Later On

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

Archive for December 1st, 2008

All holiday gifts now shipped

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We ran a little late this year due to work pressures on The Wife, but now all holiday gifts have been wrapped, packed, and shipped. We will now  officially enjoy the holiday season with no tasks looming over us.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Daily life

Chimichurri sauce

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This recipe sounds very good and, as the post from which it’s excerpted explains, has many uses.

chimichurri sauce

1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
4 cloves garlic
1 hot pepper, de-seeded
lemon zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
large pinch of salt
1 – 3 large glugs of olive oil
1 shallot, roughly chopped
water, if needed to thin things out

Whizzz up all ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust seasonings & measurements if necessary. Done. Makes almost a cup of sauce.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Barry McCaffrey & NBC

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Whether you enjoy reading Glenn Greenwald or not, he’s doing a very good job as a media watchdog, finding the all-too-common deceptions and sleazy practices the media seem addicted to. Today’s column begins:

Following up on yesterday’s post regarding NBC News’ suppression of the “military analyst” scandal and its ongoing reliance on the deeply conflicted Barry McCaffrey:  I have obtained, from a very trustworthy source, emails sent last week between NBC News executives and McCaffrey (which cc:d Brian Williams), reflecting the extensive collaboration between NBC and McCaffrey to formulate a coordinated response to David Barstow’s story.  The emails are re-printed here.

Rather than honestly investigate the numerous facts which Barstow uncovered about McCaffery’s severe conflicts, NBC instead is clearly in self-protective mode, working in tandem with McCaffrey to create justifications for what they have done.  As these emails reflect, both this weekend’s story about McCaffrey and the earlier NYT story in April have caused NBC News to expend substantial amounts of time, effort and resources trying to manage the P.R. aspects of this story.

But remarkably, this “news organization” has still not uttered a peep to its viewers about these stories; has not reported on any of the indisputably newsworthy events surrounding the Pentagon’s “military analyst” program; and continues to present McCaffrey to its viewers as an objective source without disclosing any of the multiple connections and interests he has that would lead any reasonable person to question his objectivity.

Perhaps most notable of all is how plainly dishonest the NBC response to Barstow is — a response which, unsurprisingly (given their coordination) is tracked by the response posted on McCaffrey’s website and by his hired P.R. agent, Robert Weiner, who is pasting a defense of McCaffrey in various places on the Internet (including my comment section yesterday) without identifying himself as such.  As their only defense to these accusations, both NBC and McCaffrey are repeatedly emphasizing that McCaffrey criticized the Bush administration and Donald Rumsfeld’s prosecution of the Iraq War, as though that proves that McCaffrey’s NBC commentary was independent and honest and not influenced by his numerous business connections to defense contractors.

Both NBC and McCaffrey are either incapable of understanding, or are deliberately ignoring, the central point:  in those instances where McCaffrey criticized Rumsfeld for his war strategy, it was to criticize him for spending insufficient amounts of money on the war, or for refusing to pursue strategies that would have directly benefited the numerous companies with which McCaffrey is associated.

McCaffrey’s criticism of Bush’s war management doesn’t disprove accusations that he was deeply conflicted when appearing as an NBC “analyst”; to the contrary, the criticisms he voiced constitute some of the most compelling evidence proving that McCaffrey should never have been on NBC — and still should not be.  As I documented back in late April about McCaffrey’s supposed status as a “war critic”:

It’s true, as [Brian] Williams points out as though it is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

US v. UK in rolling out a drug company

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Cultural differences turn out to be significant. The report begins:

Temperatures outside Nomura bank in London climbed into the high summertime registers as six biotech executives in dark suits filed into windowless rooms. The men were immediately segregated into two groups and told they had two days to turn a university spin-out into a billion dollar public company. Oh, and the two groups were competing against each other in a biotech “wargame,” and would be observed and analyzed by industry experts.

In one room, the executives from the United States took their seats: Bruce Carter, CEO of Zymogenetics; Clive Meanwell, CEO of the Medicines Company; and Tim Rink, retired CEO of Aurora Biosciences Corporation. Sequestered away in another corner of the bank, their British counterparts congregated: Nigel Burns, Chairman of Cell Medica; Eliot Forster, CEO of Solace Pharma; and Neill MacKenzie, co-founder of Oxford BioMedica.

Sponsored by the Bioscience Futures Forum, a government-launched organization run by industry leaders, the wargame was held July 14th and 15th in the hopes of identifying why the UK biotech sector lags significantly behind its US counterpart. “The UK biotech industry has never delivered a fully-integrated one-billion dollar company,” says Steve Chisnall, director of the wargame and chief operating officer of Simulstrat, the strategy team from King’s College London who designed and ran the game.

