31 October 2007

American Bar Association finds death penalty seriously flawed

It's not just us bleeding-heart liberals who have a problem with the death penalty.

On Monday, the American Bar Association (ABA) released a report on their three-year study of the death penalty and called for a moratorium because the system is so flawed.

So flawed that justice isn't served, it's mocked.

Below is the text of a press release from the ABA, which summarizes the problems found. (Emphasis is per the original release.) The press release is followed by a link to the full report.

ABA Study: State Death Penalty Systems Deeply Flawed

Based on Multi-state Findings, Bar Association Renews Call for Nationwide Moratorium on Executions

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 29, 2007— The American Bar Association today released the findings from their three-year study on state death penalty systems and called for a nationwide moratorium on executions. Based on a detailed analysis of death penalty systems in eight sample states, the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project identified key problems common to the states studied, including major racial disparities, inadequate indigent defense services and irregular clemency review processes - making their death penalty systems operate unfairly.

"After carefully studying the way states across the spectrum handle executions, it has become crystal clear that the process is deeply flawed," said Stephen F. Hanlon, chair of the ABA Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project. "The death penalty system is rife with irregularity - supporting the need for a moratorium until states can ensure fairness and accuracy."

While the ABA takes no position for or against the death penalty itself, since 1997 it has urged a moratorium in each jurisdiction that provides for capital punishment until the state conducts a thorough and exhaustive study to determine whether its system meets legal standards for fairness and due process.

For the past three years, teams of local legal experts have assessed their states using 93 protocols developed by the ABA as measuring points of the due process and fairness the state provides. The protocols have not been adopted as ABA policy, but are based on association policies calling for due process and fairness.

Of the eight state teams, five urged their own governmental leaders to impose a temporary halt on executions within the state until more complete analyses could be completed. The five states were Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania's teams did not call for moratoria.

Several serious problems were found in many of the states:

• Every state studied appears to have significant racial disparities in imposing the death penalty, particularly associated with the race of the victim, but little has been done to rectify the problem.

• Judicial elections mean that electoral pressures may influence judicial decisions, and candidates for judges in many states discuss their views of the death penalty during campaigns.

• States often do not have policies in place to ensure that lawyers representing people with mental retardation or mental illness fully appreciate the significance of their clients' mental disabilities. And states do not formally commute death sentences when an inmate is found incompetent, and they do not require instruction of jurors on the distinction between insanity as a defense and reliance on a mental disorder or disability to mitigate sentencing.

In clemency proceedings, most states fail to specify the type or breadth of review, or to require the clemency decisionmaker to explain reasons for their decisions.

• Most states have had at least one serious incident of mistakes or fraud in crime laboratories. They often do not require that crime laboratories and medical examiner offices be accredited, or that crime laboratories make their standards and procedures public. The laboratories are often seriously underfunded and do not use the most sophisticated testing procedures.

• With respect to collection, preservation and testing of biological evidence, most states do not require preservation of the evidence through the entire legal process until the accused is either released from prison or executed. As scientific testing capability advances, evidence that could prove innocence may be destroyed. Testing statutes create onerous procedural hurdles impeding the ability of convicted persons to file for and obtain DNA testing.

States do not require law enforcement agencies to adopt procedures comporting with national best practices on identification and interrogation, and most states do not require law enforcement agencies to videotape or audiotape custodial interrogations in murder cases.

• States are not establishing policies or requiring prosecutors' offices to establish policies on exercise of prosecutorial discretion, or on evaluating cases that rely on evidence such as testimony of jailhouse snitches, or on eyewitness identification or confessions, considered as less reliable evidence. Many states don't require specialized training for capital cases, and most states have not disciplined the prosecutors even when serious misconduct has been found.

• Some states fail to provide for appointment of defense counsel in post-conviction proceedings, and all states fail to provide for appointment of counsel in clemency proceedings. Capital indigent defense is generally significantly underfunded, and compensation paid to appointed capital defense attorneys is often inadequate. Many states require only minimal training and experience for defense counsel in capital cases.

• Some states do not require a meaningful proportionality review to determine
whether death sentences are imposed on similarly situated defendants and few, if any, maintain databases adequate to achieve such a review.

• With respect to post-conviction review, many states provide unreasonably short time periods in which to petition the courts for review, and most states allow judges in such proceedings to adopt findings of fact and conclusions of law proposed by one party, potentially undermining the judge's exercise of independent judgment. Some states assign post-conviction review of whether errors were made at trial to the same judge who presided at trial, and many states make it difficult to obtain discovery, or evidentiary hearings.

Jury instructions often are poorly written and poorly conveyed, making it difficult for jurors to understand their roles and responsibilities. States often fail to provide instructions in writing, and instructions fail to define important terms, or to tell jurors that they may impose life sentences even if there are no mitigating factors or where aggravating factors are proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

The teams researched 12 areas: collection, preservation and testing of biological evidence; law enforcement identification and interrogation procedures; crime laboratory and medical examiner office standards and procedures; prosecutorial professionalism; defense services; direct appeals; state post-conviction proceedings; clemency; jury instructions; judicial independence; treatment of racial and ethnic minorities; and mental retardation and mental illness.

With more than 413,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
>> Read the report containing the ABA's detailed findings. (MS Word format)

30 October 2007

Bushies grant immunity to Blackwater war criminals

It's not enough that we invaded and still occupy Iraq, a country that posed no threat to us, in violation of the UN Security Council and international law.

It's not enough that the Bushies used lies to try to justify it:

- Weapons of mass destruction.

- Ties to 9/11.

- Yellowcake from Niger.

All false, but only to those of us who have bothered to check the facts against the White House spin.

It's not enough that we've lost over 3,800 U.S. troops in Iraq to date (and countless innocent Iraq men, women, and children), for Bush's illegal war of aggression. Blood for oil. And armor is for sissies.

It's not enough that those things took resources away from finding the real threat: Osama bin Laden

And it's not enough that all this has turned the world against us more and more each day. George W. Bush is Osama bin Laden's poster boy for the al-Qaeda recruiting program.

No, all that isn't enough.

Bush also has to protect his henchmen. So, even though the Blackwater contractors in Iraq have established a consistent pattern of brutality, blatantly and indiscriminately murdering civilians who are unfortunate enough to get in their way, that should be fine, according to the Bushies.

And, to make that lack of accountability official, Bush's State Department has granted the Blackwater thugs immunity from prosecution in its investigation of the September 16 round of killings.

According to an article by the Associated Press, "The immunity deal has delayed a criminal inquiry into the Sept. 16 killings and could undermine any effort to prosecute security contractors for their role in the incident that has infuriated the Iraqi government."

This is how Bush spreads "freedom" and "democracy" around the world.

I am disgusted. I am infuriated. And I am ashamed for my country.

>> Read more on this subject from the Associated Press.

29 October 2007

Whistleblower exposes even more corruption and injustice at Gitmo

In my work with Amnesty International, I have met some of the lawyers who represent detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and I've heard some compelling evidence that we are unfairly holding innocent people there. The detainees are often kept from seeing their lawyers, they have no access to the so-called evidence against them, and their hearings are held in secret.

Those things alone constitute a travesty of justice. But, according to a military lawyer who recently broke ranks to speak out on what's happening there, it turns out to be even worse than I thought.

According to an article that appeared over the weekend in the British newspaper The Independent, the military tribunal system at Guantanamo is so corrupt that "in the rare circumstances in which it was decided that the detainees were no longer enemy combatants, senior commanders ordered another panel to reverse the decision."

So you just can't win. They'll keep trying you until you're declared guilty, no matter how innocent you are.

The whole mess is headed to the Supreme Court for a December 5 showdown.

Meantime, hundreds of prisoners remain in legal limbo, feeling hopeless, helpless, and desperate.

God bless America.

>> Read the article from The Independent.

28 October 2007

Is God running for president?

I was reading the Letters section in the October 15 issue of Newsweek magazine, and found an interesting letter from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The letter was in response to an article in a previous edition that apparently had focused on Romney primarily as a practicing Mormon.

In the letter, Romney wrote, "I am an American running for president, not a Mormon running for president."

He goes on to say, "I would have thought that more important to my potential presidency would be my record as a governor, 25-year business leader, Olympic CEO, father, husband -- and American."


I am no fan of Mitt Romney, but I have to agree with him here.

I have thought the same thing through the past two decades' worth of elections, which often have seemed more like contests to prove who's more holy, not who's more qualified to run this country.

And I thought the same thing during a recent Democratic candidates' debate, when each was asked to share his or her favorite Bible verse.

I wondered if that question would have been asked if a non-Christian candidate had been standing on that stage.

And I wondered if this nation will ever evolve to where we really might see a non-Christian candidate standing on that stage. (Jewish Senator Joe Lieberman doesn't count. During his 2000 vice-presidential run, he managed to out-God all the other candidates.)

George W. Bush not only invokes his God in virtually every speech he makes, he also openly admits that he takes his instructions from his God. And look where that has gotten us. It brings to mind the words of Sinclair Lewis, who said, "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

The religious right and their supporters in Washington have brainwashed the American public into believing that Christianity is patriotic. In fact, according to a recent survey by the First Amendment Center, 65 percent of Americans believe that the nation's founders intended the U.S. to be a Christian nation and 55 percent believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

Hogwash. They need to read the Constitution, which makes no mention of God or Christianity. And they need to acquaint themselves with the Bill of Rights.

It was with good reason that this nation's founders wrote the "separation clause" into the First Amendment, which states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

It was to protect the minority from tyranny of the majority. Our founders did not want this nation to sink into theocracy. They knew that theocracy always leads to oppression and loss of freedom.

Our founders wanted to establish a democracy in which the government serves all the people, not just the Christian ones.

For these reasons, we should not be compelled to vote for someone because he or she can recite passages from the Bible. In fact, we should be suspicious of those who do so in a political context. It's pandering, and it's often hypocritical.

We need to vote for candidates who will take their instructions not from some deity, but rather from the people.

We need to vote for candidates who will take their instructions not from some holy book, but rather from the Constitution.

Otherwise, we're no longer the America that our founders had envisioned, and we're no better than the theocratic dictatorships that we criticize.

27 October 2007

Mukasey not much of an improvement over Gonzales

This past week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey. Judge Mukasey did OK on the first day, but some of his answers on the second day raised concerns for senators on both sides of the aisle.

He tapdanced around the waterboarding issue.

He rejected the idea of restoring habeas corpus rights to detainees.

And he suggested that the president is above the law.

Doesn't sound like much of an improvement, if any, over Gonzales.

The Center for American Progress Action Fund has put together a good, comprehensive summary of the Mukasey problem. Read it here: Jury Still Out On Judge Mukasey

26 October 2007

Take action: Tell Congress to protect the women of Darfur

After the Rwandan genocide, we said, "Never again."

But it's happening again, and has been going on since 2003.

We must do something. Right now, we need to push for passage of House Resolution 726, which would provide protection for women and girls against rape and sexual violence, which is being used as a tool of war; bring the perpetrators of rape and sexual violence to justice; and provide support services for the victims.

Below is a message from Refugees international, along with links that you can click to take action online and to learn more.

Since 2003, rape and other acts of sexual and gender-based violence have been used as a weapon of war in the Darfur region of Sudan.

For the Sudanese armed forces, the associated Janjaweed militia and other armed combatants, sexual violence is part of a calculated plan to destroy communities and carry out campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Recently, House Representatives DeLauro, Ros-Lehtinen and Miller have taken a leading role in addressing this humanitarian crisis by drafting House Resolution 726. This legislation calls upon the President of the United States and the international community to take immediate steps to respond to and prevent acts of rape and sexual violence against women and girls in Darfur.

* Act Now: Urge your member of Congress to support this resolution.

* Read more about how the laws in Sudan expose rape victims to further abuse.

25 October 2007

Senate confirms a bigot as U.S. Circuit Judge

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Leslie Southwick, a known bigot, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Here is what the organization People for the American Way had to say about Southwick:

Two cases in particular serve to highlight Southwick's lack of commitment to the social justice progress of the last fifty years.

In 1998, Southwick joined a ruling in an employment case that upheld the reinstatement, without any punishment whatsoever, of a white state employee who was fired for calling an African American co-worker a "good ole nigger." The court's decision effectively ratified a hearing officer's opinion that the slur was only "somewhat derogatory" and "was in effect calling the individual a 'teacher's pet.'" The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision.

In 2001, Southwick joined a ruling that upheld a chancellor's decision to take an eight-year-old girl away from her mother and award custody to the father, who had never married the mother, largely because the mother was living with another woman in a "lesbian home." Southwick went even further by joining a gratuitously anti-gay concurrence which extolled Mississippi's right under "the principles of Federalism" to treat "homosexual persons" as second-class citizens. The concurrence suggested that sexual orientation is a choice and stated that an adult is not "relieved of the consequences of his or her choice" - e.g. losing custody of one's child.

And now this judge has gotten a big promotion.

>> Read more about Southwick.

>> See how your senators voted.

23 October 2007

Chertoff: Screw the environment, we need to keep the Mexicans out

If you've been paying attention lately, you know that there is a project under way to construct a "security" fence along the U.S. border with Mexico. (Excuse me, but how many Mexicans were on those planes on 9/11? Oh, yeah, none. But that doesn't matter. Brown skin is brown skin, to some people, I suppose.)

Anyway, construction of the portion of the fence that sits along the Mexico-Arizona border was put on hold on October 10 because it would run through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. A federal district judge ruled that the federal government did not fully study the environmental impact of the fence.

But Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff doesn't care about the fact that the fence could upset the area's ecology and even violate some environmental laws.

On Monday, Chertoff invoked his power to waive those pesky laws and restart construction of that fence.

This is disappointing, and even alarming, but it shouldn't come as a surprise. The Bushies have never met a law that they couldn't sidestep via some claim of executive privilege or national security.

To them, the laws are for us little people.

And it's for our own good. They must save us from the Mexicans who threaten our freedoms and our way of life.

Please give me a freaking break.

22 October 2007

NASA refuses to disclose air safety survey results

Apparently, drunken pilots and the lost-luggage lotto aren't enough travel worries for us to bear.

According to an article by the Associated Press, "NASA is withholding results from an unprecedented national survey of pilots that found safety problems like near collisions and runway interference occur far more frequently than the government previously recognized."

The article goes on to say that "NASA ordered the contractor that conducted the survey to purge all related data from its computers."

First, I don't know why NASA did this survey rather than the TSA or some independent organization, but that, I suppose, is beside the point. The real point is that the survey apparently uncovered some safety issues that they're now hiding from us. Issues like the fact that there are actually twice as many bird strikes and near mid-air collisions than are reported to the public.

The article suggests that NASA is anxious to avoid upsetting air travelers. Hence the censorship. Ignorance is bliss. And, in that ignorance, people will continue to buy airline tickets. And they dare to call this a democracy.

What it appears like, in this situation, is that NASA is being a whore to the air transportation industry. Keep us dumb and keep us flying.

Really makes you want to board a plane, doesn't it?

At this point, I think I'd rather walk.

21 October 2007

Bush threatens World War Three -- with nukes

In looking back over the past week's news headlines, the one that I find the most disturbing is George W. Bush's warning that Iran would start World War Three if we don't stop them from developing the nuclear technology that they insist they're working on for energy purposes only.

It seems to me that in that Iranian climate, you have to have air conditioning.

And keep in mind that U.S. intelligence experts have confirmed that Iraq is 10 years away from having the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. And Bush's buddy, Russian president Vladimir Putin, also insists that "there is no evidence to suggest Iran wants to build a nuclear bomb."

But that doesn't matter to Bush. He's fancies himself a cowboy, and he's itchin' for some action.

The Bushies used a similar tactic in the run-up to the Iraq War. They said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Rumsfeld claimed to know exactly where they were. They insisted that Saddam was buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. Of course, none of it turned out to be true, but it nevertheless gave them the excuse they needed to launch an unprovoked war of aggression against an unarmed Iraq.

And now it feels like deja vu, only this time with nukes. Iran might not have them yet, but we do. And Israel does. And Bush is now officially a lame duck, so he can focus his aggression wherever and however he wants to. He's got nothing to lose. It's a cowboy's fantasy come true.

I fear for us as a nation, but I fear even more for the innocent citizens of Iran. If Bush has his way, the plight of the Iraqi civilians might seem like a picnic compared to what the Iranians could face.

I hope Congress can stop it.

This is serious, dangerous, scary stuff.

20 October 2007

Kucinich: SCHIP bill fails to provide health coverage for legal immigrant children

First of all, let me say upfront that I'm a big fan of Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Of all the Dems running for president, his words resonate with me the most. It's a shame that he is not taken more seriously as a candidate (but that's a whole other article which I'll be writing soon).

That said, I've got a moral dilemma.

On Thursday, Kucinich was one of the 273 House members who voted to override Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill that would provide health care insurance to uninsured children. No surprise there.

But then I learned that Kucinich had voted against SCHIP when it originally passed the House back on September 25.

Why? Because the bill did not include coverage for legal immigrant children.

OK, so the bill was inadequate, and that's wrong. No child should have to suffer in this country from lack of health care. Whatever the parents' situation might be, we as a society should not make any innocent child pay the price.

As much as I despise any kind of discrimination, wouldn't it be better to cover some children rather than none (and then follow up later to get the rest of them covered)?

It's a tough one.

Anyway, the following is a statement on the issue, as posted on Kucinich's website:

Kucinich: SCHIP Bill Fails To Provide Health Coverage For Legal Immigrant Children

Washington, Sep 25 - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), issued the following statement after voting against the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) conference report today:

"I cannot support legislation which extends health coverage to some children while openly denying it to other children," Kucinich said. "This legislation is woefully inadequate: and I will not support it.

"Legal immigrant children deserve the same quality health care as other children receive. It is Congress' responsibility to address the main difficulties that prevent legal immigrant children from gaining access to health care. Today, we did exactly the opposite.

"HR 676 guarantees full health care coverage for all children. When considering a universal health care proposal, HR 676, the Medicare for All bill, is the only health care plan that addresses three important issues: quality, accessibility, and cost. HR 676 stands alone in an increasingly crowded field of efforts to provide health care coverage to all," Kucinich said.

Kucinich voted for the original House-passed version of the bill because it contained language to grant health coverage for legal immigrant children. However, in today’s bill, this language was omitted.

19 October 2007

House fails to override SCHIP veto

Shame on Congress!

Even now, even in 2007, even with George W. Bush's approval ratings at a Nixonian level, even though 61 percent of Americans wanted Congress to override Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill that would provide health care insurance to low-income children, 156 House Republicans care more about being loyal to Bush than about the fate of our children.

On Thursday, the House came up nine (9) votes short of the number needed to override Bush's veto.

I don't ever want to hear any of those 156 refer to themselves as "compassionate conservatives". There is no compassion in depriving sick children of necessary health care.

>> See how your Rep voted.

18 October 2007

Rendition/torture surviver Maher Arar to testify before Congress today

Today (Thursday, October 18) at 2:00 p.m., Canadian citizen Maher Arar will testify at a Congressional hearing and tell the story of how he was abducted by the U.S. and sent to Syria to be interrogated under torture.

Maher was never accused of any crime, and a later investigation found that there were no links between Maher and any terrorist organizations or terrorist activities.

According to a case study by Amnesty International, "He was never given a hearing nor did the Canadian consulate, his lawyer, or his family know of his fate. Expulsion in such circumstances, without a fair hearing, and to a country known for regularly torturing their prisoners, violates the U.S. Government's obligations under international law, specifically the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."

Watch the hearing:

According to the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which is representing Maher in a lawsuit, you will be able to watch the hearing live online by going to www.foreignaffairs.house.gov and clicking on the "Live Webcast" button at the bottom-right portion of the page.

CCR goes on to say that "Ironically, Maher will be testifying at his own hearing via video-link from Canada, as he continues to be banned from entering the U.S."

Demand justice for Maher Arar:

CCR is demanding that Congress:

• Make an official, public apology to Maher;

• Release all documents pertaining to Maher's rendition;

• Launch an independent commission to investigate Maher's rendition; and

• Demand that Maher Arar be removed from the watch-list immediately.

Indeed. It's the very least they could do.

>> Contact your members of Congress and instruct them accordingly.

Thank you for taking action, and thank you for caring.

17 October 2007

Rendition movie is not fiction

On Friday, October 19, the movie Rendition will be released in the US, Canada, and the UK. In the movie, Reese Witherspoon plays an American woman whose Egyptian-born husband is kidnapped by the CIA and rendered to a secret prison somewhere in the world. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a CIA analyst who apparently faces a moral dilemma over the agency's interrogation techniques.

The following is a statement by Amnesty International UK about the ugly truths that the movie depicts. Be sure to check out the links.

'See the film, then take action' call

Ahead of the UK release of the new Hollywood film 'Rendition', Amnesty International has said that prisoners in the 'war on terror' are still missing and still being held in secret.

Meanwhile, far from ending the practice of 'rendition', the US government -- which has authorised abduction and secret prisoner movement in hundreds of cases in the last six years -- continues to defend the policy, even though it breaches human rights.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon's film is extremely timely as prisoners are still missing after being subject to 'rendition' -- basically another word for kidnapping and secret detention.

'Anyone who goes to see this powerful film and comes out of a cinema believing that kidnap and secret detention are wrong can do something about it -- they can support our new 'Unsubscribe' campaign to stop human rights abuses in the 'war on terror'.'

Last week (9 October) Amnesty International launched the 'Unsubscribe' campaign, a new initiative to unite people in opposition to terrorism and opposition to human rights abuses committed in the 'war on terror'.

The Amnesty campaign is encouraging people to defend human rights, and within days of its launch more than 16,000 people had visited www.unsubscribe-me.org and 'unsubscribed'.

Further information: www.renditionmovie.com and www.unsubscribe-me.org

16 October 2007

Phone calls and vigils to override SCHIP veto

On October 5, George W. Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would provide health care for uninsured low-income American children.

We have enough votes in the Senate to override the veto, but we still need 15 more House Republicans to vote for America's children over Bush.

There are a couple of ways you can help:

1. Call your Representative.

72% of Americans support the bill, including 61% of Republicans. So over the next couple of days we need to lean on the Republicans who initially voted against the bill and encourage them to vote to override the veto. We also need to contact the Republicans who initially voted in favor of the bill last month, and ensure that they will stand their ground and not back down because of Bush's veto.

>> See how your Representative voted the first time.

>> Look up your Representative's phone number.

Yesterday I called both the DC office and the closest local district office for my Representative, Jim Gerlach. While Gerlach doesn't often vote the way I want him to, he did vote for SCHIP last month. I told the person on the phone in both of his offices to ask Rep. Gerlach to again choose children over Bush and vote to override the veto. Fingers crossed.

2. Attend a vigil tonight!

To draw attention to this issue, MoveOn and other organizations have organized candlelight vigils all across the country, to be held tonight, Tuesday, October 16.

>> Find a vigil near you.

15 October 2007

Tell your senators to hold Blackwater's hired guns accountable

We've been hearing a lot of stories lately about how Blackwater mercenaries have been having an open season on civilians in Iraq. Even though they have reportedly killed numerous Iraqi civilians in unprovoked attacks, they might never be held accountable, due to legal loopholes.

Fortunately, Congress is trying to do something about this. One bill has already been passed in the House and its companion is awaiting a Senate vote.

>> Take action now and tell your senators to support the Security Contractor Accountability Act of 2007.

Vatican official suspended for propositioning a young man insists he's not gay

He's not gay and he has never been gay. It's Larry Craig in a clerical collar:

A Vatican official suspended after being caught on hidden camera making advances to a young man says he is not gay and was only pretending to be gay as part of his work.

In an interview published Sunday, Monsignor Tommaso Stenico told La Repubblica daily he frequented online gay chat rooms and met with gay men as part of his work as a psychoanalyst. He said that he pretended to be gay in order to gather information about "those who damage the image of the Church with homosexual activity."

Vatican teaching holds that gays and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity but that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."

The Vatican said Saturday it was suspending Stenico after he was secretly filmed making advances to a young man and asserting that gay sex was not sinful during a television program on gay priests broadcast Oct. 1 on La7, a private Italian television network.
>> Read the full story.

So, he says he was trying to track down gays because the Church says gay sex is sinful. Yet, he is on record hitting on a young man and telling that young man that gay sex is not sinful.

Yo, Monsignor: Regardless of whether gay sex is "right" or "wrong" (and I can't believe it's wrong), keep in mind that lying is definitely wrong.

14 October 2007

Obama blows it with "Kingdom on Earth" comment

I was really liking Sen. Barack Obama. I was thinking that a Gore-Obama ticket in 2008 would be just what this country needs. (I know, I know, Gore says he has fallen out of love with politics and doesn't want to run. But a girl can dream.)

But then, on October 7, Obama disappointed me, big time. I know he's a religious man, but he overdid it this time. In my opinion, he crossed the line re: separation of church and state when he told the congregation at an evangelical church in South Carolina: "I am confident we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."

Clearly he was trying to demonstrate that the Republicans don't have a monopoly on religiosity. But I saw it as pandering to the conservative Christian base that the Republicans have traditionally claimed as their own, and ignoring the Constitution in order to do so. That may win him some points among that crowd, but it cost him some serious points with me (for what it's worth).

A Kingdom right here on Earth, huh?

Two things:

First, if you want to run this country, sir, you should accept that it was established as a representative republic, not a kingdom.

But of course you were talking about a Kingdom of God. That's almost as bad, sir. You see, as the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." And, by extension, I think it's safe to assume that the founding fathers didn't think that a presidential candidate should try to establish a religious Kingdom on Earth either.

The First Amendment goes on to say that there shall be no law "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" -- meaning of religion. In other words, here in the U.S., we must remain free to practice any religion we choose -- or none -- and not be coerced into the kind of state-mandated religion that our founders had fled from in England. In other words, non-Christian Americans shouldn't have to live in a Kingdom on Earth for Obama's selected deity (or anyone else's).

So, while I am bothered by the fact that the Republicans (who are not nearly as holy in deed as they might seem in word) have in recent decades cornered the market on religious votes in this country, it bothers me even more to see Democrats recklessly using religion to demonstrate that they can be holy too.

And it bothers me because religion, per the First Amendment, has no place in U.S. politics. Yet, in real 21st-century life, it has such a huge place in U.S. politics. Religion is supposed to be a private thing.

I suspect that Thomas Jefferson is spinning in his grave.

12 October 2007

Al Gore wins Nobel Peace Prize

Breaking news this morning: Al Gore has been awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

My congratulations to the winners.

Unfortunately, however, I doubt that this will inspire the corporate polluters to change their ways. Or the owners of all those bloated SUVs that I see each day in every parking lot.

Bush to Congress: Ignore genocide to keep air bases

From 1915 to 1918, over 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman Empire.

On Wednesday, October 10, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to label those mass killings over 80 years ago as genocide. The resolution is now headed for a vote in the full House.

But Turkey doesn't want to be accused of past genocide. And the Bush administration doesn't want to ruffle those Turkey feathers.

It's about priorities.

You see, if we make the Turkish government mad, it might shut down access to our air bases in Turkey, which we need to continue our assault on Iraq, which we illegally attacked in 2003.

So, to make a long story short:

If a country commits genocide, but we need the support of that killer country in order to do our own killing, then we must ignore their killing and let them get away with it. What are a mere 1.5 million lives among friends?

In other words, pay no attention to Turkey's massacre, because we need Turkey's support in order to continue with our own massacre.

Believe it or not, we're talking about America here.

11 October 2007

Mark Fiore: A Word in the Hand

Enhanced head patting? Underwater bubbly time?

It's not torture. We call it tickle-fuzzy-hug. So it's legal and OK to do. You don't have to worry.

So says Knuckles, a character in this week's animation from political cartoonist Mark Fiore.

Check it out: A Word in the Hand

10 October 2007

Murder victims' families call for worldwide moratorium on the death penalty

Today, October 10, is World Day Against the Death Penalty.

When I talk with proponents of the death penalty, they often cite the victims' families, as if killing the killer will somehow bring a sense of closure or justice to the familes.

It may make some families feel better. But that's not about justice, it's about revenge.

Don't believe me? Well, maybe you'll believe real families of real victims:

To mark this World Day Against the Death Penalty, the organization Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights has issued the following statement calling for the member states of the United Nations to adopt a resolution supporting a global moratorium on executions.

Statement of Renny Cushing, Executive Director of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights on World Day Against the Death Penalty in Support of a Global Moratorium on Executions

Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights is an organization of family members of homicide victims and family members of people who have been executed. As survivors with a direct stake in the death penalty debate, and as people who believe in the value of basic human rights principles, we join today in the call for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

The most basic of human rights, the right to life, is violated both by homicide and by execution. We call today for a consistent human rights ethic in response to violence: let us not respond to one human rights violation with another human rights violation. Let us recognize that justice for victims is not achieved by taking another life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was inspired by victims, demanded by victims. It grew out of the suffering of millions of civilians murdered under the brutal regimes of the Second World War, and its adoption on December 10, 1948 was a way to honor the loss of those lives by asserting that such violations are neither moral nor permissible under any nation or regime.

Now, almost sixty years later, let us recognize that violations of human life in the form of the death penalty should not be permissible under any nation or regime. We call for a moratorium on the death penalty because the only way to uphold human rights is to uphold them in all cases, universally.

Today, on World Day Against the Death Penalty, the United Nations General Assembly is considering a resolution that will take us one step closer to fulfilling the aspiration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As victims, we urge the members of the General Assembly to adopt the UN resolution for a universal moratorium on executions.

Renny Cushing, Executive Director
Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights

Supreme Court refuses to hold CIA accountable for kidnapping and torture

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a German man who claims that he was abducted and tortured by the CIA.

Why can Khaled el-Masri not have his day in court? Why should the CIA not be held accountable for their programs of extraordinary rendition, secret prisons, and torture? Because George W. Bush says that a trial would reveal state secrets.

State secrets like Bush's illegal policies in the "war on terror"?

We may never know. Because it's all a big secret.

Gotta wonder how much they are hiding. And why.

It is time to end the secrecy. We need transparency in government now more than ever.

Otherwise, the Bush administration will continue to engage in unlawful acts of kidnapping, torture, and whatever else they choose to do, and get away with it.

However, by refusing to hear the case and rule on the constitutionality of the issues, the Supreme Court has, by default, just told us that Bush's "state secrets" argument is legally appropriate. And that is perhaps the scariest part of it all.

09 October 2007

Blackwater deliberately crushed car containing children and old man

We've been hearing a lot of stories lately about how Blackwater mercenaries have been having an open season on civilians in Iraq. So nothing should surprise us.

Still, I cried when I read a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times by Janessa Gans, who served as a U.S. official in Iraq from 2003-2005. In the piece, Gans describes the brutality she encountered as a frequent "beneficiary" of "Blackwater's over-the-top zeal."

An excerpt:
When the Iraqi government last month demanded the expulsion of Blackwater USA, the private security firm, I had one reaction: It's about time.

As a U.S. official in Baghdad for nearly two years, I was frequently the "beneficiary" of Blackwater's over-the-top zeal. "Just pretend it's a roller coaster," I used to tell myself during trips through downtown Baghdad.

We would careen around corners, jump road dividers, reach speeds in excess of 100 mph and often cross over to the wrong side of the street, oncoming traffic be damned.

But much more appalling than the ride was the deleterious effect each movement through town had on the already beleaguered people of Iraq. I began to wonder whether my meetings, intended to further U.S. policy goals and improve the lives of Iraqis, were doing more harm than good. With our drivers honking at, cutting off, pelting with water bottles (a favorite tactic) and menacing with weapons anyone in their way, how many enemies were we creating?

One particularly infuriating time, I was in the town of Irbil in northern Iraq, being driven to a meeting with a Kurdish political leader. We were on a narrow stretch of highway with no shoulders and foot-high barriers on both sides. The lead Suburban in our convoy loomed up behind an old, puttering sedan driven by an older man with a young woman and three children.

As we approached at typical breakneck speed, the Blackwater driver honked furiously and motioned to the side, as if they should pull over. The kids in the back seat looked back in horror, mouths agape at the sight of the heavily armored Suburbans driven by large, armed men in dark sunglasses. The poor Iraqi driver frantically searched for a means of escape, but there was none. So the lead Blackwater vehicle smashed heedlessly into the car, pushing it into the barrier. We zoomed by too quickly to notice if anyone was hurt.

Until that point I had never mentioned anything to my drivers about their tactics, but this time I could not contain myself.

"Where do you all expect them to go?" I shrieked. "It was an old guy and a family, for goodness' sake. Was it necessary for them to destroy their poor old car?"

My driver responded impassively: "Ma'am, we've been trained to view anyone as a potential threat. You don't know who they might use as decoys or what the risks are. Terrorists could be disguised as anyone."
>> Read the full editorial.

By the way, our tax dollars are paying for this.

08 October 2007

Darfur: Why should we care?

A symbolic Olympic torch relay is making its way around the world to call attention to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, in western Sudan, and to call on China, host of the 2008 Summer Olympics, to use its considerable influence with Sudan to end the violence there.

The torch relay began in August in eastern Chad, across the border from Darfur. It has been traveling around the world, and came to Philadelphia on Sunday, October 7. I had the opportunity to attend the local event, which featured speedskating superstar and Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek as the keynote speaker. Cheek is an athlete with a heart, having founded a coalition of athletes committed to raising awareness of the crisis in Darfur and bringing an end to the violence.

The event was held outdoors in Philadelphia's historical district, with a direct view of Independence Hall to the south and the National Constitution Center to the north. The location seemed quite fitting, as several Darfuran children and adults were in attendance, now enjoying America's freedom and liberty, which began right there more than 200 years ago.

I was inspired.

Some of the tourists walking by, however, were apparently not so inspired.

A woman walked by with three young children of elementary school age. The children had noticed the Darfuran children their own age participating in the event, and seemed very interested. They asked their mother what was going on. The mother replied, "They're having a talk." And she whisked them away.

A talk.

Signs and banners everywhere advertised the fact that this was about much more than just having a talk.

This mother passed up a great opportunity to teach her children about how we can help others who are suffering in other parts of the world -- and in a way far more effective than the method used when I was a kid, of citing starving children in India to lay a guilt trip on a picky eater.

But I was disappointed more by a wealthy-looking middle-aged woman who walked by with her male companion, the latter of whom seemed interested in the Darfur-related festivities. The woman, however, felt differently. As they passed me, I heard her say, "I think it's in Africa. Why should I care about something in Africa?"

In his moving speech later in the event, Joey Cheek answered that woman's question, although she was no longer around to hear it.

Cheek joked that people might wonder why they should take political advice from someone who makes his living skating in circles, in tights. His answer was that he had the opportunity to follow his dreams, and he felt that he therefore has an obligation to help others follow their dreams as well -- including the persecuted citizens of Darfur.

Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone shared Joey Cheek's sense of caring and compassion.

And, as a further answer to the rich lady who can't be bothered with African affairs, I would like to add these words from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Life is about more than just you.

07 October 2007

New York Times editorial: On Torture and American Values

Late last week, news broke that the Justice Department, under the Bush administration, had authorized the use of torture even earlier than we thought. The White House, of course, denies any wrongdoing. They're once again playing word games to try to justify the use of torture -- er, I mean "enhanced interrogation techniques".

I'm sorry to have taken so long to address this important development. So much is happening so quickly these days, and I can't seem to write fast enough.

But, fortunately, I don't always need to. The New York Times has already said what needs to be said, in an editorial in today's widely read Sunday edition.

An excerpt:
Once upon a time, it was the United States that urged all nations to obey the letter and the spirit of international treaties and protect human rights and liberties. American leaders denounced secret prisons where people were held without charges, tortured and killed. And the people in much of the world, if not their governments, respected the United States for its values.

The Bush administration has dishonored that history and squandered that respect. As an article on this newspaper’s front page last week laid out in disturbing detail, President Bush and his aides have not only condoned torture and abuse at secret prisons, but they have conducted a systematic campaign to mislead Congress, the American people and the world about those policies.

After the attacks of 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the creation of extralegal detention camps where Central Intelligence Agency operatives were told to extract information from prisoners who were captured and held in secret. Some of their methods -- simulated drownings, extreme ranges of heat and cold, prolonged stress positions and isolation -- had been classified as torture for decades by civilized nations. The administration clearly knew this; the C.I.A. modeled its techniques on the dungeons of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union.

The White House could never acknowledge that. So its lawyers concocted documents that redefined "torture" to neatly exclude the things American jailers were doing and hid the papers from Congress and the American people. Under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Mr. Bush’s loyal enabler, the Justice Department even declared that those acts did not violate the lower standard of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."

That allowed the White House to claim that it did not condone torture, and to stampede Congress into passing laws that shielded the interrogators who abused prisoners, and the men who ordered them to do it, from any kind of legal accountability.
Read the full editorial.

This is not how I want my tax dollars to be spent.

06 October 2007

Is human decency unconstitutional?

Over the past week, I have written a great deal in newspaper articles, blogs, and news websites about George W. Bush's veto of the highly popular, bipartisan State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would provide health care for uninsured low-income American children.

And I've gotten a fair amount of feedback from readers -- some positive and some negative.

But by far the most interesting response was from a reader who chose to share his feedback with me through a private, anonymous message, instead of posting a public comment on the website where he read my articles, and where other readers could publicly respond to his comments. (That, of course, says much about his confidence in his own views.)

This respondent said that we do not need to provide health care to children because it's not in the U.S. Constitution. When Congress considers legislation, he said, they should stick to the Constitution.

I think a Civics 101 refresher is in order here.

The Constitution was designed to be a living document. As American society evolves, the Constitution is amended and evolves with us. If we were to stick with the original form of the Constitution when considering legislation, women would not be allowed to vote and rich white men would still own slaves.

The preamble to the Constitution states its purpose as, among other things, to "promote the general welfare". Are we promoting the general welfare of our citizenry if low-income American children are not assured of proper health care?

I'm not talking about raising our taxes and forming a welfare state. I'm talking about ensuring the well-being of the most vulnerable members of our society, the children who are America's future.

The Constitution also does not say that we must be kind to animals. However, because of that omission, should Michael Vick not be punished for torturing dogs?

Our laws are designed to protect our society and its people. Just as we have laws protecting children from abuse, is it so wrong to protect poor innocent children also from having to suffer, and perhaps die, just because they don't have health care coverage?

When local, state, or federal laws and practices are called into question, the judicial system decides what is, and what is not, constitutional. If my respondent is so sure that children's health insurance is unconstitutional, let him take the matter to the courts. It would be an interesting case to watch.

But, since he is apparently too afraid to even post his opinions in public, I shall not expect to see his name on a federal court docket vs. SCHIP.

05 October 2007

Tell Congress to choose children over Bush

Earlier this week, George W. Bush vetoed the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would provide health care for uninsured low-income American children.

He had defended his opposition to the bill by saying, "No one goes without health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room."

Let them eat cake.

But what does Bush know about being poor and sick and uninsured?

This is only the fourth veto of Bush's presidency. He doesn't use his veto power very often, but when he does, he usually seems to veto those bills that would help prevent human suffering. Twice he vetoed the use of federal money for stem cell research that could lead to cures for numerous horrible diseases. And he vetoed a bill that would have set a deadline for bringing our troops home from Iraq.

Better to just leave our people sick and fighting.

In each of those cases, Congress failed to override Bush's vetoes. But this time, the well-being of America's children is at stake. It's time for Congress to grow a backbone and stand up for some true American values, like taking care of our kids.

If you are an American, and if you have a heart, please call on your Senators and Representative to override the veto. We must not make America's poor and low-income children pay the price for corporate greed and Bush's no-CEO-left-behind policies.

04 October 2007

Bush chooses war and tobacco company profits over children's health care

As promised, George W. Bush has vetoed a highly popular bipartisan bill that would provide health care for uninsured low-income American children.

These children happen to have parents who aren't lucky enough to have jobs that provide health care benefits for their families. That is not an unusual situation to be in these days. But Bush has no empathy for these children. He has always enjoyed the best medical care when he's needed it. And, as he once told one of his professors at Harvard Business School, Bush believes that "poor people are poor because they're lazy." Absurd and pathetic as that attitude may be, it is even more absurd and pathetic to make the children pay the price.

By the way, this is the same George W. Bush who has called himself a "compassionate conservative". So where is the compassion in depriving America's innocent children of health care that could save their lives?

For the record, Bush is now officially a lame duck. And lame duck Bush says that the children's health insurance bill would amount to too much spending, and that it borders on socialized medicine. Yet, this system has been working well for a while on the state level, and a proposed tobacco tax hike would pay for it. Sounds ideal. Better health all around.

But Bush would rather side with the tobacco corporations. No more taxes on cigarettes. According to Bush, everyone should have access to reasonably priced cigarettes. That's more important than access to health care.

The vetoed bill would cost $35 billion over five years, and Bush tries to use that as an excuse for his veto. It's just too much spending, he tells us, as if he is fiscally responsible.

But consider this: The Iraq war is costing us about $8.4 billion per month.

So, for just four months of Iraq war costs, we could insure all those sick children for five years. Think about that.

Nope. Veto. It's too much spending.

Instead, America's uninsured children can just suffer and die, and we'll use that money instead to bomb more innocent Iraqi children.

God bless America.

03 October 2007

Are heterosexuals really the best parents?

Move over, O.J. Simpson. Britney Spears is back in the news, to capture the headlines of the mainstream media and the imagination of the lazy-minded American public.

Never mind the fact that U.S. soldiers are dying daily in Iraq, Blackwater mercenaries are killing innocent Iraqi civilians with impunity, and Dick Cheney is itching to nuke Iran. Britney, they tell us, is the big news of the day.

You see, on October 1, Britney lost custody of her two children due to her bad behavior. Her ex-husband Kevin Federline will take care of the kids for a while. Lesser of two evils.

The media are all over it. The watercooler crowd is abuzz. Britney, who just a few short years ago "had it all" -- beauty, success, teenybopper fans galore, and enough money to live well forever -- now crashes and burns. The public eats it up. Schadenfreude for the stupid.

Meantime, the religious right keeps telling us that gay couples do not make suitable parents. A child needs a mother and a father. Well, Britney and K-Fed are heterosexuals. Their children have a mother and a father. But how well-adjusted do you think they'll turn out?

Who would you rather have as parents: Britney and K-Fed or, say, the sane, stable rock star Melissa Etheridge and her long-term lesbian partner? Be honest.

Or, in real life, who would you rather have as parents: The loving same-sex couple down the street who have been together for longer than most straight couples you know, or the heterosexual workaholic and alcoholic across the street whose kids never have a chance to sit down to a good old-fashioned family dinner? Be honest.

Discrimination does not serve our children well.

Homophobia does not serve our children well.

Bad parenting, whether you're straight or gay, does not serve our children well.

What serves our children well are love, stability, respect, and honesty; not bigotry, hatred, self-righteousness, or judgmentalism.

Those who dare to judge the parental qualifications of others, based only on their sexual orientation (that is, who they happen to love), would do better to step back, look deep inside yourselves, and ask yourselves what you're really so afraid of. But you won't. Because you do not dare. All bigotry and hatred are rooted in fear and insecurity. It's too much for the coward to face head-on. For the coward, it is so much easier to simply hate.

02 October 2007

A very expensive quagmire

Last week, the White House sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Capitol Hill to lobby for increased funding to keep the killing going on in Iraq for another year. The updated price tag: over $190 billion. For one year. And for what?

The situation in Iraq has been called a quagmire.

I like to keep my facts straight. So, looking up the word "quagmire" at Dictionary.com, I find that the official meaning, per the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, is "a situation from which extrication is very difficult."

Yes, Iraq is a quagmire indeed, on so many levels. A very expensive quagmire.

The first level, and the most obvious one, thanks to the mainstream media, is the ongoing political stalemate in Washington over troop withdrawal. Bush wants to keep the war going through the remainder of his presidency and beyond. Let it be the next president's problem. No diplomacy, no compromise. Just some good ol' Texas-style ass whoopin'. Bring 'em on.

Meantime, Congress won't stop funding Bush's war, so it's their war, too. The Democrats say they don't have enough votes, but that is not an excuse to stop trying. In fact, the entire Congress is shirking its mandate - a mandate that seemed so clear in the wake of the 2006 elections.

A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire.

But what if Congress finally came to its senses and voted to end the war, or at least to cut off funding for anything other than a troop withdrawal? Here we face another side of the quagmire.

If we pulled out now, what would become of civilian life in Iraq? It's bad enough today. We bombed that country to bits four and a half years ago, and we haven't bothered to rebuild it. A recent British survey estimates that the civilian death toll from this war and occupation may have topped 1.2 million. The Iraqis who have managed to survive still have no security and no drinkable water. Electricity and medical care are rare luxuries. Imagine living like that for four and a half years, and with no end in sight!

This plight of Iraq's innocent civilians will not be magically resolved if we leave now. On the other hand, we have no reason to believe that it would improve if we stayed. Damned if we do, and damned if we don't. Either way, the Iraqi people will continue to suffer. And for no good reason (although Bush's oil company buddies and Cheney's war profiteers might disagree).

A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire.

So what is the solution? I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish Washington knew. But, whatever the answer, it will not be simple.

I suspect that our best chance lies in engaging international support for a post-occupation peacekeeping and rebuilding effort, perhaps spearheaded by the United Nations. We pull out, and an international peacekeeping force pulls in.

But Bush will never allow it. And his arrogant version of foreign policy has squandered the good will of the rest of the world that was ours in the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks.

A quagmire indeed. A very expensive quagmire.

I believe that our only hope right now is for Congress to grow up and stand up, cut off funding for the war, force a troop withdrawal, and thereby demonstrate to the world that America has woken up and might be worth helping.

Bypass the lame duck in the Oval Office. Do what's right for Iraq, what's right for America, and what's right for the world.

But I shall not hold my breath.

01 October 2007

Update: Bono's torture comments now available on video

I recently wrote about how the "official" version of the Liberty Medal ceremony was missing Bono's comments criticizing the use of torture.

Good news:

I just heard from the National Constitution Center that they have now made the FULL video available of Bono's acceptance speech from the Liberty Medal ceremony last Thursday.

Go to www.libertymedal.org and click the link for the "Full Acceptance Speech Video" to hear Bono's complete speech, including the torture comments.

The shortened version that was posted previously (which was the only available video for for the first 4 days after the ceremony) is now behind the link called "Ceremony Highlights Video".

The Red Mass vs. the U.S. Constitution

Yesterday, the annual "Red Mass" was held in various Catholic churches and cathedrals across the country. This annual mass is held before the Supreme Court's fall session opens, and is intended to invoke the Holy Spirit's guidance in the administration of justice in the coming year. This is where Catholics come together to pray for holy rulings by the judiciary. I kid you not.

The Red Mass held in D.C. typically has a number of Supreme Court justices in attendance, by invitation from the Cardinal.

And often the officiating priest uses this opportunity to appeal for Catholic Church interests, such as anti-abortion rulings.

So how is this not a blatant violation of the Constitutionally-mandated separation of Church and State?

Aren't the Supreme Court Justices paid to base their rulings on the U.S. Constitution rather than the will of the Pope?

And how is this political mass not an insult to non-Christian justices, such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who is Jewish)? And to non-Christian Americans in general?

Imagine the outrage if the Supreme Court justices were invited to attend a similar event annually at a mosque rather than a church -- and did so.