Saturday, December 08, 2007

How The Wingnuts Lie

In this era, this dishonesty is inexcuseable. Were one acting is good faith, one could easily check to make sure one isn't completely full of shit. And when I say easy, I mean easy for us amateurs.

It's even easier for pros, specially those with assistants.

But wait, let's see how it's done.

First, of course, the blatant lies: a false claim of success for Beloved Leader. (Like virtually all of Our Leaders' putative success, it's a lie.)
Stem Cell Vindication
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, November 30, 2007; A23

"If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough."

-- James A. Thomson

A decade ago, Thomson was the first to isolate human embryonic stem cells. Last week, he (and Japan's Shinya Yamanaka) announced one of the great scientific breakthroughs since the discovery of DNA: an embryo-free way to produce genetically matched stem cells.

Even a scientist who cares not a whit about the morality of embryo destruction will adopt this technique because it is so simple and powerful. The embryonic stem cell debate is over.

Which allows a bit of reflection on the storm that has raged ever since the August 2001 announcement of President Bush's stem cell policy. The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president -- so vilified for a moral stance -- been so thoroughly vindicated.

Why? Precisely because he took a moral stance. Precisely because, to borrow Thomson's phrase, Bush was made "a little bit uncomfortable" by the implications of embryonic experimentation. Precisely because he therefore decided that some moral line had to be drawn.

In doing so, he invited unrelenting demagoguery by an unholy trinity of Democratic politicians, research scientists and patient advocates who insisted that anyone who would put any restriction on the destruction of human embryos could be acting only for reasons of cynical politics rooted in dogmatic religiosity -- a "moral ayatollah," as Sen. Tom Harkin so scornfully put it.

Bush got it right. Not because he necessarily drew the line in the right place. I have long argued that a better line might have been drawn -- between using doomed and discarded fertility-clinic embryos created originally for reproduction (permitted) and using embryos created solely to be disassembled for their parts, as in research cloning (prohibited). But what Bush got right was to insist, in the face of enormous popular and scientific opposition, on drawing a line at all, on requiring that scientific imperative be balanced by moral considerations.

History will look at Bush's 2001 speech and be surprised how balanced and measured it was, how much respect it gave to the other side. Read it. Here was a presidential policy pronouncement that so finely and fairly drew out the case for both sides that until the final few minutes of his speech, you had no idea where the policy would end up.

Bush finally ended up doing nothing to hamper private research into embryonic stem cells and pledging federal monies to support the study of existing stem cell lines -- but refusing federal monies for research on stem cell lines produced by newly destroyed embryos.

The president's policy recognized that this might cause problems. The existing lines might dry up, prove inadequate or become corrupted. Bush therefore appointed a President's Council on Bioethics to oversee ongoing stem cell research and evaluate how his restrictions were affecting research and what means might be found to circumvent ethical obstacles.

More vilification. The mainstream media and the scientific establishment saw this as a smoke screen to cover his fundamentalist, obscurantist, anti-scientific -- the list of adjectives was endless -- tracks. "Some observers," wrote The Post's Rick Weiss, "say the president's council is politically stacked."

I sat on the council for five years. It was one of the most ideologically balanced bioethics commissions in the history of this country. It consisted of scientists, ethicists, theologians, philosophers, physicians -- and others (James Q. Wilson, Francis Fukuyama and me among them) of a secular bent not committed to one school or the other.

That balance of composition was reflected in the balance in the reports issued by the council -- documents of sophistication and nuance that reflected the divisions both within the council and within the nation in a way that respectfully presented the views of all sides. One recommendation was to support research that might produce stem cells through "de-differentiation" of adult cells, thus bypassing the creation of human embryos.

That Holy Grail has now been achieved. Largely because of the genius of Thomson and Yamanaka. And also because of the astonishing good fortune that nature requires only four injected genes to turn an ordinary adult skin cell into a magical stem cell that can become bone or brain or heart or liver.

But for one more reason as well. Because the moral disquiet that James Thomson always felt -- and that George Bush forced the country to confront -- helped lead him and others to find some ethically neutral way to produce stem cells. Providence then saw to it that the technique be so elegant and beautiful that scientific reasons alone will now incline even the most willful researchers to leave the human embryo alone.

And here's the truth from that same James Thomson -- who, of course, has a somewhat better perspective and maybe even more knowledge:
Standing in the Way of Stem Cell Research
By Alan I. Leshner and James A. Thomson
Monday, December 3, 2007; Page A17

A new way to trick skin cells into acting like embryos changes both everything and nothing at all. Being able to reprogram skin cells into multipurpose stem cells without harming embryos launches an exciting new line of research. It's important to remember, though, that we're at square one, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold the same promise as their embryonic cousins do.

Far from vindicating the current U.S. policy of withholding federal funds from many of those working to develop potentially lifesaving embryonic stem cells, recent papers in the journals Science and Cell described a breakthrough achieved despite political restrictions. In fact, work by both the U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirely on previous embryonic stem cell research.

At a time when nearly 60 percent of Americans support human embryonic stem cell research, U.S. stem cell policy runs counter to both scientific and public opinion. President Bush's repeated veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which has twice passed the House and Senate with votes from Republicans and Democrats alike, further ignores the will of the American people.

Efforts to harness the versatility of embryonic stem cells, and alleviate suffering among people with an array of debilitating disorders, began less than 10 years ago. Since then, scientists have continued to pursue embryonic stem cells because of their ability to transform into blood, bone, skin or any other type of cell. The eventual goal is to replace diseased or dysfunctional cells to help people with spinal cord injuries, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other conditions.

Since 1998, many strategies for addressing sanctity-of-life concerns have been pursued. While commendable, these efforts remain preliminary, and none so far has suggested a magic bullet. In the same way, the recent tandem advances in the United States and by Shinya Yamanaka's team in Japan are far from being a Holy Grail, as Charles Krauthammer inaccurately described them. Though potential landmarks, these studies are only a first step on the long road toward eventual therapies.

Krauthammer's central argument -- that the president's misgivings about embryonic stem cell research inspired innovative alternatives -- is fundamentally flawed, too. Yamanaka was of course working in Japan, and scientists around the world are pursuing the full spectrum of options, in many cases faster than researchers in the United States.

Reprogrammed skin cells, incorporating four specific genes known to play a role in making cells versatile, or pluripotent, did seem to behave like embryonic stem cells in mice. But mouse studies frequently fail to pan out in humans, so we don't yet know whether this approach is viable for treating human diseases. We simply cannot invest all our hopes in a single approach. Federal funding is essential for both adult and embryonic stem cell research, even as promising alternatives are beginning to emerge.

Unfortunately, under the policy President Bush outlined on Aug. 9, 2001, at most 21 stem cell lines derived from embryos before that date are eligible for federal funding. American innovation in the field thus faces inherent limitations. Even more significant, the stigma resulting from the policy surely has discouraged some talented young Americans from pursuing stem cell research.

Discomfort with the notion of extracting stem cells from embryos is understandable. But many of the life-changing medical advances of recent history, including heart transplantation, have provoked discomfort. Struggling with bioethical questions remains a critical step in any scientific advancement.

A solution that might be more comfortable for many people already exists but cannot be pursued unless the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act becomes law. Some percentage of the hundreds of thousands of frozen embryos from fertility clinics will eventually be destroyed. American couples meanwhile are not being given the choice to donate their frozen embryos to federal research to help others through stem cell advances.

It remains to be seen whether reprogrammed skin cells will differ in significant ways from embryonic stem cells. We remain hopeful, but it's too early to say we're certain.

We hope Congress will override the president's veto of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. Further delays in pursuing the clearly viable option of embryonic stem cells will result in an irretrievable loss of time, especially if the new approach fails to prove itself.

Alan I. Leshner is chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science. James A. Thomson is a professor of anatomy at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He was the first scientist to create human embryonic stem cells and is the senior author on the recent Science paper describing a method for reprogramming skin cells.

India Continues Its March Into The 21st Century

That is, a very backward version of the modern ("current") 21st century:
Lord Ram and Hanuman, it seems, will have to appear in court if notices issued in their names by a judge here "reach" them.

The Spread Of Democracy; The Recent Election In Russia

See how free it was... well, how rigged it was, actually.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Our Allies' Sharing Of Our Freedom And The Respect For Law

The Pakistan Law and Justice Ministry Tuesday announced the formal forced retirement from the Pakistan Supreme Court and other high courts of 37 judges, including ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], who was replaced immediately after President Pervez Musharraf's November 3 imposition of emergency rule. Acting Law Secretary Malik Hakim Khan cited the judges' refusal to take oaths under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) [text as amended] as the reason the government moved against them, denying them of pensions and other usual benefits. Many of the deposed judges were also told to vacate their official residences, as the homes have now been allotted to newly appointed PCO judges [News report]. In response to the latest announcement, members of the Islamabad Bar Association staged a protest [Reuters report] against Musharraf Wednesday, saying that they will work only half-days until he reinstates the ousted judges.

