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Archive for October 16th, 2007

Why two authors took on the Israel Lobby

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From AlterNet:

Eric Chinski, the editor of John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt’s provocative new bestseller, asks the authors whether their book is good for the Jews and good for America. This interview originally appeared on the Web site of the publishing house Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Thanks to TruthDig for resurfacing it.

Why did your article “The Israel Lobby,” which was published in the London Review of Books in 2006, provoke such heated discussion around the world? James Traub wrote in The New York Times Magazine: ” ‘The Israel Lobby’ slammed into the opinion-making world with a Category 5 force.” How would you describe the reaction?

The article received enormous attention because it challenged what had become a taboo issue in mainstream foreign policy circles, namely the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. Middle East policy. We did not question Israel’s legitimacy and explicitly stated that the United States should come to Israel’s aid if its survival is at risk, but we did argue that pro-Israel groups in the United States were encouraging policies that were ultimately not in America’s national interest. Although the views we expressed are often discussed openly in other democracies — including Israel itself — they have rarely been set forth in detail by mainstream figures in the United States. The article was also of great interest to many readers because it has become increasingly obvious that U.S. Middle East policy has gone badly awry. Although a number of groups and individuals either mischaracterized our views or attacked us personally, many other readers agreed that such an examination of the lobby’s role was long overdue.

Why did you feel the need to follow up the article with your book “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy”? What more is there to say?

Writing a book provided an opportunity to present a more nuanced and complete statement of our views, and also allowed us to address some of the responses to the original article. Although the article was long by magazine standards, space limitations forced us to omit several key issues and to deal with other topics more briefly than we would have liked. Events like the 2006 Lebanon war had not occurred when the article was published, and additional information about other episodes — such as the U.S. decision to invade Iraq — had since come to light. Thus, writing a book allowed us to refine our analysis and bring it up to date.

In particular, the book presents a more detailed definition of the lobby, an extended discussion of its development and rightward drift over time, an examination of the role of the so-called Christian Zionists, and an analysis of the controversial issue of “dual loyalty.” We also offer a more detailed description of the various strategies that groups in the lobby use to advance their goals within the U.S. political system. The book also addresses the widespread belief — as illustrated by Michael Moore’s documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” — that oil companies are the real driving force behind America’s Middle East policy, and explains why this view is incorrect.

Finally, our original article did not offer much in the way of positive prescriptions, but the book outlines a new approach to U.S. Middle East policy that would better serve U.S. interests and, in our view, be better for Israel as well. To that end, it also identifies how the influence of the lobby might become more constructive, for the good of both countries.

What is the extent of American financial, diplomatic, and military aid to Israel, and how does it compare with other states’?

Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military assistance, having received more than $154 billion in U.S. aid since its creation in 1948, and it currently receives roughly $3 billion in direct U.S. assistance every year, even though it is now a prosperous country. The United States also consistently gives Israel diplomatic support, and consistently comes to its aid in wartime, as it did during the 2006 war in Lebanon. Most important, U.S. support for Israel is largely unconditional: Israel receives generous American assistance even when it takes actions that the U.S. government believes are wrong, such as building settlements in the Occupied Territories. As former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once remarked, U.S. backing for Israel is “beyond compare in modern history.”

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Government

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Genocide, American Style

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The great forgetting:

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, located on the Mall in Washington, D.C., is a monument to historical amnesia. The blond limestone building, surrounded by indigenous crops of corn, tobacco and squash, invites visitors on a guilt-free, theme park tour of Native American history, where acknowledgment of the American genocide is in extremely bad taste.

The beauty of the architecture and landscaping conceals the hollowness of the enterprise. The first two floors of the four-story building are turned over to gift shops and the cafeteria. The museum provides no information on the forced death marches, authorized by Congress, such as the Trail of Tears, the repeated treaty violations by the United States, reservations, infamous massacres such as Wounded Knee, or leaders such as Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull), Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekht (Chief Joseph), Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse), or Goyathlay (Geronimo).

“If it does not talk about massive land theft—3 billion acres of stolen land in the continental United States; if it does not talk about broken treaties—over 400 treaties violated by the United States government and its European American citizenry; if it does not talk about genocide—16 million native peoples wiped out by the United States and its citizenry; if it does not talk about residential Christian boarding schools, about the suppression of our languages, our Indigenous spirituality and religious ceremonies, and on and on, it is literally a whitewashed history,” said Dr. Chris Mato Nunpa of the Dakota Nation, professor and head of the Indigenous Nations and Dakota Studies Program at Southwest Minnesota State University. “And then they get our colonized, Christianized Indian colleagues to tell the same story that has been told by the European Americans for generations.”

