Later On

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

Archive for May 26th, 2007

The humanitarian crisis in Iraq

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The one that Bush is desperate to keep out of sight. Frank Rich:

When all else fails, those pious Americans who conceived and directed the Iraq war fall back on moral self-congratulation: at least we brought liberty and democracy to an oppressed people. But that last-ditch rationalization has now become America’s sorriest self-delusion in this tragedy.

However wholeheartedly we disposed of their horrific dictator, the Iraqis were always pawns on the geopolitical chessboard rather than actual people in the administration’s reckless bet to “transform” the Middle East. From “Stuff happens!” on, nearly every aspect of Washington policy in Iraq exuded contempt for the beneficiaries of our supposed munificence. Now this animus is completely out of the closet. Without Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to kick around anymore, the war’s dead-enders are pinning the fiasco on the Iraqis themselves. Our government abhors them almost as much as the Lou Dobbs spear carriers loathe those swarming “aliens” from Mexico.

Iraqis are clamoring to get out of Iraq. Two million have fled so far and nearly two million more have been displaced within the country. (That’s a total of some 15 percent of the population.) Save the Children reported this month that Iraq’s child-survival rate is falling faster than any other nation’s. One Iraqi in eight is killed by illness or violence by the age of 5. Yet for all the words President Bush has lavished on Darfur and AIDS in Africa, there has been a deadly silence from him about what’s happening in the country he gave “God’s gift of freedom.”

It’s easy to see why. To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins. A “secure” Iraq is a mirage, and, worse, those who can afford to leave are the very professionals who might have helped build one. Thus the president says nothing about Iraq’s humanitarian crisis, the worst in the Middle East since 1948, much as he tried to hide the American death toll in Iraq by keeping the troops’ coffins off-camera and staying away from military funerals.

But his silence about Iraq’s mass exodus is not merely another instance of deceptive White House P.R.; it’s part of a policy with a huge human cost. The easiest way to keep the Iraqi plight out of sight, after all, is to prevent Iraqis from coming to America. And so we do, except for stray Shiites needed to remind us of purple fingers at State of the Union time or to frame the president in Rose Garden photo ops.

Since the 2003 invasion, America has given only 466 Iraqis asylum. Sweden, which was not in the coalition of the willing, plans to admit 25,000 Iraqis this year alone. Our State Department, goaded by January hearings conducted by Ted Kennedy, says it will raise the number for this year to 7,000 (a figure that, small as it is, may be more administration propaganda). A bill passed by Congress this month will add another piddling 500, all interpreters.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:28 pm

For fans of the grilled cheese sandwich

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Nine (9) different grilled cheese sandwiches. What could be better?

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Bad news for Ford

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This lawsuit:

Decades of neglecting the rollover threat posed by Ford Explorers may end up having billion-dollar consequences for the automaker, reports the Sacramento Bee. On June 4, trial will begin in a Sacramento California Superior Court in a class-action suit claiming the automaker deceived customers about the safety of its Explorer models, and the damages may be large enough to bankrupt the automaker.

The claim is based on
California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws, seeking damages and disgorgement of profits against Ford for marketing the sport-utility vehicle as a replacement for the quintessential family vehicle: the station wagon. Plaintiffs say Ford marketed the Explorer as safe and reliable despite Ford’s knowledge of the vehicle’s inherent rollover risk.

The value of Explorers owned in California depreciated $1,000 to $1,300 below normal levels after vehicle instability became widely publicized during the Ford/Firestone tire failures. Ford continues the blame faulty tire design for causing its SUVs to rollover, but if the jury is unpersuaded by this argument, Ford could be forced to pay $500 million in damages and an additional disgorgement of Ford’s $2.135 billion profits from California Explorer sales.

This marks the first such case to reach trial, although a similar suit is pending in Illinois.  The class of plaintiffs includes California residents who bought, owned or leased a 1991-2001 model-year Ford Explorer between 1990 and Aug. 9, 2000. Explorer drivers must still own their vehicle or must have sold it or ended their lease after Aug. 9, 2000. All qualifying residents are members of the lawsuit unless they opt out through the court’s Web site.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Business

The unpopular war

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My right-wing commenter referred to the war in Iraq as “unpopular” (in quotation marks, as though it were in fact popular). From Reuters:

According to a CBS News/New York Times poll, 76 percent of Americans believe the war is going somewhat or very badly for the United States and only 20 percent said Bush’s recent troop increase is making a positive difference.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 2:17 pm

A close look at three dolts

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Read what Steve Clemons has to say about Larry, Moe, and Curly Feith, Wolfowitz, and Tenet. Funny, but with such tragic consequences: Dumb and Dumber ending in a kill zone.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 2:13 pm

100 billion tons of ice melting in Greenland—per year

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James Hansen, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute Of Space Studies and the top U.S. climate scientist, has issued a new warning about the threat of a catastrophic rise in sea levels. He warns further that many scientists aware of such a rise are reluctant to discuss it out of fears of appearing “alarmist.”

From Hansen’s new paper in the journal Environmental Research:

I suggest that a “scientific reticence” is inhibiting the communication of a threat of a potentially large sea level rise. Delay is dangerous because of system inertias that could create a situation with future sea level changes out of our control. I argue for calling together a panel of scientific leaders to hear evidence and issue a prompt plain-written report on current understanding of the sea level change issue.

Climate Progress has more. This week, CNN’s Anderson Cooper has been reporting live from the source of much of this sea level rise — the disappearing glaciers in Greenland. Last night, Cooper interviewed biologist Jeff Corwin, who laid out the massive changes taking place in Greenland:

Today, it’s actually losing ice at about 100 billion tons a year. I mean, that’s incredible. One hundred billion tons of ice is disappearing. And, of course, it just doesn’t go up in smoke. The ice melts. Not only do you have to deal with water being lifted up, with the potential sea level going up virtually 20 feet, but also salinity. People aren’t thinking about this problem. What happens when a saltwater environment becomes more fresh lake?

Watch Cooper’s excellent report.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 2:06 pm

Interview with Michael Moore

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Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 2:01 pm

What the Democrats in Congress have been doing

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Basically, most of what they promised to do. This chart (from the NY Times) is useful when the Right says “The Democrats don’t stand for anything, they’re just against Bush.” Like most statements from the Right, it’s wrong.


Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

US fighting the fight against global warming

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True to Bush’s ideology, the US is fighting attempts to curb global warming. Why does Bush hate the planet?

U.S. officials have raised a second round of unusually bluntly worded objections to a proposed global-warming declaration that Germany prepared for next month’s Group of Eight summit, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Representatives from the world’s leading industrial nations met the past two days in Heiligendamm, Germany, to negotiate over German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposed statement, which calls for limiting the worldwide temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit and cutting global greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Bush administration officials, who raised similar objections in April, rejected the idea of setting mandatory emissions targets as well as language calling for G-8 nations to raise overall energy efficiencies by 20 percent by 2020. With less than two weeks remaining, said sources familiar with the talks, the climate document is the only unresolved issue in the statements the world leaders are expected to sign at the June 6-8 summit.

“The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement,” a paper dated May 14 states. “The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple ‘red lines’ in terms of what we simply cannot agree to. . . . We have tried to ‘tread lightly’ but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position.”

The most recent draft, dated May 24, shows that the two sides remain at loggerheads. While Germany has offered to alter language identifying a rise in global temperature of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit as a dangerous tipping point and instead to accept a Russian proposal that targets a range from 2.7 to 4.5 degrees, the United States has yet to accept the modified language.

The United States also remains opposed to a statement that reads, “We acknowledge that the U.N. climate process is an appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change.”

At the United Nations, which has been the central forum for climate talks for more than a decade, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has not responded directly to U.S. pressure for a change. He will be attending the G-8 summit, however, and on May 18 he sent a letter to G-8 leaders calling climate change “one of the most profound global challenges of our time” and saying, “I hope that the world leaders that gather together at Heiligendamm will be ready to discuss this subject in its critical dimensions.”

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 9:29 am

Big troop reductions in Iraq Real Soon Now

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Glenn Greenwald:

Wonderful — and highly credible — front page news today, from The New York Times:

The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate. It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.

For four straight years, the same set of war supporters have constantly and reptitiously given the same exact false assurances about Iraq — virtually verbatim — in order to protect themselves politically. It is hard to know what is more amazing about this ritual — (a) how stupid they believe Americans are that they can make the same commitments over and over which never transpire, or (b) that the press jumps each time to proclaim the imminent troop reductions as though it never happened before:

He then lists a representative list of such announcements from previous years.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:55 am

Social mobility at a low ebb in the US

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Social mobility—generally used in the positive sense, of moving from one socio-economic class to a higher one—was once part of the American dream, greatly exploited by Horatio Alger in his novels. Now, it seems to have faded:

Social mobility

(This fact, nor the reporting of it, does not mean I hate America, BTW, in case any Right-wing readers are tempted to jump to that particular conclusion.)

Read more about the study here.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:52 am

Posted in Daily life

Converting Mr. Prejudice

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Shaving stick

Thanks to Giraffejumper for the above wonderful ad.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:45 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Shaving

“Hating America”

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A right-wing commenter has brought my attention to a peculiar trope of the Right: if you criticize any of the policies or practices of the Right, or the effects of those policies—and in particular if you actually use facts in the criticism—you “hate America.” Whereas the Right feels free to weigh in with vicious and personal criticisms (often contrary to fact) of the Left, and that is (I assume) taken as evidence of “loving America.” It’s unreasoned argument at its worst, and it seems typical of the Right.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:32 am

Posted in GOP

Open-comb razors

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Safety razors appeared initially in the open-comb design. Above, from left: an old Gillette, the modern Merkur Hefty Classic Open Comb.

And here below are an old Gillette Aristocrat from 1921, and the Gillette “NEW” from 1931:

Click photos to enlarge.

The open-comb went through some refinements. The original design—the two on the left—had the safety razor sitting directly on the teeth of the comb. So far as I can tell, that means the only cutting is done between the teeth. The newer design, hinted at in the third razor and fully expressed in the fourth, has the edge of the razor sitting above the teeth: the row of teeth dip down, as it were, away from the razor’s edge. Looking at the Gillette “NEW,” you can see why this is called the “coat-hanger profile.”

This design improved the shave (and it’s a mystery why Merkur chose the older design for their open-comb razors), but still the open-comb fell to the straight-bar guard design. The straight bar is easier and cheaper to manufacture, and in addition the open comb was somewhat more prone to damage if dropped: a tooth is easily bent.

If you click the photos twice (to bring them up to full size), you can scroll up and inspect the way the blade is held.

The Gillette “NEW” was Gillette’s first razor designed specifically for the modern, thinner double-edged blade. Instead of the usual two studs that held the blade in place through two holes in the blade, the “NEW” had a central bar that fit into the new long opening in the blade.

All this I learned just this week (from this post), and this morning I used the Gillette “NEW” pictured above to shave. A very good shave, using the Bay Rum with Sweet Orange soap from The Gentleman’s Quarter (link opens PDF catalog) and the Emperor 2 Super shaving brush.

I finished with Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Shop aftershave—very pleasant fragrance.

Written by Leisureguy

26 May 2007 at 7:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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