The very, very creepy Ted Cruz’s weekend adventure


The weekend in question was 6-7 November, and the occasion was a hatefest called the National Religious Liberties Conference in Des Moines.

BLOG Theocons

But the liberties in question at the conference included the liberty to conduct a gay holocaust.

From Katherine Stewart, writing in the 16 November edition of the  New York Times [emphasis added]:

Earlier this month, in Des Moines, the prominent home-schooling advocate and pastor Kevin Swanson again called for the punishment of homosexuality by death. To be clear, he added that the time for eliminating America’s gay population was “not yet” at hand. We must wait for the nation to embrace the one true religion, he suggested, and gay people must be allowed to repent and convert.

Mr. Swanson proposed this at the National Religious Liberties Conference, an event he organized. Featured speakers included three Republican contenders for the presidency: the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Mr. Huckabee later pleaded ignorance. Yet a quick web search will turn up Mr. Swanson’s references to the demonic power of “the homosexual Borg,” the unmitigated evil of Harry Potter and the Disney character Princess Elsa’s lesbian agenda.

Mr. Cruz apparently felt little need to make excuses. He was accompanying another of the featured speakers at the conference: his father, Rafael Cruz — a politically connected pastor who told a 2013 Family Leadership Summit that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.

Yep, Ted’s pappy was right there, spouting his own brand of venomous bile, the kind that was meat and potatoes to his young son as he grew up.

Rachel Maddow brought the conclave to a broader audience in a trualy remarkable video from RightWingWatch.org. From MSNBC:

GOP Hopefuls Speak At Anti-Gay Conference

Program notes:

Rachel Maddow shows that while Democrats were participating in a candidates forum, Republicans Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz were guests at “religious freedom” event led by a pastor who preaches that homosexuality should be punished with death.

For more on the extreme beliefs of conference organizer Kevin Swanson, see this catalog of horrors from Right Wing Watch.

And from the New York Daily News, here’s one example:

“America, repent of your rebellion against God!” he yelled in his hysterical speech.

“America, repent of stumbling the little ones! America, repent of ‘Harry Potter’! America, repent of ‘How to Train Your Dragon!’

“America, repent that Dumbledore emerged as a homosexual mentor for Harry Potter, that Hiccup’s mentor in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ emerged as a homosexual himself in order that history might repeat itself one more time.”

And what if your kid turns out to be gay [or is seduced by Satan into turning gay, which the good reverend seems to think is how it’s done]?

The good pastor has a suggestion:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches whose sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That is what I would do and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.”

And from Jeff Rouner of the Houston Press comes this observation:

I was watching The Rachel Maddow Show the other day. . .when I heard a sentence that cannot possible have ever been uttered by human lips before in history: “Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores.”

So how did the candidates respond? Here’s the headline from a piece on the rant from the Des Moines Register:

Candidates won’t call out host citing death for gays

Of course they won’t. Cruz and Jindal are no doubt in agreement with the pastor’s pronouncements, though we’re not so sure about the Huck-ster.

Now consider this: Just substitute Jew for gay, and nothing the preacher says wouldn’t have fit right in the speeches of a certain Munich beer hall orator back in the 1920s.

And he has the imprimatur of a possible nominee for President of the United States.

Quote of the day: The very, very creepy Ted Cruz


And a physician is concerned.

From Richard E. Cytowic M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology at George Washington University Medical Center, writing in Psychology Today [where esnl once served as an associate editor]:

I have rarely, if ever, seen a conventional smile from Senator Cruz. In a natural smile the corners of the mouth go up; these muscles we can control voluntarily as well. But muscles circling the eyes are involuntary only; they make the eyes narrow, forming crow’s feet at the outside corners. Even the Mona Lisa’s smile shows this. The eyes give away one’s game and let us tell forged from genuine smiles. Grandma may have told you to put on a happy face, but you can’t if it isn’t heartfelt.

No matter the emotional coloring of Senator Cruz’s outward rhetoric, his mouth typically tightens into the same straight line. If it deviates from this, the corners of his mouth bend down, not upwards. The outside of his eyebrows bend down, too, when he emotes, something so atypical that it disturbs me. Typically a person’s eyebrows arch up, as does the corrugator muscle that furrow the forehead. What is such a downturned face signaling?

Downturned expressions usually signal disagreeableness or disgust. But I honestly don’t know because such an expression is rare in the context of public presentations that are meant to win people over. He may well be unaware that the message of his body language is incongruent with his words.

And then there is that open “O” of the Senator’s mouth that photos capture over and over. I don’t know what to make of it. But he makes it when he overtly emotes—shows us as well as tells us that he is determined, irritated, or above it all—whereas speakers who are angry, indignant, or rhetorically displeased push their mouth forward in a pout. He doesn’t. Google “Ted Cruz smiling,” and judge for yourself. For the record I am not a Democrat. I’m at a loss to verbalize what unsettles me so when I watch the freshman senator. But it leaves me cold.

Sleep deprivation, tasers lead to false confessions?


Two new studies cast doubt on police-obtained confessions of criminal suspects, the first in case of those deprived of sleep before or during the interrogation process, and the second in the case of those who have been subjected to taser shocks.

First, from the  Michigan State University newsroom:

Sleep deprivation linked to false confessions

Sleep-deprived people are much more likely to sign false confessions than rested individuals, according to a groundbreaking study that has important implications for police interrogation practices.

The odds of signing a false confession were 4.5 times higher for participants who had been awake for 24 hours than for those who had slept eight hours the night before.

Led by Kimberly M. Fenn, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, the study is published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is the first direct evidence that sleep deprivation increases the likelihood that a person will falsely confess to wrongdoing that never occurred,” said Fenn. “It’s a crucial first step toward understanding the role of sleep deprivation in false confessions and, in turn, raises complex questions about the use of sleep deprivation in the interrogation of innocent and guilty suspects.”

False confessions in the United States are thought to account for 15 percent-25 percent of wrongful convictions. And past research has indicated that the interrogation of unrested, possibly sleep-deprived suspects is commonplace.

For the study, conducted in Fenn’s Sleep and Learning Lab, 88 participants completed various computer activities and a cognitive test during several laboratory sessions over a weeklong period. Participants were given several warnings not to hit the “escape” key because “this could cause the computer to lose valuable data.” Participants were monitored during the tasks.

On the final day of the experiment, half of the participants slept for eight hours while the other half stayed awake overnight. The next morning before leaving the lab, each participant was shown a statement summarizing his or her activities and falsely alleging the participant had pressed the escape key. Participants were asked to sign the statement, check a box confirming its accuracy and sign their name.

The results were striking: 50 percent of sleep-deprived participants signed the false confession, while only 18 percent of rested participants signed it.

Further, sleep deprivation had a significant effect on participants who scored lower on the Cognitive Reflection Test, which is related to intelligence. Those participants were much more likely to sign the false confession.

To protect against the harmful effects of false confessions, Fenn and her co-authors recommend interrogations be videotaped, giving judges, attorneys and jurors added insight into a suspect’s psychological state.

Suspects also can be given a quick and easy test to determine sleepiness prior to an interrogation. Participants in the MSU-led study were given the publicly available Stanford Sleepiness Scale; those who indicated a higher level of sleepiness were significantly more likely to sign the false confession.

“A false admission of wrongdoing can have disastrous consequences in a legal system already fraught with miscarriages of justice,” the authors conclude. “We are hopeful that our study is the first of many to uncover the sleep-related factors that influence processes related to false confession.”

Fenn’s co-authors are Steven Frenda of the New School for Social Research, Shari Berkowitz of California State University, Dominguez Hills; and Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine.

The second comes from the Drexel University newsroom:

Taser Shock Disrupts Brain Function, Has Implications for Police Interrogations

More than two million citizens have been Tased by police as Taser stun guns have become one of the preferred less-lethal weapons by police departments across the United States during the past decade. But what does that 50,000-volt shock do to a person’s brain?

Despite widespread adoption by law enforcement – stun guns are now used in 17,000 police departments – little is known about exactly how the shocks affect individuals’ cognitive functioning, or, more specifically, how receiving an electric shock from a Taser might affect the ability of a suspect to understand and waive their Miranda rights.

New research from a first-of-its-kind human study by Drexel University and Arizona State University reveals that the burst of electricity from a stun gun can impair a person’s ability to remember and process information. In a randomized control trial, participants were subjected to Taser shocks and tested for cognitive impairment. Some showed short-term declines in cognitive functioning comparable to dementia, raising serious questions about the ability of police suspects to understand their rights at the point of arrest.

Read the rest, after the jump. . .

Continue reading

A legal Icarus lashes out a a corrupt justice system


In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth to which Minos, king of Crete, consigned the monstrous Minotaur to devour his enemies. Daedalus and Icarus were forced to flee after Daedalus plotted with Ariadne to help Theseus escape the monster.

Daedalus devised wings made of feathers mounted in wax, so he and his son could fly from the island, telling his son he must fly neither to low, lest the sea’s moisture render the wings useless, nor too high, lest the sun’s heat melt the wax.

Icarus, needless to say, flew tie, dying in a plunge into the sea after the wax had melted.

William S. Lerach was a legal Icarus, a San Diego class action attorney raised in an impoverished household in Pittsburgh, he specialized in shareholder litigation, recovering billions for investors in Enron, and served as a passionate advocate for his profession and for the public interest.

When Congress moved to radically restrict his profession, Lerach was outspoken, as Wikipedia notes:

While testifying in Congress in 1995 against the passage of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America) which Congress passed by over-riding the veto of President Clinton, Lerach warned at the hearing: “In 10 or 15 years you will be holding another hearing about a debacle in the securities market that will make you remember the S&L mess with fondness.”

But Lerach may have flown to close to the sun when he took on Vice President Dick Cheney for his actions at Halliburton, and in 2007 he was arrested by the Bush administration’s Justice Department and plead guilty to a single felony charge of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice and making false declarations under oath related to his involvement in a kickback scheme, a scheme which to esnl‘s own knowledge was commonly practice by class action lawyers.

He was sentenced to two years in federal prison.

Lerach suspects his prosecution was political, given that the Bush administration almost never demanded criminal convictions of crooked banksters and corporate executives, the usual targets of Lerach’s lawsuits.

Disbarred after completely his prison term, Lerach lives in La Jolla, and according to one account, is worth nearly a billion dollars.

While he no longer practices law, he remains a passionate advocate, decrying changes in the criminal justice system and law enforcement that fall most heavily on people of color. And much more.

He has a lot to say in this address given to an audience at the University of California at San Diego, and there’s nothing he says we don’t agree with.

From University of California Television:

American Law: Instrument of Progress or Weapon of Oppression? William Lerach — A Life In The Law

Program notes:

Former litigator William S. Lerach explores the chasm between the ideals and the reality of the American legal system, one that promises equal access and accountability but often shields the financial elite from civil liability and criminal prosecution. Drawing on his extensive experience with class action lawsuits, Lerach shows how major court decisions have skewed toward defendants over time, even when evidence confirmed their participation in illegal activity. Lerach also condemns recent judicial decisions that have spared police officers from punishment for incidents that have led to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans. This is the first in a new series from UC San Diego — “A Life in the Law: Practitioners Reflecting on Law and the Legal Process on American Life.”

Charts of the day: Corporate lootocracy at work


From the Economist, first, with what they do:

BLOG ChartAnd how they do it:

BLOG Chart 2

Headline of the day: What evading taxes gets you


From BBC News, rewards for the head of the company that deftly avoids taxes, both at home and abroad [though at least one country has taken action]:

Google boss becomes highest-paid in US

The chief executive of Google, Sundar Pichai, has been awarded $199m (£138m) in shares, a regulatory filing has revealed.

Tom Toles: Marco Rubio is not just a robot


There are strings attached.

From the editorial cartoonist of the Washington Post:

BLOG Toles