Later On

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

Archive for August 2008

Not healthcare, but healthcareless

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Read this Ezra Klein post, which begins:

The recession is a mental disorder, according to John McCain’s economic adviser Phil Gramm, and the ranks of the uninsured are a category error:

Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)”So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime,” Mr. Goodman said. “The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.

“So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.”

Yep, problem solved. If you can’t afford a doctor, but the census bureau stops describing you as uninsured, voila! Your problem is solved! And if you’re getting your wages garnished because you fell ill and had to be rushed to the emergency room but the census bureau puts you in a different category, voila! You problem is solved! And if you have cancer, and you go to the ER, and they refer you to a hospital for scheduled treatment, and the hospital turns you away because you don’t have insurance, I bet they can call John Goodman and, voila! Problem will be solved.

This is what we call a Kinsleyan gaffe: A mistake that reveals the truth. John McCain’s health care plan is, by the admission of his own advisers, not particularly interested in the problem of the uninsured. It doesn’t try and cover them or address their plight, and for a very simple reason: Conservatives in general are not interested in the problem of the uninsured. And why should they be? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 9:22 am

Posted in Election, GOP

What a great shave!

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I started, of course, with MR GLO. Then Cyril R. Salter’s Vetiver shaving cream and the Sabini ebony-handled brush: fantastic fragrance, very fine lather. The razor was a Gillette English open-comb Aristocrat, holding a Treet stainless blade of several uses. After the first pass, I decided the blade was definitely over the hill, so I replaced it with a new Treet Classic (coated carbon steel), and the second and third passes were shave heaven. Then the alum bar—no oil pass needed—and Murrray & Lanham Florida Water as the aftershave. It’s great when the morning shave can be so pleasant.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 9:17 am

Posted in Shaving

“No uninsured”

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Krugman has the links:

There’s been a lot of buzz today over the statement by John Goodman, the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis — which is, despite its anodyne name, a hard-right think tank — that nobody is uninsured in America, because you can go to the emergency room. Goodman has described himself, as recently as July 30 in the Wall Street Journal, as a McCain adviser. But now that there’s a stink, the campaign says that he hasn’t been advising them since “earlier this summer.” (How much earlier?) And the campaign says that it doesn’t agree with his views.

But what Goodman says is what a lot of Republicans, from W to Tom Delay, say.

Josh Marshall notes:

Jon Cohn has continued to follow the saga of John Goodman, the McCain health care policy advisor, who has said that the ability to go to an emergency room is as good as having health insurance.

First, the McCain camp denied that Goodman was an advisor. Then, after being confronted with evidence to the contrary, they went on to issue what amounts to a non-denial denial and a repudiation of Goodman’s emergency room statement. Here’s the statement to Cohn in its entirety …

Mr. Goodman volunteered his advice to the campaign in the past. However, his philosophy on health care–and especially on the urgency of the problems faced by 45 million uninsured American’s–are clearly out of step with John McCain. Earlier this summer the campaign informed Mr. Goodman that his advice was not required and requested that he not identify himself as being associated with the campaign in any way, including as a volunteer. John McCain could not disagree more strongly with Mr. Goodman. John McCain believes that addressing the problem of the nation’s uninsured is one of our most pressing national priorities. That’s why the McCain health plan will, for the first time, bring health coverage within reach of every American.

Count me as highly skeptical. He’s repeatedly been cited as an advisor. And as I said below, I don’t think that citation gets put on a WSJ editorial without the campaign’s consent, tacit or explicit. Also note that according to Jason Roberson, a business reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Goodman told the DMN that “he helped craft Sen. John McCain’s health care policy.”

Clearly, the McCain campaign wants this guy thrown overboard ASAP. But the sketchy nature of the McCain campaign’s denial makes it clear that he was an advisor of some sort. And the citation in the WSJ, again, makes the denial highly dubious. More significantly, as Cohn notes in his reporting, the idea that Goodman’s views are not in line with McCain’s policy proposals is just not true to anyone who is well-versed in health care policy. They’re actually right in line. As Jon notes, the problem is that Goodman stated explicitly what is implicit in McCain’s plan, and that of other health care policy proposals that define the ‘problem’ in the health care debate as people having too much insurance coverage.

