Later On

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

Archive for December 1st, 2006

Feisty kitten, patient dog

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Cats, Video

A certain pattern emerges in the GOP mindset

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Main GOP rule: do NOT investigate, do NOT exercise oversight, do NOT watch businesses.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall offers this reminder:

Although the Post story doesn’t mention it, you might recall that David Safavian, the chief of staff at the GSA earlier in the Bush presidency, was convicted for, among other things, lying to the GSA inspector general about his connections to Jack Abramoff. So of course we need less oversight.

And here’s the story from the WaPo:

The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency’s inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.

Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency’s contracting efforts. In a private staff meeting Aug. 18, Doan said Miller’s effort to examine contracts had “gone too far and is eroding the health of the organization,” according to notes of the meeting written by an unidentified participant from the Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The GSA is responsible for managing about $56 billion worth of contracts each year for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and other agencies.

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

“There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators,” Doan said, according to the notes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:23 pm

Another great cabaret singer: Wesla Whitfield

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Formerly Weslia Whitfield, she seems to have simplified her name. Her Web site includes a discography and the bio below. Amazon carries her CDs, and you can probably also find them at online secondhand CD sites. She’s worth a listen.

Wesla Whitfield is a remarkable singer, with a deep love for that rich storehouse of musical treasures often identified as The Great American Popular Songbook. Wesla has been developing her skills and learning her demanding craft for a number of years – by her own estimate, it’s been ever since she “knew at age two-and-a-half that I would grow up to be a singer.”

Her sound and approach would seem to place her somewhere in the intriguing area that borders on both jazz and that aspect of pop music which draws its material largely from the great standards and neglected gems of such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart.

Wesla Whitfield was born in Santa Maria, California. The youngest of three girls, she experienced routine childhood music training (piano lessons at age 7, sang in church, studied voice — “classical, of course” — at about age 14). She did discover her mother’s extensive sheet music collection at an early age, “and used it to sight-read.” Serious radio and record listening provided some important influences including Rosemary Clooney, the Hi-Los, Peggy Lee, Frankie Laine and Dean Martin. Among her earliest professional experiences was a mid-70s stint with the San Francisco Opera as a salaried chorister.

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 2:39 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music

Progress report on braised beef

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I put the braised beef thing in the 200 degree oven at 8:30 last night, and by 8:30 this morning the beef shanks were done—the meat falling off the bone. I took out those bones and treated myself to the marrow—and I do need to get a marrow spoon. Why is marrow so very sweet? It can’t have sugar in it, can it?

The meat on the tailbones was still adhering, though, so I put the Dutch oven (covered, of course) back into the oven until just now (noon). Now that meat is falling off the bone as well. (Rather complex, those large bones.)

So now all the bones are out and in the trash, and the uncovered Dutch oven is in the fridge for the fat to solidify. It tastes extremely yummy.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 12:05 pm

Pelosi gets it right

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The Carpetbagger gives full credit to Nancy Pelosi for standing by her guns and getting it right:

I largely stayed away from the squabble over who should be the next chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and for the most part, believed the coverage, and the breathless suggestions about how this was awful for Nancy Pelosi, was wildly overstated.

That said, it had become an annoying distraction that needed to be resolved with a strong selection. Today, fortunately, Pelosi did the right thing.

House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has chosen a Border Patrol agent-turned-congressman to lead the House intelligence committee, ending weeks of Democratic debate about who will oversee the nation’s spy agencies.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, takes over the key post next year, as his party tries to intensify oversight of the intelligence community. Critics say Republicans failed to do that, leading to faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq and other stumbles.

“When tough questions are required — whether they relate to intelligence shortcomings before the 9/11 attacks or the war in Iraq, or to the quality of intelligence on Iran or North Korea — he does not hesitate to ask them,” Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement announcing her choice of Reyes.

Reyes brings more to the table than just being a compromise pick over Reps. Jane Harman and Alcee Hastings. In addition to being a former Border Patrol agent, Reyes is a decorated Vietnam vet.

Moreover, Reyes is committed to getting more information from the Bush administration about its classified, and often dubious, programs. Earlier this month, he told the AP, “We [on the Intelligence Committee] haven’t required or haven’t had the administration give us the details, evaluation or plan of how these classic programs are functioning.”

And then there’s the judgment Reyes has shown on Iraq.

While Harman made the wrong call, Reyes got it right. He not only voted against the war resolution, he delivered a very encouraging speech on the House floor in 2002.

“Every one of us understands that we are a nation of laws, that we lead the world by example, that we have a great respect for process and to protect the rights of everyone. That is why, Mr. Speaker, I reluctantly today rise in opposition against this resolution, because I think that the president has not made a case as to why Iraq and why attack Saddam Hussein. As a member of the Intelligence Committee I have asked consistently the questions to those that have come before us with information, I’ve said — I’ve asked the question of what is the connection between 9/11 and Iraq and Saddam Hussein? None. What is the connection between Iraq and Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? Very little, if any.”

That was four years ago, when “serious” people on the House Intelligence Committee weren’t supposed to be saying such things.

In other words, we should all be pleased to see Reyes get this important position. And yes, that also means giving credit to Pelosi.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 11:13 am

House Conservatives are completely, totally irresponsible

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They simply will not do the job for which they ran and for which they were elected:

Next week, the 109th Congress returns for a final lame-duck session. “In a blend of pique and laziness,” conservatives are choosing to simply ignore their responsibility to complete nine overdue spending bills. Instead, they plan to pass an emergency stop-gap bill — called a “continuing resolution” — that will result in millions in funding cuts to vital programs. CongressDaily explains:

– The Social Security Administration has told congressional staff it might have to furlough every employee.

– HUD funding would not keep pace with demand for low-income housing vouchers, meaning “literally thousands of people would be out in the street,” one source said.

School breakfast and lunch programs would face a $1 billion shortfall, cutting off 1.2 million participants.

– The Veterans Health Administration would have to absorb the $3 billion increase to meet this year’s requirements.

But while spending bills aren’t on the agenda, a “fetal pain abortion bill” — which has no chance of passing and is described as a “last bid for loyalty” from the “base of social conservatives” — is:

The bill, by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., defines a 20-week-old fetus as a “pain-capable unborn child” a highly controversial threshold among scientists. It also directs the Health and Human Service Department to develop a brochure stating “that there is substantial evidence that the process of being killed in an abortion will cause the unborn child pain.”

A report last year by the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed nearly 2,000 studies on fetal pain and concluded that “legislative proposals to allow fetal pain relief during abortion are not justified by scientific evidence.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 11:06 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Obit omissions for (the other) Friedman and Rehnquist

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This is quite an interesting column by Morton Mintz:

When the famous die, news reports and commentary, no matter the length, do not always recall some of the most memorable things they’d said or advocated. Milton Friedman and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist are cases in point.

Consider what the famed economist said in a January 1970 article in The New York Times Magazine: A governmental system cannot be devised “which will not be taken over by vested economic “interests and exploited for the preservation and enhancement of their own wealth.” It’s hard to imagine a more accurate, more concise description of what the Bush administration has been doing for six years now: appointing to top regulatory posts corporate lobbyists and executives who had dedicated their careers to enfeebling and destroying the very safety and health regulations that on taking office they solemnly swear––perjuriously?––to enforce.

Mr. Friedman of course abhorred regulation, going so far as to insist that competition alone can be relied upon to protect the public. In a January 1973 Newsweek column, for example, he cited serious flaws in federal regulation of food and drugs as a basis for arguing that it should be abolished and replaced by “consumer sovereignty.” It does not detract from Mr. Friedman’s many brilliant insights and achievements to call this advice foolish and dangerous. A quick example: If all fast-food chains compete by using trans-fats to improve flavor, is competition protecting consumers ignorant of their terrible effects?

In any case, the advice having been neglected in articles recording his passing, it may well be prudent to examine it here before market-is-God, free-enterprise ideologues at corporate-funded think-tanks begin to propagate it anew as some kind of Holy Writ.

By the time Mr. Friedman had written the Newsweek column, it was anything but news that from the time our country was founded, the American people had relied on “consumer sovereignty” for protection. And it was also anything but news that after the industrial revolution in the late Nineteenth Century they had learned the hard way—from, for example, patent medicines that claimed to be cures for everything but that cured nothing—that their health, safety and pocketbooks demanded passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 (and of later laws such as those to protect consumers’ and workers’ safety and health and to guard against false and misleading advertising).

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 11:02 am

Posted in Business, Government

Tom Friedman: “frivolous, dishonest, and morally bankrupt”

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Glenn Greenwald calls it like he sees it. I think that this careful review and evaluation of the record and writings of the pundits who presume to lead public discourse and to speak for the public is vitally important. Greenwald is one of the stronger voices in the awakening to how badly we have been served. Read this, for example:

Someone e-mailed me several days ago to say that while it is fruitful and necessary to chronicle the dishonest historical record of pundits and political figures when it comes to Iraq, I deserve to be chastised for failing to devote enough attention to the person who, by far, was most responsible for selling the war to centrists and liberal “hawks” and thereby creating “consensus” support for Bush’s war — Tom Friedman, from his New York Times perch as “the nation’s preeminent centrist foreign policy genius.”

That criticism immediately struck me as valid, and so I spent the day yesterday and today reading every Tom Friedman column beginning in mid-2002 through the present regarding Iraq. That body of work is extraordinary. Friedman is truly one of the most frivolous, dishonest, and morally bankrupt public intellectuals burdening this country. Yet he is, of course, still today, one of the most universally revered figures around, despite — amazingly enough, I think it’s more accurate to say “because of” — his advocacy of the invasion of Iraq, likely the greatest strategic foreign policy disaster in America’s history.

This matters so much not simply in order to expose Friedman’s intellectual and moral emptiness, though that is a goal worthy and important in its own right. Way beyond that, the specific strain of intellectual bankruptcy that drove Friedman’s strident support for the invasion of Iraq continues to be what drives not only Tom Friedman today, but virtually all of our elite opinion-makers and “centrist” and “responsible” political figures currently attempting to “solve” the Iraq disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 10:49 am

An analysis of the Hadley memo

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Laura Rozen analyzes the Hadley memo that was leaked earlier this week:

This Wednesday, the day that President Bush was to meet with Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki in Jordan, The New York Times published a classified memo prepared by National Security advisor Stephen Hadley and his staff, drawn from Hadley’s recent trip to Iraq, that revealed grave doubts about Maliki’s ability and willingness to stem the rising violence in Iraq. The memo reveals an administration desperately trying to brainstorm ways to prop up Maliki as head of a reconstituted unity government, but it also hints at another key aspect of recent internal White House deliberations about how to proceed in Iraq: that the Hadley recommendation is not the only option under active consideration by the administration. Indeed, if it becomes untenable to support a unity government — as the memo’s authors make clear they believe may happen –– there are administration elements advocating a complete abandonment of unity in favor of the Iraqi Shia.

Over Veterans’ Day weekend, the entire national security team met for a White House-ordered review of Iraq strategy, as first reported by the Washington Post‘s Robin Wright. According to my sources, the memo, which was dated November 8 (two days before Veterans’ Day), was intended as a starting point for those discussions. While it does not reflect all the positions within the administration over how to proceed in Iraq, the Hadley memo offers clues to the wider debate. Herewith a readers’ guide to the plans that are emerging as dominant:

Option 1: Status quo plus. This option, as outlined in the Hadley memo, would be a last-ditch effort to prop up a reconstituted Iraqi government of national reconciliation with 20,000 additional U.S. troops to secure Baghdad. “The immediate obvious task is securing Baghdad,” says military analyst Tom Donnelly of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It would be better to introduce more troops [to do so], but if you had to you could take them from [western Iraq’s] Anbar [province]. … I think if we don’t produce positive results in Baghdad in six months, the war is over.”

The plan would be to try to forge a new and more effective Iraqi government coalition that would include the Sunnis, Kurds, and the Shias, while engineering a tilt within Maliki’s Shia coalition away from Sadr and toward fellow Shiite leader Ayatollah Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its attendant Badr Brigade militia. (Hakim is scheduled to arrive in Washington next week on an official visit.) The Mahdi Army loyal to radical young Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr would continue to be the enemy. Washington would also engage Saudi Arabia and regional neighbors to encourage Sunni support for Maliki, and Syria and Iran would be pressured to limit their support for combatants.

“Does anyone think at this stage we have ability to build a political base among moderates?” asks Boston University-based military analyst Andrew Bacevich, reflecting on the memo. “We have been trying to do [much of what is in the Hadley memo] for the last three years. Along those lines, it seems to be a policy of ‘come on, try harder. Yes, it hasn’t worked for three years, but come on, try harder.'”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 10:20 am

Home Swappers Newsletter

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I just found this newsletter, sent every two months. If you’re at all interested in the possibility of a home-swap vacation, give it a go. It’s free. Joining the organization itself, Home Base Holidays, requires payment, which allows you to advertise, respond to ads, etc. The organisation is based in the UK.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 9:58 am

Posted in Daily life

Condi continues to lie

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But no faster than she can talk. Now she has stated that the Iraqis do not think it’s a civil war there. A lie. What is with this woman, and why does she so readily lie?

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 9:27 am

Love books?

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Love lists and rankings? Then take a look at TitleZ, a site specifically for book geeks and list fans. They say they provide:

  • Data: Instantly retrieve historic and current sales rankings from Amazon and create printable reports with 7-, 30-, 90-day and lifetime averages
  • Trends: Easily see how topics or titles perform over time; measure the competition; understand what’s hot
  • Insight: Improve decision-making; know what to publish and when

As you can tell, it’s aimed at those in the book-publishing profession, but us hangers-on might find it of interest as well. For the time being, it’s free.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 9:09 am

Posted in Books, Business

Soy tsuris

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Soy is not a panacea—but we all knew that. Still, feeding soy to infants is a bad idea on the face of it, though soy-based baby formula is available. Via Megnut, here is a list of links of warnings.

Some soy is good, too much is bad—like so many other things. I do avoid soybean oil, though: too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3. Same for many seed oils. I stick with olive oil for the most part, a little sesame oil for stir-fry, and canola oil on the rare times I have popcorn. In the meantime, I take 4 g. of wild-salmon oil per day.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:57 am

Posted in Food, Health

Why does George Bush trust his gut?

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Doesn’t he know his gut is full of shit?

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:40 am

Why Bush is determined to remain in Iraq

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Not him, personally, of course, nor any members of his family. But I got to thinking that the reason he is so insistent on keep our troops there, being killed daily in the midst of a civil war, is that he wants the withdrawal to be on the next president’s head. Then Bush can always tell himself, “I didn’t retreat.” And the GOP can always say, “We lost in Iraq because the [next president] withdrew. It wasn’t Bush’s fault: he was perfectly willing to keep us there and to keep fighting.” And if the Dems manage to pass legislation and arrange the budget so we withdraw, Bush and the GOP will say that they are responsible for our losing.

The GOP is the part that never, ever, accepts responsibility.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:15 am

Shaving cream today

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Geo F. Trumper’s Sandalwood, to be precise, using the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super, then a Merkur Futur with Feather blade. Quick, pleasant, and finished with Pinaud’s Lilac Vegetal aftershave.

And the braised beef oxtails and shank smell absolutely wonderful. I’ll remove them to the refrigerator soon, to sit with lid off until fat layer solidifies, then add the mushrooms and pearled barley and cook another hour on the stovetop.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2006 at 8:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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