Later On

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

Archive for March 16th, 2010

Quote of the Day: Sean McMullen

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I’m reading The Centurion’s Empire and was struck by this line:

There is no more dangerous enemy than one who despises learning.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 3:08 pm

The GOP: a joke now, though a bad joke

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Matt Corley at ThinkProgress:

Yesterday, while discussing the Democrats procedural options for finishing health care reform, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein discussed how the political dynamics would change if the House passes the Senate bill and then a reconciliation bill with some substantive fixes is considered:

If the Senate bill is passed and Democrats are just getting rid of the Nebraska deal and easing the bite of the excise tax, Republicans will have a lot of trouble standing in the way and becoming defenders of the Nebraska deal and the excise tax. At that point, they’re not opposing health-care reform and instead opposing small, popular changes that make the bill better. They’re literally obstructing good government that fits with their recent rhetoric. After all, having spent the last few months hammering the Nelson deal, it doesn’t look very bipartisan to keep Democrats from taking your advice and reneging on it.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is one of those Republicans who has spent months“hammering the Nelson deal,” which he refers to as the “Cornhusker Kickback.” On Bill Bennett’s radio show today, Alexander — who admitted that health care reform would already be law if and when the Senate takes up reconciliation legislation — was pressed to explain why he would obstruct changes that would be positive in his view:

BENNETT: So what is the point of the obstruction — positive obstruction — of you all doing this if we’ve already lost the game?

ALEXANDER: Well, the point of our doing it is to not allow them to abuse the process further. I mean, they, we cannot allow the House or the president or any group of people to completely undermine the role of the Senate in American constitutional government, which is really to say that on big issues, we’re going to require consensus instead of majority and we need 60 votes.

BENNETT: I see. But the House bill that he would sign might be worse than the one with the amendments they’re trying to offer that you will debate.

ALEXANDER: Well, that’s a good point and but but but and we’ll…

BENNETT: It’ll have kickbacks, the Kickback and all that stuff.

ALEXANDER: We’ll have to, we’ll have to consider that as we go through the bill line by line, but basically, the Senate Republicans are not going to bail the House Democrats out by fixing a bill we all voted against.

Later in the interview, Alexander said that the GOP’s call to repeal health care reform “will define every congressional race in November.” Bennett then realized that Alexander was saying that blocking the fixes that Republicans approve of would benefit the party electorally. “Alright, that would be a rationale then for doing exactly what you’re doing in the Senate and letting that stinkbomb of a bill with all the kickbacks and all that stuff sit out there in the sun and fester,” said Bennett. Listen here:

After Alexander hung up the phone, Bennett praised him for his cynical plan to block fixes that he supports so that he can have a stronger argument going into the November elections. Bennett added that Alexander was “the definition of what a senator’s supposed to be” and “a living example of what the founders intended.”

Bennett then characterized Alexander’s argument — which he said could be used to scare House Democrats against voting for the Senate bill — as essentially saying, “they’re not going to fix it. The Republicans aren’t going to let you fix it. They want the most stinking mess there is sitting out there, rotting in the sun. So they can then repeal it. Why do they want to make your bill better?”

Matt Yglesias thinks Republicans may just be posturing about blocking reconciliation at all costs in order to psych out Democrats. “But once health reform does pass that House, that will be irrelevant,” writes Yglesias. “So are they going to vote no? If so, why? I doubt Senate Republicans want to end up on the receiving end of ads about special giveaways to Nebraska.”


Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 2:41 pm

Good point by Paul Krugman

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From his blog:

By this time next week we’ll have seen huge headlines about health care. These headlines will either read “Democrats do it!”, followed by various Republicans and their apologists complaining that what the Dems did wasn’t nice, or “Democrats — losers again”, followed by Republicans going bwahahaha.

