Later On

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

Archive for March 1st, 2007

More on the Purge

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Josh Marshall is all over this developing scandal. There’s a video at the link.

Iglesias not the only one with a story to tell?

Remember Bud Cummins. He was the US Attorney from the Eastern District of Arkansas who got canned so Karl Rove’s opposition research chief could take over the job. Look closely at what he just told the Associated Press

Cummins, U.S. attorney for Arkansas’ Eastern District from 2001-2006, said Thursday that he and other fired attorneys had “politely declined” previous requests from the committee. He said he “didn’t have any desire to stir up the controversy any further.””If given the choice, I’d elect to stay home and mind my own business,” Cummins told The Associated Press. “Now that I’m under subpoena, I’ll go and give cooperative, truthful answers.”

When asked if officials in the Justice Department or White House had asked him to decline the earlier requests, Cummins said he had no comment.

Again, one of those ‘no comments’ that says plenty.

While this story has been unfolding, has the White House been leaning on these fired US attorneys not to come before Congress?

And what might they have said?

Consider what Sen. Schumer (D-NY) said on Wednesday on the floor of the senate. He said pretty clearly that his staff has talked to other fired US attorneys, beside Mr. Iglesias, and that they believe nefarious motives prompted their suspicions too …

And before going further, let’s be clear about one thing. I suspect many of the press lords haven’t awoken yet to the potential magnitude of this story. The Iglesias story could drag down a member of Congress. On its own though it’s a small matter. What makes it a big deal is that it’s the tell about what happened in San Diego.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 10:06 pm

Step away from the Twinkie.

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You don’t want it:

Louis Browning

If you were to guess how many ingredients are in a Twinkie, what would your answer be? 10? 15? 20? Keep in mind that a homemade cake can be made with as few as 6 ingredients.

A Twinkie is constructed of 39 ingredients. These chemicals, and the fascinating process which goes into procuring and combining them, are the focus of a new book entitled “Twinkie, Deconstructed“. From a review in Newsweek I learned the following:

*The Filling – primarily made of shortening (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and beef fat). Also contains Polysorbate 60, a gooey chemical derived from corn, palm oil, and petroleum that substitutes for cream and eggs at a fraction of the cost. Cellulose gum gives the creme a “creamy” feel. Artificial vanillin is made in petroleum plants, avoiding the labor needed to hand-pollinate real tropical orchids that produce real vanilla.

*The Cake – contains Lecithin, an emulsifier derived from soy. Not bad, except if you consider that lecithin is also used in paints to keep the pigments evenly spread. Diacetyl passes for butter, but has a much longer shelf-life than the real stuff which goes rancid. Cornstarch, okay. The golden color comes not from egg yolks, but rather from Yellow #5 and Red #40. As a preservative, Twinkies use sorbic acid, which… comes from petroleum.

All these chemicals reduce the cost of making a Twinkie, and extend its shelf life to 25 days. They allow the batter to be easily fed through tubes and industrial baking equipment. Each Twinkie contains 145 calories (before deep-frying), the equivalent of which I burned off today searching for missing charts and tearing the hair from my scalp.

The man pictured above is Mr. Louis Browning of Shelbyville, Indiana, who in 1941 as a little boy first started enjoying a daily Twinkie or two. He never stopped. Now retired from his job as a milkman, he’s downed more than 22,000 of the Polysorbate 60-containing treats, and even appeared on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

I’m guessing that the health effects of eating this many Twinkies has not been studied thoroughly. I’m also guessing that not everyone shares the same constitution as Mr. Browning. But I am extrapolating from the ingredient list that our dependence on foreign oil might be reduced either by eating fewer Twinkies or by buying a hybrid car.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 9:40 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

NM GOP scandal grows

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Josh Marshall has the latest, and he’s right: Domenici and Heather Wilson are in it up to their necks, but whom did they then approach to get Iglesias fired from his job as Federal prosecutor? I think their behavior, certainly unethical and against Senate and House rules, may be illegal. Here’s Josh:

McClatchy still running that ball down field

Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico pressured the U.S. attorney in their state to speed up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator, according to two people familiar with the contacts.The alleged involvement of the two Republican lawmakers raises questions about possible violations of House of Representatives and Senate ethics rules and could taint the criminal investigation into the award of an $82 million courthouse contract.

The two people with knowledge of the incident said Domenici and Wilson intervened in mid-October, when Wilson was in a competitive re-election campaign that she won by 875 votes out of nearly 211,000 cast.

Further down into the article we learn that Wilson called first. That was followed up by Domenici who … well, listen hear how Marisa Taylor of McClatchy puts it …

Domenici, who wasn’t up for re-election, called about a week and a half later and was more persistent than Wilson, the people said. When Iglesias said an indictment wouldn’t be handed down until at least December, the line went dead.

When I first heard about this latest development USA attorney, I could believe that Wilson pulled something like this. I’m not saying she strikes me, or struck me, as particularly unethical. And I’m not saying that someone like Pete Domenici — who must basically own the New Mexico Republican party — would be above it. But I’m surprised someone who’s served in the senate for 35 years or so wouldn’t know to put a little distance — an intermediary or two — between him and the US attorney he was trying to muscle under.

Anyway, I think at this point we basically know that Wilson and Domenici are the culprits. They tried to pressure Iglesias into issuing an indictment of a prominent local Democrat to help Wilson win reelection. And if you really don’t believe that Iglesias’s firing had anything to do with his not lending Wilson a prosecutorial helping hand last fall, well, then you’re probably one of those goofs who was still believing we’d find the WMD well into 2004.

Now we know Wilson and Domenici were the first links in the chain. Who they’d talk to? Walk it back.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 7:56 pm

Bush: feckless forever

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From Kevin Drum:

Fred Kaplan (unsurprisingly) picks up on something I missed about our intelligence turnaround on North Korea’s uranium enrichment program:

Why are senior officials suddenly saying that North Korea might not have an enriched-uranium program? No new information has come to light on the issue. They are saying this for one reason: President Bush recently agreed to a nuclear deal with the North Koreans; the deal says nothing about enriched uranium (it requires them only to freeze their plutonium-bomb program); so, in order to stave off the flood of criticism from Bush’s conservative base, senior officials are saying that the enriched uranium was never a big deal to begin with.

….In October 2002, when Bush was looking for any excuse to back out of the Agreed Framework, senior officials said the evidence of enriched uranium was strong.

Now, four and a half years later, when Bush is looking for reasons to justify a deal that’s remarkably similar to the Agreed Framework (except it’s not quite as tight, and the North Koreans have since become a nuclear-armed nation), senior officials are saying the evidence of enriched uranium is weak.

The evidence has always been ambiguous. Before, they hyped it to justify what they wanted to do. Now, they’re downplaying it to justify what they’ve done.

Kaplan is pissed: “[This] shows that Bush and his people will say anything, no matter whether it’s true, in order to shore up a political point. It means that U.S. intelligence has become completely corrupted.” I’m not sure this is really news at this point, but he’s right that this is an unusually bald demonstration of the point.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 7:51 pm

Take a good, long vacation

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You owe it to yourself, and your company will agree. I blogged earlier about a finding by a Swedish work physiologist who did a study that determined the minimum length for a truly restorative vacation is three weeks: the first week you’re still thinking about work and various projects; the second week you’re just tired and resting, with lots of sleep; and the third week you have regained energy and are keen to explore and learn about wherever you are. And at the end of that, you’re ready to go back to work.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The media favor the GOP

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What is all the nonsense about the “liberal media”? Barak Obama and John McCain make the same blunder: referring to the lives lost in the Iraq War as “wasted.” But the media’s response is very different.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Democrats, GOP, Media

Steps along the road to a police state

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Here’s an example.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 6:22 pm

A step in the right direction

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The general in charge of Walter Reed Army Medical Center has been fired (or, in Army parlance, “relieved of his command”).

Army officials informed Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman this morning that the nation’s oldest military service had “lost trust and confidence in the commander’s leadership abilities to address needed solutions for soldier-outpatient care” at the hospital. Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey made the decision yesterday, Army officials said.

However, Weightman has been at the post for only six months, and he’s certainly not the main problem. Weightman will be replaced by the head of U.S. Army Medical Command, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley, for now. Kiley seems to be a much worse problem.  For example:

In a news conference last week, Kiley, now the Army’s surgeon general, said the problems found in the building “weren’t serious and there weren’t a lot of them.”

