Later On

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

Archive for November 2009

Nice walk

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To the clock tower and back, 51 min 50 sec: 3.0 mph. Slight improvement.

I think I would have cut the walk short, but I wanted to be able to click “Yes” to tomorrow’s email from HabitForge.com.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

Interesting finding from the UK inquiry

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From the Center for American Progress in an email:

Former British ambassador to the United Nations Jeremy Greenstock "told an inquiry Friday that attempts to win international authorization for the invasion [of Iraq] were deliberately undermined by the United States." The inquiry, which began last Tuesday at the behest of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is to be the "the most thorough investigation yet into the decisions that led up to the [Iraq] war and governed Britain’s involvement." Greenstock — who later served as envoy to Iraq — said that while he was trying to gain U.N. approval for the war, the Bush administration was "decidedly unhelpful to what I was trying to do." "The United States was little troubled by Britain’s hopes of forming an international consensus to justify military action," Greenstock testified. Echoing earlier testimony from former UK Ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer, Greenstock "said that serious preparations for the war had begun in early 2002" and Blair and President Bush had agreed "in blood" to the military adventure in April of that year, a year before Parliament approved Britain’s involvement. He added that the U.S. was unwilling even to consider delaying the Iraq invasion until October 2003, which would have allowed U.N. weapons inspectors more time to search for evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Greenstock’s testimony is the latest in a series of disturbing issues brought to light by the hearings. The UK’s intelligence chief at the time told the inquiry that his country’s intelligence services concluded 10 days prior to the beginning of the war that Saddam Hussein did not have access to WMD, contradicting what British and American officials said publicly. Testimony from the former British attorney general Lord Goldsmith also showed that Blair was informed in a July 2002 letter that the Iraq War would be illegal under international law. Blair responded by banning Goldsmith from future cabinet meetings and ignoring his verdict on the legality of the war.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 11:18 am

More deception on healthcare reform, this time from a Harvard Medical School dean

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DougJ at Balloon Juice:

One thing that’s quite striking in the health care debate is the lack of detailed analysis opponents are presenting in their arguments. Compare Ron Brownstein’s positive analysis of the Senate bill for example, with David Broder’s meandering, senility ramblings against it. Or this MIT economist’s favorable analysis of its impact on premiums with Krauthammer’s latest vague, error riddled column on the subject.

The anti-health care reform piece that I found most disappointing was this one, by Jeffrey S. Flier, a dean at the Harvard Medical School.

In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care’s dysfunctional delivery system. The system we have now promotes fragmented care and makes it more difficult than it should be to assess outcomes and patient satisfaction. The true costs of health care are disguised, competition based on price and quality are almost impossible, and patients lose their ability to be the ultimate judges of value.

Remarkably, he doesn’t name even one of these health-care leaders or economists! And it turns out this guy also produced some kind of glibertarian nonsense opposing health care in 1994.

I understand why the WSJ published the piece: they’re right-wing sociopaths with no journalistic integrity. But I wonder if the Harvard Medical School is happy to have this kind of fact-free garbage go out under their name. And It’s remarkable the extent to which wingers are happy to abuse their positions to forward the political agenda they favor.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:50 am

Looks like Blair is in trouble

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In the UK, they seem to take the law quite seriously, even when it affects the rich and powerful. How unlike the US! Zaid Jilani writes at ThinkProgress:

Last Tuesday, the United Kingdom began “the most thorough investigation yet into the decisions that led up to the war and governed Britain’s involvement” through a series of Iraq war hearings in which numerous high-level British officials — including key war supporter and Bush ally ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair — are expected to testify about their role in bringing their country to war.

The hearings, chaired by privy council member John Chilcot, have brought to light a number of explosive facts which unveil the level of chicanery practiced by the Blair government in taking the country to war over the opposition of the vast majority of British citizens:

Blair was told prior to the war by his intelligence services that Iraq did not have access to weapons of mass destruction. Sir William Ehrman, the director-general of defense and intelligence at the Foreign Office at the time, told the inquiry that British intelligence services had concluded ten days prior to the beginning of the war that Saddam Hussein did not have access to weapons of mass destruction and that he also likely lacked warheads capable of delivering such weapons. The Blair government ignored the advice of their intelligence services and supported the war anyway. [11/25/09]

The Blair government had decided to support the US-led war up to a year before the invasion. Sir Christopher Meyer, the ambassador to Washington at the time, told the inquiry that the Blair government had decided that it was “a complete waste of time” to resist Bush’s efforts to go to war and had instead opted to offer advice about how to invade. Meyer also told the inquiry that former US national security adviser Condoleezza Rice had called the Meyer on the day of the 9/11 attacks and told him, “We are just looking to see whether there could possibly be a connection with Saddam Hussein.” Meyer also reiterated that both the American and British government were constantly looking for a “smoking gun” to justify the upcoming war. [11/26/09, 11/26/09]

Blair was told the Iraq War would be illegal under international law by his attorney general. In a July 2002 letter, former British attorney general Lord Goldsmith warned Blair that the UN charter only permits military intervention “on the basis of self-defence” or for “humanitarian intervention” and that neither case applied to Iraq. Blair responded by banning Goldsmith from future cabinet meetings and ignoring his verdict on the legality of the war. [11/29/09]

The Iraq war Inquiry will continue through 2010 and is expected to release its conclusions in a formal report at the end of that year. Although few expect there to ever be prosecutions as a result of the deception or illegality of the invasion of Iraq — despite the fact, as one of the last surviving judges of the Nuremburg Tribunal has said, the leaders who launched the invasion should be held accountable — there are other important reasons to investigate the drive to war. As Chilcot said at the opening of the hearings Tuesday, the inquiry was set up not only to “identify the lessons that should be learned from the UK’s involvement in Iraq,” but also to “help future governments who may face future situations.”

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:45 am

Interview with Carlene Bauer: writer, former evangelical

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More Intelligent Life does the interview:

There is such ease in the language of Not That Kind of Girl, Carlene Bauer’s memoir, that readers may be lulled into underestimating the alchemy that is taking place. Bauer has managed to transform the raw, melancholic, alienating challenges of religious scepticism and literary ambition into a readable story of one woman’s messy struggle for authenticity.

Like all coming-of-age tales, this one mixes the painfully familiar ("we were exhilarated by our loneliness because it meant we were being tested, or destined, or chosen") with the exotic ("my heart would flutter and whirr like a hummingbird until I said it: God"). Bauer describes an awkward youth of evangelical Christian schools and camps against a soundtrack of unbelievers (the Smiths, the Cure, the Replacements, the Pixies). Having looked to such models as Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf for a sense of how to live, Bauer moves to New York City and waits patiently for her life to start. She yearns for a way to be both coolly intellectual and cosily devotional—to both love God and love the world. For a while she quietly keeps both her virginity and her piety. Ultimately (but not until time) she loses both.

This is a gentle, insightful memoir—one that balances painful introspection with quite a bit of clever cultural analysis. It is with deceptive breeziness that Bauer flits from describing her adolescent body ("ovoid and white like a peeled potato, rooted and thick") to the essence of Walker Percy and Graham Greene ("These two men wrote for God by writing against God… They hated the world, hated its trouble, but they were not wishing for the next one to come. You had to love being in the world to write, they knew.").

Here Carlene Bauer talks to us about what inspired her to write this book, what makes her cringe when looking back, and what life feels like when you take God away.

More Intelligent Life: Given your cerebral preoccupations with faith and restraint, what drew you to New York City, that hotbed of iniquity?

Carlene Bauer:  While the message from churches I grew up in was that the city was to be avoided—unless you were ministering to the poor—the message I got from my parents was that the city was a place that kids needed to experience. My dad used to tell this story about how in the early seventies he and my mother took a carriage ride in Central Park and how they narrowly missed having their heads split open by a bottle some random passer-by chucked at their ride. Whenever my father told this story, he told it with clear relish at the high craziness of the city. As a kid [the story] made me think, well, you’ll go into the city and you might almost bleed to death, but hey! You’ll get a story out of it. It’s comedy, not tragedy, whatever almost clocks you there.