And it’s up to a handful of Democrats to decide which headlines we get. They’re out of their minds if they don’t choose door #1.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 2:36 pm

Climate change denialists: Heavy reliance on falsehood

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 12:53 pm

Franken: A perversion of the filibuster

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Congress, Government

Everything David Brooks says about reconciliation is wrong

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Shouldn’t the NY Times do fact-checking of their columnists? Or does the paper believe that "facts" are whatever you want to say, like some (most?) Republicans? Ezra Klein in the Washington Post:

on Chait did a very funny job taking apart David Brooks’s column on reconciliation. I want to do a serious job on it. The factual statements Brooks uses in his argument are wrong. Not arguable, or questionable, or suspicious. Wrong. And since everything else flows from those wrong facts, the rest of the column can’t be taken seriously.

"Reconciliation has been used with increasing frequency," writes Brooks. "That was bad enough. But at least for the Bush tax cuts or the prescription drug bill, there was significant bipartisan support." The outcome of letting reconciliation go from rare and bipartisan to common and partisan is that we will go from a Senate where "people are usually pretty decent to one another" to a Senate that "bleaches out normal behavior and the normal instincts of human sympathy."

Chilling stuff, huh?

But none of Brooks’s evidence is true. Literally none of it. The budget reconciliation process was used six times between 1980 and 1989. It was used four times between 1990 and 1999. It was used five times between 2000 and 2009. And it has been used zero times since 2010. Peak reconciliation use, in other words, was in the ’80s, not the Aughts. The data aren’t hard to find. They were published on Brooks’s own op-ed page.

Nor has reconciliation been limited to bills with "significant bipartisan support." To use Brooks’s example of the tax cuts, the 2003 tax cuts passed the Senate 50-50, with Dick Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote. Two Democrats joined with the Republicans in that effort. Georgia’s Zell Miller, who would endorse George W. Bush in 2004 and effectively leave the Democratic Party, and Nebraska’s Ben Nelson. So I’d say that’s one Democrat. One Democrat alongside 49 Republicans. That’s not significant bipartisan support.

Another example: In 1993, Bill Clinton passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. The final tally was, again, a tie broken by the vice president. In this case, not a single Republican voted for the bill.

As for the prescription drug benefit? The prescription drug benefit didn’t go through reconciliation. It was passed through the normal order. Brooks is simply wrong on this.

To recap, Brooks argued that reconciliation is being used more frequently, and that past reconciliation bills, like Bush’s tax cuts and prescription drug benefit, were significantly bipartisan. Reconciliation is, in fact, being used less frequently, past reconciliation bills like the tax cuts were not significantly bipartisan by any stretch of the imagination, and the prescription drug benefit did not go through reconciliation. Brooks isn’t wrong in the sense that "I disagree with him." He’s wrong in the sense that the column requires a correction.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 11:32 am

Posted in Daily life, NY Times

Interesting breakfast

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I’ll have to try this, but I may use chicken stock instead of water. Mark Bittman in his blog:

For whatever reason — I ran out, I had other grains to eat, maybe I was a little tired of it — I went through most of the winter without eating oatmeal for breakfast.  And when I began again, the first morning I turned to maple syrup, which seems the default. But on day two, I woke up with one of those odd cravings, one of those bizarre certainties about what I was going to have for breakfast. The most amazing thing — to me, at least — was that I’d never made this before, yet I knew it was going to be perfect.

It was barely any more work than regular oatmeal. I took two handfuls of rolled oats and combined them in a pot with three chopped celery stalks and water. The aroma was fantastic. (I used to hate celery; what was I thinking?) The cooking time was maybe a couple of minutes longer than normal, I suppose because the celery gave off some liquid. (Next time I’ll add less water.) I finished it with soy sauce and maybe a quarter-teaspoon of sesame oil.

Creamy oatmeal, crunchy celery, super flavor. A new fave.

I use oat groats (whole-grain oats), but I could add the chopped celery just for the last 5-10 minutes.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 11:06 am

Obama being Bush again

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I can’t figure out why Obama is so right-wing in some of his opinions and actions. Greenwald:

One of the principal weapons used by the Bush administration to engage in illegal surveillance activities — from torture to warrantless eavesdropping — was its refusal to brief the full Congressional Intelligence Committees about its activities.  Instead, at best, it would confine its briefings to the so-called “Gang of Eight” — comprised of 8 top-ranking members of the House and Senate — who were impeded by law and other constraints from taking any action even if they learned of blatantly criminal acts.

This was a sham process:  it allowed the administration to claim that it “briefed” select Congressional leaders on illegal conduct, but did so in a way that ensured there could be no meaningful action or oversight, because those individuals were barred from taking notes or even consulting their staff and, worse, because the full Intelligence Committees were kept in the dark and thus could do nothing even in the face of clear abuses.  The process even allowed the members who were briefed to claim they were powerless to stop illegal programs.  That extremely restrictive process also ensures irresolvable disputes over what was actually said during those briefings, as illustrated by recent controversies over what Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats were told about Bush’s torture and eavesdropping programs.  Here’s how Richard Clarke explained it in July, 2009, on The Rachel Maddow Show:

MADDOW:  Do you think that the current system, the gang of eight briefing system, allows the CIA to be good at spying and to be doing their work legally?

CLARKE: I think briefings of the gang of eight, those very sensitive briefings, as opposed to the broader briefings – the gang of eight briefings are usually often a farce. They catch them alone, one at the time usually. They run some briefing by them.

The congressman can‘t keep the briefing. They can‘t take notes. They can‘t consult their staff. They don‘t know what the briefings are about in advance. It’s a box check so that the CIA can say it complied with the law. It‘s not oversight. It doesn’t work.

To their credit, Congressional Democrats — over the objections of right-wing Republicans — have been attempting since the middle of last year to fix this serious problem, by writing legislation to severely narrow the President’s power to conceal intelligence activities from the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and abolish the “Gang of Eight” process.  After all, those Committees were created in the wake of the intelligence abuses uncovered by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, and their purpose is “to provide vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.”  But if they’re not even told about what the Executive Branch is doing in the intelligence realm, then they obviously can’t exert oversight and ensure compliance with the law — which is the purpose of keeping them in the dark, as the last decade demonstrated.

Yet these efforts to ensure transparency and oversight have continuously run into one major roadblock:  Barack Obama’s threat to veto the legislation…

Continue reading. I’m glad Obama won the election instead of McCain-Palin, and I’m happy with quite a few of his initiatives, But then he does things like this, and I feel a sort of nauseated contempt. I particularly find his decision to disobey the clear statement of the law and to refuse to even investigate war crimes committed by the US. I guess the law is not that important to him.

Please read the whole thing. In case you don’t, note this update Greenwald posted:

UPDATE:  Marcy Wheeler notes what is probably the worst part of all of this, something I consider truly despicable:  the administration is also threatening to veto the bill because it contains funding for a new investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, on the ground that such an investigation — in the administration’s words — “would undermine public confidence” in the FBI probe of the attacks “and unfairly cast doubt on its conclusions.”

As I’ve documented at length, not only are there enormous, unresolved holes in the FBI’s case, but many of the most establishment-defending mainstream sources — from leading newspaper editorial pages to key politicians in both parties — have expressed extreme doubts about the FBI’s case and called for an independent investigation.  For the administration to actively block an independent review of one of the most consequential political crimes of this generation would probably be its worst act yet, and that’s saying quite a bit.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:49 am

AIPAC: "Israel first!"

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Joe Klein, writing in the TIME blog Swampland:

The America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has done a very unwise thing: It has issued a statement criticizing the Obama Administration, rather than Israel, for its reaction to the Netanyahu government’s recent announcement of more illegal settlement blocks in East Jerusalem–an announcement that was made during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit last week, an act of extreme rudeness on top of its unquestioned illegality.

This is quite remarkable. I may be wrong–and commenters are welcome to correct me–but I can’t remember another ethnic or religious lobbying group publicly siding with a foreign country against the President of the United States…especially when the country in question is engaging in behavior that the international community believes is illegal. Once again, every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has called for a freeze of settlements being built in Palestinian areas, including East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967. AIPAC stands, with Israel, against every one of those Presidents.

I certainly hope AIPAC comes to its senses soon. But I suspect it wants a showdown with the Obama Administration, which, unlike its Bush predecessor, has stood with the rest of the world in requesting that Israel adhere to Road Map laid out by the so-called quartet (the U.S., E.U., U.N. and Russia), a plan the West Bank Palestinians seem to be taking seriously. This is an attempt by AIPAC to show muscle and force the Obama Administration to back down: Israel has tremendous support in the United States, especially among Evangelicals (who believe that the achievement of a Greater Israel–that is, the annexation of Palestinian lands–would be a precursor of the Rapture).

As an American Jew, I find this extremely embarrassing and unfortunate. This could get very, very ugly.

I think it’s evident where AIPAC’s primary loyalties lie—and it’s not with the US.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:40 am

Very cool idea from TED

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Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:37 am

Posted in Daily life

More on Benedict’s enabling of a pedophile

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Good article in Salon, which begins:

A CATHOLIC MASS ISN’T normally a debating society, but sometimes enough is simply enough. At Sunday mass at the parish church in the Bavarian town of Bad Tölz, a pastor’s unspeakable past finally caught up with him. It was revealed last Friday that sixty-two year-old Pastor Peter H., who had been providing pastoral care at the church for the past two years, had been tried and convicted of sexual abuse in 1986. Not only had this conviction been kept secret, but the priest’s superior at one time – Joseph Ratzinger, the former Archbishop of Munich who is today better known as Pope Benedict XVI – had knowingly moved this known pedophile from parish to parish. He was finally sent to Bad Tölz in 2008 under the condition that he engage in no “children’s, youth, or altar boy work.” However, he did end up conducting two children’s services at the church and also took part in youth retreats.

As far as anyone knows, Peter H. did “nothing, absolutely nothing” wrong during his previous twenty-one year tenure in the town of Garching, nor is anything known about any inappropriate activities in Bad Tölz. Even so, Peter H.’s colleague, Pastor Rupert Frania, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, “I would like to have known about this earlier.”

At yesterday’s mass, Pastor Frania substituted for Peter H. and began a homily regarding his friend’s case. But as soon as he cited the example of the Prodigal Son and the need for forgiveness, the congregation rebelled. A young couple that was scheduled to be married by the disgraced priest got restless. It appears that they had just learned about the priest’s past from the media. “I can’t listen to this anymore!” the man shouted. “You can’t keep changing the subject!” According to the Süddeutsche, some of the mass goers applauded, others told him to shut up. A debate ensued. For several minutes the congregation discussed the case, and continued after the mass was over. Peter H. has been suspended, effective immediately. His supervisor has submitted his resignation.

The newspaper recently discovered that in 1980 Bishop Ratzinger approved the transfer of the pedophile priest to Bavaria to work in a new parish. The man had gotten an eleven year-old boy drunk and forced him to fellate him. Once in Bavaria he was once more caught in the act and put on trial. [Note that the second boy would have been saved had Ratzinger not acted as an accessory after the fact, and then assisted the pedophile by moving him to a new hunting ground. This is absolutely contemptible, despicable, and (in the US, at least) illegal. But apparently it’s quite moral in the Catholic church. – LG] Peter H. was sentenced to eighteen months in prison and fined €4,000. In 1982, Ratzinger moved to Rome to become head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and essentially washed his hands of the matter.

This revelation is only the latest in an avalanche of appalling – and frankly mind-boggling – news for the Catholic Church in Germany and the rest of Europe. Ever since reports emerged of systematic sexual abuse at Berlin’s elite Canisius-Kolleg high school last January, stories of rape and fellatio perpetrated by Catholic priests in church-run institutions throughout the country have been bombarding the newspapers on a daily basis. It seems as if anyone who had ever been sodomized by a priest in the past fifty years has suddenly found his voice, making the Holy Catholic Church in this country appear like little more than a stiff-lipped pedophile ring.

But as usual in these cases, the cover-up is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:36 am

GOP vote shows massive hypocrisy/lying

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This is from a ThinkProgress story by Zaid Jilani. Just a snippet:

Last fall, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) offered an amendment on the floor of the House of Representatives that would’ve eliminated Medicare. Not a single House Republican voted to repeal the program that their party has fought since its inception, despite the fact that it is, indeed, a single-payer, not-for-profit, “socialist” universal health care system for the elderly.

The GOP is simply not serious. Not all members are stupid, of course, but their thought patterns do not involve such liberal (Enlightenment) ideas such as "logic" or "evidence." Check out this post by Steve Benen, which includes a video of Rachel Maddow attempting to communicate with a Republican. It’s hopeless, because the Republican in question, like many (most?) Republicans simply ignores facts that contract his beliefs, and if you point out such a fact, he seems to think that "believing" the fact is optional. Benen:

J.D. Hayworth, the congressman-turned-right-wing-radio-host taking on Sen. John McCain in a GOP Senate primary, isn’t exactly the kind of guy to celebrate diversity. But it’s his approach to reality that deserves special attention.

A couple of days ago, Hayworth said during a radio interview, "[T]he Massachusetts Supreme Court, when it started this move toward same-sex marriage, actually defined marriage — now get this — it defined marriage as simply, ‘the establishment of intimacy.’" He went on to argue that such an approach would allow humans to marry horses.

There’s all kinds of things wrong with this, but if you look at the Massachusetts Supreme Court, there are no references to "the establishment of intimacy" as a standard for anything. The words simply aren’t there. Hayworth made up the quote.

Last night, Rachel Maddow asked Hayworth to explain his bizarre remarks. The exchange was quite illustrative. (via Alex Koppelman)

[Here Benen posts a clip of Maddow talking to Hayworth; click link to view – LG]

For those of you who can’t watch clips from your work computers, Maddow tried to explain that she looked for evidence to support Hayworth’s claim, and couldn’t find any. "Well, that’s fine," Hayworth said. "You and I can have a disagreement about that."

"Well, it either is true or it isn’t," Rachel responded. "It’s empirical."

Hayworth, perhaps unaware of what "empirical" means, replied, "OK. OK. I appreciate the fact that we have a disagreement on that."

And this is why conversations with conservatives never seem to go well. Reality is an inconvenient detail that can be twisted, manipulated, and frequently ignored.

In a normal, sensible debate, one side might make a provocative claim. The other side can challenge the claim, and provide evidence. If it’s proven false, the first side moves on to some other claim. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But that’s not how Republicans work. They make claims that aren’t true, and after being corrected, either repeat those claims again anyway, pretend the matter is subjective, or both.

It’s genuinely painful to listen to clowns for whom reality is meaningless.

This may explain in part why the GOP is so incompetent at governing. That, and the fact that they truly dislike the government and would love to close it down except for the military.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:27 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Pomp, circumstance, and trying to outdo the other side

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Thanks to Constant Reader for pointing out this India-Pakistan Wagah Border Flag Lowering Ceremony:

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

TOBS Avocado

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I was chatting in comments with a shaver who reminded me of the excellence of TOBS Avocado shaving cream—and is buying a Futur. I thought I’d combine the two for today’s shave.

TOBS Avocado shaving cream is excellent—too bad they don’t make an avocado shaving soap. The Rooney Style 2 generated lots of thick lather, and the Futur did a fine job with an Astra Keramik blade that’s still going strong. A splash of FLoris London JF following the three-pass shave, and I’m good to go. First stop: another pot of my new favorite white tea: Jasmine Silver Needle, which has a wonderful jasmine fragrance.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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