Later On

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

Archive for December 2nd, 2010

Room for hope on repeal of DADT

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Steve Benen has an excellent report:

Proponents of repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" have been looking to this week as the last, best chance to convince the Senate to do the right thing. The combination of the Pentagon’s report on servicemembers’ attitudes and a high-profile hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee would, if all went well, give Democrats the boost they need to finish their work.

So far, repeal advocates have reason to be pleased. The Pentagon’s report was arguably even more encouraging than expected, and today’s hearing, featuring testimony from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, and the co-chairmen of the Pentagon’s Working Group who prepared the study, answered every possible objection. Every Republican rationale was raised, considered, and debunked.

If you missed the hearing, which will have a second day tomorrow, Igor Volsky did a great job compressing hours of exchanges into this six-minute clip:

But a point Greg Sargent raised seemed especially important: "Military leaders essentially pleaded with GOP Senators to support repealing DADT, arguing that the failure to do so would put the state of our military at serious risk. In his testimony this morning, Defense Secretary Robert Gates put this as clearly as you could ask for."

For Republicans open to even the slightest bit of reason, this should offer them all the cover they need. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense — both of whom were appointed by a conservative Republican president, incidentally — said approving the pending repeal provision is what’s best for the U.S. military. Period. Full stop.

We already know that, for the clear majority of Senate Republicans, this is irrelevant. Just a few years after it was deemed outrageous and unpatriotic for elected politicians to ignore the judgment of our military leaders during a time of war, the GOP Senate caucus will no doubt try to kill DADT repeal anyway, because, well, they and their base really don’t like gay people. That these gay people are willing to volunteer to put their lives on the line for the rest of us is apparently irrelevant.

But repeal proponents don’t need all the Senate Republicans; they need a handful of Senate Republicans. Going into today, there were in upwards of five GOP members who were at least open to doing the right thing.

If they were paying attention today, looking for reassurance, the course ahead should be obvious.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 3:34 pm

The GOP is totally around the bend

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I recall a story, which I’ve probably recounted before, about a railway passenger (in the very old days) who requested the fig pudding for dessert in the dining car. On being informed that the kitchen was out of the dish, he became outraged, shouted, and sulked. The conductor wired ahead to the next stop to have someone go buy a fig pudding, which they did, and the train picked it up at the stop, minutes later. The waiter returned to the irate diner and told him the good news: fig pudding was now available. The guy shut up a second, thought about it, and said, "The hell with it! I’d rather be mad."

For some reason I was reminded of this story as I read this report by Tanya Somanader in ThinkProgress:

Well-versed in obstructing help to the hungry, House Republicans first blocked, then voted against the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act yesterday, a bill that “would give more needy children the opportunity to eat free lunches at school and make those lunches healthier.” The Senate passed this bill by unanimous consent in August — essentially a 100-0 vote in favor of providing school meals to the nation’s 17 million hungry kids.

But 157 House Republicans had a different message for hungry children: get in line. During the House’s first attempt to pass the bill yesterday, Republicans “used a procedural maneuver” to add an amendment requiring background checks for child care workers. Recognizing it as a poison pill, House Democrats delayed the final vote till today rather than allow an amendment to “kill the bill.” The main champion of this tactic Rep. John Kline (R-MN) decried the Hunger-Free Act as a Democratic ploy to increase government spending. On the House floor yesterday, Kline insisted the bill was massive “deficit spending,” dismissing the bill’s offsets as a “stalling tactic that obscures government expansion”:

KLINE: The people are telling us, stop spending money we don’t have…this bill spends another $4.5 billion on various programs and initiatives and creates or expands 17, 17 separate federal programs…The majority claims this bill is paid for. They want us to believe we can grow government with no cost or consequences, but the American people know that’s just not true.More spending is more spending. Whether or not those dollars are offset elsewhere in the massive federal budget, but one offset is particularly questionable. The truth is that, at least some portion of the billions of new program costs is deficit spending. This money was borrowed from our children and grandchildren in 2009 when it was put in the stimulus. That borrowed money is simply being redirected today. It was borrowed then and its borrowed now. This bill with its so-called pay for is merely a stalling tactic. It obscures government expansion in the short-term so this bill can become law and its spending can become permanent.

Watch it:

An equally indignant Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) called the pay-for “a farce!” “It’s a farce, it’s a lie. And it’s borrowing more from our children and this kind of idiocy just has to stop,” he added.

The only “lie” emanating from the House floor yesterday came directly from Kline and Broun. The bill is indeed paid for, unfortunately with offsets from food stamp benefits included in the Recovery Act. Because of the Congressional pay-as-you-go rules that prohibits deficit spending on non-emergency measures, Democrats reluctantly raided much-needed food stamp funds — again — to pay for the Hunger-Free Act. Kline and Broun’s outrage at such a strategy is curious, considering Republicans have pushed the same exact strategy in the past.

Not only is their “deficit spending” cry hypocritical, it is also a downright lie. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the offsets in the Senate bill will actually generate “total savings that effectively meet or exceed costs” while simultaneously providing meals to hungry children. Essentially, 157 Republicans voted to block the holy grail of legislation. The House did, however, pass the bill today and it will now go to the President for signature.

The GOP’s continuing callous treatment of those in need was not lost on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “If cutting off unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans wasn’t enough, House Republicans are now blocking critical legislation to help schools feed thousands of hungry children,” he told ThinkProgress. “Childhood nutrition shouldn’t be a partisan issue. But Congressional Republicans – intent on blocking any progress while President Obama is in office – are willing to put hungry children in the partisan crosshairs.”

UPDATE: Congress today passed the child nutrition bill, sending it to the President for his signature.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

“Take the ‘A’ Train”

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The Wife once heard someone on the radio announce the title as though it were “Take the a Train”.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

"Close the Washington Monument"

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Excellent post by Bruce Schneier:

Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.

An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They’re afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they’re afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they’re right, but what has happened to leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?

An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers’ inability to take that kind of stand — and their inability to truly lead.

Some of them call terrorism an "existential threat" against our nation. It’s not. Even the events of 9/11, as horrific as they were, didn’t make an existential dent in our nation. Automobile-related fatalities — at 42,000 per year, more deaths each month, on average, than 9/11 — aren’t, either. It’s our reaction to terrorism that threatens our nation, not terrorism itself. The empty monument would symbolize the empty rhetoric of those leaders who preach fear and then use that fear for their own political ends.

The day after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab failed to blow up a Northwest jet with a bomb hidden in his underwear, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said "The system worked." I agreed. Plane lands safely, terrorist in custody, nobody injured except the terrorist. Seems like a working system to me. The empty monument would represent the politicians and press who pilloried her for her comment, and Napolitano herself, for backing down.

The empty monument would symbolize our war on the unexpected, — our overreaction to anything different or unusual — our harassment of photographers, and our probing of airline passengers. It would symbolize our "show me your papers" society, rife with ID checks and security cameras. As long as we’re willing to sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety, we should keep the Washington Monument empty.

Terrorism isn’t a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 2:38 pm

Good Pilates session

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The instructor spent the entire session working on some problems she noted in the previous joint class with The Wife and me. It’s strange how you can do something over and over (it feels like) and then suddenly it clicks into place and feels totally different.

I am highly satisfied with Pilates and its effects, and I think that getting individualized instruction (both alone and in the two-person class) was extremely wise: in a large class, the instructor really cannot spend enough time with each individual student to resolve difficulties the student is having, plus the class includes people at all levels, from raw beginner to advanced student. The effect is that you might be basing your moves on someone who knows as little as you. And working from a book alone is hard because you really do need someone who knows the exercises to spot the small mistakes you make that undermine the entire effort.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Slow traveler

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I used to mark up currency to play "Where’s George?" and I just got an email: a $20-bill that I marked and released has been reported. I spent it in Monterey and it turned up in Oakland, a distance of 87 miles. I released it 4 years, 245 days, 19 hours, and 5 minutes before it was reported, so it traveled about 1/2 mile/day.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

Dick Cheney charged in massive bribery case

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George Zornick at ThinkProgress:

The Nigerian government will charge former Vice President Dick Cheney in a massive bribery case involving $180 million in kickbacks paid to Nigerian lawmakers, who awarded a $6 billion natural gas pipeline contract to Halliburton subsidiary KBR when Cheney was running the company. Godwin Obla, prosecuting counsel at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, said indictments will be lodged in a Nigerian court “in the next three days,” and an arrest warrant for Cheney “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol.”

KBR already pleaded guilty in the U.S. last year in relation to the bribery scheme, and along with Halliburton agreed to pay a $579 million settlement. “This bribery scheme involved both senior foreign government officials and KBR corporate executives who took actions to insulate themselves from the reach of U.S. law enforcement,”said Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division at the time. Cheney was indeed a “KBR corporate executive” at the time, but was not specifically charged. The case revolves largely around the actions of London lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who maintained strong connections with the Nigerian government and was hired by Halliburton subsidiaries to funnel money to them in order to obtain lucrative contracts. Halliburton Watch explains the Cheney connection:

[In June 2004], Halliburton fires Albert Jack Stanley after investigators say he received $5 million in “improper” payments from Mr. Tesler…. Halliburton spokesperson, Wendy Hall, said that during the years he ran KBR, Mr. Stanley reported to David Lesar, Halliburton’s president and chief operating officer at the time and CEO today. Mr. Lesar reported to Mr. Cheney when Cheney was chief executive…. According to the Dallas Morning News, “Mr. Cheney ran Halliburton when one of four suspicious payments occurred.” [...]

The Wall Street Journal reports on newly disclosed evidence by Halliburton, including notes written by M.W. Kellogg employees during the mid-1990s in which they discussed bribing Nigerian officials. The Financial Times of London said the evidence “raises questions over what Mr Cheney knew – or should have known – about one of the largest contracts awarded to a Halliburton subsidiary.”

A Cheney spokesperson told Reuters he had no comment, but would later today. It is important to note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — of which Halliburton is a member — recently lobbied to weaken an important U.S. law that “stops American-based multinational firms from bribing foreign governments in order to win special business advantages,” as ThinkProgress detailed in October.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2010 at 9:55 am

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