Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Obama Monument

Obama's First 100 Days

After ending American torture, will we prosecute those who ordered other war crimes?

By Nat Hentoff

Pressure is building on the new president from his more urgent supporters to begin validating their audacious hopes within his first 100 days. Special heat is on to abolish torture. After all, during Obama's 60 minutes interview on November 16, he said: "I'm going to make sure we don't torture." As I noted last week, he could stop it eventually with an executive order, but for many, that's not soon enough.

On November 13, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture assembled more than 50 delegations of religious leaders in Washington—from Rabbi Gerry Serotta, chair of Rabbis for Human Rights, to Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America—to tell Obama to sign that executive order as soon as he gets into the Oval Office.

Also pushing Obama is Amnesty International, which is giving him 100 days to show the world that he actually means what he says about being repelled by torture. But Amnesty International also wants the President to do something else that he may be extremely reluctant to consider: "[We call] on the President-elect to support an independent commission of inquiry into all aspects of the United States' detention practices in the war on terror, and to assure full accountability for human rights violations committed in that context."

With regard to serial war crimes, "accountability" would mean putting on trial George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and his longtime associate, David Addington, and a coven of lawyers from the Justice and Defense departments.


The Wile E Coyote Government

Zoo pulls Creation Museum promotion

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum launched a joint promotional deal last week to draw attention to their holiday attractions.
It worked, but not the way zoo and museum officials had hoped.

The zoo pulled out of the deal Monday after receiving dozens of angry calls and e-mails about the partnership, which offered reduced prices to anyone who bought tickets to the zoo's Festival of Lights and the museum's Christmas celebration, Bethlehem's Blessing.

Most of the protests echoed the same theme: the Creation Museum promotes a religious point of view that conflicts with the zoo's scientific mission.

Some complained that the zoo, which receives public support through a tax levy, should not become involved with a private museum dedicated to the teachings of the Bible's Book of Genesis. Others said a scientific institution shouldn't link itself to a place that argues man once lived side by side with dinosaurs.

"They seem like diametrically opposed institutions," said Dr. James Leach, a Cincinnati radiologist who e-mailed zoo officials about his concerns. "The Cincinnati Zoo is one of this city's treasures. The Creation Museum is an international laughingstock."








The Editor has been informed that there have been no arguments, no objections, no disputes, no denials whatsoever Stateside re: the crucial intelligence concerning the room or suite inside the premises of Morgan Stanley exposed in this report, which was being used as the financial sector base for the U.S.-DRIVEN FINANCING OF TERRORISM AND AL-QAEDA ALL AROUND THE WORLD.



As a direct and immediate consequence of THIS POSTING, the Editor was informed just before midnight that the word from Washington is that it is now intended to quote 'DO EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK'. In other words, it is CYA time, BIG-TIME, as the filthy criminal rats scramble to AVOID BEING ARRESTED OR OTHERWISE 'DEALT WITH' BECAUSE THEY ARE THEMSELVES KNOWN TERRORISTS. Until the exposure of the Morgan Stanley TERRORISM FINANCING CENTRE, they fondly imagined that all our accusations of their pursuit of economic terrorism would wash over everyone's head. FOLLOWING THIS POSTING, THEY HAVE HAD TO CHANGE THEIR ATTITUDE.

There is a deeper point to take on board here. What is meant by 'DOING EVERYTHING BY THE BOOK'? It is 'cornered criminalist' language which, being interpreted, has the following obvious PRACTICAL IMPLICATION: persuading compliant bankers, participants, intermediaries and their counterparties to go along with financing operations which 'smell' IS GOING TO BECOME A LOT HARDER, IF NOT ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE NOW. The bankers et al. are going to 'cease to cooperate', out of fear that they will be picked up for FINANCING TERRORISM. AND THEY WILL.

That's what 'GOING BY THE BOOK' means and will mean, in practice.

FACT: They will ALSO have to wind up the AL-QAEDA and all the related GLOBAL TERRORISM operations. Both Britain and America will have to get out of financing terrorism, and this will have to be done immediately. OVER TO YOU, PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA. This may be your finest hour.