That view was strongly contradicted by Gates, who later last week called conditions at building 18 “unacceptable.” Gates said he will hold the responsible officials accountable after he receives the results of a 45-day review, which he said will be released to Congress and the public.

“We take this very seriously,” a Pentagon spokeswoman told ABC News today.

Some specific instances of Kiley’s deliberate neglect of the problem:

Among those who brought the problems to the attention of Kiley and other Walter Reed and military officials, according to the Post:

Steve Robinson, director of veterans affairs at Veterans for America, said he told Kiley in 2003 that “there are people in the barracks who are drinking themselves to death and people who are sharing drugs and not getting the care they need.” Some missed appointments because Walter Reed officials had lost track of them, Robinson said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth L. Farmer Jr., who commanded Walter Reed for two years before leaving in August, said he was aware of outpatient problems and reported them both to his commander, Kiley, and to his successor, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman.

Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., stopped visiting Walter Reed after voicing his complaints. His wife, Beverly, complained to Kiley that she visited a soldier lying in urine on his mattress. “I went flying down to Kevin Kiley’s office again and got nowhere,” she told the paper. “He has skirted this stuff for five years and blamed everyone else.”

Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker in the psychiatry department, briefed colonels at the hospital about a survey that found 75 percent of outpatients called their experience there “stressful” and many were “unsatisfied, frustrated, disenfranchised.”

Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked a staffer during a visit if her husband was seeing only patients handpicked to show the hospital’s good side and was told yes.

In addition to the Defense Department review, the hospital is now in the second day of a two-day inspection by the Joint Commission, a hospital accreditation agency formerly known as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations.

“These are serious wounds, and these folks aren’t getting the care they need at Walter Reed, right in the backyard of the capital,” former Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, a veteran and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told CNN. “I think there are a lot of people who work very hard and care very deeply in Walter Reed and also in the [Veterans Administration] hospitals around the country. But what we consistently hear is that they’re under-resourced.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 4:47 pm

Why I enjoy traditional shaving

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That is, shaving with double-edged blade, safety razor, badger brush, and shaving soap or cream.

First, sensual enjoyment: hot lather, flexible yet firm shaving brush, razor making a nice sound as it mows through the stubble, feeling my smooth face after the shave, the fragrances of the lather and the aftershave, etc.

Second, flow: focused attention on a task that requires around 85% of my capabilities, with a clear goal and immediate feedback as I work at it. It really clears the mind.

Third, gadget appeal: the razor mechanisms, blade characteristics, brush styles, soap varieties, etc.

Fourth, the great feeling of converting a daily chore into a daily pleasure: conquering, in a small way, drudgery.

Fifth, the satisfaction of knowing that soap and blade cost just pennies, rather than the high-priced products of marketing that other men typically use.

And, finally, that I’m getting the best (smoothest, closest) shaves of my life with zero skin irritation.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 4:36 pm

Posted in Shaving

Low-fat dairy linked to infertility

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Odd and interesting:

Women who eat low-fat dairy foods may have a higher risk of infertility than those who treat themselves to full-fat ice cream or cheese, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They found that women who ate two or more servings of low-fat dairy foods a day had an 85 percent higher risk of a certain type of infertility than women who ate less than one serving of low-fat dairy food a week.

Women who ate one serving of high-fat dairy food a day were 27 percent less likely to be infertile than women who avoided full-fat dairy foods.

It was not the finding that nutritionist Dr. Jorge Chavarro of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston had expected.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 4:29 pm

Final hip report: all’s well

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Just back from the doctor, who inspected the bone scan photos with me. No problems evident at all. (I was on the mend by the time those were taken.) Today, no Celebrex or Advil needed—just an occasional mild twinge. So whatever it was, it’s over. The doctor did suggest a heating pad for the hip for the next few days—not on “hot,” just on medium. But things look good. And it’s healed up just in time for my trip to Baltimore. (Light blogging 11-20 March.)

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Neoconservative = anti-democratic & evil

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Strong words, but look at this by Glenn Greenwald. What other conclusion can you draw?

