Later On

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Archive for April 29th, 2007

Open letter to George Tenet

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Via ThinkProgress, from some of the people who worked with Tenet at the CIA. The letter begins:

Dear Mr. Tenet:

We write to you on the occasion of the release of your book, At the Center of the Storm. You are on the record complaining about the “damage to your reputation”. In our view the damage to your reputation is inconsequential compared to the harm your actions have caused for the U.S. soldiers engaged in combat in Iraq and the national security of the United States. We believe you have a moral obligation to return the Medal of Freedom you received from President George Bush. We also call for you to dedicate a significant percentage of the royalties from your book to the U.S. soldiers and their families who have been killed and wounded in Iraq.

We agree with you that Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials took the United States to war for flimsy reasons. We agree that the war of choice in Iraq was ill-advised and wrong headed. But your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership. You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq.

You are not alone in failing to speak up and protest the twisting and shading of intelligence.  Those who remained silent when they could have made a difference also share the blame for not protesting the abuse and misuse of intelligence that occurred under your watch.  But ultimately you were in charge and you signed off on the CIA products and you briefed the President.This is not a case of Monday morning quarterbacking.  You helped send very mixed signals to the American people and their legislators in the fall of 2002.  CIA field operatives produced solid intelligence in September 2002 that stated clearly there was no stockpile of any kind of WMD in Iraq. This intelligence was ignored and later misused.  On October 1 you signed and gave to President Bush and senior policy makers a fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)—which dovetailed with unsupported threats presented by Vice President Dick Cheney in an alarmist speech on August 26, 2002.

You were well aware that the White House tried to present as fact intelligence you knew was unreliable.  And yet you tried to have it both ways.  On October 7, just hours before the president gave a major speech in Cincinnati, you were successful in preventing him from using the fable about Iraq purchasing uranium in Africa, although that same claim appeared in the NIE you signed only six days before.

Although CIA officers learned in late September 2002 from a high-level member of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle that Iraq had no past or present contact with Osama bin Laden and that the Iraqi leader considered bin Laden an enemy of the Baghdad regime, you still went before Congress in February 2003 and testified that Iraq did indeed have links to Al Qaeda.

You showed a lack of leadership and courage in January of 2003 as the Bush Administration pushed and cajoled analysts and managers to let them make the bogus claim that Iraq was on the verge of getting its hands on uranium.   You signed off on Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations.  And, at his insistence, you sat behind him and visibly squandered CIA’s most precious asset—credibility.”

You may now feel you were bullied and victimized but you were also one of the bullies.  In the end you allowed suspect sources, like Curveball, to be used based on very limited reporting and evidence.  Yet you were informed in no uncertain terms that Curveball was not reliable.  You broke with CIA standard practice and insisted on voluminous evidence to refute this reporting rather than treat the information as suspect.  You helped set the bar very low for reporting that supported favored White House positions, while raising the bar astronomically high when it came to raw intelligence that did not support the case for war being hawked by the president and vice president.

It now turns out that you were the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community–a grotesque mixture of incompetence and sycophancy shielded by a genial personality.  Decisions were made, you were in charge, but you have no idea how decisions were made even though you were in charge.  Curiously, you focus your anger on the likes of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice, but you decline to criticize the President.

Mr. Tenet, as head of the intelligence community, you failed to use your position of power and influence to protect the intelligence process and, more importantly, the country.  What should you have done?  What could you have done?

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 7:17 pm

ING Direct checking

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I use ING Direct as a savings account, but this looks pretty good, too. From The Simple Dollar:

About a month ago, I switched my primary checking account from my local brick and mortar bank to ING Direct’s Electric Orange online checking.

What is Electric Orange?

Electric Orange is an online-only checking account offered by ING Direct. In short, that means you do all of your checking account business either online or with a debit card. For some people, this sounds like complete craziness, but bear me out.

What’s Good?

A 4.0% APY interest rate This checking account earns an interest rate higher than inflation. My average checking account balance over 2006 was just north of $4,000. In this account, that’s an earnings of $160, just for having Electric Orange.

A strong fee-free ATM network My ATM card has no fees if I use an ATM in the AllPoint network, which has several locations nearby and apparently has one in all Target stores. My previous bank had an extremely limited fee-free ATM card network.

