Later On

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

Archive for April 15th, 2009

Good thoughts for your garden

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Excellent post at the Ethicurean on building your own tomato cages: better than you can buy and cheaper, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Senate is very badly broken

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And seems totally owned by wealthy contributors. In The New Republic Jonathan Chait has an article that is really worth reading. I linked to it in an earlier post, but I wanted to emphasize it. A few paragraphs, just as an example:

… The tone of the Senate’s disposition toward Obama was set from the very beginning. Coming into office during a severe economic emergency, he hoped that Congress would have a bill to jump-start consumer demand ready to sign immediately upon taking office. And most Democrats supported Obama’s position, though eleven House moderates defected, while a handful of their Senate colleagues joined with Republican moderates to water down the legislation. Economic forecasters projected that the original House bill would increase employment by 3.5 million. After the Senate rewrote the bill, forecasters downgraded their estimate to just 2.5 million. Moderates regarded their contribution with deep satisfaction…

… The first sign of how the Senate would respond came on February 27, when Kent Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, gave an interview to CNBC. Conrad listed three objections to Obama’s budget. First, he opposed a provision to limit tax deductions for high-income earners. Second, he opposed a new cap on crop subsidies to farmers who take in more than $500,000 per year. And, third, he upbraided Obama for not doing more to reduce the budget deficit.

You might think a performance like this–demanding that Obama do more to reduce the deficit while simultaneously opposing his deficit-reducing measures–would have turned Conrad into a punch line. Instead, it launched him as a symbol of fiscal rectitude and encouraged fellow Democrats to follow in his hypocritical wake. Numerous Democrats have since stepped forward to join what news reports have accurately described as a "revolt" against Obama’s budget…

And this one takes the cake:

The most emblematic objection has come from [Sen. Ben] Nelson [D-Neb}, who is balking at Obama’s plan to save money on college loans. You might suppose that a fiscal conservative like Nelson would agree with Obama’s plan to save $4 billion on a social program. But he does not, for reasons that provide a useful window into the rot afflicting the congressional Democratic Party.

For many years, the federal government supported college education by guaranteeing bank loans to students. If a student defaulted on his loan, Washington would simply pay back the difference. In 1993, Clinton undertook to reform the program by cutting out the middlemen and simply having the federal government issue the loans directly. Clinton hoped to save money for the government and plow some of those savings into lower interest rates for students. Of course, private lenders who benefitted from the no-risk profit stream balked and forced a compromise whereby both kinds of loans—guaranteed private loans, and direct loans from the government—would exist side by side.

Recent years have shown beyond a doubt that the direct lending program works better. Every independent analysis—by the Congressional Budget Office, by the Office of Management and Budget under each of the last three presidents, and by the New America Foundation–has found that direct lending is cheaper. The guaranteed-loan program managed to cling to life through its congressional patrons and through simple graft. In 2007, a major student-loan scandal emerged when it turned out that private lenders paid off college administrators to drop out of the direct lending program and steer students to them.

Obama thus proposes to save the taxpayers more than $4 billion per year by ending the guaranteed loans. This is as straightforward a case as you can find of a fight between special interests and the public good. Nelson opposes it because one of the lenders that benefits from federal overpayments is based in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Read the entire article, though it is very depressing. We have a thoroughly rotted group of Senators, from both parties.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Thousand-Hand Guan Yin

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This via Constant Reader, who notes:

There is an awesome dance, called the Thousand-Hand Kuan yin, which is making the rounds across the net. Considering the tight coordination required,their accomplishment is nothing short of amazing, even if they were not all deaf.  Yes, you read correctly.  All 21 of the dancers are complete deaf-mutes. Relying only on signals from trainers at the four corners of the stage, these extraordinary dancers deliver a visual spectacle that is at once intricate and stirring.

Its first major international debut was in Athens at the closing ceremonies for the 2004 Paralympics. But it had long been in the repertoire of the Chinese Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe and had traveled to more than 40 countries.

Its lead dancer is 29 year old Tai Lihua, who has a BA from the Hubei Fine Arts Institute.  The video was recorded in Beijing during the Spring Festival this year

From the YouTube info:

As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others

Guan Yin is the bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy. Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. Guan means to observe, watch, or monitor; Shi means the world; Yin means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who watches for, and responds to, the people in the world who cry out for help.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

Where your taxes go

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Via Kevin Drum, this informative piece, which includes this chart:


Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Taibbi rants over Newsweek’s religious issue

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Religion

A good Matt Taibbi post

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Good post—and good blog. The post includes:

… This is not a simple rhetorical accomplishment. It requires serious mental gymnastics to describe the Obama administration — particularly the Obama administration of recent weeks, which has given away billions to Wall Street and bent over backwards to avoid nationalization and pursue a policy that  preserves the private for-profit status of the bailed-out banks — as a militaristic dictatorship of anti-wealth, anti-private property forces. You have to somehow explain the Geithner/Paulson decisions to hand over trillions of taxpayer dollars to the rich bankers as the formal policy expression of progressive rage against the rich. Not easy. In order to pull off this argument, in fact, you have to grease the wheels with a lot of apocalyptic language and imagery, invoking as Beck did massive pictures of Stalin and Orwell and Mussolini (side by side with shots of Geithner, Obama and Bernanke), scenes of workers storming the Winter Palace interspersed with anti-AIG protests, etc. — and then maybe you have to add a crazy new twist, like switching from complaints of “socialism” to warnings of “fascism.” Rhetorically, this is the equivalent of trying to paint a picture by hurling huge handfuls of paint at the canvas. It’s desperate, last-ditch-ish behavior.

It’s been strange and kind of depressing to watch the conservative drift in this direction. In a way, actually, the Glenn Beck show has been drearily fascinating of late. It’s not often that we get to watch someone go insane on national television; trapped in an echo chamber of his own spiraling egomania, with apparently no one at his network willing to pull the plug and put him out of his misery, Beck has lately gone from being a mildly annoying media dingbat to a self-imagined messiah who looks like he’s shouldering more and more of the burdens of Christ with each passing day. And because he’s stepping into a vacuum of conservative leadership — there’s no one else out there who is offering real red meat to the winger crowd — he’s begun to attract not professional help but apostles, in the form of Chuck Norris (who believes we have to prepare for armed revolution and may prepare a run for “president of Texas”) and pinhead Midwestern congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, a woman who is looking more and more like George Foreman to Sarah Palin’s Joe Frazier in the Heavyweight Championship of Stupid. Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! …

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Interesting approach to healthcare legislation

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William Galston blogs for The New Republic:

Of all the major items on Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda, health reform has the best chance of passage during the current congress. While many battle-scarred veterans are skeptical, more stars are in alignment than in the past. Previously secure workers have lost, or are afraid of losing, their employer-provided health insurance. Employers are losing confidence that they can continue to provide insurance on terms their workers and businesses can afford. And there is more agreement on the broad outlines of reform than there was 15 years ago, when the collapse of the Clinton initiative chilled comprehensive health insurance efforts for a generation.

The strategic question now before the Congress is whether this year’s legislation will proceed on a bipartisan or Democrats-only basis. Early battles over the stimulus package and the budget have convinced many Democrats that cooperation with Republicans is impossible–or possible only on terms that amount to surrender of key hopes and core principles.

Before framing the health care debate in these terms, however, Democratic leaders should take another look at the Wyden-Bennett "Healthy Americans Act," the only truly bipartisan proposal on offer. Sponsored by six Republican and eight Democratic senators (including liberals like Dan Inouye, Debbie Stabenow, and Jeff Merkley), the HAA would create a centrally financed, publicly regulated private market in health insurance. There’s much else to recommend it: Public standards would ensure that all Americans enjoy coverage at least equal to what members of Congress now enjoy. Employers would terminate their existing coverage and pay the equivalent to their workers in increased wages. They would also be required to pay an assessment per worker of between two and 25 percent of the national average premium for the basic insurance package.Workers would be given a new health premium tax deduction so that wage gains would not increase their income taxes. And premiums for those at or below the poverty level would be fully subsidized, while individuals and families with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of poverty would receive subsidies on a sliding scale.

Would the HAA work? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2009 at 4:23 pm

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