May 2009

Souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers, government conspirators, and all manner of invisible agents with power and intention are believed to haunt our world and control our lives. Why?


The answer has two parts, starting with the concept of “patternicity,” which I defined in my December 2008 column as the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Consider the face on Mars, the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, satanic messages in rock music. Of course, some patterns are real. Finding predictive patterns
in changing weather, fruiting trees, migrating prey animals and hungry predators was central to the survival of Paleolithic hominids.
The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns. So we make two types of errors: a type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it is not; a type II error, or false negative, is not believing a pattern is real when it is.

If you believe that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind (a type I error), you are more likely to survive than if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator (a type II error).

Because the cost of making a type I error is less than the cost of making a type II error and because there is no time for careful deliberation between patternicities in the split-second world of predator-prey interactions, natural selection would have favored those animals most likely to assume that all patterns are real.

But we do something other animals do not do. As large-brained hominids with a developed cortex and a theory of mind—the capacity to be aware of such mental states as desires and intentions in both ourselves and others—we infer agency behind the patterns we observe in a practice I call “agenticity”: the tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents.

We believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometimes invisibly from the top down (as opposed to bottom-up causal randomness). Together patternicity and agenticity form the cognitive basis of shamanism, paganism, animism, polytheism, monotheism, and all modes of Old and New Age spiritualisms.

Agenticity carries us far beyond the spirit world. The Intelligent Designer is said to be an invisible agent who created life from the top down. Aliens are often portrayed as powerful beings coming down from on high to warn us of our impending self-destruction.

Conspiracy theories predictably include hidden agents at work behind the scenes, puppet masters pulling political and economic strings as we dance to the tune of the Bilderbergers, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers or the Illuminati.

Even the belief that government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity, with President Barack Obama being touted as “the one” with almost messianic powers who will save us.

There is now substantial evidence from cognitive neuroscience that humans readily find patterns and impart agency to them, well documented in the new book SuperSense (HarperOne, 2009) by University of Bristol psychologist Bruce Hood. Examples: children believe that the sun can think and follows them around; because of such beliefs, they often add smiley faces on sketched suns.

Adults typically refuse to wear a mass murderer’s sweater, believing that “evil” is a supernatural force that imparts its negative agency to the wearer (and, alternatively, that donning Mr. Rogers’s cardigan will make you a better person). A third of transplant patients believe that the donor’s personality is transplanted with the organ. Genital-shaped foods (bananas, oysters) are often believed to enhance sexual potency. Subjects watching geometric shapes with eye spots interacting on a computer screen conclude that they represent agents with moral intentions.


* Text by Michael Shermer from Scientific American Magazine (May 2009)


As torture chronicler extraordinaire Mark Danner has pointed out, one of the great paradoxes of the torture scandal “is that it is not about things we didn’t know but about things we did know and did nothing about.”

It was, for instance, in December 2002 that Dana Priest and Barton Gellman first reported on the front page of the Washington Post that American interrogators were subjecting detainees to “stress and duress” techniques. James Risen, David Johnston and Neil A. Lewis first told the world about waterboarding in May 2004.
But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us are as guilty as the people who committed the crimes — or that those who ordered those crimes should avoid accountability.

Jacob Weisberg now joins Michael Kinsley, however, in arguing that the nation’s collective guilt for torture is so great that prosecution is a cop-out. Kinsley, as I noted on Friday, wrote: “If you’re going to punish people for condoning torture, you’d better include the American citizenry itself…Prosecuting a few former government officials for their role in putting our country into the torture business would not serve justice or historical memory. It would just let the real culprits off the hook.”
And here is Weisberg, writing in Newsweek: “By 2003, if you didn’t understand that the United States was inflicting torture upon those deemed enemy combatants, you weren’t paying much attention. This is part of what makes applying a criminal-justice model to those most directly responsible such a bad idea. The issue we need to come to terms with is not just who in the Bush administration did what, but our collective complicity in their decision….Prosecuting Bush and his men won’t absolve the rest of us for what we let them do.”


There are two big problems with this argument, however. While it’s true that the public’s outrage over torture has been a long time coming, one reason for that is the media’s sporadic and listless coverage of the issue. Yes, there were some extraordinary examples of investigative reporting we can point to, but other news outlets generally didn’t pick up these exclusives. Nobody set up a torture beat, to hammer away daily at what history I think will show was one of the major stories of the decade. Heck, as Weisberg himself points out, some of his colleagues were actually cheerleaders for torture. By failing to return to the story again and again — with palpable outrage — I think the media actually normalized torture. We had an obligation to shout this story from the rooftops, day and night. But instead we lulled the public into complacency.

Secondly, while it’s certainly worth exploring why any number of people were either actively or passively complicit in our torture regime — and I’m all for some national self-flagellation here — that has nothing to do with whether senior administration officials willfully broke the law, and whether they should be held accountable. It doesn’t change the law.

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly marveled at the Washington elite’s nearly lockstep opposition to criminal prosecutions. Here he is last month: “The very same pundits and establishment journalists who today are demanding that we forget all about it, not look back, not hold anyone accountable, are the very same people who…played key roles in hiding, enabling and defending these crimes. In light of that, what is less surprising than the fact that, almost unanimously, these very same people oppose any efforts to examine what happened and impose accountability?”
And here he is in January: “Now added to the pantheon of ‘liberal’ dogma is the shrill, ideological belief that high government officials must abide by our laws and should be treated like any other citizen when they break them….Apparently, one can attain the glorious status of being a moderate, a centrist, a high-minded independent only if one believes that high political officials (and our most powerful industries, such as the telecoms) should be able to break numerous laws (i.e.: commit felonies), openly admit that they’ve done so, and then be immunized from all consequences. That’s how our ideological spectrum is now defined.”

Meanwhile, Philip Gourevitch writes for the New Yorker about who, exactly, has been held accountable thus far: “It was exactly five years ago that some of the photographs that Charles Graner and his comrades took at Abu Ghraib were aired on CBS’s ‘Sixty Minutes’ and published in this magazine. At that time, the Administration claimed that [Corporal Charles A. Graner, Jr., the military-police officer in charge of the night shift] was the mastermind of the abuse represented in the photographs, and that they showed nothing more than the depravity of a group of rogue soldiers who had fallen under his sway.

