could find someone who no pundit has on the short list. The justice he’s replacing, David Souter, came out of nowhere back in 1990—but he wasn’t unlikely enough to crack our list of the most surprising Supreme Court justices in history. brennan The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments

5. William Brennan (Served 1956-1990)
Surprise Factor:
Catholic Democrats from New Jersey and Republican Presidents don’t typically see eye-to-eye.
Presidential Rationale: It was politics pure and simple—President Eisenhower was looking to curry favor with Northeastern voters in his bid for re-election that same year.
Legacy: Brennan proved to be one of the most influential liberal justices in the Court’s history; he voted with the majority in Roe v. Wade and wrote several opinions defending free speech. Eisenhower later admitted his selection had been a mistake, though Brennan’s liberal views arguably helped fuel conservative electoral turnout in the decades ahead.

white The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments4. Edward White (1894-1921)
Surprise Factor:
A Louisiana native, White had served in the Confederate Army for two years before being captured by Union troops and held as a prisoner of war.
Presidential Rationale: President Grover Cleveland appointed White to the Court in as a compromise pick after his top two choices—both Northerners from New York—couldn’t get through Senate confirmations.
Legacy:
White served on the Court for three decades and sided with the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson that upheld segregation.

clark The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments3. Tom C. Clark (1949-1967)
Surprise Factor: Can you imagine Jay Bybee—the author of the torture memo used by the Bush administration—on the Supreme Court? There’s precedent: during World War II, Clark served as the Justice Department’s civilian coordinator of the Japanese internment in California.
Presidential Rationale:
Clark was a close friend of President Harry Truman.
Legacy:
Truman called Clark’s appointment his “biggest mistake,” but not for the his role in the internment. As Truman put it, “It isn’t so much that he’s a bad man. It’s just that he’s such a dumb son of a bitch.” That’s probably the best that can be said of Bybee, too.

jamesmc The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments2. James McReynolds (1914-1941)
Surprise Factor: McReynolds, a testy Southerner, had a knack for irritating or offending all who came in contact with him. Presidential Rationale: McReynolds is the quintessential example of the annoying, disruptive co-worker getting “kicked upstairs” by management. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him as Attorney General in 1913, and, when McReynolds proved that he did not play well with others in the administration, Wilson appointed him to the Court the following year. Legacy: For almost three decades, McReynolds was a reliably intolerant voice on the Court. An open anti-Semite and misogynist, he often refused to speak or listen to Louis Brandeis, the first Jew appointed to the Court, and he would frequently abandon the bench when a woman lawyer came before the Court to present a case. But, we do haveMcReynolds’ intolerance to thank for the no smoking policy in the Supreme Court building.

black The Five Most Shocking Justice Appointments1. Hugo Black (1937-1971)
Surprise Factor:
Because the inaptly named Justice Black joined the Ku Klux Klan while an aspiring young politician in Alabama (a move he later justified by saying “I would have joined any group if it helped get me votes”).
Presidential Rationale:
While in the Senate, Black had been a loyal supporter of FDR’s New Deal. When FDR nominated Black for the Court in 1937, Black’s Klan membership was merely a rumor, and the Senate, despite reservations, voted to confirm him. Black was hastily sworn in two days later before the KKK connection was confirmed by an ambitious reporter the following month.
Legacy: Black enjoyed one of the longest tenures on the court and later penned the Court’s majority opinion in Korematsu v. United States, validating FDR’s interment of Japanese Americans.

Chertoff Gave CIA Green Light to Waterboard Prisoners

By Jason Leopold

In the summer of 2002, Michael Chertoff, then head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, offered assurances to the CIA that its interrogators would not face prosecution under anti-torture laws if they followed guidelines on interrogation techniques approved by the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Those guidelines stretched the rules on permissible treatment of detainees by narrowly defining torture as intense pain equivalent to organ failure or death. Specific interrogation techniques were gleaned from a list of methods that the U.S. military feared might be used against American soldiers if they were captured by a ruthless enemy.

Four years ago, when Chertoff was facing confirmation hearings to be Homeland Security chief, the New York Times cited three senior-level government sources as describing Chertoff’s Criminal Division as fielding questions from the CIA about whether its officers risked prosecution if they employed certain harsh techniques.

“One technique the CIA officers could use under circumstances without fear of prosecution was strapping a subject down and making him experience a feeling of drowning,” the Times reported.

In other words, Chertoff appears to have green-lighted the technique known as “waterboarding,” which has been regarded as torture since the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

Chertoff reportedly did object to some other procedures, such as death threats against family members and mind-altering drugs that would change a detainee’s personality, the Times reported. [NYT, Jan. 29, 2005]

During his Senate confirmation hearings in February 2005, Chertoff denied providing the CIA with legal guidance on the use of specific interrogation methods, such as waterboarding. Rather, he said he gave the agency broad guidance in response to questions about interrogation methods.

"You are dealing in an area where there is potential criminality," Chertoff said in describing his advice to the CIA. "You better be very careful to make sure that whatever you decide to do falls well within what is required by law."

Nevertheless, the evidence continues to build that Chertoff’s assurances gave CIA interrogators confidence they would avoid prosecution as long as they stayed within the permissive guidelines devised by deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo and his boss at the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee.

The Abu Zubaydah Case

Chertoff’s reported assurances to CIA agents appear to have led directly to the use of waterboarding against alleged al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in August 2002.

"The CIA was seeking to determine the legal limits of interrogation practices for use in cases like that of Abu Zubaydah, the Qaeda lieutenant who was captured in March 2002," according to the New York Times article.

The Abu Zubaydah case was the first time that waterboarding was used against a prisoner in the “war on terror,” according to Pentagon and Justice Department documents, news reports and several books written about the Bush administration’s interrogation methods.

In The One Percent Doctrine, author Ron Suskind reported that President George W. Bush had become obsessed with Zubaydah and the information he might have about pending terrorist plots against the United States.

"Bush was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind wrote. Bush questioned one CIA briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?"

The waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah was videotaped, but that record was destroyed in November 2005 after the Washington Post published a story that exposed the CIA's use of so-called "black site" prisons overseas to interrogate terror suspects.

John Durham, an assistant attorney general in Connecticut, was appointed special counsel last year to investigate the destruction 92 videotapes, a dozen of which the CIA confirmed showed Zubaydah and another detainee being tortured.

The CIA officials who pressed Chertoff to give assurances protecting CIA interrogators included former CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and his deputy, John Rizzo, according to the New York Times. Muller and Rizzo, who is now the CIA’s general counsel, are at the center of Durham’s probe.

The Times also reported that Chertoff participated in the drafting of the second August 2002 memo written by Bybee and Yoo and released last month. The memo described 10 interrogation methods that CIA interrogators could use against detainees. Those techniques included waterboarding, slamming prisoners heads against a wall, and keeping prisoners awake for up to 11 consecutive days.

Those interrogation techniques were derived from the Army and Air Force’s Survival, Evasion, Rescue, and Escape (SERE) training program. But those techniques were meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by a brutal regime, not as methods for U.S. interrogations.

ACLU Document Release

The American Civil Liberties Union has released more than 300 pages of documents showing that in 2003 military interrogators used methods they learned during SERE training against eight Afghanistan detainees held at the Gardez Detention Facility in southeastern Afghanistan.

Those methods included forcing a detainee to kneel outside in wet clothing, spraying the person with cold water, and punching and kicking a detainee over the course of three weeks.

One of the prisoners, an 18-year-old Afghan militia fighter named Jamal Naseer, later died. The documents released to the ACLU say his body was so severely beaten by his interrogators that it appeared to be a black and green color at the time of his death.

Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney, said the SERE tactics that were approved by the Justice Department were never intended to be used by the U.S. government against its detainees.

The latest disclosures further erode claims by President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that prisoner abuses at Gardez – or the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib – were isolated acts by a few “bad apples.”

To the contrary, it appears that the policies approved by Bush and the assurances provided by Chertoff and others led to the atrocities at the CIA detention centers as well as the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

An action memorandum, dated Feb. 7, 2002, and signed by President Bush, stated that the Geneva Convention did not apply to members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

That, in turn, led Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq to institute a “dozen interrogation methods beyond” the Army’s standard practice under the convention, according to a 2004 report on the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prepared by a panel headed by James Schlesinger.

Sanchez said he based his decision on “the President's Memorandum,” which he said had justified "additional, tougher measures" against detainees, the Schlesigner report said.

Other prisoner abuses resulted from Rumsfeld’s verbal and written authorization in December 2002 allowing interrogators to use “stress positions, isolation for up to 30 days, removal of clothing and the use of detainees' phobias (such as the use of dogs),” according to a separate report issued by Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay.

