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This isn’t about free speech – it’s about the freedom to live in a secular society

t isn’t actually about free speech. It’s about free faith. Or, if we choose, no faith.

Ever since the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a debate has been raging. A passionate and compelling debate, to be sure. But the wrong debate. Do we have the right to free speech? Or do we not?

This morning, in a powerful piece in the Times, David Aaronovitch says we do. He attacks “the weasels” who he claims have started insinuating that Charlie Hebdo’s editorial staff brought the attack upon themselves. “We British do quite a line in victim-blaming: she must have said something, he must have provoked her and so on. My thought is that such a form of apologism makes the apologists feel safer, because they would never be so provocative, so underdressed, so drunk. Therefore no one would kill or rape them.”

One of these “weasels” is the HuffPo commentator Mehdi Hasan. Yesterday, Mehdi wrote a piece headlined “I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists”. “None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech”, he said. “We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn”.

David was duly scathing in his response. “An absence of freedom of speech distorts and terrorises. It creates ignorant, cowed people and vile, unaccountable government”.

And of course he’s right. The problem is, so is Mehdi Hasan.

It is wrong to claim we have the right to say whatever we like, when we like. We have libel laws. We have defamation laws. We have anti-racism laws. In France, where the killings were committed, they have laws against denying the existence of crimes against humanity. It’s inconvenient for those of us who support Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but Mehdi Hassan is perfectly correct. We do not have a right to untrammeled free speech.

In his own article, David Aaronovitch weaves skillfully around this by inserting his own “test”. “The test for limiting speech or expression would have to be a stringent one. Only if you could show that people would suffer significant damage as a direct and intentional result of this expression do I think bans can be justified”.

Fine. So let’s take the “Aaronovitch Test” and apply it to the decision to put the Prophet on the cover of this week’s memorial edition of Charlie Hebdo. Will it cause significant damage? Yes. There has already been a reaction within the Muslim community. As we’ve seen, violence is a very real possibility. Even without it, it will have created serious tensions between Muslims and the rest of French society. And the publishers knew this would be the result. Their decision to place Muhammad on this week’s cover was a deliberate one. As with their previous cartoons, they consciously sought to create a reaction.

So tested on the basis of free speech, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons fail. Which is why we need a new test. And in my view, it should be this.

Does what you are arguing for impinge upon my right to live in a secular society? Is the basis for your offence rational thought, or religious doctrine? If it’s the former, we have to find some form of compromise. But if it’s the latter, then I’m sorry, but that’s tough.

If you don’t like images of the Prophet Muhammad, fine. Don’t draw them. But don’t tell me I can’t draw them. If you don’t want to marry someone of the same sex, don’t. But don’t try and tell me who I can and can’t marry. If you don’t think shops should open on a Sunday, don’t go to the shops. But don’t tell me I have to sit at home and make peace with your god.

This is the line that needs to be drawn. Not around free speech, but around our right to have our own set of beliefs, rather than have them imposed as part of a de-facto theocracy.

This is the deal. Jews, Christians, Hindus, Muslims. Welcome. You are free to practice your faith amongst us. But never forget this. It is your faith, not mine. And if you can’t accept that, then in the immortal words of the mayor of Rotterdam, you can “f––– off”.

There are, of course, implications to building a cultural settlement like this. It would mean formally breaking the anachronistic link between church and state. We may have to re-examine our sentimental attachment to school nativity plays. But that’s a relatively small price to pay for preventing religious bloodshed on our streets.

Some may no doubt argue, “What you’re looking for is a French style settlement. And that doesn’t seem to have done France much good”. But surely the attack on Charlie Hebdo proves what a powerful weapon secularism is? The terrorists themselves certainly recognised that, which is why they chose that particular target.

The debate about free speech will only end up in cul-de-sac. Unless you are prepared to literally say, “no boundaries, for any reason” it will never be possible to reach agreement on where the boundaries should be drawn. But one thing we can do is ensure is that wherever they are drawn, they are drawn by men, not gods.

 

Dan Hodges, The Telegraph

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Scientists ‘delete’ HIV virus from human DNA for the first time

Once HIV conquers a human cell, it will stay there forever.

It inserts its deadly genome permanently into its victims’ DNA, forcing them to require medical treatment for the rest of their life.

But now, for the first time, researchers in Philadelphia have found a way to completely delete HIV from human cells by ‘snipping’ them out.

The team of Temple University School of Medicine said the breakthrough marks the first successful attempt to eliminate latent HIV-1 virus from human cells – and could be a cure for other latent infections.

‘This is one important step on the path toward a permanent cure for AIDS,’ said Kamel Khalili, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Temple.

‘It’s an exciting discovery, but it’s not yet ready to go into the clinic. It’s a proof of concept that we’re moving in the right direction,’ he added.

In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Khalili and colleagues detail how they created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA.

When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and remove the HIV-1 DNA.

From there, the cell’s gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.

‘Since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease,’ explained Dr Khalili.

These molecular tools also hold promise as a therapeutic vaccine; cells armed with the nuclease-RNA combination proved impervious to HIV infection.

Worldwide, more than 33 million people have HIV, including more than 1 million in the United States.

Every year, another 50,000 Americans contract the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the UK, around 100,000 people were living with HIV in the UK in 2013. That’s around one person in 665.

Although highly active antiretroviral therapy (Haart) has controlled HIV-1 for infected people in the developed world over the last 15 years, the virus can rage again with any interruption in treatment.

‘The low level replication of HIV-1 makes patients more likely to suffer from diseases usually associated with ageing,’ Dr Khalili said.

These include cardiomyopathy – a weakening of the heart muscle – bone disease, kidney disease, and neurocognitive disorders.

‘These problems are often exacerbated by the toxic drugs that must be taken to control the virus,’ Dr Khalili added.

Researchers based the two-part HIV-1 editor on a system that evolved as a bacterial defence mechanism to protect against infection.

Dr Khalili’s lab engineered a 20-nucleotide strand of gRNA to target the HIV-1 DNA and paired it with a DNA-sniping enzyme called Cas9 and used to edit the human genome.

‘We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies,’ Dr Khalili said.

‘We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it.’

 

 ELLIE ZOLFAGHARIFARD, Daily Mail

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Leslie Hatamiya To be Appointed First Executive Director of San Bruno Community Foundation

The Board of Directors of the San Bruno Community Foundation will consider final action to appoint Leslie Hatamiya as the Foundation’s first Executive Director effective Feb. 1. Ms. Hatamiya, a San Bruno resident, led the California Bar Foundation as its Executive Director from 2004 to 2012.

“The San Bruno Community Foundation presents a unique opportunity to benefit San Bruno’s dynamic, diverse, and resilient community over the long term,” said Ms. Hatamiya. “I would be honored to help build the Foundation into a valuable community resource that supports all of San Bruno.”

A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, Ms. Hatamiya has more than two decades of experience in building organizations and programs. Over seven years, Ms. Hatamiya transformed the California Bar Foundation into a vibrant center of philanthropy for California’s legal community.  She rebuilt the Board of Directors, developed a growing fundraising program, launched a highly successful scholarship program to increase diversity in the legal profession, sharpened its grant-making strategy, spearheaded a remake of its brand and public image, and strengthened its relationship with the State Bar of California. While at the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya earned recognition as one of the “Best Lawyers Under 40” from the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

Prior to joining the California Bar Foundation, Ms. Hatamiya served as chief of staff and director of corporate communications and special projects at wireless broadband startup SOMA Networks; ran the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in San Francisco; and helped build former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign as a deputy campaign manager. Recently, she staffed the John Paul Stevens Fellowship Foundation and launched the “Vote with Your Mission” campaign for the California Association of Nonprofits. She has also held positions at Stanford University, Yale University, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and in Senator Bradley’s Capitol Hill office.

Ms. Hatamiya has been a longtime Stanford University volunteer, including service on the University’s Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and the National Advisory Board of the Haas Center for Public Service, which she chaired. She is also the author of Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, a publication of Stanford University Press.

Since moving to San Bruno in 2003, Ms. Hatamiya has been an active member of the community as a PTA leader, a volunteer for San Bruno Pee Wee Baseball, and a past AYSO soccer coach. Her ties to San Bruno reach back to World War II, when her mother and grandparents were among the Japanese Americans interned at the assembly center on the site of what are now the Shops at Tanforan.

“Ms. Hatamiya has wide-ranging experience in the public, nonprofit, political, and private sectors,” commented Nancy Kraus, Board President. “She has the perfect combination of experience, energy, vision, and sense of the community to lead the Foundation forward in its important work.”

The San Bruno Community Foundation was established by the San Bruno City Council to administer, for the long-term benefit of the San Bruno community, $70 million the City received in restitution from PG&E after the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in the City.

The Board-appointed Search Committee to fill the Executive Director position included Directors Dr. Regina Stanback-Stroud, Frank Hedley, and Board President Nancy Kraus. The recruitment process spanned several months led by the nationally recognized firm, The 360 Group.

 

 

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American Pastor Who Helped Uganda Create ‘Kill The Gays’ Law Will Be Tried For Crimes Against Humanity

Most of us go our entire lives without ever standing trial for crimes against humanity. Then again, most of us aren’t notorious bigot Pastor Scott Lively, whose life work seems to be to ask the question: “How can I make gay people miserable across the world?”

In the United States Lively’s homophobic messages are largely ignored, and in recent years he has had to endure various setbacks at the state and federal level as equality makes historic gains. Undeterred, Lively has sought out foreign lands where his particular brand of ruthless anti-gay ideas are more accepted. In Uganda, he found a home away from home. During a Christian “workshop” in the African nation he managed to become one of the principal architects behind some of the most retrograde anti-gay legislation on the planet.

Officially titled the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” and more commonly known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, Lively’s vision was nothing less than a roadmap for the total persecution and eradication of homosexuals from Uganda. In Lively’s original design, anyone caught engaging in homosexuality would be executed. A newer bill softened that stance slightly after worldwide condemnation – in the latest version, homosexuals would only be sentenced to life in prison.

Unfortunately for Lively, orchestrating genocide in another country is kind of frowned upon, and in 2012 a lawsuit was filed against Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity. This week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals denied Lively’s final request to have it dismissed because, well, the whole genocide thing.

During his lengthy appeals process, one would think that Lively would lay low and avoid saying anything that suggests he isn’t at all sorry for helping Uganda try to kill its gay population. Instead, Lively has continued to double down on his efforts to spread as much homophobia as possible. It’s gotten so bad that the watchdog group Human Rights Campaign dedicated September to chronicle the various ways Lively and his anti-gay ministry were “exporters of hate.”

Scott Lively is the head of Abiding Truths Ministry in Springfield, Massachusetts and is known around the world for his notorious work successfully advocating for anti-LGBT laws in Uganda that could send LGBT people to prison for life. In fact, Lively has traveled the world over presenting himself as an expert on LGBT issues, urging lawmakers to crack down on LGBT rights and the right of free expression.

In 2007, Lively wrote in “Letter to the Russian People,” “Homosexuality is a personality disorder that involves various often dangerous sexual addictions and aggressive anti-social impulses.”

And this week, while he awaited his fate at his crimes against humanity trial, Lively told Trunews that homosexuality should be considered “more offensive” than mass killings, because gay people caused the Great Flood that wiped out the human race (technically, God did, and technically there is no evidence of that actually occurring, but who’s counting?).

“Homosexuality is not just another sin,” he said according to Right Wing Watch, “it is the sin that defines rebellion against God, the outer edge of rebellion against God and it is the harbinger of God’s wrath, that’s why the Scripture gives the warning, ‘as in the days of Noah.’”

In a way it makes sense that Lively would be adamant that homosexuality was worse than mass murder, considering that the mass murder of gay people is what he stands accused of trying to achieve.

Lively currently lives in Springfield, Massachusetts, and hopefully soon will have a permanent residency behind bars.

from Addicting Info

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This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is the disappointing reaction to the terrorist violence in Paris from some notable religious activists in the United States.

Looking back, it’s unfortunate that immediate reactions to terrorism from some high-profile social conservatives is too often disheartening. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, for example, TV preachers Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were quick to blame Americans for the attack.

Fourteen years later, as much of the world was coming to grips with developments in France, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer suggested Charlie Hebdo bore some responsibility for what transpired this week. Right Wing Watch noted that Fischer “raised the possibility that this attack was punishment for the magazine’s repeated violation of the commandment that ‘you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’” The AFA host added, in an apparent attempt at blame, “They made a career out of taking the name of God, the God of the Bible, the father of the Lord Jesus.”

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, was just as provocative, issuing a statement titled “Muslims are right to be angry.” The Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reported:

…Donohue criticized the publication’s history of offending the world’s religiously devout, including non-Muslims. The murdered Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier “didn’t understand the role he played in his [own] tragic death,” the statement reads.

“Had [Charbonnier] not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive,” Donohue says, in what must be one of the more offensive and insensitive comments made on this tragic day.

“Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated,” says Donohue. “But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.”

Even some conservatives were unimpressed with the argument. National Review, making the case against Donohue’s statement, highlighted what it saw as a flaw in the activist’s reasoning: “It risks sending a message of dangerous moral equivalence — one side is wrong in killing and making death threats; the other side is wrong to offend religious believers. We must keep clear in our minds the moral distinction here: All people have a right not to be murdered; nobody has a right not to be offended.”

Also from the God Machine this week:

In France: “The Grand Synagogue of Paris did not host Shabbat services and closed Friday for security reasons, the first time that’s happened since World War II. The Synagogue, the largest place of worship for those of the Jewish faith in Paris, was closed Friday amid the ongoing efforts by French authorities to hunt down the suspects involved in terrorist attacks around the city.”

* In Miami: “As Florida became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage this week, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski sent a memo to all church employees reiterating that any expressions of support for gay marriage – even if it’s only a tweet or Facebook post – could cost them their jobs.”

* In Turkey: “Turkey is getting a brand new church for the first time in nearly a century. The $1.5 million Virgin Mary Syriac church will be built in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy, Daily Sabah reports. A government source told the AFP that this is the first church that the government has allowed Christians to build from the ground up since the republic formed in 1923, though other churches have been restored and reopened.”

* And in D.C.: “When it comes to religion, Congress appears to be much more devout than the rest of the country…. According to [the Pew Research Center], more than 92 percent of the 535 members of Congress are Christian, including at least seven pastors. “

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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2nd Amendment For Whites Only? Conservatives Freak Out Over New Black Panthers Carrying Guns

Well, this should surprise exactly no one. Not even a little. Ever since the NRA created the “grassroots” movement to shove “open carry” laws down America’s throat, white men have been parading their penis extensions to shopping malls and restaurants to bully and terrorize people. Oh wait, I meant “show their patriotism.” No, hold on, I actually did mean “bully and terrorize.”

Meanwhile, gun control advocates have been pointing out that the second black men started to do the same, white conservatives would go into full panic mode. And just as predicted, when the New Black Panther Party did just that, the right wing started to hyperventilate:

“Horrifying”? And what, exactly was horrifying about American citizens exercising their right to bear arms? The article never really says.

The Conservative Tribune (one of the most read websites in the country) goes on to say that the group carrying guns is “alarming” while complaining that President Obama is trying to steal our guns while “these guys don’t even get the slightest bit of attention.” Again, why this is alarming or why they need attention is never actually explained.

Of course, the writer brings up the long, long debunked myth of voter intimidation in Philadelphia because why let a good lie go to waste when you’re whipping up racial fear? I’m surprised he didn’t work ACORN in there somehow.

But what are the NBPs doing that’s so scary? Other than being black, of course.

Talk to your average right wing gun nut and they’ll tell you they need their guns to protect them from a tyrannical government and its jack-booted thugs in law enforcement. But wait a second! The New Black Panthers say exactly the same thing!

“We accept all oppressed people of color with weapons,” Darren X told Vice. “The complete agenda involves going into our communities and educating our people on federal, state and local gun laws. We want to stop fratricide, genocide — all the ‘cides.”

I’m trying to find where the philosophical difference lies between black militants and white militants. Curiously, the only thing I can think of is that the white militants are angry about imaginary oppression while the black ones are angry about very real oppression. Clearly, that means the black ones are “thugs” and the white ones are “patriots.”

Right?

But this is nothing new. Conservatives love love LOVE the Second Amendment right up until the point where black people start exercising it. Hell, the NRA and even Saint Ronnie were so terrified of black men with guns that they crafted and passed laws in the 60’s that explicitly prohibited the kind of open carry that ammosexuals are currently using to terrorize their neighbors.

Personally, I don’t like the NBPP. I think they’re extremists and not helping the discourse. But in this instance, I’m dying of laughter. By taking a page from the right wing’s playbook, they’ve unintentionally exposed the monumental hypocrisy and racism of conservatives. Frankly, I hope the movement spreads. I want black people all over the country to start legally carrying assault rifles in public and run patrols to police the police. Watching the right wing media twist itself into pretzels to condemn such a challenge to the status quo while maintaining the fiction that white people carrying guns is no big deal will be absolutely amazing.

Just as a side note, the article in the Tribune is new but the patrols started in August of 2014. The Tribune article never mentions this. It’s almost like the entire point was to trick easily manipulated white people into being afraid of something that hasn’t caused an incident in over 5 months. But a conservative publication would never stoop to such race baiting, would they?

From Addicting Info

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Elizabeth Warren rip apart Keystone

Every time Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) opens her mouth, I want to stand up and slow clap. She didn’t let me down at the first Energy Committee hearing of the year, at which Warren cranked open a can of her secret-recipe whoop-ass on the new Republican Congress. This time, it was to announce a snarky yet eloquent “HELL NO” on the subject of the Keystone XL pipeline. Here are a few highlights from her spiel.

Warren starts with some real talk on why Republicans want to pass the bill:

It’s not about jobs, it’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent? The answer is money. Money and power. The pipeline might not do much for the American people, but it is worth a whole lot to the Canadian oil industry.

And adds, with gusto:

Who does this new Republican Congress work for: foreign oil companies or the American people? Today, their first priority is to advance a pipeline that means a whole lot to an army of well-paid lobbyists, and a whole lot to a giant, foreign oil company.

Now that is a whole lot of legitimate points. But here’s where she sinks the jump shot at the final buzzer:

… we know that this pipeline runs terrible environmental risks, and it just won’t do much to help the American people. I didn’t come here to do favors for TransCanada. Republican leaders may disagree, but I’ll be voting no on this.

SEE? You’re slow-clapping, too.

Even though Warren and most other Democrats will be voting against the Senate bill to approve Keystone, it has enough support to pass. And the House version will pass, too. Fortunately, Obama announced his intent to veto the bill earlier this week — and there aren’t enough supporters to overcome that veto.

Meanwhile, if Warren’s speech is a sneak peek into what Democrats are becoming in their new, underdog position, C-SPAN might just become the new ESPN. GO FIGHT WIN, WARREN.

By Liz Core, Grist

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WEST COAST PREMIERE OF NEW VOICES COMPOSER CYNTHIA LEE WONG’S CARNIVAL FEVER


Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) leads the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in the West Coast premiere of Cynthia Lee Wong’s Carnival Fever—a co-commission that is part of the SF Symphony’s New Voices project with the New World Symphony and Boosey & Hawkes—January 21-23 in Davies Symphony Hall. The program also features pianist Yefim Bronfman in Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major, as well as Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra.
 
New Voices is a creative partnership between MTT, the San Francisco Symphony, the New World Symphony, and music publisher Boosey & Hawkes that annually commissions works from an emerging composer. Each New Voices composer writes one chamber work and one orchestral work that are further developed and premiered with MTT and the New World Symphony, followed by the West Coast premieres performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Publisher Boosey & Hawkes also provides New Voices composers with professional development and guidance that are essential to a young composer’s career. Cynthia Lee Wong is the second New Voices composer, following Zosha di Castri as the inaugural recipient in May 2012. In April 2014, Ted Hearne was announced as the third New Voices composer.
 
Cynthia Lee Wong’s orchestral work Carnival Fever received its world premiere with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony in April 2014. Later this season, her chamber work Snapshots—which premiered with NWS players in November 2013—will receive its West Coast premiere on March 6 and 7 at SoundBox, the SF Symphony’s new late-night, experimental music series.
 
Cynthia Lee Wong says that Carnival Fever was influenced by “’The Carnival at Rome’ from Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. Young Albert (the unknowing target of Monte Cristo’s machinations) and his friend Franz experience a carnival, which commences only moments after a grisly public execution in the same piazza. Although the Count, who had invited the young men to witness the scene, responds to the execution by “burst[ing] into a laugh,” he remains unmoved throughout the festivities. In contrast, Albert and Franz are “seiz[ed]” by the “general vertigo” and are “like men who, to drive away a violent sorrow, have recourse to wine, and who, as they drink and become intoxicated, feel a thick veil drawn between the past and the present.’”
 
Born in New York, Cynthia Lee Wong has attracted international acclaim for her “impressive energy and drive” (The Boston Globe), “extravagant variety of sound” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and “unsettling…dark, eerie…highly individual sound universe” (The San Diego Union-Tribune). Her creative output encompasses a range of genres, including works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance, voice, narrator, musical theatre, and piano improvisation. Past commissions include Memoriam (2011) for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Three Portraits (2005) and On Baldness and Other Songs (2007) for the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Piano Quartet (2010) for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and La Jolla Music Society, and String Quartet No. 1 (2009) for Tanglewood Music Center. She has also worked with the Tokyo String Quartet, the Orchestra del Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy, New Juilliard Ensemble, the Juilliard Orchestra, and the Cincinnati College-Conservatory Orchestra.
 
Wong is a graduate of the accelerated 5-year Bachelor-Master program at the Juilliard School. She studied composition with Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, David Del Tredici, David Olan, and Larry Thomas Bell, as well as piano with Tatyana Dudochkin, Frank Levy, and Martin Canin. From 2006-2008, she taught music theory and composition at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. She has been a faculty member at CUNY’s Baruch College since 2008. In 2012, she participated in the BMI musical theatre workshop, and in 2013, Wong joined the board of the League of Composers, the nation’s oldest organization dedicated toward new music. Wong is a Ph.D. Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.
 
Pianist Yefim Bronfman has been a regular guest artist at the San Francisco Symphony since his debut in 1981. He last performed with the SFS in September 2013 in Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. Bronfman began the 2014-15 season with appearances at summer festivals including Aspen Tanglewood, Vail, and La Jolla and a residency at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Other appearances this season include performances with the symphonies of Chicago (with whom he also appears in Carnegie Hall), Saint Louis, Dallas, Seattle, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh, the New World Symphony, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and the Berlin, New York, and Los Angeles Philharmonics. He performs Magnus Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Gothenburg Symphony and the London Philharmonic. With the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst, he will play and record both Brahms Piano Concertos; he also performs Brahms at La Scala with Valery Gergiev. Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy award in 2014 for his recording of Lindberg’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic on the Da Capo label. His 2009 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Piano Concerto with Salonen conducting was also nominated for a Grammy. His other recordings include DVDs with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Berlin Philharmonic, and CDs of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the recital disc Perspectives, and recordings of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos and the Triple Concerto with Gil Shaham, Truls Mørk, and the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra for the Arte Nova/BMG label.
 

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Russian thugs storm LGBTI club, four gay men injured

A group of Russian thugs stormed a gay club on 3 January, injuring several people there on a night out.

The unknown number of men bypassed the security at Fantom in Togliatti, a city in southwestern Russia.

At least one of the customers was hospitalized with serious injuries, local media reports, with at least three recieving medical care after being attacked.

Police say they currently have no suspects.

Konstantin Golava, a local gay activist, demanded a full investigation into the crime and to finally bring homophobic thugs to justice.

‘It is known that several of the attackers had previously seen near the places, maybe they were planning an attack on the club,’ he said.

‘It is not surprising that this happened because the representatives of LGBTQ community and their friends in Russia are trying to expel as “defective” from all walks of life.’

Writing on LGBT Russia, he listed the many teachers who have been fired for being gay among the examples of how the authorities have little interest in protecting the community.

Golava also says it is also a reason that LGBTI people, apathetic to the country’s issues, should care about what’s happening.

‘Gay men can create their own cozy ghetto in a club that seems to be safe. But they are wrong.

‘There is nothing wrong with having fun and relaxing, but they must protect themselvs, protect their rights and not to grumble that activists “provoke” and “our rights are not violated”.

‘When gay Russians think their rights are not being violated, even after attacks like this, then only more of this darkness will continue.’

Joe Morgan, Gay Star News

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Rise of the ‘Daddies’: A New (and Sexy) Gay Niche

I remember the first time I was called Daddy. I was 38, dating a 26-year-old, and gray was appearing in my beard. We stood there in my apartment, kissing. “You’re my daddy,” he said. My dentures fell out. Daddy? Me? It seems as if just yesterday I had my hair in Björk buns and was called a club kid. I wasn’t sure how to react, yet stood there trying to suddenly fit the role. 

Daddy was an older guy who had a strong personality, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and got on top of you. Daddy never showed doubt or vacillation. For instance, a Daddy would never say, “Does this contain wheat? I have a gluten allergy.” Above all, a daddy always paid for things (even when he was a ranch hand), which, I thought, ruled me out. But this young man I was dating didn’t need me to fulfill all these stereotypes. I was a Daddy, like it or not.

The daddy — or more specifically, the leather daddy — has been around for a while in gay eroticism (where, let’s face it, all sexual fetishes and flexibilities are begat). It’s had a long sadomasochistic fantasy history. For a schooling, check out Joe Gage’s classic “working man trilogy” porn movies from the late seventies, or, also from that decade, Larry Townsend’s novels and Drummer magazine stories that explore leather subculture. If you’re wondering, the old gay hanky code color is hunter green.

And then, of course, there have always been sugar daddies, regardless of sexual orientation or single-gender couplings. There’s even a sugardaddie.com for women seeking rich men. “Where the classy, attractive and affluent meet,” it explains. “The first and original Sugar Daddie site. We started it all!”

But like everything else in our culture, where even grumpy cats become memes and multiply, it seems the gay daddies are moving beyond leather land, especially for a new generation of twentysomething gays. An informal poll of men reveals that there seems to be an uptick of younger men who are interested in guys of my “seasoned” age bracket. “Guys my age could care less about me. At all,” says one friend in his forties. “Which is fine. We all seem to be occupied with the interests of much younger guys lately.”

To meet the demand, a daddy industry is developing. There are now tons of non-leather daddy porn sites, a hookup app, Daddyhunt, for “Gay Daddies, Silver Daddies, Muscle Daddies, Bears, Leather Daddies, Big Daddies, and Daddy-Lovers.” There is an increasing number of gay porn actors and escorts, who, despite the decimation of the gay adult film industry thanks to Internet, have extended their careers into middle age with equal, if not greater, popularity (Chase Hunter, Allen Silver, and Cole Maverick, to name a few); according to one male escort friend, getting good “reviews” from satisfied customers on the website Daddy’s Reviewshas become crucial for business.

Many of our most famous gays right now — Andy Cohen, Anderson Cooper, Alan Cumming, Tom Ford, and so on — are all also daddies. Even if they don’t get naked or call each other that on Twitter.

In turn, daddy has gone from being a porn thing to defining a broader range of men. “If you’re hearing daddy more and more, I think that it’s because more gay men are allowing themselves to be attracted to different types of people,” says Conner Habib, a writer, lecturer, and adult-film star.  “Rather than a uniform experience of beauty, people want a personalized experience of it. What could be more personalized than a daddy? It expresses character, relationship, experience.”

Though it’s meant to suggest a difference — aesthetic and age wise — the opposite of daddy isn’t necessarily young. (On mainstream hookup sites like Grindr or Tinder, you will see someone describe themselves as a “young daddy.” Usually he has facial hair and meat on his bones.) In the ongoing effort of gay taxonomy, daddy has broadened rather than become more specific, unlike bear and its sub-phylums of otter, seal, wolf, and so on. “There’s not a ‘daddy community’ in the same way that there’s a bear community,” observes Habib. Maybe the best way to describe what a daddy is is by saying what it isn’t: One Direction. “Honestly, it’s not about age,” says one 22-year-old when asked why older men appeal to him. “It’s a simple question of whether I find them attractive, really. Age is a thing of the past, right?”

“The term ‘daddy’ alone seems very loose to me, but it usually is used as a sexually charged compliment,” says Sean Van Sant, director of the male escort website rentboy.com. “People hire other people to act out stereotypes, but also [you can] invert the stereotypes. That’s the great thing about being gay, is daddy can flip at any time. Daddy is definitely not always a top in the [escorting] world.”

To that end, there is such a thing as a femme daddy. Look at Elton John. Nathan Lane in The Nance. Or watch Michael Douglas as Liberace (somewhere in gay heaven, that glorious gay icon is giddy that he got to have sex with Matt Damon). These are men who own their queeny side but are, somehow, unquestionably daddy. Sure, they are all rich, but they are also confident and powerful. Daddy Warbucks in a caftan.

Of course, now more and more, there are actual gay dads who are daddies. “Sometimes we even use it between us as playful banter or even with other gay fathers,” says one friend who, with his partner, has a young kid. He often gets looks from younger guys. “It is funny to get cruised on the street when I’m out walking with my son.”

Perhaps the mainstreaming of the daddy trend could be because of statistics: Guys my age — men in our forties — are the largest demographic of gay-identified males to grow old. (The few out and older men I know, now in their late fifties and sixties, are definitely daddy types, because they’re tough, wise, brave guys who survived the harrowing early days of the AIDS crisis.)

“Everyone has a dad, so everyone has daddy issues or relationships; same as straights have mommy issues,” observes Van Sant. “I guess it’s all relative and not so kinky.” Indeed, in our porn-at-your-fingertips era, when every guy has a photo of their boner saved on their smartphone, you are sexually viable at nearly every age, whether you like it or not. Even the words mom and dad are sexual now. The other day, a friend of mine was trying to describe a woman he works with. “She’s blonde, late forties, sort of MILF-y,” he said, in an offhand way, as if he forgot the “ILF” part of the acronym and just meant she was attractive.

So, as we celebrate another Father’s Day, let’s embrace daddy in all its ramifications. Daddy has become a root word that can be enhanced with an adjective, sort of like queen. (Sweater queen, circuit queen, size queen). So now is the time to create them: sport daddy, nerd daddy, recycling daddy. Let’s start the list! I don’t know what I would be: Malbec daddy? Yoga daddy? Accidental daddy? I better figure it out soon, because I’m sure in a couple of years I will already be considered a granddaddy. Or GILF, if I’m lucky.

Mike Albo, The Cut

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Astrophysicist Writes Brutal Response To WSJ Article Claiming Science Has Proven God Exists

Recently – Christmas Day, in fact – the Wall Street Journal published an article by a Christian apologist who boldly declared that science was “increasingly” making the case for God, year-after-year.

Eric Metaxas is best known as a biographical writer, but he is also lauded (in conservative circles) for his work promoting the pro-life movement and making sweeping, outrageous conclusions about the existence of God based on whatever tenuous evidence seems handy at the time. If sweeping, outrageous conclusions be Metaxas bread-and-butter, than his Wall Street Journal article is perhaps his magnum opus. It’s a doozy.

After subtitling his work “The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?”, what followed was a meandering journey into the mind of a creationist playing at scientific literacy – but only when it suited his predetermined conclusions.

The arguments aren’t new. If you’ve ever walked into a Christian bookshop and picked up a book “debunking” evolution, you’d find similar jabs. Paragraphs like these abound:

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

One person who is clearly fed up with this kind of pseudoscientific contrived nonsense is Lawrence Krauss, a world-renown theoretical physicist and cosmologist. His actual job, unlike Metaxas’, is to study the Universe – and he doesn’t share Metaxas’ optimism about his discoveries justifying intelligent design.

In a letter to the editor, Krauss systematically dismantles Metaxas’ shallow science and demonstrates that, not only has science not proven God’s existence (or disproven!), but most of the assumptions Metaxas makes are flat-out wrong.

To the editor:

I was rather surprised to read the unfortunate oped piece “Science Increasingly makes the case for God”, written not by a scientist but a religious writer with an agenda. The piece was rife with inappropriate scientific misrepresentations. For example:

  1. We currently DO NOT know the factors that allow the evolution of life in the Universe. We know the many factors that were important here on Earth, but we do not know what set of other factors might allow a different evolutionary history elsewhere. The mistake made by the author is akin to saying that if one looks at all the factors in my life that led directly to my sitting at my computer to write this, one would obtain a probability so small as to conclude that it is impossible that anyone else could ever sit down to compose a letter to the WSJ.
  2. We have discovered many more planets around stars in our galaxy than we previously imagined, and many more forms of life existing in extreme environments in our planet than were known when early estimates of the frequency of life in the universe were first made. If anything, the odds have increased, not decreased.
  3. The Universe would certainly continue to exist even if the strength of the four known forces was different. It is true that if the forces had vastly different strengths (nowhere near as tiny as the fine-scale variation asserted by the writer) then life as we know it would probably not evolved. This is more likely an example of life being fine-tuned for the universe in which it evolved, rather than the other way around.
  4. My ASU colleague Paul Davies may have said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming”, but his statement should not be misinterpreted. The appearance of design of life on Earth is also overwhelming, but we now understand, thanks to Charles Darwin that the appearance of design is not the same as design, it is in fact a remnant of the remarkable efficiency of natural selection.

Religious arguments for the existence of God thinly veiled as scientific arguments do a disservice to both science and religion, and by allowing a Christian apologist to masquerade as a scientist WSJ did a disservice to its readers.

And anticipating Metaxas’ response of “bias” from a secular scientist, Krauss isn’t the only one – on either side of the debate – that has found the Metaxas’ premises to be absurd. Writing for the Huffington Post, Geoffrey A. Mitelman, a rabbi, found the article equally troubling.

So, as tempting as it might be for someone like Metaxas to believe it, science doesn’t prove God exists any more than it has for the last several hundred years.

Ironically, contrary to the Wall Street Journal’s opinion, with more and more data coming in from various NASA experiments (including the historic comet landing in 2014), scientists are now growing increasingly convinced that life – or at least the ingredients to make it – are incredibly abundant throughout the Universe. If we haven’t heard from any little green men yet, it may be as simple as this: the Universe is a very, very large place and we’ve only just started looking.

 

From Jameson Parker, Addicting Info

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A Transgender 17-Year-Old Left A Suicide Note On Tumblr Pleading “Fix Society”

Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Kings Mills, Ohio, died on Dec. 28. A suicide note appeared on her Tumblr that evening.

Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl from Kings Mills, Ohio, died on Dec. 28. A suicide note appeared on her Tumblr that evening.

She had scheduled the letter to be published after her death.She wrote that she felt “like a girl trapped in a boy’s body” and had done so “ever since [she] was 4.”

Leelah said: “When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was.”

But she felt she was isolated from society by her Christian family and said she was not given consent to transition on her 16th birthday, which “absolutely broke [her] heart.”

At the end of her letter she included this plea:

My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

Leelah had some advice for parents of transgender teens and children.

She begged them to never tell their child that being transgender is “a phase,” “that God doesn’t make mistakes,” or that they can never truly be the gender they feel they are.

If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

She included this request for her will:

I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better.

On Monday evening, another queued post from Leelah appeared on her Tumblr, titled “SORRY,” in which she issued a series of apologies to friends and family. But to her mother and father, she wrote, “Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that.”

And now for my sorry notes to some people I knew…

Amanda: You are going to have such a wonderful life. You are the most talented and pretty little girl I’ve ever met and I love you so much, Amanda. Please don’t be sad. I’m going to miss you so very much. I love you.

Tiffany: We haven’t talked much recently since we’re both so busy but I’m so happy you’re my sister. You are so courageous and determined to achieve what you want, you can accomplish anything. I love you.

Justin: We’ve been jerks to each other a lot recently but I really do love you. You get on my nerves almost all the time but no matter what a part of me will always love you. Sorry for picking on you so much when we were kids.

Rylan: I’m so sorry I’m never there for you. I love you so much.

Abby: Thank you for dealing with my pathetic problems, all I did was make your life harder and I’m sorry.

Mom and Dad: Fuck you. You can’t just control other people like that. That’s messed up.

I don’t really feel the need to apologize to anyone else… odds are you didn’t give a shit about me and if you do, you did something that made me feel like shit and you don’t deserve an apology.

Also, anyone who says something like “I wish I got to know him better” or “I wish I treated him better” gets a punch in the nose.

From BuzzFeed
 

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Pope Francis: There is No Hell Fire; Adam + Eve Are Not Real

Some of the beliefs that are held in the church but contrary to the loving nature of God are now being set aside by the Pope who was recently named The Man of The Year by TIME Magazine.

In his latest revelations, Pope Francis said:

“Through humility, soul searching, and prayerful contemplation we have gained a new understanding of certain dogmas. The church no longer believes in a literal hell where people suffer. This doctrine is incompatible with the infinite love of God. God is not a judge but a friend and a lover of humanity. God seeks not to condemn but only to embrace. Like the fable of Adam and Eve, we see hell as a literary device. Hell is merely a metaphor for the isolated soul, which like all souls ultimately will be united in love with God.”

In a shocking speech that is reverberating across the world, Pope Francis declared that:

“All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them. What other kind of truth is there? In the past, the church has been harsh on those it deemed morally wrong or sinful. Today, we no longer judge. Like a loving father, we never condemn our children. Our church is big enough for heterosexuals and homosexuals, for the pro-life and the pro-choice! For conservatives and liberals, even communists are welcome and have joined us. We all love and worship the same God.”

In the last six months, Catholic cardinals, bishops and theologians have beendeliberating in the Vatican City, in discussing the future of the church and redefining long-held Catholic doctrines and dogmas. The Third Vatican Council, is the largest and most important since the Second Vatican Council was concluded in 1962.

Pope Francis convened the new council to “finally finish the work of the Second Vatican Council.”

The Third Vatican Council concluded with Pope Francis announcing that…
Catholicism is now a “modern and reasonable religion, which has undergone evolutionary changes. The time has come to abandon all intolerance. We must recognize that religious truth evolves and changes. Truth is not absolute or set in stone. Even atheists acknowledge the divine. Through acts of love and charity the atheist acknowledges God as well, and redeems his own soul, becoming an active participant in the redemption of humanity.”

One statement in the Pope’s speech has sent traditionalists into a fit of confusion and hysteria…

“God is changing and evolving as we are, For God lives in us and in our hearts. When we spread love and kindness in the world, we touch our own divinity and recognize it. The Bible is a beautiful holy book, but like all great and ancient works, some passages are outdated. Some even call for intolerance or judgement. The time has come to see these verses as later interpolations, contrary to the message of love and truth, which otherwise radiates through scripture. In accordance with our new understanding, we will begin to ordain women as cardinals, bishops and priests. In the future, it is my hope that we will have a woman pope one day. Let no door be closed to women that is open to men!”

A few cardinals in the Catholic church are against Pope Francis’ latest declarations. Watch out for the report.

From YOGAnonymous

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Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

A new study from Princeton spells bad news for American democracy—namely, that it no longer exists.

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

Brenden James, Talking Points Memo

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Are We Approaching the End of Human History?

This post first appeared at In These Times.

It is not pleasant to contemplate the thoughts that must be passing through the mind of the Owl of Minerva as the dusk falls and she undertakes the task of interpreting the era of human civilization, which may now be approaching its inglorious end.

The era opened almost 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, stretching from the lands of the Tigris and Euphrates, through Phoenicia on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley, and from there to Greece and beyond. What is happening in this region provides painful lessons on the depths to which the species can descend.

The land of the Tigris and Euphrates has been the scene of unspeakable horrors in recent years. The George W. Bush-Tony Blair aggression in 2003, which many Iraqis compared to the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, was yet another lethal blow. It destroyed much of what survived the Bill Clinton-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, condemned as “genocidal” by the distinguished diplomats Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who administered them before resigning in protest. Halliday and von Sponeck’s devastating reports received the usual treatment accorded to unwanted facts.

One dreadful consequence of the US-UK invasion is depicted in a New York Times “visual guide to the crisis in Iraq and Syria”: the radical change of Baghdad from mixed neighborhoods in 2003 to today’s sectarian enclaves trapped in bitter hatred. The conflicts ignited by the invasion have spread beyond and are now tearing the entire region to shreds.

Much of the Tigris-Euphrates area is in the hands of ISIS and its self-proclaimed Islamic State, a grim caricature of the extremist form of radical Islam that has its home in Saudi Arabia. Patrick Cockburn, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent and one of the best-informed analysts of ISIS, describes it as “a very horrible, in many ways fascist organization, very sectarian, kills anybody who doesn’t believe in their particular rigorous brand of Islam.”

Cockburn also points out the contradiction in the Western reaction to the emergence of ISIS: efforts to stem its advance in Iraq along with others to undermine the group’s major opponent in Syria, the brutal Bashar Assad regime. Meanwhile a major barrier to the spread of the ISIS plague to Lebanon is Hezbollah, a hated enemy of the US and its Israeli ally. And to complicate the situation further, the US and Iran now share a justified concern about the rise of the Islamic State, as do others in this highly conflicted region.

