Later On

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

Archive for July 29th, 2010

Why extra-judicial killings (as supported by Obama) are a bad idea

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Obama has gone George W. Bush one better: Obama has adopted the idea that he can order an American citizen murdered—no trial, no defense, evidence (if any) kept secret at his discretion. Just: Bang! You’re dead!

This is something that people have fought for generations to escape: a government that gives itself the right to kill citizens at any time for any reason, with no public review and no due process or trial. Think of the Magna Carta. Think of the US Constitution.

Obama thinks having the ability to simply order a citizen killed is a good idea. I’m sure future presidents will find it quite useful. Think if Bush and Cheney had had access to this new Presidential right that had been established by some earlier president.

I think it’s probably one of the worst ideas that a government can have.

And here’s why.

Today, President Obama appeared on ABC’s The View, where co-host Sherri Shepherd asked him about the Shirley Sherrod controversy and whether “America is still racist.” Obama drew lessons from the Sherrod incident — including the fact that she was eventually able to talk on the phone to the President of the United States — as evidence of this country’s racial progress:

OBAMA: Look, I think that we have made so much progress. I had a conversation with Shirley Sherrod, wonderful woman. She’s the first one to acknowledge how much progress we’ve made.Think about her history and what she went through. Her father being murdered and her growing up in the Jim Crow South. Now she’s on the phone talking to the President of the United States. And she had been on the South Lawn for a celebration of federal employees just a couple weeks earlier. And that’s a testament to the progress that we’ve made.

What I do think happened in that situation is that a 24/7 media cycle that’s always looking for controversy and oftentimes doesn’t get to the facts first generated a phony controversy. A lot of people overreacted, including people in my administration. And part of the lesson that I want everybody to draw is let’s not assume the worst of other people, but let’s assume the best. Let’s make sure we get the facts straight before we act. And when it comes to race, let’s acknowledge that, of course, there’s still tensions out there. There’s still inequalities out there. There’s still discrimination out there.

Watch it:

Of course, the reason that Sherrod talked on the phone with the President is actually evidence of how far our country still has to go. Obama talked to her to apologize for the fact that his administration took the word of a race-baiting, right-wing flame-thrower to inappropriately expel a dedicated civil servant — without first investigating the facts and getting her side of the story. From the official readout of the call between Obama and Sherrod: . . .

The above is at ThinkProgress and written by Amanda Terkel. Full post here.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 1:08 pm

Bad signs

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From a Greenwald column:

… The Obama administration is now advocating changes to the law that would empower federal law enforcement agents to compel companies to turn over citizens’ Internet records without a warrantor any other form of judicial oversight.  I wrote previously about the Obama DOJ’s extremely dubious (and dangerous) arguments in court that the law already allows them to access such Internet and email records with no warrant, but now they are attempting to have Congress re-write the law to vest them with that power.  Kevin Drum, Marcy Wheeler, and Adam Serwer have more on what this very significant expansion of oversight-free Surveillance State powers would mean.

So there’s your Week in Change:  tens of billions more appropriated for war through supplemental spending tricks and without conditions or timetables, attacks on war opponents for being Troop-Haters, threats to criminally prosecute journalistic outlets (such as WikiLeaks) which publish classified information on the grounds of being Traitors, and a major expansion of the Government’s ability to spy on your private communications without even obtaining warrants.  And it’s only Thursday morning, so think how much more Change can happen in the next two days.

UPDATEA new ACLU Report examines the first 18 months of Obama’s civil liberties record and documents how his embrace of the prior administration’s policies has transformed Bush/Cheney radicalism into the "new normal."

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 11:18 am

The top 5 Social Security myths

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From an email:

Myth #1: Social Security is going broke.

Reality: There is no Social Security crisis. By 2023, Social Security will have a $4.6 trillion surplus (yes, trillion with a ‘T’).  It can pay out all scheduled benefits for the next quarter-century with no changes whatsoever.1 After 2037, it’ll still be able to pay out 75% of scheduled benefits—and again, that’s without any changes. The program started preparing for the Baby Boomers’ retirement decades ago.2  Anyone who insists Social Security is broke probably wants to break it themselves.

Myth #2: We have to raise the retirement age because people are living longer.

Reality: This is a red-herring to trick you into agreeing to benefit cuts. Retirees are living about the same amount of time as they were in the 1930s. The reason average life expectancy is higher is mostly because many fewer people die as children than they did 70 years ago.3 What’s more, what gains there have been are distributed very unevenly—since 1972, life expectancy increased by 6.5 years for workers in the top half of the income brackets, but by less than 2 years for those in the bottom half.4 But those intent on cutting Social Security love this argument because raising the retirement age is the same as an across-the-board benefit cut.

Myth #3: Benefit cuts are the only way to fix Social Security.

Reality: Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed. But if we want to strengthen it, here’s a better way: Make the rich pay their fair share.  If the very rich paid taxes on all of their income, Social Security would be sustainable for decades to come.5 Right now, high earners only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,000 of their income.6  But conservatives insist benefit cuts are the only way because they want to protect the super-rich from paying their fair share.

Myth #4: The Social Security Trust Fund has been raided and is full of IOUs

Reality: Not even close to true. The Social Security Trust Fund isn’t full of IOUs, it’s full of U.S. Treasury Bonds. And those bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.7 The reason Social Security holds only treasury bonds is the same reason many Americans do: The federal government has never missed a single interest payment on its debts. President Bush wanted to put Social Security funds in the stock market—which would have been disastrous—but luckily, he failed. So the trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust Fund, which are separate from the regular budget, are as safe as can be.

Myth #5: Social Security adds to the deficit

Reality: It’s not just wrong—it’s impossible!  By law, Social Security’s funds are separate from the budget, and it must pay its own way. That means that Social Security can’t add one penny to the deficit.8

Defeating these myths is the first step to stopping Social Security cuts.  Can you share this list now?

Thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Duncan, Daniel, Kat, and the rest of the team


1."To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security," New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010

2. "The Straight Facts on Social Security," Economic Opportunity Institute, September 2009

3. "Social Security and the Age of Retirement," Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2010

4. "More on raising the retirement age," Washington Post, July 8, 2010

5. "Social Security is sustainable," Economic and Policy Institute, May 27, 2010

6. "Maximum wage contribution and the amount for a credit in 2010," Social Security Administration, April 23, 2010

7. "Trust Fund FAQs," Social Security Administration, February 18, 2010

8."To Deficit Hawks: We the People Know Best on Social Security," New Deal 2.0, June 14, 2010

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

The Israel government showing its true colors

with 2 comments

Andrew Sullivan:

The video above is distressing. The following context might help:

Scores of Bedouin men were standing on a yellow hill, sharing their experiences from the early morning hours, while all around them uprooted olive trees lay on the ground. A whole village comprising between 40 and 45 houses had been completely razed in less than three hours.

I suddenly experienced deja vu: an image of myself walking in the rubbles of a destroyed village somewhere on the outskirts of the Lebanese city of Sidon emerged. It was over 25 years ago, during my service in the Israeli paratroopers. But in Lebanon the residents had all fled long before my platoon came, and we simply walked in the debris. There was something surreal about the experience, which prevented me from fully understanding its significance for several years. At the time, it felt like I was walking on the moon.

This time the impact of the destruction sank in immediately. Perhaps because the 300 people who resided in al-Arakib, including their children, were sitting in the rubble when I arrived, and their anguish was evident; or perhaps because the village is located only 10 minutes from my home in Be’er Sheva and I drive past it every time I go to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem; or perhaps because the Bedouins are Israeli citizens, and I suddenly understood how far the state is ready to go to accomplish its objective of Judaising the Negev region; what I witnessed was, after all, an act of ethnic cleansing.

Haaretz reports on new subsidies for Israeli army officers to move into the Negev. I am unaware of any legitimate reasons for destroying these people’s village and lives. Perhaps I am missing something.

“These people” are Arabs, and so far as I can tell, the Israeli government views Arabs as little more than animals, to be mistreated whenever possible in hopes that they will all move out of Israel.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 10:53 am

Nopal Juice Concentrate

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Nick from comments sent me a bottle of Nopal Juice Concentrate, a healthful (and tasty) drink when diluted. I put 1/4 c. in a pint of water and a little lemon juice. Very nice, and I just ordered another bottle. I think you could make a very tasty summer drink with this… limes, perhaps, with a slice of fresh pineapple?

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Good news for Leisureguy and The Wife

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Jennifer Pittman reporting in the Monterey Herald:

A $55 million, private-public initiative to link Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties via broadband, high-speed Internet has cleared a critical hurdle, and local advocates say they have a good shot at securing stimulus funds to foot the bill.

A lot of projects don’t make it past the first step to the due diligence phase, said Joel Staker, a network administrator for the city of Watsonville, which has taken the lead on shaping the proposal.

"I believe we’ve gotten through most of the heavy stuff now. We feel like we have a good handle on it," Staker said. "Hopefully we do better than all the others."

The grant application is spearheaded by members of the Central Coast Broadband Consortium, a diverse coalition of public and private entities that have been working for years to bring high-speed Internet to the Monterey Bay and Central Coast regions.

Under the plan, the broadband link would be a data highway that leads to the door of anchor institutions. Anyone will be able to connect to the highway along the way.

Internet provider Cruzio, which is just completing a broadband link to Silicon Valley, is acting as the project manager of the grant and, if funding is secured, will oversee construction.

Last week, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced 29 awards totaling $404 million as part of a $7.2 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.

It was the beginning of the second round of grants funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to "support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service." . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 10:19 am

More of the GOP saying "No"

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They give a big "Yes" for tax cuts, but only for the wealthy. But for people who actually need help? The big NO. Steve Benen:

I was under the impression that the emergency teams who responded to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 are considered American heroes. The nation’s support for these men and women is unequivocal and unending.

At least, that was my impression. I guess I underestimated congressional Republicans again.

House Republican leadership is advising its members to vote against a bipartisan bill that would, among other things, bolster medical support to Sept. 11 victims.

The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009, sponsored by New York City Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D), provides medical monitoring to those exposed to toxins at Ground Zero, bolsters treatment at specialized centers for those afflicted by toxins on 9/11 and reopens a compensation fund to provide economic loss to New Yorkers.

And it’s all paid for by closing a tax loophole on foreign companies with U.S. subsidiaries, Democrats say.

A policy statement from the House GOP leadership believes a victims’ compensation fund is too large, and would remain open too long, which in turn creates a "massive new entitlement program" — and Republicans hate entitlement programs.

As for financing, because the right pretends to care about the deficit, Dems made sure that every penny of the proposal is paid for. This, too, outraged House Republicans, because tax increases, even on foreign companies, even to benefit 9/11 victims, are always evil.

We’re left with Republicans, in an election year, taking a bold stand against funding for medical care for 9/11 heroes.


Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 9:45 am

"Sarah Palin chose ‘b’"

with 3 comments

Interesting post:

Reader Jim (aka Prup), a friend and frequent commenter at Cogitamus—and someone who does have a few differences with me about Sarah Palin’s motivations as well as those of the mainstream media journalists who to this day have not investigated the ex-governor’s strange, inconsistency and lie-filled stories* surrounding what has come to be known as Babygate—has written a terrific set of questions designed to get Palin supporters thinking.**

Thank you, Jim. Take it away…

Ten Questions for Sarah Palin’s supporters who are also mothers

1. If you were a state governor who was eight months pregnant—and remember, Sarah Palin already knew hers was a high-risk pregnancy because of her age (44) and, according to her book, her baby having been diagnosed via amniocentesis as having Down syndrome—and you were scheduled to fly some 4,000 miles from home to give a speech at a conference, would you (a) give your speech from home via teleconferencing, using modern real-time technology, and explain to your hosts that the high-risk nature and advanced stage of your pregnancy made you reluctant to fly; or, alternatively, send the deputy governor to give your speech or (b) dismiss any staff or security slated to fly with you and insist on flying 4,000 miles to the conference yourself?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

2. If, while attending this conference, you experienced leaking amniotic fluid and felt early contractions on the morning before you were scheduled to speak, would you (a) hand the speech to someone else, ask him or her to give it on your behalf, and go straight to the nearest hospital—one that was equipped for handling high-risk mothers, premature births, and special-needs infants—and get yourself checked out by a doctor or (b) continue with your day and give the speech anyway?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

3. After giving the speech, would you then, immediately afterward, (a) go directly to the nearest suitably-equipped hospital or (b) insist on going to the airport and proceed to get on the first of two several-hours-long commercial flights—airplanes on board which there would be no lifesaving equipment or stored blood should you go into hard labor and experience pre-eclampsia or hemorrhage, no sterile environment, and no high-risk obstetrician attending you—in order to be able to say the baby was born in your home state?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

4. At the conclusion of that first flight, would you then, upon landing and deplaning, (a) go directly to the nearest hospital in the connecting city as fast as possible, even commandeering MediVac transport if necessary or (b) take another flight lasting several hours, in order to continue heading home?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

5. At the conclusion of the second flight, would you (a) go immediately to either of two nearby hospitals with fully equipped NICU’s (neonatal intensive care units), or (b) embark on a one-hour drive through dark, snowy, and winding roads in order to get to your hometown regional hospital—a facility that is not equipped to handle high-risk pregnancies, special needs or premature babies, or even twins?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

6. If you were the governor of a state and the mother of two teenage daughters–and you were well-known and widely regarded for your espousing of conservative Christian family values—would you (a) make a special effort to impress upon your daughters the responsibilities they had as members of the state’s "First Family" or (b) allow one of your underage daughters to have her boyfriend "practically living in the house", fully aware they were having sexual relations, which fact would eventually be established in no uncertain terms when the two teens conceived a pregnancy?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

7. If, in addition to your to your seventeen-year-old and thirteen-year-old daughters, your household also included a seven-year-old daughter, and both girls would certainly be aware of their older sister’s boyfriend’s routine overnight stays—the elder one undoubtedly knowing the reason for same—would your answer to the last question (a) change or (b) remain the same.

Sarah Palin chose (b).

8. Upon your return to the office, when your premature infant is three days old, would you (a) keep him at home in the care of a baby nurse, where he can receive UV light treatment for his jaundice along with careful monitoring, should he develop any complications due his congenital heart defect; and as your staff will be excited for you, take some family baby pictures to work, thus avoiding the dangers of exposing such a vulnerable baby to the germ-filled environment of your office or (b) bring him with you to the office so you can show him off for photo opportunities?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

9. If, when your infant with special needs was a few months old, you were to be offered a high-ranking position—say, the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket—which would entail your being away from home for a few months and place you squarely in the limelight of a high-profile campaign; and at approximately the same time as this offer was made, you were to discover that your minor daughter was pregnant, would you (a) politely decline the position, citing ‘family reasons’, and set about protecting your daughter’s privacy as your family worked through the situation and planned the best course of action for your child and future grandchild, doing your best to deflect unwanted press attention all the while or (b) accept the position "without blinking", and then parade your entire family—including your obviously pregnant minor daughter and her boyfriend—into the bright lights and onto the international stage of the Republican Convention?

Sarah Palin chose (b).

10. Does Sarah Palin embody your definition of "Family Values?"

(a) yes or (b) no. And you choose..?

* All particulars reflect on-the-record occurrences, ages, timelines, and events, and specific details as reported by Sarah Palin herself are taken from her own autobiography and/or interviews.

** You are welcome to copy-paste or otherwise forward the contents of this post.–Ed.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 9:28 am

Posted in Daily life

For your reading pleasure

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Dan Colman at Open Culture:

“The Best Magazine Articles Ever” – Sure the list is subjective. It’s all in English, and heavily slanted toward male writers. But you can’t quibble with this. This curated collection features pieces by some of the finest American writers of the past generation. We’ve highlighted 10 notables ones from a much longer list available here.

1 ) John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” The New Yorker, October 22, 1960.

2) Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” Esquire, November 1960.

3) Tom Wolfe, ”The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!” Esquire, March 1965.

4) Hunter Thompson, ”The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970.

5) Stewart Brand, “Space War: Fanatic Life and Symbolic Dearth Among Computer Bums. Rolling Stone, December 7, 1972.

6) David Foster Wallace, “The String Theory.” Esquire, July 1996.

7) Jon Krakauer, “Into Thin Air.” Outside Magazine, September 1996.

8 ) Susan Orlean, “Orchid Fever.” The New Yorker, January 23, 1995.

9) Malcolm Gladwell, “The Pitchman.” The New Yorker, October 30, 2000. (Yup, he’s Canadian, I know.)

10) Katie Hafner, “The Epic Saga of The Well.” Wired, May 1997.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 8:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Dr. Konstantin Frank and his New York fine wines

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Very interesting article by Steven Kolpan in Salon:

A hundred years ago, Riesling wines from the Mosel and Rhine regions of Germany were the most expensive and sought-after wines in the world, and a great Riesling is honestly hard to stop talking about — fresh, flowery, flinty, and tart, redolent of peaches, apricots and green apples, with a sweet attack and a lengthy, complex, dry finish … I could go on. But while there are still magnificent German Rieslings, let me let you in on a no-longer well-kept secret: some of the finest — and finest value – Rieslings are from New York State, grown along the banks of the Finger Lakes, especially Keuka, Cayuga, and Seneca Lakes.

But this isn’t just the story of a great white wine, it’s the story of a visionary. Dr. Konstantin Frank was, in 1951 and at age 52, an immigrant from the Ukraine with $40 in his pocket. Though he held advanced degrees in viticulture and enology — and had taught these subjects in Russia — his first job in America was washing dishes at the Horn & Hardart Automat in New York City. He next secured a job upstate in Geneva, at the New York State Experiment Station, where he hoped to apply his knowledge of grapes and grape growing, but instead was given work as a menial laborer.

Nearly every wine grape you’ve ever heard of is of the species vitis vinifera, and when Frank arrived, he wondered why winemakers in the Finger Lakes were growing native grapes (vitis labrusca) such as Concord and Catawba, which are best for jams and jellies, or inferior hybrids of labrusca and vinifera. He argued that if New York was to develop a reputation for quality wines it must embrace the cultivation of vinifera, but was shot down by local "experts." It was too cold, they said, ridiculing the naïve foreigner. For three hundred years, many had tried and failed to cultivate vinifera vines in New York State, and they left Frank to his mad dreams.

But Frank had grown Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in Odessa, where, he said, "the temperature goes to forty below; where when we spit, it froze before it hit the ground." He remained undeterred, and, perhaps, emboldened…

Continue reading.

I in fact just ordered some wines from Dr. Frank’s Web site.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 8:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Drinks, Food

Now *that’s* the lather I like!

with 2 comments

Best shave for a few days—and the lather was definitely a help. This was lather the way it’s supposed to be: rich, thick, warm: heavy, but with very fine bubbles, holding a lot of water but still not runny or with any tendency to flow.

The soap is quite good, of course, and I took my time loading the brush. And the Omega synthetic bristle brushes—their top of the line variety, not the ones with white nylon bristles that look like a whisk broom—is a very fine brush: lots of loft, lots of capacity, and works up a great lather.

Of course, the Futur is no slouch of a razor, and the Swedish Gillette blade it carries has seen two or three shaves at the most: still sharp, still smooth.

And my face is smooth as well with the shaving balm (note that this particular balm is in fact a liquid—at last mine is—and must be poured carefully from the tube) a great finish.

Written by Leisureguy

29 July 2010 at 7:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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