Saturday, October 28, 2006

How Jesus Endorsed Bush's Invasion of Iraq
For much of the past 25 years, a small group of Catholic intellectuals has worked to inject its radical religious ideas into the nation's politics. The leader of this theoconservative movement is Father Richard John Neuhaus. In the pages of his monthly magazine First Things, Neuhaus and his ideological allies set the theocon agenda on a range of policies. Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute argues that the American founders were orthodox religious believers who thought of the United States as a Christian nation -- and that American-style capitalism perfectly conforms to Catholic social teaching. Robert P. George of Princeton University insists that abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and same-sex marriage (and perhaps even contraception and masturbation) should be outlawed. And George Weigel of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center uses Catholic just-war reasoning to justify neoconservative foreign policy. As the U.S. began to prepare for war in Iraq in 2002, the theocons set out to provide theological justification for the coming conflagration....

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

East Waynesville Baptist Church Kicks Out Democrats
East Waynesville Baptist asked nine members to leave. Now 40 more have left the church in protest. Former members say Pastor Chan Chandler gave them the ultimatum, saying if they didn't support George Bush, they should resign or repent. The minister declined an interview with News 13. But he did say "the actions were not politically motivated." There are questions about whether the bi-laws were followed when the members were thrown out....

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It isn't just Bono's U2 who are talking through their hat about tax avoidance
...What is surprising is that the rest of the world continues to take Bono seriously. I would have thought that after the revelation that U2 moved their music publishing company to the Netherlands to cut their tax bill in half, he wouldn't have dared stepped out of his mansion for fear of being laughed to scorn.

Here was a man who incited audiences to condemn Western politicians for not sending enough of their taxpayers' money to the wretched of the earth, avoiding tax himself. The Edge, U2's guitarist, sounded as edgy as a plump accountant in the 19th hole when he explained the move offshore by saying: 'Our business is a very complex business. Of course we're trying to be tax-efficient. Who doesn't want to be tax-efficient?'...

Beer fingerprints to go UK-wide
The government is is funding the roll out of fingerprint security at the doors of pubs and clubs in major English cities.

Funding is being offered to councils that want to have their pubs keep a regional black list of known trouble makers. The fingerprint network installed in February by South Somerset District Council in Yeovil drinking holesy is being used as the show case.

"The Home Office have looked at our system and are looking at trials in other towns including Coventry, Hull & Sheffield," said Julia Bradburn, principal licensing manager at South Somerset District Council.

Gwent and Nottingham police have also shown an interest, while Taunton, a town neighbouring Yeovil, is discussing the installation of fingerprint systems in 10 pubs and clubs with the systems supplier CreativeCode.

Bradburn could not say if fingerprint security in Yeovil had displaced crime to neighbouring towns, but she noted that domestic violence had risen in Yeovil. She could not give more details until the publication of national crime statistics to coincide with the anniversary of lax pub licensing laws on 24 November.

She was, however, able to say that alcohol-related crime had reduced by 48 per cent Yeovil between February and September 2006.

The council had assumed it was its duty under the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) to reduce drunken disorder by fingerprinting drinkers in the town centre....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Top US general says Rumsfeld is inspired by God
MIAMI (AFP) - The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.

"He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country," said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff....

..."He comes to work everyday with a single-minded focus to make this country safe," said Stavridis who was a senior aide to Rumsfeld before taking on the Southcom job.

"We're lucky as a nation that he continues to serve with such passion and such integrity and such determination and such brilliance," said Stavridis, 51.

As head of Southcom, Stavridis will be responsible for military cooperation with Latin American countries, and will be in charge of the Guantanamo US military base in Cuba where more than 400 "war on terror" detainees are being held....

Monday, October 16, 2006

The New Crips
An ex-drug dealer and burglar leads a wheelchair posse terrorizing Southern California businesses. Would you believe he has the law on his side?

Slouched in his custom-made wheelchair at his daily hangout—a Garden Grove Starbucks—Gunther doesn’t look capable of throwing Southern California business owners into a panic. But he has. He’d left his usual head attire, an oily baseball cap, at home and instead had showered, combed his hair and worn a clean shirt for the interview. He’s got large brown eyes, a Johnny Cash face much older than his 43 years and delivers mostly clipped answers in a raspy cigarette voice. He’s wearing shorts today; gruesome scars mark his right leg. Appearances are critical, and on this late September afternoon, Gunther is angry that people don’t see him as a hero.

“I get hate mail,” he said. “I’m called a scumbag. Someone told me they hope I rot in hell. Another guy said I deserve to be in a wheelchair.”

The hostility is understandable. Since 2003, Gunther has filed more than 200 lawsuits against small businesses he claims have violated the accessibility provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s tougher version, the Unruh Act. The laws are simple in one respect: if a disabled person finds an accessibility barrier—for example, no designated handicapped parking, a heavy bathroom door or a toilet paper dispenser mounted out of easy reach for someone in a wheelchair—that person is entitled to sue and collect $4,000 per violation from the business.

It doesn’t take a genius to calculate that the well-intentioned laws can be a lucrative scheme in the hands of an unscrupulous person. Lawyers familiar with Gunther’s activities estimate he’s taken more than $400,000 in the last 36 months, mostly from mom-and-pop shops in Garden Grove, Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Orange, Tustin, Buena Park, Stanton, Seal Beach, Santa Ana, Dana Point, Huntington Beach and Los Angeles. If true, that’s quite a haul for a man who has spent most of his adult life unemployed, according to records obtained by the Weekly....

...Gunther—six feet tall and 235 pounds—resisted the doctor’s advice to work out. In a 2001 Fresno court hearing regarding the deadbeat dad issue, he explained why: “I can’t [work out or work] due to my mental disorders.” The motorcycle accident left him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as “insomnia, excessive worry, preoccupation with danger, hyper-vigilance, intrusive and frequent recollections and nightmares,” he said.

Yet in May 2000, another Orange County doctor, Archana Shende, said Gunther wasn’t paralyzed, but that he “should not stand and/or walk for more than two hours or sit for more than four hours,” Shende wrote after an examination.

Said Fresno County prosecutor James Falkowski in August 2000, “Mr. Gunther’s injuries are grossly exaggerated, if not outright fraud.”...

...Ironically, one businessman he hasn’t sued is his own lawyer. Like so many businesses Gunther has sued, Mehrban’s Koreatown office is located in a converted house. It’s on the second floor, and to get there, a person in a wheelchair faces an insurmountable hurdle: 15 steps up a narrow hallway.

Mehrban says it would not be practical to make his office accessible to the handicapped.

Guantanamo guards 'boast about abuse'
Troops at Guantanamo Bay routinely hit detainees, and then bragged about it afterwards, according to a US military lawyer

The US Southern Command has launched an investigation into "credible allegations" that guards at Guantanamo Bay abused detainees, and has appointed an army colonel to head the probe.

The Pentagon's Inspector General's office said that it had ordered the Miami-based Southern Command to investigate after Marine Lt Col Colby Vokey, who represents a detainee at the US naval base in eastern Cuba, filed the "hotline" complaint last week.

Col Vokey attached a sworn statement from his paralegal, Sgt Heather Cerveny, 23, in which she said several guards in a bar at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice. "Others were talking about how when they get annoyed with the detainees, about how they hit them, or they punched them in the face," Sgt Cerveny said during a telephone interview Thursday.

"It was a general consensus that I [detected] that as a group this is something they did. That this was OK at Guantanamo, this is how the detainees get treated."...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Where's religious right's outrage now?
...Several months ago, I canvassed eight prominent religious right organizations, including the Moral Majority Coalition, Falwell's group, for their views on torture. My query was straightforward: Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization's position on the use of torture. These are groups that have detailed position papers on everything, including stem-cell research and same-sex unions, yet only two answered my query. Both of them defended the Bush administration's policies on torture. No organization associated with the religious right has yet, to my knowledge, summoned the will to issue a statement of unequivocal opposition to the use of torture....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

There is no party of tolerance in Washington—just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four out of Five Experts Agree.
-- Jesse Walker