Later On

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

Archive for April 1st, 2010

Christians! What ya gonna do?

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Manya Brachear in the LA Times:

A prominent refugee resettlement organization has enacted a policy that requires new employees to be Christian, triggering staff complaints and departures by those who see it as discrimination.

World Relief, a global evangelical Christian charity that receives federal funds to resettle refugees, said the policy simply establishes a routine that has been in place for years.

"We felt we needed to put a formal policy in place that reflects a 65-year history of hiring according to our faith," said Stephan Bauman, senior vice president of programs for the Baltimore-based agency. "The policy is really just to galvanize our organization."

But staffers don’t necessarily see it that way.

"As a Christian, I feel it is my duty to advocate for the most vulnerable," said former legal aide Trisha Teofilo, who left because of the policy. "I believe Jesus would not promote a policy of discrimination."

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the policy is legal. But opponents, including current and former employees, say it is hypocritical for an agency to discriminate when its mission is settling refugees — many of whom have fled religious intolerance in their home countries.

"It’s legal, but it’s ridiculously wrong and un-Christian," said Delia Seeburg, the director of immigrant legal services in World Relief’s Chicago office.
She plans to leave for a new job in April.

Although current employees don’t have to be Christian, they risk termination if they don’t affirm the organization’s Christian mission statement "to follow Jesus by living holy, humble, and honest lives."

Mohammed Zeitoun, a Muslim employment counselor, is searching for a new job because he refused to affirm the Christian mission.

"To ask us to change who we are, it’s not right, not in the country of the United States of America — the land of the free," said Zeitoun, who was born and raised in Jordan.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Puzzle me this: DADT becomes Catch 22

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Julian Barnes in the LA Times:

Lt. Robin R. Chaurasiya wasn’t exactly asked, but she told anyway: She is a lesbian, and in a civil union with another woman.

Her commander at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, Lt. Gen. Robert R. Allardice, could have discharged her under the Pentagon’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy. Instead, he determined in February that she should remain in the Air Force because she acknowledged her sexual orientation for the purpose of "avoiding and terminating military service."

Chaurasiya says that is not true. But the general’s reasoning has the flavor of a Catch-22: If you admit to being homosexual you can be discharged from the military, but if you admit it for the purposes of being discharged you won’t be.

Yet the action is being cited by some opponents of the controversial prohibition on open gay military service as a sign of willingness to reinterpret rules after President Obama called on Congress to overturn the controversial 1993 law.

At the very least, said Nathaniel Frank, an expert on "don’t ask, don’t tell," the Chaurasiya case appears to turn the rationale behind the gay ban on its head.

"If commanders are ignoring or rejecting credible evidence of homosexuality because of the alleged motive of the person who makes the statement, the bottom line is they are keeping gay people in the service," said Frank, a senior research fellow at UC Santa Barbara’s Palm Center. "That gives the lie that known gay people undercut the military."

Officially, "don’t ask, don’t tell" remains in place and service members are still being discharged for homosexual conduct. But how to handle such discharges clearly has become a delicate matter inside the Pentagon.

In a round-table interview Wednesday, Army Secretary John M. McHugh said that during a review of the policy, several soldiers had acknowledged to him that they were gay. McHugh initially said he wouldn’t seek to punish them for responding candidly to his questions, but on Thursday he sought to refine that answer…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

What about abuse of girls in the Catholic church?

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Andrew Sullivan:

A reader writes:

I speak from some experience, having been involved in some of the sex abuse litigation in Massachusetts (representing one of several insurance companies being called upon to fund some of the settlements the various Dioceses and Archdioceses have reached with the victims – hundreds of them). There were (are?), in fact, many female victims.  But several things distinguish them from the boys, based on what I have seen. First, there are a lot fewer of them.  Maybe 1 victim in 20 was female; perhaps even more like 1 in 30 or 40.  The vast majority were boys.

Second, the abusers of females seem to have been less compelled to abuse multiple victims.  I can’t tell you how utterly sickening and heartbreaking it is to read case file after case file, describing the horrific details of a single priest’s repeated rape and abuse of boy after boy after boy – dozens of them, hundreds in the worst cases – over many years’ time.  But the abusers of girls?  Less so.  In some cases, no more than 1 or 2 victims.

Maybe that’s a reporting issue – what the statisticians would call self-selection among the cohort.  I don’t have any basis for really knowing.  But it does seem unusual to me that female victims of clergy rape would be less inclined to report the abuse than the boys would.  I just think it is more likely that priests who raped girls just tended to rape fewer of them.  Maybe it’s because the girls were generally not placed in positions where they were likely to come into frequent contact with priests in isolated settings, and vice-versa.

Third, the really, really creepy thing about many of the abusive priests was that so many of them were such popular, charismatic figures within their parishes.  They would "get" their victims by cozying up to the boys’ families, creating bonds of affection with the mothers and fathers, taking the boys under their wings, going on camping trips, etc.  Then they’d rape them, knowing that their very popularity would make it unlikely that anyone would believe some crazy kid’s accusation about good Father So-and-So.

With the girls, again, not so much.  The victimizers of girls appeared (to me) to be basically very lonely, socially misfit, heterosexual guys with absolutely no outlet for the sexual aspect of their personalities.  Some, of course, managed to create consensual relationships with adult female parishioners, or even with nuns.  But a lot of these guys were generally pretty shy and awkward around the opposite sex, and for some of them, an 11-year old girl was just an easier mark than an adult.

I don’t mean for a moment to belittle the act that transpired – rape is rape, lives were destroyed, and it is unforgivable.  But there seemed to me to be something quieter and lonelier – less "planned" somehow – about their abuse of one or two girls, whereas the abusers of the boys – multiple boys – sometimes seemed almost to make it a bit of a "sport."

The John Jay study found that 19% of rape victims were female.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

How long has it been going on?

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Andrew Sullivan, quoting an email from a reader:

A widely studied Spanish 16-century classic work of literature, Lazarillo de Tormes, was published anonymously in the 1550s and features as protagonist an errant boy who is taken in by various masters, priests and father figures. A short episode that  was later censored by the Inquisition in 1573 features Lazarillo with a Mercedarian priest/friar. The boy leaves him in a hurry, explaining mysteriously “…so for this and other reasons which I shall not mention, I left him (y por esto y por otras cosillas que no digo, salí dél)” In the academic article mentioned below the authors cite a popular saying from those years in Spain, the time of the Counter Reformation: “Cuando vieres a un fraile de la Merced, / arrima tu culo a la pared” — i.e., “Whenever you see a Mercedarian priest, press your ass against the wall.”

The story features other types of corrupt clergy in various chapters, including those who keep women on the side, etc. But this one with the Mercedarian priest has by now been accepted as an obvious between-the-lines reference to pedophilia.

Bussell Thompson, B. and J.K. Walsh. “The Mercederian’s Shoes (Perambulations on the Fourth tratado of Lazarillo de Tormes).” MLN 2 (1988): 440-48.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Religion

Interesting analysis of the Catholic child-rape problem

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Andrew Sullivan:

I figured we had gotten past this canard but since Bill Donohue is on every television and radio show loudly proclaiming that the church’s abuses can be attributed to “homosexuals”, and therefore it is homosexuality and not the church that stands in the dock, it requires some unpacking.

Here’s Donohue’s valid point. In some of the reports on the sex abuse crisis, the impression is sometimes given that all the offenses are against children in the classic pedophile sense – pre-pubescent. The John Jay Report found that 22 percent of the cases of abuse in America were with children under the age of ten, 51% were between the ages of 11 and 14, and 15 percent were aged 16 or older. Eighty percent were same-sex abuse. So you can see how you can say that the majority of the cases were same-sex acts between men and male teens who were sexually past puberty. Hence, in Donohue’s blinkered eyes, the gays did it. And if we get rid of all the gays, we may be unfair to many of them, but at least we can get rid of the abuse.

But here’s why Donohue’s attempt to blame the crisis on homosexuals as such is so wrong. First, the critical issue is abuse, not orientation. The abuse of a young or teenage boy is no different in its nature than the abuse of a young or teenage girl. The sin is the abuse of power, and the use of religious authority to subject the defenseless to an adult’s sexual gratification. It’s about the power differential, and the still fragile nature of a developing psyche and sexuality. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the matter at hand: an institution that sought to cover up, and protect rapists and molesters of minors. If we were talking about adult sexual relationships here, we could have a discussion about sexual orientation. But we’re not. We’re talking about abuse.

Secondly, and obviously, homosexuality is not abuse. It is an orientation that for the overwhelming majority involves consensual sex with adults. Some obvious attraction for teenage boys is as prevalent among gays as the obvious attraction for teenage girls for straight men. But there is no reason to correlate homosexuality with abuse, pederasty or pedophilia.

The real question is: what kind of gay man molests children and young teens? Just as: what kind of straight man molests children and young teens? What leads to this kind of behavior which is far from the norm among homosexuals and heterosexuals? And why does the Catholic Church priesthood seem such a magnet for child rapists and molesters? Why has it seemed to attract so many gay men who are psychologically disturbed or sick when it comes to their sexual orientation?

I find the answer pretty straightforward.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Steve Kappes, CIA Deputy Director, Helped Cover Up Detainee Death

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If true, this would make him an accessory after the fact in a homicide. I suppose, though, that this was in the past, so he will walk. Marcus Baram in the Huffington Post:

CIA Deputy Director Steve Kappes helped cover up the death of a detainee at a secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan, according to a profile in the Washingtonian.

The Washington Independent‘s Spencer Ackerman uncovered this nugget buried in "Inside Man", the lengthy profile by longtime national security correspondent Jeff Stein:

According to an internal investigation, [Kappes] helped tailor the agency’s paper trail regarding the death of a detainee at a secret CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan, known internally as the Salt Pit.

The detainee froze to death after being doused with water, stripped naked, and left alone overnight, according to reports in the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. He was secretly buried and his death kept "off-the-books," the Post said.

According to two former officials who read a CIA inspector general’s report on the incident, Kappes coached the base chief–whose identity is being withheld at the request of the CIA–on how to respond to the agency’s investigators. They would report it as an accident.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano vehemently denied the account, telling Stein that it was "shot through with errors and falsehoods." He added, "The agency’s past detention practices have been thoroughly and repeatedly reviewed, inside and outside the CIA. These greasy insinuations of a coverup are not only utterly off the mark; they’re totally below the belt."

Kappes, who quit the agency in 2004 after refusing to fire a deputy who got on the wrong side of Bush-appointed CIA director Porter Goss, was brought back to the CIA in the early months of the Obama administration at the request of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) For standing up to Goss, Kappes won the praise of Congressional Democrats who called him indispensable to the work of the agency.

But, as Stein notes in his piece, Kappes was an odd choice for an administration committed to making a clean break with the past and the controversial interrogation practices of the Bush-era CIA. Kappes, as deputy director and director of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, supervised some of the agency’s most secret programs — from extraordinary renditions to secret prisons to waterboarding. After Obama’s election, he advised Obama’s transition team to "retain the option of reestablishing secret prisons and using aggressive interrogation methods," according to the Washington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 12:19 pm

Those imaginary IRS agents

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Guess the GOP fooled a lot of people. Steve Benen:

Not quite two weeks ago, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on Fox News with a new warning for those concerned about health care reform:

"Ten billion dollars and 16,000 new IRS agents to make sure that everyone buys the health insurance that the government decides you have to have."

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went a little further, saying there will be 16,500 new IRS agents, each of whom will be "armed."

Boehner and Paul were blatantly and shamelessly lying. FactCheck.org looked into this and concluded that it’s a "wildly inaccurate claim." The Affordable Care Act, the researchers concluded, "requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation."

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won’t be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. "We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage," Shulman said. "So there’s not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee." In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don’t obtain coverage. That doesn’t leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

How’d this nonsense get started? Apparently, some Republican staffers on the Hill concluded that it may "may" be necessary for the IRS to add "as many as 16,500" additional employees to enforce the law. The GOP staffers apparently made up the number, based on bizarre assumptions.

From there, Boehner, Paul, and other assorted Republican voices on the Hill and on Fox News’ payroll (that means you, Brian Kilmeade) began presenting this foolish claim — and adding ridiculous details — to Americans as if it were fact.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the policy when professional liars have been spreading garbage like this?

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 11:16 am

They hate Russia for its freedoms, too

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Bush always refused to examine why the US was the target of terrorism. Maybe he believe that horseshit he used to peddle about terrorists attacking the US because we’re free—he certainly seems stupid enough. But now what reason does he offer for the attacks on Russia? Eric Martin at Obsidian Wings:

Daniel Larison neatly disposes of the latest version of the neo-conservative argument that terrorists hate us for our freedoms/morality – the Sayyid Qutb edition.

…[T]he decadence-as-cause-of-terrorism argument grossly exaggerates the importance of such cultural factors in explaining jihadist violence as a way of distracting us from remediable political grievances. In fact, attacks on Americans and American installations began after we inserted ourselves into the region’s conflicts and began establishing a military presence there. Hegemonists can obsess over the writings of Qutb all they want, but it will not change the reality that anti-American jihadist violence did not occur until the misguided 1982-83 intervention in Lebanon. U.S. and Israeli military operations and policies of occupation provoke much broader, more intense resentment among Muslims than any general dissatisfaction with the decadence of Western culture and its deleterious effects on their own societies. The suicide bomber in Khost was radicalized by the treatment of Gaza, not the performances of Lady Gaga. It might suit a certain type of Westerner to associate fanaticism, political violence and strict moralism, but on the whole this is a misunderstanding and a distraction from the real causes of the problem.

The recent Moscow subway bombings are instructive on this point. The bombings are outrageous atrocities for which there is no excuse or justification, but one would have to be a blind fool to say that Chechen grievances, which outside jihadists have been exploiting for the last decade, are based in morally offensive Russian pop culture. It is acceptable for hegemonists to acknowledge this when Russia is the target of terrorist attacks, but when it comes to acknowledging U.S. and allied policies as important contributing factors we are treated instead to these sweeping cultural arguments and close readings of Sayyid Qutb.

Regarding Israel, there are certainly absolute rejectionists who will never accept Israel’s existence. What is inexplicable is why Israeli and U.S. governments would want to empower those rejectionists by making accommodation and some practical modus vivendi increasingly difficult if not impossible. Settlement-building in itself is not the greatest cause of resentment, but it is the occupation and all its attendant inequalities and humiliations that the construction represents and reinforces that makes it so provocative.

Exactly.  In the same sense that there is a tiny fringe of ideologues that might find Qutb’s disgust for the decadence of the West intriguing, even inspiring, actual terrorists are motivated to act over far more temporal grievances.  Mohammed Atta – for example – was radicalized by images of carnage produced by Israeli attacks on Lebanon.  It was when Israel attacked Lebanon in 1996 as part of Operation Grapes of Wrath that Atta drafted his martyr’s will, essentially signing his life over to the cause.

Western decadence was much less a factor than Western ordnance.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 11:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism

Cool: Letterpress prints made using dice

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:55 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

A ruling of illegal conduct with no one doing the conduct

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So much for my hope that Judge Walker’s "guilty" ruling would lead to some convictions. I guess that everyone who committed crimes in the Bush Administration will pretty much get off scot-free because the powerful are careful to protect one another from the plebes. Marcy Wheeler explains:

As I posted earlier, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled against the government in the al-Haramain case today. Basically, Walker ruled that al-Haramain had been illegally wiretapped and the case should move to settlement judgment (corrected per some lawyer).

But there’s more to it. I think Walker has crafted his ruling to give the government a big incentive not to appeal the case. Here’s my thinking.

As you recall, last year when Walker ruled that al-Haramain had standing and therefore its lawyers should get security clearance that would allow them to litigate the case, the government threatened to take its toys–or, more importantly, all the classified filings submitted in the case–and go home. After some back and forth, Walker instructed the parties to make their cases using unclassified evidence; if the government wanted to submit classified evidence, Walker said, then al-Haramain would have to be given clearance to look at and respond to the evidence. The move did two things: it neutralized the government’s insistence that it could still use State Secrets to moot Walker’s ruling that al-Haramain had standing (and, frankly, avoided a big confrontation on separation of powers). But it also forced the government to prove it hadn’t wiretapped al-Haramain illegally, since it had refused to litigate the case in the manner which Congress had required.

The government basically refused to play. It made no defense on the merits. Which made it easy for Walker to rule in al-Haramain’s favor.

That’s the big headline: that Walker ruled the government had illegally wiretapped al-Haramain.

But there were two more parts of the ruling that are important. First, …

Continue reading. I think any hope of justice or the rule of law is going to thwarted by the concerted action of the Washington power groups, Democrats and Republicans cooperating to hide all wrong-doing as best they can and let the wrong-doers go free. So what if the wrong-doing killed people, ruined lives, and wrecked what integrity the government had left? The important thing is that rich and powerful people not be bothered.

