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Joe Scarborough Thinks That Being a Yellow-Bellied Chickshit Justifies Torture

Monday, April 27, 2009

By David Edwards
The Raw Story

In debating the use of torture on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski expressed a concern that “fear and reality will overtake morality.” However, host Joe Scarborough did not see that as a problem and seemed to believe it was completely appropriate for what he called “rational fear” to far outweigh morality.

“They’re not going to get any intelligence,” Scarborough said of President Obama’s recent declaration that the United States no longer uses torture. “You have FBI agents that have come out — and it’s laughable — them criticizing the CIA. … The CIA has to rely on what the CIA and people have relied on for years, what American interrogators in every war have relied on.”

Despite Scarborough’s scoffing, recent accounts by military and FBI interrogators make it clear that torture is an ineffective method of interrogation which almost never produces actionable intelligence, and there is no evidence that it has prevented any terrorist plots. In addition, the CIA had no formal interrogation capacity prior to 9/11 and created its torture program in 2002 only at the insistence of the Bush administration and without being fully aware of its limitations.

However, both Scarborough and Brzezinski appear to share the fundamental misapprehension that torture works. “Robert Gibbs was saying on Meet the Press yesterday … they don’t know whether other means may be able to get the same information …” Brzezinski began timidly.

Scarborough interrupted her with a laugh, saying,”If you want to take that chance…”...(Click for remainder.)


Pirate Bay Opponents Hit by Denial-of-Service

I'm gonna go with GOOD!

By David Kravets
Threat Level @

The website for a law firm that helped successfully prosecute the four founders of The Pirate Bay was up and running Monday after it came under siege by hackers during the weekend.

The MAQS law firm, with offices in Denmark, Estonia, Poland and Sweden, shuttered its site late Saturday, posting that its site “was currently under attack and we have therefore decided to shut it down until the attack ceases.” The siege, believed to be a DDoS attack, represented the third time in two months that hackers had attacked a website of those involved in The Pirate Bay prosecution.

A lawyer for the MAQS firm, Monica Wadsted, represented the Motion Picture Association of America during The Pirate Bay trial that ended April 17. The four defendants who founded the world’s most notorious BitTorrent tracker were found guilty of copyright infringement, ordered jailed for a year and fined millions.

The case, tried in Stockholm, is on appeal. Under Swedish law, the case was a joint civil and criminal trial....(Click for remainder.)


60 Minutes: Screening the TSA


SUNDAY LOON WATCH: Kristol wants more Cheney, Huckabee wants more Rove, and Perino thinks Repubs are uniters…


Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Need a History Lesson

Don't be fooled by those who claim God invented marriage – it took centuries for the church to put its claim on it.

By Candace Chellew-Hodge
The Guardian

The question: Is gay marriage a religious issue?

When my partner and I had our wedding ceremony seven years ago we did it in a church. We stood in front of a preacher and said our vows before our friends, some family, and our God. Despite the religious trappings of our ceremony, I don't believe that same-gender marriage is ultimately a religious issue. Ironically, since my partner and I cannot be married in the eyes of the secular state, a church wedding is the only option currently available to us.

Those who shout, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" and claim the creation story as their basis for a religious, heterosexuals-only, marriage rite, need to brush up on their history. My brother made this argument to me once until I asked, "Who was the scribe in the garden?" He stared at me and changed the subject.

Adam and Eve is but one story of creation – all religions have one and not one of them comes from an eyewitness who was there taking notes. Marriage is read back into the story of Adam and Eve, but marriage was occurring long before the story was finally written down. That means society created marriage – not God. The original purpose of marriage has changed over the millennia. The one thing it didn't have originally? Religion.

Marriage was invented for the proper distribution of property – meaning land and other chattel which included the women involved in the marriage. Marriages were for the convenience of the men, not the women. Marriages were arranged to enlarge property holdings – to join two or more families who wanted to enlarge their wealth. Love had little, if anything, to do with these unions. Marriages prevented just any old bastard from coming along and asserting rights to the property of a man he may claim to call "daddy."...(Click for remainder.)


The Other White Meat

By Frederick Deligne
Le Pelerin, France


Why Iran Is Hungry for Business with the U.S.

An Iranian woman, walks past an anti-US mural on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran, Iran.
By Stanley Reed
Spiegel Online

An easing of tensions with Tehran would bring foreign investment, allowing Iranian companies to scale up.

Nestled in rocky hills about 40 minutes from Tehran, Pardis Technology Park is supposed to be Iran's answer to Silicon Valley. But these days, Pardis is deserted and forlorn, with many buildings standing unfinished, their exposed girders rusting. Foreign companies are reluctant to invest in the Islamic Republic, and domestic outfits are cash-strapped.

Both foreigners and locals may find a new reason to move in. President Barack Obama has indicated a willingness to ease tensions with Tehran, and many Iranian businesspeople hope their leaders will engage with him. A relaxing of US economic sanctions "would be a seismic shift," says Ramin Rabii, chairman of Turquoise Partners, a fund manager that invests in Iran.

Americans and other Western companies might benefit, too. Iran, after all, has 66 million people, good schools, and a diversified industrial base-with a pent-up appetite for computers, planes, aircraft parts, and knowhow for the crucial oil and gas industry. And many Iranians like the prospect of working with US companies rather than the Europeans that have been the only game in recent years. "Iranian officials believe Americans are more straightforward in business deals," says Narsi Ghorban, managing director of Narkangan Gas to Liquid, a Tehran energy company. "They get what they want and give you your due."

If businesspeople do come to Tehran, a sprawling city built on steep hills that lead up to snow-capped mountains, they will find some conditions improved. Mobile telephones from other countries finally work, and several private hotels have sprung up. Since the 1979 revolution, social life has never been more liberal. Boys and girls hold hands in public, women show some hair outside their scarves, and checkpoints where police once searched cars for alcohol have all but disappeared. But there's still enough fear of the regime that many people decline to be interviewed....(Click for remainder.)


U.S. Businesses Fret China, U.S. Protectionism May Rise

By Kirby Chien

BEIJING (Reuters) - A U.S. business group said on Monday it was worried that protectionist sentiment could rise in both China and the United States as the global economy shrinks.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China also said in its annual white paper that China was still crucial as a base for manufacturing and increasingly as a market, but the regulatory environment was opaque and sometimes worked against foreigners.

"The risk is higher in an economic downturn" that governments will turn to protectionism, AmCham China Chairman John Watkins told reporters.

"We want to highlight that risk in both countries," he said.

On Friday, China approved a postal law that could severely restrict foreign companies such as FedEx Corp and TNT in the fast growing express delivery sector.

That law comes only weeks after Beijing blocked Coca-Cola Co from buying China Huiyuan Juice, a case that sparked widespread nationalist sentiment in the mainland. A "buy American" provision in U.S. President Barack Obama's stimulus plan attracted criticism from trading partners around the world.

The postal law's vague wording also opened the door to inconsistent or arbitrary implementation, highlighting another major complaint of U.S. businesses....(Click for remainder.)


Freedom of Disinformation

By Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV
The Daily Beast

Dick Cheney has called for declassifying memos he claims will vindicate the Bush administration’s torture policy. Now former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV urges the former vice president to extend his demand for transparency to his still-secret testimony in the Scooter Libby obstruction of justice case.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s reemergence on the political stage after his ignominious departure on Inauguration Day, eschewing the traditional handshake with his successor and the new president, is nothing if not ironic. The most secretive individual in American politics is now calling for the selective release of documents that remain classified in one of his own files marked “Detainees.” We have also learned that a principal reason for having tortured senior al Qaeda detainees was not, in fact, to defend the Homeland, but rather to build the case for war with Iraq based on alleged ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Despite literally hundreds of waterboarding sessions, there was no evidence developed that such a link existed. But that did not stop Cheney. He and others in the Bush administration simply asserted a link even though they knew one did not exist.

I know something about Cheney’s disinformation. When I, and a number of others, including a four-star Marine Corps general, Carleton Fulford, and the then-U.S. Ambassador to the West African nation of Niger, reported to the CIA that there was no evidence to support the assertion that Iraq had entered into a contract to purchase 500 tons of uranium yellowcake, our conclusions were ignored by the Bush administration. Instead, the president, in his State of the Union address in 2003, proclaimed a falsehood: “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was trotted out to assert that we could not afford to “wait for the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud,” and Cheney himself asserted that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear-weapons program....(Click for remainder.)


Gingrich on Whether Waterboarding is Torture: 'I Can't Tell You'

By Satyam Khanna
Radical Right-Wing Agenda

On Friday, Fox News's Greta Van Susteren interviewed former House speaker Newt Gingrich regarding President Obama's recent release of Bush-era OLC torture memos. Throughout the interview, Gingrich tried to sit on the fence of the torture debate -- saying, for example, that "releasing the documents last week was a big mistake" but also saying "I want to see the United States run the risk, at times, of not learning certain things in order to establish a standard for civilization."

When Van Susteren asked if waterboarding is torture, Gingrich hemmed and hawed. "I think it's something we shouldn't do," he said, but he qualified his statement, adding, "Lawyers I respect a great deal say it is absolutely within the law. Other lawyers say it absolutely is not. I mean, this is a debatable area." When asked if waterboarding violates international law, Gingrich played dumb:

    VAN SUSTEREN: But you said a minute ago that it was torture, waterboarding...

    GINGRICH: No, I said it's not something we should do.

    VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Is it torture or not?

    GINGRICH: I -- I -- I think it's -- I can't tell you.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Does it violate the Geneva Convention?

    GINGRICH: I honestly don't know.

Watch it:

(Click for remainder.)


GOP is Filibustering the Confirmation of the Sec. of HHS in the Midst of Swine Flu Preparations

By Joe Sudbay

Never underestimate the willingness of the GOP to put politics over the best interests of the nation. Last week, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell started a filibuster to prevent confirmation of Obama's choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. The right wing, anti-choice zealots have been apoplectic about Sebelius -- and we all know that the GOP caters to its most extreme elements. Now, this is a filibuster (even though most of the traditional media won't exactly say that and Mitch McConnell denies it.) Again, here's the definition:
filibuster - Informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.
This is vintage GOP obstruction. In the few days since the GOP Senators launched their filibuster, it's become clear that we may be facing a major health threat. The key government departments and agencies are gathering to plot strategy. Absent is a Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Today, at the White House briefing, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was there as was John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. They were joined by the Acting Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But, we don't even have a head of CDC because the Secretary of HHS appoints that person. And, no Secretary of HHS. In fact, as the White House transcript shows, Napolitano had to make the announcement about the "public health emergency" for HHS:
The first thing I want to announce today is that the Department of Health and Human Services will declare today a public health emergency in the United States.
(Click for remainder.)


Eric Cantor Blames the Media for the Public Perception that the GOP are Obstructionists

By Heather
Crooks and Liars

From The Situation Room April 23, 2009. Eric Cantor tries to blame the media for the perception that the GOP doesn't want to work with the President. When asked if there was going to be some cooperation in the future from the GOP, Cantor says there will be as long as the Democrats are willing to adopt Republican ideas. I think they already did by caving on some of those tax cuts the Republicans wanted, but Cantor and Blitzer seem to have forgotten about that.

Blitzer affords Cantor every opportunity to give some specifics about just what their "new" ideas are and I sure as hell didn't hear any. Without specifics it sounded like more of the same from him. Tax cuts, status quo on health insurance and "belt tightening" which is GOP double speak for cutting social spending.

Yeah that evil media never gives you guys a chance to let anyone know how you're cooperating with the President. Like you just had in this interview and failed to do. You even managed to get a shot in and call the other side which is at most generous centrist and hardly far left, extremist. That's a great way to get some cooperation. Name calling....(Click for remainder.)


Torture Memos Released

By Jeff Darcy
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer


I'm With Stupid

By Thomas Boldt
The Calgary Sun


Obama's First 100 Days: What's a Presidency For?

By Robert Kuttner
The Huffington Post

A severe economic crisis coupled with the election of a new progressive president is an opportunity for a dramatic break with the old order. But that process doesn't just happen spontaneously. It takes exceptional presidential resolve and leadership. And there are three huge obstacles to President Obama seizing the moment to produce fundamental change, two of them systemic and one self-inflicted.

The first systemic obstacle is the lingering political power of the old order. Practical failure doesn't diminish political influence. On the contrary, it leads to a defensive redoubling of political resolve. We see this every day in the relentless lobbying by the financial industry against new regulations. We see it in the ongoing power of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries to block comprehensive health reform, and in the efforts of corporate America generally to resist sweeping changes in corporate governance and executive compensation. The economy has crashed, ordinary people are suffering, rightwing ideology has been disgraced--and the old order endures.

