Later On

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

Archive for May 3rd, 2009

Psychoanalysis and the clergy

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Very interesting post from Mind Hacks:

I found this fascinating aside in a 1969 article on ‘Psychiatric Illness in the Clergy’ about a group of monks who underwent psychoanalysis, causing two thirds of them to realise they were "called to married life".

The Pope immediately banned psychoanalysis from the priesthood as a result:

[Bovet] suggests that many clergy would benefit from psychotherapy during their training. This was attempted in Mexico when in 1961 a group of 60 Benedictine monks underwent group and individual psychoanalysis. However, of the original 60 monks taking part in this experiment, only 20 are still monks ; and of the 40 who have left the monastery it is reported that "there are some who realized that they were really called to married life" (Lemercier, 1965).

The Papal Court answered this "threat" the following decree: "You will not maintain in public or in private psychoanalytical theory or practice, under threat of suspension as a priest, and you are rigorously forbidden under threat of destitution to suggest to candidates for the monastery that they should undergo psychoanalysis" (Singleton, 1967).

This was not be the last time psychotherapists cause stirrings in the faithful.

The book Lesbian Nuns, Breaking Silence contains a chapter by the former Sister Mary Benjamin of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent in California.

Psychotherapists Carl Rogers and William Coulson arranged for the nuns to take part in encounter group, essentially a form of fashionable 60s group psychotherapy aimed as well people rather than patients for ‘personal growth’.

The effect was disastrous for the convent, with hundreds of the nuns defaulting on their vows, and several, including Sister Mary Benjamin, discovering repressed lesbian desires.

The convent eventually collapsed and was closed in 1970.

There’s an brief online article that also recounts this story and I was intrigued to see a footnote at the end:

Having abandoned his once lucrative career, Dr. William Coulson now lectures to Catholic and Protestant groups on the dangers of psychotherapy, with a particular emphasis upon the "encounter group" dynamic.

There’s a whole novel right there in that footnote.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:26 pm

Re: Slicing garlic Goodfellas thin

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This post suggests slicing garlic extremely thin. Luckily, I have garlic mandoline (shown above), so that’s easy. The comments say that it doesn’t work, but mine works quite well. Mine may be better than the one reviewed, which is quite inexpensive. Is this one better? or just more expensive?

At any rate, I’ll be using the garlic with some calamari steaks, and I’m trying the low-heat method.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Characteristics of the compassionate

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Interesting post in Mind Hacks. I find that GOP generally lacks compassion (for the powerless, I mean: the poor, the elderly, minorities, the disabled, and so on), and I wonder whether this explains it.

Newsweek has an article on human good and evil that trots out the usual Milgram-fuelled moral pondering before morphing into a fascinating piece on the psychology of compassion.

The most interesting part is where it discusses which psychological traits predict compassionate behaviour:

A specific cluster of emotional traits seem to go along with compassion. People who are emotionally secure, who view life’s problems as manageable and who feel safe and protected tend to show the greatest empathy for strangers and to act altruistically and compassionately.

In contrast, people who are anxious about their own worth and competence, who avoid close relationships or are clingy in those they have tend to be less altruistic and less generous, psychologists Philip Shaver of the University of California, Davis, and Mario Mikulincer of Bar-Ilan University in Israel have found in a series of experiments. Such people are less likely to care for the elderly, for instance, or to donate blood.

The Newsweek article labels these characteristics ’emotional traits’ but the researchers are actually using the psychological concept of attachment – an approach to relationships and human interaction style that can be seen throughout the lifespan.

The same research team has completed studies showing that increasing people’s perceived security increases altruistic behaviour.

If you read this psychological profile of the conservative mind, you can understand (from the above) why conservatives often seem to lack compassion.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Democrats, GOP, Science

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Natural lithium in drinking water reduces suicides

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Interesting post from Mind Hacks:

Higher levels of naturally occurring lithium in the water supply are associated with fewer suicides in the local population, reports a study just published in The British Journal of Psychiatry.

Lithium is one of the fundamental elements, but is also used by psychiatrists as one the most effective drug treatment for mood disorders, in the form of lithium carbonate and lithium citrate, where it is also known to reduce the risk of suicide.

This new study suggests that even trace amounts might have an influence on the whole population level, and this is not the first time this link has been made.

A 1990 study found higher levels of lithium in drinking water were linked to fewer incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions.

This leads to the intriguing question of whether lithium should be added to the water supply as a public health measure.

The idea of adding psychoactive substances to the water supply sounds creepy, but some might argue that if we add fluoride simply to prevent tooth decay, boosting lithium concentrations to the high end of naturally occurring levels to reduce deaths could be justified.

Philosophers and conspiracy theorists start your engines.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 6:02 pm

12th Street Rag

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Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 4:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

The Powerful posturing as victims

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Another good Greenwald column, which begins:

One of the most common, harmful and downright pitiful dynamics in our political culture is the bottomless need of those who wield the most power to constantly parade around as oppressed, persecuted victims:

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic, yesterday, on the AIPAC prosecutions:

[S]uffice it to say that this day was long overdue. Rosen and Weissman did what a thousand reporters in Washington do everyday, hear about information that’s technically classified. The only difference is that these two worked for a demonized lobby.

Michael Crowley, The New Republic, today, on this week’s AIPAC conference:

AIPAC says 6500 people will attend the conference, including half the House and Senate plus such congressional leaders as Dick Durbin, Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer and Jon Kyl. Israeli President Shimon Peres speaks Monday morning and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks that evening.

Biden speaks on Tuesday. As a candidate, Barack Obama addressed the AIPAC conference last spring, vowing to do "everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Just compare Goldberg’s claim with Crowley’s facts.  The idea that AIPAC is a "demonized lobby" that is treated unfairly in the United States generally — or by the Bush administration specifically, which commenced the prosecutions — has to be one of the biggest jokes ever to appear in anything having to do with The Atlantic. What other lobbying organization can boast of summoning to its Conference half of the U.S. Congress — as bipartisan a cast as possible — along with the Vice President, following the visit last year by Obama, who read faithfully from the organization’s script?  With rare exception, Congressional action that AIPAC demands — even on as controversial matter as the Israeli attack on Gaza — not only passes the Congress, but often with virtual unanimity.  Is there anyone who disputes that AIPAC is one of the most influential and powerful lobbying groups in the U.S., if not the most influential and powerful?

Just ponder the depths of irrationality and pathological persecution complex — the desperate need to self-victimize — necessary to claim that AIPAC, of all entities, is "demonized" and treated unfairly by the U.S. Government.  AIPAC.  But that’s the self-pitying, self-absorbed syndrome that drives so much of our political discourse (an amazingly high percentage of right-wing political dialogue in particular adheres to this formula:  "I am X and X is treated so very unfairly" — where X is virtually always among the groups wielding the most power:  American, white, Christian, Republican, male, etc. etc.).  It’s the same mentality that leads people to insist that the true victim in the Middle East is the same country that, by far, possesses the greatest military might and uses it most often.  It’s a bizarre process of inversion where those who are most powerful insist on claiming that they are the weakest, most vulnerable, and most oppressed.

Although it’s true …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 4:26 pm

More pepper sauce

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I’ve given up hope that our Whole Foods will ever again have red Fresno peppers, so I made a batch ( = 1 litre) of pepper sauce using mostly jalapeños, with a few serrano peppers, 4 habanero peppers, 4 chipotle peppers, and 4 dried ancho peppers, along with 1/4 cup of salt and enough white-wine vinegar to make up just over 4 cups of sauce.

Run ingredients through the blender, pour into pan and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, let cool for 10 minutes, pour back into the blender container, blend once more, and fill the bottles.

It turned out pretty red, from the anchos and chipotles.

I had to make a batch—I had run out, and was going to be reduced to commercial pepper sauce.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 4:23 pm

Rice implicates Bush

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Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent:

“If the President Does It, It Isn’t Torture”: Did Rice Just Implicate Bush?

So says Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and secretary of state to President George W. Bush, in this extraordinary talk with a student at Stanford University. Annie Lowrey at Foreign Policy does the hard work of transcribing, so I can simply cut-n-paste Rice’s recollection of her July 2002 approval of the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah:

The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside of our obligations, legal obligations, under the Convention Against torture. So that’s — and by the way, I didn’t authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency. That they had policy authorization subject to the Justice Department’s clearance. That’s what I did….

The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our obligations under the Convention Against Torture. And so, by definition, if it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations under the Conventions Against Torture.

My emphasis. I had intended to stop this post with a notation of Rice’s rather Nixonian overtones –”When the president does it, that means it is not illegal” — but it appears Rice has actually made some news here.

Until now, Rice has been the most senior Bush administration official known to have signed off on waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” methods for Abu Zubaydah. In an April 2008 interview with ABC News, Bush said that he knew that his top advisers had met to discuss what was acceptable for the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah in the spring of 2002, but acknowledged merely that he “approved” of such meetings while giving no indication that he specifically signed off on the interrogation plan.

But Rice is now portraying herself as merely being a conduit for approving the CIA’s interrogation regime: “I conveyed the authorization of the administration to the agency.” Well, there are only two more-senior officials than Rice in this context, and that’s Bush and then-Vice President Dick Cheney. If she hadn’t made a decision on the part of the administration for the Abu Zubaydah interrogation plan, only one of these two men would have had the authority to do so.

And all of this would have happened before the Justice Department determined the interrogation techniques to be legal.

Here’s the video:

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 3:00 pm

Obama vs. The Student Loan Industry

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Very good article by Martha White in the Washington Independent:

With a growing number of college grads finding themselves crushed under the weight of their student loan debt, the Obama administration is considering action that could derail the entire student loan industry.  Groups who monitor campaign contributions, though, worry that the strength of the industry could block any shot at real change.

The student loan industry is big business. A total of $89.5 billion in loans was originated in the 2007-2008 school year, $22.5 billion of which was in the form of private loans. For students, the stakes are even higher. The default rate on student loans climbed from 5.2 percent to 6.9 percent in only a year, and analysts say the number is likely to rise as the recession continues.

The amount individual students borrow is rising, too. The average graduate of a four-year college accrues $22,500 in student loan debt, according to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study . Education advocates say that recent grads and current students are going to bear an increasingly heavy burden when it comes to repaying those debts both because of the growing amounts borrowed and due to the increasing reliance on private loans. For the 2007-2008 school year, 14 percent of students took out a private loan, compared to only 5 percent in the 2003-2004 school year.

The tough job market is another major hurdle. The national unemployment rate was at 8.5 percent in March, and there’s evidence that new grads are hit harder than other groups by the country’s shrinking job pool. Research by the National Association of Colleges and Employers revealed that companies are planning to hire 22 percent fewer new college graduates this year than in 2008. Even students who do land jobs after college might not be out of the woods; another NACE study found that the average starting salary for college grads had declined from 2008.

College students seeking financing can apply for federally-backed or private loans. Federal ones have some advantages in that the costs of borrowing are less and the loan programs have a few consumer protections in place: The interest rates are tied to the three-month Treasury bill rate plus a couple of percentage points, and graduates have a six-month grace period after graduation before repayment must start, although in this economy that might not be enough of a buffer. Deferring the loan is possible, although some agreements may tack on the extra interest that accrues during the deferral period. Former students with anemic job prospects can also extend the term of their loan, paying more interest but lowering their payment to a manageable amount each month. [HERE In the private sector, though, offering any of these options is no more than a courtesy on the part of the lender; there’s no legal obligation for them to cut debtors a break. Since the amount of federal loan money a student can borrow is capped, many have turned to private loans to bridge the gap, especially as the cost of college tuition has risen steadily in recent years. “These lenders have borrowers over a barrel,” said Edie Irons, communications director for the Institute for College Access and Success. “They can be uncompromising.” Even in the case of death or a work-ending disability, she added, private lenders still seek to collect.

Private loans also cost more, sometimes much more. Interest rates are generally variable and several percentage points higher than those for federal loans. Add in a missed payment and default rates of up nearly 20 percent — as much as some credit-card interest rates — kick in. In addition, private loan rules about late payments are nearly always stricter; while it takes months of non-payment to be declared in default of a federal loan, private loans can move into default after only a single missed payment, damaging the borrower’s credit. Since employers in some fields have recently embraced credit checks as part of pre-employment background screening, missed student loan payments could potentially damage a new grad’s chances at a job that would allow them to make those payments.

Student loans differ from other debt obligations like mortgages or credit card debt in a few ways, but one of the most significant is their “stickiness” when it comes to discharging them in a bankruptcy. Student loans are one of the very few types of debt, along with child support and some taxes, that are virtually impossible to have dismissed in bankruptcy. In the case of private student loans, although these lenders aren’t governed by the caps on loan amounts and interest rates imposed on their federally-backed counterparts, they still receive the benefit of the bankruptcy exemption.

While help is on the way via recently passed legislation many in the field worry that it’s not enough. Provisions included in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 give students clemency on some loan debt if they go into public service or work in low-income fields, but it only applies to government-backed loans. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, for instance, required for the first time that private lenders spell out in plain English how much students will be paying in interest and what kind of penalties are levied for missing payments; however, it doesn’t go into effect until next year

“That’s not going to keep [lenders] from making bad loans,” said Deanne Loonin, director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center. “It’s just going to require them to tell people when they make bad loans.” Loonin says the legislation is a good start but limited in its scope because it only affects future would-be borrowers, not the many students and new grads currently saddled with cumbersome loans. “Going backwards, you still have all these people who are stuck. We also would like to see some relief for those people.”

One major change Loonin and others would like to see is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 2:56 pm

Why we need national healthcare

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And with a government option, I believe. Read Nicholas Kristof’s column "A Nation of Typhoid Marys" on the risk posed by Americans who have no health insurance (approximately 47,000,000===and some of them live near you).

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 2:35 pm

Continued excellent reportage from Marcy Wheeler

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Did Mitchell and Jessen Have the Three OTHER Torture Tapes? begins:

Since we’re back on torture tapes, I wanted to return to the letter DOJ sent to Leonie Brinkema to tell her they had found three torture tapes they had neglected to mention when she asked about tapes in November 2005. There’s much that remains obscure about this letter, but the whole thing makes a lot more sense if Mitchell and Jessen had been in possession of the three “discovered” tapes.

DOJ writes:  …

Rice and Goss Turn on Cheney

Keep in mind that this article seems to be at least partly the product of two entities—the Bellinger/Condi- and the Goss-reputation protection entities—that have been working overtime lately. (h/t Loo Hoo) In fact, the article references the YouTube of Condi proclaiming, “By definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations in the Convention Against Torture,” without explicitly telling NYT’s readers what Condi said. I guess that part—the part where Condi continues to defend the program by channeling Nixon—isn’t important.

Nevertheless, the article provides a few more data points on the torture plan.

June 2003 Statement of Support Was a Response to Shrub’s Speech

First, the article explains why CIA chose June 2003—of all times—to insist the White House write up a policy statement supporting torture with Bush’s name on it: …

I highly recommend that you read the complete posts.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 2:11 pm

Abortion fight satire

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I enjoyed Citizen Ruth, a 1996 movie about a homeless addict (played by Laura Dern) who gets pregnant for the fourth time, though all previous children have been taken from her as an unfit mother. The pro-choice and pro-life contingents both see her as a vehicle for a message. Good comedy, if a bit savage.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Toxic sludge, ever popular

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Source: Kansas City Star, May 2, 2009

For decades government agencies and polluters have cynically and dangerously used the magic of PR to reclassify toxic sludge as "beneficial fertilizer," and thus haul it to rural farmlands where it is spread on fields out of sight, out of mind. CMD’s John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote the first major expose´of this practice in their 1995 book Toxic Sludge Is Good for You. Now the Kansas Star reports on a Missouri lawsuit claiming "that a St. Joseph tannery had allowed sludge containing a carcinogen to be used as fertilizer on fields in four counties, causing brain tumors in at least two patients. Because of a state law, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not been sampling the contents of the sludge — the waste from the tanning process. That is because the law allowed officials years ago to declare the sludge a fertilizer. As a result, that left most of the responsibility for regulating the sludge to the University of Missouri — but only as a fertilizer, not as a hazardous waste."