An overdraft line of credit Instead of incurring a big fee if you overdraft, the account instead offers a line of credit and they just begin charging you interest on that credit line. The credit line seems to be set differently for different people depending on their initial deposit and any balances they might have in other ING Direct accounts, but the interest rate on the line is 12.25%. Thus, if you accidentally overdraft your checking, instead of charging you a big fee (my old bank charged $40), you just start owing interest on the amount that you overdrafted. If you deal with it quickly, it’s just a few pennies.

Extremely user friendly online banking ING Direct has very good customer service and the best overall online banking interface I’ve used. Online bill pay with them was incredibly easy – I was paying my bills online very quickly and it all worked smooth as silk, even to rather local institutions like the local telecommunications cooperative.

What’s Bad?

No paper checks This is probably the worst drawback, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I feared. I left my old account open with about $100 in it for small incidental checks (the nearest grocery store to my residence only accepts cash and checks from local banks as payment). For other checks, the online interface allows you to fill out a form that looks like a check and then they will mail you a check first class the following day. For me, I receive the check about four postal days after filling out the form online. This works for some larger check situations, but it’s not the most flexible system in the world. So far, it has worked fine for me, but I can envision a situation or two that might cause me trouble.

No branches The biggest reason for this for me was that my local bank allowed me to deposit pocket change directly into the account using their counting machine. Thus, I would save up pocket change in a jar for several months, then deposit it all at once. By keeping the old account, I retain this service. Other than this service, I never used a branch, so for me, this issue with Electric Orange is basically nonexistent.

Am I Going To Stick With It?

I have been very happy with ING Direct’s online savings in the past in terms of customer service and their nice interest rate, so it was a no-brainer for me to give this a try. So far, I love the account. I haven’t been hit with a single fee of any kind as of yet (and they used to come in all the time with my old bank) and I’ve earned a pretty nice little piece of interest. If you figure the losses on the fees at my old bank (and the lack of interest) versus the lack of fees at this bank and the solid interest rate, it is a very good deal.

What about a recommendation? If you’re comfortable with online bill pay, then this is the type of checking account you should be moving to. If you prefer to write checks for your bills, then this account will cause you much frustration and isn’t worth it. The online bill pay factor is really the deciding factor here.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Spanish chicken noodle soup

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Very tasty and easy:

Spanish Chicken Noodle soup
Makes 6 servings.

Cilantro gives this soup a Spanish flavor and is important to the recipe. Parsley will do, but the recipe won’t taste the same.

1.5 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced chick breast (about ½ pound)
1/8 tsp saffron powder
one 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped, or 5 plum tomatoes
6 cups reduced-sodium defatted chicken broth
1.5 tsp paprika
0.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
0.25 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup fettuccine, broken into 2-inch pieces
0.25 c chopped fresh cilantro.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken pieces. Cook until white on all sides.

Put the saffron in a small heatproof bowl. Pour the tomatoes and broth into the soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of liquid and pour over the saffron, then return it to the pot.

Add the remaining ingredients except for the cilantro. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.

Notes: I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I also use saffron threads, crushing them between my fingers to make the saffron powder. A large can of chicken broth is 49 ounces, close enough to the 48 ounces called for in the recipe. I used canned diced tomatoes and don’t drain them—it’s soup, after all. Cilantro loses its flavor if it’s cooked, so add it at the last minute.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Recipes

Late to the party again

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This time for Rudy Rucker, who (unbeknownst to me) has been writing well-regarded science fiction for a long, long time. I happened across a highly favorable review of Mathematicians in Love, so got it from the library, and it’s fully wonderful, especially if you are a math groupie of sorts.

I was so enamored of it that I of course decided to read everything. The Wikipedia article on Rudy Rucker has a handy list of the oeuvre:

  • The Ware Tetralogy
  • Transrealist novels
    • White Light (1980)
    • Spacetime Donuts (1981)
    • The Sex Sphere (1983)
    • The Secret of Life (1985)
    • The Hacker and the Ants (1994)
    • Hacker and the Ants, Version 2.0 (2003)
  • Other Novels
  • Story collections
    • The Fifty-Seventh Franz Kafka (1983)
    • Transreal!, also includes some non-fiction essays (1991)
    • Gnarl! (2000), complete short stories
    • Mad Professor (2006)
  • Non-fiction
    • Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension (1977)
    • Infinity and the Mind (1982)
    • The Fourth Dimension (1984)
    • Mind Tools (1987)
    • All the Visions (1991), memoir
    • Saucer Wisdom (1999)
    • Seek! (1999), collected essays
    • Software Engineering and Computer Games (2002), textbook
    • The Lifebox, the Seashell, and the Soul (2005)

List on Rucker’s SJSU web page. With links to each book’s web page.

Also, for more info, his Web site.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Open-Source Document Format—here comes Microsoft!

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They don’t like the whole idea:

Ed Homan, an orthopedic surgeon representing a central Florida district in the state legislature, thought an amendment touting open-source document formats he tucked into a 38-page bill wouldn’t draw much attention.

But within an hour of the proposed bill’s reading in late March, Homan said, he was greeted in his office by three lobbyists representing Microsoft Corp.

“They were here lickety-split,” Homan said. “I had no idea it was going to get that kind of reaction.”

State-by-state skirmishes over open-source document formats represent the latest showdown in a long-running, and so far unsuccessful, campaign to topple Microsoft’s sheer dominance of the desktop software application market. Outside of Florida, four other states since January have seen language similar to Homan’s included in proposed bills.
Document formats serve as an underlying digital container, controlling access to files like spreadsheets and the ability to share them. Efforts like Homan’s could lead to broader use by states of OpenDocument Format, or ODF, an open-source technology promoted by Microsoft’s competitors. ODF, analysts say, could undercut one of Microsoft’s most essential businesses, by opening the door to alternatives to Excel and Word and other popular productivity applications owned by the world’s biggest software company.
Characteristically, as lawmakers like Homan have learned, Microsoft’s hardly taking a passive position.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company has mounted an intensive campaign for Open XML, an open format designed to counter ODF. Microsoft argues ODF is a limited technology that can’t read Microsoft files very well, and says that Open XML ensures compatibility with Microsoft’s full Office suite of products.

According to Homan, his open-source amendment has been pulled from the Florida bill, because other legislators “didn’t want to go to the mat on one paragraph.” But if similar bills are passed elsewhere, a spreading ODF format could prove a gateway to its compatible open-source applications — whereas bureaucracies, and most computer users, have relied to date on Microsoft Office suite products such as Word.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

A jaundiced view of George Tenet

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From someone who worked with him.

George Tenet has a story to tell. With his appearance tonight on “60 Minutes” and the publication of his new memoir, “At the Center of the Storm,” the former director of central intelligence is out to absolve himself of the failings of 9/11 and Iraq. He’ll sell a lot of books, of course, but we shouldn’t buy his attempts to let himself off the hook.

My experience with Tenet dates to the late 1980s, when he was the sharp, garrulous, cigar-chomping staff director of the Senate intelligence committee and I was a junior CIA officer who briefed him on covert action programs in Afghanistan. Later, I worked directly for Tenet after he took over the CIA and I became the first chief of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit. We met regularly, often daily. It’s impossible to dislike Tenet, who is smart, polite, hard-working, convivial and detail-oriented. But he’s also a man who never went from cheerleader to leader.

At a time when clear direction and moral courage were needed, Tenet shifted course to follow the prevailing winds, under President Bill Clinton and then President Bush — and he provided distraught officers at Langley a shoulder to cry on when his politically expedient tacking sailed the United States into disaster.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 12:40 pm

Being management doesn’t mean you’re smart

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Take a look at this article:

In the nineteen-nineties, with U.S. corporations in the midst of what the Times called “the downsizing of America,” a new term appeared: the “seven-per-cent rule.” It was a simple formula: when a company announces major layoffs, its stock price jumps seven per cent. No one worried too much about whether the rule was accurate—it was a catchy way of expressing a basic assumption about corporate layoffs: downsizing is an easy way to make Wall Street happy. So when, recently, two companies with lagging stock prices—Circuit City and Citigroup—announced major job cuts, one might have expected their stock to soar. Instead, Circuit City saw its stock price tumble four per cent the day after it announced it was getting rid of thirty-four hundred of its most experienced sales associates, and Citigroup’s stock barely budged when it said it would be cutting seventeen thousand jobs.

