Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pat Robertson says Bush told him there would be no casualties in Iraq war
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says he warned President Bush before U.S. troops invaded Iraq that the United States would sustain casualties but that Bush responded, "Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties."

White House and campaign advisers denied Bush made the comment, with adviser Karen Hughes saying, "I don't believe that happened. He must have misunderstood or misheard it." ...

..."He was just sitting there, like, 'I'm on top of the world,' and I warned him about this war," Robertson said.

"I had deep misgivings about this war, deep misgivings. And I was trying to say, 'Mr. President, you better prepare the American people for casualties.' 'Oh, no, we're not going to have any casualties.' 'Well,' I said, 'it's the way it's going to be.' And so, it was messy. The Lord told me it was going to be, A, a disaster and, B, messy." ...

...Robertson, the founder of the Christian Coalition and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1988, said he supports Bush's re-election and believes the president is blessed by God.

"I think God's blessing him, and I think it's one of those things that, even if he stumbles and messes up -- and he's had his share of goofs and gaffes -- I just think God's blessing is on him," Robertson said. "And you remember, I think the Chinese used to say, you know, it's the blessing of heaven on the emperor. And I think the blessing of heaven is on Bush. It's just the way it is."

In January, Robertson told viewers during his "700 Club" television program that God had told him Bush would win re-election in a blowout." In the CNN interview, Robertson said he believes Bush will win by a "razor-thin" margin but by a substantial Electoral College victory.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Generation Chickenhawk
...Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

At a table by the buffet was Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans. In 1984 the group gained prominence in conservative circles when its chairman, Ralph Reed, formed a political action committee credited with helping to re-elect Senator Jesse Helms. Palmer's future as a right-wing operative looked bright; he batted away my question about his decision to avoid fighting the war he supported with the closest thing I heard to a talking point all afternoon. "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service.

Standing by Palmer's side and sipping a glass of rose wine, University of Georgia Republican member Kiera Ranke said she played her part as well. She and her sorority sisters sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves. "They wrote back and told us we boosted their morale," she said.

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up." ...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Society's unhealthy obsession with abuse
Sir Roy Meadow is not single-handedly responsible for a culture that sees child abuse everywhere.

Retired paediatrician Roy Meadow is currently facing charges of gross professional misconduct before the General Medical Council in connection with his evidence against a number of parents wrongfully convicted of killing their children.

Over the past two decades he has helped to popularise the view that children are being abused and even killed by their parents much more commonly than was previously believed. But he did not single-handedly create the obsession with abuse that led to these unjust convictions. Nor are these parents the only victims of a climate of opinion that is predisposed to believe the worst about how people behave in intimate relationships.

According to Dr James Le Fanu, 'the medical advocacy of contentious theories of the mechanisms of child abuse is likely to have been responsible for a systematic miscarriage of justice on a scale without precedent in British legal history - with devastating consequences for the parents wrongly convicted'. Though the scale of these injustices remains unclear - in only a handful of cases has a guilty verdict so far been overturned - the consequences of such wrongful convictions are undoubtedly devastating.

Dr Le Fanu traces the origins of the current situation back to the 1980s, when Professor Meadow (and Dr David Southall, the subject of earlier disciplinary proceedings at the GMC) described 'two covert forms of child abuse' - factitious illness (which Meadow labeled Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy) and smothering (famously exposed by Southall through covert video surveillance) (1).

Individual doctors, no matter how brilliant and charismatic, do not have the power to transform the culture of society in relation to a matter as important as the ill-treatment of children by their parents. A closer look at the new outlook on children that emerged in British society in the 1980s reveals that when Professor Meadow and his colleagues suggested that there was 'a hidden epidemic of child abuse' there was widespread acceptance of this view, among medical - and legal - professionals, the media and the general public....

The Young & the Sexless
..."The world hasn't yet seen what God can do with an army of young men free of sexual fevers," write the authors of Every Young Man's Battle, one volume in a hugely popular series of "purity" manuals. "You can remain pure so that you might qualify for such an army."...

...Wrapped around his wrist, in a figure eight, is a black plastic bracelet. "This," he says, "is a 'masturband.' " One of their friends at college -- Pepperdine University -- came up with the idea. As long as you stay pure -- resist jerking off -- you can wear your masturband. Give in, and off it goes, a scarlet letter in reverse. No masturband? No one wants to shake your hand. "It started with just four of us," says Dunbar. "Then there were, like, twenty guys wearing them. And girls too. The more people that wore them, the more people knew, the more reason you had to refrain." Dunbar even told his mother. He lasted the longest. "Eight and a half months," he says. I notice he's not wearing one now. He's not embarrassed. Sexuality, he believes, is not a private matter....

...But it's not just feminism that's to blame. It's also what the Christian right sees as an effeminized church. "Christianity, as it currently exists, has done some terrible things to men," writes John Eldredge, the author of a best-selling manhood guide called Wild at Heart. He thinks that church life in America has pacified Christian men and made them weak. Women who are frustrated with their girlie-man husbands and boyfriends seize power, and the men retreat to the safe haven of porn instead of whipping the ladies back into line. What women really want, he says, "is to be fought for." And men, he claims, are "hard-wired" by God for battle; Jesus wants them to be warriors in the vein of Braveheart and Gladiator.

Wild at Heart and Eldredge's other best sellers, The Journey of Desire and The Sacred Romance (as well as "field manual" workbooks that can be purchased separately), address sexual "purity" as part of the fabric of Christian manliness. The most important of these books is Every Man's Battle, which, in the past five years, has become a powerful brand name unto itself, with dozens of Every Man spinoff titles: Every Young Man's Battle, Every Woman's Battle, Preparing Your Son for Every Man's Battle and on and on. There's also an Every Young Man's Battle movie filmed on actual battlefields from history and featuring an interview with former NFL player William White and a discussion between Christian-right leader Dr. James Dobson and serial killer Ted Bundy.

The Every Man premise is that men are sexual beasts, so sinful by nature that, without God in their lives, they don't stand a chance of resisting temptation in the form of premarital sex, masturbation and straying eyes. I first heard about the Every Man books from a volunteer at the Journey, a twenty-five-year-old man who said he'd slept with forty women before he re-virgined with the help of the series.

"Your goal is sexual purity," write Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker. "You are sexually pure when no sexual gratification comes from anyone or anything but your wife." To achieve this, they argue, men must go to a kind of war. Citing Dobson, they note the "fact" that men experience a buildup of sperm demanding "release" approximately every seventy-two hours. For single men, wet dreams, if purged of sexual imagery, can act as "God's natural release valve." (Arterburn and Stoeker believe you can actually train yourself to remove the lust from such dreams.) "Your life is under a withering barrage of machine-gun sexuality that rakes the landscape mercilessly," they report. They encourage making lists of "areas of weakness." They seem particularly concerned with shorts: "nubile sweat-soaked girls in tight nylon shorts"; "female joggers in tight nylon shorts"; "young mothers in shorts, leaning over to pull children out of car seats." To avoid these temptations, men must train themselves to "bounce" their eyes off female curves. They recommend memorizing the locations of sexy billboards so that you can look away and switching your TV to ESPN or Fox News if a tempting commercial comes on the screen. And there's always Scripture. The authors hold up the books of Joshua and Ezekiel as armor against non-Christian women. "Mixture," they write, "can destroy a people."...

...The attitude on both sides of the aisle is that the ultimate principle is, simply, getting your guy in power. Donkeys and elephants above all else. The Elite Left's reaction to Raich and to Kelo has been abominable, and a wholesale selling out of traditional leftist principles. Why'd they do it? Because someday, the donkeys might run this country again. And when/if they do, they want an all-powerful federal government at their disposal.

And what of the right? The Bush administration sided with the leftist justices on Raich. And had the Bush administration filed a brief in Kelo, it would have filed it in opposition to the homeowners. Of course, that might have something to do with the fact that our president himself abused eminent domain to make room the baseball stadium the state of Texas gave him. Shortly before he became governor. But that doesn't matter. A conservative activist told me recently that he sort of sympathized with medical marijuana patients but that frankly, he was okay with Raich, because he didn't want the give those hippies any victories (his words). He also conceded that the only guiding principle in his political activism is to "help my team move the ball down the field."

The sports analogy is apt. Political activism is about for your favorite team. Nothing more. The actual consequences are the same no matter who wins -- more government, more collectivism, fewer individual rights, less freedom. The last ten years have proven that. The last four have emphatically driven it home....

Kelo, Raich and the Left
You know, the next time some thick-headed liberal spouts off about how I or my employer, the Cato Institute, shouldn't be taken seriously because we're "funded by corporations," (a vacant charge, but that's beside the point) I think I'll point to Kelo....

A college that trains young Christians to be politicians.

...Muench, like eighty-five per cent of the students at Patrick Henry, was homeschooled, in her case in rural Idaho. Homeschoolers are not the most obvious raw material for a college whose main mission, since its founding, five years ago, has been to train a new generation of Christian politicians. Politics, after all, is the most social of professions, and many students arrive at Patrick Henry having never shared a classroom with anyone other than their siblings. In conservative circles, however, homeschoolers are considered something of an élite, rough around the edges but pure—in their focus, capacity for work, and ideological clarity—a view that helps explain why the Republican establishment has placed its support behind Patrick Henry, and why so many conservative politicians are hiring its graduates....

...Farris’s manifesto for the school, “The Joshua Generation,” embraces the Rove principle: the “Moses generation,” he wrote, had “left Egypt,” and now it was time for their children to “take the land.”...

...On a Wednesday afternoon, I sat in on a class on the Presidency. There were fourteen students, all of whom arrived on time and got out their laptops to take notes. Today, they were talking about Machiavelli. The professor, Robert Stacey, who has a trim ginger-colored beard and is a popular, lively teacher, pushed the students to think about Machiavelli’s suggestion that leaders create fear to maintain their authority. He brought up the example of the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. One student asked, “Did they really represent such a big threat to our country?”

“No, but it unified the country, in an us-versus-them sort of way,” another answered.

Then Stacey moved on to Machiavelli’s principle that politics is governed by conspiracies and lies. “Come on, we know politicians lie,” he began. “This is a bit sensitive. How about our beloved George W. Bush? Does he deceive us with what he says in public? Does he lie?”

The students, who had been fully engaged on the subject of Machiavelli and Waco, were silent. Bush has been President since they were teen-agers, and the school newspaper’s editorials never deviate from the White House position. Finally, one student said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Stacey didn’t say anything. After a pause, the student said, “I mean, it would be nice if he didn’t.”...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Supreme Court's Jackboot Liberals
So much for the right to die in your own home, smoking a joint to take your mind off the pain. Thanks to the liberals on the U.S. Supreme Court, the feds haul you to prison from from your death bed for smoking medical marijuana and any local authority raze your house and give the land to Walmart for a parking lot. ...

...Liberals love eminent domain, as much as conservatives love the death penalty, and like many liberal passions it destroys far more lives than the gas chamber or the lethal needle....

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Worship as Higher Politics
Political priorities for citizens of the kingdom.
A Christianity Today editorial

George W. Bush is not Lord. The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice. Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Original intent" of America's founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. "God Bless America" is not the Doxology.

Sometimes one needs to state the obvious—especially at times when it's less and less obvious.

Understandably, megachurch pastor Rod Parsley (World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio) has had enough of America's moral confusion. But in his newly published Silent No More: Bringing Moral Clarity to America … While Freedom Still Rings (Charisma House, 2005), he writes (not so understandably), "I can be silent no more. Not until the land of our fathers' dream arises. Not until we become the truly kind and noble society we were fashioned to be. Not until the commitment of our fathers truly does become the calling of our times."...

...Family Research Council (FRC) Action is a lobbying arm of FRC, and as such it is not explicitly religious in its public presentation. But it is known far and wide as an outpost of the Christian Right. So it can only reap confusion when it posts this endorsement from former U.S. Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire: "Just beneath our superficial prosperity is a moral and cultural center that is in serious disrepair. We have the tools to fix it: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution … and a people whose hearts, courage, and dedication have never been questioned."

As important as the Declaration and Constitution are to the political health of our nation, surely nobody at FRC Action believes that these documents are the key to fixing the "serious disrepair" at our nation's "moral center."

And for some time now, we've been hearing from David Barton, Peter Marshall, and James Kennedy, among others, about "renewing the vision of our founding fathers, as expressed in America's founding documents," and the need "to defend and implement the biblical principles on which our country was founded."

The not-so-subtle equation of America's founding with biblical Christianity has been shown time and again to be historically inaccurate. The founding was a unique combination of biblical teaching and Enlightenment rationalism, and most of the founding fathers, as historian Edwin Gaustad, among many others, has noted, were not orthodox Christians, but instead were primarily products of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, we should recall, has never been much of a friend of biblical Christianity....

Jesus and Justice
How Billy Graham tactfully led evangelicals on race at his first New York City crusade.

...Graham chose to make his stand in the heart of the segregated South. He initially agreed to segregate the audience during his 1952 campaign in Jackson, Mississippi, but rejected Governor Hugh White's suggestion to conduct separate meetings for blacks. Meanwhile, Graham prepared to make a much bolder statement. Holding segregated events had always struck him as wrong, but he'd never chosen to take decisive action—until now. Walking toward the ropes that separated blacks and whites, Graham tore them down.

Mystified and uncomfortable ushers tried to put the ropes back up. Graham personally stopped them.

This symbolically powerful gesture marked a major ministry watershed. He never again led a segregated campaign....

...Graham's brief foray into Harlem produced the intended result of involving African Americans and marked the beginning of an important relationship. Two rally organizers were close friends and advisers of Martin Luther King Jr. Together with King, they huddled with Graham in private strategy meetings and even swapped dreams of conducting joint evangelistic crusades. But the union was not to be. King's approach was too political for Graham's taste, and they agreed to seek change in separate spheres.

Graham did invite King to give a prayer at the meetings, a symbolic move that further solidified his commitment to the movement toward racial equality. "A great social revolution is going on in the United States today," Graham said as he introduced King. "Dr. King is one of its leaders, and we appreciate his taking time out of his busy schedule to come and share this service with us tonight."...

Billy Graham’s Final Crusade
...Rather than speak to the issue of segregation directly, Graham invited Dr. King to lead in prayer during one of crusade’s services. Some Christian leaders criticized Graham for what they saw as his failure to use his own national reputation to help advance the cause of civil rights. But sympathetic historians argue that Graham’s willingness to reach out to Dr. King sent a clear signal of support. Graham is reported to have said that a Christian racist was an oxymoron....

...The experience of Watergate, however and the revelations of Nixon’s corruption was a sobering epiphany for Graham. In fact, during the early days of the rise of the Moral Majority—the early flag ship venture of the religious right—Graham warned of the dangers of linking faith’s reputation to political parties. A lesson he learned the hard way.

And a lesson that seems to continue as a source of wisdom. In a recent interview about the upcoming evangelistic campaign, Graham said he would not preach about any of the political issues important to evangelical conservatives, including abortion, homosexuality and stem cell research.

“I’m just going to preach the gospel and am not going to get off on these hot-button issues,” Graham told the New York Times. “If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience.” ...

Young Republicans support Iraq war, but not all are willing to join the fight
NEW YORK - Young Republicans gathered here for their party's national convention are united in applauding the war in Iraq, supporting the U.S. troops there and calling the U.S. mission a noble cause.

But there's no such unanimity when they're asked a more personal question: Would you be willing to put on the uniform and go to fight in Iraq?

In more than a dozen interviews, Republicans in their teens and 20s offered a range of answers. Some have friends in the military in Iraq and are considering enlisting; others said they can better support the war by working politically in the United States; and still others said they think the military doesn't need them because the U.S. presence in Iraq is sufficient.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles...

... "I think I could do more here," Hokel said, adding that she's focusing on political action that supports the war and the troops.

"We don't have to be there physically to fight it," she said.

Similarly, 20-year-old Jeff Shafer, a University of Pennsylvania student, said vital work needs to be done in the United States. There are Republican policies to maintain and protect and an economy to sustain, Shafer said. ...

Undercover From the CRNC
...A little later, Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council took the [College Republican National Convention] stage, noting with courageous enthusiasm, "There are some things that are worth fighting for." He proceeded to talk about the Iraq War, and some very heroic veterans (give credit where credit's due, 'sall good). Then he said, "They're giving their lives as you're giving your time." Right. These (military-age) folks helped create this war, but they're letting everybody else fight it. The irony was lost on this crowd.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Obfuscating Intolerance
A Pentagon inquiry's finding of no overt religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy strains credibility, considering the academy superintendent has already acknowledged it will take years to undo the damage from evangelical zealots on campus. Indeed, amid its thicket of bureaucratese, the report by an Air Force investigative panel goes on for page after page describing cases of obvious and overt religious bias. But it tosses all of these off as "perceived bias," as if the blame lies with the victims and not the offenders, and throws up a fog of implausible excuses, like "a lack of awareness" of what is impermissible behavior by military officers.

This muddle stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation by Yale Divinity School that found widespread problems with intolerance at the academy. That study described faculty members, chaplains and even the football coach as pressuring cadets toward Christian beliefs and hazing them about divergent views on religion. The Pentagon study insisted that this did not amount to a widespread problem for non-Christian cadets who complained of ranking officers encouraging an evangelical fervor....

A report from the SBC
Comin’ at you from Nashville at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Not a lot of what you’d call news here this week, unless you really care about the inner working of the SBC. Folks got elected. People got baptized. Resolutions in accord with well-known SBC theology were passed. For the exhaustive details on all that, you can visit the official and unofficial Baptist information Web sites.

But lack of news doesn’t mean there weren’t some interesting things going on. Here’s one of 'em:

If you’ve ever been to any convention exhibit hall, you know what they look like. Lines of pre-fab setups draped with photos and posters, with tables covered with printed material and bowls filled with cheap candy, staffed by wearily cheerful people hoping-just-hoping that someone will stop and ask a question.

That’s pretty much the way it was here – except for the booth run by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. It looked like a jungle military encampment straight out of a WWII-era war movie:

Camo netting above, a camp table with maps spread out on top, ammo boxes (filled in this case with printed material, not bullets). In a hall filled with pastels and bright lights, this booth was defiantly Army drab.

The first time I walked by, I must admit it gave me the whim-whams. There’s an inherent violence to warfare that seemed to clash with the spiritual work the seminary says it’s trying to do.

The next time I wandered by, I looked at the supporting material – really large posters set up in front. They made it clear that “Camp Southwestern” was supposed to be about spiritual warfare. Well, maybe.

So I stopped to talk to one of the wearily cheerful folks. William Goff teaches Christian ethics at the seminary. And he acknowledged that the daily real violence of Iraq and elsewhere might lead to misunderstanding of the SWBTS booth. But it also might lead to curiosity and understanding, he said.

After all, with war so much on the American mind, a booth like this is more likely to draw attention than the mostly vanilla competitors. And the seminary’s PR people were trying to make a specific point about the seminary’s emphasis on overseas work, “hard, risky ministry in a resisting world,” Dr. Goff said.

The seminary has a goal that every student before graduation – and every professor at least once every four years – will head overseas on a mission trip. Three locales are their chosen targets of opportunity: Cuba, northern Zambia and Siberia. No junkets there.

So is the potentially creepy military theme appropriate for a seminary? Dr. Goff said one young visitor told him “you have the only booth here that rocks.” ...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush Highlights CBF Church at Southern Baptist Convention
...Introducing Bush, SBC president Bobby Welch said, “It is always a blessing when our nation has a president who really knows the Lord.”

Following the president’s broadcast comments, White House assistant Tim Goeglein took the platform to describe Bush as “a president rooted in faith” committed to “compassionate conservatism at home and the march for freedom abroad.”

That policy, he said, is “a reflection of this faith but also a confirmation that this country is exactly what Abraham Lincoln said it was, the last, best hope of earth.”

“At the end of the day what makes us the greatest country in the history of man is always to remember from where our freedom derives,” Goeglein said. “At the end of the day, it is God Almighty himself who blesses the United States of America.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Veteran Republican Alleges Democratic "War on Christianity" on House Floor
Washington, DC: During a debate today surrounding an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) to fully examine allegations of proselytizing and religious intolerance at the United States Air Force Academy, six-term Republican Rep. John Hostettler (IN) rose to assert that "Democrats can't help denigrating and demonizing Christians." [Rush transcript.] Rep. Obey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, interrupted Hostettler's deeply disturbing remarks and demanded that they be formally retracted; Hostettler ultimately agreed to retract one sentence from his diatribe.

Earlier in his remarks, Hostettler discussed the drive by Democrats to erase every "vestige" of Christianity from America; he also prefaced his remarks by noting that "The long war on Christianity today continues on the floor of the House of Representatives." ...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Ten Days in Iraq: A Trip Report
Speaker: Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations
Presider: Richard Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations

...I said, "Well, where is all this heading?" And no kidding, he said to me, "A 10-division Iraqi armed force." And I lost it at that point, the only time in the whole trip I just lost it. I said, "Ten divisions! The United States Army has 10 divisions!" And he said, "And two mechanized divisions." I said, "We have two mechanized divisions! You're going to create an Iraqi army as big as the American Army? Are you nuts?"

And then the next PowerPoint chart comes up: "Well, we need a division here and we need a division here and we need a division" -- it became very apparent to me that these 10 divisions were to fight some future war against Iran. It had nothing to do -- nothing to do -- with taking that country over from us and fighting the insurgents. ...

Soldier Sues Over Guantanamo Beating
A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights.

Spc. Sean D. Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury....

...The drill took place in a prison isolation wing reserved for suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees who were disruptive or had attacked MPs.

Baker said he put on the jumpsuit and squeezed under a prison bunk after being told by a lieutenant that he would be portraying an unruly detainee. He said he was assured that MPs conducting the "extraction drill" knew it was a training exercise and that Baker was an American soldier.

As he was being choked and beaten, Baker said, he screamed a code word, "red," and shouted: "I'm a U.S. soldier! I'm a U.S. soldier!" He said the beating continued until the jumpsuit was yanked down during the struggle, revealing his military uniform.

The lawsuit says of the extraction team: "Armed with the highly inflammatory, false, incendiary and misleading information that had been loaded into their psyches by their platoon leader, these perceptions and fears … became their operative reality, and they acted upon these fears, all to the detriment of Sean Baker."

No one has been disciplined or punished for the assault, said Baker's lawyer, T. Bruce Simpson Jr....

The Dark Side of Public Choice
Stop the Drug War points to this extremely unsettling website where DEA agents congregate to anonymously post about whatever's on their minds....

Friday, June 17, 2005

Relatives of some troops killed in Iraq seek hearings on Downing Street memo
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Friday, June 17, 2005

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., left, speaks to members of Military Families Speak Out about his experience at a soldier’s funeral last month. With him are, from left, Dianne Davis Santorello, Celeste Zappala and Bill Mitchell. All three had a son killed serving in Iraq.

WASHINGTON — Several parents of soldiers killed in Iraq visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ask for congressional hearings on the Downing Street memo, which one mother called President Bush’s “Watergate.”...

...But members of Military Families Speak Out, whose members are relatives of troops killed in Iraq, said Congress must investigate whether the president lied to the country to justify military action.

“This war was based on lies and deception,” said Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was killed in April 2004 while providing security for investigators searching for WMD. “The only way we can understand how we’ve come to this disastrous position is to find out what the truth is.”

The group, which has frequently criticized the administration, met with congressmen and left flyers petitioning for a full investigation at the offices of Republican House leaders.

“I envy the parents who support this war, because if I did I’d sleep better,” said Dianne Davis Santorello, a Pennsylvania resident whose son was killed in August 2004. “But I don’t sleep well. My son died for a lie.”

She said the Downing Street memo would “bring down the house of cards” if lawmakers choose to investigate it, and compared it to the Watergate scandal which eventually forced President Richard Nixon from office....

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Memo: Pentagon Concerned About Legality of Interrogation Techniques
Document Shows Top Pentagon Officials Warned About Guantanamo Bay Interrogation Tactics

Jun. 15, 2005 - The interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay Detention Center in 2002 triggered concerns among senior Pentagon officials that they could face criminal prosecution under U.S. anti-torture laws, ABC News has learned.

Notes from a series of meetings at the Pentagon in early 2003 -- obtained by ABC News -- show that Alberto Mora, general counsel of the Navy, warned his superiors that they might be breaking the law.

During a January 2003 meeting involving top Pentagon lawyer William Haynes and other officials, the memo shows that Mora warned that "use of coercive techniques ... has military, legal, and political implication ... has international implication ... and exposes us to liability and criminal prosecution." ...

Christian Racism
A recent article talks about a revival of racism that is happening in the United States. Fringe hate groups appear to be gaining popularity. Tragically, some extreme Christian Right ideas are often used to justify these growing forms of racism....

Sen. Durbin's Guantanamo Statement
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) is being attacked by right-wing talk radio and the White House for making this floor statement on Guantanamo yesterday (pdf). Kudos to Durbin for calling it like it is....

...If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners....

...When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report: On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor. ...

There has been no greater threat to life, liberty, and property throughout the ages than government. Even the most violent and brutal private individuals have been able to inflict only a mere fraction of the harm and destruction that have been caused by the use of power by political authorities.
-- Richard Ebeling

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lelyveld on torture
...Chris hits on exactly the things that I admired and appreciated about the piece, and the things that frustrated me. Of the former, the most obvious is the acknowledgment that a significant percentage of people who have been picked up, threatened, tortured, and even killed, have been completely innocent. No one can pin down exactly what that percentage is, obviously. Perhaps we'll never know. But if, as the Red Cross reported last year, 70 to 90 percent of detainees in Iraq were arrested by mistake, and 40 percent of prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been there, if children are among the victims in both Iraq and Guantánamo (more on this from The Heretik), and abuse is widespread, not isolated, then obviously a lot of innocent people have been hurt. It would not surprise me in the least to learn that the majority of people who have been tortured should not even have been arrested. There is no excuse for anyone to believe anymore that coercive interrogation is something reserved for the most dangerous and well-connected terrorists.

I think it needs to be emphasized, though, that this isn't a matter of lack of professionalism, or interrogations out of control and hitting the wrong people. It's the nature of the beast. It's all well and good to say that this is a tool that will only be used on the most recalcitrant people in possession of the most urgently needed information, but that assumes that anyone really knows who those people are and what they know. The fact is -- and it's been true throughout history, but we've been given a crash course in the principle in the past couple of years -- once you give anyone this tool, once you say that you can do anything to a person if you think he or she knows something you need to know, it's inevitable that when the tool is used, it will have less to do with who the victim is and what he or she knows, than with the frustration level of the torturers and their bosses, or even the release of aspects of human nature that should never be released. Abu Ghraib had nothing to do with going after terrorists who possessed urgently needed information, and everything to do with frustration over the lack of actionable intelligence for fighting insurgents. Dilawar seems to have been arrested at a time when any poor schlump would do for a scapegoat, and murdered because he was held in a place where sadism was acceptable.

It is impossible to practice and encourage torture, including what Lelyveld calls "torture lite," without sadism becoming acceptable, without "the Monster" -- as one of the interrogators at Bagram, where Dilawar was murdered, was called -- becoming the local hero. The best in a profession stand out. That is not always a good thing.

In the face of that brutal reality, it seems seems bizarrely obtuse to focus much attention on the possibility that under some circumstances that as far as anyone can tell have never been faced, torture might be necessary. In an intriguing twist, idealists are honestly facing reality. It's the people who see themselves as hard-headed realists who are building a home in Cloud Cuckoo Land, fantasizing and philosophizing about what has never been....

Everybody always talks about religious conservatives, but nobody ever does anything about them.

...Progressives in this country have always maintained a kind of fuzzy belief that fundamentalists will eventually just disappear, as if by magic, that the phenomenon of grown men and women believing in devils and witches and angels will inevitably be outgrown, the way children outgrow Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Marx. When some pastor in rural Alabama takes the pulpit to denounce SpongeBob Squarepants as the agent of the Evil One, we figure no response is really necessary—folks will figure out the joke on their own, somewhere down the line.

Because of this, nothing like an organized resistance to this buffoonery has ever taken root in America. Though fundamentalists themselves imagine their secular opponents as a great and unified conspiracy, in truth the only weapons trained on Christians in this country are the occasional lawsuit by the ACLU (a group which normally opposes not religion itself, as I would prefer, but some ostensibly unconstitutional intrusion of religion into the public sphere) and the sarcastic barbs of ineffectual heathen media figures like Maureen Dowd and Jon Stewart.

Our pornographic pop culture, seen by religious conservatives as a coordinated, premeditated military offensive against Christian values, is as indifferent to Christianity as it is to environmentalism. It is not a true opponent of fundamentalist Christianity, because it doesn't give a shit about fundamentalist Christianity—or about anything else for that matter, except ratings and sales.

What organized political resistance fundamentalists do encounter comes in the form of groups that oppose their political objectives, not Christianity itself. Even pro-choice groups like NARAL, which come into direct and often violent contact with Christians, restrict themselves to agitation for abortion rights, and leave the issue of their opponents' religion alone. In general, there is almost no public figure, anywhere, who has ever suggested publicly that fundamentalist Christianity, as a thing-in-itself, should be opposed. The strongest suggestion most critics will make is to say that it should be contained, and indeed that seems to be the best-case strategy of progressives: that the God-fearing set can be boxed in, kept from being a nuisance and from meddling in areas where they don't belong, just long enough for them to eventually die out of natural causes.

This is a mistake, and it is the same mistake people have made for centuries: underestimating the American zeal for superstition, for boobism, for living the intellectual lives of farm animals. A large statistical majority of Americans would rather live their whole lives in perpetual fear of the devil than listen to ten minutes of common sense. When you consider where these people live intellectually, the idea that the Democratic Party can somehow succeed in Middle America by making small tactical changes, by waving a few more flags, seems absurd. You either believe in the devil or you don't; and if you don't, you're never going to fool these people. The Republicans, for all their seeming "confusion," understand this now better than ever. Their seemingly open attempts in recent months to radicalize and embolden their evangelical base may have had a temporary desultory effect with regard to their poll numbers.

But this current crew of Republican strategists has always understood American thinking better than the Tom Junods of the world. They know that most political trends are fleeting. Liberalism vanished at the first sign of trouble; pacifism disappeared one generation after Vietnam; even fiscal conservatism is easily forgotten. The one thing that never disappears in this country is stupidity, and if you court it, you'll always have votes down the line. Especially when it lives on unopposed.

When did you start to become politicized regarding the law enforcement field?

Fourteen months into my career. I had made what we commonly refer to as an attitude arrest -- I didn't like the guy, so I arrested him. I wish I could put it in a prettier way, but the fact is that he challenged my authority. He was 19, and I was 22. I stopped him for driving slightly over the speed limit. I really didn't have strong justification to stop him in the first place.

He got out of the car and immediately gave me a ration of shit, and [the] little part inside my brain that was becoming accustomed to this clicked. I [started] trying to find a reason to bust him, and I did. To call it a shaky arrest is to put myself in a charitable light.

What was the reason for the arrest?

I arrested him for being drunk in a public place. Of course, we decriminalized public intoxication absent of other...criminal behavior many years back. But in those days, it was a crime. It was a bailable offense -- if you pay your $29 bail, you don't go to court, and that's the end of it.

But this guy decided to go to court. As I said, he was 19 years old, and I thought he had a chip on his shoulder. I showed up in court with him and I gave the prosecutor a wink and a poke...I slid up and [told] him it was a slim arrest; I said, "You'll probably want to dismiss this one." He said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "Well, he had a shitty attitude."

He asked, "Was he drunk?"

The question in my mind was, "What the hell does that have to do with anything?" That was honestly how I felt. I was like, why is this prosecutor giving me the third degree?

When I said, "No, he wasn't drunk, but he had a really shitty attitude and he called me a pig," the prosecutor glared at me -- I'll never forget this moment -- through his tortoiseshell glasses, and said, "Officer Stamper, does the United States Constitution mean anything to you?"

I was enraged — 'What gives him the right to question me?' He works in this sanitized, air-conditioned environment, and if he's got a question about law or policies he can go to colleagues and books...while I'm out there on the streets in blue line (though it was a tan line in those days).

I was scared to death. I was scared that he would report me to the department, but that wasn't my big fear. The biggest fear was 'Oh my God, I didn't think this way, and I certainly didn't behave this way, before I joined the police department.'

I believed in civil rights, I believed in human rights. I believed, as a matter of fact, that the police were pretty useless and oppressive. I didn't have high regard for the police before I became one, and yet five months down the road I'm saying things and doing things I've never said or done in my life.

So it was a defining moment, which...helped trigger a profound change in me. It reintroduced me to some earlier values, and it radically altered my behavior.

It was at that moment, at about 14 months into the job, that I set out to atone for the way I had behaved. I had to acknowledge how much I enjoyed throwing people around. I had to confess to myself that it was great fun, and what did that say about me?

That vague sense of joy that was associated with screwing people around -- did it go away?

Well, it wasn't vague. To be completely honest, it was unalloyed.

I had turned my back on some pretty deeply-held values...I had to work to -- I know this sounds very woo-woo -- but to get in touch with what I stood for. In that process I clearly did not like what I saw. I was behaving like my father, and starting around age 13, I put as much distance between [him] and myself as possible.

Anyway, it sounds pretty psychological, but that's what was going on for me, and then I became more and more political....

Trigger Man
In Paul Wolfowitz, messianic vision meets faith in the efficacy of force.
by Andrew J. Bacevich

...Niebuhr rendered the definitive judgment: “power cannot be wielded without guilt.” Applied to liberal, democratic America, this somber assessment had two implications: first, it rendered obsolete claims of innocence dating back to the founding of Anglo-America; second, it imposed sharp limits on the uses of power. According to Niebuhr, there was no escaping this vise. Any attempt to do so would produce dire consequences, practical but above all moral....

...As the end of the 20th century approached, Providence was clearly summoning the United States to rule. Yet for Wolfowitz, the summons to rule complemented rather than transcended America’s prior mission to redeem. If the New Rome, the United States also remained the New Jerusalem. As Wolfowitz saw it, the possession of great military power facilitated the merger of these seemingly antipathetic roles. America’s interests and American ideology were becoming indistinguishable.

One prospective result would be to free American statesmen from ever again aligning the United States with Stalin to defeat Hitler or with Mao to check Brezhnev. Never again would raison d’etat oblige presidents to soil themselves by associating with execrable tin-pot dictators. Through military power, the United States could recapture the innocence sullied in the aftermath of the nation’s rise to great-power status. An American-dominated military revolution could revive American Exceptionalism and disprove Niebuhr....

...For Wolfowitz, therefore, the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11 also signified a unique opportunity, which he quickly seized. Urging that the global war against terror be recast as a global war on behalf of freedom, he placed himself in the vanguard of those calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. A war to liberate Iraq promised to change the face of American grand strategy. By irrevocably committing the United States to a broader and heavily militarized campaign aimed at liberating the entire Islamic world, it would signify the triumph of principles that Wolfowitz had long espoused.

But for that triumph to occur, the war needed to happen. In this sense, the yearnings for a peaceful resolution expressed by Wolfowitz and other senior Bush administration officials during the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom surely qualify as disingenuous. The object of the exercise was never to disarm Saddam peacefully. The aim was always to demonstrate the invincibility of American arms, thereby resetting in a fundamental way the international correlation of power globally, and especially in the Islamic world. Violence as such was a sine qua non, its use expected to endow the United States with greater reserves of leverage, influence, and respect....

Privacy: Throwing Babies Out with Bath Water
...Privacy rests on the assumption that—in the absence of specific evidence of wrongdoing—an individual has a right to shut his or her front door and tell other people (including government) to mind their own business. This is a presumption of innocence. Privacy also assumes an important division between the personal and public spheres, a division that is reflected in Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Historically, privacy has stood as a bulwark between individual rights and social control....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Baptist Woman Designs American Christian Flag
What America needs is a new Christian flag. At least that’s what Marcia Thompson Eldreth thought in April 2003, when her Southern Baptist pastor preached that every believer should fly the Christian flag, even if someone had to make a new one.

The idea stuck with Eldreth, a trained artist and member of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., who had done several drawings and paintings over the years.

According to a testimony on her Web site, Eldreth wondered why people aren’t flying the existing Christian flag, a white banner with a blue canton and a red cross, which is a staple in many church sanctuaries. “It is crisp and dignified, but politely cold,” she concluded. “I knew there was a need for an additional flag.”

Dubbed “Beauty and Bands,” after Zechariah 11:7, her flag design features an eagle carrying a wooden cross, representing American Christians taking the gospel around the world. A band of purple represents Christ’s royalty, a white field his purity, a red ring his shed blood and a blue circle his bruises.

Fifty stars create the border of the flag. They represent “all the Christians of the United States banding together to protect our right to preach the gospel and to protect our Christian heritage.”

“Our nation was built on Christian principles,” she said on her Web site. “We believe this is why God has blessed us with bounty and strength.”

Scriptures on the flag are Matthew 24:4, “Take heed lest no man deceive you,” and Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world ... and then shall the end come.”

The site also carries a pledge to the new flag: “I pledge allegiance, to the Christian Flag of the United States of America, and to the Lord, who made us great and free. I purpose, to band together, with all believers, to protect the truth and liberty of God.”...

I had browsed in a paperback version of Kierkegaard's Diaries. How grim they are. Kierkegaard describes self-loathing, pessimism, dread, isolation, guilt, and anomie. He writes of wanting to shoot himself. Kierkegaard complains of a "primitive melancholy ... a huge dowry of distress." He writes, "My whole past life was in any case so altogether cloaked in the darkest melancholy, and in the most profoundly brooding of misery's fogs, that it is no wonder I was as I was." And then: "How terrible to have to buy each day, each hour -- and the price varies so!" And again: "The sad thing with me is that the crumb of joy and reassurance I slowly distill in the painstakingly dyspeptic process of my thought-life I use up straightaway in just one despairing step."

Apple Corp
Isn't it interesting that the bad apples who were just having some kicks on the night shift at Abu Ghraib came up with similar kinky sexual humiliation "hijinks" to those the interrogators down at Gitmo were using on orders...

Lost to the Only Life They Knew
...Gideon is one of the "Lost Boys," a group of more than 400 teenagers — some as young as 13 — who authorities in Utah and Arizona say have fled or been driven out of the polygamous enclaves of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City over the last four years.

His stated offenses: wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. Other boys say they were booted out for going to movies, watching television and staying out past curfew.

Some say they were sometimes given as little as two hours' notice before being driven to St. George or nearby Hurricane, Utah, and left like unwanted pets along the road.

Authorities say the teens aren't really being expelled for what they watch or wear, but rather to reduce competition for women in places where men can have dozens of wives.

"It's a mathematical thing. If you are marrying all these girls to one man, what do you do with all the boys?" said Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff, who has had boys in his office crying to see their mothers. "People have said to me: 'Why don't you prosecute the parents?' But the kids don't want their parents prosecuted; they want us to get the No. 1 bad guy — Warren Jeffs. He is chiefly responsible for kicking out these boys."

The 49-year-old Jeffs is the prophet, or leader, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The FLDS, as it is known, controls Hildale and Colorado City....

Monday, June 13, 2005

Is America Dead?
...The last couple of Supreme Court terms have bludgeoned liberty at every turn. Even the wine ruling was but a limited victory. States can still ban wine shipments outright. They just can no longer ban only out-of-state shipments. And that, alas, was the only bone this court threw us.

The theocrats chip away at freedom from the right. The Nannycrats chip away from the left. They join hands at the Drug War, where their goals of government control over morality and government control over risk intersect.

Some have suggested that modern politics is no longer about liberal versus conservative, but about statism versus indivdualism. I wish that were true, but it isn't. There is no debate. Statism has triumphed. It wasn't even close.

The debate seems to be reduced to whether the people who have appointed themselves to run our lives will run them based on Biblical principles or on healthist dogma.

War: Realities and Myths
by Chris Hedges

The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with words of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.

The vanquished know the essence of war – death. They grasp that war is necrophilia. They see that war is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. They know how war fosters alienation, leads inevitably to nihilism, and is a turning away from the sanctity and preservation of life. All other narratives about war too easily fall prey to the allure and seductiveness of violence, as well as the attraction of the godlike power that comes with the license to kill with impunity. ...

...There is no more candor in Iraq or Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam, but in the age of live satellite feeds the military has perfected the appearance of candor. What we are fed is the myth of war. For the myth of war, the myth of glory and honor sells newspapers and boosts ratings, real war reporting does not. Ask the grieving parents of Pat Tillman. Nearly every embedded war correspondent sees his or her mission as sustaining civilian and army morale. This is what passes for coverage on FOX, MSNBC or CNN. In wartime, as Senator Hiram Johnson reminded us in 1917, "truth is the first casualty."...

..."Force," Simone Weil wrote, "is as pitiless to the man who possess it, or thinks he does, as it is to his victim. The second it crushes; the first it intoxicates."

This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelations, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, who they dismiss as "nominal Christians." They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The cult of masculinity and esthetic of violence pervades their ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian Right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. The language is one not only of exclusion, hatred and fear, but a call for apocalyptic violence, in short the language of war....

...We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.

I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery."
-- The Final Indoctrination from John Smid, Director, Love In Action (LIA), San Rafael's "ex-gay" clan

Nerds make better lovers
..."A nerd is an excellent provider and a guy who puts you first," says E. Jean Carroll, Elle magazine's love and sex advice columnist. "He'll turn out to be a great father and a great husband."

And, she insists that a woman who is willing to stick it out with a nerd and get past his quirks will be handsomely rewarded. "Don't give up on him too fast," she said. "If you stick with him, he's going to turn out to be really great."

If Hollywood is any indication, then yes, he will. This month, reality TV celebrates geek love with two shows: Ashton Kutcher's "Beauty and the Geek," which pairs braniacs with bimbos for a "social experiment," and the latest installment of "Average Joe," in which a pretty girl woos not-so-studly dudes (airing on June 22).

On Fox's "The O.C.," the nerdy Seth Cohen (played by Adam Brody) didn't just land the adorable Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) on TV - he managed to get the girl in real life, too. Bilson (and her character) managed to look past the slicked-down hair to find the witty guy beneath. Cohen's obsession with comic books? Her character deems it sweet. Brody's nasal drawl? Bilson doesn't seem to mind.

How can a savvy girl land a geek of her own? Spencer Koppel, a self-proclaimed geek who attends crossword-puzzle tournaments on weekends, has made it easy for girls with their eye on the prize with his "Geek to Geek" dating service,

Members can meet and select a perfect mate (guys with screen names like "thinkspecs" and "ivygrad") based on favorite board game and gadget instead of eye color, height and other categories the nerds might be lacking.

And according to Koppel, the pool is stocked with supreme sci-fi fans and accomplished intellects.

"I think geeks are more successful. They're happier in the work they do," Koppel said. "And they're pretty faithful people, because they're certainly grateful for anything they have."

When it comes to the between-the-sheets aspect of the relationship, Carroll agreed that a girl couldn't do much better than a less-than-perfect male specimen. "We've all been to bed with the guy who is worried about what he looks like, checking the mirror before he gets in bed," she said. "The nerd, gloriously, stunningly, perfectly, is into the woman. That right there is very stirring, sexually." ...

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Postwar Iraq Plan
Advisers to Blair Predicted Instability

A briefing paper prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top advisers eight months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. military was not preparing adequately for what the British memo predicted would be a "protracted and costly" postwar occupation of that country.

The eight-page memo, written in advance of a July 23, 2002, Downing Street meeting on Iraq, provides new insights into how senior British officials saw a Bush administration decision to go to war as inevitable, and realized more clearly than their American counterparts the potential for the post-invasion instability that continues to plague Iraq.

In its introduction, the memo "Iraq: Conditions for Military Action" notes that U.S. "military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace," but adds that "little thought" has been given to, among other things, "the aftermath and how to shape it."...

...A March 14 memo to Blair from David Manning, then the prime minister's foreign policy adviser and now British ambassador in Washington, reported on talks with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. Among the "big questions" coming out of his sessions, Manning reported, was that the president "has yet to find the answers . . . [and] what happens on the morning after."

About 10 days later, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw wrote a memo to prepare Blair for a meeting in Crawford, Tex., on April 8. Straw said "the big question" about military action against Hussein was, "how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better," as "Iraq has no history of democracy."

Straw said the U.S. assessments "assumed regime change as a means of eliminating Iraq's WMD [weapons of mass destruction] threat. But none has satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured. . . ."...

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’
MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.

The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.

The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since regime change was illegal it was “necessary to create the conditions” which would make it legal. ...

The Christian Right's New Race-Baiting
As I said two days ago, the Christian right is eager to resurrect its roots in the anti-integration struggle by introducing a racial aspect to its culture war....

...Jackson alleges that immigrants from Mexico, like homosexuals, will erode the foundations of "traditional" American culture. And his ominous prediction of Latino mayors getting elected across the US -- oh, the horror! -- sounds a lot like the Christian right's warnings about the "homosexual agenda," a term designed to induce fears of gays infiltrating public institutions from schools to government. White America, beware. And open your pocketbooks.

Insider's Perspective
Dissent and disagreement between members of a congregation and its leader -- within even a tiny church -- are not the exception but the rule. Here is an example of that happening within New Life Church here in Colorado Springs. A member of the congregation was upset with the email regarding media coverage sent out by Pastor Ted Haggard, and the following exchange was the result. I think the most interesting thing here is Pastor Ted's elaboration on his motivations for the memo regarding the media coverage they were to receive in the coming week. He speaks very much in line with how Ted Olsen from Christianity Today described his efforts as, "mission through a media lens." I don't see Pastor Ted's agreement that he should leave New Life Church as necessarily incendiary, but rather terse honesty. I'm sure you'll have your own opinion on the exchange....

Friday, June 10, 2005

But did the Founders oppose religion?
Quite the contrary. They considered it essential to the health of the republic. Religion, they felt, endowed people with such values as self-reliance, sacrifice, and compassion that were necessary for good citizenship. It also counteracted the destructive tendencies of democracy and capitalism alike. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,” said George Washington in his farewell address in 1796, “religion and morality are indispensable supports.” James Madison felt similarly. “Before any man can be considered a member of Civil Society,” he wrote, “he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe.” Still, the Founders declined to give religion the official endorsement of their new government.

What were they afraid of?
The same intolerance and bigotry that drove many of the original settlers to the New World. The monarchs of the Old World, they knew, had often invoked God as an excuse to make war. Not only had Europe’s kings and princes waged the Crusades in the name of Christianity, they had fought bloody battles of succession and conquest among themselves, with Protestants and Catholics slaughtering one another for political power. “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved—the Cross,” wrote John Adams. “Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!” When the Founders gathered to write the Constitution in 1787, they were determined to set a different course, so as not to repeat the mistakes of history.

How did they achieve this?
By largely excluding God and religion from our national blueprint. The only reference to religion in the original Constitution is in Article VI, Section 3: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” When it came time to add the Bill of Rights, the Framers felt that a firmer statement was needed. As their model, they took Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom. Written by Thomas Jefferson, and passed by the Virginia Legislature in 1786, it declared that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.” For the Constitution, James Madison expanded this into, “The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or any pretense, infringed.” With some trimming, Madison’s resolution became part of the First Amendment we know today.

What was the result?
For all practical purposes, it put the U.S. on the road to secularism. The earliest official expression of this sentiment probably came on June 7, 1797, when the Senate ratified the Treaty of Tripoli, which made peace with the Barbary pirates of North Africa. In declaring that we had no quarrel with the faith of any “Mehomitan” (Muslim) nation, the treaty—ratified unanimously—stipulated that “the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” Evangelicals of the time were outraged, but the nation’s course was set. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson gave the secularists a phrase they would repeat in every subsequent argument on the topic. Baptist ministers from Connecticut had written him, complaining of persecution by the state’s Congregationalist establishment, and seeking his views on religion and the Constitution. “Religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God,” Jefferson assured them, declaring that the First Amendment had “erected a wall of separation between Church and State.”...

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws.
-- John Adams

Many Scientists Admit to Misconduct
Few scientists fabricate results from scratch or flatly plagiarize the work of others, but a surprising number engage in troubling degrees of fact-bending or deceit, according to the first large-scale survey of scientific misbehavior.

More than 5 percent of scientists answering a confidential questionnaire admitted to having tossed out data because the information contradicted their previous research or said they had circumvented some human research protections.

Ten percent admitted they had inappropriately included their names or those of others as authors on published research reports.

And more than 15 percent admitted they had changed a study's design or results to satisfy a sponsor, or ignored observations because they had a "gut feeling" they were inaccurate....

Murder! Professor Plum, in the library, with a rather fine replica teaspoon
...Last November, Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, announced that 272 people were killed in knife attacks in the year 2002-03. On closer inspection, these knife murders include all homicides by sharp instrument, such as broken bottles and glasses. Perhaps any potentially sharp objects should be outlawed as “replica knives”. And what about the blunt objects used in 47 killings that year, or the ropes and things used to strangle another 68 victims?

In 1996, when I was editor of Living Marxism magazine, we ran a front cover ridiculing the launch of the first war on knives under the headline “Ban These Evil Spoons — join the crusade against cutlery”. We pointed out that, if combat knives were to be banned as the Labour Opposition then demanded, then surely lethal-looking kitchen carving knives ought to be banned, too. And why not artery-puncturing forks or eye-gouging spoons hidden in every cutlery drawer?

In 2005, that is no longer a laughing matter. Last month, a group of doctors used the British Medical Journal to demand a total ban on long, sharp kitchen knives, in order to stop us all stabbing one another to death. They insisted that knives less than 5cm (2in) long, or with blunt, round ends would meet all of our “culinary needs”. Let them eat lentils?

There are already plenty of laws against some little toe rag using a knife or replica gun. This obsession with imposing ban after ban can only intensify the climate of fear in which we are treated as children who need to be kept away from sharp edges and nasty toys. The very idea of launching a war against “evil” objects smacks of superstition. The superstitious ancients used to put inanimate objects on trial for murder, and condemn carts or statues to death. In these more enlightened times, we await the headline “Knife gets life”. ...

Government Equals Force
Occasionally throughout the 20th century, commentators have clearly recognized the coercive nature of government. British political scientist Harold Laski wrote in 1935:

"At any critical moment in the history of a State the fact that its authority depends upon the power to coerce the opponents of the government, to break their wills, to compel them to submission, emerges as the central fact of its nature. "

Political scientist Theodore Lowi, author of the 1969 book The End of Liberalism, observed:

"Government is obviously the most efficacious way of achieving good purposes in our age. But alas, it is efficacious because it is involuntary. Modern policymakers ... pretend ... that the unsentimental business of coercion need not be involved and that the unsentimental decisions about how to employ coercion need not really be made at all."

As a 1940 federal court decision noted, "The 'State,' as used in political science, means the coercive force of government." ...

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Raich -- The Times and Post Weigh In
...For the love of God, why not let communities and states decide for themselves if they value the preservation of an obscure species over the jobs and wealth brought by commercial development? And, again, keep some perspective here: The Washington Post is saying it was necessary to deny Angel Raich the marijuana that may be keeping her alive because to say otherwise may sometime, somewhere down the road impair Congress' ability to protect animals? That's not even getting into the perverse incentives and actual harm the ESA does to the animals it's trying to protect....

Question Authorities
For nearly four years - steadily, seriously, and with the unsentimental rigor for which we love them - civil engineers have been studying the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, sifting the tragedy for its lessons. And it turns out that one of the lessons is: Disobey authority. In a connected world, ordinary people often have access to better information than officials do.

Proof can be found in the 298-page draft report issued in April by the National Institute on Standards and Technology called Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications. (In layman's terms, that's who got out of the buildings, how they got out, and why.) It's an eloquent document, in many ways. The report confirms a chilling fact that was widely covered in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. After both buildings were burning, many calls to 911 resulted in advice to stay put and wait for rescue. Also, occupants of the towers had been trained to use the stairs, not the elevators, in case of evacuation.

Fortunately, this advice was mostly ignored. According to the engineers, use of elevators in the early phase of the evacuation, along with the decision to not stay put, saved roughly 2,500 lives. This disobedience had nothing to do with panic. The report documents how evacuees stopped to help the injured and assist the mobility-impaired, even to give emotional comfort. Not panic but what disaster experts call reasoned flight ruled the day.

In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit....

Leaders of Iraq Back Militias, Widening Rift With Sunnis
BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 8 - The rift between the Iraqi government and hostile Sunni Arabs widened further on Wednesday as the country's leaders came out in support of ethnic and sectarian militias that Sunnis fear could be used against them. ...

When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call
...Next thing Axel knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works. And before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.

"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going all the way to Seattle," Axel said.

Just a few tests. And so many free opportunities, the recruiters told him.

He could pursue his love of chemistry. He could serve anywhere he chose and leave any time he wanted on an "apathy discharge" if he didn't like it. And he wouldn't have to go to Iraq if he didn't want to.

At about 3:30 in the morning, Alex was awakened in the motel and fed a little something. Twelve hours later, without further sleep or food, he had taken a battery of tests and signed a lot of papers he hadn't gotten a chance to read. "Just formalities," he was told. "Sign here. And here. Nothing to worry about."

By then Marcia had "freaked out."

She went to the Burlington recruiting center where the door was open but no one was home. So she grabbed all the cards and numbers she could find, including the address of the Seattle-area testing center.

Then, with her grown daughter in tow, she high-tailed it south, frantically phoning Axel whose cell phone had been confiscated "so he wouldn't be distracted during tests."...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

You Are Not Allowed to Feel Better ... Got It?
According to John Walters, the Supreme Court got it right on medical marijuana. His argument comes down, essentially, to saying that medical marijuana doesn't work, and should be illegal, even if it does make some people "feel better," a phrase which Mr. Walter puts, condescendingly, inside quotes. As though feeling better when one is sick is somehow no big deal and a vaguely tawdry aspiration.

Mr. Walters is the nation's "Drug Czar," a hideously ugly title that any American should be ashamed to hold. In this role, Mr. Walters co-ordinates -- or something -- the government's $35 billion anti-drug effort. Plainly, this crusade is not working and, so, according to Mr. Walters's own logic ought to be put out of its misery.

This, of course, will not happen. Mr. Walters will continue to spend lavishly to make citizens behave the way he -- and a few thousand agents and bureaucrats -- believe they ought to. This is not surprising. It is what people who nurse governmental aspirations do ... they rule. And they believe that because they rule, they know best. "We have a responsibility as a civilized society to ensure that the medicine Americans receive from their doctors is effective, safe, and free from the pro-drug politics that are being promoted in American under the guise of medicine."

No room for individual choice, here. Mr. Walters and the government -- this is the "we" he is talking about -- have the responsibility. You? Well, you have the duty to do as they say. And if you don't, they will put you in jail. ...

...You would think a man with $35 billion to spend would have more important things on his agenda than doing an end-zone dance over the bodies of a few cancer patients looking for a little relief from the side-effects of chemo. What did Mark Tucci, who lives down the road from me, ever do to Mr. Walters to make him gleeful that Tucci now cannot legally use a drug that makes him "feel better." Tucci has MS and says of medial marijuana, "It is by far the most benign thing I've pumped into my body. It just gets rid of a lot of pain. It makes my life bearable."