The lobby of the museum is a soaring, glass-domed atrium filled with natural light. The walls are smooth and white, and a large circle of honey-colored wood, resembling a dance floor, is set into the dark stone of the ground. Three small boats, all built in recent years—a Peruvian reed boat, an Arctic kayak with a cedar frame and nylon covering, and a Hawaiian canoe—are displayed on the floor, dwarfed by the open space.

The Chesapeake gift shop, with its glass cases of aquamarine stones and glittering silver, all artfully lit, faces the lobby. The shop displays silk scarves, pottery and handmade designer jewelry, such as a necklace of sterling silver and turquoise for $1,800, or a belt made entirely of tiny beads for $4,000.

The Mitsitam Café is down the hall from the Chesapeake gift shop. The cafeteria, in natural wood and large floor-to-ceiling windows, groups its native-themed food by geographical region. The buffalo eye steak with two sides costs $14.50.

The Roanoke gift shop occupies the entire second floor. Dream-catchers, medicine wheels, aromatic herb sachets, tote bags and books are for sale. The designer jewelry in this shop runs about $100 to $180.

The exhibits begin on the third floor. There is a hall for temporary exhibits. When I visited, it was filled with spot-lit mannequins in native women’s dresses. The permanent exhibition on this floor focuses on contemporary native life and identity. There is a hulking Bombardier ice-fishing vehicle, an Alaskan-style mask made of dental mirrors and tea strainers, and a re-creation of a contemporary native living room, featuring traditional Indian blankets on the couch. There is a pair of red Converse sneakers, entirely beaded, with Indian figures on the high-top ankles. The tongues are blue with white stars.

It is on the fourth floor that the expunging of history begins.

A video installation, “The Storm: Guns, Bibles and Governments,” is featured prominently in the center of the fourth-floor gallery on native history. Tall, curving fiberglass panels enclose the viewing space, backlit in shifting shades of blue and gray. Television screens are set into the panels.

Rapidly scudding clouds appear on the screens, tidal waves, palm trees lashed by typhoons, the debris of cars and houses in floods. Howling wind, shrill flutes and ominous music are heard as a voice intones:

The hurricane. A turbulence. A steady pressure. Unpredictable. Uncertain. It brings death and life. It creates and destroys.

The video tells us, in oblique, lyrical terms, why guns, Christianity and foreign governments are both bad and good things. Of Christianity, the narrator says:

We all know Jesus. He has been with us for a very long time. Christianity, a weapon of forced conversion, slavery and oppression. A weapon of liberation and social justice, salvation and eternal life. Today, many of us are Christians and many are not.

The video closes:

The storm is powerful and unceasing. It creates and destroys. It offers life and death, hope and despair. It is never simply one thing. The storm is an opportunity. The storm teaches. We have learned much.

“The Storm” turns the American Indian genocide into a faceless, mindless natural disaster with a silver lining.

The display on treaties is in a tall, upright case about the size of a large armoire. It features several pieces of parchment under glass. Black letters stenciled on the glass read:

[T]reaties required tribes to cede territory in exchange for money and goods. … The spiral of dispossession continued until substantial portions of native homelands were lost.

It is not mentioned that these treaties were usually negotiated through extreme coercion and duplicity on the part of the U.S. government. Nor is it mentioned that nearly all were broken.

“The interminable history of diplomatic relations between Indians and white men had before 1832 recorded no single instance of a treaty which had not been presently broken by the white parties to it … however solemnly embellished with such terms as ‘permanent,’ ‘forever,’ ‘for all time,’ ‘so long as the sun shall rise,’ ” writes Dale Van Every in “The Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian.”

A quote by President Andrew Jackson in 1829 is featured prominently in large black letters on the glass face of the treaties display:

Your Father [the term denoting the U.S. president] has provided a country large enough for all of you, and he advises you to remove to it. There your white brothers will not trouble you; they will have no claim to the land, and you can live upon it, you and all your children, as long as the grass grows or the water runs, in peace and plenty. It will be yours forever.

Jackson, although this remains unmentioned, was one of the most vigorous advocates for the extermination of the indigenous people. One year after he promised that the land “will be yours forever,” he pushed the Indian Removal Act of 1830 through Congress. This bill forcibly uprooted 70,000 people of more than 60 tribes, including Cherokees, Chickasaws, Seminoles, Choctaws, Creeks, Shawnees, Senecas and Delawares, from their homes east of the Mississippi, resulting in as many as 30,000 deaths. Twenty-five million acres of land were stolen from Native Americans for white settlers and their black slaves.

A long, curving, freestanding wall in the center of the gallery displays close to a hundred guns mounted under glass, all pointing to the right. A short paragraph, stenciled in black on the glass and tucked in the small space between two rifles, states:

In the 1840s, Americans came to believe that the United States had a divine right to acquire all lands between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. As newcomers pushed across the continent, Western tribes led by Rain in the Face, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise and Chief Joseph, faced losing their lands. Warriors used many of the guns seen here to defend their lives.

It is the only time Manifest Destiny is alluded to in the museum. It is the only time these historic leaders are mentioned. Nowhere in the exhibits will you find a portrait of any of these men.

There is a single reference in the museum to the near-extermination of the buffalo, which was catastrophic to the tribes of the Great Plains that depended on the herds for their existence. The U.S. government promoted the slaughter because it accelerated the extermination of the Native Americans. A paragraph stenciled on the gun display reads:

By 1889, the buffalo population of North America had been reduced to 1,000 from more than 50 million in 1830. Guns such as these Sharps rifles, known as buffalo guns, and the Remington single-shot, killed most of them. The killing transformed the lives of Plains Indians who depended on the buffalo.

It was not the Sharps or the Remingtons that killed the buffalo. Men wielded those guns. Once again the museum throws up its “Great Storm” shroud over history, obliterating names, deliberate tactics, and especially culpability.

We are molded as much by the histories we stifle as by the myths we create to exalt ourselves. Those who ignore the truth about their past are condemned to replicate, over and over, their crimes. The devastation in Iraq is the legacy of lessons unlearned, from the genocide of Native Americans, to slavery, to the Mexican war, to the invasion of Cuba and the Philippines, to Vietnam.

America’s brutal cycle of imperial invasion and occupation is as enduring as the cultivated illusion of its goodness. And the first step toward breaking this cycle and exposing this illusion is facing our history and ourselves. The National Museum of the American Indian feeds the mass amnesia that makes our national psychosis possible.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Government

Tagged with , ,

Molly update

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Molly is out of the collar today, and is very, very happy about it. Her little incision looks good and is practically healed up. Her tummy is covered now with peach fuzz where it was shaved. She’s full of energy and feels that life is good once more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

A President who lies

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He does more than lie, but lie he does. From Dan Froomkin today:

Lou Dubose writes in the Washington Spectator: “‘I have strongly supported the S-CHIP as a governor, and I have done so as president,’ said President Bush at the beginning of a hastily called press conference on September 20.

“He was lying.

“Most elected officials lie. . . . Yet the lie President Bush told about his position on the children’s health insurance program while he was governor of Texas is newsworthy. It was intended to mask an ideological rigidity that will adversely affect the lives of millions of children, just as Bush’s ideological rigidity in 1999 would have affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in Texas if the legislature hadn’t forced him to implement S-CHIP.”

Dubose writes that “as governor of Texas, Bush used the legislative calendar to stall two years before implementing the program, then fought to limit the number of children covered. . . . When the legislature convened in 1999, Bush recommended implementing the S-CHIP, but with enrollment requirements so stringent that hundreds of thousands of qualified children would have been locked out of the program. . . .

“At first, Bush was unyielding. But he was running for president, watching polls. In the end, he capitulated, agreeing to the Democrats’ plan, with its enrollment of 500,000 children in the program. I was standing in the House chamber when Bush walked over to the Democratic legislator who had led the fight.

“‘Congratulations,’ Bush said to him. ‘You shoved it down our throat.'”

Some people lose respect for Presidents who lie about their past political positions and decisions. Others say, “IOKIYAR.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP

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Sesto Sento

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Sesto Sento carries excellent products, both shaving and general toiletries: bath products, body and face soaps, skincare, haircare, even books. I’ve ordered from them several times. They’re unique in that they carry QED products—well, almost unique. QEDusa carries the products also, of course, but Sesto Sento is the only other place you can get them.

My focus, of course, is on the shaving products. And you can get equipped here for the entire shave—and look at the lineup: Castle Forbes, Geo. F. Trumper, Merkur, Musgo Real (including Glyce Lime Oil pre-shave soap: MR GLO), Omega, Pashana, Proraso, QED Shaving Sticks, Savile Row brushes, Taylor of Old Bond Street, Truefitt & Hill, Vulfix shaving cream—and other brands as well.

The service I’ve had when I have ordered has been exemplary, and I don’t hesitate to recommend them to your attention.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 3:07 pm

Posted in Shaving

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Still walking

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Today: 45 minutes 22 seconds—and I added a block to what I walked yesterday. I’ll add another tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Health

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Things keep happening

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Just a few items from ThinkProgress’s daily ThinkFast column:

Fearing his re-election chances are dim, the House GOP leadership “has held private discussions with Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) in an effort to convince him to retire.” But Doolittle, who is under federal investigation, is “promising to run for re-election.” [Excellent idea, John! – LG]

“For the first time in more than 100 years, much of the Southeast has reached the most severe category of drought, climatologists said Monday, creating an emergency so serious that some cities are just months away from running out of water.” [Cf: global warming, Al Gore… People will have to get used to this unless action is taken soon—though it’s hard to get used to having no water to drink. – LG]

Oil thundered towards $88 a barrel on Tuesday, hitting a new record and extending a rally that has added eight dollars in a week on tight supplies, strong demand and tension in northern Iraq. Oil is closing in on the inflation-adjusted high of $90.46 seen in 1980, the year after the Iranian revolution and at the start of the Iran-Iraq war.” [Peak oil? Sooner or later it will hit. That 300 mpg car is looking better. – LG]

$15 billion: Amount seniors and other taxpayers could have saved this year if the government had “slashed administrative costs in the Medicare drug program and negotiated the same kind of discounts it does for poor people under Medicaid.” [The GOP simply does not know how to govern and have proved totally incompetent at it. – LG]

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 11:23 am

Pencil love

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Via Notebookism, this article:

Don’t touch my pencil.

I mean it.

You can cut me off on the highway, and I won’t flinch. You can go through the “Cash only” checkout line holding a checkbook in your hand, with nary a complaint from me. You can disparage my mama’s intellect, physical appearance or army boots, and I’ll just ignore you.

But if you mess with my 100 percent premium cedar pencil with a premium eraser – or any other version of wood and carbon fashioned into a writing tool – you may discover that tampering with elements that have born witness to historical genius carries consequences.

If you haven’t done so in a while, hold a pencil. Grip it between your fingers and feel the pulse in your fingertip mingle with the wood, graphite and clay. Inhale the scent of cedar.

Make some marks on a piece of paper; listen to the soft scratching sound. This is the same sound that van Gogh heard while he sketched.

Henry David Thoreau knew the importance of that quiet harmony. At one point, Henry, who was raised in his family’s pencil-making business, embarked on a search for a pencil that would make his words cling to the page with just the right value and hue in its line. He invented a grinding mill for his own mixture of clay and graphite, producing a superior pencil that made a softer and darker mark.

Walt Whitman, O. Henry, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway – they all listened to that same elemental whisper as their stories first drew breath.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 11:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

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Interesting chart with implications

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French productivity

The chart above graphs French Gross Domestic Product per hour worked as a percentage of US Gross Domestic Product per hour worked since 1960. As you see, the French started out with a productivity only about 60% of US productivity, but improving. By around 1986 French productivity was on a part with US productivity, and then it got better than US productivity, though it’s tending back to match. The chart’s from a post by Paul Krugman (and a comment on that post points out a possible problem with the data), who links to this article by John Schmitt and Dean Baker:

All the bad news about the bursting of the US housing bubble and the related meltdown in US share markets has deflected the world’s attention from what is arguably an even more fundamental problem facing the US economy: the sharp deceleration in productivity growth since the middle of 2004.

For Americans, the long-run implications of this little-discussed slowdown, if sustained, are actually more important to future living standards than any of the other events currently worrying world markets. For Europeans, long-encouraged to see the United States as the flexible economic ideal, the productivity slowdown sounds another note of caution about the US model. Europeans already know that the US economy generates substantial inequality. The last three years of slow productivity growth now suggest that all that inequality apparently doesn’t even guarantee faster growth.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:53 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Habit revision

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Periodically one wants to drop a habit and/or add a habit and/or modify a habit: habit revision. Different tactics work for different people, and today Pick the Brain has a list that works for some:

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life

America’s healthcare crisis looked at again

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Via Scott Feldstein’s blog, this long piece by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, reviewing three books on the American healthcare “system,” including one by three guys from the American Enterprise Institute and Hoover Institution.

The piece begins:

Thirteen years ago Bill Clinton became president partly because he promised to do something about rising health care costs. Although Clinton’s chances of reforming the US health care system looked quite good at first, the effort soon ran aground. Since then a combination of factors—the unwillingness of other politicians to confront the insurance and other lobbies that so successfully frustrated the Clinton effort, a temporary remission in the growth of health care spending as HMOs briefly managed to limit cost increases, and the general distraction of a nation focused first on the gloriousness of getting rich, then on terrorism—have kept health care off the top of the agenda.

But medical costs are once again rising rapidly, forcing health care back into political prominence. Indeed, the problem of medical costs is so pervasive that it underlies three quite different policy crises. First is the increasingly rapid unraveling of employer- based health insurance. Second is the plight of Medicaid, an increasingly crucial program that is under both fiscal and political attack. Third is the long-term problem of the federal government’s solvency, which is, as we’ll explain, largely a problem of health care costs.

The good news is that we know more about the economics of health care than we did when Clinton tried and failed to remake the system. There’s now a large body of evidence on what works and what doesn’t work in health care, and it’s not hard to see how to make dramatic improvements in US practice. As we’ll see, the evidence clearly shows that the key problem with the US health care system is its fragmentation. A history of failed attempts to introduce universal health insurance has left us with a system in which the government pays directly or indirectly for more than half of the nation’s health care, but the actual delivery both of insurance and of care is undertaken by a crazy quilt of private insurers, for-profit hospitals, and other players who add cost without adding value. A Canadian-style single-payer system, in which the government directly provides insurance, would almost surely be both cheaper and more effective than what we now have. And we could do even better if we learned from “integrated” systems, like the Veterans Administration, that directly provide some health care as well as medical insurance.

The bad news is that Washington currently seems incapable of accepting what the evidence on health care says. In particular, the Bush administration is under the influence of both industry lobbyists, especially those representing the drug companies, and a free-market ideology that is wholly inappropriate to health care issues. As a result, it seems determined to pursue policies that will increase the fragmentation of our system and swell the ranks of the uninsured.

Before we talk about reform, however, let’s talk about the current state of the US health care system. Let us begin by asking a seemingly naive question: What’s wrong with spending ever more on health care?

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:32 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government, Medical

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Sanchez was no good then, & he’s no good now

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The American Prospect:

No one pities retired Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez quite like he pities himself. His reputation destroyed after his disastrous year as U.S. ground commander in Iraq — including, most notoriously, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal — Sanchez took a surprising move toward rehabilitation on Friday, delivering a blistering indictment of the war’s history and its prospects before a military reporters’ convention in Arlington. The war is “a nightmare with no end in sight,” declared its former commander. President Bush, having failed to accept “the political and economic realities of this war,” has adopted the surge in “a desperate attempt” to salvage his political fortunes, but will, at best, “stave off defeat.” The press portrayed the speech as the latest in a series of volleys by retired generals furious with the Bush administration. Liberals eager for a cudgel against Bush may suddenly discover Sanchez’s previously hidden virtues.

Except that Sanchez’s speech is very different from the criticisms offered during the so-called “general’s revolt” of 2006. Those accounts indicted the strategy of Donald Rumsfeld, the wisdom of commanders like Sanchez, and the opportunism of the administration as a whole. Sanchez’s occasionally hysterical speech represents a triumph of embitterment, coupled with a cynical willingness to blame practically every civilian institution — prowar, antiwar, whatever — for the war’s failures. “Our nation has not focused on the greatest challenge of our lifetime,” Sanchez said. “The political and economic elements of power must get beyond the politics to ensure the survival of America.” That’s right: the survival of America.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:23 am

Grocery List Generator

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I’ve blogged this, but I just used it again today. Love it. You should give it a go. It’s free, you know.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:18 am

Posted in Software

Good point re: Armenian genocide

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James Fallows makes an excellent point:

Before leaving China, I hadn’t heard about the House of Representatives’ vote on a resolution condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide of the World War I era.

Now that I’ve heard about it, I find that it leads naturally to this question:

Is America insane??????

To be more precise: have the Congressional Democratic leaders lost their minds in not finding a way to bottle up this destructive and self-righteously posturing measure?

Maybe they think that the U.S. has so many friends in the Islamic world, especially in countries bordering Iraq, that it should go out of its way to make new enemies?

Or — and this is truly appalling possibility — perhaps they think that America’s moral standing is so high at the moment that we will be admired and thanked worldwide for delivering condemnations of sins committed in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire?

Why not go all the way? How about a resolution condemning China for the millions who suffered in the Cultural Revolution and the tens of millions starved during the Great Leap Forward – right as we’re seeking China’s help on Burma, North Korea, the environment, etc? I mean, for each Armenian the Ottoman Turks slaughtered, at least ten Chinese citizens perished at the hands of the regime whose successors still rule the country. And the government’s official stance of denial is just about as strong. So, why not just tell them they were evil? The timing would be especially nice during China’s current Party Congress.

I’m sure we could get a unanimous vote for a resolution condemning North Korea for any of a hundred grievous offenses; that would be a good complement to the recent nuclear deal. Why not one denouncing Russia for the Czarist pogroms, to accompany efforts to reason with/rein in Putin? Maybe another condemning England for its subjugation and slaughter of the Scots, to say nothing of the Irish – while also asking Gordon Brown to stay the course in Iraq? What about Australia for its historic treatment of the Aborigines? Or the current nations of West Africa for their role in the slave trade?

The Armenian genocide was real; many Turks pretend it wasn’t. They are wrong, and we should stand for what’s right. But it’s hard to think of a more willfully self-indulgent step than lecturing Turkey’s current government and people 90 years late.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:13 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Preparing food in advance for a houseful of people

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I don’t have to do this much any more, but I know that some of the readers of the blog will occasionally have friends and/or relatives come and stay for a weekend or a long weekend, in which case this post from The Simple Dollar looks useful:

The weekend after next, we are expecting eleven houseguests who will be staying for varying periods of time ranging from two days to seven days. This means that on top of the challenges of having two children in diapers, we also need to plan ahead for food for that many guests. Since we’re frugal, that also means that we’re looking for ways to minimize the costs associated with that many guests. Here are our plans.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes & Cooking

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Ten videos to change how you view the world

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Ten excellent videos. You can view them at the link. The videos are:

1) The Myth of Violence – Steven Pinker
In this video, Steven Pinker tackles the myth that today is a more violent era than in the past. Using historical data and information from pre-industrialized tribes, Pinker shows that violence has dramatically declined in our history.

2) 10 Ways the World Could End – Stephen Petranek
Particle accelerators producing black holes that could destroy the world? While some of Petranek’s top ten doomsday problems might seem a bit farfetched, many are definitely worth a look. The future has a tendency to sneak up on us from behind, so preparing in advance might be a good idea.

3) New Insights on Poverty and Life Around the World – Hans Rosling
Statistics generally aren’t described as beautiful, but Hans Rosling comes close in showing the information about our changing world. The world has changed a lot in the last few decades, as Rosling will update you on how poverty in Asia has dramatically declined.

4) Toys That Make Worlds – Will Wright

Are games becoming a serious medium? (or are the already?) With all the debate around violence in games, it seems hard to believe that they could actually compete with film and literature for artistic merit. But as technology increases and games compete with movies for market share, this might start becoming the case. Will Wright’s talk around Spore might just persuade a few more people.

5) Technology’s Long Tail – Chris Anderson

WIRED editor, Chris Anderson talks about the four key shifts that occur with most new technologies. First, Anderson points out, technology approaches a critical price where it becomes viable for consumers. Next it approaches a critical mass and then displaces a pre-existing technology (VCR to DVD). Finally it becomes close to free.

6) Why Are We Happy? Or Not? – Daniel Gilbert
Bestselling author of, Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert describes some surprising information about your happiness.

7) Universe is Queerer Than We Can Suppose – Richard Dawkins
In this talk notable evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins points out just how weird reality might be. He talks about how we have evolved to fit into a so-called “Middle World” where we can’t observe the very large or very small. The universe might just be a whole lot queerer than we suppose. Or, as Dawkins points out, than we even can suppose.

8 ) Sliced Bread – Seth Godin

Here, influential blogger, writer and speaker Seth Godin shares some of his ideas on marketing.

9) Redefining the Dictionary – Erin McKean

Never had the chance to use “synecdochical” in a sentence before? Here Erin McKean speaks with passion about how the dictionary and the English language is changing. She believes the web, and more importantly, you, will help in changing how the English language is recorded.

10) What’s So Funny About the Web? – Ze Frank

Okay, perhaps this one isn’t as life-transforming, but Ze Frank is a funny guy with great ideas. Between riffing on spam, Google rankings and web toys Ze will make you laugh as he makes you think.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 10:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

One reason malpractice insurance is expensive

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Because incompetent doctors are allowed to continue their practice. From today’s LA Times:

Late one April night, the first of Sarah Valenzuela’s twins arrived with little trouble, but the second stayed put.

Though the baby was not in distress, Kaiser Permanente perinatologist Hamid Safari attached a vacuum extractor to the boy’s head to draw him out. Again and again he tugged, but still the baby would not come.

He vigorously shook the vacuum, up and down, side to side, according to government documents and hospital incident reports.

It took 90 minutes and six tries — the last with Safari on his knees, pulling. Horrified staffers — and the boy’s father — looked on as baby Devin finally emerged. His skin was a bloodless white, his neck elongated and floppy.

His spinal cord had been severed.

Safari lashed out at a nurse. “What did you do to that baby? I gave you a good baby,” he said, according to a complaint letter the nurse sent to her union representative.

Staffers at the Fresno birthing center were devastated and angry — and not just because of the twin lost that night in 2005.

Over the years, doctors and nurses repeatedly had complained to higher-ups — including Kaiser’s top medical officer in Northern and Central California — about problems they saw in Safari’s skills and behavior, according to interviews and documents.

This is a story not just of tragic medical outcomes, but of a health plan that did not prevent them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 9:20 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Medical

Tagged with

The gaming industry

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Via, this excellent post on the gaming industry:

October 15, 2007
The Casino Syndrome

The current mania to expand legalized gambling around the country is a clear symptom of how desperate and crazy this society has become. In a culture where anything goes and nothing matters, it is perhaps hard for the public to understand what’s wrong with it. The gambling “industry” itself has very successfully masked its pernicious nature by putting across the idea that it is just another form of innocent “entertainment,” on a par with pro sports, theme parkery, and Hollywood. In fact, gambling, or “gaming,” as it cynically calls itself, has hijacked elements of all these other activities to conceal its main business, which is the systematic hosing of those who can least afford to be hosed.

What’s wrong with state-sponsored gambling is simple: it promotes the idea — inconsistent with the realities of the universe — that it’s possible to get something for nothing. It is unhealthy to an extreme for a society to make this idea normal because it defeats another idea that a society absolutely depends on for survival — namely that earnest effort matters. It conditions the public to magical thinking — a characteristic of children— and disables their ability to function as adults. The expansion of gambling is especially tragic at a time when this society faces epochal economic problems that threaten its existence, and by this I mean the permanent global energy crisis that will require us to reorganize virtually all the crucial activities of daily life. This is a time when the nation can least afford to disable adult thinking and earnest effort.

I was out in Iowa last week, in the vicinity of Waterloo, where the John Deere corporation has laid off hundreds of workers in recent years. The town’s solution to this problem was to invite a casino to town, and it now stands out above the cornfields like a grinning Moloch, mocking the aspirations of those who remain in the area — and reinforcing the other foolish and destructive activity going on there, which is the corn-to-ethanol racket aimed at propping up American car dependency. Of course the idea that the backwaters of Iowa might compete with Las Vegas or even the ghastly Atlantic City for gambling tourism is laughable, so who exactly did the local officials imagine would be patronizing the blackjack tables of Waterloo at eleven o’clock in the morning?

Plans are on the table all over the US for ever more casinos. In New York, campaigns are underway to put a big new one in the depressed Catskills, and another on the site of what is currently the squalid Aqueduct racetrack in the borough of Queens. We have a video-slot-machine operation here in Saratoga in what used to be a harness racing track, and every day it is filled with retirees pissing away their grandchildren’s college tuition (in exchange for “excitement”). Next door in Massachusetts, new governor Deval Patrick is working tirelessly to set up casinos in the de-industrialized cities of Springfield and Brockton (and Boston, too) — as a painless substitute for productive work. The Illinois state senate just passed a bill that would put casinos in downtown Chicago and allow additional “riverboats” along the Mississippi River — really just barges moored in fixed locations.

Of course, practically every state has some kind if lottery. I have not been in a so-called convenience store (i.e., gas station with snacks) the past year without standing in a long line of grubby, pathetic people spending their scant dollars on lotto tickets (and cigarettes) — instead of paying the utility bill that would perhaps allow them to bathe and apply for a job.

I don’t entertain fantasies that gambling can be eliminated from any society, but inviting it to operate in the mainstream under state sponsorship is just tragically stupid. There is a rightful place for gambling: on the margins of society — and the crippling ideas that go hand-in-hand with it belong on the margins, too, like the belief that it’s possible to get something for nothing. Real political leadership would take stand on this, even if it was unpopular.

Anyway, I predict the time is not far off when an even-more-desperate public itself recognizes that we can’t afford either the systematic hosing or the suicidal thinking that comes with gambling. They are going to shut it down. When they do, they will do it harshly and violently. They will turn on those behind it and blame them for promoting the idea that anything goes and nothing matters.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 9:11 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with

You can help directly

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Letter from the Marijuana Policy Project:

John Lehman has suffered from AIDS for the last 10 years. The pain medicine he takes kept him unfocused and mainly in bed, keeping him from his work as a writer. “It was frustrating, to say the least, when vague thoughts of stories danced in my head and there was nothing I could do to put them onto a page,” he says.

Luckily, John lives in Montana, where voters passed MPP’s medical marijuana ballot initiative in November 2004. Since then, patients like John have been permitted to use and grow their own marijuana legally for medical purposes. However, with no income, John couldn’t afford the $50 fee to register with the state’s medical marijuana program and obtain the ID card that would protect him from arrest.

Fortunately, MPP was able to help. Through our medical marijuana scholarship program, we paid John’s registration fee so that, now, he doesn’t need to fear being arrested by state and local police.

Here are John’s own words:

Fewer pain pills to pop plus using medical marijuana to alleviate my discomfort equals the opportunity to write again. Medical marijuana also stimulates my appetite when keeping my weight is threatened. In turn, this enables me to go out into the community and give back.

If anyone can help continue the phenomenal work of the Marijuana Policy Project by a kind donation, please do. Other patients like me need your help.

Won’t you please help other low-income patients get the protection they need by paying a full or partial registration fee?

A donation of $50 will keep one patient out of jail in Montana or Vermont; a donation of $75 will do the same in Rhode Island; and a donation of $110 or $200 will do the same in Colorado or Nevada, respectively. If you can’t afford those amounts, please give what you can.

After MPP’s recent lobbying campaigns in Vermont and Rhode Island and our ballot initiative campaign in Montana, these three states now allow patients to possess and grow their own marijuana. But many seriously ill patients have little or no income and are unable to afford fees for the required state medical marijuana ID cards. In response, MPP created a financial assistance program to help pay the registry fees for patients who cannot afford it — and has since paid the registration fees for 90 financially needy patients.

Would you please sponsor a low-income medical marijuana patient today? Your donation can prevent medical marijuana patients from being arrested and jailed simply because they cannot afford to pay the registration fee.

Whether it’s $10 or $1,000, cancer, AIDS, and other seriously ill patients are hoping you will give the most generous gift you can to help them. Please give now, while it’s fresh in your mind. Thanks so much.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws, Medical

Tagged with ,

The secret’s in the prep

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A great shave depends heavily on a great preparation—especially if you have a thick, tough beard. Fritz, of Richardson TX, offers here how he’s learned to prep his beard. It’s worth reading in its entirety. It begins:

My thoughts on hot towels, from trying them a lot

If you have a really tough, wiry, and also dense beard, then hot towels (and other preps) can make an enormous difference in the quality of your shaves. If you’ve the kind of beard where you wash your face and shave one pass ATG, then replace your Dorco blade every Sunday whether it needs it or not, then you probably don’t need this.

I find a washcloth is much too small, and use hand towels about 16×24 inches. If you use a thick, soft towel, and don’t wring it out too dry, then it won’t cool off so fast. Pass it under your nose, over your ears, and take the flap hanging down and pull it up close around the neck. Rub your hands over it to help transfer the heat.

Here’s a prep that I have found to get my very tough beard almost down to peach fuzz. You might try the full thing, then subtract out parts of it to find the minimum things that YOU need to get YOUR beard as soft as it needs to be for a comfortable shave.

Then follows his step-by-step preparation. He does use the Treet Blue Special blade, BTW.

Written by Leisureguy

16 October 2007 at 8:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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