••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Students lie, cheat, steal, but say they're good
By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
NEW YORK – In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards.

Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.

"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have (to cheat). The temptation is greater."

The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.

Michael Josephson, the institute's founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.

"What is the social cost of that — not to mention the implication for the next generation of mortgage brokers?" Josephson remarked in an interview. "In a society drenched with cynicism, young people can look at it and say 'Why shouldn't we? Everyone else does it.'"

Other findings from the survey:

_Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.

_Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.

_Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.

Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Nijmie Dzurinko, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, said the findings were not at all reflective of the inner-city students she works with as an advocate for better curriculum and school funding.

"A lot of people like to blame society's problems on young people, without recognizing that young people aren't making the decisions about what's happening in society," said Dzurinko, 32. "They're very easy to scapegoat."

Peter Anderson, principal of Andover High School in Andover, Mass., said he and his colleagues had detected very little cheating on tests or Internet-based plagiarism. He has, however, noticed an uptick in students sharing homework in unauthorized ways.

"This generation is leading incredibly busy lives — involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and — for seniors — an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search," he offered as an explanation.

Riddle, who for four decades was a high school teacher and principal in northern Virginia, agreed that more pressure could lead to more cheating, yet spoke in defense of today's students.

"I would take these students over other generations," he said. "I found them to be more responsive, more rewarding to work with, more appreciative of support that adults give them.

"We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."

On Long Island, an alliance of school superintendents and college presidents recently embarked on a campaign to draw attention to academic integrity problems and to crack down on plagiarism and cheating.

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District and a leader of the campaign, said parents and school officials need to be more diligent — for example, emphasizing to students the distinctions between original and borrowed work.

"You can reinforce the character trait of integrity," she said. "We overload kids these days, and they look for ways to survive. ... It's a flaw in our system that whatever we are doing as educators allows this to continue."

Josephson contended that most Americans are too blase about ethical shortcomings among young people and in society at large.

"Adults are not taking this very seriously," he said. "The schools are not doing even the most moderate thing. ... They don't want to know. There's a pervasive apathy."

Josephson also addressed the argument that today's youth are no less honest than their predecessors.

"In the end, the question is not whether things are worse, but whether they are bad enough to mobilize concern and concerted action," he said.

"What we need to learn from these survey results is that our moral infrastructure is unsound and in serious need of repair. This is not a time to lament and whine but to take thoughtful, positive actions."

___

On the Net:

Institute: http://josephsoninstitute.org/

whatever! dept

He's Not Black
By Marie Arana

He is also half white.

Unless the one-drop rule still applies, our president-elect is not black.

We call him that -- he calls himself that -- because we use dated language and logic. After more than 300 years and much difficult history, we hew to the old racist rule: Part-black is all black. Fifty percent equals a hundred. There's no in-between.

That was my reaction when I read these words on the front page of this newspaper the day after the election: "Obama Makes History: U.S. Decisively Elects First Black President."

The phrase was repeated in much the same form by one media organization after another. It's as if we have one foot in the future and another still mired in the Old South. We are racially sophisticated enough to elect a non-white president, and we are so racially backward that we insist on calling him black. Progress has outpaced vocabulary.

To me, as to increasing numbers of mixed-race people, Barack Obama is not our first black president. He is our first biracial, bicultural president. He is more than the personification of African American achievement. He is a bridge between races, a living symbol of tolerance, a signal that strict racial categories must go.

Of course there is much to celebrate in seeing Obama's victory as a victory for African Americans. The long, arduous battles that were fought and won in the name of civil rights redeemed our Constitution and brought a new sense of possibility to all minorities in this country. We Hispanic Americans, very likely the most mixed-race people in the world, credit our gains to the great African American pioneers of yesterday: Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr.

But Obama's ascent to the presidency is more than a triumph for blacks. It is the signal of a broad change with broad ramifications. The world has become too fused, too interdependent to ignore this emerging reality: Just as banks, earthly resources and human disease form an intricate global web, so do racial ties. No one appreciates this more, perhaps, than the American Hispanic.