“From December 2002, interrogators in Afghanistan were removing clothing, isolating people for long periods of time, using stress positions, exploiting fear of dogs and implementing sleep and light deprivation,” the Fay report said.

Mora’s Complaint

Rumsfeld’s approval of certain interrogation methods outlined in a December 2002 action memorandum was criticized by Alberto Mora, the former general counsel of the Navy.

“The interrogation techniques approved by the Secretary [of Defense] should not have been authorized because some (but not all) of them, whether applied singly or in combination, could produce effects reaching the level of torture, a degree of mistreatment not otherwise proscribed by the memo because it did not articulate any bright-line standard for prohibited detainee treatment, a necessary element in any such document,” Mora wrote in a 14-page letter to the Navy’s inspector general.

Additionally, a Dec. 20, 2005, Army Inspector General Report relating to the capture and interrogation of Mohammad al-Qahtani included a sworn statement by Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt. It said Secretary Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke “weekly” with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations between late 2002 and early 2003.

Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who represents al-Qahtani, said in a sworn declaration that his client, imprisoned at Guantanamo, was subjected to months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.

“At Guantánamo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the ‘First Special Interrogation Plan,’ that were authorized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,” Gutierrez said.

“Those techniques were implemented under the supervision and guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, Major General Geoffrey Miller. These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.”

Gutierrez’s claims about the type of interrogation al-Qahtani endured have since been borne out with the release of hundreds of pages of internal Pentagon documents describing interrogation methods at Guantanamo and at least two independent reports about prisoner abuse.

According to the Schlesinger report, orders signed by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003 authorizing brutal interrogations “became policy” at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) completed an investigation late last year to determine, among other issues, whether agency attorneys, including Chertoff, provided the White House and the CIA with poor legal advice when it said CIA interrogators could use harsh interrogation methods against detainees. The report remains classified.

Biden Reveals Location of Secret VP Bunker

Vice President Joe Biden, well-known for his verbal gaffes, may have finally outdone himself, divulging potentially classified information meant to save the life of a sitting vice president.

According to a report, while recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president.

The bunker is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location former Vice President Dick Cheney remained under protection in secret after the 9/11 attacks.

Eleanor Clift, Newsweek magazine's Washington contributing editor, said Biden revealed the location while filling in for President Obama at the dinner, who, along with Grover Cleveland, is the only president to skip the gathering.

According to Clift's report on the Newsweek blog, Biden "said a young naval officer giving him a tour of the residence showed him the hideaway, which is behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment."

Clift continued: "The officer explained that when Cheney was in lock down, this was where his most trusted aides were stationed, an image that Biden conveyed in a way that suggested we shouldn't be surprised that the policies that emerged were off the wall."

On Monday, Biden's press office issued a statement in response to this story, denying the bunker report.

"What the Vice President described in his comments was not -- as some press reports have suggested -- an underground facility, but rather, an upstairs workspace in the residence, which he understood was frequently used by Vice President Cheney and his aides," said Biden's spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander. "That workspace was converted into an upstairs guestroom when the Bidens moved into the residence. There was no disclosure of classified information."

In December 2002, neighbors complained of loud construction work being done at the Naval Observatory, which has been used as a residence by vice presidents since 1974.

The upset neighbors were sent a letter by the observatory's superintendent, calling the work "sensitive in nature" and "classified" and that it was urgent it be completed "on a highly accelerated schedule."

Residents said they believed workers were digging deep into the ground, which would support Biden's report of a secret bunker, but officials never confirmed the purpose of the work performed.

The revelation is the latest from Biden, who has a long history of political blunders.

Most recently, he said in a televised interview that if a family member asked him about traveling he'd advise staying away from public transportation or confined spaces to avoid swine flu -- a remark described as "borderline fearmongering" by an airline spokesman.

Some on left souring on Obama

When President Barack Obama speaks to the Notre Dame commencement Sunday afternoon, television cameras will search the sea of graduates, looking for turned backs and defaced mortar boards that abortion opponents will likely use to register their disagreement with the president.

But the attention to protests from conservatives who don’t support Obama – and almost certainly never would – could obscure the far more significant political threat he now faces.

Barely four months into his presidency, Obama is confronting growing dissatisfaction among members of his liberal base, who feel spurned by a series of his early decisions on issues ranging from guns to torture to immigration to gay rights.

