Paul Ryan Claims Jesus Supported Small Government; Catholic Bishops Disagree

Paul Ryan's God?

Yesterday, NPR’s Morning Edition reported on a “debate among Christians” about whether Jesus believed in helping the poor.

After the House passed its budget last month, liberal religious leaders said the Republican plan, which lowered taxes and cut services to the poor, was an affront to the Gospel — and particularly Jesus’ command to care for the poor.

Not so, says Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee. He told Christian Broadcasting Network last week that it was his Catholic faith that helped shape the budget plan. In his view, the Catholic principle of subsidiarity suggests the government should have little role in helping the poor.

“Through our civic organizations, through our churches, through our charities — through all of our different groups where we interact with people as a community — that’s how we advance the common good,” Ryan said.

The best thing that government can do, he said, is get out of the way.

Can you believe NPR’s religion reporter actually pretended there is a legitimate “debate” about this?

Today the Catholic Bishops indicated they think Jesus believed in helping actual living people–not just zygotes, embryos, and fetuses.

The Hill reports that the Bishops have so far sent letters to the House Agriculture and Ways and Means Committees and they also plan to send letters to other House committees as well, because they believe the budget “disproportionately cut[s] programs that ‘serve poor and vulnerable people.'”

The Bishops are particularly concerned about the budget’s draconian cuts in food stamps and child tax credits for immigrants–programs that help needy families stave off starvation. According to The Hill, the letters appear to be in response to recent comments made by Paul Ryan, who claims to be a Catholic.

“A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,” Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person,” Ryan said.

Ryan made a moral case for his budget, saying that the government shouldn’t be responsible for lifting its citizens out of poverty — rather, that it’s the obligation of the citizens themselves to be society’s caretakers.
 


“Those principles are very, very important,” Ryan said. “And the preferential option for the poor, which is one of the primary tenants of Catholic social teaching, means don’t keep people poor, don’t make people dependent on government so that they stay stuck at their station in life, help people get out of poverty, out into a life of independence.”

Maybe Ryan should try reading the New Testament instead of Atlas Shrugged. Here’s one quote from Jesus:

Luke 6:20-21 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

‘Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. ‘Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

I couldn’t find any quotes from Jesus about small government and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. Anyone know any of those?

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Friday Evening Reads: Scientific Discoveries, Cats from Hell, and Romney Reads

Good Evening Sky Dancers! I’m filling in for Minkoff Minx tonight. I’m a little weary of all the nonsensical arguments fomented by the right wing nuts and the red beanie pedophile enablers, so I’m going to avoid those issues in tonight’s roundup. Instead, I’m going to go with some odds and ends that piqued my fancy today.

Russian scientists have finally reached Lake Vostok in Antarctica.

Opening a scientific frontier miles under the Antarctic ice, Russian experts drilled down and finally reached the surface of a gigantic freshwater lake, an achievement the mission chief likened to placing a man on the moon….

Lake Vostok could hold living organisms that have been locked in icy darkness for some 20 million years, as well as clues to the search for life elsewhere in the solar system….

The Russian team made contact with the lake water Sunday at a depth of 12,366 feet (3,769 meters), about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) east of the South Pole in the central part of the continent.

Scientists hope the lake might allow a glimpse into microbial life forms that existed before the Ice Age and are not visible to the naked eye. Scientists believe that microbial life may exist in the dark depths of the lake despite its high pressure and constant cold — conditions similar to those believed to be found under the ice crust on Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

That sounds pretty amazing. Read the whole article to learn about the possibilities and goals of the study.

Did you ever wonder why Zebras have stripes? To be honest, I never did, but now that someone has discovered the likely reason, I do find the answer kind of interesting. It turns out that zebras have stripes because they discourage horseflies.

While it is widely-known in the scientific community that horseflies and other insects prefer animals with dark skin to animals with white skin, a study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Biology examines evidence that zebra stripes actually discourage horseflies from biting. Prior to the study, researchers thought that the primary purpose of zebra stripes was to confuse predators. However, the study suggests that predator confusion is secondary to horsefly deterrence.

“We demonstrate that a zebra-striped horse model attracts far fewer horseflies (tabanids) than either homogeneous black, brown, grey or white equivalents,” the researchers write in the study’s abstract.

Horseflies, which can carry diseases and distract their victim from feeding or drinking, are unwelcome visitors to zebras and other animals that graze. According to Gábor Horváth, one of the study’s authors, horseflies are attracted to horizontally polarized light because the sunlight that reflects off of water is horizontally polarized. When horseflies and other aquatic insects discover water they can mate and lay eggs. The female variety of horseflies, however, are also attracted to linearly polarized light that reflects off of the hides of their victims.

Is your pet making you crazy? Do you have a cat? Then you might want to read this article at The Atlantic–or maybe not. It’s about a scientist who believes that a feline parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is affecting his brain and altering his personality.

As a student of development, I’m familiar with this parasite, because it has to be avoided by pregnant women because it can affect the fetus and lead to severe brain damage or death. The parasite is excreted by cats, so pregnant women must not change cat litter boxes or get too close to them But Jaroslav Flegr suspects it may be causing other problems in non-pregnant humans. For one thing,

T. gondii is also a major threat to people with weakened immunity: in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, before good antiretroviral drugs were developed, it was to blame for the dementia that afflicted many patients at the disease’s end stage.

Is is commonly believed that:

Healthy children and adults, however, usually experience nothing worse than brief flu-like symptoms before quickly fighting off the protozoan, which thereafter lies dormant inside brain cells…

Au contraire, says Flegr.

the “latent” parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that’s not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, “Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year.”

An evolutionary biologist at Charles University in Prague, Flegr has pursued this theory for decades in relative obscurity. Because he struggles with English and is not much of a conversationalist even in his native tongue, he rarely travels to scientific conferences. That “may be one of the reasons my theory is not better known,” he says. And, he believes, his views may invite deep-seated opposition. “There is strong psychological resistance to the possibility that human behavior can be influenced by some stupid parasite,” he says. “Nobody likes to feel like a puppet. Reviewers [of my scientific papers] may have been offended.” Another more obvious reason for resistance, of course, is that Flegr’s notions sound an awful lot like fringe science, right up there with UFO sightings and claims of dolphins telepathically communicating with humans.

But after years of being ignored or discounted, Flegr is starting to gain respectability. Psychedelic as his claims may sound, many researchers, including such big names in neuroscience as Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, think he could well be onto something.

eeeeeeeek! Go read the article if you dare!

The headline of that article reminded me a great show I recently saw on the Animal channel, My Cat from Hell. It’s a “reality” show that documents the adventures of an “animal behaviorist” named Jackson Galaxy. He’s a rock musician by night and helps people with crazy cats by day. I thought I’d share a couple of clips from the show with you. The first one is an introductory promo.

Here’s a clip from one of the episodes.

Here’s a video of Galaxy working with a cat from hell.

I love this show! It’s even better than It’s Me or the Dog.

I’ve got a couple of crime stories for you. First, police in Washington state searched a storage facility owned by Josh Powell, the man who recently murdered his two sons and killed himself by blowing up his house. They found a comforter that tested positive for blood.

Investigators had considered Josh Powell a person of interest since his wife, Susan Powell, disappeared in Utah in 2009. At the time, Powell said he took his two sons ice camping in subfreezing temperatures.

Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said presumptive tests are conducted with a field kit and that a determination of blood won’t be confirmed until the item is examined in the lab. “Field tests are not infallible,” he said.

Lindquist said he expects the finding will be something law enforcement will share with colleagues in Utah who have been investigating Susan Powell’s disappearance.

I wonder why that storage facility wasn’t searched sooner?

In Illinois, an off-duty sheriff’s deputy pulled a gun on a pregnant woman because she had two many items in a self-serve line at Walmart. Her husband was arrested for trying to defend her.

Just one week from her due date, Nicole Thurmond said she feared for her life while checking out at a Walmart store in Oswego on a recent Sunday.

“I felt someone close behind me. He started being really rude and said, ‘Don’t you know how to count? You are holding up the whole store,” Thurmond recalled.

Thurmond said she didn’t know it at the time, but the man in plain clothes was off-duty deputy Craig French.

Thurmond’s husband had been getting eggs at the time and said he could see his wife was upset when he returned to the checkout area.

“There was a guy in her face, yelling at her,” said Jason Thurmond. “In an aggressive manner he steps toward me, and I just push him back to keep him away from my wife and myself, and before I knew it I just froze because he pulled out a gun.”

Jason Thurmond said the man didn’t show his badge, was “waving a gun in a store,” and at one point asked them if they were on welfare.

The case is now being investigated.

