Archive for June 16th, 2010
I would say that Obama’s record on civil rights is the worst of any president in history.
My Healthy Way session this morning ended the "introductory" part of the program with a a tasting of the various food items that they sell at the office here: Ry Krisp, for example, various fruit spreads (good in yogurt), and others. One in particular was interesting: powdered peanut butter. Almost all the fat is removed, and if you add water to some of the powder and mix: instant peanut butter. To me, tasting there, it tasted exactly like regular peanut butter, but I didn’t do a side-by-side comparison. As The Wife pointed out, having it in powdered form also makes it easy to add—to a Thai-like sauce, for example. They also had a sinfully rich-tasting chocolate frozen dessert, much more intense in flavor than chocolate ice cream but along the same lines. Wonderful stuff. I bought a container for The Wife.
From now on, I just show up without an appointment on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to weigh in, get more of the Healthy Way supplements (mostly B vitamins and vitamin C), and talk about any issues that have cropped up. I like the on-going light supervision: exactly what I need.
On the kettlebell front, a clutch of books and DVDs arrived today, including Kettlebells for Dummies, which looks quite good. I think this may be the one I’ll start with. It’s by Sarah Lurie, an RKC-certified instructor, and I also have a set of DVDs by her.
In the book she highly recommends the use of a Gymboss, a device totally new to me but obviously needed for years. (Long ago, living in Iowa City, I programmed an early IBM computer to beep at intervals that I specified—this is infinitely better.)
Politicians on the Right, particularly in the South, love to preach that our government and our laws are based on the Ten Commandments. Judge Roy Moore of Alabama put a multi-ton granite slab engraved with the Ten Commandments in his courthouse, though he later was forced to remove it by a court decision. (Judge Moore apparently was unfamiliar with the idea of a separation between church and state.) Phil Platt in his blog:
As we ramp up to the mid-term elections in November 2010 — sure to be just a warmup to the insanity that will be the Presidential election in 2012 — you can bet your bottom shekel that we’ll be hearing from a lot of "family values" politicians decrying our lack of morality. That’s de rigueur for any election, but every cycle it seems to get worse.
A lot of these claim that the United States is either a Christian nation — a ridiculous and easily-disprovable notion — or that it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (the "Judeo" part is a giveaway that these politicians are Leviticans: they seem to keep their noses buried more in the fiery wrath of the Old Testament than in the actually gentle, politically-correct teachings of Jesus… more on this later, promise). Specifically, they claim quite often that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments.
I was thinking about this recently. People seem to accept that our laws are based on the morals of the Old Testament laid out in the Commandments, but as a proper skeptic, I decided to take a look myself. Why not go over the Commandments, said I to myself, and compare them to our actual laws, as well as the Constitution, the legal document framed by the Founding Fathers, and upon which our laws are actually based?
So I did*.
For those of you not familiar with the Bible — which includes many politicians most willing to thump it, it seems — what follows is the relevant passage from Exodus 20 in the King James Version†. I found it online at the University of Michigan’s Digital Library, which matches other online versions I found. Note: apparently, God said some other stuff interspersed among the Commandments, a sort of legal commentary to stress the aspects He felt important. I have highlighted the actual Commandments below.
Let’s take a look:
 And God spake all these words, saying,
 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
 Thou shalt not kill.
 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
 Thou shalt not steal.
 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
So let’s take these one at a time, and see how many points of U.S. law that overlap the Ten Commandments shalt rack up.
1) I am the LORD thy God… Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
OK, that’s clear enough. Obviously, God is saying He’s the only one, and all other religions that have other gods, or other versions of The One God, are wrong.
So let’s take a look at the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
Right away, we have a problem. That’s the very first thing laid out in the Bill of Rights, and I mean the very first sentence. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
What this says to me, and is pretty clear about it, is that we cannot make laws saying this god or that god is The God. Not only that, if you want to worship a god, any god, you have the legal right to do so.
Clearly, this very First Right of all Americans is in direct contradiction to the very first Commandment sent down by God. So people saying our laws are based on the Ten Commandments must never have even gotten to the first one of the ten. I guess they got to Exodus 19 and stopped.
Running total: 0 …
I do not believe that the TSA is set up or staffed to do a good job—their main responsibility seems to be to do "security theater" and hassle passengers whom they take a dislike to. But finally a judge slaps them down. Ed Brayton:
A federal judge from California has delivered a major smackdown to the Obama administration on the subject of laptop searches at the airport when returning from a foreign country without a warrant. The case involves in American citizen returning from South Korea who had his laptop seized and held for six months without a warrant for suspicion of child pornography.
The government argued that they had "reasonable suspicion" to seize the computer because the defendant, while being questioned by DHS agents, "began to show signs of behavioral and physiological indicators, such as perspiring, stuttering when answering questions, and asking why he was being inspected." No kidding? He got nervous when being questioned by federal anti-terrorism agents? He’s obviously guilty!
Oh, and he had condoms and Viagra with him. Is that enough for reasonable suspicion to trigger a search without a warrant? The judge in the case said no:
Because the agents did not find contraband while the laptop was located at the border and, in light of the time and distance that elapsed before the search continued, the court concluded that the search should be analyzed as an extended border search. Given the passage of time between the January and February searches and the fact that the February search was not conduct(ed) at the border, or its functional equivalent, the court concludes that the February search should be analyzed under the extended border search doctrine and must be justified by reasonable suspicion.
When the court examines the totality of the circumstances, including Officer Edwards’ description of the Image, her observations that Hanson appeared nervous, the discovery of the condoms and the male-enhancement pills, and Hanson’s statement that he had been working with children, the court concludes that the government has met its burden to show the February search was supported by reasonable suspicion. Accordingly, Hanson’s motion is DENIED IN PART on this basis…
The government also argues that because Officer Edwards properly seized the laptop, and because the laptop remained in law enforcement custody, she was entitled to conduct a more thorough search at a later time. However, the cases on which the government relies for this argument address the right to conduct a more thorough search of a container as a search incident to a valid arrest, another recognized exception to the warrant requirement… Hanson was not arrested on January 27, 2009, and for that reason the court finds the government’s reliance on the "search incident to a valid arrest" line of cases to be inapposite. Accordingly, because the court concludes that June search required a warrant, and because it is undisputed that the search was conducted without a warrant, Hanson’s motion is GRANTED IN PART on this basis.
Bear in mind also that this was done by DHS agents, not regular law enforcement. Child porn doesn’t have anything to do with terrorism and it shouldn’t have anything to do with DHS. The man may well be guilty of child pornography, but the government cannot conduct searches without probable cause or, in certain circumstances, reasonable suspicion.
The CNET report here includes more info. This aggressive attitude against civil rights seems typical of the Obama Administration.
Situations like this drive me crazy: the guy is trapped until he can prove he is innocent of whatever it is that the FBI imagines. This is not how things are supposed to work. We are letting our terror of terrorism make us nuts. Scott Shane in the NY Times:
As a 26-year-old Muslim American man who spent 18 months in Yemen before heading home to Virginia in early May, Yahya Wehelie caught the attention of the F.B.I. Agents stopped him while he was changing planes in Cairo, told him he was on the no-fly list and questioned him about his contacts with another American in Yemen, one accused of joining Al Qaeda and fatally shooting a hospital guard.
For six weeks, Mr. Wehelie has been in limbo in the Egyptian capital. He and his parents say he has no radical views, despises Al Qaeda and merely wants to get home to complete his education and get a job.
But after many hours of questioning by F.B.I. agents, he remains on the no-fly list. When he offered to fly home handcuffed and flanked by air marshals, Mr. Wehelie said, F.B.I. agents turned him down.
“The lady told me that Columbus sailed the ocean blue a long time ago when there were no planes,” Mr. Wehelie said in a telephone interview from Cairo. “I’m an innocent American in exile, and I have no way to get home.”
Mr. Wehelie’s predicament reflects the aggressive response of American counterterrorism officials to recent close calls with major terrorist plots: last year’s foiled plan to blow up the New York City subway; the failed attempt to take down an airliner headed for Detroit on Dec. 25; and the fizzled car bombing in Times Square on May 1. The case also illustrates the daunting challenge, both for people like Mr. Wehelie and for their F.B.I. questioners, of proving that they pose no security threat.
Accused after the Dec. 25 near-miss of failing to keep the would-be bomber off the plane to Detroit, the government’s Terrorist Screening Center has since doubled the no-fly list to 8,000 names, according to a counterterrorism official who discussed the closely held numbers on the condition that he not be identified…
Continue reading. And, of course, the only way to learn that your name’s on the list is to attempt to fly—the government doesn’t want to tell you in advance, of course, because that would help your planning. And there is no due process at all: you cannot be told the reason your name is there or who put it there, you cannot face your accusers, you are presumed guilty until you can prove your innocence. This is a complete travesty—once again a reminder of the Soviet Union under Stalin. No wonder some on the Right hate the government: the government is often hateful.
Sounds like a Turkish costume, doesn’t it? In fact, it’s a kettlebell exercise, and I thought this would be a good goal: to get myself fit enough that I can do this exercise 10 times in a row. Here’s what it looks like:
Politics leads to strange positions. A story by Mark Arax in Salon:
Some of the most powerful leaders in the American Jewish community have stepped forward in recent days to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.
On the surface, this would seem unremarkable. As victims of the Holocaust, Jews might be expected to stand beside the Armenians and their tragedy. After all, the massacres and death marches across Anatolia during the fog of World War I became a model for Hitler himself.
But this sudden embrace of the Armenian Genocide actually marks a shameless turnaround for the major American Jewish organizations. For decades, they have helped Turkey cover up its murderous past. Each year, the Israel lobby in the U.S. has played a quiet but pivotal role in pressuring Congress, the State Department and successive presidents to defeat simple congressional resolutions commemorating the 1.5 million Armenian victims.
Genocide denial is not a pretty thing, they now concede, but they did it for Israel. They did it out of gratitude for Turkey being Israel’s one and only Muslim ally.
Now the game has changed. Israel and Turkey are locked in a feud over the Palestine-bound flotilla that was intercepted on the high seas by Israel. Turkey is outraged over the killing of nine of its citizens on board. Israel is outraged that a country with Turkey’s past would dare judge the morality of the Jewish state.
So the Armenian Genocide has become a new weapon in the hands of Israel and its supporters in the U.S., a way to threaten Turkey, a conniver’s get-even: Hey, Turkey, if you want to play nasty with Israel, if you want to lecture us about violations of human rights, we can easily go the other way on the Armenian Genocide. No more walking the halls of Congress to plead your shameful case.
If I sound cynical about all this, maybe I am.
In the spring of 2007, I wrote a story that revealed how genocide denial had become a dirty little pact between Turkey and Israel and its lobby in the U.S.
The story, as it turned out, was my last story at the Los Angeles Times, the only story in my 20-year career that was killed on the eve of publication.
Three years later, I can still hear myself framing its contours to one of our editors in the Washington bureau: