Later On

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

Archive for February 10th, 2007

Questions President Bush will not be asked

leave a comment »

At least, not so long as we have the witless, spineless journalists we seem to be afflicted with in DC. Here are the questions:

Was it surprising to see a headline like this one in the Washington Post recently?:

“Bush Addresses Income Inequality on Wall Street Executive Pay / Economic Speech Touches on Executive Pay as Senators Move to Rein It In”?

Yes.

Was it surprising that Bush did not address the subject in response to a reporter’s question?

No.

The president has granted a series of exclusive interviews recently to, among others, Post White House reporters, Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes,” and Juan Williams of National Public Radio. He did so to serve his own purposes. Nothing unusual about that.

Regrettably, though, there’s also nothing unusual about reporters who get such interviews asking few if any questions other than those the President expects and prepares for. Iraq is the prime example, a subject about which he is predictably redundant. The few exceptions seldom concern fundamental issues that are not immediate.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 7:44 pm

Michael Gordon story explained

leave a comment »

Ah, this explains it.

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 1:02 pm

VA medical system needs more resources

with one comment

Troops who have been in Iraq need more help than the VA can currently deliver:

A year ago on Thanksgiving morning, in the corrugated metal pole barn that housed his family’s electrical business, Timothy Bowman put a handgun to his head and pulled the trigger. The bullet only grazed his forehead. So he put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger again.

He had been home from the Iraq war for only eight months. Once a fun-loving, life-of-the-party type, Bowman had slipped into an abyss, tormented by things he’d been ordered to do in war.

“I’m OK. I can deal with it,” he would say whenever his father, Mike, urged him to get counseling.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is facing a wave of returning veterans like Bowman who are struggling with memories of a war where it’s hard to distinguish innocent civilians from enemy fighters and where the threat of suicide attacks and roadside bombs haunts the most routine mission. Since 2001, about 1.4 million Americans have served in Iraq, Afghanistan or other locations in the global war on terror.

The VA counts post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as the most prevalent mental health malady – and one of the top illnesses overall – to emerge from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

VA Secretary James Nicholson and other top administration officials have said that the agency is well-equipped to handle any onslaught of mental health issues and that it plans to continue beefing up mental health care and access under the administration budget proposal released this week.

But an investigation by McClatchy Newspapers has found that even by its own measures, the VA isn’t prepared to give returning veterans the care that could best help them overcome destructive, and sometimes fatal, mental health ailments.

McClatchy relied on the VA’s own reports, as well as an analysis of VA data released under the federal Freedom of Information Act. McClatchy analyzed 200 million records, including every medical appointment in the system in 2005, accessed VA documents and spoke with mental health experts, veterans and their families from around the country.

Among the findings:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 9:55 am

Another example of irresponsible journalism

leave a comment »

Or perhaps that should be “journalism.” Via Atrios, Brad DeLong’s analysis of a piece by Mike Allen:

Friday at sundown is a fitting moment to take note of a particularly pathetic piece of Journamalism from Mike Allen at the Politico.

You see, Mike Allen begins his trashing of Barack Obama. Understand: Mike Allen isn’t doing the trashing—oh no no no. Mike Allen is just saying what the critics of Obama will say.

Let’s give Mike the mike, and watch him take his dive:

The Politico: Barack Obama’s free ride is ending…. Obama’s about to endure a going-over that would make a proctologist blush. Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?… [T]he long knives will be out for Obama…. Officials at the top of both parties calculate that Obama has risen too fast… “vapid platitudes” that could produce a “soufflé effect.”… “With a couple of pinpricks here and there, the whole thing could fall apart.”…

Even his name offers fodder for the critics. When he was growing up, his family, friends and teachers called him “Barry.” Then as a young man, he started insisting on “Barack,” explaining in a memoir published in 1995 that his grandfather was a Muslim and that it means “blessed” in Arabic. His dad, who was Kenyan, had gone by “Barry” — probably trying to fit in when he came to the States, his son figured. On the campaign trail during his 2004 Senate race, Obama told reporters that “Barack” was Swahili for “blessed by God.” Whatever its origins, the exotic, multicultural name…

Two minutes of Googling would have told Mike Allen that “barack” is both a Swahili word meaning “blessed by God” and an Arabic word meaning “blessed.” There’s been lots of trade between Swahili-speaking East Africa and the Arabic-speaking Middle East for millennia. That “barack” is a word in both languages is part of the same process by which the largest Swahili-speaking port in the world has a pure Arabic name—Dar es Salaam, meaning “House of Peace.”

But Allen doesn’t tell his readers any of this, does he?

And this “exotic, multicultural name” business… “Barack” is so exotic and multicultural that five million Americans are supposed to say it at sundown every Friday night… the same word b•r•k in a Hebrew rather than an Arabic accent: “baruch”:

“Baruch atah Adonai Elohenu melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.” “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, ruler of the universe, who has made us holy by your commandments and told us to light the Sabbath lights.”

Five minutes’ acquaintance with Judaism would have taught Mike Allen that b•r•k is about as exotic as the synagogue down the street, wouldn’t it? About as unusual in America as the last name of Bernard Baruch, advisor to Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.

But Allen doesn’t tell his readers any of this, does he?

And, of course, the same prayer beginning b•r•k is at the heart of most Christian services:

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread of offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life…

An hour’s acquaintance with Christianity, and Mike Allen could have learned other things—for example, that Jesus Christ says b•r•k eight times in a row at the beginning of eight consecutive sentences at the start of the fifth chapter of Matthew when he begins his Sermon on the Mount.

So why doesn’t Mike Allen tell any of this to his readers?

Why oh why can’t we have a better press corps?

How much did they pay you, Mike? In what coin?

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Democrats, Media

How cognitive therapy treats depression

leave a comment »

Basically, cognitive therapy consists of correcting incorrect thoughts and thought patterns. Here’s an example:

It seems incredible that a successful form of psychological therapy could be based on telling people their thoughts are mistaken. And yet that is partly how cognitive therapy works. This type of therapy has easily overtaking Freudian-style psychotherapy in recent decades to become the most popular form of treatment for depression, phobias and many other common psychological problems. The founding father of cognitive therapy is Aaron T. Beck a psychologist not well known to the lay public, but widely revered amongst psychologists. One of his studies is the third nomination for the Top Ten Psychology Studies.

Cognitive therapy was originally developed for the treatment of depression. In his work with patients Beck developed the idea that at the heart of depression lay one or more irrational beliefs (Beck, 1963). Here are a few examples:

  • Over-generalisation. Drawing general conclusions from a single (usually negative) event. E.g. thinking that failing to be promoted at work means a promotion will never come.
  • Minimalisation and Maximisation. Getting things out of perspective: e.g. either grossly underestimating own performance or overestimating the importance of a negative event.
  • Dichotomous thinking – Thinking that everything is either very good or very bad so that there are no gray areas. In reality, of course, life is one big gray area.

These irrational beliefs took the form of ‘automatic thoughts’ which seemed to be accessible to conscious introspection. Beck thought depressed patients could be helped if therapists could challenge these irrational beliefs. At heart cognitive therapy encourages people to see that some of their thoughts are mistaken. By adjusting these thoughts it has been found that people’s emotional distress can be lessened.

For many people he treated, and for the many more subsequently treated with his – and related techniques – his methods have turned out to be remarkably effective. It’s no exaggeration to state that the ideas and techniques that have flowed from Beck’s study and similar findings brought about a revolution in treatment for many psychological disorders.

Find out more about depressive thinking styles.

In this connection, let me again highly recommend Martin Seligman’s fascinating and useful book Learned Optimism.

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:59 am

More on the (possibly) up-coming war

with one comment

Alert Reader points out this post:

The murdered Israeli leader Gen. Yitzhak Rabin opposed the First Gulf War in 1990, warning that one never knows when starting a war where it will lead. As Bush and the neocons are reportedly planning to attack Iran, we should all think of the likely consequences.

Most Americans already believe that George Bush is not much influenced by facts, but rather by his ideology. Already he is reportedly thinking of his legacy and dreaming that history will prove him “right.” More disturbing are his religious beliefs, in particular his daily readings of Scottish preacher Oswald Chambers, who argues that if plans and events go wrong, it just means that God is testing believers’ faith, not that strategies should be changed. This may also explain Bush’s aversion to diplomacy. After all, God does not “negotiate” with evil.

Various reports state that Iran is years away from the ability to produce a single nuke. In a few years’ time the government in Iran could easily change or modify its positions; indeed, already President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is losing power. But time is running out for Bush (although not for America).

An article about Iran in The American Conservative by former CIA officer Phil Giraldi says that Bush may attack before Tony Blair retires in April. Blair has already just sent two British minesweepers to the Gulf.

U.S. war plans are reportedly counting on a few weeks of war (as they did with Iraq) to disable Iran’s nuclear and military industries. The concept that the U.S. could simply destroy much of Iran then proclaim the war over neglects all the lessons of Iraq, namely that a wounded Muslim nation only gives up when it wants to. Repeatedly, the U.S. loses when we expect enemies to play by American rules.

Following are consequences we must anticipate following such an American attack:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:52 am

One more comment on the Iran War

leave a comment »

From ThinkProgress:

Does Cheney know bombing Iran will backfire?

Bush doesn’t say:

At a farewell reception at Blair House for the retiring chief of protocol, Don Ensenat, who was President Bush’s Yale roommate, the president shook hands with Washington Life Magazine’s Soroush Shehabi. A grandson of one of the late Shah’s ministers, Soroush said, “Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized.”

“I know,” President Bush answered.

“But does Vice President Cheney know?” asked Soroush.

The president chuckled and walked away.

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:39 am

A strike on Iran just before Bush leaves office?

leave a comment »

The Guardian:

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office. [so he won’t have to deal with the consequences – LG]

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is to persuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandon ambitions for regional expansion.

Robert Gates, the new US defence secretary, said yesterday: “I don’t know how many times the president, secretary [of state Condoleezza] Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran.”But Vincent Cannistraro, a Washington-based intelligence analyst, shared the sources’ assessment that Pentagon planning was well under way. “Planning is going on, in spite of public disavowals by Gates. Targets have been selected. For a bombing campaign against nuclear sites, it is quite advanced. The military assets to carry this out are being put in place.”

He added: “We are planning for war. It is incredibly dangerous.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:36 am

More on the build-up for the Iran War

leave a comment »

From ThinkProgress:

The New York Times today published a front-page story by Michael Gordon which recites administration claims about Iran’s involvement in Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence.” Greg Mitchell notes, via Glenn Greenwald, that it was Gordon “who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.”

The Times story comes even as evidence grows that the administration planned to release contained cooked intelligence in a “briefing” on Iranian involvement in Iraq .

In little noted comments on Feb. 2, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the Iran briefing washeld back because it was “overstated” and not “focused on the facts.”

HADLEY: The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we’d better get the NIE out so people could see the full context, which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can. …

Q And now [the briefing has] been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?

MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn’t –

Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?

MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts.

But a new report in the National Journal states that it was the intelligence community, not the White House, that demanded the briefing be “scrubbed” of overstated claims:

At least twice in the past month, the White House has delayed a PowerPoint presentation initially prepared by the military to detail evidence of suspected Iranian materiel and financial support for militants in Iraq. The presentation was to have been made at a press conference in Baghdad in the first week of February. Officials have set no new date, but they say it could be any day.

Even as U.S. officials in Baghdad were ready to make the case, administration principals in Washington who were charged with vetting the PowerPoint dossier bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and ordered that it be scrubbed again.

