The terrorist's day in court

Ahmed Ghailani is a terrorist who killed 224 people.  But the first Guantanamo inmate to be tried in a civilian court was found not guilty of those murders, the result of his blowing up American embassies in Africa in 1998.  He was, though, convicted of conspiracy to destroy government property.

Some of the evidence against him was reportedly obtained by torturing informers, so the judge ruled it inadmissible.

That prosecutors were still able to pin the conspiracy charge–for destroying property, if not lives–is being hailed as a victory, since the penalty will be at least 20 years in prison, if not life.  (Though that seems way too harsh for a crime against property.)  And yet, don’t those lives that were taken cry out for justice, in a way that simply punishing the killer for something else doesn’t satisfy?

That Mr. Ghailani got off for the murder charges shows, to many people, that the civilian courts aren’t right for charging international terrorists, that instead they should be handled by the military commissions set up for this purpose.  Then again, the military courts aren’t allowed to considered evidence obtained by torture either.

A factual question for you lawyers:  Do American constitutional rights apply to non-citizens who committed a crime outside of this country?  That is, are they universal in scope?  If so, there would seem little alternative to excluding evidence from torture, and the blame should be placed not on the courts but on the torturers for making conviction possible.

Also, defenders of using civilian courts claim that we shouldn’t worry, that no terrorist will be allowed to go free, even if he is acquitted, since the government will hold them anyway.  But that is surely would be an even greater violation of the legal system!  If terrorists are found not-guilty or their cases thrown out on a technicality, they SHOULD be released, if a civilian trial has any meaning at all.   If, for some reason, we aren’t going to release them no matter what the court does, it is meaningless to  try them.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how these cases should be handled?

via Analysis: Verdict dims outlook for civilian trials of terrorism detainees.

So what about THIS debt-reduction plan?

Yet another bipartisan commission is proposing a plan to cut the federal deficit.  What do you think of this one?  From  co-chairs Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin:

To ensure a more robust recovery, we propose a one-year “payroll tax holiday” for 2011, suspending Social Security payroll taxes for employers and employees. We also would phase in the steps to reduce deficits and debt gradually beginning in 2012, so the economy will be strong enough to absorb them.

We would stabilize the debt held by the public at less than 60 percent of gross domestic product, an internationally recognized standard; reduce annual deficits to manageable levels; and balance the “primary” budget (everything other than interest payments) by 2014.

We would dramatically simplify the tax system, establishing individual tax rates of 15 and 27 percent (from the current high of 35), cutting the corporate tax rate to 27 percent (from 35 today), ending most deductions and credits while simplifying the rest, and ensuring that nearly 90 million households no longer have to file returns. To reduce the debt, we would supplement our spending cuts with a 6.5 percent “debt-reduction sales tax.”

We would strengthen Social Security so it can pay benefits for the next 75 years by gradually raising the amount of wages subject to payroll taxes; slightly reducing the growth in benefits for the top 25 percent of beneficiaries; raising the minimum benefit for long-term, low-wage workers; indexing benefits to life expectancy; and changing the calculation of cost-of-living adjustments to better reflect inflation. We would not raise the age at which senior citizens can begin receiving benefits.

We would control health-care costs – the biggest driver of long-term deficits – by reforming Medicare and Medicaid while, starting in 2018, capping and then phasing out the tax exclusion for employer-provided health care. We would reform medical malpractice laws and help address the health costs tied to rising obesity by imposing a tax on high-calorie sodas.

We would freeze domestic discretionary spending for four years and defense spending for five, both at 2011 levels, and then limit their future growth to the rate of growth in the economy.

Finally, we would cap domestic and defense discretionary spending (with tight exceptions for true emergencies) and trigger across-the-board cuts if the caps are breached; enact a strict pay-as-you-go statutory rule for tax cuts or expansions of entitlements; and enact long-term budgets for major entitlements while creating a Fiscal Accountability Commission that would recommend policy changes every five years if entitlements are exceeding their budgets.

via Pete V. Domenici and Alice M. Rivlin – Payroll tax holiday and other measures to reduce the debt.

The Social Security payroll tax holiday for an entire year would be enormously popular and would put extra money in people’s paychecks immediately.  Maybe that would be the boost the economy needs.  I like the flat tax in principle, but I worry that eliminating charitable deductions (if that’s part of it; the article doesn’t say) would hurt churches and other good causes.  And wouldn’t a 6.5% “debt reduction sales tax” hurt the economy, taking away the good other parts of this plan might do?  Caps and freezes would probably be good.

Again, what do you think?  Do you have better ideas?

Not too much Islam, too little Christianity

Lutheran pastor’s kid Angela Merkel, now the chancellor of Germany, had some striking things to say about the immigration debate in that country:

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration “especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

via Merkel: Germany doesn’t have “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity” | Analysis & Opinion |.

One day is like a thousand years

I’ve been on the road, and the church I attended Sunday had as part of its Scripture reading this text: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

I had always thought of the last part of the verse as a good description of what it must be for God to be outside of time. But this time the first part hit me: “One day is as a thousand years.” God, in His eternity, lavishes attention on every moment. Just think how much is going on in a day. Not just in your life–maybe it seems like not much has happened on some days–but in all of the lives of millions of people, all of whom have their own stories. God lingers. This is how He can attend to the prayers of everyone, every one of whom He loves. Throw in the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. And galaxies and nebula.

That one day is like a thousand years to God expresses the minuteness of His care and attention. For each of us and all of us, He has all the time in the world.

News we can choose

Old school journalist Ted Koppel lambastes both MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly, concluding with this:

The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s oft-quoted observation that “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts.

And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone.

via Ted Koppel: Olbermann, O’Reilly and the death of real news.

One could argue that Ted Koppel himself was not completely objective and that his pioneering night time news show tended to tilt to the left.  And yet, if it is impossible to be objective in the news business, doesn’t that mean the postmodernists are right when they say that every group has its own “truth”?

Isn’t there a danger in only hearing what we want to hear?  Maybe conservatives should listen to MSNBC and liberals should listen to Fox.  Do you have any other solutions to this syndrome?

Religion blocks consumerism

In another odd experiment, it seems as if religious people are less susceptible to buying things according to their brand, which to secularists is often a means of enhancing status and self-worth:

Prof. Ron Shachar of Tel Aviv University’s Leon Recanati Graduate School of Business Administration says that a consumer’s religiosity has a large impact on his likelihood for choosing particular brands. Comsumers who are deeply religious are less likely to display an explicit preference for a particular brand, while more secular populations are more prone to define their self-worth through loyalty to corporate brands instead of religious denominations.

This research, in collaboration with Duke University and New York University scientists, recently appeared in the journal Marketing Science.

There is considerable statistical evidence that consumers buy particular brands to express who they are to the outside world, Prof. Shachar says. From clothing choices to cultural events, people communicate their personalities and values through their purchases.

Prof. Shachar and his fellow researchers decided to study the relationship between religiosity and brand reliance. . . .

Researchers discovered that those participants who wrote about their religion prior to the shopping experience were less likely to pick national brands when it came to products linked to appearance or self-expression — specifically, products which reflected status, such as fashion accessories and items of clothing. For people who weren’t deeply religious, corporate logos often took the place of religious symbols like a crucifix or Star of David, providing feelings of self-worth and well-being. According to Prof. Shachar, two additonal lab experiments done by this research team have demonstrated that like religiousity, consumers use brands to express their sense of self-worth.

via American Friends of Tel Aviv University: Shopping Religiously.

I suppose this simply proves that religious people are not as “worldly.”  It also suggests how pathetic it is to be “worldly,” having to turn to corporate logos as a substitute for religious symbols.

HT:  <a href=”http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/007649.html”>Future Pundit</a>


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