Later On

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

Archive for March 2nd, 2007

Hatred from the Right, silence from the press

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Glenn Greenwald points out a strange phenomenon in the mainstream media: a hair-trigger reaction to any minor incivility from the Left, while total silence on overt racist hate-mongering and calls for murder from the Right. Strange:

So Ann Coulter appeared as a featured speaker today at the Conservative Political Action Conference — the preeminent conservative event of the year — and called John Edwards a “faggot.” Her speech was followed by an enthusiastic round of applause from the upstanding attendees.

Last year at the same event, she warned Arab “ragheads” about violence that would be done to them and called for Supreme Court justices to be murdered — and received standing ovations. Everyone knows what a rancid hate-monger she is, yet (or rather: “therefore”) she continues to be be invited to the highest-level “conservative” events, be drooled on with admiration by presidential candidates like Mitt Romney, and have little right-wing warriors wait in line around the corner to get her signature on their copies of the books she wrote.

But that’s all fine. There are much more important topics to discuss — like the anonymous commenters at Huffington Post and the bad words said by the bloggers hired for low-level positions by the Edwards campaign. Those are matters of the gravest importance meriting the most solemn condemnation and righteous outrage from all decent people. Those HuffPost commenters have uttered terrible thoughts, and that shows the anger, venom and hatred on the left, among liberals. It is cause for great alarm — and for headlines.

But the single most prestigious political event for conservatives of the year is a place where conservatives go to hear Democrats called faggots, Arabs called ragheads, and Supreme Court justices labeled as deserving of murder — not by anonymous, unidentifiable blog commenters, but by one of their most popular featured speaker.

And after she does that, she is cheered wildly by an adoring conservative movement that has made her bigoted and hate-mongering screeds best-sellers, all while they and their deceitful little allies in the media, such as Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post, write idiot tracts about how terribly upset they are by the affront to decency from HuffPost commenters (in between writing obsequious, tongue-wagging profiles of Coulter’s most radical ideological allies, such as Michelle Malkin, who penned a lovely defense of the internment of Japanese-Americans, for which even Ronald Reagan apologized [but, I believe, never cursed while doing so, which is what matters)].

This is why I wrote so extensively about the Edwards blogger “scandal” and the Cheney comments “scandal.” The people feigning upset over those matters are either active participants in, or passive aiders and abetters of, a political movement that, at its very core not at its fringes — knowingly and continuously embraces the most wretched and obvious bigotry and bloodthirsty authoritarianism. They love Ann Coulter — and therefore continue to make her a venerated part of their political events — because she provides an outlet, a venting ground, for the twisted psychological impulses and truly hateful face that drives the entire pro-Bush, right-wing spectacle.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 4:43 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

Astonomical scale

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Alert Reader passed along these photos. So you can see that, even if we do totally ruin the Earth, it won’t amount to much in the larger scheme of things. Still, it’s the only Earth we have.

Earth

Jupiter

Sun

Arcturus

Antares

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Science

Democrats exercise oversight

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This is what Congress is supposed to do:

A powerful Democratic congressman is challenging the Pentagon, which is attempting to block the former chief of Walter Reed Army Medical Center from testifying before Congress next week.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Henry Waxman, D-Calif., wants to ask Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman about a contract to manage the medical center awarded to a company that had documented troubles fulfilling a government contract to deliver ice to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The Pentagon has refused to allow Weightman to testify. Waxman’s staff has confirmed the congressman has issued his first subpoena as a committee chairman this session to legally compel Weightman’s testimony.

According to a letter from Waxman to Weightman posted today on the committee’s Web site, the chairman believes the Walter Reed contract may have pushed dozens of health care workers to leave jobs at the troubled medical center, which he says in turn threatened the quality of care for hundreds of military personnel receiving treatment there.

Weightman had been slated to testify before Congress on Monday. The Army has tried to withdraw him from the hearing. Waxman’s office confirmed the congressman plans to force the officer to appear by issuing a subpoena for his testimony.

The Army did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter. A call to Weightman’s home went unanswered.

In the letter, Waxman charged that the Army used an unusual process to award a five-year, $120 million contract to manage the center to a company owned by a former executive of Halliburton, the scandal-prone government contractor once operated by Vice President Dick Cheney.

In 2004, the Army determined that Walter Reed’s federal employees could operate the medical center more efficiently than IAP Worldwide Services, which is operated by the former Halliburton executive, Al Neffgen, Waxman wrote. After IAP protested, the Army “unilaterally” increased the employees’ estimated costs by $7 million, making IAP appear cheaper, Waxman said. Rules barred Walter Reed employees from appealing the decision, Waxman wrote, and in January 2006 the Army gave the contract to IAP.

According to an internal memo written by a senior Walter Reed administrator and obtained by Waxman, the decision to outsource to IAP led the center’s skilled personnel to leave Walter Reed “in droves,” fearing they would be laid off when the contractor took over. In the last year, Waxman found, over 250 of 300 government employees left the center. The lack of staffing put patient care “at risk of mission failure,” warned an internal Army memo obtained by the congressman.

Some of the problems recently revealed at Walter Reed “may be attributable to a lack of skilled government technicians on staff,” Waxman wrote in the letter.

A spokeswoman for IAP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A message left at the home number belonging to Al Neffgen was not immediately returned.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 4:11 pm

Extremely cool mobile chair

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Tank chair

You can’t call it a “wheelchair”, can you? No wheels. “Tread chair” sounds odd. Here’s the story:

The TankChair started a little over 2 years ago. My wife, five kids and I were in a cabin in the woods. To our surprise a herd of elk came walking through our camp. My kids, having never seen an elk before, woke up and rushed outside. My wife got in her power chair and wanted to see them too. As we went outside the elk had moved on about 100 yard and you couldn’t see the through the dense tress. We started walking to get closer but had to keep stopping and help my wife get her wheelchair unstuck.

It took me 2 years and I tried everything I could think of. Pneumatic tires, bigger wheels, stronger motors, and my favorite, a hellish jet ski/snowmobile looking thing with wheels. The last one was ugly, expensive, and will make someone a strong anchor. My father-in-law was in my garage one day and I was complaining about my latest plight and he said, “Wouldn’t it be neat if you could put some tracks on it? Like a tank?

The light bulbs went off in my head and we hit the computer to see who has tracks out there. We found the tracks you see on the tankchair. I won’t bore anyone with my next challenges but we worked them all out.

My wife went “hiking” for the first time since her accident, (over five years ago) and the smile on her face was a sight to behold. My wife has a smile that can rival a sunrise. We have taken the tankchair through snow, mud, sand, gravel, upstairs, and downstairs. This chair isn’t the answer to someone who is paralyzed, but it can give them ALOT more options. Turns out that other people want a Tankchair so I’m going in debt and am going to build them. Everyone needs to be custom made because of different factors for the client. Their injury, weight, and physical size all come into play. The tankchair I built for my wife wont work for someone who weighs 300 pounds and has a T1 break. But I can build one for that person. It will just look a little different for their safety.

Tank Chair Gallery
Tank Chair Videos

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Very nice new razor rack

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Razor Rack

Pictured above is my nice new razor rack, which holds the 12 razors in current rotation. It’s quite compact, and holds even the Vision quite nicely. Obviously, it started life as a test-tube rack, and is now sold as a pen rack by Tryphon Enterprises. Scroll well down the page (about 1/3 down) and you’ll see it labeled as “Double Pen Rack.” Price is reasonable, and it’s much better than the razor rack I was previously using. Thanks to the guy on ShaveMyFace.com who brought this to my attention.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Shaving

A deeply unserious Administration

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Especially on energy. This Administration is the handmaiden of the Energy Industry:

The government has missed all 34 deadlines set by Congress for requiring energy-efficiency standards on everything from home appliances to power transformers, government auditors said Thursday.

Two-thirds of the deadlines have yet to be met, although many are more than a decade old.

Because of the failures, consumers and corporations stand to pay tens of billions of dollars more for energy than they would have if the deadlines had been met, the Government Accountability Office said.

It’s “a blistering indictment of a culture of incompetence and delay,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who had a hand in crafting many of the efficiency requirements Congress has enacted over the years.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mass., who made the report public at a news conference, said the delays covered many years and that he did not mean to single out the Bush administration. Some of the deadlines date to the 1990s.

Still, many of the appliance and other equipment standards have been in limbo since 2001 after a rush of regulations in the closing weeks of the Clinton administration, energy-efficiency advocates said.

Report card

The GAO said of the 34 standards, covering 20 product categories, 11 have been completed, although all of them from several months to five years late. The remaining 23 standards have yet to be completed, and some are expected to be 10 to 15 years late, the report said.

In November, the department agreed to quicken the pace and finish new standards for nearly two dozen household appliances over the next five years — but that came only after settlement of a lawsuit brought by environmentalists.

Andy Karsner, the department’s assistant secretary in charge of energy-efficiency programs, acknowledged that over the years the department has had “a simply abysmal” record on meeting efficiency standard deadlines set by Congress.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 2:33 pm

The Purge, from the POV of mainstream media

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Josh Marshall points to the mainstream media’s reaction to the purge. Jay Carney is TIME‘s Washington Bureau chief, most famously for loosing his cool after commenters pointed out a host of errors in his first blog post. Here’s Josh’s post:

Golden oldies … (Jay Carney, Jan. 17th 2007)

Running Massacre?That’s how Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo describes a story that his blog and its offshoot, TPMMuckraker.com, have played a laudable role in uncovering: the resignations of more than a dozen United States Attorneys across the country, and their replacement, under an obscure provision in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, by “interim” candidates hand-picked by the attorney general without the consent of the Senate or any constraint on the duration of their service.

It’s all very suspicious-sounding. The provision smacks of a power-grab, an attempt to put a leash on federal prosecutors in the name of efficiency. It looks even worse when it turns out one of the “interim” US attorneys appointed by Alberto Gonzales is Tim Griffin, a veteran GOP operative who worked in Karl Rove’s shop at the White House and as director of research (i.e., chief dirt digger) at the Republican National Committee. Not only that, but Griffin was appointed to be the USA in his home state of Arkansas, which can only mean he’s being sent by Rove, armed with subpoena power, to dig up fresh dirt on the Clintons in time for the 2008 presidential campaign cycle.

Of course! It all makes perfect conspiratorial sense!

Except for one thing: in this case some liberals are seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 11:24 am

W.H. Auden

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We haven’t talked much about W.H. Auden lately, have we? I was reminded of him through this article in Slate on his poetry. His poetry can be striking (see below), but I wanted to mention a book of lectures, The Enchafèd Flood; or, The romantic iconography of the sea. Fascinating book, highly recommended if you’re interested in literature. And now, the poem: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 11:18 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Best care anywhere

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Kevin Drum points out the best hospital system in the country:

The Washington Post’s recent series about the crappy care at Walter Reed Hospital [an Army hospital, not a part of the VA system – LG] has been a real eye-opener. But the culprit probably isn’t money. The hospitals operated by the Veterans Administration had a similar reputation 20 years ago (remember Tom Cruise in Born on the Fourth of July?), but as you’ve probably read in dozens of articles recently, they’re now among the best in the country — and the VA budget is no more generous now than it was a decade ago. It was management changes during the Clinton administration, not money, that have made the entire VHA medical system among the best in the country, and the first person to point that out was Phil Longman, who wrote “Best Care Anywhere” for our January 2005 issue:

An outfit called the National Committee for Quality Assurance today ranks health-care plans on 17 different performance measures….And who do you suppose this year’s winner is: Johns Hopkins? Mayo Clinic? Massachusetts General? Nope. In every single category, the VHA system outperforms the highest rated non-VHA hospitals.

….If this gives you cognitive dissonance, it should. The story of how and why the VHA became the benchmark for quality medicine in the United States suggests that much of what we think we know about health care and medical economics is just wrong. It’s natural to believe that more competition and consumer choice in health care would lead to greater quality and lower costs, because in almost every other realm, it does….But when it comes to health care, it’s a government bureaucracy that’s setting the standard for maintaining best practices while reducing costs, and it’s the private sector that’s lagging in quality.

Examining the turnaround at the VHA system tells us a lot about what works and what doesn’t in healthcare. Some of the answers are surprising, and some of them are common sense. (Preventive medicine, anyone?) And the print edition of the Washington Monthly was the first place to tell you the story.

So come on! Subscription week is nearly over. If you like this blog, you’ll love the magazine, and it’s only 30 buck a year. Order now! You can subscribe for yourself here. Or order a gift subscription here.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 10:45 am

Have we hit Hubbert’s Peak?

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I’ve blogged about this multiple times, and Kevin Drum this morning points to this article about the declines in Saudi Arabian oil production—declines occurring despite an almost exponential increase in the number of oil rigs in the country:

Saudi Graph

Kevin summarizes:

Over at the Oil Drum, Stuart Staniford is looking at the recent declines in Saudi Arabian oil production (see chart on right), coupled with their massive investment in new drilling rigs, and coming to an uncomfortable conclusion:

  • Saudi Arabian oil production is now in decline.
  • The decline rate during the first year is very high (8%), akin to decline rates in other places developed with modern horizontal drilling techniques such as the North Sea.
  • Declines are rather unlikely to be arrested, and may well accelerate.
  • Matt Simmons appears to be right in Twilight in the Desert, but the warning did not come until after declines had actually begun.

I’m not quite convinced yet, since global oil demand flattened in 2005 in response to the price runup of the past few years and has declined a bit since then thanks to a warmer than usual winter. The Saudis may simply be responding to this lower demand and using it as an opportunity to build up their spare capacity.

Or maybe not. In any case, it’s well worth keeping an eye on, since as the Saudis go, so goes the world. Read Stuart’s full post for more details. And since I’m highlighting old magazine articles this week, you can find out more about Matt Simmons and his pessimistic outlook on Saudi oil production in “Crude Awakening,” a story for our June 2005 issue by some dude named Kevin Drum.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 10:38 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Maureen Dowd, fickle and shallow

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Maureen Dowd has steadfastly ignored her role in the 2000 presidential election, even while gradually realizing that Bush is a disaster and Gore would have been much, much better. She forgets that she once mocked Gore for criticizing the Iraq War and has many times made fun of his concern for the environment and global warming. She’s now trying out a few positive comments, with absolutely no mention or (apparently) recollection of what she said yesterday.

Here’s a grim compilation of her previous remarks.

It’s very difficult to have any respect for her at all. She seems to be settling into the role of an aging shrew.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Media, NY Times

A bit on the bizarre side

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Who says cats can’t learn tricks?

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 10:19 am

Posted in Cats

Extremely cool (albeit pricey) flashlight

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Via The Wife, this wonderful flashlight. Cool, no? US$370. Plus shipping, I imagine.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 10:11 am

Megs at her morning ablutions

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Megs at morning ablutions

Here is Miss Megs at her morning ablutions. She’s quite a neat and clean little kitty, and takes that extra effort in grooming.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 8:27 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Almond forever

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Almond is really a wonderful (and traditional) fragrance for shaving creams and soaps, though it’s one of those to which some had adverse skin reactions. Not me, fortunately. This morning it was D.R. Harris Almond shaving cream — D.R. Harris being one of the traditional English shaving creams, but whose name does not begin with ‘T’ (like Trumper, Taylor’s, and Truefitt & Hill).

The brush was the Simpsons Duke 3 Best, a doughty little fellow who stoutly builds a very good lather and holds a lot of it. No exception this morning: a rich, thick lather that felt great, smelled wonderful, and held ample amounts of water. The razor was the Wilkinson “Sticky,” using whatever blade had been loaded into it.

A really fine three-pass shave—the Wilkinson Sticky is definitely a world-class razor—and finished with alum bar and Proraso aftershave splash.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2007 at 8:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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