Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 12th, 2010

Lemon olive oil polenta cake with rosemary

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Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I’m certainly going to try it. Recipe here.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 6:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Abuse scandal knocking on the Pope’s door

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Inevitable, I think, given the nature of the institution. Nicholas Kulish and Rachel Donadio in the NY Times:

A widening child sexual abuse inquiry in Europe has landed at the doorstep of Pope Benedict XVI, as a senior church official acknowledged Friday that a German archdiocese made “serious mistakes” in handling an abuse case while the pope served as its archbishop.

The archdiocese said that a priest accused of molesting boys was given therapy in 1980 and later allowed to resume pastoral duties, before committing further abuses and being prosecuted. Pope Benedict, who at the time headed the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, approved the priest’s transfer for therapy. A subordinate took full responsibility for allowing the priest to later resume pastoral work, the archdiocese said in a statement.

Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said he had no comment beyond the statement by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, which he said showed the “nonresponsibility” of the pope in the matter.

The expanding abuse inquiry had come ever closer to Benedict as new accusations in Germany surfaced almost daily since the first reports in January. On Friday the pope met with the chief bishop of Germany to discuss allegations emerging from church investigations and media reports.

Allegations of problems in the German church have already come close to the pope, whose brother, Monsignor Georg Ratzinger, 86, directed a choir connected to a boarding school where two former students have come forward with abuse claims. In an interview this week, Monsignor Ratzinger, who directed the choir from 1964 to 1994, said the accusations dated to before his tenure. He also apologized for slapping students.

At a news conference following a one-on-one meeting with Benedict on Friday, Archbishop Richard Zollitsch, the head of the German Bishops Conference, said the pope was “greatly upset” and “deeply moved” by the abuse allegations, and urged the German church to seek the truth and help the victims.

The meeting and news conference occurred before the statement from the Munich archdiocese.

Archbishop Zollitsch said the German church had vowed to investigate all allegations of abuse, encouraging victims to identify themselves even if the abuse happened decades ago. In recent weeks, hundreds of alleged abuse victims have come forward.

“The cases are growing every day,” said Thomas Pfister, a lawyer appointed by the German church to investigate abuse cases in the Ettal monastery boarding school in Bavaria. He said more than 100 people had contacted him so far.

“Every day I receive e-mails from around the world from people who have been abused,” Mr. Pfister said, adding that the school had posted his email address on its web site to encourage this. “There has been a very big silence, now they want to have a voice.”

Experts said the scandals could undermine Benedict’s moral authority, especially because …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 2:52 pm

Interesting idea: Tie student aid reform to healthcare reform

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Steve Benen:

It didn’t come into play in earnest until this week, but a move is underway to tie together two of the Democrats’ top legislative priorities into one reform package.

Health care reform, obviously, is still pending, and policymakers are working on a reconciliation fix to improve the bill and send it to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. But policymakers also began working this week on expanding the scope of the reconciliation measure, and adding the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) to the language.

SAFRA, of course, would save tens of billions of dollars, ending government subsidies to the student-loan industry and streamlining the loan process, as well as greatly expanding the Pell grant program for low-income students. The House has already passed the measure, but it faces a bleak future in the Senate.

But, Dems figured, if they’re already working on budget fixes, and they want to make it impossible for Republicans to block a vote on the student-aid bill, why not tie SAFRA to health care and let them both pass by majority-rule?

On Wednesday, the approach was in trouble. Yesterday, things were looking up, and the prospects of bundling the two reform packages were improving.

Democratic Congressional leaders struck a tentative agreement on Thursday that breathes new life into President Obama’s proposed overhaul of federal student loan programs. […]

"Families and students who rely on federal student aid need to know that Congress sides with them and not with the big banks," Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the Education Committee, said at a news conference on Thursday. "The federal government has been subsidizing these banks and wasting taxpayer money for far too long. It’s time to end it."

This would have considerable ripple effects, all of them good. House Dems, for example, have heartily endorsed SAFRA, and if it’s part of the health care package, they’re more likely to vote for it. Senate Dems would lose several center-right votes — Ben Nelson and others are deeply sympathetic to banks’ opposition to student-loan reform — but since the measure could pass with 51 votes, the majority has a fair amount of wiggle room.

It’s not a done deal, but yesterday offered considerable progress, and the WaPo described the bundle approach as having "new momentum." Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who had initially balked at the idea, conceded, "I’d say yes, we’re leaning toward it."

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who also supports tying the two measures together, added, "We’re getting close."

Keep in mind, if Dems continue to move forward on this front, the health care package will now also run into intense opposition from bank lobbyists, on top of the pressure from health insurance lobbyists. But if Democrats can deliver, it would be a tremendous accomplishment.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 1:49 pm

An example of why I ignore Mickey Kaus

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I haven’t read Mickey Kaus in years and haven’t thought about him in months, and John Cole reminds me why:

Out of nowhere in an interview with the NY Times (unless the interview was edited), Mickey Kaus has a random spasm and attacks Ezra Klein’s integrity:

What does your mom think of your Senate bid?

She said, “I don’t want you moving all the way to Washington.” I told her, “Peg, I don’t think that will be a problem.” I call her by her first name. It’s a family affectation.

Your dad was a justice on the California Supreme Court.

He was a Democrat. Otto was probably more liberal than I am.

So are most Democratic bloggers.

Ezra Klein gets under my skin. He seems to spout the party line. I think he knows that it’s wrong but feels it’s his duty to fight the good cause.

Why do you discount the possibility he believes in what he’s saying?

That’s the other alternative — that he really believes it — but then he’s sort of gullible. You have to read his blog knowing that he’s a cheerleader, whereas a guy like Matt Yglesias is less of a cheerleader.

It has an almost Tourette’s like quality, doesn’t it? Out of nowhere, “EZRA KLEIN SUCKS!”

And the real funny part about it is that the interviewer doesn’t know why he hates Ezra, but we all do. Kaus hates Ezra because Mickey was not invited to join the Journolist email listserv, where center-left and left-leaning policy wonks and journalists and others could discuss politics and policy.

Basically, they thought Mickey could not be trusted and would blab private conversations publicly. And, to prove them wrong, the moment Mickey Kaus got hold of some of the private email conversations on Journolist, HE BLABBED THEM PUBLICLY and published them.

Pathetic.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Andy McCarthy, inept thinker

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Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Andy McCarthy thinks that lawyers who represent detainees who have been designated enemy combatants are guilty of "coming to the enemy’s aid during wartime." Orin Kerr counters that McCarthy "strangely overlooks the basic fact that much of the litigation for the Guantanamo detainees concerns whether they are in fact the enemy." (Italics mine [and boldface mine – LG].) To make things more concrete, Conor Friedersdorf recounts the story of Fouad al-Rabiah, a relief worker who was hauled into the American net in Afghanistan in 2001, eventually deemed innocent by interrogators, but kept in custody anyway:

Thus Mr. al-Rabiah. It isn’t just that he was an innocent man thrown into Gitmo, or that he was held even after a CIA analyst concluded that he was innocent, or that National Security Council Staffers were aware of his innocence and actively trying to bring about a review of his detention — Mr. al-Rabiah’s case is apt because after the CIA’s 2002 determination of his innocence, he spent another seven years wrongly imprisoned, regaining his freedom and seeing his children only after retaining the help of American attorneys.

Ms. Cheney, Mr. Kristol, Mr. Thiessen and Mr. McCarthy assert that American lawyers who represent Guantanamo Bay detainees are helping the enemy in a time of war. Here is a case, however, where the Guantanamo Bay detainee was innocent, languished for years in custody without a lawyer despite official knowledge of his innocence, and ultimately achieved his freedom with legal help. Ms. Cheney, Mr. Kristol, Mr. Thiessen and Mr. McCarthy have no answer for people like Mr. al Rabiah and his attorneys — their poorly reasoned McCarthyite rhetoric is bankrupt because they are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the distinction between being accused of being an enemy of America in war time, and actually being an enemy of America.

The Andy McCarthys of the world endlessly lecture us about how this war is different because it’s fought on one side by non-uniformed terrorists. And there’s some truth to that. It is different. But one of the ways it’s different is that it’s not always simple to know who’s a real enemy combatant and who’s not. And if that decision is left entirely up to the executive branch, you’re practically begging for the same kinds of abuses that you get if you let the executive branch operate without oversight in any other area. Thus, lawyers and judges have a role to play. They aren’t aiding the enemy during wartime, they’re trying to figure out who the enemy really is. Even Andy McCarthy ought to be interested in that.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 1:37 pm

Payday lenders buy their way free of oversight

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The US Congress would seem to be best represented by a giant cash register, at which companies pay handsomely to buy the legislation they want, while the Senators and Representatives seem perfectly willing to sell themselves to the highest bidder. Jim Puzzanghera writes in the LA Times:

Payday lenders didn’t cause the economic crisis, but consumer advocates hoped their sky-high interest rates on loans would be reined in as part of a sweeping regulatory overhaul to prevent a repeat of the financial fiasco.

However, key senators feverishly working to craft a bipartisan bill want to make payday lenders — companies that offer short-term loans to tide people over until their next paycheck — largely exempt from oversight by a new consumer financial protection agency.

Consumer advocates said that exemption would keep payday lenders in California and 34 other states mostly under state controls, which have allowed the lenders to prey on low-income people with loan fees that translate to interest rates of as much as 460% a year.

"They are a debt trap for consumers who struggle to make ends meet," said Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services for the Consumer Federation of America.

Consumer advocates had hoped a new agency would severely restrict, or even outlaw, payday loans. They are pushing back against the financial regulatory proposal being drafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), adding to the difficulties of getting legislation passed this year.

A draft proposal from Dodd for a Bureau of Financial Protection, to be part of an existing federal regulatory agency, would scale back the broad powers of an independent consumer agency proposed by President Obama and included in a House regulatory bill that passed in December.

Backers of the agency have said that consumer protection needed to be extended beyond the banking industry to companies such as mortgage brokers and payday lenders that offer such high-interest-rate products as subprime mortgages that take advantage of unsuspecting customers.

Under the draft proposal, which could become final in days, the new consumer bureau would be part of the Federal Reserve and would be able to write rules for any financial product, even if it is not offered by a bank.

But the bureau would be able to enforce those non-bank rules only against mortgage companies. Payday lenders would not be covered unless the bureau petitioned a council of federal banking regulators to give it that enforcement authority based on consumer complaints.

Without enforcement power, the new consumer agency would be unable to stop abuses, Fox said.

Corker’s state is home to the nation’s third-largest payday lender, Check Into Cash Inc…

Continue reading. Corker is also known for not wanting to help Detroit (his state is home to Nissan plants) and for categorically denying that he said things that he’s on tape as saying. I have no respect for him, and I’m not surprised that he takes the part of the payday lenders against consumers.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 1:34 pm

Our (repulsive) man in Kabul

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Michael Crowley in the New Republic:

“Let’s talk about why you plan to kill me.” It was March 1987, and Milt Bearden was sitting in a spare interview room at the Islamabad headquarters of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. Bearden was then the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, serving as the link between Washington and the U.S.-funded Afghan rebels bleeding the Soviets in Afghanistan. He had come to see the mujahedin’s most lethal warlord, a radical Islamist named Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. No other Afghan leader had received more money from the United States than Hekmatyar, yet he showed his Western patrons precious little gratitude. He claimed to despise the United States as much as the Soviet Union, and, while visiting the United Nations two years earlier, he had refused an invitation to meet Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office. Now Bearden was hearing grumbling from Washington about why the United States was financing an anti-American zealot known for splashing acid in the faces of unveiled women. He decided it was time to confront a man he considered “the darkest” of the Afghan warlords. And Hekmatyar was convinced he’d come to snuff him.

Hekmatyar, then about 40, fingered a strand of agate prayer beads. He had been summoned by the ISI, which served as the conduit for U.S. aid to the Afghan rebels. He has a long thin face, dark eyes, and a long beard, and is typically clad in a black turban and robes. His appearance has been described as feline, but the façade is misleading. As Bearden would later recall in his memoir, The Main Enemy, Hekmatyar “thought nothing of ordering an execution for a slight breach of party discipline.” On this day, he was sullen, and the two men squabbled about Hekmatyar’s reputation for brutality, which the warlord alternately denied and dismissed as unimportant. Then Hekmatyar cut to the chase: “I know what you’re planning to do,” he said. “You’re armed. I can see that.” Bearden opened his jacket to show that he wasn’t carrying a gun. (Although he was–in the small of his back.) He asked Hekmatyar why the CIA would want to eliminate its most valuable anti-Soviet fighter. Because, Hekmatyar replied, the United States understood that the Soviets were already done for. Hekmatyar had now defeated one superpower, and the Americans feared what he might do to them. Addressing Hekmatyar by the title he had acquired from Kabul University, Bearden said: “I think the engineer flatters himself.”

Only prematurely. Fifteen years later, in May 2002, a CIA-operated aerial drone circling near Kabul shot a Hellfire anti-tank missile at a convoy on the ground. The explosion killed several men, but failed to claim its target: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. By then, the Afghan warlord was on Washington’s most-wanted list as a leader of the post-2001 Afghan insurgency. But, eight years later, circumstances have changed once again. The United States is now considering whether it’s time to stop trying to kill Hekmatyar and start negotiating with him–a choice that could have crucial implications for Barack Obama’s war in Afghanistan.

The United States is not fighting one enemy in Afghanistan. While the media often equate “insurgency” with “Taliban,” there are, in fact, three major insurgent groups. The biggest is the Quetta Shura Taliban. Led by the famous one-eyed cleric Mullah Omar, this group is based in the Pakistani city of Quetta and fights mainly in the southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Another is the Haqqani network, run by the father-and-son team of Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani from Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas. The Haqqanis and their Al Qaeda allies sow chaos in Afghanistan’s east and were likely behind the double-agent suicide bomb at a CIA base near Khost this winter.

Then there is Hekmatyar…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 March 2010 at 1:23 pm

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