Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Aren't Self-Proclaimed Fiscal Conservatives Questioning Afghanistan Troop Surge?

Self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives in both the Democratic and Republican parties approach healthcare reform with a high degree of skepticism. Senator Joe Lieberman, who has received $1 million from the insurance industry over the course of his Senate career, has vowed to oppose any reform package that contains a public plan option. Lieberman explains that he is voting his "conscience" and that he cannot endorse an expansion in government during an economic downturn.

Senator Mary Landrieu has expressed a similar view. Some media outlets report, however, that in exchange for her vote allowing debate on the latest Senate healthcare reform bill, the White House promised to secure an additional $100 million in Medicaid assistance for Louisiana (the state Landrieu represents).

Across the aisle, Republicans are behaving like "born-again budget conservatives." They suddenly embraced fiscal restraint following the election of President Obama, but they recklessly agreed to cut taxes and increase spending during the Bush administration. Their newly found fiscal salvation leads them to oppose healthcare reform and basically any other element of government spending unrelated to wars and cops.

Fighting Wars versus Healing the Sick
After weeks of deliberation regarding a military-endorsed troop surge in Afghanistan, President Obama, according to emerging reports, has agreed to send an additional 34,000 troops to fight the Taliban. The troop surge would take place over the next 9 months. The estimated cost for the war over the next decade approaches $1 trillion -- more than the cost of each healthcare reform package pending in Congress.

Two Democrats in Congress -- Senator Carl Levin of Michigan and Representative David Obey of Wisconsin -- have called for a surtax on upper-income earners to finance the troop surge. Self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives, however, have remained virtually silent regarding the expense and deficit-impact of the war in Afghanistan. Most of these individuals strongly endorse the troop surge and voted for the war in Iraq.

Bombing foreign nations and leading young Americans to their deaths in the name of national security (however skeptical the claim) is worth the expense. Funding healthcare for almost all Americans is reprehensible and socialist. Someone please explain this logic.

Proposed "Purity" Pledge for GOP: Hypocritical and Internally Inconsistent

Members of the Republican Party have circulated a proposed resolution that lists 10 conservative principles that GOP candidates should embrace. Candidates who opposed 3 or more of the listed principles would forfeit financial and political support from the Republican National Committee.

The list, which New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney describes as a "purity" resolution, could stoke divisions among Republicans concerning the ideological direction of the party. Many Republicans believe that the party must embrace more moderate positions in order to achieve political success, while others believe that it should rally around conservatism.

Here is a list of the principles stated in the proposed resolution:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;

(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

Although supporters of the resolution believe that the 10-point list specifies conservative values, many Republicans have taken positions that contradict the principles that the resolution espouses. For example, during the Bush presidency, Republicans overwhelmingly voted to cut taxes and to increase government spending, particularly by launching 2 expensive wars. The size of the federal government increased during the Bush presidency, and Republican policies helped to transform a federal budget surplus into an enormous deficit.

The resolution cites the "stimulus" legislation passed during the Obama administration as an example of wasteful government spending. The $700 billion bailout for financial institutions, however, is noticeably absent from the list. Perhaps this is because the Bush administration proposed the bailout, and many Republicans, including John McCain, voted for it. Sara "the Barracuda" Palin praised McCain for his vote.

Although many conservatives have argued that Bush did not represent conservative values, "conservative" members of Congress almost uniformly voted for tax cuts and to authorize military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, while conservatives spend a lot of time talking about fiscal restraint, their behavior in the last 8 years did not exhibit restraint at all.

The proposed resolution also denounces "Obama-style government run health care." The hypocrisy in this statement is blatant. Although Republicans continue to condemn government-run health plans, they support government-run programs for the elderly (Medicare) and for military personnel and veterans (TRICARE).

The list is also internally inconsistent. Although the resolution praises "smaller government," it endorses governmental intrusions into deeply private decisions such as marriage and reproduction; it also endorses an expensive troop surge in Afghanistan. And while the proposed resolution condemns "health care rationing," it favors excluding coverage of abortion-related services from government-run health plans.

The proposed resolution would send the GOP scrambling for candidates.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ole Miss Drops "Dixie," Ku Klux Klan Protests

The University of Mississippi has dropped a school fight song that included "Dixie" -- the unofficial theme song of the Confederacy. The university chancellor requested that the university band discontinue playing the song because many fans chanted "the South will rise again" after the song concluded.

The decision to abandon the song has angered the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, which staged a protest before Saturday's football contest between LSU and Mississippi. Even though the school band will no longer play Dixie, the team is still named the "Rebels."

Landrieu Receives Taxpayer Handout In Exchange for Health Reform Vote

Louisiana, the state that Senator Mary Landrieu represents, has the second-highest poverty rate in the nation. Louisiana also consistently ranks among the least healthy states in the nation. Due to the state's high rate of poverty, 27% of Louisiana residents participate in Medicaid -- the federal health plan for indigent persons. Nonetheless, 21% of Louisiana adults lack health insurance, which exceeds the national rate of 16%.

Despite these statistics, Landrieu has criticized the prospect of a public plan option as an element of healthcare reform. Landrieu argues that she is "not for a government-run, national, taxpayer-subsidized plan, and never will be." Although Landrieu frames her opposition to a public plan as a matter of fiscal constraint, she has apparently accepted at least $100 million in additional Medicaid funding in exchange for her vote to allow debate over healthcare reform to proceed in the Senate. The 60-39 vote was strictly partisan, and the Democrats did not have one vote to spare.

According to Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, Landrieu and other wavering Democrats received promises of additional federal financial support in exchange for their crucial votes. And even though she accepted additional Medicaid funding, Landrieu still says that she opposes the public plan. Business as usual continues.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Audit Criticizes Federal Reserve Bank of New York for Handling of AIG Bailout

The New York Times reports that a government investigation faults the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for failing to use its "considerable leverage" when it decided to pay AIG's banking creditors the full value of their insured risk. AIG "insured" risky financial transactions of its investment banking clients, like Goldman Sachs. AIG, however, failed to maintain enough reserve assets to cover to extent of the financial risk it insured. When the investments soured, the investment banks came to collect from AIG, which sent the company into financial ruin.

Federal regulators at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department, however, stepped in to provide assistance to AIG, which ultimately meant covering its obligations to creditors. A prior blog entry on Dissenting Justice discusses the connections that many of the federal regulators had to Goldman Sachs, which received nearly $13 billion from AIG after the federal government rescued the company. Here is a quote from that essay:
Henry Paulson, Secretary of Treasury during the Bush administration, is a former Chairman of Goldman Sachs. Paulson was responsible for administering TARP, and he had a large role in structuring the legislation.

Robert Rubin, Secretary of Treasury during the Clinton administration, was a Co-Chairman of Goldman (along with Stephen Friedman -- see below) before he earned a Cabinet post. Although Rubin does not have a formal position in the Obama administration, he has served as an informal economic advisor to the President. Also, current Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner worked as an assistant to Rubin (and later to Lawrence Summers -- former Secretary of Treasury and current head of Obama's National Economic Council) when he headed the agency. Paulson was also a partner at Goldman when Rubin was Co-Chairman.

Mark Patterson, Geithner's Chief of Staff, is a former lobbyist for Goldman. Obama waived his anti-lobbying rules in order to secure the job for Patterson.

Tim Geithner, current Secretary of Treasury, served as the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York until his current position. In that capacity, he helped to structure the federal bailout of AIG. Geithner, unlike many of the other individuals listed in this article, never worked at Goldman, but he worked for Rubin during the Clinton administration and for Summers, who replaced Rubin. Summers heads Obama's National Economic Council.