Each team began with the same fictitious drug, a treatment for solid tumors showing potent results in breast cancer. Differences began when the teams appealed to venture capitalists from their own country for phase I funding. “The US team was tackling it in a very ambitious, confident, and strategic way,” recalls Chisnall. “The UK team was more hesitant…. You didn’t get the impression they really believed they could deliver the drug.” Though precise figures are not yet available, the US received about double the investment of the UK team after both phase I and phase II pitches, says Chisnall.

The challenge: make $1 billion on a fake drug.

The investment difference was so dramatic that the UK team accused organizers of giving them different drug data from the Americans. “I had to stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry. You’re using the same data,'” recalls Chisnall. The difference was in the pitches and the response of respective investors. At one point, fearing that hesitant UK investors were holding the British team back, Chisnall and his team allowed the British officers to appeal to US investors. But the results didn’t change.

At the beginning of the second day, each team learned its lead drug candidate didn’t fare well in phase II trials. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 9:56 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Superthin DIY wallet from a Tyvek envelope

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Pretty cool. And, from the comments to that post, some other approaches.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life

Megs thinks that I am thick

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Megs must think I am as thick as a whale omelet. She comes to sit beside me and, after a few polite meows to get my attention (and they don’t work), she starts standing up beside my chair, patting my leg and my arm, with more meows. I will reach down and pet her and it doesn’t stop her for long. Finally, I look down and discover she’s brought a mouse toy for me to throw. She’s patient, though, and I eventually get the message and toss the mouse for her to pounce on, bat around, and then fetch for another throw.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 9:43 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Megs

On fixing FEMA—and the rest of the Federal bureaucracy

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Steve Benen has a very good post:

The Washington Post reported the other day that the incoming Obama administration has been scrutinizing the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and plans to give it a “facelift.”

It was a reminder that Obama, on top of the multiple global crises that will require his immediate attention, also happens to have an executive branch of government to fix. This goes well beyond addressing FEMA’s humiliating troubles — the new administration will have hundreds of senior-level agency jobs to fill in the coming weeks and months, and below that, hundreds of thousands of civil servants who will be retiring in the next few years. The staffing decisions will dictate whether and when dysfunctional agencies that have languished under Bush can get back on track.

In the new issue of the Washington Monthly, Harvard University’s John D. Donahue, an assistant secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, explain that most presidents haven’t spent much political capital on improving the federal government’s human capital. Obama doesn’t have that luxury.

No president in recent memory has come into office with so many and such varied crises to deal with — from two intractable ground wars to a possible global recession — plus an ambitious policy agenda of his own, including passing and (the hard part) implementing universal health care. The president-elect can be forgiven for not wanting to spend precious time, energy, and political capital on the thankless, glamour-free chore of upgrading the capacity of federal agencies. Few of his predecessors, after all, made performance improvement much of a priority. Obama didn’t break the federal government, and he has plenty of things he’d rather focus on than fixing it. Maybe it’s not fair, but it’s still a fact: if the president-elect waits until the rest of his agenda is well launched to worry about federal performance capacity, the rest of his agenda will never get off the ground.

Huge new federal responsibilities, stretched and sclerotic workforces, and fresh memories of the Bush administration’s operational failures have combined, we believe, to make top-flight management a political imperative for the incoming administration in a way it has not been for previous ones. To put it bluntly: even with brilliant policy ideas and flawless political instincts, Barack Obama’s administration is likely to fail if it doesn’t reverse the erosion in federal capacity.

Donahue and Stier make a compelling case, and offer the incoming administration a roadmap on how to make these key changes. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 8:43 am

What a difference when smart people run things

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The difference in approach to governing between Obama and Bush is astounding, but shows what a difference it makes when someone smart is in charge. (Full disclosure: I’m pretty smart myself—but not so skilled at management and consensus building as, say, Barack Obama. I was amused, BTW, at a recent post from a guy on the Right (perhaps instead of “Left” and “Right”, we should use “Left” and “Wrong” to avoid confusion) who was saying that Obama has accomplished practically nothing. Hmmm. Well, Obama did accomplish being elected Illinois state Senator, US Senator, and President—and getting elected president of the US is something very few have accomplished. (The actual number is 44.) And he has some good legislative accomplishments, but those will pale in comparison to the things he seems likely to accomplish as president, just because he can tell which things are important and which are not, and he can bring bright, capable people together to fulfill his plans. The way he ran his campaign shows what he can do in an executive capacity (and, alas, the way McCain ran his campaign revealed his executive capabilities.)

