Later On

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

Archive for August 2nd, 2007

When Congress pretends

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An editorial from the San Francisco Examiner:

 Most members of Congress seem to have forgotten that adults know pretending when they see it. And for months, they’ve been seeing way too much pretending on the issue of earmarks and ethics reform.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., epitomized the pretenders when she declared it “historic” that the House, on a 411-8 vote, approved the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 (which, by the way, she negotiated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid behind closed doors). The Senate is expected to approve the bill today or Friday. There are a few positive provisions in the bill, but the bottom line is that it is stuffed with cosmetic changes that fail to address the core issues of congressional corruption spawned by earmarks.

Earmarks corrupt Congress in two fundamental ways: First, earmarks allow members to dole out tax dollars to themselves, family and staff members, campaign donors and favored special interests with no accountability. Second, members trade earmarks to gain votes for more and bigger federal spending programs. This is why Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., calls earmarks “the gateway drug to federal spending addiction.”

In fact, Reid and Pelosi killed the reform bill’s original provision prohibiting earmark trading for votes, and they all but gutted the prohibition on earmarks to family and staff members. As for transparency, Reid lowered the Senate earmark disclosure suspension threshold from 67 votes to 60 and made himself arbiter of certifying compliance, instead of the Senate parliamentarian. This is like an addict condemning drugs as he heads to the backroom to shoot up again.

Reid and Pelosi are not alone in pretending to advance genuine reforms. As Roll Call predicted last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is now undercutting Coburn and Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and signaling the desire of many GOP establishmentarians to move on from earmarks and ethics issues. Next, McConnell will credit a “bipartisan consensus” as key to victory for reform in the Senate, thereby enabling Democrats to claim they’ve kept their 2006 campaign promise. Then members on both sides of the aisle in Congress can go on pretending they are serious about honest leadership and open government in Washington.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2007 at 3:41 pm

The CIA in action

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From Kevin Drum:

This is surely not the most important part of Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes, a history of the CIA, but it’s unquestionably the funniest part of Chalmers Johnson’s review:

Perhaps the most comical of all CIA clandestine activities — unfortunately all too typical of its covert operations over the last 60 years — was the spying it did in 1994 on the newly appointed American ambassador to Guatemala, Marilyn McAfee, who sought to promote policies of human rights and justice in that country. Loyal to the murderous Guatemalan intelligence service, the CIA had bugged her bedroom and picked up sounds that led their agents to conclude that the ambassador was having a lesbian love affair with her secretary, Carol Murphy. The CIA station chief “recorded her cooing endearments to Murphy.” The agency spread the word in Washington that the liberal ambassador was a lesbian without realizing that “Murphy” was also the name of her two-year-old black standard poodle. The bug in her bedroom had recorded her petting her dog. She was actually a married woman from a conservative family.

Via Max, of course.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2007 at 11:10 am

Posted in Government

Working working working

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I’ve not been blogging so much as usual. I’m trying to finish another book—I’m thinking that this one will have a free download. And I’m reading more. And watching movies. And watching Megs. Daily life, in other words, has taken me away for a while. I suppose it’s a natural ebb and flow, and the blog has ebbed perhaps a bit.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2007 at 11:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Yet another excellent blade

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I was just reading in the shaving forums today about how some guys “cork” their razor blades: draw the edge through a wine cork a few times to make the first shave from the blade smooth. In general, these shavers are working in a universe of 5 brands: Merkur, Israeli Personna, Derby, Swedish Gillette, and Feather.

My view is that having to cork a blade means that it’s not a good blade for you—why not continue exploring a broader range of brands and find a blade that’s good from the start? I’m continuing my own exploration of the largest sampler pack from Razor and Brush, where I found the Treet Blue Special that has been such a good blade. This morning I tried another: The Astra Keramik Platinum: “The Keramik high performance blade is one of the most widely used blades in Europe. Smooth and long lasting. These blades have a platinum edge and advanced ceramic coating. Precision made by Astra in the Czech Republic.”

Man! What a great blade! Sharp and smooth, and of course requires no rinse in rubbing alcohol to prevent rust. OTOH: 35¢ per blade vs. 11.5¢ per blade for the Treet Blue Special. But I suspect that the Keramiks will last longer than the Blue Specials.

The shave: Washed my beard with Mr. Glo, worked up an excellent lather from  Marke Gold-Dachs-Rasierseife Rivivage” Traditional European Shaving Soap using the Rooney Style 2 Finest, and applied. Using a new Astra Keramik Platinum blade in an old Gillette NEW, shaved away the stubble: very smooth shave, very sharp blade.

The aftershave treatment was TOBS Mr. Taylor’s Luxury Shaving Balm. Extremely nice, though I still find myself more of an alcohol-based aftershave splash kind of guy. But I do like the “Mr. Taylor’s” fragrance.

I must also say that Classic Shaving has considerably expanded their product lines. If you haven’t visited the site lately, check it out. Similarly, Razor and Brush has added quite a bit. Could it be that DE safety razor shaving is growing in popularity? Did Gillette finally raise the ante too much?

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2007 at 9:12 am

Posted in Shaving

Bridge structural deficiencies not rare

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From the NY Times:

The Department of Transportation’s 2005 judgment that the bridge was “structurally deficient” has emerged as one of the most prominent signs of a missed signal of an impending disaster. But there are many, many more bridges with that rating, according to a 2006 count by The Federal Highway Administration. Minnesota alone has 1,135 bridges on the list of “Deficient Bridges,” and other states have thousands more. Check your state against the “SD” column on this spreadsheet.

A fraction of those actually collapse. Reuters has put out a chronology of bridge collapses in the U.S. around the world.

The F.H.W.A. explained how it classifies bridges in need of an overhaul in its 2006 report “Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit.” There are two categories, “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete”:

Structural deficiencies are characterized by deteriorated conditions of significant bridge elements and reduced load-carrying capacity. Functional obsolescence is a function of the geometrics of the bridge not meeting current design standards.

“Neither type of deficiency indicates that a bridge is unsafe,” it adds. As a former N.T.S.B. chairman told the Star-Tribune:

“A structurally deficient bridge might be one not adequate for the traffic it takes, but not necessarily dangerous,” Burnett said. “But a lot of structurally deficient bridges are dangerous.”

Interestingly, it says that “rural bridges tend to have a higher percentage of structural deficiencies, while urban bridges have a higher incidence of functional obsolescence due to rising traffic volumes.” But Minnesota’s bridge, an urban one, received the more rare classification.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2007 at 8:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

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