Later On

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

Archive for February 7th, 2009

Jane Hamsher on Rahm’s role

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Well worth reading, Hamsher’s post begins:

After yesterday’s drama, Rahm is fashioning himself the "hero" of the Gang of Fools compromise.  Press accounts are full of glowing tributes like this:

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel attended the final meetings in Reid’s office last night to work out lingering differences. Before Emanuel arrived, Collins said, Democrats were advocating $63 billion in cuts. "Then Rahm got involved, and a much better proposal came forward," she said. 

As AP puts it, " the group backed away from a confrontation that threatened to kill the legislation altogether after White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel weighed in to urge Democrats make a final round of concessions."  In other words, his idea of "bipartisanship" has always been to beat up Democrats and make them give in to conservative policy objectives that already have strong Republican support.  It’s how he operated in the House, how he "gets stuff done."  He doesn’t know how to craft policy and win consensus.

And it looks like the war between Pelosi and Rahm heats up:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the proposed reductions "do violence to what we are trying to do for the future," especially on alternative energy and education, two areas Democrats believe were long neglected under President George W. Bush. "The cuts are very damaging," she told reporters at a House Democratic retreat in Williamsburg. 

She also said "Washington seems consumed by this process argument of bipartisanship."  I don’t think she meant it as a compliment.

If Rahm wants to brag about …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 12:59 pm

What exactly is the Pentagon up to?

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Marcy Wheeler:

The AP just did a great investigation on how much money DOD is spending on PR and outreach (via Noah Shachtman). There are lots of nausea-inducing details in the story: that PR funds have grown 63% in the last five years, that DOD has almost as many people working in PR as the State Department employs altogether.

But what gets me is that DOD is spending more for Domestic PsyOps (otherwise known as Public Affairs) than it spends on Foreign PsyOps.

The biggest chunk of funds — about $1.6 billion — goes into recruitment and advertising. Another $547 million goes into public affairs, which reaches American audiences. And about $489 million more goes into what is known as psychological operations, which targets foreign audiences.

[snip] …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Military

A greens-centered lunch

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Today’s lunch:

Slice 4 slices thick bacon into squares, sauté in large (4-qt) sauté pan over medium heat.

While that is going on, chop 1/2 large onion and a handful of shiitake mushrooms. Put in bowl to be added later.

Wash one bunch red dandelion greens (the stems are red) in lots of cold water, shake dry, and chop.

As bacon browns, add the onion and mushrooms and stir to sauté. Add a good splash of cherry wood aged organic golden balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Or you could use mirin.

As onions cook, add a splash of homemade pepper sauce.

Add greens and cook, stirring, until wilted.

Add about 1 cup of chicken stock and 1/2 cup whole wheat orzo. Turn heat to low and cover pan.

Let simmer for about 9 minutes, until orzo nears done. Uncover, make a couple of nests in the greens, and put an egg in each nest. Cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes until eggs are done the way you like them.

Scoop up eggs and eat.

There should be enough left for dinner: one more egg and top all with grated cheese. Cover and heat until egg’s done and cheese is melted.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 12:18 pm

Obama faces scrutiny

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Via Brad DeLong, an excellent short piece in Financial Times by Edward Luce:

Barack Obama faces an unexpectedly early test on Tuesday of whether he can govern as a bipartisan president when he meets Republican lawmakers to try to roll back the growing tide of conservative hostility to his $850bn stimulus plan.

Republican leaders have become increasingly strident in their opposition to the plan, which they claim is stuffed with spending on Democratic special interests and contains little in the way of genuine stimulus. Mr Obama has portrayed the vote, which is expected to take place in the House of Representatives as early as this week, as a critical test of whether he can govern from the centre.

Unless he comes up with a new incentive for Republicans to change their position, Mr Obama’s bipartisan aspirations could go up in smoke before he has completed a week in office.

“It looks like the Republicans have decided to take on Obama sooner rather than later,” says Doug Schoen, a leading Democratic pollster.

“It is a low-risk strategy. If the stimulus fails, Republicans can claim they were right all along. If it works, then they were fulfilling their role as the loyal opposition.”

Nevertheless, observers are taken aback by the harsh tone of Republican opposition to the bill at this early stage in Mr Obama’s presidency – particularly given his willingness to make compromises over its content. At the risk of alienating the liberal wing of the Democratic party, Mr Obama conceded $275bn (€208bn, £187bn) in tax cuts even before he was sworn in.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 11:48 am

Obama’s new Economic Board has the wrong people on it

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Read all about it.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Obama administration

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Strong response to Panetta’s "torture for free" card

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Leon Panetta has stated that there will be no prosecutions of CIA staff for torturing prisoners—not even, I suppose, if they killed the prisoner, as happened multiple times. The US is not what it was. Crooks & Liars has a very good post on this decision, from which I excerpt the following:

As I’ve written before — and Scott Horton in particular has done a great job in pointing to the correct legal precedents for — being told torture and other war crimes were legally justified (especially when they cannot be) is no excuse. International law which was in part established by American prosecutors and judges at Nuremberg is that it is up to each individual to act his conscience and to bear the consequences of so doing.

Worse, not prosecuting the torturers sets up a malicious feedback that fatally undermines prosecutions for ordering torture. If there’s no prosecution for commission of a crime, how can someone be prosecuted for ordering what is apparently admitted isn’t a crime? No defense lawyer is going to pass up such a gift argument and the Obama administration knows it. Not prosecuting those who tortured is a "get out of jail free card" not only for the torturers but for those who ordered torture and those who falsely said torture could ever be legal. It’s a travesty of justice and one that Chris Dodd has sadly admitted Democratic leaders have looked the other way on for purely political reasons.

And with the news that Panetta wants to reserve the possibility of using "enhanced interrogation" techniques which go beyond the US military code — which in turn is simply a retelling of the Geneva Conventions and binding treaties on torture — along with the Obama administration’s complicity in shielding Bush officials from revelations of torture…well, my Newshoggers colleague Jay McDonough is correct. "We cannot, despite assurances otherwise, trust our government not to render and torture detainees."

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 11:30 am

Negotiating with the insane: it doesn’t work

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Steven Benen of Political Animal:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gave a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, complaining not only about the government stimulus, but the process by which the stimulus was put together.

"This [is] not remotely close to what we could have done if we had sat down in a true bipartisan fashion and found a better way."

Similarly, John McCain said the bill should have been "bipartisan," and it doesn’t count that the package is drawing support from Democrats and Republicans.

Republican leaders said the compromise remained a bloated, wasteful spending bill, and they derided the scant GOP support as fig-leaf bipartisanship. "You can call it a lot of things, but you can’t call it bipartisanship," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The Weekly Standard‘s Fred Barnes added, "Republicans got nothing in the bill."

First, it’s amusing to see Republican leaders redefine words. Democratic leaders and the White House negotiated for days with several Republican senators, and made painful and unnecessary cuts just to earn their support. This, however, isn’t "true" bipartisanship, presumably because the far-right is still unhappy.

Second, President Obama spent a considerable amount of time and energy engaging congressional Republicans directly, soliciting ideas, making changes, and hearing them out. To hear GOP leaders tell it now, Democrats deserve blame for not incorporating more failed right-wing ideas into the package. (Including hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts wasn’t enough to satisfy Republican demands.) The goal, they insist, should be making the failed minority party happy, not rescuing the economy in a time of crisis.

And third, it can’t be stated enough that negotiating with people detached from reality is fundamentally impossible. Obama came to the table stating a simple truth: given the circumstances and exhausted options, the economy needs a government stimulus. He was prepared to have good-faith discussions over how much should be spent, where it should be invested, how quickly, etc.

In response, …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 11:14 am

Stimulus package “too big”?

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Jon Perr has an excellent post at Crooks & Liars that begins:

As President Obama finally starts to fight for his economic stimulus bill, roadblock Republicans in the Senate continue to decry the price tag. While John Thune (R-SD) described how many times $1 trillion worth of $100 bills would circle the earth, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proclaimed “Americans can’t afford a trillion-dollar mistake.” Of course, back in 2001, the GOP had no qualms (along with some invertebrate Democrats) in passing George W. Bush’s much larger $1.4 trillion tax cut package. And as today’s unending sea of red ink and unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth attest, the Republican Party is simply calling for more of the same.