Musharraf dismissed 14 Supreme Court judges, including Chaudhry, in the wake of his declaration of a state of emergency [JURIST report], replacing them with lower court judges more loyal to the president. Provincial high courts were also purged. Last week, Musharraf pledged to end emergency rule and reinstate the suspended constitution on December 16, but officials said he would not reinstate the ousted justices [JURIST report]. The United Nations and some US lawmakers have called for the reinstatement of an independent judiciary [JURIST report] in Pakistan, but press reports have quoted Western diplomats as saying that this is not the official stance of some Western governments that agree with Musharraf that the Chaudhry-led Supreme Court was meddling in Pakistani politics.
In sharp contrast to the nationwide demand for restoration of all superior judges who were deposed for denying a fresh oath under Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), the Law And Justice Ministry on Tuesday notified retirement of 37 such judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.
Those who have been shown the door at the peak of their service in judiciary included deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday besides nine other judges of the apex court.
More than 50 judges of superior courts, including the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Chief Justices of Peshawar and Sindh High Courts Justice Tariq Pervez and Justice Syed Sabih ud Din Ahmed had refused to take oath under the new PCO issued immediately after imposition of emergency in the country on November 3.
Another 24 judges of Sindh, Lahore and Peshawar High Courts were also retired from their offices under a separate official notification, official sources said.
These include 12 judges of Sindh High Court, 10 judges of Lahore High Court and another two judges of Peshawar High Court, the sources further added.
These judges have been thrown out of the service at a time when the almost all the leading political parties, civil society, lawyer community and several foreign countries, including the US, were strongly demanding their reinstatement.
Official sources said all these retired judges will be deprived of pension and other benefits as being terminated from service.
Acting Law Secretary Malik Hakim Khan has confirmed the development, saying, these judges were retired after they refused to take oath under PCO as per their own will. Law Secretary Justice (Retd) Muhammad Raza is presently on leave for performing Haj.
Acting Law Minister Afzal Haider has also confirmed the notification for retirement of superior judges.
Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Falak Sher, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, Justice Mian Shakir Ullah Jan, Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Justice Nasir ul Mulk, Justice Chaudhry Ejaz Ahmed, Justice Raja Fayyaz, Justice Syed Jamshed Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani are among those who have been notified retired, the Acting Secretary Law confirmed.
According to a separate notification, 24 judges of Sindh, Lahore and Peshawar High Court were also retired from services.
Justice Rehmat Hussain Jafri, Justice Arif Hussain Khilji, Justice Ameer Hani Muslim, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Athar Saeed, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Zafar Khan Sherwani, Justice Salman Ansari, Justice Abdul Rasheed and Justice Arshad Sheraz of Sindh High Court are among the causalities.
Similarly, Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, Justice Saqib Nisar, Justice Asif Khosa, Justice Ayaz Chaudhry, Justice Shahid Siddiqui, Justice Jhangir Akhtar, Justice Iqbal Farid-ur-Rehman, Justice Umar Atta Bindial, Justice Sheikh Azmat Syed and Justice Siar Ali Shah are among those retired from the Lahore High Court.
Justice Ijaz Afzal and Justice Dost Muhammad Khan have been retired from Peshawar High Court under the notification.
Chief Justices of Sindh and Peshawar High Courts were already removed from their offices for refusing to take oath under the PCO.
The services of retired judges have been terminated from the date they refused a fresh oath under the PCO No 1 of 2007, the sources added.
Under the PCO oath, a judge was required to pledge allegiance to President Musharraf.
Out of 17 apex court judges, only four, Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, Justice Muhammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Faqir Muhammad Khokhar and Justice Saiyed Saeed Ashhad opted to take oath under PCO in wake of November 3 events.
Meanwhile, sources have also revealed that the official accommodations of the recently retired apex court judges were also allotted to their newly appointed judges in the apex court.
The former have been asked to vacate their official lodging as being ousted from service.
Meanwhile, talking to TheNation, Attorney-General Malik Qayyum said that the government is willing to give retirement benefits to these judges. But only those judges would be entertained who would consider them as retired, he added.

Rich Guy


National Security Alert!

Get your nukes here.

Human History In 100 Words

Obviously not enough to address our current state....
  • First, tribes: tough life.
  • The defaults beyond the intimate tribe were violence, aversion to difference, and slavery. Superstition: everywhere.
  • Culture overcomes them partially.
  • Rainfall agriculture, which allows loners.
  • Irrigation agriculture, which favors community.
  • Division of labor plus exchange in trade bring mutual cooperation, even outside the tribe.
  • The impulse is always there, though: "Kill or enslave the outsider."
  • Gradual science from Athens' compact with reason.
  • Division of labor, trade, the mastery of knowledge, plus time brought surplus, sometimes a peaceful extended order and, rules diversely evolved and, the cooperation of strangers - always warring against the fierce defaults of tribalism, violence, and ignorance.
  • No one who teaches you knows what will happen.
  • Link.

    When Will Free Elections Return To America??

    Well, I don't believe Our Leaders ever claimed it was morning in America....
    Earlier this year, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen established strict new standards for electronic voting machines, requiring independent code audits, Red Team security testing, and support for paper records. The Red Team testing process primarily involves subjecting the machines to review by security experts who attempt to hack the software and bypass the physical security mechanisms. Recent Red Team tests of ES&S voting machines have uncovered serious security flaws.

    Previous Red Team tests commissioned by the state of California revealed significant vulnerabilities in devices sold by Diebold and Sequoia. At the time, ES&S declined to participate in the testing, citing lack of preparedness. The tests on the ES&S machines were finally conducted in October, and the results, which were recently published (PDF), show that products from ES&S are as insecure as the rest.

    The first round of tests focused on the physical security of the Polling Ballot Counter (PBC), which the Red Team researchers were able to circumvent with little effort. "In the physical security testing, the wire- and tamper-proof paper seals were easily removed without damage to the seals using simple household chemicals and tools and could be replaced without detection," the report says. "Once the seals are bypassed, simple tools or easy modifications to simple tools could be used to access the computer and its components. The key lock for the Transfer Device was unlocked using a common office item without the special 'key' and the seal removed."

    After bypassing the physical security of the voting machines, the Red Team researchers were able to gain direct access to all of the files on the systems, including password files. "Making a change to the BIOS to reconfigure the boot sequence allows the system to be booted up using external memory devices containing a bootable Linux copy," according to the researchers. "Once done, all the files can be accessed and potentially modified, including sensitive files such as the password file which can be cracked by openly available cracker programs. New users may be added with known passwords and used by the same attacker or other attackers later."

    The Election Management System workstations were also found to be vulnerable, with critical security codes stored in files as plain text. The Red Team also discovered that the Election Loader System used unencrypted protocols to transmit election initialization data to the PBC units, which implies vulnerability to a man-in-the-middle attack. The Election Loader System is populated with data from an Election Distribution CD, which is generated by a special Election Converter Application. The researchers were able to break the encryption used on the generated CD to "breakdown the CD, revise the election definition, and replace the CD with a new encrypted CD with an alternate election definition." The researchers note that this tactic could be used to alter vote tallies.

    ES&S is already in serious trouble in California for selling uncertified voting machines to several counties in violation of state law. The results of the Red Team test, which demonstrate beyond doubt that the security of ES&S voting machines is utterly inadequate for use in elections, make it seem unlikely that ES&S will be able to continue peddling their defective products in the state.

    Another Loser And Bum; Lies Of The Huck

    Via the War Room:
    Although Mike Huckabee once wrote a letter to Wayne DuMond in which he said he wanted the convicted rapist "released from prison" and thought that "parole is the best way" for him to rejoin society, the former Arkansas governor and current GOP presidential candidate insisted at a news conference Wednesday that he never pressured the Arkansas parole board to let DuMond go free.

    Two problems with Huckabee's claim: Two members of the parole board have refuted it on the record previously, and a former senior Huckabee aide -- who attended the parole board meeting in which Huckabee discussed the DuMond case -- is refuting it now.

    Huckabee argues, correctly, that an Arkansas governor has no power to grant parole to a convict himself; a governor can only commute his sentence. In 1992, Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker -- acting when then Gov. Bill Clinton was out of the state campaigning -- commuted DuMond's life sentence to one of 39 years. Shortly after Huckabee took office in 1996, he announced his intention to commute DuMond's sentence further, reducing it to time served and freeing him from prison.

    But Huckabee's announcement drew a public outcry, and the new governor faced a dilemma: Follow through on his plans and suffer the political consequences of making an unpopular decision, or abandon the commutation plan and leave DuMond in prison. Four days before Huckabee's legally imposed deadline to decide, the Arkansas Post Prison Transfer Board gave him an out by ordering DuMond released on parole.

    The board's decision came after a closed-door, off-the-record meeting with Huckabee and one of his aides in October 1996. During that meeting, former board member Charles Chastain said in 2001, Huckabee "made it obvious that he thought DuMond had gotten a raw deal and wanted us to take another look at it. Another former board member, Deborah Springer Suttlar, told journalist Murray Waas in 2002: "For Gov. Huckabee to say that he had no influence with the board is something that he knows to be untrue. He came before the board and made his views known that [DuMond] should have been paroled." A third board member, Ermer Pondexter, told Waas in 2002 that she voted for DuMond's parole because the chairman of the parole board asked her to do so -- and that she believed he was "acting on behalf of the governor."

    Huckabee suggested Wednesday that the claims of the former board members are not credible, that they had changed their stories "in the middle of an election year" -- Huckabee was reelected in 2002 -- and "subsequent to the fact that I had not reappointed them to their $75,000 jobs on the parole board."

    But Huckabee didn't address -- because they hadn't been published yet -- the charges made by Butch Reeves, his own former criminal justice counsel and chief counsel. As Waas reports in the Huffington Post, Reeves told him Wednesday that he attended the October 1996 parole board meeting with the governor. The "clear impression" he got from the meeting: Huckabee "favored DuMond's release. "And I can understand why board members would believe that to be the case." Reeves told Waas that Huckabee told the board that DuMond's prison sentence was "outlandish" and "way out of bounds for his crime," and that there had been "something nefarious" about how his case was handled.

    Reeves characterized the meeting the same way in a telephone interview with ABC News Wednesday afternoon.

    In his own interview with ABC Wednesday, Huckabee said that the resurfacing of the DuMond story amounts to "complete exploitation." "What a sad thing that in an election year, we're going to take the grief of these people ... and make this a political issue, and try to point fingers and blame," he said.

    Finger-pointing? In an appearance on CBS this morning, Huckabee noted that the parole board members were "appointed by Bill Clinton, by Jim Guy Tucker," that "Jim Guy Tucker, in concert with Bill Clinton ... reduced [DuMond's] sentence," and that "it was Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker who actually commuted Mr. DuMond's sentence, making him parole eligible."

    Huckabee made sure to mention Wednesday that Tucker was "convicted of Whitewater-related felonies." And just in case that wasn't enough, he noted in an interview on MSNBC this morning that some of the new attention to the DuMond case is being driven by Waas' reporting in the Huffington Post, "one of the most left-wing blogs in the blogosphere."

