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Arghh

Just got back from the gym for the first time since I got sick. And you know what? It was even harder this time, mostly due to the trainer’s mandatory use of a medicine ball. Everything hurts.

It occurs to me that this “getting in shape” thing is not going to be easy, is it?

Extraordinary rendition

Now we help the UK when they do it!

Stand your ground!

One of the things I ‘ve found interesting for decades is how many Americans are under the impression that if they want to do something, it must be legal. No matter how carefully I’d explain that it wasn’t true, such conversations invariably ended with the person waving his hand, shaking his head and saying, “No, no! I got a right!”

And finally, they’re telling the truth. Thanks to the NRA and ALEC and the “Stand Your Ground” laws they’ve propogated, the jumpiest, most paranoid, gun-toting toads in the majority of states get to blow holes in imagined bad guys — and in most cases, no one’s going to say boo to them. Who could have known that this law would mean the number of justifiable homicides in those states would triple? Why, just about anyone with common sense:

When Billy Kuch knocked on the wrong door, he had a cigarette in one hand and a shirt in the other. The homeowner, Gregory Stewart, stepped outside, stood his ground, fired a round from his semiautomatic into Kuch’s chest, and in the eyes of the state of Florida, committed no crime.

Three years after that shooting, in a Land O’ Lakes subdivision called Stagecoach Village, Kuch is alive but damaged by his injuries and the shock of being shot at point-blank range. Stewart is free but lying low, still sought out by neighbors and others who want him to account for his actions.

“I have no problem with people owning guns to protect themselves,” says Bill Kuch, Billy’s father. “But somehow, we’ve reached the point where the shooter’s word is the law. The victim doesn’t even get his day in court. I don’t think most Americans realize it, but that’s where we are.”

In Florida and across the country, “Stand Your Ground” laws — the same kind of legislation that authorities cited for not arresting a neighborhood-watch volunteer after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Florida in February — have coincided with a sharp increase in justifiable-homicide cases.

Prosecutors still reject many claims of self-defense under the new law, and no long-term studies definitively tie the rise in justifiable killings to the passage of laws that relieve citizens of the responsibility to back away from threats. But the Martin case has focused a spotlight on incidents in which the mere statement that people feel endangered allows them to — depending on your sense of what’s right — defend themselves against thugs or act like vigilantes.

This sharp turn in American law — expanding the right to defend one’s home from attack into a more general right to meet force with force in any public place — began in Florida in 2005 and has spread to more than 30 other states as a result of a campaign by the National Rifle Association and a corporate-backed group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which promotes conservative bills.
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The resurrection

And immaculate deception of Paul Ryan!

Gaping holes in the welfare system

I live in an area that’s been solidly working class for decades. Now I see grown men and women standing at intersections, begging for change from passing cars. What is left in the system for people who have run out of options? Not much. When Bill Clinton changed “welfare as we know it,” it left an awful lot of people out in the cold.

The wingnuts don’t see it that way, of course. (See the lying Heritage Foundation video above.) Oh no, they want to cut even more – to give poor people “hope.”*

The people who’ve lost their jobs and tapped out unemployment benefits aren’t eligible for help. That’s because the bare-bones system only gives benefits to the hardcore, chronically poor without assets.

And for those people who are eligible, times are so hard, they’re selling off their food stamp cards for cash.

Conclusion: If a rising tide lifts all boats, an ebbing tide leaves them stranded without food, medical care or housing. Progress!

To keep her lights on, Rosa Pena, 24, sold the groceries she bought with food stamps and then kept her children fed with school lunches and help from neighbors. Her post-welfare credo is widely shared: “I’ll do what I have to do.”

Critics of the stringent system say stories like these vindicate warnings they made in 1996 when President Bill Clinton fulfilled his pledge to “end welfare as we know it”: the revamped law encourages states to withhold aid, especially when the economy turns bad.
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Robert Samuelson

Still an asshole.

A real priest

It’s refreshing, isn’t it? This priest actually sees his job as saving his parishioners from the money lenders:

But it was the outright fraud by America’s big banks that finally made Father Rien an activist for the first time since he was ordained 40 years ago.

As the crisis snowballed through 2007 and 2008, parishioners started coming to Father Rien for help, saying they had dutifully filled out and filed mortgage modification applications with the Bank of America, only to be suddenly evicted. Time and again the bank, equipped with their own legal documents, said their customers’ paperwork had been lost and their applications were too late.

“I had 24 or 25 families just in my parish saying the same thing; it was untenable.”

When Father Rien approached the Bank of America to plead his parishioners’ cases the bank told him he had no connection to the families and no right to speak on their behalf.

He did not know it then but Father Rien was seeing early signs of what became known as the robo-signing scandal, in which four American banks admitted forging signatures on untold thousands of documents to speed up foreclosures.

In February this year they came to a $US26 billion legal settlement over the issue, but Father Rien says they are still failing to help many of their struggling customers.

The priest seems stunned by what he says is the corporate and personal greed that has led to this situation.

“Look at how much money some of these people [in finance] earn; no one needs to be that rich, no one.” So Father Rien joined PICO (Pacific Institute for Community Organisation), the faith-based network that launched the bank divestment campaign. “I am angry,” he says.

Pharisees

From the stream of high-profile cases in the news, I have to say there appears to be a coordinated effort by American cardinals to pick fights over any softening of the church’s most hard-core stances. Glad to see them “heightening the contradictions,” because it just brings things closer to the day when American Catholics split from Rome:

A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude. Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.

“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.

Phone and email requests from the AP for comment from the archdiocese were not immediately answered on Saturday.

The conflict started with a letter to Dolan from Carl Siciliano, founder of the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people. He said the cardinal’s “loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people” creates “a climate where parents turn on their own children.”

“As youths find the courage and integrity to be honest about who they are at younger ages, hundreds of thousands are being turned out of their homes and forced to survive alone on the streets by parents who cannot accept having a gay child,” Siciliano wrote in his letter, sent last week.

Siciliano, who is Catholic, said parents who are strongly religious are much more likely to reject children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Of the nation’s homeless youths, as many as 40 percent are LGBT, studies show.

Finale

From the 2011 Broadway revival of Godspell:

Torture probe

But we don’t do that here!

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