To continue: Take a look at this NY Times story and see if you don’t feel great about the country’s new direction:

As President-elect Barack Obama introduces his national security team on Monday, it includes two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.

Yet all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — have embraced a sweeping shift of priorities and resources in the national security arena.

The shift would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states. However, it is unclear whether the financing would be shifted from the Pentagon; Mr. Obama has also committed to increasing the number of American combat troops. Whether they can make the change — one that Mr. Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best — “will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently.

The adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the three have all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.

Denis McDonough, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser, cast the issue slightly differently in an interview on Sunday.

“This is not an experiment, but a pragmatic solution to a long-acknowledged problem,” he said. “During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned. There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century.” Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were already bracing themselves for the charge from the right that he is investing in social work, even though President Bush repeatedly promised such a shift, starting in a series of speeches in late 2005. But they also expect battles within the Democratic Party over questions like whether the billion dollars in aid to rebuild Afghanistan that Mr. Obama promised during the campaign should now be spent on job-creation projects at home.

Mr. Obama’s best political cover may come from

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 8:36 am

Help from auto industry experts

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An anonymous commenter with auto industry experience left a very good comment. I would like to draw her or his attention to this post, in which Hilzoy is seeking some knowledge about the auto industry.

Her post is worth reading for everyone, in fact—the auto industry is screwed up not only on the design and manufacturing side but also on the marketing and sales side. I had no idea of the kinds of impediments that she describes. Well worth a click to be amazed.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 8:16 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Responsibility for torture

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Charles Graner is still in prison for what he did at Abu Ghraib, but no officer and no one in the White House that authorized the torture has been touched. Apparently, the US does not really, actually believe in the rule of law and the principles of justice. Here’s an article about Graner today. It begins:

The detainee held on charges related to the so-called war on terror is clad in an orange jumpsuit. His wrists are shackled to a leather belt cinched tight around his waist. A short chain connects his ankles, so he can only shuffle down the barren hallways of the prison, escorted by a guard at each arm.

He has spent more than 29 months in solitary confinement over the past four years, allowed out of his narrow cell during some of that period only to stretch his legs, alone, for one hour a day. In solitary, he has almost no contact with other human beings. He is allowed no radio, no TV and, in a disorienting twist, no watch or calendar to mark the brutal grind of passing time.

With so little stimulation, the brain begins to work against itself. Prisoners in solitary have described delusions, even hallucinations. It can drive a man mad.

“Karma really is a son of a gun!” says Charles Graner, infamous as the torturer of Abu Ghraib, in one of several letters he has written me from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he has been incarcerated since his conviction in January 2005 on charges related to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the U.S. prison in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. “Add a couple of years, change the color of my uniform and I find myself in the same position.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 7:48 am

More on the ineffectiveness of torture

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I blogged an extract from this article yesterday, but you really should read the whole thing. It begins:

I should have felt triumphant when I returned from Iraq in August 2006. Instead, I was worried and exhausted. My team of interrogators had successfully hunted down one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind of the campaign of suicide bombings that had helped plunge Iraq into civil war. But instead of celebrating our success, my mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I’m still alarmed about that today.

I’m not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me — both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn’t work.

Violence was at its peak during my five-month tour in Iraq. In February 2006, the month before I arrived, Zarqawi’s forces (members of Iraq’s Sunni minority) blew up the golden-domed Askariya mosque in Samarra, a shrine revered by Iraq’s majority Shiites, and unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodshed. Reprisal killings became a daily occurrence, and suicide bombings were as common as car accidents. It felt as if the whole country was being blown to bits.

Amid the chaos, four other Air Force criminal investigators and I joined an elite team of interrogators attempting to locate Zarqawi. What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model: Interrogators were nominally using the methods outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the interrogators’ bible, but they were pushing in every way possible to bend the rules — and often break them. I don’t have to belabor the point; dozens of newspaper articles and books have been written about the misconduct that resulted. These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 7:41 am

Posted in Daily life

Boots shave stick

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A very smooth shave today. The Emperor 2 Super worked up an extremely good lather from the Boots shave stick, and then the Merkur Slant slicked away the stubble. New York aftershave was an excellent finish.

A couple of small nicks today—it does happen from time to time—but My Nik Is Sealed immediately sealed them up. A great shaving aid. For me, it works much better than the alum block.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2008 at 7:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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