Egypt has plunged into some of its darkest days under a military dictatorship that continues to receive US support. Egypt’s fate was not written in the stars. For centuries, alternative paths have been quite feasible, and not infrequently, a heavy imperial hand has barred the way.

After the renewed horrors of the past few weeks it should be unnecessary to comment on what emanates from Jerusalem, in remote history considered a moral center.

Eighty years ago, Martin Heidegger extolled Nazi Germany as providing the best hope for rescuing the glorious civilization of the Greeks from the barbarians of the East and West. Today, German bankers are crushing Greece under an economic regime designed to maintain their wealth and power.

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.

The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.

The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.

One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.

The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.

A day before it ran a summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.

One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.

Arundhati Roy suggests that the “most appropriate metaphor for the insanity of our times” is the Siachen Glacier, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers have killed each other on the highest battlefield in the world. The glacier is now melting and revealing “thousands of empty artillery shells, empty fuel drums, ice axes, old boots, tents and every other kind of waste that thousands of warring human beings generate” in meaningless conflict. And as the glaciers melt, India and Pakistan face indescribable disaster.

Sad species. Poor Owl.

Noam Chomsky

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DOLLY PARTON JUST INSULTED CHRISTIANS ACROSS THE NATION

In an interview with Billboard, Dolly Parton made the risky decision to point the finger at Christians for judging the LGBT community.

“They know that I completely love and accept them, as I do all people,” Parton said of her gay fans. “I’ve struggled in my life to be appreciated and understood. I’ve had to go against all kinds of people through the years just to be myself. I think everybody should be allowed to be who they are, and to love who they love. I don’t think we should be judgmental. Lord, I’ve got enough problems of my own to pass judgment on somebody else.”

But Parton didn’t stop there—she went on to criticize Christians directly.

“But as far as the Christians, if people want to pass judgment, they’re already sinning,” Parton concluded. “The sin of judging is just as bad as any other sin they might say somebody else in committing. I try to love everybody.”

From the Patriot

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Sean Hannity Overwhelmingly Voted ‘Worst News Host’ By Colleagues, Has Epic Meltdown

In an illuminating poll conducted by Mediaite, reporters from Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN were asked to secretly vote on who they felt were the best and worst of the networks. While choosing the worst of their colleagues at CNN and MSNBC proved to be tough (or at least controversial), one thing everyone was clear on was that Sean Hannity was definitely Fox’s most awful employee. It wasn’t even close.

From Mediaite:

Last week, we sent a survey to several dozen cable news hosts from Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, hoping to gain insight into how insiders view their own colleagues and competitors.

While guaranteeing complete anonymity, we asked them to name one colleague for each of the following 10 categories: Best and Worst Hosts, Fox; Best and Worst Hosts, CNN; Best and Worst Hosts, MSNBC; Best and Worst Guests, Overall; and Best and Worst TV Reporters, Overall.

Almost all of the contests ended in a tie. For example, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier got equal votes for “Best Host” on Fox and Ronan Farrow and Al Sharpton tied for “Worst Host” on MSNBC. When it came to Fox News’ worst host, people seemed less unsure. Hannity blew everyone out of the water. An argument could be made for many of Fox’s hosts, but Hannity trumped them all. Badly.

Apparently we’re not the only ones annoyed by his eponymous show’s special blend of vein-popping shoutfestsmega-panel clown shows, and partisan grudge matches.

Falling way behind Hannity was Bolling — who received two votes here — and a bunch of hosts with single votes to their name, bizarrely including Neil Cavuto and Bill O’Reilly.

So why Hannity? Let us count the ways. Hannity, who has long sacrificed things like integrity or substance for hollow conservative talking points so nonsensical that he makes the rest of Fox News look downright sincere in comparison.

To make it a fair fight, let’s limit our review to just Hannity’s exploits in 2014 – but please keep in mind the sheer productivity of his idiotic vitriol extends much further than that.

  • He decided to introduce Jay-Z as a “former crack dealer” in an attempt to bash New York Governor Cuomo.
  • He went on an epic, night long twitter rant where he attempted to justify American torture of suspected terrorists byposting the mutilated bodies of children killed in terrorist attacks and another picture of the burning Twin Towers.
  • He became best friends with Cliven Bundy, a rancher who wanted to illegally graze his cattle for free on public land and almost started a right-wing secessionist movement to avoid paying for it.
  • He linked Eric Garner to Benghazi, decrying the idea that Eric Garner’s death was being investigated a second time when Benghazi wasn’t. (He’s right, Benghazi wasn’t  investigated twice but actually eight times.)
  • Hannity demonstrates how his father beat him as a child. (via Fox News)
  • He “patrolled” the US-Mexico border with Texas Governor Rick Perry with a mounted machine gun to intimidate child immigrants from crossing.
  • And manymany more…

Luckily, Hannity is extremely thick-skinned and easy going so he handled the news that he is universally laughed at with good-humor. Nope, nevermind. He had a hilarious meltdown on Twitter and accused everyone of being “Wannabees.” (Note: Sean Hannity hates the right-wing watchdog site Media Matters so when he keeps comparing Mediaite to Media Matters just assume he is trying to insult them.)

As Mediaite writer Andrew Kirell points out, Hannity seems to initially excuse the ranking as just more liberal bias, but that’s the thing… his own colleagues voted him worst. It’s not so much a liberal conspiracy as a professional middle finger to a man who does a disservice to the very idea of “news.”

Congrats on the “win,” Hannity. You’ve certainly earned the honor.

Jameson Parker, Addicting Info

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THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY CELEBRATES MUSIC DIRECTOR MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS’S 70TH BIRTHDAY WITH A SPECIAL CONCERT JANUARY 15, 2015 AT DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL


The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and an all-star lineup of guest artists celebrate Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’s (MTT) 70th birthday with a special concert on January 15, 2015. The festive program honors MTT’s distinguished career as a conductor, pianist, and composer. The evening’s concert is centered around Liszt’s Hexameron for Six Pianos and Orchestra, featuring MTT in a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration with five of today’s foremost pianists: Yuja Wang, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Emanuel Ax, Jeremy Denk, and Marc-André Hamelin. While MTT joins the performance as the sixth pianist, conductor Teddy Abrams—a former member of the SF Symphony Youth Orchestra, former Conducting Fellow and Assistant Conductor at the New World Symphony, and current conductor of the Louisville Orchestra—leads the SFS and soloists in this work. Dinner and after-party packages are also available for this special event. Proceeds from the celebration benefit the SF Symphony’s diverse community and education programs, initiatives that have been a hallmark of MTT’s tenure as Music Director.

On the occasion of his 70th birthday and amidst the celebration of his 20th season as Music Director of the SFS, MTT said, “I still feel like very much the same person. My outlook on life, my idealism, wanting to work with people in a way that is collaborative—I think those are very much the same. The music, and the opportunity to work with great orchestras and musicians day in and day out gives me the most energy and joy.”

In addition to Hexameron, each of the five guest pianists take solo turns with the orchestra during the performance: Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs Gershwin’s Sweet and Low Down with SFS Principal Bass Scott Pingel and Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly; Thibaudet also joins Jeremy Denk in Schubert’s Marche caractéristique; Marc-André Hamelin performs the third movement of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2; Emanuel Ax plays the Andante of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21; and Yuja Wang joins the Orchestra in Litolff’s Scherzo from Concerto symphonique No. 4, a work she also performs on the SF Symphony’s Masterpieces in Miniature recording, recently released on the Symphony’s own SFS Media label. The program also includes works by Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Rossini and Bernstein, and the audience will be treated to special appearances by Beach Blanket Babylon and other surprise guests.

Guests looking for an elevated experience may purchase “MTT Birthday Dinner” packages that include premium concert seating, a pre-concert cocktail reception and dinner in the Wattis Room and SoundBox—the SF Symphony’s new experimental concert venue in Zellerbach A Rehearsal Hall—and an exclusive after-party with birthday treats, also in SoundBox. Proceeds from the Birthday Dinner support the SF Symphony’s community and education programs, which annually serve over 75,000 Bay Area children. Also central to the MTT birthday celebration is a special campaign to support the acquisition of fine stringed instruments for use by members of the Orchestra.  Long a priority for MTT and the SFS, a number of generous donors, patrons, and friends are supporting the instrument acquisition through the newly created Michael Tilson Thomas 70th Birthday Fund.

The MTT Birthday Dinner is chaired by William Fisher, Marcia Goldman, and Nellie Levchin, and is sponsored by Franklin Templeton Investments and Wells Fargo. The Birthday Dinner menu is created by Alice Waters and prepared by McCall’s Catering. Décor at the Birthday Dinner is provided by Blueprint Studios.

 

 

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Germany Files War Crimes Against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld And Other CIA Officials

If President Obama won’t do it, someone else will. Thankfully, a human rights group in Berlin, The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, has begun the process of indicting members of the Bush Administration by filing criminal complaints against the architects of the Admin’s torture program.

Calls for an immediate investigation by the German human rights group was started after outrage ensued on the case of a German citizen, Khalid El-Masri, who had been captured by CIA agents in 2004  because of a mistaken identity mix-up and was tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan.

Wolfgang Kaleck, the general secretary of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said:

“By investigating members of the Bush administration, Germany can help to ensure that those responsible for abduction, abuse and illegal detention do not go unpunished.”

In an interview with “Democracy Now,” Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights and chairman of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said that he believes Cheney, among others, have no defense for torturous actions and should be indicted:

 

“I strongly disagree that Bush, Cheney, et al., would have a defense. This wasn’t like these memos just appeared independently from the Justice Department. These memos were facilitated by the very people — Cheney, etc. — who we believe should be indicted. This was part of a conspiracy so they could get away with torture. But that’s not the subject here now.”

“Secondly, whatever we think of those memos, they’re of uselessness in Europe. Europe doesn’t accept this, quote, ‘golden shield’ of a legal defense. Either it’s torture or it’s not. Either you did it or you didn’t.And that’s one of the reasons, among others, why we’re going to Europe and why we went to Europe to bring these cases through the European Center.”

Ratner then hit the nail on the head regarding America’s dangerous exceptionalism path down the road:

“But, of course, you know, Cheney just showed us exactly why you have to — have to prosecute torture. Because if you don’t prosecute it, the next guy down the line is going to torture again. And that’s what Cheney said: ‘I would do it again.’”

Khalid El-Masri was on vacation in Skopje, in Macedonia, when he was pulled off of a bus by government agents, sodomized with a drug, and taken to the secret base that was identified only as Cobalt in the CIA torture report. After four months, and after the United States learned of the mistaken identity, they left him there and continued to torture him. They held him further because the U.S. realized they had been torturing the wrong man. Afterwards, they released him, dropping him off somewhere to resume his life.

El-Masri in his own words, in the same interview with “Democracy Now:”

[translated] I was the only one in this prison in Kabul who was actually treated slightly better than the other inmates. But it was known among the prisoners that other prisoners were constantly tortured with blasts of loud music, exposed to constant onslaughts of loud music. And they were—for up to five days, they were just sort of left hanging from the ceiling, completely naked in ice-cold conditions. The man from Tanzania, whom I mentioned before, had his arm broken in three places. He had injuries, trauma to the head, and his teeth had been damaged. They also locked him up in a suitcase for long periods of time, foul-smelling suitcase that made him vomit all the time. Other people experienced forms of torture whereby their heads were being pushed down and held under water.

He finished the interview with some pretty damning words that should make George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld shudder:

“And let me just say, Germany — whatever happened before, between the NSA spying on Germany and the fact that their citizen has now been revealed to have been kept in a torture place, when it was known that he was innocent, I’m pretty sure that Germany is going to take this very seriously.

 

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A School Asked Students How To Punish Gay Students But They Didn’t Expect Such an Answer

A Korean high school student’s response to a survey on homosexuality went viral in Korea after a teacher posted it online.

The principal suspected that two students were in a lesbian relationship and created a survey to find out who they were and punish them.

Students were told their answers were anonymous and their honesty would help create a ‘safe and healthy school environment.’

They were asked what they thought of homosexuality, if they thought there were any at the school and which year had the most gay students?

The last questions was, ‘What action does the school need to take against homosexuals?’

This is what a student answered:

‘None. Homosexuality is a student’s personal characteristic that a school cannot interfere with. This survey itself, created for the purpose of punishing such activities, is absurd. Just as how introverted people take longer than others to make social relationships, and how neat/clean people’s frequency of cleaning is higher than others, [homosexuality] is just a person’s special tendency.

‘Before trying to create a healthy living environment, the school should work on its own mental level, since it is the learning environment of students. The school installed high tech whiteboards and new grass for our athletic field to be progressive. And the essay writing contest pointed out the modern day problems in discrimination, and the prompt was based on sex inequality.’

‘This survey, fit to be stuffed in the trash immediately, is a primitive concept, and is incredibly discriminatory. It can not be more paradoxical.’

Wow the world as a lot to learn from Korean student don’t you think?

From Gaystarnews

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4 things that should happen now that we know the truth about Witness #40, a white supremacist

No eyewitness testimony was more consistent with Darren Wilson’s personal story of events the day he shot and killed Mike Brown than that of Witness #40—who we now know as white supremacist Sandy McElroy.Not only did Sandy McElroy testify before the grand jury twice, she was allowed to show what she claimed was her journal from the day Mike Brown was killed. In the journal she said she decided to travel to a black neighborhood so she could learn to no longer “call blacks niggers.” In the transcript of her testimony, in her back and forth with members of the grand jury, members are recorded as actually stating that they believe she’s telling the truth.

What’s clear now, and what was actually clear to the FBI and the prosecutors before she ever testified, is that Sandy McElroy wasn’t anywhere near Canfield Drive the day Mike Brown was killed and made her entire story up. Not only that, but Sandy McElroy was on record with the St. Louis police as having lied and concocted fanciful stories in other murder cases in which she falsely claimed to be a witness.

Her inclusion in the grand jury pool of witnesses poisoned the well and her testimony is the most quoted testimony of conservative pundits; Sean Hannity alone has quoted her at least 21 times in various broadcasts. In addition to her calling African Americans “apes” and saying police should “kill the niggers” in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s death, she regularly posted comments on various social networks showing her affection for Darren Wilson weeks and weeks before she ever claimed to be a witness.

The FBI, in their interrogation of Sandy McElroy, completely tore apart her story and proved that she never drove onto Canfield Drive, never drove off of Canfield Drive, was never seen on Canfield Drive, and couldn’t find one person or photo or message before or after the event to confirm that she was ever there. She claimed she told her ex-husband all about what she saw, but he swore she didn’t and he has problems remembering things.

Please read below the fold for more on McElroy’s faulty testimony:

After telling the FBI that she was there to meet a friend she hadn’t seen since 1987, she admitted to the grand jury that she actually lied about that and no such person existed. She then explained that she was actually on Canfield Drive in a different town the exact moment Mike Brown was killed, in the exact spot where he was killed, on a solo ethnographic expedition to ease her own racism. It’s a lie so preposterous that it feels dirty even repeating it.

Here’s the thing, though. When Sandy McElroy was called before the grand jury, she had already been thoroughly discredited by the FBI not just as being a poor witness whose recollection is fuzzy, but as someone who didn’t witness anything at all and was making it all up for the worst possible reasons. That she was allowed to testify before the grand jury on two different dates and produce fake evidence on her second trip is a scandal of epic proportions. That her testimony has become so popular among conservatives says as much about them as it does about Sandy McElroy.

Knowing all that we know about her testimony, here are four things that should happen immediately.

1. Sandy McElroy should be immediately charged with perjury. She was clearly told by the FBI and the prosecutors that lying about being there was a crime and was given chance after chance to back down. Instead she doubled down and added very specific and destructive details about what she saw Mike Brown do that day.

Furthermore, Sandy McElroy is not at all like an eyewitness who was actually there and sincerely believed she saw the events unfold in a way that may be different than the facts of the case. In her back and forth with the FBI, they even went so far as to clarify that it was not a crime to recall something you actually saw and state it in a way that is slightly off from what truly happened.

2. Sandy McElroy should be charged with creating and submitting false evidence which is a felony in Missouri and in most states. She completely and totally fabricated a journal months after the murder, never mentioned it to the FBI, and was allowed to actually show it to the prosecutors and grand jury as a form of proof she was telling the truth.

3. Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, who undoubtedly will not resign until hell freezes over and pigs fly, should at the very least explain why Sandy McElroy was called to testify. Having taken months and months to run the grand jury system, McCulloch was well aware of who she was, but clearly believed she should remain anyway.

