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Religious Liberty for Corporations

By Mark Fiore

After corporations got free speech rights with Citizens United, they’re now on their way to getting freedom of religion. With the “Hobby Lobby” case before the Supreme Court, the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act may fall and corporations may get the freedom to worship. Corporations are rapidly becoming real, live humans!

The case before the Supreme Court is about a couple of for-profit corporations wanting to foist their religious views on their employees. This is not about an individual human wanting to practice their religion as they see fit, this is about an inanimate corporation wanting to impose specific morals on employees. If corporations get religion, just think of the things they could do with it!

Why stop with your run-of-the-mill religions that don’t like birth control? Let’s dive back into the days of the Aztecs. What if a corporation worshipped like the Aztecs and demanded human sacrifice? (OK, more than they already do demand sacrifice of humans.) I can’t see how this argument will stand up to legal challenge but it’s looking like it may do just that. Enjoy the cartoon, and leave other suggestions for corporate religions in the comments!


Charles P. Pierce -The Limits of Conciliation Revealed

Two weeks ago, while discussing the president's position on the fight between the Senate and the CIA, I said that I thought we had clearly defined the limits of the president's philosophy of looking forward and not back, and of his role as national healer, and of the general theme of absolution that had charged his entire political career with a kind of redemptive energy. I was wrong. Yesterday, speaking in Brussels, the president soared past those limits and he and the fundamental justification of his presidency sailed into the surreal, perhaps never to return.

In merciful brief, the president attempted to explain to the world why the self-destructive and mendacious decision of the United States to engage in aggressive war in Iraq in contravention of god alone knows how many provisions of international law was manifestly different -- politically, legally, and morally -- from Vladimir Putin's land grabbing in and around Ukraine. Before anyone gave him a chance to be president, and throughout his unlikely rise to the White House, the president famously called the war in Iraq "the wrong war in the wrong place." It was the first stark difference between the president and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary campaign and the clearest difference between the president and Senator John McCain in that year's general election. It represented the cleanest break available to the country from the bloody stupdity of the previous administration. It was the seedbed for all the hope and all the change. The problem arose when the architects of the American fiasco were allowed to escape any real accounting for what they'd done in Iraq and to the United States. There was no public punishment, no public shaming, no indication from the new administration that it was ready to demand penance from the old. And yesterday, the president illustrated quite clearly the size of the corner in which his basic philosophy had painted him.

The case he made was preposterous.

"Even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system," said the commander-in-chief in a major foreign policy speech at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. "We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain."

He knows so much better than that. The case we made before the U.N. was a insult to the world, built on stovepiped intelligence, wishful thinking, and outright bullshit, and delivered by Colin Powell because, as Dick Cheney put it so eloquently, Powell could lose a couple of points off his poll numbers. He knows that the Bush people were going into Iraq even without the U.N. -- which, of course, it eventually did. (Digby handled this with her usual aplomb.) He knows we made Iraq take its oil industry private, and he knows why. He knows who the profiteers are, and he knows into whose pockets the oil revenues descended. They are the people he inexcusably let off the hook by looking forward and not back, and by offering them and the country absolution without first demanding penance. (For all her other faults, Holy Mother Church at least gets the order right.) All of these things make up what he once called "the wrong war."

"We ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future," he said.

Holy Jesus H. Christ in a Humvee, he knows better than this, too. As Ryan Grim points out, we did not exactly leave Iraq as the kind of Babylonian Rhode Island we said we were trying to make of the place.



Redistribution is in reality as American as apple pie- Paul Krugman

From Krugman Blog:
I get mail:

Paul you are a subhuman communist traitor who should be deported. You are a disgrace to america’s founders and an affront to the Constitution. Republicans believe in protecting the money of WORKERS not RECEIVERS. All workers, poor and rich, should be protected from high taxes equally.

Well, I get at least one of these each day. But it’s kind of interesting to read this right after reviewing Piketty, because one point Piketty makes is that the modern notion that redistribution and “penalizing success” is un- and anti-American is completely at odds with our country’s actual history. One subsection in Piketty’s book is titled “Confiscatory Taxation of Excess Incomes: An American Invention”; he shows that America actually pioneered very high taxes on the rich:

When we look at the history of progressive taxation in the twentieth century, it is striking to see how far out in front Britain and the United States were, especially the latter, which invented the confiscatory tax on “excessive” incomes and fortunes.

Why was this the case? Piketty points to the American egalitarian ideal, which went along with fear of creating a hereditary aristocracy. High taxes, especially on estates, were motivated in part by “fear of coming to resemble Old Europe.” Among those who called for high estate taxation on social and political grounds was the great economist Irving Fisher.

Just to reemphasize the point: during the Progressive Era, it was commonplace and widely accepted to support high taxes on the rich specifically in order to keep the rich from getting richer — a position that few people in politics today would dare espouse.

And as my correspondent so vividly illustrates, many people nowadays imagine that redistribution and high taxes on the rich are antithetical to American ideals, indeed practically communism. They have no idea (and wouldn’t believe) that redistribution is in reality as American as apple pie.