Also, I seemed to have a predilection for the urban from birth. Apartments over storefronts on main streets—not a feature of the suburban cul-de-sacs I was raised in—were fascinating to me. Who lived in those lighted windows? I wanted a lighted window. I thought if you had a lighted window, rather than a whole big house, you were living an anonymous, autonomous life. Finally, I wanted to write. Once I figured out that New York was where you lived if you wanted to write, I decided that’s where I would live when I grew up.

MIL: What inspired this compulsion to write? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:40 am

The need for jobs—and Congress & the Obama Administration

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Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

f you’re looking for a job right now, your prospects are terrible. There are six times as many Americans seeking work as there are job openings, and the average duration of unemployment — the time the average job-seeker has spent looking for work — is more than six months, the highest level since the 1930s.

You might think, then, that doing something about the employment situation would be a top policy priority. But now that total financial collapse has been averted, all the urgency seems to have vanished from policy discussion, replaced by a strange passivity. There’s a pervasive sense in Washington that nothing more can or should be done, that we should just wait for the economic recovery to trickle down to workers.

This is wrong and unacceptable.

Yes, the recession is probably over in a technical sense, but that doesn’t mean that full employment is just around the corner. Historically, financial crises have typically been followed not just by severe recessions but by anemic recoveries; it’s usually years before unemployment declines to anything like normal levels. And all indications are that the aftermath of the latest financial crisis is following the usual script. The Federal Reserve, for example, expects unemployment, currently 10.2 percent, to stay above 8 percent — a number that would have been considered disastrous not long ago — until sometime in 2012.

And the damage from sustained high unemployment will last much longer. The long-term unemployed can lose their skills, and even when the economy recovers they tend to have difficulty finding a job, because they’re regarded as poor risks by potential employers. Meanwhile, students who graduate into a poor labor market start their careers at a huge disadvantage — and pay a price in lower earnings for their whole working lives. Failure to act on unemployment isn’t just cruel, it’s short-sighted.

So it’s time for an emergency jobs program.

How is a jobs program different from a second stimulus? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:35 am

Authoritarianism and Polarization

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Interesting post by Paul Rosenberg, which begins:

This week, I’m going to be participating in a discussion of Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics at TPM Cafe.  I previously highlighted the following chart from the book in a pair of diaries, "Health Care, Racism & The Authoritarian Divide-Part 1" and "Hissy Fits In Historical Context–Health Care, Racism & The Authoritarian Divide-Part 2":

Bush-Vote-Physical-Discipline

That chart certainly caught my attention, in no uncertain terms.

In the book, the authors, Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler, explain:

Of course, we do not argue that preferences for disciplining children are causally related to individuals’ vote choice. It is absurd to think that spanking children led people to vote Republican in 2004. Indeed, if favoring corporal punishment actually caused people to vote for the more conservative candidate, liberals never would have been elected president. It is only very recently that alternatives to spanking children have been widely employed. Instead, support for spanking likely emanates from a particular worldview which that has a range of ramifications, including political ones.

By worldview, we mean a set of connected beliefs animated by some fundamental, underlying value orientation that is itself, connected to a visceral sense of right and wrong. Politics cleaved by a worldview has the potential for fiery disagreements because considerations about the correct way to lead a good life lie in the balance. Specifically, we demonstrate that American public opinion is increasingly divided along a cleavage that things like parenting styles and "manliness" map onto. We will call that cleavage authoritarianism.

Although authoritarianism in general has long been associated with the right, the authors refine their definition and their argument to such an extent that they capture a distinct phenomena that’s noticeably different from the broader race- and gender-based culture wars first set in motion in the 60s.  They focus on using the NES (National Election Study) four-item authoritarianism index introduced in 1992.  It asks people to choose between desired pairs of attributes in children:

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Politics

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