Later On

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

Archive for February 2007

He knew, and he did nothing, Part deux

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Rotten to the core:

Top officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, including the Army’s surgeon general, have heard complaints about outpatient neglect from family members, veterans groups and members of Congress for more than three years.

A procession of Pentagon and Walter Reed officials expressed surprise last week about the living conditions and bureaucratic nightmares faced by wounded soldiers staying at the D.C. medical facility. But as far back as 2003, the commander of Walter Reed, Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley, who is now the Army’s top medical officer, was told that soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan were languishing and lost on the grounds, according to interviews.

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he ran into Kiley in the foyer of the command headquarters at Walter Reed shortly after the Iraq war began and told him that “there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and people not getting the care they need.”

“I met guys who weren’t going to appointments because the hospital didn’t even know they were there,” Robinson said. Kiley told him to speak to a sergeant major, a top enlisted officer.

A recent Washington Post series detailed conditions at Walter Reed, including those at Building 18, a dingy former hotel on Georgia Avenue where the wounded were housed among mice, mold, rot and cockroaches.

Kiley lives across the street from Building 18. From his quarters, he can see the scrappy building and busy traffic the soldiers must cross to get to the 113-acre post. At a news conference last week, Kiley, who declined several requests for interviews for this article, said that the problems of Building 18 “weren’t serious and there weren’t a lot of them.” He also said they were not “emblematic of a process of Walter Reed that has abandoned soldiers and their families.”

But according to interviews, Kiley, his successive commanders at Walter Reed and various top noncommissioned officers in charge of soldiers’ lives have heard a stream of complaints about outpatient treatment over the past several years. The complaints have surfaced at town hall meetings for staff and soldiers, at commanders’ “sensing sessions” in which soldiers or officers are encouraged to speak freely, and in several inspector general’s reports detailing building conditions, safety issues and other matters.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 9:16 pm

Cold Case vs. CSI (re: global warming)

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Great explanation from RealClimate:

If you are a follower of TV crime shows, it is likely that you’ve come across one of the CSI offshoots (CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigation) and a slightly less well known show called ‘Cold Case‘. In both these shows, difficult crimes (usually murders) are solved using the most up-to-date forensic methods and incredible detective work. However, it will be obvious to even the most jaded TV watcher that the CSI crew get to have a lot more fun with the latest gadgets and methodologies. The reason for that is clear: with a fresh crime scene there is a lot more evidence around and a lot more techniques that can be brought to bear on the problem. In a ‘Cold Case’ (where the incident happened years before), options are much more limited.

Why bring this up here? Well it illustrates nicely how paleo-climate research fits in to our understanding of current changes. Let me explain….

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Environment, Science

Haven’t heard from two NM Representatives

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Josh Marshall:

The silence is starting to get a tad deafening. Fired US Attorney says two members of Congress contacted and nudge him on getting a Democrat indicted before election day. Everyone seems to be denying it was them. Except for two folks. No one seems to be able to get a call returned from Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) or Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM).

Here’s the Post‘s succinct, if vaguely oblique, summary of the relevant reporting …

Spokesmen for Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and the state’s two Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, said the lawmakers and their staffs had no contact with Iglesias about the case. The offices of New Mexico’s two other Republican lawmakers, Sen. Pete V. Domenici and Rep. Heather A. Wilson, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Heather? Pete?

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 7:50 pm

Why I don’t trust Big Business, and…

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why we have to keep a careful eye on the government—especially when the GOP is involved, since it a protector of Big Business. Lead in school children’s lunch boxes:

In 2005, when government scientists tested 60 soft, vinyl lunchboxes, they found that one in five contained amounts of lead that medical experts consider unsafe — and several had more than 10 times hazardous levels.

But that’s not what they told the public.

Instead, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released a statement that they found “no instances of hazardous levels.” And they refused to release their actual test results, citing regulations that protect manufacturers from having their information released to the public.

That data was not made public until The Associated Press received a box of about 1,500 pages of lab reports, in-house e-mails and other records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed a year ago.

The documents describe two types of tests. One involves cutting a chunk of vinyl off the bag, dissolving it and then analyzing how much lead is in the solution; the second test involves swiping the surface of a bag and then determining how much lead has rubbed off.

The results of the first type of test, looking for the actual lead content of the vinyl, showed that 20 percent of the bags had more than 600 parts per million of lead — the federal safe level for paint and other products. The highest level was 9,600 ppm, more than 16 times the federal standard.

But the CPSC did not use those results.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 7:24 pm

Lack of concern from the Right for the troops

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This is eye-opening:

Last week, we reported that Walter Reed had refused to let talk show host Don Imus (a frequent advocate for servicemembers and veterans) tour the hospital and investigate conditions there.

In our post, we linked to the unofficial Imus Blog, whose author Big Roy acknowledges that he “routinely slam[s] liberal politicians and media.” Yet, on Friday, Roy wrote a post titled, “Why Don’t Conservatives Support The Troops?

During the past week I’ve gotten several links from some of the biggest liberal blogs/websites on the internet, Crooks & Liars, Think Progress, and Daily Kos. These are not sites that would normally link to this blog. As anyone who reads my blog knows I routinely slam liberal politicians and media.

But these guys rose above politics to try and bring awareness to the problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Some might say they’re doing it as an opportunity to slam the Bush Administration. I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s a genuine concern for active duty soldiers and veterans.

I wondered why I hadn’t received a single link from a conservative blog or website. I thought well they just didn’t like any of my posts. So I went and checked the right wing blogs I normally read when I get time, Redstate, Pajama Media, Hot Air, and Michelle Malkin. Except for Ms. Malkin, not one of these sites even mentioned the Washington Post Story or anything about Walter Reed that I could find. When Malkin talks about it. She was not able to rise above politics and used it as an opportunity to slam the liberal media and democrats.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 3:02 pm

Artichoke liqueur, anyone?

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Sounds worth a shot:

I recently brought a bottle of Cynar to a gathering of old friends whose collective taste in spirits tends toward the esoteric. Together we’ve toasted the winter holidays with cheese fondue and kirschwasser, celebrated birthdays with Goldschlager, marked one couple’s engagement with grappa and watched Fourth of July fireworks with rhubarb wine. I was fairly surprised, then, when the Cynar met with an underwhelming response. Hearing what it was made of, some individuals went so far as to refuse even a perfunctory sip. Undeterred, I turned to an expert, and that’s when it became clear that we were dealing with more than “an acquired taste.” Asked to say a few kind words about Cynar, Dennis Mullaly, a veteran bartender currently working at Otto Pizzeria, replied, “I can’t. It’s vile, unpalatable stuff.”

Fortunately, not everyone feels that way about the herbaceously bittersweet, cola-brown liqueur whose inaugural tagline was “Cynar: against the stress of modern life.” Introduced in Italy in 1949, Cynar is made from the leaves of the artichoke plant, or Cynara scolymus, and bottled at 16.5% alcohol by volume (33 proof). In recent years, thanks in part to Americans’ growing knowledge of Italian culture, Cynar and the like have begun to command a larger share of domestic bar shelves. According to Heaven Hill Distilleries, whose subsidiary, Premium Imports, Ltd., is responsible for it presence in the US, sales have gained by about 1% per year for the last three years. This may not seem like a significant increase, but it’s worth noting that the brand functions on a small case sales level, making even small gains meaningful.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Drinks, Food

Tomb of Jesus?

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From ScienceDaily:

Frank K. Flinn, Ph.D., adjunct professor of religious studies, provides insight on the controversy surrounding a new Discovery Channel documentary, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, which airs March 4. Flinn, a consultant in forensic theology, is an expert on religion and the law, including issues related to the separation of church and state, government funding of faith-based social program and the display of religious symbols in schools, courtrooms and other public places.

On March 4, 2007, the Discovery Channel will air a program The Lost Tomb of Jesus, made by Simcha Jocobivici and James Cameron, the maker of the film Titanic. A companion volume of the same name by Jocobivici and Dr. Charles Pellegrino has just been released by HarperCollins.

In 1980, Israeli archeologist Amos Kloner examined a tomb in the Talpiyot district of Jerusalem where construction for new housing was underway. Archeologists have noted some 900 such tomb sites in this area of Jerusalem. Not much was done about the find until the children of Tova Bracha, playing in the construction debris in her basement, found an opening and wiggled down into the space beneath where they found 10 ossuaries with bones in them. Six had inscriptions on them.

In 1st century Palestine it was customary to bury a person of some means wrapped in linen and spices, let the flesh decay, and then, a year or more later, place the bones in a stone ossuary, which literally means “bone-box.” After the second discovery, archeologists moved in and the debate about the meaning of the find started bubbling to the surface. Meanwhile, the bones were buried by Israeli Rabbis following Jewish ritual law. Fragments of the bones, however, remained in the boxes that were not washed out. The boxes are now kept in an archeological warehouse in Jerusalem.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Religion, Science

He knew, and he did nothing

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From Salon.com:

Though he has since dodged the question in a television interview, the officer in charge of medical care for the U.S. Army was told more than two months ago that the Army’s outpatient medical care program was dysfunctional, yet he apparently took no action in response. The Army’s outpatient services include the substandard treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that has been the subject of a number of recent articles in the Washington Post and a series of stories in Salon in 2005.

At a meeting last Dec. 20, a group of veterans advocates informed Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, former commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and now the Army surgeon general, that soldiers returning from Iraq were routinely struggling for outpatient treatment and getting tangled in the military’s byzantine disability compensation system — and that their families were suffering along with them.

“We are here to tell you that our soldiers and our veterans, and some of their families, are falling through the cracks,” Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, told Kiley at a meeting of the Department of Defense Health Board Task Force on Mental Health. Kiley co-chairs the panel, which was created by Congress to probe military mental-healthcare capabilities. “Hundreds and potentially thousands of soldiers are facing barriers to mental healthcare,” said Robinson, “and are facing improper discharges” because of the Army’s complex discharge and compensation system.

Robinson also warned Kiley, who ran Walter Reed from 2002 through 2004 and still has responsibility for it as Army surgeon general, that the scandalous situation threatened to become a media firestorm. “If we identify something,” said Robinson, “we would much rather bring it to the chain of command than see it reported in [CBS'] ’60 Minutes.’”

Kiley called the veterans’ remarks “very important testimony,” and allowed speakers to go beyond their allotted time limits, but there’s no evidence that he has followed up. Since the Post stories broke, Kiley has mostly insisted that the outpatient problems are confined to poor building maintenance, and has denied any evidence of poor healthcare treatment.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 2:01 pm

So many, many lies

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What has happened to government honesty?

The mystery of how and why a government wiretap summary falsely attributed anti-Jewish slurs to officials of a Muslim charity remained unanswered Tuesday as federal prosecutors pledged to look into the matter.

In court papers filed late Monday, the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas said it was trying to determine how the recently declassified summary of a 1996 FBI wiretap of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development included vitriolic language that was not found in a verbatim transcript of a recorded conversation.

“The government is attempting to determine the reason for the discrepancy between the summary and the transcript,” prosecutors said, adding that officials wanted to locate the language specialist who prepared the summary.

Meanwhile, the unexplained discrepancies have brought potential controversy to the government’s biggest terrorism funding case to date.

According to the discredited summary, Holy Land officials referred to Israel as “the government of the demons” and to Jews as trying “to rob as much money as possible from the American taxpayers for the illegitimate excuse of protecting and preserving the chosen people of God.”

One Muslim charity official supposedly told a colleague: “Even Jesus Christ had called the Jews and their high priests … the sons of snakes and scorpions.”

None of those comments was contained in a 13-page verbatim transcript of the conversation recorded April 15, 1996, by the FBI. In response, defense lawyers demanded declassification of large portions of the government’s documents in the case.

On Monday, federal prosecutors argued that the discrepancies were not serious enough to justify such sweeping declassifications.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 1:56 pm

Good reminder from Kevin Drum

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Good point (and more on Cheney, by Glenn Greenwald, here):

It’s hard to remember now, but during the first few years of the Bush administration Dick Cheney was widely viewed as a wise old man, the steady hand at the Bush tiller. As we’ve been reminded repeatedly in the past few weeks, that conventional wisdom is laughable now — but if you had been subscribing to the Washington Monthly back in 2002, you would have read Josh Marshall’s “Vice Grip” and you would have known just how laughable it was even back then:

Why, though, has the press failed to grasp Cheney’s ineptitude? The answer seems to lie in the power of political assumptions….It doesn’t take long for a given politician to get pegged with his or her own brief story line. And those facts and stories that get attention tend to be those that conform to the established narrative. In much the same way, Cheney’s reputation as the steady hand at the helm of the Bush administration — the CEO to Bush’s chairman — is so potent as to blind Beltway commentators to the examples of vice presidential incompetence accumulating, literally, under their noses. Though far less egregious, Cheney’s bad judgment is akin to Trent Lott’s ugly history on race: Everyone sort of knew it was there, only no one ever really took notice until it was pointed out in a way that was difficult to ignore. Cheney is lucky; as vice president, he can’t be fired. But his terrible judgment will, at some point, become impossible even for the Beltway crowd not to see.

Josh has since gone on to build a blog empire over at TPM Cafe, but you can still read this kind of reporting ten times a year in the Washington Monthly. So subscribe and stay ahead of the curve! The stuff we publish today won’t be in the New York Times until next year.

And it’s only 30 bucks. It helps support the cause of good liberal journalism and it helps keep this blog in business too. You can subscribe for yourself here. Order a gift subscription here.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 1:46 pm

Group calendar management

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I know a lot of people who will find this group calendar application useful: Rota Board, Web 2.0, free, and easy to use. Not only can all sorts of workplaces use it, it would also be very useful for a busy family with lots of activities—especially since it can be updated from any computer with an Internet connection.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 1:35 pm

Beautiful Ladies’ Gillette

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Ladies Gillette

The Ladies’ Gillette was introduced in 1963, and this one was made in 4th quarter 1962, so it was in the first batch on the market. Extremely good condition, as you see: 44 years old, and still looking new. Just thought it was extremely nice. Click the photo and then click it again to see it full size and appreciate the detail.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Shaving

Joe Conason calls out Dick Cheney

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Via Firedoglake, the column:

Americans frustrated with the Democratic Congressional leaders for dithering over Iraq should never forget who actually drove us into the Iraqi quagmire. Even those Democrats who voted for the President’s war resolution in 2002 did so only after the President publicly and repeatedly promised—with the deepest insincerity—that he would only invade Iraq as a “last resort.”

Responsibility for that lie and many others rests squarely with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, their aides and enablers, who have spent nearly four years, thousands of lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars to create catastrophe. Today, every policy alternative, including a phased withdrawal, is likely to impose costly consequences on us, on the Iraqis, on the region, and on the world.

So perhaps the Democrats deserve more than a month or two to determine how we might best extricate our troops from that complex and perilous situation.

Besides, as the White House has loudly proclaimed, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will ignore any Congressional action that would cut short their bloody misadventure. Rather than engage in honest debate over a saner course in Iraq, the Vice President has resorted to the same discredited rhetoric used by him and his allies from the beginning.

Seeking to intimidate the Congressional leaders last week, he recited the misleading old formula conflating war in Iraq with the struggle against Al Qaeda. His theories on that subject have been blown up with the same force and frequency as those daily explosions on Baghdad’s streets. Only a few days ago, the Pentagon Inspector General issued a devastating report describing how Mr. Cheney’s agents in the Defense Department distorted intelligence to “prove” the mythical linkage between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Moreover, every credible analysis of the Iraq insurgency estimates that only a tiny fraction of the fighters are linked to Al Qaeda in any significant way. While the jihadist movement is growing, Mr. bin Laden and his lieutenants can profit from our mistakes without leaving their strongholds thousands of miles away.

But Mr. Cheney cares nothing for those facts. As the official who most vehemently assured us of the certain existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he remains immune to the kind of embarrassment that would have required an honorable man to resign from office long ago.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 1:10 pm

Good tips

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I continue to get good tips from Daytipper.com. Today’s:

Family
Always smile when your child enters the room
It makes you feel great and makes them feel wonderful. You will be amazed at how many more hugs and kisses you get to give and receive.

Household
Use car wax on your snow shovel
During the winter storm we had in the Midwest, I had to shovel 12 inches of snow. The snow was wet and kept sticking to the shovel and was slowing me down. So, I got some car wax and put it on pretty thick on the shovel, let it dry and the snow didn’t stick. The snow slipped off easily and I didn’t have to stop to scrape off the build up.

Pets
Use a stone to make your dog eat slower
We have an Old English Sheepdog with a very sensitive stomach. If he eats too fast, he hurls. So we took a fist-sized stone and put it in his bowl. Now, he must eat around it and as a result, it takes him about 5 minutes longer to eat his meal. This has eliminated the vomiting and thus the carpet stains.

Buying & Selling
Use Retailmenot to obtain coupon codes

Many online stores allow for a “coupon” or “promotion” code when you order to automatically assign discounts, deals and freebies. A great website, RetailMeNot.com, is a one-stop shop for finding and sharing these coupon codes.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 11:10 am

Posted in Daily life

Bush doesn’t care for the troops

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From ThinkProgress:

Through the lens of his own personal recovery from a traumatic brain injury suffered in Iraq, ABC’s Bob Woodruff last night examined the plight of military families dealing with injuries to their loved ones.

While the Department of Defense reports that there have been about 23,000 nonfatal battlefield casualties in Iraq, Woodruff reported — through an internal VA document — that more than 200,000 veterans have sought medical care for various ailments.

When Woodruff confronted VA Secretary Jim Nicholson about the disparity in the administration’s figures, Nicholson responded that Americans are probably “surprised to know that 200,000 come to the VA for some kind of medical treatment. That’s probably more than they think.” But Nicholson quickly downplayed the high numbers, claiming a lot of veterans simply “come in for dental problems.” Watch it.

Nicholson’s attempts to diminish the seriousness of the issue are insulting. According to the VA internal report, the injuries afflicting veterans are quite serious in nature:

Mental disorders: 73,000
Diseases of nervous system: 61,000
Signs of ill-defined conditions: 7,000
Diseases of musculoskeletal system: 87,000.

Despite the increasing numbers of wounded and injured veterans seeking care, the Bush administration has laid out plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 11:07 am

Do you trust “the government”?

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Probably no surprise, but it’s hard for me to trust the government—any government. Government is a big hierarchical organization, with all the weaknesses that that implies.

Our Founders certainly did not government. That, in my view, is why they constructed a government of checks and balances, of one hand exercising oversight over the other hand, and all the other devices they thought up. A Congress of two independent and separate bodies, so that bills can’t just sweep through but have to be worked out through compromise between the two boies. A Congress that watches carefully what the Executive Branch does and requires an annual report (the State of the Union) from the President. And a Supreme Court that, as structured, cannot be influenced by either the Executive or the Legislative: the President nominates, but the Senate must confirm, and the Justices serve for life.

So the US government is basically founded on, and structured for, the notion that government cannot be trusted. And the reason for protecting a free press is so that the press can exercise oversight of all three branches, investigating and exposing—as was recently done at Walter Reed.

That’s if it works, which often enough it doesn’t. The GOP Congress, for example, failed totally in its oversight function, and both the Bush Administration and the GOP Congress are much too much in love with secrecy—indeed, politicians (and the military) in general seem to want secrecy. That’s why open-meeting laws are passed, because otherwise all meetings would be closed. Transparency is what we must have, so we can see what they’re up to. Don’t trust, verify.

And the media have too often failed, especially as the media have been consolidated and are now run by Big Business while trying to report on Big Business and how Big Business is trying to control the government. That’s why blogs have become so important: more independence of view, and willing to call the media when it fails in its duty (cf. John Solomon’s front-page articles in the Washington Post: smear without substance, quickly exposed by blogs.

But: that said, I still want to fund and operate the various Federal regulatory and investigative agencies: the Food and Drug Administration, the Dept of Agriculture inspectors, the FAA watching flight procedures and airplane maintenance, OSHA ensuring workplace safety, the EPA enforcing pollution limits, NHSTA making sure our cars are safe, the SEC protecting the integrity of our stock markets.

Why? Because who will do it if the government doesn’t? Indeed, who did do it before the government took on the job? Big Business. And Big Business has a clear mission: cut costs and increase profits, and safety and health issues for consumers or employees are irrelevant. Indeed, if it could, Big Business would cap tort settlements at $125 and proceed with practices that would curl your hair.

So I see government oversight on critical public issues is necessary, but because I don’t trust government, I want all that done in the open: public reports, publication of methods and findings, budget and results reviews, and the like.

It’s a little like Mark Twain’s advice: put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket. Let the government watch Big Business and keep it on the straight and narrow, and let us make sure we can watch the government. That’s why I like sites like OpenCongress.org, and the upcoming public database that will let us see all Congressional earmarks (so we can see in time those earmarks intended to enrich the Congressman making them—cf. Denny Hastert).

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 10:51 am

Posted in Business, Government, Media

Government encouragement of innovation

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Not our government—other governments:

While Congress and the Bush administration debate how to improve fuel economy in automobiles, a new study says the United States is “stuck in reverse” when it comes to offering consumers a wide selection of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The research from the Civil Society Institute, a not-for-profit think tank that focuses on energy and ecological issues, shows a growing “fuel-efficient car gap.”

CSI found that the number of vehicle models sold in the United States that achieve combined gas mileage of at least 40 miles per gallon actually has dropped from five in 2005 to just two in 2007 — the Honda Civic hybrid and the Toyota Prius hybrid.

Overseas, primarily in Europe, there are 113 vehicles for sale that get a combined 40 mpg, up from 86 in 2005. Combined gas mileage is the average of a vehicle’s city and highway mpg numbers.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that nearly two-thirds of the 113 highly fuel-efficient models that are unavailable to American consumers are either made by U.S.-based automobile manufacturers or by foreign manufacturers with substantial U.S. sales operations, such as Nissan and Toyota.

These cars sold in Europe meet or exceed U.S. safety standards, so there is no reason why they shouldn’t be made available to U.S. consumers,” said CSI President Pam Solo.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 10:39 am

Not a total surprise, but disgusting all the same

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The Army, like many hierarchical organizations, has an automatic reaction to any criticism: deny everything, circle the wagons, and punish dissidents. That’s why hierarchical organizations tend to become authoritarian: the hierarchy must be maintained at all costs. And it’s easier to hide the problem than to solve it. Here’s an example:

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice, or other problems in their quarters.

They were also told they would be moving out of Building 18 to Building 14 within the next couple of weeks. Building 14 is a barracks that houses the administrative offices for the Medical Hold Unit and was renovated in 2006. It’s also located on the Walter Reed Campus, where reporters must be escorted by public affairs personnel. Building 18 is located just off campus and is easy to access.

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Army public affairs did not respond to a request sent Sunday evening to verify the personnel changes.

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

UPDATE: Congress is reacting strongly: Rep. Slaughter, Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee, responded today:
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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 10:32 am

Nuclear war looming

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Via Alert Reader, this very uncomfortable column from the Huffington Post by George Lakoff:

“The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete.” –Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, April 17, 2006

“The second concern is that if an underground laboratory is deeply buried, that can also confound conventional weapons. But the depth of the Natanz facility – reports place the ceiling roughly 30 feet underground – is not prohibitive. The American GBU-28 weapon – the so-called bunker buster – can pierce about 23 feet of concrete and 100 feet of soil. Unless the cover over the Natanz lab is almost entirely rock, bunker busters should be able to reach it. That said, some chance remains that a single strike would fail.” –Michael Levi, New York Times, April 18, 2006

A familiar means of denying a reality is to refuse to use the words that describe that reality. A common form of propaganda is to keep reality from being described.

In such circumstances, silence and euphemism are forms of complicity both in propaganda and in the denial of reality. And the media, as well as the major presidential candidates, are now complicit.

The stories in the major media suggest that an attack against Iran is a real possibility and that the Natanz nuclear development site is the number one target. As the above quotes from two of our best sources note, military experts say that conventional “bunker-busters” like the GBU-28 might be able to destroy the Natanz facility, especially with repeated bombings. But on the other hand, they also say such iterated use of conventional weapons might not work, e.g., if the rock and earth above the facility becomes liquefied. On that supposition, a “low yield” “tactical” nuclear weapon, say, the B61-11, might be needed.

If the Bush administration, for example, were to insist on a sure “success,” then the “attack” would constitute nuclear war. The words in boldface are nuclear war, that’s right, nuclear war — a first strike nuclear war.

We don’t know what exactly is being planned — conventional GBU-28′s or nuclear B61-11′s. And that is the point. Discussion needs to be open. Nuclear war is not a minor matter.

The Euphemism

As early as August 13, 2005, Bush, in Jerusalem, was asked what would happen if diplomacy failed to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Bush replied, “All options are on the table.” On April 18, the day after the appearance of Seymour Hersh’s New Yorker report on the administration’s preparations for a nuclear war against Iran, President Bush held a news conference. He was asked,

“Sir, when you talk about Iran, and you talk about how you have diplomatic efforts, you also say all options are on the table. Does that include the possibility of a nuclear strike? Is that something that your administration will plan for?”

He replied,

“All options are on the table.”

The President never actually said the forbidden words “nuclear war,” but he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the preparations — without further discussion.

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 9:49 am

Another knife: Analon Santoku

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I blogged earlier about the Chinese cleaver knife I got. I’ve also been quite curious about the Santoku knives with the little hollows ground along the edge so that slices don’t stick to the blade, but instead fall cleanly away. I looked at several before settling on the Anolon 9″ Santoku. It’s not a brand I’m familiar with, but: free shipping, 2″ longer blade than the Wüsthof and $20 cheaper—what’s not to like?

It just arrived, and I’m even more pleased with it. The handle is of some siliconized rubber, totally non-slip. The knife has a very nice heft. And—very nice indeed—it comes with a hard-plastic blade protector: you insert the blade and the knife snaps in at the end, held firmly. Since I have no more room in my knife racks, this is a very handy little accessory.

I’ll have to slice up a bunch of stuff today to give it a spin.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 February 2007 at 9:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Recipes

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