Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't fear to let bad guys talk

There are many lines that you can expect to hear on just about every episode of The Atheist Experience. One is "Tell me what you believe and why you believe it." Another is "Promoting positive atheism and the separation of church and state." However, I think one of the most important repeated lines is: "If you disagree with us, then we will try to get to your call more quickly."

To me, that's a vital component of intellectual honesty. Anyone can barricade themselves in a mental fortress of belief, deciding on what is true "in their hearts" early in life, and refusing to listen to any evidence to the contrary. However, if you want to have as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as possible, you simply have to step out of your fortress and really listen openly to what people are saying who don't agree with you. There is no other way to expose the false beliefs you hold and the true beliefs that you lack.

That's why I generally want to make it a point in life to read the Bible, listen to Christian radio, argue with Jehovah's Witnesses, and take all the callers I can.

That's also why I'm kind of disappointed, though not really surprised, by the apparent terror that, ah, certain people seem to have these days over putting 9/11 terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial in a civilian court.

As I understand it, there are two major concerns at play here, both of them (not to put too fine a point on it) cretinous. One of them is that Mohammed will escape from jail and go on the most horrifying killing spree the world has ever known. The other is that if Mohammed is allowed to defend himself in court, then the dulcet tones of his voice spouting terrorist propaganda will surely incite more violence against the United States.

Ezra Klein masterfully dismantles both arguments in just a few short sentences. Regarding their escape:

These guys took down a plane with box cutters. They used crude weapons to attack a far more sophisticated and effective fighting force. The most fearsome of them was captured at home, in his pajamas. It's not like we're putting Magneto on trial and need to keep him away from metal filings.

And regarding letting him talk:

Trying these guys publicly, as well as holding them in normal prisons like common criminals, is good public relations. Being a terrorist is a more appealing prospect if the world's sole superpower appears to cower before your might than it is if you end up trapped in the American legal system, forced to submit to endless cross-examination and consultation with attorneys and other bureaucratic humiliations. Lots of people want to be super villains. But who wants to be a henchman? Being held on a fortified military island and tortured by a country that can't seem to get you to talk is a much more glorious finish than a long and dull trial that ends with you serving time in central New Jersey.

When you come right down to it, Mohammed is really just another extreme religious crackpot, and talking and listening to religious crackpots is what we on the Atheist Experience want to happen. We want it to happen because crackpottery thrives on remaining mysterious. If you can frame your crackpottery in a few pithy sentences appealing to some seemingly high minded ideals, then it sounds superficially convincing. But when you start probing their beliefs in depth, that's when you get to have conversations like this...

"Tommy Davis previously denied the Xenu story, asking CNN reporter John Roberts if it 'sounded ridiculous' and saying the story was 'unrecognisable' to him. The Xenu story has also been denied by actor Tom Cruise and other famous Scientologists."

And this...

"Wait. Mormons actually know this story and they still believe Joseph Smith was a prophet? ...No, it's a matter of logic! If you're gonna say things that have been proven wrong, like that the first man and woman lived in Missouri, and that Native Americans came from Jerusalem, then you'd better have something to back it up. All you've got are a bunch of stories about some asswipe who read plates nobody ever saw out of a hat, and then couldn't do it again when the translations were hidden!"*

And this...

"Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man… living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you! He loves you. He loves you and he needs money!"

That's what we want to have happen with the beliefs of fuckwits like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. We want an American lawyer to stand up in front of this guy on the witness stand, and let him spout off his beliefs. And then we want our lawyer to shake his head in disbelief, and say "Mr. Mohammed, are you freaking kidding me????"

What we don't want is for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to get away with no trial at all, or a tribunal under cover of darkness. We don't want him to be executed without a chance to air out his horrific, vile sounding views. We don't want to give people an excuse to make a martyr out of him without laying his idiocy bare for the entire world to see.

I'm sure some people will object that someone will hear his words and say "Hey, ya know? This jihad business sounds pretty reasonable to me." And I'm sure that that's true; I can imagine that there are probably a (very, very, very small) number of people who were not already looking to sign up for the terrorist lifestyle, but will be persuaded by Mohammed's silver tongue to join the cause.

But you know what else? I'm willing to take that chance, because I'm seriously betting that the number of people who will be moved to sympathy for America and disgust for Mohammed and his ilk would tremendously dwarf the number of people who would fall for his recruitment speech.

