Later On

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

Archive for April 24th, 2008

GOP hates equal pay for women

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This is typical of the Goofy Oldster’s Party. Mike Lillis reports:

Can’t say this wasn’t expected, but Senate Republicans killed a bill last night to extend the time-span over which workers could sue their employers for payment discrimination. The reason? Well, according to those voting against, the bill would benefit plaintiff attorneys rather than underpaid women.

Here’s Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as quoted in this morning’s New York Times:

The only ones who will see an increase in pay are some of the trial lawyers who bring the cases.

Both Democratic presidential candidates rushed back from the campaign trail for the vote (both voted for), while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee did not leave the trail. According to the Times, it wasn’t for being shy about weighing in:

Mr. McCain, who was campaigning in Louisiana, skipped the vote but told reporters he would have opposed the bill since it could contribute to frivolous lawsuits harmful to businesses.

Expect to hear about this vote again — probably sometime closer to November.

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 4:21 pm

Local health officials worry about climate change

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From the redoubtable Suemedha Sood:

Local health directors throughout the country say they are unprepared to deal with public health problems associated with climate change, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, George Mason University and the Environmental Defense Fund.

According to the study, nearly 70 percent of health directors say climate change has already occurred in their area. Sixty percent say they worry about “one or more serious public health problems” affecting their local communities in the next 20 years.

At the same time, most of these directors say they are unequipped to respond to possible public health problems. Eighty-two percent said they felt as though they lacked expertise to develop adaptation plans. And 77 percent said they needed additional resources to improve health departments’ ability to deal with the issue.

It’s not surprising that local health officials want to take on the health effects of global warming, given the attention this issue has received from the World Health Organization.

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 4:19 pm

Pentagon puppet scandal and YouTube

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Pass it along:

As part of their campaign to demand a Congressional investigation of the Pentagon pundit scandal, FreePress has produced several YouTube videos providing analysis and coverage of the scandal that the TV networks themselves have largely ignored — not surprisingly, since the scandal documents the networks’ unethical journalistic practices. For years now, people have been talking about the potential of citizen journalism to challenge the power of the broadcast media behemoths. This scandal is the perfect opportunity to see how far we’ve come in achieving that goal. Let’s make sure the TV networks don’t get away with burying this story. Email the video link to your friends, and make sure they sign the petition!

Source: Free Press

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 4:16 pm

Bad news on global warming

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I don’t think we’re going to make it, folks. Goodbye, Florida, NYC, Shaghai, et many al. Here’s the report:

Major greenhouse gases in the air are accumulating faster than in the past despite efforts to curtail their growth.

Global concentration of carbon dioxide is now nearly 385 parts per million. Carbon dioxide concentration in the air increased by 2.4 parts per million last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Wednesday, and methane concentrations also rose rapidly.

Concern has grown in recent years about these gases, with most atmospheric scientists concerned that the increasing accumulation is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, potentially disrupting climate and changing patterns of rainfall, drought and other storms.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has worked to detail the scientific basis of this problem and the Kyoto agreement sought to encourage countries to take steps to reduce their greenhouse emissions. Some countries, particularly in Europe, have taken steps to reduce emissions.

But carbon dioxide emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas have continued to increase.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 4:13 pm

We need better Democrats

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What in #%&^$@ has happened to the Democratic party? Look at David Sirota’s report:

In a stunning – if predictable – story, the Hill Newspaper reports that congressional Democrats are now saying that they will effectively thwart any effort to create a national health care program. Here is the key excerpt:

“Congressional Democrats are backing away from healthcare reform promises made by their two presidential candidates, saying that even if their party controls the White House and Congress, sweeping change will be difficult…Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), a member of Senate Democratic leadership and a key Hillary Clinton ally who also sits on the Finance Committee, said he is ‘not sure we have the big plan on healthcare.’…’Healthcare I feel strongly about, but I am not sure that we’re ready for a major national healthcare plan,’ Schumer said…Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), a Clinton supporter who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee, said “the money is not necessarily there right now” to enact the plans.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

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24 April 2008 at 4:08 pm

Amnesty International on the drowning torture

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Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.unsubscribe-me.o posted with vodpod

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24 April 2008 at 3:15 pm

Today’s walk

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Same route, but 2 min 41 sec faster than yesterday. Still just over an hour. I’ll skip the times for now and post a time only when I break one hour.

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

The FBI, the CIA, the DoJ, and torture

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Read this story by Paul Kiel at TalkingPointsMemo. It’s scathing. It begins:

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller made it as clear as he could what the FBI’s reaction to the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other forms of torture in 2002 had been: keep FBI agents out of trouble.

But when House Democrats pressed as to why the FBI hadn’t investigated the abuses, Mueller said his hands were tied. The CIA and the Defense Department had the green light. “There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice.” Thanks to John Yoo and others in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the CIA had its “golden shield.”

He also testified that in 2002, he’d “reached out” to the Pentagon and the Department of Justice “in terms of activity that we were concerned might not be appropriate — let me put it that way.” Mueller said he couldn’t testify as to what the reply was, since it might be classified. Given the fact that a group of senior administration officials had agreed on the use of the techniques, you can guess what the answer was. Here’s video:

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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The North Koreans in Syria: bogus?

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So it seems. David Kurtz of TalkingPointsMemo shows how the story is unraveling:

First, it was supposed to be video of North Koreans inside of Syria’s alleged nuke facility. Then it turned out the “video” was really just the intel community’s own presentation, which contained still photographs.

Now Reuters seems to knock the story back another notch:

A U.S. official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss classified matters, said that among the intelligence the United States has was an image of what appeared to be people of Korean descent at the facility.

“Appeared to be people of Korean descent”?

As a friend of the site wondered in a email a little while ago: “I’m not sure how one would recognize NKs in photos…’Hard Rock Café Pyongyang’ T-shirts?”

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 1:09 pm

Pundits and predictions

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I blogged earlier about Greenwald’s excellent article in The National Interest on how journalists now routinely cast their campaign reporting as their predictions of what will happen—little focus on today (facts, issues, policy statements), lots of focus on tomorrow (who will win next step).

I got to pondering why that is, and it seems evident that facts are much more difficult than fantasy. Getting actual facts involves digging them out, find corroboration, determining which are important and how they relate to issues and previous statements and policy positions, and explaining those as needed to make the story hold together.

Predictions, however, are merely a fantasy. They require very little work, just a plausible spiel and, as Greenwald points out, there’s no penalty attached to making a wrong prediction. So “journalists” today just float from prediction to prediction, seldom alighting on real reporting of what is known today—because they, by and large, don’t know it. It’s too difficult. Even looking at actual poll results is too difficult. But tracking the consensus story-line and narrative stereotype is easy. So that’s what we get.

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, Media

Thoughts on Secretary of Defense

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Below is a snippet from Froomkin’s column today, which made me think: Would Admiral Fallon be a good choice for Secretary of Defense in the next Administration? (The entire column is, as always, informative and worth reading—one particular gem was Ashcroft trying to find some distinction between waterboarding done to a US soldier by a Japanese soldier (which led to a conviction for war crimes) and waterboarding done by US forces (CIA, mainly) against supposed terrorists (no convictions as yet, but the CIA is asking for DOJ support for anticipated investigations—the same DOJ that should be prosecuting them).

Robert Burns writes for the Associated Press: “President Bush is promoting his top Iraq commander, Army Gen. David Petraeus, and replacing him with the general’s recent deputy, keeping the U.S. on its war course and handing the next president a pair of combat-tested commanders who have relentlessly defended Bush’s strategies. . . .

“The next president taking office in January would not be compelled to keep either Petraeus or [Lt. Gen. Ray] Odierno, but normally the lineup of senior commanders — as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — is not changed with administrations.

“‘There is no precedent in U.S. tradition for a new president changing these kinds of officers,’ said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an occasional adviser to Petraeus. ‘For an incoming president to change them (in 2009) would be a real statement.'”

Spencer Ackerman writes for the Washington Independent: “A potential responsibility of the next Central Command chief — if either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president — will be to plan for an orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. But at his congressional testimony earlier this month, Petraeus conspicuously declined to say whether he would, as Iraq commander, plan for withdrawal.”

Aamer Madhani writes in the Chicago Tribune that Bush has now “laid the groundwork for the next president with a pair of generals who have spoken sternly about Iran and cautioned against pulling out of Iraq too quickly. . . .

“Petraeus’ predecessor at Centcom, [Adm. William] Fallon, abruptly resigned last month after 41 years of military service. Fallon’s views on Iran and the region in general had sometimes conflicted with the Bush administration’s outlook.

“In a profile of Fallon in Esquire magazine earlier this year, the now-retired admiral was portrayed as the one man standing in the way of Bush going to war against Iran. In announcing his resignation, Fallon said the perception that he was out of step with Bush had become a distraction.”

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 12:35 pm

Herodotus, Father of History

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Good article by David Mendelsohn on good old Herodotus. Article begins:

History—the rational and methodical study of the human past—was invented by a single man just under twenty-five hundred years ago; just under twenty-five years ago, when I was starting a graduate degree in Classics, some of us could be pretty condescending about the man who invented it and (we’d joke) his penchant for flowered Hawaiian shirts.

The risible figure in question was Herodotus, known since Roman times as “the Father of History.” The sobriquet, conferred by Cicero, was intended as a compliment. Herodotus’ Histories—a chatty, dizzily digressive nine-volume account of the Persian Wars of 490 to 479 B.C., in which a wobbly coalition of squabbling Greek city-states twice repulsed the greatest expeditionary force the world had ever seen—represented the first extended prose narrative about a major historical event. (Or, indeed, about virtually anything.) And yet to us graduate students in the mid-nineteen-eighties the word “father” seemed to reflect something hopelessly parental and passé about Herodotus, and about the sepia-toned “good war” that was his subject. These were, after all, the last years of the Cold War, and the terse, skeptical manner of another Greek historian—Thucydides, who chronicled the Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta, two generations later—seemed far more congenial. To be an admirer of Thucydides’ History, with its deep cynicism about political, rhetorical, and ideological hypocrisy, with its all too recognizable protagonists—a liberal yet imperialistic democracy and an authoritarian oligarchy, engaged in a war of attrition fought by proxy at the remote fringes of empire—was to advertise yourself as a hardheaded connoisseur of global Realpolitik.

Herodotus, by contrast, always seemed a bit of a sucker. Whatever his desire, stated in his Preface, to pinpoint the “root cause” of the Persian Wars (the rather abstract word he uses, aitiē, savors of contemporary science and philosophy), what you take away from an initial encounter with the Histories is not, to put it mildly, a strong sense of methodical rigor. With his garrulous first-person intrusions (“I have now reached a point at which I am compelled to declare an opinion that will cause offense to many people”), his notorious tendency to digress for the sake of the most abstruse detail (“And so the Athenians were the first of the Hellenes to make statues of Hermes with an erect phallus”), his apparently infinite susceptibility to the imaginative flights of tour guides in locales as distant as Egypt (“Women urinate standing up, men sitting down”), reading him was like—well, like having an embarrassing parent along on a family vacation. All you wanted to do was put some distance between yourself and him, loaded down as he was with his guidebooks, the old Brownie camera, the gimcrack souvenirs—and, of course, that flowered polyester shirt.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Ask the Jihadist

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Good one: transcript of radio program where Al Qaida No. 2 answers questions that have been submitted.

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24 April 2008 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life

Scratch lounge

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Wonder whether this works. Only one way to see…

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24 April 2008 at 10:46 am

Posted in Cats

Rules-based regulation vs. principles-based

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Interesting note on two approaches to regulation—both of which require well-funded independent regulators, you will observe. It begins:

In the wake of a crisis, the natural response of government officials is often to offer up new rules and regulations. So it came as no surprise when, a few weeks ago, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposed a new regulatory scheme for the nation’s stricken financial markets. What was surprising was the scope of the plan. Instead of simply trying to target the practices that helped spark the current crisis, the plan—which has actually been in the works for more than a year—calls for a major overhaul of the American approach to regulation.

As the press has noted, the plan would consolidate our myriad and overlapping regulators into fewer, bigger ones. But the most interesting thing about it is something subtler: a push to move from our current system of regulation—often known as “rules-based”—toward a “principles-based” approach. In a rules-based system, lawmakers and regulators try to prescribe in great detail exactly what companies must and must not do to meet their obligations to shareholders and clients. In principles-based systems, which are more common in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, regulators worry less about dotted “i”s and crossed “t”s, and instead evaluate companies’ behavior according to broad principles; the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority has eleven such principles, which are often deliberately vague (“A firm must observe proper standards of market conduct”). This approach gives companies more leeway in dealing with investors and customers—not every company needs to follow the same rules on, say, financial reporting—but it also gives regulators more leeway in judging whether a company is really acting in the best interests of shareholders and consumers. …

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24 April 2008 at 10:45 am

Posted in Daily life

Your morning cuteness

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24 April 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Limits to Growth and such

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Very interesting post (and comments) on LImits to Growth. I recommend reading it (and them).

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 9:41 am

The story on coal

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An email from the Center on American Progress:

Coal-fired plants provide over 50 percent of the electricity in the United States and over 83 percent of the global-warming pollution from the power sector. A large coal-fired power plant emits the carbon dioxide equivalent of one million SUVs, and the United States has nearly 500 plants. Because power plants are a generational investment — the average age of U.S. coal plants is 40 years — the decision to construct new plants in a world at risk from global warming is monumental. NASA climatologist James Hansen argues that a “firm choice to halt building of coal-fired power plants that do not capture CO2 would be a major step toward solution of the global warming problem.” In addition to the pressing issue of climate change — exacerbated by the surge in coal-fired electricity in the developing world — “the conventional coal fuel cycle is among the most destructive activities on earth.” Coal is contaminated with toxic elements like mercury, arsenic, and lead that end up in the air, water, and soil. The costs of coal are disproportionately borne by the poor communities where it is mined and by children exposed to its pollution.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 9:31 am

Posted in Daily life

Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) today

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I got these Jerusalem artichokes yesterday and will have them tonight as the starch—a good potato substitute for diabetics. Some people peel them, but I avoid peeling when possible, and these don’t need to be peeled. Scrub with a brush, then slice and cook. You can roast, steam, put in soups, eat raw, etc. They darken, so it’s good to drop them in acidulated water as you cut them up and do any trimming that seems appropriate.

My plan is to sauté them in a bit of olive oil with a little garlic, salt, and pepper. Can’t wait.

Click photo twice for extreme detail. The ‘chokes are wet because I just took them from the fridge and the moisture condensed on them.

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 9:26 am

Want some nice toxic sludge for your lawn?

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Bad—it inevitably reminds one of the notorious and shameful Tuskegee Syphilis Study.

Sludge keeps rearing its ugly head. Scientists used federal grant money to “spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil.” The residents were not alerted to any harmful ingredients in the sludge, and were assured that it posed no health risks for their families. In exchange for participating in the 2005 study, nine families were given food coupons and a free lawn by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD). Freedom of Information Act requests by the Associated Press produced grant documents, but none showed any medical follow up with the homeowners. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted similar research in East St. Louis, IL, another impoverished and predominantly African American community. “Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says epidemiological studies have never been done to show whether spreading sludge on land is safe. ‘There are potential pathogens and chemicals that are not in the realm of safe. What’s needed are more studies on what’s going on with the pathogens in sludge – are we actually removing them? The commitment to connecting the dots hasn’t been there.'”

Source: Baltimore Examiner, April 13, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

24 April 2008 at 9:13 am

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