The list got longer last week as Obama reversed his earlier decision to release photos of detainees abused in U.S. military custody and announced plans to try some terror suspects before military commissions – though on the campaign trail he railed against earlier versions of the tribunals.

A few, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, have even hurled the left’s ultimate epithet – suggesting that Obama’s turning into George W. Bush.

The building anger comes at a critical moment – just as Obama’s about to announce his choice for the Supreme Court. Fulfill their dreams of a “liberal Scalia,” a firebrand from the left, and much would be forgiven.

But if Obama opts instead for a decidedly centrist nominee aimed at winning a large number of Republican votes in the Senate, the growing concern could develop into something more politically dangerous.

“Even though I think he can get away with a more centrist candidate, he has to be careful not to be spitting in the eyes of his base,” said Laura Murphy, a lobbyist and former head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office.

“He’s got to be concerned about the cumulative impact dampening the energy and enthusiasm he needs for the midterm elections,” Murphy said. “If he doesn’t sustain a sizeable Democratic majority, he’s going to have a hard time finishing his very big agenda.”

“I could see the shrewdness of it,” John Brittain of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, referring to the possibility Obama would turn to a middle-of-the-road candidate. “They would be kind of punting on the Supreme Court issue to focus on other issues. I think it would take a lot of the wind out of Obama’s sails—his popularity, not necessarily in polling numbers, but in spirit.”

Saturday, May 2, 2009

WTKK-FM suspends Severin for derogatory comments about Mexicans

By David Abel, Globe Staff

Jay Severin, the fiery, right-wing radio talk show host on Boston’s WTKK-FM radio station, was suspended today after calling Mexican immigrants "criminaliens," “primitives,” “leeches,” and “women with mustaches and VD,” among other incendiary comments.


30378341H527227.jpg

Jay Severin

Heidi Raphael, a spokeswoman for the station, said Severin had been suspended indefinitely from his afternoon drive-time show. She declined to say which of his comments – made since an outbreak of swine flu was linked to Mexico in recent days – sparked the suspension.

“I can assure you that the station has not been using the remarks for which he has been suspended in on-air promos,” she said, declining to comment further.

In an email, Severin, a bombastic voice whose views often mirror those of fringe conservatives and who rarely lacks something to say, referred questions to his lawyer. “I am simply not at liberty to discuss it at this time,” he wrote.

George Tobia, his lawyer, said it was not clear how long his client will be suspended. “All we know is it’s indefinite,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’re just learning of it, and we’re dealing with it.”

Severin’s comments sparked deep concern among Mexicans and other Latinos living in the Boston area, prompting what Tobia described as a flood of complaints to the station management in recent days about Severin’s comments about Mexicans and the swine flu.

“It would certainly be unfortunate if someone was suspended because some people didn’t like what he said,” Tobia said.

He did not know Severin’s precise comments.

In one of his broadcasts this week, Severin said: "So now, in addition to venereal disease and the other leading exports of Mexico – women with mustaches and VD – now we have swine flu."

Later, he described Mexicans as “the world's lowest of primitives.”
“When we are the magnet for primitives around the world -- and it’s not the primitives’ fault by the way, I’m not blaming them for being primitives -- I’m merely observing they’re primitive,” he said.

He added Mexicans are destroying schools and hospitals in the United States. He also criticized their hygiene.

"It's millions of leeches from a primitive country come here to leech off you and, with it, they are ruining the schools, the hospitals, and a lot of life in America,” he said.

He added: "We should be, if anything, surprised that Mexico has not visited upon us poxes of more various and serious types already, considering the number of crimaliens already here."

In a previous broadcast this week, Severin argued the Obama administration wasn’t taking sufficient action to seal the border.

"The usual 5,000 criminaliens that come across the Arizona border will probably be 8,000 tonight, and maybe tomorrow it will be 12,000, because even Mexicans are going to be trying to get out of Mexico at a greater rate."

Afterward, while talking to a nurse who called his show to complain about healthcare provided to immigrants, he commiserated with her when she said she was glad she didn't work in an emergency room.

"Yeah, well, that's become essentially condos for Mexicans," he said.

It’s not the first time Severin has faced criticism for derogatory comments about minorities on his weekday program. On a 2004 broadcast, he compared US Muslims to a fifth column, and when a caller suggested the United States should befriend Muslims, Severin responded: "You think we should befriend them; I think we should kill them."

He has called former Vice President Al Gore “Al Whore,” former First Lady and current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “a lying [expletive],” and Senator Edward M. Kennedy “a fat piece of lying garbage."

Severin also has been criticized over the years for falsely saying he had won a Pulitzer Prize and that he had earned a master’s degree from Boston University.

Amparo Anguiano , deputy consul of the Consulate General of Mexico in Boston, called Severin’s latest language “hatemongering.”

“All he does is spread hate,” she said. “It’s not the first time immigrants have been denigrated unfoundedly for being dirty, uncivilized, and bringing in diseases. There’s nothing more to say, other than these statements spread unfounded biases, hate, and prejudice.”

Marcela Garcia, editor of El Planeta, a Boston-based publication distributed to Latinos throughout the region, said she shudders when she hears Severin on the radio.

“It’s aggravating, insulting, and disgusting,” she said. “I just can’t listen to him. He doesn’t just show a lack of respect; he shows a lack of knowledge about what immigration means to this country. What he says just fuels the racist dialogue going on about immigration.”
Franklin Soults, a spokesman for Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, called Severin’s language “dehumanizing.”

“What he said is just patently offensive,” he said. “There has been a huge rise in hate crimes against immigrants, especially Hispanics, and on the show, he doesn’t just talk about Mexicans as criminals, he talks about them as if they were animals and should be quarantined.”

Tobia, Severin's lawyer, said he does not know what’s going to happen, but he ultimately expects Severin back on the airways.

“I think we’re going to sit down with them [station officials] soon and just go forward and put it past us …. I’m confident he’ll be back on the air soon, but I don’t know when or what the particulars are.”

Original here

The Religious Dimensions of the Torture Debate

mid intense public debate over the use of torture against suspected terrorists, an analysis by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life of a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press illustrates differences in the views of four major religious traditions in the U.S. about whether torture of suspected terrorists can be justified. Differences in opinion on this issue also are apparent based on frequency of attendance at religious services.

Data from a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 14-21, 2009, among 742 American adults. Other religious groups are not reported due to small sample sizes.

Question wording: Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?

Original here

How Goldman Sachs took over the world

By Stephen Foley

If there's something weird in the financial world, who you gonna call? Goldman Sachs.

The US government, involved in a firefight against the conflagration in the credit markets, is calling in another crisis-buster from the illustrious investment bank, this time Goldman's most senior banker to finance industry clients, Ken Wilson.

And so with this appointment, the Goldman Sachs diaspora grows a little bit more influential. It is an old-boy network that has created a revolving door between the firm and public office, greased by the mountains of money the company is generating even today, as its peers buckle and fall.

Almost whatever the country, you can find Goldman Sachs veterans in positions of pivotal power.

The 61-year-old Mr Wilson has already proved influential in deals to recapitalise and reorganise some of America's listing banks. At the Treasury he will advise on what the federal government must to do help the process, but he will face scrutiny from those concerned about the tentacles wrapping lightly around government from Wall Street's mightiest bank. For the time being, bailing out Wall Street looks to be the same as bailing out the economy, but if those diverge there could be more questions asked about the influence of Goldman Sachs alumni on public policy.

George Bush picked up the phone this month, partly at the instigation of another Goldman Sachs alumnus, his Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson. Together with Mr Bush's chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, there will be three Goldman Sachs old boys in major positions of influence in the White House – but the US government is hardly alone in finding the bank's executives to be attractive hirees.

They are well-credentialed, partly by design. From its beginning when the German immigrant Marcus Goldman began discounting IOUs among the diamond merchants of New York in the 1870s, Goldman Sachs has always known about the power of the network of influence. Goldman hires former politicians and civil servants, as readily as it supplies them.

And then there is simply the intellectual quality of the employees, many hired as much youngster men via a gruelling interview process, and then forged in the fire of 17-hour work days.

With Goldman Sachs at the heart of Wall Street, and Wall Street at the heart of the US economy, few expects its power to wane. Indeed, The New York Times columnist David Brooks noted that Goldman Sachs employees have given more money to Barack Obama's campaign for president than workers of any other employer in the US. "Over the past few years, people from Goldman Sachs have assumed control over large parts of the federal government," Brooks noted grimly. "Over the next few they might just take over the whole darn thing."

John Thornton

From his post as professor and director of global leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing, the former Goldman Sachs co-chief operating officer John Thornton has become a highly-influential figure in the developing business and poltical inter-relations between the US and China. He was Goldman's boss in Asia in the mid-Nineties and remains well connected in the East and the West.

Duncan Niederauer

Wall Streeters joked about a Goldman Sachs "takeover" of the New York Stock Exchange. Hank Paulson, the Goldman boss on the NYSE board, moved to oust the chairman, Dick Grasso, and recommended the then chief operating officer of Goldman, John Thain, as Mr Grasso's replacement. Mr Thain modernised the exchange as demanded by Goldman, and Mr Thain's old Goldman deputy, Duncan Niederauer, is in charge.

Jon Corzine

The former co-chief executive of Goldman went into full-time politics in 1999, having lost the internal power struggle that preceded the company's stock-market flotation in 1999. He has been governor of New Jersey since 2006, having spent the previous six years in the US Senate. His 2000 Senate election campaign was then the most expensive ever in the US, and Corzine spent $62m of his own money.

Joshua Bolten

For five years until 1999, Mr Bolten served as director of legal affairs for Goldman based in London, effectively making him the bank's chief lobbyist to the EU. The Republican lawyer aided George Bush's 2000 election campaign, helped co-ordinate policy in the White House and has been the President's chief of staff since 2006.

Paul Deighton

The man heading London's planning for the 2012 Olympic Games, Paul Deighton amassed a fortune estimated at over £100m during his two decades at Goldman Sachs, where he had been one of its most powerful investment bankers.

Robert Rubin

A US Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton, Mr Rubin could once again emerge as a powerful figure in Washington if Barack Obama wins the presidency, since he has maintained his influence on Democrat politics. Mr Rubin reached the second-highest rung at Goldman, becoming co-chief operating officer before joining the US government in 1993.

Gavyn Davies

The ex-chairman of the BBC still has the ear of Gordon Brown, to whom he has been a good friend and informal adviser. He is married to the Prime Minister's aide Sue Nye. Mr Davies spent 15 years as an economist at Goldman. He was commissioned to report on the future funding of the BBC by Mr Brown in 1999. Two years later, he was poached to chair it.

Jim Cramer

This former Goldman trader is, without question, the most influential stock pundit in the US. Hectoring and shouting his investment advice nightly on his CNBC show, Mad Money, he routinely moves share prices. His primal scream against the Federal Reserve ("They know nothing") was a YouTube sensation last year, as the central bank refused to lower interest rates to ease the pain of the credit crisis on Wall Street.

Robert Zoellick

Goldman provided a lucrative home to Robert Zoellick, the neo-conservative Republican, between the time he quit as Condoleezza Rice's deputy at the State Department in 2006 (having not secured the job he coveted as Treasury Secretary, when it went to Hank Paulson) and his appointment last year as head of the World Bank. At Goldman he had acted as head of international affairs, a kind of global ambassador and networker-in-chief.

Mario Draghi

The head of the Italian central bank is another example of the revolving door between Goldman and public service. Mr Draghi had been an academic economist, an executive at the World Bank and a director-general of the Italian treasury before joining Goldman as a partner in 2002. He is becoming a significant figure in the response to the credit crisis, chairing the financial stability forum of central banks, finance ministries and regulators.

Malcolm Turnbull

Treasurer for the opposition Liberal Party, Mr Turnbull is one of the fastest-rising politicians in Australia. He was the aggressive advocate who took on and beat the British Government in the Spycatcher trial of the former MI5 agent Peter Walker, but he then pursued a career in business and ran Goldman Australia from 1997 to 2001, before jumping in to politics to serve as environment minister under John Howard.

Hank Paulson

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. President George Bush must be delighted he lured a reluctant Hank Paulson away from his $38m-a-year job as Goldman Sachs chief executive in 2006, just in time to deal with the Wall Street crisis that has engulfed the entire US economy. The bird-watching enthusiast had been a surprising choice as Treasury secretary, since his environmentalism was at odds with much of Bush's policy.

Original here

Survey: Support for terror suspect torture differs among the faithful

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture rallied on Capitol Hill in March 2008.

The Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture rallied on Capitol Hill in March 2008.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week -- 54 percent -- said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. Only 42 percent of people who "seldom or never" go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified -- more than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.

The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The survey asked: "Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?"

Roughly half of all respondents -- 49 percent -- said it is often or sometimes justified. A quarter said it never is.

