Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1, 2 & 3

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 1
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 3
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisFirst 100 Days

Keep Voting Safe Now! Don't Delay to 2012!

I received the following email from Vote Safe TN:

It's time to stand up again and defend voter rights in Tennessee!

HB0614 has been placed on the calendar for the Budget Subcommittee of the House Finance Committee, to be heard Wednesday, April 29 at 11 a.m. This bill would change the Voter Confidence Act, which you helped pass last year, and move the implementation date to 2012 instead of 2010. What good reason is there for delaying optical scan and paper ballots for two more years, especially when we have a gubernatorial race in 2010? We can't think of any reason! We need the security of paper ballots, recounts, and audits!

Please call or email the legislators below and urge them to OPPOSE House Bill 0614 because:

1) Optical scan is less expensive than touch screen machines.

2) Every vote needs to be counted! It provides election security for the voter. And recounts are possible in close elections.

3) Several counties including Cheatham County used optical scan for early voting in 2008 and it was very successful- people liked it a lot and there were very short lines!

Please contact these House Committees by calling or emailing today or tomorrow morning:

(Email addresses are like this: rep.


Rep. Harry Tindell, Chair 741-2031

Charles Sargent, vice Chair 741-6808

Joe Armstrong 741-0768

Lois DeBerry 741-3830

Craig Fitzhugh 741-2134

Michael Harrison 741-4780

Steve McDaniel 741-0750

Richard Montgomery 741-5981

Jason Mumpower 741-2050

Jimmy Naifeh 741-0944

Gary Odom 741-4410

Dennis Roach 741-2534

Donna Rowland 741-2804

Johnny Shaw 741-4538

Also contact Gov. Phil Bredesen at 741-2001

Your voice is needed now! Please call!

More info needed? See our website at

Monday, April 27, 2009

David Broder: Just Another Torture Apologist

by Dee Newman

A few years back Washington Post columnist David Broder was considered the “Dean" of Washington journalism. But, that was back before he drank the Kool-Aid and fell for the lies of Bush&Co.

Unfortunately, rather than tip-toeing-away with his tail between his legs, Broder is still trying to defend the indefensible.

In Sunday’s Washington Post, Broder accused those of us who believe that the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” authorized by the Bush/Cheney Administration deserve, at the very least, a serious investigation from the criminal justice system of having “an unworthy desire for vengeance.”

The truth is, Broder has an unworthy desire to conceal the truth and keep his buddies from suffering the consequences of their actions.

Though, I’m sure, there are those who would love to watch Dick Cheney waterboarded until he cried “Uncle” and confessed that waterboarding is torture, most of us have no interest in vengeance or retribution. What we have is a fervent desire and interest in upholding the rule of law and in preventing our government from ever again torturing anyone in our names.

After re-reading Broder’s column a number of times, I was unable to find a single statement that rang true. In fact, the majority of the column was a re-hash of the same old talking points I had heard Karl Rove and other “torture apologists’ spew out on Fox News and other networks earlier in the week.

What Broder seems to not understand is that this is not just about “policy differences,” as he and Rove would have us believe. No, this is a hell-of-lot more serious. It is about morality, the rule of law and the leaders of our precious country violating not only the international prohibition on torture, but also a number of federal statues and the United States Constitution, sanctioning and carrying out inhumane and illegal acts of violence against others.

Furthermore, it is about the fate of Americans captured behind enemy lines in future conflicts. The Bush Administration’s use of torture has dramatically increased the likelihood that our servicemen and women will be tortured in the future. If we fail to hold them accountable for their immoral and illegal actions, the risk to our servicemen and women will only intensify.

But, more than anything it is about who we are – our character and integrity!

Unlike President Clinton’s affair with an intern, it seems, to Broder, the issue of torture is not serious enough to warrant moral outrage or legal action.

Unlike the Japanese soldiers we sentenced to death for waterboarding our servicemen in World War II, Broder, believes to prosecute those in the Bush Administration for doing the exact same thing would be “irrational vengeance.” To Broder the decision by Bush&Co. to use waterboarding is just a “policy difference” between one administration and another.

According to Broder, Rove and other apologists, (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) waterboardering a person 183 times (six times a day) in less than a month is justifiable because they have convinced themselves it worked – that it kept our nation safe.

It always amazes me how rational people can rational anything. Apparently, Broder's six-year-defense of the Bush administration has left him hopelessly attached to an immoral and illegal strategy of torture that he must now defend no matter how morally corrupt his efforts appear.

As Shepard Smith said last week on Fox News, (And, I paraphrase) It doesn't make any difference whether it kept us safe or not, THIS IS AMERICA! WE DO NOT TORTURE! no matter what.

The end can never justify the means even in a ticking-time-bomb situation, which we have never experienced.

It is better to lose our lives than our values. That is what I call – true courage.

And, if you believe otherwise, you should, at the very least, have the courage to face the truth and consequences of you own actions in a court of law and let a jury of your peers determine your fate.

To continue to relentlessly defend the indefensible is not courageous – it is craven – so lacking in courage as to be worthy of contempt.

I have no desire for retribution. All I want is for those who authorized the so-called "enhance interrogation techniques" and their apologists to recognize and admit that what they did was WRONG!

Until they do the investigations should continue and they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Swine Flu: US Declares Public Health Emergency

From the Huffington Post
April 26, 2009 04:58 PM EST | AP

WASHINGTON — The U.S. declared a public health emergency Sunday to deal with the emerging new swine flu, much like the government does to prepare for approaching hurricanes.

Officials reported 20 U.S. cases of swine flu in five states so far, with the latest in Ohio and New York. Unlike in Mexico where the same strain appears to be killing dozens of people, cases in the United State have been mild _ and U.S. health authorities can't yet explain why.

"As we continue to look for cases, we are going to see a broader spectrum of disease," predicted Dr. Richard Besser, acting chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We're going to see more severe disease in this country."

At a White House news conference, Besser and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sought to assure Americans that health officials are taking all appropriate steps to minimize the impact of the outbreak.

Top among those is declaring the public health emergency. As part of that, Napolitano said roughly 12 million doses of the drug Tamiflu will be moved from a federal stockpile to places where states can quickly get their share if they decide they need it. Priority will be given to the five states with known cases so far: California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas.

Napolitano called the emergency declaration standard operating procedure _ one was declared recently for the inauguration and for flooding. She urged people to think of it as a "declaration of emergency preparedness."

"Really that's what we're doing right now. We're preparing in an environment where we really don't know ultimately what the size of seriousness of this outbreak is going to be."

General Who Probed Abu Ghraib Says Bush Officials Committed War Crimes

Thursday 23 April 2009

by: Warren Strobel | Visit article original @ McClatchy Newspapers

Washington - The Army general who led the investigation into prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison accused the Bush administration Wednesday of committing "war crimes" and called for those responsible to be held to account.

The remarks by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who's now retired, came in a new report that found that U.S. personnel tortured and abused detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, using beatings, electrical shocks, sexual humiliation and other cruel practices.

"After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes," Taguba wrote. "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Taguba, whose 2004 investigation documented chilling abuses at Abu Ghraib, is thought to be the most senior official to have accused the administration of war crimes. "The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture," he wrote.

A White House spokeswoman, Kate Starr, had no comment.

Taguba didn't respond to a request for further comment relayed via a spokesman.

The group Physicians for Human Rights, which compiled the new report, described it as the most in-depth medical and psychological examination of former detainees to date.

Doctors and mental health experts examined 11 detainees held for long periods in the prison system that President Bush established after the 9-11 terrorist attacks. All of them eventually were released without charges.

The doctors and experts determined that the men had been subject to cruelties that ranged from isolation, sleep deprivation and hooding to electric shocks, beating and, in one case, being forced to drink urine.

Bush has said repeatedly that the United States doesn't condone torture.

"All credible allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and, if substantiated, those responsible are held accountable," said Navy Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman. The Defense Department responds to concerns raised by the International Committee for the Red Cross, he said, which has access to detainees under military control.

"It adds little to the public discourse to draw sweeping conclusions based upon dubious allegations regarding remote medical assessments of former detainees, now far removed from detention," Gordon said.

The physicians' group said that its experts, who had experience studying torture's effects, spent two days with each former captive and conducted intensive exams and interviews. They administered tests to detect exaggeration. In two of the 11 cases, the group was able to review medical records.

The report, "Broken Laws, Broken Lives," concurs with a five-part McClatchy investigation of Guantanamo published this week. Among its findings were that abuses occurred - primarily at prisons in Afghanistan where detainees were held en route to Guantanamo - and that many of the prisoners were wrongly detained.

Also this week, a probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed how senior Pentagon officials pushed for harsher interrogation methods over the objections of top military lawyers. Those methods later surfaced in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld didn't specifically approve of the worst abuses, but neither he nor the White House enforced strict limits on how detainees would be treated.

There was no "bright line of abuse which could not be transgressed," former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora told the Senate committee.

Leonard Rubenstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, said there was a direct connection between the Pentagon decisions and the abuses his group uncovered. "The result was a horrific stew of pain, degradation and ... suffering," he said.

Detainee abuse has been documented previously, in photos from Abu Ghraib, accounts by former detainees and their lawyers and a confidential report by the International Committee for the Red Cross that was leaked to the U.S. news media.

Of the 11 men evaluated in the Physicians for Human Rights report, four were detained in Afghanistan between late 2001 and early 2003, and later sent to Guantanamo. The remaining seven were detained in Iraq in 2003.

One of the Iraqis, identified by the pseudonym Laith, was arrested with his family at his Baghdad home in the early morning of Oct. 19, 2003. He was taken to a location where he was beaten, stripped to his underwear and threatened with execution, the report says.

"Laith" told the examiners he was then taken to a second site, where he was photographed in humiliating positions and given electric shocks to his genitals.

Finally, he was taken to Abu Ghraib, where he spent the first 35 to 40 days in isolation in a small cage, enduring being suspended in the cage and other "stress positions."

He was released on June 24, 2004, without charge.

Torture Used to Link Saddam With 9/11

by: Marjorie Cohn, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

(Photo: Marc Serota / Reuters)

Soldiers wheel detainee to interogation room at Guantanamo.

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Arizona) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks that I didn't believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury's 2005 memos asserted that "enhanced techniques" on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in The New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh tec hniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush's illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

President Obama released the four memos in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the ACLU. They describe unimaginably brutal techniques and provide "legal" justification for clearly illegal acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In the face of monumental pressure from the CIA to keep them secret, Obama demonstrated great courage in deciding to make the grotesque memos public. At the same time, however, in an attempt to pacify the intelligence establishment, Obama said, "it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."

In startlingly clinical and dispassionate terms, the authors of the newly released torture memos describe and then rationalize why the devastating techniques the CIA sought to employ on human beings do not violate the Torture Statute (18 U.S.C. sec. 2340).

The memos justify 10 techniques, including banging heads into walls 30 times in a row, prolonged nudity, repeated slapping, dietary manipulation, and dousing with cold water as low as 41 degrees. They allow shackling in a standing position for 180 hours, sleep deprivation for 11 days, confinement of people in small dark boxes with insects for hours, and waterboarding to create the perception they are drowning. Moreover, the memos permit many of these techniques to be used in combination for a 30-day period. They find that none of these techniques constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Waterboarding, admittedly the most serious of the methods, is designed, according to Jay Bybee, to induce the perception of "suffocation and incipient panic, i.e. the perception of drowning." But although Bybee finds that "the use of the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death," he accepts the CIA's claim that it does "not anticipate that any prolonged mental harm would result from the use of the waterboard." One of Bradbury's memos requires that a physician be on duty during waterboarding to perform a tracheotomy in case the victim doesn't recover after being returned to an upright position.

As psychologist Jeffrey Kaye points out, the CIA and the Justice Department "ignored a wealth of other published information" that indicates dissociative symptoms, changes greater than those in patients undergoing heart surgery, and drops in testosterone to castration levels after acute stress associated with techniques that the memos sanction.

The Torture Statute punishes conduct, or conspiracy to engage in conduct, specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering. "Severe mental pain or suffering" means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from either the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering, or from the threat of imminent death.

Bybee asserts that "if a defendant acts with the good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent." He makes the novel claim that the presence of personnel with medical training who can stop the interrogation if medically necessary "indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain."

Now a federal judge with a lifetime appointment, Bybee concludes that waterboarding does not constitute torture under the Torture Statute. However, he writes, "we cannot predict with confidence whether a court would agree with this conclusion."

Bybee's memo explains why the 10 techniques could be used on Abu Zubaydah, who was considered to be a top al-Qaeda operative. "Zubaydah does not have any pre-existing mental conditions or problems that would make him likely to suffer prolonged mental harm from [the CIA's] proposed interrogation methods," the CIA told Bybee. But Zubaydah was a low-ranking al-Qaeda operative, according to leading FBI counterterrorism expert Dan Coleman, who advised a top FBI official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." This was reported by Ron Suskind in his book, "The One Percent Doctrine."

The CIA's request to confine Zubaydah in a cramped box with an insect was granted by Bybee, who told the CIA it could place a harmless insect in the box and tell Zubaydah that it will sting him but it won't kill him. Even though the CIA knew that Zubaydah had an irrational fear of insects, Bybee found there would be no threat of severe physical pain or suffering if it followed this procedure.

Obama's intent to immunize those who violated our laws banning torture and cruel treatment violates the president's constitutional duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

US law prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and requires that those who subject people to such treatment be prosecuted. The Convention against Torture compels us to refer all torture cases for prosecution or extradite the suspect to a country that will undertake a criminal investigation.

Obama has made a political calculation to seek amnesty for the CIA torturers. However, good-faith reliance on superior orders was rejected as a defense at Nuremberg and in Lieutenant Calley's Vietnam-era trial for the My Lai Massacre. The Torture Convention provides unequivocally, "An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for torture."

There is evidence that the CIA was using the illegal techniques as early as April 2002, three to four months before the August memo was written. That would eliminate "good-faith" reliance on Justice Department advice as a "defense" to prosecution.

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Condoleezza Rice approved waterboarding on July 17, 2002, "subject to a determination of legality by the OLC." She got it two weeks later from Bybee and John Yoo. Rice, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and George Tenet reassured the CIA in spring 2003 that the abusive methods were legal.

Obama told The Associated Press's Jennifer Loven in the Oval Office: "With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the Attorney General within the parameters of various laws, and I don't want to prejudge that." If Holder continues to carry out Obama's political agenda by resisting investigations and prosecution, Congress can, and should, authorize the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to do what the law requires.

The president must fulfill his constitutional duty to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Obama said that "nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past." He is wrong. There is more to gain from upholding the rule of law. It will make future leaders think twice before they authorize the cruel, illegal treatment of other human beings.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild. She is author of "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law" and co-author of the new book, "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent." Her articles are archived at

Friday, April 24, 2009

Truth, Justice and the American Way

Political Verse
by Dee Newman

Our often-proclaimed arrogant belief
That the United States is the greatest
Nation in the world is one of the chief
Reasons why so many people hate us.

Given our history of discrimination
And that our journey toward justice for all
Remains an unfulfilled aspiration,
The truth is, we’re not that exceptional.

When our fears corrupt what we aim to be
And our means are justified by the end,
We often surrender what we claim to be
Fighting so hard to protect and defend.

Once interrogation techniques were "enhanced"
And torture deemed an acceptable tool
Within an exceptional circumstance,
The exception, once more, became the rule.

Truth, justice and the American way
Are all equally beckoning us toward
A real reckoning for all those who may
Have not, as yet, received their just reward.

Click here to read my first political verse on torture.
Or here to read another.

Countdown: There's No Debate. Waterboarding Is Illegal

The defense of the torture-enablers has been to say that the debate about torture is all a matter of policy differences. Keith Olbermann does an outstanding job of exposing the stack of lies on which this so-called “honest policy debate” is supported in the following segment from Countdown:

Review Sought of Ex-Alabama Governor's Conviction

According to a report in the New York Times 75 former state attorneys general, both Democrats and Republicans, have written to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he should personally review the file relating to former Alabama Governor Don E. Siegelman. The attorneys general cited: “gravely troublesome facts” about his prosecution that raise questions about the fairness and due process of the trial. “We believe that if prosecutorial misconduct is found, as in the case of Senator Ted Stevens, then dismissal should follow in this case as well,” the group said in the letter, which was organized by Robert Abrams, a former attorney general of New York.

Is Karl Rove Scared About Possible Torture Prosecutions?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Celebration of the Life of Elmore Hill

by Chris Hill

I think I speak for everyone in the family when I say that this is overwhelming, and we are truly blessed by your presence here today. I don’t intend to tell any specific stories about Dad. You probably already know them all, and you may or may not know that although each story contains an element of truth, they are for the most part highly fictionalized. I just wanted to share a few of the salient messages that rang through to me from the way he lived his life.

1. As a young boy I found out that “oral surgeon” is different, perhaps even better than “dentist”, and it is proper to correct people on this point for the sake of accuracy.

2. By observing Dad, we discovered that being a man means that you are on friendly terms with everybody…..I mean EVERYBODY, no exceptions. If it is true that in a perfect world, one would have no enemies, then Dad lived in that world. During the last 10 years of his life, he stopped trying to remember names, and if he encountered somebody who recognized him in public, he would just wave and say, “Hi friend”. I know because he used this strategy with me a couple of times. OK, not really, he knew who I was.

3. Even if you have no enemies, frustrations are inevitable in life and it is important to vent one’s frustrations. Verbal and/or physical abuse is OK as long as it is directed at inanimate objects, such as a lawnmower, a golf club, a steering wheel, or occasionally a telephone. It is never, ever OK, however, to demonstrate aggression towards a person.

4. It’s OK for a man to cry during times of sadness or loss and even during relatively lame, made-for-TV, based on true story football movies about the life of Brian Piccolo. And if you cry every year when this movie comes on, it helps your family know that you have a soft heart.

5. It doesn’t matter what car you drive as long as it is the only one of its kind in town and difficult to get into and out of. Additionally, if your car has a fancy emblem or flag on it, it will be easier to find in the parking lot.

6. It is much more satisfying to entertain those around you than to exert control or wield power over people. Further, it’s OK, even good, to be the butt of a joke if it enhances the collective morale of a group.

7. It is important to honor your mother and father (or in his case, your older brother who was like a father to you). It is even more important to honor and uphold your wedding vows.

8. Hard work, whether in the office or in the yard, is to be relished and performed to the point of exhaustion for maximum enjoyment. It should then be followed by intense play.

9. To achieve richness in life, it is better to accumulate experiences with loved ones than to gather wealth.

10. Gratitude is a much better approach to old age than bitterness.

11. And finally, if he said it to me once, he said it a thousand times – “Son, if you’re gonna do something, do it RIGHT”. Well, judging from the outpouring of love that we’ve felt in the past 3 days, I’d say that he did a few things right. Can I get an “amen” on that! (“AMEN”) Wow, that felt good.

Lord, I pray that you would rain down peace and comfort on Cece in the coming weeks and months, and, for the rest of the Hill family, I ask that you help us to conduct our lives in a manner worthy of the legacy that Papa Elmore has passed to us. I pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen. Thank you.

Countdown: More than a Few Bad Apples in the Bush Administration

Countdown: Cheney in denial about Torture

Countdown: Bush Torture Techniques Failed to Link Hussein and al-Qaeda

Fox News: Shepard Smith, "We are America! I don't give a rat's ass if it helps. We do not fucking torture!"

On's online show The Strategy Room, Smith took his opposition to a whole other level. "We are America!" he shouted, slamming his hand on the table. "I don't give a rat's ass if it helps. We are AMERICA! We do not fucking torture!!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dr. Elmore Hill Dies

From the Nashville Tennessean

Dr. Elmore Hill, Age 87 of Nashville, TN, passed away at home Monday, April 20, 2009. Preceded in death by parents, Elmore and Aurora Hill, and brother, Dr. Cleo Miller. Survived by his wife of 54 years, Cynthia Carpenter Hill and their five children, Deborah Wren Hill, Elmore Hill, Jr. (Jess), John Wilkin Hill (Jill), Christopher Carpenter Hill (Laura), Tracey Hill Woodward (Fred); and his 10 adoring grandchildren, Becca, Morey, Noni, Jonas, Liza, Ryan, Sarah, Ben, Freddie and Cynthia; his nieces, Jean Ann McNally (Michael), Berenice Denton (Jimmy) and nephews, Jack Miller (Ann Riley) and Jimmy Miller. He graduated from Duncan Preparatory School and Vanderbilt University before going to University of Louisville Dental School. He interned at Johns Hopkins University and then trained in Oral Surgery in Chattanooga and Birmingham before joining his friend and partner, Dr. Edward Martin, in a practice lasting 45 years. He was a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, Belle Meade Country Club, the Society of Amateur Chefs, the Southeastern Oral-maxillofacial Society, the Donut Den "Social Club", and Westminster Presbyterian Church. He will be remembered as a man who dearly loved his family and friends, and was always grateful for God's many blessings in his life. A Memorial service will be conducted at 11 a.m. Thursday, at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Visitation will be from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday and from 10-11 a.m. Thursday, at Westminster. Memorials may be sent to Westminster Presbyterian Church or to the charity of your choice. MARSHALL DONNELLY COMBS, (615) 327-1111.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breaking News: The President Leaves Prosecutions Up to the Attonery General

I told you the left, the right and the press had "over-read" his statements.

Eugene Robinson wins the 2009 Pulitzer Prize

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson wins the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary with a selection of op-ed columns focusing on the 2008 presidential campaign.

No Longer Unimaginable

Barack Obama may not be elected president, but it's impossible to deny that what we are witnessing is something new.

What's Gotten Into Bill?
Why the former president has traded silver-maned statesmanship for red-faced anger.

Cards >From a Worn-Out Deck
Playing the race card against Barack Obama didn't work out quite the way Bill Clinton had hoped.

If Obama Went 0-for-10 . . .
How long will it take Hillary Clinton to realize that she has almost no chance in this election?

Geraldo's (Black) Discovery
How weird is this presidential election? So weird that I'm about to give a nod of appreciation (of sorts) to Geraldo Rivera, of all people -- and also to, gulp, Fox News.

What He Overcame
Take a moment to consider the mind-bending improbability of what Obama just accomplished.

Two Black Americas

There is one group of black Americans that has achieved success and one that hasn't.

A Special Brand Of Patriotism

African-Americans' love of country may be complicated, but it is deep and strong.

Last Chapter of a Storybook Campaign

When it's over, what will we do to fill the void in our lives?

Morning in America
Why this election provoked such a deeply emotional reaction.

Keith Olbermann: Torture Accountability

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day: Bruce Wood and BURNT

by Dee Newman

Yesterday, I went to the Earth Day gathering at Centennial Park. According to Metro Parks an estimated 10,000 people were there on Saturday for the city's official Earth Day celebration. The theme this year was working together for a greener Nashville.

All the usual suspects were there occupying the booths – from local solar and recycling companies to vendors offering organic and natural food and green building materials. There were, as always, many activists and non-profit organizations and groups to educate the public about their specific missions, goals, efforts and concerns.

Every year I always meet new and interesting folks during the festival, as well as, bump into some old friends I haven’t seen in a while. Yesterday was no exception.

I ended up talking with an old activist friend of mine, Bruce Wood, the founder and president of BRUNT (Bring Urban Recycling to Nashville Today). Despite being sick with the flu for a week, Bruce was there helping to man their booth. For those of you who do not know Bruce or know about BRUNT, let me tell you few things.

BURNT was formed back in 1988 to oppose the $200 million expansion of the downtown trash incinerator and the city’s proposed planned for a $100 million solid waste processor connected to the expanded incinerator.

Originally, BURNT opposed the expansion of the incinerator only on environmental grounds, but they soon discovered that more valuable property would be needed with an expansion of the solid waste processor.

By 1991, the year they successively thwarted the expansion of the incinerator, they had already become active in clean air issues and the use of pesticide in the Metro Schools.

Today, BURNT's mission is to promote a toxic-free environment for Nashville and surrounding areas by promoting recycling, pesticide reform and citizen activism within the governmental process.

They believe that by making the community aware of conditions that endanger local air and water quality, sharing information on realistic alternatives to the use and production of environmental toxins, and promoting the recycling and reuse of manufactured goods their goals can be achieved.

They are currently involved in a number of environmental issues – from solid waste reform to organizing an effort to prevent the “recycling of toxic sludge as fertilizer” by the city of Nashville.

If you would like to know more about BURNT or become a supporting member, click here to go to their website:

Maddow: Bart Gellman on Cheney

These Are the First Dominoes

by Dee Newman

We are not a great nation (no matter how many times we tell ourselves otherwise) unless we have the courage to publicly admit our mistakes and take responsibility for them.

Despite Michael Hayden’s (the former Bush Administration C.I.A. Director) and Michael Mukasey’s (the former Bush Administration Attorney General) Wall Street Journal op-ed article and criticism of President Obama’s decision to declassify four of the infamous Bush administration’s “torture memos,” the President’s decision was not only correct, it was an enormous victory for the American people and defenders of the Constitution.

Hayden’s and Mukasey’s claim that President Obama’s release of the four “torture memos” have actually helped terrorists by revealing secret torture techniques that he and other presidents may want to use in the future is spurious.

Other Republican claims that declassifying the details of the Bush Administration’s “enhance interrogation techniques” by President Obama will, somehow, allow al Qaeda operatives to be trained to resist the rigors of captivity and interrogation is equally bogus.

The Bush Administration’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” were leaked and disclosed to the public years ago and have been thoroughly discussed in the world press.

A recently released report from the International Red Cross contains detailed descriptions of the techniques sanctioned by the Bush Administration and used by the CIA and other government officials – such things as face-slapping; smashing suspects against a wall; confinement in small boxes; prolonged nudity; sleep deprivation; and yes, waterboarding. The same techniques detailed in the four “torture memos” released by the White House last Thursday.

The only technique that was new to the public in the memos was the use of an insect for a specific prisoner with an insect phobia.

What was actually revealed in the memos was not any new techniques unknown to terrorists, but the moral character of the Bush administration’s efforts to legalize and justify them.

Let’s be honest. It’s not extremely difficult to understand why Republicans and ex-Bush Administration officials (like Hayden and Mukasey) would want the Bush Administration’s illegal and immoral efforts to justify torture to remain secret.

Furthermore, the Bush Administration’s decisions to treat the Geneva Conventions as out-of-date, old fashion and “quaint” was not only immoral and un-American, it was illegal. Torture cannot be legally justified. Nor, does it produce useful intelligence. It does though, in fact, recruit terrorists. And, it endangers every U.S. soldier who may be captured in the future.

Any future President, who may wish to resorts to these techniques, needs to know that he or she will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Contrary to what has been claimed by the far left and the far right and what has been reported in the press, President Obama’s statement accompanying the release of the “torture memos,” did not, in fact, rule out any prosecution of officials involved in the Bush Administration’s torture programs.

Many in the media and on both sides of the political spectrum, it seems, have over-read the President’s statement.

What he said was this: "In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution."

When read carefully, the President only singled-out and assured those who carried out their duties "in good faith" would not be subject to legal prosecution.

He said nothing about what legal consequences might be in store for those interrogators who went beyond what the torture memos condoned. Nor, did he mention the legal fate of those who wrote the torture memos and those who created the torture program in the first place.

Torture is illegal! It is unconstitutional! The United States ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits torture and requires prosecution of torturers. The United States has prosecuted others for utilizing techniques describe in the “torture memos," including waterboarding.

No matter how good a lawyer you may be, you cannot justify or "legalize" what is illegal.

It is time for Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate this matter.

It is time for the Justice Department to make public the internal ethics report that is widely understood to be highly critical of the top Bush lawyers who drafted the “enhance interrogation memos,” including Jay S. Bybee, John C. Yoo and Steven G. Bradbury.

When released to the public the report should include referrals to state bar associations, which have the power to reprimand or disbar their members.

If our leaders are found to have violated our nation’s laws against torture by crafting and fabricating legal falsehood to justify torturing detainees, they should be criminally prosecuted.

The American Civil Liberties Union, whose lawsuit forced the release of the Justice Department memos last Thursday, plans to press the Justice Department to release other classified documents from the Bush era.

The lead attorney for the A.C.L.U., Jameel Jaffer, recently said, “These are the first dominoes . . . It will be difficult for the new administration to now argue that other documents can be lawfully withheld.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Comedian Dick Gregory to Fast Until End of Nation’s Economy Crisis

March 16, 2009 by Stage Time Magazine

Comedy legend, Dick Gregory, 76, announced on the radio and television shows of Don Imus and Joe Madison that he “will not eat another bite of solid food until there is an end to these intolerable economic conditions for the people of this country.”

Gregory vowed to continue a daily prayer vigil for the “humanity and dignity of the American people who are suffering from this tragic economic distress.”

“The media has focused on ‘corporate greed’ but that’s just a small part of it,” Gregory tells Imus. “There’s also a total lack of simple humanity that has destroyed this nation’s heart and soul. It’s time we reach out to help our brothers and sisters to stop the neglect of everyone, the elderly folks who have lost their pensions, the workers who have lost their jobs, the families who have lost their homes, and the parents who have had to give their children up for foster care.”

“My fast will consist of four days of just liquids, two days of just water and one day of nothing at all but the air that I breath.”

Published on Monday, March 16 at 3:48 am. Written by Stage Time Magazine

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Bathroom

by Donna Lee Rivers

I find myself thinking of Mother's Day. My birthday. Little children without a mother. A child with no home. Planting flowers. Seeing a pretty bird. Spring in the air. Birds nesting. A butterfly. Driving a car, singing. A good yard sale. A house for sale. A seashell. The ocean. The desert. The sun shining in the rain. A rainbow. The stars. Wishing upon a star. Looking at Mars. A smile from a child. A tear drop. Banana pudding. Peanut butter-banana sandwich. Elvis singing Blue Suede Shoes. Taking a trip. Driving a VW van. Hippies. Woodstock. Otis sittin' on the dock of the bay. Lookout Mountain. My sisters. Where did everyone go? Time. Time in a bottle. A good book. Bubble bath. The bathroom alone, talking with you. I close my eyes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

There's More to the Story Than What We've Been Told

by Dee Newman

Both the vision and the decision
To pursue Captain Phillips’ rescue
Was achieved with cool, calm precision,
Revealing to the world, and us too,
That we are finally in the hands
Of a person worthy of our trust,
A leader who clearly understands
What is truly in the interest
Of our nation and what is not.
Though, there’s much for us to celebrate,
There is more to the story than what
The western media has, to date,
Reported. Those, who we have reviled
As pirates, the Somali’s regard
As heroes, defenders of their defiled
Waters – their “Volunteer Coastguard.”
Giant European trawlers have been
Looting their coastal waters for years.
Others have dumped tons of toxic waste in
The Indian Ocean that appears,
Later, washed up on Somali shores.
Whole villages have been infected
With fatal afflictions and oozing sores–
Facts about which our press neglected
To inform us. Not until we end
Our exploitation of their nation’s
Natural resources and defend
Their rights and aspirations,
Will Somali’s, once again, ensure
Our ships safe passage without seizure.

To learn more click here: Johann Hari: You are being lied to about pirates
Or here: William Rivers Pitt: The Barbary Wars, Continued

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dan Miller: An Authentically Kind, Southern Gentleman

by Dee Newman

I will never forget the moment I first met Dan Miller. It was over thirty years ago in the late 1970s. I was leaving the old H. G. Hill grocery store on West End Avenue across from the Bell Meade Theater. As I approached the door with my arms full of groceries suddenly a large figure rushed by me. A very tall, strikingly handsome man who I immediately recognized opened the door for me. It was Dan Miller. I thanked him. I don’t remember much of what we talked about as we walked to our cars, only the impression he left with me – that I had just met an authentically kind, southern gentleman.

Last week Dan Miller died of a heart attack in his hometown of Augusta, Georgia.

His good friend and colleague, Channel 4’s Sports Director Rudy Kalis was with him when he died. After eating dinner together the two of them went for a walk through Dan’s old neighborhood where he grew up.

“ . . . we were walking and he was telling me the same things he told me last year. Who lived here, who lived there, we went in front of his old house where he was raised. And then, he really got short of breath a little bit and we had to stop a couple of times . . . starting to walk back . . . all of a sudden he grabbed my arm and collapsed . . . We were there on the street, and I was trying to help him as best I could . . . A car came at us and I flagged them down, and they stopped and two guys came out and I said, 'Call 911!' . . . I kept trying to work on Dan . . . the emergency vehicles got there very quickly . . . in 5 minutes or so and I gave it over to them . . . they took him to the hospital and we followed . . . It really scared me because the way he fell, he grabbed my arm, and the way he looked at me. My dear friend. (I did) resuscitation as best I knew how. I just didn't know, but believe me, I knew it was serious. My heart was racing, and I was doing a lot of praying . . .”

According to those who knew him best, the man who for nearly forty years we nightly invited into our homes was truly what he appeared to be on air – a genuinely nice guy. There was no pretense about him.

For those who knew him and those of us who devotedly read his Blog we also knew him to be a lover of a good story and good laugh. He not only appreciated a good story, he knew how to tell one. Read his Blog.

I’m sure he would (more than most of us) appreciate the story of his death – that he would die in his hometown, walking the streets of his boyhood in April in Augusta during the week of the Masters with two of his best friends, Rudy Kalis and Terry Bulger, though sad, is satisfyingly sweet.

Back in February of this year Dan wrote the following on his Blog:

By Dan Miller

Keep reading, because I'm going to reveal to you the best recording of a song ever done, and even let you listen to it.

In selecting the best recording, I'm taking into consideration the arrangement... the orchestration... the quality of the recording... the vocal performance... and, of course, the song itself.

Impossible you say?
Too subjective?
Too many recordings to pick from?
All that is true.
But since I'm the one writing this, I get to pick.
And I've been listening to this particular selection for almost half a century, and still haven't heard anything that tops it.

A person who likes only country music might suggest it's one of Johnny Cash's gems, or perhaps Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline.
Opera fans might select from the work of Luciano Pavarotti or Leontyne Price.
Those who like big band music would lean toward something recorded by Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman.
Rock historians could turn to the recordings of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin or perhaps Lynard Skynard's classic "Free Bird." Gospel fans might say Mahalia Jackson surely made the best recording ever.
Jazz aficionados might find their best among the hundreds of Louis Armstrong's tracks.
All could be worthy places to look.

From time to time I've discussed with my son Stephen -- who's a long time appreciator and player of rock music -- what's the best ever recording.... and even he (sort of) agrees with me on this one.
And it's definitely not a rock song.

Here it is.
Based on all the considerations and criteria I mentioned above, I believe the best ever recording of a song is Nat King Cole's understated, dreamy rendition of Hoagy Carmichael's 1927 composition "Stardust."

It was recorded at Capitol Records for inclusion in Nat King Cole's 1957 album "Love Is The Thing."
It was arranged and conducted by Gordon Jenkins.
If you're not familiar with this particular recording, or if you haven't heard it in a while, I found several offerings on YouTube....
CLICK HERE and listen.

As Dan said, "If you know of any recording that's better, let me know, I'd like to hear it."

Dan, though we dream in vain, in our hearts you will remain, our stardust melody, the memory of loves refrain.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

EarthSave International: Healthy People Healthy Planet

EarthSave promotes a shift toward a healthy plant-based diet.

EarthSave Report:
A New Global Warming Strategy:

How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes
by Noam Mohr

Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment ever faced in human history. Yet by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. As a result, they are neglecting what might be the most effective strategy for reducing global warming in our lifetimes: advocating a vegetarian diet.

Global Warming and Carbon Dioxide
The environmental community rightly recognizes global warming as one of the gravest threats to the planet. Global temperatures are already higher than they've ever been in at least the past millennium, and the increase is accelerating even faster than scientists had predicted. The expected consequences include coastal flooding, increases in extreme weather, spreading disease, and mass extinctions.

Unfortunately, the environmental community has focused its efforts almost exclusively on abating carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Domestic legislative efforts concentrate on raising fuel economy standards, capping CO2 emissions from power plants, and investing in alternative energy sources. Recommendations to consumers also focus on CO2: buy fuel-efficient cars and appliances, and minimize their use. ,

This is a serious miscalculation. Data published by Dr. James Hansen and others show that CO2 emissions are not the main cause of observed atmospheric warming. Though this may sound like the work of global warming skeptics, it isn't: Hansen is Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies who has been called "a grandfather of the global warming theory." He is a longtime supporter of action against global warming, cited by Al Gore and often quoted by environmental organizations, who has argued against skeptics for subverting the scientific process. His results are generally accepted by global warming experts, including bigwigs like Dr. James McCarthy, co-chair of the International Panel on Climate Change's Working Group II.

The focus solely on CO2 is fueled in part by misconceptions. It's true that human activity produces vastly more CO2 than all other greenhouse gases put together. However, this does not mean it is responsible for most of the earth's warming. Many other greenhouse gases trap heat far more powerfully than CO2, some of them tens of thousands of times more powerfully. When taking into account various gases, global warming potential, defined as the amount of actual warming a gas will produce over the next one hundred years, it turns out that gases other than CO2 make up most of the global warming problem.

Even this overstates the effect of CO2, because the primary sources of these emissions, cars and power plants, also produce aerosols. Aerosols actually have a cooling effect on global temperatures, and the magnitude of this cooling approximately cancels out the warming effect of CO2. The surprising result is that sources of CO2 emissions are having roughly zero effect on global temperatures in the near-term!

This result is not widely known in the environmental community, due to a fear that polluting industries will use it to excuse their greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the Union of Concerned Scientists had the data reviewed by other climate experts, who affirmed Hansen's conclusions. However, the organization also cited climate contrarians' misuse of the data to argue against curbs in CO2. This contrarian spin cannot be justified.

While CO2 may have little influence in the near-term, reductions remains critical for containing climate change in the long run. Aerosols are short-lived, settling out of the air after a few months, while CO2 continues to heat the atmosphere for decades to centuries. Moreover, we cannot assume that aerosol emissions will keep pace with increases in CO2 emissions. If we fail start dealing with CO2 today, it will be too late down the road when the emissions catch up with us.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that sources of non-CO2 greenhouse gases are responsible for virtually all the global warming we're seeing, and all the global warming we are going to see for the next fifty years. If we wish to curb global warming over the coming half century, we must look at strategies to address non-CO2 emissions. The strategy with the most impact is vegetarianism.

Methane and Vegetarianism

By far the most important non-CO2 greenhouse gas is methane, and the number one source of methane worldwide is animal agriculture.

Methane is responsible for nearly as much global warming as all other non-CO2 greenhouse gases put together. Methane is 21 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2. While atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have risen by about 31% since pre-industrial times, methane concentrations have more than doubled. Whereas human sources of CO2 amount to just 3% of natural emissions, human sources produce one and a half times as much methane as all natural sources. In fact, the effect of our methane emissions may be compounded as methane-induced warming in turn stimulates microbial decay of organic matter in wetlands – the primary natural source of methane.

With methane emissions causing nearly half of the planet's human-induced warming, methane reduction must be a priority. Methane is produced by a number of sources, including coal mining and landfills, but the number one source worldwide is animal agriculture. Animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. And this source is on the rise: global meat consumption has increased fivefold in the past fifty years, and shows little sign of abating. About 85% of this methane is produced in the digestive processes of livestock, and while a single cow releases a relatively small amount of methane, the collective effect on the environment of the hundreds of millions of livestock animals worldwide is enormous. An additional 15% of animal agricultural methane emissions are released from the massive "lagoons" used to store untreated farm animal waste, and already a target of environmentalists for their role as the number one source of water pollution in the U.S.

The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), , , we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.

Advantages of Vegetarianism over CO2 Reduction

In addition to having the advantage of immediately reducing global warming, a shift away from methane-emitting food sources is much easier than cutting carbon dioxide.

First, there is no limit to reductions in this source of greenhouse gas that can be achieved through vegetarian diet. In principle, even 100% reduction could be achieved with little negative impact. In contrast, similar cuts in carbon dioxide are impossible without devastating effects on the economy. Even the most ambitious carbon dioxide reduction strategies fall short of cutting emissions by half.

Second, shifts in diet lower greenhouse gas emissions much more quickly than shifts away from the fossil fuel burning technologies that emit carbon dioxide. The turnover rate for most ruminant farm animals is one or two years, so that decreases in meat consumption would result in almost immediate drops in methane emissions. The turnover rate for cars and power plants, on the other hand, can be decades. Even if cheap, zero-emission fuel sources were available today, they would take many years to build and slowly replace the massive infrastructure our economy depends upon today.

Similarly, unlike carbon dioxide which can remain in the air for more than a century, methane cycles out of the atmosphere in just eight years, so that lower methane emissions quickly translate to cooling of the earth.

Third, efforts to cut carbon dioxide involve fighting powerful and wealthy business interests like the auto and oil industries. Environmental groups have been lobbying for years to make fuel-efficient SUVs available or phase out power plants that don't meet modern environmental standards without success. At the same time, vegetarian foods are readily available, and cuts in agricultural methane emissions are achievable at every meal.

Also, polls show that concern about global warming is widespread, and environmental activists often feel helpless to do anything about it. Unless they happen to be buying a car or major appliance, most people wanting to make a difference are given little to do aside from writing their legislators and turning off their lights. Reducing or eliminating meat consumption is something concerned citizens can do every day to help the planet.

Finally, it is worth noting that reductions in this source of greenhouse gas have many beneficial side effects for the environment. Less methane results in less tropospheric ozone, a pollutant damaging to human health and agriculture. Moreover, the same factory farms responsible for these methane emissions also use up most of the country's water supply, and denude most of its wilderness for rangeland and growing feed. Creating rangeland to feed western nations' growing appetite for meat has been a major source of deforestation and desertification in third world countries. Factory farm waste lagoons are a leading source of water pollution in the U.S. Indeed, because of animal agriculture's high demand for fossil fuels, the average American diet is far more CO2-polluting than a plant-based one.


# Organizations should consider making advocating vegetarianism a major part of their global warming campaigns. At a minimum, environmental advocates should mention vegetarianism in any information about actions individuals can take to address global warming.
# Government policy should encourage vegetarian diets. Possible mechanisms include an environmental tax on meat similar to one already recommended on gasoline, a shift in farm subsidies to encourage plant agriculture over animal agriculture, or an increased emphasis on vegetarian foods in government-run programs like the school lunch program or food stamps.

Bill Moyers Journal: "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One"

April 3, 2009

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.

For months now, revelations of the wholesale greed and blatant transgressions of Wall Street have reminded us that "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." In fact, the man you're about to meet wrote a book with just that title. It was based upon his experience as a tough regulator during one of the darkest chapters in our financial history: the savings and loan scandal in the late 1980s.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: These numbers as large as they are, vastly understate the problem of fraud.

BILL MOYERS: Bill Black was in New York this week for a conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice where scholars and journalists gathered to ask the question, "How do they get away with it?" Well, no one has asked that question more often than Bill Black.

The former Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention now teaches Economics and Law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. During the savings and loan crisis, it was Black who accused then-house speaker Jim Wright and five US Senators, including John Glenn and John McCain, of doing favors for the S&L's in exchange for contributions and other perks. The senators got off with a slap on the wrist, but so enraged was one of those bankers, Charles Keating — after whom the senate's so-called "Keating Five" were named — he sent a memo that read, in part, "get Black — kill him dead." Metaphorically, of course. Of course.

Now Black is focused on an even greater scandal, and he spares no one — not even the President he worked hard to elect, Barack Obama. But his main targets are the Wall Street barons, heirs of an earlier generation whose scandalous rip-offs of wealth back in the 1930s earned them comparison to Al Capone and the mob, and the nickname "banksters."

Bill Black, welcome to the Journal.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: I was taken with your candor at the conference here in New York to hear you say that this crisis we're going through, this economic and financial meltdown is driven by fraud. What's your definition of fraud?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Fraud is deceit. And the essence of fraud is, "I create trust in you, and then I betray that trust, and get you to give me something of value." And as a result, there's no more effective acid against trust than fraud, especially fraud by top elites, and that's what we have.

BILL MOYERS: In your book, you make it clear that calculated dishonesty by people in charge is at the heart of most large corporate failures and scandals, including, of course, the S&L, but is that true? Is that what you're saying here, that it was in the boardrooms and the CEO offices where this fraud began?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: How did they do it? What do you mean?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, the way that you do it is to make really bad loans, because they pay better. Then you grow extremely rapidly, in other words, you're a Ponzi-like scheme. And the third thing you do is we call it leverage. That just means borrowing a lot of money, and the combination creates a situation where you have guaranteed record profits in the early years. That makes you rich, through the bonuses that modern executive compensation has produced. It also makes it inevitable that there's going to be a disaster down the road.

BILL MOYERS: So you're suggesting, saying that CEOs of some of these banks and mortgage firms in order to increase their own personal income, deliberately set out to make bad loans?


BILL MOYERS: How do they get away with it? I mean, what about their own checks and balances in the company? What about their accounting divisions?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: All of those checks and balances report to the CEO, so if the CEO goes bad, all of the checks and balances are easily overcome. And the art form is not simply to defeat those internal controls, but to suborn them, to turn them into your greatest allies. And the bonus programs are exactly how you do that.

BILL MOYERS: If I wanted to go looking for the parties to this, with a good bird dog, where would you send me?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, that's exactly what hasn't happened. We haven't looked, all right? The Bush Administration essentially got rid of regulation, so if nobody was looking, you were able to do this with impunity and that's exactly what happened. Where would you look? You'd look at the specialty lenders. The lenders that did almost all of their work in the sub-prime and what's called Alt-A, liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Liars' loans--

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: Why did they call them liars' loans?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Because they were liars' loans.

BILL MOYERS: And they knew it?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: They knew it. They knew that they were frauds.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Liars' loans mean that we don't check. You tell us what your income is. You tell us what your job is. You tell us what your assets are, and we agree to believe you. We won't check on any of those things. And by the way, you get a better deal if you inflate your income and your job history and your assets.

BILL MOYERS: You think they really said that to borrowers?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: We know that they said that to borrowers. In fact, they were also called, in the trade, ninja loans.


WILLIAM K. BLACK: Yeah, because no income verification, no job verification, no asset verification.

BILL MOYERS: You're talking about significant American companies.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Huge! One company produced as many losses as the entire Savings and Loan debacle.

BILL MOYERS: Which company?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: IndyMac specialized in making liars' loans. In 2006 alone, it sold $80 billion dollars of liars' loans to other companies. $80 billion.

BILL MOYERS: And was this happening exclusively in this sub-prime mortgage business?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: No, and that's a big part of the story as well. Even prime loans began to have non-verification. Even Ronald Reagan, you know, said, "Trust, but verify." They just gutted the verification process. We know that will produce enormous fraud, under economic theory, criminology theory, and two thousand years of life experience.

BILL MOYERS: Is it possible that these complex instruments were deliberately created so swindlers could exploit them?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Oh, absolutely. This stuff, the exotic stuff that you're talking about was created out of things like liars' loans, that were known to be extraordinarily bad. And now it was getting triple-A ratings. Now a triple-A rating is supposed to mean there is zero credit risk. So you take something that not only has significant, it has crushing risk. That's why it's toxic. And you create this fiction that it has zero risk. That itself, of course, is a fraudulent exercise. And again, there was nobody looking, during the Bush years. So finally, only a year ago, we started to have a Congressional investigation of some of these rating agencies, and it's scandalous what came out. What we know now is that the rating agencies never looked at a single loan file. When they finally did look, after the markets had completely collapsed, they found, and I'm quoting Fitch, the smallest of the rating agencies, "the results were disconcerting, in that there was the appearance of fraud in nearly every file we examined."

BILL MOYERS: So if your assumption is correct, your evidence is sound, the bank, the lending company, created a fraud. And the ratings agency that is supposed to test the value of these assets knowingly entered into the fraud. Both parties are committing fraud by intention.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Right, and the investment banker that — we call it pooling — puts together these bad mortgages, these liars' loans, and creates the toxic waste of these derivatives. All of them do that. And then they sell it to the world and the world just thinks because it has a triple-A rating it must actually be safe. Well, instead, there are 60 and 80 percent losses on these things, because of course they, in reality, are toxic waste.

BILL MOYERS: You're describing what Bernie Madoff did to a limited number of people. But you're saying it's systemic, a systemic Ponzi scheme.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Oh, Bernie was a piker. He doesn't even get into the front ranks of a Ponzi scheme...

BILL MOYERS: But you're saying our system became a Ponzi scheme.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Our system...

BILL MOYERS: Our financial system...

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Became a Ponzi scheme. Everybody was buying a pig in the poke. But they were buying a pig in the poke with a pretty pink ribbon, and the pink ribbon said, "Triple-A."

BILL MOYERS: Is there a law against liars' loans?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Not directly, but there, of course, many laws against fraud, and liars' loans are fraudulent.

BILL MOYERS: Because...

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Because they're not going to be repaid and because they had false representations. They involve deceit, which is the essence of fraud.

BILL MOYERS: Why is it so hard to prosecute? Why hasn't anyone been brought to justice over this?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Because they didn't even begin to investigate the major lenders until the market had actually collapsed, which is completely contrary to what we did successfully in the Savings and Loan crisis, right? Even while the institutions were reporting they were the most profitable savings and loan in America, we knew they were frauds. And we were moving to close them down. Here, the Justice Department, even though it very appropriately warned, in 2004, that there was an epidemic...


WILLIAM K. BLACK: The FBI publicly warned, in September 2004 that there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud, that if it was allowed to continue it would produce a crisis at least as large as the Savings and Loan debacle. And that they were going to make sure that they didn't let that happen. So what goes wrong? After 9/11, the attacks, the Justice Department transfers 500 white-collar specialists in the FBI to national terrorism. Well, we can all understand that. But then, the Bush administration refused to replace the missing 500 agents. So even today, again, as you say, this crisis is 1000 times worse, perhaps, certainly 100 times worse, than the Savings and Loan crisis. There are one-fifth as many FBI agents as worked the Savings and Loan crisis.

BILL MOYERS: You talk about the Bush administration. Of course, there's that famous photograph of some of the regulators in 2003, who come to a press conference with a chainsaw suggesting that they're going to slash, cut business loose from regulation, right?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, they succeeded. And in that picture, by the way, the other — three of the other guys with pruning shears are the...

BILL MOYERS: That's right.

WILLIAM K. BLACK: They're the trade representatives. They're the lobbyists for the bankers. And everybody's grinning. The government's working together with the industry to destroy regulation. Well, we now know what happens when you destroy regulation. You get the biggest financial calamity of anybody under the age of 80.

BILL MOYERS: But I can point you to statements by Larry Summers, who was then Bill Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury, or the other Clinton Secretary of the Treasury, Rubin. I can point you to suspects in both parties, right?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: There were two really big things, under the Clinton administration. One, they got rid of the law that came out of the real-world disasters of the Great Depression. We learned a lot of things in the Great Depression. And one is we had to separate what's called commercial banking from investment banking. That's the Glass-Steagall law. But we thought we were much smarter, supposedly. So we got rid of that law, and that was bipartisan. And the other thing is we passed a law, because there was a very good regulator, Brooksley Born, that everybody should know about and probably doesn't. She tried to do the right thing to regulate one of these exotic derivatives that you're talking about. We call them C.D.F.S. And Summers, Rubin, and Phil Gramm came together to say not only will we block this particular regulation. We will pass a law that says you can't regulate. And it's this type of derivative that is most involved in the AIG scandal. AIG all by itself, cost the same as the entire Savings and Loan debacle.

BILL MOYERS: What did AIG contribute? What did they do wrong?

WILLIAM K. BLACK: They made bad loans. Their type of loan was to sell a guarantee, right? And they charged a lot of fees up front. So, they booked a lot of income. Paid enormous bonuses. The bonuses we're thinking about now, they're much smaller than these bonuses that were also the product of accounting fraud. And they got very, very rich. But, of course, then they had guaranteed this toxic waste. These liars' loans. Well, we've just gone through why those toxic waste, those liars' loans, are going to have enormous losses. And so, you have to pay the guarantee on those enormous losses. And you go bankrupt. Except that you don't in the modern world, because you've come to the United States, and the taxpayers play the fool. Under Secretary Geithner and under Secretary Paulson before him... we took $5 billion dollars, for example, in U.S. taxpayer money. And sent it to a huge Swiss Bank called UBS. At the same time that that bank was defrauding the taxpayers of America. And we were bringing a criminal case against them. We eventually get them to pay a $780 million fine, but wait, we gave them $5 billion. So, the taxpayers of America paid the fine of a Swiss Bank. And why are we bailing out somebody who that is defrauding us?

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