Later On

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

Archive for February 8th, 2007

NIE on the United States

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I earlier blogged about Chalmers Johnson, linking to an interesting and important article by him. He is the author of this NIE on the US, from Harper’s:

A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States [1]

By Chalmers Johnson [2]

KEY JUDGMENTS

The United States remains, for the moment, the most powerful nation in history, but it faces a violent contradiction between its long republican tradition and its more recent imperial ambitions.

The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire.

Several factors, however, indicate that this course will be a brief one, which most likely will end in economic and political collapse.

Military Keynesianism: The imperial project is expensive. The flow of the nation’s wealth—from taxpayers and (increasingly) foreign lenders through the government to military contractors and (decreasingly) back to the taxpayers—has created a form of “military Keynesianism,” in which the domestic economy requires sustained military ambition in order to avoid recession or collapse.

The Unitary Presidency: Sustained military ambition is inherently anti-republican, in that it tends to concentrate power in the executive branch. In the United States, President George W. Bush subscribes to an esoteric interpretation of the Constitution called the theory of the unitary executive, which holds, in effect, that the president has the authority to ignore the separation of powers written into the Constitution, creating a feedback loop in which permanent war and the unitary presidency are mutually reinforcing.

Failed Checks on Executive Ambition: The U.S. legislature and judiciary appear to be incapable of restraining the president and therefore restraining imperial ambition. Direct opposition from the people, in the form of democratic action or violent uprising, is unlikely because the television and print media have by and large found it unprofitable to inform the public about the actions of the country’s leaders. Nor is it likely that the military will attempt to take over the executive branch by way of a coup.

Bankruptcy and Collapse: Confronted by the limits of its own vast but nonetheless finite financial resources and lacking the political check on spending provided by a functioning democracy, the United States will within a very short time face financial or even political collapse at home and a significantly diminished ability to project force abroad.

DISCUSSION

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 5:44 pm

US wants to imprison people secretly

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From AP:

Nearly 60 countries signed a treaty on Tuesday that bans governments from holding people in secret detention, but the United States and some of its key European allies were not among them.

The signing capped a quarter-century of efforts by families of people who have vanished at the hands of governments.

“Our American friends were naturally invited to this ceremony; unfortunately, they weren’t able to join us,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told reporters after 57 nations signed the treaty at his ministry in Paris.

“That won’t prevent them from one day signing on in New York at U.N. headquarters — and I hope they will.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined comment except to say that the United States helped draft the treaty, but that the final text “did not meet our expectations.”

McCormack declined comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the administration’s policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which Bush acknowledged in September.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 5:33 pm

National Healthcare: they all have it but US

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Nations (except for US) view national healthcare as a priority:

Surprisingly, many people still don’t know that America is the only country in the developed world without universal government-supported healthcare. We alone allow entire classes of citizens to simply fall through the cracks, for whom waiting for surgery is a non-issue and a single bad turn can wipe out the life savings, eat the house and leave you bankrupt. An astonishing number of Americans either cannot afford coverage or due to actuarial decisions by the insurance biz cannot find it at any cost.

In that light this rundown of western healthcare systems by a writer at Daily Kos is extremely interesting. Take the example of Taiwan:

Taiwan enacted its single-payer national health insurance program in 1995; in all estimates, it has been very successful. Taiwan enacted the program (from multiple insurance companies, like the United States) to the single-payer system with no measurable increase in costs, while insuring more than 8 million Taiwanese citizens who previously lacked insurance. While utilization did increase, its costs were largely offset by the enormous savings under single-payer. Taiwan also did not report any increase in queues or waits for services.

Huh. Taiwan must have some unique socioeconomic factors that prevented those rightwing doomsday scenarios from materializing, right? Actually I doubt it. If every developed country on Earth can provide a similar level of care to each citizen and for less money than we pay then odds are very good that we can do it too. Our problems simply aren’t that unique.

This blurb also deserves a mention:

The most highly-privatized system in Europe is probably Switzerland. Even there, private insurance companies are required by law to be nonprofit, their premiums, benefit structures and plans are set by the government, they are required to community-rate (i.e., they are not allowed to screen out the sick and deny them coverage, the fundamental way that U.S. insurance companies make money), and – get this – if one of them happens to enroll a healthier population and make more money, they have to give it away to the companies that made less.Can you imagine U.S. health insurance companies being any more likely to go for that than for single-payer? They might as well go out of business! The idea that a system like that is going to make a proposal more “politically feasible” is totally ridiculous.

Democratic candidates should stop trying to get insurers on board with their healthcare plans. Really, just stop. It won’t happen. Smart politicians will follow Andy Stern’s lead and find potent allies whose business interests perfectly align with what we already want to do. Insurers will counterweight with fierce support for the Republicans, which for political reasons is exactly where I want them to be. Let the GOP define itself in favor of keeping huge sections of America just one emergency room visit away from bankruptcy, and we’ll see how many seats they pick up in ‘08.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

The Pelosi non-news about the use of the plane

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From the House Sergeant at Arms:

For Immediate Release

February 8, 2007

As the Sergeant at Arms, I have the responsibility to ensure the security of the members of the House of Representatives, to include the Speaker of the House. The Speaker requires additional precautions due to her responsibilities as the leader of the House and her Constitutional position as second in the line of succession to the presidency.

In a post 9/11 threat environment, it is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the Speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The practice began with Speaker Hastert and I have recommended that it continue with Speaker Pelosi. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable. This will ensure communications capabilities and also enhance security. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the Speaker. I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Still love my grocery bags

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Stopped by Whole Foods for some quick shopping after leaving The Wife at the airport for her trip to Tucson (gem and rock show). Man, I love those bags.

In keeping with trying to find things I’ve not eaten, I got a nice piece of burdock root. I’ll have it tomorrow in the bean soup I’m making (with Black Valentine beans). I believe that it’s supposed to be good for something. I was also going to include an habañero pepper, but they had none, so I got a handful of Serrano peppers.

And I got 4.5 lbs of oat groats, 99¢ a lb. That came out to 10 cups, and since I use 1/3 cup each day for breakfast, I have a month’s worth of breakfast for less than 15¢ per breakfast. Can’t beat that, though that doesn’t include the salt, pepper, splash of pepper sauce, and 0.5 oz of California walnuts added to the cooked groats.

And the library had four books that I had requested that they order, all on the reserve shelf for me. 🙂

What a great day.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Exercise that burns more fat with less effort

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Interval training may be the key:

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have found an easier way of getting off those extra kilos you may have gained over the holiday season. The team has trialled a different way of exercising, which burns more fat than regular continuous exercise.

“The group which did around eight seconds of sprinting on a bike followed by 12 seconds of exercising lightly, for twenty minutes, lost three times as much fat as other women, who exercised at a continuous, regular pace for 40 minutes,” said the team leader, Associate Professor Steve Boutcher, Head of the Health and Exercise Science program, in the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW.

The study involved a group of 45 overweight women who cycled three times a week over a 15-week period. Professor Boutcher said this would be applicable to other types of exercise such as swimming, walking, and rowing. The results have been presented at recent meetings of the Heart Foundation and American College of Sports Medicine.

“We think the reason that it works is because it produces a unique metabolic response,” said Professor Boutcher. “Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under the skin and within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation drives the greater weight loss.”

The women lost most weight off the legs and buttocks. “This maybe unique to this type of exercise,” said Professor Boutcher. “We know it is very difficult to ‘spot reduce’ troublesome fat areas. When you do regular exercise, you tend to lose fat everywhere and you tend to look emaciated. Our results are unusual but were consistent across the women who performed the sprinting exercise.”

“Overall, any type of exercise is good. You just have to work out your objectives, whether it is to increase muscle, lose fat, or enhance other aspects of your life such as improving the quality of your sleep,” said Professor Boutcher.

And there is a positive message for some people who are overweight: “A lot of people are fat despite having a good diet and a high level of physical activity,” he said. “But being ‘fat and fit’ is much healthier than being lean and unfit. Those overweight people who don’t have excessive fat around their abdomen and don’t have low grade inflammation typically stay healthy and don’t become diabetics. The message that fat is awful is an exaggerated one.”

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 9:47 am

More Vitamin D news

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Vitamin D seems to be involved in all sorts of things—I hope you’re taking a good supplement of 1400 IU vitamin D per day. (Use the search function to find previous Vitamin D posts.) Latest:

Two new vitamin D studies using a sophisticated form of analysis called meta-analysis, in which data from multiple reports is combined, have revealed new prescriptions for possibly preventing up to half of the cases of breast cancer and two-thirds of the cases of colorectal cancer in the United States. The work was conducted by a core team of cancer prevention specialists at the Moores Cancer Center at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and colleagues from both coasts.

The breast cancer study, published online in the current issue of the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, pooled dose-response data from two earlier studies – the Harvard Nurses Health Study and the St. George’s Hospital Study – and found that individuals with the highest blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or 25(OH)D, had the lowest risk of breast cancer.

The researchers divided the 1,760 records of individuals in the two studies into five equal groups, from the lowest blood levels of 25(OH)D (less than 13 nanograms per milliliter, or 13 ng/ml) to the highest (approximately 52 ng/ml). The data also included whether or not the individual had developed cancer.

“The data were very clear, showing that individuals in the group with the lowest blood levels had the highest rates of breast cancer, and the breast cancer rates dropped as the blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D increased,” said study co-author Cedric Garland, Dr.P.H. “The serum level associated with a 50 percent reduction in risk could be maintained by taking 2,000 international units of vitamin D3 daily plus, when the weather permits, spending 10 to 15 minutes a day in the sun.”

The colorectal cancer study, published online February 6 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is a meta-analysis of five studies that explored the association of blood levels of 25(OH)D with risk of colon cancer. All of the studies involved blood collected and tested for 25 (OH)D levels from healthy volunteer donors who were then followed for up to 25 years for development of colorectal cancer.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 9:44 am

Another Bush Administration scandal

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And a serious one. It seems that everywhere you look in the Bush Administration, you find rampant corruption.

The “floodgates of fraud reporting” have opened at the National Reconnaissance Office, the nation’s top-secret builder and operator of spy satellites. This bit of news comes from no less a source than the NRO’s inspector general, Eric Feldman. Yet Feldman and other NRO officials are mum about just how big the flood is over there.

This might not be such a big deal were the stakes at hand not so high. The NRO and its many contractors have grown notorious for massive cost overruns and quality control failures so serious they threaten the U.S. edge in high-tech reconnaissance satellites. Whether they’re eavesdropping on al Qaeda communications or photographing Iranian nuclear facilities, these are the crown jewels of the U.S. intelligence community. But the current generation of spy satellites is burning out–and replacements are years away.

Feldman suggested something was amiss in the Journal of Public Inquiry, an obscure publication put out twice a year by the nation’s inspectors general. With Alan Larsen, his general counsel, he described how contractors have systematically delayed and brushed off IG requests for information. When his office pushed through a revision to all contracts, explicitly stating the need to cooperate, some contractors “were hysterical, accusing NRO of violating four different amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” they wrote. But since then, “the floodgates of fraud reporting mysteriously opened from companies that had previously had little interest in talking to us. . . . We believe that we have barely scratched the surface in identifying possible fraudulent activity on our contracts.”

What kind of fraud is he talking about? Hard to say, but there are huge sums in play. The NRO grabs some $7.5 billion of the $44 billion annual intelligence budget–and most of that amount is shelled out to contractors large and small. The agency’s troubled next-generation satellite, a $25 billion boondoggle called Future Imagery Architecture, has been so dogged by cost overruns and technical trouble that the director of national intelligence cut the project in half last year. Back in 1995, revelations surfaced that the NRO ran what some in Congress called a slush fund of over $1 billion, which the agency used to build a lavish new headquarters. The NRO director and his deputy were subsequently fired, and Congress stopped the agency from squirreling away unspent funds year after year.

The last NRO fraud case we found on the public record is six years old and involved a mere $160,000 in payoffs–a pittance in the world of defense contracts. The culprit was a Los Angeles-area contractor trying to corner routine maintenance and repair work on buildings run by TRW, an NRO contractor that no longer even exists.

The NRO says it has had no cases since then–at least that it can talk about. That seems hard to believe. More likely at work is the kind of knee-jerk, pervasive secrecy that infects so much of the U.S. intelligence community–the kind of needless secrecy that fosters the very lack of accountability the IGs should be fighting against.

NRO Inspector General Feldman declined repeated requests to comment. A pity. Even in the world of spy satellites, Americans have a right to know if billions of their tax dollars are being stolen.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 9:18 am

Breathtaking view of a galaxy group

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Take a look at this photo of a group of galaxies about 450 million light-years away. Click the photo twice for full enlargement. Magnificent.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 9:14 am

Posted in Science

The GOP is crazy where drugs are concerned

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Look at this:

President Bush has proposed a significant jump in funding for an anti-drug advertising campaign that government-funded research shows is at best useless and at worst has increased drug use among some teens.

The administration has asked for a 31 percent increase in funding for the advertising campaign that a nearly five-year study concluded had increased the likelihood that all teens would smoke marijuana. The White House proposal would increase the program’s budget to $130 million over the next year.

Before the Democratic takeover of Congress, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was a top supporter of the anti-drug ad program. “It’s Hastert’s baby,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which has long targeted the ad campaign. Hastert’s office did not return calls requesting comment.

But with the former speaker relegated to the back bench, the ad campaign is vulnerable, and a more stark shift in its congressional oversight would be difficult to imagine.

Under the last Congress, oversight of the ad program fell to Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., easily the most vocal and fervent anti-drug crusader in Congress. That subcommittee is now chaired by Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, a Democratic presidential contender, who has called to have marijuana legalized and regulated similarly to alcohol.

Additionally, Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee, which controls spending on the ad campaign, is skeptical about the program.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 8:48 am

When a Republican gives you his word

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or makes a promise, it’s as good as an expired 5¢-off coupon on a roll of discontinued toilet tissue. From ThinkProgress:

No Defense Secretary has testified before the Senate Budget Committee since the war in Iraq began nearly four years and $400 billion dollars ago.

Prior to being sworn in, Secretary Robert Gates pledged to Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) that he would appear before the committee. But after agreeing to testify next Thursday, Gates abruptly cancelled. Conrad and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the ranking member on the committee, wrote Gates yesterday asking him to appear before March 1.

The timing of Gates’ cancellation is noteworthy, coming “less than a week after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) alarmed lawmakers by projecting that the president’s plan to increase troop numbers in Iraq could cost more than four times the $5.6 billion promised by the Bush administration.”

And remember FDA’s Lester Crawford promising to get the Plan B pill on the market if he was confirmed—which he did not do. Of course, he was crooked, but still…

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 8:34 am

Progress of the purge & politicization of prosecutors

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The Carpetbagger brings us up to date:

The more we learn about the Bush administration’s prosecutor purge, the more disconcerting it looks. Bud Cummins’ dismissal was suspicious in Arkansas, Carol Lam’s removal was odd in San Diego, and now we’re learning more about John McKay’s dismissal in Seattle.

Former U.S. Attorney John McKay told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his resignation this month was ordered by the Bush administration, which gave him no explanation for the firing.

“I was ordered to resign as U.S. attorney on Dec. 7 by the Justice Department,” McKay, who had led the department’s Western Washington office, said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “I was given no explanation. I certainly was told of no performance issues.”

His comments came one day after Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty acknowledged to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Justice Department has fired seven U.S. attorneys in the West since March, for reasons he would not divulge. The dismissals have been heavily criticized by Democratic lawmakers.

“John McKay has worked diligently for our region and it is deeply disconcerting that he could have been let go for political reasons,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “Congress and the American people have no tolerance for the politicization of the U.S. attorney’s office.”

Moreover, it appears that Bush gang isn’t just politicizing federal prosecutors’ offices, it’s also politicizing their actual prosecutions.

Paul Kiel noted yesterday that

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 8:21 am

Helicopters being shot down—and why

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Very good post from TalkingPointsMemo—and read the article at the link in the update:

The Times has a further update on that rash of downed US military helicopters in Iraq. It turns out that in addition to today’s apparent shoot-down of a CH-46 Sea Knight north of Baghdad, there was another as-yet unreported incident on January 31st in which a private security’s firms helicopter working on behalf of the State Department was shot down on a flight from Hilla to Baghdad. Fortunately, no one flying on that helicopter seems to have been killed. And another helicopter swooped down a short time later and evacuated the survivors of the crash.

That brings to six the number of US military or de facto US military (i.e., private security firm helicopters) shot down in Iraq in little more than two weeks.

There seems little doubt now that this is more than a statistical anomaly. But investigators still don’t seem to have a clear grasp of what’s happening. The one piece of information that appears relative clear is that this is not being caused by new weaponry. It’s been accomplished with high-caliber machine gun fire in most or all cases. The insurgents are just getting better, or more aggressive, or more ominously, they’re getting better at knowing where the helicopters are going to be.

Notes the Times: “Historically, improved tactics in shooting down helicopters have proved to be important factors in conflicts in which guerrillas have achieved victories against major powers, including battles in Somalia, Afghanistan and Vietnam.”

Late Update: On the general topic of helicopters, in this case attack helicopters, see this 2003 article by Fred Kaplan in Slate on the history of the attack helicopter, how well or poorly they work, and how the Army/Air Force rivalry played into the equation.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 8:14 am

Posted in Iraq War, Military

Good summary of Libby trial’s effects

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From Firedoglake:

The media are now keenly aware that it is not just Scooter Libby on trial; he is also the proxy for a Vice President whose credibility and reputation, already damaged, are being destroyed by one revelation after another. Last night, the major networks/cable channels covered this as a lead story, and PBS’ News Hour devoted a large segment to it.

With ironic justice Chris Matthews devoted an entire hour to discussing the Libby trial and its implications for Vice President Cheney. After all, it was Matthews’ July 2003 Hardball segment questioning Mr. Cheney’s role in the Bush Administration’s WMD deception that provoked an angry phone call from the VP’s Chief of Staff to NBC’s Tim Russert. Cheney was angry at any suggestion that he may have known about Joe Wilson’s Africa trip, and it was Scooter’s job to express the Vice President’s displeasure to Russert and NBC. But it was this phone call that may now determine whether Libby goes free or to jail, and if the latter, whether we head down a path that could lead inexorably to Dick Cheney’s resignation. We are almost there, but not quite.

In Tuesday’s op-ed, NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof challenged Dick Cheney to “Tear Down This Wall” (Times Select), laying out a set of questions involving Cheney’s involvement in the Plame outing that now demand answers from the Vice President. The questions and the emerging facts behind them are damning:

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:56 am

Another view of the GOP letter demanding debate

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From DailyKos, a comment on Clemon’s post:

Only Republicans are this stupid:

Seven Republican Senators — seven renegade samurai, or ronin — have essentially blasted in a letter just prepared in the last hour both the Democratic and Republican leadership for behind-the-scenes gamesmanship that undermined a floor debate about America’s options in Iraq.

While American citizens saw a procedural motion to move to “debate” the Warner-Levin Iraq War Resolution lose a 49-47 vote, what they did not see was a snarling, nasty tug-of-war between Reid and Durbin on one side and McConnell and Lott on the other that ripped the guts out of any possible comity needed to get to that debate.

This writer has learned that Senators John Warner, Olympia Snowe, and Chuck Hagel — and others — were highly irritated, angry in fact, with both sides and elected to vote against the procedural motion until the party leaders on both sides of the aisle ceased their antics.

Steve Clemons applauds the “pox on both houses” tone of the letter, calling it a “brave move”. Of the seven senators writing the letter — Snowe, Warner, Hagel, Collins, Coleman, Smith and Voinovich — only two voted for cloture — Snowe and Coleman. The rest voted against cloture. How that is a “brave move” is beyond me.

They voted against cloture to debate this bill, now they whine that they didn’t get a chance to debate their bill.

That’s idiocy, not bravery. If they have a problem, it’s with their Republican leadership who led the fight against debate.

Democrats were more than able and willing to debate this resolution.

The problem with these Republicans is that Collins, Warner, Coleman, and Smith face tough or potentially tough re-election battles in 2008, and this bill was going to offer them cover while accomplishing zero to actually end the war. Yet they were forced by their leadership to vote against their own resolution, giving Democrats a vicious electoral cudgel to use against them.

That’s not Reid or Durbin’s fault. It’s no one’s but their own.

Another blogger commented, “Hope they sent the letter to themselves.”

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:50 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Iraq War

GOP tries to ignore the voice of veterans

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The GOP does NOT believe in supporting the troops—or, for that matter, in listening to the troops:

When Iraq war veteran Jon Soltz accused Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of “aiding the enemy,” the Democratic senators gathered around him yesterday did not wince. Nor did Democrats object when Soltz, the chairman of a group called VoteVets.org, called President Bush and Vice President Cheney “draft dodgers.”

In the United States Congress, where decorum usually holds sway, Soltz and his small band of veterans are saying things many Democrats would like to express but can’t. And as the politics heat up over the Iraq war, Democratic leaders increasingly are being drawn to Soltz and his angry soldiers.

VoteVets.org appears to be the most active group trying to influence the debate about the president’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. Last month, it dispatched veterans to the home states of Republican senators waffling over resolutions on the war. Next, it ran a stark television ad on Super Bowl Sunday that drew national attention. And this week, group members crisscrossed Capitol Hill, trying to persuade lawmakers and their staffs to oppose the troop increase.

Their efforts are supported by a coalition of liberal groups that blocked the president’s 2005 plan to privatize Social Security. But this new campaign could prove more difficult.

The veterans are selling a blunt message: The Bush strategy in Iraq is a failure, and adding troops sends more young men and women to their deaths. If you care about the military, they told lawmakers, vote against the troop increase. Legislators who are stalling debate on the matter are “cowards,” they said.

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Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:41 am

Security and risk

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And how we satisfy our need for security:

Security expert Bruce Schneier has written a remarkably insightful article on the psychology of security trade-offs and risk assessment.

He’s not a psychologist by trade, although has obviously spent a lot of time researching the various studies that are relevant to the sort of decision making we engage in when trying to estimate how risky something might be.

Errors or cognitive distortions are also discussed in detail, particularly with regard to how these might bias our reasoning to make certain things seem more or less risky, even if there’s no change in actual risk.

One crucial concept that Schneier talks about is that security is a feeling, generated by a complex interplay of innate and calculated responses.

Something similar has been discussed in the clinical literature, particularly in a theory of obsessive-compulsive disorder put forward by Henry Szechtman and Erik Woody [pdf].

Obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD is a disorder where people can feel they have to repetitively do certain actions – often some sort of checking or washing

Szechtman and Woody argue that most drives, such as hunger or sex, have a specific end point behaviour that leads to a feeling of goal satisfaction.

In contrast, the drive for safety has no specific action associated with it that ‘completes’ the desire (because you can always try and be more safe), and so they argue we’ve developed a feedback system (a ‘security feeling’) that signifies when we’ve done enough to be reasonably secure.

In OCD, this might go wrong. So even when the door is locked or you’ve washed your hands, the security feeling doesn’t kick in and you still have the strong desire to do it again.

Anxiety can make the feeling needed all the more, so when we’re anxious, we might need to check the door more, even though we specifically remember locking it.

It’s no surprise that OCD is an anxiety disorder and this may fuel the cycle.

Schneier isn’t discussing mental illness, but it’s interesting that this sort of approach can be widely applied as so much of our behaviour involves risk judgements.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:35 am

Sophie’s Tree

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Sophie tree 1 Sophie tree 2

As promised previously: photos of Sophie enjoying her new tree. The surfaces used on the ledges seems highly attractive to her, and she also likes the scratching surface provided at the base. Altogether, a very successful installation. And now she can get up on the hutch easily, and get down without plummeting into a face-plant. But she seems to prefer the new perch to the hutch.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:18 am

Posted in Cats, Sophie

The old barber shop: Trumper’s GFT

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Trumper’s GFT shaving cream has a very traditional sort of fragrance. It also makes a fine lather. Used the Rooney Style 1 Medium Super Silvertip, and then shaved with the Schick Dial Injector. Extremely nice shave. Finished with alum bar and Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum. The Schick is a light razor with a long handle, easy to maneuver. The Ted Pella blade is quite efficient. Wonderful morning.

Written by Leisureguy

8 February 2007 at 7:12 am

Posted in Shaving

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