Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, May 31, 2009 7:39 pm

Crop report

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:39 pm
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The apples are coming in. So are the pears, but they’re running a little behind the apples.

No more peaches. The peach tree got so sick that we had to take it down.

Saturday, May 30, 2009 7:10 am

Political meddling in political-intimidation case

The New Black Panther members who appeared on YouTube last fall wielding nightsticks and apparently trying to prevent some people in Philly from voting are going to skate, over the objections of career Justice Department lawyers:

Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.

The incident – which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube – had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.

Career lawyers pursued the case for months, including obtaining an affidavit from a prominent 1960s civil rights activist who witnessed the confrontation and described it as “the most blatant form of voter intimidation” that he had seen, even during the voting rights crisis in Mississippi a half-century ago.

One of the many objectionable hallmarks of the Bush administration was the insistence by political appointees of overturning decisions made by career staff, particularly in Justice. I’d say Attorney General Eric Holder has some explaining to do.

(h/t: Fred)

Friday, May 29, 2009 9:43 pm

Another torture roundup

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 9:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

President Obama recently changed his mind and decided he wouldn’t publicly release photos of abuse of detainees held by the U.S. He gave two bluntly contradictory reasons: 1) that they were just more of the same; and yet 2) they might inflame people in Iraq/Afghanistan against our troops.

Well, here’s what Britain’s Telegraph is reporting:

Photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which Barack Obama is attempting to censor include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, it has emerged.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He has now confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

The graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.

Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.”

If Taguba is telling the truth, then that’s not exactly “more of the same.”

Here’s the thing: Those pictures are going to be made public whether the president wants them to be or not. An appeals court already has ordered the administration to turn them over to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued for them, on the grounds that there’s no legal basis for withholding them. And there really isn’t; only the grossest judicial activism will keep the Supremes from upholding the appeals court, if they even hear the government’s appeal at all. Better that the administration release them now and get out ahead of the story.

Unfortunately, that’ll be a little difficult inasmuch as Obama has said that everyone involved in the activities depicted in the photos already has been investigated and prosecuted. We’ve seen no evidence that that is true.

Also recently, former vice president Dick Cheney insisted in a speech that the CIA has documents that, if released, would show that interrogation techniques he approved 1) were not torture and 2) saved many innocent lives. (Ex-president Bush said pretty much the same thing in a speech Thursday night.) Now, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is calling Cheney a liar, saying that Cheney “bore false witness.”:

“I do so as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which recently completed an 18-month investigation into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and produced a 200-page bipartisan report, which gives the lie to Mr. Cheney’s claims,” said Levin [Thursday night]. “I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back.” …

Regarding Cheney’s claim that classified documents will prove his case — documents that Levin himself is also privy to — Levin said: “But those classified documents say nothing about the numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction.”

Hey, Cheney could be telling the truth. We won’t know until the documents are released. Let’s do it.

Why health care costs are so high … and will be hard to bring down

Atul Gawande is a Boston-based doctor who writes frequently about medical issues for The New Yorker. He has a piece in this week’s issue that, in examining what might be done to rein in health-care costs, starts with an excellent question: Why are per-capita Medicare costs (frequently used as an indicator for overall medical costs) in McAllen, Texas, so much higher than in the rest of the country, or even in comparable parts of Texas, such as El Paso?

Some of the things he learned:

  • It’s not that McAllen’s population is so much unhealthier than anywhere else’s.
  • The quality of facilities and overall quality of care aren’t markedly better in McAllen than in El Paso.
  • It’s not the cost of malpractice suits.

One thing he found is that there is simply more medicine, particularly of the more expensive type, practiced in McAllen than elsewhere.

Moreover, “[Dartmouth researcher Elliott] Fisher found that patients in high-cost areas were actually less likely to receive low-cost preventive services, such as flu and pneumonia vaccines, faced longer waits at doctor and emergency-room visits, and were less likely to have a primary-care physician. They got more of the stuff that cost more, but not more of what they needed.”

“Physicians in places like McAllen behave differently from others,” Gawande wrote. “The $2.4-trillion question” — that’s about what the U.S. spends annually on health care — ” is why. Unless we figure it out, health reform will fail.”

Gawande finds that, relative to a lot of other communities, physicians have worked hard to develop new revenue streams (e.g., investing in private, for-profit hospitals to which they refer patients):

About fifteen years ago, it seems, something began to change in McAllen. A few leaders of local institutions took profit growth to be a legitimate ethic in the practice of medicine. Not all the doctors accepted this. But they failed to discourage those who did. So here, along the banks of the Rio Grande, in the Square Dance Capital of the World, a medical community came to treat patients the way subprime-mortgage lenders treated home buyers: as profit centers.

The purest opposition to this approach might be at Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic:

… decades ago Mayo recognized that the first thing it needed to do was eliminate the financial barriers [to better health care]. It pooled all the money the doctors and the hospital system received and began paying everyone a salary, so that the doctors’ goal in patient care couldn’t be increasing their income. Mayo promoted leaders who focussed first on what was best for patients, and then on how to make this financially possible.

No one there actually intends to do fewer expensive scans and procedures than is done elsewhere in the country. The aim is to raise quality and to help doctors and other staff members work as a team. But, almost by happenstance, the result has been lower costs.

Entire medical communities, such as that of Grand Junction, Colo., have adopted similar approaches (adapted to their own local needs) and achieved similar results. The lesson, Gawande says is that you need not just more efficient and effective treatments but better entire systems of care. “The lesson of the high-quality, low-cost communities is that someone has to be accountable for the totality of care,” he writes. “Otherwise, you get a system that has no brakes. You get McAllen.”

(He also says, “These are empirical, not ideological, questions.” Bless him, but dollars to doughnuts, that won’t stop politicians and lobbyists from treating them as ideological questions.)

We have little time to make changes, we have to make the right changes, and arguing about cost and accessibility of coverage, although important, may be missing an even more important, urgent and dangerous point: even some of the more efficient community systems may be evolving toward the McAllen model:

In El Paso, the for-profit health-care executive told me, a few leading physicians recently followed McAllen’s lead and opened their own centers for surgery and imaging. When I was in Tulsa a few months ago, a fellow-surgeon explained how he had made up for lost revenue by shifting his operations for well-insured patients to a specialty hospital that he partially owned while keeping his poor and uninsured patients at a nonprofit hospital in town. Even in Grand Junction, Michael Pramenko told me, “some of the doctors are beginning to complain about ‘leaving money on the table.’ ”

As America struggles to extend health-care coverage while curbing health-care costs, we face a decision that is more important than whether we have a public-insurance option, more important than whether we will have a single-payer system in the long run or a mixture of public and private insurance, as we do now. The decision is whether we are going to reward the leaders who are trying to build a new generation of Mayos and Grand Junctions. If we don’t, McAllen won’t be an outlier. It will be our future.

Go read the whole thing.

Safer food on the way?

Filed under: Reality: It works — Lex @ 9:24 pm
Tags: ,

Let’s hope so:

The nation’s complex food supply chain would become more transparent, inspections of food facilities would become more frequent and manufacturers would be required to take steps aimed at preventing food-borne illnesses under legislation proposed [Wednesday] by key House leaders who have pledged to modernize the food safety system.

The bill, introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), would give the Food and Drug Administration broad new enforcement tools, including the authority to recall tainted food, the ability to “quarantine” suspect food, and the power to impose civil penalties and increased criminal sanctions on violators.

Among other things, the proposal would put greater responsibility on growers, manufacturers and food handlers by requiring them to identify contamination risks, document the steps they take to prevent them and provide those records to federal regulators. The legislation also would allow the FDA to require private laboratories used by food manufacturers to report the detection of pathogens in food products directly to the government.

“This is a major step forward,” said Erik Olson, director of food and consumer product safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “This has really been needed for decades. We’re still operating under a food and drug law signed by Teddy Roosevelt.”

Here’s some pithy perspective on the issue:

Rick Perlstein coined the wonderful phrase “e. coli conservatism“. We’ve been living with, and in some cases dying from, e. coli conservatism for years. It’s nice to know that we’re getting back to serious food safety liberalism, which, frankly, ought to be just plain common sense, and perfectly acceptable to any conservatives who care about a strong defense. After all, food-borne illness kills about 2,000 more people every year than died on 9/11; why we should spend over half a trillion dollars a year defending ourselves against human invaders while leaving ourselves open to bacteria that are every bit as lethal is a mystery that passeth all understanding.