Our multiracial identity was brought home to me a few months ago when I got my results from a DNA ancestry lab. I thought I was a simple hemispheric split -- half South American, half North. But as it turns out, I am a descendant of all the world's major races: Indo-European, black African, East Asian, Native American. The news came as something of a surprise. But it shouldn't have.

Mutts are seldom divisible by two.

Like Obama, I am the child of a white Kansan mother and a foreign father who, like Obama's, came to Cambridge, Mass., as a graduate student. My parents met during World War II, fell in love and married. Then they moved back to my father's country, Peru, where I was born.

I always knew I was biracial -- part indigenous American, part white. My mother's ancestry was easy to trace and largely Anglo-American. But on my Peruvian side, I suspected from old family albums that some forebears might actually have been African or Asian: A great-great aunt had distinctly Negroid features. Another looked markedly Chinese. Of course, no one acknowledged it. It wasn't until the DNA test percentages were before me that I had a clear and overwhelming sense of my own history. I wasn't the product of only one bicultural marriage. My ancestral past was a tangle of races. When I sent back for an analysis of the Indo-European quotient, I was told that my "white side" came from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Northern Europe. There had to have been hundreds of intercultural marriages in my bloodline. I am just about everything a human can be.

Still, the same can be said for many Hispanic Americans. Perhaps because we've been in this hemisphere two centuries longer than our northern brethren, we've had more time to mix it up. We are the product of el gran mestizaje, a wholesale cross-pollination that has been blending brown, white, black and yellow for 500 years -- since Columbus set foot in the New World.

The Spanish and Portuguese actually encouraged interracial marriage. It wasn't that they were any more enlightened than Northern Europeans, it was that their history of exploration, colonization and exploitation had been carried out by men -- soldiers and sailors -- who were left to find local brides and settle the wilds of America. The Catholic Church, eager to multiply its ranks and expand its influence, was prepared to bless any union between two of its faithful, regardless of race. So over the years, the indigenous people of Latin America were handily converted, mixed marriages propagated abundantly, a new fusion of races was born and the Church prospered.

At first, those unions were largely between the native population and Iberians -- El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, for instance, the great 16th-century chronicler of the Spanish Conquista, was the son of a Spanish captain and an Andean princess. Later, the Atlantic slave trade sparked widespread mixing among blacks, whites and Indians -- particularly in Venezuela and Brazil. And then, in the late 19th century, a fourth ethnic group was imported to the continent in the form of Chinese coolies who came to work the guano islands and sugar fields. They, too, intermarried.

Latinos in the United States have always been difficult to fix racially. Before the late 1960s, when civil rights forced Americans to think about race, we routinely identified ourselves as white on census forms. After 1970, when a Hispanic box was offered, we checked it, although we knew that the concept of Hispanic as a single race was patently silly. But since 2000, when it became possible for a citizen to register in more than one racial category, many of us began checking them all: indigenous, white, Asian, African. It would be false to do otherwise. "Todo plátano tiene su manchita negra," as we say. Every banana has its little bit of black.

With so much history in our veins, Hispanics tend to think differently about race. The Latino population of this country continues to be, as the New America Foundation's Gregory Rodriguez puts it, a vanguard of interracial mixing.

"By creating a racial climate in which intermarriage is more acceptable," Rodriguez writes in his new book, "Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans, and Vagabonds," Latins are "breaking down the barriers that have traditionally served to separate whites and nonwhites in the United States." Mexican Americans, he claims, "are forcing the United States to reinterpret the concept of the melting pot . . . [to] blur the lines between 'us' and 'them.' Just as the emergence of the mestizos undermined the Spanish racial system in colonial Mexico, Mexican Americans, who have always confounded the Anglo-American racial system, will ultimately destroy it, too."

In other words, intermarriage -- the kind Hispanics have known for half a millennium, the kind from which Barack Obama was born, the kind that is becoming more visible in every urban neighborhood in America -- represents a body blow to American racism. Why don't we recognize this as the revolutionary wave that it is? Why can't we find words to describe it? Why do we continue to resort to the tired paradigm that calls a biracial man black?

Even Obama himself seems to have bought into the nomenclature. In his memoir "Dreams from My Father," he writes, "I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant." You can almost feel the youth struggling with his identity, reaching for the right words to describe it and finally accepting the label that others impose.

