Later On

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

Archive for July 15th, 2010

What Caffeine Actually Does to Your Brain

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Probably should have read this post before taking two quadruple grande lattes to The Wife this morning.

[Link fixed. – LG]

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life, Drinks

Truly an idea worth sharing

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And with some urgency:

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 2:21 pm

Another sign of the decline of the US?

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Is it possible that the US is getting more provincial and lagging further and further behind the rest of the world in all sorts of areas—/koff/broadband/koff/—even though we finally passed a sort of halfway step toward healthcare reform. At any rate, this particular Greenwald column is of special interest because (a) he is gay, and (b) he lives in Argentina.

Argentina yesterday became the latest country to grant full and equal legal rights to its gay citizens, as the nation’s Senate followed the lower house in approving a bill to recognize same-sex marriages.  Because President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has vigorously advocated for the bill, it is now certain to become law.  Although Argentina is the first country in Latin America to recognize full-fledged same-sex marriages, numerous other nations in the region are inexorably marching toward similar equality:

Same-sex civil unions have been legalized in Uruguay, Buenos Aires and some states in Mexico and Brazil.  Mexico City has legalized gay marriage. Colombia’s Constitutional Court granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.

Argentinian politicians acted in the face of "polls showing that nearly 70 percent of Argentines support giving gay people the same marital rights as heterosexuals."  That’s what is most striking here:  this is not happening in some small Northern European country renown for its ahead-of-the-curve social progressivism (though gay marriage or civil unions are now the norm in Western Europe).   Just as is true for Brazil, which I’ve written about before with regard to my personal situation, Argentina is a country with a fairly recent history of dictatorships, an overwhelmingly Catholic population (at least in name), and pervasive social conservatism, with extreme restrictions on abortion rights similar to those found on much of the continent.  The Catholic Church in Argentina vehemently opposed the enactment of this law.  But no matter.  Ending discrimination against same-sex couples is understood as a matter of basic equality, not social progressivism, and it thus commands widespread support.

The contrast with the U.S. is quite instructive and depressing.  Not only is the U.S. not close to nationally recognizing same-sex marriage, but we have a law — the Defense of Marriage Act — that explicitly bars the granting of any and all federal spousal rights whatsoever (including immigration rights) to same-sex couples.  Despite the election of a President who campaigned on a pledge to overturn that law, and overwhelming Democratic control of Congress, repeal of that law isn’t even on the table.  The absolute most that is possible is a repeal of the unfathomably regressive ban on gays in the military, and the Obama-ordered granting of more spousal employment benefits to gay federal employees.  Virtually no national politician in the U.S. is even willing to advocate same-sex marriage, and those who advocate granting equal rights as part of "civil unions" refuse to take any real steps to bring that about.  Amazingly, it was only this year that the U.S. ended the repellent ban on HIV+ individuals from even entering the country, one of only 12 countries (a list largely comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers) to have continued it that long.

It’s worthwhile now and then to take stock of the vast disparity between how we like to think of ourselves and reality.  When a country with Argentina’s history and background becomes but the latest country to legally recognize same-sex marriage — largely as the result of a population which demanded it — that disparity becomes quite clear.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 2:16 pm

The Affordable Care Act: A fixer-upper

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We all knew that the ACA was not the be-all, end-all of healthcare reform—it doesn’t even have a public option, for the love of Pete!—and we all expected that in the years ahead it will be necessary to pass revisions of one or another provision of the law. It looks as though we shall have to be brisk with the revisions: Glenn Greenwald on the revolving door of healthcare reform:

Beginning in 2001, Liz Fowler was the Chief Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee in charge of health and entitlement issues, i.e., legislation that primarily affected the healthcare industry.  As her own biography boasts:

In this capacity, she was responsible for overseeing health policy issues within the Committee’s jurisdiction, including Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, health tax issues and initiatives to provide health coverage for the uninsured. She played a key role in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA).