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 12:18 pm

A fascinating social system

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Jack in Amsterdam provides a link to this interesting account of an American living in the Netherlands:

Picture me, if you will, as I settle at my desk to begin my workday, and feel free to use a Vermeer image as your template. The pale-yellow light that gives Dutch paintings their special glow suffuses the room. The interior is simple, with high walls and beams across the ceiling. The view through the windows of the 17th-century house in which I have my apartment is of similarly gabled buildings lining the other side of one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals. Only instead of a plump maid or a raffish soldier at the center of the canvas, you should substitute a sleep-rumpled writer squinting at a laptop.

For 18 months now I’ve been playing the part of the American in Holland, alternately settling into or bristling against the European way of life. Many of the features of that life are enriching. History echoes from every edifice as you move through your day. The bicycle is not a means of recreation but a genuine form of transportation. A nearby movie house sells not popcorn but demitasses of espresso and glasses of Dutch gin from behind a wood-paneled bar, which somehow makes you feel sane and adult and enfolded in civilization.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 10:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Back to military commissions for trials?

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

I guess we should have seen it coming. First, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate on Thursday that the government might want to continue to detain indefinitely up to 100 of the 241 prisoners currently at Guantanamo Bay, so he needs $50 million to build a new prison for them here on U.S. soil.

Then, Obama administration officials leaked to The New York Times that they’re thinking of reviving the Bush-created military commissions, even though, having completed only two trials in eight years, they were almost universally deemed a disaster.

Last week I wrote that legal experts across the political spectrum increasingly agree that civilian federal courts are the best place to try terror suspects — despite the potential difficulties created by tortured evidence. If the evidence is reliable, it will stand up in court; if it’s not, then it won’t and it shouldn’t. The rules are there for a reason.

As Attorney General Eric Holder pointed out Friday, the recent guilty plea of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, the last “enemy combatant” detained on U.S. soil, proves how effective the U.S. criminal justice system can be. Not only was the Justice Department able to get a man who was subjected to prolonged isolation, painful stress positions, exposure to extreme temperature, sleep deprivation, extreme sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death to plead guilty to an offense that will land him up to 15 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release; Al-Marri also swore in his plea agreement to valuable evidence that can now be used against others, including the notorious alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. That’s exactly how the criminal justice system is supposed to work.

It’s not surprising that some former members of the Bush administration, such as Homeland Security official Stewart Baker, quoted in The New York Times on Saturday, complain that Al-Marri and those of his ilk shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all but should be detained indefinitely for as long as the United States is fighting al-Qaeda — which may be for the rest of his life. Or that Andrew McCarthy, the former prosecutor quoted in that same story — and who the Times neglected to mention is also a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and rabid critic of just about all Obama national security policies — thinks that Al-Marri’s sentence isn’t long enough. McCarthy is the same person who last week said that serial waterboarding isn’t torture because “After the first or second time you get the point that there’s no death to be feared here.”

But I have to admit I wasn’t expecting President Obama, who as a candidate called the military commissions “an enormous failure” and quickly suspended them as president, to want to revive them now. Surely he knows that any new military commission will be challenged in court; actual trials and appeals would delay any resolutions of these cases for many years more.

But then, maybe that’s the point. Adopting military commissions may be the Obama administration’s way of achieving the indefinite detention that Gates was talking about when he asked Congress for that extra $50 million just-in-case. Only now, the administration can say these men are only being detained pending their military commission trials, and so can paint indefinite detention as “military justice.”

Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:53 am

More on student loan reform

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From Inside Higher Ed by Doug Lederman:

A compromise 2010 budget resolution released Tuesday by Congressional leaders gives the Obama administration a chance to push its plan to restructure the federal student loan programs — but also sends a clear signal to the White House that lawmakers remain skeptical about the president’s proposal to largely eliminate the lender-based Federal Family Education Loan Program.