It doesn't have to be that way. As the great American poet Langston Hughes once wrote, "I am not black. There are lots of different kinds of blood in our family. But here in the United States, the word 'Negro' is used to mean anyone who has any Negro blood at all in his veins. . . . I am brown."

Hughes was right. North America has been slow to acknowledge its racial mixing. Anti-miscegenation laws, which were prevalent in Germany under the Nazis and in South Africa during apartheid, were still the rule in a number of states here until 1967, a mere generation ago, when the case of Loving v. Virginia finally struck them down. The goal of those laws, unspoken but undeniable, was to maintain racial "purity," ensure white supremacy. It was not only undesirable, it was punishable for a white to procreate with a black. Or an Asian. Or an Indian. And yet a quiet cross-cultural mixing continued all the while. Even under Thomas Jefferson's own roof.

The explosion of "minorities" in the United States in the past half-century has guaranteed that ever more interracial mingling is inevitable. According to the 2000 Census, there were 1.5 million Hispanic-white marriages in the United States, half a million Asian-white marriages, and more than a quarter-million black-white marriages. The reality is probably closer to double or triple that number. And growing.

The evidence is everywhere. If not in our neighborhoods, in our culture. We see it in Tiger Woods, Halle Berry, Ben Kingsley, Nancy Kwan, Ne-Yo, Mariah Carey. Yet we insist on calling these hybrids by a reductive name: Berry is black. Kingsley is white. Kwan is yellow. Even they label themselves by the apparent color of their skin. With language like that, how can we claim to live in a post-racial society?

A few years ago, after I gave a talk about biculturalism at a Pittsburgh college, a student approached me and said, "I understand everything you say. I too am a child of two cultures. My mother is German, my father African American. I was born in Germany, speak German and call myself a German-American. But look at me. What would you say I am?" She was referring to her skin, which was light black; her hair, lush and curly; and her eyes, a shining onyx. "I am fifty percent German. But no one who sees me believes it."

Few who see Barack Obama, it seems, understand that he's 50 percent white Kansan. Even fewer understand what it means to be second-generation Kenyan. It reminds me of something sociologist Troy Duster and bioethicist Pilar Ossorio once observed: Skin color is seldom what it seems. People who look white can have a significant majority of African ancestors. People who look black can have a majority of ancestors who are European.

In other words, the color of a president-elect's skin doesn't tell you much. It's an unreliable marker, a deceptive form of packaging. Isn't it time we stopped using labels that validate the separation of races? Isn't it time for the language to move on?

aranam@washpost.com

Marie Arana, the editor of Book World, is the author of "American Chica," a memoir, and the novel "Cellophane." Her second novel, "Lima Nights," will be published in January.





I'm Not Post-Racial
By Krissah Williams Thompson

For 18 months, I traveled the country interviewing voters. Not one of them uttered the word. It's not a word my friends or I ever use, so I probably heard it first on cable news or read it in a newspaper. And now everybody's throwing it around more than ever.

Post-racial.

It's offered as a congratulatory term or more often posed as a question: Is America post-racial? What does that mean? That we've left race behind, or that race is a problem that has been overcome or can now be ignored?

The first time I recall seriously mulling the concept of "post-racialism" was last December. I was sitting in the auditorium of a high school in Spencer, Iowa, a small town where a videographer and I were talking to locals before the caucus. Apart from the candidate's body man and a couple of Secret Service guys, Barack Obama and I were the only black people in the room. And the room was going wild for Obama.

As a 29-year old rookie campaign reporter, I was too much of a political novice to predict how far the Illinois senator would go, but after my experience that day, I was sure that the country had been moving steadily away from our historical racial paradigm. It shook me to think that I hadn't noticed it in my own life. That auditorium full of rural Iowans felt post-racial. It gave me a chill. I liked it.