The Black House

9 Ways to Halt the Right Wing Culture Wars and Bring Sanity to Sexual Policy

Sex and Relationships

By David Rosen 

The recent electoral victory of Barack Obama and the Democratic party presents a unique opportunity to overturn the most perverse policy of the Bush administration and the religious right, the conservative repressive sexual agenda. The following nine proposals can help frame a new sexual agenda to be introduced in the first 100 days.

For the last three decades the religious right fought a take-no-prisoners war over popular morality. Taking power with Bush's victory in 2000, Christian conservatives were finally in the position to impose their beliefs as public policy. And they did so with a vengeance. At the local, state and federal levels, religious zealots, working through the Republican party, took control of the apparatus of the State and aggressively implemented a diverse set of programs to further their goal of creating a morally upstanding, Christian society. Family life, sexual relations, education, scientific knowledge and popular entertainment became battlegrounds of the culture wars.

The culture wars played a decisive role in the 2000 and 2004 elections, but were eclipsed in the 2006 Congressional elections, the religious right's moral fervor spent. While sex issues were all but absent from the 2008 national presidential campaign, they did help rally the conservative faithful at the state level. Efforts to outlaw gay marriage were successful in Arizona (Proposition 102), California (Proposition 8)and Florida (Marriage Protection Amendment) as was Arkansas' Proposed Initiative Act No. 1 that prohibits co-habiting couples of the same sex, whether gay or straight, from either adopting a child or serving as foster parents.

Nevertheless, efforts in Colorado (Amendment 45) and South Dakota (Initiated Measure 11) to, respectively, establish "fetal personhood" and ban abortion failed. And in Washington, voters approved a proposition permitting physician-assisted suicide similar to one already in force in Oregon. In 2008, it was the collapsing economy, failed Bush policies and culture-war fatigue as well as Obama's broad popular appeal that turned the tide for the Democrats.

The Democratic landslide provides a unique opportunity for Congress and the President-elect to quickly address at least one of the many profound failings of the Bush administration, its repressive sex policies. The following proposals can help frame the upcoming battle for political reform and, hopefully, finally put an end to the religious right's culture wars.

* * *

Proposal #1: Safeguard Roe v Wade

President-elect Obama was a co-sponsor of the 2007 Senate version of the Freedom of Choice Act (S. 1173) that would reaffirm Roe as a fundamental right. As he stated: "Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America." Congress should pass and Obama should sign the Freedom on Choice Act.

If enacted, the law would effectively overturn many state and federal restrictions imposed over the last eight years on a woman's ability to choose an abortion. In particular, the Act would lift requirements on health-care providers to provide questionable medical "information" about the risks of having an abortion; lift restrictions limiting abortion providers to only licensed physicians; lift parental-notification and approval requirements for minors seeking an abortion; and overturn the dubiously-named "partial-birth abortions" laws.

One of the critical features of the Roe decision was establishing personhood at the moment of birth. As evident in Colorado voters' rejection of the "fetal personhood" proposition, the notion of personhood at the moment of conception is a veiled attempt to undercut Roe. Medico-scientific advances are pushing the moment of birth earlier and earlier before full-term is reached, with an increasing number of ever-smaller preemies living healthy lives. This is a remarkable accomplishment and should only strengthen the need to ensure that personhood remains at birth.

Proposal #2: End Abstinence Policies

The Bush administration's abstinence-only crusade is a failure. Mounting research data indicates an upswing in pregnancy among teen girls, including Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, and that the abstinence-only policy must be replaced. Abstinence-only education contributes to unwanted pregnancies, oftentimes leading to unwanted abortions. According to the ACLU, the federal government has spent more than $700 million since 1997 on abstinence-only programs and, last year, allocated approximately $170 million to such programs.

Obama once insisted: "As President, I will improve access to affordable health care and work to ensure that our teens are getting the information and services they need to stay safe and healthy." Democrats need to take Obama at his word and quickly move to end funding for existing abstinence-only programs and implement a more humane, sex-positive and age- appropriate educational programs.

In addition, humane sex education is only half the challenge in addressing the needs of teens and young people regarding their sexual health. The monies that have been wasted on abstinence-only programs should be more wisely spent on providing health care screenings and, where appropriate, birth control materials. A young person needs to be supported in terms of both her/his mind and body for an effective sex education program to work.


GM, Ford - Won't Pledge to Buy American


Sen. Sherrod Brown (D, OH) asking GM, Ford, and Crysler,
'Will you buy American if we give you taxpayer dollars?'

(Wash. DC)  The CEO's of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were in the Capitol  Thursday asking for $34 billion dollars to stay in business for the next few months.  The three companies are now at the top of the corporate "dead pool," with a bankruptcy for GM possible by the end of the year.  They appeared before the Senate Committee o Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D, OH) provided one of the most telling moments when he asked the three chiefs to commit to continued purchasing from United States automotive suppliers at the same or increased levels in return for federal bailout funds.

Suppliers for GM, Ford and Chrysler are located across the country.  A GM bankruptcy would resonate through the aftermarket, original equipment (for new cars), and heavy duty parts suppliers creating broad based economic hardship.

The following transcription shows clearly that both GM and Ford failed to commit in any way to Brown's goal - a firm commitment to buy American if they receive taxpayer funds.

U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Dec. 4, 2008 (311-313)

Sen. Brown:  "Auto suppliers, of course, as auto companies, have a lot to worry about these days.  One of the concerns is that tax payer dollars will go into this program and their concern is that they not be used to off shore American supplier jobs ... I'd like just a yes or no on each of the three CEOs, for you to commit and pledge to maintain or increase your US value added content ...if you receive taxpayer support both for  your companies directly that you will increase to increase or  keep the same on  the value added content and on your  suppliers that you use if you'd commit to that if you receive tax dollars."

G. Richard Wagoner (GM):  "I have to look at the data.  Certainly our intention ...  we're finding that the U.S. suppliers are more competitive today in a lot of areas than they've been in years.  I feel like that will be the direction but I'd like to look at the data and respond to you if I could."

Where's the commitment to anything other than a "look at the data" and a request to respond later on?  There is no commitment to buy American.  He was headed in that direction when he said, "Certainly our intention" but then he caught himself and answered with a platitude. On the verge of bankruptcy or worse, GM, the major beneficiary of the bailout, is telling the Senate and the citizens, 'Gee, I can't answer that question right now.'  No promise will follow unless the data looks right.  You'd think that he would know the data, particularly for this hearing.

Alan Mulally (Ford):  'The vast majority of our research and development  is lead out of the United States.  And we have no plans to change that.'


Loose ends

What hath atheism wrought? A mess


Dan Barker of the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation talks Monday about the atheist sign his organization placed near a Nativity scene at the state Capitol.
An anti-religion placard posted alongside Christmas displays drew a thief, a preacher, a part-time elf and a security detail to the state Capitol on Friday as a weeklong uproar over religious speech hit a bizarre peak.

It all started Monday, when the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation unveiled a winter solstice sign in the grand marble hallways around the Capitol Rotunda in Olympia.

The sign's atheistic message – reading in part that "Religion is but myth and superstition" – drew top billing on conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly's TV show.

Several days of angry messages to Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire followed, and Friday morning, someone removed the atheist sign and apparently hustled it out of the Capitol.

KMPS radio station in Seattle soon reported that an unidentified man had dropped off the pilfered placard, and the Washington State Patrol dispatched someone to pick it up.

Meanwhile, people flocked to the Capitol to check out the crime scene, set up their own protest signs and speak to a bank of TV news cameras jamming the hallway.

Among the crowd was James Pritchard of Seattle, who wore a pointy green hat and passed out candy-striped business cards proclaiming him "J. Elfus, Special Assistant to the Claus."

Despite his obvious preference for Christmas, Pritchard said he wants people to celebrate any holiday they like. But he was offended by the atheist message, which he felt was designed mostly to mock religion.

"I heard about what was going on down here, and we had to order a truckload of coal," he said.

And that was just the start.

Pastor Ken Hutcherson, a Christian preacher well-known in the region for his commentary on social issues, also arrived to put up a sign that flipped the atheist message into an affirmation of religion. Another small group put up a handmade poster reading, "The fool hath said in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Several other parties submitted applications to state groundskeepers, seeking to display everything from a set of Nativity balloons to an aluminum Festivus pole – a homage to the invented "holiday for the rest of us" coined by the long-running comedy show "Seinfeld."


The "A Team"

by Susan Estrich

You can tell a lot about a person by the people who surround them. In theory, the "bigger" you are, the bigger and better the people around you should be. What makes a great leader is a great team. All that.

Except that very often, it just ain't so. I can't begin to count the number of times I have met people who are, in theory, at the top of whatever their game is, and the people around them are, for want of a better term, in a completely different league, with little of the experience, expertise or charisma of the boss; people who owe everything to the person on top, who could never hope to get another job anywhere near as big as the one they have; yes men and women holding on for dear life, whose loyalty may be their strongest suit and their greatest vulnerability.

Those who can't afford to leave will do almost anything to avoid it. That's their problem.

It tells you something about the person on top. It tells you that they don't like to be challenged, that they need to be the smartest person in the room, that they don't trust themselves enough to surround themselves with people every bit as big, if not bigger, than themselves. It tells you that however large they may look, however exalted their title and substantial their successes, an insecure kid is hiding somewhere inside. It tells you to watch out.

Barack Obama's appointments tell you that he is one very big guy.


In pictures: Kitschmas

To celebrate the countdown to Christmas, the satirical Christian website, Ship of Fools, has published its annual selection of religious-themed gifts spotted on sale, such as these nativity ducks.

Nativity ducks

Jesus is one of the most famous beardies of all time, but simply add a hot drink to this mug and the familiar facial hair of our Lord disappears, leaving him clean-shaven.

Jesus shaves mug

Ship of Fools' Simon Jenkins says most are supposed to inspire faith. "It's fascinating what religious people produce and think is appropriate." Like this rosary credit card to replace those unruly beads.

Credit card rosary

It's never been so easy to learn prayers in ancient Hebrew thanks to this little box full of amazing graces, all voiced by Rabbi Zalman Goldstein.

Blessings remote


Incompetence Kept Us "Safe"

" Too Big To Fail
Too Small To Bail"
That's the hook for his legacy, he kept us "safe". (after one colossal failure)

But it is all BS!
Look at Mumbai. Ten guys, automatic weapons, grenades, ammo. Do you think that couldn't have been done at any time, any place in the U.S.?
What was to stop them?
Homeland Security?
Our strongly defended borders?
Our crack Intelligence apparatus?
No, what stopped them was that there was no need. They scored a great success on September 11. They have driven this country into panic, caused 2 wars, economic meltdown, suspension of much of our Constitution, ruined our reputation around the world, and shown us to be so reliant on massive force retaliation, that we are like a helpless infant.
Unfortunately, with the country seemingly coming to it's senses, and changing it's regime, there will probably be another attack in the next decade perhaps another "Mumbai". Nothing as spectacular as 9/11, that is no longer necessary in their eyes. Just a little reminder to kick the panic up a notch.
And sad to say, that act will pretty much cement Bush's legacy.


Obama: Ratify the Women's Convention Soon

by Marjorie Cohn

photoThe Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, is often described as the international bill of rights for women. The United States remains the only democracy that refuses to ratify the treaty. (Photo: WILPF)

    Nearly 30 years after President Jimmy Carter signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the United States remains the only democracy that refuses to ratify the most significant treaty guaranteeing gender equality. One hundred eighty-five countries, including over 90 percent of members of the United Nations, have ratified CEDAW.

    US opposition to ratification has been informed not simply by an objective analysis of how CEDAW's provisions might conflict with US constitutional law. Rather, it reflects the ideological agenda and considerable clout of the religious right and the corporate establishment. Issues of gender equality raise some of the most profound divisions between liberals and conservatives. The right-wing agenda was born again in the Bush administration, which issued numerous directives limiting equality between the sexes. Bush targeted funding for family planning and packed the courts and his administration with anti-choice ideologues.

    The parade of horribles trumpeted by ratification opponents includes predictions that it would force the United States to pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Opposition to the ERA in the 1980s was also grounded in religious fundamentalism. There are fears that ratification may lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage and the abolition of single-sex schools, and create a nation of androgynous children.

    Much of the hysteria directed at ratification is based upon false assumptions. One opponent warned: "A messy divorce case shouldn't end up in the World Court." This is a reference to the International Court of Justice, which does not even have jurisdiction over marital dissolution cases. An editorial in Hanover, Pennsylvania's, The Evening Sun predicted CEDAW backers will use the International Criminal Court as an enforcement tool. But, the International Criminal Court only has jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.


Freedom from religion