Despite the intelligence community’s intervention, there is still no guarantee that the intel on Iran that is eventually made public will be factual or comprehensive. As yesterday’s report on Douglas Feith reinforced, senior administration officials are perfectly willing to work around intelligence professionals to obtain the “facts” that justify their ideology.

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:33 am

The NY Times: back to the old ways

leave a comment »

Glenn Greenwald discusses how, apparently, the NY Times has learning nothing, absolutely nothing, from the way the Bush Administration used them prior to the Iraq War:

Over the past few weeks, The Los Angeles Times has published several detailed and well-documented articles casting serious doubt on the administration’s claims that Iran is fueling the Iraqi insurgency with weapons. A couple of months ago, The Washington Post published a very well-researched article reporting that extensive searches by British military brigades in Southern Iraq — specifically in the areas where such weapons would almost certainly be transported and maintained — have turned up nothing. It seemed as though the media was treating the war-inflaming claims of Bush officials against Iran much more skeptically, refusing to simply pass along accusations without first conducting an investigation to determine if those claims were true.

But today, The New York Times does precisely the opposite — it has published a lengthy, prominent front-page article by Michael Gordon that does nothing, literally, but mindlessly recite administration claims about Iran’s weapons-supplying activities without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence. The entire article is nothing more than one accusatory claim about Iran after the next, all emanating from the mouths of anonymous military and “intelligence officials” without the slightest verified evidence, and Gordon just mindlessly repeats what he has been told in one provocative paragraph after the next.

Start with the headline: Deadliest Bomb in Iraq is Made by Iran, U.S. Says. That is a proposition that is extremely inflammatory — it suggests that Iranians bear responsibility for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, even though that is a claim for which almost no evidence has been presented and which is very much in dispute. Why should that be the basis for a prominent headline when Gordon’s sole basis for it are the uncorroborated assertions of the Bush administration? The very first paragraph following that headline is the most inflammatory:

The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

Is that extremely provocative claim even true? Gordon never says, and he does not really appear to care. He is in Pravda Spokesman mode throughout the entire article — offering himself up as a megaphone for administration assertions without the slightest amount of scrutiny, investigation or opposing views.

What is the basis for the entire article? Gordon summarizes it this way:

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

Every one of Gordon’s sources are officials in the Bush administration, and all of them are completely anonymous, so one has no way to assess their interest, perspective, bias, or independence. And Gordon himself does not offer the slightest information to enable the reader to make such determinations, and he himself appears blissfully uninterested in any of that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:25 am

The current US healthcare system

leave a comment »

From ThinkProgress:

“A paraplegic man wearing a soiled hospital gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in a gutter in skid row in Los Angeles on Thursday after allegedly being dumped in the street by a Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center van, police said. The incident, witnessed by more than two dozen people, was described by police as a particularly outrageous case of ‘homeless dumping’ that has plagued the downtown area.”

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 8:15 am

Posted in Business, Health, Medical

The last of the Geo. F. Trumper’s

leave a comment »

Today I shave with the Geo. F. Trumper Violet shaving cream, bringing to an end my six days of the six Trumper shaving creams I have. The Violet was a very nice fragrance, though my three favorites, I think, are Coconut Oil, Almond, and GFT, in that order. Used the Plisson brush and the Progress razor holding, I believe, a Feather. One nick, a bump on my chin, easily taken care of with My Nik Is Sealed. Finished with the alum bar and Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel.

I so much enjoyed the idea of a six-day theme that next week I’ll do six days of shaving sticks: Taylor of Old Bond Street St. James, Valobra, and four QED sticks: Mocha-Java, Pine & Cedarwood, Vanilla, and Espresso, I think. Maybe the Sandalwood instead of one of those.

Your shaves are, I hope, coming along and you enjoy the daily ritual. The day off is difficult, but Monday makes up for it. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

10 February 2007 at 7:39 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: