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Archive for April 9th, 2009


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Via Scott Feldstein’s blog:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Baracknophobia", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 2:45 pm

Posted in Daily life

Conservatives fight Koh

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I will be glad when the weird Right-wing movement in this country gets down to the last handful of dead-enders. Right now, the remnants are doing everything they can to make mischief. One example, reported in the Washington Independent by David Weigel:

A coalition of conservative activists is beginning to form around opposition to Harold Koh, President Obama’s nominee to become the legal advisor for the Department of State. In Koh, opponents of “transnational” legal theory have found a test case to prove that international law is a political loser–and a way to preemptively discredit a possible candidate for the Supreme Court.

“This is the culmination of years of arguments about international law superseding our own Constitution,” explained John Fonte, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who is lobbying conservative jurists and lawyers to sign a letter opposing the Koh nomination. “This had been an academic argument, then an obscure argument, but it’s surfacing now because there’s real scrutiny being paid to Harold Koh’s views.” Other conservatives who talked about Koh on Wednesday wanted to take the chance to “create a paper trail” of Koh criticism, to knock him down the list of possible Supreme Court appointees.

Koh, the dean of Yale Law School since 2004 and a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under President Bill Clinton, was announced as the nominee for the State Department job on March 23. His nomination didn’t come as much of a surprise to conservatives, as Koh, long considered one of the most powerful legal minds on the left, had been floated as a possible Obama Supreme Court nominee as long ago as September 2008. At the time, Center for Ethics and Public Policy President Ed Whelan wrote a series of posts about Koh’s legal theories for National Review Online, digesting Koh’s views for conservative readers. Among Koh’s sins were appealing to “decent respect to the opinions of humankind” in opposing the death penalty, declaring “lesbian and transgender rights” a closely-held legal position, and citing “international and foreign court decisions” in an amicus brief arguing for the overturn of Texas’s sodomy law.

“What judicial transnationalism is really all about,” wrote Whelan, “is depriving American citizens of their powers of representative government by selectively imposing on them the favored policies of Europe’s leftist elites.”

Since Koh became a candidate for the State Department job, Whelan has kept up a new drumbeat of criticism–”yeoman work,” said Fonte–and helped build a record of Koh’s most controversial stances, turning the low-visibility job into the subject of heated arguments on talk radio and Fox News. This week Fonte began distributing a letter from the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty, an ad hoc group started in 2007 to oppose the obscure Law of the Sea Treaty. That original mission was kicked off by Frank Gaffney, now the head of the Center for Security Policy, who is not behind this current campaign but said on Glenn Beck’s Fox News show last week that Koh’s transnationalism meant “getting the U.S. Government to abide by laws that the Congress wouldn’t pass because the American people wouldn’t accept them.”

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 12:13 pm

Iowa will keep gay marriage

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Without the support of Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, efforts to amend the Iowa Constitution cannot move forward in the Senate. The video shows Senator Gronstal’s response to Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley of Chariton on April 6, 2009, the first day the Senate met after the unanimous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to allow same sex couples to marry.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

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Modern life hastens human evolution

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We’re not finished yet. Even today, scientists say that human beings are continuing to evolve as our genes respond to rapid changes in the world around us.

In fact, the pressures of modern life may be speeding up the pace of human evolution, some anthropologists think.

Their view contradicts the widespread 20th-century assumption that modern medical practice, antibiotics, better diet and other advances would protect people from the perils and stresses that drive evolutionary change.

Nowadays, the idea that "human evolution is a continuing process is widely accepted among anthropologists,” said Robert Wald Sussman, the editor of the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

It’s even conceivable, he said, that our genes eventually will change enough to create an entirely new human species, one no longer able to breed with our own species, Homo sapiens.

"Someday in the far distant future, enough genetic changes might have occurred so that future populations could not interbreed with the current one,” Sussman said in an e-mail message.

The still-controversial concept of "ongoing evolution” was much discussed last week at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in Chicago.

It’s also the topic of a new book, "The 10,000 Year Explosion,” by anthropologists Henry Harpending and Gregory Cochran of the University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

"For most of the last century, the received wisdom in the social sciences has been that human evolution stopped a long time ago,” Harpending said. "Clearly, received wisdom is wrong, and human evolution has continued.”

In their book, the Utah anthropologists contend that "human evolution has accelerated in the past 10,000 years, rather than slowing or stopping. . . . The pace has been so rapid that humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recorded history.”

Continue reading. I’m astonished that anyone would ever think that human (or mouse or fern or cockroach) evolution has stopped. Evolution never stops: it’s the essence of life itself. You cannot have life without evolution—it makes no sense.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 11:50 am

More on the Army treatment of soldiers with PTSD

leave a comment » has a continuation of yesterday’s article, telling more about the tape where the doctor told of how he’s pressured to stop making diagnoses of PTSD. The article begins:

In a story published yesterday, Salon reported on a surreptitious tape recording of an Army psychologist telling a patient last June that he had been pressured not to diagnose soldiers as having post-traumatic stress disorder. The soldier, whom Salon dubbed Sgt. X to protect his identity, recorded the Fort Carson, Colo., psychologist, Douglas McNinch, twice describing pressure to label soldiers with "anxiety disorder" instead of PTSD. The diagnosis of anxiety disorder could result in improper treatment and lower disability payments if the Army discharges a soldier from the military. "It’s not fair," McNinch said on the tape. "I think it’s a horrible way to treat soldiers."

But neither the U.S. Senate nor the Army apparently agrees with McNinch’s assessment of the treatment that returning soldiers are receiving. By early July, news of the tape recording had made its way to both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the upper reaches of the Pentagon. Despite prodding from Sen. Kit Bond, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate the tape’s implications. A veterans’ advocacy group then had a combative July 14 meeting at the Pentagon with the Army’s vice chief of staff, at which the vice chief was reportedly dismissive. Two weeks later, the Army issued the results of an internal investigation and absolved itself of any wrongdoing.

Today’s article describes the contentious meeting at the Pentagon, how the tape got to the Senate and the secretary of the Army in the first place, and which Senate aide determined it was not worth investigating. It also details how the individuals assigned by the Army to investigate the tape were connected both to the individual who had allegedly pressured McNinch not to diagnose soldiers as having PTSD and to earlier questionable in-house investigations of Army medical care…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 11:45 am

The Right sometimes seems insane about gay marriage

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From the Center for American Progress:

: In the wake of marriage equality victories in Iowa and Vermont — and promising signs in New York and Washington, D.C. — far-right activists are gearing for a battle. Yesterday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) announced a $1.5 million national advertising campaign to fight marriage equality. NOM executive director Brian Brown s “the biggest lie” that marriage equality advocates tell “is that it’s not going to have any affect on you.” He argued, “In state after state, we’ve seen same-sex marriage directly conflict with the people’s religious beliefs.” The group’s first ad featured “people describing same-sex marriage as a threat to their personal and religious freedoms against a backdrop of dark clouds and bolts of lightening.”  One actor warned of “a storm gathering”; “I am afraid,” another woman intones. A third complained that she is “helplessly watching public schools teach my son that gay marriage is OK.” It’s true, Center for American Progress Action Fund Fellow Matthew Yglesias noted, that with the end of Jim Crow came the end of teaching that racism was acceptable — “a big imposition on racists.” Similarly, “people who don’t like gay people can be legitimately concerned that the spread of gay equality will create an environment in which their children are less likely to share their own prejudices.” The Human Rights Campaign has more on the lies peddled by the ad.

The strangest argument is from Brian Brown: “In state after state, we’ve seen same-sex marriage directly conflict with the people’s religious beliefs.”

I will point out that, in state after state, there are churches teaching things that directly conflict with other churches’ religious beliefs. For example, Catholics teach any number of doctrines that directly conflict with the beliefs of Protestants, and Mormons teach many beliefs that directly conflict with the beliefs held by other Christians.

In fact, any Christian sect will teach beliefs that other sects reject. So what’s the problem? Should we abolish all churches (except, presumably, Brian Brown’s own church)? What an idiot.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 11:41 am

More on Democrat’s hypocrisy

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David Nather has a commentary in Congressional Quarterly about how the Dems are hugging Bush’s state-secrets doctrine to their hearts. It begins:

It’s a little early to tell whether congressional Democrats will be as keenly devoted to the idea of vigilant oversight of the executive branch now that a Democrat is in the White House. But the more the Obama Justice Department invokes the “state secrets” privilege to get the courts to dismiss lawsuits, the more leading congressional Democrats will be under pressure to prove the watchdog hasn’t totally hasn’t gone to sleep.

As our colleague Keith Perine reports over at the Legal Beat blog, the Justice Department employed its third state secrets claim last week as it tried to cut short a legal challenge. This time, the department argued that a lawsuit over the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program should be dismissed because defending the agency would require the disclosure of top-secret surveillance methods.

It has been a bit jarring for civil liberties advocates to hear this claim over and over from this administration, since Obama campaigned against the Bush administration’s use of sweeping executive power claims to avoid being held accountable for anything. So civil libertarians will be pressing Congress to hold hearings on a bill that would make it harder for presidents to use the state secrets claim without being challenged.

The State Secrets Protection Act, introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont and Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, would require judges to take their own look at the evidence the Justice Department is using to justify a state secrets claim. It was introduced two months ago, and supporters say Justice’s latest attempt to claim the privilege ought to prod the Judiciary committees into holding hearings.

“It’s clear, now more than ever, that it’s needed,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project. She said it would be a good idea to write it into law even if the Obama Justice Department didn’t keep making the claim. But it’s especially urgent now, Franklin said, given that the latest case wasn’t even a holdover from the Bush administration — so the Obama Justice Department can’t claim it was simply bound by the previous administration’s arguments…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 April 2009 at 11:36 am

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