Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 28th, 2010

Ocean life starting to vanish

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When the foundational layer of organisms—phytoplankton—begin to vanish, the ripple effect up the food chain is unavoidable. We may end up killing all ocean life, just by ourselves (through over-fishing, dumping toxins, heating the oceans through global warming). Aren’t we great?! And stupid?! Jef Akst posts at TheScientist.com:

Phytoplankton, which are responsible for half of the world’s primary production and are the basis of all marine ecosystems, have been declining for more than 100 years, perhaps the result of rising sea temperatures, according to a study published in this week’s Nature– a cause for concern about the health of the Earth’s oceans.

"It is troubling," said marine scientist David Siegel of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the research. With data dating back to the late 1800s, "this paper finds a long-term trend that’s huge," he said. "The phytoplankton community has undoubtedly been changing."

Phytoplankton productivity lies at the base of the marine food web, supporting all ocean life and contributing to global geochemical processes, including the carbon cycle. Through photosynthetic activities, phytoplankton reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. Satellite data from the last few decades has suggested that phytoplankton might be on the decline.

To determine whether these apparent declines are indicative of a longer-term trend, marine biologist Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Canada and his colleagues turned to data from a variety of sources, including direct measurements of chlorophyll levels, a pigment found in all phytoplankton, and Secchi disk data. Secchi disks are a simple yet fundamental tool in oceanography, and are used to measure water transparency, which can serve as a proxy for phytoplankton abundance.

Compiling and standardizing these data, dating back to 1899, the researchers found a consistent and significant decline in phytoplankton in eight of the world’s 10 oceans — an estimated 1 percent per year globally. The decline was strongly correlated with the rising surface sea temperatures.

"One percent per year is a huge number," said Siegel, who wrote an accompanying News and Views article.

The impacts of such a decline are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 11:52 am

Posted in Environment, Science

Greek-style meatballs for the grill

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These sound great. The ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef, 80% lean
  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For serving

Type of fire: direct

Grill heat: medium-high

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Jim Gourley on spelunking through PTSD

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Interesting report posted by Tom Ricks:

I’m going to say quite a few things that I can’t immediately qualify, because the views build on each other. I wish I could give you a clear line of reasoning, but if I could then PTSD wouldn’t be a problem. So I’m going to do this the only way I know how — create the ball of twine and then unravel it. Bear with me.

I am an expert on PTSD. So is every other Soldier/Sailor/Marine/Airman (avoiding diatribes against the all-inclusive "warrior" here) who has felt and/or suffered (because feeling and suffering are distinct from each other) from PTSD. I know we are all experts because no one else does, or can, understand the condition without having gone through it. Army psychologists and counselors who have not felt it or suffered from it only scratch the surface of the problem.

PTSD is very difficult to deal with for two reasons. One reason is the misconception that it is a psychological condition. It’s not. It’s a spiritual condition. Yes, I know that you cannot anatomically identify the human spirit or sedate it with valium and that, for all its complexities and mysteries, we find the brain much easier to "treat", but I’m telling you right now that trying to understand PTSD under a psychological paradigm is like trying to conduct an ACL surgery at an auto-body shop. I’ve met David Grossman, and even he speaks about it in metaphysical terms on a frequent basis. If you don’t believe me, I’ll go dig up the quotes from all the shrinks-in-chief that declare the cause for spikes in suicides in 2008 and 2009 and 2010 was "due to the weather." I give all due respect to the shrinks and counselors. They’re doing their best. But with all due respect, their best is nothing but best guesses. Because this isn’t scientific. It’s spiritual.

The second reason it’s difficult is that, even when we acknowledge the spiritual nature of this condition, we are woefully inept at dealing with it. Blake Hall hits on all the things we do wrong — ridicule, ostracize, and ignore those with the disease. Treat the guy like a leper.

You want to know why we do that? Because deep down underneath all that type-A, testosterone-driven, state-of-the-badass-art Spartan warrior bravado that we exude, we are scared to f—ing death that we’ll catch it. PTSD in the Army is like cooties in a third-grade classroom.

If we want to treat PTSD, we’ve got to do exactly what Blake did. We’ve got to learn how to hug lepers. We’ve got to get past the condition and see the man or woman we’ve always known. We’ve got to embrace them and hold them tight, tell them that we’re here and we’re not leaving them. And we’ve got to mean it. We have to be there. At the office, on the steps of their house, on a swollen riverbank out back of a Chili’s on a Saturday night, on the floor of a living room where there used to be furniture at 2 o’clock in the morning. These people don’t need us 24/7, but when they do, we’ve got to answer the call. And we’ve got to be the kind of leaders and peers that instill enough confidence in them that they’ll pick up the phone and call us.

Hotlines and VA administrations can’t help. They weren’t there in the s–t with you when it was all going down. They don’t know. They didn’t see. And they don’t really care. Yes, I know that many of these people really DO care, but I only know that now. When you have PTSD, you DON’T know that. You certainly won’t believe it. Let me back up.

Here’s what PTSD is like, and why people kill themselves over it. Think of life like a cave…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 11:43 am

Unconscious behavioral changes from birth-control chemicals

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Interesting report by Brandon Keim at Wired:

The powerful hormones in birth-control drugs change how lemurs smell, radically altering the subtle chemical cues that guide their attraction and communication.

Research on a 2-foot-tall primate shouldn’t be extrapolated directly to humans, but the findings resonate with studies in people, which have come largely from behavioral observations and are just beginning to quantify the chemistry.

“I’m not telling people not to take birth control. But what we found in lemurs needs to be studied in humans,” said Christine Drea, a Duke University reproductive biologist.

Hormone contraceptives work by tricking bodies into thinking they’re pregnant, thus preventing the release of eggs. However, these hormones are powerful. Possible side effects include sexual and romantic dysfunction. And researchers studying the broader effects of contraceptives have noticed an apparent interference with women’s taste in men.

When asked to rate the attractiveness of male odors, women are generally more attracted to men whose scents signify an immune system quite different from their own. Such a preference ostensibly leads to children with the most versatile disease defenses possible. That preference seems lessened when women take hormone contraceptives, possibly because women’s noses can’t properly calibrate if their own scent has been changed.

Men’s responses may also be scrambled. In one infamous study, men gave more money to strippers when they approached ovulation, and very little money if they were on the pill.

Such studies are compelling, but ambiguous. Does preference for certain immune-system profiles, as identified from sweat-soaked T-shirts, translate to real-world behavior? The results appear mixed. Do men really smell something, or did women dance differently? It’s hard to tell. And mate choice is just one of the animal kingdom’s many roles for scent…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Israel takes strong stand, razing a settlement with bulldozers

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Except this was not one of Israel’s illegal settlements; instead, it was a small group of Bedouin Arabs trying to rebuild their village in the desert. Edmund Sanders reports for the LA Times:

For the sixth time in a decade, farmer Ismail Mohamed Salem watched Israeli bulldozers raze his home in this disputed Bedouin village.
Hours later, he sat next to the rubble and vowed to rebuild — yet again.

"This is my land," said Salem, 70, as his grandchildren lay sleeping on straw mats next to the demolished structure, now a 20-foot pile of twisted aluminum, broken concrete and splintered wood. "Why should I leave?"

Salem’s home was among 45 demolished early Tuesday as part of a long-running dispute between Arab tribes in the Negev desert and the Israeli government.

Bedouin residents, who are Muslim, say they were forced off their land nearly six decades ago and are pushed out again whenever they return. Israeli officials say the property was taken over by the state in the early 1950s because it was abandoned and has been slated by the Jewish National Fund for a massive national park.

Destruction of Arakib village — the largest such razing in years — left many of the 300 Arab-Israeli citizens homeless in 100-degree temperatures and raised fears that Israel is resuming a crackdown on what it calls "unauthorized" Bedouin shantytowns that dot southern Israel.

The long-running Bedouin saga is often overshadowed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

These tribes once wandered modern-day Jordan, Israel and Egypt in search of pastures for their animals. But the nomadic way of life began coming to a halt for most after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when national borders were formed. Most fled to Jordan and Egypt after Israel’s war for independence in 1948, leaving about 10,000 Bedouins in Israel.

As usual here, the dispute today is over land ownership. Bedouin families around Arakib say they own about 4,600 acres of the desert, insisting that they paid taxes during the Ottoman period and British Empire. Gravestones in the cemetery show some families have inhabited the area for at least 140 years.

In 1951, Bedouin leaders say, they were forced by Israel’s military into settlements along the West Bank border.

"They told us we could come back in six months," said Nori Uqbi, a community activist who is suing the government to regain control of what he says is his family’s land. "But it was all a lie."

Instead, he said, the villagers were never allowed to return and have been prevented from cultivating the land…

Continue reading.

I don’t understand Israel’s animosity toward the Bedouins, who (so far as I know) are uninvolved in terrorism. Does Israel simply hate all Arabs, regardless of what they have done?

I believe that it’s hard to deny that Israel has become a racist society—and a very bad one at that.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:50 am

BP’s Secret Ticket Request Line

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Business loves to buy off the government—it’s what they do. Josh Harkinson reports at Mother Jones:

For more than a decade, BP has operated a hush-hush phone line that California lawmakers can call to request box seats to NBA games and concerts at the Sacramento stadium named after its West Coast subsidiary.

In the past five years, BP has given state officials more than 1,200 complimentary tickets to the Arco Arena, hosting them in its corporate suite to see Sacramento Kings games, World Extreme Cagefighting matches, and Britney Spears and Lil Wayne concerts. Getting the tickets is as easy as calling the BP ticket request line, an exclusive, unpublished phone number that appears to exist for the sole purpose of granting freebies to lawmakers, regulators, and their staffs.

"You make a request, leave it on the voicemail, and at some date the tickets either magically appear or they don’t," says a legislative consultant who gave me the ticket line’s number and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They don’t talk to you; you just see ‘em or you don’t." The ticket line’s message was taken down sometime in the past week, shortly after I began my reporting. You can still listen to the original recording below.

BP has given away roughly $300,000 worth of tickets over the past 10 years, handing them out to everyone from lowly assembly clerks to top lawmakers. In March 2002, when the Sacramento Kings were locked in a playoff battle with the Los Angeles Lakers, 9 state senators and 12 state assembly members, including the speaker, pumped BP for the coveted seats. While serving as assembly speaker in 2006, Los Angeles Democrat Fabian Núñez and his family watched the Kings beat the Chicago Bulls on BP’s dime. During Democrat Karen Bass’ tenure as speaker between 2008 and 2010, 13 members of her staff tapped BP for tickets to see Disney on Ice, Tina Turner, and Madea’s Big Happy Family. Núñez and Bass did not accept requests for interviews.

The only official I contacted who would speak on the record about the ticket line was Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, a Republican from the Central Valley, who confirms that he asked for four passes to see Britney Spears last April. Her music is "tough to listen to," he concedes, but the show "was all about the kids, man. It was for my daughters." Berryhill says that he didn’t realize that his secretary had gotten the tickets from BP. Even so, Berryhill’s chief of staff, Evan Oneto, said his boss wouldn’t rule out taking tickets from the company in the future. Whether BP’s money is spent on free concert tickets or cleaning up the Gulf, he says, "is BP’s decision to make, not Bill’s." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:44 am

Arlington Cemetery budget chief blew whistle in 2003

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At this point, I think some should go to prison. Mark Benjamin in Salon:

The former budget officer at Arlington National Cemetery warned the Army, the Defense Department’s inspector general, the Office of Special Counsel and the Office of Management and Budget about problems at the center of the scandal now unfolding at the cemetery. His concerns were mostly ignored and, at least in one case, smacked down by an Army official with oversight of Arlington.

The former budget officer, Rory Smith, tried repeatedly to blow the whistle on the cemetery’s budget irregularities, as top officials began to squander millions in taxpayer dollars, ostensibly to computerize burial records and prevent the interment mistakes documented by Salon over the last year. As a result of his attempts to communicate his concerns to Army higher-ups, Smith was reprimanded and suspended for insubordination. A 20-year cemetery staffer, Smith later joined a long roster of cemetery workers who quit in disgust or were fired after reporting problems to cemetery and Army officials.

Smith’s account is the most damning evidence to date showing that Army officials were repeatedly warned about budgetary, management and record-keeping problems at the cemetery. The Army, which oversees Arlington, has said it was kept in the dark about the problems there. Army Secretary John McHugh told the House Armed Services Committee recently that the cemetery was "somewhat of a satellite sitting off by itself."

A Senate subcommittee is investigating Arlington and has requested that several of the major players in Smith’s story, revealed for the first time in this article, testify at a hearing set for July 29.

The budgetary high jinks and the burial scandal at Arlington are closely intertwined. If properly executed, the cemetery’s computerization effort would have eliminated the messy paperwork that is still used today to document the identities of deceased service members and their grave locations. The project was supposed to replace that flurry of paper with digital records and the capability to track grave locations precisely with the aid of satellites. That capability has been common at other cemeteries of similar size for years. Top cemetery officials funneled somewhere between $5 million and $20 million to a small group of contractors over the past decade to do the work, but got little or nothing in return.

As the budget officer at Arlington for two decades, Smith was the point man between the cemetery and the two government offices that oversee Arlington’s budget: the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. Smith also worked closely with the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that fund the cemetery.

In the spring of 2003, the cemetery had already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants just to study possible modernization plans without actually doing any modernization work, a situation Smith found troubling but possibly justified. At that point, cemetery superintendent Jack Metzler and his deputy, Thurman Higginbotham, were revving up to put the spending into high gear…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:39 am

BPA is *everywhere*

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Janet Raloff reports in Science News:

People interested in limiting exposure to bisphenol A — a hormone-mimicking environmental contaminant — might want to consider wearing gloves the next time a store clerk hands over a cash-register receipt. A July 27 report by a public-interest research group has now confirmed many of these receipts have a BPA-rich powdery residue on their surface. But you can’t tell which ones on the basis of a visual inspection.

A building block of polycarbonate plastics, bisphenol A is also a biologically active estrogen mimic. Less well known, many thermal- and carbonless-copy papers also employ BPA to print images, generally store receipts.

In animals, fetal exposures to BPA can be especially risky, sometimes fostering brain, behavioral or reproductive problems. Canada and some states are moving to ban polycarbonate plastic in baby bottles for that reason. And heart data suggest that even adult exposures to BPA might cause harm.

A vexing question has been where people are acquiring the BPA that taints nearly everyone’s body. Last year, green chemist John Warner argued that his data suggested store receipts could be a — if not theleading source.

In its own quest to gauge the prevalence of BPA in store receipts, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, or EWG, recently commissioned University of Missouri scientists to assay for the chemical in 36 receipts that it had collected from banks, grocery stores and other retailers in the District and seven states (running from Connecticut and Maryland to California and Oregon).

The receipts came from purchases made at places including Safeway, Whole Foods, CVS, Wal-Mart, Chevron, McDonald’s, the U.S. Postal Service and cafeterias in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. They also included three fast-food franchises (Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s) located in Japan.

Chemical analyses turned up BPA on all but seven receipts. Sixteen hosted substantial quantities, averaging 1.9 percent BPA by weight of a receipt (and ranging from 0.8 to 2.8 percent).

“The receipt for a McDonald’s Happy Meal™ purchased in Clinton, Conn., on April 21, 2010, had an estimated 13 milligrams of BPA,” EWG notes online in a summary of its findings. “That equals the amount of BPA in 126 cans of Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli in Hearty Tomato & Meat Sauce," the group points out — "one of the products with the highest concentrations of BPA in EWG’s 2007 tests of canned foods.” A receipt from the McDonald’s in Japan, however, had no detectable concentrations of BPA.

Safeway “had the highest levels by several measures,” EWG reports…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:36 am

First fruits of Citizens United ruling as big businesses move to take control of the government

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Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress:

Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported on coal baron Don Blankenship’s foray into the 2010 congressional elections in West Virginia, where he has contributed thousands of dollars to help elect coal-friendly Republicans. One of the candidates, Spike Maynard, previously served as chief justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and vacationed with Blankenship on the French Riviera while his company, Massey Energy, had millions of dollars in cases pending before Maynard’s court.

But Blankenship isn’t the only one with chips in the game. The Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky reports that several coal executives, including Blankenship, are pooling their money to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision loosening corporate campaign finance laws by forming a 527 group to help elect coal-friendly Republicans. Why a 527? Because according to the IRS, they can hide their activities until “next year, long after the Nov. 2 election.” From the report:

“With the recent Supreme Court ruling, we are in a position to be able to take corporate positions that were not previously available in allowing our voices to be heard,” wrote Roger Nicholson, senior vice president and general counsel at International Coal Group of Scott Depot, W.Va., in an undated letter he sent to other coal companies. [...]

“A number of coal industry representatives recently have been considering developing a 527 entity with the purpose of attempting to defeat anti-coal incumbents in select races, as well as elect pro-coal candidates running for certain open seats,” Nicholson wrote. “We’re requesting your consideration as to whether your company would be willing to meet to discuss a significant commitment to such an effort.”

Nicholson listed three races “of interest”: Conway against Republican Rand Paul for Kentucky’s open Senate seat; Chandler against Republican Garland “Andy” Barr in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District; and Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall against Republican Elliott “Spike” Maynard in West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.

According to Nicholson, three other companies — Alliance Resource Partners, Natural Resource Partners, and Blankenship’s Massey Energy — “have already had some theoretical discussions about such an effort and would like to proceed in developing an action plan.” By combining their efforts and forming a 527, these companies could potentially spend millions of dollars to influence the West Virginia races.

Unfortunately, this political intervention by the dirty coal industry may come at the public’s expense. After all, for years, these companies have been lobbying for looser regulations. The results have been tragedies at coal mines, such as the 2006 Sago Mine explosion that killed 12 people; the mine was owned by Nicholson’s International Coal Group and had been cited for 276 safety violations in 2004 and 2005. More recently, an explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia killed 29 people. The Mine Safety and Health Administration had cited Upper Big Branch for more than 3,000 violations — 638 since 2009. In April, two miners died at an Alliance Resources Partners mine that ranked “seventh in the U.S. by the number of ‘significant and substantial‘ violations accrued since January 2009.”

Ironically, one of the candidates this new 527 wants to back — Rand Paul — was hit by his primary opponent for once acknowledging that coal “is a very dirty form of energy.”

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:30 am

How preschool changes the brain

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Very interesting post by Jonah Lehrer. From the post:

How does preschool work its magic? Interestingly, the Perry Preschool didn’t lead to a lasting boost in IQ scores. While kids exposed to preschool got an initial bump in general intelligence, this dissipated by second grade. Instead, preschool seemed to improve performance on a variety of “non-cognitive” abilities, such as self-control, persistence and grit. While society has long obsessed over raw smarts – just look at our fixation on IQ scores – Heckman and Cunha argue that these non-cognitive traits are often more important. They note, for instance, that dependability is the trait most valued by employers, while “perseverance, dependability and consistency are the most important predictors of grades in school.” Of course, these valuable skills have little or anything to do with general intelligence. And that’s probably a good thing, since our non-cognitive traits are much more malleable, at least when interventions occur at an early age, than IQ. Preschool might not make us smarter – our intelligence is strongly shaped by our genes – but it can make us a better person, and that’s even more important.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:21 am

Cool pens

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Via Cool Tools, take a look at the site JetPens.com: loads of different kinds of Japanese pens for sale.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:13 am

Posted in Daily life

And more on the GOP’s lack of interest in governing and government

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The GOP exists for one reason only: to protect businesses and to accept donations from businesses for that service. Steve Benen:

I suppose what rankles most about Senate Republicans killing the DISCLOSE Act yesterday is just how modest the legislation really was.

For about a century, the country has prohibited corporations from sponsoring campaign ads. The Supreme Court concluded that such restrictions infringe on the First Amendment, so a majority of Congress decided, in lieu of a ban, to pursue disclosure. Corporations, labor unions, and non-profit organizations would have to tell voters that they’re sponsoring their ads, and in some cases, divulge their donors. It’s hardly unreasonable — corporations can run their ads, but for the sake of the democratic process, everything should be out in the open for the public.

Every single Republican in the Senate disagreed, largely without explanation. Indeed, yesterday’s GOP filibuster wasn’t of the bill, it was on the motion to proceed — every Senate Republican not only took a bold stand against basic campaign disclosure, they blocked the Senate from even having a debate. They’re against disclosure and against talking about disclosure.

With that in mind, a quote collection was making the rounds on the Hill yesterday. The highlights included:

* Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) "believes that it is important that any future campaign finance laws include strong transparency provisions so the American public knows who is contributing to a candidate’s campaign, as well as who is funding communications in support of or in opposition to a political candidate or issue."

* Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): "I think the system needs more transparency, so people can more easily reach their own conclusions."

* Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): "I don’t like it when a large source of money is out there funding ads and is unaccountable… To the extent we can, I tend to favor disclosure."

All of them filibustered a measure to start a debate over a modest disclosure bill.

Jamelle Bouie added:

Between Citizen’s United and the DISCLOSE Act, we’ve witnessed something genuinely incredible: in the interest of furthering the interests of powerful corporations, a narrow majority of Supreme Court conservative justices overturned decades of campaign finance precedent, and a small minority of conservative senators blocked congressional efforts at reform. At the risk of sounding really exasperated, this is absolutely insane.

If there’s evidence to the contrary, I’d like to see it.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:10 am

More on the GOP’s hatred of the unemployed

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Steve Benen:

A mistaken impression quickly took hold recently during the debate over extended unemployment benefits, and much of the media bought it. The assumption became that everyone on both sides supported the extension, it was simply a debate over how. Dems saw the aid as an emergency, while Republicans didn’t want the costs added to the deficit.

In effect, the GOP argued, "We’re not callous; we love the unemployed. We’re anxious to extend benefits. We just want the kind of fiscally responsible approach we cared nothing about when we were in the majority."

They’re still pushing this line, probably aware of voters’ support for the benefits.

In a blog post yesterday, Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) argued that the "Unemployment Extension Should Have Been Paid For." Sen. Johanns works hard to defend the GOP, but in order to believe his excuses you’d have to ignore the past six months of Republican talking points, filibusters and anonymous holds.

"I don’t know a single Senator in Washington who didn’t want to see these benefits extended," Johanns claims.

This is pretty silly. As Alan Pyke noted, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) dismissed jobless aid as money that offers "a disincentive" to getting a job, a sentiment endorsed by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Sen. Richard Burr (R) . For that matter, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) suggested that if you don’t have a job, you might very well be a drug addict.

Johanns specifically referenced sitting senators, but if we expand the view a bit, we see even more Republican hostility towards the unemployed. One GOP congressman recently compared the jobless to "hobos." Nevada’s Sharron Angle blasted the unemployed as "spoiled"; Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson said those without jobs won’t look until their benefits run out; Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett said the unemployed choose not to work because of the benefits; and Kentucky’s Rand Paul thinks the jobless should just quit their bellyaching and "get back to work."

Johanns would have us believe that both parties were looking out for the unemployed, just in different ways. That’s nonsense.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:08 am

Senate reform is impossible because a large majority of Senators are corrupt

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And corrupt Senators will do anything to protect their position and power. So it is hopeless. John Cole sums it up well:

Of course the egomaniacs in the Senate are now against reforming the filibuster:

Senate Democrats do not have the votes to lower the 60-vote threshold to cut off filibusters.

The lack of support among a handful of Senate Democratic incumbents is a major blow to the effort to change the upper chamber’s rules.

They won’t get the votes to change it because Senators recognize that these ridiculous cloture rules means they get to bitch slap the House of Representatives whenever they want. The House really doesn’t get to write legislation anymore, they make suggestions, and then the Senate does whatever they want and tells the House to accept it or to eat a bag of dicks, because everyone knows how hard it is to reach 60 votes in the Senate- “Sure, we know you all had plenty of votes for the public option in the house, BUT SUCK ON THIS BITCHES!”

Likewise, preening princes like Lieberman and Nelson and the twin President’s from Maine recognize that the need to 60 votes means that wholly unprincipled individuals such as themselves can basically get whatever they want regardless of what party is in charge. They get to play rotating bad guy/President and vote the way the highest bidder wants.

Filibuster reform will never happen because these people think the world revolves around them, and majority rule reduces how important. Additionally, the status quo is pretty damned good for the people who buy off these clowns, so why would they want to let mob majority rule threaten their wholly owned House of Lords? Climate change legislation, tax changes, the public option- all these things that scare the shit out of the haves in society might happen with simple majority rule. Can’t have that.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:06 am

Posted in Congress

During hard times, US military "loses" $8.7 billion in cash

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The logical guess is that the money has been stolen, but we’ll probably never know. Sinan Salaheddin and Tarek El-Tablawy reporting for Associated Press:

A U.S. audit has found that the Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, spotlighting Iraqi complaints that there is little to show for the massive funds pumped into their cash-strapped, war-ravaged nation.

The $8.7 billion in question was Iraqi money managed by the Pentagon, not part of the $53 billion that Congress has allocated for rebuilding. It’s cash that Iraq, which relies on volatile oil revenues to fuel its spending, can ill afford to lose.

"Iraq should take legal action to get back this huge amount of money," said Sabah al-Saedi, chairman of the Parliamentary Integrity Committee. The money "should be spent for rebuilding the country and providing services for this poor nation."

The report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction accused the Defense Department of lax oversight and weak controls, though not fraud.

"The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss," the audit said.

The Pentagon has repeatedly come under fire for apparent mismanagement of the reconstruction effort — as have Iraqi officials themselves.

Seven years after the U.S.-led invasion, electricity service is spotty, with generation capacity falling far short of demand. Fuel shortages are common and unemployment remains high, a testament to the country’s inability to create new jobs or attract foreign investors…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 10:02 am

The US today

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Steve Benen:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s estimable Jay Bookman tried to wrap his head around the current political landscape, and felt like he’d fallen down a rabbit hole.

Here we are in the smoldering ruins of an economy recently wrecked by Wall Street greed, in a country where for 30 years almost all income growth has been concentrated among the richest 1 percent of Americans. Rising populist anger, massive long-term unemployment and record home foreclosures serve as counterpoints to soaring corporate profits, while the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can spend limitless amounts of money trying to elect candidates willing to serve their interests.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party defends massive tax breaks for the wealthy while blocking aid to the unemployed, fights bitterly against regulations designed to prevent a repeat of the Wall Street meltdown, blocks legislation that would at least require corporate and special interests to identify themselves when they invest in elections and does all that while proclaiming itself to be the party of the little people.

Do I have that right?

Yep.

I’d just add two things. One, congressional Republicans also hope to block a bill to offer economic incentives to small businesses, while blocking all related efforts to improve the economy, including aid to states.

Two, they’re the party that’s expected to do extremely well in November, all of these details notwithstanding.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 9:58 am

Fat notes

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I’ve lost 18 lbs to date. The circumference of my abdomen is 5" less, with other measurements also shrinking (with some exceptions: no loss in wrists, for example, and neck has not yet begun to shrink).

I’ve started walking on alternate days. I do not want knee problems. After a certain amount of prodding, I have ordered New Balance walking shoes to see whether they will prevent knee problems.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Tres Claveles & Lenthéric

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Once again I got fine lather from the Tres Claveles for the first two passes, a little sparse on the third pass. It still could be a matter of breaking in, but I think perhaps horsehair just is not so good for shaving brushes as badger or synthetic.

Three passes with the Feather premium bearing a Feather Hi-Stainless blade. I did do an additional pass: an oil pass using jojoba. For whatever reason, it seemed necessary: the face was not so slippery at the end as it should have been, perhaps due to the lather issue.

Still: the end result is a fine shave, finished with a splash of Alt Innsbruck.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2010 at 8:48 am

Posted in Shaving

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