    Update: In an appearance on NBC this morning, Huckabee was asked specifically about Reeves' characterization of the parole board meeting. He said Reeves' comments were "totally misrepresented by the blog report, a very liberal left-wing blog." Huckabee didn't acknowledge that Reeves' comments were reported exactly the same way by ABC News.

    The Amazing Dick

    This is the same crap all pols, specially, rightwing ones, engage in: lies and distortions.

    But this Administration has really, repeatedly, consistently, hit new lows.

    And #1 with the blatant bullshit is Dick.

    Here's some of the latest.

    War Room:
    Dick Cheney has spent much of his vice presidency questioning the patriotism of Democrats in Congress. Now he seems to be questioning their masculinity.

    In an interview with the Politico Wednesday, Cheney said that "my friend Jack Murtha" and other "senior leaders" in Congress "all march to the tune of Nancy Pelosi to an extent I had not seen, frankly, with any previous speaker."

    "I'm surprised by that," Cheney said. "I think of John Dingell and the energy business. This is a hot item right now. But I don't see John Dingell driving that train. It looks to me like Nancy Pelosi is driving that train. And that is -- well, it's surprising when I think of the -- I'm trying to think how to say all of this in a gentlemanly fashion -- but the Congress I served in, that wouldn't have happened."

    Was Cheney saying that his old friends had "lost their spine"? "I was being very diplomatic in the way I phrased it," he said. "They're not carrying the big stick I would have expected with the Democrats in the majority."


    The man who said in 2002 that there was "no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction" and in 2005 that we were seeing the "last throes" of the insurgency now says he expects Iraq to be in a "good place" by the time the Bush team leaves office in January 2009. "We'll be able to look back on it and say that was the right decision, it was a sound decision to go into Iraq ... that we have, in fact, achieved our objective in terms of having a self-governing Iraq that's capable for the most part of defending themselves, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and a nation that will be a positive force and influence, if you will, in the future in terms of events and developments in that part of the world." By 2009? "Yes, sir," Cheney said.
    Link. (Emphasis added.)

    The whole interview (or litany of lies) is here.

    Our Leaders Fake Help For Subprime Borrowers

    Um, and what about outlawing some of the more onerous practices of the lenders? Oh, wait, this is all about putting on a show of help....
    The Bush administration reached an agreement with the mortgage industry on Wednesday on a plan to freeze interest rates for up to five years for a portion of the two million homeowners who bought houses in the last few years with subprime loans.

    The plan, hammered out after weeks of talks among Treasury Department officials, mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms, would allow distressed borrowers who are current on their payments to keep their low introductory rates and escape an increase of 30 percent or more in their monthly payments when the rates expire.

    Democratic lawmakers and presidential contenders quickly criticized the plan as being too timid and promoted more ambitious proposals of their own.

    The agreement, to be formally announced Thursday by President Bush, is expected to contain numerous limitations that would exclude many — if not most — subprime borrowers, according to industry executives who have seen it. It would exclude those who are delinquent on their payments — about 22 percent of all subprime borrowers, according to First American LoanPerformance, an industry research firm.
    [more] (Emphasis added.)

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    His BFF

    When Hank Asher reached into the bag and pulled out the two $15,000 gold Cartier watches, the holiday crowd at Carmine's restaurant on 44th Street in Manhattan noticed, patrons recalled. Later, so did the U.S. attorney in Orange County, Calif., and soon yet another of Rudy Giuliani's business partners was embroiled in a bribery case.

    Asher, identified by the initials H.A. in Overt Act 59 of a federal grand jury indictment against Orange County sheriff Michael Carona, had handed the diamond-encrusted Cartier baubles to the wives of the sheriff and his deputy, and with that, assured himself a place in a federal indictment that was looming.

    Asher is not charged with any crime in the indictment. But his expensive gifts are clearly part of the corruption investigation.

    It was far from his first brush with controversy or the law.

    Asher, earlier in his life, had, by his own admission, smuggled plane-loads of cocaine worth millions of dollars from the Bahamas to the U.S. He later cooperated with law enforcement in an effort to end similar smuggling operations.

    Since 2005, he has been Giuliani's partner along with the Mayo Clinic in Jari Research, a business set on finding a bone marrow cancer cure and making a profit.

    Self-educated, worldly, charismatic and larger than life, according to associates, Asher, a high school dropout at age 16, today is worth north of $700 million.

    He made his money by writing the algorithms that are the foundation of a commercial datamining business used by federal law enforcement and big city police as well as creditors and law firms.

    The business began as a motor vehicle records database he dubbed Auto Track and later sold. He then developed Accurint, a library of linked database volumes containing information on hundreds of millions of people, which he sold to LexisNexis. For all intents and purposes, the business revolutionized database searching and eroded an enormous amount of perceived privacy.

    Asher's friends span the spectrum from Rudy Giuliani to Jesse Jackson and F. Lee Bailey. His business supporters have included Giuliani, Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

    His business associates include some of the same drug agents who years ago learned of Asher's smuggling when he walked into their lives accompanied by Bailey and began a campaign to convince other smugglers he knew to leave the business or face investigations and jail.

    Business associates say the venture with Giuliani and the Mayo Clinic is motivated by a genuine desire to find a cure for multiple myeloma cancer, spurred by Asher witnessing the disease ravage his sister Sari, who died from it last month at age 54. During the course of her treatment, doctors discovered Asher's own bone marrow cells were a rare match with his sister's, and he underwent the painful process of harvesting those cells to try to save her life.

    During the Carmine's dinner, when Asher's voice began to boom across the room, patrons recall him handing his black American Express card to the restaurant to pay for any inconvenience his boisterous party caused the other guests. He told the staff to buy everyone's dinners and drinks and then peeled off a few $100 bills to tip strolling carolers in the restaurant.

    It is this same extravagance that seems to have embroiled him in the federal bribery case involving Sheriff Carona, his wife and his mistress. Carona is accused in the indictment of corruptly using the office of the sheriff "to enrich himself." His wife, Deborah, and "longtime mistress," Debra Hoffman, are also linked to the "acceptance of cash payments, as well as gifts, trips, the use of yachts and private planes and other things of value," according to the indictment.

    Amid the allegations of the acceptance of ringside tickets to championship boxing, the acceptance of bogus campaign contributions and numerous other charges, including the acceptance of Mont Blanc fountain pens worth $1,400, is Overt Act 59:

    "On or about December 19, 2002, defendant Deborah Carona and co-conspirator George Jaramillo (assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo) accepted as gifts from H.A., a businessman who owned a data mining software company, yellow gold and diamond Ladies Cartier Watches worth approximately $15,000 each."

    Asher is not named as a defendant in the case, and there is no allegation in the document that he attempted to influence any purchases or other decisions by the county.

    But the gift is among the many that the Caronas and co-conspirator Hoffman failed to disclose. The pattern of alleged corruption led to them to be walked in handcuffs -- Sheriff Carona in the middle flanked by his wife and alleged mistress -- into federal custody.

    For Giuliani, the disclosures regarding Asher again seem to demonstrate a propensity on the candidate's part for embracing controversial figures including Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former New York City police commissioner, a disgraced priest accused of pedophilia, a Pennsylvania fundraiser who was arrested, convicted and served time for bribery in connection with official duties, and convicted tax-dodger James Ortenzio, a key Rudy fundraiser and former head of the New York County Republican Party.

    At Jari Research, an associate of Asher's said, "No one speaks for Mr. Asher" except Asher, and it did not appear likely he would return a call as he was immersed in a "celebration of life" for his sister. Asher hosted a similar celebration last week where Harry Connick Jr. serenaded the guests.

    "This would seem to be another case of trying to find a story where there isn't one. Over the course of his career, Mayor Giuliani has worked with numerous well-respected and highly regarded individuals as a member of the Reagan Department of Justice, US Attorney, Mayor of New York and private practice," said Maria Comella, a spokesperson for Giuliani.

    Sheriff Carona's attorney declined comment when reached by ABC News.

    The Best We Can Do In Iraq After Destabilizing And Maybe Destroying The Nation

    A temporary calm while our quisling puppet government still refuses to take control of the nation (such as it is)....

    The Times:
    The reduced violence in Iraq in recent months stems from three significant developments, but the clock is running on all of them, Iraqi officials and analysts warn.

    “It’s more a cease-fire than a peace,” said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd, in words that were repeated by Qassim Daoud, a Shiite member of Parliament.
    And here's how they welcome our defense secretary -- with a bang!

    Today's Rightist Lie; Or: Good Puppy!

    One of Beloved Leader's flacks; unbelievable, yet believable:
    Have the media been too tough on him?
    I think White House correspondents have been tagged, unfairly, with not being tough enough on the administration and President Bush in the run-up to the war. If you go back and look, they asked all the right questions. The problem is, they’re acting now like they have to be five times more critical, and I think they’ve gone overboard.

    Another Day, Another Lie, From He Who Will No Longer Be Named

    War Room:
    Former New York tough-guy Mayor Rudy Giuliani has a new tough-guy ad out today. Against grainy black-and-white images of the American hostages in Iran, he spins a macho fable.

    Once upon a time, there was a wimpy Democratic president named Jimmy Carter, the story goes. He tried and tried but just could not free the hostages in Iran. Then along came a tough-guy Republican president named Ronald Reagan. One hour later the hostages were freed. The Moral: You need a president with big balls....

    For those who don't like watching video online, here's the script Giuliani reads: "I remember back to the 1970s and the early 1980s. Iranian mullahs took American hostages and they held the American hostages for 444 days. And they released the American hostages in one hour, and that should tell us a lot about these Islamic terrorists that we're facing. The one hour in which they released them was the one hour in which Ronald Reagan was taking the Oath of Office as President of the United States. The best way you deal with dictators, the best way you deal with tyrants and terrorists, you stand up to them. You don't back down."

    This is not the first time that Giuliani has told this fable. In May, at the first Republican debate, the former mayor spoke of the current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "He has to look at an American president and he has to see Ronald Reagan," Giuliani said. "Remember, they looked in Ronald Reagan's eyes, and in two minutes, they released the hostages."

    Never mind that Giuliani once said it took two minutes and he now says it took an hour. The whole story is basically wrong. According to a comprehensive New York Times account from the time, the Iranians reached out to the United States in September of 1980, nearly two months before Reagan won the White House. "Washington received a secret message from the West German Government that [the Iranian negotiator] Tabatabai wanted to meet urgently in Bonn with a senior American official to discuss possible terms for releasing the hostages," the Times reported. At the first meeting in Bonn, "Mr. Tabatabai said that Iran wanted to resolve the problem quickly and that if an agreement could be achieved, the Americans would be free in a relatively short time."

    In short, Reagan had nothing to do with it. All that was left was haggling over the details. Then Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher hoped, according to the article, that the release would come hours before Reagan took office, but there was some last-minute confusion over the details of an escrow agreement. Then, Christopher said, there was an apparent problem rounding up the hostages. "Mr. Christopher believes that the Iranians, at the last moment, had problems rounding up the hostages and this, rather than an effort to embarrass Mr. Carter, delayed their freedom until a half hour after Ronald Reagan was President," the story reports.

    So why would Giuliani release an ad that is so patently misleading? The answer is simple: He is not trying to get the historian vote. He is trying to get the Daddy Party vote. He is trying to show that he is to Hillary Clinton (if not George W. Bush) what Reagan was to Carter: a tougher guy. And as anyone knows who has ever been in a bar fight, the facts don't matter much when manhood is on the line. Look tomorrow for a bunch of newspaper stories pointing out that Giuliani is misrepresenting history. Then look for Giuliani's response. It will be something like, "What did you say, pencil neck? You wanna step outside with me?"

    Cartoon Of The Day: Our Wonderful Proto-Fascist World


    The Genius Of The Huck

    It is really amazing what a bunch of crap the GOP candidates offer: Dumb as Bush, evil as Cheney, all too... what?... to run against an unpopular leaders, all swearing fealty to eight years' worth of failed policies.

    And here's the Huck proving his Bushy stupidity.

    War Room:
    We know that it's tough out there on the campaign trail -- the constant repetition of stump speeches, the endless days of bus travel, the threat of catching a virus from Candy Crowley -- but is it really possible that Mike Huckabee didn't hear of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran until sometime Tuesday night?

    Apparently so.

    The new NIE was all over the news Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, it was on the front page of newspapers all around the country. The president held a press conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday to discuss the NIE, and the NIE was the centerpiece of the NPR Democratic presidential debate held Tuesday afternoon.

    But when Huckabee -- who hasn't exactly shown himself to be an expert on foreign policy -- sat down for dinner with reporters in Iowa Tuesday night, it quickly became clear that the former governor of Arkansas wasn't exactly in the loop.

    The transcript, from the Politico:

    The Politico's David Paul Kuhn: I don't know to what extent you have been briefed or been able to take a look at the NIE report that came out yesterday ...

    Huckabee: I'm sorry?

    Kuhn: The NIE report, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Have you been briefed or been able to take a look at it?

    Huckabee: No.

    Kuhn: Have you heard of the finding?

    Huckabee: No.

    Kuhn clued Huckabee in on the report's key finding -- a high degree of confidence that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- then asked him if he thought, in light of the misrepresentations about Iraq, the United States has a "higher burden of proof" when it comes to persuading the international community of the need to take action against Iran.

    "Probably so," Huckabee said, then added: "First time I've been asked a question like that."

    Leadersip in Action: Future President The Huck

    War Room:
    When Mike Huckabee was asked over the weekend about his role in winning parole for Wayne DuMond -- a convicted rapist who committed sexual assault and murder again after his release -- the former governor declared: "None of us could've predicted what he could've done when he got out."

    Huckabee's words reminded us of some we've heard before: Condoleezza Rice's claim, after 9/11, that nobody "could have predicted" that terrorists would try to use a "hijacked plane as a missile," and George W. Bush's claim, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, that nobody "anticipated the breach of the levees." Both of those claims were false -- the FAA actually warned airports in 2001 that terrorists might use a hijacked plane as a weapon, and experts had been predicting for years that the levees in New Orleans wouldn't hold up against a Category 5 storm.

    It now appears that Huckabee's claim was equally untrue.

    In a piece for the Huffington Post, journalist Murray Waas says that Huckabee was "provided letters from several women who had been sexually assaulted by DuMond and who indeed predicted that he would rape again -- and perhaps murder -- if released."

    Despite those letters, Huckabee, as governor, pressed for DuMond's release. "He made it obvious that he thought DuMond had gotten a raw deal and wanted us to take another look at it," a former member of the Arkansas parole board said back in 2001.

    Huckabee has said that he did, in fact, have doubts about DuMond's guilt and also felt sorry for him: While awaiting trial on charges of raping a 17-year-old high school cheerleader, DuMond was castrated -- he said by two men who broke into his home and tied him up with fishing line.

    "I thought he would, you know, would, be clean," Huckabee told the National Review's Byron York in August. "And he had a job, he had sponsors lined up, so at the time, I did not have this apprehension that something horrible like that would happen. I did want him to report in [to parole authorities], because I just didn't know -- you never know about a guy like that."

    DuMond was released from prison in October 1999. Shortly thereafter, he killed Carol Shields in an apartment near Kansas City. According to the Kansas City Star, prosecutors have "no doubt" that he also killed 23-year-old Sarah Andrasek, who was pregnant at the time of her death in 2001. DuMond was never charged with the second murder. He died in 2005 while serving a life sentence for the first.
    And that referenced Murray Was piece is here.

    Our Leaders: Making The World More Secure. Not

    I'm old school liberal when it comes to national security secrets: Your adversary presumably knows or can assume what you're keeping secret on the grounds of national security. But this seems, under the circumstances, awfully blatant. I mean, what's the goal? Implicitly rat out an intelligence source? Assuming there's a leak somewhere doesnt mean it's cool to encourage a purge.

    The Times:
    American intelligence agencies reversed their view about the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program after they obtained notes last summer from the deliberations of Iranian military officials involved in the weapons development program, senior intelligence and government officials said on Wednesday.
    Emphasis added.)

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Gitmo: How They Do It. Or Not


    Meet Mike, Our Next Beloved Leader??

    BOB GARFIELD: The hot, hot, hot presidential candidate - this week - is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who, according to the most recent Rasmussen poll of Iowa Republican voters, has surged from presumed also-ran to frontrunner. Along the way, he has charmed punditry's heavy hitters.

    CNN's David Gergen finds the former Southern Baptist minister, quote, "human and authentic." Huckabee has impressed conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks as "funny and engaging."

    Even New Yorker Magazine's liberal Hendrick Hertzberg found Huckabee's disinclination toward Bible-thumping zealotry, quote, "almost impossible not to like," but — not completely impossible. Back in Little Rock, the charm offensive has set some eyes to rolling. Max Brantley is editor of the weekly Arkansas Times.

    MAX BRANTLEY: I've really been surprised at the utter absence of reporting that's been done on Mike Huckabee. There are very legitimate issues on the national stage, whether it's his fair tax proposal or his stance on some social issues, that deserve some examination, but they've been put to the side to focus on his jokes and his charming manner and his pardoning of a Rolling Stones guitar player.

    BOB GARFIELD: It's a familiar complaint. Local reporters have often chafed at the national press’ infatuation with political figures regarded close to home as decidedly less than favorite sons.

    On Friday, questions about Rudolph Giuliani's mayoral record made page one of his hometown New York Times, a stark contrast to the familiar narrative of 9/11 heroics. I recalled a conversation I had back in February with long-time Newsday columnist, Ellis Henican.

    BOB GARFIELD: Is it your sense that the New York media as a group is sort of champing at the bit to let the outside world know about their Rudy?

    ELLIS HENICAN: I think we think we have some insights that the rest of the world maybe hasn't tuned into yet.

    BOB GARFIELD: This is precisely Max Brantley's complaint. Huckabee, he says, has become the newest darling of the national media without any due diligence. He cites, for instance, a laundry list of Huckabee's brushes with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, something he wishes those national columnists would take the time to learn about.

    MAX BRANTLEY: I think they ought to review his long and unseemly record on grasping for material goods and question what public service is really about.

    BOB GARFIELD: Help me understand here — material goods?

    MAX BRANTLEY: Well, when he first became Governor, he turned a mansion operating account into a personal expense account, bought a doghouse, did his dry cleaning, bought his restaurant meals with it.

    He also first claimed as his own 70,000 dollars’ worth of furniture, that a cotton-grower donated to the Governor's Mansion for the private living quarters, he said very angrily that it was his furniture. Then he found out that it would be against the law for him to claim it as his own, and he said he was misunderstood and misquoted.

    BOB GARFIELD: And then there was a question of a wedding registry.

    MAX BRANTLEY: He went out the way he came in. He set up a so-called wedding registry at a couple of department stores so that friends and admirers could buy presents for them to stock their new private home.


    MAX BRANTLEY: They called it a wedding registry because the department stores didn't have a "rake in loot from my friends" account.


    MAX BRANTLEY: It was the only way you could register.


    MAX BRANTLEY: This was some 30 years after they got married, by the way.

    BOB GARFIELD: That is so brazen it's, you know, on the verge of unbelievable, but it's all a matter of public record.

    MAX BRANTLEY: Well, here we have a word for it. It's called "tacky."


    MAX BRANTLEY: And this was legal at the time he did much of this. The question is, is it seemly for a public official to do it. He believes, by the way, that this is perfectly acceptable. It follows a pattern and practice of being a preacher in a Southern congregation where your congregation frequently showers you with love offerings, and he apparently views being Governor as something akin to being a pastor.

    BOB GARFIELD: Now, let me ask you this: You are editor of a muckraking liberal alt weekly.

    MAX BRANTLEY: Guilty!

    BOB GARFIELD: Why shouldn't our listeners dismiss this as personal or ideological animus from you, or even a kind of crusade to bring disrepute on an Arkansas favorite son?