Not so fast there, Tucci. Your government has a better idea and if you know what's good for you...

Torture's Dirty Secret: It Works
...When this intense surveillance is paired with the ever-present threat of torture, the message is clear: You are being watched, your neighbor may be a spy, the government can find out anything about you. If you misstep, you could disappear onto a plane bound for Syria, or into "the deep dark hole that is Guantánamo Bay," to borrow a phrase from Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

But this fear has to be finely calibrated. The people being intimidated need to know enough to be afraid but not so much that they demand justice. This helps explain why the Defense Department will release certain kinds of seemingly incriminating information about Guantánamo--pictures of men in cages, for instance--at the same time that it acts to suppress photographs on a par with what escaped from Abu Ghraib. And it might also explain why the Pentagon approved the new book by a former military translator, including the passages about prisoners being sexually humiliated, but prevented him from writing about the widespread use of attack dogs. This strategic leaking of information, combined with official denials, induces a state of mind that Argentines describe as "knowing/not knowing," a vestige of their "dirty war."

"Obviously, intelligence agents have an incentive to hide the use of unlawful methods," says the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer. "On the other hand, when they use rendition and torture as a threat, it's undeniable that they benefit, in some sense, from the fact that people know that intelligence agents are willing to act unlawfully. They benefit from the fact that people understand the threat and believe it to be credible." ...

...This is torture's true purpose: to terrorize--not only the people in Guantánamo's cages and Syria's isolation cells but also, and more important, the broader community that hears about these abuses. Torture is a machine designed to break the will to resist--the individual prisoner's will and the collective will.

This is not a controversial claim. In 2001 the US NGO Physicians for Human Rights published a manual on treating torture survivors that noted: "perpetrators often attempt to justify their acts of torture and ill treatment by the need to gather information. Such conceptualizations obscure the purpose of torture....The aim of torture is to dehumanize the victim, break his/her will, and at the same time, set horrific examples for those who come in contact with the victim. In this way, torture can break or damage the will and coherence of entire communities."

Yet despite this body of knowledge, torture continues to be debated in the United States as if it were merely a morally questionable way to extract information, not an instrument of state terror. ...

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Basra out of control, says chief of police
The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq's second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

"I trust 25% of my force, no more." ...

Raich and the Left
I found it interesting that high-profile leftist blogs like Daily Kos and Eschaton were silent on Raich yesterday. How to explain that the four liberal justices voted with Ashcroft-Gonzalez to give the imprimatur to federal agents raiding nursing homes and rifling through medicine cabinets? How to explain why they'd vote to uphold practices that even some drug warriors find offensive, not to mention that in so doing, they strengthen the other arms of this war, including its disproportionate targeting of blacks and the poor, its dismantling of the Warren Court's civil liberties advances, and that it has made war zones of the inner cities? ...

...And there it is. The prominent writer for the "moderately liberal" American Prospect would rather let sick people suffer and die and side with giving ever more power to the Bush administration than give an inch toward letting states of localities govern themselves. Because, apparently, should his side ever get power again, Yglesias wants to be sure he can impose his policies on the rest of us. And siding with sick people now might hamper his ability to slap high taxes, heavy regulations, and liberal utopia on red staters later.

As Thomas noted in his dissent, if government agents can raid a woman's house and arrest her for six marijuana plants she was growing for her own use, there is simply no limit to what else it can do. Enumerated powers are meaningless. And that's exactly what people like Yglesias want. Eradication of enumerated powers, federalism, and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Complete authoritarian federal control over everything. States may as well not exist.

This is what liberalism has devolved to. I'll call it "Beltway Liberalism." Its values? Getting power, and wielding power. Letting a few Very Smart People run your life. They may feign at principles like compassion, racial equality, and civil liberties, but should any of those principles hamper the getting of the power, or weaken the wielding of the power once it's gotten, they're readily discarded. The right may have abandoned federalism and limited government for "security," power, and moral authoritianism. But the left too has abandoned its best attributes, and embraced the worst characteristics of statism.

Between the two, there's not much room for liberty.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Crusade for National Power
When tempted by Satan in the desert, Jesus was promised all the kingdoms of the earth in exchange for worshipfully bowing down to the Prince of Darkness. Jesus refused Satan’s temptation of political power.

Later, Jesus taught his disciples to preach the good news “unto the ends of the earth.” But it wasn’t to be a grassroots campaign for power over non-Christians, because, as he explained, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Unfortunately, some privileged Christians are on a crusade for power. Ever hear of the Council for National Policy? Its invisibility isn’t accidental.

According to the organization’s rules, “The media should not know when or where they meet or who takes part in their programs.”

Recent speakers addressing the CNP behind closed doors include Clarence Thomas, Alberto Gonzales, Bill Frist, Dick Cheney, Donald H. Rumsfeld and former CIA director James Woolsey....

Monkey Business
...When he and Santos, his psychologist collaborator, began to teach the Yale capuchins to use money, he had no pressing research theme. The essential idea was to give a monkey a dollar and see what it did with it. The currency Chen settled on was a silver disc, one inch in diameter, with a hole in the middle -- ''kind of like Chinese money,'' he says. It took several months of rudimentary repetition to teach the monkeys that these tokens were valuable as a means of exchange for a treat and would be similarly valuable the next day. Having gained that understanding, a capuchin would then be presented with 12 tokens on a tray and have to decide how many to surrender for, say, Jell-O cubes versus grapes. This first step allowed each capuchin to reveal its preferences and to grasp the concept of budgeting.

Then Chen introduced price shocks and wealth shocks. If, for instance, the price of Jell-O fell (two cubes instead of one per token), would the capuchin buy more Jell-O and fewer grapes? The capuchins responded rationally to tests like this -- that is, they responded the way most readers of The Times would respond. In economist-speak, the capuchins adhered to the rules of utility maximization and price theory: when the price of something falls, people tend to buy more of it.

Chen next introduced a pair of gambling games and set out to determine which one the monkeys preferred. In the first game, the capuchin was given one grape and, dependent on a coin flip, either retained the original grape or won a bonus grape. In the second game, the capuchin started out owning the bonus grape and, once again dependent on a coin flip, either kept the two grapes or lost one. These two games are in fact the same gamble, with identical odds, but one is framed as a potential win and the other as a potential loss.

How did the capuchins react? They far preferred to take a gamble on the potential gain than the potential loss. This is not what an economics textbook would predict. The laws of economics state that these two gambles, because they represent such small stakes, should be treated equally.

So, does Chen's gambling experiment simply reveal the cognitive limitations of his small-brained subjects? Perhaps not. In similar experiments, it turns out that humans tend to make the same type of irrational decision at a nearly identical rate. Documenting this phenomenon, known as loss aversion, is what helped the psychologist Daniel Kahneman win a Nobel Prize in economics. The data generated by the capuchin monkeys, Chen says, ''make them statistically indistinguishable from most stock-market investors.''

But do the capuchins actually understand money? Or is Chen simply exploiting their endless appetites to make them perform neat tricks?

Several facts suggest the former. During a recent capuchin experiment that used cucumbers as treats, a research assistant happened to slice the cucumber into discs instead of cubes, as was typical. One capuchin picked up a slice, started to eat it and then ran over to a researcher to see if he could ''buy'' something sweeter with it. To the capuchin, a round slice of cucumber bore enough resemblance to Chen's silver tokens to seem like another piece of currency.

Then there is the stealing. Santos has observed that the monkeys never deliberately save any money, but they do sometimes purloin a token or two during an experiment. All seven monkeys live in a communal main chamber of about 750 cubic feet. For experiments, one capuchin at a time is let into a smaller testing chamber next door. Once, a capuchin in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them into the main chamber and then scurried in after them -- a combination jailbreak and bank heist -- which led to a chaotic scene in which the human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more stealing.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.) ...

...But these facts remain: When taught to use money, a group of capuchin monkeys responded quite rationally to simple incentives; responded irrationally to risky gambles; failed to save; stole when they could; used money for food and, on occasion, sex. In other words, they behaved a good bit like the creature that most of Chen's more traditional colleagues study: Homo sapiens.