Later On

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

Archive for August 6th, 2010

Walk: 22 minutes

leave a comment »

Pace: brisk.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

What the GOP wants: Paul Ryan edition

with 8 comments

In a couple of earlier posts today I slammed the GOP for being completely unrealistic on government finances (cutting taxes increases tax revenue? No, it does not, when you look at the facts), but perhaps with the idea that, when push comes to shove, the powerless will be pushed and shoved and the powerful will simply become more wealthy than before.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at what Ryan is proposing: big taxes on the middle class, and enormous tax cuts for the wealthy. Steve Benen:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is often held in high regard by the political establishment, especially in the media, in part because he seems more impressive than his House Republican colleagues. Ryan speaks in complete sentences; he seems to care about substance; and unlike everyone else in his party, he’s even willing to put his ideas on paper and subject them to scrutiny.

And if that’s all that were necessary to constitute a credible member of Congress, Paul Ryan would certainly be deserving of the accolades he’s received. But it’s really a classic example of the soft bigotry of low expectations — all it takes for the establishment to swoon over a Republican is evidence that he may have read a book once. Granted, this is a test most leading GOP voices fail, but it’s unwise to set the bar this low.

What really matters is whether the “genius of the day” has ideas with merit, whether his/her numbers add up, and whether stated plans would work (and for whom). In the case of Paul Ryan and his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” it’s a test he fails badly.

Paul Krugman tries to set Ryan’s fans straight today.

…Mr. Ryan may speak about the deficit in apocalyptic terms, but even if you believe that his proposed spending cuts are feasible — which you shouldn’t — the Roadmap wouldn’t reduce the deficit. All it would do is cut benefits for the middle class while slashing taxes on the rich.

And I do mean slash. The Tax Policy Center finds that the Ryan plan would cut taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population in half, giving them 117 percent of the plan’s total tax cuts. That’s not a misprint. Even as it slashed taxes at the top, the plan would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population.

Finally, let’s talk about those spending cuts. In its first decade, most of the alleged savings in the Ryan plan come from assuming zero dollar growth in domestic discretionary spending, which includes everything from energy policy to education to the court system. This would amount to a 25 percent cut once you adjust for inflation and population growth. How would such a severe cut be achieved? What specific programs would be slashed? Mr. Ryan doesn’t say.

Ryan does say that he intends to dismantle Medicare, but no one seriously believes this is possible — politically, economically, financially — which makes the foundation of the Ryan “roadmap” literally unbelievable.

I realize the political world loves to latch onto Republican personalities like this, and overlook all relevant details and evidence, but as Krugman concluded, the “Ryan plan is a fraud that makes no useful contribution to the debate over America’s fiscal future.”

Still not convinced that the GOP hates the poor, doesn’t care for the middle class, and loves the wealthy to excess? Well, then read this. The GOP never loses a chance to stick it to the little guy, and since this group is African-American, the GOP can also satisfy the racists that comprise such a large part of their base.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 3:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Sane Republican found!!

leave a comment »

Steve Benen:

Over the last month or so, there’s been an aggressive push among Republican leaders to insist that tax cuts don’t need to be paid for, because they pay for themselves. This notion — often characterized as belief in the Tax Fairy — isn’t taken seriously by any credible economist or expert, and was even rejected by Bush/Cheney economists, but has quickly become the standard GOP tax policy in 2010.

Indeed, when Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) got the ball rolling on this point, he insisted that his bizarre views are endorsed by "most of the people in my party." And sure enough, Republicans rallied behind the obvious nonsense.

I couldn’t find a single GOP lawmaker in D.C. willing to reject this garbage. It’s only fair, then, that I mention that one has finally shown up.

A number of old Republican hands warning of a deficit crisis have split with the GOP leadership over extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), President Reagan’s budget chief David Stockman and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan have each argued that extending the tax cuts — set to expire at year’s end — would increase the nation’s $13 trillion debt.

"It’s like tax reductions, you don’t need to pay for them? To me, that’s nonsense," Voinovich said.

OK, that’s one. A grand total of one GOP member of Congress is willing to acknowledge, out loud and on the record, that the basis for the party’s tax policy doesn’t actually make any sense.

Of course, Voinovich is retiring from politics this year, and need not worry about reprisals. When lawmakers head out the door, their appreciation for candor seems to go up. Imagine that.