A second systemic obstacle, for now anyway, is the absence of a popular movement to put wind at a progressive president's back. Among the logical candidates, the labor movement is weakened by the same economic crisis, divided internally, and it sorely needs Obama's good will for everything from the Employee Free Choice Act to the auto rescue. The web of grassroots activists who came together to elect Obama is now a website of the Democratic National Committee. is organizing around issues such as universal health care, but pushes on the president only gingerly. More than anything else, the stance of most progressives is still mainly gratitude.

We got a small taste of what a more radical break might feel like when Obama briefly signaled with the release of Bush's torture memos that he might be open to further investigation of the Bush's torture policy, but then backtracked and quickly asked the Democratic leadership to shut the idea down. Evidently, Obama's political self wrestled with his constitutional conscience, and won. Civil libertarians felt a huge letdown, but protest was surprisingly muted....(Click for remainder.)


It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

By Steve Benen
Washington Monthly

Most of the major news outlets are trying to come up with interesting ways to report on President Obama's first 100 days in office, some more creative than others. The Murdoch-owned New York Post decided to go with "100 Days, 100 Mistakes: Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and others on Obama's short, error-prone time in office."

Far-right blogs seem thrilled. And why not? After all, if the New York Post asked for contributions from insightful luminaries like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Joe Scarborough, it's bound to be a shrewd and thought-provoking look at the last three months, right? The paper's conservative ownership and editors no doubt thought creating such a list would be a good idea.

So, I dug in, reading all 100 "mistakes." Obama's start hasn't been perfect, by any means, but if these "mistakes" are the best Palin, Beck, Scarborough, and the New York Post's editors can come up with, the White House has reason to be pleased.

For example, did you know the president made a "mistake" by not taking the recent "Tea Parties" seriously? Obama also made a "mistake" when a Bush administration official wrote a report warning of potentially-violent American radicals. When one poll showed public opposition to an administration policy, while another showed public support for the same policy, that counts as a presidential "mistake."

When the Dow fell below 7,000, it was a "mistake" for Obama. When the president pre-empted an episode of "American Idol," that's a "mistake," too. When Joe Biden forgot the url for, that's also an Obama "mistake." If the president even thinks about policies the New York Post disapproves of, they all count as "mistakes."

Seriously....(Click for remainder.)


Will Norm Coleman Follow Jim Tedisco's Lead?

By Adam Green
Open Left

Some day, we will see a statement like this from Norm Coleman:

"It became clear that the numbers were not going our way and that the time had come to step aside and ensure that the next congressman be seated as quickly as possible," Tedisco said in a statement. "In the interest of the citizens of the 20th Congressional District and our nation, I wish Scott the very best."
Obviously, when Coleman eventually says "the time has come" that will be as much an under-statement as drinking 2-year-old milk and asserting, "This tastes a bit funny."

The question is not if -- but when -- Coleman will concede. And this week's news out of Minnesota makes clear that there is an increasing role for regular citizens to play if we want to speed up the timeline of the seating of Senator Franken:
Minnesotans won’t know who their second U.S. senator will be until at least June. On Friday, the state Supreme Court set June 1 as the date for oral arguments in Republican Norm Coleman’s appeal of the recent election trial that concluded with Democrat Al Franken on top by 312 votes.

...Coleman’s Republican allies in Congress have urged him to take his fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. He hasn’t ruled out that option.
(Click for remainder.)


Does FOX News Hate The Bill of Rights?

By Ellen
News Hounds

Despite their claim to "believe in the United States of America and its ideals, as expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation," and a supposed commitment "to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse," The Fox Nation seems awfully antagonistic to the ACLU, an organization dedicated to being guardians of American liberties. In fact, other than MoveOn.Org, I can't think of another organization that FOX News is more antagonistic toward. But a recent headline on Fox Nation is especially troubling. Not content to just disagree over the interpretation of the Constitution, those "patriots" at FOX "ask," Does the ACLU Hate America? If nothing else, it's a headline designed to inflame rather than stimulate tolerant, civil discourse about our Bill of Rights. Inflammatory rhetoric is exactly what they got in their comments.