There is a fascinating (and increasingly vitriolic) argument bubbling over in National Review‘s Corner between Andrew Stuttaford, on the one hand, and the roster of tough-guy Cornerite Warriors (Andy McCarthy, Mark Steyn, and Iran-obsessed Michael Rubin of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute) on the other, concerning the Bush administration’s participation in an upcoming regional diplomatic conference to include both Syria and Iran. And just incidentally, Brit Hume last night eagerly sought to assuage the concerns of worried Fox viewers by conveying his colleague Tony Snow’s assurances that this was all planned long ago.

Over at the Corner, Stuttaford has been arguing for the wisdom of negotiating with the Iranians, the gravest neoconservative sin there is. And the Churchillian Warriors, of course, have declared this to be the ultimate act of Chamberlain-ish appeasement — it’s the same as sponsoring a group hug with bin Laden and Hitler at the same time, etc. — and are mocking Stuttaford for failing to realize that Iran represents such Pure Evil that no negotiations with them are possible. That is all standard warmonger fare.

But what is so notable here — and what one finds in almost every debate about Iran — is that while the Warriors will mock and oppose every attempt to resolve the U.S.-Iranian conflicts short of war, they never have the courage to expressly say what it is that they actually favor. The reason for that refusal is clear: they oppose negotiations because they crave full-on military confrontation with Iran (or, at the very least, the use of force to bring about regime change), but they know that expressly advocating that will cause them to be stigmatized as the dangerous radicals that they are. So they keep using code to talk about the need to show strength and toughness towards Iran and never appease them — and they mock every option designed to avoid war — while lacking the courage of their convictions to say what they actually think.

For that reason, Stuttaford has been repeatedly asking the Warriors what they think we ought to do about Iran if negotiations are so misguided, and they keep refusing to answer. Finally Rubin was forced to address the question, and he began this way: “What would I suggest? When it comes to economic measures, Patrick Clawson provides some useful suggestions.” He does not, of course, say that we should confine ourselves to those “economic measures,” because that’s not what he believes. He thus proceeds to reject various other measures (while never saying which ones he favors) and then finishes with this pronouncement:

Nor do I believe it in U.S. interests to acquiesce to the Revolutionary Guard and Office of the Supreme Leader with nuclear arms. Their ideology matters; it would be unwise to project our own values upon those circles in Iran which would control such capability. With regard to much more precise options, such things are better discussed in private, and I would be glad to do so.

So Rubin is unwilling to say publicly what he thinks the U.S. should do with regard to Iran. He is willing to unveil his great insights only in secret, closed-door meetings at the AEI at shadowy gatherings of our nation’s neoconservative foreign policy geniuses, but is not willing to advocate those ideas to his fellow citizens in public forums.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 10:40 am

Posted in GOP, Iran

Bush gummed up North Korea, too

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From Dan Froomkin’s column this morning:

Glenn Kessler writes in The Washington Post: “The Bush administration is backing away from its long-held assertions that North Korea has an active clandestine program to enrich uranium, leading some experts to believe that the original U.S. intelligence that started the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions may have been flawed. . . .

“The administration’s stance today stands in sharp contrast to the certainty expressed by top officials in 2002, when the administration accused Pyongyang of running a secret uranium program — and demanded it be dismantled at once. President Bush told a news conference that November: ‘We discovered that, contrary to an agreement they had with the United States, they’re enriching uranium, with a desire of developing a weapon.’

“The accusation about the alleged uranium program backfired, sparking a series of events that ultimately led to North Korea’s first nuclear test — using another material, plutonium — nearly five months ago.

“In 2002, the United States led a drive to suspend shipments of fuel oil promised to Pyongyang under a 1994 accord that froze a North Korean plutonium facility. The collapse of the 1994 agreement freed North Korea to build up a stockpile of plutonium for as many as a dozen nuclear weapons.”

And what motivated all this? “When Bush took office in 2001, a number of top administration officials openly expressed grave doubts about the 1994 accord, which was negotiated by the Clinton administration, and they seized on the intelligence about the uranium facility to terminate the agreement.”

David E. Sanger and William J. Broad write in the New York Times: “‘The question now is whether we would be in the position of having to get the North Koreans to give up a sizable arsenal if this had been handled differently,’ a senior administration official said this week.”

Sanger and Broad write that the new disclosure “underscores broader questions about the ability of intelligence agencies to discern the precise status of foreign weapons programs. The original assessment about North Korea came during the same period that the administration was building its case about Iraq’s unconventional weapons programs, which turned out to be based on flawed intelligence. And the new North Korea assessment comes amid debate over intelligence about Iran’s weapons. . . .

“It is unclear why the new assessment is being disclosed now. But some officials suggested that the timing could be linked to North Korea’s recent agreement to reopen its doors to international arms inspectors. As a result, these officials have said, the intelligence agencies are facing the possibility that their assessments will once again be compared to what is actually found on the ground. ‘This may be preventative,’ one American diplomat said.”

As for the backstory: “Different players in the 2002 debate have different memories. John R. Bolton, the former American ambassador to the United Nations, who headed the State Department’s proliferation office at the time of the 2002 declaration, said in an interview on Wednesday evening that ‘there was no dissent at the time, because in the face of the evidence the disputes evaporated.’ Mr. Bolton, one of the most hawkish voices in the administration and a vocal critic of its recent deal with North Korea, recalled that even the State Department’s own intelligence arm, which was the most skeptical of the Iraq evidence, ‘agreed with the consensus opinion.’

“But David A. Kay, a nuclear expert and former official who in 2003 and 2004 led the American hunt for unconventional arms in Iraq, said he had found the administration’s claims about the North Korean uranium program unpersuasive. ‘They were driving it way further than the evidence indicated it should go,’ he said in an interview. The leap of logic, Dr. Kay added, turned evidence of equipment purchases into ‘a significant production capability.'”

Blogger Kevin Drum considers it a fitting moment to link to a 2004 article for the Washington Monthly in which Fred Kaplan wrote: “Why did George W. Bush—his foreign policy avowedly devoted to stopping ‘rogue regimes’ from acquiring weapons of mass destruction—allow one of the world’s most dangerous regimes to acquire the makings of the deadliest WMDs? . . .

“The pattern of decision making that led to this debacle — as described to me in recent interviews with key former administration officials who participated in the events — will sound familiar to anyone who has watched Bush and his cabinet in action. It is a pattern of wishful thinking, blinding moral outrage, willful ignorance of foreign cultures, a naive faith in American triumphalism, a contempt for the messy compromises of diplomacy, and a knee-jerk refusal to do anything the way the Clinton administration did it.”

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 10:10 am

Passive-aggressive techs

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Recently I’ve discovered that some of my email has been bounced. E.g., the local library emails me notifications when a book I’ve placed on hold is available, but the most recent such mail bounced—never before.

I contacted my ISP, and I got this information:

We recently changed our email processing program, the new one conforms to the email standards, one of which is the requirement of having a valid and matching forward and reverse record for your mail server.  Not everyone has conformed to these email standards.  Unfortunately, we can’t force others to conform, we can only suggest.

I then asked how the sender would know that was the reason the email had bounced. When an email is bounced back to the sender, few will say to themselves, “Huh. Guess my forward and reverse record for the mail server isn’t matching.”

I was told:

When someone calls or emails our support address with the problem we let them know what it is and what needs to be done to comform with the current email standards.  Just as I have given the information to you.

That’s practically the definition of passive-aggressive behavior. :sigh: People come in all types, don’t they?

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Lime and Rum: great morning treat

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Saint Charles Shave Lime shaving cream, that is, and Taylor of Old Bond Street Bay Rum aftershave. Used the Simpson Persian Jar 2 Super to build a nice lather on my beard—just as yesterday, I had to make a few trips to the hot water tap to get enough water for the lather, but it made a good one.

Then my gold Progress, which I observe is set now on 3 (and this one zeros at 1). It’s a more aggressive shaver than the Milord, so the shave was much easier—it mowed the whiskers down like nobody’s business.

The the alum bar and the TOBS Bay Rum, and I’m ready for the day, which will include an 11:30 a.m. doctor visit to discuss my (now fine) hip joint. Maybe the nuclear bone scan will reveal what the problem was.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2007 at 9:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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