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Are You a Reservist With Job Trouble? The Asst Secretary of Defense Awaits Your Call

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 10:01 PM EST

According to the Pentagon at least 10 percent of returning reservists and national guardsmen and women have reported problems with their jobs, lost pay, demotions, loss of employment altogether after deployment. This despite the fact that they are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which guarantees their jobs upon return. A 60 Minutes piece tonight detailed this growing problem citing employment lawsuits pending against Wal-Mart, UPS, and American Airlines, among others.

And with regular deployments for guard and reservist platoons now scheduled for every five years, 1.2 million guard and reservists, 45 percent of the military, are now in regular rotation. Military leaders are calling this a more appropriate use of military services, in other words, a bargain. Business owners in turn are asking why they should be heavily subsidizing the military. Really this is another way of outsourcing our military. This time it's the businesses employing the reservists who are footing the bill for non-full time warriors who need to come home to benefits and open jobs deployment after deployment. Without a draft, and unless we're going to turn over operations to Blackwater, such outsourcing is becoming the norm in our deficit- and war-ridden situation.

Still, if you are a national guard or reservist and you are having a problem with your employer, the assistant secretary of defense, Thomas Hall, pledged on 60 Minutes tonight that he'll see to it that your case gets the proper attention. His number is 703-697-6631.

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Snakes on Obama's Plane?

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 6:25 PM EST

Why did Obama boot reporters from the New York Post, the Washington Times, and the Dallas Morning News last week? It's not quite the uniting move, but at this stage the demand for seats is at a premium so some folks just had to go. All of these papers' editorial boards have endorsed John McCain, so it may or may not be a coincidence, but either way, Drudge pounced on the move to swap reporters out for "network bigwigs," instead of adding a second plane. The Obama campaign insists that the move was strategic, to "reach as many swing voters as we can."

It may not matter a lick in the long run, but Fox et al are outraged. At this point the angry right is grasping at everything, like Obama's press conference comment that inspired the RNC's Audacity Watch this morning. Is this not the same "arrogance" shown when the candidates are introduced as the "next president of the United States" at their conventions and rallies? What voter wants to support a candidate who doesn't think he'll win?

Quote of the Day - 11.02.08

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 2:04 PM EST

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha, in an interview with Foreign Policy magazine:

"I have reason to believe that even if McCain becomes president of the United States, he will also be inclined to sit and talk with Syria. I can tell you this on the record: Senator Joe Lieberman, who is supposed to be very close to McCain, has said this explicitly and very clearly to me personally."

That's good to hear. I wonder why McCain's supporters seem so reticent to say the same thing publicly?

2004 vs. 2008

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 12:28 PM EST

2004 vs. 2008....Back in 2004, I remember at least a few bloggers and pundits arguing that liberals would be better off if John Kerry lost. I never really bought this, but the arguments were pretty reasonable. Leaving George Bush in power meant that he'd retain responsibility and blame for the Iraq war. (Despite the surge, that's exactly what happened.) Four more years of Republican control would turn the American public firmly against conservative misrule. (Actually, it only took two years.) If we waited, a better candidate than Kerry would come along. (Arguably, both Hillary Clinton and Obama were better candidates.)

Conversely, it's unlikely that John Kerry could have gotten much done with a razor-thin victory and a Congress still controlled by the GOP. What's more, there's a good chance that the 2006 midterm rebellion against congressional Republicans wouldn't have happened if Kerry had gotten elected. By waiting, we've gotten a strong, charismatic candidate who's likely to win convincingly and have huge Democratic majorities in Congress behind him. If he's willing to fully use the power of his office, Obama could very well be a transformational president.

So: were we, in fact, better off losing in 2004? The downside was four more years of George Bush and Dick Cheney. That's hardly to be minimized, especially since the upside is still not completely knowable. But for myself, I think I'm convinced. The cause of liberal change is better served by Obama in 2008 than it would have been by Kerry in 2004. Comments?

Quote of the Day, Barack Obama Edition

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 11:52 AM EST

Barack Obama, on the fact that Dick Cheney has come out for John McCain:

"With John McCain you get a twofer: George Bush's economic policy and Dick Cheney's foreign policy."

Oh snap, as they say.

Voter Registration

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 11:40 AM EST

VOTER REGISTRATION....Matt Yglesias seconds Rick Hasen's proposal to make ACORN's registration drives (and the quadrennial conservative meltdown over them) obsolete by just having the federal government do it:

The solution is to take the job of voter registration for federal elections out of the hands of third parties (and out of the hands of the counties and states) and give it to the federal government....The next president should propose legislation to have the Census Bureau, when it conducts the 2010 census, also register all eligible voters who wish to be registered for future federal elections....When people submit change-of-address cards to the post office, election officials would also change their registration information.

I'd go even further: implement a national ID and give one to everybody, free of charge. You get it when you turn 18 (or whatever), and you get a free update every five years (or whatever). Post offices would handle most of the work, and roving mobile vans would trek through rural areas periodically to make sure everyone has easy access to whichever federal agency is tasked with providing the cards. Instead of simply requiring people to have picture IDs, the federal government would do everything it could to make sure everyone actually has a picture ID, with as little hassle as possible. Once this was in place, everyone with an ID could vote on election day unless they were barred for some affirmative reason, which might still vary from state to state. No registration required.

This wouldn't be perfect. Nothing is perfect. But it would be a damn sight closer than the squirrelly system we have today, and the only real objection to it is that, by God, Americans will never accept national ID cards. No "showing of papers" here in the land of the free!

But this is ridiculous. For all practical purposes we already have a national ID system. The feds require virtually everyone to have a Social Security number, and virtually all state ID cards are based on that number. Your name is already in a zillion public and private databases keyed to your SSN number, and one more won't really change things much. You won't be required to show your papers any more than you already are. It will just be easier, cheaper, and more consistent for everyone — including students, the elderly, the poor, and minorities — which should make liberals happy. And if the govenrment affirmatively generates IDs free of charge for everyone, then there's no objection to requiring ID at polling places — which should make conservatives happy.

Which, come to think of it, is one reason we'll probably never do it. For a lot of people, it would take all the fun out of presidential elections.

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DST Hell

| Sun Nov. 2, 2008 12:39 AM EDT

DST HELL....Time to reset all the clocks again. Let's see. Garage: two cars and the sprinkler timer. Living room: clock, VCR, thermostat. Kitchen: oven, microwave. Study: computer, two clocks, fax machine, telephone. Guest room: clock, VCR. Sewing room: clock, computer, VCR. Master bedroom: three clocks, VCR, Mac notebook, several watches. Also the cell phones, but they reset themselves.

Is that all? I think that's all. I'm probably wrong, though. There are probably several more I'm forgetting about.

Question of the Day

| Sat Nov. 1, 2008 11:47 AM EDT

QUESTION OF THE DAY....Are avocados good for you? Well, are they? Really?

They're full of fat, of course. But wait! It's good fat. So maybe we're talking about a fair number of calories, but no artery clogging badness. Right?

But are avocados actively good for you, or is it just a case of not being especially harmful? If you had to choose between, say, an apple and an avocado, which one would be healthier? Does adding avocado to a turkey sandwich make it better for you? Worse? No difference? Can I really grow my own avocado tree by sticking toothpicks in an avocado pit and letting it soak in a jar of water?

The fine folks at avocado.org inform me that avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol and carotenoid lutein and better for me than cheddar cheese. Well, duh. Unfortunately, they might be just the teeniest bit biased about the wonderfulness of avocados. So for a straight answer I turn to you, my loyal blog readers. How about it?

Bush the Deregulator: A Final Push

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 8:05 PM EDT

bush-environmentalist.jpgLest the energy of this momentous election make you forget about the sitting President's catastrophic reign of error, the Washington Post reports that the White House is pushing through new federal regulations that would relax current rules on everything from mining to drinking water to greenhouse gas pollutants.

Bush is rushing to make certain his legacy as a pro-industry deregulator goes down in history. These rules will be difficult for the next administration to reverse, and Bush knows all too well the cost of waiting. The very afternoon of his January 20, 2001 inauguration, Bush issued a memo that halted the implementation of incomplete federal regulations from Clinton's waning days. To avoid repeating this, the White House has determined that all "significant" rules must be completed by Nov. 20, early enough for the rules to take legal effect before Bush steps down.

White House employees and watchdog groups alike agree that these new rules, roughly 90 in all, will have long-lasting effects. One recent rule would allow natural gas pipelines to operate at a higher pressure, increasing the risk of rupture. Another due out soon would ease requirements for environmental impact assessments for ocean fishing. A third would rewrite the process for cleaning up oil spills, while yet another would relax pollution standards on power plants, leading to the emission of millions of tons of additional CO2. The list goes on.

And who's writing these new rules? The citizenry? The public?

Hardly. From the Post:

The burst of activity has made this a busy period for lobbyists who fear that industry views will hold less sway after the elections. The doors at the New Executive Office Building have been whirling with corporate officials and advisers pleading for relief or, in many cases, for hastened decision making.

According to the Office of Management and Budget's regulatory calendar, the commercial scallop-fishing industry came in two weeks ago to urge that proposed catch limits be eased, nearly bumping into National Mining Association officials making the case for easing rules meant to keep coal slurry waste out of Appalachian streams. A few days earlier, lawyers for kidney dialysis and biotechnology companies registered their complaints at the OMB about new Medicare reimbursement rules. Lobbyists for customs brokers complained about proposed counterterrorism rules that require the advance reporting of shipping data.

Photo courtesy of whitehouse.gov.

Diabetes Hits South the Hardest

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 7:37 PM EDT

According to a CDC study released yesterday, new cases of Type 2 diabetes have nearly doubled in the last decade, from about 5 per 1,000 people in the mid-1990's, to 9 per 1,000 in 2007. Type 2 diabetes accounts for nearly 95 percent of all diabetes cases in the US, and is often linked to America's obesity epidemic.

The report was the first to analyze data by state, and found that the highest number of new diabetes patients are in the South. And it's no wonder. The South has the highest rates of poverty and physical inactivity, two major risk factors for obesity.

—Nikki Gloudeman