Still, as exciting as it was to see that all-white Obama-maniac crowd, and the multi-racial crowds that later rallied for him and celebrated his victory, the term post-racial itself has become disconcerting. It means moving beyond something -- and I don't want to move beyond everything it suggests. Post-racialism is relatively easy to understand in a standing-room-only sports arena or at a campaign rally, and it will probably be evident at Obama's inauguration celebrations, where people of all different backgrounds will stand together and cheer. But post-racialism outside that political pageantry gets more complicated. It means the loss of so much that I cherish about who I am and where I come from. Is a colorblind America really what we are striving for? Isn't the point to live lives that are open to differences but still celebrate our unique cultural heritages, family traditions and religions?

I asked those questions in the dozens of cities and towns I traveled to after I visited Iowa and back in the predominantly black Maryland community where I live. And I discovered that the wonder of that Iowa auditorium -- like the diverse mass rallies Obama held in Austin, Portland, Denver, Chicago and other cities -- was short-lived. In everyday life, the people I interviewed in beauty salons, office parks, churches, American Legion halls, suburbs and small-town squares had hardly moved beyond the boundaries of race. And I had to acknowledge that neither have I.

During the long Democratic primary campaign, some voters I talked to worried that racism would curb Obama's hopes. In South Carolina in October 2007, I met hairdresser Margaret Bell, a 63-year-old African American and ardent Hillary Clinton supporter. She was sure that Obama would lose because of his race.

I went back to see Bell after Obama won in Iowa, and she was perplexed. The lifelong Democrat still did not believe that a black man could become president. Bell's shop is in a mostly black Charleston neighborhood that had undergone white flight a decade ago and been left to deteriorate. Her clients are all black women, most of them in their 60s. She can spend an entire day between home and work interacting with only black people. She had no idea -- and no way to know -- whether white voters would support a black candidate. And everything in her immediate experience seemed to indicate that they wouldn't.

But of course, they did, both in the South Carolina primary, where Obama won by nearly 30 percentage points with support from 24 percent of the state's white voters, and in the general election. Bell was forced to embrace a new idea of race in America because she'd been wrong about those white voters. She shouted and cried on election night and called Obama's win "mind-boggling," but now she and many others I interviewed are back to their mostly racially isolated lives.

Between the South Carolina primary and the rush of states that voted Feb. 5, I planned my wedding in Houston. For me, the event was an opportunity to bring together the key people in my life, those who have had the greatest impact on me from childhood to adulthood.

All but a handful of people on my list -- which included childhood friends, preschool teachers, friends of the family, sisters and brothers from church, former bosses and colleagues -- were black. My husband, whose mother is Thai and whose father is African American, had a similar list. In that sunny chapel this summer, 90 of the 100 guests who witnessed our ceremony were black. I flipped through the picture books at the chapel and saw similar racial divisions for most of the couples, whether they were white, black, Asian or Latino.

After my wedding, I was back out on the campaign trail, meeting voters in rooms where the crowds were once again all black or all white. I used to have one type of reaction to those kinds of racial divisions: a negative one. They seemed unnecessarily narrow or part of a larger problem. But my own wedding experience, and the way it showed me how clearly divided my own life is, made me more sensitive to the divisions I saw among voters.

In Harrisburg, Pa., I hung out at American Legion Post 733 -- which is predominantly black -- and, less than 10 miles away, the mostly white American Legion Post 420. Many of the men at both posts had worked together at the nearly shuttered Bethlehem Steel mill, standing side by side on the line but living separate lives. It was strange to see how similarly they dressed, most in black Army caps and sports tees. Most of them were Democrats, at the time divided between Obama and Clinton. Other than the color of their skin, they seemed to have everything in common. Yet their posts had never come together.

From the outside, I didn't have much in common with either group. But somehow I wound up with a lifestyle that closely resembled theirs in a certain respect: It is rooted in my own community, more than I ever thought it would be.

I grew up in Alief, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Houston that attracted first a large concentration of African Americans, then Asian Americans and immigrants from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. At my 12th birthday party in the spring of 1991, my sister and I ended up being the only black children present because my friends in homeroom were white or of Mexican, Indian or Egyptian heritage.

Later, in the high school lunchroom, I found myself, like most in my generation, largely sucked into the old divisions of race at the "black table." During that time, I wore a popular T-shirt that said, "It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand it." My sense of racial awareness began to solidify.

My high school was big and diverse, and I questioned the racial make-up of our classrooms. There were 4,000 students and 787 in my graduating class, but I was one of only two black kids in the AP honors courses. I thought the racial disparity had to be more of a systemic problem than some issue endemic to blacks.

Looking back, I realize that during high school I unconsciously developed a feeling of racial vulnerability, defensiveness and sometimes anger. It was those feelings that caused me to seek out people who I felt would understand. I didn't shut myself off from others, but I did draw closer to African Americans, who could empathize.

During my four years at the University of Texas, I was more open and developed friendships with folks from lots of backgrounds at the student newspaper, in women's groups and on campus leadership panels. But at the end of the day, my social life was rarely integrated. I joined a historically black sorority and chose to spend most of my social time with other African Americans.

In his speeches, Obama has never defined the kind of unity he seeks. It was commentators who dubbed his campaign a post-racial one and who have now declared that we live in a post-racial America. As Obama puts together his Cabinet, blogs and message boards are going crazy with discussions of whether he should be expected to appoint a team that's more racially diverse than were those of his recent predecessors. Others argue that his "post-racial" campaign should not succumb to such quotas.

What the president-elect said about race eight months ago in a speech in Philadelphia, which he called "A More Perfect Union," was much more complex than any cliched notion of unity. He described the country as being at a racial stalemate. "Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle," Obama said.

Cassandra Butts, a senior Obama adviser who is African American, told the Wall Street Journal in the closing days of the campaign that she doesn't consider Obama "a post-racial" politician. "When people say that, they seem to suggest that we are beyond the issue of race, that issues of race don't matter," she said. "I don't think that is necessarily the case. I don't think Barack considers himself post-racial in that way. He will tell you he thinks race does matter."

I agree. For me, the goal has never been negating race through colorblindness -- to do so would take a healthy discussion of existing racial disparities off the table. My aim is not for us to be post-racial but to embrace our cultural heritages while refusing to be confined by them.

I've barely recovered from the epic campaign that led to President-elect Obama, so it's a bit early to be thinking about how cold it will be in Iowa come December 2011 or what the crowds might look like. It's safe to assume that Obama's coalition will somehow be altered by the power of the presidency. Perhaps by the time 2011 arrives, the country will have become less racially stratified.

I hope that by then, we will find that an auditorium of white Iowans cheering on a black, Asian or Latino presidential candidate is commonplace. I also hope that in that auditorium, race and ethnicity will remain valued aspects of our identities, not forgotten or homogenized for the sake of some vague notion of post-racialism.

williamsk@washpost.com

Krissah Williams Thompson is a Washington Post staff writer.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wal-Mart worker dies after shoppers knock him down
By COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK – A Wal-Mart worker was killed Friday after an "out of control" throng of shoppers eager for post-Thanksgiving bargains broke down the doors at a suburban store and knocked him to the ground, police said.

At least four other people, including a woman eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries, and the store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

Nassau police said about 2000 people were gathered outside the store doors at the mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the man to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

"This crowd was out of control," said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Michael Fleming. He described the scene as "utter chaos."

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help the man were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said. Witnesses said that even as the worker lay on the ground, shoppers streamed into the store, stepping over him.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."

"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling 'I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."

The 34-year-old man was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 6 a.m., police said. The exact cause of death has not been determined, and the man's name was not released.

A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital, where she and the baby were reported to be OK, said police Sgt. Anthony Repalone. At least three other people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

Police said criminal charges were possible in the case, but Fleming said it would be difficult to identify individual shoppers. Authorities were reviewing surveillance video.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., called the incident a "tragic situation" and said the employee came from a temporary agency and was doing maintenance work at the store.

"The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority," said Dan Fogleman, a company spokesman. "At this point, facts are still being assembled and we are working closely with the Nassau County Police as they investigate what occurred."

Shoppers around the country line up early outside stores on the day after Thanksgiving in the annual bargain-hunting ritual known as Black Friday. It got that name because it has historically been the day when stores broke into profitability for the full year.

___

AP retail writers Anne D'Innocenzio and Mae Anderson and contributed to this report.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama advisers: No charges likely vs interrogators
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama's incoming administration is unlikely to bring criminal charges against government officials who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists during the George W. Bush presidency. Obama, who has criticized the use of torture, is being urged by some constitutional scholars and human rights groups to investigate possible war crimes by the Bush administration.

Two Obama advisers said there's little — if any — chance that the incoming president's Justice Department will go after anyone involved in authorizing or carrying out interrogations that provoked worldwide outrage.

The advisers spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans are still tentative. A spokesman for Obama's transition team did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Additionally, the question of whether to prosecute may never become an issue if Bush issues pre-emptive pardons to protect those involved.

Obama has committed to reviewing interrogations on al-Qaida and other terror suspects. After he takes office in January, Obama is expected to create a panel modeled after the 9/11 Commission to study interrogations, including those using waterboarding and other tactics that critics call torture. The panel's findings would be used to ensure that future interrogations are undisputedly legal.

"I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture," Obama said Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." "Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

Obama's most ardent supporters are split on whether he should prosecute Bush officials.

Asked this weekend during a Vermont Public Radio interview if Bush administration officials would face war crimes, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy flatly said, "In the United States, no."

"These things are not going to happen," said Leahy, D-Vt.

Robert Litt, a former top Clinton administration Justice Department prosecutor, said Obama should focus on moving forward with anti-torture policy instead of looking back.

"Both for policy and political reasons, it would not be beneficial to spend a lot of time hauling people up before Congress or before grand juries and going over what went on," Litt said at a Brookings Institution discussion about Obama's legal policy. "To as great of an extent we can say, the last eight years are over, now we can move forward — that would be beneficial both to the country and the president, politically."

But Michael Ratner, a professor at Columbia Law School and president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy.

"The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it," Ratner said. "I don't see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable."

In the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the White House authorized U.S. interrogators to use harsh tactics on captured al-Qaida and Taliban suspects. Bush officials relied on a 2002 Justice Department legal memo to assert that its interrogations did not amount to torture — and therefore did not violate U.S. or international laws. That memo has since been rescinded.

At least three top al-Qaida operatives — including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed — were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003 because of intelligence officials' belief that more attacks were imminent. Waterboarding creates the sensation of drowning, and has been traced back hundreds of years and is condemned by nations worldwide.

Bush could take the issue of criminal charges off the table with one stroke of his pardons pen.

Whether Bush will protect his top aides and interrogators with a pre-emptive pardon — before they are ever charged — has become a hot topic of discussion in legal and political circles in the administration's waning days. White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto declined to comment on the issue.

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled.

Pre-emptive pardons would be highly controversial, but former White House counsel Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said it would protect those who were following orders or otherwise trying to protect the nation.

"I know of no one who acted in reckless disregard of U.S. law or international law," said Culvahouse, who served under President Ronald Reagan. "It's just not good for the intelligence community and the defense community to have people in the field, under exigent circumstances, being told these are the rules, to be exposed months and years after the fact to criminal prosecution."

The Federalist Papers discourage presidents from pardoning themselves. It took former President Gerald Ford to clear former President Richard Nixon of wrongdoing in the 1972 Watergate break-in.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crimes
By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer
Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting "Assassinate Obama." Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been "hundreds" of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: "I hope Obama gets assassinated." That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law's front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.

She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.

"I can't say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it," said Millner, who is black. "But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they're capable of and what they're really thinking."

Potok, who is white, said he believes there is "a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them."

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, expressed similar sentiments: "I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.

"If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama's) church being deported," he said.

Change in whatever form does not come easy, and a black president is "the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War," said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. "It's shaking the foundations on which the country has existed for centuries."

"Someone once said racism is like cancer," Ferris said. "It's never totally wiped out, it's in remission."

If so, America's remission lasted until the morning of Nov. 5.

The day after the vote hailed as a sign of a nation changed, black high school student Barbara Tyler of Marietta, Ga., said she heard hateful Obama comments from white students, and that teachers cut off discussion about Obama's victory.

Tyler spoke at a press conference by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP calling for a town hall meeting to address complaints from across the state about hostility and resentment. Another student, from a Covington middle school, said he was suspended for wearing an Obama shirt to school Nov. 5 after the principal told students not to wear political paraphernalia.

The student's mother, Eshe Riviears, said the principal told her: "Whether you like it or not, we're in the South, and there are a lot of people who are not happy with this decision."

Other incidents include:

_Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

_At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

_Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

_Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

_University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

_Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

_Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

_A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

_In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought political campaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

"The principle is very simple," said BJ Gallagher, a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." "If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race."

"We saw the same thing happen after the 9-11 attacks, as a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept the country. We saw it happen after the Rodney King verdict, when Los Angeles blacks erupted in rage at the injustice perpetrated by 'the white man.'"

"It's as stupid and ineffectual as kicking your dog when you've had a bad day at the office," Gallagher said. "But it happens a lot."
___

Associated Press writers Errin Haines, Jerry Harkavy, Jay Reeves, Johnny Taylor and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.
Gay rights rallies nationwide over Calif. ban
By JAY LINDSAY, Associated Press Writer
BOSTON – Gay rights supporters in the first state to allow same-sex couples to exchange wedding vows gathered Saturday to protest the California vote that banned gay marriage there and to urge supporters not to quit the fight for the right to wed.

Crowds gathered near public buildings in small communities and major cities including New York, San Francisco and Chicago to vent their frustrations, celebrate gay relationships and renew calls for change.

"Civil marriages are a civil right, and we're going to keep fighting until we get the rights we deserve as American citizens," Karen Amico said in Philadelphia, holding up a sign reading "Don't Spread H8".

"We are the American family, we live next door to you, we teach your children, we take care of your elderly," said Heather Baker a special education teacher from Boston who addressed the crowd at Boston's City Hall Plaza. "We need equal rights across the country."

Massachusetts and Connecticut, which began same sex weddings this past week, are the only two states that allow gay marriage. All 30 states that have voted on gay marriage have enacted bans.

Protests following the vote on Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, have sometimes been angry and even violent, and demonstrators have targeted faiths that supported the ban, including the Mormon church.

However, representatives of Join the Impact, which organized Saturday's demonstrations, asked supporters to be respectful and refrain from attacking other groups during the rallies.

The mood in Boston was generally upbeat, with attendees dancing and signing to the song "Respect." Signs cast the fight for gay marriage as the new civil rights movement, including one that read "Gay is the new black."

But anger over the ban and its backers was evident at the protests.

One sign in Chicago read: "Catholic Fascists Stay Out of Politics."

"I just found out that my state doesn't really think I'm a person," said Rose Aplustill, 21, a Boston University student from Los Osos, Calif., who was one of thousands at the Boston rally.

Planning for the nationwide protests was started by a Seattle blogger, Amy Balliett, just days after the California vote, which took away gay marriage rights that had been granted by the state's high court.

The idea rapidly spread online and Join the Impact predicted that Saturday's protests would involve tens of thousands of people in hundreds of communities.

In North Dakota, where voters in 2004 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, low-key protests were held Saturday in Grand Forks and Fargo, where people lined a bridge carrying signs and flags.

"It's been very peaceful," said Josh Boschee, who helped organize the Fargo protest.

In Chicago, Keith Smith, 42, a postal worker, and his partner, Terry Romo, 34, a Wal-Mart store manager, had photos of their wedding ceremony which they held even though gay marriage is not legal in Illinois.

"We're not going to wait for no law," Smith said. "But time's going to be on our side and it's going to change."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

stupid god tricks dept

Monks brawl at Christian holy site in Jerusalem
By MATTI FRIEDMAN, Associated Press Writer

JERUSALEM – Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity's holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus' tomb.

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.

The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule — the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus — and give the Armenians a claim to the site.

The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way, sparking the brawl.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.

A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police.

Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.

"We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through ... and establish a right that they don't have," said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye.

The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses.

Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate said the Greek demand was "against the status quo arrangement and against the internal arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher." He said the Greeks attacked first.

Archbishop Aristarchos, the chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, denied his monks initiated the violence.

After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli riot police holding assault rifles, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone marking the place where tradition holds his body was laid out.

The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.

The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.

A ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down.

More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008