Well, of course you know I have to indulge my Mitt Romney obsession, so I have a few Romney reads. Have you heard that Romney “can’t wait to get his hands on Washington?” He said so at CPAC today.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday tried to convince attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to vote for him by reminding them of his “severely conservative” record, including preventing Massachusetts from becoming “the Las Vegas of gay marriage.”

“History will record the Obama presidency as last gasp of liberalism’s great failure and a turning point for the conservative era to come,” the candidate predicted. “I know this president will never get it, but we conservatives aren’t just proud to cling to our guns and our religion, we are also proud to cling to our Constitution.”

“As governor of Massachusetts, I had the unique experience of defending conservative principles in the most liberal state in the nation,” Romney said. “Even with a legislature that was 85 percent Democrat, I cut taxes 19 times and balanced the budget all four years. I cast over 800 vetoes and cut entire programs. … And I can’t wait to get my hands on Washington!”

Ooooooooh! He was “severely conservative.” How impressive.

This one is a little old, but it’s so funny that I had to share it. It’s a brief humor column from the New Yorker by one of my favorite writers, Calvin Trillin, called “President Romney Meets Other World Leaders.” It’s based on a New York Times article that addressed some of Romney’s “peculiar habits” on the campaign trail. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

When Mitt Romney introduces himself to voters, he has a peculiar habit of guessing their age or nationality, often incorrectly. (A regular query: “Are you French Canadian?”)
When making small talk with locals, he peppers the conversation with curious details. . . . Mr. Romney has developed an unlikely penchant for trying to puzzle out everything from voters’ personal relationships to their ancestral homelands. . . . Mr. Romney likes to congratulate people. For what, exactly, is not always clear.

And here’s just a bit of Trillin’s piece playing off that quote:

The moment President Romney entered the room where the opening reception of his first G-8 summit was being held, he was approached by a small man who shook his hand and said, “Je suis Nicolas Sarkozy.”

“Are you of French-Canadian origin?” President Romney said, smiling broadly.

“I am French,” Sarkozy replied, looking somewhat puzzled. “I am, in fact, the President of France.”

“Congratulations,” President Romney said. “Lipstick contains a substance made from fish scales.”

Before Sarkozy could reply—in fact, before he could think of anything to say on the subject of lipstick manufacturing—they were approached by Angela Merkel, of Germany, who looked eager to greet the newest leader in the G-8. President Romney peered at her briefly and then said to Sarkozy, “Your aunt? Your mother?”

“This is Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Sarkozy said.

Please go read the rest–it’s very short but funny.

Here is Charlie Pierce’s latest blog on our former Governor: What the Self-Manufacturing of Romney Hath Produced

The transformation is now complete. Willard Romney, my former governor, the man who campaigned here for the Senate and lost, and who campaigned for governor here and won, has fashioned himself into the most carefully manufactured fake in the recent history of American politics. I used to call him the Piltdown Man of American politics — a candidate fashioned from a jawbone picked up here and a shinbone picked up there and whatever position on whatever issue he happened to find at hand at the time — but that may no longer be sufficient to explain him. After all, and even though it took more than 40 years, eventually they busted the Piltdown Man as a hoax. Willard’s transformation, from what he was here in Massachusetts, to what he is now, is so full and thorough that he has successfully constructed an entirely new Willard for himself. Of course, they had to hurry him off the assembly line because of the urgency injected into the race by the stunning (if remarkably delegate-free) triple play pulled off on Tuesday by Rick Santorum, who has never taken a breath in which he was not the authentically wingy wingnut that Willard has labored so hard to make of himself.

I’ll let you savor the rest at Charlie’s place. I hope everyone has a great Friday night and a fabulous weekend!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!! Does anyone have a remedy for the sleepies? I recently finished a semester of teaching, and the last couple of days I’ve been extremely groggy. Yesterday I even slept until 10:30AM! It doesn’t help that we haven’t seen the sun in the Boston area for at least a week–it’s dark, dank, and raw out there. It seems a lot more like November than late May. On top of all that my Spring allergies are the worst I’ve ever experienced. So please forgive me if this post makes no sense. On to the news of the day.

Disgraced IMF honcho Dominque Strauss-Kahn’s accuser testified before a New York grand jury today. Immediately following her testimony, Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys announced their determination to spring their client from his cell at Rikers Island Jail.

His lawyers initially proposed a $1 million bail package that was rejected by the court.

Today a new offer that was said to add a private monitoring firm, an electronic bracelet and a guard to the package was put together. The cash component of the bail package remained at $1 million dollars, but the deal now included a guarantee that Strauss-Kahn would remain confined in New York City and not leave his residence except for visits to his doctor or lawyers. His passports and travel documents have already been taken from him.

According to ABC News, police are testing body fluids found in Strauss-Kahn’s hotel room for DNA.

ABC News has confirmed that police cut a swath of carpet to test for DNA and swabbed one of the suite’s sinks under a black light that indicated there was potential DNA evidence there.

Apparently Strauss-Kahn’s attorneys plan to claim that their client’s sexual encounter with a hotel maid was “consensual,” but there is a serious problem with that theory in addition to the maid’s testimony.

Investigators also say information downloaded from the suite door’s electronic card reader indicates the maid entered the room and never closed the door. The hotel policy requires maids to leave the door open when cleaning. The open door, they say, is proof that the women entered the room to work, not to engage in consensual sex.

I won’t dwell on this sordid story much longer, but I did want to call your attention to this piece in Time Magazine, which details a number of previous accusations against Strauss-Kahn–along with rumors –gossip about his abusive behavior toward women–that were hushed up until now. How predictable these guys are!

Joseph Cannon’s latest post is a must-read, along with the New Yorker article by Jane Mayer on which the Cannon comments. It’s about the domestic spying by the NSA that went on under Bush and the Obama administration’s heavy handed prosecution of whistleblowers while at the same time protecting the Bush administration criminals. (Minkoff Minx also mentioned Mayer’s article in her morning post yesterday.) Here’s an introduction to the piece by Cannon:

This humble blog spent a lot of time talking about NSA overreach during the controversies over Russell Tice and FISA. Meyer’s piece confirms a long-held suspicion that the real problem wasn’t eavesdropping on telephone calls but automated data-mining of all forms of electronic communication.

Two competing computer systems were designed to take us into this brave new world: ThinThread and Trailblazer. (The system in place now is called Turbulence. Someone at NSA has a strange affection for the letter T — which is also the first letter in totalitarian.) Trailblazer turned out to be a costly boondoggle. ThinThread worked. Originally, it had provisions built in to protect the privacy of American citizens; NSA Director Haybed tossed out those barriers.

Meyer focuses on an NSA whistleblower named Thomas Drake, who tried to blow the whistle on the Trailblazer fiasco — and on the abuses of privacy — to a staffer on the House Intelligence Committee. Unfortunately, the Committee was headed, at the time, by Porter Goss — and by Nancy Pelosi. They both seemed deaf to what Drake had to say.

Why is Obama so obsessed with prosecuting whistleblowers–even to the point of dusting off the Espionage Act? Jane Mayer writes:

When President Barack Obama took office, in 2009, he championed the cause of government transparency, and spoke admiringly of whistle-blowers, whom he described as “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government.” But the Obama Administration has pursued leak prosecutions with a surprising relentlessness. Including the Drake case, it has been using the Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national-security leaks—more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous Administrations combined. The Drake case is one of two that Obama’s Justice Department has carried over from the Bush years.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a conservative political scientist at the Hudson Institute, who, in his book “Necessary Secrets” (2010), argues for more stringent protection of classified information, says, “Ironically, Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon.”

Mayer asked Drake about it:

Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”

Check out her article if you can. She’s one of the best investigative reporters we have.

You may have missed Dakinikat’s late night post on Tuesday–the one about exploding watermelons. I thought this story deserved a little more emphasis, because it shows what can happen when there are no government regulations on agriculture–and industry in general (and that is what the Republicans would love to make happen). From Raw Story:

A bizarre wave of exploding watermelons — possibly due to farmers’ abuse of a growth-boosting chemical — has once again spotlighted safety fears plaguing China’s poorly regulated food sector.

State media has said nearly 50 hectares (120 acres) of watermelon crops in the eastern city of Danyang have been ruined by the phenomenon this month after some growers doused them with the growth accelerator forchlorfenuron.

“On May 7, I came out and counted 80 (exploded watermelons), but by the afternoon it was 100,” farmer Liu Mingsuo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in a report that aired Tuesday. He said he had sprayed them with the chemical just a day before.

Remind me to never buy any food produce in China!!

Have you heard that the Obama campaign is selling T-shirts and coffee cups that mock the “birthers?”

President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign today started selling “Made in the USA” t-shirts featuring images of both President Obama and the long-form birth certificate he released copies of last month.

Wear your support for this campaign with an official Made in the USA T-shirt,” his website advertises. Donate $25 or more today and we’ll send you your limited-edition shirt.

Coffee-mugs are also available.

“Remember ‘fight the smears’ from the 2008 campaign?” asked campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. “This is the mobile version of it.”

Quite frankly, I think this is a little bit tacky….but that’s just me. And speaking of tasteless behavior, the Catholic Church is attempting to blame the ’60s counterculture for the behavior pedophile priests. From the Guardian UK:

The investigation commissioned by Catholic bishops said that the peak incidence of sexual abuse by priests in the 1960s and 70s reflected the increased level of other deviant behaviours in American society in the period, including “drug use and crime, as well as social changes, such as an increase in premarital sex and divorce.”

Researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said most of the abusive priests were ordained in the 1940s and 50s and were not properly trained to confront the social upheavals of the 1960s.

David O’Brien, a historian of American Catholicism at the University of Dayton, said the report, Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, was dangerous because it seemed to exonerate bishops.

The study also ignores the long history of sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Methinks these “researchers” told the Catholic Bishops what they wanted to hear rather than do any serious research.

Finally, President Obama plans to give another “most amazing speech evah” tomorrow. This one is on the Middle East and North Africa. According to Voice of America:

The speech will be broad in scope, as Mr. Obama focuses on the peaceful democratic movements for change that have swept the region, discusses implications for U.S. policy, and offers what administration officials call some concrete policy proposals.

He will give his assessment of the impact of popular uprisings that have led to political changes in Egypt and Tunisia, and which continue in places like Syria, Libya and Yemen.

Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama will speak of a moment of opportunity, after a decade of great tensions and divisions, in which people of the region and U.S. policy can begin to turn the page toward a more positive and hopeful future.

The stalemated Israel-Palestinian peace process will be an important element. However, Mr. Obama is expected to frame it as part of a wider picture and say that leaders on both sides of that conflict should seize an opportunity for peace.

Whatever….I think I’ll arrange to be busy while he’s speechifying. Anyway, what are you reading and blogging about today?


Sunday Reads

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!!

Since it’s Sunday, I’ll begin with a religious item: Catholic bishops say more exorcists are needed

Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms.

The two-day training, which ends today in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Now there’s a serious issue for you. Never mind the disintegrating economy, the President’s Catfood Commission, our multiple wars of aggression in the Middle East, and the likelihood that very far right Republicans will likely control Congress and the White House for the next 30 years (if the country survives that long). No, the really important issue is the need for priests who can drive out demons.

On second thought, maybe some of those nuts DC could benefit from exorcisms…

Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.”

So how do you know when an exorcism is needed?

Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.

The article does say that diseases and psychological disorders must be ruled out before someone is determined to be possessed.

Emptywheel has an interesting take on why George W. Bush plagiarized much of his memoir, Decision Points, from other authors: It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself.

She suggests that Bush may have copied from published sources in order to keep his story straight. He presumably told so many lies over the eight years of his presidency that he might slip up if he tried to write anything from memory. She does note that:

Bush admitted to war crimes in his book, so he did exhibit a general lack of caution in his presentation of some of the touchy legal issues dealt with in the book. But unlike Cheney (who has explicitly said that the statute of limitations will have expired on some of the crimes he’ll describe in his upcoming memoir), Bush may well need to finesse…issues [such as his decision not to pardon Scooter Libby].

Speaking of war crimes, the Obama administration has taken the coward’s way out once again in regard to the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. From the Washington Post: Opposition to U.S. trial likely to keep mastermind of 9/11 attacks in detention

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

Spencer Ackerman:

So can the Obama administration manage to reach a decision more craven than this one? According to the Washington Post, the months-long internal administration deadlock over trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators has resulted in a decision: apoplexy. No trying them in federal courts in New York; no trying them at Guantanamo Bay in a military commission. Just… nothing. [….]

And that’s the maddening thing. The Obama team talks about a “different political environment” as if it has nothing to do with creating one. Attorney General Holder talks about federal courts’ capability for handling terrorism trials — you see dangerous secrets leaking out of the Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani trial? Or al-Qaeda storming Manhattan, Cobra-style, to free their comrade? — and then undercuts his own arguments with a defense of military commissions and indefinite detention without trial.

Well, then make a case, and make it consistently. Build support and maintain it. Be willing to stake political capital on it. Or concede that you never meant what you said about justice.

