Archive for May 2007
Last week, ThinkProgress noted that a bill called the OPEN Government Act had been locked down in the Senate by a secret hold. The bill in question is a “bipartisan effort to update the seminal Freedom of Information Act to make the government more open and accountable.” The act would:
– Restore meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA;
– Impose real consequences on federal agencies for missing statutory deadlines;
– Establish a FOIA hotline service for all federal agencies; and
– Create a FOIA Ombudsman as an alternative to costly litigation.
When Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to bring the bill to a vote on the floor, “the vote was blocked by ‘Senator Anonymous.’ Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold.”
The man behind the secret hold has now revealed himself: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl’s excuse for placing a hold on the bill? Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department opposes several provisions:
Kyl says the Justice Department is concerned that it could force them to reveal sensitive information.
In a statement Thursday, Kyl said the agency’s “uncharacteristically strong” opposition is reason enough to think twice about the legislation, and he will block a vote until both sides can work out the differences.
Kyl’s water-carrying for the Justice Department is untenable. The OPEN Government Act has overwhelmingly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation in the House passed in March by 308 to 117. Kyl needs to get out of the way. As Sen. Leahy put it, “This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike can and should work together to enact. It should be passed without further delay.”
From the reviews at Lulu.com:
Since I work for Lulu.com, I don’t normally post reviews of content. It’s difficult for any of us here to do so without some sort of bias due to our love for this place and the amazing folks who publish their works through us. But, I wanted to post something here about this book since 1) I found it while searching the web for wetshaving information, not while browsing content on Lulu and 2) I have enjoyed it enough to believe my bias isn’t the only reason I feel positively towards it. Make sense?
I am a recent convert to wetshaving and am slowly but surely coming to absolutely love its benefits as well as the ritual. Shaving has never been enjoyable for me (been shaving for 19 years or so) and up until now has usually been a painful, bloody mess that left me with unsightly razor burn and nicks. I had reduced my frequency to about once a week with the cartridge razors and standard shaving cream. Sometime last year I did start using a brush and occasionally some shave oil which did improve things somewhat, but it was the addition of the safety razor and the time spent learning how to build a later, etc that brought the most benefit to date.
So in that vein, Mr. Ham’s book has been a great resource for me to continue my learning. It is a quick and easy read that is to the point and clear. I enjoy the fact that he is open-minded and just as much into learning as I am. He lays out a bunch of options and suggestions and sends readers off to try them all to find the exact combination that works for him.
Another great thing about this book is its Endnotes. Throughout the book, Mr. Ham references books, websites, shaving products, etc. and quite religiously annotates them with references to his Endnotes. While not as convenient as Footnotes, the Endnote format allows him to expound further as needed on each note without ruining the look, feel, and flow of his book. The first time through the book, I didn’t reference the notes at all, sticking to the context of the book as a whole. Now that I use the book as a reference, I will just put my finger on the Endnotes page so I can flip to it quickly when necessary.
Through these Endnotes and other information in the back of the book, Mr. Ham provides readers with a formidable launchpad for further learning. As a matter of fact, that pretty much sums up the book as a whole: A great foundational intro to wetshaving along with a nice push to many other sources to continue your journey.
Thanks for the book, Mr. Ham. And, while again not greatly affecting my opinion of the book, thanks for using Lulu!
The NY Times has a little interactive on-line app that takes you through the steps.
Do nothing unless criticized, and then smear the critic with lies. Great modus operandi—and with the media we have, it seems to work. ThinkProgress:
Earlier this month, after a tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) spoke out about how the war in Iraq had severely drained the state’s National Guard, slowing recovery efforts for disaster victims.
Now the Bush administration is exacting revenge:
Bush administration officials, stung by complaints from Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that National Guard heavy equipment needed by tornado-stricken Greensburg, Kan., is in Iraq, are putting out word that she was two days late at the disaster scene because she was attending a jazz festival in New Orleans.
But according to a report in today’s Wichita Eagle, the Bush rumor is completely false:
Yes, Sebelius was in New Orleans with her family when the tornado hit that Friday evening. But she was notified that night about the tornado, and she and her staff in Kansas immediately began trying to assess the damage. When the scope of the disaster became clear, they began making arrangements for her return.
Sebelius didn’t attend any of the jazz festival and left her family in New Orleans, flying back Saturday afternoon using a plane arranged by Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
Earlier, the White House had floated the line that Sebelius was responsible for the Guard shortages, saying it was “not aware of any prior complaints” by the governor about the lack of equipment. But reports soon surfaced showing Sebelius made at least five separate requests for equipment, beginning in Dec. 2005. Apparently it’s back to the drawing board for the Bush spin team.
I had to get the first three novels via Abebooks.com, and I’m now reading Black Light from the library. Findings regarding the “series” novels:
* 1980 The Master Sniper — events from this referenced in Black Light
* 1982 The Second Saladin — characters reappear in Black Light
* 1985 Target (film novelization) — not series—and it IS just a novelisation
* 1985 The Spanish Gambit (reissued as Tapestry of Spies) — (Spanish Civil War setting—some characters reappear in later novels)
* 1989 The Day Before Midnight — some characters reappear in later novels
* 1993 Point of Impact — first full novel of the series
* 1994 Dirty White Boys — second of the series
* 1996 Black Light — third of the series (I’m reading this now, from the library)
* 1998 Time to Hunt
* 2000 Hot Springs
* 2001 Pale Horse Coming
* 2003 Havana
* 2007 The 47th Samurai
UPDATE: In Havana, we see characters from several of the earlier novels. You may as well treat the entire set as a series.
They apparently mean someone who plays tough guys in scripts—much like their admiration for George Bush as a “tough guy.” Read Glenn Greenwald and shudder at the vacuity of our elite pundits.
In keeping the shaving stick theme, I used the Erasmic shave stick this morning, which The Wife ordered from the UK. I believe that Erasmic is made with a tallow-based soap, and the lather is quite good. I used the Rooney 2 Finest—what wonderfully springy bristles that brush has. It does an exceptional job—as, indeed, did the NEW with a Feather blade.
Finished with Master Lilac Vegetal, which (unlike Pinaud Lilac Vegetal) actually smells like lilacs.
Fully electric car, 0-60 in 4 seconds. Read and envy.
The search for the Senator placing the secret hold is making progress, but a few Senators still are not covered. More detail here.
The only states we still need people in are Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and South Dakota. If you know someone in one of these states who may be willing to make the calls, please send them here.
I have mentioned how much I like rational solutions, even if they prove not to be widely adopted: Esperanto, the Shaw Alphabet, the Dvorak keyboard, and others.
I forgot to include the Heckler und Koch G11 Assault Rifle. It’s a fascinating and, in my opinion, well-designed weapon. It uses caseless ammo (no brass, just bullet and propellant) so nothing is ejected from the weapon—thus it is suitable for both left- and right-handed soldiers. Also, no brass left lying on the ground to provide information to the enemy.
It is designed to be easily learned by novice soldiers, and tests showed that it was successful in that regard. The rifle barrel is quite long, concealed within the housing. Because the caseless ammo is lighter, round for round, than traditional ammo, a soldier can carry many more rounds. Three-round bursts fire at the spectacular rate of 2000 rps, with the recoil occurring after the burst has been fired. (Three-round bursts greatly increase the hit probability.)
At any rate, I think it’s a great weapon, but (so far as I know) it has yet to be adopted.
Some other observations. From here:
The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.
Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.
The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.
A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. U.S. District Judge James Robertson noted that Creekstone sought to use the same test the government relies on and said the government didn’t have the authority to restrict it. – A federal judge ruled in March that such tests must be allowed. The ruling was scheduled to take effect June 1, but the Agriculture Department said Tuesday it would appeal, effectively delaying the testing until the court challenge has played out.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Britain.
Three cases of mad cow disease have been found in the United States. The first, in December 2003 in Washington state, was in a cow that had been imported from Canada. The second, in 2005, was in a cow born in Texas. The third was confirmed last year in an Alabama cow.
The position of the Bush Administration is so wrong-headed that one doesn’t know where to begin. I suppose one starting point would be the GOP’s (obviously hollow) praise for private enterprise, competition, and freedom from government regulation…
From Glenn Greenwald today, as an update to his column tracking how the right-wing noise machine continually stated that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, and how it’s now definitely established that she was.
Very quickly — very quickly, you got this Valerie Plame case. Now, it turns out that [special counsel] Peter (sic: Patrick) Fitzgerald doesn’t — can’t even identify any harm. She wasn’t a covert agent. She wasn’t compromised. . . She wasn’t covert anymore.
Are there any consequences at all for the White House Press Secretary to tell outright lies like that? Does that prompt any media scandals? Why can Tony Snow say with impunity that Plame “wasn’t a covert agent” when their own CIA confirms that she was? Really, how can that be allowed?
Again via Froomkin:
Over the weekend, Andrew J. Bacevich, a prominent anti-war historian, wrote in the wake of the death of his son in Iraq: “The people have spoken, and nothing of substance has changed. The November 2006 midterm elections signified an unambiguous repudiation of the policies that landed us in our present predicament. But half a year later, the war continues, with no end in sight. Indeed, by sending more troops to Iraq (and by extending the tours of those, like my son, who were already there), Bush has signaled his complete disregard for what was once quaintly referred to as ‘the will of the people.’”
Politicians, he wrote, listen only to money.
“Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.”
Via Dan Froomkin:
Andrew Sullivan blogs for the Atlantic that “the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn’t-somehow-torture — ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ — is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death.”
Is DDT a banned substance? Answer: for widespread agricultural use, which produces increased resistance in many insect populations, yes. For vector control (primarily to contain mosquito-borne malaria), no.
For the last decade or so, however, a group of right-wing “sound science” advocates has been implying that the agricultural ban on DDT is really a blanket ban and that millions of poor Africans have died as a result. Why? DDT isn’t patented and is only minimally profitable, so it’s not as if the DDT industry is bothering to push this. So who is?
Short answer: the tobacco industry. Surprise! Turns out that the DDT disinformation campaign was really an effort to discredit the World Health Organization, which was planning a major anti-smoking initiative back in 1998. Discredit WHO on malaria, and you discredit WHO on its anti-smoking activism. And all the while you get to look like you’re standing up for millions of impoversished black Africans. Neat, eh?
John Quiggin has the story. Follow the links for more.
Here’s the complete pitch on using the DDT/malaria canard to discredit the WHO.
Also, see the Wikipedia article for a good discussion of the history.
Kate Hopkins has a sobering post:
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad cow disease) in the United States beef industry is one of those issues that either seem to either promote outrage or indifference, depending upon the individual. I certainly fall into the former category, but not because I believe that we are at immediate risk from the disease. Rather, my outrage comes from the fact that recent testing was so badly managed, that we still don’t know whether Mad Cow is an issue here in the States, and the cattle industry (with an able assist from the Government) seems determined to keep us that way.
After the first discovery of Mad Cow in Washington State, way back in 2003, we were promised that the cattle industry would up it’s testing to determine how prevalent BSE was. The USDA started a program to test half of the nation’s 450,000 “downer” cows, or cows that could not walk.
However, there were many questions surrounding the testing procedures. Only a little over one half of one percent of the cattle population was tested, of which, none of them were of “healthy” cows. They only tested cows that showed possible symptoms. Downer cows and cows that were aggressive or agitated were tested. But BSE doesn’t make every cow show outward signs of the disease. Cattle can have the disease for months or years before showing any outward symptoms.
Oh, and testing was voluntary and not done randomly. The Agriculture Department’s inspector general found serious flaws in the testing process, and there were many questions surrounding their procedures.
And then, just like that, the USDA claimed that we didn’t have a problem with BSE and seriously reduced the scope of the testing program.
Here is the issue — If the testing was flawed, then the statistics we pulled from the testing are invalid, leaving us at the same point we were back in December of 2003 — not knowing if just how prevalent Mad Cow Disease is or is not.
And just yesterday we find out that we have the Bush Administration fighting “to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease“.
Re-read that previous paragraph and see if that makes any sense.
Why does the government wish to prevent a single meatpacking company (Creekstone Farms – see the back story here) from implementing a perfectly logical response to Mad Cow, both in terms of consumer safety as well as the free-market?
The problem with the question just asked is that there is no good answer. Every response to that question will either sound shallow and unreasoned (“Larger meat companies fear they might have to perform the expensive test” or “widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry”) or too conspiratorial (“The Cattle Industry does not want any bad press to affect the lucrative export business”).
But it’s still a question that deserves an answer. Just like the “How percentage of American cattle has BSE?” deserves an answer as well.