I’m pretty disgusted by this, and by the role Obama and Holder have played in protecting those who committed crimes. That was not why I voted for Obama.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:53 am

“Why I Won’t Attend Easter Mass”

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Tim Fernholz in The American Prospect:

Forgive me for this parochial digression, but I will not be going to Mass this Easter Sunday.

You’ll know why if you’ve been reading the papers. The rash of newly uncovered sexual-abuse scandals in the United States and Europe paints a terrible picture of the church’s ability to protect its most vulnerable charges from the predations of its leadership. While the pattern of abuse in the church has been known to Catholics in the United States at least since the scandals in Massachusetts were revealed at the beginning of the decade, the news of Pope Benedict XVI’s own complicity has finally worn through my tolerance.

That, and the awful timing. Easter is a holiday of joy for Christians: Christ is risen! These scandals, though, call for reflection more appropriate to the current Lenten season of repentance, and I sense very little remorse from the church — not enough for me to celebrate with it when Lent ends this weekend.

There is no necessary display of profound sorrow and penance from the church’s leaders, if the word “leader” is an appropriate term for Pope Benedict and the bishops who have been implicated in covering up these scandals and seen to it that those responsible get little more than a slap on the wrist. Benedict’s recent letter on the sexual abuse in Ireland reeks of blame-shifting; while it apologizes to victims, it does not speak of accountability. Cardinal Bernard Law, who helped hide abuses in his Boston archdiocese, lives on a cushy Roman sinecure. Priests convicted of abuse are still shuttled from parish to parish, and criminal trials are still avoided. A 2001 directive to hide sexual abuse (lest violators be excommunicated!) — issued by Benedict when he served as the Vatican official in charge of Catholic doctrine — remains unaddressed.

The contradiction of being both a liberal and a Catholic has been a personal challenge, but disagreeing with the church on abortion and its archaic attitude toward women and the gay community did not, in my view, discount me from the faith I had been raised in and studied for so long. The Gospel is profoundly true to me, and the political and theological history of the church, a human institution, led me to believe that it could more fully adopt the eternal principles at the heart of Christ’s teachings.

Indeed, one of my intellectual heroes is John Courtney Murray, the Jesuit priest whose uniquely American arguments about religious freedom played a key role in reforms the church adopted during the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. He recognized that change itself, rather than substance, is the challenge of reform, writing that “the notion of development, not the notion of religious freedom, was the real sticking point for many of those who opposed the [Second Vatican reforms] even to the end.” If the church could recognize a separation between religion and secular government after opposing the idea for centuries, what else could change if sincere Catholics worked steadily to shift the institution?

I saw my relationship with the church as the classic problem of …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

One night in Birdland

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Very interesting post by Vaughn at Mind Hacks:

I’ve just re-read an interesting biographical study from last year on the ‘Neurological problems of jazz legends’ and noticed a interesting snippet about Charlie Parker:

As a result of a car accident as a teenager, Parker became addicted to morphine and, in turn, heroin. Contemporary musicians took similar drugs, hoping to emulate his playing. Through the 1940s, Parker’s career flourished. He recorded some of his most famous tunes, including ‘‘Billie’s Bounce’’ and ‘‘Koko.’’ Yet, he also careened erratically between incredible playing and extreme bouts of alcohol and drug abuse. This deteriorated in 1946, when after the recording of the song ‘‘Lover Man,’’ Parker became inebriated in his hotel room, set fire to his mattress, and ran through the hotel lobby wearing only his socks. Parker was arrested and committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital, where he stayed for 6 months. This stay inspired the song ‘‘Relaxin at Camarillo (1947).’’

The track Relaxin at Camarillo is available on YouTube and it has a wonderfully rambling swing-backed sound. As far as I know, it is the only song about a stay at a mental hospital, but as musicians have had more than their fair share of hospital stays, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were any others, so do let me know if you know of any others.

By the way, the full article on the neurological problems of jazz legends is available online and has six biographies of jazz greats. There’s also a fascinating anecdote related by the author regarding a possible emperor’s new clothes moment during Thelonious Monk’s mental decline:

A personal anecdote: The author’s father, a professional jazz trumpeter, attended an outdoor concert in which Monk simply stared at the keyboard for the 16 bars of his solo but ultimately returned to playing as the next soloist took his course. The audience applauded wildly, assuming that if Monk was thinking through the course but not actually playing, then it must have been astounding, even immanent and transcending a human’s ability to perform much less understand. In retrospect, Monk’s mental status was disordered enough [whether dominated by depressed mood or confusion] that he must have been unable to perform for that verse.

