Later On

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

Archive for February 14th, 2007

Afghanistan going the way of Iraq

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From the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

While President Bush and Congress argue over Iraq, experts warn that Afghanistan could slip back into chaos.

U.S. commanders are bracing for a spring offensive by Taliban insurgents that’ll test the staying power of the fragile U.S.-backed Afghan government.

In a sign of the administration’s concern, President Bush will deliver a speech Thursday highlighting plans for a dramatic increase in military and economic aid, but skeptics fear that the renewed focus on Afghanistan may be too little and too late.

“We have our finger in the dike because our resources and attention were turned toward Iraq,” said Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., a former Navy admiral who served in both conflicts. “This is the real front in the war on terrorism. It’s a daunting task, more daunting than it had to be because we let the opportunity almost slip away.”

Administration officials and U.S. military commanders agree that Afghanistan is grappling with potentially crippling challenges. Five years after U.S. troops ousted the Taliban regime and its al-Qaida allies in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still embroiled in war, terrorism, drug trafficking and instability.

The government of President Hamid Karzai has a shaky hold on power; the Taliban and al-Qaida continue to launch attacks from their haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border; and opium production has increased dramatically. Attacks by Islamic extremists spiked last year, making 2006 the deadliest year since the U.S. invasion.

“A point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever,” Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 9:45 pm

Green Goddess Salad Dressing

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I’ve been enjoying a tuna salad (aka “tunafish” salad) for lunch lately. The particular recipe I’m using calls for “Annie’s Naturals” Goddess dressing:

Tuna salad

6 oz canned albacore tuna, thoroughly drained
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2 carrots minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Goddess Dressing
juice of 1/2 lemon
[dash Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce – LG]

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a large bowl, mix to combine. Serve on long, crusty rolls with tomato and lettuce or as a melt with cheddar cheese.

But on looking at the ingredients in Annie’s Natural, I was surprised (and disappointed) not to see anchovies—although they could then not label it “vegan.” Here’s why:

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Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 8:36 pm

Bush Administration = Big Business

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From ThinkProgress:

“Nine months before agreeing to let ConocoPhillips delay a half-billion-dollar pollution cleanup, the government’s top environmental prosecutor bought a $1 million vacation home with the company’s top lobbyist,” the AP reports. “Also in on the Kiawah Island, S.C., house deal was former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the highest-ranking Bush administration official targeted for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.”

Comment would be superfluous.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 8:00 pm

Jokes about global warming and cold weather

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are as tired as the meme “x” is the new “y” (x = red, y = black, etc.). ThinkProgress:

In January 2004, Matt Drudge began a wave of laughter on the right with this observation, which he dubbed “the biggest gaffe in years.”

Drudge

Three years later, he’s resurrected the joke:

Drudge warming

Whatever you think of the joke, the sad fact is that many on the right think this is actually proof that global warming isn’t occurring. It’s not.

Weather is current events. Climate is history. The three years that have passed since Drudge’s first joke have been among the hottest ever recorded in human history. Scientists believe 2007 will be even hotter. The National Academy of Sciences reported last year that Earth’s rising temperature “is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia,” and that “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming.”

climate.jpg

The fact that temperatures have swung from extreme to extreme — in New York, from all-time-high 70 degree weather in January to record-high snowfall one month later — is exactly what increasing greenhouse gas emissions predicts: climate destabilization.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Environment, GOP, Science

The other red meat

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After reading this article on heritage pork (pork from breeds such as Berkshire, Red Wattle, and others), I called the meat market in Morgan Hill to see if The Wife could stop by on her way home and pick up a pork roast. They will hold it for me. 🙂

And in looking at the sources, I discovered this web site: Heritage Foods USA. I’ll keep you posted on future explorations.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 5:21 pm

Posted in Food

The Federal government’s record

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Why don’t I trust the government to imprison and torture on mere suspicion, and instead want them to follow the rule of law and prove any accusations in an open court under due process? Today’s editorial from the NY Times may help explain:

An immigration court judge’s dismissal of 20-year-old deportation proceedings against two Palestinian men — and his criticism of the government’s abusive conduct in the case — ought to prick the conscience of the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff. Rather than reflexively pursuing an appeal, Mr. Chertoff, a former federal judge, should see the wisdom of finally declaring an end to this sorry legal tale, which has become a big source of distrust in the Arab and Muslim community.

The two legal American residents at the center of the controversy, Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh, are the sole remaining defendants in a Reagan-era cause célèbre known as the L.A. 8 case. They were arrested in Los Angeles and marked for deportation along with six others because of allegations that they supported the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is classified as a terrorist group.

The charges against the two have shifted repeatedly. Originally, they were charged under the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act, a cold war relic that allowed the deportation of noncitizens linked to any group advocating “world communism.” A federal court declared those provisions unconstitutional and Congress repealed them, but the government’s obsession only seemed to grow. At least twice, government lawyers pressed Congress for statutory changes, then tried to apply them retroactively.

What makes this pursuit so bizarre is that the government long ago conceded it had no evidence that the two men had ever been involved in any terrorist act, or any criminal act. Had they been United States citizens, they could not have been arrested. The key allegation — that two decades ago the men distributed a magazine published by the Popular Front and raised money for lawful charitable institutions somehow connected to the group — suggests that the government’s real motive all along has been to punish the exercise of free speech.

In dismissing the case, an immigration judge, Bruce Einhorn, cited the government’s “gross failure” to comply with his instructions to produce potentially exculpatory and other relevant information. He fittingly denounced the 20-year pursuit as “an embarrassment to the rule of law.”

Mr. Chertoff has until Feb. 28 to file an appeal. The only decent thing to do is to drop the case.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 5:02 pm

GOP: what’s wrong with the media

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Well, I’m not the only one annoyed with the Mainstream Media. The GOP is also annoyed, though for a very different reason. Greg Sargent reports:

Yesterday over at Election Central we reported that GOP Reps. John Shadegg and Pete Hoekstra had sent out a letter containing a set of talking points for GOP Congressmen to use in the debate in the House this week over escalation. As we noted yesterday, the letter was pretty interesting, particularly in that it urged GOP members not to talk about escalation and instead to change the subject to the wider war on “terror.”

But there’s another part of the letter that I’d missed yesterday — and it may be even more revealing in a perverse sort of way. Look at what these two leading Republicans told their GOP troops about the media:

Thanks to the liberal mainstream media, Americans fully understand the consequences of continuing our efforts in Iraq — both in American lives and dollars. The American people do not understand the consequences of abandoning that effort or the extreme views, goals, and intentions of the radical Islamist movement that is fueling the war in Iraq and the attacks on westerners and unbelievers throughout the world.

I think that’s as clearly revealing as one could want. The problem with the liberal media, according to these two top Republicans, is that it’s enabling Americans to understand the consequences of the war. But the media’s bias is preventing it from reporting the “consequences” of not doing what the President wants.

This is really, really interesting when you unpack it. The media is being faulted for emphasizing the factual — that is, for reporting on the factually observable things associated with the war that are happening right now, i.e., mounting deaths and skyrocketing costs.

Meanwhile, the thing that these two Republicans are criticizing the media for not doing is interpreting the war as being “fueled” by a single “radical Islamist movement.” It’s not doing enough reporting on what might happen if we pulled out of Iraq. The idea here seems to be that the media’s “liberalism” is preventing it from interpreting the war and speculating about the future in the way conservative war supporters want the media to.

Bottom line: The media is being faulted here merely for telling the American people what the consequences of the President’s war policies have been. This has long been the subtext of the GOP’s attacks on the “liberal” media, but the absurdity of it has never been revealed quite so clearly.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 4:50 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Iraq War, Media

To cut down smoking, focus on the right danger

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Warnings will be more effective if they point to the danger teen smokers fear most:

Teenagers fear blindness more than lung cancer or stroke, but nine out of 10 don’t know that smoking can rob them of their sight in later life, reveals research published ahead of print in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

The findings are based on the responses of 260 clubbers aged between 16 and 18, collected at four UK venues in Bournemouth, Winchester, Manchester and Southampton. One in five of the young women were daily smokers (21%), compared with around one in seven (15%) of the young men.

The teens were asked if they knew about the link between smoking and certain diseases, such as stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, and blindness. Deafness, which is not caused by smoking, was also included, in a bid to balance out the responses. They were then asked to rank their fears of each disease.

Awareness that smoking caused lung cancer was high, with 81% of respondents recognising the causal link. But the teenagers were not so well informed about the other health consequences of smoking.

Just over one in four (27%) realised smoking was linked to heart disease, and only 15% realised that smoking could also lead to stroke.

Just 5% correctly identified that smoking can also cause blindness, mostly as a result of age related macular degeneration, or AMD for short. The figure was even lower among those who smoked, just 2% of whom recognised the link.

But teens were far more frightened of losing their sight than of any other smoking related disease, giving it an average score of 4, compared with 3 for lung cancer, and 2 for heart disease and stroke.

Nine out of 10 of the teens said they would give up at the first signs of blindness, prompting the authors to suggest that public health messages about smoking which are aimed at teens, should include the risks of blindness.

While the prevalence of smoking has fallen in the UK, rates among teenagers are still high, warn the authors.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 1:57 pm

The tentacles of Cheney

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From TPMmuckraker:

Last week, the GAO singled out Philip Perry, chief counsel for the Department of Homeland Security, as an obstacle to effective oversight of the critical department. In the hot-off-the-presses Washington Monthly (full disclosure: I’m a contributor), Art Levine profiles Perry — who just happens to be the son-in-law of VP Dick Cheney — and his penchant for extreme friendliness to the chemical industry at the expense of homeland security:

By the summer of 2006, as various bills competed for attention, Perry’s services were in great demand. “Industry went back to the well,” says one DHS official.Perry came through in a characteristically concealed manner. When it became clear that Collins-Lieberman was going nowhere, Perry went searching for a new vehicle to get more industry-friendly results. He would find it in a DHS appropriations bill in the Senate, to which had been attached an obscure amendment giving the DHS short-term regulatory authority over chemical security. Perry reworked the language and helped to get it added to the spending bill in a conference committee. Under the new amendment, the DHS would have nominal authority to regulate the chemical industry but also have its hands tied where required. For example, the DHS would be barred from requiring any specific security measures, and citizens would be prohibited from suing to enforce the law. Best of all for industry, while the bill didn’t mention giving the DHS preemption authority, it didn’t bar it, either, leaving a modicum of wiggle room on the subject. In other words, if Perry was sufficiently brazen, he could claim for the DHS the power to nullify the chemical regulations in New Jersey.

He was sufficiently brazen. When the DHS finally unveiled its proposed regulations in late December of last year, Hill staffers noticed that the department had effectively granted itself the power to set aside state laws, even though the new federal law didn’t expressly grant such authority. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were livid. “In order to please their cronies in the chemical industry, the Bush administration is willing to put the health and safety of millions of people at risk,” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Senator Collins, for her part, released a statement accusing the DHS of attempting to create regulatory powers “out of whole cloth.” It was indeed curious that Perry, who had been so cautious about allowing the EPA to claim regulatory authority in the Clean Air Act, should now be so bold in interpreting the language in an appropriations rider. Or perhaps it wasn’t so curious at all.

If that wasn’t enough, Stephen Flynn of the Council on Foreign Relations has an in-depth report on how vulnerable the U.S. remains to a terrorist attack on a chemical plant:

Unbelievably, it has taken five years for the federal government to compile a prioritized list of the most likely targets in the country. Congress demanded such a list when it passed the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002, but the new department struggled to meet this mandate. This wasn’t, however, rocket science. While attacks on the electric grid, oil and gas facilities, major ports, and the food-supply system have the potential to create the greatest cascading economic effects, it is chemical facilities near urban population centers that have the potential to inflict the greatest casualties. Placing them at the top of the list of priorities is obvious.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 1:38 pm

Siding with Big Business against the American worker

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Bush Administration = government by Big Business. Here:

Today, the House Education and Labor Committee begins markup on the “Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which has strong bipartisan backing in Congress. The EFCA would make it easier for workers to form a union. Under the current law, “even when a majority of workers ask for union representation, their employers can force them to undergo an election process” administered by the Bush administration’s “anti-worker” National Labor Relations Board.

Roll Call reports today, “Deep-pocketed corporate lobbying groups have joined together to defeat” the EFCA. Speaking before a business lobby group this morning, Vice President Cheney announced that Bush will veto the EFCA legislation. Watch it.

The current union organization system is tilted against America’s workers. Each year, over 20,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity. Under the Bush administration, American workers have seen union levels — and their wages — steadily drop:

– In Oct. 2006, Bush’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — “easily the most anti-worker labor board in history” — issued a decision that will deny the right to organize to as many as 8 million workers in 200 occupations.

– In 2000, 13.5 percent of all wage and salary workers were unionized. In 2006, just 12 percent of workers were in unions.

– The portion of private sector workers covered by union protections has fallen steadily from 23.2 percent in 1979 to 8.5 percent in 2005.

– In 2004, 92 percent of employers forced workers to attend “mandatory captive audience meetings” where workers often had to “listen to hours of anti-union presentations by corporate representatives.”

– “The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003″ — after factoring in inflation — even though average worker productivity “has risen steadily over the same period.”

Unions ensure a better standard of living for working Americans. Workers represented by unions earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers and are 62 percent more likely to have medical insurance through their jobs. Contact your lawmakers and tell them to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 1:28 pm

Mainstream Media: asleep and compliant

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The Mainstream Media get little respect because, for the most part (and exceptions exist: Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post, the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and others), the Mainstream Media has a sense of responsibility not to the public, but to the politicians and businesses they cover. Example:

Yesterday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the war in Afghanistan “drew only the weakest of spotlights.” Despite featuring testimony from Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing commander of all NATO troops in Afghanistan, “as the hearing was set to begin, the only member of the media on hand to hear Eikenberry was a camera guy from CNN doing a pool report.” Last year was the bloodiest since the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2001, and opium production “broke all records in 2006.”

Example:

As Atrios notes, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr said this morning:

The bottom line, Heidi, is the US certainly does have intelligence tying these Iranian weapons shipments to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah ali Khamenei. It’s not something that the Bush White House wants to talk about in public too much because they really do not want to ratchet up tensions with Iran, the facts aside.

Starr claims the White House doesn’t want to talk about this “too much.” Actually, the White House explicitly denies it. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said yesterday:

SNOW: This is where we get to the rhetorical question I was asking you before. Do we have a signed piece of paper from Mr. Khamenei or from President Ahmadinejad signing off on this? No.

I’m trying to be careful about how we do this. The question is, do we know that some particular senior official signed off? No. It’s an opaque government. It’s not a transparent government.

Watch both clips back-to-back.

 

In other words, CNN is now overstating the intelligence on Iran beyond the overstatements of the Bush administration.

In addition—and this fact is seldom mentioned in the Mainstream Media—the Iranian government backs the Shiites in Iraq, and almost all the American fatalities are due to the Sunnis. Why this isn’t made clear we have to guess, but I imagine it’s because the Mainstream Media, by and large, supports Bush’s efforts to go to war with Iran.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 1:24 pm

More and more extreme…

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with absolutely no comment from the Mainstream Press, which prefers to run big stories and wring its collective hands about the bad language used by some liberal bloggers, while ignoring the Neoconservatives shitting on their living room carpet, figuratively speaking. Glenn Greenwald this morning:

Frank Gaffney, one of the country’s most influential and well-connected neoconservatives, has a column in today’s Washington Times in which he argues that the debate taking place in Congress over the war in Iraq constitutes treason. Gaffney specifically argues that the condemnations of Douglas Feith from Sen. Rockefeller “really should be a hanging offense.”

Gaffney begins his column by purporting to quote Abraham Lincoln. Gaffney claims that Lincoln said:

Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

This quote has become a favorite weapon for those who want to criminalize criticism of the Leader and the War. Jack Murtha’s opponent in the last election, Diana Irey, cited this quote while discussing Murtha’s opposition to the war. But this quote is completely invented. Lincoln never said it. This “quote” was first attributed to Lincoln by J. Michael Waller in Insight Magazine, in a 2003 article revealingly entitled: Democrats Usher in an Age of Treason. But as Waller himself now admits, the quote attributed to Lincoln is completely fraudulent. Waller wrote in an e-mail to FactCheck.org (h/t William Wolfrum):

The supposed quote in question is not a quote at all, and I never intended it to be construed as one. It was my lead sentence in the article that a copy editor mistakenly turned into a quote by incorrectly inserting quotation marks.

It was Waller, in The Washington Times’ Insight Magazine, urging that anti-war Congressmen be hanged — not Abraham Lincoln. But to justify their plainly un-American assault on our most basic constitutional liberties, neoconservatives like Gaffney simply invent quotes, attribute them to Abraham Lincoln, and continue to use them long after they have been debunked. Gaffney continues:

It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated — let alone applied — today. Still, as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate engage in interminable debate about resolutions whose effects can only be to “damage morale and undermine the military” while emboldening our enemies, it is time to reflect on what constitutes inappropriate behavior in time of war. . . .

The Journal has properly warned that Senator Ahab’s [the Wall St. Journal‘s name for Sen. Rockefeller] misbehavior is likely to have implications far beyond the immediate disservice it does to Mr. Feith and those who labored so ably under him. It will likely also have a severely chilling effect on the willingness of policymakers rigorously to challenge, and thereby to improve, the quality of the intelligence they are getting about tomorrow’s threats.

If there’s one thing that really should be a hanging offense, it is behavior that results in our being even less equipped to deal with such threats than we were before this phase of the War for the Free World began on September 11, 2001.

None of that is meant figuratively. Gaffney is really arguing that Senators who speak out against the President and the war are committing treason and that — just as Lincoln “argued” — those who are particularly obstructionist of the Leader’s efforts to protect us, such as Sen. Rockefeller, by virtue of his criticism of Gaffney’s “old friend,” Doug Feith, all should be hanged. Shouldn’t it be considered more notable when such a well-connected figure as Gaffney — with close relations to some of the administration’s most powerful figures — expressly accuses Senators of treason and calls their criticism a “hanging offense”? Why does advocacy of ideas this extreme provoke so little reaction, and why are advocates of such measures treated as serious and respectable political figures?

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Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 1:11 pm

Posted in GOP, Iraq War, Media

The GOP: embracing contradictions

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From Dana Milbank. Note emphasized passage (my emphasis):

Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the man in charge of Republican strategy in this week’s great debate on Iraq, was a study in nervous energy as he waited to speak on the House floor yesterday.

He paced behind the back row. He cracked his neck to the left and right. He wrung his hands. He buttoned, unbuttoned and rebuttoned his suit jacket. He cracked his neck some more, checked his BlackBerry, rocked on his heels, coughed, stroked his chin, folded and unfolded his arms, coughed, scratched behind his ear, swallowed heavily, and coughed again.

There was good reason for this anxiety. As head of the House Republican Conference, the 32-year-old redhead is leading his caucus into a public-opinion meat grinder: supporting President Bush’s increase of U.S. troops in Iraq, against the wishes of more than 60 percent of Americans. Worse, he is leading them with a pair of somewhat contradictory arguments: (a) that the Democrats’ resolution opposing Bush’s Iraq buildup is a meaningless gesture, and (b) that the Democrats’ resolution will cause the end of civilization as we know it.

“This is a rather toothless 97 words,” Putnam began in his floor speech, calling the proposal “a narrow nonbinding resolution that misses the bigger picture.” Minutes later, he changed his view. “The majority would have us consider a resolution that puts us one day closer to handing militant Islamists a safe haven the size of California.”

So which one is it: toothless or catastrophic?

Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) wasn’t sure. In his floor speech, he called the resolution “nonbinding” six times, labeling the resolution “a political charade lacking both the seriousness and the gravity of the issue that it’s meant to represent.” And yet, he also thought the resolution “is the first step toward abandoning Iraq by cutting off funding for our troops that are in harm’s way.”

Neither had Minority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) found harmony between the competing talking points. “This resolution just says enough not to say anything at all,” he judged. In another breath, however, he called it a “first step to cutting off funding for the dangerous mission our troops face” and a debate that “bolsters those radical terrorists whose sole goal is to destroy America.”

The Republican complaints brought to mind the Woody Allen joke about two old ladies at a Catskills resort. “One of ’em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, ‘Yeah, I know, and such small portions.’ “

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Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 12:54 pm

Images of Teheran, Iran

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Thanks to Happy Jack for these images of Teheran (video), which are (oddly enough) not visible in our press or on our TV programs.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 12:48 pm

Getting Things Done

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CNN story on what it’s all about:

Management consultant David Allen is a best-selling author, runs a multimillion dollar company and travels the country teaching executives to be more productive.

Allen, 61, is best known for his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. The book, published in 2001, was the 46th most popular book on Amazon.com on Thursday.

[And, an interesting note, you can’t get cheap copies on Abebooks—a tribute to the fact that people are keeping their copies and not getting rid of them. – LG]

He may seem like an unlikely Internet hero, but legions of bloggers have embraced his timesaving methods. A quick Google search for David Allen and “Getting Things Done” turned up more than 1.3 million hits.

Allen said Getting Things Done, or GTD, is “just advanced common sense,” but he said it took him about 20 years to figure it out.

“I had 35 professions before I was 35, so it’s either consultant or flake are your two options, so hopefully I took the positive route on that,” he said. “I kind of didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had a degree in American intellectual history, then a black belt in karate and all kinds of weird things trying to find out where I was going to land.”

He said he saw a huge need for time management training in the corporate world.

“I thought I was the last kid on the block to learn this stuff, and the more professional and sophisticated people that I met would have already done all of this stuff. Well, that wasn’t true,” he said.
One of the key steps in GTD is to get all of the information you’re carrying around out of your head and put it someplace safe until you’re ready to use it.

Allen said making a list can help you feel better when you feel overwhelmed, confused and out of control. [The control issue again – LG]

“If you’d figured out why that happened, you’d never keep anything in your head again for the rest of your life,” he said. “Nothing in your world changed, but somehow how you engaged with your world changed.”

How you capture the information isn’t important, Allen said, but you need to keep it with you or you won’t trust the system.

“I don’t care what you write it on, you can write it on your arm,” he said. “But I guarantee that if you write it down and you keep it someplace where you won’t lose it and you look at it sooner than later you’re going to feel better than if you don’t, and you’ll be more productive and use less energy.”

Allen says his martial arts background helped him appreciate the value of eliminating distractions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 11:05 am

All About (filtered) Water

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AllAboutWater.org has interesting facts about water:

* 20 Interesting and Useful Water Facts
* 10 Reasons to Drink Water
* 10 Reasons to Use a Water Filter
* 10 Benefits of Using a Drinking Water Filter
* 10 Reasons to Use a Shower Filter
* 10 Benefits of Using a Shower Filter
* 10 Reasons to Use a Whole House Water Filter
* 10 Benefits of Using a Whole House Water Filter

So far as I can tell, this is an industry-group Web site, run by companies making water filtration systems. So beware. But they do offer some interesting information:

Recent allegations against the Coca-Cola Company and its brand name of bottled water, Dasani, have publicly highlighted one of the biggest misconceptions about the quality of bottled water. Coca-Cola, advertising its bottled water as “pure, still water,” is now being investigated for misleading consumers about the true nature of the contents of its bottles. Rather than deriving its water from natural springs, Coca-Cola had actually been filling its Dasani bottles with purified tap water.

Of course, this problem of reconstituted tap water in Dasani bottles would not be so large if it was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, the process of bottling tap water is not limited to the Coca-Cola Company. In 1999, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published the results of a four-year study in which researchers tested more than 1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water. These researchers found that,

“An estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”

In one case, a brand of bottled water, advertised as “pure, glacier water,” was found to be taken from a municipal water supply while another brand, flaunted as “spring water,” was pumped from a water source next to a hazardous waste dumping site. While “purified tap water” is arguably safer and purer than untreated tap water (depending upon the purification methods), a consumer should expect to receive something more than reconstituted tap water for the exceptional prices of bottled water.

If bottled water does not necessarily offer purer water than tap water, surely it provides a better tasting water product, right? The answer to this question is no. Bottled water does not always taste better than tap water.

In an interesting study conducted by Showtime television, the hosts found that 75% of tested New York City residents actually preferred tap water over bottled water in a blind taste test.

While taste is certainly highly subjective, this study shows that bottled water essentially holds nothing over tap water. In many cases, bottled water is no purer than tap water, and it may not even taste better.

I’m not sure how much research authority you want to grant to Showtime television, but certainly New York City is renowned for the high quality and excellent taste of its tap water, drawn from the Catskill Mountains.

Full disclosure: I use a Brita On Tap for my drinking/cooking water, and a Sprite High-Output shower filter for my shower.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 10:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

This can’t be good

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Is this the Army we want? It’s the Army we’re getting, thanks to George W. Bush and Richard Cheney:

The number of waivers granted to Army recruits with criminal backgrounds has grown about 65 percent in the last three years, increasing to 8,129 in 2006 from 4,918 in 2003, Department of Defense records show.

During that time, the Army has employed a variety of tactics to expand its diminishing pool of recruits. It has offered larger enlistment cash bonuses, allowed more high school dropouts and applicants with low scores on its aptitude test to join, and loosened weight and age restrictions.

It has also increased the number of so-called “moral waivers” to recruits with criminal pasts, even as the total number of recruits dropped slightly. The sharpest increase was in waivers for serious misdemeanors, which make up the bulk of all the Army’s moral waivers. These include aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and vehicular homicide.

The number of waivers for felony convictions also increased, to 11 percent of the 8,129 moral waivers granted in 2006, from 8 percent.

Waivers for less serious crimes like traffic offenses and drug use have dropped or remained stable.

The Army enlisted 69,395 men and women last year.

While soldiers with criminal histories made up only 11.7 percent of the Army recruits in 2006, the spike in waivers raises concerns about whether the military is making too many exceptions to try to meet its recruitment demands in a time of war. Most felons, for example, are not permitted to carry firearms, and many criminals have at some point exhibited serious lapses in discipline and judgment, traits that are far from ideal on the battlefield.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 10:11 am

Dutch-Oven championship recipe

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I’m a big fan of the Dutch oven. As you know, I have both the 5.5 Stainless All-Clad Dutch oven and a 5-qt Griswold cast-iron Dutch Oven. Now I discover the International Dutch Oven Society and its forums.

And you can still attend two big upcoming events:

Plan now to attend our 2007 Spring Convention
April 13-14, 2007
Davis County, Utah – Fair Park

Come see the World Championships
Semi-finals – Thursday and Friday, March 15th & 16th, 2007
Finals – Saturday, March 17th, 2007
Sandy, UT at the South Towne Exposition Center

The 2006 world champion cook-off was won by a couple of guys who cooked amazing things in a Dutch oven:

Allen Jons & Huey Hooks – World Champions
* Dessert: Red, White & Blue Berry Shortcake
* Bread: Basil & Asiago Bread Twist with Pine Nuts & Roasted Garlic Butter
* Main: Lobster Stuffed Salmon en Papilata with Prawns

My jaw drops. Other dishes from the 2006 World Championship cook-offs:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 10:04 am

The importance of the locus of control

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One illusion important for mental (and, it turns out, physical) health is the idea that the locus of control resides within you. People with an internal locus of control tend to be optimistic, healthy, and successful, people with an external locus of control depressed, unhealthy, and short-lived.

And yet… A friend points out:

All this fuss about an astronaut flipping out implies that, if we investigate hard enough ahead of time, we can avoid all ill consequences. It’s like, If only I had offered to drive her home, she wouldn’t have had that car accident. If only I had been a better friend, he wouldn’t have committed suicide.

Does this strike anyone else but me as extreme hubris (if that isn’t a redundancy)? How much control of the universe do we really have, anyway?

It’s true: one really wants to believe that, with enough care, we (and the institutions that serve us) can avoid calamity. But we can’t. And yet the idea that we can control events and outcomes is important for health. OTOH, striving (and failing) to control things beyond our control leads to depression as well. Somehow a balance must be struck: one must find those things that are indeed within one’s control and focus on those. That focus will indeed provide you with a healthful sense of control, because you do control those things.

Just yesterday I blogged about how to praise children: praise them for things (such as their efforts) over which they have control. And, as mentioned in an earlier post, Bill Oncken talks about the goal in middle management — controlling the timing and content of your work — and Martin Seligman describes the psychological findings of having (or lacking) an internal locus of control.

Still, some people shirk from exercising control even when they can—perhaps because of the responsibility, or the implied “test” that will reveal how competent (or not) they are. These people find some relief in perceiving themselves (and acting) as a victim. Stephen Covey talks at some length about this worldview in his book. An excellent counter to this view is Viktor Frankl’s fine book Man’s Search for Meaning, which (among other things) is about finding areas in which one can exercise control, even when a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 9:50 am

Oh, my! How nice!

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First, a happy Valentine’s Day to all the Later On readers.

And today I used my Erasmic shaving stick, a gift from The Wife, for a wonderfully nice shave. The Erasmic, like so many fine shaving products, is made in the UK. I rubbed it on, brought out a fine lather with the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super (also made in the UK), and shaved with my gold-plated Progress (a product of Germany) loaded with a Feather (Japan) blade. Finished with the alum bar (India) and Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum (UK once more).

With that quick tour of the globe, and a pot of Mocha (Yemen) – Java (Java) coffee beside me, made from beans roasted in Charm City, MD, I’m ready to begin.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2007 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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