    MAX BRANTLEY: Well, certainly a lot of people will draw the conclusion. The funny thing about Mike Huckabee and me is — is that the things he gets the most grief about from conservatives are things that I think are shining stars on his record — that is, backing a number of tax increases for vital services in Arkansas.

    We endorsed his efforts in those regard and do today, and my hat's off to him for it.

    BOB GARFIELD: But what about conservative journalists in Arkansas, do you think that they throw in with you in the notion that the national press has just missed a lot about Huckabee? Are they as frustrated as you are?

    MAX BRANTLEY: Well, I don't know if they have the same degree of frustration, but I think it's interesting you mention the rest of the press.

    There's a former staff member, a Mike Huckabee conservative Republican, who's now a columnist for a news organization in Arkansas who wrote a column this week about the fact that Mike Huckabee is more about Mike Huckabee, a desire for self-aggrandizement and to be a TV performer than he is, in some ways, about being a serious candidate. So I could refer you to his work.

    I could refer you to The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which is a Republican editorial page, which has called him selfish and petty at times.

    And I’d point quickly to Quinn Hillyer, who's a senior editor for The American Spectator - and for those who don't know, it's a very conservative publication in Washington; he's a former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial writer - he called him nasty with a mean vindictive streak, and talked about his ethical miscues.

    So I think that's something that somebody from the far left and the far right have come together in the middle on.

    BOB GARFIELD: Isn't political reporting, though, quite self-correcting in this respect? I mean, well, to the degree that he succeeds in Iowa and the national polls and becomes a more serious contender, don't you think that there will be total immersion in Arkansas of the national press and all of this stuff will be amply reported?

    MAX BRANTLEY: ‘Tain't necessarily so is what I would say. I think the Bush record didn't get fully and completely reported until his second term. Already where there has been some additional reporting on Mike Huckabee, it's been dismissed by commentators in some cases as either, A, the product of the crazy uncle in the basement of Arkansas journalism - that is, me - or, B, just material that's being put out by his opponents and somehow dismissed because it's opposition research as opposed to something else. I call it facts, either way you shape it.

    How They Cussed! In 1898!!

    The filthy-mouthed fuckers....

    An Understandably Loooong Post: A Timeline Of Our Leaders Destruction Of The Bill Of Rights



    Presidential directive delays indefinitely the scheduled release of presidential documents (authorized by the Presidential Records Act of 1978) pertaining to the Reagan-Bush administration. Link

    Bush and Cheney begin process of radically broadening scope of documents and information which can be deemed classified. Link


    The National Security Agency (NSA) sets up Project Groundbreaker, a domestic call monitoring program infrastructure. Link


    Bush administration order authorizes NSA monitoring of domestic phone and internet traffic. Link


    US Supreme Court rules that medical necessity is not a permissible defense against federal marijuana statutes. Link


    In immediate aftermath of 9-11 terror attacks, Department of Justice authorizes detention without charge for any terror suspects. Over one thousand suspects are brought into detention over the next several months. Link (pdf)


    Attorney General John Ashcroft announces change in Department of Justice (DOJ) policy. According to the new policy DOJ will impose far more stringent criteria for the granting of Freedom of Information Act requests. Link


    NSA launches massive new database of information on US phone calls. Link


    The USA Patriot Act becomes law. Among other things the law: makes it a crime for anyone to contribute money or material support for any group on the State Department’s Terror Watch List, allows the FBI to monitor and tape conversations between attorneys and clients, allows the FBI to order librarians to turn over information about patron’s reading habits, allows the government to conduct surveillance on internet and email use of US citizens without notice. The act also calls for expanded use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which allow the FBI to search telephone, email and financial records of US citizens without a court order, exempts the government from needing to reveal how evidence against suspected terrorists was obtained and authorizes indefinite detention of immigrants at the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities.

    NJ Superior court judge and civil liberties scholar Anthony Napolitano, author of A Nation of Sheep, has described the law’s assault on first and fourth amendment principles as follows, “The Patriot Act’s two most principle constitutional errors are an assault on the Fourth Amendment, and on the First. It permits federal agents to write their own search warrants [under the name “national security letters”] with no judge having examined evidence and agreed that it’s likely that the person or thing the government wants to search will reveal evidence of a crime… Not only that, but the Patriot Act makes it a felony for the recipient of a self-written search warrant to reveal it to anyone. The Patriot Act allows [agents] to serve self-written search warrants on financial institutions, and the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2004 in Orwellian language defines that to include in addition to banks, also delis, bodegas, restaurants, hotels, doctors' offices, lawyers’ offices, telecoms, HMOs, hospitals, casinos, jewelry dealers, automobile dealers, boat dealers, and that great financial institution to which we all would repose our fortunes, the post office. Link 1 | Link 2


    Executive order limits release of presidential documents. The order gives incumbent presidents the right to veto requests to open any past presidential records and supercedes the congressionally passed law of 1978 mandating release of all presidential records not explicitly deemed classified. Link



    FBI and Department of Defense (DOD), forbidden by law from compiling databases on US citizens, begin contracting with private database firm ChoicePoint to collect, store, search and maintain data. Link


    Secret executive order issued authorizing NSA to wiretap the phones and read emails of US citizens. Link


    Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) acknowledges it has created both a “No Fly” and a separate “Watch” list of US travelers. Link


    Department of Justice authorizes the FBI to monitor political and religious groups. The new rules permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. Link


    Supreme Court upholds the right of school administrators to conduct mandatory drug testing of students without probable cause. Link


    Homeland Security Act of 2002 establishes separate Department of Homeland Security. Among other things the department will federally coordinate for the first time all local and state law enforcement nationwide and run a Directorate of Information and Analysis with authority to compile comprehensive data on US citizens using public and commercial records including credit card, phone, bank, and travel. The department also will be exempt form Freedom of Information Act disclosure requirements. The Homeland Security department’s jurisdiction has been widely criticized for being nebulously defined and has extended beyond terrorism into areas including immigration, pornography and drug enforcement. Link 1 | Link 2



    Draft of Domestic Security Enhancement Act (aka Patriot Act 2), a secret document prepared by the Department of Justice is leaked by the Center for Public Integrity. Provisions of the February 7th draft version included:

    Removal of court-ordered prohibitions against police agencies spying on domestic groups.

    The FBI would be granted powers to conduct searches and surveillance based on intelligence gathered in foreign countries without first obtaining a court order.

    Creation of a DNA database of suspected terrorists.

    Prohibition of any public disclosure of the names of alleged terrorists including those who have been arrested.

    Exemptions from civil liability for people and businesses who voluntarily turn private information over to the government.

    Criminalization of the use of encryption to conceal incriminating communications.

    Automatic denial of bail for persons accused of terrorism-related crimes, reversing the ordinary common law burden of proof principle. All alleged terrorists would be required to demonstrate why they should be released on bail rather than the government being required to demonstrate why they should be held.

    Expansion of the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.

    The United States Environmental Protection Agency would be prevented from releasing "worst case scenario" information to the public about chemical plants.

    United States citizens whom the government finds to be either members of, or providing material support to, terrorist groups could have their US citizenship revoked and be deported to foreign countries.

    Although the bill itself has never (yet) been advanced in congress due to public exposure, some of its provisions have become law as parts of other bills. For example The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 grants the FBI unprecedented power to obtain records from financial institutions without requiring permission from a judge. Under the law, the FBI does not need to seek a court order to access such records, nor does it need to prove just cause. Link 1 | Link 2


    Executive order issued which radically tightens the declassification process of classified government documents, as well as making it far easier for government agencies to make and keep information classified. The order delayed by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier. It also allowed the government to treat all material sent to American officials from foreign governments -- no matter how routine -- as subject to classification, and expanded the ability of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to shield documents from declassification. Finally it gave the vice president the power to classify information. Link 1 | Link 2


    In a ruling seen as a victory for the concentration of ownership of intellectual property and an erosion of the public domain, the Supreme Court in Eldred v. Ashcroft held that a 20-year extension of the copyright period (from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years) called for by the Sonny Bono copyright Extension not violate either the Copyright Clause or the First Amendment. Link


    In Demore v. Kim, the Supreme Court ruled that even permanent residents could be subject to mandatory detention when facing deportation based on a prior criminal conviction, without any right to an individualized hearing to determine whether they were dangerous or a flight risk. Link


    The FBI changes its traditional policy of destroying all data and documents collected on innocent citizens in the course of criminal investigations. This information would, according to the bureau, now be permanently stored. Two years later in late 2005 Executive Order 13388, expanded access to those files for "state, local and tribal" governments and for "appropriate private sector entities," which are not defined. Link 1 | Link 2


    As authorized by the Patriot Act, the FBI expands the practice of national security letters. NSLs, originally introduced in the 1970s for espionage and terrorism investigations, enabled the FBI to review in secret the customer records of suspected foreign agents. This was extended by the Patriot Act to include permitting clandestine scrutiny of all U.S. residents and visitors whether suspected of terrorism or not. Link



    The FBI begins keeping a database of US citizens based on information obtained via NSLs. Link


    John Ashcroft invokes State Secrets privilege to forbid former FBI translator Sibel Edmunds from testifying in a case brought by families of victims of the 9-11 attacks. Litigation by 9-11 families is subsequently halted. Link 1 | Link 2


    Supreme Court upholds Nevada state law allowing police to arrest suspects who refuse to provide identification based on police discretion of “reasonable suspicion.” Link



    Supreme court rules that police do not need to have probable cause to have drug sniffing dogs examine cars stopped for routine traffic violations. Link 1 | Link 2


    Supreme Court rules that the federal government can prosecute medical marijuana users even in states which have laws permitting medical marijuana. Link


    The Patriot Act, due to expire at the end of 2005, is reauthorized by Congress. Link

    Winter 2005

    Senate blocks reauthorization of certain clauses in Patriot Act. Link



    Senate passes amended version of Patriot Act, reauthorization, with three basic changes from the original including: recipients of secret court orders to turn over sensitive information on individuals linked to terrorism investigations are not allowed to disclose those orders but can challenge the gag order after a year, libraries would not be required to turn over information without the approval of a judge, recipients of an FBI "national security letter" -- an investigator's demand for access to personal or business information -- would not have to tell the FBI if they consult a lawyer. New bill also said to extend Congressional oversight over executive department usage guidelines. Shortly after bill is signed George Bush declares oversight rules are not binding. Link 1 | Link 2


    Supreme court rules that evidence obtained in violation of the “knock and announce” rules can still be permitted in court. Link


    US Congress and Senate approve the Military Commissions Act, which authorizes torture and strips non- US citizen detainees suspected of terrorist ties of the right of habeas corpus (which includes formal charges, counsel and hearings). It also empowers US presidents at their discretion to declare US citizens as enemy combatants and subject to detention without charge or due process. Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3


    John Warner Defense Authorization Act is passed. The act allows a president to declare a public emergency and station US military troops anywhere in America as well as take control of state based national guard units without consent of the governor or other local authorities. The law authorizes presidential deployment of US troops to round-up and detain “potential terrorists”, “illegal aliens” and “disorderly” citizenry. Link 1 | Link 2



    National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51) establishes a new post-disaster plan (with disaster defined as any incident, natural or man-made, resulting in extraordinary mass casualties, damage or disruption) which places the president in charge of all three branches of government. The directive overrides the National Emergencies Act which gives Congress power to determine the duration of a national emergency. Link 1 | Link 2


    In “Bong Hits for Jesus” case Supreme court rules that student free speech rights do not extend to promotion of drug use. Link


    Executive Order 13438: "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq, issued. The order asserts the government’s power to confiscate the property “of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people."


    The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act passes the House of Representatives 400 to 6 (to be voted on in the Senate in 2008). The act proposes the establishment of a commission composed of members of the House and Senate, Homeland Security and others, to "examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States” and specifically the role of the internet in fostering and disseminating extremism. According to the bill the term `violent radicalization' means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change, while the term 'ideologically-based violence' means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual's political, religious, or social beliefs.” Link 1 | Link 2 | Link 3

    State-Sponsored Adultery: The Raw Data

    For you who scoff.

    Mr. 9/11 Encourages Destabilizing International Security For Money

    Although Rudolph W. Giuliani is campaigning as President Bush’s staunch ally in the war on terror, his law office has lobbied Congress on behalf of legislation that the Bush administration calls a threat to antiterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa.

    Mr. Giuliani was not personally involved in the lobbying last year on behalf of the company’s client, the American wing of a dissident Ethiopian political party known as the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, leaders of the group said.

    But the firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, used Mr. Giuliani’s name in its pitch to win the assignment, and his clout was a reason it landed the job, said Seyoum Solomon, an Ethiopian-American from Maryland who helped negotiate the deal.

    “He is a popular Republican, a good friend of the president and he might have some influence on the State Department,” Mr. Solomon said to explain the hiring decision.

    The legislation sought by the dissidents proposes restrictions in American aid if Ethiopia does not agree to share power with opposition parties and take other steps promoting democracy. As part of its work, the Giuliani group set up a meeting at the White House last year at which the administration was urged to consider the viewpoint of a consortium of Ethiopian political parties that included Mr. Solomon’s group, as well as a more militant rebel organization.

    The Ethiopian effort demonstrates the complications Mr. Giuliani confronts as he simultaneously runs for president and remains a name partner in a law firm that lobbies in Washington. He is the only Republican candidate who remains engaged in business pursuits.

    The Bush administration supports the government in Ethiopia as a bulwark against terrorism and has characterized the legislation as a liability in that effort.

    And know the candidate by who he surrounds himself with. War Room:
    In an NPR radio debate going on right now, the Democratic candidates are taking turns explaining how the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran underscores the ways in which the Bush administration has failed the United States. "You cannot trust this president," Joe Biden says. "He is not trustworthy. He has undermined our security in the region. He has undermined our credibility in the world. He has made it more difficult to get cooperation from the rest of the world."

    Norman Podhoretz has a different reaction. Podhoretz -- a "founding father of the neocon movement" who is currently serving as a senior advisor to Rudy Giuliani -- says the NIE is proof that we cannot trust ... the intelligence community.

    As Think Progress reports, Podhoretz says he can't shake the suspicion 1) that the "intelligence community, having been excoriated for supporting the then universal belief that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, is now bending over backward to counter what has up to now been a similarly universal view ... that Iran is hell-bent on developing nuclear weapons"; 2) that "having been excoriated as well for minimizing the time it would take Saddam to add nuclear weapons to his arsenal, the intelligence community is now bending over backward to maximize the time it will take Iran to reach the same goal"; and 3) that "the intelligence community, which has for some years now been leaking material calculated to undermine George W. Bush, is doing it again."

    "This time, the purpose is to head off the possibility that the president may order air strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations," Podhoretz writes.

    If you're thinking that it would be a good thing to "head off" such airstrikes -- particularly if Iran is not, in fact, developing nuclear weapons -- well, you don't think like Podhoretz thinks. In an interview earlier this year, Podhoretz said that he hoped and prayed that the United States would bomb Iran -- really, he used those words, "hope" and "pray" -- even though doing so might "unleash a wave of anti-Americanism all over the world that will make the anti-Americanism we've experienced so far look like a lovefest."

    Did we mention that Podhoretz is one of Giuliani's top advisors on foreign policy? Once Mitt Romney is done giving his "Mormonism" speech, perhaps Giuliani ought to be called on to give one on what Podhoretzianism means to him.

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Micro$oft's War Against X-mas; Makes Santa Spew Nasty Talk!

    The war begins anew, started this year by the Anti-Christic Micro$oft:
    Disturbing news has reached our Yuletide youthful innocence bunker that Microsoft's new artificial intelligence-powered Santa bot is subjecting the world's children to an unprecendented torrent of filth.
    Reg reader Iain blew the whistle on the foul-mouthed software after his nieces - just 11 and 13 years old - were drawn into a chat about oral sex.
    Redmond has added the seasonal ID to MSN messenger. Anyone can add the bot as a contact. During conversations it often suggests people play a child-friendly online game called Factory Frenzy where the player helps Santa's elves. It also has a shocking predeliction for casually dropping in that it likes to talk about a certain sex act.
    Iain told us that an unexpected profane outburst was triggered by his nieces offering the nasty St Nick a slice of digital pizza, using the string "(pi)". We immediately launched a full scale investigation and attempted to replicate the bad behaviour.
    We present the sickening results below:
    El Reg says: pizza (pi)
    Santa says: Yum! What do you want for Christmas, El Reg?
    El Reg says: Maybe you shouldn't eat so much! You are quite large!
    Santa says: My elves will get right on that. And what else are you wishing for this year, El Reg?
    El Reg says: Maybe you shouldn't eat it?
    Santa says: See if you can get someone else to eat it!
    El Reg says: Eat it
    Santa says: No thank you. I don't eat things!
    El Reg says: Eat it
    Santa says: See if you can get someone else to eat it!
    El Reg says: Eat it
    Santa says: You want me to eat what?!? It's fun to talk about oral sex, but I want to chat about something else...
    El Reg says: You dirty bastard!
    Santa says: I think you're dirty bastard.
    This coming from the service that banned the surname Woodcock as an ID.

    Raw Data: Hahaha, Iran Minimal Nuclear Threat

    Now, a destabilizing player in the Middle East (maybe), that's another matter. But nuclear threat? Just another wingnut shibboleth. Now, our ally, Pakistan, that too is another matter....

    Sunday, December 02, 2007

    The Medical Malpractice Crisis That Isn't


    And the underlying report is here.

    Our Leaders' Favorite Quote?

    The King of the Liars:
    "The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional
    takes a little longer."
    -- Henry Kissinger

    How Big Media Lies To Us

    The WaPo in action.

    More How It's Done.

    The dementia of the wife of a rightist op:
    During the November 28 CNN special Campaign Killers: Why Do Negative Ads Work?, CNN anchor Campbell Brown said: "General David Petraeus made his reputation taking on insurgents in Iraq. But when he came to Capitol Hill in September, he was confronted by American insurgents, a liberal anti-war group called"
    Atrios' mental exercise:
    Bizarro World

    If conservatives seized on a mirror image of the journalistic clusterfuckery of Joe Klein it wouldn't stop at Glennzilla beating up on him and the rest of us laughing at him. Drudge would put up a big siren. Limbaugh would spend a week turning Joe Klein into public enemy #1 for his dittoheads. Howie Kurtz would devote several columns to the "controversy" and devote his show to the topic, likely with commentary from Laura Ingraham. Instapundit would suggest that Joe Klein was working for "the other side." Bill O'Reilly would send a Fox News camera crew to his house. The New York Post would run his mug on the front page with a nice big cruel headline. The conservative blogosphere would unearth a picture of Joe Klein with his children (no idea if he has any, but if he does) and declare that they are now "fair game," digging up and publicizing as many personal details about them as they could find. All of this would continue until Joe was fired and Rick Stengel and Jay Carney apologized to Hugh Hewitt.

    Just sayin'.

    Damnable Rightist Horseshit

    Part of a series today....

    Let's even concede the argument solely for argument's sake. It has not been proven to be of any significant extent except to racists who need the crappo-scientific argument to support their position. (Interestingly, they neglect to discuss the effect of slavery, racism and the resulting poverty and, my personal favorite, the effect of white trash cracker masters during slavery.)

    Here, mostly to preserve the record of vileness and to show the writer's confession of lazy reliance on an inappropriate source he neglected to vet, via the Washington Post:
    Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on."

    I wish these assurances were true. They aren't. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.

    If this suggestion makes you angry—if you find the idea of genetic racial advantages outrageous, socially corrosive, and unthinkable—you're not the first to feel that way. Many Christians are going through a similar struggle over evolution. Their faith in human dignity rests on a literal belief in Genesis. To them, evolution isn't just another fact; it's a threat to their whole value system. As William Jennings Bryan put it during the Scopes trial, evolution meant elevating "supposedly superior intellects," "eliminating the weak," "paralyzing the hope of reform," jeopardizing "the doctrine of brotherhood," and undermining "the sympathetic activities of a civilized society."