You could say something similar about most of Obama’s campaign promises versus his real actions as President.

Rahm Emanuel has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago.

The former North Side congressman and White House chief of staff laid out a broad agenda, declaring he’d work to help generate jobs, improve education and decrease crime at a juncture in the city’s history when all three need to be addressed.

And he plans to do all that–you guessed it–without raising taxes! That’s what all the Republicans say. Oh wait–he’s running as a Democrat. Good luck Chi-town, you’re going to need it.

The UK Guardian reports that McDonald’s, KFC, and PepsiCo will help write the UK’s new policies on “obesity and diet-related diseases.”

The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

This sounds like something U.S. politicians would do. Is our insanity taking over the world? Or is it demon possession?

Scientists say that naked body scanners are bad for your health.

US scientists warned Friday that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners that are being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe.

“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.

“No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he said.

The possible health dangers posed by the scanners add to passengers and airline crews’ concerns about the devices, which have been dubbed “naked” scanners because of the graphic image they give of a person’s body, genitalia and all.

They could be bad for your mental health too. Here is one example of what can happen if you are selected for naked body scanning and choose to “opt out.”

Andrew Burmeister had been searched using an airport scanner before and didn’t like it at all. On a return trip from Charlotte, he was selected for another body scan screening and chose to opt out, as the sign said he was entitled to do. Burmeister said the screeners became rude and made him sit down, away from his belongings, which were now sitting unattended on the end of the conveyor belt. Eventually a team allowed him to collect his belongings and, after a turn through the metal detector, he was taken to a private area to be screened.

Mr. Burmeister says these screeners were much friendlier, but despite this, his story is still particularly unsettling. They patted him down and asked him lots of questions. They also swabbed his belongings, removing each one individually and scanning it for explosives. But that’s not the unsettling part. While they were busy going through his belongings, they were chatting to him. One mentioned that he was ‘lucky’ that this was all that was happening because after October 31, the screening for passengers who opt out of a body scan would become a lot more “intimate.”

Here’s another piece about this at The Chicago Tribune.

For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: “enhanced” pat-downs. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches.

If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers.

Reviews of the procedure are coming in, and they are not raves. The Allied Pilots Association calls it a “demeaning experience,” and one pilot complained it amounted to “sexual molestation.” The head of a flight attendants’ union local said that for anyone who has been sexually assaulted, it will “drudge up some bad memories.”

Have I told you lately that I’ve decided I’m never going to fly again? If you do need to fly, and having your genitals stared at by beefy TSA morons is troubling to you, you might want to check into National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for Wednesday, November 24–the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” reads the call to action at OptOutDay.com, set up by Brian Sodegren. “No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.”

This isn’t big news for most people, but The New York Times has a front page piece on “U.S. aid for ex-Nazis.”

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades. [….]

Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.

The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.

And let’s not forget that George W. Bush’s family actively supported the Nazi regime before WWII, and he was elected President of the U.S.

I’ll finish with a bit of conspiracy news (my favorite kind). For years I’ve been following the investigation and cover-up of David Kelly’s death. From Raw Story:

Dr. David Kelly was found dead in a field near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he was revealed to be the source of a BBC leak that accused Tony Blair’s government of exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. His death prompted suspicions among many that he may have been killed in retaliation for the leak.

Kelly himself had predicted he would be “found dead in the woods” if the UK invaded Iraq.

Now the Daily Mail is reporting new evidence that Kelly was murdered.

Dr Andrew Watt, an experienced clinical pharmacologist, says he has told Thames Valley Police it is not possible Dr Kelly could have swallowed more than a ‘safe’ dose of two coproxamol tablets because there was so little in his system after death.

He said: ‘I reported to the Thames force that I believe that the death of Dr Kelly may have been murder. I have received an acknowledgement and they have given me an incident number.

‘I have been told that the inquiry is being conducted by a very senior officer.’
A second development also casts doubt on the suicide verdict of the Hutton inquiry – which took the place of a formal inquest.

The Mail has established that Dr Kelly left an upbeat answerphone message to his friend Nigel Cox just days before his body was found on July 18, 2003. Dr Kelly said he was looking forward to joining him for a game of cards on July 23.