The Fox Nation post doesn't even mention the ACLU, much less give a clue why we might think it hates America. Instead, there's a quick paragraph about the Department of Defense planning to make public photos of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that FOX wanted to ask if the Obama administration hates America and toned it down to question the ACLU instead?) You have to click through to the full article to learn that the release is the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the ACLU....(Click for remainder.)


FOX News Tries To Scare Viewers Away From Obama's Cap And Trade Plan

By Brian
News Hounds

Instead of offering real, grown-up debate about President Obama's proposal to curb carbon emissions, FOX News' Saturday business show, Bulls and Bears, did what it usually does, engaged in a shoutfest with unsubstantiated accusations and no independent investigation. Also as usual, the panel was stacked heavily against Obama. With video.

Host Brenda Buttner opened the discussion on the 4/25/09 show by saying, “Happy Earth Tax Day,” a blatant attempt to scare people into believing President Obama will tax us to death.

Eric Bolling typified the shallow, glib approach when he said, "Either you produce a gallon of gasoline, a kilowatt hour of electricity, or a bag of Fritos, you're going to pollute a little bit in the process. You get taxed, you're going to do one of two things; Number one, you're gonna pass that on to the consumer – bad. Or, number two, you're going to move to China or India where there is no cap and trade tax – badder.”

Tobin Smith said the idea has been proven not to work in Europe and, he dubiously claimed, “the prices collapsed” as a result. He was also annoyed that “it's going to be a whole new set of taxes." He called it “dead on arrival.”

What he and most of the rest of the panel, including host Buttner, ignored is a 2008 study by MIT which concluded that while not perfect, the European system is “a technical and political success.” Also not mentioned on the “we report, you decide” network is that the United States already operates a similar "cap and trade" system to control sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide output. Funny how you never hear any howls about that on FOX News....(Click for remainder.)


GOP Secrets

By Adam Zyglis
The Buffalo News


Cheney and National Security

By Mark Streeter
The Savannah Morning News


Working Across the Aisle

By Arjun Jaikumar
Daily Kos

The Hill has conducted a survey of the 99 current members of the United States Senate in an effort to discover the most (and least) "bipartisan" members of the body.

It's a very interesting survey, and features quotes from each Senator about the members from the other party with whom they find it easiest to work. (Obviously, negative quotes were anonymous; no one wants to go on record saying "Jim Bunning is a jerk" even if that's what they think).

Some interesting findings from the survey (Democratic responses are here, Republican answers here):

Liberal lion Ted Kennedy was named as the most bipartisan Senator, by far. He was named not only by relatively moderate Senators such as Arlen Specter, but by some of the Senate's most conservative members (Sam Brownback, Richard Burr, Mike Enzi, Jeff Sessions). Kennedy is generally considered one of the greatest legislators in the history of the Senate, and it appears a great number of his Republican colleagues would agree.

Conversely, Kennedy's close friend Orrin Hatch was named surprisingly often by his Democratic colleagues - not as much as celebrated "moderates" Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, but as much as anyone else. He was mentioned by eight Senators, the same number as Maverick John McCain.

Friendships. A lot of Senators named frequent working partners, but some named close friends of theirs from across the aisle. Indeed, there are a number of seemingly unlikely friendships referenced in this piece. The relationship between Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy is well-known and long-standing, but it may surprise some folks to know that Roger Wicker and Ben Cardin were old friends from their days in the House.

George Voinovich and Tom Carper - two relative centrists and former Governors - also seem to be close personally as well as professionally....(Click for remainder.)


Donna Brazile Slams George Will: "It's About the Rule of Law"


Lady Liberty and Torture

By Mike Luckovich
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Justice & Torture

By R.J. Matson
The New York Observer


Torturing Cheney

By Craig Crawford


Rick Perry, After Raising Secession, Calls For Fed Help With Swine Flu

Oh, I'm sorry Ricky.  You've made it perfectly clear that you don't want the federal government involving itself in the affairs of Texas.  So, you'll have to deal with this all by yourself.  Maybe you can get all those people who don't believe in science and evolution to pray the swine flu away.  Get to prayin'.

By The Huffington Post

Less than two weeks after raising the prospect of seceding from the union, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling on the federal government to come to his state's aid in the midst of the swine flu outbreak.