4. A special prosecutor should be appointed and a new grand jury convened immediately. Gov. Jay Nixon still has the power to do such a thing—as does a circuit court judge in Missouri. Typically this would only happen in cases in which it can be proven that the prosecutor went out of his or her way to support the defendant in a case and the evidence for that in this case grows daily.

 

Shaun King, Daily Kos

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WHY IS SONY GIVING IN TO THIS NORTH KOREAN HISSY FIT?

“The Interview,” a satirical film about two journalists hired by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is being pulled from all theaters by Sony.

Here’s some background. Some hackers, who have been linked to North Korea, hacked Sony Pictures releasing emails, medical information, personal and financial information and have threatened 9/11-style attacks on any theaters that play the film. Subsequently, theaters began cancelling showings with Carmike, having nearly 300 theater locations in the country, being the major pull out.

“The world will be full of fear,” according to the hackers’ message. “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.) Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”

Why is Sony pulling the movie over what’s almost 100 percent an empty threat? By pulling the movie, Sony is giving North Korea a victory, and also a say-so in American film culture. By all logic, a coordinated 9/11 attack on every theater in the United States by North Korea damn near impossible.

Remember when North Korea threatened nuclear attacks on America in 2013? Kim Jong Un became an internet laughingstock and we have yet to see the first missile launch. Kim Jong Un is more like a fat, crying baby than a political leader. No one takes this man or his country seriously, and Sony Pictures is foolish for faltering to, what pretty much are, empty threats.

Despite this disgraceful situation, the death scene of Kim Jong Un from “The Interview” was leaked.

Josh de Leon, Ring of Fire

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Rubio struggles with condemnations of Obama’s Cuba policy

The politics of President Obama’s new U.S. policy towards Cuba does not fall neatly along partisan lines. Plenty of Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are celebrating the White House’s announcement, while a handful of Democrats, most notably Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), aren’t at all pleased.

But among all critics, few have been as vocal and visible today as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who’s been apoplectic about the administration’s breakthrough. That’s not unexpected, though the far-right senator’s complaints seem deeply flawed and poorly thought out.

In an official written statement, for example, the Florida Republican called the White House’s shift “inexplicable.”

“While business interests seeking to line their pockets, aided by the editorial page of The New York Times, have begun a significant campaign to paper over the facts about the regime in Havana, the reality is clear.”
It almost sounds as if Rubio thinks “business interests” – in this case, farmers and Rubio’s allies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – should accept limits on free enterprise, even as other countries trade with an American neighbor. Doesn’t the senator usually see “business interests” as “job creators”?
“But most importantly, the regime’s brutal treatment of the Cuban people has continued unabated. Dissidents are harassed, imprisoned and even killed. Access to information is restricted and controlled by the regime.”

Right, and that’s after 54 years of the exact same U.S. policy. How more decades of a failed policy would Rubio recommend to improve the conditions of the Cuban people? Isn’t it at least possible that Cubans will benefit better relations and expanded opportunities with the United States?

Rubio later said Obama’s moves “will tighten” the Castro regime’s grip on power “for decades.” I suppose that’s possible, but my follow-up question for the senator is simple: hasn’t the Castro regime already had a tight grip on power for decades? Has the old, ineffective U.S. policy weakened that grip in any way whatsoever?

Rubio then raised concerns that normalized relations won’t address Cuba’s human rights record, which is an odd argument coming from a senator who was defending torture just last week.

The senator saved some of his most striking material for Fox News.

“At minimum, Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of the country.”

Didn’t Jimmy Carter negotiate the Camp David Accords, one of the most sensitive and successful diplomatic endeavors of this generation? Couldn’t Rubio think of a less ridiculous comparison?

As if all of this wasn’t quite enough, the Floridian decided it’d also be a good idea to lecture the Pope.

“My understanding is that the influence that His Holiness had was on the release of Mr. [Alan] Gross, which I’ve not criticized. As I said, I’m happy that he’s with the Cuban people [sic]. I would also ask His Holiness to take up the cause of freedom and democracy, which is critical for a free people — for a people to truly be free,”

Rubio, a Catholic whose parents immigrated from Cuba to flee the Castro regime, told reporters.

Look, I realize that foreign policy obviously isn’t Marco Rubio’s strong suit. In September, when he called for a “permanent” U.S. troop presence in the Middle East, his entire argument seemed quite foolish. A month later, Rubio urged President Obama’s to follow a specific course against Islamic State militants, and then he complained bitterly when Obama did exactly what the senator suggested.

If Rubio is going to make this the centerpiece of a national campaign, he’s going to need a more persuasive pitch.

Steve Benen, MSNBC
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Vivek Murthy 1, NRA 0

The National Rifle Association has certain expectations when it comes to dictating developments on Capitol Hill. But once in a while, the NRA picks an important fight and loses. Take yesterday, for example.

The Senate on Monday narrowly confirmed President Obama’s pick for surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, after the nomination was held up for more than a year. The Senate voted 51 to 43 to confirm Murthy, who received both an M.B.A. and M.D. from Yale.
More than a year has passed since anyone has served as the U.S.’s top doctor; the country’s most recent surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, served from 2009 to 2013.
The final roll call on Murthy’s confirmation is online here. Note, three conservative Senate Democrats – Sens. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) – voted with Republicans to defeat the nomination. One Republican, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, voted with the Democratic majority.

For Murthy, the fact that he’s qualified and well suited for the position was never in doubt. As regular readers know, the nation’s new Surgeon General-designate is an impressive medical professional with sterling credentials. He’s also an attending physician, an instructor, and a public-health advocate – who, like so many in his field, sees a connection between gun violence and public health.

And that alone was enough to draw fierce opposition from the NRA, conservative media, and nearly every Republican in the Senate, including alleged “moderates” like Maine’s Susan Collins.

Indeed, let’s not forget that when Murthy’s nomination first reached the Senate floor back in March, Republicans derailed him, at least temporarily, with the help of nervous red-state Dems with election-year jitters, which is why the nation didn’t have a Surgeon General during the Ebola public-health scare.

So what changed? A couple of things, actually.

The first is that a whole bunch of red-state Democrats lost last month, and with defeat comes liberation. Dems in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, and North Carolina, while previously eager to make the NRA happy and prove their centrist bona fides, suddenly have no pressure hanging over head – they already lost; the threats of political retaliation no longer have any salience.

Besides, as Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Manchin will soon realize, Democrats who vote to satisfy NRA demands eventually discover that the far-right group is surprisingly hard to please – Arkansas’ Mark Pryor voted exactly the way the NRA wanted on every major vote related to gun policy in recent years, and for his troubles, the NRA rewarded Pryor with brutal attack ads that helped end his career.

The other development of note was the bizarre procedural tantrum thrown by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who unwittingly helped Democrats line up confirmation votes, including Murthy’s.

On Twitter last night, Dan Pfeiffer, a senior advisor to President Obama, twisted the knife a little,writing, “There’s a first time for everything, but public health advocates can thank Ted Cruz tonight for his help in getting Vivek Murthy confirmed.”

Steve Benin, MSNBC

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Cheney Throws Bush Under The Bus On Torture Program

Dick Cheney discussed the newly released Senate torture report Wednesday on Fox News, and in particular challenged a finding that former President George W. Bush hadn’t been briefed on the CIA’s harsh interrogation methods until years after they’d already been in use.

Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked the former vice president whether the agency deliberately kept Bush in the dark about its so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

“Not true. Didn’t happen,” Cheney responded. “Read his book, he talks about it extensively in his memoirs. He was in fact an integral part of the program, he had to approve it before we went forward with it.”

Asked if there was ever a point where he knew more about the CIA’s activity than the President, Cheney said “I think he knew everything he needed to know and wanted to know about the program.”

Baier then asked if the former President knew about the “details” of the program. The report — which Cheney called “full of crap” – described brutal interrogation methods including waterboarding, extensive sleep deprivation, threats to harm detainees’ families and “rectal feeding.”

“I think he knew certainly the techniques, we did discuss the techniques,” Cheney said. “There was no effort on our part to keep him from that.”

“The notion that the committee’s trying to peddle, that somehow the agency was operating on a rogue basis, and we weren’t being told or the President wasn’t being told, is just a flat out lie,” he later added.

From TPM, Catherine Thompson
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