Later On

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

Archive for May 14th, 2007

Yet another resignation

leave a comment »

Nora Ephron, whose writing I can barely stand, had a recent post in her blog on Huffington Post that began:

No one resigns.

I don’t know why anyone thinks anyone does.

Or is ever going to.

The last person who resigned, children, was a man named Eliot Richardson, who was Attorney General in the Nixon Administration. This was in 1973, in the midst of Watergate. Richardson happened to resign on a Saturday night, which was one reason why the event was known forever after as the Saturday Night Massacre.

This during the wave of resignations in the Bush White House. Some no doubt are resignations from people fleeing scrutiny (Monica Goodling, for example), but some seem to be from principle:

Davis, a former Clinton White House official who had been named by President Bush to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board, sent a letter to the White House and his fellow board members protesting the panel’s lack of independence. In recent months, Davis has had numerous clashes with fellow board members and White House officials over what he saw as administration attempts to control the panel’s agenda and edit its public statements, according to board members who asked not to be identified talking about internal matters. He also cited in his letters criticisms by the former co-chairs of the September 11 commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, that the board had interpreted its mandate too narrowly and was refusing to investigate issues such as the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world.

Davis’s frustration reached a peak last month when White House lawyers engaged in what he described in his letter as “substantial” edits of the board’s annual report to Congress. Davis charged that the White House sought to remove an extensive discussion of recent findings by the Justice Department’s inspector general of FBI abuses in the uses of so-called “national security letters” to obtain personal data on U.S. citizens without a court order. He also charged that the White House counsel’s office wanted to strike language stating that the panel planned to investigate complaints from civil liberties groups that the Justice Department had improperly used a “material witness statute” to lock up terror suspects for lengthy periods of time without charging them with any crimes.

When Davis protested the attempted deletions, he said the board was told that the White House lawyers feared that because the material witness law was used by U.S. attorneys, a new probe of that issue would become a part of the larger controversy over the firing of U.s. attorneys. “I found this reason to be inappropriate—and emblematic of the sincere view, with which I strongly disagreed, of at least some administration officials and a majority of the Board that the Board was wholly part of the White House staff and political structure, rather than an independent oversight entity,” Davis wrote in his letter.

I think Ephron is going for “outrageous,” but it comes across as stupidity.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 8:04 pm

A fun read

leave a comment »

Two buddies in Iraq—brderj and DEsquire—are just getting started in gourmet shaving. They just got the stuff they ordered and leaped in. This thread recounts their first adventures, and their enthusiasm and enjoyment just makes one feel good. Read it.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Shaving

CBS weaves a tangled web

leave a comment »

From ThinkProgress:

As Keith Olbermann first reported on Thursday, Gen. John Batiste’s consulting arrangement with CBS was terminated due to his participation in a VoteVets ad. In post entitled “Revisiting the Batiste Decision,” the CBS News blog cites the following standard as a rationale for Batiste’s firing:

Simply stated, it is the policy of CBS that it will not take any part in any partisan political process in any form.

This is the third different explanation CBS has offered for canceling Batiste’s contract, and like the others, it is not a satisfactory explanation given the record. Batiste was fired for appearing in a VoteVets ad that did not advocate the election or defeat of any candidate. VoteVets itself is a non-partisan organization.

To recap, here are the previous faulty rationales offered by CBS for firing Batiste:

Reason #1: Batiste was engaging in ‘advocacy.’ CBS VP Linda Mason said Friday, “We ask that people not be involved in advocacy.” But Greg Sargent revealed instances in which CBS News military consultant Michael O’Hanlon has engaged in advocacy for the Iraq escalation.

Reason #2: Batiste was ‘raising money’ for VoteVets. Mason later amended her statement, saying “It isn’t just that he took an advocacy position. … General Batiste took part in a commercial that’s being shown on television to raise money for veterans against the war.” But the VoteVets ad that Batiste appears is not a fundraising ad.

Reason #3: Batiste was taking part in the ‘partisan political process.’ In fact, Batiste consciously avoided engaging in partisanship. Newsweek reports, “Batiste says he remains a ‘diehard Republican’ and has no intention of wading directly into the presidential campaign. … He took part in the campaign, he says, because it’s a ‘nonpartisan group.’

Were CBS truly concerned about not allowing its consultants to engage in the partisan political process, it would not have a McCain presidential campaign aide currently on staff.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Media

Food searches

leave a comment »


Do you ever notice a food in a store and think, “That’s interesting” and then, later, remember the food and forget the store? That’s what’s happened to me with a box of pasta in the shape I now know is “lumachine.” I saw a box of it somewhere, and though I have carefully perused the pasta sections of several stores, still have been unable to find it again. But give up? No. I may go crazy, but I won’t give up. BTW: nice directory of pasta shapes.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Another general speaks up

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 9:55 am

The Bush Administration continues to ad lib

leave a comment »

If there’s no plan, people will independently do what seems best, resulting in a dissonance of ad-libbed actions. It’s happening in Iraq, where there is still no overall plan:

Paul Brinkley, a deputy undersecretary of defense, has been called a Stalinist by U.S. diplomats in Iraq. One has accused him of helping insurgents build better bombs. The State Department has even taken the unusual step of enlisting the CIA to dispute the validity of Brinkley’s work.

His transgression? To begin reopening dozens of government-owned factories in Iraq.

Brinkley and his colleagues at the Pentagon believe that rehabilitating shuttered, state-run enterprises could reduce violence by employing tens of thousands of Iraqis. Officials at State counter that the initiative is antithetical to free-market reforms the United States should promote in Iraq.

The bureaucratic knife fight over the best way to revive Iraq’s moribund economy illustrates how the two principal players in the reconstruction of Iraq — the departments of Defense and State — remain at odds over basic economic and political measures. The bickering has hamstrung initiatives to promote stability four years after Saddam Hussein’s fall.

Under pressure from Congress to demonstrate progress on the ground, the military often favors immediate solutions aimed at quelling violence. That has prompted objections from some at State who question the long-term consequences of that expeditious approach.

In recent months, the two departments have squabbled over the degree to which Iraqi farmers should be aided by subsidies and tariffs. They also remain at odds over State’s desire to deploy reconstruction teams to two Shiite-dominated provinces in central Iraq. Defense officials are balking at providing robust security for the teams, preferring to deploy as many troops as possible in Baghdad. State contends that well-protected American civilians in those provinces will build relationships with future Shiite leaders.

“There has been a surprising degree of venom and hostility” between the departments, said a senior U.S. government official involved in Iraq policy.

The dispute between State and Brinkley has become so pitched that he has effectively stopped working with the U.S. Embassy and is setting up his office elsewhere in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

“We tend to not deal with them very often,” Brinkley said of embassy officials. “We have our own mission, and we do our own thing.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 8:08 am

Oh, Wolfie, shut up and go away

leave a comment »

Why can’t he see it’s hopeless? Well, he’s the guy who saw the Iraq War as being won in a few weeks with no problems, and the Iraq oil revenues paying the total cost of the war. That is, he views the world as working according to his wishes—aka “delusional.” Here’s the story:

Documents circulating at the World Bank suggest that Paul D. Wolfowitz, the bank president, understood that his role in ordering a pay increase and promotion for his companion in 2005 might be seen as a conflict of interest but insisted on proceeding anyway, bank officials who are critics of Mr. Wolfowitz said Sunday.

The officials, speaking on the eve of a fateful week for Mr. Wolfowitz’s efforts to remain head of the bank, said testimony and notes that Xavier Coll, vice president of human resources, provided to a bank committee investigating the matter supported the charge that Mr. Wolfowitz was aware of engaging in favoritism. One said the documents were “devastating” to Mr. Wolfowitz’s case.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because the bank bars disclosure of evidence in the case, the officials said Mr. Coll’s testimony and notes have become central to the charges Mr. Wolfowitz is fighting.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 8:05 am

Documentary films

leave a comment »

This is a great site: “A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures—streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.”

Some of the features on the front page: Sonny Terry, Cajun music, Cowboy poets, and more. Well worth exploring.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 7:51 am

Posted in Movies & TV

On-line documentaries

leave a comment »

This is a great site: “A National Preserve of Documentary Films about American Roots Cultures—streamed with essays about the traditions and filmmaking. The site includes transcriptions, study and teaching guides, suggested readings, and links to related websites.”

Some of the features on the front page: Sonny Terry, Cajun music, Cowboy poets, and more. Well worth exploring.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 7:47 am

Posted in Music

Very cool talk by Charles Stross

leave a comment »

I really liked his novel Accelerando, and I like his talk, too:

Shaping the future

(One of the things that goes with being an SF writer is that people expect you to talk about, well, the future. Last week, engineering consultancy TNG Technology Consulting invited me to Munich to address one of their technology open days. Here’s a transcript of my talk, which discusses certain under-considered side effects of some technologies that you’re probably already becoming familiar with. Note that this is a long blog entry — even by my verbose standards — so you’ll need to hit on the “continue reading” link to see the whole thing.) Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting me here today. I understand that you’re expecting a talk about where the next 20 years are taking us, how far technology will go, how people will use the net, and whether big shoulder pads and food pills will be fashionable. Personally, I’m still waiting for my personal jet car — I’ve been waiting about fifty years now — and I mention this as a note of caution: while personal jet cars aren’t obviously impossible, their non-appearance should give us some insights into how attempts to predict the future go wrong.

I’m a science fiction writer by trade, and people often think that means I spend a lot of time trying to predict possible futures. Actually, that’s not the job of the SF writer at all — we’re not professional futurologists, and we probably get things wrong as often as anybody else. But because we’re not tied to a specific technical field we are at least supposed to keep our eyes open for surprises.

So I’m going to ignore the temptation to talk about a whole lot of subjects — global warming, bioengineering, the green revolution, the intellectual property wars — and explain why, sooner or later, everyone in this room is going to end up in Wikipedia. And I’m going to get us there the long way round …


The big surprise in the 20th century — remember that personal jet car? — was the redefinition of progress that took place some time between 1950 and 1970.

Before 1800, human beings didn’t travel faster than a horse could gallop. The experience of travel was that it was unpleasant, slow, and usually involved a lot of exercise — or the hazards of the seas. Then something odd happened; a constant that had held for all of human history — the upper limit on travel speed — turned into a variable. By 1980, the upper limit on travel speed had risen (for some lucky people on some routes) to just over Mach Two, and to just under Mach One on many other shorter routes. But from 1970 onwards, the change in the rate at which human beings travel ceased — to all intents and purposes, we aren’t any faster today than we were when the Comet and Boeing 707 airliners first flew.

We can plot this increase in travel speed on a graph — better still, plot the increase in maximum possible speed — and it looks quite pretty; it’s a classic sigmoid curve, initially rising slowly, then with the rate of change peaking between 1920 and 1950, before tapering off again after 1970. Today, the fastest vehicle ever built, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, en route to Pluto, is moving at approximately 21 kilometres per second — only twice as fast as an Apollo spacecraft from the late-1960s. Forty-five years to double the maximum velocity; back in the 1930s it was happening in less than a decade.

One side-effect of faster travel was that people traveled more. A brief google told me that in 1900, the average American traveled 210 miles per year by steam-traction railroad, and 130 miles by electric railways. Today, comparable travel figures are 16,000 miles by road and air — a fifty-fold increase in distance traveled. I’d like to note that the new transport technologies consume one-fifth the energy per passenger-kilometer, but overall energy consumption is much higher because of the distances involved. We probably don’t spend significantly more hours per year aboard aircraft that our 1900-period ancestors spent aboard steam trains, but at twenty times the velocity — or more — we travel much further and consume energy faster while we’re doing so.


Around 1950, everyone tended to look at what the future held in terms of improvements in transportation speed.

But as we know now, that wasn’t where the big improvements were going to come from.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 7:37 am

Why does the US do things like this?

leave a comment »

From the Guardian Unlimited:

A man accused of blowing up an airliner and killing 73 people, who has already admitted to bombing hotels with fatal consequences and who has a conviction for a failed assassination attempt on a head of state, was freed on a technicality in a Texas court this week, and can look forward to a quiet retirement in Florida.

In London a man accused of hacking into the computer system of the Pentagon and Nasa is waiting to see if the House of Lords will hear his appeal against extradition to the US to face a trial in which one prosecutor has already indicated he should “fry”. Blowing up an airliner is clearly regarded as less serious than causing major embarrassment to the defence establishment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 7:29 am

Mondays are wonderful!

leave a comment »

I love my Monday morning shave. More stubble, and a smoother result (either absolutely, which I believe, or in comparison, also possible).

I used the D.R. Harris Marlborough shaving stick—very nice indeed—and the Simpsons Harvard 2 Best Badger, one of my favorites. Very nice thick lather, and with the Merkur Slant Bar, I simply wiped the stubble away—no resistance, getting almost smooth on the first pass. Final result: BBS.

Alum bar and a drugstore favorite, Aqua Velva.

My face is so smooth.

Written by Leisureguy

14 May 2007 at 6:33 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: