Later On

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

Archive for February 9th, 2007

The Escalation/Surge headed for defeat

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It’s not going to work:

Many of the Iraqi forces whom the U.S. is counting on to defeat Sunni Muslim insurgents, disarm Shiite Muslim gunmen and assume responsibility for keeping the peace have been infiltrated by sectarian militias and are plagued by incompetence and corruption.

Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they’d captured.

During a patrol last week in a violent west Baghdad neighborhood that’s the scene of regular sniper fire at U.S. and Iraqi troops, Staff Sgt. Jeremie Oliver saw Iraqi soldiers gathered in the middle of the road, near a streetlight, making them an easy target for gunmen on the surrounding rooftops.

Thinking that something might be wrong, Oliver, 30, of Farmington, Maine, jogged over. The Iraqis were looking at pornography on a cell phone.

The shortcomings that Oliver and other U.S. soldiers observed in the Iraqi troops are at the heart of America’s dilemma in Iraq. If the country’s police officers and soldiers aren’t able to secure the capital, a U.S. withdrawal almost certainly would mean even more widespread carnage. Continuing to prop up the Iraqi forces, however, almost certainly would lead to more American casualties, but not necessarily to victory.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 2:55 pm

Former narcotics officer offers advice on hiding marijuana

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He thinks our drug laws and drug policy are insane, so he’s fighting them with what he’s learned.

He looks like a good cop. He’s got the ‘stache, the short-cropped hair, the pushed-out chest and the shiny badge. He sounds like a good cop too; drawled and official. He’s got a TV reporter’s microphone in his face and a brick of marijuana in his hand, and he’s answering questions—not in the “I just accidentally Tasered an old lady” kind of way, but with a grin of accomplishment. The total bust was in the neighborhood of 275 pounds.

This is the old Barry Cooper. Top cop. Total prick. He claims more than 300 felony drug arrests during his eight years as an officer in Gladewater, Big Sandy and Odessa, and a former supervisor says he was damn good at his job, even if he doesn’t agree with Cooper’s latest get-rich idea.

The video cuts to a decade later, a few months ago. “That was me, Barry Cooper,” he says, “top narcotics officer.” His hair is longer. That ‘stache is now a full-on goatee. The top cop has become a dude. “I’m going to show you places that I never found marijuana hidden.” He talks with his hands, like a mellowed-out P.T. Barnum. “I’m going to teach you exactly how narcotic-detector dogs are trained, and I’m going to answer that age-old question: Do coffee grounds really work?”

It’s quite the pitch: Former drug warrior sees the light, goes to the dark side and makes a video, Never Get Busted Again, with shady tips on how to fool the fuzz. Stoners rejoice. The new beginning of the end of prohibition is near.

“The drug war is a failed policy, and the legal side effects on the families are worse than the drugs,” Cooper says. “I was so wrong in the things I did back then. I ruined lives.”

Cooper now sees himself as the new face of marijuana reform, and he just might be right. He’s got the credentials. He’s got the charisma. He’s got the shiny new DVD. Sure, his former colleagues don’t approve, but that’s to be expected. What’s surprising is that Cooper has also managed to piss off some of the old guard, the hippies-turned-reformers who’ve been knocking on the back door for years, chipping away at the legal system with talk of medical marijuana and overcrowded prisons. He’s a Johnny-come-lately, they say, an ex-narc looking to make a fast buck. He claims he doesn’t understand why they’re against him, but he’s confident he’ll eventually lead the flock:

“The people who take the time to know me will get on my side.”

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

“Why I am no longer a Republican”

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From the blog Steve-Olson.com:

Let me tell you why I am no longer active in either mainstream party.

I was a Republican activist most of my life for one simple reason – I believe we need to reduce the size of government and its intrusion into our lives. I was what Andrew Sullivan (my favorite political blogger) coined a South Park Republican.

Hell, I was so into it – I even ran for the Minnesota State Legislature.

If you’re a small government guy like me, there are countless reasons to be disenfranchised with the current Republican Party – wiretaps, suspension of habeas corpus, the drug war, the ‘terror’ war, massive government spending, unprecedented debt, and on and on…

This event pushed me over the edge…

My bright and promising 19-year-old nephew was a college Sophomore in 2005. In October of 2005, the local police arrested him for possession of psilocybin mushrooms.

