Later On

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

Archive for May 14th, 2010

Maybe this suggestion from Drum can make Murkowski remove her hold

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Kevin Drum:

If drilling for oil has the potential to cause vast damage, then the drillers of oil need to have the financial wherewithal to repair that damage when it occurs. That’s the kind of personal responsibility the Republican Party stands for. So Republicans certainly wouldn’t object to raising the liability cap for offshore drilling accidents so that taxpayers aren’t the hook for the costs. Right?

You underestimate the Republican party. None other than Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski stood up to object. Yes, the senator from the state that got hammered by the Exxon Valdez spill objected to raising the liability cap.

And what was her argument? If the liability cap is raised, that might exclude small oil companies from being able to get the insurance and financing necessary to drill offshore. After all, only the oil giants could afford $10 billion. That is to say: only the oil giants can afford to clean up after themselves.

You’re not dreaming. That’s really the argument. Murkowski wants small, independent oil companies to be able to privatize the profits of offshore drilling but offload the financial risks to the public. And she frames it as avoiding a "Big Oil monopoly" on drilling. She’s just defending mom-and-pop oil shops! The gall is breathtaking.

That’s David Roberts. On a historical note, this is pretty much how the nuclear power industry is treated too. Back in 1957, when no one knew just how dangerous nuclear plants were, insurance companies were unwilling to write open-ended policies for them. Congress, however, didn’t want that to get in the way of nuclear development (too cheap to meter, after all!). So they required plant operators to buy the biggest policies they could, and then put taxpayers on the hook for any damages above that.

Oh wait. No they didn’t. Actually, they set up a $10 billion insurance pool funded by the industry. Taxpayers were on the hook for anything above that, but at least the industry as a whole was responsible for the first $10 billion. If Murkowski is so worried about all those small oil companies, maybe she should support the same kind of fund for offshore drilling. But I guess that would be socialism. Or something.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 3:11 pm

Legalize marijuana

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First, this example from one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers:

I’m a more-or-less daily smoker. I smoke to help with problems associated with being a survivor of sexual abuse. I don’t remember much about my abuse, thankfully, which happened before I was 6.  But the lingering effects are anxiety and nightmares.  When I stop smoking, I rarely sleep a full night, as I’m plagued by nightmares of the demons of my unconscious mind: squids attacking me in the ocean, or bats from a dark sky, etc. With a little THC in my system, I never have these dreams; without THC, I’m attacked every night. Thank God for it.

And this story by Mark Berman in Opposing Views:

An elderly woman is in a Georgia hospital after suffering a heart attack during a mistaken drug raid at her house — a house police had under surveillance for two years. This incident comes on the heels of a highly publicized Missouri drug-bust-gone-bad that was captured on video and ended with a dead dog.

Helen Pruett, 76, was home alone in her trailer Tuesday morning, when Polk County policed officers and DEA agents went to her house — with guns drawn — to serve an arrest warrant.

“It was not a search warrant,” Polk County police Chief Kenny Dodd told WSB Radio. “She came to the door, opened it and talked with us on the steps. The house was never breached.”

After speaking with Pruett at the front door, officers “realized that the subject we were looking for was not there,” Dodd said.

However, the woman’s daughter tells a slightly different story. Machelle Holt says officers swarmed the house.

“She was at home and a bang came on the back door and she went to the door and by the time she got to the back door, someone was banging on the front door and then they were banging on her kitchen window saying ‘police, police,'” Holl told WSB.

Holl says the house was surrounded and she was scared to open the door. When Dodd finally convinced her she was safe, she let them in.

Dodd said at some point, Pruett started feeling ill. “She made us aware that she was having chest pains and we got her medical attention. I stayed with her and kept her calm and talked with her, monitored her vital signs until the ambulance arrived,” said Dodd.

Doctors confirm Pruett had a heart attack. Holl says her mother has had three previous heart attacks but had been doing better the past couple of years.

“She was traumatized.  Even the doctor said this is what happens when something traumatic happens. He said it’s usually like a death in the family or something like that just absolutely scares them half to death, and that is what has happened,” said Holl.

The chief defended the decision to approach the house with guns drawn. “These were considered high-risk warrants,” Dodd said. “These individuals are known drug dealers and they were looking at a lot of time in federal prison so, obviously, when we serve those types of warrants, we usually go in with guns drawn just to protect ourselves.”

Police and the DEA are investigating how they could have possibly had the wrong house under surveillance for two years. Holl said it’s an unforgivable error.

“They have totally made a really bad mistake. You would think that with the officers and the SWAT team and the DEA they would make sure that all of their I’s are dotted, all of their T’s are crossed before they go bursting into someone’s home like that,” said Holl.

Dodd says he has gone to the hospital to check on Pruett and apologize to the family for what has happened.

Continue reading. Interesting that the police chief simply lied.

Why not just legalize marijuana?

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

An oil-spill cleanup technique

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A commenter pointed out this:

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:26 pm

Since spill, feds have given 27 waivers to oil companies in gulf

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Obama said they wouldn’t do this, but then they do. Is he simply lying? Is he not in control of his own Administration? Those seem to be the options. But let’s see how fast those 27 waivers are rescinded.

Marisa Taylor in McClatchy:

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded on April 20, the Obama administration has granted oil and gas companies at least 27 exemptions from doing in-depth environmental studies of oil exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.

The waivers were granted despite President Barack Obama’s vow that his administration would launch a “relentless response effort” to stop the leak and prevent more damage to the gulf. One of them was dated Friday — the day after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was temporarily halting offshore drilling

The exemptions, known as “categorical exclusions,” were granted by the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) and included waiving detailed environmental studies for a BP exploration plan to be conducted at a depth of more than 4,000 feet and an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. exploration plan at more 9,000 feet.

“Is there a moratorium on off shore drilling or not?” asked Peter Galvin, conservation director with the Center for Biological Diversity, the environmental group that discovered the administration’s continued approval of the exemptions. “Possibly the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has occurred and nothing appears to have changed.”

MMS officials said the exemptions are continuing to be issued because they do not represent final drilling approval.

To drill, a company has to file a separate application under a process that is now suspended because of Salazar’s order Thursday.

However, officials could not say whether the exemptions would stand once the moratorium is lifted.

MMS’ approvals are expected to spark new criticism of the troubled agency and the administration’s response to the spill.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:25 pm

Obama administration going wrong way on Miranda rights

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Of course, Miranda rights are a dust mote compared to murdering citizens. Still, it’s another move toward a more authoritarian and totalitarian government. Little by little, rights are removed—always, at first, for the most marginalized. Then for the lesser marginalized. And so on. We’re getting to see these things at the outset. Bob Ray Sanders in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?" — Typical Miranda warning

No, Mr. President, I will not stand for it. I am not ready to give up my rights in the name of fighting terrorism.

I resented the thought of cowering to terrorism by surrendering freedoms under the past administration and, believe me, I will fight you and yours on this one.

At first, I thought I had misheard Attorney General Eric Holder on the Sunday morning talk show. I might have been a little distracted as I poured myself another cup of coffee, but thank goodness NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory also did a double take at Holder’s comment.

The attorney general repeated his assertion that perhaps it was time, in conjunction with the Congress, to revise our application of the Supreme Court’s long-standing Miranda ruling.

Holder has been criticized for plans to try terror suspects in civilian rather than military courts, and he was particularly denounced after suspects in two recent failed bombing attempts were given the Miranda warning.

In both foiled bombing attacks — one on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day and one in New York’s Times Square on May 1 — the suspects talked freely with authorities after they were given the warning usually given to criminal suspects before questioning.

But detractors, holding up the "ticking bomb" theory that another threat could be possible, even likely, insist that suspected terrorists must be interrogated before they have the opportunity to consult an attorney. Remaining silent or giving incorrect or misleading information might aid in subsequent attacks, they say.

It was that kind of thinking that led this country to use torture as an interrogation tool in the questioning of al Qaida suspects, something for which this country was rightly criticized and a practice for which we all should be ashamed.

In confirming that the would-be Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad (a naturalized American citizen) had connection with the Taliban in Pakistan, Holder said law enforcement needed "necessary flexibility" interrogating terrorist suspects.

Under the "pubic safety" exemption that grants pre-Miranda questioning in special cases, Holder suggested possibly limiting the rights of terrorism suspects even if they are American citizens like Shahzad.

"If we are going to have a system that is capable of dealing in a public safety context with this new threat, I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public safety exception," Holder said. "And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress to do: to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional but that is also relevant to our time and the threat that we now face."

No! No! No!

The administration’s new position borders on the worst kind of pandering and makes me wonder whom it’s trying to appease.

In the latest two plots, the suspects are talking — without the use of waterboarding, electric shocks to the genitals, sleep deprivation, the use of dogs or being stripped naked. Why do we have to change who we are?

We’ve been told by many experts that it is difficult to trust statements from suspects who are tortured. Those who were treated with a modicum of dignity proved to be much more helpful.

It frightens me to think we might return to the day when local law enforcement will decide when and how to inform a detainee of his or her rights. Do we really want to give every local district that power? …

Continue reading. Obama is going to be an interesting president, historically, continuing the direction the Bush Administration went in terms of eliminating rights and the rule of law. Not a good idea, IMHO.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:21 pm

"The worst of the worst" includes a ballet dancer

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Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald:

A federal court on Thursday ordered the Pentagon to set free from Guantánamo a former Russian Army ballet dancer turned devout Muslim whose plight captured the imagination of a Massachusetts college town.

Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the Obama administration to take “all necessary and appropriate diplomatic steps . . . forthwith” to release Ravil Mingazov, 42, an ethnic Tartar who was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and turned over to U.S. forces.

Thursday’s midday ruling raised to 35 the number of Guantánamo detention cases the U.S. government has lost since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the war-on-terror captives can sue for their freedom in federal courts.

The Justice Department has so far successfully defended the indefinite detention of 13 Guantánamo captives.

With the Pentagon still holding 181 foreign men at Guantánamo, dozens more habeas corpus petitions are yet to be heard.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Body said Thursday afternoon that government lawyers were “reviewing the ruling,” which was still being declassified. Kennedy gave the government until June 15 to report back.

The Guantánamo captive’s Washington, D.C. attorney, Douglas K. Spaulding, said his client had yet to hear of the ruling but the lawyer had reached the captive’s mother in central Russia, where she was “very gratified to hear that Judge Kennedy had entered this order.” …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:15 pm

Congress wants to know why MMS aborted tougher drilling rules

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Good idea. I’d like to know, too. Maybe we could ask them as they’re being frog-marched to jail.

Erika Bolstad, Lesley Clark and Dan Chang reporting for McClatchy Newspapers:

Engineers launched their latest effort to curb the crude oil gushing from a busted underwater well in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday as lawmakers on Capitol Hill wrangled over the liability limits for oil companies and continued to probe the mishaps and regulatory failures that caused the mammoth spill.

The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, which regulates oilrigs, came under more scrutiny as congressional investigators scheduled hearings to find out why the federal agency never completed rules that would have required additional controls on blowout preventers — the safety equipment that failed to stop the spill.

Staffers from the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee, who traveled to Louisiana this week to sit in on the U.S. Coast Guard-led inquiry into the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, said they learned from the testimony of Mike Saucier, an MMS regional supervisor for field operations, that new rules had been proposed.

Saucier said the agency prepared but never completed regulations in 2001, the first year of George W. Bush’s presidency, that would have required secondary control systems for blowout preventers.

"As far as I know, they’re still at headquarters," Saucier said.

The devices have been at the heart of the inquiry into what caused the explosion that killed 11 and continues to spew oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The House committee also will be examining the agency’s ties to the oil industry and whether a cozy relationship kept it from enacting tougher regulations. McClatchy reported last week that nearly 100 standards set by the American Petroleum Institute are included in the MMS’ offshore operating regulations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:11 pm

Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918

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I do not understand why Turkey does not want the Armenian Genocide mentioned. Sure, they probably feel guilt (or at least they should), but it’s a historical fact and an important event. Germany has certainly adjusted to their role in the various genocides perpetrated by the Nazis: they acknowledge, teach their children about it, and work hard to ensure that it cannot happen again (by, for example, emphasizing individual decisions among very young students, allowing a minimum of regimentation. (German teachers who observe US classes see all sorts of things they not allowed to do in Germany, mainly in group discipline: making students stand in line, no talking, etc.)

Here’s a book that might help, though it’s unclear whether there’s a Turkish edition. If I had the money, I would print a few hundred thousand copies in Turkish and make them freely available to Turks so they could learn some of their own history. (It’s a pity when a government tries to indoctrinate its citizens through their education—are you listening, Texas Education Agency?

Armenian Golgotha: A Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918

by Grigoris Balakian and Peter Balakian

A review by Benjamin Moser

The Armenian genocide is a "controversial" issue that can always be counted on to annoy the Turkish government, which has dedicated its considerable diplomatic and economic resources to repressing its memory. This endeavor is helped by our distance from events that took place during the First World War: I suspect most people are as hazy on the details of the events as I was when I picked up Grigoris Balakian’s Armenian Golgotha (Vintage, $20).

Balakian, a priest from Constantinople, was arrested with other Armenian notables on April 24, 1915, the "Red Sunday" commemorated as the beginning of the genocide. Balakian should have died on almost every page of this appalling and magnificent book, half the chronicle of a murdered people and half the story of Balakian’s own desperate escape. It owes its existence to his determination to survive to write it, to recount the disaster to "future Armenian generations," a sacred task that gives him the strength to persevere through the impossible circumstances that killed well over a million of his countrymen.

Written in Armenian and published in 1922, the book does not seek to camouflage the bungling of certain Armenian leaders. It is meant, after all, only for Armenians, and had he been writing for a Western audience, he might have succumbed to the temptation to gloss over these failures. But "Armenian" does not mean parochial: Balakian’s ease in the "gentile" world — he was educated in Berlin, where the book opens to a capital cheering the declaration of war — allows him to place the tragedy within the more familiar context of World War I. In the eyes of the perpetrators, however, this internationally educated intellectual is just another Armenian, and it is not so much the copious evidence he airs of plotting pashas, lazy patriarchs, and covetous generals that makes this story so shocking; it is the image, repeated in chapter after chapter, in village after village, of Balakian and his fellow deportees arriving late at night, starving and exhausted, in a place where all doors are closed to them, and where the local peasants refuse to sell them so much as a fistful of bread or a sip of water.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 2:03 pm

The difficulties of covering the bank investigations

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Good column by a reporter who explains why the bank investigation stories are sometimes frustrating to read—and that’s nothing to how frustrating it is to write them. Stephen Engelberg at ProPublica:

The story of the banks that created investments and then bet against them has reached a particularly unedifying stage.

Every day seems to bring another headline about a bank or hedge fund that is “under investigation” by one authority or another. Such stories can be built around a wispy fact or two. They typically feature indignant denials and lots of caveats, and are often sourced to the always-revealing “people familiar with the case.” (For a run-down of the stories, see our just-published: Bank Investigations Cheat Sheet.)

To be fair, this is honest journalistic labor. I’ve done it as a reporter in Washington, and we’re doing a bit of it ourselves right now on several stories, from Wall Street to New Orleans. Without doubt, there are moments when the mere fact of an investigation is worth noting, particularly if the principal figure is a leading financial institution or a public official.

But we should all be aware that this work is particularly subject to pitfalls. Stories about investigations often leave the impression that authorities are running full tilt at malefactors. And they often fail to answer basic questions. Are these investigations fishing expeditions, pro forma reviews, or the first steps toward significant charges?

There are good reasons for the lack of clarity. First, the investigators themselves don’t always know where they’re going. Investigators also have little reason to telegraph what they’re doing to journalists, and they’re usually tight-lipped in the early phases of their inquiries. (Occasionally, prosecutors do provide information to the press in hopes of rattling their targets or pressuring people to cooperate. That’s more the exception than the rule.)

Usually, reporters are left interviewing the witnesses, their lawyers and their various associates, from business partners to significant others. If a federal official asks someone on Wall Street pointed questions about a particular investment put together by a big bank, then a reporter might write a story saying officials have begun an investigation. Procedurally, such inquiries begin as “preliminary” investigations. This could ultimately lead to an actual investigation that could eventually result in criminal charges. Or not.

Over time, such stories have had a mixed track record. Some ultimately explode into significant cases, such as the insider trading scandal that erupted recently on Wall Street. Others fizzle.

One case I covered in the 1980s involved …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

US decision to murder American citizen causes second thoughts

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I assume that "causing unease" is equivalent to having second thoughts—and well they should think again about this. I’m surprised that Obama wants to go down in history as not only the first African-American president but also as the president who instituted a program of murdering US citizens without due process or a trial or a defense, etc. I guess those things are just too much trouble—easier just to have the guy murdered.

Obama has said that he won’t torture anyone. But murder is okay? I find that very odd.

I wonder who the second citizen murdered by the US will be, and whether some later president(s) will decide to loosen the criteria a bit. And after all the brouhaha (very little, alas), in the future they will probably keep the victims secret. That way, people won’t complain because they won’t know.

Scott Shane in the NY Times:

The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.

The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy.

To eavesdrop on the terrorism suspect who was added to the target list, the American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is hiding in Yemen, intelligence agencies would have to get a court warrant. But designating him for death, as C.I.A. officials did early this year with the National Security Council’s approval, required no judicial review.

“Congress has protected Awlaki’s cellphone calls,” said Vicki Divoll, a former C.I.A. lawyer who now teaches at the United States Naval Academy. “But it has not provided any protections for his life. That makes no sense.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:49 pm

Good sources for free Microsoft Word templates

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The templates created for the various programs that comprise Microsoft Office are often extremely useful. You can find templates on Microsoft, and MakeUseOf lists 5 sites from which you can download templates.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Tea-party GOP calls for repeal of direct election of Senators

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The tea-party faction of the GOP wants US Senators selected by state legislators instead of being elected directly by the people of the state. Easier to work deals, I imagine. Evan McMorris-Santoro has the report at TPMDC:

There are signs that tea party calls to repeal the 17th Amendment — taking the selection of U.S. Senators out of the hands of voters and putting it in the hands of state governments — are proving to be a bridge too far for Republican candidates desperate to steal some of the movement’s mojo. In the past couple weeks, at least two mainstream Republican candidates have found themselves walking back from pledges to support repealing the amendment, suggesting there’s a limit to how much support the tea parties can provide.

The "Repeal The 17th" movement is a vocal part of of the overall tea party structure. Supporters of the plan say that ending the public vote for Senators would give the states more power to protect their own interests in Washington (and of course, give all of us "more liberty" in the process.) As their process of "vetting" candidates, some tea party groups have required candidates to weigh in on the idea of repeal in questionnaires. And that’s where the trouble starts.

In Ohio, Steve Stivers — the Republican attempting to unseat Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in the state’s 15th District — came under fire from Democrats when it was revealed he had checked the box saying he would repeal the 17th Amendment on a tea party survey (see question 11 here).

Kilroy’s campaign set up a website slamming Stivers for the stance, and attacked him in the press.

Stivers flip-flopped almost immediately, telling the Columbus Dispatch that despite the survey (and a January quote in The Hill), he didn’t know what he was saying when he called for an end to Senators elected directly by the people they represent.

"I made a mistake," Stivers told the paper. "I answered that question wrong. It was not intentional."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

GOP Senators Say Bailouts Worked — Just Please Don’t Tell Anyone!

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Brian Beutler at TPMDC:

Perhaps the most fascinating political conundrum of the 2010 election is one faced by GOP senators, almost all of whom voted for TARP and supported some of the other bailouts in the thick of the financial crisis. The good news is that, for all their shortcomings, the bailouts did the trick, preventing a deeper economic crisis. The bad news is those bailouts are now considered political poison by the tea partying conservative base.

That puts Republicans in a strange position: unable to say the legislation failed, but at pains to distance themselves from their vote nonetheless. Over the past couple days, I’ve asked a number of GOP senators whether, nearly two years later, they think the bailout bill was effective. Their answers were revealing.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), who’s retiring at the end of the year and is therefore unencumbered by the need to defend himself from the GOP base, has nothing to run away from.

"It was extremely effective," Gregg told me. "Not only was it effective and stabilized the financial industry, it also returned to the taxpayers almost $20 billion in interest and dividends that they would have otherwise not have."

Compare that to John McCain, who will face a primary of his own this summer. He says he and the rest of the country were lied to.

"It’s not been effective because they deceived the American people," McCain said. "They said it would go to address the housing issue instead they gave it to the financial institutions. It’s been well documented that it was sold to the American people as going to address what caused the crisis–that was the housing market–we gave $10 billion to Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs doesn’t have anything to do with the housing market…. They lied to the American people."

Who lied, exactly?

"The former administration," McCain said. "Paulson and all of them…Geithner, whoever else was in charge. Primarily it was Paulson."

Of course, by late September 2008, everyone was calling the TARP legislation "the bailout bill" and McCain himself referred to it as a "financial rescue."

Other Republicans aren’t so conspiratorial, though. Regrettable as the circumstances were, bailing out the financial sector was ineluctable–"a necessary evil," according to NRSC Chairman John Cornyn.

"We were all told by Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson that the financial system would collapse," Cornyn said. "What I’m so upset about is that the previous administration and this administration have used the TARP for purposes never contemplated by Congress."

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) had a similar take. The bill was necessary, and indeed effective, but the executive branch abused it and we’d all be better off if the entire episode–from the collapse of the economy to the ensuing political fallout–had never happened.

"I can explain it," Alexander said. "I wish we didn’t have to deal with it."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:23 pm

How the GOP kills legislation: Tactic 24

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The GOP has a whole list of things they use to kill legislation and obstruct progress. The secret hold is one, of course, and here’s another, described by Rachel Slajda at TPMDC:

In an example of Republican obstructionism rendered beautiful by its simplicity, the GOP yesterday killed a House bill that would increase funding for scientific research and math and science education by forcing Democrats to vote in favor of federal employees viewing pornography.

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the ranking member of the House science committee, introduced a motion to recommit, a last-ditch effort to change a bill by sending it back to the committee with mandatory instructions.

In this case, Republicans included a provision that would bar the federal government from paying the salaries of employees who’ve been disciplined for viewing pornography at work.

To proceed with the bill and bring it to a final vote, Democrats would have had to vote against the motion to recommit, and against the porn ban.

But they didn’t have the stomach for it, and 121 Democrats jumped ship and voted with Republicans to kill the bill.

"For anyone that is concerned about federal employees watching pornography, they just saw a pornographic movie. It’s called; ‘Motion to Recommit,’" Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) said. "It was a cynical effort to undermine an important bill for my 9-year-old daughter, for your kids and your grandkids."

The bill had passed the committee last month with bipartisan support, in a vote of 29 to 8.

"If at any point during the 48 hearings we’ve held on this bill, the Minority brought up their concerns with isolated incidents of federal employees viewing pornography, or if they had made an amendment in order during any of the three Subcommittee markups, the Full Committee Markup, or the Floor Consideration, I would have been happy to vote for that amendment," Gordon said in a press release after the vote.

"We’re all opposed to federal employees watching pornography. That is not a question; but that’s not what this was about," he went on. "The Motion to Recommit was about gutting funding for our science agencies."

Democrats pulled the bill off the floor after the motion passed and promised to introduce it again next week.

The bill — a re-authorization of the 2007 COMPETES Act — has been supported by interests usually seen as aligned with Republicans, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Do you have to fill out time sheets?

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I once had to do that, and I hated it—mainly because the company I worked for imposed all sorts of requirements to falsify the records. For example, regardless of the number of hours you worked (and programmers tend to work very long hours), you were forbidden from putting more than 40 hours a week on the timesheet.

But you may have a more enlightened company (it would not be difficult). In any event, check out this Windows timesheet program. From the link:

TimeSheet is a powerful and extremely easy to use automated time & task recording tool for professionals.

It will improve your accountability by increasing the billable hours: let the tool register what you are doing and for how long.

Key TimeSheet features listed:

  • Real time logging of tasks and projects;
  • Use rules to automatically determine the task and project working on;
  • No data entry- unless you want to add something specific;
  • Less time spend on administration;
  • Accurate project budget control;
  • Increase your profits: bill the registered hours you easily would forget;
  • Improve your productivity;
  • Track billable and non-billable working hours accurately;
  • Automatic attendance logging;
  • Use historic recorded data to allow for better future project budgeting;
  • Reports can be exported to Excel;
  • Extremely easy to use.

TimeSheet runs on Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/7/Server 2008.

Costs: none. It’s free!

I thought of using it just to find out how much time I spend blogging.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 1:12 pm

Michael Gerson on the GOP’s anti-immigrant stance

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The GOP is not just against undocumented immigrants, they are against all immigrants, particularly (it seems) from Latin and South America. (It’s fairly easy to detect: just ask some blowhard going on about the problems of illegal immigrants, and suggest ways to legalize those immigrants: they don’t want to hear that. They in fact just do not want immigrants, period—legal or illegal—particularly brown immigrants with dark hair.)

Michael Gerson has some pithy comments about that issue, including:

… [I]t would be absurd to deny that the Republican ideological coalition includes elements that are anti-immigrant — those who believe that Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, are a threat to American culture and identity. When Arizona Republican Senate candidate J.D. Hayworth calls for a moratorium on legal immigration from Mexico, when then-Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) refers to Miami as a "Third World country," when state Rep. Russell Pearce (R), one of the authors of the Arizona immigration law, says Mexicans’ and Central Americans’ "way of doing business" is different, Latinos can reasonably assume that they are unwelcome in certain Republican circles.

The intensity of these Republican attitudes is evident not just from what activists say but also from what Republican leaders are being forced to say. Sen. John McCain, a long-term supporter of humane, comprehensive immigration reform, has run a commercial feeding fears of "drug and human smuggling, home invasions, murder" by illegal immigrants.

Never mind that the level of illegal immigration is down in Arizona or that skyrocketing crime rates along the border are a myth. McCain’s tag line — "Complete the danged fence" — will rank as one of the most humiliating capitulations in modern political history…

As the GOP becomes more and more a party of elderly white men and women, it becomes more and more a toxic stew of bigotry and discrimination. I suppose it’s driven by fear of change.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Facebook “privacy”: it doesn’t exist

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As pointed out in his story in the NY Times, to try to get some privacy on Facebook, you have to work your way through this maze (click to enlarge):

Read his entire report, which includes:

Even if a user changes all the settings on the privacy section of the site, certain pieces of information will still be shared across the site unless a user takes further action. For example, under the Account Settings option, in the Facebook Ads tab, two options are automatically turned on to share some information with advertising networks and friends. Anyone who wants to keep this information private must uncheck the boxes in that tab.

And still, some information will no longer remain private because Facebook has also added a feature, called community pages, which automatically links personal data, like hometown or university, to topic pages for that town or university. The only way to disappear from those topic pages is to delete personal data from Facebook.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 10:59 am

Obama to Republicans: ‘You can’t drive!’

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Faiz Shakir at ThinkProgress:

From holding up nominees to proposing frivolous amendments and gumming up committee hearings, the Republicans have tried nearly any tactic they could conceive to block progressive reforms. Last night, President Obama delivered a pointed and sharp political critique of Republicans. Employing a variety of metaphors to describe the GOP’s strategy of obstruction, Obama first likened Republicans to fussy supervisors. “We’ve got our mops and our brooms out here and were cleaning stuff out and they’re sitting there saying, ‘Hold the broom better, that’s not how you mop.’ Don’t tell me how to mop!” Obama said. “Pick up a mop!” The president then compared Republicans to bad drivers who once drove the car into a ditch and now want the keys back:

OBAMA: After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want to keys back. No! You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.

“You would have thought at a time of historic crisis that Republican leaders would have been more willing to help us find a way out of this mess,” Obama added. “Particularly since they created the mess.”

UPDATE: From a post by Steve Benen:

Jon Chat noted: “I think we can see his main political theme for 2010 and 2012 taking shape here: Republicans screwed the country up, Obama got to work fixing it, Republicans took an ultra-partisan stance on every issue, and if you give them power they’ll screw things up again. It’s quite simple, and has the added virtue of being true.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 10:53 am

The Academy of You: Watch & Build a Course

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Dan Colman at Open Culture:

This week, online video education takes another step forward.

With the launch of, otherwise dubbed the “Academy of You,” you can watch hundreds of free courses online (something already being done on other web sites) and then (drumroll please) build your own free courses in a matter of minutes.

Udemy gives educators access to

  1. a content platform that publishes videos, presentations, and articles;
  2. a virtual classroom that lets teachers communicate with their students online; and
  3. the ability to market courses through Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media.

If you get a chance to try out their services, let us know how they work for you. It all looks promising, but you never know until the rubber hits the road…

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 10:46 am

The spill continues

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Kevin Drum:

Is it going to be possible to ever cap the Deepwater Horizon oil blowout? Maybe not, says National Geographic:

Such recovery operations have never been done before in the extreme deep-sea environment around the wellhead, noted Matthew Simmons, retired chair of the energy-industry investment banking firm Simmons & Company International….Slant drilling — a technique used to relieve pressure near the leak — is difficult at these depths, because the relief well has to tap into the original pipe, a tiny target at about 7 inches (18 centimeters) wide, Simmons noted.

"We don’t have any idea how to stop this," Simmons said of the Gulf leak….If the oil can’t be stopped, the underground reservoir may continue bleeding until it’s dry, Simmons suggested.

And how much oil would that be? Via the New York Times:

BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has estimated that the reservoir tapped by the out-of-control well holds at least 50 million barrels of oil.

That would be about 2 billion gallons of oil. If all of this floods out, it would be the biggest oil spill in history by a huge margin and 20 times bigger than the biggest previous spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From the National Geographic piece: "The 1979 Ixtoc oil spill, also in the Gulf of Mexico, took nine months to cap. During that time the well spewed 140 million gallons (530 million liters) of oil — and the Ixtoc well was only about 160 feet (49 meters) deep, noted retired energy investment banker Simmons."

Even if the well is capped, this is going to be a huge spill. The spill rate, originally estimated at 50,000 gallons a day and then 210,000 gallons a day, might actually be as much as a million gallons a dayor maybe even more. But it’s hard to tell because BP is using chemical dispersants to send most of the oil to the bottom of the sea. This keeps it off the shore, but might end up doing more damage in the long run. Nobody seems to know for sure.

The damage could be in the billions, but Lisa Murkowski is on the job to ensure that you and I pay for that damage, not the businesses who caused it. Lisa has a soft spot in her heart for those who give her $471,000.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2010 at 10:43 am

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