Archive for December 9th, 2010
I’m startled by the exaggerated response this relatively mild set of revelations has engendered. It’s as if the drive behind the emotions and fears were larger, more general, than just Wikileaks alone—Wikileaks triggered the realization of those fears. I’m thinking here of the fears that governments, bureaucracies, and large organizations are feeling as they realize how vulnerable their internal records now are—en masse, not individually, due to information technology—to disgruntled employees, and how very many disgruntled employees they know they have (and they are in the process of making employees—i.e., workers—even more disgruntled as we slide down the economic death-spiral created by deregulation and supported by economic ignoramuses).
To many Americans, Washington is fundamentally broken. While corporations enjoy record profits and executives reward themselves with million-dollar bonuses, lobbyists have gamed the system so corporate behemoths like ExxonMobil and GE pay zero corporate income taxes. During the economic crisis, with high unemployment and stagnant wages, middle class Americans seem to be bearing the sacrifices. Riding a wave of this popular discontent, Republicans won a historical congressional election this year by channeling anger against “Beltway insiders” and Washington corruption.
Perhaps to the surprise of many Tea Party populists who helped elect them, the Washington Post reports, “Many incoming GOP lawmakers have hired registered lobbyists as senior aides. Several of the candidates won with strong support from the anti-establishment tea party movement.” These lobbyists are not public servants. They are experts at carving out special deals and tax giveaways to powerful corporations:
– Rep.-elect Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) selected lobbyist Tim Harris as his chief of staff. Harris works as lobbyist for a trade association representing the shareholders of energy companies like American Electric Power, Duke Energy, NiSource, Vectren.
– Rep.-elect Mike Pompeo (R-KS) selected Mark Chenowerth as his chief of staff. Chenowerth previously worked as a lawyer on the lobbying team for Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by Charles and David Koch. As ThinkProgress reported early this year, Pompeo was groomed for office by Koch Industries-run front groups, and has served as an executive for Koch Industries oil company subsidiaries.
– Rep.-elect Robert Dold (R-IL) selected corporate lobbyist Eric Burgeson as his chief of staff. Burgeson works for the lobbying firm BGR Holdings serving business clients in China, the coal industry, and a nuclear company.
– Rep.-elect Chip Cravaack (R-MN) selected corporate lobbyist Rod Grams as his chief of staff. Grams works for a lobbying firm called Hecht, Spencer, and Associates where he represents 3M, Norfolk Southern and the Financial Services Roundtable, the trade association for the country’s largest banks.
– Rep.-elect Krisi Noem (R-SD) selected Jordon Stoick as her chief of staff. Stoick is a vice president at the lobbying firm Direct Impact. Direct Impact also specializes in building public support for corporate causes, boasting on its website that it once generated hundreds of letters to the FCC on behalf of the telecom industry.
– Sen.-elect Charlie Bass (R-NH) selected lobbyist John Billings as his chief of staff. Billings is a lobbyist for a food marketing and whole sale trade association.
– Rep.-elect Chris Gibson (R-NY) selected Steve Stallmer as his chief of staff. Stallmer is a lobbyist for the Associated General Contractors of New York State.
– Sen.-elect Mike Lee (R-UT) selected lobbyist Spencer Strokes as his chief of staff. Lee is one of the most prominent corporate lobbyists in Utah, representing clients from the private prison industry to the nuclear industry.
– Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) selected anti-union lobbyist Douglas Stafford for his chief of staff. Stafford is the vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.
These Republican lawmakers, many of whom cast themselves as insurgents, are linking their professional decisions into the corporate establishment of influence peddling. Congressional chiefs of staff are often in charge of helping members make pivotal decisions, like which positions to take on public debates, how to vote on pieces of legislation, and of course, how to use your votes to raise money for your re-election.
As the Washington Post reported last weekend, freshmen “Tea Party” Republicans have already ingratiated themselves into the cocktail culture of K Street. Dozens of freshmen Republicans have crowded into near-daily fundraisers, parties, and high-priced dinners hosted by corporate lobbyists. Already undercutting a promise to wean themselves off earmark giveaways to corporate interests, the new Republican Chairman of the Appropriations Committee is leaning towards hiring a defense industry lobbyist as the committee chief of staff.
Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving currently recommends the Merkur Hefty Classic (aka “HD”) as the razor for a beginner. This recommendation was based on polls of experienced wet-shavers. The HD is readily available, is not adjustable (a plus for beginners, who don’t need to be worrying about and tinkering with the adjustment), and is relatively inexpensive, currently running around $42. But this morning I was thinking again about my own experiences with the razors I have, and I am going to change that recommendation.
