Later On

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

Archive for February 13th, 2007

The problem, in a nutshell

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How do you change the minds of people who won’t look at facts or evidence?

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

An example of medical marijuana use

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From ScienceDaily:

In a randomized placebo-controlled trial, patients smoking cannabis experienced a 34 percent reduction in intense foot pain associated with HIV—twice the rate experienced by patients who smoked placebo.

“This placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that people with HIV who smoked cannabis had substantially greater pain reduction than those who did not smoke the cannabis,” said study lead author Donald I. Abrams, MD, UCSF professor of clinical medicine. “These results provide evidence that there is a measurable medical benefit to smoking cannabis for these patients.”

The study, published in the February 13 issue of the journal “Neurology,” looked at 50 HIV patients with HIV-associated sensory neuropathy, a painful and often debilitating condition that is the most common peripheral nerve disorder that occurs as a complication of HIV infection. Occurring usually in the feet and characterized at times by tingling, numbness, the sensation of pins and needles, burning, and sharp intense pain, severe peripheral neuropathy can make walking or standing difficult.

Patients participating in the study were randomized into two equal groups—one assigned to smoke cannabis and the other assigned to smoke identical placebo cigarettes with the cannabinoids extracted. The patients smoked the study cigarettes three times a day for five days under supervision as inpatients in the General Clinical Research Center at San Francisco General Hospital Medical Center.

“Even though antiretroviral treatments have reduced the prevalence and severity of many HIV-related neurological complications, neuropathy continues to affect up to one of every three patients,” said co-author Cheryl A. Jay, MD, UCSF professor of clinical neurology. “There are no FDA-approved treatments for HIV-related neuropathy. This study suggests new avenues to manage neuropathic pain in this setting.”

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Medical, Science

The story on the judge’s research marijuana decision

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Here’s the story:

Medical researchers need more marijuana sources because government supplies aren’t meeting scientific demand, a federal judge has ruled.

In an emphatic but nonbinding opinion, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s own judge is recommending that a University of Massachusetts professor be allowed to grow a legal pot crop. The real winners could be those suffering from painful and wasting diseases, proponents believe.

“The existing supply of marijuana is not adequate,” Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled.

The federal government’s 12-acre marijuana plot at the University of Mississippi provides neither the quantity nor quality scientists need, researchers contend. While Bittner didn’t embrace those criticisms, she agreed that the system for producing and distributing research marijuana is flawed.

“Competition in the manufacture of marijuana for research purposes is inadequate,” Bittner determined.

Bittner further concluded that there is “minimal risk of diversion” from a new marijuana source. Making additional supplies available, she stated, “would be in the public interest.”

The DEA isn’t required to follow Bittner’s 88-page opinion, and the Bush administration’s anti-drug stance may make it unlikely that the grass-growing rules will loosen. Both sides can now file further information before DEA administrators make their ruling.

“We could still be months away from a final decision,” DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said Tuesday, adding that “obviously, we’re going to take the judge’s opinion into consideration.”

Still, the ruling is resonating in labs and with civil libertarians.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Government

GOP: Party Without a Conscience

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From ThinkProgress:

This week, the House of Representatives is debating a resolution opposing President Bush’s Iraq escalation. The resolution is just 58 words long, and has only one purpose: “Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.”

But a leaked letter obtained today by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office reveals that conservatives have formulated a strategy to avoid talking about the central question of the debate.

In the letter, leading conservative Reps. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) inform their allies: “The debate should not be about the surge or its details. This debate should not even be about the Iraq war to date, mistakes that have been made, or whether we can, or cannot, win militarily.” Shadegg and Hoekstra warn, if conservatives are forced to debate “the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose.”

Read it:

Letter  (click to enlarge)

Instead, they write, “the debate must be about the global threat of the radical Islamic movement.” The problem is they lose that debate too.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Iraq War

Rep. Patrick Murphy’s remarks

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From Eschaton, the remarks made by Patrick Murphy, D-Pa:

Congressman Patrick Murphy’s Remarks, AS DELIVERED:

Thank you Mr. Speaker and thank you Mr. Chairman, I appreciate it.

I take the floor today not as a Democrat or Republican, but as an Iraq war veteran who was a Captain with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad.

I speak with a heavy heart for my fellow paratrooper Specialist Chad Keith, Specialist James Lambert and 17 other brave men who I served with who never made it home.

I rise to give voice to hundreds of thousands of patriotic Pennsylvanians and veterans across the globe who are deeply troubled by the President’s call to escalate the number of American troops in Iraq.

I served in Baghdad from June of 2003 to January of 2004. Walking in my own combat boots, I saw first hand this Administration’s failed policy in Iraq.

I led convoys up and down “Ambush Alley” in a Humvee without doors – convoys that Americans still run today because too many Iraqis are still sitting on the sidelines.

I served in al-Rashid, Baghdad which, like Philadelphia, is home to 1.5 million people. While there are 7,000 Philadelphia police officers serving like my father in Philadelphia, protecting its citizens, there were only 3,500 of us in al-Rashid, Baghdad.

Mr. Speaker, the time for more troops was four years ago. But this President ignored military experts like General Shinseki & General Zinni, who in 2003, called for several hundred thousand troops to secure Iraq.

Now Mr. Speaker, our President again is ignoring military leaders. Patriots like General Colin Powell, like General Abizaid, and members of the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group who oppose this escalation

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 3:43 pm

Example of why I like California

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They take steps to protect the environment:

Urban tumbleweed. Bag hawks. Shoppers’ kites. Whatever you call them, plastic grocery bags are discarded by the billions each year in the United States and end up floating in waterways, dangling from trees and crowding landfills. But soon there will be fewer pesky plastic bags overtaking California’s landscapes, thanks to state assemblyman Lloyd Levine. Levine introduced a bill—recently signed into law—that requires supermarkets and large stores to implement an in-store plastic bag “take-back” and recycling program.

After the law kicks into effect (in June of this year), California stores will only be permitted to distribute plastic bags imprinted with instructions to return them to participating stores. The stores then will send them off to recycling centers. Plastic bags can be used to make new bags as well as traffic cones and patio furniture, according to Stores also will be required to fund campaigns educating consumers about how to recycle bags (i.e., via store, not curbside, programs) and to offer sturdy reusable bags for sale. Levine sees the bill as a step in the right direction, but says curbside recycling (which requires the least effort of consumers) would be the “gold standard.”

Levine first became aware of the bag problem during his regular runs along the Los Angeles River. “I come across thousands of plastic bags,” he says. “Some of the trees look like Christmas trees, only with bags in place of ornaments.” Levine discovered that Californians use 19 billion bags a year, creating 147,038 tons of trash and killing thousands of marine animals who ingest the bags or become entangled in them. Global production of these bags is estimated at about 1 trillion annually, consuming 12 million barrels of oil.

As for that perennial check-out question, “Paper or plastic?”, according to the pros and cons are roughly equal. Visit the website to learn about recent legislation (or to shop for products that help cut bag consumption).

I continue to love my resuable grocery bags. I am still surprised at how much more convenient they are than disposable/recyclable bags.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment

Bush: the father of lies

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From ThinkProgress:

Today, President Bush commemorated the fifth anniversary of the USA Freedom Corps by praising America’s volunteers:

We’re heralding volunteerism here today. It is a really important aspect of American society. I’m proud of our fellow citizens who have answered the call. I encourage you to continue on.”

Bush loves praising volunteerism. In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush called on “every American to commit at least two years, 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime, to the service of your neighbors and your nation.”

But Bush also loves cutting funding for AmeriCorps, which President Bill Clinton created in 1993 “as a kind of domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps.” Since that time, more than 200,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps. A look at Bush’s real “commitment” to volunteerism:

2003: “The president promised to expand AmeriCorps by 50 percent, from 50,000 volunteers to 75,000 volunteers. But in 2003, he signed legislation that cut AmeriCorps’s operating budget by 30 percent.”

2004: “The President in his FY 2004 budget request proposed $324 million for AmeriCorps, a $40 million decrease from FY 2003.”

2005: Bush’s budget included $442 million for AmeriCorps, which was “level funded from FY 2004.”

2006: Bush’s budget proposed to “reduce funding for Americorps from $287.7 million in FY ‘05 to $275 million in FY ‘06.”

2007: “Beginning next year [2007], the White House would reduce funding for the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from $27 million to $5 million with the goal of closing it down, according to the president’s budget. About 81 full-time staff members would lose their jobs.”

2008: The Bush administration’s fiscal 2008 budget would allocate about $480 million to AmeriCorps programs — more than $25 million less than what’s called for in the 2007 spending plan that Democratic Congressional leaders have crafted and significantly less than the fiscal 2006 enacted total.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 3:27 pm

The Pelosi story: all fiction, much repeated

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Media Matters has an excellent rundown of the misreportage of the Pelosi story:

God bless Chris Wallace, the Fox News talker who last week was momentarily truthful enough to provide us with some genuine insight.

On Friday, Wallace appeared on Fox News to promote the upcoming edition of Fox News Sunday, and the host was going down the lineup of stories he and his guests were going to address. “We will be talking about politics, about Iraq, and ‘Planegate’; ‘Pelosi One,’ ” he said referring to the controversy that erupted last week over allegations that the new Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (CA), had demanded access to the military equivalent of a 757 to fly her back and forth between Washington, D.C., and her San Francisco home. With a smirk on his face, Wallace added, “[It’s] a great little story. Stupid — but it’s kind of entertaining.”

Stupid — but kind of entertaining. Have more honest words ever been spoken by a high-priced D.C. pundit? In fact, I’m nominating “Stupid — but kind of entertaining” to be not only the unofficial tag for the pointless, overblown Pelosi story, but also to be the unofficial motto for the entire Beltway press corps that’s increasingly uninterested in substance and more concerned with stagecraft and personality. It’s a press corps that goes weak in the knees for stories that are stupid — but kind of entertaining.

And last week MSNBC was positively swooning over the Pelosi story. On Thursday, MSNBC News Live host Chris Jansing promised viewers the network would “talk about this all day long.” She wasn’t kidding. MSNBC addressed the story seven times that morning: 9:03, 9:24, 9:59, 10:51, 11:03, 11:10, and 11:45; and nine times that afternoon: 12:00, 12:26, 1:16, 1:22, 1:33, 1:58, 2:12, 2:21, and 2:43.

That’s no joke. According to, those are the times on February 8 that MSNBC news anchors discussed which airplane Pelosi might fly in during her next trip home to San Francisco. And if news had not broken later that afternoon that celebrity Anna Nicole Smith had died (a story that quickly swamped the cable news landscape), my guess is the MSNBC mentions of the Pelosi plane story would have continued indefinitely.

It wasn’t just the frequency of the coverage, it was the substance. Or the lack thereof. The freedom with which reporters and pundits who covered the Pelosi story for ABC, CNN, MSNBC, the Associated Press, and Los Angeles Times, among others, simply made stuff up has to concern anybody who is interested in journalism, anybody who sees political reporting as more than a game. Because it’s becoming increasingly clear that lots of D.C. journalists no longer take their jobs seriously. (NBC, CNN, and MSNBC were among the mainstream media outlets that used suggestive “size matters” references when covering the Pelosi plane story last week. Get it?) The Pelosi brouhaha simply represented the latest, most glaring example of the at-times nonexistent standards by which Beltway newsrooms now function.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 3:11 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

The more things change…

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 1:14 pm

How to praise children

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Update: I had another thought, which came to me after reading Hunt, Gather, Parent, by Michaeleen Doucleff, a book I strongly recommend. The book describes how children are raised in cultures with deep traditions — that is, traditions honed over many generations. The thought is this: Don’t praise children. You certainly can admire and value what they accomplish, but don’t be so quick to put it into words. Use actions and attitudes instead.

I wrote to a friend about the book:

Another point Doucleff makes in the book is not to praise the child for tasks done (just as we don’t praise children as they learn to speak — instead of praising them, we just talk with them). The idea of praising is that self-esteem is important and praising the child will boost its self-esteem — but that’s wrong. Self-esteem comes from the self, not others, and doing a job well increases self-esteem. Important point: doing a job well is under the child’s own control. The parent can help by showing a child how to do it — “Watch me and learn this” — and then letting the child practice and gain experience.

But praise is NOT under the child’s control. That comes (or not) from another person, so if the child becomes conditioned to expect praise, it will be anxious: it needs something that lies outside its control. Whereas doing a good job has the locus of control within the child, getting praise moves the locus of control outside the child, and that situation — no longer having an internal locus of control — results in anxiety and depression.

The author doesn’t specifically mention this point — she just observes that the Mayan parents don’t praise and see no need for it, and their children and happy and helpful. My comment about locus of control is what I see, and relates to things I learned from reading Learned Optimism, by Martin Seligman, and Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn (both in my list books I find myself repeatedly recommending).

It occurs to me that one reason parents like to praise (or scold) their children is that, while they cannot control their children (directly), they can control whether to praise (or scold) or not. And note that if a child is conditioned by being frequently praised, the Pavlovian reflex sets in so that the child becomes addicted to praise and becomes upset if the dose of praise fails to arrive. This shows how much the locus of control has slipped from the child, who no longer is satisfied by his or her own accomplishments.

I do recommend Doucleff’s book. There’s much in it of value. And attempts to replicate Dweck’s experiments have shown that the effects are not so strong as she suggests — and in any event, she does use verbal praise, just changing to object of the praise. Doucleff’s book shows what seems to me a better way. /update

Mind Hacks points to a good article:

There’s a fascinating article in The New York Magazine about the dramatic effects of different types of praise on a child’s success when tackling new challenges.

A team of researchers led by Prof Carol Dweck asked children to complete a series of short tests, and randomly divided into groups. Each child was given a single line of praise.

One group was praised for their intelligence (“You must be smart at this”), while the others were praised for their effort (“You must have worked really hard”). This simple difference had a startling effect.

Children who were praised for their effort were more likely to choose a harder test when given a choice, were less likely to become disheartened when given a test they were guaranteed to fail, and when finally given the original tests again, their marks improved.

In contrast, the children praised for their intelligence tended to choose an easier test if asked, were distressed by failure, and actually had worse marks after re-taking the original tests.

Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”

In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.

Repeating her experiments, Dweck found this effect of praise on performance held true for students of every socioeconomic class. It hit both boys and girls—the very brightest girls especially (they collapsed the most following failure).

The article is fascinating, although it seems the writer has somewhat overused the phrase ‘the inverse power of praise’ and might lead some people to think that praise itself has an ‘inverse effect’.

Praising children is incredibly important. Countless psychological studies have shown that excessive critical comments have a damaging effect on mental health.

This research just suggests that in terms of encouraging children to tackle challenges effectively, praising their effort seems more effective than praising their intelligence.

The article is a thorough look at the issues raised by this research, and how it is being applied in education.

A (pdf) copy of the article. And more about having a sense of control. And Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 1:10 pm

Helix Nebula

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Recall the Larry Nivens & Jerry Pournelle’s science-fiction novel The Mote in God’s Eye? Here it is. (Click to enlarge.) Full info on photo (taken with infrared light).

More on this nebula.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 12:58 pm

The dish on fish

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Email from Harvard Medical School Health Newsletter:

Benefits outweigh risks, according to two recent reviews.

We know, we know: We’re supposed to eat fish. Several guidelines say a healthful diet should include two servings (usually defined as 3 ounces) per week. Fish contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two long-chain omega-3 fats that aren’t found in appreciable amounts in any other sort of readily available food. Those omega-3 fats may have all kinds of benefits, but so far the best evidence indicates that they’re protective against fatal cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks. In addition, DHA may be important to early brain development and to healthy pregnancies.

But there are contaminants to consider. It’s well known that mercury (more precisely, methylmercury) accumulates in the lean tissue of some species. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are found in fatty tissue. Mercury crosses the placenta, and high doses cause serious brain damage. In adults, the metal may harm the heart. PCBs and dioxin cause cancer in animal experiments, and there’s evidence that they’re human carcinogens, too. They may also throw the immune system out of kilter and cause neurologic defects.

So which way does the fish scale tip, toward benefit or risk?

Late in 2006, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and two researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Dariush Mozaffarian and Eric Rimm, weighed in on that question with extensive reviews of the existing medical research. Their conclusions differed in some respects. The Harvard researchers found plenty of evidence that EPA and DHA have health benefits. The IOM committee of experts found the evidence unimpressive and suggested an alternative explanation for the positive cardiovascular findings: People who eat fish regularly may not eat as much meat, so their intake of harmful saturated fat is lower.

But the IOM and Harvard experts agreed on the critical question: Eating fish is worth whatever risks the contaminants might entail. In general, the levels of pollutants in fish are below levels at which the FDA would take action. The IOM experts said that for most people, a healthful diet should include two 3-ounce servings per week. The Harvard researchers said that for adults, the benefits of “modest” fish consumption — which they defined as one or two servings per week — outweigh the risks.

Here are some other important points made in the two reviews:

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Medical

Look how extreme the right-wing has become

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Greenwald’s column today in Salon:

Whenever you think that Bush followers cannot get any more depraved in what they advocate, they always prove you wrong. This is what University of Tennessee Law Professor and right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds said today about claims by the administration that Iran is supplying weapons to Iraqi insurgents (claims which, needless to say, he blindly believes):

This has been obvious for a long time anyway, and I don’t understand why the Bush Administration has been so slow to respond. Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and iranian atomic scientists, supporting the simmering insurgencies within Iran, putting the mullahs’ expat business interests out of business, etc. Basically, stepping on the Iranians’ toes hard enough to make them reconsider their not-so-covert war against us in Iraq. And we should have been doing this since the summer 2003. But as far as I can tell, we’ve done nothing along these lines.

Just think about how extremist and deranged that is. We are not even at war with Iran. Congress has not declared war or authorized military force against that country. Yet Reynolds thinks that the Bush administration, unilaterally, should send people to murder Iranian scientists and religious leaders — just pick out whichever ones we don’t like and slaughter them. No charges. No trial. No accountability. Just roving death squads deployed and commanded by our Leader, slaughtering whomever he wants dead. To get a sense for how profoundly violative of our political and military traditions such proposals are, one can review this comprehensive report on the history of American law and foreign assassinations, authored by Nathan Canestaro, a member of the Afghanistan Task Force of the CIA (he also, ironically enough, graduated University of Tennessee School of Law). Every U.S. President since Gerald Ford — including Ronald Reagan — has either issued or left standing an Executive Order which expressly provides:

No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.

Every administration, Democratic and Republican, have agreed that creating death squads and engaging in extra-judicial assassinations is so repugnant to our political values and so destructive to our moral credibility around the world that an absolute ban is necessary — including at the height of the Cold War, as we battled the “evil empire” which had thousands of nuclear-tipped warheads pointed at numerous American cities. As Canestaro notes, it was the U.S. which was the first country to formulate a legal code of military conduct for use by soldiers in wartime, and the first Order on assassinations was issued by Abraham Lincoln (General Order 100) in the midst of the Civil War. It provided:

The law of war does not allow proclaiming either an individual belonging to the hostile army, or a citizen, or a subject of the hostile government, an outlaw, who may be slain without trial by any captor, any more than the modern law of peace allows such international outlawry; on the contrary, it abhors such outrage. The sternest retaliation should follow the murder committed in consequence of such proclamation, made by whatever authority. Civilized nations look with horror upon offers of rewards for the assassination of enemies as relapses into barbarism.

Consistent with American tradition, international treaties, with virtual unanimity, deplore extra-judicial assassinations as the tools of savages and barbarians. And what is most striking is that these anti-assassination prohibitions apply (a) to wartime and (b) even to foreign leaders of nations who are at war. But here, Reynolds is actually advocating that we murder scientists and religious figures who are “radical,” whatever that might happen to mean in the unchecked mind of George Bush.

If we are to be a country that now sends death squads into nations with whom we are not at war to slaughter civilians — scientists and religious figures — what don’t we do? American credibility in the world has fallen to literally unimaginable depths over the last six years, but it is critical to remember that with a President never to face the electorate again, many Bush supporters — and certainly the White House itself — are headed in the direction of increasingly extremist and bloodthirsty measures. And it is hard to overstate what a complete disregard they have — really an intense contempt — for the values that have long defined this country.

UPDATE: Evangelical Bush supporter and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt also favors Leader-ordered murders of Iranian civilians, as he chimes in to praise Reynolds’ proposal. When it comes to killing in the Middle East and unrestrained power vested in the President, there is literally no limit — none — as to what this strain of Bush supporter will advocate. Their sole dissatisfaction with the President, as Reynolds says, is that he has been far too restrained in his approach to Muslim countries and Muslims generally.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 12:44 pm

The Terrorism Index

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From the Carpetbagger:

The Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy, an influential journal published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, launched an interesting project last summer. CAP and FP asked 100 leading American foreign-policy analysts, from both sides of the aisle, for their perspectives on the war on terrorism.