Yet it became almost immediately apparent—and has been confirmed repeatedly in the years since, most recently with President Obama’s decision to release four Bush Administration memorandums seeking to establish a legal justification for the use of torture—that the Abu Ghraib photographs showed not individuals run amok but American policy in action.”

Graner remains in prison, serving ten years. “His superior officers enjoy their freedom, and C.I.A. interrogators, who spent years committing far worse acts against prisoners than Graner did even in the darkest days at Abu Ghraib, have been assured immunity.
“But, if full justice remains impossible, surely some injustices can be corrected. Whenever crimes of state are adjudicated—at Nuremberg or The Hague, Phnom Penh or Kigali—the principle of command responsibility, whereby the leaders who give the orders are held to a higher standard of accountability than the foot soldiers who follow, pertains. There can be no restoration of the national honor if we continue to scapegoat those who took the fall for an Administration—and for us all.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy writes in a Boston Globe op-ed about the recently released “torture memos”: “This was not an ‘abstract legal theory,’ or ‘hypothetical,’ as Alberto Gonzales dismissively described in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. These were specific techniques, authorized by high-ranking US government officials and used on real people. We have prosecuted people for these kinds of acts against Americans, and condemned other nations for sanctioning these methods….

“The apparent predetermined outcome of these legal memos raises the question of where the demand for this outcome and for approving these policies arose. Press accounts indicate that these were not the results of requests from CIA officers on the ground and in the field, but arose through pressure from senior administration officials in Washington….

“I still believe my proposal for a Commission of Inquiry remains the best way to move forward with a comprehensive, nonpartisan, independent review of what happened. Torture was and is against the law. Condoning it puts the men and women who bravely serve in our own armed forces at risk. It disregards the values that make this country great. Torture is illegal, immoral, and wrong. That is why Obama ended these practices.
“Let us reaffirm our guiding principles as a nation by joining together to come to a shared understanding of what happened and why. The risk of failing to learn from our mistakes is that they will be repeated.”

I wrote on Friday (also see Harper’s blogger Scott Horton) about a video in which former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice seemingly restated President Nixon’s view that if the president does it, it’s not illegal. “[B]y definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture,” she said, after being questioned by Stanford University students.

Alec MacGillis writes in The Washington Post about Rice trying to explain her torture decisions yesterday — to a fourth-grader. And afterward, Rice was pressed to clarify her remarks by an Al Jazeera television crew.
This time, Rice said: “Let me be very clear: The president said he would not authorize anything that was illegal. It was not legal because he authorized it; it was because he said he would do nothing illegal and the justice department and the attorney general said that it was legal.”

Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, writing in the New York Times, take us back to Bush’s issuance in June 2003 of the standard proclamation to mark the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
“The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment,” the proclamation said.
Not surprisingly, the CIA freaked.

* Source’s  Text: Washington Post (May, 2009)


But that’s just the top to a long article — full of anonymous sources — chronicling how the “consensus of top administration officials about the C.I.A. interrogation program, which they had approved without debate or dissent in 2002, began to fall apart.”
They write: “The real trouble began on May 7, 2004, the day the C.I.A. inspector general, John L. Helgerson, completed a devastating report. In thousands of pages, it challenged the legality of some interrogation methods, found that interrogators were exceeding the rules imposed by the Justice Department and questioned the effectiveness of the entire program.”
But even after 2006, “Mr. Cheney and top C.I.A. officials fought to revive the program. Steven G. Bradbury, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and author of the recently declassified 2005 memorandums authorizing harsh C.I.A interrogations, began drafting another memorandum in late 2006 to restore legal approval for harsh interrogation.”

And: “When Mr. Bush finally reauthorized C.I.A. interrogations with an executive order in July 2007…forced nudity was banned, and guidelines for sleep deprivation were tighter….But Mr. Cheney and his allies secured other victories. The executive order preserved the secret jails and authorized a laundry list of coercive methods.”
Peter Finn and Carrie Johnson write in The Washington Post that the recently resolved case of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri “suggests that as the government pushes forward with plans to prosecute detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it may again have to accept lesser sentences for those who were subjected to physical and psychological abuse.”

Bush had Marri “swept out of federal court and into a U.S. Navy brig so he could be interrogated without the legal protections afforded by the criminal justice system.”
But: “By removing Marri from the courts in June 2003, the Bush administration effectively sacrificed the ability of prosecutors to throw the book at Marri when he was returned to the system, military and legal experts say.”


They also write: “The fear that some Guantanamo cases are not prosecutable in federal court has sharpened debate within the Obama administration about the need to maintain military commissions, in which the rules of evidence are less stringent, according to sources involved in the discussions.”
Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write for Newsweek that “a Justice Department special counsel is quietly ratcheting up his probe into… the CIA’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotape showing the waterboarding of two high-value Qaeda suspects.”

And Deepak Chopra writes in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed: “This is one of those moments when painful truth is the only way to heal.
“People don’t want to hear about bad things from the past when the present is loaded down with more than enough bad things. But inconvenience and fatigue aren’t good excuses. There is anger from the left — and not just the left — about an inexcusable Bush policy. There are demons in the closet, and shutting the door on them won’t make them go away. Better to deal with it now, when a new president’s idealism is still fresh. It will take idealism to face the torture issue. Otherwise, any truth commission will either turn into a vengeance squad or go the other way and sweep too much under the rug.




San Francisco writer Cordelia Brown knew she was gambling with death when she stopped taking her epilepsy medications two years ago. But she told her mother she had no choice.

It was for her art, she said. She wanted her head clearer for poetry.
“Sharpen yourself like a knife and plunge into the sky,” Ms. Brown wrote in her 2008 book of poems, “Asylum.” That perfectly fit her approach to life: from overcoming a childhood automobile accident that nearly killed her to later journeying to India to teach English to Tibetan monks and living in a remote artists colony in the Venezuelan Andes mountains.

On May 1, at age 29, Ms. Brown faced her own apparent premonition of the nearing end with a peace beyond her years.
“Starting over – sinking into the night – my slate is clean,” were the last words she posted on her Facebook page before going to sleep.
And then, sometime that night, she died of an epileptic seizure.

The epilepsy was the only holdover effect of the accident in 1994 near Cloverdale, when a car driven by a 13-year-old girl slammed into the Brown family Ford Explorer, injuring six family members on their way to a Christmas vacation. Cordelia, then 14, was the most seriously injured, and was hospitalized in critical condition with head injuries.

Her gentle spirit, which shone through in her probing brown eyes and easy laugh, will be missed by not just her family, but poets and other artists through Northern California, friends and relatives said.
“My daughter was a stunning, beautiful woman, inside and out,” said her mother, Josie Brown of Petrolia (Humboldt County). “After the accident, she had to learn everything all over again – how to walk, how to swallow, how to do her studies. But she did it all.”

What Ms. Brown came away with from the experience, other than the epilepsy from injuries to her brain, her mother said, was “a quickening sense of living. She felt like she had a lot to do.”
And she did.

Ms. Brown was born in Homer, Ala., where her parents, Josie and John Brown, raised cattle and ran a travel guide business. When she was 6, the family moved to Petrolia, where the Browns still raise cattle and organic vegetables – and where Josie Brown runs the nearby Lost Coast Camp summer program for children.

After graduating from Mattole Triple Junction High School in Petrolia one year early, Ms. Brown first went to Spanish language school in Costa Rica and then worked at an orphanage in Nicaragua. She took to traveling and teaching English all over the world, and between jaunts she came back to San Francisco long enough to earn a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at New College of California in 2004.

In 2005, by then fluent in Spanish, she earned a certificate at UC Berkeley for teaching English as a second language. She went from there to the artists colony in the Andes, and when she returned two years ago she devoted herself to producing her only poetry book.

“When she came back, she had such a strong passion to do a lot of writing that she stopped taking the series of epilepsy medications she was taking,” her mother said. “She thought they were clouding her brain and she wanted to concentrate.
“I think she knew her life wasn’t going to go on and on,” because of her condition, Josie Brown said. “Cordelia wasn’t thinking about that accident any more, it was all behind her. She was doing her art.”

David Ulansey, a friend and professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, said he wasn’t sure whether the last words Ms. Brown posted on her Facebook site were “premonition or synchronicity, but they have been very healing for us.”
“Cordelia was a real force of nature,” he said. “She and her poetry radiated sensitivity and insight about the details of things that in the end make all the difference.”

Kevin Fagan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, May 15, 2009

No one knows how many Philippine forest turtles (Siebenrockiella leytensis) are left in the wild, but however many there are, the number is rapidly shrinking thanks to illegal trade, says Pierre Fidenci, President of Endangered Species International in San Francisco.


Once believed to be extinct, the forest turtle was rediscovered in 2001 when scientists found several turtles for sale in a local market. Since then, a single population has been located on the island of Palawan, but it is already dwindlng. “In some creeks where the Philippine forest turtle used be abundant, it is now very difficult to find it, if not impossible,” Fidenci says.

Why the decline? The turtle is so rare, and so striking, it has become highly desirable in the pet trade, says Fidenci. Over the last four years, ESI staff have found more than 170 turtles for sale at pet markets in Manila. ESI found that the turtles were kept hidden in the back of stores and brought to potential buyers only when it was felt that there were no risks involved. “There is no doubt that more than 500 turtles are sold every year,” Fidenci says. The species is legally protected in the Philippines, but enforcement is rare.

The species’ rediscovery in the wild was, Fidenci says, “the trigger for its sharp decline. Demand amongst pet traders for this enigmatic and rare turtle was immediately rampant.” ESI investigations have found the turtles selling for between $50 and $75 in the Philippines, but after export to Japan, Europe and the United States, prices skyrocketed as high as $2,500 each, says Fidenci.

The group has pressed local authorities to target illegal traders in Palawan, but nothing much has happened. So far, it’s “business as usual and no actions have been undertaken to really stop the trade because there is a lack of leadership to move forward,” says Fidenci.

So how can the turtle be saved? Fidenci is calling for the creation of a special unit to monitor illegal trade and creation of alternative livelihoods for the people who are catching turtles in the wild. One approach he advocates is to transform “traders into conservationists and reward them for their protection achievement.” Since the turtles’ habitat is just 150 km by 50 km, Fidenci says this wouldn’t require much in the way of resources, and “we can achieve our goal in saving this turtle from becoming extinct.”


*  Pierre Fidenci; 19 MAY 2009



Jasmine Caldwell was 14 and selling sex on the streets when an opportunity arose to escape her pimp: an undercover policeman picked her up.
The cop could have rescued her from the pimp, who ran a string of 13 girls and took every cent they earned. If the cop had taken Jasmine to a shelter, she could have resumed her education and tried to put her life back in order.

Instead, the policeman showed her his handcuffs and threatened to send her to prison. Terrified, she cried and pleaded not to be jailed. Then, she said, he offered to release her in exchange for sex.
Afterward, the policeman returned her to the street. Then her pimp beat her up for failing to collect any money.
“That happens a lot,” said Jasmine, who is now 21. “The cops sometimes just want to blackmail you into having sex.”
I’ve often reported on sex trafficking in other countries, and that has made me curious about the situation here in the United States. Prostitution in America isn’t as brutal as it is in, say, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia and Malaysia (where young girls are routinely kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by brothel owners, occasionally even killed). But the scene on American streets is still appalling — and it continues largely because neither the authorities nor society as a whole show much interest in 14-year-old girls pimped on the streets.
Americans tend to think of forced prostitution as the plight of Mexican or Asian women trafficked into the United States and locked up in brothels. Such trafficking is indeed a problem, but the far greater scandal and the worst violence involves American teenage girls.
If a middle-class white girl goes missing, radio stations broadcast amber alerts, and cable TV fills the air with “missing beauty” updates. But 13-year-old black or Latina girls from poor neighborhoods vanish all the time, and the pimps are among the few people who show any interest.
These domestic girls are often runaways or those called “throwaways” by social workers: teenagers who fight with their parents and are then kicked out of the home. These girls tend to be much younger than the women trafficked from abroad and, as best I can tell, are more likely to be controlled by force.
Pimps are not the business partners they purport to be. They typically take every penny the girls earn. They work the girls seven nights a week. They sometimes tattoo their girls the way ranchers brand their cattle, and they back up their business model with fists and threats.
“If you don’t earn enough money, you get beat,” said Jasmine, an African-American who has turned her life around with the help of Covenant House, an organization that works with children on the street. “If you say something you’re not supposed to, you get beat. If you stay too long with a customer, you get beat. And if you try to leave the pimp, you get beat.”
The business model of pimping is remarkably similar whether in Atlanta or Calcutta: take vulnerable, disposable girls whom nobody cares about, use a mix of “friendship,” humiliation, beatings, narcotics and threats to break the girls and induce 100 percent compliance, and then rent out their body parts.
It’s not solely violence that keeps the girls working for their pimps. Jasmine fled an abusive home at age 13, and she said she — like most girls — stayed with the pimp mostly because of his emotional manipulation. “I thought he loved me, so I wanted to be around him,” she said.
That’s common. Girls who are starved of self-esteem finally meet a man who showers them with gifts, drugs and dollops of affection. That, and a lack of alternatives, keeps them working for him — and if that isn’t enough, he shoves a gun in the girl’s mouth and threatens to kill her.
Solutions are complicated and involve broader efforts to overcome urban poverty, including improving schools and attempting to shore up the family structure. But a first step is to stop treating these teenagers as criminals and focusing instead on arresting the pimps and the customers — and the corrupt cops.
“The problem isn’t the girls in the streets; it’s the men in the pews,” notes Stephanie Davis, who has worked with Mayor Shirley Franklin to help coordinate a campaign to get teenage prostitutes off the streets.
Two amiable teenage prostitutes, working without a pimp for the “fast money,” told me that there will always be women and girls selling sex voluntarily. They’re probably right. But we can significantly reduce the number of 14-year-old girls who are terrorized by pimps and raped by many men seven nights a week. That’s doable, if it’s a national priority, if we’re willing to create the equivalent of a nationwide amber alert.



Some comments  from  Editors’ Selections NYTimes, than  aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views.


I live in New Zealand where prostitution is legal. This has helped sex workers in many ways although problems remain. It’s legalization hasn’t started NZ down any sort of moral slippery slope and in fact (as an American expat) I find my new homeland to be a much more moral place than the US (although again certainly not perfect).
— David, Rotorua, New Zealand

How come no one ever writes about young teenage boys ‘on the street’?…’s just as much a problem in the the USA, as it is in Thailand, or other exotic sex tourism locations that do get written about.
— Tim Hughes, Amesbury,England,UK


Many state have laws allowing newborns to be abandoned at hospitals to prevent them from being discarded into dumpsters. These children are placed in protective custody by the state. How about making similar laws to protect girls who are in forced prostitution? They would just need to show up at any emergency room to escape their abuse. I have never heard of any state allowing children 13 yrs old to consent to sex. The pimps, johns and corrupt police officers need to be prosecuted as high-level sex offenders. It is immoral to not offer strong protection and care to these children.
— Minta Keyes, Tucson, AZ

My parents through me out of the house after failing freshman year of college 43 years ago- a teen as an adult I had no idea what to do. Raped, pregnant they wouldn’t let me back. But as others say – the goverment can help but also the biggest help is good people – not just nonprofit charities – just people – friends to drive you to the hospital, a man who hires and trains you for a small job, neighbors to babysit…allows you to move on to a better life. So now I try to help others since I got into a good life – after many years.
— Karenna, Witherbee, NE


Nice sentiment, but don’t the thousands of men who USE prostitutes also share some blame? Would you hang out and play poker with a guy who cheats at cards? Why is it so easy to hang out with guys who use teenage girls for sex? Only men can change this horrific cultural phenomena by ostracizing men who think a few moments or evening with a prostitute is acceptable entertainment. Why don’t you write that column Mr. Kristoff? Are you willing to point out that the customer is a MAJOR abuser too? If men recognized that paying for sex is a morally depraved act and called each other on it, the pimps, cops, social workers, etc. would be out of a job.
— Sandy McIntire, Mount Hope, WV

In 2003 I went to Atlanta representing the Department of Justice to a meeting about the problem of juvenile prostitution. In a room were school officials, the police, child welfare representatives, a judge from the juvenile court and several other people from other agencies. All of these agencies could not figure out why children “disappeared” from the system. The schools could not track dropouts, the police laughed at the 15 year old on the street with her pimp leering over the door of the car, the child welfare people whined about the case loads and the judge passed stern judgement on the children who came before her court while the child welfare agency released the children into the tendure care of their pimps. I pointed out repeatedly to OJJDP and the people that the view was agency centered rather than child centered. I also pointed out that many european countries are now bar coding children to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks. No, their systems are not perfect but they sure seem superior to the period “crises” which we seem very adept and rediscovering. See Every Child Matters in the United Kingdom. Last year we discovered 4 children who had been murdered in Washington DC and discovered in a freezer. That was the ultimate example of children falling through the cracks. We can track stolen cars but not missing children in those cracks.


Michael Wiatrowski, Ph.D.
Woodbridge, Virginia



Thank you for showing that forced child sex slavery happens not just across the globe but also across the street.

You wrote: “Prostitution in America isn’t as brutal as it is in, say, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia and Malaysia (where young girls are routinely kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured by brothel owners, occasionally even killed).”

Sadly, prostitution here IS as brutal. In this country–in my own state and in yours–young girls ARE routinely kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured by brothel owners. And yes occasionally even killed. These are US citizens as well as internationals. This brutal treatment is not an exception or occasional rare case, but a regular part of child prostitution in the US. How else would the brothel owners control them?

My anti-trafficking work has taken me to 40+ countries including many of the ones you mentioned. My organization is a member of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking, and sadly we see the same brutal treatment that happens in other countries happening right in our backyard.

Thank you again for continuing to shine light on the darkness of child sex slavery. We appreciate your work very much.