When I first heard the news I thought, ‘shrooms – no big deal – he’ll pay a fine – maybe do a few weeks in county jail – he’ll learn a life lesson – it might even be good for him.

What I discovered over the next few months horrified me.

Drug Classifications

The first thing I learned is that Minnesota, the US federal government, and the UN classify psilocybin mushrooms as a Schedule I narcotic. This means that the government considers them more dangerous than Crack or Methamphetamine. The government considers psilocybin mushrooms as dangerous as Heroin. Anybody with any experience in the counter-culture knows that riding a motorcycle is exponentially more dangerous than eating psilocybin mushrooms. From 1993 – 2000 there was one confirmed death from ‘magic mushrooms.’ But I digress.

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

Minnesota has mandatory minimum sentences called guidelines and judges rarely deviate from them. The Democrats and Republicans put the system together in a joint effort to rid the system of discriminatory sentencing.

“The purpose of the sentencing guidelines is to establish rational and consistent sentencing standards which reduce sentencing disparity and ensure that sanctions following conviction of a felony are proportional to the severity of the offense of conviction and the extent of the offender’s criminal history. Equity in sentencing requires (a) that convicted felons similar with respect to relevant sentencing criteria ought to receive similar sanctions, and (b) that convicted felons substantially different from a typical case with respect to relevant criteria ought to receive different sanctions.” As revised August 1, 2004.

This meant the prosecutor – following the letter of the law – charged my nephew with Minnesota’s most severe drug charge – 1st degree controlled substance crime, a charge originally intended for drug kingpins.

How do I know it was intended for drug kingpins?

From the Minnesota Bar…
First-degree offenses were ranked at severity level VIII. These were, in the words of the legislative history, the true drug kingpins, the drug wholesalers. — were viewed to be similar to a person who raped someone using a threat of serious bodily injury.

The only crime considered more severe than possessing psilocybin mushrooms is murder. You Don’t believe me? – Read the Minnesota Sentencing Grid.

Minnesota law treats the possession of psilocybin mushrooms equal to robbing a store and raping the clerk at gunpoint… all in order to ‘reduce sentencing disparity.’ So the next time you hear someone harping about equality, be careful, the solution might make us all equally miserable.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Drug laws, GOP, Government

We—you and I—-must exercise

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It seems clear:

One in three American children born in 2000 will develop type II diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A new study at the University of Missouri-Columbia says that acute exercise – as little as 15 minutes a day – can have a profound influence on preventing and fighting the disease.

This research adds to the body of evidence that indicates exercise can fight type II diabetes, one of the most widespread self-inflicted healthcare struggles in the United States, and could save Americans millions of dollars in pills, injections and medical treatment. Acute exercise is a bout of activity in which people actively participate, as opposed to activity resulting from everyday activities.

“Many people can fight type II diabetes through diet and exercise alone,” said John Thyfault, professor in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences’ Department of Nutritional Sciences. “It is important to ward off diabetes early. Exercise has proven to be effective at all levels. At any stage of type II diabetes, from an obese child to a person dependent for 20 years on insulin injections, exercise could have a dramatic effect on improving insulin sensitivity.”

Type II diabetes results from a lack of insulin production and insulin resistance in skeletal muscle cells. Insulin is necessary to help drive glucose out of the blood and into the tissues of the body. As a result of insulin resistance, cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, causing more insulin to be released to have a measurable effect and ultimately causing insulin and glucose to build up dangerously in the blood.

Thyfault’s study found that relatively short periods of acute muscle exercise in diabetic Zucker rats significantly increased insulin sensitivity in the previously insulin resistance skeletal muscles. Since 80 to 90 percent of all glucose goes into muscle after a meal, it is reasonable that more active muscles on a day- to-day basis will result in increased insulin sensitivity, Thyfault said.

“In relation to a person with type II diabetes, this would mean that they could lessen their dependence on insulin therapy to control their blood glucose levels or potentially control glucose levels without any drug by just increasing their daily activity levels in addition to the right diet,” Thyfault said.

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Coverup at Guantánamo

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From the Carpetbagger:

In October, Heather Cerveny, a Marine Corps sergeant, went public with allegations into prisoner abuse she learned of at Guantánamo Bay. Cerveny spent a week at the base in late September as a legal aide to a military lawyer, and heard directly from several Navy prison guards about harsh, and frequently arbitrary, physical abuse.