I am firmly of the belief that you can't prevent bad ideas from being heard, but you can shed light on them and make them look foolish. I think it's the ideal of free speech that we should all strive for. If I didn't think that, then I would have to conclude once and for all that our little public access show is a bust, simply on the grounds that we have allowed so many more bad ideas to get air time than would have gotten it otherwise.

Call me a naive idealist for having some faith in humanity that they can be dragged to a reasonable position. The ones to really watch out for are the small-minded, pathetic people polluting the airwaves, who are afraid to hear Khalid talk. Somehow they must feel that his beliefs are so reasonable and so seductive that millions of people will become America's enemies just by listening to a defeated criminal speak on a docket. And frankly, I feel sorry for them, for the fear of the world around them that they must feel every day.

* Note: It was pointed out in the comments that the quote about Mormonism from South Park, while funny, is not an accurate representation of the Mormon story.


  1. I was listening to AM radio today and Kay Bailey was on talking about the reasons for opposition to a trial in NY. Her main concern was that he could face his accusers in the regular (not military) court and therefore we (the US) would be forced to reveal our agents' identities and counter terrorism details. That made much more sense than being afraid he would "run around killing people if he were acquitted" or "he would have a platform." No opinion here, yet, just sayin'.

  2. If you disagree with us, WE will try to get to your call more quickly

  3. That sounds like random flailing on Hutchison's part. Since when do courts have the authority to reveal classified information? And if it's not classified then what's the problem?

  4. The objection I heard was just against holding the trial in New York -- because it might draw more revenge seeking terrorists into an area which has already suffered a lot from terrorism (ie: 9/11).

  5. I'm confused. In the USA you can actually choose if you put somebody on trail or not? Isn't he a citizen with right to a due process?

  6. yes and no. Patriot act and a bunch of other reactionary stuff has caused a real cluster fuck morally and legally. In fact even if he's found not guilty he's still going to be held forever, the government has confirmed they'll exercise the power to hold him indefinitely. So really the whole thing is going to be a dog and pony show wherever it goes. Might as well get an audience I guess.

  7. No, he is not a citizen. He is a prisoner wanted for the 9/11 hijackings, and likely to plead guilty. The question is whether he is tried in a U.S. federal court or by a secret military tribunal.

  8. Basically, Bush and Obama agree that they can CHOOSE whether to try someone as a civilian criminal or as an enemy combatant; whichever suits their purpose at the time.

    If that sounds dumb, yeah welcome to the club. I don't like it when the Gov's power is vague and nebulous.

  9. I thought he wasn't a citizen, am I wrong? At the risk of sounding like a cretin, I am opposed to giving him all the rights granted to citizen in a normal court of law. I think he should have some basic rights and should be treated humanely in as civilized a manner as we can muster. But I don't think it's entirely evil and stupid to disagree that he should be treated like any other accused person in our system. If he is, in fact, a citizen then I will rethink it a bit.

    Oh- by the way the final caller this week was pure gold.

  10. Well, it would help if he actually knew enough about the religions he's taking-on to get his facts straight.

    The blurb on Mormonism for instance.

    I suppose he's unaware that eight men signed a written statement saying that they had seen the plates in question, handled them, and observed the markings.

    Three other men testified that they had seen an angel presented the plates to them.

    Then of course his wife and various other individuals testified as to seeing the plates.

    Plenty of other events have been widely accepted as "historical fact" on less testimony than that surrounding the Book of Mormon.

    Look, we Mormons get that you don't dig the whole religion thing, and that you think it's all silly. But mistakes like this just make atheists look stupid.

    And by the way, the Book of Mormon never claims that all Native Americans are descended from Jerusalem. The book actually speaks of a small and limited population that was likely swallowed up in the surrounding gene pool.

    The idea that DNA has anything at all to say about the truth or falsity of the Book of Mormon shows either ignorance of population genetics, or ignorance of what the Book of Mormon actually says. Take your pick.

  11. None of these same people complained about Terry Nichols or Timothy McVeigh being on trial. They were allowed to speak their slanderous comments about the US.

    Of course McVeigh's lawyer was also smart enough not to put McVeigh on the stand.

  12. Brilliant, brilliant, BRILLIANT post. The crimes of the 9/11 terrorrists have been public, their trial have to be public. And it is a great symbol to hold the trial in New York. A way to say in the world: "We are confident in the legitimacy of our values and in our freedom. And we are not afraid." It is a statement that says they already lost.

    And is it me or do the religious conservative love NY only when it is under attack?

  13. @Seth R.-This is pure BS: who has accepted ANY Mormon claim of miraculous/supernatural activity as historically factual? I mean who is not already a Mormon. And whether the Mormons claim that the entire Native American population or simply a small number of it was originally composed of Jews, is pretty much equally far-fetched and should be backed up by very solid evidence.

  14. @Seth

    Ancient Egyptian translations? Anyone remember that?

  15. Great post!

    FYI, someone needs to contact that final caller of last weeks AE epi and have him waiting on the line to be the first caller on the next show. pure gold I think.

    As for the rest of the post. You are right. Though, I actually would prefer to see Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in an international court of law, because the crimes he commited are international crimes, with international victims. So, properly, I think the World Court is the correct venue for his trail. Of course, I doubt many agree with me because it would be a major precedent for the US to give any control to a world body, and I do not think people want the US to show any sign that they are willing to abide by certain international procedures and treaties.

    I am upset that Obama has chosen to try some people by military tribunal. In essence, he is trying to "have it both ways" He is throwing a bone to us liberals and to the international community by having a few people tried, however, he is maintaining the position that he has the authority to determine how people are tried for crimes, which I do not agree with.

    And on state secrets getting out, in a federal trail, there is no risk of that happening. The administration can invoke a state's secret privilege, and can say that revealing certain information will hurt national security. The courts almost always, expect in the most egregious cases of abuse of power, side with the governments claims. I have a feeling that, despite this being a federal trail, a lot of it will still be secret and behind closed doors because of this.

  16. I want to be fair to Seth here, so I will say that the quote I used about Mormonism does appear to be incorrect.

    It comes from the South Park episode about Mormons, and I used it simply because I found it funny, like the George Carlin line about God needing money. I don't expect a huge amount of accuracy or rigor from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but by quoting that line I was endorsing it by implication. Mormonism isn't a pet issue with me, so it would be fair to say that I haven't done much reading about it on my own.

    So I looked up what Seth was talking about, and it does appear that the book of Mormon itself contains an account of eleven witnesses signing off on having seen the account of the golden plates.

    Naturally, the contents of the book of Mormon don't carry any more weight with me than the contents of the Bible, and this appears to be another case of the book confirming its own contents. It's not much different from reading that Jesus rose from the dead, and 500 witness saw him walk around -- the witnesses being written about in the same story as the event. There are reasons to be skeptical of the testimonies, and that's a whole separate discussion.

    EVEN SO... Stan's rant in South Park is a reaction to having heard the story from Mormons themselves. He listens to the story, and then he indicates that the Mormons are stupid to beleive it, since the story as presented left the impression that no one but Joseph Smith ever saw the plates. As a meta-commentary about the book, it's clearly wrong.

    Therefore, even though I still find the episode funny, I won't be using that quote again.

  17. I am new to atheist experience and find it very strange that you talk about becoming an Atheist as 'coming out'. I am an atheist in England at and feel that I can freely say 'I don't believe in God' without the fear of people condemning me. I'm not quite sure why this is but I find it remarkable that people fear saying that they are an atheist. My lack of religious belief is because science can tell me so much more than any book of fairy tales. To me believing the Bible is like believing Sleeping Beauty is a true story. The comedian Ricky Gervais rubbishes the Bible as a made up story and that is exactly how I feel and it makes perfect sense. I find it crazy that people can believe there is an all forgiving god, who has all this love, yet there are hundreds of people dying from starvation and other terrible diseases. Another thing that makes me chuckle is heaven and hell. If god is all loving and forgiving, why be a good person in life?Because if you repent on your deathbed, you're going through those pearly gates. However you behave, if you say sorry in time then your forgiven, which to me shows that the ten commandments mean Jack. Religion is the Opium of the People, created and used as a tool to control the masses, while the people in charge do whatever they want. Thank evolution for the great thinkers. Greetings from England from a firm non-believer.

  18. I also shake my head when I hear what atheists in the US have to go through sometimes (the legal case over the guy who shot his friend because he thought he was the devil, for instance), though I would say that becuase of the difference, It causes atheists in America to be more pro-active.

  19. Also considering the fact that the CoLDS has a documented history of forgery and fraud the written witnessing of said gold plates amounts to exactly dick. The fact that lots of the claims Smith made are disproved should really make this a closed case.

  20. Does Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, (as an enemy combatant) have the same rights as an American citizen?

    I think you're throwing out a big Red Herring here.

    You want to say that the objection is something along the lines of keeping the American people from seeing and hearing this guy. But I don't think that's the case at all - hence the red herring. The issue is, does he have the same rights as an American citizen to due process? Or, should he be treated as a war criminal and be tried under tribunal?

  21. We’re at war in Afghanistan. Suppose an enemy “terrorist/soldier” manages to hop a plane to New York, hijack it, and crash it into a building. At the last minute he parachutes out and is captured by the NYPD. Should he be put in jail and await trial, or be handed over to the military?

    To avoid the obvious Straw Man, let me say a couple things:

    A.)We’re not at war with the “State” of Afganistan, we’re at war with a group of people who share a certain idealism that happen to live there.

    B.)The attack on 9/11 was essentially a declaration of war by this group, hence our current activity there.

    The issue here surrounds (I think) the word “terrorism”, or “terrorist”. Since he’s not officially affiliated with “a state”, he gets this title. As a result, we argue over what rights he may have and may not have, how he should be tried, etc. etc..

    The bottom line is, a group of people (an ideology) declared war on us – further more, a group of people who are not American citizens. So why should we treat them as if they are, and afford hem the same rights? This is clearly a military issue (I’d argue) not a problem of the “AMERICAN” justice system.

  22. @TheOpiumofthePeople ... I wish I lived where you to then. England must be magical place where admitting you aren't a Bible thumper doesn't:

    1) Instantly alienate you from friends.
    2) Instantly invoke disownership from family.
    3) Cause your employer to find some way of firing you.
    4) Cause future employers (if you're open about it) to not hire you.
    5) Instantly annihilate any chance you have of running (successfully) for any kind of public office.
    6) Drastically increase your chances of retaliation (slashed tires, vandalism or harassment).
    7) Get you killed.

    Yes, we tend to hesitate for a moment...

  23. I disagree with 9-11 being clearly an act of war.

    It was an action committed by a group that is an informal military with no official state sponsorship and isn't a state military. I think we should treat them as if they were just like the Mob or the like. I can go both ways but the fact that these fuckers get hard imagining themselves as martyrs in the army of light makes me really want to avoid validating their delusions of grandeur with a military trial.

  24. The bottom line is, a group of people (an ideology) declared war on us – further more, a group of people who are not American citizens. So why should we treat them as if they are, and afford hem the same rights? This is clearly a military issue (I’d argue) not a problem of the “AMERICAN” justice system.

    That doesn't make any sense. It's barely even coherent. How can "an ideology" declare war on anything? An ideology is not a country; it has no central governing body. It has no authority to declare war.

    Terrorism is not even an ideology anyway -- it's a tactic. You can be a terrorist for many reasons, and many terrorists have diametrically opposed viewpoints.

    What makes this really nonsensical is that there is no barrier to entry for terrorism. If you declare war on a country, and the country's government is deposed, you win. People can still attack us for other reasons, but not with the backing of that country anymore. Not so with "terrorism." What are the victory conditions for a war with terror? Do you think that someday if you win, no one will think to fight for whatever the hell their pet cause is by terrifying people anymore? If we execute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed without a trial, will that prevent a thug like Scott Roeder from murdering abortion doctors to scare people?

  25. I think the fact that the church of later day saints used to forbid blacks from being priests (note that priest==head of a family so they were barred from leading their own family) more than makes up for the false claim before.

    It's a dumb religion that works on a pyramid scheme model.

  26. Even IF the 9/11 terrorists were considered war criminals, why wouldn't their trial be public and set in NY? Their crimes have been public and set against civilians, in a country at peace. Isn't that enough to consider it a public issue?

    About atheism in England, a perspective from a Quebecker who has been living in the country on and off for the last ten years: while it is certainly much more liberal and open than the States, religions still have an undue influence. The state is in theory a theocracy, with the Queen both a head of state and head of the Church of England, which has therefore constitutional tights with the state. Even in public schools (and I work in one), a vicar is entitled to come and do bits of preaching at assemblies. There are also faith schools that can throw creationism in the national curriculum. During my MA and PhD studies, the Christian Union was very militant and trying to proselytise foreign students. When I was saying that I was atheist, I have ben told "But that's awful" more often by local British students than by American ones. But it's not only Christianity that gets a free pass: Islamists are very militant here and the sharia is in effect in the Muslim community, with the government closing its eyes. England is indeed more secular than many countries and one can easily be openly atheist here, but it is far from atheist heaven yet.

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. Kazim, you said:
    “That doesn't make any sense. It's barely even coherent. How can "an ideology" declare war on anything? An ideology is not a country; it has no central governing body. It has no authority to declare war.”

    What war is not against an ideology, and what war declared is not for ideological reason? We didn’t fight the Germans for the sake of killing Germans, we were fighting fascism, the extermination of the Jews, etc. The American civil war is another great example, the ideology of north and south. What gave either side the right to declare war in this circumstance? (Fascism is not a country, Jew killing is not a country, slavery is not a country, but the people who had those ideologies happened to be in centrally located place, so they were easy to find.)

    Your notion of being unable to declare war if you’re not a state is pure dogmatic thinking. In the case of radical Islam, yes, it isn’t located in the south, it isn’t on the other side of the Rhine, and it doesn’t wear uniforms. Sort of reminds me of the rebels from “Star Wars”, who themselves in many cases had no uniforms and no borders. You want to say, (rather dogmatically) that since radical Islam doesn’t have a state that it has no authority, power, cannot declare war, etc. Yet, here we are at war with radical Islamic ideology in Afganistan – go figure.

    So tell me then, Kazim, how does “a state” give one the power to declare war? Where does that power come from? What’s a state?

    Kazim, you also said:
    ”Terrorism is not even an ideology anyway -- it's a tactic. You can be a terrorist for many reasons, and many terrorists have diametrically opposed viewpoints.”

    We’re not at war with terrorists, we’re at war with radical Islamists (ideology) who happen to be using terrorist tactics.

    As to your last paragraph, the problem is (again) you can’t imagine war without state - because, I don't know, that's against the "rules" for you?. Which (funny enough) is much like a Christian not being able to imagine the world without God. One implies the other, you can’t have one without the other etc. Which is just plain, I don’t know, dumb. It’s simply a dogmatic view of what war is.

  29. PS,
    Please pardon the contentiousness, I mean no disrespect - it's just me being me.

    I'm really interested in the justification of your point of view.

  30. @ Andrew. I actually think both POVS may be right. I'm contingently supporting public trial right now mostly for emotional reasons of it hurting the egos of these paramilitary fucks (same reason I'm hopeing he doesn't get death penalty...that way he has to live hi life out and not die as a martyr.) I think the real problem is that Bushco tried to have it both ways and choose civilian court for some and tribunals for others, Obama has continued this and it's a big can of worms. There's no clear guidlines or parimeters for deciding how they're tried so now it all depends on whose making the decision. Bush probably would do more tribunals while Obama wanting to show people something he's doing will favor public. Each right now have just about the same legal justification. That is a problem.

    Again since Obama&friends have made it clear that he'll be held even if he's exonerated the trial is a moot point and a waste of money so meh.

  31. I think the biggest danger of trying him in court is that he will get the death penalty and be executed, thus becoming a martyr. Although if they rigged the sentence to be the death penalty but get it stuck in appeals till he died (of natural causes of course) that would be awesome.

  32. Ing,
    I don't think (fundamentally) that both points of view are right - at least I'm not convinced of it at this point. I'm willing to be convinced.

    I understand why one would want him tried in the American legal system, but I think the reasons may be misguided. Ultimately, I still see him as a war criminal. So my question is, how is he not one? And how is this not a military matter?

  33. Andrew,

    I'd like to point out that you're laboring under the false assumption that non-citizens are not entitled to due process under United States law. That is actually not true, and hasn't been at least since the case of Yick Wo v. Hopkins in 1886, 113 years ago.

    While not the primary focus of the law, the opinion rendered by Justice Matthews stated that individuals residing in the United States have benefits under the bill of rights regardless of whether they are citizens or not. So your argument that Mohammed must be denied a trial because he isn't a citizen just doesn't hold any water.

    Is there precedent for holding "war criminals" in a fair and open trial with legal representation? Yes, of course there is, and in many cases it is remembered as a shining example of the United States being a model of ethical conduct in international conflicts. For example, the Nuremberg Trials, although they were military tribunals and not civilian trials, were open affairs in which the Nazis were given the opportunity for legal defense. The defendants were provided with lawyers, many were even allowed to use their own German lawyers, and the details of the trials were available to the public.

    Reaching further back in history, John Adams defended British soldiers after the Boston Massacre. Later, he wrote:
    "The Part I took in Defense of Captain Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right."

    The point is that whether we are required to or not, it is better to present the US as a country that maintains the rule of law, even under stressful circumstances. Better for the US as a whole in ensuring liberty and justice to people within our borders, and better for public relations as a citizen of the international community. Countries that spirit away visitors, or even their own citizens, and try them in secret without right to a hearing or an effort to prove their innocence? That would be the other guys.

  34. Kazim,
    you said:
    "I'd like to point out that you're laboring under the false assumption that non-citizens are not entitled to due process under United States law."

    You're partly right. My assumption does not surround "non-citizens" as a whole. My assumption excludes all but "war criminals", which is how I'm viewing this individual.

    You've presented some persuasive information here. I'll have to think a little, but certainly I feel it's a valid point that we want to be a model of ethical conduct on an international level - actually, I think I quite agree with that.

    I think you may have won me over.

  35. just wanted to say, really good post and subsequent conversation in the comment thread.

  36. On the Mormon plates. Strange how so many of the witnesses saw the plates in a vision. You'd think that would be unnecessary if they actually existed.

    It's not just a matter of the book confirming itself, but it's a set of anecdotes with no more evidential validity than Paul's vision of Jesus.

  37. I agree that a secret and swift death sentence would be a tremendous blow to the image of the country and is basically an uncivilized option. Someone mentioned the worse thing that could happen is that he would get the death penalty. But another horrible thing would be that he gets off on a procedural technicality. Did we read him his Miranda rights? I don't mean this flippantly. There are a million such potential pitfalls if tried in a traditional US court with all rights intact. We are accorded some specific protections. It seems suggested that non-citizens get all of the protections while having none of the responsibilities. Maybe that is how it really is?

    Again, I think the court happenings should be reasonably public. In this there is no disagreement at all. But to pretend the US courts can handle these trials "like any other" and with the same rules of law is a little short sighted possibly.

    I hope this makes sense without sounding too disrespectful.

  38. People don't just go free instantly because their Miranda rights haven't been read. The only consequence of that is that a confession they make isn't admissible testimony.

    Since there are already irregularities in the case like torture, it's unlikely that KSM's testimony would be valid anyway. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've heard the attorney general Eric Holder say that they've gone to great lengths to build a case that avoids reliance on such things. And I imagine in this case, the evidence would be substantial.

  39. @Tom:

    Wow, yeah. If the "witnesses" only saw the plates in a vision, then they weren't witnesses at all. In fact, I might even say that the South Park version of events is vindicated right there. I wonder if Seth R. disputed this?

  40. Oh wait, my mistake... there are three guys who claimed to have seen the plates in a vision, and eight who (initially at least) claim to have seen them for real. Still kind of questionable testimony, of course, but still on the level of stupid as "The story says nobody really saw the plates!"

  41. Any link to the details of those 8? Because it's not like the mormon church from foundation doesn't have a reputation for fraud and deception.

  42. I'm late to this party, but just to add, my initial reactions were these when I heard the following points of discussion on the news about the controversy as to whether to try him in military or civilian court:

    1. To the point our prisons aren't secure enough to hold really dangerous people, I was freaked that we use them to hold the Ted Bundies, Ted Kahzinskys and Jeffrey Dahmers of the nation. I mean, if a prison isn't good enough for a dangerous person, that's a cue we need to fix our prisons, because we have plenty of dangerous people in prison currently.

    2. If our courts aren't any good for convicting when we really need them to--for society's protection--then again, that's a cue we need to rethink our system of justice. This, as #1, demonstrates a belief that our courts simply suck and that we can't trust justice to be effectively served. If that's the case--why aren't we up in arms about switching to a better system? I heard a JAG on TV saying that Hasan (in the Ft. Hood shootings) will have _more_ rights and protections in a military trial than a civil trial--which is it?!

    3. I'm having trouble discerning between the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Why aren't we all up in arms about trying drug offenders in civilian courts? Living in Texas, on the border with Mexico, and a corridor for drugs into the U.S., I can tell you that we suffer from international violence and crime with drug trafficking daily. It's not just an internal issue, it crosses national lines. But I've never seen congressional support to get the U.S. military as heavily involved on the Mexico-U.S. border as I have to get them over to the Middle East. Mexico's drug cartels are agents of terror. They're assissinating elected officials routinely. They're breeding violence intended to intimidate and strike fear into anyone who isn't on board with their operations. I really can't understand why we feel it's OK to label this a "War" on Drugs, with openly terroristic groups, but predominantly handle it through civil channels, while we handle the "War" on Terror completely differently. It's not another nation's military that struck us--it was people organized into a terroristic association. And that's exactly the same with what we're dealing with in Mexico. Whether they're driven by religion, politics or economics, I really don't give a sh*t. They're killing people hand-over-fist without a second thought. And however we handle them, I don't see why it shouldn't be consistent...?


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