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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.


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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.

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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.

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