President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have pushed Congress hard to include in its final budget blueprint the opportunity to use the “budget reconciliation” process to enact policy changes in both health care and higher education. Legislation considered through budget reconciliation can be approved by the Senate by a simple majority rather than the normal 60 votes (to avoid potential filibuster), and is therefore often opposed (especially by the minority) as an inappropriate way to consider major shifts in federal policy.

The budget resolutions passed this spring by the House and Senate took differing approaches, with the House including language in its budget resolution that would have given the House Education and Labor Committee until September 30 to come up with a plan to shave $1 billion in federal mandatory spending — a goal the committee would be likely to accomplish only through radical changes in the student loan programs, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would save $94 billion over 10 years. The Senate Budget Committee opted not to head down the controversial path of budget reconciliation, though both panels included provisions that would create reserve funds designed to cover the costs of making the Pell Grant Program a federal entitlement, which college leaders and student advocates aggressively favor.

The compromise resolution that Democratic leaders unveiled late Monday seemed to largely back the president’s plan to ensure a steady stream of funds for Pell Grants, and to give the Congressional education committees until October to craft budget reconciliation legislation that would save the Treasury $1 billion a year over five years.

But in a clear nod to Congressional supporters of the bank-based loan program, the compromise budget blueprint also includes a non-binding “Sense of the Congress” resolution that praises the role of lenders and guarantee agencies and requires that “any reform of the federal student loan programs … include some future role for the currently involved private and non-profit entities.” Loan reform, it goes on to say, should “capitalize on the current infrastructure provided by private and non-profit entities, In order both to provide employment to many Americans during this time of economic distress and to maintain valuable services that make postsecondary education more accessible and attainable for many Americans.”

The extent to which this would-be Congressional mandate is conflicts or is consistent with the White House’s plan is likely to be debated…

Continue reading. Obviously, the private lending lobby must send a lot of money to Congress. And read the comments. Here are a couple of them:

You have to spend money to make money
Posted by DS on April 29, 2009 at 9:15am EDT

Yellow light, turning orange, on its way to red. As I’ve been predicting all along, too many Congressional campaign war chests are filled with lender contributions to ever kill FFELP, so it’s all going to come down to pay-to-play politics instead of what’s best for students, what’s the most efficient loan delivery method or what saves taxpayers the most money.

It’ll be interesting to see the members of Congress go back to their constituents to try to explain why essential expenditures in other programs were cut when they could have saved billions on student loans with no cuts to the program’s beneficiaries instead.

Most drivers blaze through yellow lights at full speed
Posted by Ex-Loan Huckster on April 29, 2009 at 9:15am EDT

At this point, having no skin in the game, I would encourage the administration (read: Shireman) to annihilate all remaining vestiges of the FFELP. Sell the rights to service the FDLP portfolio through competitive bidding process (i.e., to get the fat cat ACS out of there – they have collected a cool margin in the 40% range on that business for 14 years.). There are really only two likely outcomes, either things smooth out after a slightly rough start and no one even remembers Loan 2 Learn or My Rich Uncle, or FDLP will be a complete disaster prompting a reincarnation of private guaranteed lending, but perhaps in a more efficient and equitable format (read: no monopolies, Morton’s dinners and golf courses). One unfortunate casualty is community banks that only did FFELP so they could offer a full portfolio of products to banking customers. That schools and students might be harmed doesn’t really matter because schools have not defended the FFELP and students, through mouthpiece Alan Collinge have been calling for FFELP’s demise.

One thing that seems foolish is to go half way in killing FFELP. Keeping a neutered FFELP around to say there is competitiion is a paper-thin ruse. The only choices are to return it to previous status or kill it off entirely.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:41 am

America’s obsession with female virginity

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Male virginity is apparently not considered such a problem. Here’s a book review:

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
by Jessica Valenti

A review by Laura M. Carpenter

For decades, right-wing tanks and conservative Christian organizations have promoted what Jessica Valenti calls the "purity myth": the belief that virginity separates moral/good women from their immoral/bad sisters. In its blatant attempt to re-establish traditional gender roles, the purity movement backs restrictions on birth control and abortion and vilifies rape victims who are insufficiently chaste.

"There’s no room…for the idea that young women could want to be sexy, to have sex, or to express themselves in ways that fall beyond wearing ankle-length skirts and finding husbands," Valenti writes of virginity advocates. "The idea that young women could have a sexuality that’s all their own is just too scary."

The purity movement teaches girls that their moral status derives from their sexual (in)activity, while boys learn that being moral means making responsible, adult choices. Although its rhetoric sounds all-encompassing and ostensibly includes boys, its vision of purity is embodied by white, conventionally attractive, middle-class girls. Women and girls of color, consistently hypersexualized in U.S. culture, are never positioned as "pure," nor are women with disabilities or impoverished women. Our nation’s obsession with virginity overshadows real issues that afflict women, such as lack of affordable reproductive health care and sexual trafficking. While father-daughter purity balls, virginity vouchers and abstinence rallies are busy celebrating and commodifying virginity, our tax dollars are funding abstinence-only sex-education curricula that use fear and shame to promote chastity outside marriage and provide no (or incorrect) information about contraception or safer sex. Not only are these classes steeped in traditional gender politics that identify women as sexual gatekeepers and men as sexually out of control, they ostracize LGBTQ youth by ignoring their needs for relevant information on sex.

Ironically, the purity movement has much in common with pornography; both idealize passive, doll-like women who desire only to please men. Like pornography, it finds myriad ways to denigrate women. Those who remain virgins effectively remain girls and, as such, can’t — or shouldn’t — be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. The fetishizing of virginity inspires grown women to embrace girlishness via vaginal rejuvenation surgeries and Brazilian bikini waxes. It’s hard to miss the connection between this glorification of "innocence" and the backlash against women’s advancement in education, work and the public sphere.

My own research suggests that …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:30 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Where we stand today on torture investigations

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Very interesting article in Newsweek by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball:

When president Obama decided to release the Bush-era Justice Department’s interrogation memos last month, he tried to calm an anxious CIA by publicly declaring that operatives who "reasonably" relied on them would not face criminal prosecution. But agency officials still have plenty to worry about. Despite Obama’s assurances, a Justice Department special counsel is quietly ratcheting up his probe into a closely related subject: the CIA’s destruction of hundreds of hours of videotape showing the waterboarding of two high-value Qaeda suspects. At the same time, a Senate panel is planning the first public hearing dealing with CIA interrogations, including testimony from a star witness: Ali Soufan, the former FBI agent who vigorously protested the questioning of one of the detainees, terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

In recent weeks, prosecutor John Durham has summoned CIA operatives back from overseas to testify before a federal grand jury, according to three legal sources familiar with the case who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive matters. The sources said Durham is also seeking testimony from agency lawyers who gave advice relating to the November 2005 decision by Jose Rodriguez, then chief of the CIA’s operations directorate, to destroy the tapes. The flurry of activity has surprised some lawyers on the case who had assumed Durham was planning to wind down his probe without bringing charges. Now they’re not so sure. Durham, who declined to comment, might simply be tying up loose ends in a closely watched case. But one continuing point of inquiry could spell trouble for the agency: allegations that CIA officials may have made false statements or obstructed justice in the case of convicted Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui.

Durham was appointed by former attorney general Michael Mukasey shortly after the December 2007 revelation about Rodriguez’s decision. At the time, …

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Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:23 am

The tale of two interrogators

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Tim F. at Balloon Juice has a really good post on two great interrogators in WWII, along with an excellent conjecture on why torture was so enthusiastically embraced by the Bushies. By all means read it.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:20 am

Read Marcy Wheeler

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That’s a general injunction: you should have a RSS feed from her blog, She provides the most detailed and careful analyses of what’s going on that I’ve seen. Check out these two posts for examples:

The Next Anti-Union Myth: Obama Gave Them Chrysler

Addington’s Multiple Choice Torture Memos

Very detailed, very closely reasoned. Good stuff. Browse through her blog and you’ll find much like.

Written by Leisureguy

3 May 2009 at 9:10 am

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