Later On

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

Archive for April 13th, 2007

Connecting the dots reveals a cynical political ploy

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum:

Ponder the following timeline if you will.

Tuesday: George Bush tells the American Legion, “If Congress fails to pass a bill I can sign by mid-May, the problems grow even more acute….Some of our forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended, because other units are not ready to take their places.”

Wednesday: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces, “Effective immediately, active Army units now in the Central Command area of responsibility and those headed there will deploy for not more than 15 months….” That’s a 3-month extension of the normal 12-month tour of duty.

Later in the press conference, Gates says they would have announced the new policy later, but someone leaked it and forced their hand.

Thursday: Dana Perino takes questions from the press:

Q: Why did [Bush] tell the American Legion that people would be staying in Iraq longer because of the Democrats, when his own Pentagon, 24 hours later, was going to keep people there longer?

MS. PERINO: Well, one, I don’t know if the President knew about the — the meeting — remember, yesterday morning is when Secretary Gates came and talked to the President….

Q: And so the President didn’t know about his own policy until Wednesday?

MS. PERINO: I’m not aware that the President knew that there was going to be — that Secretary Gates had come to any decisions.

Well, that’s possible, isn’t it? Alternatively, perhaps Bush was assuming the new policy wouldn’t be announced until after he’d had a chance to veto the war funding bill, thus making it look like the Democrats were responsible for the longer tours of duty. Of course, that would be a very cynical interpretation of events, wouldn’t it?

Thanks to Atrios, Steve Benen, and ThinkProgress for connecting the dots.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2007 at 12:24 pm

Things are a-changin’

leave a comment »

Interesting couple of notes on petroleum consumption. First, from David Ignatius’s column in today’s Washington Post:

A telling sign of America’s inability to solve chronic problems is the IMF’s discussion of our addiction to oil — something President Bush talks plenty about but lacks the political will or congressional support to change. The IMF has gathered some shocking statistics: U.S. gasoline consumption as a share of gross domestic product is nearly five times that in the other major industrialized countries; gasoline accounts for 43 percent of U.S. oil consumption vs. 15 percent in other countries; fuel efficiency in America is 25 percent lower than in the European Union and 50 percent lower than in Japan. No wonder the world doubts our seriousness on energy issues.

Second is this story in the LA Times.

There were more cars than ever in California in 2006, but for the first time in 14 years, the state’s motorists bought less gasoline than the year before. The drop in sales was meager — less than 1% — but surprising given that nationwide, drivers are consuming more gas.

The Golden State, it seems, is different.

Prices that hovered above $3 a gallon prompted some Californians to cut back, others to park their cars altogether in favor of trains and buses, and still others to buy hybrids.

Ricardo Ramirez, a 24-year-old student who lives in Santa Ana, said the higher prices had forced him to watch his fuel gauge carefully and sometimes pass up family gatherings in San Juan Capistrano. Ramirez, who was buying $10 worth of regular at a Tustin 76 station Wednesday, said the price “determines whether I see my parents once a week — or three times.”

Ramirez wasn’t the only one to muzzle the urge to guzzle: California’s consumption in 2006 fell by 0.7%, to 15.8 billion gallons, figures from the state Board of Equalization show. They marked the state’s first drop in gasoline use since 1992, when consumption fell less than 1%, the state tax agency said.

Compared with 2005, Californians used more gas in the first three months of the year, but less for the remaining nine months. During the lower-demand months, the statewide average price for self-serve regular stayed above the $3-a-gallon mark for 19 weeks, posting several new records and peaking at an average price of $3.33 a gallon in early May, the U.S. Energy Department said. The rest of the country endured considerably less punishment at the pump last year.

“The economic driver of this trend is clearly the cost of gas,” said Judy Chu, vice chairwoman of the State Board of Equalization. The last big drop in California’s gasoline demand was in the early 1970s, when an oil embargo led to gasoline rationing, Chu said, “but in those days, we didn’t have the options of hybrid vehicles or expansive public transportation systems.”

Both of those alternatives appear to have helped offset the state’s relentless increase in registered vehicles and licensed drivers, which in 2006 rose 1.8% and 1.4%, respectively.

At the end of 2006, California was home to 33.9 million registered cars, trucks and trailers, including 135,425 hybrids — vehicles that burn less gasoline because an electric motor sometimes takes over for the internal combustion engine. More than a quarter of the nation’s hybrids travel California’s roads.

