Later On

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

Archive for June 18th, 2009

Wow! Washington Post fires Dan Froomkin

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I’m astonished. Dan Froomkin is their best columnist on the White House and politics in general. He bases his criticisms on facts and calls them as he sees them. He criticized Bush when Bush was president, and though he likes some of what Obama has done, he doesn’t like other things and doesn’t hesitate to criticize. Glenn Greenwald:

One of the rarest commodities in the establishment media is someone who was a vehement critic of George Bush and who now, applying their principles consistently, has become a regular critic of Barack Obama — i.e., someone who criticizes Obama from what is perceived as "the Left" rather than for being a Terrorist-Loving Socialist Muslim.  It just got a lot rarer, as The Washington Post — at least according to Politico‘s Patrick Gavin — just fired columnist, long-time Bush critic and Obama watchdog (i.e., a real journalist) Dan Froomkin.

What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry is that, as Calderone notes, Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists.  At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 3 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns.  In publishing that data, Media Bistro used this headline:  "The Post’s Most Popular Opinions (Read: Froomkin)."  Isn’t that an odd person to choose to get rid of?

Following the bottomless path of self-pity of the standard right-wing male — as epitomized by Pete Hoekstra’s comparison of House Republicans to Iranian protesters and yet another column by Pat Buchanan decrying the systematic victimization of the white male in America — Charles Krauthammer last night said that Obama critics on Fox News are "a lot like [Hugo Chavez’] Caracas where all the media, except one, are state run."  But right-wing polemicists like Krauthammer are all over the media. 

In addition to his Rupert Murdoch perch at Fox, Krauthammer remains as a regular columnist at the Post, alongside fellow right-wing Obama haters such as Bill Kristol, George Will, Jim Hoagland, Michael Gerson and Robert Kagan — as well as a whole bevy of typical, banal establishment spokespeople who are highly supportive of whatever the permanent Washington establishment favors (David Ignatius, Fred Hiatt, Ruth Marcus, David Broder, Richard Cohen, Howie Kurtz, etc. etc.).   And that’s to say nothing of the regular Op-Ed appearances by typical Krauthammer-mimicking neoconservative voices such as John Bolton, Joe Lieberman, and Douglas Feith — and the Post Editorial Page itself.  "Caracas" indeed. 

Notably, Froomkin just recently had a somewhat acrimonious exchange with the oh-so-oppressed Krauthammer over torture, after Froomkin criticized Krauthammer’s explicit endorsement of torture and Krauthammer responded by calling Froomkin’s criticisms "stupid."  And now — weeks later — Froomkin is fired by the Post while the persecuted Krauthammer, comparing himself to endangered journalists in Venezuela, remains at the Post, along with countless others there who think and write just like he does:  i.e., standard neoconservative pablum.  Froomkin was previously criticized for being "highly opinionated and liberal" by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell (even as she refused to criticize blatant right-wing journalists).

All of this underscores a critical and oft-overlooked point:  …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 3:01 pm

Email from Marijuana Policy Project

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Just received this email:

Today, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to eliminate all federal penalties for marijuana possession. This came only one week after he also introduced a bill to protect medical marijuana patients.

Would you please take one minute to ask your U.S. representative to support these two bills? MPP’s easy online action center makes it simple — just enter your name and contact info, and we’ll do the rest.

The Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 would eliminate the threat of federal arrest and prison for the possession of up to 3.5 ounces of marijuana and the not-for-profit transfer of an ounce of marijuana — nationwide.

What’s more, last week Congressman Frank introduced the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which would allow states to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail without federal interference, as well as allow pharmacies to dispense marijuana to patients with a doctor’s recommendation. You can take action on this bill here.

MPP has worked closely with Congressman Frank’s staff in past months, helping to craft both pieces of legislation and build political support for the proposals on Capitol Hill.

Now members of Congress need to hear from their constituents who want to see it passed — that means you! It takes only a minute or two to use MPP’s online action system to send a quick note to your member of the House, so would you please send your letter right now?

Eliminate threat of federal arrest and prison for marijuana possession

Protect medical marijuana patients nationwide

Thank you so much for your help.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 2:53 pm

Justin Fox on Obama’s financial plan

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I just got Justin Fox’s book from the library today. He has this interesting article in TIME:

Almost every reference to the financial regulatory plan that was unveiled today by President Obama is prefaced with something along the lines of "the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulation since the 1930s." Obama himself used such language in his speech this afternoon.

The description isn’t wrong. The Obama plans would, if enacted, amount to the biggest changes in financial regulation since the 1930s. But don’t let this make you think the Obama reforms even approach in significance and forcefulness the changes made back then. In the early days of the Roosevelt Administration, Congress set up the Securities and Exchange Commission and charged it with strictly regulating markets, split banks from investment banks with the Glass-Steagall Act, created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and enacted all manner of other game-changing financial reforms. It’s not just that the Obama reforms are less ambitious than those of the Great Depression. They’re also inspired by a very different interpretation of what went wrong. In the 1930s the overarching idea was that Wall Street had been very naughty and needed to be put in the penalty box — for good. This time the animating spirit behind the changes seems to be that regulators let a lot of things slip through the cracks, so there’s a need both to give them some new tools and exhort them to do better. (See award-winning pictures of the fallout from the financial meltdown.)

There are some perfectly good reasons for this difference in approach: In the early 1930s, Congress was confronting a failed and mostly unregulated financial system. What we have now is a financial system that has been prevented from failing by government actions, and already has regulators swarming over many, but not all, of its parts.

The result is a reform plan that’s clearly had a lot of thought put into it, and responds to many of the most obvious failings of our financial regulatory setup, but doesn’t really change …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 1:20 pm

Vocabulary problems

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Interesting post by Dan Colman in Open Culture:

When you’re reading The New York Times and stumble upon a word you don’t know, you can highlight it and the Times will give you the definition. Naturally, the Times keeps track of the definitions it provides. So what are the most commonly looked up words? You can find the top ten below. (Get a longer list here.) So, smart readers, did you know all of them?

  1. sui generis
  2. solipsistic
  3. louche
  4. laconic
  5. saturnine
  6. antediluvian
  7. epistemological
  8. shibboleths
  9. penury
  10. sumptuary

You can grade your own papers. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

The Ultimate Lock Picker

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The video is from a fascinating article in Wired. Watch the video, then read the article to understand what you’ve seen.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "The Ultimate Lock Picker", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Food legislation

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Marion Nestle at Food Politics:

Legislators in the new administration are working on food laws.  Here is a quick sample:

Calorie labeling: it looks like we have bipartisan support for national menu labeling.  If passed, calories will have to be disclosed on menu boards of fast food and vending machine chains throughout the country – and not just in New York City and the few states that have passed their own laws.   Lots of health organizations are backing this proposal.

Food safety: the House just passed its version of a bill that will overhaul some aspects of the present food safety system.  This bill still has a long way to go but is a hopeful sign that Congress might actually do something to fix the FDA.  What the bill does not do is deal with fixing the system.  It exempts meat, poultry, and eggs under USDA jurisdiction.

Produce safety: The new head of the FDA, Margaret Hamburg, says her agency is going to put special efforts into ensuring the safety of high-risk produce. To do that, she will need Congress to pass laws that, among other things, give the FDA the authority to order recalls and a lot more money to carry out its work.

Organics: The U.S. and Canada have agreed to coordinate their organic standards, so foods certified organic in Canada can be sold here and vice versa.  Let’s hope the most stringent standards prevail.

These are (somewhat) hopeful signs.  Let’s hope Congress manages to keep at this and tries to get it right.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 12:54 pm

"Socialized medicine"

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First, the phrase is generally incorrect: what is proposed is socialized healthcare insurance, not socialized medicine. And second, in looking at the countries that have the benefit of a single-payer healthcare system, I envy them and can’t figure out why people oppose it.

"Long wait-times": Have you been to an emergency room in the US lately? The wait times are extremely long.

"Illegal immigrants would get healthcare": So? They pay taxes, why should they not benefit from tax-supported programs?

"Healthcare would be rationed": As pointed out in a recent NY Times article I blogged, "rationing" is a red herring. Healthcare in the US is rationed right now, with the poor generally cut off from healthcare. US rationing is based on income and job—not the fairest way to divvy up the resources.

Moreover, the health of the nation is a matter of the public interest. In the public interest, we do not want any large population cut off from healthcare since that population then could become a vector of disease. It’s better, in the national interest, to practice preventive medicine and to ensure that as much of the population as possible has access to medical care. The well-to-do can buy it for themselves, but the poor cannot. In the national interest, we need to make sure that no large group is cut off from medical care—just as it is in the national interest that the populace be well educated.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Healthcare

The mainstream media goes bonkers again

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It’s strange how the self-pitying GOP often comments how the press is so devoted to Barack Obama. Note this story by Ali Frick in ThinkProgress:

Today, two new national polls were released, one by the New York Times and CBS, the other by the Wall Street Journal and NBC. News headlines quickly settled on a theme: The polls showed that President Obama’s policies were suddenly unpopular:

Sticker Shock — Obama still popular; his policies, not so much” [ABC’s The Note]

Polls find rising concern with Obama on key issues” [Reuters]

Polls Show Declining Support For Obama Decisions” [U.S. News & World Report’s Political Bulletin]

Obama’s popularity: Problems testing it” [Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp]

Is ‘Smooth Sailing’ Over for Obama?” [Washington Post]

The headlines have little to no relation to the actual data in the polls, both of which found broad approval for Obama’s foreign policy and economic agendas. From the New York Times/CBS poll:

5. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy? 57% approve, 35% disapprove

8. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the threat of terrorism? 57% approve, 27% disapprove

16. So far, do you think Barack Obama’s policies have made the economy better, made the economy worse or haven’t his policies had any effect on the economy yet? 32% say better, 15% say worse

And from the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll:

4b. Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job that Barack Obama is doing in handling the economy? 51% approve, 38% disapprove

4c. Do you generally approve or disapprove of the job that Barack Obama is doing in handling foreign policy? 54% approve , 36% disapprove

9. Which ONE of the following statements best describes your feelings toward Barack Obama?

Like personally and approve most policies…………… 48%
Like personally but disapprove of many policies ……27%

12. And how confident are you that Barack Obama has the right set of goals and policies to improve the economy––extremely confident, quite confident, only somewhat confident, or not at all confident?

Extremely confident………………………. 20%
Quite confident …………………………. 26%
Only somewhat confident ………………….. 24%
Not at all confident …………………….. 29%

Similarly, 68 percent agree with Obama’s view that Guantanamo detainees should be charged with a crime or released back to their home countries, as opposed to only 24 percent who think they should be detained indefinitely. As Glenn Greenwald notes, “The view that detainees should be charged with crimes or released is often depicted as the fringe ‘Far Left’ view. Like so many views that are similarly depicted, it is — in reality — the overwhelming consensus view among Americans.”

Perhaps the most bizarre headline came from USA Today’s blog, The VAL: “Poll: Obama down, cousin Cheney up.” The poll cited showed that 60 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Obama. By contrast, only 27 percent viewed Cheney favorably — while 30 percent viewed him “very negatively.”

Update: The headline to a new Pew research poll claims Obama faces "Some Policy Concerns." However, the poll finds that 61 percent approve of Obama’s job performance (including 57 percent and 52 percent approving of his handling of foreign and economic policy, respectively), while 65 percent are "optimistic" Obama’s policies will improve economic conditions.

The GOP loves to make up facts and then repeat the falsehoods endlessly in the belief that repetition will make them true.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 12:37 pm

Fallows writes again on Obama’s rhetoric

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Very interesting post, which begins:

Several days ago I argued that what made Barack Obama’s "big" speeches sound unusual was that they attempted something that among politicians is indeed rare: Not expressing our preexisting views with new clarity and edge but instead asking us to change our minds. I also said it was no accident that Obama had saved these ambitious speeches until he was in the White House, since a campaign was a time for troop-rallying rhetoric rather than asking people to think too hard.

Herewith one message in agreement and one in dissent. First, from Eric Redman, author of The Dance of Legislation (and longtime close friend of mine) who had been a devotee of Richard Neustadt‘s famous presidential-power analyses in college and eventually delivered a eulogy for Neustadt and contributed to a memorial volume about him. The turn in Obama’s rhetoric after the election, Redman says, …

Continue reading. Some good analysis.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 12:31 pm

Twitter mocking

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The self-pity and sense of victimization that the Right feels leads them into strange thoughts. Eric Kleefeld has an example and the responses it generated:

Earlier today, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) put up this astonishing post on Twitter, likening the oppression of the Iranian people to the plight of House Republicans:

Iranian twitter activity similar to what we did in House last year when Republicans were shut down in the House.

In the hours since, the Twitter community has responded — with massive heckling. Here’s just a small sample of some of the best ones:

ArjunJaikumar @petehoekstra i spilled some lukewarm coffee on myself just now, which is somewhat analogous to being boiled in oil

chrisbaskind @petehoekstra My neighbor stopped me to talk today. Now I know what it is like to be questioned by the Basij!

luckbfern @petehoekstra I stand in solidarity with the oppressed rich white men of Repub Party in the House. #GOPfail Allah Akbar!

aciolino @petehoekstra Today I poked my finger on a hanger. Now I know what all those aborted babies go through.

ceedub7 @petehoekstra I got a splinter in my hand today. Felt just like Jesus getting nailed to the cross.

netw3rk @petehoekstra Someone walked in on me while I was in the bathroom. Reminded me of Pearl Harbor.

MattOrtega Walked out onto Constitution Ave in D.C. and was almost hit by a taxi. Reminded me of Tienanmen Square.

tharodge @petehoekstra maybe now is a good time to reconsider whether you are ready for national politics?

TahirDuckett @petehoekstra ran through the sprinklers this morning, claimed solidarity with victims of Hurricane Katrina

paganmist @petehoekstra Had to move all my stuff to a new office w/o a corner view. Now i know what the Trail of Tears was like. #GOPfail

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 9:20 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Canada big enough to acknowledge a mistake

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but Canadians seem so much more willing to apologize for their mistakes than Americans do.

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a committee in Parliament is planning to recommend that the Canadian government compensate and apologize to three Arab-Canadian men who were imprisoned and tortured in Syria, due partly to information provided by Canadian authorities.

The three men — Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin — were accused of having ties to al-Qaeda, which they all deny. A report by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Frank Iacobucci last year concluded that the three men were tortured, and that Canadian officials’ actions contributed to their treatment.

The cases of these three men, all of whom are now suing the Canadian government, has an obvious parallel with that of Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen captured by U.S. authorities while changing planes at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and sent to Syria to be interrogated under torture in 2002. The Canadian government, after conducting a thorough investigation that found Arar had done nothing wrong, apologized for its role in providing information to U.S. authorities and paid Arar $10 million to compensate for his ordeal.

The United States, on the other hand, has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing on its part, and still won’t allow Arar even to enter the country. In December, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York heard spirited arguments in his lawsuit against the U.S. government.

Arar was not allowed to attend.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 9:17 am

Neocons fighting for relevance

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And not having much success. This open letter from Matt Duss to Robert Kagan is pretty good:

Dear Mr. Kagan,

First, let me just express sympathy for your situation. These last years have been extraordinarily unkind to your grand theories about the transformative potential of American explosives. President Bush’s “global war on terror,” the invasion of Iraq, his so-called “freedom agenda,” turned out to be a real carnival of bad ideas, for which you were a key intellectual barker. It’s hard out here for a neocon.

But I have to say, Mr. Kagan, your op-ed this morning is really beneath you. You can’t actually believe that President Obama is “siding with the Iranian regime” against the Iranian people, or that Obama’s outreach to Iran depends upon keeping hardliners in power, can you? You’re far too intelligent to buy the brutishly simplistic “realism” that you attempt to hang upon President Obama’s approach. These sorts of claims are better left to your friend and occasional co-author Bill Kristol, who uses his series of valuable journalistic perches (with which he inexplicably continues to be gifted) to launch an endless stream of comically transparent bad faith arguments. You’re better than that. You’re the smart neocon.

Aren’t you? While it’s nice that you recognize that “it’s not that Obama preferred a victory by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” — though that was the stated preference of a number of your fellow neoconservatives — your claim that President Obama’s “strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the side of” Ahmadinejad is the kind of thing I thought we had left back in 2003, when opponents of the Iraq invasion (that is, the people who turned out to be right) were tarred as being “objectively pro-Saddam.” It doesn’t smell any better six years later.

You state that President Obama’s “goal must be to deflate the opposition, not to encourage it. And that, by and large, is what he has been doing.” How then to explain his State Department reaching out to Twitter and asking them to delay their scheduled maintenance, in order to allow the continued use of this technology that has proven so important to enabling communication within and out of Iran? That one gesture neatly encapsulates, I think, the difference between Bush and Obama on “democracy promotion.” Bush believed in America bringing the gift of freedom to the people of the world. Obama believes in practical steps to put the tools of freedom in the hands of the people themselves, and then creating the space for people to use those tools.

Just to be clear, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

The people want the public option

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Interesting result from the NBC/Wall Street Journal opinion poll:

Public option

Click image for full size. So 76% of the people consider having the option of a public plan to be quite important or extremely important, and most of those fall in the “extremely important” camp. Meanwhile, spineless Senate Democrats seem to be dedicated to removing that option.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 9:09 am

The challenge of transparency

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From the Center for American Progress:

Promising that "transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," President Obama announced on his second day in office that he would usher in "a new era of openness in our country." As a senator, Obama spearheaded legislation that allowed ordinary Americans to track government spending via A subsequent bill he introduced would have improved this website and increased the disclosures required by government contractors. As President-elect, Obama created, which allowed anyone with an Internet connection to submit questions to the transition team and posted documents provided to the incoming administration by outside lobbying groups. More recently, however, the Obama administration has stumbled on its way to ensuring that government is transparent and accessible.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 8:59 am

Pré de Provence

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Another fine and enjoyable shave. I haven’t used Pré de Provence for a while, and I’m not sure why. I got a very fine lather with the Sabini brush, though the fragrance is unnoticeable (to me), and the previously used Polsilver blade in the Gillette English open-comb Aristocrat was still sharp and pleasant. (It was a Polsilver blade in the HD I used in yesterday’s shave, BTW.) The Floïd was, as always, a pleasant finish.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2009 at 8:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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