Later On

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

Archive for October 1st, 2009

Texas tilted the table to execute an innocent

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Texas is a strange state. Matt Smith reports for CNN:

An investigation into claims that faulty evidence led Texas to execute a man in 2004 was at a “crucial point” when the state’s governor replaced three of its members this week, one of the three said Thursday.

Gov. Rick Perry’s shake-up of the Texas Forensic Science Commission came two days before it was to hear from the author of a scathing report in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. That Friday session has been postponed indefinitely in the wake of Perry’s new appointments.

Willingham was put to death for killing his three daughters in a fire that arson investigators said had been deliberately set.

Yet death-penalty opponents say an impartial review of the case could lead to an unprecedented admission — that the state executed an innocent man.

Three reports, including one commissioned by the Forensic Science Commission, have concluded that arson was not the likely cause of the 1991 fire.

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Republicans (and Blue Dogs) still fighting reality

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From the Center for American Progress:

Keeping with a campaign pledge "not continue to fund abstinence-only programs," President Obama’s 2010 budget cut funding for "Community-Based Abstinence Education" and several other abstinence-education programs. But in a 12 to 11 vote on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) that would provide $50 million a year through 2014 to fund these programs. With the votes of Democratic senators Blanche Lincoln (AK) and Kent Conrad (ND), the amendment basically reinstates "the controversial Title V program, which offered $50 million per year to states for abstinence education, but prohibited them from tapping the funds for other sex-ed subjects like contraception." Another measure offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) — which would make money available for education on contraception and sexually transmitted diseases — also passed, and the two measures will now have to be reconciled. The Senate Finance Committee’s vote comes as school districts in Texas are moving away from abstinence-only education, admitting that it hasn’t helped reduce teen pregnancy rates. Hatch also introduced an amendment to restrict the ability of private insurance to compensate for abortions, but it failed in a 10-13 vote. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, "[A]s a woman, I find it offensive" that he would even propose such an amendment.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education, GOP

American exceptionalism

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Another good post by Andrew Sullivan:

America is exceptional not because it banished evil, not because Americans are somehow more moral than anyone else, not because its founding somehow changed human nature—but because it recognized the indelibility of human nature and our permanent capacity for evil. It set up a rule of law to guard against such evil. It pitted branches of government against each other and enshrined a free press so that evil could be flushed out and countered even when perpetrated by good men. The belief that when America tortures, the act is somehow not torture, or that when Americans torture, they are somehow immune from its moral and spiritual cancer, is not an American belief. It is as great a distortion of American exceptionalism as jihadism is of Islam. To believe that because the American government is better than Saddam and the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Americans are somehow immune to the same temptations of power that all flesh is heir to, is itself a deep and dangerous temptation. The power to torture is a case in point. Because torture can coerce truth, break a human being’s dignity, treat him as an expendable means rather than as a fragile end, it has a terrible power to corrupt. Torture is the ultimate expression of the absolute power of one individual over another; it destroys the souls of those who torture just as surely as it eviscerates the dignity of those who are its victims. And because torture is so awful, it also often requires a defensive embrace of it, a pride in it, an exaggeration of its successes.

Continued here.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 3:23 pm

More on Ardi

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From Michael Balter’s blog, more links on Ardi:

Update I: Some background from my colleague Ann Gibbons, including a video well worth watching featuring Ann and team leader Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley.

Update II: A good image-laden backgrounder by Jamie Shreeve of National Geographic.

Update III: John Hawks of the University of Michigan, whose anthropology blog is always of interest, has a lengthy post on Ardi.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 3:10 pm

Interesting post on science

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Matthew Yglesias has an interesting post, from which this is taken:

I think it’s unfortunate that people trying to enhance the social prestige of science and scientists (which is basically what the TMBG song is about) have this tendency to want to fall back on this kind of naive realism and positivism as their means for doing so. To understand why science is so impressive what I think you really need to do is not talk about how it’s “real” (whatever that means) but put it as a social practice alongside other social practices aimed at explaining the world. You’ll see that science is impressively progressive—when old theories get overturned by newer ones, our capabilities as a society and as a species are enhanced in really noteworthy ways. There’s no better set of ideas or practices out there. If you really really want to cling to Young Earth Creationism there’s no argument that can compel you to change your mind, but at this point in history creationist thinking is all about explaining away the successes of Darwinian theory it doesn’t actually contribute anything to enhance our understanding of things.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 2:38 pm

Here we go again!

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post that ends:

Shiny new AAA securities!  Hooray!  And there’s more!  Ratings for re-remics come from the same ratings agencies that bollixed up the original ratings.  And investment banks pocket fat fees for performing the financial alchemy.  What could possibly go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

CIGNA

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Dawn Smith writes for MoveOn—an email I just received:

I’m at the end of my rope. What CIGNA is doing to me is—well, it’s outrageous.

I have a brain tumor. Doctors are ready to help me. But CIGNA has been blocking me from getting testing and treatment for two years, while almost doubling my premiums.

Then, this week was the kicker. CIGNA’s pharmacy called to say that the co-pay on the medicine that helps control my debilitating head pain is skyrocketing from $10 to $1,115. That’s not a typo. They’re making me pay one hundred times what I’m paying now, in addition to my $753/month premium.

I can’t afford that. So when the pain comes, I won’t have any defense. I’ll spend hours in the fetal position, out of my mind with pain.

When my story went public a couple of weeks ago—with the help of over 100,000 MoveOn members—CIGNA said they would pay for a test I’d been asking for at Cleveland Clinic. It was a step in the right direction. But after two years of denials, and with a long course of treatment ahead of me, I knew better than to just take them at their word.

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2009 at 11:36 am

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