Later On

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

Archive for February 13th, 2010

Broadway and the American Musical

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I’m watching this series via my Roku, and it’s totally fascinating. Highly recommended.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Art, Business, Movies & TV, Music

Kitty litter recommendation

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I had been using Jonny Cat but have switched to Fresh Step—ever so much better!

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

What goes around, comes around

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That’s the problem:

Last week, Dahlia Lithwick had a terrific piece in Slate in which she ponders America’s “Terrorism Derangement Syndrome.”America does seem to be in the grip of morbid fear, doesn’t it? KSM could irradiate Manhattan if he’s given a trial there… terrorists can melt the walls of supermax prisons… the Underwear Bomber is so diabolically clever he would laugh off traditional interrogation methods. With all this terror, you might even think… I don’t know, that terrorism is working pretty well.

Lithwick attributes some of the cause of TDS to Republican fear-mongering and to Democratic acquiescence in GOP scare tactics. I agree — but I think there’s something more fundamental going on, something that explains both the fear and the fear-mongering.

Something like… our own policies.

I believe some deep-seated part of our national consciousness is aware there will be consequences for what we’ve done, and continue to do. The wars, and kidnappings, and illegal imprisonment, and off-the-mark Predator strikes, and, most of all, torture — we sense a reckoning for all this, a conflagration waiting to engulf the combustible materials we insist on piling recklessly, relentlessly higher. Our tactics worsen the danger. The worse the danger, the more scared we get. The more scared we get, the less capable we are of rational policies. As our rationality deserts us, we embrace more tightly primitive tactics. And the more primitive we become, the worse we make the danger. And so on.

So yes, we’re afraid. After all, we understand revenge, don’t we? Revenge is a human need so powerful that, if necessary, we’ll attempt to satisfy it by proxy, the way we satisfied our need for 9/11 vengeance against al Qaeda by attacking Iraq, instead. We know payback is coming because by God, if there were a country kidnapping Americans and imprisoning them and torturing them in secret prisons, and if that country constantly threatened to bomb us and sometimes actually did so, and if the bombs often missed and massacred women and children and funerals and wedding parties, we would not — we could not — rest until that country came to rue the day it even considered fucking with the United States of America…

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 3:23 pm

Great "Watch Instantly" for foodies

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I highly recommend this TV series on bizarre foods, based simply on watching the first episode of Season Three via my Roku. I now really want to go to Thailand.

Wonderful-sounding (and –looking) food!

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 3:00 pm

Benen on reconciliation (in Congress)

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Good post by Steve Benen at Political Animal:

When all is said and done, the "summit" is complete, and policymakers decide what happens next on health care reform, they will choose from a limited menu of options.

(1) Let health care reform die; (2) pass a weak, watered-down plan that does very little good; (3) wait and hope that some Republican votes will materialize, enough for a conference package to get an up-or-down vote; (4) the House passes the Senate bill; (5) the House passes the Senate bill, and the Senate approves changes through reconciliation.

Option (1) is obviously political suicide, and option (2) is nearly as bad. Option (3) would have the same practical effect as option (1), since Democrats have already included GOP ideas in the reform package, and Republicans won’t take "yes" for an answer. Option (4) has appeal, but almost certainly won’t have the votes to come to fruition. Which leaves the painfully obvious option (5), which every reasonable observer already recognizes as the only credible choice.

There are some hurdles to making option (5) work, but the biggest seems to be Democratic reluctance to how reconciliation might "look." Republicans would characterize use of the rules as an "abuse," and Dems fear that voters would perceive the procedure as skirting the rules.

Brookings’ Henry Aaron, writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, explains why Democratic fears are mistaken. The reconciliation process exists for a reason — and this is the reason. (via Jonathan Cohn)

The idea of using reconciliation has raised concern among some supporters of health care reform. They fear that reform opponents would consider the use of reconciliation high-handed. But in fact Congress created reconciliation procedures to deal with precisely this sort of situation — its failure to implement provisions of the previous budget resolution. The 2009 budget resolution instructed both houses of Congress to enact health care reform. The House and the Senate have passed similar but not identical bills. Since both houses have acted but some work remains to be done to align the two bills, using reconciliation to implement the instructions in the budget resolution follows established congressional procedure.

Furthermore, coming from Republicans, objections to the use of reconciliation on procedural grounds seem more than a little insincere. A Republican president and a Republican Congress used reconciliation procedures in 2001 to enact tax cuts that were supported by fewer than 60 senators. The then-majority Republicans could use reconciliation only because they misrepresented the tax cuts as temporary although everyone understood they were intended to be permanent — but permanent cuts would have required the support of 60 senators, which they did not have.

There is simply no reason to Democratic skittishness on this. None. Reconciliation has been used, legitimately, to pass everything from welfare reform to COBRA, Bush’s tax-cut packages to student-aid reform, nursing home standards to the earned income tax credit. Not too long ago, Senate Republicans even considered using reconciliation to approve drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This should be a no-brainer. The reconciliation process was developed for exactly these circumstances, and even the most panicky Democrats have to realize that there’s nothing wrong with using a fair, legitimate Senate rule to complete the legislative process.

Ezra added this morning, "At this point, Democrats have passed health-care reform bills through the two legislative chambers charged with considering them. The president stands ready to sign the legislation. The roadblock is that 41 Republicans have sworn to use a parliamentary maneuver to obstruct any effort to smooth out differences between the bills. It’s pretty clear who’s stepping outside the traditional workings of the process here. Yet Democrats have allowed the other side to make it look like they’re the ones who are bending the rules! It’s completely astonishing."

Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 1:46 pm

Michael Mukasey, Then and Now

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Michael Mukasey showed an interesting change of heart. Greenwald:

Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey has become the leading spokesman for a Cheneyite national security attack, which relies on scaring Americans into believing that Obama is endangering their lives in those rare instances when he deviates from Bush’s Terrorism approach.  Toward that end, Mukasey has yet another fear-mongering Op-Ed, this time on today’s oh-so-liberal Washington Post Op-Ed Page (along side Michael Gerson’s stirring tribute to the virtues of GITMO, Bill Kristol’s call for regime change in Iran, a warning from Blackstone Chairman Steven Schwarzman to stop being so mean to banks, and a Charles Krauthammer column blaming Obama for something or other).  Mukasey specifically accuses the Obama administration of losing valuable intelligence by allowing Abdudlmutallab access to a lawyer, and insists that the accused Christmas Day bomber had no constitutional rights because — despite his being detained in the U.S. — he is merely an "enemy combatant."

But when Mukasey was a federal judge, he made the opposite arguments.  In 2002, the Bush administration detained Jose Padilla at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, publicly labeled him The Dirty Bomber, declared him an "enemy combatant," transferred him to military custody, and refused to charge him or even to allow him access to a lawyer.  When a lawsuit was brought on Padilla’s behalf, Mukasey was the assigned judge, and he ordered the Bush administration to allow Padilla access to a lawyer.  When the Bush administration dithered and basically refused (asking Mukasey to reconsider), Mukasey issued a lengthy Opinion and Order threatening to impose the conditions himself and explaining that Padilla’s constitutional right to a lawyer was clear and nonnegotiable.  So resounding was Mukasey’s defense of Padilla’s right to a lawyer that, when he was initially nominated as Attorney General, many anti-Bush legal analystsincluding me — cited Mukasey’s ruling in Padilla to argue that he was one of the better choices given the other right-wing alternatives.  Indeed, I analyzed his decision in Padilla at length to argue that, at least in that case, Mukasey "displayed an impressive allegiance to the rule of law and constitutional principles over fealty to claims of unlimited presidential power," and that he "was more than willing to defy the Bush administration and not be intimidated by threats that enforcing the rule of law would prevent the President from stopping the Terrorists."

What’s most striking is that, in the Padilla case, Mukasey emphatically …

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 1:42 pm

The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal

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Very interesting article explaining why Democrats believe that Obama betrayed them, by Paul Blumenthal at the Sunlight Foundation:

More than a million spectators gathered before the Capitol on a frosty January afternoon to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, who promised in his campaign to change Washington’s mercenary culture of lobbyists, special interest influence and backroom deals. But within a few months of being sworn in, the President and his top aides were sitting down with leaders from the pharmaceutical industry to hash out a deal that they thought would make health care reform possible.

Over the following months, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives met with top White House aides dozens of times to hammer out a deal that would secure industry support for the administration’s health care reform agenda in exchange for the White House abandoning key elements of the president’s promises to reform the pharmaceutical industry. They flooded Congress with campaign contributions, and hired dozens of former Capitol Hill insiders to push their case. How they did it—pieced together from news accounts, disclosure forms including lobbying reports and Federal Election Commission records, White House visitor logs and the schedule Sen. Max Baucus releases voluntarily—is a testament to how ingrained the grip of special interests remains in Washington.

In the 2008 campaign, Obama declared his intention to include all stakeholders as he sought to reform the nation’s health care system, but also supported key Democratic health reform policies. Among these were several that targeted the pharmaceutical industry: Allowing re-importation of drugs from first world countries with lower drug prices and providing Medicare with negotiating authority over prescription drug prices in the recently enacted Part D program. These weren’t just promises, Obama had already voted for both of them as a senator in 2007. (Roll Call Vote 132 and Roll Call Vote 150.) …

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 February 2010 at 1:37 pm

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