Archive for February 21st, 2007
Maybe Congress can put a stop to this sort of thing:
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from dangerous consumer products. Currently, the three-person commission has a vacancy. Media reports indicate that President Bush will likely fill the position with Michael Baroody, “executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that opposes aggressive product safety regulation” and “has called for weakening the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
While at NAM, Baroody repeatedly lobbied for looser business regulations, at the expense of public safety:
– Asbestos Regulations: NAM opposes tougher rules regulating asbestos and in 2003, teamed up with the asbestos industry and spent $180,000 opposing asbestos reform legislation.
– Highway Safety: In 2000, NAM successfully killed a bill in the Senate that would have helped reduce safety risks to motorists by requiring tire manufacturers to report accident data and potential defects to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Board.
– Global Warming: NAM’s official position states that scientific data have “not confirmed evidence of global warming that can be attributed to human activities” and calls for “voluntary” measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It “opposes any federal or state government actions regarding climate change that could adversely affect the international competitiveness of the U.S. marketplace economy.” In 2001, Baroody wrote to Bush and personally thanked him for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol.
– Occupational Hazards: In 2001, NAM opposed the reduction of occupational hazards by attempting to kill the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s ergonomics standard. In an attempt to mitigate the “unwarranted litigation” that NAM argued would result from the standard’s implementation, NAM filed suit in federal court.
Bush has repeatedly attempted to weaken regulations that protect the American public. He nominated Susan Dudley, who was formerly director of regulatory studies at the industry-backed Mercatus Center, to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which holds sway over federal regulatory agencies like the EPA. More recently, Bush issued a directive that would give the White House greater control over federal regulations.
From today’s LA Times, this stir-fry pan:
Though it’s made in Sheboygan, Wis., this is the pan that Vicki Fan and the crew at Beacon use for stir-frying rather than a Chinese (or Japanese) wok. Smaller and easier to handle than many traditional woks, the Vollrath pan has a single long handle with a “Gatorgrip” coating — which means the handle won’t get hot and you can maneuver it much like a sauté pan. The flat bottom sits level on the stove and doesn’t require a separate base like many older-style woks do. And it’s made from carbon steel, which heats more evenly and is more durable than aluminum. (Though you can purchase woks with nonstick coating, it’s unadvisable, due to the high heat used in many cooking techniques.) This stir-fry pan, like most woks, needs to be seasoned, a simple procedure in which you repeatedly heat and oil the pan. Properly seasoned and cared for, a good wok can last years, even decades. Vollrath carbon steel stir-fry pan, $45.50
More work needs to be done to find programs that work, rather than continuing to spend money on programs that don’t:
California’s $1-billion investment in drug treatment for prisoners since 1989 has been “a complete waste of money,” the independent Office of the Inspector General said today, doing nothing to reduce the number of inmates cycling in and out of prison.
One lengthy UCLA study of the state’s two largest in-prison programs found that recidivism rates for inmates who participated were slightly higher than those of a group of convicts who did not receive treatment, Inspector General Matt Cate said.
Perhaps most distressing, Cate said, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been told in more than 20 reports since 1997 that the programs are failing. Yet officials have done nothing to fix them, choosing instead to expand them and fund additional studies of their results.
“Successful treatment programs could reduce the cost to society of criminal activity related to drug abuse, change lives, and help relieve the state’s prison overcrowding crisis,” Cate, the nonpartisan watchdog over corrections, said in a 50-page report. “But so far the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has squandered that opportunity.”
The Office of the Inspector General is an independent state agency responsible for oversight of the corrections department.
In anticipation of the scathing report, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday ordered a shake-up of the department’s drug-treatment operation and put a new person in charge.
Kathryn Jett, director of the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs since November 2000, now serves as head of the newly reorganized Division of Addiction and Recovery Services within the corrections department.
In a news release, the governor called Jett, 53, “the right person at the right time to take on this critical responsibility. There is no one more experienced in addiction and recovery services and no one more committed to making substance abuse treatment the cornerstone of our rehabilitation efforts in corrections.”
A spokesman for the department, Oscar Hidalgo, said officials agree with many points in the report, calling it “consistent with our own recent reviews and recommendations.”
Or so some in the GOP believe: 25 Republicans who criticized strongly the “surge” (escalation) in Iraq, but voted for it anyway in obedience to their party. From ThinkProgress:
Last week, Iraq war veteran and VoteVets founder Jon Soltz appealed for members of Congress to “put country above party” and vote against escalation in Iraq.
