Later On

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

Archive for April 10th, 2009

How companies should think

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Books, Business

Drinking styles

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And, speaking of drinks, here’s an interesting post from Mind Hacks:

I’ve just re-read the fantastic Social Issues Research Centre article on social and cultural aspects of drinking and it has an amusing section illustrating the difference between British and French drinking cultures which helps to explain why the British have a reputation for drunkenness when they visit the continent.

The article discusses the link between alcohol and the marking of celebrations in different cultures, noting that in the UK, serving alcohol socially is usually associated with marking the occasion as ‘special’ or ‘different’ in some way whereas in France, booze has a more neutral meaning, so social drink doesn’t so strongly imply something is being celebrated.

The British visit France. Hilarity ensues.

McDonald (1994) provides an amusing illustration of the different perceptions of the drinking/festivity connection in different European cultures, and the misunderstandings that can result:

"Many modern visitors from Britain on a first visit to France have had experience of this for themselves. Drinks may be offered at ten o’clock in the morning, for example. This is obviously going to be one of those days. What are we celebrating? During the midday meal, wine is served. What fun! What are we celebrating? The bars are open all afternoon, and people seem to be drinking. What a riot! What are we celebrating?

Pastis is served at six o’clock. Whoopee! These people certainly know how to celebrate. More wine is served with dinner. And so on. Wine has different meanings, different realities, in the two contexts, and a festive and episodic drinking culture meets a daily drinking culture, generating a tendency to celebrate all day. This has often happened to groups of young British tourists, now renowned in France and elsewhere in Europe for their drinking and drunkenness."

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

International complicity in the US torture program

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Joanne Mariner of FindLaw:

A growing scandal has erupted in Britain over the government’s role in human rights abuses, centering on claims of British involvement in the torture of terrorist suspects detained abroad. The uproar was sparked by allegations by former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed that British agents were complicit in his abuse, but it has since broadened significantly in its scope.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national who had lived for several years in the UK, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He claims that he was questioned by a British intelligence agent while detained and mistreated in Karachi, and that later, after he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, a British agent provided questions that he was asked by interrogators who tortured him. He was later moved to Afghanistan and then spent years in military detention at Guantanamo.

The British Attorney General announced last month that she would ask the police to probe allegations of "possible criminal wrongdoing" in relation to Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo in February.

Britain is hardly alone in having collaborated with the US in "war on terror" abuses. In my last two columns, I explored some examples of such collaboration, showing how other countries facilitated abusive US practices. Today’s column sets out a few more examples, underscoring the need for countries besides the UK to carry out a searching probe of their records…

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 12:00 pm

Sort of cute

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Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, DuPont Crop Protection, et al. are distressed that the White House garden is not putting their chemicals on the food. Unbelievable. Read it here. So they want the White House to dose the garden with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and the like. Make the food better, you know.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 11:51 am

Calling Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

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ThinkProgress has this brief note by Ali Frick:

While touring his district yesterday, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, declared that 17 of his House colleagues “are socialists”, according to the Birmingham News:

But he said he is worried that he is being steered too far by the Congress: “Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists.”

Asked to clarify his comments after the breakfast speech at the Trussville Civic Center, Bachus said 17 members of the U.S. House are socialists.

Roll Call reports, “An e-mail to Bachus’ spokesman about the names of those 17 Members was not returned.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) could ask Bachus if he would support her call for a McCarthy-like investigation into the “anti-American” views of her peers in Congress.

I have Skype (love it!) and the Firefox Skype add-on lets me call a number by clicking on it. So looked up the number for Rep. Bachus’s DC office and easily found it: 202-225-4921. I call, and the office is open, so with great excitement I ask for the list of names. "It’s important to know who these socialists are," I say. No disagreement there.

Unfortunately, the Congressman is back in the district, and is not in contact with his office. But he’ll be back on April 20, so I told Jonathan (the guy I spoke with) that I would definitely call back for the list then, because it’s important to know who these people are.

This is fun.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Problems with Panetta

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Daphne Eviatar has a good take on the Panetta problem:

Following up on Spencer’s post about CIA Director Leon Panetta’s letter to his employees: Panetta’s statement that CIA officers “should not be investigated, let alone punished,” because this “is what fairness and wisdom require,” is not surprising. But it may not be all that wise, either.

Panetta, of course, has to win the support of his agency’s staff, many of whom weren’t so happy that President Obama picked a man with no intelligence agency background. Saying they shouldn’t be punished for following orders is one way to start doing that. And given that most people are more interested in going after the architects of the Bush administration’s torture policies than in prosecuting those who carried it out, Panetta might have thought his statement wouldn’t be all that controversial.

But I’m not sure it’s a good idea to start handing out blanket immunity to the people who carried out “extreme” interrogations that included torture and that they might well have known were illegal. Setting aside the fact that we didn’t buy that “just following orders” defense at Nuremberg, as a practical matter, excusing all those people from the start could doom the prosecution of higher-ups. (But maybe that’s the point.)

From a prosecutor’s perspective, the people carrying out the orders are precisely the ones who can provide the key evidence against the officials that gave them. But if you declare from the beginning that they’re all free to go, you’ve just thrown out any incentive you can offer them to cooperate. How smart is that?

What’s more, as John Sifton wrote in The Daily Beast, Panetta’s message also looks pretty self-serving, given that lots of the CIA officials who could be implicated in the torture policy, such as Stephen Kappes, are still at high levels in the agency, and are now Panetta’s advisers.

The other odd thing about Panetta’s message is what it says — or doesn’t say, rather — about current CIA policy and operations.

Panetta said he’s closing down the controversial CIA “black sites” where people were tortured during the Bush administration. But from his letter, it’s not clear if they’re closed or not, or if he just plans to close them in the future, and what exactly is taking so long?

Here’s his statement:

CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites. I have directed our Agency personnel to take charge of the decommissioning process and have further directed that the contracts for site security be promptly terminated. It is estimated that our taking over site security will result in savings of up to $4 million.

Is he closing the sites down or taking over site security? Is the CIA still operating secret black sites or not? And why does it take so long to “decommission” a bunch of secret prisons anyway?

Panetta’s going to have to be more clear about his intentions if he’s going to have any credibility — with his own staff, as well as with the public.

When it comes to prosecutions, though …

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 11:35 am

Joe Klein takes apart Charles Krauthammer

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Excellent blog post by Joe Klein:

Charles Krauthammer, the ultimate bleating-heart neoconservative, is all atwitter over Barack Obama’s foreign trip. Where most rational observers saw a significant U.S. triumph, the beginning of our reconciliation with the rest of the world after eight years of stupid bellicosity, destructive threats and empty bluster, Krauthammer sees decline and weakness. Obama admitted past U.S. misbehavior! That is surely a sign of weakness… or maybe, perhaps, a sign of renewed strength? Or maybe, it’s just being honest, a quality the Bush Administration eschewed. The Euros chose not to play on Afghanistan? Perhaps that had something to do with the Bush Administration’s myopic avoidance of that theater of battle for the past seven years—the Euros, not the heartiest of allies when it comes to warmaking, were left to fend for themselves without any U.S. leadership or much U.S. support and they are aching to leave now. Over the next year, we’ll see what effect a renewed US good-faith effort in  Afghanistan has when it comes to stiffening the spines of our allies. The Euros didn’t buy Obama’s plea for a stimulus plan? Perhaps that has something to do with the rampant corruption that has marked US-style capitalism during the Reagan-Bush era. Oh—and uh-oh—another sign of Obama’s embrace of weakness: he actually admitted that the US finance-thieves had been part of the problem.

And there was—oh. my. God.—the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn’t work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don’t work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested). The real North Korean threat, created by George W. Bush’s first-term ineptness, is the nuclear fuel that was produced in the past six years—fuel that the wildly impoverished North Koreans could sell to terrorists or rogue states (as they sold their nuclear plant design to the Syrians). That is a threat that doesn’t yield easily to the empty bluster of neocons—indeed, it was accelerated by US bluster.

The point is …

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2009 at 11:32 am

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