Later On

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

Archive for December 16th, 2008

Matt Yglesias is right

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Paul Krugman, writing a post titled “Matt Yglesias is shrill”:

And also right.

The harsh reality is that this [Iraq war] was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world.

Right now, there’s a major effort underway to flush the sheer crazy/vileness of the Bush years — and the cravenness of those who enabled it — down the memory hole. We shouldn’t let that effort succeed. The fact is that an American president deliberately misled the nation into war, probably for political gain — and most of the country’s elite went cheerfully along with the scam.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 12:57 pm

Nazis in the military

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Not good at all:

Two years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center ran a devastating report describing the infiltration of neo-Nazis into the ranks of the American military. The Pentagon’s official response was steadfast denial of the problem.

The SPLC’s David Holthouse just published a follow-up report, and found, predictably, that the problem is getting worse as the conflict in Iraq drags on:

A new FBI report confirms that white supremacists are infiltrating the military for several reasons. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11,” which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: “Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as ‘ghost skins,’ in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement.”

The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years. For example, in September 2006, the leader of the Celtic Knights, a central Texas splinter faction of the Hammerskins, a national racist skinhead organization, planned to obtain firearms and explosives from an active duty Army soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. That soldier, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, was a member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.

I observed at the time that one of the uglier aspects of the presence of neo-Nazis in Iraq would be the behavior of American soldiers among civilians there:

As Atrios notes, the SPLC report raises immediate questions about the kind of men we’re sending over to Iraq. To what extent, really, does the spread of white-supremacist attitudes in the military bring about atrocities like the recent murder of a 14-year-old girl and her family, or the Haditha massacre? It isn’t hard to see, after all, attitudes about the disposability of nonwhite races rearing their ugly head in those incidents.

Sure enough, as Holthouse reports: …

Continue reading. This brings to mind the gangs that are active in the military.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 11:30 am

Wikis that work in the real world

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If you use or are thinking of using a wiki, this article will probably be of interest. It seems to me that a class wiki (run by the class teacher) would be a great teaching tool.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 11:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

State of the FDA

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Not good—another agency destroyed by the Bush Administration.

When the Senate Finance Committee held hearings in November 2004 to investigate whether the US Food and Drug Administration had ignored safety warnings about the painkiller Vioxx, David Ross was, by his own account, “furious.” Not that he had any personal involvement with Vioxx; he was a scientist and midlevel manager overseeing other drug reviews at the agency. But he was furious that anyone would speak badly of the FDA—”my organization,” as he called it—in public.

A lot can change in two years. In 2006, Ross left “his organization” in frustration, after higher-ups ignored his repeated warnings of serious liver problems with the antibiotic Ketek. In the past, “people tended to be very invested in the agency and its mission and feel very proud of it,” says Ross, now an associate clinical professor at George Washington University. “But there was more and more pressure to just get the review done. There’s been extremely public criticism of the agency now. Who wants to work for an agency where everyone is saying, ‘these people aren’t doing their jobs?'”

Historically, scientists like Ross came to work at the FDA because …

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:54 am

Amazon’s Universal Wish List

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Thanks to The Younger Daughter for pointing out Amazon’s Universal Wish List:

Universal Wish List allows you to add products from any website to your Amazon Wish List with one simple click, making it easier than ever to keep track of all the gifts you wish for, all in one place.

It’s easy! Simply add the Universal Wish List button to your browser, and start shopping. When you see something you’d like on any website, just click the Add to Universal Wish List button, and the item will appear on your Amazon Wish List.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:47 am

Posted in Daily life

Why aren’t the Iraqis grateful to the US?

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Well, maybe it’s because of things like this:

An Oxfam report from February 2008 put into startling focus what the U.S. invasion has really meant for Iraqis:

– More than four million Iraqis forced to flee either to another part of Iraq or abroad.
– Four million Iraqis regularly cannot buy enough food.
– 70 percent are without adequate water supplies, compared to 50 percent in 2003.
– 28 percent of children are malnourished, compared to 19 percent before the 2003 invasion.
– 92 percent of Iraqi children suffer learning problems, mostly due to the climate of fear.

The Brookings Institute’s Iraq index also notes that the national unemployment rate is somewhere between 25 and 40 percent. Fifty-six percent of Iraqis say things in Iraq are going “quite bad” or “very bad.” Sixty percent rate economic conditions as “poor” and 75 percent rate security conditions “poor.”

This list does not include the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens killed or maimed nor the thousands imprisoned and sometimes tortured for no cause at all. And also read this post by Matthew Yglesias.

Yet they’re not grateful…

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:32 am

Email from Drug Policy Alliance

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I just received this:

If you’re like me, lately you’ve been thinking about the economy and the recent electiona lot.  These are exciting but uncertain times.

Unlike some issues, a tough economic climate actually makes the possibility of meaningful drug policy reform even more likely.  No single factor was more important in bringing an end to alcohol Prohibition than the Great Depression. When governments find they can’t afford policies based on empty ideology, it’s time to get smart about crime and public health.

One thing I’m certain about is DPA’s ability to make progress in the struggle to reform our country’s drug policies.  That progress depends on supporters like you not only making donations during these difficult times but being as generous as possible.

Your gift to DPA is especially urgent, and will be especially effective, right now.  If you give today, your gift will be doubled by an anonymous donor.