The San Marcos Record reports:
Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. [...]

"As a precautionary measure, I have requested that medication be on hand in Texas to help curb the spread of swine flu by helping those with both confirmed and suspected cases of this swine flu virus, as well as healthcare providers who may have come in contact with these patients," said Gov. Rick Perry. "We will continue to work with our local, state and federal health officials to ensure public safety is protected."
Back on April 15, Perry was taking a rather different stance towards the federal government:
"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

He said when Texas entered the union in 1845 it was with the understanding it could pull out. However, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Texas negotiated the power to divide into four additional states at some point if it wanted to but not the right to secede.
(Click for original.)


White House Briefing: Swine Flu


Quit Arguing With Douchebags That Everyone Hates

By David Roberts

Catching up with email and blog posts I missed while on vacation for a few weeks has been instructive. It appears to me, from this fresh perspective, that progressive bloggers, journalists, and activists are wasting a lot of their time.

To understand why, we need to be clear on the current landscape. Right now, Republicans represent about 30-40% of the public. They are increasingly beholden to the hardcore, angry-white-man demographic, which is getting increasingly insular and wingnutty, screaming about socialism and handshakes with Chavez and one-world currency. Republicans in Congress have decided on a program of total obstruction.

This shrinking minority and its representatives in Congress are unreachable and unreasonable. They speak only to one another and their shared mythology of victimization and looming threat is increasingly baroque and opaque to those outside. They are shrinking into themselves, drifting into the wilderness, becoming more and more cultish. There is, in short, no reason to pay much attention to them.

Meanwhile, among the other 60-70%, there’s a serious debate happening about how best to act on climate and energy. There’s broad understanding that there’s a problem and broad support for moving forward, but among industrial state Dems and many citizens there’s fear that the transition will be painful.

The rational response to this landscape would be to spend time arguing—and displaying real confidence—that the transition will in fact be good for the entire country; that industrial states will benefit as well; that the nation will be stronger, safer, and more prosperous as a result of action. It is the waverers and nervous nellies who need attention and persuasion....(Click for remainder.)


Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?

By Maia Szalavitz

Pop quiz: Which European country has the most liberal drug laws? (Hint: It's not the Netherlands.)

Although its capital is notorious among stoners and college kids for marijuana haze–filled "coffee shops," Holland has never actually legalized cannabis — the Dutch simply don't enforce their laws against the shops. The correct answer is Portugal, which in 2001 became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal possession of drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

At the recommendation of a national commission charged with addressing Portugal's drug problem, jail time was replaced with the offer of therapy. The argument was that the fear of prison drives addicts underground and that incarceration is more expensive than treatment — so why not give drug addicts health services instead? Under Portugal's new regime, people found guilty of possessing small amounts of drugs are sent to a panel consisting of a psychologist, social worker and legal adviser for appropriate treatment (which may be refused without criminal punishment), instead of jail.

The question is, does the new policy work? At the time, critics in the poor, socially conservative and largely Catholic nation said decriminalizing drug possession would open the country to "drug tourists" and exacerbate Portugal's drug problem; the country had some of the highest levels of hard-drug use in Europe. But the recently released results of a report commissioned by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, suggest otherwise....(Click for remainder.)


Tight-Robe Walker

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.
The New Republic

WASHINGTON--How many ironies can a single presidency engender? Barack Obama is a detached man who has inspired fierce loyalties, and a cool man who has aroused both warm feelings of affection and a fiery opposition.   

He loves to engage conservatives, yet few of them have chosen to engage him. He is seen as too moderate by parts of the left, but the right thinks he has a radical statist agenda.

Wall Street's critics believe Obama's approach to rescuing the financial system amounts to coddling the bankers and financial scammers who got us into this mess. But many on the Street say Obama doesn't understand them and fear he is a secret populist who would displace finance as the dominant force in the American economy.   

On torture, Obama sought a middle ground: He ended the practice, disclosed what happened, and then proposed we move on. Yet the right opposed disclosure, parts of the left wanted more accountability, and their fight brought back all of the bitterness Obama wants to put behind us.

The man not only defies labels. He hates them. At a briefing for columnists last week to influence the coming 100-day assessments, a senior Obama adviser, struggling to offer a philosophical definition of the 44th president, finally settled on calling him "a devout non-ideologue."   