The participants included some serious heavy-hitters, including a former secretary of state, former heads of the CIA and NSA, and prominent members of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment, most of whom served in previous presidential administrations, senior military positions, or both.

The result was “The Terrorism Index,” which showed widespread pessimism among the leading experts in the field. Fortunately, this was not a one-time endeavor. The second bi-annual, nonpartisan survey of foreign policy experts was released today. The point of the initiative seems to be determine whether the United States is growing more or less safe, and whether we’re exercising a wise approach to foreign policy and international security.

As with the first index six months ago, the results show that America’s foreign-policy community continues to have deep reservations about U.S. policies and priorities in the war on terror. Eighty-one percent see a world that is growing more dangerous for the American people, while 75 percent say the United States is losing the war on terror. Those numbers are down marginally — 5 and 9 percentage points respectively — from six months ago. Yet, when asked whether President George W. Bush has a clear plan to protect the United States from terrorism, 7 in 10 experts say no — including nearly 40 percent of those who identified themselves as conservatives. More than 80 percent of the experts continue to expect a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade, a result that is unchanged from six months ago.

There’s a surprising amount of consensus on many of the biggest questions — surprising because getting this diverse group of experts to agree on anything is challenging.

  • Iraq and U.S. security — 88% of the experts believe that the war in Iraq is having a negative impact on U.S. national security.
  • Iraq and the administration — 92% said that the Bush administration’s performance on Iraq has been below average, with nearly 6 in 10 experts of all political stripes saying the Bush administration is doing the “worst possible job” in Iraq.
  • Iraq and the “war on terror” — More than two thirds of the experts say that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism. In fact, given the choice between securing and stabilizing Iraq and ridding North Korea of its nuclear weapons, more experts say dealing with Pyongyang is the most important U.S. foreign-policy objective of the next five years.
  • The “surge” — The Terrorism Index suggests the administration has the escalation policy backwards. 66% believe we shouldn’t be sending more troops into Iraq (which we are), while 69% believe we should send more troops into Afghanistan (which we aren’t).
  • The strengths of U.S. rivals — 83% of experts said the Taliban is stronger now than it was a year ago. 56% said the same of Hamas, and 91% said the same of Hezbollah. Opinion was nearly divided on whether al Qaeda is stronger now than a year ago, but a 31% plurality said the terrorist network is “somewhat stronger.”
  • Public perceptions — The experts and the general population are not on the same page. 51% of Americans believe Bush has a plan to protect the U.S. from terrorism; 70% of experts said he does not. 46% of Americans (a plurality) believe we’re winning the “war on terror”; 75% of experts said we are not. 43% of Americans (a plurality) believe the U.S. is safer from a terrorist attack now than before 9/11; 81% of experts believe the opposite.

The White House isn’t fond of analyses from policy experts — what can a bunch of eggheads with experience and PhDs tell Bush? — but given the participants in this project, the results should raise some eyebrows.

Take a look at the whole thing. It’s a fascinating report.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 12:28 pm

Victory for the good guys

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Email from the Marijuana Policy Project:

Medical marijuana advocates won a major victory against the federal government yesterday: In a stinging 87-page opinion, the DEA’s own administrative law judge (ALJ) ruled that the DEA has been improperly blocking medical marijuana research.

The MPP grants program provided money for the lawsuit. News of the lawsuit victory was covered by more than 100 media outlets, including the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. You can read the Associated Press story here.

Right now, any researcher who wants to study the therapeutic effects of marijuana must obtain permission from the DEA and a supply of government-grown marijuana from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). This has proven to be incredibly difficult, as NIDA’s mission is to investigate marijuana’s potential harms, not medicinal benefits, and the DEA is outright hostile to medical marijuana research.

Professor Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, working in conjunction with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, has been trying for years to solve this problem. Back in 2001, he applied to the DEA for permission to grow a private supply of marijuana for use in clinical research. The DEA delayed making a decision for nearly three and a half years and then finally rejected Dr. Craker’s application, fallaciously claiming that international treaty obligations prevented it from granting permission.

But yesterday, DEA ALJ Ellen Bittner ruled that the DEA had no basis to reject Dr. Craker’s application.

Unfortunately, the decision to authorize the clinical trials needed to persuade the FDA to approve marijuana as a prescription medicine is now in the hands of America’s top drug cop, DEA chief Karen Tandy.

Unlike in other areas of U.S. jurisprudence, the DEA administrator can ignore the ruling of the DEA’s ALJ. Indeed, this happened in 1988, when the DEA’s ALJ ruled that marijuana has medical value and should therefore be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law. The DEA administrator refused to do so and, as a result, federal law still incorrectly asserts that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and LSD — and that cocaine and methamphetamine have more medicinal value than marijuana.

Prohibitionists have long argued that the 11 states that have legalized medical marijuana in the last 11 years should not have done so, claiming that the decision to allow for the medical use of a drug should be determined through FDA-approved clinical trials.

If Tandy refuses to authorize clinical trials or — more likely — she delays, this will provide MPP with an additional incentive — and a strong public justification — for spending a few million dollars to pass additional state-level medical marijuana laws through state legislatures and ballot initiatives.

To help MPP continue to fight the federal government, please consider making a financial donation today. Thank you …


Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I’ve mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.4 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2007. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 11:26 am

Beef shanks in the oven

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They’re beef shanks, though NFR Natural Beef calls them “Meaty Beef Bones.” My usual recipe, though with shallots instead of onions.

(Very good tip on peeling shallots: get someone else to do it.)

I sautéed some bacon, then browned the meaty beef bones (peppered and salted with kosher salt) in that. Then the shallots, sliced on my Rösle slicer, went in to brown a little. About 3/4 c. of red wine poured over to deglaze the pot, then put the beef and bacon back, poured over a can of diced tomatoes, and added one bunch of chopped parsley, about 8 chopped garlic cloves, 1 1/2 Tbsp horseradish, juice of two lemons, dash of Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme, crushed red pepper. Lid on, and it’s in a 250 degree oven. (Not 200 degrees, which I prefer, but I want to have it for dinner.)

When I take it out of the oven, I’ll add mushrooms and pearled barley and cook it on the stovetop until that’s done.

In the meantime, I did grate up some fresh horseradish and added that to some crème fraîche. I can’t wait to try that.

UPDATE: Well, the horseradish with  crème fraîche is definitely the way to go. I can get crème fraîche at Trader Joe’s.

Also, The Wife gave me a sterling silver marrow spoon for Christmas, and it works wonderfully well—just ate the marrow from the beef-shank bones. This spoon was made in London in 1784 by John Common—it’s three years older than the US Constitution, and it works as well as the day that it was new.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 11:21 am

One bad team member ruins the team

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We can all relate to this story:

Look around any organization and chances are you’ll be able to find at least one person whose negative behavior affects the rest of the group to varying degrees. So much so, say two University of Washington researchers, that these “bad apples” are like a virus to their teams, and can upset or spoil the whole apple cart.

The researchers’ paper, appearing in the current issue of Research in Organizational Behavior, examines how, when and why the behaviors of one negative member can have powerful and often detrimental influence on teams and groups.

William Felps, a doctoral student at the UW Business School and the study’s lead author, was inspired to investigate how workplace conflict and citizenship can be affected by one’s co-workers after his wife experienced the “bad apple” phenomenon.

Felps’ wife was unhappy at work and characterized the environment as cold and unfriendly. Then, she said, a funny thing happened. One of her co-workers who was particularly caustic and was always making fun of other people at the office came down with an illness that caused him to be away for several days.

“And when he was gone, my wife said that the atmosphere of the office changed dramatically,” Felps said. “People started helping each other, playing classical music on their radios, and going out for drinks after work. But when he returned to the office, things returned to the unpleasant way they were. She hadn’t noticed this employee as being a very important person in the office before he came down with this illness but, upon observing the social atmosphere when he was gone, she came to believe that he had a profound and negative impact. He truly was the “bad apple” that spoiled the barrel.”

Following his wife’s experience, Felps, together with Terence Mitchell, a professor of management and organization in the Business School and UW psychology professor, analyzed about two dozen published studies that focused on how teams and groups of employees interact, and specifically how having bad teammates can destroy a good team.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 8:35 am

More on the purge of federal prosecutors

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The Foggo and Wilkes indictments come just as Carol Lam, the Federal Prosecutor in San Diego, is being forced out of her job, along with other Federal Prosecutors across the country, as part of a Bush Administration Purge designed (apparently) to put in place a more conciliatory band.

The reason the Department of Justice has given for the Purge, though, has been “performance issues.” But:

Although the Bush administration has said that six U.S. attorneys were fired recently in part because of “performance related” issues, at least five of them received positive job evaluations before they were ordered to step down.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, using authority he gained in March from a little-noticed provision of the Patriot Act, has appointed interim U.S. attorneys from the Bush administration’s inner circle. The firings and appointments have raised concerns that Gonzales is politicizing the process.

Supporters of the U.S. attorneys and Justice Department officials familiar with the job evaluations suggested in interviews that top Justice Department officials may have exaggerated the role job performance played in the firings.

A Justice Department official who spoke on behalf of the administration said the dispute might simply be a matter of “semantics.”

“Performance-related can mean many things,” [indeed — LG] said the official, who asked to remain anonymous because the Privacy Act bars officials from discussing personnel decisions. “Policy is set at a national level. Individual U.S. attorneys around the country can’t just make up their policy agenda.”

Performance reviews of U.S. attorneys are conducted every three to four years by a team of experienced Justice Department officials, who interview judges, staff members, community leaders and federal agents. In some of the five cases, the reviewers made recommendations for improvements, but overall their assessments were positive, Justice Department officials said.

For instance, Daniel Bogden, the U.S. attorney in Nevada, was described in his last job performance evaluation in 2003 as being a “capable” leader who was highly regarded by the federal judiciary and investigators.

“He didn’t get any dings,” said a Justice Department official with knowledge of the review. “The overall evaluation was very positive.”

David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico, also received a positive evaluation last year, according to another Justice Department official.

Both officials asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized by the Justice Department to release the information.

The other U.S. attorneys who received good reviews were John McKay, the former U.S. attorney in Seattle; Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Arizona; and Carol Lam, the current U.S. attorney in San Diego.

McKay, who stepped down recently, said in an interview that his positive review in May 2006 didn’t explain his ouster, nor did the phone call he received in December from a Justice Department official who ordered him to resign.

“I was not told that it was related to my performance,” he said.

Lam was described in her 2005 evaluation as “well respected” by law enforcement officials, judges and her staff. Overall the review was positive.

“We’re not aware of any significant issues,” said another Justice Department official, who also asked not to be identified. Lam is leaving office Feb. 15.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 8:08 am

Foggo’s going down

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Note the passage I emphasized:

Federal prosecutors in San Diego are expected today to announce indictments in a case that involves the former No. 3 official at the CIA, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, officials tell ABC News.

Foggo, who served as the CIA’s executive director, was accused last year by fellow CIA employees of steering contracts for the CIA station in Iraq to longtime friend Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor whose activities also led to the indictment of former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham. Officials said today’s expected indictments will also include Wilkes.

At his home in suburban Washington, D.C., this morning, Foggo declined to comment to ABC News. Wilkes’ lawyer, Mark Geragos, also declined to comment.

If Foggo is indicted, it will represent a dark day for the CIA and is expected to lead to a full congressional investigation of how secret CIA contracts are awarded.

Foggo was promoted from a field logistics position to the powerful No. 3 position by Porter Goss when Goss took over the CIA. Goss resigned shortly after ABC News reported that Foggo was under criminal investigation, although officials say none of the allegations involve Goss.

At the time, officials close to Goss dismissed the investigation of Foggo “as existing only in the blogosphere” and tried to discourage ABC News from reporting the story.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 7:58 am

Day 2 of the Shaving Stick Sequence

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Used the Taylor of Old Bond Street St. James shaving stick this morning, with the Rooney Style 3 Small Super Silvertip. Very nice lather, and working the lather up from a shaving stick really works the lather into my beard.

The Futur, with a Swedish Gillette, as I recall. Perfectly smooth 3-pass shave, followed by alum bar and Pinaud’s Clubman aftershave. A nice little experience to start the day.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2007 at 7:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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