U.S. Southern Command launched an investigation and concluded that “insufficient evidence exists to substantiate the paralegal’s allegations.” SouthCom’s probe, however, appeared to have been rather thin.

…Lieutenant Colonel Colby Vokey, the superior officer to the Marine sergeant who filed the allegations, called the investigation “outrageous.” “I am aware that the investigators interviewed only the suspects and some witnesses but did not interview any detainees or potential victims,” he told ABC News. “Failure to interview those who may have been subjected to abuse is indicative of an incomplete investigation.”

As first reported on “The Blotter” on ABCNews.com, Heather Cerveny, 23, a Marine Corps sergeant, who spent a week on the base last September working as a legal aide to Lt. Col. Vokey, said she was “shocked” to hear several guards from different parts of the base openly speak of mistreating prisoners.

One said, “I took the detainee by the head and smashed his head into the cell door,” she told ABC News in October after filing a sworn affidavit with the Pentagon Inspector General. Another “was telling his buddy, ‘Yeah, this one detainee, you know, really pissed me off, irritated me. So I just, you know, punched him in the face.’”

Cerveny’s account was apparently corroborated by a civilian employee on the base, but SouthCom talked to 20 military officials, all of whom denied having been a part of, or a witness to, prisoner abuse.

Worse, a SouthCom investigator wants to go after Cerveny for coming forward with her accusations in the first place.

Amongst the recommendations issued by the investigating officer but ultimately rejected by the SouthCom commander following the investigation was “that disciplinary or other action be taken against Sergeant Cerveny,” which Lt. Col Vokey says is the most “outrageous part of the investigation.”

“The interview of her [Sgt. Cerveny] was ridiculous and oppressive,” he said. “The investigating officers, a colonel and a captain, walked straight into her office with the intent to accuse her of a crime before she even opened her mouth. The colonel already had the form in his hand to read her her rights and accuse her, before the interview started.”

It sets a great precedent, doesn’t it? As Vokey put it, “This was outrageous and sends a dangerous message to all our service members: you’d better not report anything that goes on at Guantánamo Bay, or you’ll be threatened or charged with a crime.”

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 2:06 pm

A torturer’s confession

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Via Dan Froomkin’s column. Eric Fair writes in the Washington Post today:

A man with no face stares at me from the corner of a room. He pleads for help, but I’m afraid to move. He begins to cry. It is a pitiful sound, and it sickens me. He screams, but as I awaken, I realize the screams are mine.

That dream, along with a host of other nightmares, has plagued me since my return from Iraq in the summer of 2004. Though the man in this particular nightmare has no face, I know who he is. I assisted in his interrogation at a detention facility in Fallujah. I was one of two civilian interrogators assigned to the division interrogation facility (DIF) of the 82nd Airborne Division. The man, whose name I’ve long since forgotten, was a suspected associate of Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the Baath Party leader in Anbar province who had been captured two months earlier.

The lead interrogator at the DIF had given me specific instructions: I was to deprive the detainee of sleep during my 12-hour shift by opening his cell every hour, forcing him to stand in a corner and stripping him of his clothes. Three years later the tables have turned. It is rare that I sleep through the night without a visit from this man. His memory harasses me as I once harassed him.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 1:52 pm

Get 150-year-old sourdough starter

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Via Boing Boing, you can get a sourdough starter that dates back to 1847, when it traveled from Missouri to Oregon. Just send a SASE. Here’s the brochure.

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Progressive cooking

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So I started the bean soup in the 2-qt saucepan. The beans (3/4 cup Black Valentine) cooked handily in that, but when I started to add stuff—a bunch of Italian parsley, chopped, some chopped ham steak, chicken stock, a couple of onions chopped—it became immediately obvious that I didn’t plan well.

So out comes the 3-qt pot, and I pour the soup so far into that. I continue to chop and add: a bunch of celery chopped, grated burdock root, …. whoops.

Out comes the 4-qt pot, and I pour the soup so far into that and finish the effort: a can of diced tomatoes, more chicken stock, minced garlic, cayenne, crushed red pepper, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke. The 4-qt pot works. Why didn’t I start with it in the first place?