Drivers also were more willing to leave their cars at home. Though not all of California’s public transit agencies gained customers last year, ridership rose more than 5% on Los Angeles’ regional Metrolink trains and jumped 6.5% on buses and trains run by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, figures from the American Public Transportation Assn. show.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2007 at 9:33 am

Paul Wolfowitz, seriously corrupt

leave a comment »

ANOTHER UPDATE: Man, Wolfowitz just drips corruption. Look at this:

The scandal centers on the pay of people around Paul Wolfowitz, the World Bank president. Kevin Kellems, an unremarkable press-officer-cum-aide who had previously worked for Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, pulls down $240,000 tax-free — the low end of the salary scale for World Bank vice presidents, who typically have PhDs and 25 years of development experience. Robin Cleveland, who also parachuted in with Wolfowitz, gets $250,000 and a free pass from the IRS, far more than her rank justifies. Kellems and Cleveland have contracts that don’t expire when Wolfowitz’s term is up. They have been granted quasi-tenure.

UPDATE: He also lied about changing the family planning policy. The guy’s a serial liar, not to be trusted.

Paul Wolfowitz is in serious trouble, and deservedly so. Here’s a synopsis from ThinkProgress:

When Paul Wolfowitz, a primary architect of the Iraq war, assumed his post as World Bank President, he claimed the the new boss was going to be tough on corruption. Yesterday, he acknowledged that he “made a mistake” when he became personally involved in securing a promotion and a pay raise far in excess of the normal maximum for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.

Riza’s promotion came with a pay increase that was more than double the amount allowed by staff rules. “According to the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group, she has received two raises totaling $61,000 since Wolfowitz took over as president. The group said bank payroll documents put her current annual salary at $193,590.”

Wolfowitz’s admission of wrongdoing came only as the 24-member World Bank board met in a marathon emergency session to discuss his fate. The Board issued a statement saying it would “move expeditiously to reach a conclusion on possible actions to take.”

Wolfowitz tried to explain away his behavior, claiming his mistakes were made because “he had to deal with it when he was new to this institution and trying to navigate in uncharted waters.” He added that criticism of him should not focus on his role in the Iraq war. “For people who disagree with me based on things in my previous job, I am not in my previous job.” …

Alison Cave, chairwoman of the staff association, told staff: “He must act honorably and resign.” Wolfowitz appeared as Cave was addressing employees. Bloomberg described the scene this way:

Calls of “resign, resign” resounded through the World Bank’s atrium yesterday when Wolfowitz, 63, addressed employee representatives.

This account, however, omits some juicy details that are in the NY Times story:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2007 at 8:40 am

Big Brother, Texas-style

leave a comment »

Or: yet another reason it’s so good not to live in Texas. Via TPMmuckraker, this scary article in The Texas Observer:

Piece by piece, Gov. Rick Perry’s homeland security office is gathering massive amounts of information about Texas residents and merging it to create the most exhaustive centralized database in state history. Warehoused far from Texas on servers housed at a private company in Louisville, Kentucky, the Texas Data Exchange—TDEx to those in the loop—is designed to be an all-encompassing intelligence database. It is supposed to help catch criminals, ferret out terrorist cells, and allow disparate law enforcement agencies to share information. More than $3.6 million has been spent on the project so far, and it already has tens of millions of records. At least 7,000 users are presently allowed access to this information, and tens of thousands more are anticipated.

What is most striking, and disturbing, about the database is that it is not being run by the state’s highest law enforcement agency—the Texas Department of Public Safety. Instead, control of TDEx, and the power to decide who can use it, resides in the governor’s office.

That gives Perry, his staff, future governors, and their staffs potential access to a trove of sensitive data on everything from ongoing criminal investigations to police incident reports and even traffic stops. In their zeal to assemble TDEx, Perry and his homeland security director, Steve McCraw, have plunged ahead with minimal oversight from law enforcement agencies, and even DPS is skittish about the direction the project has taken.

In researching TDEx, the Observer reviewed more than a thousand pages of documents from the Office of the Governor, DPS, and the Department of Information Management. We interviewed law enforcement officials as well as McCraw. The narrative that emerged from the records—disputed by McCraw—is a headlong pursuit of control through information hoarding for a project in search of a purpose. Along the way, money has been squandered, sensitive data potentially lost, and security warnings unheeded.

If information is power, Perry and his successors are about to become powerful in ways that are scaring civil libertarians, and probably should alarm every Texan.

Continue reading—lots more.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2007 at 8:14 am

Posted in GOP, Government

Comparison shaving

leave a comment »

I used the Merkur Slant Bar this morning, just to compare with the Hoffritz Slant Bar from yesterday. Quite similar, though the Merkur was much easier to handle because of the aforementioned difference in the handles: the Merkur’s rougher chequering made it easier to grip and it felt more secure in the hand. The head was much the same, though the Merkur felt better, probably simply because of the grip.

I used QED’s Fresh Limes shaving soap, and the Rooney Style 1 Medium Super Silvertip. Man, it felt like a large brush. Probably should have built the lather in a bowl.

Alum block and Master Bay Rum aftershave. I’m now a  smooth-faced guy.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2007 at 7:13 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: