Later On

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

Archive for April 2009

List of Democratic Senators to be replaced

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I hope that the Senators named in this story by Mike Lillis are currently enjoying their last term in the Senate:

If there was ever a question of who controls the Senate, it was answered this afternoon when Democratic leaders fell a whopping 15 votes shy of moving legislation to empower bankruptcy judges to alter mortgages for the protection of homeowners.

The finance industry had fought fiercely to kill the proposal, and kill it they did. Supporters needed 60 votes to defeat what was expected to be a largely Republican filibuster. Instead they got 45.

Going into the vote, there was talk that a handful of big-bank-state Democrats would join all Republicans in opposing the bill. Instead, that handful became a dozen. They were:  Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tom Carper (Del.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Robert Byrd (W.Va.), Byron Dorgan (S.D.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson, (Neb.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark. [and Wal-Mart]) and Arlen Specter (Pa.).

Quite a difference Specter’s defection made.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 2:33 pm

Cool disposable pocket knife

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I read about these in Cool Tools, and my package of 10 arrived just today. They’re great! Good to have on hand, and to carry one with you.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 1:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

A better way to cook with olive oil

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Steve of Kafeneio experimented and made a great discovery. Read it here.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Banks vote down new legislation

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Banks, using their votes in the Senate, have successfully quashed legislation that would—horror!—have helped consumers. ThinkProgress:

Today, a proposal to change bankruptcy law and allow bankruptcy judges to cram-down mortgage payments for troubled homeowners failed in the Senate by a vote of 45-51. The provision, which was introduced as an amendment by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), required 60 votes to pass. In recent weeks, support for the measure evaporated in the face of furious lobbying by the banking and mortgage industries. Prior to the vote, Durbin — who this week said that bankers “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill” — took to the floor to decry the banking industry’s influence in the cram-down debate:

At some point the senators in this chamber will decide the bankers shouldn’t write the agenda for the United States Senate. At some point the people in this chamber will decide the people we represent are not the folks working in the big banks, but the folks struggling to make a living and struggling to keep a decent home.

Watch it:

The American News Project noted that the Mortgage Bankers Association was “in a celebratory mood” at its annual meeting this week because “a massive lobbying campaign” against cram-down appeared to be working.

Also, be sure to read Glenn Greenwald’s column on this:

en. Dick Durbin, on a local Chicago radio station this week, blurted out an obvious truth about Congress that, despite being blindingly obvious, is rarely spoken:  “And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”  The blunt acknowledgment that the same banks that caused the financial crisis “own” the U.S. Congress — according to one of that institution’s most powerful members — demonstrates just how extreme this institutional corruption is.

The ownership of the federal government by banks and other large corporations is effectuated in literally countless ways, none more effective than the endless and increasingly sleazy overlap between government and corporate officials.  Here is just one random item this week announcing a couple of standard personnel moves:

Former Barney Frank staffer now top Goldman Sachs lobbyist

Goldman Sachs’ new top lobbyist was recently the top staffer to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., on the House Financial Services Committee chaired by Frank.  Michael Paese, a registered lobbyist for the Securities Industries and Financial Markets Association since he left Frank’s committee in September, will join Goldman as director of government affairs, a role held last year by former Tom Daschle intimate, Mark Patterson, now the chief of staff at the Treasury Department. This is not Paese’s first swing through the Wall Street-Congress revolving door: he previously worked at JP Morgan and Mercantile Bankshares, and in between served as senior minority counsel at the Financial Services Committee.

So:  Paese went from Chairman Frank’s office to be the top lobbyist at Goldman, and shortly before that, Goldman dispatched Paese’s predecessor, close Tom Daschle associate Mark Patterson, to be Chief of Staff to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, himself a protege of former Goldman CEO Robert Rubin and a virtually wholly owned subsidiary of the banking industry.  That’s all part of what Desmond Lachman — American Enterprise Institute fellow, former chief emerging market strategist at Salomon Smith Barney and top IMF official (no socialist he) — recently described as “Goldman Sachs’s seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs.”

Meanwhile, the above-linked Huffington Post article which reported on Durbin’s comments also notes Sen. Evan Bayh’s previously-reported central role on behalf of the bankers in blocking legislation, hated by the banking industry, to allow bankruptcy judges to alter the terms of mortgages so that families can stay in their homes.  Bayh is up for re-election in 2010, and here — according to the indispensable Open Secrets site — is Bayh’s top donor: .,.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 12:58 pm

Condi implicates Bush in torture order

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Very interesting. Condi Rice says that she did not authorize torture, but conveyed the authorization. That seems to finger George W. Bush as the person who will take the Big Fall if we ever decide to enforce the law.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 12:50 pm

Narrowing the state secrets privilege

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Good news:

President Obama’s support for narrowing the state secrets privilege lends momentum to legislation now pending in the House and Senate.

Obama’s Justice Department has already used the legal defense three times to shield evidence in lawsuits challenging Bush administration counterterrorism policies.

“I actually think that the state secrets doctrine should be modified,” Obama said at his Wednesday night White House press conference. “I think right now it’s overbroad.”

Obama said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and White House counsel Gregory B. Craig are working on the issue. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy , D-Vt., has introduced a bill to circumscribe the privilege.

The Justice Department has invoked the privilege three times since Obama took office, in lawsuits against the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program and its practice of “rendition” in which suspected terrorists were shipped to other countries, allegedly to be tortured…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 12:30 pm

New Kafka collection reviewed

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Interesting review:

Franz Kafka: The Office Writings

by Franz Kafka

A review by Louis Begley

Franz Kafka was born in Prague in 1883 into an assimilated German-speaking middleclass Jewish family. He died of tuberculosis of the larynx in 1924, just short of his forty-first birthday, in Kierling, a small resort north of Vienna. Except for six months at the very end, when he escaped to Berlin with Dora Diamant, a young Polish-Jewish woman, and some inconsequential vacations, a number of which he spent in sanatoriums, and business travel in Bohemia and adjoining Moravia on behalf of the insurance company for which he worked, Kafka lived out his humdrum life in Prague, proving true the prediction he made at nineteen in a letter to a school friend: "Prague doesn’t let go. The old crone has claws. One has to yield."

The "old crone" was the capital of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, a Habsburg possession. After Vienna and Budapest, it ranked as the third most important city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The great majority of Bohemia’s population were Czech-speaking ethnic Czechs. German was the language of government and instruction, and of the upper and middle classes; and it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that nationalist Czechs wrested from the Habsburg administration theoretically equal status for their language. The small but ascendant German-speaking minority consisted of ethnic Germans and assimilated Jews. A minority within a minority, the Jews were ringed by the hatred of nationalist Czechs for everything German and by their virulent anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism was also commonplace among Christian Germans, but it was of the more "intelligent" sort that, unlike the Czech variety, did not break out in paroxysms of violence and destruction of property. After the defeat of the Central Powers in the fall of 1918, Bohemia became part of the newly independent Republic of Czechoslovakia, and from one day to the next the tables were turned on the German speakers in the land. They were no longer dominant in politics, and their language lost its official status.

Kafka’s name is used in its adjectival form around the world by millions of people who have never read a line he wrote: "Kafkaesque" is the universal term for experiences of modern life that leave one anxious, disconcerted, and feeling helpless. It is an odd form of adulation that carries with it the potential for trivializing Kafka’s work and its scope. But the grip of Kafka’s fiction on readers of all ages seems undiminished and his appeal to scholars seems well nigh universal. His life and work continue to receive an extraordinary amount of attention from critics and literary theorists and historians, who have made the dissection of his texts the center of their careers.

Academic Kafka scholarship — Kafkology, as Milan Kundera has called it — would have never gotten off the ground, or would have run out of steam long ago, if Max Brod, Kafka’s closest friend and de facto literary executor, had not chosen to disregard Kafka’s last instructions, which were to burn, unread, his personal papers: all the manuscripts, diaries, notebooks, letters, and drawings — he drew very well — that came into Brod’s possession or were in the hands of others. Kafka wanted only the works that were published in his lifetime, which were his only completed works, to stand as his surviving oeuvre. (From these he excluded Contemplation, a slim collection of prose poems published in January, 1913, which he disavowed. He did not wish to put Brod to the trouble of buying such copies of it as still existed and destroying them.) As for documents in the hands of others, he enjoined Brod to "ask for them in my name. Letters which they do not want to hand over to you, they should at least promise faithfully to burn them themselves."

But Brod believed that the "unpublished work contains the most wonderful treasures, and measured against his own work, the best things he has written," and so he decided to destroy nothing. Indeed, he set out to publish as expeditiously as possible the unfinished fiction. Overcoming obstacles that seemed insuperable — the dire economic and (especially for Jews) political situation in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s — he succeeded in arranging for the publication by 1937 of the great unfinished novels, Amerika, The Trial, and The Castle, the unfinished stories, many of Kafka’s letters to his family, friends, and editors, and excerpts from his diaries.

The open question was the fate of Kafka’s letters to …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2009 at 11:53 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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