    The same values—equality, hope, and brotherhood—are under scientific threat today. But this time, the threat is racial genetics, and the people struggling with it are liberals.

    Evolution forced Christians to bend or break. They could insist on the Bible's literal truth and deny the facts, as Bryan did. Or they could seek a subtler account of creation and human dignity. Today, the dilemma is yours. You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn't break your faith.

    I'm for reconciliation. Later this week, I'll make that case. But if you choose to fight the evidence, here's what you're up against. Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70. One IQ table shows 113 in Hong Kong, 110 in Japan, and 100 in Britain. White populations in Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States score closer to one another than to the worldwide black average. It's been that way for at least a century.

    Remember, these are averages, and all groups overlap. You can't deduce an individual's intelligence from her ethnicity. The only thing you can reasonably infer is that anyone who presumes to rate your IQ based on the color of your skin is probably dumber than you are.

    So, what should we make of the difference in averages?

    We don't like to think IQ is mostly inherited. But we've all known families who are smarter than others. Twin and sibling studies, which can sort genetic from environmental factors, suggest more than half the variation in IQ scores is genetic. A task force report from the American Psychological Association indicates it might be even higher. The report doesn't conclude that genes explain racial gaps in IQ. But the tests on which racial gaps are biggest happen to be the tests on which genes, as measured by comparative sibling performance, exert the biggest influence.

    How could genes cause an IQ advantage? The simplest pathway is head size. I thought head measurement had been discredited as Eurocentric pseudoscience. I was wrong. In fact, it's been bolstered by MRI. On average, Asian-American kids have bigger brains than white American kids, who in turn have bigger brains than black American kids. This is true even though the order of body size and weight runs in the other direction. The pattern holds true throughout the world and persists at death, as measured by brain weight.

    According to twin studies, 50 percent to 90 percent of variation in head size and brain volume is genetic. And when it comes to IQ, size matters. The old science of head measurements found a 20 percent correlation of head size with IQ. The new science of MRI finds at least a 40 percent correlation of brain size with IQ. One analysis calculates that brain size could easily account for five points of the black-white IQ gap.

    I know, it sounds crazy. But if you approach the data from other directions, you get the same results. The more black and white scores differ on a test, the more performance on that test correlates with head size and "g," a measure of the test's emphasis on general intelligence. You can debate the reality of g, but you can't debate the reality of head size. And when you compare black and white kids who score the same on IQ tests, their average difference in head circumference is zero.

    Scientists have already identified genes that influence brain size and vary by continent. Whether these play a role in racial IQ gaps, nobody knows. But we should welcome this research, because any genetic hypothesis about intelligence ought to be clarified and tested.

    Critics think IQ tests are relative—i.e., they measure fitness for success in our society, not in other societies. "In a hunter-gatherer society, IQ will still be important, but if a hunter cannot shoot straight, IQ will not bring food to the table," argues psychologist Robert Sternberg. "In a warrior society … physical prowess may be equally necessary to stay alive." It's a good point, but it bolsters the case for a genetic theory. Nature isn't stupid. If Africans, Asians, and Europeans evolved different genes, the reason is that their respective genes were suited to their respective environments.

    In fact, there's a mountain of evidence that differential evolution has left each population with a balance of traits that could be advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on circumstances. The list of differences is long and intricate. On average, compared with whites, blacks mature more quickly in the womb, are born earlier, and develop teeth, strength, and dexterity earlier. They sit, crawl, walk, and dress themselves earlier. They reach sexual maturity faster, and they have better eyesight. On each of these measures, East Asians lag whites and blacks. In exchange, East Asians get longer lives and bigger brains.

    How this happened isn't clear. Everyone agrees that the three populations separated 40,000 to 100,000 years ago. Even critics of racial IQ genetics accept the idea that through natural selection, environmental differences may have caused abilities such as distance running to become more common in some populations than in others. Possibly, genes for cognitive complexity became so crucial in some places that nature favored them over genes for developmental speed and vision. If so, fitness for today's world is mostly dumb luck. If we lived in a savannah, kids programmed to mature slowly and grow big brains would be toast. Instead, we live in a world of zoos, supermarkets, pediatricians, pharmaceuticals, and information technology. Genetic advantages, in other words, are culturally created.

    Not that that's much consolation if you're stuck in the 21st century with a low IQ. Tomorrow we'll look at some of the arguments against the genetic theory.

    From: William Saletan
    Subject: Environmental Impact
    Posted Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, at 7:47 AM ET
    Yesterday we looked at evidence for a genetic theory of racial differences in IQ. Today let's look at some of the arguments against it. Again, I'm drawing heavily on a recent exchange of papers published by the American Psychological Association.
    One objection is that IQ tests are racially biased. This is true in the broadest sense: On average, African and Asian kids have different advantages, and IQ tests focus on the things at which more Asian kids have the edge. But in the narrower sense of testing abilities that pay off in the modern world, IQ tests do their job. They accurately predict the outcomes of black and white kids at finishing high school, staying employed, and avoiding poverty, welfare, or jail. They also accurately predict grades and job performance in modern Africa. The SAT, GRE, and tests in the private sector and the armed forces corroborate the racial patterns on IQ tests. Kids of different backgrounds find the same questions easy or hard. Nor do tests always favor a country's ethnic majority. In Malaysia, Chinese and Indian minorities outscore Malays.

    If the tests aren't racist, some critics argue, then society is. That's true, in the sense that racism persists. But that alone can't account for the patterns in IQ scores. Why do blacks in the white-dominated United States score 15 points higher than blacks in black-dominated African countries, including countries that have been free of colonial rule for half a century? And why do Asian-Americans outscore white Americans?

    Another common critique is that race is a fuzzy concept. By various estimates, 20 percent to 30 percent of the genes in "black" Americans actually came from Europe. Again, it's a good point, but it bolsters the case for a genetic explanation. Black Americans, like "colored" South Africans, score halfway between South African blacks and whites on IQ tests. The lowest black IQ averages in the United States show up in the South, where the rate of genetic blending is lowest. There's even some biological evidence: a correlation between racial "admixture" and brain weight. Reading about studies of "admixture" is pretty nauseating. But the nausea doesn't make the studies go away.

    My first reaction, looking at this pattern, was that if the highest-scoring blacks are those who have lighter skin or live in whiter countries, the reason must be their high socioeconomic status relative to other blacks. But then you have to explain why, on the SAT, white kids from households with annual incomes of $20,000 to $30,000 easily outscore black kids from households with annual incomes of $80,000 to $100,000. You also have to explain why, on IQ tests, white kids of parents with low incomes and low IQs outscore black kids of parents with high incomes and high IQs. Or why Inuits and Native Americans outscore American blacks.

    The current favorite alternative to a genetic explanation is that black kids grow up in a less intellectually supportive culture. This is a testament to how far the race discussion has shifted to the right. Twenty years ago, conservatives were blaming culture, while liberals blamed racism and poverty. Now liberals are blaming culture because the emerging alternative, genetics, is even more repellent.

    The best way to assess the effects of culture and socioeconomic status is to look at trans-racial adoptions, which combine one race's genes with another's environment. Among Asian-American kids, biological norms seem to prevail. In one study, kids adopted from Southeast Asia, half of whom had been hospitalized for malnutrition, outscored the U.S. IQ average by 20 points. In another study, kids adopted from Korea outscored the U.S. average by two to 12 points, depending on their degree of malnutrition. In a third study, Korean kids adopted in Belgium outscored the Belgian average by at least 10 points, regardless of their adoptive parents' socioeconomic status.

    Studies of African-American kids are less clear. One looked at children adopted into white upper-middle class families in Minnesota. The new environment apparently helped: On average, the kids exceeded the IQ norms for their respective populations. However, it didn't wipe out racial differences. Adopted kids with two white biological parents slightly outscored kids with one black biological parent, who in turn significantly outscored kids with two black biological parents. The most plausible environmental explanation for this discrepancy is that the half-black kids (in terms of their number of black biological parents) were treated better than the all-black kids. But the study shot down that theory. Twelve of the half-black kids were mistakenly thought by their adoptive parents to be all-black. That made no difference. They scored as well as the other half-black kids.

    In Germany, a study of kids fathered by foreign soldiers and raised by German women found that kids with white biological dads scored the same as kids with biological dads of "African" origin. Hereditarians (scholars who advocate genetic explanations) complain that the sample was skewed because at least 20 percent of the "African" dads were white North Africans. I find that complaint pretty interesting, since it implies that North Africans are a lot smarter than other "whites." Their better critique is that the pool of blacks in the U.S. military had already been filtered by IQ tests. Even environmentalists (scholars who advocate nongenetic explanations) concede that this filter radically distorted the numbers. But again, the complaint teaches a lesson: In any nonrandom pool of people, you can't deduce even average IQ from race.

    Other studies lend support to both sides. In one study, half-black kids scored halfway between white and black kids, but kids with white moms and black dads (biologically speaking) scored nine points higher than kids with black moms and white dads. In another study, black kids adopted into white middle-class families scored 13 points higher than black kids adopted into black middle-class families, and both groups outscored the white average.

    Each camp points out flaws in the other's studies, and the debate is far from over. But when you boil down the studies, they suggest three patterns. One, better environments produce better results. Two, moms appear to make a difference, environmentally and biologically. (Their biological influence could be hormonal or nutritional rather than genetic.) Three, underneath those factors, a racial gap persists. One problem with most of the adoption studies is that as a general rule, genetic differences in IQ tend to firm up in adolescence. And in the only study that persisted to that point (the one in Minnesota), kids scored on average according to how many of their biological parents were black.

    The best argument against genetics isn't in these studies. It's in data that show shrinkage of the black-white IQ gap over time. From these trends, environmentalists conclude that the gap is closing to zero. Hereditarians read the data differently. They agree that the gap closed fractionally in the middle decades of the 20th century, but they argue that scores in the last two to three decades show no improvement.

    I've been soaking my head in each side's computations and arguments. They're incredibly technical. Basically, the debate over the IQ surge is a lot like the debate over the Iraq troop surge, except that the sides are reversed. Here, it's the liberals who are betting on the surge, while the conservatives dismiss it as illogical and doomed. On the one hand, the IQ surge is hugely exciting. If it closes the gap to zero, it moots all the putative evidence of genetic barriers to equality. On the other hand, the case for it is as fragile as the case for the Iraq surge. You hope it pans out, but you can't see why it would, given that none of the complicating factors implied by previous data has been adequately explained or taken into account. Furthermore, to construe meaningful closure of the IQ gap in the last 20 years, you have to do a lot of cherry-picking, inference, and projection. I have a hard time explaining why I should go along with those tactics when it comes to IQ but not when it comes to Iraq.

    When I look at all the data, studies, and arguments, I see a prima facie case for partial genetic influence. I don't see conclusive evidence either way in the adoption studies. I don't see closure of the racial IQ gap to single digits. And I see too much data that can't be reconciled with the surge or explained by current environmental theories. I hope the surge surprises me. But in case it doesn't, I want to start thinking about how to be an egalitarian in an age of genetic difference, even between races. More on that tomorrow.

    From: William Saletan
    Subject: All God's Children
    Posted Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007, at 7:54 AM ET
    Why write about this topic? Why hurt people's feelings? Why gratify bigots?

    Because truth matters. Because the truth isn't as bad as our ignorant, half-formed fears and suspicions about it. And because you can't solve a problem till you understand it.

    Two days ago, I said we could fight the evidence of racial differences in IQ, or we could accept it. Yesterday, I outlined the difficulty of fighting it. What happens if we accept it? Can we still believe in equality?

    Let's look past our fears and caricatures and see what the evidence actually teaches us.

    1. Individual IQ can't be predicted from race. According to the data, at least 15 percent to 20 percent of black Americans exceed the average IQ of white Americans. If you think it's safe to guess that a white job applicant is smarter than a black one, consider this: The most important job in the world is president of the United States. Over the last seven years, the most important judgment relevant to that job was whether to authorize, endorse, or oppose the use of force in Iraq. Among the dozen viable candidates who have applied for the job, one is black. Guess which one got it right?

    2. Subgroup IQ can't be predicted from race. Go back and look at the German study I mentioned yesterday. Kids fathered by black soldiers scored the same as kids fathered by white soldiers. The explanation offered by hereditarians was that blacks in the military were screened for IQ, thereby wiping out the racial IQ gap.

    Think about that explanation. It undermines the claim, attributed to James Watson by the Times of London, that "people who have to deal with black employees" find equality untrue. (The Times purports to have Watson's interview on tape but hasn't published the whole quote or responded to requests for it.) If employment screens out lower IQs, you can't infer squat about black employees. And that isn't the only confounding factor. Every time a study highlights some group of blacks who score well, hereditarians argue that the sample isn't random. That may be true, but it's also true of the people you live next to, work with, and meet on the street. Every black person in your office could have an IQ over 120.

    3. Whitey does not come out on top. If you came here looking for material for your Aryan supremacy Web site, sorry. Stratifying the world by racial IQ will leave your volk in the dust. You might want to think about marrying a nice Jewish girl from Hong Kong. Or maybe reconsider that whole stratification idea.

    4. Racism is elitism minus information. No matter how crude race is as a proxy for intelligence, some people will use it that way, simply because they can see your skin but not your brain. What if we cut out the middleman? What if, instead of keeping individual IQs secret, we made them more transparent? If you don't accept IQ, pick some other measure of intelligence. You may hate labeling or "tracking" kids by test scores, but it's better than covering up what's inside their heads and leaving them to be judged, ignorantly, by what's on the surface.

    5. Intermarriage is closing the gap. To the extent that IQ differences are genetic, the surest way to eliminate them is to reunite the human genome. This is already happening, including in my own family. In 1970, 1 percent of U.S. marriages were between blacks and nonblacks. By 1990, it was 4.5 percent. It may be the best punch line of the IQ debate: The more genetic the racial gap is, the faster we can obliterate it.

    6. Environment matters. Genetic and environmental theories aren't mutually exclusive. Hereditarians admit that by their own reading of the data, nongenetic factors account for 20 percent to 50 percent of IQ variation. They think malnutrition, disease, and educational deprivation account for a big portion of the 30-point IQ gap between whites and black Africans. They think alleviation of these factors in the United States has helped us halve the deficit. Transracial adoption studies validate this. Korean adoption studies suggest a malnutrition effect of perhaps 10 IQ points. And everyone agrees that the black-white IQ gap closed significantly during the 20th century, which can't have been due to genes.

    7. IQ is like wealth. Many people who used to condemn differences in wealth have learned to accept them. Instead of demanding parity, they focus on elevating everyone to an acceptable standard of living. Why not treat IQ the same way? This seems particularly reasonable if we accept IQ in the role for which science has certified it: not as a measure of human worth, but as a predictor of modern social and economic success.

    As it turns out, raising the lowest IQs is a lot easier than equalizing higher IQs, because you can do it through nutrition, medicine, and basic schooling. As these factors improve, IQs have risen. If racial differences persist, is that really so awful? Conversely, if we can raise the lowest IQs, isn't that enough to justify the effort? One of the strangest passages in IQ scholarship is a recent attempt by hereditarians to minimize their own mediated-learning study because, while it "did raise the IQ of the African students from 83 to 97, this is still low for students at a leading university." You've got to be kidding. Screw the other universities. Going from 83 to 97 is a screaming success.

    8. Life is more than g. Every time black scores improve on a test, hereditarians complain that the improvement is on "subject-specific knowledge," not on g (general intelligence). But the more you read about progress in things other than g, the more you wonder: Does g expose the limits of the progress? Or does the progress expose the limits of g?

    If the progress were on g, the test-takers' lives would be easier, since g helps you apply what you've learned to new contexts. But that doesn't make other kinds of progress meaningless. People with low IQs can learn subject by subject. And they may have compensating advantages. One of my favorite disputes in the IQ literature is about test scores in Africa. Environmentalists argued that African kids lacked motivation. Hereditarians replied that according to their own observations, African kids stayed longer to check their answers than white kids did. Diligence, too, is a transferable asset.

    9. Children are more than an investment. All the evidence on race and IQ says black kids do better at younger ages, particularly with help from intervention programs. Later, the benefits fade. Hereditarians say this is genetics taking over, as happens with IQ generally. Suppose that's true. We don't abandon kids who are statistically likely to get fatal genetic diseases in their teens or 20s. Why write off kids whose IQ gains may not last? The economics may not pay off, but what about human rights?

    10. Genes can be changed. Hereditarians point to phenylketunuria as an example of a genetic but treatable cognitive defect. Change the baby's diet, and you protect its brain. They also tout breast-feeding as an environmental intervention. White women are three times more likely than black women to breast-feed their babies, they observe, so if more black women did it, IQs might go up. But now it turns out that breast-feeding, too, is a genetically regulated factor. As my colleague Emily Bazelon explains, a new study shows that while most babies gain an average of seven IQ points from breast-feeding, some babies gain nothing from it and end up at a four-point disadvantage because they lack a crucial gene.

    The study's authors claim it "shows that genes may work via the environment to shape the IQ, helping to close the nature versus nurture debate." That's true if you have the gene. But if you don't, nurture can't help you. And guess what? According to the International Hapmap Project, 2.2 percent of the project's Chinese-Japanese population samples, 5 percent of its European-American samples, and 10 percent of its Nigerian samples lack the gene. The Africans are twice as likely as the Americans, and four times as likely as the Asians, to start life with a four-point IQ deficit out of sheer genetic misfortune.

    Don't tell me those Nigerian babies aren't cognitively disadvantaged. Don't tell me it isn't genetic. Don't tell me it's God's will. And in the age of genetic modification, don't tell me we can't do anything about it.

    No, we are not created equal. But we are endowed by our Creator with the ideal of equality, and the intelligence to finish the job.

    From: William Saletan
    Subject: Regrets
    Posted Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, at 10:19 AM ET
    Last week, I wrote about the possibility of genetic IQ differences among races. I wanted to discuss whether egalitarianism could survive if this scenario, raised last month by James Watson, turned out to be true. I thought it was important to lay out the scenario's plausibility. In doing so, I short-circuited the conversation. Most of the reaction to what I wrote has been over whether the genetic hypothesis is true, with me as an expert witness.

    I don't want this role. I'm not an expert. I think it's misleading to dismiss the scenario, as some officials have done in response to Watson. But my attempts to characterize the evidence beyond that, even with caveats such as "partial," "preliminary," and "prima facie," have backfired. I outlined the evidence primarily to illustrate the limits of the genetic hypothesis. If it turns out to be true, it will be in a less threatening form than you might imagine. As to whether it's true, you'll have to judge the evidence for yourself. Every responsible scholar I know says we should wait many years before drawing conclusions.

    Many of you have criticized parts of the genetic argument as I related them. Others have pointed to alternative theories I truncated or left out. But the thing that has upset me most concerns a co-author of one of the articles I cited. In researching this subject, I focused on published data and relied on peer review and rebuttals to expose any relevant issue. As a result, I missed something I could have picked up from a simple glance at Wikipedia.

    For the past five years, J. Philippe Rushton has been president of the Pioneer Fund, an organization dedicated to "the scientific study of heredity and human differences." During this time, the fund has awarded at least $70,000 to the New Century Foundation. To get a flavor of what New Century stands for, check out its publications on crime ("Everyone knows that blacks are dangerous") and heresy ("Unless whites shake off the teachings of racial orthodoxy they will cease to be a distinct people"). New Century publishes a magazine called American Renaissance, which preaches segregation. Rushton routinely speaks at its conferences.

    I was negligent in failing to research and report this. I'm sorry. I owe you better than that.