The Drugging of the American Boy

By Ryan D'Agostino

f you have a son, you have a one-in-seven chance that he has been diagnosed with ADHD. If you have a son who has been diagnosed, it's more than likely that he has been prescribed a stimulant—the most famous brand names are Ritalin and Adderall; newer ones include Vyvanse and Concerta—to deal with the symptoms of that psychiatric condition.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies stimulants as Schedule II drugs, defined as having a "high potential for abuse" and "with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence." (According to a University of Michigan study, Adderall is the most abused brand-name drug among high school seniors.) In addition to stimulants like Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta, Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, Demerol, and OxyContin.

According to manufacturers of ADHD stimulants, they are associated with sudden death in children who have heart problems, whether those heart problems have been previously detected or not. They can bring on a bipolar condition in a child who didn't exhibit any symptoms of such a disorder before taking stimulants. They are associated with "new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility." They can cause "new psychotic symptoms (such as hearing voices and believing things that are not true) or new manic symptoms." They commonly cause noticeable weight loss and trouble sleeping. In some children, some stimulants can cause the paranoid feeling that bugs are crawling on them. Facial tics. They can cause children's eyes to glaze over, their spirits to dampen. One study reported fears of being harmed by other children and thoughts of suicide.

Imagine you have a six-year-old son. A little boy for whom you are responsible. A little boy you would take a bullet for, a little boy in whom you search for glimpses of yourself, and hope every day that he will turn out just like you, only better. A little boy who would do anything to make you happy. Now imagine that little boy—your little boy—alone in his bed in the night, eyes wide with fear, afraid to move, a frightening and unfamiliar voice echoing in his head, afraid to call for you. Imagine him shivering because he hasn't eaten all day because he isn't hungry. His head is pounding. He doesn't know why any of this is happening.


Even as prosecutions rise, Medicare fraud often runs rampant


WASHINGTON — Despite some recent successes in combating fraud, Miami continues to be ground zero in Medicare fraud, as criminals morph their schemes to stay ahead of the law, a key South Florida enforcement agent told a Senate panel Wednesday.

Brian Martens, assistant special agent in charge based in Miami for the government’s Medicare agency, said that fraud schemes quickly evolve – and that as enforcement efforts target certain ones, others pop up. They switch between different parts of the Medicare program, they move from area to area, and they often rely on the muscle of organized crime.

“The criminals committing these crimes are often dangerous and we regularly encounter stockpiles of weapons when we execute arrests and enforcement operations,” testified Martens, who works for the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare. “These criminals are taking advantage of those most vulnerable in our society – the elderly and the disabled.”

Martens was speaking to the Senate Special Committee on Aging about federal efforts to combat Medicare fraud, which the committee said is estimated to cost taxpayers $60 billion to $90 billion each year. Common tactics: paying kickbacks to recruiters for finding patients and providing unnecessary services.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/26/4918276/even-as-prosecutions-rise-medicare.html

Thursday TOON Roundup 3- The Rest


Secret Service








Thursday TOON Roundup 2- The power of the gun lobby

Thursday Toon Roundup 1- Separation of corporation and personhood is much needed

A ‘Rebel’ Without a Ph.D.

By: Thomas Lin
March 26, 2014

Freeman Dyson — the world-renowned mathematical physicist who helped found quantum electrodynamics with the bongo-playing, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman and others, devised numerous mathematical techniques, led the team that designed a low-power nuclear reactor that produces medical isotopes for research hospitals, dreamed of exploring the solar system in spaceships propelled by nuclear bombs, wrote technical and popular science books, penned dozens of reviews for The New York Review of Books, and turned 90 in December — is pondering a new math problem.

“There’s a class of problem that Freeman just lights up on,” said the physicist and computational biologist William Press, a longtime colleague and friend. “It has to be unsolved and well-posed and have something in it that admits to his particular kind of genius.” That genius, he said, represents a kind of “ingenuity and a spark” that most physicists lack: “The ability to see further in the mathematical world of concepts and instantly grasp a path to the distant horizon that’s the solution.”

Press said he’s posed a number of problems to Dyson that didn’t “measure up.” Months and years went by, with no response. But when Press asked a question about the “iterated prisoner’s dilemma,” a variation of the classic game theory scenario pitting cooperation against betrayal, Dyson replied the next day. “It probably only took him a minute to grasp the solution,” Press said, “and half an hour to write it out.”

Together, they published a much-cited 2012 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



U.S. Federal Marijuana Farm To Offer New Strains

At the only facility allowed to produce marijuana under federal law, government growers are beginning to expand their selection of cannabis.

The NIDA-sponsored farm is located at the University of Mississippi and is operated by a team of nine. Last year, the National Institute on Drug Abuse paid the university $847,000 to run the facility, which provides cannabis for researchers across the country.

For decades, the farm has only produced a narrow range of plants – varieties with high THC and low CBD levels, according to Mahmoud Elsohly, PhD, director of the NIDA Marijuana Project.

But with interest in medical marijuana taking off, Dr. Elsohly and his team are hoping to offer new strains, especially those with higher levels of the non-psychoactive ingredient cannabidiol (CBD).


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