Friday, June 29, 2007

Smart Students Oppose Torture

If you're a kid or you've got kids, or if you ever were a kid, you'll be proud of these guys.
WASHINGTON - President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.

The White House said Bush had not expected the letter but took a moment to read it and talk with a young woman who handed it to him.

"The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind.

The handwritten letter said the students "believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions."

"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said. Scholars urge Bush to ban use of torture

He told her the United States does not torture and that we value human rights.

Look, I don't really have to editorialize much here. I think everybody sees who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. We see who speaks truth and who speaks with forked tongue.

I will be curious to see who volunteers to say in the comments section that torture is OK, or that we don't torture, or that "extraordinary rendition" is not used by the US, or that the Geneva Conventions are irrelevant, incosequential, or don't apply.

These are some smart kids -- fifty of them:
The designation as a Presidential Scholar is one of the nation's highest honors for graduating high school students. Each year the program selects one male and one female student from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Americans living abroad, 15 at-large students, and up to 20 students in the arts on the basis of outstanding scholarship, service, leadership and creativity.

"I know all of you worked hard to reach this day," Bush told the students in his education speech. "Your families are proud of your effort, and we welcome your family members here. Your teachers are proud of your effort, and we welcome your teachers. And our entire nation is proud to call you Presidential Scholar."

The scholars travel to Washington each June for seminars, lectures and workshops with government officials, elected representatives and others.

Do you think any of the President's advisors have mentioned to him that torture is wrong? He told these kids the US doesn't torture -- is it possible that he believes that?

Can you imagine that it takes an act of courage to tell the President of the United States that you don't think we should torture people? When will we wake up from this?


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Oh Jim, there you go yet again in adulation of "smart" students. Like I've said before, it is better to be wise than to be smart, and no, they are not one and the same.

Here in Fort Collins, our Gannett affiliate newspaper typically prints youth letters to the editor every Saturday and I can generally tell what our local public schools teachers have been "teaching" by reading these letters. The letters sound off with all the same talking points and lack any sense of originality in thought, argumentation or even writing, for that matter.

Still this accusation/assumption that this country tortures, condones torture, etc. reminds me of that divorce lawyer representing the soon to be ex-wife, wanting to score points in court, asks the husband on the witness stand "so, when did you stop beating your wife?" and then in quick succession says, "never mind, question withdrawn".

June 30, 2007 6:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These Presidential Scholars know better than Bush, their proud C-student president. Too bad he's too stubborn to learn from them. These Presidential Scholars also know better than AG Gonzales who said this about the the war on terrorism: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

"Article 2 (2) of the [Geneva] Convention states that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is a non-derogable right, and therefore no exceptional circumstances may be invoked to justify derogation."

June 30, 2007 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I want to see how good you would be as a teacher. Come on, prove your greatness, oh wise and worthy one.

June 30, 2007 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article is on

By Taylor Gandossy
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(CNN) -- After five years of trying to date girls and to conform and conceal his sexuality, 18-year-old Steven Field told his friends and family that he was gay.

"I wasn't being honest to myself," Field, now 25, said of his closeted high school years in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

Being gay was natural for him, Field, who lives in Washington, said in a Thursday phone interview. "I didn't choose to be gay anymore than straight people choose to be straight."

To those who would disagree with him, Field said, "You don't choose who you love."

Field is not alone in thinking that sexual orientation is a fixed element of a person. Whether homosexuality is innate or whether it is acquired -- the age-old nature versus nurture debate -- has long shaped the political and social discussion over gay rights.

Over the years, the genetically based argument has found increasing support among Americans, according to polls. More and more people now believe that homosexuality is a permanent, immutable part of a person, much like fingerprints or eye color.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Wednesday, 56 percent of Americans believe that gays and lesbians could not change their sexual orientation even if they wanted to do so -- the first time that a majority has held that belief regarding homosexuality since CNN first posed the question nearly 10 years ago.

The sampling error for the results is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Six years ago, 45 percent of Americans responding to a CNN/USA/Gallup Poll said gays and lesbians could not change their sexual orientation. And in 1998, the number was 36 percent, according to a CNN/Time poll.

The latest poll results affirmed what many gay and lesbians see as a shift in attitude across the country toward homosexuality. Even in the face of state legislation that denies gays the right to marry or to form civil unions, more Americans are now accepting of homosexuality, gays and lesbians say.

For the Rev. Mel White, the founder and president of faith-based gay rights group Soulforce, the poll results were a "tremendous relief."

"The poll is such good news," White said Thursday. "Over half of America thinks we don't have to be healed from a sickness; suddenly we are OK as we are." Video Watch gay homeless teens »

The change in thinking among Americans can be attributed to more and more people getting to know gays and lesbians as they come out, White said.

"Once they know us, they will support us," he said, adding that the idea extended to faith-based organizations that currently oppose gay rights, White said.

White, once a ghostwriter for the Revs. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Billy Graham before coming out in a public sermon in 1993, said the church was the barrier to nationwide acceptance of gays and lesbians.

"Until the church changes, this debate will go on and on and on," he said. "Once the church changes, it'll be over."

But for organizations that say gays and lesbians can become straight, the poll results were discouraging.

This "shows that our reach is not as great as the mainstream media and entertainment industry," said Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy for the Family Research Council.

"People are believing what they are hearing, and it's not the truth," he said, adding that it was disappointing Americans had succumbed to what he called a "myth" that gays and lesbians cannot change. They can change, but it is difficult, he said.

For gay and lesbian organizations, the poll results came as affirmation for the work they do.

"We were really excited to see it," Jean-Marie Navetta, director of communications for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG, said of the poll.

"It's good to see that this message [being gay is not a choice] is moving to a large number of Americans."

Navetta said she and other PFLAG employees had sensed a swing in attitude toward gays and lesbians. "There are more people that are out as well as [straight] allies that are out," she said, explaining the shift. When people realize "this is about your neighbors and co-workers and friends and family ... the issue becomes a person," she said.

Melissa Fryrear, director of gender issues for Focus on the Family, said she found the results unfortunate -- not only because they run counter to the beliefs of her group but to her personal experience as well.

"I know that homosexuality can be overcome because that's the story of my life," she said. Fryrear said she lived as a lesbian for nearly a decade before becoming a Christian and later "overcoming" her homosexuality through a long process of change and self-examination.

"I'm changed. I'm a heterosexual woman now. I'm not sexually attracted to women. I am romantically and sexually attracted to men."

Like Sprigg, Fryrear attributed the poll's results, at least partly, to the media's coverage of the issue. "The truth that people can change has not been represented oftentimes correctly and fairly in the media," she said.

However, she said, people who want to try and become heterosexual would not be dissuaded by those do not believe change is possible. "They're going to make that personal decision to overcome homosexuality regardless," she said.

According to the poll released Wednesday, 36 percent of Americans agree with Fryrear and Sprigg that gays and lesbians can change their sexual orientation.

For Field, the issue of whether he can change or not is irrelevant.

"I think it's important for everyone to be true to themselves," he said. "This is who I am and I'm proud of it."

June 30, 2007 7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a good video on hate. I don't see any of this horrible violence towards "ex-gays"... "Live and Let Live" All ex-gay ministries do is kill people inside until there is nothing left. Watch this video @

(copy and paste it into your browser)

June 30, 2007 7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can you imagine that it takes an act of courage to tell the President of the United States that you don't think we should torture people?"

I can't imagine that it was all that courageous. Probably put up to by their teachers and counselors. I'm sure they had plenty of support.

June 30, 2007 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess your'e saying you like living in a country that tortures people?

But you are right about one thing, Anonymous, they do have plenty of support.

June 30, 2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I guess your'e saying you like living in a country that tortures people?

But you are right about one thing, Anonymous, they do have plenty of support."

I was only saying what I said.

Giving the President of the United States a petition opposing him isn't a feat of courage.

July 01, 2007 12:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Like I've said before, it is better to be wise than to be smart, and no, they are not one and the same."

Well put, Orin. Just like knowing all the facts isn't the same as knowing all the truth.

July 01, 2007 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Knowing the truth is not possible without knowing all the facts.

July 01, 2007 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Orin and Anon-

was it a match made in heaven when you two met at an ex-gay meeting?

It's so sweet to see a loving same-sex couple like yourselves (there are millions and millions of other loving, committed same-sex couples just like you around the world). Now you see that it is not "unnatural" or all about "genital worship". Glad you've come to see the light.

July 01, 2007 1:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Knowing the truth is not possible without knowing all the facts."

Clearly false. No one knows ALL the facts.

July 01, 2007 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there you go yet again in adulation of "smart" students.

Who would want to honor "smart" students? Not Orin, that's obvious. Oh wait, the President of the United States honors "smart" students and their teachers, that's who!

The United States Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by Executive Order of the President, to recognize and honor some of our Nation's most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In 1979, the Program was extended to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the visual, creative and performing arts. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the Nation's highest honors for high school students. The Scholars represent excellence in education and the promise of greatness in young people. In honoring the Presidential Scholars, the President of the United States symbolically honors all graduating high school seniors of high potential.

Students have the opportunity to become Presidential Scholars based on two paths of accomplishment. The majority of the Scholars are selected on the basis of broad academic achievement. Approximately twenty additional students are selected on the basis of their academic and artistic scholarship in the visual arts, the performing arts, or creative writing.

The academic component of the program selects students who have scored exceptionally well on the College Board SAT or the ACT Assessment. Eligible students are U.S. citizens graduating or receiving a diploma between January and August of the current program year, who have taken the SAT or ACT Assessment during the two-year window that begins in October, 2003 and runs through October, 2005 (for the recognition cycle concluding in June, 2006). Students meeting these requirements are automatically considered for participation. Initial inclusion in the pool of eligible candidates is determined by the information (e.g., citizenship or graduation year) provided by the student on his/her SAT or ACT test registration.

The selection of approximately 2,600 academic candidates is made based on SAT and ACT scores. Test scores in each of the states/jurisdictions are reviewed, and the total SAT score is compared to the ACT Sum of Scores. Each student's highest test score (in a single test administration) is identified; duplicates and/or lower scores are dropped. In each state, scores are ranked from high to low. Approximately twenty females and twenty males are selected as candidates from each state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and from families of U.S. citizens living abroad. Students are considered in their states of legal residence, unless they have lived abroad for two years or more. Candidacy materials are mailed to students for participation in the program. Application is by invitation only; therefore, students may not apply individually to the Program, nor may their schools nominate them.

For the arts component of the Program, students are initially selected based on their artistic ability. Students must register for the Arts Recognition and Talent Search (ARTS), a national program identifying and recognizing young people demonstrating excellence in the arts. Upon completion of the ARTS program, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts will nominate approximately 50 students who meet the Presidential Scholars candidacy requirements. Candidacy materials are mailed to the selected students, and they are invited to apply to the program. To confirm their interest, academic and arts candidates complete and submit candidacy materials, including essays, self-assessments, secondary school reports and transcripts for review.

A review committee of qualified individuals experienced in secondary and post-secondary education evaluates candidates on their academic achievement, personal characteristics, leadership and service activities, and an analysis of their essay. Approximately 500 candidates are named semifinalists and forwarded to the Commission for further review. All arts nominees submitting candidacy materials are automatically advanced to the semifinalist stage.

In April, the Commission on Presidential Scholars reviews the applications of all semifinalists based on the same criteria used by the review committee. The Commission selects up to 121 academic scholars and up to 20 arts scholars. All scholars are honored for their accomplishments during National Recognition Week, held in June in Washington, D.C.

Presidential Scholars are guests of the Commission during National Recognition Week and enjoy an expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with government officials, educators, authors, musicians, scientists and other accomplished people. During the week, scholars have the opportunity to visit museums and monuments, and to attend recitals, receptions and ceremonies. To commemorate their achievement, the Scholars are awarded the Presidential Scholars medallion at a ceremony sponsored by the White House.

All Presidential Scholars are asked to identify those educators who have most influenced them. The selected educators are also invited to attend National Recognition Week. There, they are honored at a special reception to recognize and thank them for their efforts, and they are presented with the Teacher Recognition Award.

For over 40 years, this unique federal program has honored over 5,000 Presidential Scholars, who have demonstrated leadership, scholarship, and contribution to school and community. The work of the Commission on Presidential Scholars reaffirms, on behalf of the President, the Nation's commitment to education.

July 04, 2007 10:42 AM  

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