This may have surprised the executives who had planned the cutbacks, but it shouldn’t have. Over the past decade, many academics have looked at how layoffs affect stock prices, and they’ve found that the seven-per-cent rule is bunk. Instead of rising sharply, the stock of companies that trim their workforces is likely to fall. A recent meta-study that surveyed research from several countries, covering thousands of layoff announcements, concluded that, on average, markets had “a significantly negative” reaction to job cuts. Individual companies, of course, sometimes see stock prices jump after layoff news, but there’s no evidence that downsizing is a guaranteed hit with investors.

This isn’t to say that Wall Street has gone soft—it still cares about profits, not people. But investors seem to understand that fewer people doesn’t always mean more profits. Downsizing may make companies temporarily more productive, but the gains quickly erode, in part because of the predictably negative effect on morale. And numerous studies suggest that, despite the lower payroll costs, layoffs do not make firms more profitable; Wayne Cascio, a management professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, looked at more than three hundred firms that downsized in the nineteen-eighties and found that three years after the layoffs the companies’ returns on assets, costs, and profit margins had not improved. It’s possible that these companies would have done even worse had they not downsized, but for the average company the effect of layoffs on the bottom line appears to be negligible.

If the track record of layoffs in improving corporate performance and shareholder returns is so mediocre, why do executives still find them tempting? One reason is that executives’ view of downsizing is shaped by what’s sometimes called the vividness heuristic: the tendency to give undue weight to particularly vivid or newsworthy examples. In discussions of downsizing, you don’t often hear about all the companies that cut payrolls and then continued to struggle. Instead, it’s the stories of companies that have reaped dramatic benefits from downsizing—like G.E. and Procter & Gamble—that become templates for how the process works. Executive overconfidence exacerbates this problem: a C.E.O. is far more likely to see himself as capable of pulling off what Jack Welch did at G.E. than to recognize the probability that layoffs will make only a trivial difference.

There’s more at the link. The article concludes:

There’s nothing wrong with costcutting, and in any dynamic economy layoffs will be necessary. The problem is that too many companies today define workers solely in terms of how much they cost, rather than how much value they create. This is understandable: after downsizing, it’s easier to measure a lower wage bill than it is to see the business the company isn’t getting because it has too few salesmen, or the new products it isn’t inventing because its R. & D. staff is too small. These lost opportunities may be hard to measure, but over time they can have a huge impact on corporate performance. Judging from its reaction to layoff announcements, the stock market understands this. It’s time executives did, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Business

How will private companies handle this?

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Private companies buying up public infrastructure, which cities and states seem eager to sell for the short-term benefit. The companies will then charge tolls, jacking up the price to create a good return—their responsibility is to the owners/shareholders, not to the public, some of which will be priced out of the market. And then maintenance issues become a business decision.

In the past year, banks and private investment firms have fallen in love with public infrastructure. They’re smitten by the rich cash flows that roads, bridges, airports, parking garages, and shipping ports generate—and the monopolistic advantages that keep those cash flows as steady as a beating heart. Firms are so enamored, in fact, that they’re beginning to consider infrastructure a brand new asset class in itself.

With state and local leaders scrambling for cash to solve short-term fiscal problems, the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented burst of buying and selling. All told, some $100 billion worth of public property could change hands in the next two years, up from less than $7 billion over the past two years; a lease for the Pennsylvania Turnpike could go for more than $30 billion all by itself. “There’s a lot of value trapped in these assets,” says Mark Florian, head of North American infrastructure banking at Goldman, Sachs & Co (GS ).

There are some advantages to private control of roads, utilities, lotteries, parking garages, water systems, airports, and other properties. To pay for upkeep, private firms can raise rates at the tollbooth without fear of being penalized in the voting booth. Privateers are also freer to experiment with ideas like peak pricing, a market-based approach to relieving traffic jams. And governments are making use of the cash they’re pulling in—balancing budgets, retiring debt, investing in social programs, and on and on.

But are investors getting an even better deal? It’s a question with major policy implications as governments relinquish control of major public assets for years to come. The aggressive toll hikes embedded in deals all but guarantee pain for lower-income citizens—and enormous profits for the buyers. For example, the investors in the $3.8 billion deal for the Indiana Toll Road, struck in 2006, could break even in year 15 of the 75-year lease, on the way to reaping as much as $21 billion in profits, estimates Merrill Lynch & Co. (MER ) What’s more, some public interest groups complain that the revenue from the higher tolls inflicted on all citizens will benefit only a handful of private investors, not the commonweal (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/27/07, “A Golden Gate for Investors”).

There’s also reason to worry about the quality of service on deals that can span 100 years. The newly private toll roads are being managed well now, but owners could sell them to other parties that might not operate them as capably in the future. Already, the experience outside of toll roads has been mixed: The Atlanta city water system, for example, was so poorly managed by private owners that the government reclaimed it.

So how will they treat something like the following?

A gasoline tanker trucker crashed and burned, weakening the overpass structure so that it collapsed. Here’s the full story (with a photo), and it begins:

A freeway interchange that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed onto another highway ramp early today after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and caught fire, authorities said.

Authorities said the accident, which closed two sections of road that carry cars through Oakland and then east and south of the city, would cause the worst disruption for Bay Area commuters since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged a section of the Bay Bridge itself.

State transportation officials said it could take months to repair the damaged interchanges, and advised motorists to take public transportation into and out of San Francisco. They said that drivers who chose to take alternate routes on Monday would face nightmarish commutes.

Although heat from the fire was intense enough to weaken the freeway and cause the collapse, the truck’s driver walked away from the scene and called a taxi, which took him to a nearby hospital with second-degree burns, Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said.

No other injuries were reported, and officials said a major public safety disaster only was averted because the crash happened so early on a Sunday.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cross said of the 250-foot chunk of the crumpled interchange that was twisted into a mass of steel and concrete. “I’m looking at this thinking, ‘Wow, no one died — that’s amazing. It’s just very fortunate.”

The crash occurred around 3:45 a.m. on one of a collection of interchanges on the edge of downtown Oakland about a half-mile from the Bay Bridge’s toll plaza into San Francisco. Although the bridge itself was not damaged, the maze of converging freeways includes some of the Bay Area’s most congested routes.

State transportation officials said 280,000 commuters take the Bay Bridge into San Francisco each day and predicted the fallout on traffic would be severe as drivers are forced to find ways around the wreckage.

“This will be one of the most problematic commutes in recent memory,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, speaking to reporters at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Curriki: Open-source education

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Curriki clearly means “curriculum wiki.” Interesting idea:

Our mission is to improve education around the world by empowering teachers, students and parents with user-created, open source curricula, and it’s all free! We believe that access to knowledge and learning tools is a basic right of every child. Our goal is to make curricula and learning resources available to everyone.

The idea is still under development:

Click a subject to see a list of all the learning resources in that category. The number in parentheses shows how many matching results are on the site right now.

Arts (63)
Educational Technology (79)
Foreign Languages (25)
Health (25)
Language Arts (148)
Mathematics (144)
Science (206)
Social Studies (132)
Vocational Education (38)
Uncategorized (65)
All Resources (612)

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 11:50 am

Posted in Education

10 genes linked to type 2 diabetes

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From WebMD:

Researchers have identified 10 genetic variants that may make type 2 diabetes more likely. The findings may lead to new treatments for type 2 diabetes, note the scientists.

They included Michael Boehnke, PhD, who is the Richard G. Cornell Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Boehnke’s team studied DNA from 2,376 people with type 2 diabetes and from 2,432 people without diabetes in Finland. The researchers discovered four gene variants that were more common in the diabetes patients. Those gene variants are found near the following genes: IGF2BP2, CDKAL1, and CDKN2A/CDKN2B.

The scientists also confirmed six other gene variants that had previously been linked to type 2 diabetes. Those gene variants are located near the TCF7L2, SLC30A8, HHEX, FTO, PPARG, and KCNJ11 genes.

All in all, that adds up to 10 genetic variants that can be “confidently identified” as being associated with type 2 diabetes risk, write Boehnke and colleagues.

The gene variants may make good targets for new type 2 diabetes treatments, Boehnke’s team writes in Science Express, the advance online edition of Science.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 11:00 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Legislation needed to control Satan

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As you probably know, Satan has an active role in politics—but the GOP is onto him (Him?):

Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan’s influence on illegal immigrants.

The group was unable to take official action because not enough members stuck around long enough to vote, despite the pleadings of party officials. The convention was held at Canyon View Junior High School.

Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan’s minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty. [It's all part of Satan's Big Plan, you see. - LG]

In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants “hate American people” and “are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won’t do.”

Illegal aliens are in control of the media, and working in tandem with Democrats, are trying to “destroy Christian America” and replace it with “a godless new world order — and that is not extremism, that is fact,” Larsen said. [He's right---why, it doesn't even sound like extremism. - LG]

At the end of his speech, Larsen began to cry, saying illegal immigrants were trying to bring about the destruction of the U.S. “by self invasion.”

Republican officials then allowed speakers to defend and refute the resolution. One speaker, who was identified as “Joe,” said illegal immigrants were Marxist and under the influence of the devil [i.e., Satan. - LG]. Another, who declined to give her name to the

, said illegal immigrants should not be allowed because “they are not going to become Republicans and stop flying the flag upside down. … If they want to be Americans, they should learn to speak English and fly their flag like we do.”

Senator Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, spoke against the resolution, saying Larsen, whom he called a “true patriot and a close friend,” was embarrassing the Republican Party.

“I agree with 95 percent of this resolution but it has some language that is divisive and not inspiring other people to its vision,” he said. “This only gives fodder to the liberal media to give negative attention to the Republican Party.”

Joel Wright, a member of the Cedar Hills City Council, was booed as he opposed the resolution.

“This might be the most divisive issue in the Republican Party,” he said. “I support President Bush but he needs to support this issue harder.”

When Wright said “the economic benefit (of illegal immigration) outweighs the downside” he was jeered. He warned that the Republican Party of California had “killed themselves” by taking a hostile stance against illegal aliens.

He also said the LDS Church has studied the issue and tried to determine whether illegal aliens could be given temple recommends and allowed to serve missions but “gave up” because the issue was too complex. He ended by saying “President Bush needs to fix this now” and was booed again.

Larsen was allowed to finish the debate with a one-minute speech.

“If the Democrats take over the country, we will be dead, and we will have abortion and partial-birth abortion and the Republican Party will go into extinction,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi and the ACLU would oppose this (resolution).”

More at the link. I don’t think the Republican Party will go into extinction so long as there are people who believe this sort of crap.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 10:24 am

Posted in GOP

Condoleezza: still lying

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ThinkProgress:

In his new book, former CIA Director George Tenet alleges that there was “never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraq threat,” suggesting the administration had made up its mind to go to war from an early stage.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Condoleezza Rice responded, “We all thought that the intelligence case was strong,” adding that even “the U.N weapons inspectors [thought] Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” She concluded, “So there’s no blame here of anyone.” Watch it.

Rice would like the public to believe that no one is to blame because everyone was misled by the intelligence. In fact, U.N. weapons inspectors declared weeks before the invasion that Hussein did not possess WMD. The inspectors publicly lambasted consistently false and misleading U.S. intelligence leading up to the war:

[On March 7, 2003], the head of the IAEA, Mohamed El-Baradei, reported that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any nuclear weapons or was in the process of acquiring them. Mr Blix said: “By then, Mohamed ElBaradei revealed that Niger was not authentic.” British intelligence falsely claimed Iraq had been trying to acquire uranium from Niger. [4/28/05]

So frustrated have the inspectors become that one source has referred to the U.S. intelligence they’ve been getting as “garbage after garbage after garbage.” … The inspectors find themselves caught between the Iraqis, who are masters at the weapons-hiding shell game, and the United States, whose intelligence they’ve found to be circumstantial, outdated or just plain wrong. [2/20/03]

Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council that his inspection teams had not found any “smoking guns” after visiting some 125 Iraqi sites. [1/9/03]

Transcript:

RICE: But let me go back to George on this one. I certainly don’t blame George for the slam dunk comment having the sense that that was the reason we went to war. I think the completeness reading of how, certainly, I read the slam dunk comment…

BLITZER: Does he deserve an apology?

(CROSSTALK)

RICE: You know, I was asked about this, and I was asked “Did he say slam dunk?” I said, “Yes, but we all thought that the intelligence case was strong.” To the degree that there was an intelligence problem here, it was not just an intelligence problem with George Tenet, it was not just an intelligence problem with U.S. intelligence.

It was an intelligence problem worldwide. We all thought — including U.N. inspectors — that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. So there’s no blame here of anyone.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 10:15 am

Baghdad and liberation

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 10:08 am

Our broken food protection system

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From McClatchy Washington Bureau:

But the global dinner plate also comes with dangers, as has been painfully demonstrated in the recent scare from the discovery of the industrial chemical melamine in pet food – and now, with experts warning it may have spread to the human food chain.

“This whole debacle where you’ve got a plastic getting into a food supply shines a huge spotlight on a broken, broken system,” said Elisa Odabashian, director of food safety for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.

According to consumer and food safety experts, a vast array of foods and ingredients pours into the United States every year with little or no scrutiny. Much of the food comes from countries with less stringent regulations on pesticides, processing and sanitation.

In the past, grapes from Chile, raspberries from Guatemala and onions from Mexico have sickened or even led to the deaths of consumers.

In recent days consumers learned that pet food contaminated with the melamine was fed to hogs destined for market.

The revelations pushed worries over imported foods and ingredients to a new level and forced consumers to ask troubling questions about aspects of the food supply they may have taken for granted:

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 9:48 am

James Wolcott on Rush Limbaugh on Global Warming

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Wonderful article. Read it. It begins:

Rush Limbaugh, he’s got the life. His days flick through the slot like postcards from paradise. Where most gab-show hosts report for duty at radio studios where candy bars get stuck in the vending machine and the carpeting is a certain industrial shade of indifference, Limbaugh—a man, a mission, a mighty wind—has carved out his own principality in Florida’s Palm Beach, a lion preserve where he can roam undisturbed. Drinking in the rays, puffing on those big-shot cigars, riding the range in a golf cart—he’s got the complete Jackie Gleason how-sweet-it-is package deal. But just as the Great One suffered from melancholia aggravated by alcohol, Limbaugh’s indulgence in his own creature comforts hasn’t been able to insulate him from the demons within. An addiction to painkillers reduced this human boom box of self-sufficiency and strict enforcement—”If people are violating the law by doing drugs,” he once lectured on his syndicated TV show, “they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up” (up the river, that is)—to the furtive, needy ploys of any other junkie who finds the medicine cabinet running dry. After he entered rehab, his third wife, Marta, reportedly vacated the luxury estate (they would later divorce), leaving Rush a Tarzan without his Jane in what the Palm Beach Post in 2004 called his “$24.2 million, 36,500-square-foot secluded monster at 1495 N. Ocean.” Secluded for now, but perhaps after this god of the airwaves shucks his mound of flesh so that his soul can meet Reagan’s in Republican Heaven (where all the angels look like June Allyson), his compound can be converted into a tourist attraction—a combination museum, shrine, gift shop, and spiritual mecca modeled on Elvis’s Graceland, Dolly Parton’s Dollywood. Aging dittoheads can make pilgrimages to pay their respects, rekindle fond memories, and gape reverently at the silenced TV where Rush watched the game he loved so much and understood so little, football.

For us non-dittoheads (that is, the unconverted), a more fitting memorial to Mount Rushbo might be a diorama of the environmental destruction that he did so much to enable in his multi-decade reign of denigration. Global warming’s most popular denialist, talk radio’s most imitated showman, conservatism’s minister of disinformation, he has injected millions of semi-vacant American skulls with a cream filling of complacency that has helped thrust this country into the forefront of backward leadership. He has given Republican lawmakers the rhetorical cover fire to do nothing but snicker as the crisis emerged and impressed itself on the rest of the world. He conscripted concern for nature as just another weapon in the Culture Wars. May the grasses of his favorite golf courses go forever yellow and dust storms whip from the sand traps.

From Teddy Roosevelt, who made wilderness protection a priority and created national parks, bird sanctuaries, big-game refuges, and national forests, to Richard Nixon, under whose bad-moon presidency the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and the Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed, the Republican Party carried a tradition of conservation that crumbled under Ronald Reagan, for whom nature was mostly a scenic backdrop whose resources could be exploited out of camera frame. Reagan’s selections of James Watt for the Department of the Interior and Anne Gorsuch for the E.P.A. put bureaucratic vandals in positions of stewardship, and in 1987 he vetoed re-authorization of the Clean Water Act, a veto that fortunately was overridden. It is a measure of how awful the George W. Bush administration has been on the environment that some activists miss the old, upfront hostility of the Reagan era, when at least the political and corporate machinations took place in open daylight. “Unfortunately, now,” lamented Daniel Weiss, an environmental activist (quoted by Amanda Griscom in her article for online’s Grist), “our leaders are much more savvy—and far more insidious. They undo laws in the dead of night.” Under Bush II, environmentalists no longer need to be engaged, because they’ve been so stridently marginalized and stigmatized as a pantheistic kook cult practicing socialism under the guise of Gaia worship. This was largely Limbaugh’s doing, and now every right-wing pundit from Cal Thomas to Michael Savage croaks the same tune.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 9:05 am

Posted in Environment, GOP, Media, Science

Iraq “makes Vietnam look like a cakewalk”

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From the Washington Post:

“It makes Vietnam look like a cakewalk,” said retired Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, a veteran of the Vietnam War. The domino theory that nations across Southeast Asia would go communist was not fulfilled, he noted, but with Iraq, “worst-case scenarios are the most likely thing to happen.”

Iraq is worse than Vietnam “in so many ways,” agreed Andrew F. Krepinevich Jr., a retired Army officer and author of one of the most respected studies of the U.S. military’s failure in Vietnam. “We knew what we were getting into in Vietnam. We didn’t here.”

Also, President Richard M. Nixon used diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union to exploit the split between them and so minimize the fallout of Vietnam. By contrast, Krepinevich said, the Bush administration has “magnified” the problems of Iraq by neglecting public diplomacy in the Muslim world and by not developing an energy policy to reduce the significance of Middle Eastern oil.

In strategic terms, the Vietnam conflict was understood even by many of its opponents as part of a global stance of containment, a policy that preceded the war and endured for 15 years after Saigon fell, noted retired Army Col. Richard H. Sinnreich, a veteran of two Vietnam tours of duty. “I’m not sure we can count on a similarly prompt strategic recovery this time around,” he continued. “Bush’s preemption strategy was controversial even before Iraq, and the war itself has been so badly mismanaged that even our allies doubt our competence.”

Gary Solis, who fought as a Marine in Vietnam and more recently taught the law of war at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said he is hearing more such discussions. “Most of my military acquaintances agree that the issues in our departure from Vietnam will pale beside those that will be presented by an Iraq withdrawal,” Solis said.

In addition, some experts say that the ethical burden of the Iraq war is heavier for Americans. “Vietnam had an ongoing civil war when the U.S. intervened, while Iraq’s civil war did not begin until after the U.S. intervention,” said a State Department official who served in Iraq and is not authorized to speak to the media. “This makes it much harder — morally — for us to extricate ourselves, at least from where I sit.”

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 8:17 am

Good warning regarding retirement

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And it’s true. Read and learn.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 8:08 am

Posted in Daily life

Really, it amounts to a lie about Iraq “successes”

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Just another Administration lie. Things like this are what make it hard to respond with any enthusiasm when Bush says, “Trust me.” I wonder if these projects were part of Halliburton’s famous no-bid contracts.

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

The United States has previously admitted, sometimes under pressure from federal inspectors, that some of its reconstruction projects have been abandoned, delayed or poorly constructed. But this is the first time inspectors have found that projects officially declared a success — in some cases, as little as six months before the latest inspections — were no longer working properly.

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 8:02 am

What they promised

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A quick review of the leading pundits as we entered the Iraq War.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 7:46 am

Posted in Iraq War, Media

William Kristol finally gets told off

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It was a caller, and she leveled with him. He doesn’t look good in this.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2007 at 7:45 am

Posted in Iraq War, Media

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