Later On

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

Archive for March 29th, 2010

"Self-Indulgence" as defined by Robert Samuelson

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Steve Benen at Political Animal:

Now I remember why I stopped reading Robert Samuelson’s columns.

In his latest piece, the conservative columnist argues that the money the Obama administration and congressional Democrats intend to use to pay for health care should actually be used to reduce the deficits left by Bush/Cheney, rather than extending health care coverage to 32 million Americans. As Samuelson sees it, President Obama prioritizing the needs of those 32 million people is "self- centered" and his policy initiative "self-indulgent."

Got that? If the president thinks of the needs of those who are struggling, he’s necessarily thinking of himself. This is how Robert Samuelson perceives recent events.

Jon Chait is unimpressed with the argument.

"Self-indulgent" — what an interesting phrase. Let’s consider both words, starting with the end. It contains the assumption that some basic health insurance is an "indulgence," rather than a necessity. I defy anybody to make a careful study of the actual conditions of people who lack health insurance — such as can be found in Jonathan Cohn’s book "Sick" — and come to this conclusion.

Next, there’s the word "self." Self-indulgent is when you spend money to indulge yourself. The Bush tax cuts, which massively enriched George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, could be described as self-indulgent. Samuelson supported those, incidentally. President Obama and the Democrats who enacted health care reform all have insurance. Even if you consider providing basic medical care to people who lack it an "indulgence," they are not indulging themselves. They are "indulging" others.

Ezra added, "And before you think this is all about Samuelson, consider that Charles Krauthammer calls coverage ‘candy.’ There’s an absence of empathy here that borders on a clinical disorder."

So far as I can tell, most conservatives are completely devoid of compassion.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 1:33 pm

Health insurance CEOs conspire to blame Democrats for increasing premiums

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ThinkProgress:

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies have begun laying the groundwork to blame Democrats for the increased health care costs that they plan to impose on consumers. Last Tuesday, CIGNA CEO David Cordani told Neil Cavuto that health care premiums will continue to increase despite the new health care law. And in an interview with Charlie Rose, Aetna CEO Ron Williams said that his company also plans to jack up rates:

ROSE: Will insurance premiums go up?

WILLIAMS: The answer is yes, and some of the things that will drive those premiums are significant additional taxes the industry will ultimately have to pay in the first year.

Williams is lying. In fact, the health care law does not tax insurance issuers until 2014. Moreover, as Igor Volsky writes, insurers are disingenuously trying to point the fingers at hospitals and doctors to avoid a conversation about their own failed efforts to control costs while raking in profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 1:31 pm

Deportation quotas at ICE

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Who ordered that? Julissa Treviño in the Washington Independent:

James M. Chaparro, director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Detention and Removal Operations, apparently implemented his own plan to increase the number of deportations of undocumented immigrants, The Washington Post reported Saturday. This announcement was made in a Feb. 22 memo to field directors around the country after he explained the number of deportations this year will be about 20 percent behind last year’s numbers, “well under the Agency’s goal of 400,000 [deportations].”

From the Post:

Beyond stating ICE enforcement goals in unusually explicit terms, Chaparro laid out how the agency would pump up the numbers: by increasing detention space to hold more illegal immigrants while they await deportation proceedings; by sweeping prisons and jails to find more candidates for deportation and offering early release to those willing to go quickly; and, most controversially, with a “surge” in efforts to catch illegal immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration or visa applications or reentering the United States after being deported.

That same day the Post revealed the memo, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton released a statement saying that portions of Chaparro’s message did not reflect ICE’s policies and had been sent out without authorization. “We are strongly committed to carrying out our priorities to remove serious criminal offenders first,” Morton concluded, “and we definitively do not set quotas.”

Still, the memo hasn’t been overlooked as an isolated, individual action.

Democracy Now! today reported that the memo sets a quota for non-criminal deportations, even though the administration promised to focus on cases that actually pose threats: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 11:58 am

The Get Out of Jail Free Card for Torture

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John Sifton in Slate:

On Sunday, Adam Goldman of the Associated Press broke new details about a 2002 torture-homicide of an Afghan CIA detainee at the infamous "Salt Pit" near Kabul, one of several that occurred in CIA custody from 2002 to 2004. The new report raises questions about the investigation of the death and about accountability generally for past CIA abuses.

The Washington Post first reported on the homicide in2005, but until now it was only known that the man killed was an Afghan and that he had possibly died of exposure to cold. AP now reveals his name—Gul Rahman—and that he had been through several weeks of interrogation when, shackled and half-naked, he died of hypothermia early in the morning of Nov. 20, 2002. We also learn that Rahman was not a member of al-Qaida, but rather an Afghan insurgent in Hizb-i-Islami, a mujahedeen group headed by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (Ironic twist: Hekmatyar’s group received hundreds of millions of dollars in CIA assistance in the 1980s; it was one of the CIA’s most favored mujahedeen groups. It’s also in the news now for offering Karzai a peace plan.)

The facts of Rahman’s death suggest at least a negligent homicide, but as AP reports, it appears no one was ever punished for Rahman’s death. Why not? The answer may lie with an obscure word in a little-noticed footnote in a recently declassified memo sent to a Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility. Page 29, Footnote 28 of the memo, submitted in 2009 by lawyers for former administration lawyer Jay Bybee, refers to a "declination memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Section regarding the death of Gul Rahman."

The word pops up in other sections of the OPR report and other declassified documents, also in the context of interrogations. On Page 38 of the OPR report, one can read about the CIA in early 2002 asking for an "advance declination" from the criminal division of the Justice Department, for proposed interrogation techniques for Abu Zubaydah, the CIA’s first detainee, including mock burial, binding in painful positions, deprivation of sleep for multiple days, being thrown into walls, and water-boarding. Marcy Wheeler lists on Emptywheel other documents in which lawyers discuss "declination letters," "pre-activity declination memos," and "declination decisions" in the context of proposed interrogations of other so-called high-value detainees (see one example here).

What’s a declination? The answer—in the context of the CIA, torture, and homicides—is troubling. The word declination in law is similar to the word indulgence in Catholicism; it’s about avoiding eternal damnation by obtaining forgiveness for your sins.

Declinations are typically used in garden-variety criminal cases when potential defendants who have survived investigation wish to confirm that they won’t be indicted. An attorney for a business client might seek a declination from DoJ in the context of a tax case. With, say, a client under investigation for using a dodgy tax shelter, a lawyer might say: "Hey, let’s ask the prosecutors about you, if they’re formally declining to prosecute, we’ll get something in writing"—a declination letter—and you can sleep at night." (Declinations to prosecute can also be part of plea agreements.) The business is somewhat shady: The very fact a client needs a declination letter can suggest legal shenanigans occurred. Prosecutors can still choose to indict later if new facts emerge, but the declination itself, once given, serves as exculpatory in the hands of a good defense attorney.

In the context of interrogation, torture, and homicide, the word becomes even more sinister. The declination memo "regarding Gul Rahman’s death" was essentially an after-the-fact blessing for Rahman’s killer, in the form of a memo stating that DoJ would not prosecute the officers responsible…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 11:54 am

The Pope Is Not Above the Law

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Christopher Hitchens at Slate:

One by one, as I predicted, the pathetic excuses of Joseph Ratzinger’s apologists evaporate before our eyes. It was said until recently that when the Rev. Peter Hullermann was found to be a vicious pederast in 1980, the man who is now pope had no personal involvement in his subsequent transfer to his own diocese or in his later unimpeded career as a rapist and a molester. But now we find that the psychiatrist to whom the church turned for “therapy” was adamant that Hullermann never be allowed to go near children ever again. We also find that Ratzinger was one of those to whom the memo about Hullermann’s transfer was actually addressed. All attempts to place the blame on a loyal subordinate, Ratzinger’s vicar general, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber, have predictably failed. According to a recent report, “the transfer of Father Hullermann from Essen would not have been a routine matter, experts said.” Either that—damning enough in itself—or it perhaps would have been a routine matter, which is even worse. Certainly the pattern—of finding another parish with fresh children for the priest to assault—is the one that has become horribly “routine” ever since and became standard practice when Ratzinger became a cardinal and was placed in charge of the church’s global response to clerical pederasty.

