Archive for March 3rd, 2010
Megs, sitting comfortably in her new little house, which she seems to love. Fairly often, she’ll take a mousie and go into her house head-first, her butt sticking out on the porch, and just whale the tar out of the mouse that’s trapped at the back of the house: lots of whacking noises, the box shaking, and Megs obviously having a great time. But sometimes, as above, she just sits on the porch and relaxes.
Five years ago this month, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) was so desperate to let oil companies drill the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he tried to use the budget reconciliation process to do it. "If you have 51 votes for your position, you win," he said at the time, adding, "Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so."
Today, Gregg was disgusted by the notion of using reconciliation to pass health reform.
"Reconciliation has never been used for a massive rewrite of policy like this," he said. "Adjusting tax rates is not like rewriting the entire healthcare system of the United States. It’s substantive. It’s very different."
Look, Gregg isn’t some rookie. He’s not a right-wing radio host or some random conservative blogger. Gregg is almost certainly is aware of his surroundings, understands the reconciliation rules, and realizes how the process is likely to unfold.
With that in mind, it’s almost impossible to believe that Gregg’s obvious misstatements of fact are the result of ignorance. He must know what he’s saying is false. That Gregg can repeat such lies with a straight face, as if they were legitimate, raises serious concerns about his integrity.
It’s tempting to note that reconciliation has already been used, by Republicans, on all kinds of sweeping, "substantive" issues — welfare reform, for example — but even that’s beside the point. Reconciliation isn’t being used for "a massive rewrite of policy"; it’s being used for a budget fix. The "a massive rewrite of policy" has already passed. It passed through regular order, with no reconciliation. Gregg must realize this; he was there when it happened.
My first thought, reading Gregg’s quotes, was that we won’t have to endure the talking point for too much longer — if the House passes the Senate bill, and the Senate approves a budget fix through majority rule, the notion that the huge health care reform package was passed through reconciliation will disappear.
Except, my first thought was almost certainly wrong. Even if Dems don’t pass reform through reconciliation, Republicans likely say they did. Why not? Fox News will dutifully play along — "Sure, health care reform became law, but only because Dems cheated" — and mainstream outlets will present as a he-said/she-said dilemma.
There’s no incentive for Republicans to tell the truth, just as there’s no consequences for them failing to tell the truth. So, they’ll just keep making stuff up, as Judd Gregg exemplifies.
I was riding my mountain bike yesterday and all of the sudden it just came to me. I just started thinking about how many things I’ve learned through my own personal working out (since I was a kid and playing competitive sports) as well as being a trainer (since 1998). So today I just wanted to share some of the things this 36yr old has personally learned about all things health and fitness….in no certain order….
- Pushups are the best upper body workout designed….no machine can replace that…you don’t need any equipment and you can do them anywhere.
- It’s easy to become a certified trainer (as I have seen overweight people become certified)….it’s not easy to work as one full time (hence a high turnover rate in many clubs)
- Diet is 85% of where results come from…..for muscle and fat loss. Many don’t focus here enough.
- Working out too much doesn’t lead to good results….hence most people are still struggling after years of hard effort and little return.
- Most people do not …
Continue reading. LOTS more.
Unlike many GOP governors. Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:
As ThinkProgress has documented, well over a hundred GOP lawmakers have voted against or condemned the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while later touted the funding or asked for more money. The latest person to point out this hypocritical behavior is Republican Gov. Charlie Crist (FL). Yesterday, while speaking at his last State of the State as governor, he called out governors who “may have rather loudly condemned the stimulus money” but who accepted it anyway:
CRIST: A few governors may have rather loudly condemned the stimulus money, but that did not stop any of them from quietly accepting it. … During these very difficult economic times, we do a disservice to the people who elected us., the people who are counting on us, to elevate ideology over problem solving. We are here to guide our ship through a storm.
Indeed, several governors who were stimulus opponents have proudly touted its funds in their states. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), who said that he would’ve voted against the stimulus if he was still a member of Congress, presented a jumbo-sized check of federal grant money authorized under the Recovery Act to residents of Vernon Parish. He later toured the state in a “Louisiana Working” tour, handing out millions of dollars of stimulus money while simultaneously attacking “Washington Spending.” Similarly, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) bashed the stimulus, while his top economic adviser acknowledged that there were “tangible results from this spending.”
The video in this post by Steve Benen is really, really worth watching. Many interesting points, including Sen. Charles Grassley denouncing his own proposal as “unconstitutional”. Wonder why he proposed it, then.
The Eldest called on her way home from the funeral service of a long-time friend of the family, who passed away peacefully at 85. At the service, a number of stories were told, including one from when our friend was just starting out in life. He was a reporter on the Richmond News Leader and shared an apartment with another reporter. Our friend worked the police beat, so worked nights, while the other guy worked days, so they saw little of each other.
One day the friend’s roommate said that he was leaving Richmond to take a job in Washington doing TV news.
"What’s that?" the friend asked. "Like newsreels?"
"No," the other guy explained. "I’ll read the news from a desk."
"So what’s on TV? You reading the news aloud at a desk?"
"Don’t go. It’ll never work."
But Roger Mudd decided to go anyway and give it a try.
In a display of chutzpah extreme even by modern conservative standards, Sam Stein reports that Republicans have begun a campaign to “cast doubt” on the impartiality of Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin. Why is this so brazen? Because they’re the ones who hired him in the first place:
Frumin was elevated to the post by Republican leadership in 2001, in part because he had a reputation for adhering to institutional mores rather than personal ideology. At the time, Majority Leader Trent Lott said he was confident Frumin could do the job, having known him for many years.
….In May 2001, Republican leadership fired Frumin’s predecessor, Robert Dove, after he issued a series of rulings that complicated their efforts to pass aspects of the Bush tax cuts and budget proposals through reconciliation. Dove had decided it was inappropriate for money intended for natural disaster relief to be considered through budgetary rules — and he was summarily axed.
Nickel summary: Republicans hired Frumin in 2001 specifically because they thought he might issue friendlier rulings to Republicans. Now they’re afraid he’s turned on them.
This is like Bush v. Gore all over again: no matter what happens, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the process. And, of course, Republicans can do this safe in the knowledge that Beck and Drudge and Rush and Fox will always faithfully adopt their latest meme, no matter how inane, and crank up the outrage machine to fever pitch. Crank it up loud enough and the rest of the media will follow because “it’s news.” It’s a nice little racket as long as you don’t mind undermining public faith in virtually every institution of democracy. Which, apparently, they don’t.
Have a tiny bit of mustard left in the jar? Toss in a few ingredients, and shake a tangy Dijon vinaigrette right in the container. A crushed garlic clove, some chopped fresh herbs and minced shallot will add the right flavor. Pour in balsamic vinegar, season with salt and pepper, then close the lid and shake. Add olive oil; shake again to emulsify the dressing, and then drizzle over your favorite salad. With a tightly sealed lid, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week.
I like the tip above enough so that I’m going to start buying mustard in smaller jars.
Above, we bring you what astrophysicist Daniel Holz calls “one of the coolest movies in all of science.” What you see here is not exactly straightforward. But it’s the work of UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez, and it essentially shows stars orbiting around a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy over the past 15 earth years. According to Holz, these orbits, filmed with the largest telescopes in the world on Mauna Kea, are simply “one of the best ways (short of the detection of gravitational waves from black hole mergers) of confirming that black holes exist.” And it’s quite rightly an “incredible feat of observational astronomy.” For more, read Holz’s piece on Discover’s Cosmic Variance blog.
From the Center for American Progress in an email:
On Monday, the South Dakota Legislature passed a resolution telling public schools to "balance" their teaching about the "prejudiced" science of climate change by a vote of 37-33. Earlier language that ascribed "astrological" influences to global warming was stripped from the final version.
South Dakota’s denialism is not an anomaly — Utah and Alabama have already adopted resolutions calling for the overturn of the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming endangerment finding, and a Progress Report investigation identified 13 other states in tow. Several of these resolutions suggest the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change is actually a conspiracy, citing the so-called "Climategate" e-mails.
Every resolution makes the false claim that protecting citizens from hazardous climate pollution would hurt the economy. Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Alaska lawmakers talk about being "dependent" on the coal and oil industries, whose lobbyists are fighting climate legislation. Alaska, West Virginia and Alabama support national efforts to rewrite the Clean Air Act, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND).
These attempts to subvert science are being supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national organization that brings conservative state lawmakers together with industry lobbyists. ALEC promotes a resolution opposing the endangerment finding drafted by its Natural Resources Task Force, which includes over 120 lawmakers from around the nation and a similarly sized group of corporate representatives. While ALEC does not have an official position on the validity of climate science, the organization is "actively involved in helping people get together and share ideas," a representative told the Progress Report. For example, the spring ALEC task force meeting will feature Exxon Mobil-backed global warming denier Paul Driessen, the author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death.
The GOP continues its bizarre course of action: obstruction, politics, pettiness, and hypocrisy. Steve Benen:
The Senate parliamentarian will likely be in a position to rule on what can and cannot be considered under reconciliation rules. So, naturally, the GOP is already going after the parliamentarian, offering an example of working the ref and laying the groundwork for future whining.
Senate Republicans are waging a pre-emptive strike against the Senate’s parliamentarian — a hitherto little-known official who could determine the fate of the Democrats’ health care reform efforts.
In interviews with POLITICO, several Republican senators and aides cast Parliamentarian Alan Frumin — a 33-year veteran of the Senate — as someone who is predisposed to side with the Democrats if they attempt to use the reconciliation process to pass parts of their bill.
"I think clearly the majority leader has his ear, and I’ve got concerns," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). "I think if he does not look at that very careful — reconciliation is supposed to be very narrowly defined, large legislative things don’t seem to fit in those parameters — I would think that reconciliation would make or break the perception of his objectivity."
DeMint really doesn’t seem to realize that Dems have no intention of trying to pass the entire health care reform package through the reconciliation process.
Nevertheless, this push is pretty sad. Maybe Republicans are trying to bully Frumin before he’s even asked to rule on anything; maybe Republicans are trying to cast doubts on his integrity now so they can attack him later. Either way, the GOP’s desperation is getting increasingly ugly.
Indeed, for all the talk about the importance of independence in the parliamentarian’s office, let’s not forget recent history — when the Republican majority didn’t like the previous parliamentarian’s rulings on reconciliation, they fired him.
Try to imagine, just for a moment, what the reaction would be if, later this month, Harry Reid fired the Senate parliamentarian for ruling the "wrong" way on a reconciliation question. Think about how intense the media scrutiny would be, and how loud the cries of outrage would be from Republicans.
And then try to remember the fact that Trent Lott firing the former parliamentarian was considered largely a non-story at the time, and that GOP use of reconciliation was deemed routine.
No, it’s not the new Prius—that would be some uncontrolled acceleration, eh? It’s this car:
The Economist (and, I think, conservatives in general) look at the number of years people are now living after retirement versus the period 1965-70, and they are dismayed: all those people, all those years, not working. So the conservative approach is to increase the retirement age to get closer to the ideal of having people work until they drop dead.
University of Chicago professors Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro propose an answer.
The study by Gentzkow and Shapiro has been around for a while in working paper form, though I only came across it on Friday when the latest issue of Econometrica in which it was finally published arrived in my mailbox.
Gentzkow and Shapiro propose to measure the slant of a particular newspaper by searching speeches entered into the Congressional Record and counting the number of times particular phrases were used by representatives of each party, mechanically identifying phrases favored by one party over the other. For example, a Democrat is more likely to use the phrase "workers rights" whereas a Republican is more likely to use the phrase "human embryos". They then counted the number of times phrases of each type appeared in a particular newspaper to construct an index of the political slant of that newspaper. The Gentzkow-Shapiro index of slant (shown on the vertical axis in the diagram below) has a reasonable correlation with subjective measures such as ratings assigned by users of Mondo Times (horizontal axis). For example, both measures agree that the Washington Times is one of the most conservative papers and the Atlanta Constitution is one of the most liberal newspapers.
Continue reading. Interesting graphs at the link.
Via Open Culture—and you should read the whole post.
Ever feel like you were playing checkers and the other guy was playing chess?
That’s the impression I get when watching many of the recent spate of food documentaries. Activists announce that this or that is wrong with the food system; on the rare occasion when something appears to be getting done about it, the folks who are doing things badly simply change their tactics, not their strategy.
That’s how it’s gone with the British 2009 documentary film Pig Business. I watched this film in several 10-minute segments via YouTube (Part One) because it hasn’t been released in the U.S., primarily due to legal pressure brought upon the director (Tracy Worcester, who spent four years making the film) by the film’s main villain, Smithfield Foods. The world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield has 52,000 employees processing 27 million pigs per year in 15 countries, accruing annual sales around $12 billion. The UK’s Channel 4 ran the film last summer despite four letters from Smithfield threatening litigation, but since no U.S. insurer would back the film’s release here, it has become essentially a black-market film. Score another one for corporate censorship.