Diana Scimone
Born to Fly International, Inc.
Stopping child sex trafficking…setting kids free to soar
— Diana Scimone, Orlando, FL



medicare y job market para viejos8276_imagec_05072009_520

The Obama administration unveiled a plan to boost fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016—four years ahead of current schedule and up from an average of just 25 miles per gallon today.


The new standards (pdf) will also impose—for the first time ever—a limit on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles at 250 grams per mile in 2016 under the new proposed rule. (That’s about 5.5 ounces per kilometer, for those of you who like your units mixed differently.)

There are very few vehicles capable of meeting the new standards today, which would mean more hybrids and possibly even electric or other alternative vehicles would have to hit the road within seven years for automakers to comply.

“As a result of this agreement, we will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years,” President Obama said in a Rose Garden speech. In a nod to the concerns of beleaguered carmakers, Obama said, “this rule provides the clear certainty that will allow these companies to plan for a future in which they are building the cars of the 21st century.”

The new standards would avoid tailpipe emissions of 890 million metric tons of greenhouse gases by bringing vehicle emissions down from roughly 400 grams per mile today—the equivalent of taking 177 million cars off the road (more than two-thirds of the entire American auto fleet) or shutting down 194 coal-fired power plants.

In addition, all classes of vehicles—from compact cars to SUVs—will be required to make fuel efficiency improvements: cars will need to go from roughly 27 miles per gallon today to 39 mpg in 2016 whereas trucks jump from roughly 23 mpg to 30 mpg. The program is expected to add roughly $1,300 to the cost of a vehicle, according to administration officials.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is also considering creating credits to help meet the standard for the development of additional greenhouse gas control technologies, such as multiplier credits for electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids or additional credits for “solar panels on hybrids, adaptive cruise control, and active aerodynamics,” the proposed rule (pdf) says.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation will team up to craft the details. The rule, if approved, won’t take effect until 2012. The new rule would be a compromise between the administration, the state of California and the auto industry. Carmakers have been waging a legal battle over that state’s tough greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles standards. Under the compromise, California would adopt the federal standards.

“Overall, this bartered resolution confirms the pragmatic approach of the Obama administration to resolving climate change issues,” says lawyer Deborah Schmall of the Paul Hastings law firm, while noting that lawsuits may drag on as the details of the agreement are worked out.

Oh, the fuel savings may be overstated, too, says management professor Richard Larrik of Duke University. He argues that gallons-per-mile is a more relevant measure as it directly corresponds to greenhouse gas emissions.

After all, boosting mileage from 10 to 11 mpg or 33 to 50 mpg saves the same amount of fuel (and therefore CO2 emissions): one gallon of gasoline every 100 miles. “As a nation, they’re asking car drivers to reduce gas consumption by 1.14 gallons per 100 miles and they’re asking truck drivers to reduce gas consumption by 1.02 gallons per 100 miles,” Larrik says. Still, he says, “it’s still a great plan because it is accelerating efficiency gains and because Detroit supports it.”

*  Matteo Natale;  May 19, 2009





Some of the wage cuts, like the givebacks by Chrysler workers, are the price of federal aid. Others, like the tentative agreement on a salary cut here at The Times, are the result of discussions between employers and their union employees. Still others reflect the brute fact of a weak labor market: workers don’t dare protest when their wages are cut, because they don’t think they can find other jobs.

Whatever the specifics, however, falling wages are a symptom of a sick economy. And they’re a symptom that can make the economy even sicker.

First things first: anecdotes about falling wages are proliferating, but how broad is the phenomenon? The answer is, very.

It’s true that many workers are still getting pay increases. But there are enough pay cuts out there that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost of employing workers in the private sector rose only two-tenths of a percent in the first quarter of this year — the lowest increase on record. Since the job market is still getting worse, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if overall wages started falling later this year.

But why is that a bad thing? After all, many workers are accepting pay cuts in order to save jobs. What’s wrong with that?

The answer lies in one of those paradoxes that plague our economy right now. We’re suffering from the paradox of thrift: saving is a virtue, but when everyone tries to sharply increase saving at the same time, the effect is a depressed economy. We’re suffering from the paradox of deleveraging: reducing debt and cleaning up balance sheets is good, but when everyone tries to sell off assets and pay down debt at the same time, the result is a financial crisis.

And soon we may be facing the paradox of wages: workers at any one company can help save their jobs by accepting lower wages, but when employers across the economy cut wages at the same time, the result is higher unemployment.

Here’s how the paradox works. Suppose that workers at the XYZ Corporation accept a pay cut. That lets XYZ management cut prices, making its products more competitive. Sales rise, and more workers can keep their jobs. So you might think that wage cuts raise employment — which they do at the level of the individual employer.

But if everyone takes a pay cut, nobody gains a competitive advantage. So there’s no benefit to the economy from lower wages. Meanwhile, the fall in wages can worsen the economy’s problems on other fronts.

In particular, falling wages, and hence falling incomes, worsen the problem of excessive debt: your monthly mortgage payments don’t go down with your paycheck. America came into this crisis with household debt as a percentage of income at its highest level since the 1930s. Families are trying to work that debt down by saving more than they have in a decade — but as wages fall, they’re chasing a moving target. And the rising burden of debt will put downward pressure on consumer spending, keeping the economy depressed.

Things get even worse if businesses and consumers expect wages to fall further in the future. John Maynard Keynes put it clearly, more than 70 years ago: “The effect of an expectation that wages are going to sag by, say, 2 percent in the coming year will be roughly equivalent to the effect of a rise of 2 percent in the amount of interest payable for the same period.” And a rise in the effective interest rate is the last thing this economy needs.

Concern about falling wages isn’t just theory. Japan — where private-sector wages fell an average of more than 1 percent a year from 1997 to 2003 — is an object lesson in how wage deflation can contribute to economic stagnation.

So what should we conclude from the growing evidence of sagging wages in America? Mainly that stabilizing the economy isn’t enough: we need a real recovery.

There has been a lot of talk lately about green shoots and all that, and there are indeed indications that the economic plunge that began last fall may be leveling off. The National Bureau of Economic Research might even declare the recession over later this year.

But the unemployment rate is almost certainly still rising. And all signs point to a terrible job market for many months if not years to come — which is a recipe for continuing wage cuts, which will in turn keep the economy weak.

To break that vicious circle, we basically need more: more stimulus, more decisive action on the banks, more job creation.

Credit where credit is due: President Obama and his economic advisers seem to have steered the economy away from the abyss. But the risk that America will turn into Japan — that we’ll face years of deflation and stagnation — seems, if anything, to be rising.

* By PAUL KRUGMAN (NYT; May 4, 2009)

Now, we can read Some comments:

One big reason for falling wages in the USA seems to be that 90 percent of the rest of the world will do the same job cheaper. As standards of living and technological ability rise in India, China and the rest of the developing world, ours will descend.
— Peter Jaffe, Bangkok, Thailand

Sorry but I don’t think you really explained why cutting wages leads to higher unemployment (“when employers across the economy cut wages at the same time, the result is higher unemployment.”). Surely it can’t be any higher than if wage cuts were not done in the first place? The example of XYZ company does not really explain this so called paradox because you sign off with a statement that is unrelated to the original claim : “Meanwhile, the fall in wages can worsen the economy’s problems on other fronts.”
Fall in wages and deflation seem to be two sides of the same coin to me.
— Girish, San Francisco, CA

Mr. Krugman offers an assessment that we all know but not a real solution because he needs to be politically correct. That is what wins awards and invites to TV shows. Wages are a matter of supply and demand. One can’t demand higher wages when there are a lot of jobless people or foreign workers who will work for less. The decline in wages has been happening for a long time, the burst bubble just accentuated it.

Technology, by design eliminates jobs. So a technological society needs fewer people to run it. In addition, when a job goes overseas, it is not only that job that is lost, but all of the backup and support jobs as well. So between a highly technological society shedding jobs and jobs being lost to outsourcing there is little growth in high end jobs. Then while this has been going on we have had incredible amounts of immigration to finish the American middle class off. Some liberal economists have written that this immigration is unnecessary and that the only new jobs being created by it are service sector jobs to service the growing population. This is the mess we have ourselves in. Does anyone believe we have college graduates working as telemarketers because there is shortage of college graduates. Its a shortage of decent jobs. In a recent comprehensive study by a Wharton Buriness professor and a Stern Business professor it was shown that imported high tech workers lowered the wages by 6% and 2-3% for specific managerial jobs. Union construction workers now comprise less than 20% of the construction industry. High wage Union workers have been replaced by low wage illegal immigrants. This drop in wages has been basically from top to bottom for workers.

What lies ahead is much worse and it is certainly not talked about. We have had consecutive bubbles which have helped mask the problem. Now that the bubble has burst we have excess labor being squeezed out of the system in the form of high unemployment. This unemployment will continue due to the above mentioned conditions. So unless there is another bubble we will have permanent unemployment which means permanent lower wages for those working. Japan is trying to address this problem by giving financial incentives for its foreigners to leave. This is what we should be doing if we want to raise wages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, agribusiness and billionaire high tech entrepreneurs may not want to hear this but there is no way that injecting 40 million people into a developed society will be benign.
— John, New York

Job creation is the most urgent problem this nation faces – and it seems to me that Obama’s infrastructure project is a step in the right direction. Many of us in the dying middle class have been laid off and simply cannot find jobs, let alone jobs that pay living wages. So direct stimulus is a band-aid at best, and available credit that cannot be secured or repaid will not buy homes or cars or university educations. Jobs first.

But will corporations ever bring back those outsourced jobs in production, manufacturing, IT, accounting, and customer service? How do we get back to work when there is no work to be had? Are all of us who were project managers, marketers, and PR people irrelevant in a world where engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and architects are needed?

Maybe the direct stimulus that’s needed is help in getting people back to school to learn real skills that will help America transition to a green, energy independent nation that creates goods and services.
— S.P., Saint Louis

This recession/depression will never end until median wages start to go up. We might achieve some ‘technical’ growth, but the economy will be weak and unstable until there will be wage growth.

What this means is that the depression will go on indefinitely. Why? God forbid we give the median worker a raise.

The median worker hasn’t received a raise since 1974. That’s 35 years. In those thirty five years GNP has gone up 150%.

What that means is that even though productivity has increased 150% – all the rents associated with that increase in productivity has gone to the wealthy – the median worker got nothing. Nothing in 35 years.

What that means is that trillions and trillions of dollars have gone to the “supply side” “1%ers” “investing rich”, year-in and year-out, for decades.

Let me repeat that: Trillions of dollars, year-in and year-out, for decades.

Get that: all the purchasing power is locked up on the ‘supply-side’ of the economy and it is constipated – it is not trickling down. Demand is shrinking in the absolute sense.

(When demand shrinks relative to supply, that means investors can’t make good returns on their investments. Over time that leads to investment bubbles and fraudulent investment schemes – subprime loans, credit card loans, payday loans, ponzi schemes, credit default swaps etc – from investors trying to get a good return on their investments.)

Asset values collapsed because there was no purchasing power left on the demand side of the ledger. This was masked for a long time by the massive borrowing in the economy. Take away the debt and you have collapsing demand, collapsing asset values, and a collapsing economy that can’t turn around.

This economy won’t recover – ever, without wages recovering. This is a simple fact.

Without recovering and then rising wages, the economy is a house of straw – highly unstable and prone to further collapses until it finds a new equilibrium in something like a third world economic status.

The best structural thing that can happen to the economy is we get increased union representation (see “Card Check”). Some CEOs have called ‘card check’ the end of civilization – As if we aren’t already living in a post civilization economy.

Personally, I think a CEO making 400 times the workers salary and getting raises and bonuses even during years when the company loses money – to me that’s the end of civilization.

After we get card check, we need to make some adjustments to our laws on corporate governance.

There’s no way shareholders interests are being served by CEO’s capturing as personal gain so much of the rents that the corporation earns. As a shareholder, if I can’t have those rents, I would rather see it spread around to more employees because that would mean better employees, more stable workforce, higher productivity across the corporation, not just in the executive suite, and would contribute to a more stable over all economy.

Somehow, our corporate laws are not serving shareholders and our labor laws are not serving workers, just CEOs. Things are fowled up on multiple levels.

— Tim_Kane, Mesa, Arizona

This article is incomplete in that it does not mention continued offshoring by our large corporations, including several of the banks now receiving billions in welfare. A recently published study “H-1B Visas, Offshoring, and the Wages of US Information Technology Workers” by Prasanna B. Tambe of New York University – Stern School of Business and Lorin M. Hitt of University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School aims to dispel “the myth that globalization generates no losers,” the authors state:

Our estimates indicate that H-1B admissions at the current levels are associated with a 5-6% drop in wages for computer programmers and systems analysts. Offshoring appears to lower the wages of a slightly broader class of IT workers, including IT managers, by about 3%. These effects are larger for employees exposed to external labor market forces, such as new graduates or job-hoppers.”

I work in the tech industry and have seen my wages fall in actual terms since the year 2000. In 2004 I made less then in 2000, and I now make less then I did in 2004. I have a MS in Computer Science, speak and write perfect English (I majored in the subject), and was born and raised in the US and am basically an average guy. I spend hundreds of hours a year of personal time reading and programming at home to keep up on new technologies. I develop web sites using http://ASP.NET and C# – I am not some antiquated mainframe developer who has not developed new skills. Yet when I send out resumes to try and find a higher paying job I get few callbacks and when I do they want me to take a paycut and a 3 month contract that MIGHT lead to a job, usually with the promise of a lateral salary at best.

The only silver lining I see about wage cuts is the rest of the country will see what we in the software industry have been experiencing for years – that wage cuts are a very real possibility and there’s no reason why they won’t continue.

— Mike, Kansas City







Though the president’s decision to expose but not prosecute those responsible for torture is surely unsatisfying, it is the best solution for right now.

Editors’ Selections NYTimes aim to highlight the most interesting and thoughtful comments that represent a range of views:


I have to say that I’m rather disappointed in this latest column by Friedman. While the point that moving forward on a prosecution would ultimately lead to targeting the highest members of the Bush administration and provide irreparable damage to our country’s internal stability is quite valid, he loses me is in his attempts to extend an olive branch to the judgment of the previous administration in their handling of so-called “enhanced interrogation.”

Pointing out that Al Qaeda is a legitimate threat that poses unique challenges to our national security is a disingenuous attempt at moderation that seems to deliberately hide from what’s really outrageous about the situation at hand. That the Bush administration approved torture is minutia when one examines the laws that were broken and the responsibility that was shirked in doing so. Whether or not torture should be allowed is a legitimate debate, however there is no debating that the Bush administration came down on the riskiest side of the debate but boorishly declined to understand implicit complexity of their own decision. Furthermore when this incompetence was exposed, the administration attempted to save itself from leadership initiative by underhanded tactics such as passing the buck to our soldiers.

I usually applaud Friedman’s moderate and practical stance on most issues, however much of his attempt at moderation in this piece is mostly accomplished by addressing minutia rather than the larger issue. That Obama made the correct decision in withholding prosecution is a legitimate position, however extending an olive branch to the Bush administration’s conduct in light of the unique military challenges with which we’re faced is not. Let’s be honest, the real issue behind this hypothetical prosecution isn’t a debate about interrogation tactics; it’s a commitment to punish criminal negligence in an overinflated executive branch that repeatedly backed risky decisions by falling terribly short on providing the leadership needed to execute them properly.

— SH, Troy NY


You ought to review article 2.2 of the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which the U.S. became a State Party in 1998 under Ronald Reagan. It’s quite clear on this point:

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

The circumstances most certainly include the political fallout that would be engendered by the prosecution of senior members of the Bush administration for torture. And while you claim that bringing Rumsfeld and Bush to trial “would rip our country apart,” I’d argue that they already *have* ripped our country apart. Not just our country, either, but the Constitution, the rule of law, and our moral standing in the world.

Essentially, your argument is that Bushy, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bybee, Yoo, etc. are “too big to fail”. If some average Joe imprisoned somebody in his basement, chained them from the ceiling, kept them awake for 11 days straight, and waterboarded them 183 times you would doubtless be shocked and outraged and wouldn’t question for a moment the need for prosecution. Mr. Friedman, with all due respect, do you really think that the laws in this country ought only to apply to ordinary citizens, and not politicians?

History will not treat us kindly if we choose to look the other way for the sake of political expediency.
— Jacob Park, San Francisco

Isn’t about time we retired the hoary argument that Al Qaeda is an exceptionally ruthless movement that cannot be controlled except by using the most brutal of methods? Haven’t there been religious fanatics and martyrs throughout human history? And Israel, of course, has been dealing with suicide bombers for decades. Have their agressive methods of addressing that threat really worked?

Governments and their apologists always claim in time of war that the opponent is uniquely evil and is capable of wreaking havoc unlike any the world has ever known. Why do we keep falling for this tired propaganda? The laws against torture and abuse of prisoners were not put in place to stop crimes against people we like, but to stop interrogators from misusing their power to harm people we despise. Physical and mental abuse is both counterproductive and damaging to victim and torturer alike. The question is not how much we hate and fear someone, the question is what the right and effective thing to do is when we have someone in custody we believe to be dangerous. Do we give ourselves permission to commit crimes we claim to abhor when they are perpetrated by others?

At best, officials of the last administration can claim temporary insanity in defense of their decision to torture prisoners. But there is nothing temporary about that insanity–they are still openly proclaiming their defiance of the law. Or has Dick Cheney apologized recently and I just didn’t hear about it?

And that is where the real problem comes in: the Bush administration violated both domestic and international laws before the eyes of the world, not once in a moment of carelessness, but as part of a systematic and deliberate strategy that could easily be reactivated the next time the U.S. feels “threatened.”

What is Barack Obama, who has sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, going to do to make sure that doesn’t happen?
— Miriam Hils, Berlin, Germany


A “unique enemy?” The US never officially embraced torture when it fought the Nazis. Give me a break. There is no excuse for what we did during the Bush administration. It makes me ashamed.
— rkreier, Port Jefferson, NY

Unconvincing. We wonder how Germany managed to rise to a major global economic power and a vibrant democracy after being “torn apart” by the Nuremburg trials.
Take note: Those who argued against the pursuit Nazi war criminals such as Eichmann and Barbie used arguments not unlike Mr. Friedman’s; i.e., it would be better to move on, and of course the classic, You have to understand how things WERE back then!
— MarkWoldin, Navarra, Spain

Mr. Friedman,
You might also wish to check out The Detainee Project, which has portraits of some of the thousands of innocent Iraqis who were detained, tortured, and then released without charge (

Would you dare tell them to their faces that the crimes they suffered should not be investigated because to do so would be politically inconvenient?