But the mysteries and paradoxes of these 100 days cannot be unraveled without an understanding that the president is more than a "whatever works" guy. Obama would not inspire such loyalty if his supporters did not see (correctly) that he has an agenda to move the country to a very different place. He would not inspire such resistance if his opponents did not sense exactly the same thing....(Click for remainder.)


What Happened to the Ban on Assault Weapons?

By Jimmy Carter
The New York Times Op-Ed

ATLANTA - The evolution in public policy concerning the manufacture, sale and possession of semiautomatic assault weapons like AK-47s, AR-15s and Uzis has been very disturbing. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and I all supported a ban on these formidable firearms, and one was finally passed in 1994.

When the 10-year ban was set to expire, many police organizations — including 1,100 police chiefs and sheriffs from around the nation — called on Congress and President George W. Bush to renew and strengthen it. But with a wink from the White House, the gun lobby prevailed and the ban expired.

I have used weapons since I was big enough to carry one, and now own two handguns, four shotguns and three rifles, two with scopes. I use them carefully, for hunting game from our family woods and fields, and occasionally for hunting with my family and friends in other places. We cherish the right to own a gun and some of my hunting companions like to collect rare weapons. One of them is a superb craftsman who makes muzzle-loading rifles, one of which I displayed for four years in my private White House office.

But none of us wants to own an assault weapon, because we have no desire to kill policemen or go to a school or workplace to see how many victims we can accumulate before we are finally shot or take our own lives. That’s why the White House and Congress must not give up on trying to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, even if it may be politically difficult.

An overwhelming majority of Americans, including me and my hunting companions, believe in the right to own weapons, but surveys show that they also support modest restraints like background checks, mandatory registration and brief waiting periods before purchase....(Click for remainder.)


Superbad: Which Movie Villain Does Dick Cheney Most Resemble?

As Dick Cheney strikes back on TV, his cinema-villain alter ego remains up for grabs.

By David Edelstein
New York Magazine

Now that former vice-president Dick Cheney, last seen being wheeled into history, has returned with a vengeance to the public sphere, the debate has resumed over which movie supervillain he most resembles. A couple of years ago, writer Darin Murphy took umbrage at the widely used Darth Vader comparison for being unfair to Vader, who did not, after all, defer his military service five times and never shot anyone in the face unless he meant it. Two weeks ago, Maureen Dowd reported that George Lucas has also rejected the analogy: Cheney, Lucas said, is the wicked emperor who pulled the strings and turned his protégé to the dark side. Unfortunately, this would mean George W. Bush is Vader, which is an even bigger slur on poor Darth, a murderer of great discipline and character who, moreover, was finally moved to slay his demonic overlord.

Although the Galactic Emperor, né Palpatine, shares many of Cheney’s core values—principally that one must embrace the “dark side” in order best to serve a centralized government with no checks on its authority—he does not fire the imagination the way Vader does. He’s a dullard. Perhaps it’s time to consider other candidates.

Fu Manchu. Like Cheney, the Chinese warlord controls a vast criminal network via blackmail, extortion, and assassination squads while lurking in subterranean caverns. He inspires terror in subordinates and enemies alike by torturing freely and with relish. Defeated many times, he is stubbornly resilient: “The world shall hear from me again.” Unlike Cheney, however, Fu Manchu oversees the torture personally and doesn’t claim he doesn’t torture. Also, being an ethnic stereotype, he never perverts or violates the Constitution of the United States. (Is it coincidence that “Scooter” Libby once wrote a novel featuring Asian torturers?)

Dr. Mabuse. Like Cheney, the Teutonic arch-fiend controls a vast criminal network while lurking in the shadows. He wields hypnotic power, unnerving subordinates and enemies alike with his implacable demeanor. Called on to surrender in the name of the state, Mabuse cries, “I am the state!” Unlike Cheney, however, he creates chaos intentionally rather than by accident, through the use of incompetent party loyalists and their inbred progeny. Also, he does not hide behind the rule of law, and, again, he never perverts or violates the Constitution of the United States....(Click for remainder.)


Money For Nothing

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

On July 15, 2007, The New York Times published an article with the headline “The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age.” The most prominently featured of the “new titans” was Sanford Weill, the former chairman of Citigroup, who insisted that he and his peers in the financial sector had earned their immense wealth through their contributions to society.

Soon after that article was printed, the financial edifice Mr. Weill took credit for helping to build collapsed, inflicting immense collateral damage in the process. Even if we manage to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression, the world economy will take years to recover from this crisis.

All of which explains why we should be disturbed by an article in Sunday’s Times reporting that pay at investment banks, after dipping last year, is soaring again — right back up to 2007 levels.

Why is this disturbing? Let me count the ways.

First, there’s no longer any reason to believe that the wizards of Wall Street actually contribute anything positive to society, let alone enough to justify those humongous paychecks.

Remember that the gilded Wall Street of 2007 was a fairly new phenomenon. From the 1930s until around 1980 banking was a staid, rather boring business that paid no better, on average, than other industries, yet kept the economy’s wheels turning....(Click for remainder.)


It's Only a Flesh Wound!


Swine Flue Triggers Alerts Worldwide

By Adam Thomson, Aline van Duyn, Clive Cookson and Andrew Jack
The Financial Times

Governments and health authorities worldwide went on the alert over the weekend for a possible influenza pandemic as the death toll from a new strain of swine flu in Mexico reached 81.

Janet Napolitano, homeland security secretary, on Sunday declared a “public health emergency” in the US as about 20 people there were confirmed to have been infected, though none is seriously ill. The World Health Organisation in Geneva had earlier made a similar announcement.

The World Bank on Sunday agreed to Mexico’s request to release emergency credit of more than $200m (£136m) to fund its swine flu programmes.

Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, said its emergency committee would decide on Tuesday whether to raise the official pandemic threat level above “phase three”, where it has been for several years in response to a different virus – H5N1 bird flu in Asia.

A pandemic would harm the prospects of the world economy recovering from recession, with the travel and leisure sectors particularly vulnerable, as the 2003 Sars outbreak showed. Authorities in several Asian countries were on Sunday screening travellers at airports and border crossings.

The Mexican authorities declared a state of alert in and around Mexico City, the sprawling capital that is home to about 20m inhabitants, where the outbreak is centred. They have cancelled all public events over the next few days, including ministerial speaking engagements, rock concerts and even football matches. The Mexican Football Federation confirmed that Sunday’s two big games in Mexico City would be played before empty terraces. “We have formally declared a state of sanitary alert,” said José Angel Córdova, Mexico’s health minister....(Click for remainder.)


Judge: It's 'High Time' To Legalize Pot

By Stephen C. Webster
The Raw Story

A judge and Vietnam veteran from Orange County, California is on a publicity crusade to get marijuana legalized.

From NBC San Diego:

Jim Gray is a Vietnam combat veteran who spent 25 years on Orange County's 'bench'. He's riled a lot of anti-drug crusaders with his critiques of America's war on narcotics.

In his view, it's 'high time' -- so to speak -- for another approach to marijuana.

"We would make marijuana less available for our children than it is today," Gray said.
"Why is that? Because alcohol is controlled by the government, and illegal drugs are controlled by drug dealers, and they don't ask for ID. So what's not to like?"
If you're interested in the drug war debate, definitely click through and check out the full interview with Mr. Gray. Here's a recent video of him (uploaded by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) spreading the legalization message on Fox:

(Click for remainder.)


GOP Know-Nothings Fought Pandemic Preparedness

By John Nichols
The Nation

When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year's emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.

Obey and other advocates for the spending argued, correctly, that a pandemic hitting in the midst of an economic downturn could turn a recession into something far worse -- with workers ordered to remain in their homes, workplaces shuttered to avoid the spread of disease, transportation systems grinding to a halt and demand for emergency services and public health interventions skyrocketing. Indeed, they suggested, pandemic preparation was essential to any responsible plan for renewing the U.S. economy.

Now, as the World Health Organization says a deadly swine flu outbreak that apparently began in Mexico but has spread to the United States has the potential to develop into a pandemic, Obey's attempt to secure the money seems eerily prescient.

And his partisan attacks on his efforts seem not just creepy, but dangerous.

The current swine flu outbreak is not a pandemic, and there is reason to hope that it can be contained.

But it has already killed more than 80 people in a neighboring country and sickened dozens of Americans -- causing the closing of schools and other public facilities in U.S. cities....(Click for remainder.)



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