Later On

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

Archive for February 3rd, 2008

Last day for discount

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From Lunch in a Box:

Today (Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008) is the last day to use the 20% off coupon code a15447 at Reusable Bags. They sell lead-free lunch gear, lunch kits, lunchboxes, reusable bottles and the lead-free Laptop Lunchbox (they ship internationally). Their FAQ on health and safety issues is helpful in learning the latest about lead and plastic concerns.

They also sell reusable bags, of course, and the folding ones are excellent.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Daily life

Fear-mongering by the GOP

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Richard Clarke has it right:

Richard A. Clarke is former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council

When I left the Bush administration in 2003, it was clear to me that its strategy for defeating terrorism was leaving our nation more vulnerable and our people in a perilous place. Not only did its policies misappropriate resources, weaken the moral standing of America, and threaten long-standing legal and constitutional provisions, but the president also employed misleading and reckless rhetoric to perpetuate his agenda.

This week’s State of the Union proved nothing has changed.

Besides overstating successes in Afghanistan, painting a rosy future for Iraq, and touting unfinished domestic objectives, he again used his favorite tactic – fear – as a tool to scare Congress and the American people. On one issue in particular – FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) – the president misconstrued the truth and manipulated the facts.

Let me be clear: Our ability to track and monitor terrorists overseas would not cease should the Protect America Act expire. If this were true, the president would not threaten to terminate any temporary extension with his veto pen. All surveillance currently occurring would continue even after legislative provisions lapsed because authorizations issued under the act are in effect up to a full year.

Simply put, it was wrong for the president to suggest that warrants issued in compliance with FISA would suddenly evaporate with congressional inaction. Instead – even though Congress extended the Protect America Act by two weeks – he is using the existence of the sunset provision to cast his political opponents in a negative light.

For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With FISA, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 1:43 pm

Rule by Fear

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“Rule by Law” seems to be gone:

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”
— Winston Churchill, November 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the US government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and non-citizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse.

Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States in the event of “an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.”1 The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.2

According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of “all removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.”3

Fraud-busters like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars shouldn’t go taxpayer-gouging Halliburton.4 But the real question is: what kind of “new programs” require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the Union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people? According to whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, “Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Middle Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters.”5

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 1:42 pm

Bush slashes domestic programs

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This is bad:

In the nation’s first-ever $3 trillion budget, President Bush seeks to seal his legacy of promoting a strong defense to fight terrorism and tax cuts to spur the economy. Democrats, who control Congress, are pledging fierce opposition to Bush’s final spending plan – perhaps even until the next president takes office.

The 2009 spending plan sent to Congress on Monday will project huge budget deficits, around $400 billion for this year and next and more than double the 2007 deficit of $163 billion. But even those estimates could prove too low given the rapidly weakening economy and the total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Bush does not include in his request for the budget year beginning Oct. 1.

Last year, when Democrats were newly in the majority, there were drawn-out veto struggles. This year’s fights could be worse because it is an election year.

As in past years, Bush’s biggest proposed increases are in national security. Defense spending is projected to rise by about 7 percent to $515 billion and homeland security money by almost 11 percent, with a big gain for border security. Details on the budget were obtained through interviews with administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity until the budget’s release.

The bulk of government programs for which Congress sets annual spending levels would remain essentially frozen at current levels. The president does shower extra money on some favored programs in education and to bolster inspections of imported food.

Bush’s spending proposal would achieve sizable savings by slowing the growth in the major health programs – Medicare for retirees and Medicaid for the poor. There the president will be asking for almost $200 billion in cuts over five years, about three times the savings he proposed last year. [Compassionate conservatism = screw the poor. – LG]

There is no indication Congress is more inclined to go along with this year’s bigger cuts; savings would come by freezing payment rates for most health-care providers for three years.

In advance, Democrats attacked the plan as a continuation of failed policies that have seen the national debt explode under Bush; projected surpluses of $5.6 trillion wiped out; and huge deficits take their place, reflecting weaker revenues from the 2001 recession, the terrorism fight, and, Democrats contend, Bush’s costly $1.3 trillion first-term tax cuts.

“This administration is going to hand the next president a fiscal meltdown,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press. “This is a budget that sticks it to the middle class, comforts the wealthy and has a set of priorities that are not the priorities of the American people.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 1:39 pm

Dancin’ the Boogie

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Thanks to Constant Reader for this next number.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

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Pentagon wants more than half a trillion dollars

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Just for next year. Remind me: are we really at war with any major countries? We’re occupying Iraq, and the GOP says everything there is going extremely well. We seem to have given up on Afghanistan. Why are we spending more than half a trillion dollars a year on the military?

As Congress and the public focus on more than $600 billion already approved in supplemental budgets to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for counterterrorism operations, the Bush administration has with little notice reached a landmark in military spending.

When the Pentagon on Monday unveils its proposed 2009 budget of $515.4 billion, annual military spending, when adjusted for inflation, will have reached its highest level since World War II.

That new Defense Department budget proposal, which is to pay for the standard operations of the Pentagon and the military but does not include supplemental spending on the war efforts or on nuclear weapons, is an increase in real terms of about 5 percent over last year.

Since coming to office, the administration has increased baseline military spending by 30 percent over all, a figure sure to be noted in the coming budget battles as the American economy seems headed downward and government social spending is strained, especially by health-care costs.

Still, the nation’s economy has grown faster than the level of military spending, and even the current huge Pentagon budgets for regular operations and the war efforts consume a smaller portion of the nation’s gross domestic product than in previous conflicts.

About 14 percent of the national economy was spent on the military during the Korean War, and about 9 percent during the conflict in Vietnam. By comparison, when the base Pentagon budget, nuclear weapons and supplemental war costs are combined, they total just over 4 percent of the current economy, according to budget experts. The base Pentagon spending alone is about 3.4 percent of gross domestic product.

“The Bush administration’s 2009 defense request follows the continuously ascending path of military outlays the president embraced at the beginning of his tenure,” said Loren Thompson, a budget and procurement expert at the Lexington Institute, a policy research center. “However, the 2009 request may be the peak for defense spending.”

Pentagon and military officials acknowledge the considerable commitment of money that will be required for continuing the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as efforts to increase the size of the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations forces, to replace weapons worn out in the desert and to assure “quality of life” for those in uniform so they will remain in the military.

Yet, those demands for money do not even include the price of efforts to refocus the military’s attention beyond the current wars to prepare for other challenges.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:28 am

The American Welcome

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Not always so good:

Mr. Sampson, I Presume?

It was about five years ago. I was returning from Pakistan and standing in the immigration line at JFK, completely exhausted after a 20-hour flight. When my turn came up at the counter, the INS agent looked at my papers, typed a few things into his computer, and then asked me to follow him to a large room at the side of the immigration hall. I was informed that I was being detained. Two agents handcuffed me and led me to another smaller room. When I asked what I had done. They said things like, “Oh, you know what you’ve done. We know who you are.”

“Who am I? What have I done?”

“You should know that better than we do, now shouldn’t you?”

When I asked to contact a lawyer, I was informed that I hadn’t yet been admitted to the United States, and so had no legal standing. No lawyer would be called, nor would I be allowed to call anyone else. They took my cuffs off, fingerprinted me (very difficult because of my sweaty palms), recuffed me, and then left me there.

It was at this point that my knees went a little trembly. I had heard many stories of Pakistanis being held for months without charges under the Patriot Act, and now I had visions of Guantanamo in my head, and I became almost dizzy with the adrenaline rush of fear. I thought that I must have been mistaken for someone else, God knows who, and there would be no chance to clear my name. I sat in that room for a few sweat-drenched hours before a couple of INS officers came in with two police officers from the NYPD. The NYPD officers told me that they had a warrant for my arrest. This immediately came as a huge relief to me, because whatever it was they wanted with me, I would rather be held by the NYPD in New York, than in some INS facility. I felt like whatever it was, I would be able to clear it up.

That’s when things started to get weird: The NYPD officers addressed me as Mr. Edward Sampson, as in, “Let’s go, Sampson.” When I protested that I wasn’t Edward Sampson, whoever that might be, they told me that fingerprints don’t lie, and I had a full 10-finger match as one (wanted) Edward Sampson. They told me to stop lying and just admit that I really was Edward Sampson. The name sounded vaguely familiar but I couldn’t quite place it in my exhausted state. The INS guys removed my cuffs and the NYPD officers replaced them with their own. I was then led out for the perp-walk in front of all the other passengers, coming out by the regular path where people wait for their friends and relatives to come out. People whispered to each other rather excitedly when they saw me being led out, held by each arm by one of the officers, wearing handcuffs and a nice suit I had had tailored while in Pakistan.

It was then that I remembered who Edward Sampson was, and it came to me suddenly:

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:23 am

The 4 Noble Truths

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The core of the Buddhist teaching is the Four Noble Truths: There is suffering. There is a cause to suffering. There is an end to suffering. There is a path out of suffering (the Noble 8-fold path).

  1. The Reality of Sufferingdukkha
  2. The Cause of Sufferingsamudaya
  3. The Cessation of Sufferingnirodha
  4. The Path to the Cessation of Sufferingmagga

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

The evolution of evil

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Joel S. Hirschhorn, the author of Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government (www.delusionaldemocracy.com). His current political writings have been greatly influenced by working as a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress and for the National Governors Association.

Perhaps a global political apocalypse has already arrived.

Activists and dissidents should understand that evil forces and tyrannical governments have evolved. Just as human knowledge and science expand, so do the strategies and instruments used by rulers, elites and plutocrats. By learning from history and using new technology they have smarter tools of tyranny. The best ones prevent uprisings, revolutions and political reforms. Rather than violently destroy rebellious movements, they let them survive as marginalized and ineffective efforts that divert and sap the energy of nonconformist and rebellious thinkers. Real revolution remains an energy-draining dream, as evil forces thrive.

Most corrupt and legally sanctioned forms of tyranny hide in plain sight as democracies with free elections. The toughest lesson is that ALL elections are distractions. Nothing conceals tyranny better than elections. Few Americans accept that their government has become a two-party plutocracy run by a rich and powerful ruling class. The steady erosion of the rule of law is masked by everyday consumer freedoms. Because people want to be happy and hopeful, we have an epidemic of denial, especially in the present presidential campaign. But to believe that any change-selling politician or shift in party control will overturn the ruling class is the epitome of self-delusion and false hope. In the end, such wishful thinking perpetuates plutocracy. Proof is that plutocracy has flourished despite repeated change agents, promises of reform and partisan shifts.

The tools of real rebellion are weak. Activists and dissidents look back and see successful rebellions and revolutions and think that when today’s victims of tyranny experience enough pain and see enough political stink they too will revolt. This is wrong. They think that the Internet spreads information and inspiration to the masses, motivating them to revolt. This is wrong. They await catastrophic economic or environmental collapse to spur rebellion. This too is wrong.

Why are these beliefs wrong?

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:19 am

Posted in Government

Slim and Slam

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Slim Gaillard (piano and guitar) and Slam Stewart (bass) and friends..

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:14 am

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Cool hood ornaments

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Mascot

Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:12 am

Posted in Daily life

Living or dying on our only planet

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Good post:

Most people get the importance of present global warming concerns, and to most of us this is old news. However, there are still many who really don’t understand its nature, what it is about, and what the ultimate consequences are, or might be. Instead of really attempting to grasp the reality of this phenomenon, many of these individuals, for some strange reason, talk themselves into believing it’s a political issue. There will no doubt always be some who will turn any controversy, whether it concerns climate, religion, war, economics, defining what life is, or “whatever,” into a political issue. But that is another story.

The only real issue is that humankind can only exist on this planet in a very narrow range of conditions, and the planet is quite capable of altering those conditions in a relatively short time when stressed!

The consequences of not getting this potential crisis, in the event it is real, are too irrevocably horrible to contemplate, and that is why everyone should be paying close attention! If global warming turns out not to be a threat (and most reputable scientists agree it is), the worst we might do is clean up the planet. If it is real, we as a species are toast! One doesn’t have to be a scientist to grasp the ramifications.

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Written by LeisureGuy

3 February 2008 at 11:09 am

Posted in Global warming

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