Archive for April 2009
Not only do I like them all and enjoy rewatching them, but they seem to be a genre of sorts:
- Blow Dry
- That’s The Way I Like It
- Kinky Boots
- Calendar Girls
Give me time and I could find more examples of this genre. What to call it?
Though this one lurks in the House, not the Senate. Mike Lillis reports:
Toward the end of Thursday’s House debate on credit card reform — legislation that passed with broad bipartisan support — Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) took to the floor to attack a Republican attempt to delay the vote until a drawn-out study could be performed.
“We should not delay one day more the suffering of the American consumers at the hands of deceptive practices of the credit card industry,” Gutierrez said.
This is a weird thing for Gutierrez to say because the original bill would have put the new consumer protections into place 90 days after the bill passed — and then Gutierrez, as chairman of the House Financial Services subpanel on consumer credit, pushed that timeline from three months to 12. Good of him to draw the line of what constitutes an acceptable delay at 275 days and not 276.
A combined 54 percent of at-least-weekly church-goers say torture is either often or sometimes justifiable; for those who attend monthly or a few times a year, that figure is 51 percent; for those who do not attend, it is 42 percent.
Evangelicals, according to the survey, are more prone to saying torture is justifiable than members of the nation’s other two main Christian groups: so-called “mainline” Protestants and white, non-Hispanic Catholics. Unaffiliateds–a conglomerated group of atheists, agnostics, and those who say their religion is “nothing in particular–support torture the least: 40 percent say it’s justifiable often or sometimes.
An emailer notes to Good, “I’m hoping they aren’t approving of torture for the sake of causing pain, but rather find it necessary in order to protect the country from attack.” Uh, that’s more Christlike? You can torture people when you think you have good reason? Like Adam says, remember this the next time the right talks about the collapse of moral values in America heralded by two people of the same gender who seek to spend the rest of their lives together in matrimony.
Of course, it’s well known that much torture is due to fervent religionists: the Spanish Inquisition (didn’t expect that, did you? No one ever does.), the burning at the stake of witches and heretics (technically execution, but I think it also deserves a check under "torture").
The disinformation campaign to manipulate public opinion in favor of the invasion, the torture program, and the illegal exposure of a clandestine CIA agent—my wife, Valerie Plame Wilson—were linked events. In their desperate effort to gather material to whip up public support, Cheney and others resorted to torture, well known in the intelligence craft to elicit inherently unreliable information. Cheney & Co. then pressured the CIA to put its stamp of approval on a series of falsehoods—26 of which were inserted into Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech before the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, Cheney was furiously attempting to suppress the true information that Saddam Hussein was not seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger. After I published the facts in an article in The New York Times in July 2003, Cheney tried to punish me and discredit the truth by directing the outing of a CIA operative who happened to be my wife.
Among other documents Cheney should release is his testimony to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald about the role he played in the treasonous leak of the identity of a covert CIA officer. His chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury for his efforts to ensure that the “cloud over the vice president,” as Fitzgerald noted, was not penetrated.
As a witness in the Libby case, Cheney has the legal grounds to …
This evaluation is by Daniel Larison (Ph.D., History), a contributing editor at The American Conservative:
Critics have been belittling President Obama’s recent visit with Latin American leaders as a “contrition” and "apology" tour. But a more accurate tag would be “accountability” tour, and it’s long overdue.
During the Summit of the Americas last week, Obama avoided the hectoring condescension that all too often marked American foreign policy during the Bush years. Instead, he demonstrated that the American case can be made with a combination of humility and accountability. This shift in tone happens to be the best path for improving America’s reputation abroad, and for increasing U.S. influence. In fact, it has already had the effect of reducing tensions with Russia, opening doors for collaboration with alienated allies such as Turkey, and isolating inveterate critics of the United States to the margins of international discourse.
Most controversially, Obama last week met and shook hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who continues to consolidate his power and tighten control over Venezuelan civil society. Obama also chose not to answer Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s long tirade against U.S. policy. This has led to accusations that Obama has encouraged authoritarian and left-wing leaders in Latin America while discouraging their political opposition. But such complaints fail to grasp that these leaders have always thrived on demonization by Washington.
What is interesting about Obama’s non-confrontational approach to both leaders is that it suggests Obama has learned not to feed the proverbial trolls. On the one hand, Obama has shown a willingness to engage hostile or critical foreign leaders in discussion. But he has also shown no desire to participate in international polemics, perhaps because he has come to see that the U.S. gains nothing from such confrontations. Better still, by largely ignoring the rantings of anti-American zealots, Obama may be able to split persuadable critics of America from those who are reflexively and genuinely anti-American. In an amusing irony, Obama, who is often accused of being an insubstantial rhetorician, has refrained from the long-winded, idealistic bluster on the international stage that his predecessor frequently indulged in. And it may already be paying dividends.
For instance, …
I hope that the Senators named in this story by Mike Lillis are currently enjoying their last term in the Senate:
If there was ever a question of who controls the Senate, it was answered this afternoon when Democratic leaders fell a whopping 15 votes shy of moving legislation to empower bankruptcy judges to alter mortgages for the protection of homeowners.
Going into the vote, there was talk that a handful of big-bank-state Democrats would join all Republicans in opposing the bill. Instead, that handful became a dozen. They were: Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Carper (Del.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Byron Dorgan (S.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson, (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark. [and Wal-Mart]) and Arlen Specter (Pa.).
Quite a difference Specter’s defection made.
I read about these in Cool Tools, and my package of 10 arrived just today. They’re great! Good to have on hand, and to carry one with you.
Steve of Kafeneio experimented and made a great discovery. Read it here.
Banks, using their votes in the Senate, have successfully quashed legislation that would—horror!—have helped consumers. ThinkProgress:
Today, a proposal to change bankruptcy law and allow bankruptcy judges to cram-down mortgage payments for troubled homeowners failed in the Senate by a vote of 45-51. The provision, which was introduced as an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), required 60 votes to pass. In recent weeks, support for the measure evaporated in the face of furious lobbying by the banking and mortgage industries. Prior to the vote, Durbin — who this week said that bankers “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill” — took to the floor to decry the banking industry’s influence in the cram-down debate:
At some point the senators in this chamber will decide the bankers shouldn’t write the agenda for the United States Senate. At some point the people in this chamber will decide the people we represent are not the folks working in the big banks, but the folks struggling to make a living and struggling to keep a decent home.
The American News Project noted that the Mortgage Bankers Association was “in a celebratory mood” at its annual meeting this week because “a massive lobbying campaign” against cram-down appeared to be working.
Also, be sure to read Glenn Greenwald’s column on this:
en. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken: “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis “own” the U.S. Congress — according to one of that institution’s most powerful members — demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.
The ownership of the federal government by banks and other large corporations is effectuated in literally countless ways, none more effective than the endless and increasingly sleazy overlap between government and corporate officials. Here is just one random item this week announcing a couple of standard personnel moves:
Former Barney Frank staffer now top Goldman Sachs lobbyist
Goldman Sachs’ new top lobbyist was recently the top staffer to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Frank. Michael Paese, a registered lobbyist for the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association since he left Frank’s committee in September, will join Goldman as director of government affairs, a role held last year by former Tom Daschle intimate, Mark Patterson, now the chief of staff at the Treasury Department. This is not Paese’s first swing through the Wall Street-Congress revolving door: he previously worked at JP Morgan and Mercantile Bankshares, and in between served as senior minority counsel at the Financial Services Committee.
So: Paese went from Chairman Frank’s office to be the top lobbyist at Goldman, and shortly before that, Goldman dispatched Paese’s predecessor, close Tom Daschle associate Mark Patterson, to be Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, himself a protege of former Goldman CEO Robert Rubin and a virtually wholly owned subsidiary of the banking industry. That’s all part of what Desmond Lachman — American Enterprise Institute fellow, former chief emerging market strategist at Salomon Smith Barney and top IMF official (no socialist he) — recently described as “Goldman Sachs’s seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs.”
Meanwhile, the above-linked Huffington Post article which reported on Durbin’s comments also notes Sen. Evan Bayh’s previously-reported central role on behalf of the bankers in blocking legislation, hated by the banking industry, to allow bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of mortgages so that families can stay in their homes. Bayh is up for re-election in 2010, and here — according to the indispensable Open Secrets site — is Bayh’s top donor: .,.
Very interesting. Condi Rice says that she did not authorize torture, but conveyed the authorization. That seems to finger George W. Bush as the person who will take the Big Fall if we ever decide to enforce the law.
President Obama’s support for narrowing the state secrets privilege lends momentum to legislation now pending in the House and Senate.
Obama’s Justice Department has already used the legal defense three times to shield evidence in lawsuits challenging Bush administration counterterrorism policies.
“I actually think that the state secrets doctrine should be modified,” Obama said at his Wednesday night White House press conference. “I think right now it’s overbroad.”
Obama said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and White House counsel Gregory B. Craig are working on the issue. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy , D-Vt., has introduced a bill to circumscribe the privilege.
The Justice Department has invoked the privilege three times since Obama took office, in lawsuits against the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program and its practice of “rendition” in which suspected terrorists were shipped to other countries, allegedly to be tortured…
by Franz Kafka
A review by Louis Begley
Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 into an assimilated German-speaking middleclass Jewish family. He died of tuberculosis of the larynx in 1924, just short of his forty-first birthday, in Kierling, a small resort north of Vienna. Except for six months at the very end, when he escaped to Berlin with Dora Diamant, a young Polish-Jewish woman, and some inconsequential vacations, a number of which he spent in sanatoriums, and business travel in Bohemia and adjoining Moravia on behalf of the insurance company for which he worked, Kafka lived out his humdrum life in Prague, proving true the prediction he made at nineteen in a letter to a school friend: "Prague doesn’t let go. The old crone has claws. One has to yield."
The "old crone" was the capital of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, a Habsburg possession. After Vienna and Budapest, it ranked as the third most important city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The great majority of Bohemia’s population were Czech-speaking ethnic Czechs. German was the language of government and instruction, and of the upper and middle classes; and it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that nationalist Czechs wrested from the Habsburg administration theoretically equal status for their language. The small but ascendant German-speaking minority consisted of ethnic Germans and assimilated Jews. A minority within a minority, the Jews were ringed by the hatred of nationalist Czechs for everything German and by their virulent anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism was also commonplace among Christian Germans, but it was of the more "intelligent" sort that, unlike the Czech variety, did not break out in paroxysms of violence and destruction of property. After the defeat of the Central Powers in the fall of 1918, Bohemia became part of the newly independent Republic of Czechoslovakia, and from one day to the next the tables were turned on the German speakers in the land. They were no longer dominant in politics, and their language lost its official status.
Kafka’s name is used in its adjectival form around the world by millions of people who have never read a line he wrote: "Kafkaesque" is the universal term for experiences of modern life that leave one anxious, disconcerted, and feeling helpless. It is an odd form of adulation that carries with it the potential for trivializing Kafka’s work and its scope. But the grip of Kafka’s fiction on readers of all ages seems undiminished and his appeal to scholars seems well nigh universal. His life and work continue to receive an extraordinary amount of attention from critics and literary theorists and historians, who have made the dissection of his texts the center of their careers.
Academic Kafka scholarship — Kafkology, as Milan Kundera has called it — would have never gotten off the ground, or would have run out of steam long ago, if Max Brod, Kafka’s closest friend and de facto literary executor, had not chosen to disregard Kafka’s last instructions, which were to burn, unread, his personal papers: all the manuscripts, diaries, notebooks, letters, and drawings — he drew very well — that came into Brod’s possession or were in the hands of others. Kafka wanted only the works that were published in his lifetime, which were his only completed works, to stand as his surviving oeuvre. (From these he excluded Contemplation, a slim collection of prose poems published in January, 1913, which he disavowed. He did not wish to put Brod to the trouble of buying such copies of it as still existed and destroying them.) As for documents in the hands of others, he enjoined Brod to "ask for them in my name. Letters which they do not want to hand over to you, they should at least promise faithfully to burn them themselves."
But Brod believed that the "unpublished work contains the most wonderful treasures, and measured against his own work, the best things he has written," and so he decided to destroy nothing. Indeed, he set out to publish as expeditiously as possible the unfinished fiction. Overcoming obstacles that seemed insuperable — the dire economic and (especially for Jews) political situation in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s — he succeeded in arranging for the publication by 1937 of the great unfinished novels, Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle, the unfinished stories, many of Kafka’s letters to his family, friends, and editors, and excerpts from his diaries.
The open question was the fate of Kafka’s letters to …
DHS needs some strong direction and complete makeover. Here’s just one example:
Mark Lyttle expected to return home after serving a few months in prison for inappropriately touching a woman’s backside.
Instead, he says, the U.S. government deported him to Mexico, Mexican officials deported him to Honduras, and Honduras deported him to Guatemala – even though he is a North Carolina-born U.S. citizen who speaks no Spanish.
U.S. immigration officials confirmed this week that they wrongly deported Lyttle, 31, who his family says is mentally ill and suffers from mild retardation, in December after finding him in a North Carolina prison. He and his lawyer say he spent four months bouncing among Latin American prisons and homeless shelters before ending up this month at a U.S. embassy in Guatemala, where officials confirmed his citizenship.
Lyttle returned to his family on Friday, but only after immigration officials at the Atlanta airport tried to deport him again. He said that, throughout the process, federal agents repeatedly ignored his assurances that he was a U.S. citizen and native of Rowan County, about 125 miles southwest of the Triangle.
"I said, ‘All I know is the United States.’ I said, ‘I was born here in Rowan County,’" said Lyttle, who is now staying with his brother in Kentucky. "They just totally ignored it."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said that before they deported Lyttle, he gave them two sworn statements in which he said he was a Mexican named Jose Thomas. But ICE officials also said Lyttle made other, conflicting sworn statements in which he used his true name and claimed U.S. citizenship.
Agency spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez declined to release copies of the statements.
"It’s never the U.S. government’s intention to detain an American citizen," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "But clearly in this case, Mr. Lyttle stated that he was a national of Mexico."