And what about Goodman saying he helped write the policy? Was he lying? Let’s have a bit more on that.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Cop pushes reporter into street, arrests him for impeding traffic

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Lovely. More baby steps toward the police state. Video is short and worth watching.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Government

The line between middle class and rich

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Very interesting column by Daniel Gross in Slate. One small snippet:

… I have two pieces of bad news for the over-$250,000 crowd. First, the reversal of some of the temporary Bush tax cuts is probably inevitable, given the Republican fiscal clown show of the past eight years. Second, I regret to inform you that you are indeed rich.

To a large degree, feeling rich or poor is a state of mind, as John McCain recently noted. “Some people are wealthy and rich in their lives and their children and their ability to educate them. Others are poor if they’re billionaires.” But income data can surely tell us something. And they tell us that $250,000 puts you in pretty fancy company. The Census Bureau earlier this week reported that the median household income was $50,223 in 2007—up slightly from the last year but still below the 1999 peak. So a household that earned $250,000 made five times the median. In fact, as this chart shows, only 2.245 million U.S. households, the top 1.9 percent, had income greater than $250,000 in 2007. (About 20 percent of households make more than $100,000.)

In dealing with aggregate nationwide numbers, we should of course take account of the significant differences in the cost of living from state to state. It’s obvious that $250,000 doesn’t go as far in Santa Barbara, Calif., or Manhattan—or in most places where CNBC viewers, employees, and guests live—as it does in Paducah, Ky. As census data show, state median incomes vary from $65,933 in New Jersey to $35,971 in Mississippi. But even in wealthy states, $250,000 ain’t bad—it’s nearly four times the median income in wealthy states like Maryland and Connecticut. And even if you look at the wealthiest metropolitan areas—Washington, D.C. ($83,200); San Francisco ($73,851); Boston ($68,142); and New York ($61,554)—$250,000 a year dwarfs the median income.

But people in Georgetown mansions don’t necessarily compare themselves to fellow Washingtonians in Anacostia. Relative income really works at the neighborhood level. As we know from the work of Cornell economist Robert Frank, people rate their well-being not so much based on how much they make and consume, but on how much they make and consume compared to their neighbors. …

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Daily life

Hagee: God doesn’t enter into, this time

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This time, it’s just weather, not a message from God. ThinkProgress:

Earlier today, ThinkProgress contacted John Hagee Ministries to see if erstwhile John McCain endorser Rev. Hagee saw the Lord’s hand in reports that President Bush might not speak at the Republican National Convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Gustav.

Back in 2006, Hagee declared that “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.” Hagee said that “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”

ThinkProgress asked Rev. Hagee’s spokesperson, Kara Silverman, whether Gustav’s possible impact on the Republican National Convention might be seen as punishment against Republicans for their not having done enough to combat the “homosexual agenda,” or whether this storm could be attributed to some other target of divine wrath.

Ms. Silverman said Hagee had “no comment.”

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

Rethinking educational institutions & their methods

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Interesting post by Matthew Yglesias, which begins:

When progressives talk about the affordability of higher education, they normally focus on the idea of having the federal government give middle class families more money or more generous loan terms with which to pay the tuition bills. And that’s fine, laudable even. But also a process whose logic is a little self-limiting. If college tuition is going to get dramatically more expensive in real terms every year then it’s going to be very difficult over the long run to substantially increase the proportion of the population acquiring higher education no matter how we shift around the responsibility. At some point you need to tackle the root of the problem, which is that the productivity of our institutions of higher education isn’t increasing at all. That means subjecting our existing institutions to more scrutiny than they’re comfortable with is probably going to be necessary, and it also means the revisiting first principles, as Brad DeLong does in an excellent post on the origins of the large lecture course, is a good idea. He observes that large lectures had a compelling logic in the pre-Gutenberg universe:

– Universities have their origins in the medieval need of the powerful to train theologians (for the church) and to train judges (for the emperor and the kings of France, England, Castile, and other kingdoms).

– A manuscript hand-copied book back in 1000 cost roughly the same share of average annual income as $50,000 is today.

– Hence if you have a “normal” college–eight semesters, four courses a semester–and demand that people buy and read one book a course, you are talking the equivalent of $1.6M in book outlay. Can’t be done.

– Hence you assemble the hundred or so people who want to read Boethius’s The Consolation of Philosophy in a room, and have the professor read to them–hence lecture, lecturer, from the Latin lector, reader–while they frantically take notes because they are likely to never see a copy of that book again once they are out in the world administering justice in Wuerzburg or wherever.

Modern practice, by contrast, is a bit puzzling. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:33 pm

Some software reviews

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Lifehacker has two good posts:

And MakeUseOf reviews a document-writing package that handles mathematical expressions with aplomb.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Are the mainstream media crazy? or stupid? or both?

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Matthew Yglesias points out a particular example of a perennial problem: the mainstream press seems to be totally at sea with what is happening:

I wonder oftentimes how important newspaper columnists see their role. For example, Ruth Marcus writes this:

As issues become increasingly complex — voters can’t be expected to parse the technical differences between the candidates’ cap-and-trade emissions plans or the distributional effects of their tax cuts — biography, especially biography laced with conflict and resolution, becomes a proxy for providing assurance that the candidate can be counted on to get it right on the more difficult matters.

I could see Marcus’ column shifting in two plausible directions here. One would be to decide that she ought to try to use her skills as a writer, reporter, and analyst to explain the differences between the candidates’ climate plans or their tax policies. The different distributive impact of the candidates’ tax plans isn’t actually all that hard to explain. Obama’s plan would deliver lower taxes for 80 percent of Americans, but McCain’s plan would be better for the richest fifth of the population (wonder which group Marcus is in) while bringing in lower overall federal revenues. Another direction would be to use her skills as a writer, reporter, and analyst to say something substantive about the candidates’ biographies and whether or not those biographies give her confidence that the candidate can be counted on to get it right on the more difficult matters.

But she doesn’t do either of those things. Instead, she goes meta, dedicating her column to the proposition that “Obama needs to seem more familiar and approachable to voters, yes, but he also needs to convey — to use President Clinton’s famous phrasing — that he feels their pain.” This, even though her column cites numbers that indicate Obama is crushing McCain 49-36 “on the classic poll question about which candidate better understands the problems of people like you.” The Post’s website, meanwhile, gives the column the title “Obama’s Empathy Issue.” But what’s the issue? That he’s viewed as empathetic by way more people than his opponent?

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:24 pm

Drug Policy Alliance on Sen. Biden

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Interesting:

On August 23, Sen. Barak Obama, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president, announced his selection of Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

What follows is a statement on the choice from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network), the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights:

“Sen. Joe Biden is unquestionably one of the chief architects of the modern war on drugs, but is also an unlikely ally in many important fights. He has been at the center of many of our national campaigns; perhaps more so than any other Senator.

“Earlier this year, Sen. Biden surprised many by introducing legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Hillary Clinton, to completely eliminate the 100-to-1 crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, leapfrogging more modest reforms put forth by Senators Kennedy, Hatch, Sessions and others. Like many members of Congress, he voted for the legislation in the 1980s that created the disparity. Unlike most though, Sen. Biden has the guts and humility to admit he was wrong.

“Sen. Biden’s groundbreaking bill has seven co-sponsors, including Sen. Obama. It is a sign of how politically popular drug policy reform has become among voters that a major presidential candidate not only co-sponsors a reform bill but nominates the bill’s sponsor as his running mate.  That Sen. Biden is willing to be on the same ticket with Sen. Obama, who has indicated he understands the war on drugs isn’t working and called for a new paradigm, may be evidence that his views on drug policy are shifting.

“Sen. Biden has been a strong supporter of treatment and prevention. For instance, he helped write the Drug Addiction Treatment Act, which makes it easier for doctors to prescribe buprenorphine and other replacement medication from their offices rather than special treatment clinics. He was one of only five Senators to vote against confirming President Bush’s drug czar, John Walters, who has a history of short-changing treatment.

“On the other hand, Sen. Biden played a major role in enacting the draconian mandatory minimum sentences, in the 1980s, which have filled our prisons with nonviolent drug law offenders. And he sponsored the law creating the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), giving Bill Bennett and other drug war extremists a national stage and increased power. More recently, he passed the RAVE Act, which makes it easier for the government to prosecute bar and nightclub owners for the drug law offenses of their customers.

“The Drug Policy Alliance Network’s relationship with Sen. Biden has certainly been rocky. No matter who wins the White House in November or what positions they take, we’ll keep fighting for drug policies that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. We’ll thank policymakers when they’re right and criticize them when they’re wrong.”

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:16 pm

Missing from the Convention

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Glenn Greenwald makes an interesting point:

… But as competent, well-executed and even dramatic as the Convention has been, at least as striking is what has been missing.