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 12:02 pm

Questions the press must answer

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The press was culpable in the selling of the Iraq War, and they should be held to account. Gilbert Cranberg, former editorial page editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune offers these questions:

As the war in Iraq nears its fourth anniversary, and with no end in sight, Americans are owed explanations. The Senate Intelligence Committee has promised a report on whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence to justify the war against Iraq.  An explanation is due also for how the U.S. press helped pave the way for war. An independent and thorough inquiry of pre-war press coverage would be a public service. Not least of the beneficiaries would be the press itself, which could be helped to understand its behavior and avoid a replay.

Better a study by outsiders than by insiders. Besides, journalism groups show no appetite for self-examination. Nor would a study by the press about the press have credibility. Now and then a news organization has published a mea culpa about its Iraq coverage, but isolated admissions of error are no substitute for comprehensive study.

The fundamental question: Why did the press as a whole fail to question sufficiently the administration’s case for war?

More specifically:

Q. Why did the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau’s “against-the grain reporting” during the build-up to war receive such “disappointing play,” in the words of its former bureau chief?

Q. Why did the press generally fail to pay more attention to the bureau’s ground-breaking coverage?

Q. Why, on the eve of war, did the Washington Post’s executive editor reject a story by Walter Pincus, its experienced and knowledgeable national security reporter, that questioned administration claims of hidden Iraqi weapons and why, when the editor reconsidered, the story ran  on Page 17?

Q. Why did the Post, to the “dismay” of the paper’s ombudsman, bury in the back pages or miss stories that challenged the administration’s version of events? Or, as Pincus complained, why did Post editors go “through a whole phase in which they didn’t put things on the front page that would make a difference” while, from August 2002 to the start of the war in March 2003, did the Post, according to its press critic, Howard Kurtz, publish “more than 140 front-page stories that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq”?

Q. Why did Michael Massing’s critique of Iraq-war coverage, in the New York Review of Books, conclude that “The Post was not alone. The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were…tucked well out of sight.”

Q. Why did the New York Times and others parrot administration claims about Iraq’s acquisition of aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons when independent experts were readily available to debunk the claims?

Q. Why did the Times’s Thomas E. Friedman and other foreign affairs specialists, who should have known better, join the “let’s-go-to-war” chorus?

Q. Why was a report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace accusing the administration of misusing intelligence by misrepresenting and distorting it given two paragraphs in the Times and 700 words in the Post (but deep inside), with neither story citing the report’s reference to distorted and misrepresented intelligence?

Q. Why did Colin Powell’s pivotal presentation to the United Nations receive immediate and overwhelming press approval despite its evident weaknesses and even fabrications?

Q. Why did the British press, unlike its American counterpart, critically dissect the speech and regard it with scorn?

Q. Why did the Associated Press wait six months, when the body count began to rise, to distribute a major piece by AP’s Charles Hanley challenging Powell’s evidence and why did Hanley say how frustrating it had been until then to break through the self-censorship imposed by his editors on negative news about Iraq?

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 11:48 am

The GOP: one’s jaw can still drop

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Via Political Animal, this story (below). Note the emphasized passage, and you can understand why Gen Tommy Franks characterized Doug Feith as “the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community, according to a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

Feith’s office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda,” according to portions of the report, released yesterday by Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.). The inspector general described Feith’s activities as “an alternative intelligence assessment process.”

An unclassified summary of the full document is scheduled for release today in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which Levin chairs. In that summary, a copy of which was obtained from another source by The Washington Post, the inspector general concluded that Feith’s assessment in 2002 that Iraq and al-Qaeda had a “mature symbiotic relationship” was not fully supported by available intelligence but was nonetheless used by policymakers.

At the time of Feith’s reporting, the CIA had concluded only that there was an “evolving” association, “based on sources of varying reliability.”

In a telephone interview yesterday, Feith emphasized the inspector general’s conclusion that his actions, described in the report as “inappropriate,” were not unlawful. “This was not ‘alternative intelligence assessment,’ ” he said. “It was from the start a criticism of the consensus of the intelligence community, and in presenting it I was not endorsing its substance.”

As Political Animal says, Feith was “just passing it along for giggles.”

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 9:53 am

Good thing: gay teens coming out earlier to their family

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More acceptance:

Kate Haigh, 18, a high school senior in St. Paul, recalls attending her first meeting at the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club when she was in the ninth grade. “I said, ‘My name is Kate, and I’m a lesbian.’ It was so liberating. I felt like something huge had been lifted off my shoulders, and finally I had people to talk to.”

Zach Lundin, 16, has brought boyfriends to several dances at his high school in suburban Seattle.

Vance Smith wanted to start a club to support gay students at his rural Colorado school but says administrators balked. At age 15, Vance contacted a New York advocacy group that sent school officials a letter about students’ legal rights. Now 17, Smith has his club.

Gay teenagers are “coming out” earlier than ever, and many feel better about themselves than earlier generations of gays, youth leaders and researchers say. The change is happening in the wake of opinion polls that show growing acceptance of gays, more supportive adults and positive gay role models in popular media.

“In my generation, you definitely didn’t come out in high school. You had to move away from home to be gay,” says Kevin Jennings, 43, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national group that promotes a positive school climate for gay children. “Now so many are out while they’re still at home. They’re more vocal than we were.”

Still, many continue to have a tough time. The worst off, experts say, are young people in conservative rural regions and children whose parents cannot abide having gay offspring. Taunting at school is still common. Cyber-bullying is “the new big thing,” says Laura Sorensen of Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Ferndale, Mich. “Kids are getting hate mail and taunts on MySpace or Facebook.”

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Paul and Pat Churchland and the neuroscience of philosophy

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The Feb 12th edition of The New Yorker has an extensive article on neurophilosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland. They maintain that many constructs of psychology (e.g., “belief”, “desires”) have the same footing as phlogiston and the luminferous ether: concepts that are words only, and that will eventually be rejected as we get a better understanding of the reality.

Here’s an interesting Wikipedia article on that view: eliminative materialism.

I suspect that the article—well worth reading—will be posted on-line in a week or so. When it is, I’ll update this post with a link.

UPDATE: It look a lot longer than a week, but here’s the article (PDF file).

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Why people don’t like change, part deux

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I earlier blogged about people’s general distaste for change (“Change hatred considered“). I was thinking about this last night, and recalled another reason people resist change.

Generally speaking, learning new things is difficult, and people avoid difficulty. (That proclivity to avoid difficulty is what’s behind the proverb, “If you want a horse to jump a fence, make the fence as low as possible.” Cf. the yessable proposition.)

Change involves learning new things—new routines, new techniques, new relationships, and so on. While people do enjoy learning new things in an area of interest to them—cf. car magazines, shaving forums, sports performance measures, and the like—that’s an exception, and even there people prefer to learn things without an external test. E.g., most who are interested in cars would enjoy reading an article on tune-up techniques, but less interested in then applying those techniques while watched by others. When reading to yourself, you can silently murmur to yourself, “Yes, yes, of course,” without really getting into the details and determining whether you actually understand, but when you move from reading about how to do something to trying to do it in the real world, your understanding—or lack of it—becomes evident.

The ease with which one can assume that something’s been learned is why skilled learners immediately test new knowledge with practical (external) application: use the new vocabulary in a sentence, say aloud the name of the new person (“Nice to meet you, Mr. Mottiyotz”), play the new joseki in a game at the earliest opportunity, and so on.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 9:17 am

If you don’t plan for failure, you fail to plan

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Condi Rice believes that having a “Plan B” in case something goes wrong is a very bad way to plan. Condi Rice is, at least in this instance, astoundingly uninformed, ignorant, and—in failing to see this obvious error—stupid. It helps one understand, though, that if this is the thinking of the best and brightest of the Bush Administration, how they have so signally failed in everything they’ve done—and how they don’t seem to be able to recover: the Gulf Coast, still devastated and still ignored by Bush (now that elections are over); Iraq in a state in which being just a civil war would be an improvement; and so on.

Alert Reader points out, though, that several layers down, beyond the political appointees, capable and sensible people still exist. Sydney Blumenthal describes them:

Deep within the bowels of the Pentagon, policy planners are conducting secret meetings to discuss what to do in the worst-case scenario in Iraq about a year from today if and when President Bush’s escalation of more than 20,000 troops fails, a participant in those discussions told me. None of those who are taking part in these exercises, shielded from the public view and the immediate scrutiny of the White House, believes that the so-called surge will succeed. On the contrary, everyone thinks it will not only fail to achieve its aims but also accelerate instability by providing a glaring example of U.S. incapacity and incompetence.

The profoundly pessimistic thinking that permeates the senior military and the intelligence community, however, is forbidden in the sanitized atmosphere of mind-cure boosterism that surrounds Bush. “He’s tried this two times — it’s failed twice,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Jan. 24 about the “surge” tactic. “I asked him at the White House, ‘Mr. President, why do you think this time it’s going to work?’ And he said, ‘Because I told them it had to.'” She repeated his words: “‘I told them that they had to.’ That was the end of it. That’s the way it is.”

On Feb. 2, the National Intelligence Council, representing all intelligence agencies, issued a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, as harsh an antidote to wishful thinking as could be imagined. “The Intelligence Community judges that the term ‘civil war’ does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qaida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term ‘civil war’ accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.”

The report described an Iraqi government, army and police force that cannot meet these challenges in any foreseeable time frame and a reversal of “the negative trends driving Iraq’s current trajectory” occurring only through a dream sequence in which all the warring sects and factions, in some unexplained way, suddenly make peace with one another. Nor does the NIE suggest that this imaginary scenario might ever come to pass. Instead, it proceeds to describe the potential for “an abrupt increase in communal and insurgent violence and a shift in Iraq’s trajectory from gradual decline to rapid deterioration with grave humanitarian, political, and security consequences.”

Bush justified his invasion on the basis of false intelligence in the now notorious NIE of October 2002 that claimed Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Now, as the latest NIE forecasts nightmares, he is escalating the war. But almost everything has changed in the nearly four years since the invasion.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 8:50 am

Krugman on Edwards on national health insurance

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Krugman today:

What a difference two years makes! At this point in 2005, the only question seemed to be how much of America’s social insurance system — the triumvirate of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — the Bush administration would manage to dismantle. Now almost all prominent Democrats and quite a few Republicans pay at least lip service to calls for a major expansion of social insurance, in the form of universal health care.

But fine words, by themselves, mean nothing. Remember “compassionate conservatism?” I won’t trust presidential candidates on health care unless they provide enough specifics to show both that they understand the issues, and that they’re willing to face up to hard choices when necessary.

And former Senator John Edwards has just set a fine example.

At first glance, the Edwards health care plan looks similar to several other proposals out there, including one recently unveiled by Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. But a closer look reveals extra features in the Edwards plan that take it a lot closer to what the country really needs.

Like Mr. Schwarzenegger, Mr. Edwards sets out to cover the uninsured with a combination of regulation and financial aid. Right now, many people are uninsured because, as the Edwards press release puts it, insurance companies “game the system to cover only healthy people.” So the Edwards plan, like Schwarzenegger’s, imposes “community rating” on insurers, basically requiring them to sell insurance to everyone at the same price.

Many other people are uninsured because they simply can’t afford the cost. So the Edwards plan, again like other proposals, offers financial aid to help lower-income families buy insurance. To pay for this aid, he proposes rolling back tax cuts for households with incomes over $200,000 a year.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 8:30 am

Little Miss Megs

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Megs on the printer

Miss Megs observing me. She likes to hang about. That, more than vocalizing, is her way to socialize. She also likes my lap, but that seems to be for naps.

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 8:29 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Timing the shave

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A few guys in one of the forums were discussing the time it took to do a traditional shave using a safety razor. I took a stopwatch into the bathroom this morning, and here are the results:

Started the stopwatch as I turned on water to get hot—that took about 5-6 seconds. Washed my face, wet the Rooney Style 2 Small Finest, and opened the jar of Geo. F. Trumper Sandalwood. Twirled the brush, applied the coating of shaving cream to the face, and put the jar away. It took three dips of the brush’s edge into hot water and working that into the lather before I had the lather I wanted: 1 minute 49 seconds.

I used the Merkur Futur preloaded with a new Swedish Gillette blade. I was in no hurry—didn’t want to get a cut, and did want a good shave. Started the second pass at 3 minutes 29 seconds, third pass at 5 minutes 22 seconds. Finished up with rinsing out razor and putting away, rinsing face with hot, then cold, water. Glided the alum bar over my wet face and then rinsed the brush (with hot water, then with cold), shook it out, and put it away. Rinsed face once more, dried it, and applied TOBS Bay Rum. Total time: 8 minutes 32 seconds.

And yet I wasn’t hurried, and I did pay attention and focus on what I was doing: no cuts, no nicks, no errors. Totally smooth face and disposition.

Written by Leisureguy

9 February 2007 at 8:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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