Majorities in both the House and Senate answered Soltz’s call. But at least 25 members of Congress caved to partisan pressure and voted in favor of escalation, despite having publicly criticized President Bush’s strategy in the weeks prior to the vote. Here are four examples:
Rep. Virginia Brown-Waite (R-FL): “It’s too little, too late, and should have been done a year ago. … I just get a feeling our country is being used.”
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM): “I am not a supporter of a surge to do for the Iraqis what the Iraqis will not do for themselves.”
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): “I have little confidence that a surge in troop levels will change the situation in Iraq in any substantive fashion. It seems clear that the violence in Iraq is increasingly sectarian, and inserting more troops in this atmosphere is unlikely to improve the situation.
Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH): “I am skeptical that a surge of troops will bring an end to the escalation of violence and the insurgency in Iraq… I’m absolutely against the surge.“
When it came time to vote, these four members — and 21 of their colleagues — couldn’t muster the courage to buck their own party and vote against escalation. These members appear to understand the danger of sending tens of thousands of U.S. troops into Iraq’s bloody civil war. They just don’t care enough to do something about it.
The full list of the “Party-Over-Country” 25:
Came across this recipe on the shaving forum (thanks, Ben). (You didn’t think we talked only about shaving, did you?)
Strips of Beef in Whisky Sauce
This quick-cooking dish requires prime meat. The whisky liqueur will reduce to a sweet glistening glaze. The creamy sauce has a delicious boozy flavour. Serves: 4
700 Gram Sirloin steak (1 1/2 lb), preferably Aberdeen Angus
15 Gram Butter ( 1/2 oz)
1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Tablespoon Whisky, or whisky liqueur such as Drambuie
5 Tablespoon Double cream
Salt and pepper
Cut the beef up into thin strips. Melt the butter in a medium frying pan.
Add the beef strips and onion and cook for 5-10 minutes, until the beef is brown and cooked to taste.
Stir in the liqueur and cream. Heat gently to reduce slightly. Serve at once with vegetables.
And I recall one of my tutors, Duncan MacDonald, telling us of a wonderful punch he had at a party in Scotland: fill punch bowl with Scotch whisky, add a large block of ice, and enjoy.
From the Marijuana Policy Project:
Did you know that college students convicted of possessing just one marijuana joint — or of any other drug offense — are automatically stripped of their federal financial aid, while murderers and rapists are still eligible to receive federal loans and grants?
If you agree that this penalty is unfair, why not ask the people who represent you in Congress to do something about it? All you have to do is visit www.ssdp.org/aid and enter your name and address. We’ve put together a pre-written letter that you can easily edit and send to your members of Congress urging them to co-sponsor upcoming legislation to repeal the penalty.
The student aid elimination penalty, which was first enforced in 2000, has since blocked educational assistance to nearly 200,000 aspiring students, most of them caught with small amounts of marijuana. Students for Sensible Drug Policy has been lobbying to overturn this harmful law since day one. However, with the new leadership in Congress, this is the first real chance we have to help students get back into school and on the path to success. But we simply cannot do it without your help.
Last year, a bill to repeal the penalty — the Removing Impediments to Students’ Education (RISE) Act — had 71 co-sponsors in the U.S. House. Won’t you help us ensure that this year’s bill has even more support when it is introduced in the U.S. House in the next few weeks?
Please visit www.ssdp.org/aid right now to send a message to your members of Congress. We’ve made it as easy as possible for you to take action: All you have to do is enter your name and contact information, and a pre-written letter will be sent on your behalf with just a few clicks.
If concerned citizens like you don’t let legislators know how you feel about this law, Congress will have absolutely no reason to do anything about it. But senators and representatives work for you, and when thousands of messages pour into offices on Capitol Hill, legislators will be forced to take a stand. Please do your part to ensure that a record number of co-sponsors signs on to the RISE Act this year.
With your help, we can and will repeal the aid elimination penalty once and for all. Thousands of young people are waiting to get back into school. Won’t you help them today by visiting www.ssdp.org/aid and clicking a few buttons?
Thanks for taking action,
SSDP Executive Director
P.S. Please view the letter that more than 150 prominent education, substance abuse recovery, civil rights, and law organizations are sending to Congress this week to call for the repeal of the aid elimination penalty.
P.P.S. Join the SSDP group on Facebook.
The Hipster PDA is simply a stack of index cards, gathered together with a rubber band or clip or whatever. Several sites have developed templates so you can print your info neatly, provided your printer will print index cards. There was even an index-card printer made specifically for this, but it seems to be no longer available. At any rate, here are some templates for you Hipster PDA fans.
Cleaning out the litter box used to be a chore, but now that I want the cleaning ladies to arrive and find a perfectly clean litter box, I’ve developed a quick and easy technique. It’s based on the Booda Dome litter box and a scratching post with a platform on top. I use the large black-plastic garbage bags, and the process goes like this:
- Take the top off the Booda litter box and remove bag with old litter.
- Set the empty litter box on the platform of the scratching post, and put a fresh black-plastic bag in it, with the bag draping down over the sides. Pull all excess bag down, so only the bottom is in the litter box.
- Pour the fresh litter into the bag in the litter box, and squeeze out any air pockets so the bag is nice and tight to the sides of the litter box.
- Lift the litter box and gather the excess length of the bag and tuck it under the litter box. Then set the litter box on the floor so that it sits firmly on the excess bag.
- Take out the bag of old litter.
Fit and Fresh™ Lunch on the Go — Food container not only makes it easy to bring food on the go, but it also keeps your meals chilled and fresh. Container is perfect for lunch with a generous large compartment that can hold a sandwich, salad or entree. The small compartments come in handy for side dishes, condiments and more. Each section has separate lids, and the large lid also serves as a plate. Food stays chilled up to six hours with included ice pack. Microwave and top rack dishwasher safe. $9.99
This book would be a good accompaniment…
Via Alert Reader, this story in the New Statesman on how advanced and complete the Bush Administration’s plans are for war with Iran. The comments to the article (the link) are quite interesting in themselves.
American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.
British military sources told the New Statesman, on condition of anonymity, that “the US military switched its whole focus to Iran” as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.
The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for “Operation Iranian Freedom”. Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerised plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).
The Bush administration has made much of sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf. But it is a tiny part of the preparations. Post 9/11, the US navy can put six carriers into battle at a month’s notice. Two carriers in the region, the USS John C Stennis and the USS Dwight D Eisenhower, could quickly be joined by three more now at sea: USS Ronald Reagan, USS Harry S Truman and USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as by USS Nimitz. Each carrier force includes hundreds of cruise missiles.
Then there are the marines, who are not tied down fighting in Iraq. Several marine forces are assembling, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and, yes, hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Today, marines have the USS Boxer and USS Bataan carrier forces in the Gulf and probably also the USS Kearsarge and USS Bonhomme Richard. Three others, the USS Peleliu, USS Wasp and USS Iwo Jima, are ready to join them. Earlier this year, HQ staff to manage these forces were moved from Virginia to Bahrain.
Vice-President Dick Cheney has had something of a love affair with the US marines, and this may reach its culmination in the fishing villages along Iran’s Gulf coast. Marine generals hold the top jobs at Nato, in the Pentagon and are in charge of all nuclear weapons. No marine has held any of these posts before.
Traditionally, the top nuclear job went either to a commander of the navy’s Trident submarines or of the air force’s bombers and missiles. Today, all these forces follow the orders of a marine, General James Cartwright, and are integrated into a “Global Strike” plan which places strategic forces on permanent 12-hour readiness.
The only public discussion of this plan has been by the American analysts Bill Arkin and Hans Kristensen, who have focused on the possible use of atomic weapons. These concerns are justified, but ignore how forces can be used in conventional war.
Any US general planning to attack Iran can now assume that at least 10,000 targets can be hit in a single raid, with warplanes flying from the US or Diego Garcia. In the past year, unlimited funding for military technology has taken “smart bombs” to a new level.
New “bunker-busting” conventional bombs weigh only 250lb. According to Boeing, the GBU-39 small-diameter bomb “quadruples” the firepower of US warplanes, compared to those in use even as recently as 2003. A single stealth or B-52 bomber can now attack between 150 and 300 individual points to within a metre of accuracy using the global positioning system.
Yes, our poor elite journalists are being so mistreated by people having the effrontry to criticize their writing despite the really exceptional job the journalists are doing (evaluation provided by the journalists themselves). Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column today, laying it out in detail:
At the National Press Club last night, White House spokesman Tony Snow sat down for a chat with what appeared to be some of his best friends — our nation’s elite “journalists” assigned to the White House — and they all sat around amicably bemoaning how terribly unfair the criticism is that is directed at them by blogs (h/t Atrios). Apparently, one of the most pressing media problems in America is . . . that bloggers demand too much of the national journalists who are assigned to report on the activities and claims of the Government.
Special attention is warranted for the remarks last night of Newsweek‘s so-called “Senior White House Correspondent,” Richard Wolffe. After Snow asserted that when you “open” a blog, “this wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff  comes flying out” and that therefore “you probably shouldn’t believe your opposition’s blogs,” he turned to Wolffe and asked: “what do you think, Richard?” Wolffe instinctively replied to Snow: “I totally agree.”
Wolffe then proceeded to expound on Snow’s attacks on bloggers by complaining that blogs are engaged in a “witch hunt” against the poor, besieged White House correspondents, which is terribly unfair because — and, honestly, this is really an actual quote from Wolffe: “the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general.” Wolffe then adopted his most sneering and patronizing tone to observe with bewilderment that there are actually these “blogs duly devoted to media criticisms, which is itself kind of interesting given all the things you could comment on.”
That is such a great point. Really, what kind of warped and obsessive American would devote themselves to such an unnecessary task as “media criticism,” as though our elite national journalists — who are doing such “a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards and covering politics in general” — need anyone, let alone bloggers, telling them how to do their job.
Besides, Wolffe patiently explained that bloggers who are criticizing journalists have no understanding of the real function of journalism, just as the NYT‘s Michael Gordon lectured Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman when Goodman had the audacity to criticize Gordon’s pre-Iraq War “reporting” on Iraq’s aluminum tubes. Gordon sniped: “I don’t know if you understand how journalism works.” Wolffe similarly enlightened the confused, misguided critics of journalists as follows:
They want us to play a role that isn’t really our role. Our role is to ask questions and get information. It’s not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they throw their hands up and surrender.
See, all journalists are supposed to do is ask questions of their friends — like that great guy, Tony Snow — and that is how they “get information.” Then, they pass it along. That’s it. That’s their job (that echoes what Gordon told Goodman: “the way journalism works is you write what you know, and what you know at the time you try to convey as best you can”). Those who think they should actually do more than that — as embodied by the demand of bloggers that they actually be adversarial and skeptical about the information-gathering process, and that they actually investigate and scrutinize what the Government tells them, rather than mindlessly pass it along — is all just a lamentable by-product of how unpleasantly political and angry bloggers are. Wolffe explained what we fail to understand:
It’s not a political exercise, it’s a journalistic exercise. And I think often the blogs are looking for us to be political advocates more than journalistic ones.
The reality, of course, is that most media-criticizing bloggers do not want journalists to be “political advocates.” They want them to do what journalists are supposed to do – which is not, contrary to Wolffe’s belief, sit around with their good, trustworthy, nice-guy friends in the White House and simply “ask questions” and “get information,” but instead to scrutinize that information, treat it with doubt, investigate it before passing it along to determine whether it’s true. And the reason bloggers want them to do that, the reason that bloggers demand more of journalists like Wolffe, is not because bloggers are enraged, confused, unreasonable partisans. It’s because bloggers are American citizens who are deeply concerned about what has happened to their country over the last six years and criticize the press and demand more of it because Wolffe’s overly-friendly relationships with Bush officials like Tony Snow, and Wolffe’s simplistic and lazy conception of what a reporter does, produces extremely destructive and shoddy “journalism” like this:
Bush consistently makes the argument that our war in Iraq has tied the terrorists down so that the war has helped our fight against terrorists. Well, here’s a big surprise: what Bush says is not true:
Has the war in Iraq increased jihadist terrorism? The Bush administration has offered two responses: First, the moths-to-a-flame argument, which says that Iraq draws terrorists who would otherwise “be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our own borders,” as President Bush put it in 2005. Second, the hard-to-say position: “Are more terrorists being created in the world?” then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked at a press conference in September 2006. “We don’t know. The world doesn’t know. There are not good metrics to determine how many people are being trained in a radical madrasa school in some country.”
In fact, as Rumsfeld knew well, there are plenty of publicly available figures on the incidence and gravity of jihadist attacks. But until now, no one has done a serious statistical analysis of whether an “Iraq effect” does exist. We have undertaken such a study, drawing on data in the mipt-rand Terrorism database (terrorismknowledgebase .org), widely considered the best unclassified database on terrorism incidents.
Our study yields one resounding finding: The rate of fatal terrorist attacks around the world by jihadist groups, and the number of people killed in those attacks, increased dramatically after the invasion of Iraq. Globally there was a 607 percent rise in the average yearly incidence of attacks (28.3 attacks per year before and 199.8 after) and a 237 percent rise in the fatality rate (from 501 to 1,689 deaths per year). A large part of this rise occurred in Iraq, the scene of almost half the global total of jihadist terrorist attacks. But even excluding Iraq and Afghanistan—the other current jihadist hot spot—there has been a 35 percent rise in the number of attacks, with a 12 percent rise in fatalities.
Contrary to Bush’s assertion, jihadists have not let the Iraq War distract them from targeting the United States and its allies. The rate of attacks on Western interests and citizens has risen by almost 25 percent, while the yearly fatality rate has increased by 4 percent, a figure that would have been higher had planned attacks, such as the London airline plot, not been prevented.
The globalization of jihad and martyrdom has disquieting implications for American security in the future. Jihadists are already leaving Iraq to operate elsewhere, a “blowback” trend that will greatly increase when the war eventually winds down. Terrorist groups in Iraq, which have learned to raise millions through kidnapping and oil theft, may be in a position to help fund their jihadist brethren elsewhere. Finally, Iraq has increased the popularity of a hardcore takfiri ideology so intolerant that, unlikely as it seems, it makes Osama bin Laden appear relatively moderate.
Much more at the link, including some informative graphs. Via Political Animal.
Christy Hardin Smith spells out in detail what it’s like for a CIA NOC’s cover to be blown—as Valerie Plame’s was:
Imagine that one day you wake up to the incessant ping of your beeper. It is still dark outside your window, and you slide out of bed, pad quietly down the hallway and try not to wake up the wife and kids, as you slip into your home office and place a call on a secure phone. You are told that your cover has been blown, that your family may be at risk. You have to make instant decisions for your own safety, that of your family, and of every asset you have in the field – and to do that, you have to prioritize which assets are more valuable and which you can afford to lose, if necessary. You have to decide then and there which of the people you cultivated, the ones you promised safety in exchange for information and cooperation, which of them may have to die because you may not have time to save them all.
Why has your cover been blown? Because you work as a CIA colleague of the wife of a man who dared to question the veracity of the President of the United States on a matter of national security, a matter of an exaggerated claim that was inserted in his State of the Union address to bolster his case for war in Iraq. And the President’s cronies and hatchet men decided to out this man’s wife for political payback, as a lesson to anyone else who would dare to question their decisions and as a means to staunch the bleeding from this initial salvo of criticism. Damn the consequences.
No consideration for all the lives interconnected in this network of agents and field assets, or the years it took to cultivate them. No thought of the impact that this betrayal by highly placed governmental officials would have down the line — how hard it would make it to recruit human intelligence assets in the field at the very time that we need them most to gather information inside the terrorist networks that threaten us more and more each day.
No concern for the years of set up it took for Brewster-Jennings and Company, the cover company set up by the CIA that both you and this man’s wife used, to get up and running. The fact that you and she worked along with a number of other highly trained CIA officers around the world — trained in tracking down the weapons used by terrorists and thugs and the very people that threaten our nation’s safety every single day wasn’t important to them. Nor was the loss of the millions of taxpayer dollars it took to set this up and maintain it as viable cover in a number of countries worldwide.
Seemingly, no thought of the loss of ongoing investigations. If there was any consideration or calculation, a discounting of the loss of human intel assets dealing with WMD issues at a time of war, with terrorists who would like nothing more than to get their hands on the very chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and materials that you have risked your life to keep out of their hands.
The next time someone opens their yap and says to me that this case doesn’t matter. That everyone does it. That it was just politics. That this is how things are done in Washington. That the President is going to pardon them anyway. That they’ll find a way to weasel out of it. That she wasn’t really under cover anyway. That they didn’t know she was a NOC when they outed her CIA status. Or whatever other talking head pundit crap comes out of the pipeline on the next talking points bilge memo…well, it just doesn’t matter….
How dare anyone say that this case does not matter. You tell that to the family of anyone who has a star on that wall. Or to anyone who has ever had the honor of knowing and working with or living with any law enforcement hero who walks out their front door every day, knowing that it could be the last time they ever see their family. Knowing that a deep cover assignment risks not only their own life, but sometimes the lives of everyone close to them.
More at the link.
I have had a link to my “comprehensive guide to safety-razor shaving” and the “beginning shaving kit” in the Wikipedia articles on “Shaving” and “Razor” for quite a while, and I regularly get hits from that source. Well, the editors decided to redo those sections, and now the links are gone and the “references” section somehow locked up. Worse, in “Shaving” the person who wrote it gives bad advice: a strictly two-pass shave: with the grain and against the grain, with no idea of progressive stubble reduction or the possibility of an across-the-grain pass.
I’m disappointed because I think the guide has good information for shavers—better information, in fact, than the Wikipedia article provides. I left a note in the “discussion” page for each section, but I fear the Wikipedia reference is gone.
Today I used the third soap: HS 3 Bay Rum
- Effect on skin (dryness, etc.): no problem there
- Quantity of lather (how easily it lathers up): Didn’t lather well—lather on face was thin, not much lather produced
- Quality of lather (slickness): slickness was okay, but not enough
- How well lather lasts: didn’t last all that well
Good shave, no complaints there. The Futur + Swedish Gillette is a good combination. Finished with alum bar and Pinaud’s Clubman.