Later On

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

Archive for August 3rd, 2010

Mayor Bloomberg’s speech in New York.

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Perhaps the Anti-Defamation League could learn something. From the Wall Street Journal:

Here is the full text of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s speech following a vote that clears most major hurdles for the construction of a planned mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero:

We have come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We’ve come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that, more than 250 years later, would greet millions of immigrants in the harbor, and we come here to state as strongly as ever – this is the freest City in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

Our doors are open to everyone – everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it is sustained by immigrants – by people from more than a hundred different countries speaking more than two hundred different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here, or you came yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life and it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives.

Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that, even here in a City that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard-won over many years. In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in Lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue – and they were turned down.

In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal, political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies – and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion – and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780’s – St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.

This morning, the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.

The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.

The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves – and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans – if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that.

For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.

On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation – and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.

The local community board in Lower Manhattan voted overwhelming to support the proposal and if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.

Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure – and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us today can attest.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 5:16 pm

Status quo v. Change

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I was reflecting on my earlier definitions of “conservative” and “liberal/progressive”, and I realized that, across the sweep of history, the struggle between the two has been constant, because the struggle is always between the status quo (and those supporting it) and change (and those supporting that).

Naturally enough, those for whom the status quo is beneficial will, on the whole, fight to preserve it—and indeed see the fight as a virtuous fight. By and large, this group is at the top of the socio-economic heap under the status quo, of course: the wealthy and powerful.

And opposing that is the view that some members of society who lack privilege and power would benefit from some changes—often merely small changes.

But those who lack privilege and power—those marginalized under the status quo—have trouble accessing the levers of power in order to effect the change, and those in power generally don’t want any changes at all because of unforeseen blowback.

So, generally speaking, the small changes go unmade, the situation worsens, and ultimately (over the sweep of history) a war is lost or a rebellion succeeds, or in some other way the status quo is disrupted and a new power structure emerges—with its own marginalized population. Rinse and repeat.

Almost always, the change is just one privileged group taking over from  another privileged group, with few benefits to the lower classes. But—quite rarely—the rebellion is not led by an another of the powerful, but is directly from the people. The first example was the Athenian uprising that established democracy as a way of governance. Another was the French Revolution at the Fall of the Bastille.

But, over the entire scope of history, the status quo and the wealthy and powerful have won, as you can see. What has been interesting in modern times is the gradual development of a way to change the status quo without bringing down the entire structure and costing lives and treasure: democracy. Democracy (and I include democratic republics such as the US) institutionalizes change: brings it in as an engine of government, and uses votes instead of lives to decide the direction the government will take.

It’s a struggle, and in the very establishment of the United States you see a sort of nervous dance as the wealthy and powerful did their best to create a new government that would protect their position but still be open to change that can subvert the status quo constructively.

What’s new, I think, is the growth and current power of international non-governmental organizations, and in particular international corporations, who increasingly are more powerful than most governments and are rapidly consolidating control (through financial arrangements) of those governments they cannot control directly through military means.

Of course, this new population of power bases is itself open to change and, although it will defend the status quo vigorously (cf. tobacco companies and their fight against regulation, or the oil & gas industry fighting climate change control), when you look at the top companies of 100 years ago and then 50 years ago and then today, you see a great deal of turnover.

So who’s winning?

Ultimately, change wins. The status quo is never tenable over the long haul, and it makes sense to try to harness change so that as many as possible can benefit from it. But status quo will always have its defenders.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Politics

Megs and a walk

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Here’s Megs from a day or two ago:

And here’s from a walk I just finished:

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Megs

When I’m not so proud of California

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Barry Estabrook writes in the NY Times:

Jim Crow is Alive and Well in California

SB 1121 was hardly a radical-sounding piece of legislation. Among other things, it would have given California’s 700,000 farm workers the right to take one day off out of every seven. Hourly paid agricultural employees would have received overtime pay after eight hours per day or 40 hours per week.

But when the bill landed on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, he vetoed it, saying that the new provisions would put farmers out of business.

Had the law passed, California farm laborers would have been the first in the country to receive the right to overtime pay. In order to get his New Deal policies past southern Democrats in the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt exempted field hands (most of whom were African American at the time) from protections granted other workers. Those exemptions still stand.

“The governor had a chance to make history,” Sen. Dean Florez, the bill’s author, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He had a chance to wipe a 70-year-old shame off the books of California. Instead he has decided to side with the shameful.”

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 12:00 pm

Jeffrey Goldberg, a conservative Jew, speaks out on the Manhattan mosque

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Very good post, IMO:

This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative’s planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda.  Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama’s most dire enemies are Muslims. This is quantitatively true, of course — al Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have murdered thousands of Muslims — but it is ideologically true as well: al Qaeda’s goal is the purification of Islam (that is to say, its extreme understanding of Islam) and apostates pose more of a threat to Bin Laden’s understanding of Islam than do infidels.

I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I’ve spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

At last: A challenge to Obama’s despotic idea of Presidentially-directed hit squads

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Thank God this will be challenged. Obama supporters will undoubtedly say that the challenge (and, one hopes, the eventual explicit finding that such a directive is unconstitutional) is why Obama gave himself this new power. I don’t buy it. I do not think it was a good-faith effort to restore the rule of law, but rather power-directed overreaching contrary to good government and the Constitution. Greenwald:

A major legal challenge to one of the Obama administration’s most radical assertions of executive power began this morning in a federal courthouse in Washington, DC.  Early last month, the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights were retained by Nasser al-Awlaki, the father of Obama assassination target (and U.S. citizen) Anwar al-Awlaki, to seek a federal court order restraining the Obama administration from killing his son without due process of law.  But then, a significant and extraordinary problem arose:   regulations promulgated several years ago by the Treasury Department prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions with individuals labeled by the Government as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist," and those regulations specifically bar lawyers from providing legal services to such individuals without a special "license" from the Treasury Department specifically allowing such representation.

On July 16 — roughly two weeks after Awlaki’s father retained the ACLU and CCR to file suit — the Treasury Department slapped that label on Awlaki.  That action would have made it a criminal offense for those organizations to file suit on behalf of Awlaki or otherwise provide legal representation to him without express permission from the U.S. Government.  On July 23, the two groups submitted a request for such a license with the Treasury Department, and when doing so, conveyed the extreme time-urgency involved:  namely, that there is an ongoing governmental effort to kill Awlaki and any delay in granting this "license" could cause him to be killed without these claims being heard by a court.  Despite that, the Treasury Department failed even to respond to the request.

Left with no choice, the ACLU and CCR this morning filed a lawsuit on their own behalf against Timothy Geithner and the Treasury Department.  The suit argues that Treasury has no statutory authority under the law it invokes — The International Emergency Economic Powers Act  — to bar American lawyers from representing American citizens on an uncompensated basis.  It further argues what ought to be a completely uncontroversial point:  that even if Congress had vested Treasury with this authority, it is blatantly unconstitutional to deny American citizens the right to have a lawyer, and to deny American lawyers the right to represent clients, without first obtaining a permission slip from Executive Branch officials (the Complaint is here).  As the ACLU/CCR Brief puts it:  "The notion that the government can compel a citizen to seek its permission before challenging the constitutionality of its actions in court is wholly foreign to our constitutional system" and "[a]s non-profit organizations dedicated to protecting civil liberties and human rights, Plaintiffs have a First Amendment right to represent clients in litigation consistent with their organizational missions."  The Brief also argues that it is a violation of Separation of Powers to allow the Executive Branch to determine in its sole discretion who can and cannot appear in and have access to a federal court.

Today’s lawsuit seeks, on an emergency basis, an Order declaring . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 11:10 am

Interesting: Israel’s PR war

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This is a video that I don’t know how to embed, but I highly recommend that you watch it.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 11:04 am

Monkey economy

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Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 10:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

When the police become the enemy

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It is really frightening when the police begin to go rogue, though certainly rogue elements have always been present among the police (and every other profession). Because of the unusual powers granted to police, though, they certainly must be held to a high standard. In Atlanta GA they are not. Ed Brayton:

Alison Kilkenny, who is married to the brilliant comic Jamie Kilstein, has a post about an appalling incident last year where a cop killed a teenager riding a bike with a taser shot at high speed.:

Late one night in October, a 17-year-old on a bike was chased by a police officer in a cruiser. When the boy refused to stop, the officer aimed his Taser out the driver’s window and fired. The boy fell off the bike and the cruiser ran over him, killing him.

Another report on the same incident:

At about 12:45 a.m., said Moultrie, Victor left on a borrowed bike. From there to where the chase started was about four and a half miles. But it was about 1:45 a.m. that Officer Jerald Ard spotted Victor. Where Victor went after leaving Moultrie’s house is unclear.

Ard would later say that he tried to stop Victor because he had seen him at a construction site and thought he may have stolen something. But witness Victor Stallworth said he saw Victor ride his bicycle past the construction site without stopping. Months later, Ard gave investigators a different reason for stopping Victor: He didn’t have a light on his bike — only two reflectors.

A video camera on the dashboard of Ard’s squad car recorded the brief chase:

Ard spotted Victor and did a fast U-turn to stop him. When Victor didn’t stop, Ard veered to the wrong side of the street and up on the sidewalk behind the teenager.

The officer revved the motor, his tires screeching, as he followed Victor into the side yard of an apartment building. With his flashers and PA system on, Ard yelled at Victor to "stop the bike."

It is unclear why Victor disobeyed the order to stop, but the teenager continued pedaling, trying to escape. Ard followed his every move, driving in and out of the wrong lane of traffic and up onto the sidewalk again. One minute and seven seconds into the chase Ard fired his Taser at Victor, who turned into a parking lot. About two seconds later, Victor fell to the ground and Ard ran over him.

And if that isn’t enough to make your blood boil, this certainly should:

A video, taken from the dashboard of another officer’s car, recorded what happened in the minutes before the discovery:

Three officers squatted next to Ard’s car, looking under it at Victor. Ard unlocked the passenger side of his car and got something out. The object is light-colored and floppy, but isn’t clearly visible. Ard, holding the object, crawled under the car next to Victor’s body and stayed there for 40 seconds. Two minutes later, paramedics found a 9mm silver and black semi-automatic in Victor’s pocket.

Lab tests showed the gun had been wiped clean. No fingerprints were on it — not Victor’s, not anyone’s. Victor’s family, as well as his pastors and friends, were aghast. Victor was scared of guns, they said. He would not have carried a gun around.

None of this is particularly unusual. The officers in the Atlanta PD drug squad who turned state’s evidence against their colleagues testified that virtually every officer in the department kept bags full of drugs in the trunks of their squad cars to plant on people.

And guess what? A judge decided that the officer had not done anything wrong by firing a taser at a kid on a bike on the false basis that he might have stolen something that had never been reported stolen.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 10:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Our dwindling resources: Privacy

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Privacy is losing ground these days. Two recent reports:

Project Vigilant

Forbes‘ technology writer Andy Greenberg reports that at the Defcon Security Conference yesterday, an individual named Chet Uber appeared with revelations about the case of accused WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning and government informant Adrian Lamo.  These revelations are both remarkable in their own right and, more important, highlight some extremely significant, under-examined developments unrelated to that case.  This is a somewhat complex story and it raises even more complex issues, but it is extremely worthwhile to examine.

Uber is the Executive Director of a highly secretive group called Project Vigilant, which, as Greenberg writes, "monitors the traffic of 12 regional Internet service providers" and "hands much of that information to federal agencies." …

Continue reading.

NYT: Pervasive surveillance is a serious threat — in China

Yesterday, I wrote about the proliferation of the private online surveillance industry, how it furnishes ever more thorough and invasive information to the U.S. Government about citizens’ online activities, and why that destruction of privacy is so dangerous  My Salon colleague, Dan Gillmor, yesterday detailed just how comprehensive are the online surveillance capabilities which enable all of this.  Today, The New York Times confronts the same problem of privacy destruction at the hands of a pervasive Surveillance State . . . in China.  In a perfectly interesting article, Michael Wines describes how the Chinese Government has placed surveillance cameras covering virtually every public space in two of its more "restive" provinces, which last year saw deadly fighting between ethnic minorities and the Government.  He describes the dangers as follows: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 10:28 am

Another review of The Other Wes Moore

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I posted a review earlier. Here’s another review.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:55 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Interesting how corporations are taking over the government

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Nina Bhattacharya at ThinkProgress:

Since Enbridge Inc.’s disastrous pipeline leak gushed 1 million gallons of oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River last week, reports suggest that Enbridge officials and law enforcement are blocking the media from public spill sites. The Michigan Messenger reports that yesterday evening, its journalists were denied access — again — “to a key oil spill site after attempting to record video of the Kalamazoo River.” A wildlife group is also reporting similar findings from its volunteers. The Michigan Messenger’s Todd Heywood elaborates:

However, when Messenger arrived at the site a security officer working for Enbridge approached and said no media was allowed. Messenger requested to speak to the Calhoun County Deputy Sheriff who was at the site. That deputy cleared Messenger’s request with an official from Enbridge, but they would only allow the filming of 30 seconds of video. During the time Messenger was waiting to speak to the deputy, a citizen video crew approached, and was turned back by the security officer.

These reports mirror similar problems involving BP’s oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Although BP COO Doug Suttles called such reports “untrue,” numerous media reports documented BP’s efforts to block journalists from covering the oil spill and speaking with clean-up workers.

It’s bad when law enforcement gets its orders from companies—but that’s been not uncommon over the years.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:54 am

The Catholic Church today

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They don’t even honor their legal agreements. Ed Brayton:

The Roman Catholic Church’s diocese in Pittsburgh is being sued by the family of a man who was sexually abused by a priest after the church cut off payments for the man’s mental health treatments.

The estate of a man allegedly abused by a priest in the 1980s is suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, alleging he committed suicide this year after the diocese stopped paying for his mental health treatments following two other suicide attempts.

Michael Unglo, 39, formerly of Etna in suburban Pittsburgh, committed suicide in May at a center in Stockbridge, Mass., according to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The Associated Press. He alleged he was molested in the early 1980s while an altar boy, by a priest who was convicted of molesting another boy and later resigned.

The church had agreed to pay for those treatments as part of a settlement with the victim, but at some point decided to stop doing so — but they still pay for the insurance and pay a salary to the priest that molested him:

The diocese decided to stop paying for Unglo’s treatment even though the diocese continued to pay for the priest’s health insurance and paid the priest an unspecified monthly stipend, Alan Perer, attorney for Unglo’s estate, said Thursday at a news conference.

"There was money to fund a convicted, pedophile, defrocked priest and yet not enough money to continue to provide for the victim of that priest who ultimately killed himself," Perer said.

The priest was defrocked in the 1990s after being convicted of molesting another boy in his church.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

The broken Senate

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Countries that mimic modern democracies in establishing their own new democratic system of government generally do not include an equivalent to the Senate, which is America’s own burden from the various compromises needed to form the Union of small and large, slave-owning and Abolitionist states. George Packer in the New Yorker takes a look at the Senate today:

“This is just one of those days when you want to throw up your hands and say, ‘What in the world are we doing?’ ” Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat, said.

“It’s unconscionable,” Carl Levin, the senior Democratic senator from Michigan, said. “The obstructionism has become mindless.”

The Senators were in the Capitol, sunk into armchairs before the marble fireplace in the press lounge, which is directly behind the Senate chamber. It was four-thirty on a Wednesday afternoon. McCaskill, in a matching maroon jacket and top, looked exasperated; Levin glowered over his spectacles.

“Also, it’s a dumb rule in itself,” McCaskill said. “It’s time we started looking at some of these rules.”

She was referring to Senate Rule XXVI, Paragraph 5, which requires unanimous consent for committees and subcommittees to hold hearings after two in the afternoon while the Senate is in session. Both Levin and McCaskill had scheduled hearings that day for two-thirty. Typically, it wouldn’t be difficult to get colleagues to waive the rule; a general and an admiral had flown halfway around the world to appear before Levin’s Armed Services Committee, and McCaskill’s Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight of the Homeland Security Committee was investigating the training of Afghan police. But this was March 24th, the day after President Barack Obama signed the health-care-reform bill, in a victory ceremony at the White House; it was also the day that the Senate was to vote on a reconciliation bill for health-care reform, approved by the House three nights earlier, which would retroactively remove the new law’s most embarrassing sweetheart deals and complete the yearlong process of passing universal health care. Republicans, who had fought the bill as a bloc, were in no mood to make things easy.

So, four hours earlier, when Levin went to the Senate floor and asked for consent to hold his hearing, Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, and a member of Levin’s committee, had refused. “I have no personal objection to continuing,” Burr said. But, he added, “there is objection on our side of the aisle. Therefore, I would have to object.”

Burr had to object on behalf of his party because he was the only Republican in the chamber when Levin spoke. In general, when senators give speeches on the floor, their colleagues aren’t around, and the two or three who might be present aren’t listening. They’re joking with aides, or e-mailing Twitter ideas to their press secretaries, or getting their first look at a speech they’re about to give before the eight unmanned cameras that provide a live feed to C-SPAN2. The presiding officer of the Senate—freshmen of the majority party take rotating, hour-long shifts intended to introduce them to the ways of the institution—sits in his chair on the dais, scanning his BlackBerry or reading a Times article about the Senate. Michael Bennet, a freshman Democrat from Colorado, said, “Sit and watch us for seven days—just watch the floor. You know what you’ll see happening? Nothing. When I’m in the chair, I sit there thinking, I wonder what they’re doing in China right now?”

Between speeches, there are quorum calls, time killers in which a Senate clerk calls the roll at the rate of one name every few minutes. The press gallery, above the dais, is typically deserted, as journalists prefer to hunker down in the press lounge, surfing the Web for analysis of current Senate negotiations; television screens alert them if something of interest actually happens in the chamber. The only people who pay attention to a speech are the Senate stenographers. On this afternoon, two portly bald men in suits stood facing the speaker from a few feet away, tapping at the transcription machines, which resembled nineteenth-century cash registers, slung around their necks. The Senate chamber is an intimate room where men and women go to talk to themselves for the record.

Like many other aspects of senatorial procedure, Rule XXVI, Paragraph 5 is a relic from the days when senators had to hover around their desks to know what was happening on the floor during the main afternoon debate. (The desks, some built as long ago as 1819, are mahogany, and their lids lift up, like those in an old schoolhouse; the desks of the Majority and Minority Leader are still equipped with brass spittoons.) In the press lounge, McCaskill said, with light sarcasm, “Somebody told me the rule is to make sure people pay attention to what’s happening on the floor during debate and not be distracted by committee work. Clearly, it’s an old rule.”

The Republicans had turned this old rule into a new means of obstruction. There would be no hearings that afternoon; the general and the admiral would have to come back another day. Like investment bankers on Wall Street, senators these days direct much of their creative energy toward the manipulation of arcane rules and loopholes, scoring short-term successes while magnifying their institution’s broader dysfunction.

Around five o’clock, the chamber began to fill, as the reconciliation bill came up for a vote; …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:45 am

Liberalism and Conservatism, contrasted

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Scott Feldstein has an interesting post in which he discusses his definitions of conservatism and liberalism, triggering an intriguing comment thread. Let me hoist from my own comment my thought about the difference:

Conservatives want to “conserve”: to maintain the status quo. As a result, conservatives draw their members primarily from those who benefit from the status quo.

Liberals (or progressives) want to improve the status quo—and that, alas, requires change, so they are fought by conservatives who want the status quo to remain in place: it benefits them.

Thus liberals/progressives are constantly looking at the abilities and resources that we command as a group, working together, and ask, “How can we improve our lot—for everyone?” Liberals look at those who are least well-off under the status quo and try to find ways to improve their lives, using the resources we command as a society. In liberal eyes, a society should naturally work to improve the lives of its members.

Conservatives don’t agree. So they fight changes to the status quo, whether it is freeing slaves, allowing women to vote, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, or whatever. Conservatives want things to stay as they are.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this definition. Obviously, I’m talking about conservatives and liberals who have thought about their beliefs and why they hold them. I don’t think you get even minimal coherency from, say, Sarah Palin or the Tea Party. Those are examples of inability to engage in rational thought.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:36 am

A Parker razor from Classic Shaving

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Once again the Vintage Blades triple-milled tallow-based soap, again with the Vie-Long horsehair brush. More and better lather this time: either the brush is breaking in, or I’m learning to use it effectively, or both. Plenty of lather for three passes, and I used my new made-in-India razor from Classic Shaving—this one. With a new Wilkinson Sword blade it did a fine job. It feels just a tad lighter and looser than a vintage Gillette TTO, but still quite good. And nothing wrong with the shave at all: very smooth face, now fragrant with Paul Sebastian aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2010 at 9:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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