Likely a moment of confusion but I prefer the version where the internal music soars above Monk’s declining skills.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:43 am

Study Claiming Link Between Stimulus Funding and Partisanship is Manifestly Flawed

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Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com:

A study purporting to find a connection between stimulus spending and the partisanship of a district suffers from an obvious flaw. But in so doing, it provides an example of why it’s important to retain some common sense — and some sense of context — when conducting a statistical analysis.

The study, by Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University and the National Review, claims that congressional districts which elected a Democrat to the Congress received a larger amount of stimulus finds by a margin which is statistically significant even after controlling for certain other effects like the unemployment rate. However, the study does not control for at least one other variable that is overwhelmingly important in determining the dispensation of stimulus funds.

The variable in question is in fact pretty obvious if you simply look at the districts that have received the largest amount of stimulus money, according to de Rugy’s dataset.

The district that received the largest amount of stimulus funding in the 4th Quarter of 2009, according to de Rugy’s tally, is California’s 5th Congressional District. Is there anything notable about the 5th Congressional? Well, it is home to the state capital, Sacramento. Let’s keep that in mind.

Next on the list is New York’s 21st Congressional District. The largest city in the 21st is the state capital of New York, Albany.

Third is the 21st Congressional District of Texas. It contains parts of Texas’ state capital, the wonderful city of Austin. (Another district that contains parts of Austin — the 25th — ranks 14th on de Rugy’s list.)

At this point, it ought to be pretty obvious what is going on. The three districts receiving the largest amount of stimulus funds are home to the capitals of the three largest states — New York, California, and Texas. Let’s pause for a moment and make a bold prediction. I’ll bet you that the district that ranks 4th on the list will contain the capital of the 4th largest state, Florida…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:39 am

Database of vegetarian recipes

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From Resource Shelf:

This database from Vegetarian Times has contains more than 10,000 recipes and is free to use.

You can search by simple keyword but the real power comes into play when you can take advantage of the advanced fields to assist getting to the “perfect” recipe.

You can use the fields (below) to limit your search after entering a keyword. We were also able to leave the keyword box blank (a null set), select from the advanced search limits, and get search results.

Advanced Search Options

+ Category (Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, etc.)
+ Type (Appetizers, Entree, Soups, etc.)
+ Member Rating
+ Appliances Required (Microwave, Slow Cooker, Grill, etc.)
+ Season
+ Holiday/Special Occasion
+ Cuisine (Indian, French, Moroccan, Greek, etc.)
+ Departments (30 Minutes, Veg Lite, Vegan Gourmet, 5 Ingredients, etc.)
+ Course/Meal (Breakfast/Brunch, Side Dish, Stir-Fry, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Recipes

Sage of Omaha Beach: Why Warren Buffett would make a great general

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Very good piece by Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy:

If Warren Buffett were the chief of staff of the Army, we likely would be better off, with a military that is more effective in combat, and also with a better selection of leaders. That’s the thought that occurred to me while reading his latest annual report. You can learn a lot about how to run a large organization from a guy like Buffett.

First of all, Buffett, the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., didn’t follow a "zero defects" philosophy during the course of investing his way to becoming one of the richest people in the country. Unlike some Army leaders, he knows that if you aren’t making some mistakes, then you aren’t trying hard enough. Punishing all errors simply will deter subordinate leaders from taking necessary risks, or even making timely decisions. You want prudent risk taking and you want it done as fast as possible. Time is the great variable in both investing and war, but that isn’t acknowledged often enough in the military strategic discussions. Buffett writes that,

We would rather suffer the visible costs of a few bad decisions than incur the many invisible costs that come from decisions made too slowly — or not at all — because of a stifling bureaucracy."

That said, he is quick to go on to describe what he sees as his role in risk taking and other leadership tasks: He and his deputy, he writes, "limit ourselves to allocating capital, controlling enterprise risk, choosing managers, and setting their compensation." In military terms, I think that would mean allocating resources and people, deciding where to take strategic risks, and selecting subordinate commanders. Everything else? That stuff "we delegate almost to the point of abdication," he states in his management principles, printed later in the same annual report. Buffett is so serious about limiting himself that in a company with 257,000 employees, his headquarters office numbers just 21. (This is an approach that reminds me of William Slim, the greatest British general of World War II, who insisted that his corps headquarters be able to travel in just a few trucks and jeeps.) Of course, as Buffett notes, he has to be more careful than most to keep his subordinates happy, because they tend to be wealthy people who can walk if they feel micro-managed or mistreated.

A significant part of discouraging a "zero defects" mentality is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:29 am

Marcy Wheeler on the Hutarees

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She has a point:

Here’s a copy of in the indictment against the nine Hutaree milita members who were planning attacks on the government. (h/t scribe and Jeralyn)

Since we’ve been talking about whether right-wing extremists are organized enough to call terrorists, here are some details about their collaboration with others.

  • On February 6, 2010, several members of the militia “attempted to travel to Kentucky” for a summit of militia groups convened by the guy leading this group. In anticipation of the summit, the Hutarees tried to make IEDs. (Weather prevented them from reaching their destination.)
  • From August 13, 2009 to the present, Hutaree members used email, the internet, and phones to attempt to use explosive bombs and mines against local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and vehicles.
  • On August 22, 2009, members of the militia used firearms to conduct seditious conspiracy.
  • On February 20, 2010, members of the militia used firearms to conduct seditious conspiracy and attempted use of WMD (IEDs).
  • The head of this militia planned a “covert reconnaissance exercise” for April 2010 “during which exercise anyone who happened upon the exercise who did not acquiesce to HUTAREE demands could be killed.”
  • Two of the leaders of this militia taught others how to make IEDs.

Two points that may be unrelated. This group started conspiring war against the United States on August 16, 2008, so after Obama got the presidential nomination. And Obama is scheduled to appear before University of Michigan’s graduation on May 1.

So, to sum up. You’ve got a band of people training in the use of IEDs to use against law enforcement to wage war against local, state, and Federal government. They would have had a summit to expand their plans, if only snowstorms hadn’t prevented them from doing so. But they are coordinating their efforts, across at least two to four states, over the internet.

Are these guys terrorists yet?

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:27 am

Posted in Daily life

The iPad does look good, but I’ll wait

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But check out this detailed review, with many good links, at Boing Boing.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:25 am

Sinéad O’Connor on the Irish Catholic church

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Excellent op-ed in the Washington Post by Sinéad O’Connor:

When I was a child, Ireland was a Catholic theocracy. If a bishop came walking down the street, people would move to make a path for him. If a bishop attended a national sporting event, the team would kneel to kiss his ring. If someone made a mistake, instead of saying, "Nobody’s perfect," we said, "Ah sure, it could happen to a bishop."

The expression was more accurate than we knew. This month, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology — of sorts — to Ireland to atone for decades of sexual abuse of minors by priests whom those children were supposed to trust. To many people in my homeland, the pope’s letter is an insult not only to our intelligence, but to our faith and to our country. To understand why, one must realize that we Irish endured a brutal brand of Catholicism that revolved around the humiliation of children.

I experienced this personally. When I was a young girl, my mother — an abusive, less-than-perfect parent — encouraged me to shoplift. After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker. An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored "Magdalene laundries," which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests’ clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.

An Grianán was a product of the Irish government’s relationship with the Vatican — the church had a "special position" codified in our constitution until 1972. As recently as 2007,98 percent of Irish schools were run by the Catholic Church. But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren’t investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a "moral" problem. In 2009, a similar report implicated Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and 2004.

Why was such criminal behavior tolerated? The "very prominent role which the Church has played in Irish life is the very reason why abuses by a minority of its members were allowed to go unchecked," the 2009 report said.

Despite the church’s long entanglement with the Irish government, Pope Benedict’s so-called apology takes no responsibility for the transgressions of Irish priests. His letter states that "the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children." What about the Vatican’s complicity in those sins?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 10:17 am

Pay as little as possible for HDMI cables—not more than $10

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I have a couple I got for $2. Here’s why, from the MintLife blog (click to enlarge and then click the resulting image once more):

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 9:59 am

The Hutaree terrorists

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Has anyone seen any mainstream media reference to the fact that the Hutaree Christian Militia are terrorists and the organization is a terrorist organization? Have any right-wing blogs clamored that these guys should not be held in American prisons but immediately shipped to Guantánamo and waterboarded? Why haven’t these ideas shown up?

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2010 at 9:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Terrorism

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