The Republican “budget” alternative

I meant to blog about this Republican "budget" fiasco last week, but never got around to it.  Now that the DNC has summed it all up in this nifty 1 minute ad, I've got no excuse.  Watch it:



Is your Congressman smarter than a 3rd Grader?

Not if he is Michigan's Don Shimkus.  Via Matt Yglesias, here are his recent erudite comments on global warming…

SHIMKUS: It’s plant food … So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere? … So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.

If my 3rd grader can understand that you can have too much of a good thing, you'd hope a member of Congress would.  Then again, intellectual rigor is not exactly a hallmark of the House Republican Caucus.


The fruits of torture

From today's Post:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu
Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they
were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who
knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing
increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of
al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a
result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former
senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations.
Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly
evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida —
chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before
waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Get that?  Before torture, useful intelligence; after torture, bad intelligence that sent the CIA on multiple wild goose chases.



Sweden– the anti-Texas

It is a pretty well established fact that criminal justice is decidedly unbalanced against the accused in Texas.  They seem plenty willing to put people in prison on flimsy evidence and to keep them there too long.  That's bad.  On the other hand, I think Sweden definitely goes too far in the other direction.  There was a really interesting article in the Times this week about how Swedish medical schools are dealing with a convicted murderer who has enrolled in two separate medical schools.  It is really quite a fascinating look on who should be allowed to practice medicine, etc., but one particular part of the article struck me when it gave the example of another problem case:

And in still another case, a 24-year-old medical student at Lund
University was convicted last April of raping a 14-year-old boy while
he slept. A district court sentenced the student to two years in
prison, but a higher court reduced the sentence to two years’ probation
and medical therapy.

When the dean at Lund sought to expel the
student, a national board that reviews expulsions blocked the action,
saying that although the man had committed a serious crime, he was not
considered a threat to people or property. The decision was then
reversed by an administrative court, which upheld the expulsion; the
student did not appeal.

Who are these people that think a child-rapist belong in medical school, much less anywhere that is not prison?  Are Swedes crazy?  I'll take Texas justice over that.


Zero tolerance = zero intelligence

Very interesting article in the Times today about a 13-year old girl who was strip-searched by school authorities looking for Ibuprofen (aka Advil/Motrin).  After suing the district (quite rightly), the case has now made it to the Supreme Court.  I sure as hell hope that the Supreme Court sees the fundamental wrongness in strip-searching a 13-year old based on the flimsiest of evidence, but I somehow doubt Scalia and Thomas will come to this opinion.  I hope I'm wrong.

What is really pathetic is the way in which the school district and their lawyers justify such extreme measures in seeking out Ibuprofen..  My favorite line on this score comes from the dissenting judge in the Appeals court:

But, Judge Hawkins concluded, “I do not think it was unreasonable for
school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an
effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their
students.”  (I'm disappointed to discover that Hawkins is a Clinton appointee).

Right, Advil, that great threat to student safety.  If it wasn't for Advil, Evan would probably be crying as I type this (Alex is crying at the moment in existential angst– Advil won't help with that).   Not to say that a strip-search would be appropriate if the girl was suspected of hiding heroin, but for ibuprofen?  Please!  Zero tolerance is just so stupid.  Can we not leave any room for judgment?  Must we consider any banned substance equally harmful.  I used to take Vitamin C to school with me when I had a cold and take it throughout the day.  Under these absurd zero tolerance policies, I was be just as guilty as if I had taken crack to school. 

And by the way, school officials should never ever strip-search their students.  Talk about a betrayal of trust.  The details of the whole episode are just disgusting (apparently all it took was the fact that one of this girl's friends had gone goth and blamed her when caught with ibuprofen).  The whole article is definitely worth a read.

And if you've got any thoughts/comments on this one, drop me an email.  (I've concluded that readers are much more willing to send me an email than to post a comment for all to see).

Phone Call to the 14th Century

Heard this on This American Life this week— absolutely hilarious (or at least it was to me, since I love medieval history):



Kasper Hauser: Phone Call to the 14th Century

John Yoo: war criminal and idiot

In a recent WSJ Op-Ed, John Yoo, creator of U.S. torture policy and unrepentant war criminal invited his critiques to actually read the memos he wrote.  Salon's Gary Kamiya takes him on the challenge and absolutely eviscerates Yoo's reasoning.  Actually, an intelligent High Schooler could probably see through Yoo's facile and fallacious attempts to legally justify torture.  Anyway, some of Kamiya's highlights:

Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the
Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law
enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable
searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations
undertaken during a "war on terror."

In other words, bye-bye,
Bill of Rights. This is a prescription for a police state, where not
just the police but the Army can kick your door down without a warrant
or probable cause, as long as the president says he's fighting
"terror." If Barack Obama had solicited such an opinion from an
obliging Justice Department lawyer because he wanted to sic the U.S.
Army on a group of domestic terrorists, the right would be screaming
about jackbooted federal thugs descending from black helicopters to
haul off American citizens. Strangely, no conservatives have taken to
the streets to warn us of the Big Government danger posed by this
radical doctrine. Perhaps they are too busy mobilizing against the
unspeakable socialist menace represented by Obama's 3 percent increase
in taxes on millionaires…

Portraying himself as a dedicated public servant whose legal
opinions were simply part of a "prudent and responsible … careful
contingency planning" for "a worst-case scenario," Yoo sarcastically
writes that to judge from the media coverage of the memos, "this
careful contingency planning amounted to a secret plot to overthrow the
Constitution and strip Americans of their rights … According to these
critics, the overthrow of constitutional government in the United
States began with a 37-page memo, confidentially issued on Oct. 23,
2001." Yoo warns that if the Obama administration fails to do the same
kind of "planning" — more to the point, if it continues to "seriously
pursue" officials like him who did that "planning" — it will endanger
America. Melodramatically conjuring up a Mumbai-like urban massacre,
Yoo says that holding him and other Bush administration officials
accountable will "restore risk aversion as the guiding principle of our
counterterrorism strategy."

Gosh, how could anyone think that an
opinion voiding the Fourth Amendment might endanger the Constitution?
How could anyone worry that legalizing torture might endanger human
rights? Strip away Yoo's sophomoric sarcasm and his "argument" is that
his legal opinions, which gave the Bush administration license to
undercut some of the cornerstones of American law — separation of
powers, the forbidding of unreasonable searches and seizures, habeas
corpus, the right to a fair, speedy trial, and the prohibition against
using the military to enforce the law — were merely "contingency

Of course, the whole thing is worth reading.  I know Obama's got a lot on his plate, but I really don't think that when it comes to U.S. government officials implementing an offiicial policy of torture, we can just say "bygones."





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