The drug war’s folly and waste are no longer a secret. With new leadership in Washington more aligned with our agenda than ever before, we will work to bring about the changes you and I have been demanding for so long. And when a growing movement like ours has allies for the first time in key leadership positions in the halls of Congress, good things are bound to happen.

You can read about the work DPA has accomplished in the last year in our annual report.  We’ve had a good year, and together we’ve built a strong, stable organization.  We suffered a tough loss in California when Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act, lost at the ballot box but we came out of that fight recognized as the national leader taking on the monstrous prison industrial complex.

Now is a great time to be a financial contributor. A major donor has made a special challenge—she will match,  dollar-for-dollar, all online gifts through the end of the year.

Every dollar invested in DPA will be used as effectively as possible to end the drug war.  Circumstances are aligning such that this is our moment.  How big can we make that moment?  The answer depends on you.  Please give generously today.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Serious security flaw found in Internet Explorer

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The recommendation is to use some other browser for now. Here’s the story, which begins:

Users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer are being urged by experts to switch to a rival until a serious security flaw has been fixed.

The flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer could allow criminals to take control of people’s computers and steal their passwords, internet experts say.

Microsoft urged people to be vigilant while it investigated and prepared an emergency patch to resolve it.

Continue reading. I use Firefox myself.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:13 am

Gitmo torture case to be heard

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Good news—the only way to cure the damage US torture of prisoners has done is to give them their day in open court. Here’s the story by Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

The US Supreme Court this morning granted certiorari in the case of Rasul v. Rumsfeld, Myers, et al., the first case in which plaintiffs who claim they were illegally detained, tortured and humiliated at Guantanamo Bay before they were released without charge have claimed civil damages against US officials. Instead of reviewing the case itself, though, it vacated the DC Court of Appeals decision and remanded the case to the court for further review in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last June in Boumediene v. Bush.The DC Circuit had dismissed the case last January, saying the US officials were immune from suit for torture and that the three British citizens who filed the case are not “persons” protected by the relevant US law.

The three British plaintiffs involved in this case — Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed — claim they traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians displaced by the war. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, the Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Over the next two years, they claim, they were imprisoned in cages, tortured and humiliated, forced to watch their korans decimated and have their beards shaved, until they were returned to Britain in 2004. None was ever charged with a crime.

Seven months later, the three men, plus another British citizen picked up in Afghanistan and imprisoned at Gitmo, sued former Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld and a host of other military commanders for authorizing their torture and violating their religious rights.

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Under Obama US may get broadband

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What the US calls “broadband” doesn’t match up to the rest of the world: the US ranks 15th in its broadband capacity. Obama has promised to fix that, and since he actually seems to understand technology (and used it heavily in his campaign), I’m hopeful. Here’s an excellent NY Times editorial on the topic.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 9:34 am

Luscious food: Deep-fried olives

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This sounds so good!

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 9:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

A Christmas movie for the whole family

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Let me take you back once more to this wonderful Christmas movie.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 9:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

The Corporation

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I have seen previously The Corporation, and last night I watched most of it again (library copy, stopped toward the end). This viewing reminded me of many, many things I had forgotten, so if you haven’t seen it (or haven’t seen it for a while), I highly recommend it. It goes a long way to making clear the statement used often in Kafeneio: “You can’t protect yourself part-time from people committed to taking advantage of you full-time”.

A good example of the statement: long-term, in-depth, well-funded studies of early childhood psychology to understand how to tap the desires of extremely young children and how to coach them to nag effectively for what they want. The woman who uses those studies and tells us about them says, “Is it ethical? I don’t know.” But she does know that she moves a lot of product with that approach.

The interesting thing is the total and immediate dismissal of the question of ethics—that has no role in the modern corporation, which is driven by one single motive: profit at all costs.

In the corporation, mankind has at last created a kind of golem: a soulless, immortal being that, unfortunately, is a psycopath (by the definition in DSM-III-R) that operates to maximize short-term profits (and thus stock price). Once people are part of that creature, they find themselves in a system that is destroying everything in the world that supports life.

Watch the movie and think about it. Is there any alternative?

A strong union might help: it forces the corporation to consider measures other than profit. But I think the corporation wins—it can use its wealth to secure influence that will allow the corporation more license in its work.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 9:14 am

Posted in Business, Movies & TV

Politics over environmental protection

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Michael Doyle reports for McClatchy:

Politics corroded Bush administration decisions on protecting endangered species nationwide, federal investigators have concluded in a sweeping new report.

Former Interior Department official Julie MacDonald frequently bullied career scientists to reduce species protections, the Interior Department investigators found. Species from the California tiger salamander to plants and crustaceans found in vernal pools were rendered potentially more vulnerable as a result, environmentalists believe.

Frustrated scientists went so far as to consider artificially inflating the California vernal pool critical habitat by 20 percent to offset MacDonald’s anticipated cuts, investigators noted.

“The results of this investigation paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the Interior Department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another’s misdeeds,” Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., declared Monday.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 8:27 am

Vetiver morning

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An all-vetiver day: dark, cold, and raining outside and snow on the inland hills. The blade in the English open-comb Aristocrat is a previously used Polsilver, and it delivered an exceptionally smooth shave—though of course the shaving cream and razor and my technique contributed. Really exceptional shave.

And here’s a shout-out to Mr. Golenor’s 7th period study hall. Roll, Red, Roll!

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2008 at 8:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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