Unlike the 7.6% unemployment rate and $1.2 trillion deficit Barack Obama inherited, George W. Bush arrived at the White House with a federal budget surplus and joblessness at 4.2% – and no mandate. But as every sentient being outside of the mainstream media will recall, Bush promised to slash taxes for the wealthiest Americans, including an end to the estate tax (lovingly rebranded by GOP spinmeisters as the “death tax.”). And despite his loss of the popular vote to Al Gore and facing a 50-50 Senate, President Bush and his team made clear there would be no search for common ground with Democrats in pursuit of the 10-year, $1.6 trillion package. As Vice President Dick Cheney put it on December 17, 2000:

“As President-elect Bush has made very clear, he ran on a particular platform that was very carefully developed. It’s his program, it’s his agenda, and we have no intention at all of backing off of it. It’s why we got elected.

So we’re going to aggressively pursue tax changes, tax reform, tax cuts, because it’s important to do so. […] The suggestion that somehow, because this was a close election, we should fundamentally change our beliefs, I just think is silly.”

For his part, Bush presented the tax cuts as the cure for whatever might ail the economy, both a tasty dessert topping and a floor polish.

Later proclaiming the tax cuts “vital” for economic growth, at first President Bush announced they were essential for emptying the flush treasury (and not a recession) he had inherited from Bill Clinton:

“‘The surplus is not the government’s money. The surplus is the people’s money. And I’m here to ask you to join me in making that case to any federal official you can find.”

And listen they did. In Congress, the Republican leadership insisted the Bush tax cut package proceed as designed, a point echoed by the White House. As the New York Times recounted on January 23, 2001: …

Continue reading.  And note this from a similar post at ThinkProgress:

If you compare the condition of the economy in 2001 to the current state of the economy, the numbers show that those who now call the recovery package too big, were willing to spend far more when the economic situation wasn’t nearly as precarious:

2001 2009
Cost of package: $1.35 trillion $900 billion
Unemployment: 4% 7.6%
Percent of Population Living In Poverty: 12.7% 17%
Foreclosure Rates: .48% 1.19%
Americans Relying On Food Stamps: 17 million Over 30 million

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 11:04 am

GOP, Party of Lies

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Phoenix Woman has a good post at Firedoglake, which begins:

Republicans lie about everything, big and small.  They just do.  This week was filled with examples given to us by Andy Card, Rush Limbaugh, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, and Tony Blankley.  In fact, if a prominent Republican was flapping his or her gums this week, it was very likely that a lie is what popped out from between them.

Taking the liars in order:

Former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card took pot shots at Obama for not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office like Card’s ex-boss George W. Bush always did.   Except, of course, that he didn’t.  Neither did any of his immediate predecessors.   But trust Card, who had no problem with his boss invading Iraq and murdering hundreds of thousands of persons (and breaking the Treasury to do it), to try and make up a lie about cheap symbolism over actual substance.

— When he wasn’t using lies to inflame his listeners into flooding Capitol Hill switchboards over the stimulus package, Rush Limbaugh was lying about Guantanamo.

— Speaking of lying about Gitmo, guess what Dick Cheney was doing, with an assist from The Politico?  He lied so badly and blatantly that he nearly drove the normally-phlegmatic Lawrence O’Donnell to rage on Countdown Wednesday night.

— Know how guys like Mitch McConnell and Tony Blankley have been citing what they say are Congressional Budget Office claims that the stimulus package won’t do any good?  Guess what — they’re lying.   Here’s what CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf actually told Congress recently about the stimulus package: "In CBO’s judgment, H.R. 1 would provide a substantial boost to economic activity over the next several years relative to what would occur without any legislation."

Spread the word, everyone.  Tell all your friends and rellies:  Republicans lie about everything.  Everything.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in GOP

Republicans have poor memories

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John Hoekstra, for example. ThinkProgress:

Rep. Pete Hoeksra (R-MI), the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, revealed classified intelligence information on Twitter when he reported on his “congressional trip to Iraq this weekend that was supposed to be a secret.” “Just landed in Baghdad,” messaged Hoekstra, who was part of a delegation led by John Boehner (R-OH). CQ reports, “Before the delegation left Washington, they were advised to keep the trip to themselves for security reasons. A few media outlets, including Congressional Quarterly, learned about it, but agreed not to disclose anything until the delegation had left Iraq.” Hoekstra not only revealed the existence of the trip, but included details about their itinerary. In a May 2006 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Hoekstra wrote:

But every time classified national security information is leaked, our ability to gather information on those who would do us harm is eroded. … I regret that I see little sign of intolerance for unauthorized disclosures of intelligence to the media from some of my Democratic colleagues today. … We are a nation at war. Unauthorized disclosures of classified information only help terrorists and our enemies – and put American lives at risk.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 10:36 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

California’s in a bad way

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I just received this email from the Courage Campaign:

California is broke. The state is printing IOUs — or what we are calling "Arnoldbucks" — instead of tax refund checks. Unemployment claims are not being processed. And yesterday, government offices were closed and workers sent home without pay.

This is an unprecedented crisis. Without a budget deal, the state cannot provide the economic recovery that we so desperately need. Democrats have already agreed to a package of new revenues and extremely tough spending cuts.

But that’s not enough for these right-wing Republicans. Republicans refuse to vote for a budget, unless Democrats agree to eliminate meal and rest breaks for workers and stop the fight against global warming.

The Republicans are proposing trading votes with Democrats to eliminate bedrock labor and environmental protections.

It may sound like politics as usual, but vote trading is against the law. Section 86 of the California Penal Code explicitly prohibits this kind of horse-trading. But Republicans, whose oath to anti-tax extremists supersedes their oath to the constitution, are ignoring the law. They are using the state’s financial crisis to explicitly trade their votes for a budget that would crush the California dream.

And now, a coalition of groups are joining together to call on California Attorney General Jerry Brown and United States Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate, including the California Labor Federation, Sierra Club California, State Building and Construction Trades Council and the Planning and Conservation League.

Time is running out. To stop what the Republicans are doing, we have to take action before it’s too late. That’s why we’re joining our friends in the environmental and labor community to ask Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate Republican legislators for illegal vote trading on our state’s budget. Will you join us right now?:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/UpholdTheLaw

Just two weeks ago Americans watched with relief as George W. Bush left the White House and saw Barack Obama restore the rule of law to our federal government. Unfortunately California Republicans continue to follow Bush’s lead by ignoring the law in pursuit of a far-right agenda.

We need to put a stop to Republican lawlessness. Before it’s too late.

Thank you for helping to restore the rule of law to California.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 10:32 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Tax enforcement

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The GOP hates taxes beyond all reason, and thus they hate the IRS and its tax collection effort. Their strategy, as in much of government, is to avoid fully funding the IRS, especially the collection efforts. Thus the IRS has been forced to abandon random audits, which help determine the amount of under-reporting of taxes, and even to cut back on investigating suspicious tax returns, with the result that things like Timothy Geithner’s and Tom Daschle’s tax cheating is not caught. The amount of unreported income and unpaid taxes is in the billions, which the GOP likes. But Mike Lillis points out some facts:

What was bad news for Tom Daschle, Nancy Killefer, Tim Geithner and now Hilda Solis might be good news for the federal government.

Their recent tax woes — by which we mean their getting caught not paying their (or their spouses’) taxes — mean that the IRS is probably right about (or even underestimating?) the extent to which Americans — both individuals and corporations — cheat on their taxes. (In its latest tally, the IRS estimates that the 2001 tax gap — the chasm between taxes owed and taxes actually collected — was $345 billion.)

Why is that good news? Because much of that could be retrievable.

As Te-Ping Chen at The Center for Public Integrity points out this week, every dollar the IRS spends on tax enforcement returns five dollars. Chen also offers a few reasons why the IRS hasn’t closed the gap in recent years:

One reason is a slump in IRS staffing. Over the past decade, the number of agents that perform audits has dropped by over a third. Meanwhile in 2007, in what the Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse calls a “historic collapse,” only 26 percent of corporations holding at least $250 million in assets had their books inspected — compared to more than 70 percent in 1990. (The fact that Congress outsourced debt collection to private agencies in 2004, costing the government $37 million more than such agencies manage to collect, hasn’t helped either.)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, has been screaming from the rafters for years about how Congress needs to find some way to close the tax gap. Daschle & Co. might just provide the impetus for lawmakers to start trying in earnest.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 9:47 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Tagged with

The UK’s gradual move toward authoritarian government

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A very serious problem as the age of Big Brother, predicted by George Orwell in the book 1984, begins to be visible. Here’s a report by Henry Porter in The Guardian:

The House of Lords report on Britain’s surveillance society is a devastating analysis of the systems that have been installed by the authoritarian Labour government and the controlling forces emerging in local government. There is no question now that Britain’s free society is under threat, and it is time for the public and opposition parties to declare an end to this regime of intrusion.

Until today it has been the work of activists, journalists and a handful of academics like Clive Norris of Sheffield University to warn of the dangers to our freedom and privacy posed by the database state. Now it is official. There could be no more authoritative judgment than this measured report, Surveillance Citizens and the State, produced by the Lord’s constitution committee. The report says that mass surveillance "risks undermining the fundamental relationship between the state and citizens, which is the cornerstone of democracy and good governance".

It paints a picture of a governing class that has become obsessed with the collection of personal data. The public is "often unaware of the vast amount of information about them that is kept and exchanged between organisations" This will be greatly increased if Jack Straw’s coroners’ and justice bill is allowed to pass through the Commons, with Labour manipulating the parliamentary schedule so that the data-sharing proposals contained in it go largely unscrutinised.

The report says that successive governments have constructed an advanced surveillance society on the pretext of dealing with the menace of crime and terror. It amounts "to one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the second world war". I would add that it is the greatest threat to our democracy since Britain faced Hitler’s military machine…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 9:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

A little exercise for you

with 2 comments

This is from my sophomore year language tutorial, and I thought it was an interesting and useful exercise. Consider "The Silken Tent," a Shakespearian sonnet by Robert Frost:

She is as in a field a silken tent
At midday when the sunny summer breeze
Has dried the dew and all its ropes relent,
So that in guys it gently sways at ease,

And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,

But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To everything on earth the compass round,
And only by one’s going slightly taut

In the capriciousness of summer air
Is of the slightest bondage made aware.

You will note that the poem is a single sentence. Diagram that sentence.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 9:32 am

Excellent tool for installing Java

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As the article notes, when you install a Java update, the older version(s) remain—a very weird and problematic decision by the Java engineers. So you must manually uninstall the older versions—unless you use this very nice tool.

Most of us have the Java Run time Environment on our Windows computers. Not because we like Java or Sun Micro systems but JRE allows us to play some on-line games and run specific small applications also referred to as applets. I won’t go into the nitty gritty because you probably don’t care but if you want to learn more about JRE and the Java Machine it launches check out this Wikipedia article.

My company has JRE on all its machines because it is how our employees clock in and out of our Etime system. Because of this we are constantly updating the JRE on client machines. One thing that baffles me about JRE is that it does not remove older versions when upgrading. Right now Sun has a version out called JRE 6 update 12. On some of my machines we have 3 older versions of Java and other 5 or 6. This is just crazy!

I thought that was standard practice in the software world. Especially since they release upgrades when they are fixing vulnerabilities. So having older versions of JRE on your machine could be a back door in for some elicit hacker. Now I am not one to get you all worked up and paranoid without a solution (an easy one at that!)

RAProducts has a small program called JavaRa 1.3 that will fix you right up. It will help you grab the latest and greatest JRE version and remove all the other crap from your machine. Let’s download the tiny 67.9KB stand alone program.

You do not need to install it – it just runs. Double click on it, choose your language and you will see this: …

Continue reading. I just ran it—installed latest version, removed three older versions, and removed useless files. Works like a charm. I donated.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Limey

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Mama Bear’s Lime & Vanilla today, which produced a good lather with the Simpsons Persian Jar 2 Super. The Edwin Jagger ivory Chatsworth with its Swedish Gillette blade delivered a very easy shave and smooth finish. Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes was the right aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

7 February 2009 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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