Later On

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

Archive for April 27th, 2007

Man, they’re dropping like flies!

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Whatever happened to “restoring honor and dignity”? ThinkProgress:

Senior Bush official linked to escort service resigns.

Earlier, ThinkProgress reported that the Bush administration’s senior foreign aid coordinator had stepped down. The Blotter has the reason:

tobias55.jpg Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias submitted his resignation Friday, one day after confirming to ABC News that he had been a customer of a Washington, D.C. escort service whose owner has been charged by federal prosecutors with running a prostitution operation. Tobias, 65, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), had previously served as the Ambassador for the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief.

A State Department press release late Friday afternoon said only he was leaving for “personal reasons.” On Thursday, Tobias told ABC News he had several times called the “Pamela Martin and Associates” escort service “to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage.” Tobias, who is married, said there had been “no sex,” and that recently he had been using another service “with Central Americans” to provide massages.

UPDATE: Tobias was a strong proponent of the Bush administration’s abstinence-only policies. Before touring African countries for an AIDS program 2004, he said, “The message to young people in the schools is not either ‘Be abstinent or here are condoms, take your pick.’ It is a message of ‘Be abstinent.’ Delaying sexual activity is a means of eliminating the risk of infection.”

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 7:06 pm

A tangled web indeed!

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The guy in the Justice Department who was deputy chief of staff of the division investigating the Abramoff scandal has resigned—apparently he’s about to be caught up in it:

A senior Justice Department official has resigned after coming under scrutiny in the Department’s expanding investigation of convicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to a Justice Department official with knowledge of the case.

Making the situation more awkward for the embattled Department, the official, Robert E. Coughlin II, was deputy chief of staff for the criminal division, which is overseeing the Department’s probe of Abramoff.

He stepped down effective April 6 as investigators in Coughlin’s own division ratcheted up their investigation of lobbyist Kevin Ring, Coughlin’s long-time friend and a key associate of Abramoff.

When contacted at his home in Washington, Coughlin said he resigned voluntarily because he was relocating to Texas. “I was not asked to resign,” he said in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. “It’s important to me that it’s made clear that I left voluntarily.”

He said he couldn’t comment on the Abramoff investigation, nor on whether he has a job lined up in Texas. He referred all other questions to friend Michael Horowitz.

Horowitz, a criminal defense attorney and former Justice Department official and public corruption prosecutor, did not respond to questions, including about whether he is representing Coughlin. Coughlin also would not say whether he had hired a lawyer.

McClatchy’s source at the Justice Department asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the case.

Coughlin appears to be the first Justice Department official to come under scrutiny in the wide-ranging probe that has implicated a veteran congressman, a deputy Cabinet secretary, a White House aide and eight others. Abramoff has pleaded guilty to three counts in the corruption probe and could face up to 11 years in prison.

It was unclear whether Coughlin is a target in the investigation, which would mean he is under intense scrutiny, or whether he is a subject in the investigation, which would mean investigators have not yet determined whether he committed any wrongdoing.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 3:41 pm

Condi decides to obey the law, after all

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Not on the subpoenas (yet), but on filing mandated reports. Kevin Drum:

This year’s report on global terrorism will show a 25% increase in terror attacks between 2005 and 2006, “almost all of it due to incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan” according to McClatchy. Then there’s this:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her top aides had considered postponing or downplaying the release of this year’s edition, due to the extreme political sensitivities, several officials said. But ultimately, they decided to issue the report on or about the congressionally mandated deadline of Tuesday, the officials said.

Say what? They considered postponing a congressionally mandated report because it might be inconvenient for the president’s war policy? Is there some kind of “political sensitivities” exemption in the law?

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 3:35 pm

Is it just me, or is the GOP getting more crass in its hypocrisy?

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From ThinkProgress:

In 1993, current House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) voted numerous times to limit the deployment of troops in Somalia, including one bill that set a six-month timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Like several other war supporters who once backed timelines, Boehner now attacks those who favor redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq’s civil war as “defeatists” who want a “date certain for surrender.”

But Boehner has taken this hypocrisy to a new level. Despite clamoring for a withdrawal from Somalia in 1993, he had the temerity to charge yesterday that war critics were “walk[ing] out” on Iraq “just like we did in Somalia.”

Watch it.

Details on Boehner’s Somalia votes:

Boehner voted to reduce troop timeline in Somalia from one year to six months: “Gilman, R-N.Y., substitute amendment to reduce from one year to six months the authorization of U.S. participation in Somalia and delete the section of the bill complying with the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (PL 93-148).” (House roll call vote #179, 5/25/93)

Boehner voted to move up the deadline to bring troops home from Somalia: “Gilman, R-N.Y., amendment to change the deadline for the removal of U.S. troops in Somalia from March 31, 1994, to Jan. 31, 1994.” (House roll call vote #555, 11/9/93)

Boehner voted against $1.8 billion in funding for the operation in Somalia: “Passage of the bill to provide $1.8 billion in new budget authority in fiscal 1993, including funds for Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.” (House roll call vote #188, 5/26/93)

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

More on the “no-knock” raid that killed a 92-year-old woman

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An email received from the Marijuana Policy Project:

Yesterday, the Atlanta police provided even more horrifying evidence that the government’s war on drugs continues to be a disastrous failure.

The case involves one of the latest casualties of war: 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston of Atlanta, whose November 21 death was the result of a botched “no knock” drug raid on her home.

A search warrant stating crack cocaine was being sold in her apartment allowed the officers to cut through the burglar bars protecting Johnston’s home and burst through her door without identifying themselves.

Johnston, who lived alone, apparently mistook the plainclothes officers for intruders and fired on them with an old revolver her niece had given Johnston for protection in her notoriously dangerous neighborhood.

She didn’t hit any of the officers. The police responded, firing 39 shots, killing Johnston and apparently wounding three of their own.

After her death and a fruitless search of her home, the officers planted marijuana to justify the raid.

An excerpt from an Associated Press article reveals the despicable depths to which the officers sank before, during, and after the raid:

The deadly drug raid had been set up after narcotics officers said an informant had claimed there was cocaine in the home.

When the plainclothes officers burst in without notice, police said, Johnston fired at them, and they fired back.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Yonette Sam-Buchanan said Thursday that although the officers found no drugs in Johnston’s home, Smith planted three bags of marijuana in the home as part of a cover story.

The case raised serious questions about no-knock warrants and whether the officers followed proper procedures.

Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington asked the FBI to lead a multi-agency probe. He also announced policy changes to require the department to drug-test its nearly 1,800 officers and require top supervisors to sign off on narcotics operations and no-knock warrants.

To get the warrant, officers told a magistrate judge that an undercover informant had told them Johnston’s home had surveillance cameras monitored carefully by a drug dealer named Sam.

After the shooting, a man claiming to be the informant told a television station that he had never purchased drugs there, leading Pennington to admit he was uncertain whether the suspected drug dealer actually existed.

here and another article about this atrocity here.

While this story is outrageous, it isn’t unique. In the bottom-right corner of the front page of MPP’s Web site, you can read a whole series of stories about other drug-war victims.

Please help us continue our work to end marijuana prohibition — and the frightening police abuses that it encourages — by making a financial contribution today. We cannot keep up the fight without the generosity of people like you.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 11:47 am

Posted in Drug laws, Government

An Army officer criticizes the generals

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And he minces no words. It’s worth reading in its entirety. It begins:

A failure in generalship
By Lt. Col. Paul Yingling

“You officers amuse yourselves with God knows what buffooneries and never dream in the least of serious service. This is a source of stupidity which would become most dangerous in case of a serious conflict.”
– Frederick the Great

For the second time in a generation, the United States faces the prospect of defeat at the hands of an insurgency. In April 1975, the U.S. fled the Republic of Vietnam, abandoning our allies to their fate at the hands of North Vietnamese communists. In 2007, Iraq’s grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends risk of an even wider and more destructive regional war.

These debacles are not attributable to individual failures, but rather to a crisis in an entire institution: America’s general officer corps. America’s generals have failed to prepare our armed forces for war and advise civilian authorities on the application of force to achieve the aims of policy. The argument that follows consists of three elements. First, generals have a responsibility to society to provide policymakers with a correct estimate of strategic probabilities. Second, America’s generals in Vietnam and Iraq failed to perform this responsibility. Third, remedying the crisis in American generalship requires the intervention of Congress.