An interesting sidelight to the Kelly case is that Kelly sent an e-mail to then NYT “reporter” Judith Miller shortly before his death. Emptywheel mentions this in a recent post about the work of the National Security Archive:

…as I was reading it, all I could think of was David Kelly’s last email to Judy Miller, warning of dark actors playing games, followed shortly by Tony Blair’s apparently unplanned trip to the US, just in time for him to be out of the country when Kelly was suicided (not to mention for him to be here in the aftermath of the Plame outing which Dick Cheney had ordered Judy to be included in). After all, its hard to look at the timeline the NSA lays out without also thinking of Judy Miller’s key pieces of propaganda–boosting claims about the aluminum tubes–on September 8 and 13, 2002 (indeed, those articles appeared at the same time as the Brits were strengthening these claims, which makes me wonder whether her work wasn’t a key part of pushing the UK to make its claims about the tubes stronger).

We knew the Brits and the US built their propaganda for war together. We knew that Judy Miller was an integral part to that. But when we see the emails going back and forth commenting on each others drafts, it raises once again the question of where the emails back and forth to the war effort’s chief propagandist got disappeared to.

It’s all connected. What is Obama’s role in the giant cover-up? Is he just in the WH to make sure none of the secrets get out, or does he have a more active role in future “dark actions?”

Taking my tinfoil hat off now.

[MABlue’s Sunday picks]

Cigarette companies are evil.
Cigarette Giants in a Global Fight on Tighter Rules

As sales to developing nations become ever more important to giant tobacco companies, they are stepping up efforts around the world to fight tough restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes.

Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are contesting limits on ads in Britain, bigger health warnings in South America and higher cigarette taxes in the Philippines and Mexico. They are also spending billions on lobbying and marketing campaigns in Africa and Asia, and in one case provided undisclosed financing for TV commercials in Australia.

“A” Rating for Hamas? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been running a scam grading. What a disgrace!
Terror Group Gets ‘A’ Rating From Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.

To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

Patrick Smith, who runs the blog Ask The Pilot has a thoughtful column about the panicky and incoherent reaction to something we’ve been living with forever, only with more composure.
News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11

With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn’t exist prior to that day, when really we’ve been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?

Well, have a look at the debased state of airport security today. We continue enacting the wrong policies, wasting our security resources and manpower. We have implemented many important changes since Lockerbie, it’s true (actually, many of the new protocols are post-9/11), but much of our approach remains incoherent. Cargo and packages go uninspected while passengers are groped and harassed over umbrellas and harmless hobby knives. Uniformed pilots are forced to remove their belts and endure embarrassing pat-downs.

Frank Rich has been writing really good columns lately. I’m not going to stop him while he’s on a roll.
Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.

Is anyone even surprised by this?
Spanish priest arrested over ‘21,000 child porn images’

A Catholic priest in Spain has been arrested over the alleged possession of thousands of images of child sex abuse.

Who has the better argument?
Parties battle over bare breasts

The Danish People’s Party wants pictures of bare breasts in an introduction film to scare away fundamentalists.

But, Conservatives counter with a good point:

“Bare breasts are not a protection against fundamentalism,” [Conservative Integration Spokesman] Khader says on his Facebook page.

“Quite on the contrary. Fundamentalists as so sex crazy that bare breasts would make them flock to the country. Perhaps one should try naked pigs and pork – that’ll keep them away…”

I’ll score this one for the Conservatives.

What does your hair say about your health? Check it here:
8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

When it comes to our hair, most of us worry most about what to do with it: how short to cut it, how to style it, whether to color it once it begins to go gray. But experts say that our hair says a lot more about us than how closely we follow the latest styles. In fact, the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions.

Some interesting wonky stuff abou the devastatingly lasting effect of slavery.
The historical roots of inequality

US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.

It’s Sunday. You can enjoy your gossip column. It looks like the life of the Hell’s Kitchen Chef is unraveling.
The cook, the grief, his wife & his (alleged) lover

For Gordon Ramsay, the past few weeks have been like living in his very own Kitchen Nightmare. Only it has extended beyond his kitchen and into every other room of his house. Like an unwatched pot, the TV chef’s personal and professional life has boiled over in spectacular fashion, leaving the mother of all cleaning-up jobs.

Not that anyone is rushing to pull on the Marigolds; quite the contrary. In typical fashion, Ramsay has heaped more coals this weekend on to a fire he lit three weeks ago when he sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. Specifically, he claimed his wife Tana has much to learn about what her father gets up to when not running restaurants, lashing out after his wife’s parents wrote to their daughter, urging her to dump the man she married 14 years ago, aged 22.

So what news articles and blog posts do you recommend today?