Later On

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

Archive for May 8th, 2007

Wolfie’s associates

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From the Financial Times:

Paul Wolfowitz’s closest aide was involved in crafting an apparently misleading public statement on the Shaha Riza secondment for dissemination by World Bank spokespeople on an anonymous basis, the Financial Times has found.

The disclosure regarding Robin Cleveland came as the panel investigating Mr Wolfowitz’s role in awarding pay and promotion benefits to Ms Riza, his girlfriend, sent a copy of its findings to the bank president, and a second top aide, Kevin Kellems, resigned from the bank. The bank’s board meets on Tuesday to discuss the panel’s report. …

Ms Cleveland met Marwan Muasher, the newly arrived director for external relations, on April 4 to discuss how to respond to leaks about the terms and conditions awarded to Ms Riza.

They agreed on a statement that was to be briefed on an anonymous or “background” basis by senior bank officials. This included the apparently misleading claim that “after consultation with the then general counsel, the ethics committee of the board approved an external assignment agreement which was reached with the staff member”.

Mr Muasher confirmed the agreed text with Ms Cleveland in an e-mail, a copy of which has been seen by the FT, and its authenticity has been attested to by two bank officials. The statement was then briefed to the FT and other media organisations by senior bank officials.

The claim that the agreement was approved by the ethics committee after consultation with the general counsel was immediately disputed by Roberto Danino, then general counsel, and Ad Melkert, then chairing the ethics committee.

The interim report by the panel found no evidence that the terms and conditions “had been commented on, reviewed or approved by the ethics committee, its chairman or the board”.

The panel also said it was told by Mr Danino “he was not involved in any way in the implementation of the ethics committee advice”.

Neither Ms Cleveland nor Mr Muasher responded to a request for comment. In a letter to the panel last week, Mr Wolfowitz said he assumed the ethics committee was aware of the terms and conditions because it decided a later anonymous complaint about Ms Riza’s pay “did not contain new information warranting further review”.

He said: “I relied on this letter when I advised my staff that they could tell the press that the committee had reviewed the matter.”

At the time of the April 4 meeting with Ms Cleveland, Mr Muasher, a former deputy prime minister of Jordan, had been at the bank for only 2½ weeks.

Ms Cleveland was Mr Wolfowitz’s senior aide at the time of the secondment and her signature is on some documents relating to the secondment arrangements.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 5:30 pm

Experimental Darwinism

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Seeing whether random mutation and natural selection can actually produce “irreducibly complex” structures. They can. (From issue 2108 of New Scientist magazine, 15 November 1997, page 30)

Let Darwinism loose in an electronics lab and just watch what it creates. A lean, mean machine that nobody understands. Clive Davidson reports

“GO!” barks the researcher into the microphone. The oscilloscope in front of him displays a steady green line across the top of its screen. “Stop!” he says and the line immediately drops to the bottom.

Between the microphone and the oscilloscope is an electronic circuit that discriminates between the two words. It puts out 5 volts when it hears “go” and cuts off the signal when it hears “stop”.

It is unremarkable that a microprocessor can perform such a task–except in this case. Even though the circuit consists of only a small number of basic components, the researcher, Adrian Thompson, does not know how it works. He can’t ask the designer because there wasn’t one. Instead, the circuit evolved from a “primordial soup” of silicon components guided by the principles of genetic variation and survival of the fittest.

Thompson’s work is not aimless tinkering. His brand of evolution managed to construct a working circuit with fewer than one-tenth of the components that a human designer would have used. His experiments—which began four years ago and earned him his PhD—are already making waves. Chip manufacturers, robot makers and satellite builders are interested because the technique could produce smaller, more efficient devices than those designed today using traditional methods. Thompson’s experiments have also inspired other research projects and some serious speculation about whether technology is poised to evolve in ways that will take it well beyond human understanding.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 3:26 pm

The mainstream media in service of GOP lies

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:sigh: When will the mainstream media start doing their job? From the Horses Mouth today:

Oh, man. The GOP has a new hit out on Nancy Pelosi that’s even more absurd than the bogus plane story or the “controversy” over the trip to Syria. And predictably, the Associated Press is already running with the story. The AP has already gotten its reward for doing this: A pat on the head from Matt Drudge, who predictably linked the story today, complete with a big pic of Pelosi next to the headline.

Yet this latest hit is so easily debunked — all it took was one phone call on my part — that it’s truly astonishing that the AP ever published this garbage in the first place.

Here are the specifics: The GOP is hammering Pelosi for including a provision for $25 million in waterfront improvements in San Francisco in a big water redevelopment bill passed by the House in April. The GOP is insinuating that the provision was included by Pelosi because it could boost the value of land her husband owns in the city.

The AP jumped at the GOP’s accusations late yesterday, moving this story about the GOP’s attack.

As the AP story noted, Pelosi’s aides are defending her by pointing out that “the waterfront improvements were requested by the Port of San Francisco,” not by Pelosi, and noting that the rental properties owned by Pelosi’s husband are at least a mile away from the project.

If it were proven that the improvements were in fact requested by the Port of San Francisco, and not Pelosi herself, of course, it would render the story thoroughly bogus — unfit for publication, really. The AP, however, merely attributed this line to Pelosi’s people. It’s unclear whether the AP made a serious effort to determine whether it was objectively true or not. This allowed the news org to run with the GOP hit as a he-said-she-said dispute.

But I’ve just gotten off the phone with the Port of San Francisco. Guess what? Its representatives told me in no uncertain terms that it requested the improvements, and that Pelosi only included the improvements at their request. Here’s what Brad Benson, the special project manager of the Port of San Francisco, said to me:

“The port initiated these requests. They came entirely from the city and county of San Francisco. [The requests] were generated at the staff level. The port initiated our request through the city and county of San Francisco. Our requests were funneled through the mayor’s office on up to Speaker Pelosi’s office…If anyone is claiming that Pelosi initiated these requests in some way, that’s completely false.”

Got that? Those funding provisions that the GOP is insinuating Pelosi included because they benefit her husband’s real estate were actually initiated by a local agency in San Francisco, the agency says, and not by Pelosi herself. It took one phone call to nail that down — and to show that this is a complete non-story. But the AP went ahead and ran with this crap anyway. It was bad enough that the AP even ran some versions of the story with a headline that wasn’t even supported by the story in the first place, as Media Matters noted. Now we find that the story doesn’t hold up at all.

You might note a pattern here. If you recall, the GOP blasted Pelosi for allegedly requesting a bigger plane and the big news orgs gleefully played along. Then when Pelosi’s people said that the House Sergeant-at-Arms had requested the plane, and not Pelosi, the big news orgs that had flacked the story buried that inconvenient piece of info. A similar dynamic played out with the bogus Syria tale, too.

And now again with this Port story. How the hell do we make the hackery stop?

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 2:46 pm

Posted in GOP, Media

If you like thrillers, two words: Stephen Hunter

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I’ve just finished my second reading of Stephen Hunter’s first novel, The Master Sniper. Second reading because as soon as I started it, I knew I had read it before—and not in some general way: his writing is so concise and vivid that I remembered the entire book. At the same time, the book is so satisfactory, I couldn’t help reading it again. It stands up extremely well to a second reading. I’m working my way now through his complete oeuvre. The early ones are out of print but readily available at low cost through (see link for The Master Sniper, for example). Great stuff. Highly recommended.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Books

Oh, Condi, you have no shame

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In fact, having no shame seems to be a part of being a Republican. From ThinkProgress:

“Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, is preparing to acknowledge that it should have known kickbacks were being paid to Saddam Hussein on oil it bought from Iraq as part of a defunct United Nations program, according to investigators. … At the time, Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state, was a member of Chevron’s board and led its public policy committee, which oversaw areas of potential political concerns for the company. Ms. Rice resigned from Chevron’s board on Jan. 16, 2001, after being named national security advisor by President Bush.” (Via Atrios)

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 11:04 am

Tony Snow, lying again

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These guys have absolutely no shame whatsoever:

Kansas is currently missing approximately 60 percent of its National Guard equipment because of the war in Iraq, hampering its ability to respond to the recent tornadoes.

In a “spat reminiscent of White House finger-pointing at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco after the federal government’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina,” White House Press Secretary Tony Snow this morning blamed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) for the shortages, saying he was “not aware of any prior complaints” by the governor about the equipment:

If you don’t request it, you’re not going to get it. … As far as we know, the only thing the governor has requested are FM radios. There have been no requests to the National Guard for heavy equipment. … We are eager to provide what Kansas needs. But again there are also – you also have to go through the process of making the request first.

Snow’s statements are incorrect. On repeated occasions, Sebelius made clear to the White House that Kansas was dangerously low on National Guard equipment:

Dec. 30, 2005: Sebelius writes to Rumsfeld requesting new equipment. “The Guard was critical to responding to recent blizzards and floods in Kansas, yet its ability to respond to similar situations is being diminished by a lack of equipment,” wrote Sebelius. Included with her letter was a list of equipment Kansas had lost to the Iraq war. [Kansas City Star, 1/21/06; Topeka Capital-Journal, 6/29/06]

Jan. 23, 2006: Sebelius personally urges Bush to increase National Guard funding. In an one-hour motorcade ride in Kansas with Bush, Sebelius expressed concern about “a reduction of National Guard troop strength in its next budget.” Bush assured her he was “dealing” with the shortages. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/24/06; Kansas City Star, 3/11/06]

June 28, 2006: Sebelius sends Army Secretary list of equipment lost in war. In a meeting with Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, Sebelius told Harvey that the state had lost about $140 million in National Guard equipment to the Iraq war. Her office then sent him a list of the lost equipment. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 6/29/06]

Sept. 2006: Sebelius lobbies for replacement of National Guard equipment sent to Iraq. “Kansas’ congressional delegation, Sebelius and governors from around the country have been lobbying the Pentagon for increased funding to replace National Guard equipment that has been left in Iraq or damaged beyond repair after repeated use in war.” [AP, 9/5/06]

Feb. 27, 2007: Sebelius pushes White House and Congress for more funding. “Now the Guard needs Washington’s help,” Sebelius said in press conference on Capitol Hill. “The President and Congress need to step up to the plate and give our Guard members the support they deserve.” [Press Release, 2/27/07]

At today’s White House press briefing, a reporter confronted Snow about Sebelius’s past requests. Snow simply replied, “And what happened was, she actually did get — there was not a formal request. But they’d had conversations.” He also admitted that Sebelius did request more than FM Radios. [Snow added that, though Gov. Sebelius had made requests, she had forgotten to say “Mother, may I?” with each request. – LG]
The Mahablog has more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 11:01 am

The neo-con’s special card

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It’s not just a get-out-of-jail card, it’s a I-can-do-anything-I want-with-impunity card. Reason: “I’m a neo-con, so whatever I do is for the Good.”

Glenn Greenwald examines this curious phenomenon in some detail, with the characters already claimed to be “special”: Libby, Wolfowitz, Conrad Black, Doug Feith, et al.

Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 8:28 am

Book reviewed

with 2 comments just reviewed the book. I’m so proud. With the review at, that makes two. 🙂

Great Father’s Day gift, you know. And Father’s Day is next month. (After you place the order, they don’t ship for about a week—on-demand printing—so allow for that plus shipping time if you’re going to actually give it on a certain day.)

This has been a Helpful Message.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 7:32 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

The Straussians at work

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From the reader in the Netherlands, an interesting article about how Strauss’s thinking of the “noble lie” has been put to work by the people who followed. The article is titledd “America’s Coming Dictatorship: The theory and practice of oligarchical “conservatism” and begins:

The Iraq war and the inquiry into its origins has provoked interest in a number of subjects formerly considered obscure, the discussion of which was once limited to the rarified aeries of academia and specialty journals. Some examples are neoconservatism, just war theory, and, most surprisingly, the theories of Leo Strauss, the philosophical avatar of a cynical Machiavellianism that promotes the idea of the “noble lie.” As the disaster in Iraq unfolded, subjects once considered abstruse were introduced into the pages of the popular press, so that, at one point, we were treated to a long explanation of the doctrines of Strauss in the pages of the New York Times.

As Jeet Heer put it in the Boston Globe,

“Odd as this may sound, we live in a world increasingly shaped by Leo Strauss, a controversial philosopher who died in 1973. Although generally unknown to the wider population, Strauss has been one of the two or three most important intellectual influences on the conservative worldview now ascendant in George W. Bush’s Washington. Eager to get the lowdown on White House thinking, editors at the New York Times and Le Monde have had journalists pore over Strauss’s work and trace his disciples’ affiliations. The New Yorker has even found a contingent of Straussians doing intelligence work for the Pentagon.”

This sudden interest was due to the unusual number of Straussians who had found their way into close proximity to the centers of power in Washington – an extraordinary number of Strauss’s students (or students of his leading followers) were employed in and around the Bush administration, particularly at key points in the national security bureaucracy, as William Pfaff pointed out, including then- “Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Abram Shulsky of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, Richard Perle of the Pentagon advisory board, Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council, and the writers Robert Kagan and William Kristol.”

One can easily see how the concept of the “noble lie” fits neatly into the neoconservative scheme of things, and the run-up to the Iraq war is surely a textbook example of the Straussian method in action: an enlightened elite deceives the public into an action that must be taken, after all, for their own good. In this case, we were lied into invading and occupying Iraq, for reasons that had nothing to do with “weapons of mass destruction” and Saddam’s alleged links to al Qaeda and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, both of which the promulgators knew to be lies, and yet reiterated ceaselessly.

Since we are now permanently at war, the ideal atmosphere for a Straussian (or any authoritarian) to theorize in, this is the time for the War Party to come out in the open with its theory of government, which, in normal times, is dressed up as “peace through strength,” and now comes out of the closet as “peace through dictatorship.” Aside from rationalizing a regime based on lies, the Straussian method, and philosophy, is useful in other ways. The prominent Straussian Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government at Harvard, demonstrates his usefulness as a promoter of the regime’s authority, and specifically the supremacy of the executive branch of government in wartime. Mansfield makes “The Case for the Strong Executive” in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and it is an argument that constitutes a vital part of the intellectual blueprint for the dictatorship I wrote about the other day.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 7:04 am

Big Pharma still controls the GOP—and some Dems

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What a disgrace. But it required some Democrats to abstain from voting or vote against it—the Dems are the majority. From ThinkProgress:

Senate conservatives “effectively killed a measure that would have let Americans buy prescription medicines from foreign suppliers, which sponsors said could have saved consumers billions of dollars.” A ‘poison pill’ amendment from Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) passed 49-40 in a “major victory for the pharmaceutical industry.

It was a tricky situation, though, given GOP opposition. From the news story at the link:

The drug import measure, tacked onto the larger bill, was opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which argues that pharmacies risk being flooded with counterfeit drugs. And the White House, which also opposes importation, had threatened a veto of the drug safety bill if it eased restrictions.

That put the Senate’s Democratic majority in a bind: Many favor direct drug importation, but the amendment threatened to stymie a reform of the Food and Drug Administration that is considered must-pass legislation. So some Democrats straddled the issue by voting for the drug-import amendment but also for a proviso requiring the government to certify that imports are safe.

“Today is a day of lost opportunity,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), author of the import proposal.

If it became law, U.S. pharmacies would be allowed to import prescription drugs produced in FDA-licensed facilities in other developed countries.

Written by Leisureguy

8 May 2007 at 6:55 am

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