Later On

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

Archive for May 24th, 2007

Cheney’s got the bit between his teeth

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And he’s charging off to bomb Iran. From Steve Clemons:

There is a race currently underway between different flanks of the administration to determine the future course of US-Iran policy.

On one flank are the diplomats, and on the other is Vice President Cheney’s team and acolytes — who populate quite a wide swath throughout the American national security bureaucracy.

The Pentagon and the intelligence establishment are providing support to add muscle and nuance to the diplomatic effort led by Condi Rice, her deputy John Negroponte, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, and Legal Adviser John Bellinger. The support that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are providing Rice’s efforts are a complete, 180 degree contrast to the dysfunction that characterized relations between these institutions before the recent reshuffle of top personnel.

However, the Department of Defense and national intelligence sector are also preparing for hot conflict. They believe that they need to in order to convince Iran’s various power centers that the military option does exist.

But this is worrisome. The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well — as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.

Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney’s national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush’s tack towards Condoleezza Rice’s diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 4:16 pm

What happens if no farm subsidies?

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Terrible thought—but perhaps we should look at what actually happens, not what we fear might happen. New Zealand dropped farm subsidies—all of them—back in 1985:

Once upon a time, in a country way, way down under, the government dismantled its system of agricultural subsidies and supports. Initially, cries of outrage and disbelief were heard from farmers all across the land.

For more than 20 years, farm assistance had steadily increased, peaking at 33 percent of total farm output (about double the level of assistance in the U.S. today). Then, with one swift and decisive decree, all subsidies were eliminated.

The transition period, which lasted about 6 years, was not easy, but it was less painful than expected. The government predicted a 10 percent failure rate, but only 1 percent of farms went of business. Government assistance during the transition period was limited to one-off “exit grants” for those leaving their farms, financial advice, and the same social welfare income support afforded to all citizens.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Government

Bummed by Democrats

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I have to admit that I feel depressed by the Democrats in Congress—both Senate and House—who seem to be timorous and wrong-headed. Certainly not all Democrats fall into that category, but too many do. Caving in totally to Bush, even though the last election sent a clear demand for action to stop the war, is almost unforgivable. And the way that so many of the Democrats are fighting ethics reform is even more depressing. No wonder Congress gets so little respect. I suppose it’s ultimate the fault of the voters, for sending timid, corruptible people to Congress, but still…

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

The Doug Feith approach

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If you don’t have the intelligence information you need for the course you want, just make it up. ThinkProgress:

Early last month, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) released a declassified version of a Pentagon Inspector General report that found that in Sept. 2002, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith gave a briefing entitled “Assessing the Relationship Between Iraq and al-Qaida” to Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff.

In this “alternative” intelligence assessment, Feith asserted that Osama Bin Laden’s al-Hijra Company had business “contacts” with a Dutch company, Vlemmo N.V. and that Vlemmo was a “front for Iraqi military procurement“:

feith_netherlands_debunked.gif

Dick Cheney “publicly praised” the Feith assessment as “the best source of information on the topic.”

Yesterday, however, the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen explained that Feith had apparently invented the company, saying “Vlemmo is unknown to the Netherlands“:

The company has never been registered with the Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands and is also not known to the tax service. That the company may have served as a front for illegal arms trade with Iraq is equally unknown to me.

The Inspector General report concluded that Feith inappropriately “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al-Qaeda relationship,’” which included “conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.”

Juan Cole has more.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 2:13 pm

Stronger tobacco regulation?

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From today’s WaPo:

State and local governments should ban smoking in malls, restaurants and virtually all other public indoor settings and the Food and Drug Administration should regulate the marketing, packaging and sale of tobacco products, the influential Institute of Medicine said in a report today on how to further cut tobacco use.

The study released also calls for raising federal taxes on cigarettes and developing a federal plan to gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in cigarettes so that they are no longer addictive. The Institute is a branch of the National Academies, a scientific organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific and technical issues.

“Why has there not been greater progress in addressing the tobacco problem?” wrote Richard J. Bonnie, a University of Virginia law professor and the chairman of the panel of experts that produced the report. “Although many social, economic and political factors have played a role, perhaps the most important one is that the tobacco industry obscured the addictive properties and health risks of smoking, impeded and delayed many tobacco control interventions and has so far successfully thwarted meaningful federal regulatory measures.”

The solution is to strengthen existing anti-smoking measures and to give the government new regulatory powers over the industry with the goal of “reducing tobacco use so substantially that it no longer has a significant impact on public health,” Bonnie wrote.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

Life in Iraq

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I think this example helps explain why the great majority of Americans (if not our Representatives and Senators in Congress) want the Iraq War to end. The names in this account were changed. The writer is a counselor deployed to help soldiers experiencing combat trauma.

Maj. Johns and I had been at the patrol base to the west for several days. We took up residence on two adjacent cots in the far corner of a plywood structure which, by size comparisons, was much like the other Army tents it was built among. There were no walls to divide the space within the structure. Cots lined the long side walls with space for a walkway in the middle. There were about 20 cots in all and transient soldiers came and went, mostly as they left for, or returned from, their leaves home. During the daytime, the structure would shake and breathe in the hot winds and the thin lines of light where plywood panels met on the walls, and at the meeting of the walls and the ceiling, would swell and widen broadening bright luminous fissures in the dark space. Small gray lizards would crawl though these cracks and take refuge from the heat on the plywood ceiling between the beams.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 1:03 pm

Why do toddlers wake up crying?

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Little infant babies I can understand—they probably wake up hungry and crying is a communication. But how about toddlers old enough to, well, toddle and talk some? Why do they also often wake up crying? Is sleep sad? Is waking up sad?

I Googled “toddlers wake up crying,” but all the links are for nighttime sleep problems. I’m thinking of, say, a perfectly normal afternoon nap. Wake up, cry. Why?

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 7:35 am

Posted in Daily life

Chicken salad today

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I took about a cup of (canola-oil) mayo yesterday and chopped up one bunch of fresh tarragon and mixed that in. This morning it tastes divine. So I’m going to simmer one of the boneless chicken thighs and make a chicken salad for lunch—heavy on the celery. (I have 3 bunches of celery for some reason.) So that’s the excitement here.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 7:33 am

Posted in Food

Strong words from Keith Olbermann

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Watch and listen.

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 7:06 am

Why some people do bad things

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It can be because of the social construct they inhabit:

Why do human beings commit despicable acts? One answer points to individual dispositions; another answer emphasizes situational pressures. In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed the importance of individual dispositions in describing terrorists as “simply evil people who want to kill.” Situationists reject this view. They believe that horrible acts can be committed by perfectly normal people. The most extreme situationists insist that in the right circumstances, almost all of us might be led to commit atrocities.

The situationist view has received strong support from some of the most famous experiments in social science, conducted by the psychologist Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s. In those experiments, ordinary people were asked to administer electric shocks to a person sitting in an adjacent room. Milgram’s subjects were told, falsely, that the purpose of the experiments was to test the effects of punishment on memory. Unbeknown to the experiment’s subjects, the person in that adjacent room was Milgram’s confederate, and there were no real shocks. The apparent shocks were delivered by a simulated shock generator, offering thirty clearly delineated voltage levels, ranging from 15 to 450 volts, accompanied by verbal descriptions ranging from “Slight Shock” to “XXX.” As the experiment unfolded, the subject was asked to administer increasingly severe shocks for incorrect answers, well past the “Danger, Severe Shock” level, which began at 375 volts.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 6:31 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

When you know you have a problem

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When the military’s homophobia starts to compromise the mission, it should be a loud, clear wake-up call. And it’s there:

Lawmakers who say the military has kicked out 58 Arabic linguists because they were gay want the Pentagon to explain how it can afford to let the valuable language specialists go.

Seizing on the latest discharges, involving three specialists, members of the House of Representatives wrote the House Armed Services Committee chairman that the continued loss of such “capable, highly skilled Arabic linguists continues to compromise our national security during time of war.”

One sailor discharged in the latest incident, former Petty Officer 2nd Class Stephen Benjamin, said his supervisor tried to keep him on the job, urging him to sign a statement denying that he was gay. He said his lawyer advised him not to sign it, because it could be used against him later if other evidence ever surfaced.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 6:28 am

Posted in Military

Floris morning, with Merkur

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Merkur38c

This morning I used my new Merkur 38C, which arrived yesterday from Lee’s Razors. It has the standard Merkur Classic head on a heavy, spiral-engraved handle. It’s a two-piece razor, and it did a fine job on the stubble that was lathered with Floris JF triple-milled shaving soap, a purchase from another shaver (which exactly the fit the bowl left when I threw out the Caswell-Massey latherless shaving soap). Wonderful lather, worked up with the Kent BK8 brush pictured on the cover of the book.

On the last pass I tried something recommended by a guy in a shaving forum: use Avalon Organics Lavender shaving cream (got it at Whole Foods) instead of the lather. Interesting. Don’t know that it will become a regular routine, but it did feel nice.

Finished with the alum block and Floris JF aftershave. It is—dare I say it?—an exceptional shave today. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

24 May 2007 at 6:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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