Her work in that government health policy position was apparently quite pleasing to the healthcare industry because, in 2006, she was hired by the health insurance giant WellPoint to serve as its Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs — in other words, overseeing WellPoint’s lobbying and other government-influencing activities.  Then, in 2008, once it was likely that there would be a Democratic President and thus a new, massive healthcare bill enacted, Fowler left WellPoint and returned to the Senate, as top aide to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman who would oversee the drafting of the healthcare bill (Baucus’s previous top healthcare aide, Michelle Easton, a former PhRMA official, left to become a lobbyist for the healthcare industry).  Now, as David Sirota noted last night, Fowler has a brand new job, as reported by The Billings Gazette:

Liz Fowler, a key staffer for U.S. Sen. Max Baucus who helped draft the federal health reform bill enacted in March, is joining the Obama administration to help implement the new law.

Fowler, chief health counsel for the Senate Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, will become deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In other words, implementation of the massive healthcare bill just enacted by the Congress will be overseen by a former high-level executive of the nation’s largest private health insurer.  As Marcy Wheeler writes:  "It’s a nice trick: send your VP to write a law mandating that the middle class buy shitty products like yours, then watch that VP move into the executive branch to ‘oversee’ the implementation of the law."  Indeed, Fowler played a crucial role in shaping the healthcare bill to ensure there was no public option and to compel every single American to purchase the products of the private healthcare industry (including those of her former employer).  As Politico put it last year:  "If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate healthcare negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer."  It was Fowler who was literally writing the healthcare bills for Baucus which, at least at the time, progressives found so objectionable.

Fowler is the very embodiment of the sleazy Revolving Door and lobbyist-dominated politics which candidate Barack Obama endlessly vowed to subvert.  Remember all this? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 2:10 pm

THANK YOU, NANCY PELOSI! for the Office of Congressional Ethics

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Now let’s see if she gets backing—and from whom. Erics Lipton and Lichtblau report in the NY Times:

Lawmakers take contributions every day from corporate executives and lobbyists hoping for their votes. The question of whether that represents business as usual in Washington or an ethics breach is at the heart of a far-reaching Congressional ethics investigation that is stirring concerns throughout Washington and Wall Street.

The Office of Congressional Ethics has sent corporate donors and fund-raising hosts more than three dozen requests for documents involving eight members who solicited and took large contributions from financial institutions even as they were debating the landmark regulatory bill, according to lawyers involved in the inquiry.

The requests are focusing on a series of fund-raisers last December, in the days immediately before the House’s initial adoption of the sweeping overhaul, which could win final approval this week. Some of the fund-raising events took place the same days as crucial votes.

For example, on Dec. 10, one of the lawmakers under investigation, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat who sits on the Ways and Means Committee, left the Capitol during the House debate to attend a fund-raising event for him hosted by a lobbyist at her nearby Capitol Hill town house that featured financial firms, along with other donors. After collecting thousands of dollars in checks, Mr. Crowley returned to the floor of the House just in time to vote against a series of amendments that would have imposed tougher restrictions on Wall Street.

That same day, Representative Tom Price, a Georgia Republican on the Financial Services Committee, scheduled what he called a “Financial Services Luncheon” at the Capitol Hill Club, as part of a fund-raising push that netted him nearly $23,000 in contributions from the industry in a two-month period around the vote.

In an area where the rules are murky, the investigators are taking an aggressive stance on what constitutes unethical conduct. The independent ethics office, led by a former federal prosecutor, has clashed repeatedly with lawmakers on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, who have accused it of over-reaching. Given this history, observers believe it is unlikely that the committee will admonish any members, even if the investigators recommend action.

Some lawyers advise politicians to forgo fund-raising events in the midst of debates to avoid an appearance problem.

In 2004, the House ethics committee admonished the majority leader, Tom DeLay, for attending an energy industry fund-raiser just before an important decision on an energy bill. “A member should not participate in a fund-raising event that gives even an appearance that donors will receive or are entitled to either special treatment or special access,” a letter sent to Mr. DeLay said.

But the practice of soliciting donations in the midst of legislative debates remains common. In fact, dozens of members not included in the current inquiry scheduled fund-raising events in the weeks before the House vote, many of them taking donations from financial services companies. This year, as members of Congress furiously debated a regulatory bill and frantically raised money for critical midterm elections, fund-raising and lawmaking constantly intersected…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 1:59 pm

The Tea Party, in their own words

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Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Thoughts from the GOP on the unemployment situation

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Jillian Rayfield at TPMDC:

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for governor, said last week that unemployed people are purposely avoiding jobs so they can continue collecting benefits from the government: "The jobs are there. But if we keep extending unemployment, people are going to sit there and – I’ve literally had construction companies tell me, ‘I can’t get people to come back to work until…they say, I’ll come back to work when unemployment runs out.’"

Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for senator of Kentucky, said in June that the unemployed need to stop being so picky when it comes to getting a job: "As bad as it sounds, ultimately we do have to sometimes accept a wage that’s less than we had at our previous job in order to get back to work and allow the economy to get started again. Nobody likes that, but it may be one of the tough love things that has to happen."

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said in March that unemployment benefits don’t "create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work." More recently, he’s called unemployment benefits a "necessary evil," though added that "it’s not a good thing for the economy. It’s a bad thing for the economy but it’s still the right thing to do for other reasons."

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer compared the unemployed to stray animals back in January, saying that unemployment insurance is a lot like helping out strays. One is "facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply," he said. "They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better." Though he later backtracked, saying this probably "wasn’t the best metaphor," he has since said that "flat-out lazy" people "would rather sit home and do nothing than do these jobs."

In June, Nevada Senate nominee Sharron Angle said that "what has happened is the system of entitlement has caused us to have a spoilage with our ability to go out and get a job." She added: "They keep extending these unemployment benefits to the point where people are afraid to go out and get a job because the job doesn’t pay as much as the unemployment benefit does."

Former House Majority Leader (and former Dancing With The Stars contestant) Tom DeLay appeared on CNN in March to point to "studies that have been done that shows that people stay on unemployment compensation and they don’t look for a job until two or three weeks before they know the benefits are going to run out." When host Candy Crowley pointed out that saying "people are unemployed because they want to be" is a "hard sell," DeLay responded: "Well, it is the truth."

Back in May, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) said that Congress needs to think twice about continuing unemployment benefits "because you’re out of the recession, you’re starting to see growth and you’re clearly going to dampen the capacity of that growth if you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment. Yes, it’s important to do that up to a certain level, but at some point you’ve got to acknowledge that we’re not Europe."

Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) said in February that he thinks that though "there should be a federal safety net," extending unemployment benefits yet again raises the question: "Is the government now creating hobos?"

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

A warning on Butler G.U.M. Soft Picks

with 5 comments

These things are really great, but my dentist just gave me a clear warning: The Soft Picks ride on your gum and go between your teeth at the base of the tooth, just where the tooth’s root begins. There is no enamel on the tooth there, so the teeth are soft at that point. If you Soft Pick vigorously, you’ll wear a little hollow place in the tooth which will these serve as a refuge for bacteria, with a cavity (in a very bad location) the result.

If you use Soft Picks, BE GENTLE.

She was perfectly serious, and so am I.

UPDATE: Take a look at the first comment. It’s a fair warning.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Rep. Keith Ellison on the US drone-strike policy

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Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

This morning, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, headlined the CAP event “Strengthening America’s Security: Identifying, Preventing and Responding to Domestic Terrorism,” which discussed with ways Muslim Americans and American intelligence and police agencies can work together to combat domestic terrorism.

Afterward, Think Progress interviewed Ellison and asked him about another facet of America’s counter-terrorism strategy: the use of Predator drones to assassinate suspected terrorists. When asked about the efficacy of the drone strikes, Ellison was critical of their use. While conceding that the drones may be an effective tool if used judiciously, the Minnesota congressman said that we have yet to make a proper “legal, political, and moral” calculation as to when their use is appropriate, going as far as to say that Congress has no “consensus” as to when these assassinations are justified, and that the U.S. hasn’t “really thought through this thing at all”:

TP: There have been increasing reports of expanded drone strikes and military operations in Pakistan. Do you think these operations help or hurt the U.S. strategy in combating extremism?

ELLISON: I think that there is a case to be made on both sides of the question. But what I want to say about it is, I’m very concerned because I don’t think as Congress we have any consensus or really any idea as to when a targeted assassination would be appropriate, meaning what quantum of proof would be necessary to show that this person has waged war on America, led to the death of Americans, and this action in some legal format might be justified. We haven’t looked at what level of additional persons who killed other than the target are acceptable. […]We haven’t really thought this thing through at all. […] [We run] the risk that we’re not going to be careful, responsible, judicious, and critical about the use of this technology.

The problem is not the drone, that is a piece of machinery. The problem is making a decision about a targeted assassination without the necessary legal, political, moral calculation in place. Which I see no evidence that we’re making. And I tell you, it’s somewhat scary. Clearly there have been a lot of reports of wedding parties being killed, clearly that is incredibly destructive. And if they hit somebody who is truly a bad actor, dangerous to Pakistan and the United States, and that’s the only person they get, and they got the proof for it, and there’s no one else killed associated with it, that might be justifiable and something that enhances security. But it’s way more complicated than that and I don’t think we’re approaching this with the requisite amount of care, safety, and apprehension.

Watch it.

Earlier in the year, counterterrorism experts Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann at the New America Foundation released a comprehensive study of the casualties of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. Their research concluded that nearly 1 out of every 3 people killed by the strikes was a civilian. Although extremists remain deeply unpopular in Pakistan, with only four percent saying they have a positive impact on their country in a recent survey, the drone strikes are overwhelmingly opposed by the Pakistani public as well, with a poll last year finding that only nine percent of Pakistanis agreed with their use.

Last year, Center for New American Security military expert and former adviser to General David Petraeus David Kilcullen called for a cessation of drones strikes. “If we want to strengthen our friends and weaken our enemies in Pakistan, bombing Pakistani villages with unmanned drones is totally counterproductive,” he said.

UPDATE: Also in the interview with ThinkProgress, Ellison criticized the GOP claims that tax cuts don’t need to be offset. “What they’re saying is completely self-serving,” he told us. “They’re looking at it strictly from the standpoint of personal gain and the gain of individuals directly connected to them and people who they regard as their base.”

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:42 pm

The Tea Party is going places

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And those places are, unfortunately, places it should not go. Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress:

Yesterday, the NAACP approved a resolution condemning “racist elements” within the tea party movement, with its president Benjamin Jealous challenging activists to “expel the bigots and racists in your ranks or take full responsibility for all of their actions.” In spite of the indisputable evidence that racist signs and slogans have been allowed to be displayed at tea party rallies, conservatives have feigned outrage at the resolution, and attacked the country’s leading civil rights organization for daring to speak out.

Mark Williams, the spokesperson for Tea Party Express — a leading tea party group, which has been instrumental in Sharron Angle’s Senate campaign in Nevada, among many others — launched into a particularly hateful attack on the NAACP, accusing the group of being “professional race baiters” who deserve to be sent to “the trash heap” with “all the other vile racist groups”:

WILLIAMS: You’re dealing with people who are professional race baiters, who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader ever. It’s time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong with all the other vile racist groups that emerged in our history.

Listen to the interview here.

Williams should know about professional racial baiting. Last year, he called called President Obama an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.” And in February, he called Obama “our half white, racist president.”

In May, while serving as chairman of Tea Party Express, he called the Muslim god Allah a “terrorists’ monkey-god” while fighting the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Despite universal condemnation for his comments, Williams refused to apologized to Muslims. “In the course of the article I described the ‘god’ worshiped by terrorists as ‘a monkey god.’ I was wrong and that was offensive. I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual Monkey God,” Williams wrote in a follow-up blog post. He also called a Jewish developer involved in the project a “Jewish Uncle Tom who would have turned rat on Anne Frank.” In a blog post from last year that has since been deleted, Williams further explained his theory on Islam:

[R]epeat after me: Islam is a 7th Century Death Cult coughed up by a psychotic pedophile and embraced by defective, tail sprouting, tree swinging, semi-human, bipedal primates with no claim to be treated like human beings or even desirable mammals for that matter.

But none of this seemed to concern Tea Party Express, which allowed him to stay on as chairman, and then spokesperson. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the Tea Party Express and the issues addressed by the tea party movement,” the group’s Joe Wierzbicki told TPM of the “monkey god” comments. Williams was the leader of one one of the most powerful tea party groups in the country, which has been instrumental in Angle’s election, along with dozens of others, and attracted top conservatives like Fox News contributor Sarah Palin as repeat guests to their rallies. The fact that the group hasn’t condemned his bigotry, or even asked him to step down, shows why the NAACP’s action against the tea parties is justified.

This is the face of the GOP, without the mask.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

I write like James Joyce… No, wait: like David Foster Wallace

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I’m not sure of this. But check out your own writing: you just copy some segment, paste it into the box here, and click "Analyze". This post is (it says) written as though James Joyce had written it (doubtless in a moment of extreme weakness). As long passage from the post on gourmet shaving was said to be as written by David Foster Wallace. I’m dubious.

I tried another post (the one on selecting a cat, listed in the Useful Knowledge page): DFW again. Hmmm.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Writing

Can you record a cop making an arrest?

with 15 comments

The police really do not want you doing this. You can listen to this story on NPR, or you can read the transcript. The introduction:

The Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King resonated, in part, because it was caught on video. Now, most modern cell phones have video cameras. Many police departments struggle to draw the line between citizens’ and journalists’ rights to film arrests, and their officers’ rights to privacy. {I suggest that when they are on the job they do not have a right to privacy. – LG]

Radley Balko, senior editor, Reason
Carlos Miller, arrested for photographing police making an arrest
James Machado, executive director, Massachusetts Police Association

The transcript begins:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I’m Neal Conan in Washington.

Just about everybody who has a cell phone has a video camera in their pocket. And almost 20 years after the Rodney King video, friends, accomplices and passers-by scarcely hesitate to record interactions with the police.

You can find these videos on YouTube. There are blogs and websites solely devoted to these amateur recordings, and in some places, the police are trying to put a stop to it.

In Boston, a man was arrested for illegal electronic surveillance when he recorded audio of police officers making a drug arrest. In Baltimore, several people face felony charges for recording their own arrests. And, of course, the cops have video cameras, too, sometimes mounted on the dashboards of their cruisers, maybe someday soon, cap-cams on police headgear.

At best, the laws on this are fuzzy, and states are only now just trying to catch up. Later in the program, free agency in pro sports, from Curt Flood to LeBron James. But first, cops on camera.

If you have experience on either side of the camera, tell us your story. Our phone number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Email us, You can also join the conversation on our website. That’s at Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

We begin with Radley Balko, a senior editor with Reason magazine, where he writes about the criminal justice system, and he joins us from a studio in Nashville. Nice to have you with us today.

Mr. RADLEY BALKO (Senior Editor, Reason): Thanks for having me on.

CONAN: So if I see something curious on the corner involving a police officer and a citizen, and I take out my cell phone and start recording, am I okay?

Mr. BALKO: It really depends on where you are, and even within that, it depends on the particular police officer that you’re recording.

In three states right now, they are actively arresting people for recording on-duty police officers: Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. In the other states, and even those states, the law isn’t settled. Basically, they’re arresting on an interpretation of wiretapping laws that…

CONAN: Yeah, I was going to say, are these new laws passed to cover this specifically or interpretations of old laws?

Mr. BALKO: Yeah, these are well, in most cases, they’re interpretations of old laws. But actually, in Illinois, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out a conviction of a guy who was arrested and was recording police officers from the back of a police cruiser.

And in response to that, the Illinois Legislature actually specifically amended the state’s wiretapping law to make it illegal to record police officers on duty without their consent. Actually, it applies to anyone without their consent. They took out an expectation of privacy provision that was in the old law.

But in other states, you know, it’s sort of wide open right now. You know, if a police officer wants to arrest you for videotaping him, he can he doesn’t need wiretapping laws. He can look at, you know, obstructing a police officer, or if he asks you to turn it off, and you don’t, for some sort of, you know, disobeying a lawful order.

So the law is really behind on the technology on this, and a lot of this stuff isn’t settled.

CONAN: The Maryland, you mentioned, is one of the places where it seems to be at least an interpretation of state law that it’s illegal. There has been a celebrated case involving a student at the University of Maryland…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Whom does the GOP see as its natural allies?

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Interesting answer, as it turns out. Steve Benen:

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has sought accreditation from the United Nations for several years, in the hopes that it would be among the many non-governmental organizations to have input into the institution’s debates. The Obama administration supports the IGLHRC’s application, and a U.N. committee is expected to vote on the respected international gay rights group’s application next week.

This has sent some conservative Republican lawmakers scrambling to undermine the position of the United States. Specifically, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) have sent letters to foreign delegations, hoping to find international allies to oppose next week’s vote, arguing that advocacy of gay rights may ultimately undermine human rights. Rachel Slajda reported yesterday:

Smith is the Republican congressional representative to the U.N. and Franks leads an international religious freedom caucus in the House.

They wrote the letter to representatives from many of the other countries on the Economic and Social Council.

Countries on the council include places where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by imprisonment, whipping, or death: Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Egypt and Pakistan are the most famously harsh countries. Homosexuality is also illegal in Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mauritius, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Zambia.

IGLHRC’s mission is focused on eliminating such laws, and they advocate against state-sanctioned violence based on sexual orientation.

What’s interesting to me is that conservative Republican lawmakers in the U.S. hope to find allies in foreign governments that conservative Republican lawmakers would generally disapprove of.

This isn’t uncommon. During the Bush/Cheney era, when conservatives pursued their agenda at the United Nations, they often did so by teaming up with Islamic theocracies. While U.S. allies took progressive approaches to forge international consensus on issues ranging from children’s health to women’s rights and global family planning, conservatives partnered with Syria, Libya, Pakistan, and Sudan — because those were the countries most inclined to agree with the Republican line on social issues.

Now, with the Obama administration moving in the opposite direction, and working with our traditional allies on progressive goals, U.S. lawmakers on the right have resorted to reaching out to countries like Saudi Arabia on their own.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Unable to gainsay facts, Monckton tries to censor John Abraham

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Interesting development. Monckton is a world=class climate-change denialist. I guess John Abraham’s little on-line rebuttal was more than Moncton could stand. John Cook at Skeptical Science:

A few months ago, John Abraham from St Thomas University produced an excellent rebuttal of Christopher Monckton’s arguments. Monckton’s initial response was extraordinary – as well as likening John’s presentation to Nazi propaganda, he accused Abraham of ad hominem attacks while mocking his accent and personal appearance (comparing him to an overcooked prawn). Abraham’s response to this personal attack was professional and commendably stuck to the science. Now Monckton is trying to censor Abraham – urging Watts Up With That readers to pressure St. Thomas University to take down Abraham’s presentation.

John Abraham’s presentation is vital and important as it explains in clear and accessible language the many falsehoods and misrepresentations in Monkton’s arguments. St. Thomas University needs to understand the importance of Abraham’s work. Hopefully they already do but if there is a flood of WUWT readers sending them angry emails, a reminder wouldn’t hurt. Rather than flood the University with even more emails, the New Zealand website Hot Topic has created a Support John Abraham page.

Here, they propose that anyone who supports John Abraham’s efforts to leave a comment with their name, location and academic affiliation (if any). Comments from academics are especially welcome. Gareth at Hot Topic has been in touch with John Abraham and the St Thomas University and knows they are watching the comments thread. So I urge anyone who wishes John Abraham’s presentation to not be removed from the University website to go to Support John Abraham and post a comment.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:20 pm

A psychologist listens to the tapes of Mel Gibson’s rants

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Very interesting column in by Sarah Hepola:

"I feel like I’m listening to Satan," a coworker wrote me upon hearing the Mel Gibson tapes. Indeed, the anger in taped phone conversations between Gibson and his girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva (there are four, at last count) is volcanic: "I’ll put you in a fucking rose garden, you cunt," he snarls. Or consider that poison gem: "You look like a fucking pig in heat. And if you get raped by a pack of n—-s it’ll be all your fault."

Much ink has been spilled on the Gibson tapes — whether he’s a racist,how this will affect his career, whether it’s OK to laugh at such vile behavior — but we wanted to know what they said about the man himself. What fuels such epic rage? We spoke to Steven Stosny, a DC-area therapist who specializes in chronic resentment, anger and abusive relationships and author of the book "Love Without Hurt," to analyze what’s going on behind all the F-bombs, threats and shouting.

Probably the most common reaction I’m hearing to these tapes is disbelief. People can’t believe how angry and out of control Mel Gibson sounds. How unusual is this kind of anger?

It’s not unusual at all. The difference isn’t in emotional intensity, it’s in boundary violations. He’s threatening her and intimidating her, and most couples don’t cross that line. But abusers feel entitled, they feel they have a right to do what they’re doing, because they feel like victims. The way she dresses humiliates him. The way her breasts look humiliates him. It’s a failure of compassion — he’s not able to see the world through her eyes. He’s just seeing her as an extension of him.

Now, what I think is probably happening with him, especially that one in which he’s hyperventilating — you can hear him panting — that’s a sign of a panic attack. These calls are obsessional. He’s thinking about her over and over again, he’s seeing himself as the victim, and it stirs in him this need for retaliation.

I kept wondering to myself: Is this person bipolar? Is he on drugs? She keeps saying, "You’re crazy. You need medication." I understand you’ve never seen Mel Gibson in a clinical setting, but what would be your armchair diagnosis?

I’m pretty sure he’s drinking in a couple of the tapes. He’s slurring his speech. Is he bipolar? To really diagnose that you’d have to see him depressed. It’s possible he could be on an amphetamine-like drug. The anger is a natural amphetamine, so if you add an amphetamine to it, even caffeine, it becomes more intense.

I didn’t notice him slurring his speech — I was listening for it, because we know he has a history of alcohol abuse. But there is that moment where he angrily says, "You make me want to smoke!" …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 12:11 pm

The GOP agenda

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From an email:

Yesterday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — a right-wing political group representing large corporations — proposed what it’s calling an economic recovery plan. Take a look:

• Privatize Social Security
• Cut taxes for the rich
• Log the national forests
• Expand offshore gas and oil drilling
• Privatize highways and waterways

This represents a governing plutocracy: a relatively small group (compared to the population) of extremely wealthy and powerful individuals who use their position only to increase their wealth and power. They have no greater goal than that. The suffering of (for example) millions of people who have lost their jobs, have now run out of unemployment insurance, who still cannot find a job, and who are losing their home: that means absolutely nothing to them.

And when they argue, so far as I can tell they appeal to no higher principle, no greater good, no desire to improve the life of their fellow citizens. Their arguments boil down to "I want more, and I can get more, so I’m going to do it. You would do the same thing, so I have no interest at all in helping you."

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 9:44 am

More on the Bush tax cuts

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From the Center for American Progress in an email:

Since President Obama’s election, Republicans in Congress have criticized the administration’s stimulative economic policies for increasing the deficit and "spending trillions of dollars we do not have." But the GOP’s concern about the debt goes out the window when they’re advocating for extending the Bush tax cuts. Over the weekend, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said Congress should not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire and suggested that tax cuts should never have to be paid for, a sentiment echoed by almost every prominent Republican. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) agreed, saying, "I tend to think that tax cuts should not have to be offset." Carly Fiorina, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in California, said this week that "you don’t need to pay for tax cuts. They pay for themselves." GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio (FL) released an economic platform of almost all unpaid-for tax cuts. Then, on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went a step further, claiming that "there’s no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 9:32 am

Cool Tool: Heininger Commutemate Instacloth

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Take a look. The Wife tells me that denizens of the British Empire know this as a “J-cloth”. I thought they were very cool, but didn’t want to blog it until I surprised her with an order (4 boxes, 8 to a box). Worth having in the car or purse.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 9:28 am

Posted in Daily life

GOP: No more help for jobless, but rich must keep tax cuts

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The GOP is showing its true colors now. They refuse to allow an extension of unemployment benefits "because of the deficit", but with the Bush tax cuts about to expire—thus giving significant help to lowering the deficit—they are doing everything they can to continue the tax cuts, which they say does not affect the deficit—an obvious absurdity: if you cut taxes, you cut the government’s revenue, and thus the deficit increases. The GOP say that the tax cuts "pay for themselves": total nonsense with no correspondence to the facts. The GOP depends heavily on the ignorance (and, with the Tea Party, the racism) of its supporters. David Lightman in McClathcy:


Republicans almost unanimously oppose spending $33.9 billion for extended unemployment benefits for some 2.5 million people who’ve lost them, because they say it would increase federal budget deficits.

At the same time, they’re pushing a permanent extension of Bush administration tax cuts, especially for the wealthy, which could increase federal budget deficits by trillions of dollars over the next 10 years.

How do they justify this?

"Tax policy is dynamic. If you have the right kind of tax reform, it helps generate a more dynamic economy," said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which writes tax law. While that may be true, even the Bush Treasury Department concluded that its tax cuts increase budget deficits.

Besides, wouldn’t providing $33.9 billion to extend unemployment benefits to 2.5 million people help the economy?

"There’s a distinction between taxes and spending," Crapo said. "We have a huge problem with a lack of spending restraint."

In addition, noted Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the committee’s top Republican, "This is a tax increase if you don’t extend, and it’s not a tax cut if you do."

Democrats howl at what they see as hypocrisy.

The GOP argument, said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is "that we should cut off some of the most desperate people in our economy, take away their last meager lifeline, because we’re concerned about the deficit.

"Yet those very same senators are demanding that we extend hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our society."

The money for jobless benefits is expected to win approval early next week after weeks of Republican-led extended debate.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 8:24 am

Trusting business: R.E.M. Solutions division

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Shashank Bengali for McClatchy:

The names, locations and geographical coordinates are different. Otherwise the drilling plans for three oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico contain identical fonts, footnotes, overly optimistic projections and even typographical errors.

The companies employed the same small Houston consulting firm, R.E.M. Solutions, to prepare environmental information to submit to federal regulators for drill sites hundreds of miles from each other. R.E.M.’s analyses read like photocopies, each saying 11 times that an oil spill was "unlikely to have an impact based on the industry wide standards for using proven equipment and technology for such responses."

The Obama administration has cracked down on oil companies and federal regulators for the failures that led to the BP spill, but the private consulting firms that helped prepare many Gulf drilling plans have received far less scrutiny. A McClatchy review of plans approved by the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service in 2009 and 2010 found that consultants were widely used but that in nearly all cases they wrote plans with the same flaws that experts and members of Congress have identified in BP’s.

The Obama administration ordered oil companies on June 2 to resubmit drilling plans for the Gulf of Mexico with more environmental information, but it made no mention of the role of consultants. Some experts charge that these small, little-known firms — based throughout the Gulf Coast and often staffed by former employees of oil companies — are part of a self-serving culture among regulators and drillers that’s sought for years to process as many plans as possible while ignoring environmental concerns.

"Since you know exactly what to say — you’ve been saying it for years and you know that MMS is going to rubber-stamp it — if you’re a consultant, you’re just going to cut and paste from project to project," said Kieran Suckling, the executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation organization. "Why would you spend any money on doing any analysis if no one’s looking for it?"

Department of Interior officials said that federal regulators didn’t oversee third-party consultants and oil companies were "ultimately responsible for the information they submit."

In the case of offshore drilling, oil companies included environmental impact information as part of their drilling applications, officials said. The MMS — renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement under a recent major restructuring — could request or seek out additional information before deciding whether to approve a drilling project.

Yet for each of the three identical plans written by R.E.M. Solutions, the agency granted waivers that exempted the projects from further environmental review…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2010 at 8:15 am

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