UPDATE: The iKon open-comb’s price went up to above $150, and the availability is uncertain. So, although it’s a great razor—and a bargain at $75—those days are over and I thus do not recommend it for a beginner.
My recommendation for the best beginner razor is one of the Edwin Jagger DE8x series. This has a head that is from a recent design (a couple of years ago) by Neal Jagger and the Müller brothers of Mühle-Pinsel. It’s a terrific head, and the more I use that razor the more I realize what a great job they did. Best of all, it’s not expensive at all: around $35, less than the Merkur HD (and, in my opinion, better). Moreover, it’s a razor you can continue to enjoy using your entire life.
It’s a 3-piece razor, the most robust and sturdy razor design. TTO razors, though cool, have moving parts—always a potential problem—and the hinges are of indifferent security quite often: a tumble into the sink and your razor may drop a door. Three-piece razors, like three-piece suits, are a traditional favorite, and there’s a reason why so many guys have liked them so much. (They also pack nicely flat when taken apart.)
The HD is still a good budget choice, but in my opinion (and experience) the best razor for a beginner is the iKon open-comb with either the bulldog handle or the long slender handle. This will cost $75 or $80, depending on the handle, but the iKon is a remarkably comfortable and forgiving razor. I now think this is the best beginner razor, and the next edition of the book will reflect the new recommendation.
Thought you might want to know if you’re shopping for a traditional wetshaving kit for the beginner.
Eric Holder not only has little interest in enforcing the law (cf. his total restriction of investigations into possible war crimes, despite the clear requirement of the law to do such investigations), he also lies, not a good thing in an Attorney General. Example: He assured the US that the DOJ and the DEA would respect state laws regarding medical marijuana. Then he lets the DEA operate with impunity against the state laws regarding medical marijuana. That seems to me to be the mark of a bad person. What do you think?
Here’s the report by Philip Smith:
Once again, this time last week in Michigan, the federal DEA has teamed up with recalcitrant state and local law enforcement in a bid to negate the will of the public and the law of the land. Heavily-armed state and federal lawmen raided a pair of medical marijuana gardens in the town of Okemos, outside Lansing, breaking windows, throwing smoke grenades, and seizing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and medical marijuana plants — all in a raid of a facility that is undeniably within the confines of Michigan’s medical marijuana law.
The gardens subleased to two individual caregivers by Capital City Care Givers in nearby Lansing contained a total of 40 marijuana plants. Under the Michigan law, caregivers can grow up to 12 plants each for up to five patients, as well as growing 12 plants for themselves if they are patients. That means the two caregivers should have been legally protected in growing up to 72 plants each, or 144 in total.
The apparent hole in the law that the DEA and the state police could be seeking to exploit is that the law does not directly address the issue of conjoined grows. It says only that caregivers can grow up to 12 plants for up to five patients and does not address more than one caregiver growing under the same roof. On the other hand, the law does not forbid such activities.
"This was an operation of the state police and the DEA," said Detroit medical marijuana activist Tim Beck. "The state police couldn’t even get a warrant from a local judge, so the DEA had to get one from a federal judge in Grand Rapids. The state police claim that they are captives of the local prosecutor, but in this case, the local prosecutor didn’t cooperate with them, so they went around him to the feds."
"We were completely in compliance with the law," said Ryan Basore, proprietor of Capitol City Care Givers, whose grow was hit. "We had contacted the local, county, and state police, and they all gave the go ahead and said we were doing it legally. We had two different attorneys write up the leases and go through plant counts and make sure everything was correctly separated. Every caregiver was well under the limit."
That didn’t stop the DEA, the state police, and the Tri-county Metro Narcotics Squad from behaving as if they were busting an Al Qaeda cell. Raiding agents threw smoke bombs in the building, paraded around with AK-47s, and stole the marijuana being grown by legally compliant caregivers. When asked about the Holder memo, the agents acted as if they were above the law. "Obama is not our president," Basore reported the agents saying."The people wanted change," Basore overheard another agent say as they effectively laughed in the face of their own superiors.
"All I can tell you is that this is an ongoing investigation in which we procured the search warrant," said Detroit DEA spokesman Special Agent Rich Isaacson. "Just because someone makes a claim that it is medical marijuana doesn’t make it so."
When asked about the October 2009 Justice Department memo urging the DEA to quit going after medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, Isaacson appeared to agree with the memo, but then suggested Capital Caregivers was somehow outside the state law. "If it’s unambiguous that they’re following state law, there would be better ways for the department to spend its resources," he said.
"Our mission is to target large scale drug trafficking groups," Isaacson said, but clammed up when confronted with the fact that the raids had seized only 40 plants. "That number may or may not be accurate," was all he would say.
Basore has been a prominent figure in the state’s medical marijuana movement. He is a member of various cannabis patient groups and the Michigan Association of Compassionate Care Centers. He’s been available to local and state media, and as a result, he has a very high profile. That could have been why he was targeted, his supporters suggested.
"This raid came about because Ryan Basore was in the media for the past few weeks talking about his desire to have regulated dispensaries," said Detroit attorney Matthew Abel. "He is a very successful businessman in this industry, and I think they just decided to take him down. They do that to anyone who goes public, and that’s highly retaliatory against our First Amendment rights. He was talking to the press, so they took him out. That’s pretty nasty."
"Ryan is high-profile, he’s politically active and on TV all the time, but he’s also scrupulously honest," said Beck. "That operation was absolutely straight up," he said.
"We’re very troubled by the continuing raids involving the DEA that are occurring around the country, and we’ve been saying this for a long time," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. "It is not the purview of the federal government to enforce state or local laws. If the feds believe state or local law may have been violated, they should leave those cases to the state to prosecute. Only then we will find out if there were in fact violations of state or local law, because if those cases go to federal court, prosecutors will not risk opening the door to a medical marijuana defense," he said.
"The DEA conducts these raids and provides very little evidence of state law violations," said Hermes. "They rarely, if ever, produce any actual physical evidence of state law violations."
It’s not just Michigan where the DEA is acting out, said Hermes. "We’ve seen well over 20 DEA raids since Justice issued its memo, and while that is for sure a less aggressive posture than the Bush administration, any raids are unacceptable if they are going to undermine the implementation of a state’s medical marijuana law," he said. "That has been the effect in California and Colorado, where the DEA attempts to undermine the state medical marijuana law," Hermes argued.
"US attorneys have received notice that there was a change in policy, and that has filtered down to DEA agents across the country in medical marijuana states," Hermes continued. "Eric Holder and the Obama administration have given pretty broad latitude to use discretion in enforcing federal marijuana laws in medical marijuana states, and it’s mostly US attorneys and DEA field agents who consider their targets to be violating state or local law. The shadow of the Justice Department memo is coloring enforcement actions, and hopefully we’ll see fewer raids in the future, but it’s that discretion that has resulted in the continuing raids."
"The DEA has been all over Michigan trying to subvert this law, running around recommending that municipalities pass laws saying that any activity which is contrary to state local or federal law is also illegal," Beck noted. "That is being challenged in court by the ACLU."
For Basore, it’s not just about picking up the pieces and starting over. "I’m thinking about suing the state of Michigan, said Basore. "I think I have an entrapment case. I would never have broken the law unless I was told it was okay to do, and some of those who told me it was okay were in on the raids."
Continue reading. It just gets worse and worse.
The Obama Administration continues to disappoint. And lie.
17 nonstop minutes on the Nordic Track this morning. No speed record: slow and steady wins the race, as Grandmother Ham used to tell me. I noticed this morning that I didn’t much feel in the mood (it’s a dark and rainy day), but the book drew me on—Crusoe has just spotted the footprint—and once begun it was pretty easy to keep going. This morning I noticed how warm my shoulders became as they warmed up and got into it: the Nordic Track seems to throw a fair amount of exercise onto the arms and shoulders as well as the legs.
And later this morning I’ll be doing my Pilates session, so today is a good workout day. And a good thing: weight this morning (211.3 lbs; 96 kg) is identical to yesterday’s weight. So I didn’t gain, but I’m eating carefully again today, so tomorrow should have a nice surprise.
Last night I took out the last piece of veal liver from the fridge: it looked like a good dinner size, but when I weighed it, it was 7.9 oz. So, really, it’s two (4-oz) dinners. I immediately cut it in half, and do you know the 4-oz piece I ate was fully satisfying and I did not in fact feel hungry after dinner? To me, this is a loaves-and-fishes type of miracle: that I can feel full and satisfied with a 4-oz meat serving. A good thing to keep in mind.
BruceOnShaving has an interesting post today: a beginner’s guide to traditional shaving kit. In the course of the post, he mentions Geo. F. Trumper Violet as his favorite shaving soap, so I thought I’d break out my tub today—using a very traditional brush to book: the Rooney Style 2 Finest.
An excellent lather once more, and then three smooth passes with the iKon open-comb bulldog holding a Swedish Gillette blade. I do like iKon razors, can you tell?
A splash of New York aftershave, and I’m ready for a Pilates workout.