I got e. coli food poisoning once, about 15 years ago. At the time, I was in about the best shape of my adult life, and I still thought I was going to die (even though I know that, eventually, I’d probably have gotten better even without treatment). I can see how the disease could be even more dangerous to children, the elderly or those with chronic health problems. Food safety should, indeed, be something that liberals and conservatives can simply agree on as common sense.

Coulda and shoulda

In the debate about American torture of detainees, both I and torture apologists have taken the position that Democratic members of Congress, despite being in the minority for much of the period during which the abuse was going on, could have done more to stop it despite their briefings being secret. (The apologists do so despite the fact that doing so in effect is admitting that torture was committed and that it is a crime — their argument basically amounts to, “Well, our guys [i.e., Republicans] ain’t going down for this alone!” To which I respond: I’ve never said they should.)

bmaz at Emptywheel analyzes that legal question and agrees with me: Yes, Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman, Bob Graham and Nancy Pelosi could have done more than they did (if, in fact, they did anything at all): They could have invoked the Constitution’s speech-and-debate clause (Article I, Section 6) to disclose, and criticize, the torture publicly in the House/Senate without fear of legal consequences:

What this means is that there existed a defined path for Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller, Graham et. al to address their concerns and whistleblow the wrongs they were witnessing without any threat of prosecution, fines or other retribution. Jello Jay Rockefeller did not have to constrain his outrage to his hoky handwritten letter to Dick Cheney (yeah, like that was going to work). Jane Harman did not have to restrict her claimed outrage to her weak letter. Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham didn’t have to sit on their hands and effectively do nothing.

I would argue that they either knew or should have known that this was the case, and that their failure to do so was at least negligence and arguably makes them accessories to war crimes. That doesn’t make them as culpable as the people who ordered those crimes to be carried out, but it makes them culpable nonetheless.

Thursday, May 28, 2009 8:54 pm

Let the sun shine in

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: , ,

The Federal Reserve has been refusing to tell us how the taxpayers’ money being used to bail out banks is being spent. In fact, that agency’s inspector general has told Congress she doesn’t even know. Now, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., is calling for the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, to audit the Fed (H.R. 1207). You can go here to sign on in support of that measure.

It’s our money. We ought to know where it went.

Another member of the Cassandra Club

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 6:49 pm
Tags: ,

Brooksley Born apparently is too polite to say “I told you so.” But, frankly, Ms. Born, we find ourselves in a situation in which rudeness is called for (not, unfortunately, that it will do much good at this point):

A little more than a decade ago, Born foresaw a financial cataclysm, accurately predicting that exotic investments known as over-the-counter derivatives could play a crucial role in a crisis much like the one now convulsing America. Her efforts to stop that from happening ran afoul of some of the most influential men in Washington, men with names like Greenspan and Levitt and Rubin and Summers — the same Larry Summers who is now a key economic adviser to President Obama.

She was the head of a tiny government agency who wanted to regulate the derivatives. They* were the men who stopped her.

The same class of derivatives that preoccupied Born — including the now-infamous “credit-default swaps” — have been blamed for accelerating last fall’s financial implosion. But from 1996 to 1999, when Born was the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. economy was roaring and she was getting nowhere with predictions of doom.

So, upstairs in the big house in Kalorama, Born tossed and turned. She woke repeatedly “in a cold sweat,” agonizing that a financial calamity was coming, she recalled one recent afternoon.

Of all the depressing, enraging items in this profile, this might be my favorite:

Born’s baptism as a new agency head in 1996 came in the form of an invitation. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan — routinely hailed as a “genius,” the “maestro,” the “Oracle” — wanted her to come over for lunch.

Greenspan had an unusual take on market fraud, Born recounted: “He explained there wasn’t a need for a law against fraud because if a floor broker was committing fraud, the customer would figure it out and stop doing business with him.”

Well, thank goodness that’s true, otherwise those Hunt brothers and Mike Milken and Bernie Madoff and all those other guys could have made off with a lot of people’s money. I guess in some dimension, somewhere in some parallel universe, “genius,” “maestro” and “the Oracle” mean “dumber than a box of floor tiles.”

Good thing William F. Buckley didn’t live to read this

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 6:37 pm
Tags: ,

Mark Krikorian at NR’s The Corner: “So, are we supposed to use the Spanish pronunciation, so-toe-my-OR, or the natural English pronunciation, SO-tuh-my-er, like Niedermeyer? … Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English … and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to.”

Some responses from the commenters at Wonkette:

  • How did Antonin Scalia ever get past this brilliant super genius?
  • He definitely emphasizes the ASS in Assimilate.
  • CRY some more, Mark CRY-Korean.
  • Has anyone asked Brett Favre about this?
  • I don’t care what this mouthbreather calls her as long as he eventually calls her Justice Sotomayor.
  • I refuse to take pronunciation tips from a man whose surname sounds like dolphin chatter.
  • Make it easy on yourself Mark, just call her “your honor”

But it’s Nancy Nall, for the win: “One of my Twitter follows said it best: It’s spelled Krikorian, but it’s pronounced ‘Kracker.’”

Lock and load

Retired Col. Ralph Peters is psychotic.

You have to read this essay in its entirety to grasp just how nutso this guy is. Among the many, many deviations from logic and rationality therein, we can find:

  • The assertion in his opening paragraph that failure to use every despicable tactic embraced by our enemies is equivalent to a desire to “defeat ourselves.”
  • He deliriously insists that Islamic terrorists “live their cause, but we do not live ours.” Because trying to stand up for freedom and the rule of law aren’t our causes, I guess.
  • He confuses “lifestyles” with fundamental American freedoms, as in, ” … we simply do not feel endangered; rather, we sense that what nastiness there may be in the world will always occur elsewhere and need not disturb our lifestyles.”
  • He suggests that our biggest problem in relating to our own military is that “the higher you go in our social caste system, the less grasp you find of the military’s complexity and the greater the expectation that, when employed, our armed forces should be able to fix things promptly and politely,” rather than the fact that for the past 50 years, we have continued to treat the military as the primary solution to problems whose solutions should involve the military only as an adjunct, if that. (Cases in point: Vietnam; invading Iraq because of 9/11.)
  • He claims, “We have so oversold ourselves on the notion of respect for all religions (except, of course, Christianity and Judaism) that we insist that faith cannot be a cause of atrocious violence.” Tell it to all the people who think Muslims — all Muslims — are the problem.

And then there’s this little nugget: He presumptively declares journalists to be traitors meriting summary execution:

Today, the United States and its allies will never face a lone enemy on the battlefield. There will always be a hostile third party in the fight, but one which we not only refrain from attacking but are hesitant to annoy: the media. …

Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.

So because of his assumption that all media are anti-U.S., he believes murdering journalists is OK. This statement tiptoes terribly close to the line — not over the line, but terribly close — of advocating murder.

He closes thusly:

The point of all this is simple: Win. In warfare, nothing else matters. If you cannot win clean, win dirty. But win. Our victories are ultimately in humanity’s interests, while our failures nourish monsters.

Leaving aside the fact that sometimes our successes nourish monsters as well (see Abu Ghraib; Guantanamo), this passage sounded awfully familiar to me. After a couple of minutes, I remembered what it reminded me of, something I’d read in a history book 35 years ago:

“Close your hearts to pity! Act brutally! [We] must obtain what is [our] right!”

That’s a snippet from Adolf Hitler’s pep talk to the troops on the eve of Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland. (The first [we] is actually “Eighty million Germans” and the second [we] is actually “their.”) Shorter Peters: Our enemies hate our values so much that we must destroy those values ourselves to be safe.

Peters is, in one way, right. We need to lock and load. That is, we need to lock him up and load him with medication. He’s a psychopath, plain and simple, and there are a lot more like him out there.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009 5:26 pm

“It’s finished”

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 5:26 pm
Tags:

When John Lanchester says that, the “it” he’s talking about is Britain, but he suggests the U.S. is in similar straits. This humorous yet very depressing piece on how the UK’s financial markets went to hell has a great deal in common with what happened on this side of the pond. There are a lot of good lines in it, but I think this was my favorite:

All of this makes [the Royal Bank of Scotland's] corporate report for 2007, published just weeks before the bank had to go back to the markets for more capital, a document of unusual interest. Northrop Frye somewhere defines ‘irony’ as involving a state of affairs in which words have a different meaning from their apparent sense. This can be achieved by the audience’s knowing something the speaker doesn’t: so the speaker is saying one thing but we are understanding another. The RBS corporate report is like that. (So are their slogans: ‘Make it happen.’ Make what happen? A £100 billion tab for the taxpayer?)The section on corporate citizenship at the beginning is particularly good value. The firm is involved in plans to increase general levels of financial education. ‘When people have been educated about money and how to work with financial services firms they are more likely to make the right decisions and to avoid difficulties.’ That’s true, but you can also just rob post offices. ‘RBS is a responsible company. We carry out rigorous research so that we can be confident we know the issues that are most important to our stakeholders and we take practical steps to respond to what they tell us. Then occasionally, we blow all that [expletive] off, fire up some crystal meth, and throw money around with such crazed abandon that it helps destroy the public finances of the world’s fifth biggest economy.’ See if you can guess which of those sentences is not in the report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 9:35 pm

Analysis of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions …

… at SCOTUSBlog, which I have found to be a reasonably dispassionate, reasonably clear source of analysis of Supreme Court opinions in the past. Standard disclaimers: YMMV; IANAL.

The post is based on an analysis prepared last summer by summer associates — i.e., people who are working at a firm for the summer and have not finished law school, let alone passed the bar exam — at Akin Gump, a Washington firm with an active Supreme Court-level practice. “Our only goal is to identify and summarize the opinions, not evaluate them,” the post’s author says; you can judge for yourself whether the folks who put this analysis together achieved their goal.

Escaping Alcatraz through shark-infested waters … for a good cause

My friend Susan Midgett will be swimming from Alcatraz to the mainland on Aug. 15 to raise money for a medical and dental clinic for Espwa, an orphanage in Haiti. You can find out more about what she’s doing, and contribute if you like, at her blog. Go over there and show those kids some love. God knows they need it.

Here we go again …

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 6:15 am
Tags: ,

… and people wondered why I wanted the old PTL plowed under and the earth salted so that nothing would ever grow there again:

As Easter approached, the ad ran repeatedly on the Inspiration Network: David Cerullo, clutching a Bible, told viewers they, too, could receive prosperity, physical healing and other blessings God gave the ancient Israelites.

All they had to do, the televangelist said, was send $200 or more.

“Go to your phone,” he said. “Sow your Passover offering and watch God do what he said he would … Call now.”

Pitches like this have transformed the Charlotte-area cable network into one of the world’s fastest-growing Christian broadcasters, beaming into more than 100 countries on five continents. They’ve also helped turn Cerullo, Inspiration’s CEO and on-air host, into a wealthy man.

He brings home more than $1.5 million a year, making him the best-paid leader of any religious charity tracked by watchdog groups. His salary dwarfs those of executives leading far larger religious nonprofits.

David and Barbara Cerullo live in a 12,000 square-foot lakefront home in south Charlotte – complete with an elevator and an 1,100-square-foot garage. Their grown children also receive handsome salaries.

His network, with a budget of nearly $80 million last year, sprang from the remnants of Jim Bakker’s PTL Club. Cerullo and his colleagues have raised much of the money by repeating this on-air assertion: God brings financial favor to those who donate.

This just screams trouble — maybe not fraud, or at least not yet, but big trouble.

  • Excessive salary? Check. (Remember that William Aramony got fired as head of the national United Way not so many years ago for making only about a quarter of what Cerullo makes.)
  • Family members on the payroll at lucrative amounts? Check. (If an organization’s mission is worth a tax exemption, that mission must be treated as more important than any one staffer.)
  • Inattentive, pliable board of directors? Looks that way.
  • Donor alert from Wall Watchers? Check.
  • Refusal to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability? Check.
  • Reliance on the thoroughly discredited prosperity gospel? Check.

