Later On

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

Archive for April 1st, 2009

VoteVets on "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"

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Worth reading:

During an interview in 2007, Marine Corps General Robert Magnus addressed what it was like having to deal with intolerance and bigotry in the ranks during the 1970s:

When asked if being Jewish was ever a liability in his expansive military career, Magnus’ answer is matter-of-fact: It has not. More pointedly, when asked about anti-Semitism, he recalls only one incident, years ago, when as a captain someone foolishly called him a "Jew boy." His response: "I punched him in the face."

Ironically, the now-retired General Magnus—whose own career was enabled by the tolerance of those not like him—is now actively working to prevent gays from serving openly in the military.  

This is hypocrisy.  

When it was announced on Tuesday that over 1,000 flag and general officers had signed a letter urging President Obama to continue barring gays from serving openly in the military, General Magnus was among them.  

Now, this one general’s hypocrisy  aside, the whole thing struck me as a bit odd.  When I read the letter to President Obama, I became even more perplexed by the language:  …

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 2:13 pm

The problem with the Senate

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publius has a good post on the topic:

To echo dday and Ezra Klein, I tend to think that the problems with the Senate described in Chait’s new TNR article are structural. That is, the problem with the Senate is the Senate itself rather than the individual Senators.

The fact that the Senate kills and waters down legislation is no accident — it’s the whole point. Legislative failure is written into the DNA of our constitutional system. It’s a great system for blocking ambitious legislative changes, but it’s a horrible one for enacting major national reform. Hell, African-Americans in the South couldn’t vote 100 years after the Civil War — or even publicly eat with whites — largely because of the Senate. As Sanford Levinson’s most excellent book illustrates, our Constitution simply has a lot of very dumb provisions. The Senate is one of them.

Anyway, as dday noted, this is a structural problem that requires a structural solution. The more appropriate solutions — e.g., getting rid of 2 Senators per state; adopting a more parliamentary system — aren’t going to happen. We could, however, take more ambitious steps to reforming the Senate even while accepting some of its more permanent flaws. It’s at least conceivable, for instance, that we could "constitutionalize" internal Senate procedure to make the body more legitimate — e.g., limit the filibuster; eliminate "holds"; curtail the power of committee chairs.

I realize none of this will happen soon. And who knows — maybe Obama’s ambitious agenda will be wildly successful, thus rehabilitating the Senate. But Senate reform should be added to the longer-term progressive agenda. Indeed, the other big-ticket items on that agenda — things like health care reform and cap-and-trade — might not be possible without it. I guess we’re about to find out.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 12:58 pm

Interesting take on throwing away the Pension Fund money

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Josh Marshall:

The more I look at these investment decisions of Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation and former Lehman exec Charles Millard the more my suspicion grows that some very bad happened here. There’s no question that something happened very bad for the pensioners who were relying on this fund. But is there any conceivable good reason why you’d take most (the quote from the Boston Globe is "much" of the funds) of the assets of the fund designed to insure pension benefits out of safe investments like bonds and put them into highly speculative investments — hedge fund, equities, etc. — just before the stock market collapsed.

Incompetence doesn’t cut it as an explanation.

First, some topline numbers: The PBGC decided to put most of its $64 billion of reserves into stocks. And already by September 2008, i.e., before the bottom really fell out on Wall Street, the stock portfolio had already lost 23%. That percentage must be much higher today.

One of the big drives behind Social Security privatization was the desire to find more money — in the case of Social Security, a lot more money — to keep the fires burning on Wall Street. Not just more fees for the people handling the money, but more money to keep pushing asset values higher. This looks like the same thing just using slightly different means.

Late Update: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 12:51 pm

Courage from Bayer CropScience

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Typical, unfortunately:

Source: New York Times, March 28, 2009

Bayer CropScience has invoked the specter of terrorism in a bid to limit what information the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board can release at a public hearing into a chemical plant explosion in West Virginia that killed two employees. Bayer is claiming that "because it has a dock for barge shipments on the adjacent Kanawha River, its entire 400-acre site qualifies under the 2002 federal Maritime Transportation Security Act," reports Sean D. Hamill. "It has asked the Coast Guard, which has jurisdiction under the act, to review the public release of ‘sensitive security information.’" Bayer appears to want to limit discussion of the potential hazards of methyl isocyanate, the same chemical made at Bhopal, India, notes Hamill. On its website, Bayer CropScience states that one of its core values is "integrity, openness and honesty" and that it is committed to "having the courage to tell the truth" and "presenting the unvarnished truth in an appropriate and helpful manner."

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Fun column from Greenwald

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Commenting on how the Right always feels mistreated, he writes:

The predominant attribute of the right-wing movement is self-victimizing petulance over the unfair treatment to which they are endlessly and mercilessly subjected.  Last week, C-SPAN broadcast a Commentary Magazine event that almost certainly set a record for most tough-guy/warrior nepotism ever stuffed onto a single panel, as it featured William Kristol (son of Irv and Gertrude), John Podhoretz (son of Norm and Midge), and Jonah Goldberg (son of Lucianne).  Jihadis around the world are undoubtedly still trembling at the sight of this brigade of Churchillian toughness.

Exemplifying the deeply self-pitying theme of the entire discussion, Jonah continuously insisted that conservative magazines are so very, very important to the political landscape — indispensably so — because conservative voices are frozen out of mainstream media venues by The Liberal Media, so that poor, lonely, stigmatized conservatives can only get right-wing opinion in places like Weekly Standard and National Review.  In between Jonah’s petulant laments about how conservative opinion cannot be heard in The Mainstream Media, Bill Kristol talked about his New York Times column and his Washington Post column, John Podhoretz told stories about his tenure editing The New York Post Editorial Page and Charles Krauthammer’s years of writing a column for Time and The New Republic, and Jonah referenced his Los Angeles Times column.  None of them ever recognized the gaping disparity between those facts and their woe-is-us whining about conservative voices like theirs being shut out of The Liberal Media.   So important in conservative mythology is self-victimization that they maintain it even as they themselves unwittingly provide the facts which disprove it.

Today, National Review‘s Andy McCarthy advises readers that — shock of all shocks — The New York Times today, for some indiscernible reason, for once actually allowed his opinion to seep into its rigidly leftist pages:

Here’s Something You Don’t See In the New York Times Everyday [Andy McCarthy]

Namely, my opinion — on the controversy over the Uighur detainees at Gitmo.

He can’t just say that he has a contribution in the Times today.  Everything has to be accompanied by a self-pitying grievance lest the victimization be undermined.  Thus:  it’s such a shock when one encounters a strong conservative voice like McCarthy’s in The Liberal Media.  The leftist censoring editors at the NYT must have been out sick yesterday, as only that could explain how they let such a brave right-wing voice slip through.  Something like that basically never happens because conservatives are treated so unfairly in the media and are excluded from those venues, and it’s specifically shocking and rare that opinions from someone like McCarthy would ever, ever be found in a place like The New York Times: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

When is torture not torture?

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When the US does it and the Washington Post (and NY Times and Associated Press) report it. Andrew Sullivan:

When The Washington Post Calls Waterboarding “Torture”

When it’s done by the Khmer Rouge:

His victims — most of whom were either disgraced members of the Khmer Rouge or their families — were tortured with electric shocks, waterboarding, or beating to extract a confession, which would implicate new victims… Among the four forms of torture he officially condoned, they said, was pouring water up victims’ noses.

Note also that repeated beatings are also put in the “torture” category, another technique that the Washington Post does not describe as torture when authorized by president Bush. It’s rare you see a leading newspaper reveal that it has one set of moral standards for non-Americans and another one for the people they socialize with.

Remember: we don’t torture. When Bush said that he meant: when we do it, it’s not torture. And the WaPo and the AP and the NYT‘s news divisions agree.

A longer and angrier post on the same topic.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 12:10 pm

The Party of No attacks Koh

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Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent:

It should come as no surprise that President Obama’s nomination of the widely respected human rights expert and dean of the Yale Law School, Harold Hongju Koh, to be the State Department’s legal adviser has gotten conservatives to call out their attack dogs, as FOX News reports.

Koh, as Spencer has written, is a former Clinton administration State Department official who actually cares about human rights: at Alberto Gonzales’ confirmation hearing to become attorney general in 2005, he testified that the infamous August 2002 Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing torture was “perhaps the most clearly erroneous legal opinion that I have ever read” and a “stain on our national reputation.” Of course, Jack Goldsmith, the former Bush administration OLC official, has also attacked those opinions as “deeply flawed” and “sloppily reasoned,” so Koh is hardly alone.

But Koh — who is the author or co-author of eight books and more than 150 articles on international human rights, business, national security and international law, among other things — has on occasion also boldly expressed his strong respect for international human rights law, which doesn’t go over very well with many conservatives.

In an article published in the Berkeley Journal of International Law in 2004, for example, which FOX News cites, Koh asked: “What role can transnational legal process play in affecting the behavior of several nations whose disobedience with international law has attracted global attention after September 11th — most prominently, North Korea, Iraq and our own country, the United States of America? For shorthand purposes, I will call these countries ‘the axis of disobedience.’”

Putting the United States in the same axis as North Korea and Iraq has, not surprisingly, outraged critics who, like the Bush administration, don’t believe the U.S. ought to be reined in by international legal standards…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2009 at 11:58 am

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