Later On

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

Archive for March 2010

Red Cliff: OIV

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I’m watching the original international version of Red Cliff (Part 1 and Part 2): a 5-hour movie, cast of thousands, directed by John Woo. Spectacle on the grand scale with some dynamite fight sequences. (I mistyped "dynamight", and it makes sense in a way.) Great stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Afternoon break

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First, Wolf Hall is damn good so far—it starts off quickly and is very well written.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Books, Cats, Daily life, Video

Political lies require a lot of repetition

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And the GOP is happy to oblige. Steve Benen:

We’ve seen ample evidence in recent months that the public was turned off by the process of reforming the health care system. Whether these concerns were well grounded or not is a separate question, but the frustration has obviously been real.

Gallup, for example, published this result today:

Regardless of whether you favored or opposed the health care legislation passed this week, do you think the methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used to get enough legislation — were [they] an abuse of power, or were [they] an appropriate use of power by the party that controls the majority in Congress?

Abuse of power 53%
Appropriate use of power 40%
No opinion 7%

Substantively, this is bizarre. The "methods the Democratic leaders in Congress used" were entirely legitimate and above-board. Reform went through the committee process, had floor debates, passed both chambers, etc. There was literally nothing that constituted an "abuse of power." Some of the side deals were unsavory, but (a) the deals were ultimately removed by Democratic lawmakers; and (b) the deals were entirely consistent with the way Congress has operated for more than 200 years.

Democrats promised voters they’d pass health care reform, they worked on health care reform for more than a year, and then they voted for it. That’s not "abuse," it’s "a governing majority fulfilling its campaign promises."

So, what explains the poll results? Greg Sargent’s take sounds right to me: "This suggests, I think, that the claim by Republicans and conservatives that Dems were going to ‘ram’ the bill through Congress via dictatorial fiat really succeeded in riling up people up a great deal — even though Republicans repeatedly used the reconciliation tactic themselves to pass ambitious legislation…. Moral of the story: Message discipline works."

Does it ever. Republicans, in all likelihood, knew full well there was nothing untoward about a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate approving health care reform. But they kept hammering away at their message — GOP lawmakers decried the "sleazy" and "abusive" process, and conservative pundits echoed the sentiment. Mainstream outlets, obliged to pass along reports of debates, regardless of merit, covered the sausage-making process at a granular level, offering procedural coverage in a way that probably has no precedent in American history.

Casual news consumers, who don’t generally care about legislative procedures, were no doubt left with the impression that Dems were handling the process the wrong way. After all, that’s what "everyone is talking about." They heard "something about this on the news."

Fortunately, this will fade, and the public can start caring more about policy than process. But in the meantime, poll results like these are frustrating.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP, Media

Alice Waters takes a wrong turn

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John Stauber at

It is happening on April Fool’s Day, but it is no joke. The Organic Consumers Association, upon whose Advisory Board I serve, is picketing chef Alice Waters‘ world famous Chez Panisse Restaurant, Cafe and Foundation offices in Berkeley, California, over the noon hour on April 1, 2010. The protest is a direct result of the growing controversy in the Bay Area where the City of San Francisco, through its Public Utilities Commission, has been giving away and selling thousands of tons a year of toxic sewage sludge to be put on farms and gardens. The nasty entropic stuff, filled with a potential stew of thousands of chemicals and microbes, has even been bagged by the PUC as "organic compost" and used by unsuspecting victims who would never have intentionally put sewage sludge on their home or school gardens.

What has this got to do with Alice Waters and Chez Panisse? Francesca Vietor, the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation, whose mission is to promote Edible Schoolyard organic gardens, is also the Vice President of the Public Utilities Commission. The PUC is refusing to permanently end their sludge give away, nor agreeing to clean up the gardens already contaminated with the sewage sludge, as the Organic Consumers Association and the Center for Food Safety have asked.

Ronnie Cummins, the director of the OCA, sent Alice Waters a letter on March 23 asking her to speak out strongly against growing food in sewage sludge. On March 30 Alice refused. Cummins letter to Waters reads in part:

"Considering that the sludge was given to several local schools for use on their educational gardens, your work with the Edible Schoolyard should especially elicit your concern. This is certainly in direct opposition to the standards that Chez Panisse Foundation and the Edible Schoolyard encourage and uphold. It seems to us a clear conflict of interest that Francesca Vietor should serve as both the Executive Director of the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Vice President of the PUC. In light of your dedication to non-GMO foods, would you have the Vice President of Monsanto as your Executive Director? The two do not seem much dissimilar as both work for organizations that compromise the integrity of the movement for which you are both a pioneer and a leading voice."

Alice Waters responded:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 1:42 pm

Library and grocery run

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And at the library I (finally) picked up Wolf Hall, on which I put a hold weeks ago. Patience rewarded.

A modest amount of groceries, including green garlic and spring onions. I love this season. Also summer. Also fall. And winter’s not bad.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

"It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople, now": John(s) Hopkins edition

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A well-loved tradition falls to the modern love of convenience and not having to learn things. Thanks to The Eldest for letting me know the grim news.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

The new myths

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From the Center for American Progress in an email:

Since the health care debate began over a year ago, Republicans and their conservative allies have relied on distortions, fabrications, and outright lies in their attempt to kill reform. There were the alleged death panels that would "pull the plug on grandma"; the false claim that doctors would leave their profession if reform passed; and, of course, the myth that reform is a socialist "government takeover" of the health care system. As President Obama correctly noted yesterday, the recently passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bears resemblance to health reform bills proposed by Republicans in the past, so distortions were necessary to perpetuate the narrative that reform would ruin the health care system and harm the country. Now that health care reform is a reality, the right has moved on to a coordinated repeal campaign, and 14 state attorneys general have filed suit against the Act, falsely claiming it is unconstitutional. New myths have also emerged, distorting what the country will look like after the implementation of the health bill and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) that passed with it. Each of the old myths has been debunked, and these new ones are simply more distortions in attempt to mislead the American people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 11:37 am

Healthcare reform: An historic victory

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Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 11:28 am

‘So how’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya?’

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From wikoogle’s DailyKos diary:

Sarah Palin recently had this to say…

"That bumper sticker that maybe you’ll see on the next Subaru driving by — an Obama bumper sticker — you should stop the driver and say, ‘So how’s that hopey, changey thing workin’ out for ya?’"

This is my answer…

Pretty damn well actually, in just one year President Obama…

Passed Healthcare Reform (ending preexisting conditions, giving small business subsidies for providing insurance, Creating 3.2M HC-related jobs over the next 10 years, closing the Medicare donut hole in drug coverage, ensuring coverage for all kids up till the age of 26, covering 32 million Americans, expanding Medicaid to cover the rest, all while cutting the national debt by a 100 billion dollars) – Check.

Signed into law Tax Cuts for all middle income families, and 95% of all Americans – Check

Signed an Arms control agreement with Russia to dismantle nuclear weapons – Check

Reauthorized SCHIP to cover all Children – Check

Saved the entire stock market from collapsing (from a low point of a Dow of 6000 within a month of Obama taking office, to close to 11,000 just an year later, basically preventing millions of retirement accounts from getting wiped out) – Check

Ended the ban on travel for people with HIV – Check

Stopped the dismissals of homosexual individuals serving in the military by the Pentagon (It’s the first step to dismantling DA,DT completely) – Check

Ended the federal crackdown on Medicinal Marijuana centers in CA – Check

Passed into law Mortgage Fraud Protections – Check

Ended the ban on Stem Cell Research – Check

Passed Student Loan Reform, and Used The Savings to Significantly Increase Financial Aid Loans and Grants – Check

Engaged in diplomatic dialogue with Middle Eastern countries, instead of using language like "Axis of Evil" that achieves nothing other than to piss them off some more. – Check

Passed Credit Card Reform (Minimizing Predatory Lending, Making the terms of credit cards clear, eliminating arbitrary rate increases) – Check

Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have had the new job loss numbers from their peak right as Obama took office, go down steadily month after month, every single month like clockwork to the point that finally, this month is going to have job growth in the six figures (a trend expected to accelerate this whole year) – Check

Reversed the ban on sending foreign aid to countries with legal abortions (The Mexico City Policy) – Check

Signed the Expanded Hate Crimes Bill – Check

Helped stem down employment discrimination by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act – Check

Extended Unemployment Benefit, helping millions of Americans stave off bankruptcy until the economy recovers – Check

Drew down troops in Iraq for a 2011 withdrawal date – Check

Drew down Gitmo detainees and making preparations to close it by 2011 – Check

Increased the forces in Afghanistan and brought to justice 500+ major Al Qaeda senior leaders in the past year (more than the Bush Administration brought in all eight years combined) – Check

Saved the entire US Auto Industry (GM and Chrysler) from going bankrupt thus preventing dozens of major factories and hundreds of dealerships from closing their doors – Check

Saved banks from going bankrupt to the point that they’re profitable again and have now paid back all of government loans and bailout funds in full and with interest – Check

Signed into law, new mileage and emissions standard for cars and SUVs – Check

Working on Education Reform and Financial Regulatory Reform so banks can’t pull this crap again – The very next thing on his list

It’s been a hell of a productive first year for him. He made good on more than 90% of what he promised while running for election. I can’t think of many presidents who accomplish that much in eight years (especially on issues as big as healthcare reform). And that’s just what I can remember. Do you guys have anything to add?

If you don’t think that list is impressive, here’s a few dozen more accomplishments in his first year that I haven’t even had the chance to read all the way thru……

I would love to see someone in the media compile a more comprehensive version of this list to at least cover all that this administration has accomplished in the past year and two months.

P.S: When exactly did posters of America’s first Black President painted in White Face become socially acceptable?

P.P.S: Why do Democrats do such a piss poor job of standing by and talking up their own accomplishments. The Republicans have no problem sticking to even ridiculous talking points like death panels and accusations of fascism. But the democrats can’t even show a chart of the actual national debt for and spending by President Bush vs. President Obama, a chart of the stock market, or a chart of monthly job losses since the recession started, in 2007. Every month, the number of jobs losses had been going up, higher and higher, month after month until a few months into Obama’s term when the tax cuts and the stimulus were implemented into law. Since then, the job loss number have been steadily going down, month after month, at nearly the exact same rate they went up. Right till this month when job losses stopped completely, and the economy has finally started to add new jobs again. The Dow Jones was at 6000 a year ago. Now, a year after the bailouts that successfully saved key industries, including the entire US auto industry, on the verge of failure, the Dow is back up to 11,000. And companies have started reporting profits and have started hiring again. The stimulus paved the way for the recovery.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 11:21 am

Funding for the climate-change-denial campaign

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UPDATE: More detailed information here.

From the Center for American Progress in an email:

A new Greenpeace report has revealed privately owned U.S. oil company Koch Industries donated nearly $48 million to climate change denying groups from 1997-2008, outstripping even Exxon Mobil in its funding efforts and “also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.”

According to the report, the Kansas-based company — owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who have long worked to burnish their reputations by buying museum and opera halls — has contributed $24.9 million to global warming denying groups since 2005 compared to Exxon Mobil’s $8.9 million in contributions.

The report also finds that Koch Industries “provided financing for organizations that heavily propagated the so-called ‘ClimateGate’ scandal.” For example, Koch funded a 2007 junk science analysis that disputed the risks climate change posed for polar bears and financed supposedly independent Spanish and Danish studies that attacked green jobs and propagated a pack of lies about the costs of climate legislation.

Responding to the report’s charges that Koch Industries amounted to the “financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition,” the company’s communications director Melissa Cohlmia said they have “worked to advance economic freedom and market-based policy solutions to challenges faced by society.”

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 11:16 am

Herb Ellis, 1921-2010

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I saw Herb Ellis once, in a concert in Iowa City, and of course I have many recordings by him. Here’s an example of his work:

The NY Times obit:

Herb Ellis, a jazz guitarist whose polished, blues-inflected playing earned him critical acclaim as an outstanding soloist and worldwide recognition as a member of the pianist Oscar Peterson’s trio, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, Mitch.

Mr. Ellis was an early disciple of Charlie Christian, whose deft improvisations, built on long single-note lines, established the template for modern jazz guitar in the 1940s. But he was always more than an imitator: his style mixed the harmonic sophistication of bebop with the earthy directness of the blues and seasoned the blend with a twang more typical of country music than jazz.

While never a major star, he was long a favorite of critics and musicians. In 1959 a fellow guitarist, Jim Hall, praised his “fantastic fire and drive.” In 1990 Gary Giddins of The Village Voice raved about the “easy, loping quality” of his playing, “buoyed by familiar dissonances yet surprisingly free of cliché.”

Mitchell Herbert Ellis was born in Farmersville, Tex., on Aug. 4, 1921, and played banjo and harmonica as a child before taking up guitar. He studied at North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas), one of the first colleges to offer instruction in jazz (and later the first to offer a jazz degree).

In 1947 he and two associates from Jimmy Dorsey’s band, the pianist Lou Carter and the bassist Johnny Frigo, formed the vocal and instrumental trio the Soft Winds, whose song “Detour Ahead” became a jazz standard, recorded most memorably by Billie Holiday.

He first attracted wide attention during his five-year stint with Peterson’s popular group, which, like the Soft Winds, included a bassist (Ray Brown) but no drummer. The absence of a percussionist required Mr. Ellis to provide the rhythmic foundation for Peterson’s energetic playing as well as the guitar solos; he did it so well that when he left the trio in 1958, Peterson replaced him not with another guitarist but with a drummer.

Mr. Ellis’s reputation grew when he toured and recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, from 1958 to 1962. He was also a frequent participant in the impresario and record producer Norman Granz’s all-star Jazz at the Philharmonic touring shows, and in Granz-supervised recording sessions led by Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz and, on occasion, Mr. Ellis himself.

When jazz fell out of fashion in the 1960s, Mr. Ellis became a busy studio musician in Los Angeles, earning his living mainly on television variety shows. He returned to jazz in 1973, teaming with his fellow guitarists Barney Kessel and Charlie Byrd in the group Great Guitars. He recorded frequently over the next two decades, with that group and as a leader, for the Concord Jazz label.

In addition to his son, of Los Angeles, Mr. Ellis is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Patti Gahagan; a daughter, Kari Ellis Yedor, also of Los Angeles; and three grandchildren.

Thanks to TYD for forwarding the story.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 10:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Fighting accountability with everything at their command

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The Associated Press:

The Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed over claims that the Holy See was negligent in failing to report abuse claims.

In court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, Vatican lawyers map out their strategy to try to dismiss the lawsuit before Benedict XVI can be questioned or secret documents subpoenaed.

The Vatican lawyers plan to argue the pope has immunity as head of state. They also say that a 1962 document is not a "smoking gun" proving a Vatican cover-up. And the documents contend that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests were not employed by the Holy See.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

The CIA role in the Afghan drug trade

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UPDATE: This article seems to have been published first in Mother Jones.

Alfred McCoy at TomDispatch. First, the intro by the editor:

A front-page New York Times article by Rod Nordland on the aftermath of a recent U.S. Marine offensive in Helmand Province, opium poppy-growing capital of the planet, began this way: “The effort to win over Afghans on former Taliban turf in Marja has put American and NATO commanders in the unusual position of arguing against opium eradication, pitting them against some Afghan officials who are pushing to destroy the harvest.”  Given the nature of Afghanistan — the planet’s foremost narco-state — such conundrums are only likely to multiply as war commander General Stanley McChrystal implements his strategy for pushing back the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and securing the embattled southern city of Kandahar and its environs.

Since Afghanistan now grows the opium poppies that provide more than 90% of the world’s opium, the raw material for the production of heroin, it’s not surprising that drug-trade news and war news intersect from time to time.  More surprising is how seldom poppy growing and the drug trade are portrayed as anything but ancillary to our Afghan War.  Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Alfred McCoy has been focused on the drug trade — and the American role in fostering it — in Southeast, Central, and South Asia for a long time.  In the Vietnam era, the CIA actually tried to suppress his classic book (since updated with a chapter on Afghanistan), The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade.  He’s been following the story ever since, and now for TomDispatch he offers what may be the first full-scale report that puts the drug trade in its proper place, right at the center of America’s 30-year war in Afghanistan.  It’s a grim yet remarkable story, full of surprises, that makes new sense of the bind in which the U.S. military now finds itself in that country.  (And check out the latest TomCast audio interview in which McCoy discusses just who is complicit in the Afghan opium trade by clicking here or, if you prefer to download it to your iPod, here.) Tom

And here is McCoy’s article:

In ways that have escaped most observers, the Obama administration is now trapped in an endless cycle of drugs and death in Afghanistan from which there is neither an easy end nor an obvious exit.

After a year of cautious debate and costly deployments, President Obama finally launched his new Afghan war strategy at 2:40 am on February 13, 2010, in a remote market town called Marja in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. As a wave of helicopters descended on Marja’s outskirts spitting up clouds of dust, hundreds of U.S. Marines dashed through fields sprouting opium poppies toward the town’s mud-walled compounds.

After a week of fighting, U.S. war commander General Stanley A. McChrystal choppered into town with Afghanistan’s vice-president and Helmand’s provincial governor. Their mission: a media roll-out for the general’s new-look counterinsurgency strategy based on bringing government to remote villages just like Marja.

At a carefully staged meet-and-greet with some 200 villagers, however, the vice-president and provincial governor faced some unexpected, unscripted anger.  “If they come with tractors,” one Afghani widow announced to a chorus of supportive shouts from her fellow farmers, “they will have to roll over me and kill me before they can kill my poppy.”

For these poppy growers and thousands more like them, the return of government control, however contested, brought with it a perilous threat: opium eradication.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 10:26 am

Hilda Solis: Labor’s New Sheriff

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Hilda Solis is already an excellent Secretary of Labor, far above the odious Elaine Chao, who seemed actively to hate workers. Esther Kaplan in The Nation :

In 1984, on the Wasatch Plateau in southern Utah, the Wilberg coal mine, a property of Emery Mining, exploded into flames. Witnesses described plumes of dark gray smoke billowing up into the heavens. Twenty-seven coal miners were trapped inside. By the following night it was clear none of them would make it out alive. “If hell existed,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported, “it was down in the Wilberg mine.”

David Lauriski was Emery’s chief safety officer when Wilberg caught fire, an accident later attributed to numerous violations at the mine. The owners, it turned out, had been trying for a one-day production record. Seventeen years after the disaster, Lauriski became George W. Bush’s first mine safety chief, a perch from which he halted a dozen new safety regulations initiated under Clinton, advocating instead a more “collaborative” approach with industry. His successor was also from private industry; during a stint as a state regulator, his lax enforcement played a role in another mining disaster, this one at the Quecreek Mine in Pennsylvania.

Now, for the first time in its history, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), a division of the Department of Labor (DoL), is headed by a union man, Joe Main. Main began his working life as a teenager in 1967, doing the precarious work of sinking a coal mine shaft in West Virginia. By 19 he was a mine safety committeeman, later joining the United Mine Workers’ health and safety department, where he worked for decades. He was working for the union at the time of the Wilberg fire and rushed to the scene. He recalls spending four or five days there during the grueling rescue and recovery operation. “It took us a year to recover the last miner,” he recalls, “and I dealt with the families a lot during that time. It’s something that’s stayed with me my whole life.” Main was confirmed by the Senate in late October; six weeks later he launched a major national initiative to end black lung disease.

During the Bush years, the Department of Labor became a cautionary tale about what happens when foxes are asked to guard the henhouse. But since California Congresswoman Hilda Solis became labor secretary last winter, she has brought on board a team of lifelong advocates for working people–some of whom come from the ranks of organized labor–and has hired hundreds of new investigators and enforcers.

Read the rest of this entry »

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31 March 2010 at 10:16 am

Absolute evidence of lack of compassion

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In Robert Samuelson, at least. Paul Krugman in his blog:

One of the side benefits of health reform is that it has acted as a character test. If, for example, you thought of Mitt Romney as a person of character, his desperate attempts to disavow what is essentially his own policy proposal have cured you of that affliction. And as Menzie Chinn points out, Robert Samuelson’s hysterical reaction to what is, when all is said and done, a fairly modest — and paid for! — expansion of social insurance tells what what really lies behind his constant harping on the long-run fiscal issue.

Menzie has a nice chart comparing four policies and their impact on the budget: the two big Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, and the health reform:



It’s curious, then, that Samuelson and others are driven wild only by the last of these. But Dan Gross explained it all a while back: it’s about

a strain of intellectual Toryism bedeviled by the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be getting social insurance.

All that high-minded talk about fiscal responsibility is just a cover for this deeper-seated concern.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 10:10 am

More lies from the GOP: Michelle Bachmann edition

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Ed Brayton:

Remember when Michele Bachmann said that Obama had "anti-American views" on Hardball during the 2008 campaign? She then went on a radio show and said she didn’t really believe that, that her position had been misstated:

BACHMANN: I feel his views are concerning. I’m calling on the media to investigate them. I’m not saying that his views are anti-American. That was a misreading of what I said. And so I don’t believe that’s my position.

Now, she’s again claiming that she did say that — and that she was right:

Bachmann also said that her controversial remarks of more than a year ago – in which she called Obama "anti-American" and suggested members of Congress be investigated for "anti-American activities" – have proven prophetic.

"I said I had very serious concerns that Barack Obama had anti-American views," she said. "And now I look like Nostradamus."

In a way, she’s right. Just like Nostradamus, she spouts a bunch of irrelevant bullshit and a whole bunch of superstitious, credulous people who lack the ability to think critically distort reality to make those inane blatherings seem to be true.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 9:52 am

IRS Expansion: Laying to rest the myth of the 16,000 IRS agents

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Q: Will the IRS hire 16,500 new agents to enforce the health care law?

A: No. The law requires the IRS mostly to hand out tax credits, not collect penalties. The claim of 16,500 new agents stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.


Can you explain if … the IRS will hire 16,500 new agents and spend $10 billion/year to audit who has [health care] coverage. I can not find any coverage that is not from the right on this … and I have been searching for a while. Thank you.


I’d like to request a fact check on Ron Paul’s claim regarding the enforcement of the health insurance mandate, "16,500 ARMED bureaucrats coming to make this program work." at 3:53 of this video:

I did a google search for "16,500" and there were a lot of hits on conservative websites stating something along the lines that the health care bill sets aside $10 billion for the IRS to hire up to 16,500 agents to enforce the mandate, but ARMED agents are another matter. Anyway, I couldn’t find anything about this from the national news outlets, so I’m just curious if this is just a scare tactic.


This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS "agents" would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true.

The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.

The law does make individuals subject to a tax, starting in 2014, if they fail to obtain health insurance coverage. But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee March 25 that the IRS won’t be auditing individuals to certify that they have obtained health insurance. He said insurance companies will issue forms certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. "We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage," Shulman said. "So there’s not going to be any discussions about health coverage with an IRS employee." In any case, the bill signed into law (on page 131) specifically prohibits the IRS from using the liens and levies commonly used to collect money owed by delinquent taxpayers, and rules out any criminal penalties for individuals who refuse to pay the tax or those who don’t obtain coverage. That doesn’t leave a lot for IRS enforcers to do.

So where does the claim of 16,500 new agents come from? …

Field GOP lies is really a full-time job. Glad to put this baby to bed.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 9:49 am

Under fire, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas offers to cover medical expenses for Crowley baby

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Following up on an earlier post. Jan Jarvis, again reporting for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Houston has health insurance.

The news, announced on a Web site set up for the Crowley baby, ended his family’s weeklong fight after the newborn was denied health insurance because he needed surgery to repair a heart defect — what the insurance company called a pre-existing condition.

Doug and Kim Tracy’s battle with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas garnered national attention, coming on the heels of historic healthcare legislation, signed by President Barack Obama a week ago, which will require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

The Star-Telegram reported on the Tracys’ problem on Friday. That evening, Darren Rodgers, president of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, personally contacted the family. Initially he offered to see whether coverage through the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool could be back-dated to the baby’s birth, Tracy said.

But when that was not possible, he offered to work with Cook Children’s Medical Center to pay for Houston’s medical care.

On Monday, a letter outlining the offer was sent by courier to the Tracy home. Blue Cross Blue Shield agreed to pay the baby’s medical expenses from his birth on March 15 through March 26, when coverage through the risk pool took effect. Houston’s surgery took place on March 19.

"I feel like Blue Cross Blue Shield finally realized they made a mistake and did come through for me," said Tracy, 39. "I am happy this is taken care of and my little boy going to be fine."

Privacy laws prevent Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas from commenting on individual situations, said Margaret Jarvis, a company representative.

"We understand what an emotional time this is for the Tracy family and we regret the frustration they are feeling," a statement from the company reads. "What we can tell you is that we’ve responded to Mr. Tracy in writing over the weekend and are pleased to report that we’ve proposed a solution that addresses his and his family’s concerns."

Tracy said that coverage his son will get through the Texas Health Insurance Risk Pool will cost only $10 more than the policy that he was denied.

Doug and Kim Tracy do not carry health insurance on themselves, but they do cover their two other children and planned to add Houston. The couple said that they are self-employed and find insurance for themselves too expensive. She owns a beauty salon and he owns Burleson Scuba and Paintball. They paid for prenatal care and hospitalization out of their pockets.

Tracy said he called Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas before the baby’s birth to get the child covered but was told by an insurance representative that he had 30 days after the birth to apply for a policy. Then the baby was born with the defect.

After the denial of coverage, friends rallied around the family and contacted politicians and the media to publicize the situation. State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, asked Blue Cross to reconsider its decision. Turner said that it was great news that the medical bills would be covered…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 9:46 am

Chubby 1 and Trumper Almond

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As promised, I used the Simpson Chubby 1 Best brush today, and a similar soap to yesterday’s: Geo. F. Trumper again, this time Almond. A very good lather ensued, and the Chubby is definitely scrubbier than the Rooney 3,1—the Chubby is more like the Emperor 2, but with a larger knot.

I picked another Apollo Mikron (well, my other Mikron), this one with a Polsilver blade, and it did its usual fine job: three passes to a smooth visiage. A splash of Arlington, and I’m good to go.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2010 at 9:42 am

Posted in Shaving

Debunking the "Greenland used to be green" canard

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John Cook of Skeptical Science points out this post:

The skeptic argument…

"Sallie Baliunas, a co-author of a 2003 study, refers to the medieval Viking sagas as examples of unusual warming around 1003 A.D. ‘The Vikings established colonies in Greenland at the beginning of the second millennium, but they died out several hundred years later when the climate turned colder,’ she notes." (William Cromie)

What the science says…

The Greenland ice sheet has existed for at least 400,000 years. There may have been regions of Greenland that were ‘greener’ than today but this was not a global phenomenon.

This argument is based on the idea that as climate has changed naturally before, current climate change must be natural also. The obvious flaw in this argument is that the main driver of climate during the Medieval Warm Period (eg – solar variations) cannot be causing global warming now. More on the "Climate’s changed before" argument…

Did Greenland used to be green?

The Greenland ice sheet is at least 400,000 to 800,000 years old. Certainly it was alive and well when the island was named around 1000 years ago. So where did the Green in Greenland come from? According to Wikipedia, legend has it was good marketing on the part of Erik the Red who figured it would attract more settlers (if he was more vain, it may have been called Redland). Or perhaps its a derivation of Engronelant or Gruntland. The main point is while the ice sheet has always been there, Greenland probably was somewhat warmer during the Medieval Period and part of Greenland was green. So once again, I refer you to the Climate’s changed before argument.

Ancient Greenland DNA

I recommend reading what the authors are actually saying about their own study. The study connects past warming to natural variations in Earth’s orbit—obliquity, or how tilted the planet is in relation to the sun. Author Martin Sharp points out "One could argue that this shows that natural forcing could account for the current warm conditions, but the current orbital configuration does not support this, even when other natural forcings are taken into account." In other words, their study "really has nothing to say about the mechanisms driving the current warming."

According to author Eske Willerslev, the Greenland ice shelf "has not contributed to global sea level rise during the last interglacial. Importantly, it does not mean that we should not be worried about future global warming as the sea level rise of five to six meters during the last interglacial must have come from somewhere."

Finally, Martin Sharp warns the study "does not prove the current global warming trend is not human induced". If anything, "we may be heading for even bigger temperature increases than we previously thought".

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2010 at 5:53 pm

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