Stephen Friedman, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, was the Co-Chairman of Goldman with Rubin, and he has held several other executive positions at the company. In his current position, Friedman presumably will have a significant role in the ongoing federal bailout of AIG. Friedman also sits on the board of directors of Goldman.
According to the New York Times, federal auditors challenged Goldman Sachs, which argues that it should not have been forced to collect from AIG in a bankruptcy proceeding. Earlier reports (including an entry on Dissenting Justice) argued that the federal government should have forced AIG, like the auto industry, to go into bankruptcy, and that Goldman Sachs likely would not have collected nearly as much money from the troubled insurer. The auditors confirm the position taken in these previous reports.

Goldman Sachs, however, continues to deny that it received preferential treatment; Geithner also says that Goldman Sachs did not benefit from a backroom deal. But as the auditors' report states, regardless of the parties' intent, "[t]ens of billions of dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to A.I.G.’s counterparties." This story will likely continue to unfold.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rightwing Fecal Matter Alert: Obama Bows in Japan, World Ends

The rightwing has spewed smelly fecal matter before, but the latest is the most odoriferous in recent memory. Rightwing bloggers and other commentators are having a nervous breakdown because President Obama bowed when he met with Emperor Akihito of Japan.

The blog Hot Air -- which operates as a clearinghouse for rightwing fecal matter -- has unearthed a New York Times article from 1994, which supposedly "blasts" President Clinton for bowing before Akihito. The article, however, does not blast Clinton (or anyone else). Instead, it provides rather campy commentary regarding the uncertainty that United States presidents and their staff have faced when greeting royalty:
There was that curtsy, during the Reagan years, when Lenore Annenberg, herself the chief of protocol, forgot herself entirely and did a little dip to greet a visiting Prince Charles. That prompted a stern warning from Miss Manners against those who might mock the effort that "was once put into freeing Americans from the necessity of bending their knees." Soon afterward, when Nancy Reagan greeted Queen Elizabeth II behind closed doors, her press secretary acknowledged that Mrs. Reagan had bowed her head but insisted, "It was definitely not a curtsy."
The blog American Power keeps the stench going with an essay "Bowing Before Monarchs and Tyrants." Video footage of Obama greeting Akihito accompanies the article lunacy.

The blog's description of Akihito as a "monarch" or "tyrant" demonstrates the paucity of facts in contemporary conservative commentary. A real monarch (as opposed to a constitutional monarch) exercises absolute power and dominion in a country. Emperor Akihito, however, is merely a figurehead.

The Constitution of Japan gives executive power to the Cabinet and legislative authority to the Diet. The Constitution also creates a national judicial system. Furthermore, it states that "[t]he people have the inalienable right to choose their public officials and to dismiss them."

By contrast, the Constitution of Japan describes the Emperor as a "symbol." The Constitution also states that the "Emperor shall perform only such acts in matters of state as are provided for in this Constitution and he shall not have powers related to government" (italics added).

Even though Akihito is simply a symbol of state, American Power argues that Obama's bow shows that "the United States now willingly prostrates itself before the rest of the world." This statement is simply diarrhea. It also misuses terminology.

Finally, the conservative outrage in this area is laughable, given the fact that the bow is akin to a handshake. Applying conservative fecal logic, President Obama should not shake hands with the Emperor either -- which begs the question: Why should United States presidents meet with royalty? If bowing concedes power to "monarchs and tyrants," then meeting with them during a diplomatic trip does so as well. Flush.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What Happened to the Thunderous Liberal Opposition to Free Trade?

According to MSNBC, President Obama has indicated that the United States will seek to join a trade agreement with a small group of nations that would eventually expand into a larger Pacific Rim free trade pact. This development represents a dramatic shift from the rhetoric that colored the Democratic presidential primaries.

During the Democratic primaries, opposition to free trade became a standard line of the Left. The issue became extremely heated as the close political contest between Obama and Hillary Clinton moved into rustbelt states, like Ohio. Obama's campaign blamed Clinton for helping to pass NAFTA, while Clinton rebuked Obama in her infamous "shame on you" speech.

The anti-trade rhetoric reached a fever pitch after a Canadian governmental official said that one of Obama's economic advisers told him during a policy meeting that Obama's dramatic opposition to NAFTA was simply political posturing and that Obama would not disturb the free trade agreement. The Obama campaign cried foul play.

Nevertheless, after he secured the Democratic nomination, Obama began to abandon his anti-trade rhetoric. He said he would not seek to renegotiate NAFTA "unilaterally," and he attributed some of his earlier comments denouncing the agreement to "overheated and amplified" campaigning. The announcement of a new trade agreement -- rather than the reform of existing ones -- suggests that the anti-trade campaign rhetoric among Democrats was indeed political posturing and that they employed it to exploit economic vulnerability among middle-class and poor voters. Finally, the MSNBC article does not mention the recent primaries at all.

The Onion Eerily Accurate: Lampoons Lunatic Rightwing Arguments About the Constitution

The Onion continues to outshine the mainstream media. While the media passively report the silliest arguments rightwingers advance regarding the Constitution, The Onion has actually challenged this rubbish. The article, Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be, responds to many of the paranoid and baseless arguments that the extreme right has made since Obama became president. Here is a snip:
According to Mortensen—an otherwise mild-mannered husband, father, and small-business owner—the most serious threat to his fanciful version of the 222-year-old Constitution is the attempt by far-left "traitors" to strip it of its religious foundation.

"Right there in the preamble, the authors make their priorities clear: 'one nation under God,'" said Mortensen, attributing to the Constitution a line from the Pledge of Allegiance, which itself did not include any reference to a deity until 1954. "Well, there's a reason they put that right at the top."

"Men like Madison and Jefferson were moved by the ideals of Christianity, and wanted the United States to reflect those values as a Christian nation," continued Mortensen, referring to the "Father of the Constitution," James Madison, considered by many historians to be an atheist, and Thomas Jefferson, an Enlightenment-era thinker who rejected the divinity of Christ and was in France at the time the document was written. "The words on the page speak for themselves."

According to sources who have read the nation's charter, the U.S. Constitution and its 27 amendments do not contain the word "God" or "Christ."

Mortensen said his admiration for the loose assemblage of vague half-notions he calls the Constitution has only grown over time. He believes that each detail he has pulled from thin air—from prohibitions on sodomy and flag-burning, to mandatory crackdowns on immigrants, to the right of citizens not to have their hard-earned income confiscated in the form of taxes—has contributed to making it the best framework for governance "since the Ten Commandments."

"And let's not forget that when the Constitution was ratified it brought freedom to every single American," Mortensen said.
Great stuff!

Friday, November 13, 2009

New Profile of Justice Sonia Sotomayor in Latina Magazine

Latina will profile Justice Sonia Sotomayor in its December/January issue, which becomes available on November 17. The magazine has posted a lengthy excerpt from the article on its website. Here is a snip:
When Obama won the White House, the legal world hedged their bets on the brilliant judge with the impeccable résumé. But weeks before Obama made public his pick to replace Souter, Sotomayor called her confidante and good friend Llambelis, telling her that she wanted to pull her name from consideration.

“You have to understand that Sonia is a very private person,” Llambelis explains. “She didn’t want to go through another public vetting process and a potential public dressing-down by those on the Republican right who opposed her nomination. Sonia was happy being a Federal Appeals judge, loved her life in New York and felt fulfilled. She worried about having less time to spend with her mother, family and friends, particularly given her mom’s age and potential health complications.” Llambelis recalls listening to her friend, whose “I can” mantra was being drowned out by last-minute uncertainty. She told her to think beyond herself. “At this point, this is not about you,” Llambelis said to her. “It’s about little girls and boys, brown and black, who live in the projects and in poor communities around our nation, who can dream bigger if you are in the Supreme Court. You cannot back down now.” Sotomayor promised to think about it overnight. And in the morning, she woke up with a lighter heart and a bigger purpose.

In her short tenure so far on the court, the justice we have witnessed is no shrinking violet. She asks tough questions and is not intimidated by her rookie status. Sotomayor’s charm and confidence surprise very few people who know her, including the man who nominated her. While President Obama’s staff was preparing Sotomayor for the confirmation hearings in a White House office called the War Room, the team covered all the potentially explosive questions and briefed her on every minute detail, including how to dress for the cameras. They even advised her to keep her nails a neutral shade, which she did. But on the day of the White House reception celebrating her appointment, Sotomayor asked the president to look at her freshly manicured nails, holding up her hands to show off her favorite fire engine–red hue. The president chuckled, saying that she had been warned against that color.

She sure had, but Sotomayor was not finished. She then pulled her hair back behind her ears, exposing her red and black semi-hoop earrings, a beloved accessory among Latinas across America—from the South Bronx to Houston to East Los Angeles.

Obama joked that she had been briefed on the size of the earrings as well. Without skipping a beat, Sotomayor replied: “Mr. President, you have no idea what you’ve unleashed.” He responded, “Justice: I know and remember it’s a lifetime appointment. And I and no one can take it back.” And that, as they say, is the final verdict.
The cover is, well, fabulous:

Driving While Gay: Chicago Cop Files Bogus DUI Charges to Earn Extra Money

Chicago cop Richard Fiorito is under investigation by state officials for allegedly filing false DUI charges against drivers -- many of whom are gay and lesbian. Apparently, the bogus arrests were part of a scheme Fiorito devised to earn overtime income. Fiorito arrested innocent drivers for DUI and then earned overtime income when he appeared in court to testify against them.

Fiorito, however, is not the only Chicago cop who has falsely arrested drivers for DUI. Two other police officers have faced similar allegations, and Cook County prosecutors have already dropped 50 DUI cases and charged John Haleas, the arresting officer, with perjury. Although Fiorito faces numerous lawsuits for his behavior, prosecutors have not filed a criminal complaint against him.

Ironically, while Chicago cops are falsely arresting people, Anita Alvarez, the Cook County District Attorney, has pursued a campaign of harassment against Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project. Dissenting Justice has covered this issue extensively. See Shameful and Pathetic Tactics by Illinois Prosecutors: Attacking "Innocent" Students; Cook County Prosecutors Launch Full Smear Campaign Against Innocence Project; and Illinois Prosecutors, Take Notice: Innocent Man Released After 12 Years in Prison.

The Medill project investigates claims of innocence made by Illinois inmates. The diligence of Medill students has secured the release of eleven inmates during the project's ten-year history.

Alvarez, however, believes that students in the project are dishonest and could have received higher grades by convincing witnesses to support the inmates' claims of innocence. With Chicago cops arresting innocent drivers, Alvarez clearly has flawed priorities.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marine Tells His Story of Sexual Assault to "Bubba the Love Sponge"

How many sexual assault victims have run to radio personality "Bubba the Love Sponge" to tell their stories? Marine reservist Jasen Bruce might be the first one. Bruce is the man who attacked a priest with a tire iron, claiming that he was an Arab Islamic gay rapist terrorist.

For more details, see: Florida Marine Makes Bogus "Gay Panic" Defense to Excuse His Brutal Beating of a Greek Priest.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Florida Marine Makes Bogus "Gay Panic" Defense to Excuse His Brutal Beating of a Greek Priest

Jason Bruce, a Marine reservist in Tampa, Florida, attacked an innocent Greek Orthodox priest with a tire iron. Bruce has initiated a shameful legal defense: the priest grabbed his crotch.

The actual story is quite different. Apparently, Father Alexios Marakis, who speaks little English, became lost after his car's GPS system led him astray. Marakis followed several cars into the parking garage of a condominium in order to seek instructions. He approached Bruce, who was retrieving items from the trunk of his car. Bruce responded by chasing Marakis and hitting him several times with a tire iron. Video footage shows a tire iron-wielding Bruce chasing Marakis. Marakis's GPS records confirm his assertion that he came to the area while trying to reach another destination.

Police arrested Bruce after he gave several inconsistent explanations. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Bruce said that:
The man tried to rob him.

The man grabbed Bruce's crotch and made an overt sexual advance in perfect English.

The man yelled "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," the same words some witnesses said the Fort Hood shooting suspect uttered last week.

"That's what they tell you right before they blow you up," police say Bruce told them.
Bruce's allegation that Marakis grabbed his crotch is an example of the controversial "gay panic defense." The gay panic defense allows defendants to claim provocation as justification for violent acts they committed. The defense is not uniformly recognized, and it is widely criticized by legal scholars.

The gay panic defense is homophobic because it rests on the assumption that a gay sexual advance is so provocative and threatening that, with or without physical contact, it warrants a violent response. This is not the law regarding heterosexual sexual advances.

Furthermore, Bruce's conflicting explanations suggest that the defense is a complete fabrication. Nevertheless, his lawyer, Jeff Brown, is running with it. According to Brown the following series of events took place:
The bearded man wearing a robe and sandals was clearly trespassing in the garage. In a sudden move, the stranger made a verbal sexual advance and grabbed Bruce's genitals. The Marine defended himself. And immediately, he called 911 as he chased him.
Brown is actually trying to peddle a gay Islamic Arab rapist terrorist defense. Brown's argument is a gross example of shameful lawyering.

Finally, this was not Bruce's first brush with the law. Although this information will probably get excluded from evidence if Bruce is prosecuted, in 2007, Bruce "was charged with misdemeanor battery. . .for hopping over the bed of a tow truck and shoving its driver. He pleaded no contest." Today, Bruce remains violent.

Bill Clinton "Schools" the Senate on Health Care Reform

Bill Clinton held a caucus with Senate Democrats to lecture them on the importance of passing healthcare reform. Apparently, the "twofer" president concept does not sound as bad to people as it did last year.

Bill's take on his talk:

Cook County Prosecutors Launch Full Smear Campaign Against Innocence Project

Recently, major news outlets reported that Anita Alvarez, the District Attorney for Cook County, Illinois, had subpoenaed the grades, grading standards, and electronic communications between students and professors in the Medill Innocence Project. Northwestern University runs the Medill project, which, during its ten-year history, has helped to secure the release of eleven innocent inmates.

Medill journalism students in the project research claims of innocence by incarcerated individuals. If the students believe the claims have merit, they give the information to lawyers who then decide whether to pursue legal relief. Medill students have gathered evidence that seems to exonerate Anthony McKinney, who is serving a life sentence for the 1978 murder of a security guard. Another individual, Tony Drakes, confessed to the murder during a videotaped interview with students.

The prosecutors' subpoena has sparked almost universal condemnation. Many commentators view it as a blatant attempt to harass the students and their professors and to chill advocacy on behalf of wrongly convicted individuals.

The prosecutors, however, will likely get the documents they seek -- unless a judge determines that the students are "journalists" under Illinois law. If the judge treats the students as journalists, then Illinois law would shield their communications from disclosure.

Full Smear Campaign
The merits of the subpoena depend solely upon the status of the students under the Illinois journalistic shield statute. Nevertheless, Alvarez has apparently decided to launch a full smear campaign against the Medill project.

First, Alvarez defended the subpoena by claiming that she wanted to know whether students received higher grades if they concluded that inmates were innocent. Now, Alvarez has made the salacious claim that Medill students paid two witnesses for their testimony.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Cook County prosecutors argued in court yesterday that Drakes received $40 dollars from a cab driver hired by the Medill project and that he used the money to purchase "crack cocaine." Prosecutors also argued that students paid Michael Lane, a friend of Drakes and possible accessory to the murder, between $50 and $100 dollars and "took him out for cocktails and dinner and flirted with him." Prosecutors, however, provided no other details regarding the payment to Lane. These assertions reflect absolute hypocrisy and desperation by the prosecutors.

Prosecutors "pay" witnesses all the time. In exchange for testimony from witnesses, prosecutors pursue lesser charges, or they give them full or partial immunity. They also drop pending charges in other cases. Prosecutors also threaten harsher penalties if witnesses refuse to cooperate. Indeed, it is probably likely that prosecutors threatened Drakes, who confessed to a murder, with severe penalties before he "recanted." In order to question the students' credibility, Alvarez must also question the credibility of prosecutors across the nation.

Furthermore, the prosecution's assertions seem highly unlikely. Indeed, the Medill project has a simple explanation for the payment to Drakes, which suggests that prosecutors made the allegation purely for shock value, rather than substance. David Protess, the professor who runs the Medill project, says students paid a cab driver to transport Drakes and that he retains the receipt.

Protess also questions the sincerity of Cook County prosecutors who seem to believe that Drakes would confess to murder for $40. But these prosecutors are so desperate to conceal the truth that they apparently do not care about their own reputations or the reputations of the Medill students who pursue justice for wrongfully convicted individuals.

Monday, November 9, 2009

When Did Joe Lieberman Grow a Conscience?

Senator Joe Lieberman says that he will filibuster any health reform bill that contains a public plan option:
If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today. I don’t want to do that to our children and grandchildren.
A "matter of conscience"? When did Joe Lieberman grow a conscience?

This is the same man who voted to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in order to send "our children and grandchildren" to their deaths, hunting for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Today, when the country has the opportunity to spend money to heal the sick and to save lives, he is suddenly worried about the deficit.

This is also the same man who, during a 2004 presidential debate, supported the creation of a national public health plan:
I'm proposing to create a national health insurance pool from which — like the one that members of Congress get our insurance from. And we would say this: If you don't have insurance now, you'll be able to get it, probably free, if you're among the low-income working poor. If you're a child, you will be covered by insurance at birth. If you are fired from your work or lose your job, you will not lose your health insurance.

MediKids is part of my program. Every child born in America will become a member of MediKids, and it will cover them from birth through 25. . . .
Finally, this is the same man who in 1994 tried to kill the filibuster altogether. Lieberman described the filibuster as a procedural "dinosaur" and as a "symbol of a lot that ails Washington. . . ." Today, when Democrats are attempting to pass comprehensive health care reform, Lieberman threatens to use the filibuster to kill the legislation.

Lieberman says that he is acting to satisfy his conscience -- not the insurance industry, which has given him more than $1 million dollars in donations over the course of his career in the Senate and which has a powerful presence in Connecticut, the state Lieberman represents. Sorry, Joe, but in order to vote your conscience, you must first have a conscience.

Military Retains Psychotic Religious Zealot, But Gives Gays and Lesbians the Boot

President Obama correctly stated that people should not "rush to judgment" regarding the motivation of Nidal Hasan -- the individual who killed 13 people at the Fort Hood military base. Unfortunately, the public often races to assign a collective narrative to extremely violent events. Typically, the earliest narratives rest on gross stereotypes and, consequently, miss the mark. For example, many commentators assumed that Arab terrorists bombed the Oklahoma federal building, until they learned that Theodore McVeigh -- a disgruntled, white, former member of the military -- committed the heinous crime.

Recent acts of mass violence have pitted liberals and conservatives against one another. Both sides have argued that the killers' ideologically laced statements prove the bankruptcy of the others' political views. Neither side, however, seems to understand or appreciate the deep psychosis that causes acts of mass violence.

While mass murderers often embrace extreme political or religious views, mental illness makes them susceptible to extremism in the first place. According to Dr. Steven Dinwiddie, a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, commentators who blame religious zealotry for Hasan's killing spree miss the mark. Dinwiddie says:
I think it would be a mistake for people to theorize [he did this] because he is an adherent of this or that religious faith. . . .The mental illness comes first, then flowing from that is the adoption of perhaps, unusual, religious beliefs" (bracketed text in the original source).
When commentators adhere to political agendas and discard intellectual integrity, facts rarely matter.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell and Hasan
Recent reports indicate that military officials knew that Hasan's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan caused him severe emotional distress. Also, according to unnamed sources quoted by ABC News, the military knew months ago that Hasan tried to establish contact with Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, Hasan remained in the military and did not face discharge proceedings or questions about his fitness to serve.

Apparently, the military retained a person who suffered from known (or reasonably discoverable) psychological problems and who attempted to contact an anti-U.S. terrorist group. Meanwhile, the military continues to enforce Don't Ask, Don't Tell and to discharge mentally fit and loyal gay and lesbian servicemembers. No theory of military preparedness can justify this perverse outcome.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

CBS Sports Writer Salivates Over Prospect of Tim Tebow Injury

Yesterday, the number-one ranked Florida Gators defeated Southeastern Conference foe University of Georgia 41-17. The game was only close at the beginning.

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow threw two touchdown passes, and he rushed for two more. Tebow also surpassed the rushing touchdown record of legendary Georgia tailback Herschel Walker. The defense played amazingly good football, as usual, intercepting four Georgia passes, making three sacks, scoring one touchdown, and limiting Georgia to only 286 yards.

Salivating Over Prospect of Tebow Injury
During the game, Tebow took a few hard hits from Georgia's defense. The possibility that one of Georgia's players could have injured Tebow, who already suffered a concussion this season, excites Dennis Dodd, a CBS Sports writer:

If Tim Tebow makes it the end of the season without another debilitating injury, it will be a minor miracle. Florida might have worked 'em silly, Georgia almost knocked Tebow silly [sic]. It wouldn't be the first time for a Gators opponent. We already know Superman isn't indestructible after that concussion suffered in Kentucky. At this rate, something big and terrible is coming. . . .

Everyone assumes Tebow will make it through, but will he make it through playing at such a high level? Two years ago, he came into this game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder and was under orders to limit his running. Georgia sacked him six times in the Gator Stomp game, a 42-30 victory. . . .

Tebow showed no outward signs of damage. In fact, he sprinted around the rim of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium for a final victory lap in his last Georgia game. But could Georgia somehow have an impact on the national championship by being part of the cumulative effect?

While most other journalists who covered the game reported that Florida played its best football in weeks, a clearly excited Dodd predicts gloom and doom for Tebow.

Dodd also quotes Georgia player Demarcus Dobbs, who is more blatant about his desire that Tebow sustain an injury. Addressing a particular hit he delivered to Tebow, Dobbs says: "I was hoping he didn't get up, but he's competitor, he's a great player. . . ." Expressing a desire that another player suffer an injury is highly unprofessional. Dodd, unlike Dobbs, is a professional, and should operate at a higher level of sophistication.

Other Inflammatory Things
To make matters worse, Dodd falsely states that Brandon Spikes admitted last week that he and Tebow had a "skirmish" after the team's victory over Mississippi State. But Dodd's own transcript of the exchange between Spikes and a Florida Times-Union reporter disproves his portrayal of the interview. The reporter certainly asked Spikes whether he and Tebow had a "skirmish." Spikes, however, dismissed the question, stating: "Me and T's friends, brothers. It wasn't nothing. It was all positive. We came together me and him, got the team together and we kind of got things right."

Finally, Dodd also ponders whether Urban Meyer will leave the Gators and "parlay this run into a new job somewhere else." He also predicts that Florida will not have a successful time playing after Tebow leaves and when the "somewhat more conventional" John Brantley takes over at quarterback.

Question: Is Dodd hostile to every team or is he simply a Gator-hater?
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