First, there is almost no mention of, let alone focus on, the sheer radicalism and extremism of the last eight years. During that time, our Government has systematically tortured people using sadistic techniques ordered by the White House; illegally and secretly spied on its own citizens; broken more laws than can be counted based on the twisted theory that the President has that power; asserted the authority to arrest and detain even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and hold them for years without charges; abolished habeas corpus; created secret prisons in Eastern Europe and a black hole of lawlessness in Guantanamo; and explicitly abandoned and destroyed virtually every political value the U.S. has long claimed to embrace.

Other than a fleeting reference to such matters by John Kerry in a (surprisingly effective) speech which most networks did not broadcast, one would not know, listening to the Democratic Convention, that any of those things have happened. Even our unprovoked and indescribably destructive attack on Iraq, based on purely false pretenses, has received little attention. Those things simply don’t exist, even as part of the itemized laundry list of Democratic grievances about the Bush administration. The overriding impression one has is that the only things really wrong during the last eight years in this country are that gas prices are high and not everyone has health insurance. Those are obviously very significant problems, but they are garden-variety political issues which don’t begin to capture the extremism that has predominated in this country under GOP rule, and don’t remotely approach conveying the crises on numerous fronts the country faces. …

More at the link above.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

Microsoft OneNote

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I was led to OneNote by James Fallows, and the OneNote 2007 version is extremely nice. Students (and faculty) will probably find it incredibly useful. Detailed review here.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Century-old rule overturned? Not so fast

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Apparently the finding I blogged earlier is not quite so straightforward as it seemed. Check out this corrective post.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Science

Magazine-cover humor

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From the Panopticist:

I acquired the hilarious Publishers Clearing House spoof below [visible in Firefox only if you use IE Tab - LG], which was tacked to a bulletin board in a corner of the office. I pulled it down and made a color copy of it. All the jokes are about the advertising industry, and everything’s very inside-baseball. So it’s likely that this originally appeared in some sort of advertising-industry trade publication. I have no idea where it was published, and I’ve always been curious. If you know, please post in the comments!

In addition to the PCH spoof, I discovered a lengthy set of parody magazine covers on the site. Covers can be seen here.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

Arctic ice continues to vanish

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I blogged earlier about the spurious (and uneducated) claim that the Arctic ice is in good shape. It’s not:

Following last summer’s record minimum ice cover in the Arctic, current observations from ESA’s Envisat satellite suggest that the extent of polar sea-ice may again shrink to a level very close to that of last year. Envisat observations from mid-August depict that a new record of low sea-ice coverage could be reached in a matter of weeks. The animation above is a series of mosaics of the Arctic Ocean created from images acquired between early June and mid-August 2008 from the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument aboard Envisat. The dark grey colour represents ice-free areas while blue represents areas covered with sea ice.

Current ice coverage in the Arctic has already reached the second absolute minimum since observations from space began 30 years ago. Because the extent of ice cover is usually at its lowest about mid-September, this year’s minimum could still fall to set another record low.

Each year, the Arctic Ocean experiences the formation and then melting of vast amounts of ice that floats on the sea surface. An area of ice the size of Europe melts away every summer reaching a minimum in September. Since satellites began surveying the Arctic in 1978, there has been a regular decrease in the area covered by ice in summer – with ice cover shrinking to its lowest level on record and opening up the most direct route through the Northwest Passage in September 2007.

The direct route through the Northwest Passage – highlighted in the image above [at the link - LG] by an orange line – is currently almost free of ice, while the indirect route, called the Amundsen Northwest Passage, has been passable for almost a month. This is the second year in a row that the most direct route through the Northwest Passage has opened up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:55 pm

Nominate your favorite writing blog…

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And, of course, check back later for the winners. Nominations go here.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Writing

(Well deserved) praise for the public library

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Very good article today by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe with much good advice. It begins:

As a young reporter, I practically pitched a tent at the local library. In the 1980s, there was nowhere else to find the books, magazines, and documents needed to properly flesh out a story. Today, you can do the same research at home, pecking on a keyboard.

You’re probably thinking Google, and you’re right. But for deep research, you can’t beat a well-stocked library, with its books and specialized databases. Yet you can access many library resources without stirring from a chair. Using online services that cost nothing, you can scour academic journals, borrow best-selling audiobooks, and download music legally. You can even type messages to a nationwide network of librarians who will help find the answers you seek.

All you need is a broadband Internet connection and a library card. At the library’s website, typing your card number gives you access to the online offerings. Even if your local library isn’t state of the art, it probably belongs to a regional library consortium that provides online service. And there’s always the Boston Public Library, which issues cards to any resident of Massachusetts, and to researchers in other states. Sign up for a card at the library’s website, www.bpl.org.

Say you’re doing serious scholarship, the kind that requires research in academic publications. The Boston Public Library provides online databases that index thousands of them, from Scientific American to the most arcane technical journals. Some publications only offer article summaries, but you can download entire articles from about 33,000 newspapers, magazines, and journals. It’s a godsend for out-of-town researchers. “If you live in Springfield, you don’t have to drive all the way to Boston, and you can do everything straight from home,” said Scot Colford, the Boston library’s Web services manager.

The only thing better than a good library is a good librarian to act as a guide. You can find them online at www.massanswers.org, a service that provides round-the-clock access to trained researchers. The Boston library and nine regional public library groups run the service, in cooperation with librarians as far away as California. Visit the site and type a question. Not only do the researchers provide assistance in real time, when I used the service recently a friendly librarian in Falmouth kept searching for more data after we logged off, and e-mailed me the results.

Still, there’s no good online substitute for the library’s vast supply of books. Not yet, anyway. But libraries are working on it, by offering thousands of “e-books” for reading on a computer screen, or CD and MP3 audiobooks.

“The availability of titles in this space is exploding,” said Steve Potash, chief executive of OverDrive Inc., a Cleveland company that markets digital media to libraries. OverDrive currently offers about 200,000 e-books, audiobooks, videos, and music recordings, and a large part of the catalog is available from public libraries in Boston and other Massachusetts communities. Yet hardly anyone around here has noticed. Potash said that while usage is growing rapidly, no more than 5 percent of Boston library cardholders have ever downloaded one of his company’s e-books or recordings. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Four new Web 2.0 wikis

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It strikes me that a wiki would be a great thing for a scattered but technically astute family: posting family news, photos, plans, etc., on a wiki exclusive to the family. Here’s a site that reviews four possibilities:

1. Wiki: Google Sites (part of Google Apps)
2. Wiki: Socialtext
3. Wiki: Wikispaces
4. Wiki: PB Wiki

Each is described: where it comes from, getting started, good points, and bad points. Worth bookmarking.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:34 pm

Bill Kristol on Bill Clinton’s legacy

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It’s hard to think how Kristol can so often get things so wrong. Let me just quote Steve Benen’s post on Political Animal:

It’s hard to imagine that Bill Kristol, as far gone as he is, actually believes this:

…Clinton was too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief in 1992. [...]

Clinton didn’t, as he now claims, lead us “to a new era of peace.” He inherited a hard-won peace, failed to lead, and part of his legacy is 9/11.

It’s hard to know where to start with such a breathtakingly backwards perspective. Clinton “failed to lead”? He won two foreign wars.

The attacks of Sept. 11, which took place several months after Clinton left office, are part of Clinton’s legacy? I don’t think so.

Condoleezza Rice, writing for the Bush campaign in the January/February [2000] issue of Foreign Affairs said a lack of prioritization was a problem with the Clinton administration’s foreign policy and that “a Republican administration should refocus the country on key priorities: building a military ready to ensure American power, coping with rogue regimes, and managing Beijing and Moscow.”

In other words, Bush came into office determined to reduce the level of attention given to al-Qaeda. And boy did they! Richard Clarke’s strategy for stepped-up efforts against al-Qaeda, developed in the waning days of the Clinton administration, was put on the back burner in favor of this approach: “The book’s opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush’s Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president’s attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled ‘Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US.’ Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: ‘All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.’”

I’d just add that the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush’s national security adviser was scheduled to outline the administration’s national security policy, outlining “the threats and problems of today and the day after, not the world of yesterday.” The crux of the speech was about missile-defense, and made no mention of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or Islamic extremist groups.

This is no doubt a devastating part of one president’s legacy, but I’ll give Kristol a hint: it’s not Clinton’s.

And Matt Yglesias weighs in as well:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:24 pm

Posted in GOP

Terrific scale for kitchen and mail

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I talk about the importance of a good (accurate, digital) scale in the Compendium. Today, Cool Tools reviews a scale better than any I’ve seen before: accurate to 0.1 ounce (and you can change the readout to metric) up to 55 lbs. I like my scale, but it only allows 11 pounds—plenty for kitchen use, but still… And this scale is only $29. Read the review, and then decide.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2008 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Recipes

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