Later On

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

Archive for May 15th, 2007

On-going investigations

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When can the Bush Administration comment? Jon Stewart explores that question.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 2:56 pm

If you have a morbid interest in Scientology

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(as who doesn’t?), here’s the first of a three-part BBC documentary “Scientology and Me.” The other two parts can be found on that page as well.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Religion, Video

More evil than you can imagine

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As Brad DeLong said, this White House is more evil than you can imagine even when you take into account that it’s more evil than you can imagine. Read this account of the arm-twisting of Ashcroft when he was in the Intensive Care Unit. (Glenn Greenwald’s take on it here.)

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15 May 2007 at 2:08 pm

What the US has come to

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ThinkProgress:

Cpl. Cloy Richards, who earlier this month attempted suicide, is listed by the military as “80-percent combat disabled,” as he previously “punched out all his windows and cut major arteries,” has knee and arm injuries, suffers from traumatic brain injury, and has pending claim for post-traumatic stress disorder. Nevertheless, Richards now “faces the possibility of a third deployment to Iraq.”

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 1:49 pm

Kaiser Family Foundation’s take on US healthcare

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From ThinkProgress:

It is no surprise to hear that the U.S. health care system is in shambles. Health care costs are increasing faster than wages and nearly 47 million Americans — 8 million of whom are children — are uninsured. Millions more are underinsured.

Yet, we continue to spend more on health care per person than any other country, including countries that provide health care coverage to its entire citizenry. According to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2003 alone, health spending per person was at least 24 percent higher than that of Luxembourg (the second highest spending country) and over 90 percent higher than countries considered global competitors.

But our health care system spending is not buying us superior health:

Americans on average die at a younger age compared to the average age of death of comparable nations. Japan has the highest life expectancy.

– The U.S. infant mortality rate is 6.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, while Japan and Sweden have rates below 3.5 deaths per 1,000 live births.

– The obesity rate among adults in the U.S. is 30.6 percent; the highest rate of developed countries. This rate is nearly 21 percent higher than the rate of the second highest country, Mexico.

Nor does it buy us better health care or more resources:

– About 70 percent of deaths and health costs in the U.S. are attributable to chronic disease, which are largely preventable. Yet, only half of recommended preventive services are provided to adults.

– The U.S. has fewer practicing physicians and nurses per 1,000 people than comparable countries.

Instead, our health care system is pushing millions of hardworking Americans into relentless financial constraints and sends thousands to early graves.

With new policy leaders, the impetus for real health reform is now: we can afford to provide every American affordable health care that emphasizes prevention, while controlling costs and maintaining individuals’ choice of doctors and plans.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 11:07 am

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

The more things change

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The following passage, written in 1880, applies (with obvious translations) to the present day, doesn’t it? Translations such as

  • steam and electricity -> computers and embedded microprocessors
  • improved processes and labor-saving machinery -> computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (including robotics)
  • greater subdivision and grander scale of production -> outsourcing and globalization
  • wonderful facilitation of exchanges -> the Internet and networks
  • etc.

Continue making such translations as you read through it—and admire the writing and language:

INTRODUCTORY

THE PROBLEM

The present century has been marked by a prodigious increase in wealth-producing power. The utilization of steam and electricity, the introduction of improved processes and labor-saving machinery, the greater subdivision and grander scale of production, the wonderful facilitation of exchanges, have multiplied enormously the effectiveness of labor.

At the beginning of this marvelous era it was natural to expect, and it was expected, that labor-saving inventions would lighten the toil and improve the condition of the laborer; that the enormous increase in the power of producing wealth would make real poverty a thing of the past. Could a man of the last century—a Franklin or a Priestley—have seen, in a vision of the future, the steamship taking the place of the sailing vessel, the railroad train of the wagon, the reaping machine of the scythe, the threshing machine of the flail; could he have heard the throb of the engines that in obedience to human will, and for the satisfaction of human desire, exert a power greater than that of all the men and all the beasts of burden of earth combined; could he have seen the forest tree transformed into finished lumber—into doors, sashes, blinds, boxes or barrels, with hardly the touch of a human hand; the great workshops where boots and shoes are turned out by the case with less labor than the old-fashioned cobbler could have put on a sole; the factories where, under the eye of a girl, cotton becomes cloth faster than hundreds of stalwart weavers could have turned it out with their hand-looms; could he have seen steam hammers shaping mammoth shafts and mighty anchors, and delicate machinery making tiny watches; the diamond drill cutting through the heart of the rocks, and coal oil sparing the whale; could he have realized the enormous saving of labor resulting from improved facilities of exchange and communication—sheep killed in Australia eaten fresh in England, and the order given by the London banker in the afternoon executed in San Francisco in the morning of the same day; could he have conceived of the hundred thousand improvements which these only suggest, what would he have inferred as to the social condition of mankind?

It would not have seemed like an inference; further than the vision went it would have seemed as though he saw; and his heart would have leaped and his nerves would have thrilled, as one who from a height beholds just ahead of the thirst-stricken caravan the living gleam of rustling woods and the glint of laughing waters. Plainly, in the sight of the imagination, he would have beheld these new forces elevating society from its very foundations, lifting the very poorest above the possibility of want, exempting the very lowest from anxiety for the material needs of life; he would have seen these slaves of the lamp of knowledge taking on themselves the traditional curse, these muscles of iron and sinews of steel making the poorest laborer’s life a holiday, in which every high quality and noble impulse could have scope to grow.

And out of these bounteous material conditions he would have seen arising, as necessary sequences, moral conditions realizing the golden age of which mankind have always dreamed. Youth no longer stunted and starved; age no longer harried by avarice; the child at play with the tiger; the man with the muck-rake drinking in the glory of the stars. Foul things fled, fierce things tame; discord turned to harmony! For how could there be greed where all had enough? How could the vice, the crime, the ignorance, the brutality, that spring from poverty and the fear of poverty, exist where poverty had vanished? Who should crouch where all were freemen; who oppress where all were peers?

And it continues. Wonderful stuff. Henry George’s Progress and Poverty. More information on Henry George, and the Henry George Foundation. All this via a reader of the blog. (Hi, Dale!)

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 9:25 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Oh, cute: Wolfie now is blaming his girlfriend

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One thing about those Neo-Cons: it is never their fault. It’s always someone else’s fault. From the Washington Post:

Wolfowitz effectively blamed Riza for his predicament as well, saying that her “intractable position” in demanding a salary increase as compensation for her career disruption forced him to grant one to pre-empt a lawsuit. He is scheduled to appear before the board this afternoon. The board is expected to begin deliberating on how to respond as soon as tonight. Board members are inclined to issue a resolution expressing a lack of confidence in Wolfowitz’s leadership, senior bank officials said.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said some board members hope a strong statement of dissatisfaction would persuade the Bush administration to withdraw support for Wolfowitz. But the White House views the stakes as larger than control of the World Bank, said a senior administration official, with U.S. resolve and power on the line — in particular the longstanding right of the United States to name the head of the institution.

In an interview with Fox News, Vice President Cheney called Wolfowitz “a very good president of the World Bank,” adding, “I hope he will be able to continue.”

Cheney, of course, also believes that the insurgency in Iraq is in its very last throes of all, and has been for, oh, one to two years.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 8:28 am

Zerofootprint carbon calculator

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Several have said that they will make no changes in their lifestyle until they can know exactly the effects of those changes on their carbon emissions.

They will be delighted to know about the Zerofootprint Carbon Calculator. Take a look and give it a go.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 7:46 am

Juan Cole on dear Wolfie

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From Salon.com:

The executive board of the World Bank mulled a possible vote of no confidence in the leadership of its president, Paul Wolfowitz, this weekend. How did the renowned neoconservative and former deputy secretary of defense, a primary architect of the Iraq war, come to these straits? Is he, as he claims, the victim of a smear campaign by those who dislike his politics? Or do the charges of favoritism and nepotism reflect genuine character flaws?

The small morality play unfolding at the World Bank tells us something significant about how the United States became bogged down in the Iraq quagmire when Wolfowitz was highly influential at the Department of Defense. The simple fact is that Wolfowitz has throughout his entire career demonstrated a penchant for cronyism and for smearing and marginalizing perceived rivals as tactics for getting his way. He has been arrogant and highhanded in dismissing the views of wiser and more informed experts, exhibiting a narcissism that is also apparent in his personal life. Indeed, these tactics are typical of what might be called the “neoconservative style.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 7:30 am

The worth of a life

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From Steve Clemons’s The Washington Note:

What is Andrew Bacevich’s Son’s Life Worth?

Or any of our sons? or daughters? on any side of this incredibly reckless escapade in Iraq?

Boston University Professor Andrew J. Bacevich is a brave, thoughtful public intellectual who has tried — in reserved, serious terms — to challenge the legitimacy of the Iraq War. He has been one of the most articulate leading thinkers among military-policy dissident conservatives who have exposed the inanity of this war and the damage it has done. He authored the critically-acclaimed book, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War.

Now his son by the same name who was serving in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom is dead — announced today by the Department of Defense:

DoD Identifies Army CasualtyThe Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

1st Lt. Andrew J. Bacevich, 27, of Walpole, Mass., died May 13 in Balad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat patrol operations in Salah Ad Din Province, Iraq.He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

bacevich.jpgTo get some insight into the pain Professor Bacevich, who teaches at Boston University, must now feel, read this clip from a moving and important article he wrote titled “What’s an Iraqi Life Worth?” [Washington Post, 9 July 2006]:

As the war enters its fourth year, how many innocent Iraqis have died at American hands, not as a result of Haditha-like massacres but because of accidents and errors? The military doesn’t know and, until recently, has publicly professed no interest in knowing. Estimates range considerably, but the number almost certainly runs in the tens of thousands. Even granting the common antiwar bias of those who track the Iraqi death toll — and granting, too, that the insurgents have far more blood on their hands — there is no question that the number of Iraqi noncombatants killed by U.S. forces exceeds by an order of magnitude the number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action, which is now more than 2,000.Who bears responsibility for these Iraqi deaths? The young soldiers pulling the triggers? The commanders who establish rules of engagement that privilege “force protection” over any obligation to protect innocent life? The intellectually bankrupt policymakers who sent U.S. forces into Iraq in the first place and now see no choice but to press on? The culture that, to put it mildly, has sought neither to understand nor to empathize with people in the Arab or Islamic worlds?

There are no easy answers, but one at least ought to acknowledge that in launching a war advertised as a high-minded expression of U.S. idealism, we have waded into a swamp of moral ambiguity. To assert that “stuff happens,” as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is wont to do whenever events go awry, simply does not suffice.

Moral questions aside, the toll of Iraqi noncombatant casualties has widespread political implications. Misdirected violence alienates those we are claiming to protect. It plays into the hands of the insurgents, advancing their cause and undercutting our own. It fatally undermines the campaign to win hearts and minds, suggesting to Iraqis and Americans alike that Iraqi civilians — and perhaps Arabs and Muslims more generally — are expendable. Certainly, Nahiba Husayif Jassim’s death helped clarify her brother’s perspective on the war. “God take revenge on the Americans and those who brought them here,” he declared after the incident. “They have no regard for our lives.”

He was being unfair, of course. It’s not that we have no regard for Iraqi lives; it’s just that we have much less regard for them. The current reparations policy — the payment offered in those instances in which U.S. forces do own up to killing an Iraq civilian — makes the point. The insurance payout to the beneficiaries of an American soldier who dies in the line of duty is $400,000, while in the eyes of the U.S. government, a dead Iraqi civilian is reportedly worth up to $2,500 in condolence payments — about the price of a decent plasma-screen TV.

For all the talk of Iraq being a sovereign nation, foreign occupiers are the ones deciding what an Iraqi life is worth. And although President Bush has remarked in a different context that “every human life is a precious gift of matchless value,” our actions in Iraq continue to convey the impression that civilian lives aren’t worth all that much.

That impression urgently needs to change. To start, the Pentagon must get over its aversion to counting all bodies. It needs to measure in painstaking detail — and publicly — the mayhem we are causing as a byproduct of what we call liberation. To do otherwise, to shrug off the death of Nahiba Husayif Jassim as just one of those things that happens in war, only reinforces the impression that Americans view Iraqis as less than fully human. Unless we demonstrate by our actions that we value their lives as much as the lives of our own troops, our failure is certain.

Now we must add to the count of this tragic conflict another American son — and of course, more Iraqi sons and daughters and American daughters.

I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Bacevich at the home of former Congressman Dave McCurdy this last holiday season. We spoke for a bit about the Iraq war as well as the absence of American strategy and dearth of strategists in government today. I had no idea his son was serving until now.

But this young man did serve his nation — but his death is so incredibly tragic, like the others — but his even more because his well-respected father has been working hard to end this horrible, self-damaging crusade. It’s incredibly sad.

To answer my own question above. Andrew Bacevich’s son’s life was precious — and his life and his untimely death matter greatly for just waking up and realizing we are achieving nothing in Iraq today and that responsibility must be borne by the perpetrators of this mess.

My sincere condolences to the Bacevich family.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 7:15 am

Wolfie sounds desperate

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From Steve Clemons’s The Washington Note:

I’ve met Paul Wolfowitz on many occasions and used to see him quite a lot over at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He has always been cordial to me and to others when I have seen him in public.

But as with many of us, there tend to be parts of ourselves that we keep a bit covered. With Wolfowitz, it may be his anger and his zest for revenge — something that may have animated much of his leading role in taking America into the Iraq War and taking down Saddam Hussein.

But just ponder these words from the World Bank CEO as reported by The Guardian:

Sounding more like a cast member of the Sopranos than an international leader, in testimony by one key witness Mr Wolfowitz declares: “If they fuck with me or Shaha, I have enough on them to fuck them too.”

This can’t be put back together. Wolfowitz has lost whatever ability to lead the Bank he may have once had.

What is happening now in the ongoing statements of support from Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Vice President Cheney and the President himself is a “negotiation.”

If Wolfowitz does resign or is fired this week, Bush wants the price for this to be high and wants to extract concessions from the Europeans on other priorities Bush has. This is all deal-making, but still, Wolfowitz’s prospects look bleaker by the hour.

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15 May 2007 at 7:12 am

Ignoring the future

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This development seems like willful blindness to me:

Miles and miles of bigger and stronger levees have been built along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers since the deadly floods of 1993, and millions of dollars have been spent on drainage improvements.

Yet as the rush of water that caused the Missouri River to overflow its banks and submerge dozens of towns last week rolled toward St. Louis on Monday, attention was turned to a metropolitan region that since 1993 has seen runaway residential and commercial development in the rivers’ flood paths.

About 28,000 homes have been built and more than 6,000 acres of commercial and industrial space developed on land that was underwater in 1993, according to research by Nicholas Pinter, a geologist who studies the region at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

Building is happening on flood plains across Missouri, but most of the development is in the St. Louis area, and it is estimated to be worth more than $2.2 billion. Though scientists warn about the danger of such building, the Missouri government has subsidized some of it through tax financing for builders.

“No one has really looked at the cumulative effect,” said Timothy M. Kusky, a professor of natural sciences at St. Louis University, who calculates that there has been more development on the Missouri River flood plain in the years since 1993 than at any other time in the history of the region.

The good news for St. Louis right now is that forecasters say the two rivers will crest well below their 1993 levels by Tuesday, sparing the area significant flooding. But many scientists remain concerned that the effect of the new construction, should a levee break, could eventually be even more severe flooding.

Levees constrict a river’s path and raise its water level, which causes higher, faster flow. A flood plain, conversely, exists in nature to absorb a river’s overflow.

“The more levees we build, the higher we have to build them,” Professor Kusky said. “It’s a self-perpetuating problem.”

Still, people have been drawn to the area, assured by the sense of security the levees provide. Disincentives beyond the possibility of flooding seem to be few.

“This was absolutely a dodged bullet,” Professor Pinter said. “This could have been a very bad situation for St. Louis, but luckily it was a near-miss.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 6:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Environment

US healthcare not so good, report says

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From Reuters:

Americans get the poorest health care and yet pay the most compared to five other rich countries, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Germany, Britain, Australia and Canada all provide better care for less money, the Commonwealth Fund report found.

“The U.S. health care system ranks last compared with five other nations on measures of quality, access, efficiency, equity, and outcomes,” the non-profit group which studies health care issues said in a statement.

Canada rates second worst out of the five overall. Germany scored highest, followed by Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

“The United States is not getting value for the money that is spent on health care,” Commonwealth Fund president Karen Davis said in a telephone interview.

The group has consistently found that the United States, the only one of the six nations that does not provide universal health care, scores more poorly than the others on many measures of health care.

Congress, President George W. Bush, many employers and insurers have all agreed in recent months to overhaul the U.S. health care system — an uncoordinated conglomeration of employer-funded care, private health insurance and government programs.

The current system leaves about 45 million people with no insurance at all, according to U.S. government estimates from 2005, and many studies have shown most of these people do not receive preventive services that not only keep them healthier, but reduce long-term costs.

More at the link

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 6:26 am

Ylang Ylang

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This morning I used Mama Bear’s Ylang Ylang shaving soap, a wonderful fragrance and a fine lather, worked up with my Edwin Jagger silvertip shaving brush. I used an English Rocket razor (very like the Super Speed) with a Gillette blade. Extremely smooth shave, finished with alum block and Pinaud Musk aftershave. Efficient and luxurious.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2007 at 5:42 am

Posted in Beef, Media, Nelly, NY Times, Shaving

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