The torture went *far* beyond the small number of prisoners at Guantanamo whom we’re told were confirmed terrorists. (Claims that any thinking person would take with a whole mountain of salt.)
— Jacob Park, San Francisco

It’s very disturbing to read an article like Friedman’s in a widely respected newspaper like the New York Times promoting torture and describing America’s right to torture and kill as its leaders see fit lifted out of Orwell’s Animal Farm .And this is what is supposed to be the leader of the free world?! As a Saudi woman with many hurdles ahead before we as Saudi women are treated fairly, found our part of the world far more humane than Thomas Friedman’s world.
— fadia basrawi, beirut, lebanon


As a veteran I feel this is an embarrassing time for the United States. By condoning torture we have become worse than them. By playing semantics with definitions of “prisoners of conflicts” we undermined any civility we have as a nation of laws and threatened the citizen soldiers/servants we ask to defend and protect us. Investigate,Prosecute, you bet.
Throw them in jail, no.
Confiscate all their blood money,retirements and make them greeters at Wal-marts for a little humility. Oh, that might be a little too demeaning.
— Dale R., Macomb, Mich.

Mr Friedman, I agree that prosecutions would tear the country apart and I wouldn’t look forward to them. I also agree that al-Qaeda is a unique enemy, though certainly not invincible. And suicide strikes are nothing new. The Viet Cong used them. They didn’t use car bombs, but the attacks they staged during the Tet Offensive were suicidal, for all intents and purposes. And what about the kamikaze pilots in WW II? Today’s suicide pilots and bombers haven’t broken as much new ground as people tell themselves.

But that was the mindset in the first days and weeks after 9/11. “This is a whole new ball-game!” a friend of mine insisted. But that was a bad analogy, as ball-games have many rules, and the “new” ball-game being proposed on the country’s behalf had none. President Bush was in a hurry to wrap up the war on terrorism on HIS “watch”, and his hurry-up offense, paying no mind to the rules, stalled at mid-field.

I don’t want to see prosecutions, but the people calling for them are not to be faulted for supporting high ideals. They apparently believe that the rules apply under all circumstances, and perhaps especially in the extremes. I’m reminded of some relevant lines from the film “Citizen Cohn”, from a scene in which father and son wrangle over the ideal of abiding by principles and doing “what is right.”

The son responds: “What’s ‘right’ changes every five minutes in this town.”

And the father answers: “What is right NEVER changes.”
— Basil Marasco, Jr., Rochester, NY


Humbug and chazerei. All this dancing around one simple notion: The President (or ex-President) is above the law, because treating him as a responsible citizen would “tear the country apart.” And therefore the VP, Atty-Gen, Bybee, Yoo, are also above the law. Glad we got that clear: Now we can burn the Declaration of Independence and apologize to george II.

What’s more, we can rip out of Good Friday “looking backward” to remember the torture of Jesus by the Roman Empire, and rip out of Yom Kippur the memory of ten great rabbis tortured to death by the Roman Empire. After all, that’s what Empires do, and charging the Emperor with crimes would tear the Empire apart.

Translation of Friedman: Empires need to use torture; charging the Emperor with crimes will tear apart not America the democratic republic but the American Empire.

That is true.

Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center
— Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Philadelphia

Evil is evil, Mr. Friedman — and a country is generally defined by how it engages and disables it. There is nothing “new” about this enemy. What’s new is the United States of America is now practicing evil in retaliation.
— Sue Robbins, Panama, Republic of Panama


People like Tom Friedman disgust me they have been preaching that Osama uses dirty tricks yet when dirty tricks are done by The israelis and the American he justifies it with Poker face. IS the law only for the muslim countries and that they should abide by that. If the rapes murder and war crimes are committed by the West and their cronies State Of Israel it is looked the other way who is responsible for the 27 Homicides commited agains the helpless prisoners. Sudan should be held responsible for less Human deaths then deaths that have been infliceted on IRAQ a million plus. Solobodan Milosovic is ent to trial for less couple of thousand dead to HAgue Trial. Where is the International Court now or it just designed to convict Non Powerful members of the world since Elites like Friedman are claiming look the other way. Oligarch is in full bloom. Tom Firedman is lower then the terrorists.
— khalid, nj, usa



I don’t know where most of these commenters spend their time, but I eat lunch every day in a manufacturing plant in Ohio. The majority of the people here support torture of suspected terrorists. Don’t kid yourself. I’ve had this debate and found myself in the minority. Prosecuting the torturers will rip this country apart far worse than Watergate, because most people agreed that what Nixon did was wrong, but a majority of Americans will have grave misgivings about prosecuting American soldiers and spies who tortured suspected terrorists while trying to defend their country. This will be more akin to calling the cops on your brother because you think he might be abusing his kids. Thanksgiving dinner will be awkward.

Now I don’t agree with Friedman, and I think we should prosecute. But to do so would require the full support of the Obama administration and congress, which will lose substantial support, especially in those swing states that secured him the presidency, like Ohio and Virginia. It will embolden the critics of his domestic policies. It could mean the end of substantial health care reform and carbon emission reduction. Indirectly it could extend the recession by tying the administration’s hands. It is the single best way for the Democrats to hand the presidency back to the Republicans, and maybe congress too.

Now I’m OK with defeating those domestic initiatives, as I’m not a big supporter anyway. I also think that condoning torture will hurt this country far more than Al Quaeda ever will, or global warming. But there will be a big price to pay, especially when we suffer our next terrorist attack. Is prosecuting the torturers important enough to risk losing Obama in 2012 and most of his domestic initatives? I think that’s the question Obama is asking himself (Friedman too). And that’s why he won’t prosecute. But he should.
— Tom, Ohio


* Source: “A Torturous Compromise” Text by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
(NYT, April 29, 2009)