So now a new defense has had to be hastily improvised. It is argued that, during his time as archbishop of Munich and Freising, Germany, Ratzinger was more preoccupied with doctrinal questions than with mere disciplinary ones. Of course, of course: The future pope had his eyes fixed on ethereal and divine matters and could not be expected to concern himself with parish-level atrocities. This cobbled-up apologia actually repays a little bit of study. What exactly were these doctrinal issues? Well, apart from punishing a priest who celebrated a Mass at an anti-war demonstration—which incidentally does seems to argue for a “hands-on” approach to individual clergymen—Ratzinger’s chief concern appears to have been that of first communion and first confession. Over the previous decade, it had become customary in Bavaria to subject small children to their first communion at a tender age but to wait a year until they made their first confession. It was a matter of whether they were old enough to understand. Enough of this liberalism, said Ratzinger, the first confession should come in the same year as the first communion. One priest, the Rev. Wilfried Sussbauer, reports that he wrote to Ratzinger expressing misgivings about this and received “an extremely biting letter” in response.

So it seems that 1) Ratzinger was quite ready to take on individual priests who gave him any trouble, and 2) he was very firm on one crucial point of doctrine: Get them young. Tell them in their infancy that it is they who are the sinners. Instill in them the necessary sense of guilt. This is not at all without relevance to the disgusting scandal into which he has now irretrievably plunged the church he leads. Almost every episode in this horror show has involved small children being seduced and molested in the confessional itself. To take the most heart-rending cases to have emerged recently, namely the torment of deaf children in the church-run schools in Wisconsin and Verona, Italy, it is impossible to miss the calculated manner in which the predators used the authority of the confessional in order to get their way. And again the identical pattern repeats itself: Compassion is to be shown only to the criminals. Ratzinger’s own fellow clergy in Wisconsin wrote to him urgently—by this time he was a cardinal in Rome, supervising the global Catholic cover-up of rape and torture—beseeching him to remove the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who had comprehensively wrecked the lives of as many as 200 children who could not communicate their misery except in sign language. And no response was forthcoming until Father Murphy himself appealed to Ratzinger for mercy—and was granted it.

For Ratzinger, the sole test of a good priest is this: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Pentagon shutters program to help military spouses because it’s too popular!

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Tom Ricks at The Best Defense:

This is a great way to slap around military spouses: Start up a program to help them with college tuition, and then shut it down a few months later when it proves unexpectedly popular.

Not only are they rejecting new applicants, they left existing participants in the lurch on future payments. The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program recently has been re-started but still isn’t accepting new applicants. Secretary Gates said the project could cost as much as $2 billion — that is almost as much as one submarine or B-2 bomber. Which do you think helps national security more — getting one more platform, or making tens of thousands of military spouses happier with their lot?

It is almost like, hey, your husband is deployed to Afghanistan? You’re losing sleep over IED fears? We’ll distract you by giving you something else to worry about!

The logic of this is amazing: It turned out there was a huge demand for this, so we had to stop doing it. That’s like taking a car off the market because so many people wanted to buy it. Time for a senior official to step up and make this right, first with a public apology. Congrats to McClatchy Newspaper for breaking this story. Les Blumenthal’s article is chockablock with great quotes. Here is one, from Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.): "How they have handled this is infuriating. This is crazy."

This is just another reason why military spouses are so sick of lip service that praises their sacrifice, but fails to follow through by making their problems a top priority. Are you listening, Mrs. Obama?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 10:38 am

More on the Legion of Christ and other problems

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John Amato of Crooks & Liars has a good report, along with a couple of videos. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 10:12 am

Pentagon Pushes For A Strong Consumer Agency To Protect Troops From Abusive Financial Practices

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Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress:

The Obama administration and many congressional Democrats are pushing to create a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) that will be able to “effectively enforce rules designed to protect consumers of mortgages, credit cards and other financial products.” Such legislation has already passed the House. However, now, Senate Republicans and their allies in the financial industry are trying to block these efforts by weakening the legislation in every way they can. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has even urged bankers to stand up for themselves against “little punk staffers” on Capitol Hill and lobby against financial reform.

Advocates for reform now have a powerful ally on their side: the Pentagon. On Feb. 26, Undersecretary of Defense Clifford Stanley wrote to the Treasury Department and advocated a strong CFPA, noting that military families are often the targets of unscrupulous financial practices:

The Department of Defense would welcome and encourage CFPA protections provided to Service members and their families with regard to unscrupulous automobile sales and financing practices, provided such protections would not limit access to legitimate products. While each Military Service includes car buying and financial classes as part of its normal financial educational curriculum, there are still documented cases of Service members falling victim to predatory practices and prohibitively expensive products. [...]

We recognize Service members and their families are under increasing stress. When we have asked in surveys about the causes, Service members responded that finances were second only behind work and career concerns and ahead of deployments, health, life events, family relationships, and war/hostilities.

Last week, Pentagon officials also met with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner about the CFPA. “DOD firmly believes that the financial readiness of their troops and families equates to mission readiness and anything that we can do to help our families be financially ready, we will support the family and the mission,” said avid Julian, the director of the Defense Department’s Office of Personal Finance.

Predatory lenders have long targeted military families. In 2006, the AP found that thousands of U.S. servicemembers were “being barred from overseas duty because they are so deep in debt that they are considered security risks.” Military officials blamed the problem, in part, on “high interest rates at payday lending businesses, many of which are clustered outside bases around the country.” That same year, President Bush signed legislation limiting the interest rate on payday loans for military families.

An area of particular concern now is shady automobile lending. In a survey of 659 military financial managers, counselors legal assistance officers, 72 percent of them said that they “had counseled Service members in the past six months” about tactics such as “bait and switch” financing, falsification of loan applications or documents, and other abusive practices in auto financing. Currently, however, auto dealers don’t have to follow the same rules as community banks and credit unions.

Unfortunately, in October, the House Financial Services Committee approved an amendment that would “exempt auto financing from independent dealers” from CFPA oversight. (Democratic Chairman Barney Frank opposed the measure.) If Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) gets his way, payday lenders will also be exempt.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:56 am

The GOP hate the unemployed

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From the Center for American Progress in an email:

For the second time in a month, a Senate Republican is blocking an extension of unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits.

Senate Democrats sought to approve a 30-day extension before the Easter recess as emergency spending that "does not need to meet pay-as-you-go requirements."

The current extension expires April 5, and swift passage of the measure would have protected the "approximately 212,000 unemployed Americans [who] would lose benefits in the first week," and the further one million who "are now newly at risk of losing benefits in April," according to the National Employment Law Project. 

But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) refused to allow a vote on the package before the start of the two-week recess, insisting that he would not support the extension unless it was paid for. To make his point, Coburn presented on the Senate floor a "poster of a young girl wearing a placard stating her share of the national debt."

Unlike last time when Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) held up a vote on extending unemployment protections, the Republican leadership has rallied to the obstructionist cause.

Senate Republican Whip John Kyl (R-AZ), who has argued that "unemployment compensation is a disincentive for people to seek new work," appeared with Coburn at a press conference Friday to support the hold. Kyl said he regretted the lack of public GOP support for Bunning last month, and added that "when Sen. Coburn stepped forward to provide that leadership a lot of us felt this was the time to do it."

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:48 am

Examining Mike McConnell and his loyalties

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Glenn Greenwald:

In a political culture drowning in hidden conflicts of interests, exploitation of political office for profit, and a rapidly eroding wall separating the public and private spheres, Mike McConnell stands out as the perfect embodiment of all those afflictions.  Few people have blurred the line between public office and private profit more egregiously and shamelessly than he.  McConnell’s behavior is the classic never-ending "revolving door" syndrome:  public officials serve private interests while in office and are then lavishly rewarded by those same interests once they leave.  He went from being head of the National Security Agency under Bush 41 and Clinton directly to Booz Allen, one of the nation’s largest private intelligence contractors, then became Bush’s Director of National Intelligence, then went back to Booz Allen, where he is now Executive Vice President.

But that’s the least of what makes McConnell such a perfect symbol for the legalized corruption that dominates Washington.  Tellingly, his overarching project while at Booz Allen and in public office was exactly the same:  the outsourcing of America’s intelligence and surveillance functions (including domestic surveillance) to private corporations, where those activities are even more shielded than normal from all accountability and oversight and where they generate massive profit at the public expense.  Prior to becoming Bush’s DNI, McConnell, while at Booz Allen, was chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the primary business association of NSA and CIA contractors devoted to expanding the privatization of government intelligence functions. 

Then, as Bush’s DNI, McConnell dramatically expanded the extent to which intelligence functions were outsourced to the same private industry that he long represented, and worse, became the leading spokesman for demanding full immunity for lawbreaking telecoms for their participation in Bush’s illegal NSA programs — in other words, he exploited "national security" claims and his position as DNI to win the dismissal of lawsuits against the very lawbreaking industry he represented as INSA Chairman, including, almost certainly, Booz Allen itself.  Having exploited his position as DNI head to lavishly reward and protect the intelligence industry, he then returns to its loving arms to receive from them lavish personal rewards of his own.

It’s vital to understand how this really works:  it isn’t that people like Mike McConnell move from public office to the private sector and back again.  That implies more separation than really exists.  At this point, it’s more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated inseparable entity — with a public division and a private one.  When someone like McConnell goes from a top private sector position to a top government post in the same field, it’s more like an intra-corporate re-assignment than it is changing employers.  When McConnell serves as DNI, he’s simply in one division of this entity and when he’s at Booz Allen, he’s in another, but it’s all serving the same entity (it’s exactly how insurance giant Wellpoint dispatched one of its Vice Presidents to Max Baucus’ office so that she could write the health care plan that the Congress eventually enacted).

In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State.  Indeed, so extreme is this overlap that even McConnell, when he was nominated to be Bush’s DNI, told The New York Times that his ten years of working "outside the government," for Booz Allen, would not impede his ability to run the nation’s intelligence functions.  That’s because his Booz Allen work was indistinguishable from working for the Government, and therefore — as he put it — being at Booz Allen "has allowed me to stay focused on national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left."

As the NSA scandal revealed, private telecom giants and other corporations now occupy the central role in carrying out the government’s domestic surveillance and intelligence activities — almost always in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law.  As Tim Shorrock explained in his definitive 2007 Salon piece on the relationship between McConnell, Booz Allen, and the intelligence community, where (to no avail) he urged Senate Democrats to examine these relationships before confirming McConnell as Bush’s DNI: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:29 am

Another protected child-rapist Catholic official

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From Andrew Sullivan:

A serial child-rapist, cult-leader and secretly married confidant of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is finally disowned by his own cult. John Paul II called this multiple child-rapist "an efficacious guide to youth". Of course, he was never subjected to any criminal sanctions, was protected by Woytila and Ratzinger for years, even as they knew full well what was going on, and the euphemized statement just released is what the Catholic hierarchy believes is contrition. In 2006, the Vatican decided not even to subject him to canonical hearing because of his advanced age. So if you live long enough, and bring enough cash into the church, you can be allowed to molest countless children and your only punishment is an invitation to spend the rest of your life, supported by the church, in "prayer and penance, renouncing to any public ministry”.

The person who approved of this non-punishment is now the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the American Cardinal Levada. Punishing Maciel for decades of child-rape with a paid retirement and invitation to prayer was also approved directly by Pope Benedict XVI.

But it is important to remember that this child-rapist was also defended openly and strongly by several leading American theoconservatives. Richard John Neuhaus wrote he knew Maciel’s innocence as a matter of "moral certainty." Even when the Vatican finally asked Maciel to step away from public ministry, Neuhaus commented:

"There is nothing in the Vatican statement that suggests that the word penance is meant as a punitive measure. It wouldn’t be the first time that an innocent and indeed holy person was unfairly treated by Church authority."

The other leading American intellectuals who endorsed Maciel on the Legion’s own website were George Weigel, Mary Ann Glendon, William J. Bennett and William Donohue. To his credit, Weigel has since reversed himself but, so far as I can find, has never personally apologized or taken responsibility for having backed Maciel to the hilt previously. Let us review the record:

8 March 1997 Father Richard John Neuhaus writes: “One cannot help but be greatly impressed by both the discipline and the joy evinced by so many young men who have followed the vision of Father Maciel in surrendering their lives to Christ and His Church. I confidently pray that your apostolate will survive and flourish long after these terrible attacks have been long forgotten.”

Deal Hudson in Crisis calls on the Courant to “withdraw its false article and apologize to Father Maciel, the Legionaries of Christ, and faithful Roman Catholics.”

30 April William Bennett writes, “The flourishing of the Legionaries is a cause for hope in a time of much darkness. I look forward to continuing my involvement with and support of the Legion of Christ.”

23 May Mary Ann Glendon writes, “The recent revival of long discredited allegations against Father Maciel would come as a surprise were it not for the fact that the U.S. is currently experiencing a resurgence of anti-Catholicism. One would have thought that Father Neuhaus’s meticulous analysis of the evidence in First Things had put the matter to rest once and for all. As one who sat near Father Maciel for several weeks during the Synod for America, I simply cannot reconcile those old stories with the man’s radiant holiness.”

Neuhaus went so far as to attack the journalists who first broke the story as being bigots:

It is not the kind of stuff you would find in any mainstream media, but then Berry and Renner are not practitioners of what is ordinarily meant by responsible journalism. Berry’s business is Catholic scandal and sensationalism. That is what he does. Renner’s tour at the Courant was marked by an animus against things Catholic, an animus by no means limited to the Legion…

I can only say why, after a scrupulous examination of the claims and counterclaims, I have arrived at moral certainty that the charges are false and malicious. I cannot know with cognitive certainty what did or did not happen forty, fifty, or sixty years ago. No means are available to reach legal certainty (beyond a reasonable doubt). Moral certainty, on the other hand, is achieved by considering the evidence in light of the Eighth Commandment, ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.’ On that basis, I believe the charges against Fr. Maciel and the Legion are false and malicious and should be given no credence whatsoever.

I am unaware of any public accountability for these intellectuals’ defense of a figure whose crimes were so great and so clear and so vile that he rightly qualifies as a monstrous hypocrite, child-rapist and cultist. If I had vouched for this man’s innocence, I would feel a public responsibility to apologize and explain. If I have missed such a statement from any of the above (Neuhaus, of course, is no longer with us and unable to explain) I’d be grateful if someone forwarded them to me. I have searched Google in vain.

For a brilliant documentary on this pedophile cult protected by John Paul II and Benedict XVI check this out.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:25 am

Funny permission-slip kerfuffle

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Can’t be excerpted. Read and enjoy.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Paired drugs kill precancerous colon polyps, spare normal tissue

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Interesting:

A two-drug combination destroys precancerous colon polyps with no effect on normal tissue, opening a new potential avenue for chemoprevention of colon cancer, a team of scientists at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reports in the advance online edition of the journal Nature. The regimen, tested so far in mouse models and on human colon cancer tissue in the lab, appears to address a problem with chemopreventive drugs – they must be taken continuously long term to be effective, exposing patients to possible side effects, said senior author Xiangwei Wu, Ph.D., associate professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Head and Neck Surgery.

"This combination can be given short term and periodically to provide a long-term effect, which would be a new approach to chemoprevention," Wu said.

The team found that a combination of Vitamin A acetate (RAc) and TRAIL, short for tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, kills precancerous polyps and inhibits tumor growth in mice that have deficiencies in a tumor-suppressor gene. That gene, adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) and its downstream signaling molecules, are mutated or deficient in 80 percent of all human colon cancers, Wu said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 9:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Another precedent for the government requiring private purchases

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From CNN with a response by P.J. O’Rourke:

Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing the law’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution.

Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an "unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states" and asks a judge to block its enforcement.

"The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage," the lawsuit states.

The history lesson

In July, 1798, Congress passed, and President John Adams signed into law “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen,” authorizing the creation of a marine hospital service, and mandating privately employed sailors to purchase healthcare insurance.

This legislation also created America’s first payroll tax, as a ship’s owner was required to deduct 20 cents from each sailor’s monthly pay and forward those receipts to the service, which in turn provided injured sailors hospital care. Failure to pay or account properly was discouraged by requiring a law violating owner or ship’s captain to pay a 100 dollar fine.

This historical fact demolishes claims of “unprecedented” and "The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty…”

Perhaps these somewhat incompetent attorneys general might wish to amend their lawsuits to conform to the 1798 precedent, and demand that the mandate and fines be linked to implementing a federal single payer healthcare insurance plan.

The other option is to name Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison et al. in the lawsuits. However, it might be difficult to convince a judge, or the public, that those men didn’t know the limits of the Constitution.

Because the attorneys general research is obviously lacking a comprehensive review of history and the Constitution, I’m providing a copy of the 5thCongress’ 1798 legislation.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 8:59 am

Best kit for dyeing Easter eggs

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Wouldn’t you know? It’s the old classic:

The Winner: PAAS Classic Easter Egg Decorating Kit

Paas is the granddaddy of Easter egg dyes — in fact, pretty much every other dye kit is a variation on this one, which was invented in the late 1800s. The Paas traditional kit retails for about a dollar and consists of three color tablets and a wire egg dipper. This kit is very simple to use: Dissolve the tablets in either lemon juice (for basic colored eggs) or vinegar (for brighter eggs) and add water. Dunk the eggs in the colored bath and let them soak until you’re happy with the color.

Verdict: Easy for big and little kids to manage. Colors were most vibrant in the vinegar-based bath; the lemon juice bath was disappointing. Dye will temporarily stain fingers and hands, but will wash out of clothes with basic pre-treating, although we recommend smocks or old t-shirts to keep kids covered.

Variations: The basic Paas kit includes a wax crayon that can be used to write on the eggs prior to dyeing; the design stays white while the egg turns color. The kit also comes with stickers, but the eggs need to be fully dried before the stickers will adhere. We recommend saving the stickers for Easter morning; kids can put them on their eggs after they’re done hunting for them.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 8:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Origami

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From Dan Colman’s Open Culture, where he notes:

Originally from Paraguay, Joaquin Baldwin moved to LA and started studying at The UCLA Animation Workshop, where he directed this short animated film, Papiroflexia (Spanish for “Origami”). The film ended up being a finalist at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008. Then, in 2009, Baldwin went on win the competition with a new animated film, Sebastian’s Voodoo, even though he was competing with films by Pixar and Disney. You can watch four shorts (including Sebastian’s Voodoo) at Baldwin’s site, PixelNitrate.com. And for lots of other film goodness, be sure to check out our collection of Free Movies Online.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Claude Levi-Strauss comics

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Worth reading. Here’s a sample (click for full size):

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 8:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Simpson Emperor 2 Super

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Today, as promised, I used the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super. It is considerably more “scrubby” than the Emperor 3, so the choice is a matter of taste. Both do equally well at generating lather, both hold plenty of lather. If you like the “scrubby” feel, get the 2; otherwise, go for the 3. (The notion that you must have a “scrubby” brush to make lather from a shaving soap is, as you probably know, completely false. “Scrubby” brushes have a different feel, which is why some guys prefer them, but they don’t make lather any better.)

A very fine lather from the D.R. Harris Marlborough shave stick, and the Slant Bar did its usual great job, still with the Astra Superior blade. Three passes to total smoothness, and then a splash of Marlborough aftershave.

The next couple of shaves I’ll be using two other “scrubby” brushes: Simpson Chubby 1 Best and Simpson Duke 3 Best.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2010 at 8:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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