Of course, it would have been far more helpful had Voinovich acknowledge reality far sooner — say, when he was voting for the Bush/Cheney policies that got us in this mess in the first place. For that matter, it’s also worth emphasizing the limits of Voinovich’s wisdom — he realizes the Tax Fairy doesn’t exist, but he’s nevertheless fought vehemently against every Democratic measure in this Congress that reduces the deficit and grows the economy.

Still, credit where credit is due. I asked for one Republican to acknowledge reality, and one has. How very exciting for us all.

I blogged earlier about the serious financial problems Colorado and other states are facing as they find they have inadequate money to meet their obligations. Kyl and his colleagues want to visit the same sort of trouble on the country as a whole. Why? Because then the powerless will be defunded and crushed, and only the powerful will have money, which is pretty much the way the GOP likes it.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 2:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Breaking news: Ginormous collision in outer space—it’s still going on!

leave a comment »

Take a look (and click to enlarge):

These two spiral galaxies have been colliding for over 100 million years. The intergalactic battle has spurred the creation of millions of new stars, the most massive of which have already exploded into supernovae.

Three of NASA’s space telescopes have combined forces to create the sharpest image yet of the merging Antennae galaxies, located 62 million light years from Earth. X-ray data from Chandra X-Ray Observatory is blue, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is gold and brown, and infrared data from Spitzer Space Telescope is red. The photos were taken between 1999 and 2002, and combine 117 hours of observation.

The image gives us a sneak preview of what may happen when the Milky Way collides with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy in several billion years.

Nearly half the faint objects in the image are young star clusters that contain tens of thousands of new stars. The Hubble data reveals old stars in the core of the old galaxies: star-forming regions in gold, and massive filaments of dust in brown. The red infrared data from Spitzer shows warm dust clouds that have been heated by the newborn stars, with the brightest clouds between the two original galaxies.

The brilliant blue specks from the Chandra X-ray data are also star-forming regions containing hot, interstellar gas infused with elements such as oxygen, iron, magnesium and silicon, left over from supernova explosions. The elements will be incorporated into new generations of stars and planets.

The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like “tidal tails” that extend out from the cores of the two galaxies. The tails were formed from tidal forces created during the initial collision of the galaxies, and are easier to see in the wide-angle view of the galaxies below. . .

Continue reading for the additional photo.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Science

The strange opposition to the community center and mosque in Manhattan

with 4 comments

A couple of notes from ThinkProgress. The first is by Matt Duss:

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center appeared on Fox News yesterday to argue against the Cordoba House project in lower Manhattan. “It’s a great idea, it’s the wrong location,” Hier said. “It’s very insensitive.”

HIER: For 3000 families, the 9/11 site is one of the — is the site of one of the greatest atrocities ever committed in the United States, and it’s a cemetery. And the opinion of the families should be paramount as to what should go near that site. Now having a fifteen-story mosque within 1600 feet of the site is at the very least insensitive.

Watch it.

Interestingly, while Hier believes that Ground Zero should be treated as a cemetery, Hier’s own organization is currently building a “Museum of Tolerance” atop an actual cemeterythe Mamilla Cemetery, a Muslim graveyard in Jerusalem “with thousands of grave sites that go back some 1200 years.” The planned museum has caused a huge international uproar, causing celebrity architect Frank Gehry to withdraw from the project.

In February 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups filed a petition on behalf of the Palestinian descendants of those buried in the Mamilla Cemetery. The petition claimed:

A significant portion of the cemetery is being destroyed and hundreds of human remains are being desecrated so that SWC can build a facility to be called the “Center for Human Dignity – Museum of Tolerance” on this sacred Muslim site.

Great idea. Wrong location.

Excruciating hypocrisy. I hope Rabbi Hier is still capable of shame. And this by Tanya Somanader:

In opposing the planned Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, conservative stalwarts have picked up on right-wing extremistsparanoid hysteria over the initiative. In an interview with RealClearPolitics today, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) joinedNewt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Liz Cheney, and many others in attacking the plan as an “inappropriate” affront to 9/11 victims. Deeming the site “hallowed” and “sacred ground,” he asserted that “we shouldn’t have images or activities that degrade or disrespect [the site] in anyway.” But, as Salon’s Justin Elliott points out, Pawlenty and company are “strangely silent” over the fact that “Muslims have been praying inside the Pentagon since Sept. 11″:

Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes — daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. They haven’t even had the sensitivity to move two blocks, let alone a mile, away from that sacred site.

In noting the Pentagon’s Ramadan celebrations and a Qur’an reading at a 9/11 memorial service one month after the attack, Elliott points out that “no one has ever heard about Muslims praying at the Pentagon — let alone cared.”

“It’s almost as if the entire ‘ground zero mosque’ controversy was whipped up out of nothing by a right-wing tabloid and politicians in search of a wedge issue,” he said. (HT: Daily Kos)

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

What a mess: Pension funds

leave a comment »

States now face serious budget problems, so they are making cuts that they would not have dreamed of before. And, naturally enough, they try to aim those cuts so that they mostly affect people who do not have much power or influence—it’s so much easier that way. Ron Lieber writes in the NY Times:

There’s a class war coming to the world of government pensions.

The haves are retirees who were once state or municipal workers. Their seemingly guaranteed and ever-escalating monthly pension benefits are breaking budgets nationwide.

The have-nots are taxpayers who don’t have generous pensions. Their 401(k)s or individual retirement accounts have taken a real beating in recent years and are not guaranteed. And soon, many of those people will be paying higher taxes or getting fewer state services as their states put more money aside to cover those pension checks.

At stake is at least $1 trillion. That’s trillion, with a “t,” as in titanic and terrifying.

The figure comes from a study by the Pew Center on the States that came out in February. Pew estimated a $1 trillion gap as of fiscal 2008 between what states had promised workers in the way of retiree pension, health care and other benefits and the money they currently had to pay for it all. And some economists say that Pew is too conservative and the problem is two or three times as large.

So a question of extraordinary financial, political, legal and moral complexity emerges, something that every one of us will be taking into town meetings and voting booths for years to come: Given how wrong past pension projections were, who should pay to fill the 13-figure financing gap?

Consider what’s going on in Colorado — and what is likely to unfold in other states and municipalities around the country.

Earlier this year, in an act of rare political courage, …

Continue reading. The fault obviously lies with the states who failed to fund their pension obligations—it was undoubtedly the familiar pattern we see frequently: cowardly politicians kicking the can down the road for the next generation to deal with, much like the way the Bush/Cheney Administration fought expensive discretionary wars without paying for them, and in fact cutting government revenue (taxes) at the same time they were spending money like water.

John Cole makes a good point:

I’m sympathetic to the budgetary issues, and I agree that there need to be changes to the pension guarantees for new and current employees, but I simply do not understand how you go back and change the contract you made with someone decades ago. Mr. Justus and those like him did what they were supposed to do—they agreed to work for a certain amount of money yearly with the understanding that they would have a decent pension upon retirement. They have no access to Social Security [as explained in the NY Times story, Colorado state employees cannot contribute to Social Security – LG], they probably did not save in 401K’s or other programs because they knew they had a defined pension as well as the fact that they probably accepted less annual salary in exchange for the benefits they were promised and as such could not really build an independent nest egg.

And now, when the times are lean, lawmakers think they can just go and screw all the people who kept their side of the bargain. It’s just wrong.

And let there be no doubt that there will be a class war over this. Matt Welch and the glibertarian wingnut welfare recipients at Reason have been beating this drum for a while now.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Strange arguments against Judge Walker’s decision

with 8 comments

Now that the decision is out, the social conservatives are in overdrive arguing against it—only they won’t engage the decision on the facts or the merits, because they understand that on those grounds they lose. So they are suddenly concerned that a gay judge cannot be impartial in a decision regarding gay marriage, whereas a straight judge (whose own marriage would be in danger, they believe, if gay marriages are allowed) would be impartial. Why? They don’t know. They just don’t like the decision. I suppose they also would strongly object to a Christian judge hearing arguments about prayer in the schools or the Ten Commandments being displayed on public property. You think?

You’ll see many arguments against Judge Walker’s decision. Check to see if any of those rebut the facts.

Here are some of the arguments. Hold your nose. Also, this:

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Interesting interview with an Israeli

with 2 comments

Worth reading. Michael Totten writes:

TEL AVIV — I learn most of what I know about the Middle East from the people who live here, and I was a bit shocked when I discovered, years ago, that many reporters—especially wire agency reporters—absorb most of what they know, think, and believe about the region from other journalists. I didn’t know anyone, local or foreign, in the Middle East when I first got here, and I initially had to rely on the people I met randomly in cafes and bars and in person via the Internet to teach me what’s going on and how the place works. All my information came from the street. Most of my understanding still comes from the street—not from on high, not from newspapers or press releases, and not from foreign reporters who do not live here. Eventually I worked my way up to the prime minister’s office in Lebanon, and I’ve almost gotten that far now in Israel, but my real education has taken place during long sessions in cafes and bars with Arabs, Kurds, and Israelis.

Benjamin Kerstein’s name will appear on the Acknowledgements page of my book when it comes out in the spring because he has taught me an enormous amount about Israel during the time I have known him. I met him five years ago when I first came here from Lebanon, when Israel was still a partially Arabized abstraction in my eyes. He was one of the first people who humanized the place for me, and he taught me more than he knows about the Israeli people and how they see themselves and their place on earth and in history. The parts of my book that take place here are better than they would be if I did not know him.

It finally occurred to me during this trip that I should meet him for coffee and record our conversation so you can learn about Israel the way I do.

MJT: So what’s it like to read about Israel in the foreign press?

Benjamin Kerstein: Surreal.

MJT: How so?

Benjamin Kerstein: It rarely bears any resemblance to the country I live in, mainly because it either deals only with the conflict or because the news is produced by people who live in the English-speaking Jerusalem bubble.

MJT: Tell me about the English-speaking Jerusalem bubble…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 8:34 am

Pelosi’s reforms bearing fruit

leave a comment »

The investigations of Charles Rangel and Maxine Water is a very good sign that it’s no long "business as usual" in the House, thanks to Speaker Pelosi’s getting an independent investigate team on the job. Representatives hate being investigated, but it’s for their own good—if the House seriously attacks corruption, it will be doing the right thing. (Too bad the Senate is MUCH less interested in reform.)

Joe Conason takes a look:

Clarity of thought is rare in both political press coverage and public opinion, but the reaction so far to the House ethics cases brought against Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters is well beyond average stupid.

According to conventional media wisdom — always heavily influenced by Republican noisemakers — the Democrats should expect to suffer because two powerful committee chairs from their party are undergoing ethics investigations. But why should Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats take the blame when they brought reform that led to those investigations, regardless of the political consequences?

Yet, having thrown out the bums who tolerated corruption for so long under Republican leadership, the public is supposedly itching to throw out their replacements, who have reformed the House rules, created a new Office of Congressional Ethics, and handled every case impartially, as promised when the Democrats took over in January 2007. Voters have plenty of reasons to feel frustrated and angry this year, but ethics reform is not among them.

The most telling remark uttered by anyone in the wake of the release of the ethics charges against Rangel came from one of his most dedicated right-wing antagonists, Peter Flaherty of the National Center for Policy Analysis. "We’re kind of astonished it’s gone this far," said Flaherty, whose organization instigated one of the early investigations of the Harlem congressman. "We always believed the allegations against Rangel were serious, but we never thought the Ethics Committee would do anything."

Obviously Flaherty, a lifelong Republican who once headed a lobbying group called Citizens for Reagan, expected that the committee would function much the same way under Democratic leadership as it did under the Republicans. Which specifically would mean playing dead, particularly with respect to any allegations against a committee chair or majority leadership figure. He was wrong.

Back when the Republicans controlled the House, however, their stewardship of ethical standards was a pitiful sham. They set the coverup agenda when they voted in November 2004 to withhold any sanctions against Tom DeLay, then the House majority leader, even if he were to be indicted on a felony count. Naturally they held that vote in secrecy, just after the presidential election, because they represent honesty, transparency and apple pie. (Eventually a surge of public outrage forced them to restore the Democrats’ old rule requiring an indicted member to step down.)

Rather than punish DeLay, the Republican majority purged their decent colleagues …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 8:24 am

Tres Claveles today

with one comment

I did say that I’d use the Rooney 2 Finest today, but then my new horsehair shaving brush from Tres Claveles (ordered from Spain) arrived, and I had to try it.

As you see, it has a long loft, and I sort of like a long loft: it’s more brush-like. I got a reasonably good lather—it was the brush’s first outing—and did three smooth passes with the Pils and its aging Swedish Gillette blade. A splash of Alt Innsbruck wrapped it up—that a little roll of My Nik Is Sealed on a tiny nick on my upper lip.

I like this brush. It seems promising. And I’m intrigued by the Spanish association: brushes are filed with scissors in their view.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2010 at 8:20 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: