Sunday Reads

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!!

Since it’s Sunday, I’ll begin with a religious item: Catholic bishops say more exorcists are needed

Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms.

The two-day training, which ends today in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Now there’s a serious issue for you. Never mind the disintegrating economy, the President’s Catfood Commission, our multiple wars of aggression in the Middle East, and the likelihood that very far right Republicans will likely control Congress and the White House for the next 30 years (if the country survives that long). No, the really important issue is the need for priests who can drive out demons.

On second thought, maybe some of those nuts DC could benefit from exorcisms…

Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.”

So how do you know when an exorcism is needed?

Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.

The article does say that diseases and psychological disorders must be ruled out before someone is determined to be possessed.

Emptywheel has an interesting take on why George W. Bush plagiarized much of his memoir, Decision Points, from other authors: It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself.

She suggests that Bush may have copied from published sources in order to keep his story straight. He presumably told so many lies over the eight years of his presidency that he might slip up if he tried to write anything from memory. She does note that:

Bush admitted to war crimes in his book, so he did exhibit a general lack of caution in his presentation of some of the touchy legal issues dealt with in the book. But unlike Cheney (who has explicitly said that the statute of limitations will have expired on some of the crimes he’ll describe in his upcoming memoir), Bush may well need to finesse…issues [such as his decision not to pardon Scooter Libby].

Speaking of war crimes, the Obama administration has taken the coward’s way out once again in regard to the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. From the Washington Post: Opposition to U.S. trial likely to keep mastermind of 9/11 attacks in detention

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

Spencer Ackerman:

So can the Obama administration manage to reach a decision more craven than this one? According to the Washington Post, the months-long internal administration deadlock over trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators has resulted in a decision: apoplexy. No trying them in federal courts in New York; no trying them at Guantanamo Bay in a military commission. Just… nothing. [….]

And that’s the maddening thing. The Obama team talks about a “different political environment” as if it has nothing to do with creating one. Attorney General Holder talks about federal courts’ capability for handling terrorism trials — you see dangerous secrets leaking out of the Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani trial? Or al-Qaeda storming Manhattan, Cobra-style, to free their comrade? — and then undercuts his own arguments with a defense of military commissions and indefinite detention without trial.

Well, then make a case, and make it consistently. Build support and maintain it. Be willing to stake political capital on it. Or concede that you never meant what you said about justice.

You could say something similar about most of Obama’s campaign promises versus his real actions as President.

Rahm Emanuel has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago.

The former North Side congressman and White House chief of staff laid out a broad agenda, declaring he’d work to help generate jobs, improve education and decrease crime at a juncture in the city’s history when all three need to be addressed.

And he plans to do all that–you guessed it–without raising taxes! That’s what all the Republicans say. Oh wait–he’s running as a Democrat. Good luck Chi-town, you’re going to need it.

The UK Guardian reports that McDonald’s, KFC, and PepsiCo will help write the UK’s new policies on “obesity and diet-related diseases.”

The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

This sounds like something U.S. politicians would do. Is our insanity taking over the world? Or is it demon possession?

Scientists say that naked body scanners are bad for your health.

US scientists warned Friday that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners that are being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe.

“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.

“No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he said.

The possible health dangers posed by the scanners add to passengers and airline crews’ concerns about the devices, which have been dubbed “naked” scanners because of the graphic image they give of a person’s body, genitalia and all.

They could be bad for your mental health too. Here is one example of what can happen if you are selected for naked body scanning and choose to “opt out.”

Andrew Burmeister had been searched using an airport scanner before and didn’t like it at all. On a return trip from Charlotte, he was selected for another body scan screening and chose to opt out, as the sign said he was entitled to do. Burmeister said the screeners became rude and made him sit down, away from his belongings, which were now sitting unattended on the end of the conveyor belt. Eventually a team allowed him to collect his belongings and, after a turn through the metal detector, he was taken to a private area to be screened.

Mr. Burmeister says these screeners were much friendlier, but despite this, his story is still particularly unsettling. They patted him down and asked him lots of questions. They also swabbed his belongings, removing each one individually and scanning it for explosives. But that’s not the unsettling part. While they were busy going through his belongings, they were chatting to him. One mentioned that he was ‘lucky’ that this was all that was happening because after October 31, the screening for passengers who opt out of a body scan would become a lot more “intimate.”

Here’s another piece about this at The Chicago Tribune.

For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: “enhanced” pat-downs. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches.