The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations -- such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians -- categorized as "mainline" Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals. Just over three in 10 of them said torture is never justified. A quarter of the religiously unaffiliated said the same, compared with two in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and one in eight evangelicals.

Original here

Drugs, elephants and American prisons

By: Bernd Debusmann

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate–Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own–

Are the 305 million people living in the United States the most evil in the world? Is this the reason why the U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and an incarceration rate five times as high as the rest of the world?

Or is it a matter of a criminal justice system that has gone dramatically wrong, swamping the prison system with drug offenders?

That rhetorical question, asked on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Virginia Senator Jim Webb, fits into what looks like an accelerating shift in public sentiment on the way that a long parade of administrations has been dealing with illegal drugs.

Advocates of drug reform sensed a change in the public mood even before Webb, a Democrat who served as secretary of the Navy under Republican Ronald Reagan, introduced a bill last month to set up a blue-ribbon commission of “the greatest minds” in the country to review the criminal justice system and recommend reforms within 18 months.

No aspect of the system, according to Webb, should escape scrutiny, least of all “the elephant in the bedroom in many discussions … the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200 percent.”

The elephant has ambled out of the bedroom and has become the object of a lively debate on the pros and cons of legalising drugs, particularly marijuana, among pundits on both sides of the political spectrum, on television panels and in mainstream publications from the Wall Street Journal to TIME magazine.

True watersheds in public attitudes are rarely spotted at the time they take place but the phrase “tipping point” comes up more and more often in discussions on the “war on drugs”.

“Something has changed in the past few months,” says Bruce Mirken, of the Marijuana Policy Project, one of a network of 30 groups advocating the legalisation of the most widely-used illegal drug in the United States. “In the first three months of this year we’ve been invited to national cable news programs as often as in the entire year before.”

SHIFTING MOOD

Allen St. Pierre, who leads the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), also feels that the most serious public discussion in more than a generation is getting under way. “In mid-March,” he said in an interview, “there were 36 separate marijuana bills pending in 24 states — on legalization, de-criminalization, medical marijuana. Not all the bills will make it, but they are a sign of change.”

So are public opinion polls. On a national level, they show an increase from about 15 percent in support of marijuana legalization four decades ago to 44 percent now. The numbers differ from state to state. In California, the most populous, a recent survey showed 54 percent in favour.

St. Pierre sees a confluence of reasons for the shift in attitudes — baby boomers, a generation familiar with drug use, are in charge of the country’s institutions; the dismal economy makes people question public expenditures that do not seem essential; and the drug violence in Mexico that has begun spilling across the border.

Contrary to widespread perceptions, marijuana accounts, by many estimates, for considerably more than half the illegal drugs smuggled from Mexico to the United States.

The argument for legalizing marijuana, and eventually other drugs, is straightforward: it would transform a law-and-order problem into a problem of public health. A side effect of particular importance at a time of deep economic crisis: it would save billions of dollars now spent on law enforcement and add billions in revenues if drugs were taxed.

If drug policies were decided by economists, the debate would have begun earlier and might be over by now. Four years ago, 500 economists including three Nobel prize winners urged the administration of George W. Bush to show that marijuana prohibition justified “the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues and numerous ancillary consequences…”

Such as prisons holding, in the words of Senator Webb, tens of thousands of “passive users and minor dealers.”

While they contribute to prison overcrowding in some states, they have little to fear in others. To fully grasp the bizarrely uneven treatment of marijuana use, consider the annual “smoke-out” on April 20 in Boulder, Colorado.

There, on a sunny Monday, a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 converged on the campus of the University of Colorado to light up marijuana joints, whose smoke hung over the scene like a grey blanket. Overhead, an aircraft dragged a banner with the words “Hmmm, smells good up here.” Police watched but made no arrests and issued no fines.

Even the most optimistic of reform advocates do not see an end to prohibition in the near future. President Barack Obama endeared himself to reformers during his election campaign by an honest answer to a question on past drug use: “Yes, I inhaled. Frequently. That was the point.” But his spokesman recently said Obama opposed legalization.

It remains to be seen whether that stand remains the same if Webb’s proposed commission, assuming it will be established, came up with recommendations for deep change. That happened to the last report by a blue-ribbon commission on the subject.

The so-called Shafer report, whose members were appointed by then-president Richard Nixon, found in 1972 that “neither the marijuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety” and recommended that there should be no criminal penalties for personal use and casual distribution.

Nixon rejected the report. He had already declared “war on drugs”, and American prisons soon began filling up.

Original here

The Liberal Hour

Dick Cheney is often critical of President Obama, but on one issue we suspect the former Vice President has a grudging admiration: In a mere 100 days, the Democrat has silenced eight years of criticism about the Imperial Presidency. It is once again the liberal hour in American politics, and the media and political classes now see energy in the executive as a national asset.

[Review & Outlook] AP

Though we disagree with much of Mr. Obama's agenda, this turnaround has its benefits. A worried electorate wants to feel better about the country after the bitterness of the Bush years, and his cool confidence has lifted the public mood. He is a likable man who seems open to other arguments, even if he really isn't. His rise to Commander in Chief has sapped the war debate of its partisan animus, and he is now responsible for success or failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has made responsible decisions on both fronts.

We have our doubts about Mr. Obama's faith in diplomacy with enemies, but even here his first three months have had their uses. When Kim Jong Il broke his nuclear promises and tossed U.N. inspectors from North Korea in 2002, Democrats blamed President Bush. Now that Kim is doing the same despite Mr. Obama's open handshake, we know better. Our guess is that Mr. Obama's dalliance with Iran, Syria and other rogues will be similarly instructive, and we can hope the President draws the proper lessons before Iran goes nuclear. It's too early to know if Mr. Obama will turn out to be a tough-minded liberal internationalist, in the Tony Blair mode, or a naive globalist, a la Jimmy Carter.

On the home front, there can no longer be any such doubts. Mr. Obama talks the language of pragmatism, but his program has revealed a man of the left. He clearly views the financial crisis and the liberal majorities in Congress as a rare chance to advance the power of the state in American life. The only two comparable moments in the last century were 1965, which gave us the Great Society, and 1933, which bequeathed the New Deal. Mr. Obama's goals are at least as ambitious, resuming the march toward the European welfare state that was stopped by what Democrats like to call the Reagan detour.

His main method here is to make the federal government the guarantor of middle-class security. He wants to make a college education a new entitlement, regardless of the cost. He wants state-financed health-care available to all, even if it means jamming a $1 trillion bill through the Senate with 51 votes. And he wants a cap-and-trade tax that would punish the main current sources of U.S. energy and hand Washington a vast new source of revenue.

Oh, and by the way, he also wants to fix the financial system, run the auto industry, and build a nationwide, high-speed rail network. And on the seventh day, he rested.

What's striking is that Mr. Obama betrays no sense that maybe all of this isn't achievable, much less affordable, all at once. In contrast to Bill Clinton, he has abandoned any deficit concern, building in red ink of at least 4% of GDP for the next decade. And that's assuming the revival of rapid economic growth, and before counting the real cost of health care.

He claims to believe that the revenue to pay for this can be had merely by tapping the rich, as Democrats did during the 1990s, because he and his advisers assume that higher tax rates don't matter. But growth in the 1990s got going in earnest only after HillaryCare collapsed, Republicans took Congress and at least for a while spending was restrained and taxes were cut. The current arc of spending and taxes is only going up -- and to levels not seen in decades. The Obama program is going to test the liberal faith, not observed since the 1970s, that deficit spending and easy monetary policy are engines of prosperity. If they are wrong, then Mr. Obama will eventually find himself managing the politics of stagflation.

More troubling still is Mr. Obama's leap into managing major U.S. industries. Even the European left got out of the nationalization business as a loser after the 1970s. But the Obama White House and Treasury are nationalizing GM and Chrysler, expanding government's role in the mortgage markets, and widening their ownership of the U.S. banking system. The deeper they dig in, the harder they will find it politically to exit. And as economic policy, the mauling of GM bondholders, the banker-baiting on Capitol Hill, and the refusal to let even healthy banks escape the TARP won't revive animal spirits.

This last point may be more a matter of Mr. Obama's character than his ideology. One lesson from the first 100 days is that the President doesn't like to do things that are politically difficult, such as stand up to Congress. He has abdicated the writing of most legislation to liberal committee chairmen, at the cost of bipartisanship. This means that when he really needs Republicans -- on trade and national security -- they might not be there. And he has bent far too easily to his party's populists on AIG bonuses, Mexican trucks and interrogation memos -- even as they threaten to complicate his other priorities.

Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, and sooner or later the twain shall meet. For now, we are living in another era of unchecked liberal government. The reckoning will come when Americans discover how much it costs.

Original here