Even if Cerullo, unlike Jim Bakker, leads an utterly blameless personal life, he is playing with fire where the organization’s tax exemption is concerned. And I, at least, will argue that promising financial prosperity in exchange for religious donations constitutes fraud, plain and simple.

I spent three years covering Jim Bakker and PTL. Closer to home, I spent a year or so doing some of the N&R’s coverage of Project Homestead and editing much of the rest. And I’ve looked at other, less prominent but just as dysfunctional nonprofits. I’ve seen this movie before. Trust me, no one is going to like how it ends.

(Full disclosure: Ames Alexander, co-writer of the linked Charlotte Observer article, is my second cousin.)

Monday, May 25, 2009 6:00 am

Thanks

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:00 am
Tags:

Saturday, May 23, 2009 7:38 am

Lie, world, truth, boots, and the big picture

Filed under: I want my money back. — Lex @ 7:38 am
Tags: , ,

Nancy Pelosi is getting the worst of public opinion in the CIA/torture-briefing imbroglio.

FactCheck “fact-checks” Nancy.

Marcy Wheeler fact-checks FactCheck. FTW.

And the media, once again distracted by shiny objects, wanders away from the big picture: We committed torture in violation of U.S. and international law and the people responsible aren’t being held accountable.

Unintended, meet consequences

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:06 am
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Republicans pushed an addition to the just-passed credit-card bill that permits people to carry guns in national parks.

One of which is the White House.

Friday, May 22, 2009 6:36 pm

“Liberty” University

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 6:36 pm

You can’t make this stuff up:

Liberty University has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” said Brian Diaz, president of LU’s student Democratic Party organization, which LU formally recognized in October.

Diaz said he was notified of the school’s decision May 15 in an e-mail from Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university’s name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events. Violators could incur one or more reprimands under the school’s Liberty Way conduct code, and anyone who accumulates 30 reprimands is subject to expulsion.

Hine said late Thursday that the university could not sanction an official club that supported Democratic candidates.

“We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.”

Go right ahead, guys, tempt fate the IRS. If the university is incorporated as a charitable nonprofit (a 501c3 corporation, in taxspeak), it is absolutely barred from any partisan political activity. That means it either has to sponsor any political-party club that wants to be sponsored, or none. It can’t discriminate. And if it does, it could lose its tax exemption. That would put a serious (read: “fatal”) crimp in its business plan.

All that would have to happen would be for someone to complain to the IRS. And the IRS regional office that oversees tax-exempt organizations in this region is in Baltimore. I’m just sayin’.

(And before any trolls ask, yes, I’d be saying the same thing if it were a liberal school trying to desponsor the College Republicans while leaving the College Democrats alone.)

Friend speaks my mind, mostly

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 6:42 am
Tags:

The president, yesterday:

“I have opposed the creation of such a [Truth] Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.”

Only thing I’d change is the part about Congress. Forget them; let’s just have AG Holder appoint a special prosecutor and let the chips fall where they may.

Suffer the children; or, Say it with me, kids: Continuing. Criminal. Enterprise.

Filed under: I want my religion back. — Lex @ 6:34 am
Tags: , ,

The Roman Catholic Church’s sex-abuse scandal wasn’t confined to the United States:

DUBLIN — After a nine-year investigation, a commission published a damning report Wednesday on decades of rapes, humiliation and beatings at Catholic Church-run reform schools for Ireland’s castaway children.

The 2,600-page report painted the most detailed and damning portrait yet of church-administered abuse in a country grown weary of revelations about child molestation by priests.

The investigation of the tax-supported schools uncovered previously secret Vatican records that demonstrated church knowledge of pedophiles in their ranks all the way back to the 1930s.

Wednesday’s five-volume report on the probe _ which was resisted by Catholic religious orders _ (THERE’S a shock — Lex) concluded that church officials shielded their orders’ pedophiles from arrest amid a culture of self-serving secrecy.

“A climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys. Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from,” Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse concluded.

Victims of the abuse, who are now in their 50s to 80s, lobbied long and hard for an official investigation. They say that for all its incredible detail, the report doesn’t nail down what really matters _ the names of their abusers.

Of course it doesn’t. God forbid the Church hold its own accountable — and I’m talking to you, Pope Rat. A spiritual leader worthy of the name would direct the Church to devote its still-considerable resources to 1) trying to heal those it has harmed; 2) trying to hold accountable those responsible who may still be alive, in particular by turning all relevant records over to the law enforcement authorities with appropriate jurisdiction; and 3) abdicate and spend the rest of his life in seclusion.

That’s what an actual spiritual leader would do. What Pope Benedict is actually doing — i.e., nothing — is instructive.

UPDATE: Shorter Bill Donohue of the Catholic League: The Roman Catholic Church is the real victim. Go to hell, Bill.

Senate GOP: Can’t take yes for an answer?

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 6:30 am

Former Republican Rep. Mickey Edwards and former FBI director William Sessions (a Reagan appointee) on Obama’s nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel:

The Senate should act expeditiously to approve her nomination. Though Ms. Johnsen’s politics may not mirror the choice John McCain or other Republicans might have made – they lost the election, after all – her views on the limits of presidential power are precisely what the Constitution envisions and conservatives have long championed.

Confirm the lady already. It’s not like we’re drowning in the rule of law at the moment.

Left out again

Filed under: Geek-related issues — Lex @ 5:58 am
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Google Earth Anomalies reports no anomalies in North Carolina. Bummer.

Thursday, May 21, 2009 6:23 pm

John Calvin would’ve seen this coming a mile away

Filed under: Religion — Lex @ 6:23 pm
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Presbyterian pastor Henry G. Brinton discusses the current relevance of Calvin, whose 500th birthday is next month:

… he encouraged people to seek the public good in their economic lives, not just private gains. “For Calvin the greatest theft is perpetrated by legal contracts and transactions, not by explicitly criminal behavior,” says Randall Zachman, professor of Reformation Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Calvin thought that “it is the duty of every citizen to speak out when they see that unjust laws are causing their neighbors to be oppressed and robbed ‘legally.’ “

(h/t:  Sid)

Going Galt

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:47 am
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It’s not just for people!

If you liked “Snakes on a Plane” …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:43 am
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… and you know you did — then add this to your must-see list.

(h/t: Sharpedo)

They ARE, but not until Obama’s second term

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns!,Quote Of The Day — Lex @ 6:25 am

Quote of the day, from Digby, regarding the question raised by Wolf Blitzer as to whether new fuel-economy standards might mean the government could seize older, less fuel-efficient cars: “Why don’t they just admit they are afraid Democrats are going to confiscate their [penises] and be done with it?”

A question regarding Gitmo

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 6:00 am
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I see that congressional Dems are joining with the GOP not to fund closing Gitmo until there’s some kind of “plan” in place for handling the current crop of detainees.

They’re all a bunch of pants-wetters.

Am I seriously supposed to believe that a prison system that handled the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Tim McVeigh just fine can’t handle a couple of hundred could-be-but-mostly-probably-aren’t terrorists?

UPDATE: Digby agrees:

Prisons are what we do. We have more people locked up that any other nation on earth. It’s one of our biggest industries. We may be bad at everything else, but locking people up we are really, really good at. The idea that we can’t keep a few broken, foreign, torture victims in jail is patently absurd. If you don’t believe that the government is capable of protecting a prison from attack by foreign terrorists, anyone who lives near a nuclear power plant should be completely petrified.

Heh. Indeed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009 8:24 pm

Your liberal media

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:24 pm
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Barack Obama is the incumbent Commander-in-Chief. Dick Cheney is a private citizen, an erstwhile member of an administration thoroughly repudiated by the voters in the past two federal elections. So someone explain to me why “liberal” CNN and MSNBC are basically giving the two men’s scheduled speeches on national security tomorrow equal weight.

“Where are the damn cops?”

Filed under: Subpoenamania! — Lex @ 8:16 pm
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Insider trading in Bank of America stock? Karl Denninger thinks so.

(h/t: baum)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 8:28 pm

I Love College Commons

Filed under: Fun,Wildcats — Lex @ 8:28 pm
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Some Davidson College athletes, among them Stephen Curry, wrote and appeared in this video, a paean to Vail Commons, where most of Davidson’s students eat. (The commons has been there awhile; it opened just a year or two after I graduated, I think.) It’s a takeoff on “I Love College,” which is somewhat more risque.

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