The Responsibilities of Generalship

Armies do not fight wars; nations fight wars. War is not a military activity conducted by soldiers, but rather a social activity that involves entire nations. Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz noted that passion, probability and policy each play their role in war. Any understanding of war that ignores one of these elements is fundamentally flawed.

The passion of the people is necessary to endure the sacrifices inherent in war. Regardless of the system of government, the people supply the blood and treasure required to prosecute war. The statesman must stir these passions to a level commensurate with the popular sacrifices required. When the ends of policy are small, the statesman can prosecute a conflict without asking the public for great sacrifice. Global conflicts such as World War II require the full mobilization of entire societies to provide the men and materiel necessary for the successful prosecution of war. The greatest error the statesman can make is to commit his nation to a great conflict without mobilizing popular passions to a level commensurate with the stakes of the conflict.

Popular passions are necessary for the successful prosecution of war, but cannot be sufficient. To prevail, generals must provide policymakers and the public with a correct estimation of strategic probabilities. The general is responsible for estimating the likelihood of success in applying force to achieve the aims of policy. The general describes both the means necessary for the successful prosecution of war and the ways in which the nation will employ those means. If the policymaker desires ends for which the means he provides are insufficient, the general is responsible for advising the statesman of this incongruence. The statesman must then scale back the ends of policy or mobilize popular passions to provide greater means. If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results.

However much it is influenced by passion and probability, war is ultimately an instrument of policy and its conduct is the responsibility of policymakers. War is a social activity undertaken on behalf of the nation; Augustine counsels us that the only purpose of war is to achieve a better peace. The choice of making war to achieve a better peace is inherently a value judgment in which the statesman must decide those interests and beliefs worth killing and dying for. The military man is no better qualified than the common citizen to make such judgments. He must therefore confine his input to his area of expertise — the estimation of strategic probabilities.

The correct estimation of strategic possibilities can be further subdivided into the preparation for war and the conduct of war. Preparation for war consists in the raising, arming, equipping and training of forces. The conduct of war consists of both planning for the use of those forces and directing those forces in operations.

To prepare forces for war, the general must visualize the conditions of future combat. To raise military forces properly, the general must visualize the quality and quantity of forces needed in the next war. To arm and equip military forces properly, the general must visualize the materiel requirements of future engagements. To train military forces properly, the general must visualize the human demands on future battlefields, and replicate those conditions in peacetime exercises. Of course, not even the most skilled general can visualize precisely how future wars will be fought. According to British military historian and soldier Sir Michael Howard, “In structuring and preparing an army for war, you can be clear that you will not get it precisely right, but the important thing is not to be too far wrong, so that you can put it right quickly.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 9:13 am

GOP: Party of Fiscal Irresponsibility and Shame

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Check out the graph. Bush’s Iraq policy may be a slow-bleed strategy, but his fiscal policy is clearly rapid-bleed.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 9:05 am

Mainstream media, swirling down the drain

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The mainstream media, particularly the pundit class but also including “reporters” (who act mostly as stenographers and seem to know nothing of the precepts of journalism), continue to bumble their way along. Glenn Greenwald has a good column on the latest idiocy. When will editors be replaced? We need better editors to force journalists to do journalism.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 8:04 am

Posted in Media

Things that raise one’s eyebrows

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Things like this:

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin held an unusual meeting with the staff of the inspector general who oversees his agency and then ordered that video recordings of the meeting be destroyed, a House panel said yesterday.

In a letter to Griffin, the chairman of the Science and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight demanded an explanation from the NASA administrator and accused him of improperly trying to influence the watchdog office’s decisions on what it should investigate.

In addition, the letter from Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said the order to destroy the meeting tapes, which was issued by NASA’s chief of staff, “appears on its face to be nothing less than the destruction of evidence.”

In a response yesterday, NASA spokesman David Mould said that the meeting was proper, and was a way for Griffin to discuss outstanding issues with the inspector general’s staff and to express support for a strong watchdog office.

He also said NASA’s chief of staff had ordered that the meeting not be recorded, but that it was anyway. As a result, he said, the agency’s general counsel advised that any recordings be destroyed.

Griffin’s meeting included NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb, who has been at the center of a controversy over his close relationship with Griffin’s predecessor, Sean O’Keefe, and over his temperamental management style. A report early this month by the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which oversees the government’s corps of inspectors general, concluded that Cobb had abused his authority in his treatment of his staff and appeared to lack the requisite independence from top NASA officials.

After highlights of the report were made public early this month, Griffin defended Cobb, concluding that he needs training in management skills but should not be fired. In a letter to the integrity council in March, Griffin wrote that the investigation of Cobb had not found “any actual conflict of interest or actual lack of independence on his part.”

Miller, chairman of the oversight subcommittee, wrote in his letter to Griffin: “Your role in disciplining and defending Mr. Cobb has eroded any vestige of independence for Mr. Cobb or, indeed, his own staff.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 7:39 am

Are you a lark or a night owl?

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Apparently it’s genetic. I’m of the lark persuasion—early to bed and early to rise—while The Wife is very definitely a night owl.

A genetic mutation called the “after-hours gene” may explain why some people are night owls, it is revealed in Science today. It could also hold clues for pharmacologists working to develop drugs to help people adjust to shift work or jet lag. There are further implications for the study of causes of some psychiatric disorders.

The altered gene, named “after hours” or Afh, is a variant of a gene called Fbxl3, which had not been linked to the body clock that keeps our metabolism, digestion and sleep patterns in tune with the rising and setting of the sun. …

Pharmaceutical companies are already beginning to study this class of proteins as potential drug targets.

By monitoring when and how often the mice chose to run on an exercise wheel the team spotted a change in some of the animals’ normal rhythms. Instead of following the typical 24 hour pattern, some of the mice had body clocks that stretched to up to a 27 hour day.

Closer study of the DNA from the mice then revealed that those on a 27-hour-cycle had the after hours version of the Fbxl3 gene, one of a large family that controls the breakdown of specific proteins within body cells.

Dr Patrick Nolan, of the MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, who led the study said: ‘‘The internal body clocks of mice with the after hours gene run on a longer cycle than mice that have a normal copy of the gene, who like most of us live on a 24 hour schedule.’’

The “cogs” of the body clock consist of interlocked cycles of proteins that wax and wane in cells. One of the key components of this loop is a protein called Cry.

“We found that mice that carried the after hours gene also had a delayed Cry protein breakdown rate, leading to a slowdown in the molecular feedback loops and a lengthening of the body clock cycle.’’

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 7:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Very nice to read

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This post at AmericaBlog makes me feel good all over. What a great way to start the day.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 7:14 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats, Media

Megs on watch

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Megs on platform

Megs on her platform, closely watching what I do.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 6:55 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Three little Rooneys, all in a row

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Three little Rooneys

A great collection in a photo courtesy of Vintage Blades: from left, Rooneys Styles 1, 2, and 3, all size small. I have these three in Super Silvertip and they’re wonderful. The Style 1 is like a little Chubby, only (IMHO) nicer, the Style 2 has a nicely springy long loft, and the Style 3 I used this morning to work up a great lather from Honeybee Spa’s Victorian Rose.

Honeybee Spa makes a wide variety of shea butter soaps—not just shaving soaps, but bath soaps and all sorts of soapish deslights. But their shaving soap is what I favor, and I love the range of fragrances: Peppermint, Sandalwood, Bay Rum, Fresh Lemon, Coffee Mocha, Rosemary Mint, Vanilla Oak, Victorian Rose, Amber, Musk, Lime, Vetyver, Ginseng, Orange Burst, Lilac, Sandalwood Vanilla, Oceania, Forest Pine, Green Tea, Oakmoss, Unscented, Lavender, Coconut, Cedarwood Amber, Yuzu.

And that’s just the current list: I have a Peach that’s to die for.

But today was Victorian Rose. I used the Merkur 1904 with a Tesco blade past its short-lived prime (though still got a fine shave) and finished with Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel.

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2007 at 6:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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