Later On

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

Archive for July 17th, 2009

Gates v. Congress

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Gordon Lubold of the Christian Science Monitor:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says it’s time for Congress, the defense industry, and even parts of his own Pentagon to end the way they’ve done business for decades – and start by completing the controversial F-22 Raptor stealth fighter program.

"Every defense dollar diverted to fund excess or unneeded capacity – ­whether for more F-22s or anything else – is a dollar that will be unavailable to take care of our people, to win the wars we are in, to deter potential adversaries, and to improve capabilities in areas where America is underinvested and potentially vulnerable," he said in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago Thursday.

Mr. Gates – with President Obama at his back – has taken a hard line on the F-22 program as a symbol of reckless defense spending. He has also hatcheted other programs, such as a presidential helicopter with a galley for cooking during nuclear attack, in his bid to reform a Pentagon and defense industrial complex intent on the status quo.

The stealth fighter has been billed as the crown jewel of American air superiority in an air-to-air fight with a "near peer" enemy such as China.

But to Gates, the plane fills a highly specialized niche the Pentagon cannot afford to buy more of, and he wants to cap the program at 187 planes.

Congress has other ideas, and both the House and Senate are attempting to amend the $534 billion budget to include $1.7 billion in funding to build seven more planes. The Senate is debating the issue this week, but on Wednesday senators set aside a vote on the amendment adding the additional funding.

Mr. Obama says he will veto the bill, crossing swords with members of his own party in whose states components of the plane are assembled, including Sens. John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, both Democrats from Massachusetts.

Most experts believe that the issue is not over seven planes – which can cost as much as $350 million a piece – but keeping the production lines open in more than 40 states to allow the program to continue indefinitely. One estimate suggests that ending the program will cost 95,000 jobs nationwide and leave the Pentagon with too few planes… [This couldn’t be the GOP talking: they firmly believe that government spending never creates jobs, so cutting government spending should not cost any jobs. Or maybe they were just lying. It’s always hard to know whether they’re ignorant, stupid, or lying (or all three). – LG]

Continue reading. And check out this nice slideshow of American fighter planes since WWII.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 12:21 pm

Good summertime recipe

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From Simply Recipes, which has a dynamite photo.

Mom’s Macaroni Salad Recipe

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

  • 2 cups (about 1/2 lb) dry macaroni pasta (use rice pasta for gluten-free version)
  • Salt
  • 1 hard boiled egg, chopped
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper*, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onion or green onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • A generous amount of mayonnaise (1/3 to 1/2 cup)
  • Several pinches of paprika
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

* Trader Joes carries a good product, jarred roasted red bell peppers packed in oil and vinegar. We usually use these in recipes calling for roasted bell peppers. Alternatively, you can roast a fresh bell pepper by blackening it over an open flame on a gas range or broiling until the skin blisters on all sides. Remove from heat source, place in paper bag, after a few minutes remove from bag and scrape off the blackened bits. Discard seeds and stem.

For the method, see the recipe at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Why we can tax the wealthy

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Because their tax rates have been declining steadily—too much, in fact. Here are the tax rates for the top 1% of households in terms of wealth:

Tax rate on top 1% wealthiest

You can read more about this in Kevin Drum’s post, whence I took the chart.

Note that the chart is somewhat misleading: the x-axis is placed at 28% instead of at 0%.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 10:22 am

More on C Street

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You can read more about The Family in Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. And Rachel Maddow has a good introduction:


Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 9:39 am

Adulterous affairs among the family-values crowd

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Interesting story by Lee Fang at ThinkProgress:

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow reported the story that former Rep. Chip Pickering’s (R-MS) wife has filed a lawsuit against Pickering’s mistress Elizabeth Creekmore Byrd, exposing a long-running affair. Pickering, now a lobbyist for Capitol Resources LLC, campaigned on a platform of promising to bring family values to Washington. Pickering tried to force his own views on marriage upon the country by pushing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and using marriage as a cudgel to demand that President Bill Clinton resign:

– While engaged in the affair with Creekmore Byrd, Pickering said of President Bill Clinton: “I think for the good of the country and the good of his own family it would be better for him to resign. When someone puts himself forward for public office, then his personal conduct does become relevant.” [Washington Times, 8/20/98]

– Pickering explained his support of a constitutional gay marriage ban, stating: “Marriage as an institution between one man and one woman promotes the best interest of the husband and wife, and the best interests of children.” [Mississippi Link, 7/20/06]

The suit filed by Pickering’s wife also alleges that Pickering pursued the affair while living in the “C Street Complex,” the boarding house for the secretive right-wing Christian group known as “the Fellowship.” Pickering’s former colleagues embroiled in similar scandals, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), were also members of the Fellowship.

Doug Coe, the group’s spiritual leader, once preached that the willingness to behead one’s own mother was a “covenant” tantamount to what “Jesus said.” The organization “Youth with a Mission” owns the C Street boarding house, which is registered tax-exempt as a church, advocates seizing the “mountain of government” as part of an evangelical crusade to advance the “kingdom of God.” Coe, who holds misogynist beliefs, once counseled a lawmaker that his wife — who complained of not being sexually satisfied — might be possessed by demons.

Speaking with Maddow about the influence of the Fellowship, author Jeff Sharlet noted that the complex operates as a “fundamentalist frat house” where “if you’re part of God’s chosen…morality, ethics, these things don’t apply to them.” He also noted Steve Largent, a former Oklahoma congressman and former resident of the C Street house, now president of a telecom trade group, arranged lobbyist-funded trips for other members in the group, including both Pickering and Ensign. Sharlet questioned the lawmaker-to-lobbyist “revolving door” that “seems to be facilitated by the family.” Watch it:

And Josh Marshall notes the same oddity in this post.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 9:31 am

The Annotated Wind in the Willows

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Sounds intriguing:

The Annotated Wind in the Willows

by Kenneth Grahame

A review by Michael Sims

Kenneth Grahame‘s revered children’s book The Wind in the Willows is celebrating two anniversaries. Last year was the centennial of its publication, and 2009 is the sesquicentennial of its author’s birth. As a consequence, we find ourselves with two annotated editions — both oversize, both beautifully designed and illustrated.

Seth Lerer is a renowned scholar, author most recently of a magisterial history of children’s literature. Annie Gauger’s Willows is her first book. She says it occupied 10 years of research, which raises the question: How much annotation does a text require? It’s a nerdy sport, this collecting of footnotes, and not for everyone. But I’ll cite my own childhood as evidence that annotated volumes do have worth beyond academia. William S. Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which I received for Christmas when I was 14, showed me how a cosmos of history and biography lies fossilized in every work of literature. Victorian England unfolded out of those pages like a pop-up book and later blossomed into my love for Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and Thomas Macaulay.

Gauger’s and Lerer’s books perform the same magic. They demonstrate how much of a writer’s life can wind up distilled in a stack of paper — in this case, how Kenneth Grahame’s daydreams, fears, heartbreak, upbringing, era and locale all sneaked into a fanciful children’s book about talking animals. In what other book can you find slapstick auto theft, a dirge for lost arcadia and a numinous encounter with that pagan refugee and mascot of the Edwardian neo-romantics, the great god Pan?

Apparently Grahame turned to animals, after writing largely about children, because he feared and barely understood much of the adult world. He found safety and romance in animal characters — not real creatures, but hybrid beasts cavorting in a mythic habitat where they are neither Us nor Them. "I love these little people," Grahame confessed to illustrator Ernest Shepard; "be kind to them."

Each of these editions has its advantages and defects. The introduction to Gauger’s volume, by Brian Jacques, author of the popular children’s fantasy series, Redwall, wastes eight pages on nostalgic twaddle recalling his youth and nominating various pieces of music as soundtrack for scenes in Willows. Lerer’s preface, in contrast, is a thoughtful and elegant survey of the biographical and literary context for this beloved book.

But when it comes to the main text — unpacking the allusive, lushly textured story of poetical Rat and proletarian Mole, of manic Toad and Mr. Badger, that solemn lord of the manor whose burrow twines among Roman ruins — Gauger has unpacked more, dug further, worked longer and harder.

For example, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 9:14 am

Posted in Books

Interesting idea for healthcare reform

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Ezra Klein in the Washington Post:

I don’t want to overstate my case. I am not suggesting that Sen. Ron Wyden’s Free Choice Act is the difference between a health-care reform bill passing the Senate and dying in committee. But I am arguing that it might be the difference between a bill that delivers on its promise of reforming the health-care system and a bill that merely expands health insurance coverage.

There are two major problems with the proposals being considered in Congress. The first is that they do not do enough to cut costs, because they do not do enough to change the fundamental nature of the employer-based health-care system. Earlier this morning, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf told the Senate Finance Committee that health-care reform will not save us money. If the problem is that our health-care system is too expensive, and reform does not change the structure of our health-care system, then it is unlikely to mitigate the expense. The flip side of trying to avoid changing what people have is that you don’t change what’s not working.

The second is that the bill does not offer obvious benefits to an insured worker. You can argue that it changes the system around them: There are subsidies if they lose their job and regulations to protect them from the excesses of private insurers. But though the health-care system might be different, it will not, for most people, feel different. And that has made it hard to explain to people why this is something they should pay for. You can tell the insured worker what he gets if his circumstances change. You cannot tell him what he gets if his circumstances do not change.

Enter Wyden. The Free Choice Act is not a health-care-reform bill. It is best understood as a reform of the health-care-reform bill. In particular, it reforms the nature of the Health Insurance Exchange. Under the bills being considered right now, the exchange will be limited to the uninsured, the self-employed and small businesses. Maybe it will be expanded over time. Maybe not. In addition, it is barricaded by what’s called a "firewall." The firewall essentially bars individuals from entering the exchange so long as their employers offer them a basic level of health-care coverage.

The Free Choice Act starts by setting the rules for the exchange: Within five years the exchange is open to all employers. More importantly, it’s open to all people. The firewall is extinguished. But as the late, great, Billy Mays would say, that’s not all!

The key component of the Free Choice Act is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2009 at 9:04 am

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