Lyttle’s lawyer, Neil Rambana of Tallahassee, Fla., said that Lyttle had no identification but that federal officials could have contacted his family or checked his Social Security number, which he can recite from memory.
"A simple phone call could have helped this person who has a mental condition," Rambana said…
MANDHERA, Somalia — Their exploits have turned the inky-blue waters of the Indian Ocean into a perilous gantlet for ships and an unlikely security challenge for world leaders. But behind the bare brick walls of a desolate former British colonial prison here, five jailed Somali pirates didn’t seem very fearsome at all.
One looked to be in his late 40s, his brambly hair stained a deep henna orange, his milky eyes staring into the middle distance. A slightly younger man clutched a faded sarong to his matchstick waist and spoke in barely a whisper.
The leader of the pirate crew, 38-year-old Farah Ismail Eid, wore such a hungry look that a visiting government official, unsolicited, folded a pale $10 bill into his sandpaper palm.
That a few hundred men like these have wreaked so much havoc in the seas off of East Africa is a testament to the sheer power of guts and greed. It’s also a stark illustration of the all-consuming anarchy ashore in Somalia, where, after 18 years of conflict, jobs are scarce, guns are plentiful, men will risk everything for a payday — and their government is too weak and corrupt to stop them.
The men behind bars, however, offered another explanation for piracy.
Their story is also rooted in greed — not of their brazen colleagues with the million-dollar ransoms, they say, but of foreign companies that they say have profited from Somalia’s lawlessness by fishing illegally in their waters since the 1990s.
In a long interview with McClatchy at the jailhouse in Mandhera, an austere desert fortress in the autonomous northern region of Somaliland, where British forces held Italian POWs during World War II, Eid related what amounts to the pirates’ creation myth, in which overfishing by European and Asian trawlers drove Somalia’s coastal communities to ruin and forced local fishermen to fight for their livelihoods.
"Now the international community is shouting about piracy. But long before this, we were shouting to the world about our problems," said Eid, a bony-cheeked former lobsterman with a bushy goatee. "No one listened."
Of course, the pirates’ journey from vigilante coast guard to firing automatic weapons at cruise ships — as one band did over the weekend — is a reminder that good intentions don’t last long in desperate Somalia.
In 1991, Eid was scavenging for lobsters along the craggy shores of …
You have a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen, right? I certainly do. But if you happen NOT to have one, and a skillet full of oil blazes up, do you know what to do? (Other than yelling, “Fire!” and bolting out the door, calling back, “Everyone follow me!”) Kafeneio has a nice little video on how to extinguish the fire quickly—and a startling look at what happens if you don’t.
What you see in the video’s second part is a flame-over, when the room becomes hot enough so that the entire room suddenly erupts in flame. (In this case, augmented by throwing water on the oil fire.) That phenomenon is why firefighters don’t want you to go back into the house, in addition to the danger of passing out from smoke inhalation: the room can look perfectly fine, and 3 seconds later be in flames throughout.
"Pathetic" is a word I’ve seen about this. A very good analysis by Richard Connor in Congressional Quarterly:
The Republican Party needs to stop whining and tell Sen. Arlen Specter “good riddance.”
Actually, one group did that immediately when Specter said he was jumping the fence.
Up in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania where I live and work, Luzerne County’s Republican Party chairman, Terry Casey, issued a press release which, in effect, asked what took him so long.
Casey said Specter’s decision “put an end to the years of internal wrestling within the party.”
“Now maybe we can move on,” he said.
Many in the party, Casey said, were ticked about Specter’s vote on the stimulus [PL 111-5]. “Then, for him to waffle on card check [legislation] for as long as he did was just too much.”
With Specter out, he concluded, “We can go through the process of identifying a candidate that more closely matches the Republican Party’s principles and ideals.”
Personally, I’d be interested in a clear articulation of those “principles and ideals,” but we can wait for that while the Keystone State’s GOP leaders decide if declared candidate and former Rep. Patrick J. Toomey is the best person to face a Democrat — any Democrat — in the fall.
That candidate probably will be Specter, but not if the Democrats are smart. If they are bold and intuitive they’ll thank him for switching to their party and then ditch him as quickly as possible.
He’s too old and he’s too frail. He’s battled cancer, a brain tumor, and is fighting Hodgkin’s disease. There’s proper sentiment of sorrow and empathy for his health problems. His career has been distinguished. He’s been a warrior, often fighting single-handedly. He’s been stoic, shown depth, and he’s intelligent.
But one of his most compelling attributes has been the way he practiced Republicanism. He behaved like a Democrat much of the time. If the political schizophrenia that has marked his career (he was first a Democrat who became a Republican) continues then he will not be an automatic 60th vote in the Senate…