If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers.

Reviews of the procedure are coming in, and they are not raves. The Allied Pilots Association calls it a “demeaning experience,” and one pilot complained it amounted to “sexual molestation.” The head of a flight attendants’ union local said that for anyone who has been sexually assaulted, it will “drudge up some bad memories.”

Have I told you lately that I’ve decided I’m never going to fly again? If you do need to fly, and having your genitals stared at by beefy TSA morons is troubling to you, you might want to check into National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for Wednesday, November 24–the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” reads the call to action at OptOutDay.com, set up by Brian Sodegren. “No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.”

This isn’t big news for most people, but The New York Times has a front page piece on “U.S. aid for ex-Nazis.”

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades. [….]

Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.

The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.

And let’s not forget that George W. Bush’s family actively supported the Nazi regime before WWII, and he was elected President of the U.S.

I’ll finish with a bit of conspiracy news (my favorite kind). For years I’ve been following the investigation and cover-up of David Kelly’s death. From Raw Story:

Dr. David Kelly was found dead in a field near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he was revealed to be the source of a BBC leak that accused Tony Blair’s government of exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. His death prompted suspicions among many that he may have been killed in retaliation for the leak.

Kelly himself had predicted he would be “found dead in the woods” if the UK invaded Iraq.

Now the Daily Mail is reporting new evidence that Kelly was murdered.

Dr Andrew Watt, an experienced clinical pharmacologist, says he has told Thames Valley Police it is not possible Dr Kelly could have swallowed more than a ‘safe’ dose of two coproxamol tablets because there was so little in his system after death.

He said: ‘I reported to the Thames force that I believe that the death of Dr Kelly may have been murder. I have received an acknowledgement and they have given me an incident number.

‘I have been told that the inquiry is being conducted by a very senior officer.’
A second development also casts doubt on the suicide verdict of the Hutton inquiry – which took the place of a formal inquest.

The Mail has established that Dr Kelly left an upbeat answerphone message to his friend Nigel Cox just days before his body was found on July 18, 2003. Dr Kelly said he was looking forward to joining him for a game of cards on July 23.

An interesting sidelight to the Kelly case is that Kelly sent an e-mail to then NYT “reporter” Judith Miller shortly before his death. Emptywheel mentions this in a recent post about the work of the National Security Archive:

…as I was reading it, all I could think of was David Kelly’s last email to Judy Miller, warning of dark actors playing games, followed shortly by Tony Blair’s apparently unplanned trip to the US, just in time for him to be out of the country when Kelly was suicided (not to mention for him to be here in the aftermath of the Plame outing which Dick Cheney had ordered Judy to be included in). After all, its hard to look at the timeline the NSA lays out without also thinking of Judy Miller’s key pieces of propaganda–boosting claims about the aluminum tubes–on September 8 and 13, 2002 (indeed, those articles appeared at the same time as the Brits were strengthening these claims, which makes me wonder whether her work wasn’t a key part of pushing the UK to make its claims about the tubes stronger).

We knew the Brits and the US built their propaganda for war together. We knew that Judy Miller was an integral part to that. But when we see the emails going back and forth commenting on each others drafts, it raises once again the question of where the emails back and forth to the war effort’s chief propagandist got disappeared to.

It’s all connected. What is Obama’s role in the giant cover-up? Is he just in the WH to make sure none of the secrets get out, or does he have a more active role in future “dark actions?”

Taking my tinfoil hat off now.

[MABlue’s Sunday picks]

Cigarette companies are evil.
Cigarette Giants in a Global Fight on Tighter Rules

As sales to developing nations become ever more important to giant tobacco companies, they are stepping up efforts around the world to fight tough restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes.

Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are contesting limits on ads in Britain, bigger health warnings in South America and higher cigarette taxes in the Philippines and Mexico. They are also spending billions on lobbying and marketing campaigns in Africa and Asia, and in one case provided undisclosed financing for TV commercials in Australia.

“A” Rating for Hamas? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been running a scam grading. What a disgrace!
Terror Group Gets ‘A’ Rating From Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.

To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

Patrick Smith, who runs the blog Ask The Pilot has a thoughtful column about the panicky and incoherent reaction to something we’ve been living with forever, only with more composure.
News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11

With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn’t exist prior to that day, when really we’ve been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?

Well, have a look at the debased state of airport security today. We continue enacting the wrong policies, wasting our security resources and manpower. We have implemented many important changes since Lockerbie, it’s true (actually, many of the new protocols are post-9/11), but much of our approach remains incoherent. Cargo and packages go uninspected while passengers are groped and harassed over umbrellas and harmless hobby knives. Uniformed pilots are forced to remove their belts and endure embarrassing pat-downs.

Frank Rich has been writing really good columns lately. I’m not going to stop him while he’s on a roll.
Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.

Is anyone even surprised by this?
Spanish priest arrested over ‘21,000 child porn images’

A Catholic priest in Spain has been arrested over the alleged possession of thousands of images of child sex abuse.

Who has the better argument?
Parties battle over bare breasts

The Danish People’s Party wants pictures of bare breasts in an introduction film to scare away fundamentalists.

But, Conservatives counter with a good point:

“Bare breasts are not a protection against fundamentalism,” [Conservative Integration Spokesman] Khader says on his Facebook page.

“Quite on the contrary. Fundamentalists as so sex crazy that bare breasts would make them flock to the country. Perhaps one should try naked pigs and pork – that’ll keep them away…”

I’ll score this one for the Conservatives.

What does your hair say about your health? Check it here:
8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

When it comes to our hair, most of us worry most about what to do with it: how short to cut it, how to style it, whether to color it once it begins to go gray. But experts say that our hair says a lot more about us than how closely we follow the latest styles. In fact, the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions.

Some interesting wonky stuff abou the devastatingly lasting effect of slavery.
The historical roots of inequality

US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.

It’s Sunday. You can enjoy your gossip column. It looks like the life of the Hell’s Kitchen Chef is unraveling.
The cook, the grief, his wife & his (alleged) lover

For Gordon Ramsay, the past few weeks have been like living in his very own Kitchen Nightmare. Only it has extended beyond his kitchen and into every other room of his house. Like an unwatched pot, the TV chef’s personal and professional life has boiled over in spectacular fashion, leaving the mother of all cleaning-up jobs.

Not that anyone is rushing to pull on the Marigolds; quite the contrary. In typical fashion, Ramsay has heaped more coals this weekend on to a fire he lit three weeks ago when he sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. Specifically, he claimed his wife Tana has much to learn about what her father gets up to when not running restaurants, lashing out after his wife’s parents wrote to their daughter, urging her to dump the man she married 14 years ago, aged 22.

So what news articles and blog posts do you recommend today?


Lead up to the Iraq War is no different from the Lead up to Denver UNLESS YOU HELP STOP IT

Inevitability: Finding WPMs in Iraq and Obama as the DNC Nominee

Perhaps the meaning of inevitability should be couched in a post 9-11 definition.  Inevitability redefined means “because the Press and the Political Elite make it so.”  Inevitable is no longer due to ANY underlying facts. We are no longer in a one person one vote world.  It is time to tell the DNC to stop its War on Democracy.

The Denver Group and its founders Heidi Li Feldman and Marc Rubin remind me of the early roots of Move-on and the few voices against the Iraq War I could find when I was trying to find a way to join a movement to prevent that war.  There were a few voices in the wilderness speaking truth, but the press and politicos were playing up the Slam Dunk of finding WMD in Iran like the second coming.  They even had up to 65% of the population believing that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks.   I can remember sitting in a restaurant discussing the inanity of any war in Iraq and being yelled at by many folks from the surrounding tables as being an unpatriotic peacenik. No amount of reason could stop the race towards this unnecessary war.  The Press and the Politicos wanted it.

Now, with so many realizing the truth, I can hardly believe we see the same tactics in play to anoint a DNC general election candidate based on lies and back room manipulations hidden from the general public.  Not only are they in play, they APPEAR TO BE WORKING!  Is the ordinary American really that stupid?  We now have  some folks working hard to play up the Slam Dunk claim that is Obama as Democratic Party Nominee.  Just as then Secretary of State Colin Powell was sent to the United Nations with phony evidence debunked by many within the CIA, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean are touting the inevitability of a unified party and an Obama ascendancy  by stacking the deck against reality and the truth.

Are you willing to let that happen?

I know Heidi and I’ve read Marc’s blog since its inception.  I suggest you check out my links to Tom in Paine or Heidi Li’s Potpourri in the side bar.  You can also get a great interview with them at this thread on No Quarter:  http://noquarterusa.net/blog/2008/07/03/breaking-nq-radio-interview-the-denver-group/  .  They are looking to make the DNC accountable for their actions during this primary season.

From their site:

Insuring that Senator Clinton’s name is on the ballot requires sending a message to Howard Dean,the DNC and the country at large that the Democratic Party is playing with fire to even consider subverting democratic principles by removing her name and having anything less than an open honest convention.It also sends the message that the false sense of party unity that’s being promoted by the Democratic Party and willingly repeated by the news media is just that — false.

There are many factors conspiring to try and keep Senator Clinton’s name off the ballot not the least of which is the fear by some that, given the events of the last few weeks, she could actually win.

At a dinner with Clinton donors two weeks ago, Senator Obama was asked if he supported Senator Clintons name on the ballot. His answer was that he wasn’t there to negotiate the convention. We think its fair to say that if Senator Obama has his way her name wont be on the ballot and he will use all his influence with the DNC to accomplish that. A mass media approach is a very public way of pushing back and letting the DNC know there’s another side watching and there will be dire consequences if that happens.

I’m still appalled by the complete lack of truthfulness and democracy that occurred during this primary season that may eventually lead us into a War Against Democracy in the same way we were led to a War Against Iraq under the guise of lies.  Take a real look at some of the things that are going on.

This from Clinton Dems:

There has been a concerted effort to flip every Clinton delegate, pledged or otherwise, to Obama to remove the possibility of Obama being upstaged at the convention.   You see, no one is the nominee at the convention until one of the candidates receives the magic number of delegates.  That is why Obama is strong-arming anyone that continues to stick with Hillary.

Debra Bartoshevich is a Wisconson delegate for Hillary that declared she would vote for Hillary at the convention, but McCain in November because Obama lacks the qualifications to become President.
You may know that the Democratic Party of Wisconson is now trying to strip her delegate status.
Please help Debra by writing to the Democratic Party Chair and letting them know how you feel about punishing someone that supports Hillary Clinton:
Joe Wineke
222 W. Washington Avenue, Ste. 150
Madison, WI 53703
party@wisdems.org
The truth is that neither candidate has the pledged delegates to win on the first ballot at this point. This is why the Obama campaign is working hard to corrupt the process.  This is why they are riding that unity pony hard.  The first of their probably illegal tactics was the appalling treatment of Michigan by the DNC RBC.  They let Obama pilfer 4 elected pledged delegates from HIllary Clinton.  Barrack Obama  voluntarily removed his name from the ballot because his inner polls showed him loosing.  A candidate whose name did NOT appear on the ballot was gifted PLEDGED DELEGATES by the RBC.
Obama is now working through state parties to pilfer more delegates pledged to Hillary or get Hillary supporters removed or replaced.  They are also bullying others to defect.  Just a few delegates switching to Hillary at this point could still cause Obama to LOOSE the Nomination in Denver. He is NOT inevitable in the traditional since.  He is only inevitable in the post 9-11 sense.  He is trying to be inevitable by lying, cheating, manipulating the press, threatening state level candidates, superdelegates, and parties.  After Super Tuesday, and after the release of the Wright videos, Obama lost the majority of the remaining contests.  He’s considered ahead right now, ONLY, because his minions have bullied so many superdelegates and played the race card like a nuclear weapon.
We now know how outrageous and shrill that drumbeat was that misled us into the Iraq War.  How many lies, truth twists, media manipulations and just plain keeping folks ignorant led to thousands of deaths, billions of dollars wasted, and untold damage to this country.  Can we afford to reward similar tactics to win a nomination?
Also, have you noticed how many  Obama supporters think Obama has ACTUALLY WON at this point?  This so reminds me of the 65% of the population that thought Saddam responsible for 9/11.  Obama and the Media play to thier ignorance of the system.  The media, at the very least, could help them to understand the process. Nobody wins until the magical number gets crossed in Denver and Super Delegates CAN change their mind.
It is still NOT too late.  Find and make public the truth about Senator Obama and His Campaign.  There are many places you can look.  Join and become active in Just so No Deal and Puma Pac. Send money to the groups trying to keep the truth out there including Clinton Dems and the Denver Project.
Obama has not won the nomination.  He did NOT win the most votes in the Primaries.  If Florida and Michigan voters were treated honestly and as usual, if this primary season (sic) was redone without the reweighting of primaries and caucuses, we would have a Hillary candidacy.
Do not let the DNC declare war on Democracy.  Do not let the same things happen that took us into Iraq.  Stop this while we still have time!