Smithfield does, in one sense, have cause for concern: this film certainly doesn’t show their company in the most favorable light. Right off the bat, the viewer is struck with some rather gruesome images of pigs being brutally mistreated, apparently at the hands of workers in Smithfield-run facilities. We hear from farmers and neighbors complaining of health problems that they tie to the fumes and water contamination from Smithfield hoglots. An owner of a small family farm in Poland who this large corporation has pushed out of business says, “I don’t know whether I should retire, hang myself, or leave the country.”
Watch the trailer:
In the early ‘90s, there were 27,500 independent pig farmers in Poland. Today there are 2,200 hoglots, and 1,600 of them are wholly owned by Smithfield Foods. Each of those factory farms in Poland replaced 10 family farms with two to three minimum-wage jobs. Smithfield accountants and shareholders might laud the boost to the company’s bottom line, but one protester in the film asks a different question:
Why is it, when people are in bondage to their government it is called “tyranny,” but when the oppressor is a multinational corporation, it is called “efficiency?”
It was precisely this form of “efficiency” that …
I started reading Ramesh Ponuru and Rich Lowry’s article on American exceptionalism this morning, expecting that it would start an interesting week-long or so debate about what makes America America. Damon Linker in the New Republic gave the article a few points for "well-timed concessions", and so I thought perhaps it would really be thoughtful.
But this sentence tripped me up:
It is freer, more individualistic, more democratic, and more open and dynamic than any other nation on earth.
There are five adjectives there. I won’t disagree with "more individualistic" or "dynamic", and let’s leave aside "more open" for vagueness. But the statement that America is "freer" or "more democratic" than literally every other society on earth, is argued largely through the quotations of founding fathers and Lincoln, as if saying something made it so. Then there is a bit of half-hearted comparison to other democracies, but it is cherry-picked, and often represents only dubious proxies for "freedom" (government spending as a percentage of GDP) or aspects of "democracy" of dubious value (the fact that America elects rather than appoints many officers like sheriffs and judges).
How would we truly rate democracies if we had point-by-point, careful comparisons? Well, it so happens that a Washington-based and government-funded NGO, Freedom House, rates every country on earth for "free" and "democratic" qualities. (Full disclosure; I’m an advisor to the group.) Specifically, it gives every country a rating from 1 to 7 on political rights (call that "democracy") and another on civil liberties ("freedom"). America, as a matter of fact, gets an overall 1-1 rating; so do many of the other democracies, mostly in Europe. But there are finer-grained measures—subscores on questions like "electoral process", "rule of law" and "freedom of expression" that add up to the two topline measures. Not only does America not have perfect subscores; looking at the table for the most recent year with full data (2008), we see that right next to it in the table is Uruguay, which has higher scores in several categories and thus a higher overall score. Ranking all countries on these subscores, America comes in a multi-way tie for 30th place. So according to a respected NGO often considered to be on the centre-right (though the board is politically diverse), America is not the freest country in the world, or most democratic. It isn’t second or third either. It’s merely in the top tier.
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) introduced legislation yesterday to replace the likeness of Ulysses S. Grant with that of Ronald Reagan on the $50 bill.
“Every generation needs its own heroes,” McHenry said in a statement launching his proposal. “President Reagan was a modern day statesman, whose presidency transformed our nation’s political and economic thinking. Through both his domestic and international policies he renewed America’s self confidence, defeated the Soviets and taught us that each generation must provide opportunity for the next.”
Conservatives’ efforts to deify Reagan, of course, are nothing novel. In 1998, a GOP Congress renamed Washington-National Airport to honor the 40th president. There’s that enormous $800 million trade center on Pennsylvania Ave. bearing Reagan’s name. The Navy christened the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, in 2001. And there was even a 2005 congressional push to replace D.C.’s 16th St. in favor of Ronald Reagan Boulevard. (It failed.)
What’s confusing is why Reagan would be the hero of anyone claiming to be a fiscal conservative. In 1980, the year Reagan was elected president, the federal debt was just under $908 billion. Eight years and several tax cuts later, it was $2.6 trillion — a jump of 186%.
Put another way: Reagan racked up more debt in eight years than the previous seven presidents had managed in 35 — a span that included the Korean and Vietnam wars.
How disillusioned are Republicans by Reagan’s legacy? In 1998, after the airport renaming, then House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) called the move a fitting tribute to “the man who initiated the concept of a responsive, smaller government.”
He might have added: that can’t afford itself.