Later On

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

Archive for September 13th, 2008

Qualifications for office

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From Andrew Sullivan:

Palin really is Bush’s true heir in so many ways:

So when there was a vacancy at the top of the State Division of Agriculture, [Palin] appointed a high school classmate, Franci Havemeister, to the $95,000-a-year directorship. A former real estate agent, Ms. Havemeister cited her childhood love of cows as one of her qualifications for running the roughly $2 million agency.

Does that not seem eerily reminiscent of George W. Bush’s appointment of Michael Brown to FEMA? Cronyism, debt, lies, religious fanaticism, and utter ignorance about foreign policy. You want another four years of Bush? McCain-Palin is the ticket.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 3:03 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Oceans dying fast

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Ocean dead zones

Ocean dead zones

Maybe we’ll kill off ALL the fish. The above image is from this article, which has more information.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment, Food, Science

Tagged with

Sensibly support fisheries

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So, how can we save the fish in the ocean and move toward sustainable harvesting? Very good post here on one approach, and it includes this illuminating chart:

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 11:51 am

If you’re tired of the campaigns

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Here’s a good post by James Fallows:

1) If you feel as if you’ll drink the hemlock if you have to hear another discussion about the short-knives tactics of the campaign — which negative McCain themes are working, whether Obama needs to get more negative fast — I highly recommend instead listening to this 40-minute Fresh Air interview, originally aired two days ago. In it, Terry Gross draws out Andrew Bacevich, of Boston College, on his views about America’s strategic situation. Bacevich, whom I have praised many times here before, is no pinko or softie. West Point grad; career Army guy; self-proclaimed conservative; and, a delicate point, the father of a son who was killed in combat in Iraq.

Listen to the interview, reflect, and moan about the way these issues generally get discussed when we choose our next crop of leaders. I will also mention, because it’s relevant to Bacevich’s outlook, this cover story, by me, in the Atlantic two years ago.

2) On the same strategic level I recommend a dispatch by Chuck Spinney. Spinney, who is now on an extended stay outside the country, was for decades a leading “defense reform” advocate inside the Pentagon and close collaborator with the legendary John Boyd. One of Boyd’s great insights was that the moral element of conflict — between nations, companies, or even political candidates — had tremendous importance in the end. Spinney applies that logic to the McCain-Obama race.
Spinney writes:

I am beginning to sense that McCain behavior is destroying himself and that Obama has the good sense or instinct to take a deep step back and let McCain dig a hole so deep he can not get out.

After all, McCain has spent years branding himself as a straight talker of truth who puts country ahead of self … it was always a phony image, but now he is aggressively destroying that brand name and replacing it with the opposite Rovian brand. This is something we have seen all too often — a man who will do anything and say anything to get elected, to include selecting someone for vice president who is obviously not qualified to be President, even though he would be the oldest person ever to be elected President, and is a cancer survivor to boot, with a heart condition and an abused body (from torture), and therefore, actuarially the most likely President in history to die in office, if elected.

Maybe Obama’s behavior is akin to subtly waving the red cape to lure McCain into reinforcing the rebranding operation.  I think Obama did a capejob on Hillary, and she ended up up with the immoral alternative of either having to destroy the democratic party inorder to win its nomination or quitting.  I think (hope?) Obama is doing a similar thing with McCain, and McCain is walking into the trap.

In the end, this election is a battle that takes place within an overarching moral context, and as Boyd showed, you can not isolate your opponent in moral warfare (i.e., the game of surfacing mismatches in three legs of the triangle connecting what your opponent says is and what he really is and the world he has to deal with).*

Your opponent has to morally isolate himself,  and he does that by destroying legs of the moral triangle, and in so doing, exhibits behavior that promotes his own well being by violating the codes of conduct or standards of behavior he professes to uphold and others expect him to uphold.

I have this vague sense that Obama’s goal (maybe instinct is a better word) may be to create an atmosphere (perhaps by looking weak, iter alia)  that encourages McCain to reinforce this self destructive behavior and thereby make his hypocrisy obvious to a majority of the undecided voters.  But then maybe I am seeing visions in cloud formations.

* Spinney is talking in shorthand here, about a whole theory of conflict in which “mismatches” are a crucial element. If there is a mismatch between what your adversary thinks is happening, and what is actually underway, he is on the path to defeat. So with the mismatch Spinney is referring to here, between the moral standards a combatant professes to uphold and the way he actually behaves.  For more on this whole theme, the mother lode is at Chet Richards’ Defense and the National Interest site  here.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 11:26 am

Posted in Election, GOP

He’s always lied

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 11:22 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Tea better than water for hydration

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Good news for the tea drinkers. BBC News reports:

Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers. The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates.

Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers, UK nutritionists found. Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promote health. These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage.

Public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton, and colleagues at Kings College London, looked at published studies on the health effects of tea consumption. They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack. Some studies suggested tea consumption protected against cancer, although this effect was less clear-cut.

Other health benefits seen included protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.

Dr Ruxton said: “Drinking tea is actually better for you than drinking water. Water is essentially replacing fluid. Tea replaces fluids and contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Daily life over the years

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life

McCain campaign attacking news media

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The McCain campaign has declared war on the new media—“working the refs,” I believe it’s called in sport. You bully and cow the news media (which, mostly owned by big business, are already on the GOP side) and intimidate them sufficiently that they allow your misbehavior (and lies and distortions and corruption) to pass unnoticed. Steven Thomma and Margaret Talev report for McClatchy:

Republicans were already fired up for John McCain and Sarah Palin this week when Fred Thompson took the stage here to turn up the heat a little more — with a full-throated attack on the media as a co-conspirator with the Democrats in an effort to smear and destroy Palin.

“This woman is undergoing the most vicious assault that anybody has ever seen in public life,” Thompson said.

A half hour later, the Republicans lined Old Lee Highway to watch the campaign motorcade pull away. As McCain and Palin rolled by, they cheered. As the press van approached a second later, they booed.

It was no accident.

Ever since McCain chose the largely unknown Palin as his running mate, his campaign has waged an intensive assault on the news media.

Capitalizing on errors, rumors and perceived sexism in the frenzied first round of reporting on Palin, the McCain campaign has taken advantage of a changing media landscape, grouping together blogs and supermarket tabloids with mainstream newspapers and television to tar the media as one corrupt monolith, stirring up the conservative base and working to pressure the media from further aggressive reporting on Palin.

The campaign insists that it was only trying to back off a sloppy and irresponsible media.

“Our campaign would much rather prefer to aim our criticisms at our opponent’s record of inexperience than the shortcomings and misrepresentations that appear in the media,” said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

“But when the reputation and good standing of our candidate or running mate are on the line, we are going to point out unfair and inappropriate coverage.”

There was some mistaken and controversial coverage — some from the new media, some from the old.

The liberal dailyKos Web site, for example, posted an item the day Palin’s selection was announced speculating that she hadn’t actually given birth to a fifth child this year and that the baby was really her daughter’s.

That prompted media inquiries to the campaign asking if it were true, which in turn moved Palin to announce that her daughter was pregnant.

There were arguably sexist comments from such journalists as Sally Quinn of The Washington Post questioning whether Palin as a mother of young children could or should handle the job.

There were flat-out mistakes, such as The New York Times report that Palin had been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, which pushed for a vote to secede from the union. She hadn’t been, though her husband, Todd, had.

Some of the tabloid coverage got a boost from the McCain camp itself. During the convention, the campaign put out a statement denouncing the National Enquirer for a story that accused Palin of having an extramarital affair. Some Websites wrote about the allegation based on the campaign’s statement, which was distributed Sept. 3, two days before the Enquirer story was distributed.

That was an ironic reversal for conservatives. Weeks before, conservatives lambasted the news media for not picking up an Enquirer story on an affair by Democrat John Edwards’ — allegations that Edwards later admitted. Now they demanded that the media ignore the Enquirer’s Palin story — then blamed the media collectively anyway.

“The smearing of the Palin family must end,” McCain communications guru Steve Schmidt said in that statement. “The efforts of the media and tabloids to destroy this fine and accomplished public servant are a disgrace.”

But the McCain camp didn’t push back only against those media flubs. It moved seamlessly against many legitimate questions posed about Palin’s record and experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 10:31 am

Posted in GOP, Media

Green investment: 2,000,000 new jobs in 2 years

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Maybe we should do it, eh? Just pay for it by elminating the tax subsidies given to oil companies—they can get by with their profits. From the National Resources Defense Council:

As America confronts the current energy crisis, a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and partner labor and environmental groups shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs by investing in clean energy technologies that will strengthen the economy and fight global warming. The report finds that investing in clean energy would create four times as many jobs as spending the same amount of money within the oil industry.

“This new report shows that investing in clean energy is a win-win solution. Shifting to clean energy will put more people to work, provide consumers relief at the pump, help reduce global warming pollution and revitalize our economy at a time when many Americans are hurting,” said Frances Beinecke, President of NRDC.

“Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy” analyzes the potential for a two year $100 billion green investment program – which would be comparable to the size of the April 2008 federal stimulus package dedicated to consumer rebates – to be an engine for job creation in the U.S. This type of investment is a component of a broader clean energy strategy to create a low-carbon economy and reduce global warming pollutions.

The program could be paid for with proceeds from auctions of carbon permits under a global warming cap-and-trade program that will drive private investments into clean energy and raise public revenue through carbon permit auctions. A cap-and-trade program will enable America to reduce global warming pollution to the levels science indicates are needed to avoid the worst effects of global warming.

The package is illustrative of the potential for clean energy – and specifically green infrastructure investments – to create new jobs and strengthen the economy. The specific package would invest in six green infrastructure priorities: retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency, expanding mass transit and freight rail, constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems, wind power, solar power, and next-generation biofuels.

The report also shows that the vast majority of the two million jobs gained from this initial $100 billion investment in clean energy would be in the same areas of employment that people already work in today, in every region and state of the country; for example: constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting requires roofers, insulators and building inspectors. Expanding mass transit systems employs civil engineers, electricians, and dispatchers.

In addition to creating two million jobs nationwide over two years, a $100 billion initial investment in our clean energy future would:

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 10:22 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Environment, Government

Tagged with

Oddities of modern times

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Via AmericaBlog, which received it as an email:

I’m a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight…..

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you’re “exotic, different.”

* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your name is Barack you’re a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you’re a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you’re well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate’s Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran’s Affairs committees, you don’t have any real leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you’re qualified to become the country’s second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you’re not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you’re a Christian.

* If you teach teach children about sexual predators, you are irresponsible and eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state’s school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you’re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate laywer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family’s values don’t represent America ‘s.

* If you’re husband is nicknamed “First Dude”, with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn’t register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that hates America and advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in Election

Unclear on the concept

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 10:06 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

“Drill, baby, drill”

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Or maybe not:

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 10:04 am

Dusty Foggo turns to extortion

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From Crooks & Liars:

Former CIA third in command and indicted Cunningham bribery scandal co-conspirator Kyle “Dusty” Foggo is threatening to out agents, secret programs and Bush administration skeletons in an attempt to ward of a possible jail sentence on 30 counts of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

Prosecutors say Foggo has threatened “to expose the cover of virtually every CIA employee with whom he interacted and to divulge to the world some of our country’s most sensitive programs – even though this information has absolutely nothing to do with the charges he faces.”

Prosecutors also allege his lawyers are seeking to introduce classified evidence to “portray Foggo as a hero engaged in actions necessary to protect the public from terrorist acts” to gain sympathy from jurors.

Foggo’s efforts to disclose classified information are “a thinly disguised attempt to twist this straightforward case into a referendum on the global war on terror,” wrote prosecutors Valerie Chu, Jason Forge and Phillip L.B. Halpern in a court motion filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

The government wants U.S. District Judge James Cacheris to hold a closed hearing on whether the information is admissible at trial and if it is relevant to Foggo’s case.

Desperate much? It’s amusing to see the Bush administration panic on this one – especially after all their own thinly disguised attempts to make every issue they could think of a “a referendum on the global war on terror”. “Dusty” knows where the bodies are buried on everything from Negroponte’s South American death squads to Iraq procurement corruption and if he starts singing who knows where it could end.

But what’s truly revealing is the way Foggo only believes in national security up until the point where its his own neck on the line. How Republican of him.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:54 am

Religion and providing healthcare

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Interesting article by Vikram David Amar and Alan Brownstein, which begins:

Health care providers who are also religious individuals are sometimes directed by state law — or by their public or private employer — to do things that conflict with their religious beliefs. This situation creates a difficult choice: The worker can comply with the religious tenets of his faith, risking civil sanction and perhaps the loss of a job; or he can obey the requirements of secular authorities, but in so doing violate his own conscience.

This series of columns focuses on two recent developments that bring into sharp focus this conflict, and the interesting and complex legal questions that are raised about whether exemptions from law or employer mandates should be granted to health care workers faced with divergent obligations from God and Caesar.

The first of these is a case handed down by the California Supreme Court a few weeks ago. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc. v. Superior Court involved a civil rights lawsuit brought against physicians who were alleged to have discriminated against a lesbian patient who sought a fertility treatment from their clinic. The physicians (unsuccessfully) asserted a legal right to be exempt from a requirement that they refrain from sexual-orientation discrimination. The second is the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s recent proposal of regulations (45 CFR Part 88) designed to protect health care workers from being coerced into violating their religious beliefs. We will discuss the HHS regulations in a column two weeks from now.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:22 am

GI Bill plan header for disaster

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Mike Lillis has an important story in the Washington Independent:

Responding to the Bush administration’s recent decision to privatize portions of the new G.I. Bill, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Filner (D-Calif.) blasted the VA on Thursday, saying the outsourcing plan will end in “disaster.”

The VA stirred up a hornets’ nest last month, when its plan to contract outside the agency for a computer system to screen claims under the newly expanded veterans education benefit was revealed. Administration officials say the outsourcing is needed to meet the Aug. 1, 2009, deadline for installing the new program. But, appearing before a House panel Thursday, some of those same officials said they know almost nothing about how the system will work and what it might cost.

Keith Pedigo, a VA associate deputy undersecretary, told members of the House VA Economic Opportunity Subcommittee that the agency has given potential bidders “the basic requirements,” but indicated the VA would have no details about the IT program until the contract is awarded later this month.

Asked about costs, Pedigo had no idea; asked which companies are in the running, he declined to say; asked about penalties if the system fails, he said the companies would be proposing those themselves; asked about a back-up plan, he said only that it’s in the works, but “not fully developed.” [The Bush Administration at work.  Emphasis added – LG]

With the deadline inching closer, the absence of a strategy riled some committee members, particularly the pugnacious Filner, who made headlines last year over an altercation with an airport employee.

“This is incredible,” Filner said. “You don’t know what you get. You don’t know what it costs. You don’t know what happens if it fails. What are you getting us into here?”

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Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life

Protect the elderly from forced arbitration

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David Arkush and Christine Hines have a good post on The Watchdog Blog:

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee followed its counterpart in the House and approved an important arbitration bill to protect residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, S. 2838. The legislation, which a House committee approved in July, will make it easier to hold these facilities accountable for negligent or reckless acts that harm their residents. It prevents nursing homes from forcing residents to agree to arbitration before a dispute arises, allowing residents to turn to the courts in the event their nursing homes cause them serious injuries or death. Without this protection, nursing homes can force residents to take disputes to private arbitrators chosen by the nursing home itself. Guess who wins cases there?

The Judiciary Committee approved the bill despite vigorous opposition from the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of business and nursing home industry organizations. The Justice Department embarrassed itself by making wacky and self-contradicting arguments in a letter to the Committee. It said Congress lacks authority to pass this bill, even though nursing home contracts are clearly within Congress’s Commerce Clause power. It also urged Congress to leave the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in place – even though the FAA regulates the very nursing home contracts that Congress supposedly can’t regulate. (We wrote a letter responding to DOJ; Paul Bland wrote a great post on the DOJ letter over at CL&P.)

The Committee also heard from a coalition of industry groups, which wrote a letter that misrepresented nearly everything it discussed: the identity and interests of the letter’s signers, the facts about arbitration, the current law, and the effect of the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act. The group pretended to be interested in consumer protection, claimed that forcing consumers into arbitration preserves “consumer choice” and benefits consumers, claimed that nursing homes currently can’t require arbitration as a condition of admission, and said the bill in Congress would virtually eliminate arbitration – when the bill actually would ensure that consumers can choose whether to go to arbitration voluntarily.

When someone needs to lie so much to make their case, you know they’re on the wrong side of the issue. If this industry group told the truth, it would sound something like, “We’re corporate lobbyists fighting for the right to neglect or abuse elderly nursing home residents with impunity. Our corporate clients want to make millions in profits without worrying about being held accountable if they hurt people.” That message probably wouldn’t win much support.

Fortunately, the Hill heard plenty from our broad, genuine coalition of consumer groups, which worked hard to educate congressional members on the bill’s importance. More than 100 organizations from 30 states signed a letter supporting passage of the bill to protect the rights of nursing home residents and their families.

Now that the legislation is out of committee, it could go to the floor for a full vote in either house. This is the perfect time to call your members and urge them to turn this bill into law.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:13 am

McCain on The View

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Thanks to a commenter for pointing these out.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:10 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Diabetes 2 epidemic from pollution?

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Maybe. Phyllida Brown writes in New Scientist:

ON 10 July 1976, a reactor at a chemical plant near the small town of Seveso in northern Italy exploded, sending a toxic cloud drifting into the summer sky. Around 18 square kilometres of land was contaminated with TCDD, a member of the notorious class of industrial chemicals known as dioxins.

The immediate after-effects were relatively mild: 15 children landed in hospital with skin inflammation and around 3300 small animals were killed. Today, however, the accident casts a long shadow over the people of Seveso, who are suffering increased numbers of premature deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease and, perhaps surprisingly, diabetes (American Journal of Epidemiology, vol 167, p 847).

To some diabetes researchers, Seveso serves as a warning to us all. Ask why diabetes is epidemic in the 21st century and most people will point the finger at bad diet, laziness and obesity. According to a small but growing group of scientists, though, the real culprit is a family of toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. If these researchers are right, POPs – which include some of the most reviled chemicals ever created, including dioxins, DDT and PCBs – may be key players in the web of events that lead people to develop the disease.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 9:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Environment, Medical, Science

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From whence the deficit?

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The graph is from a post by Ezra Klein, which begins:

In 2000, economists saw surpluses far into the future. The basic prediction was that, in 2009, we’d be running a $710 billion surplus. In reality, we’re going to see a $546 billion deficit. That’s a $1.3 trillion deterioration in federal finances since Bush took office. There are, as you’d expect, a fair number of excuses. Bad economy. Terrorism. The hand of God, in other words, which reached into our treasury and grabbed out the cash. But the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities took a look at the numbers and found that the change in fiscal future was not, in fact, an act of nature. It was an outcome of policy.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 8:01 am

Gentlemens Refinery II

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This morning I picked Gentlemens Refinery Black Ice shaving cream—and very nice stuff it is, too. The Simpsons Key Hole 3 Best produced a fine lather from it, and the Gillette Diplomat (like the President, but gold) with a new Treet Classic blade smoothed the rough places, with blue Floïd aftershave providing a nice menthol finish.

Written by Leisureguy

13 September 2008 at 7:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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