Later On

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

Archive for May 18th, 2010

Bad news about perfumes

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This is bad:

Source: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Environmental Working Group, May, 2010

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned laboratory analyses of 17 men’s and women’s name-brand perfumes to determine their chemical content, and found 38 secret chemicals present in all 17 products.

The average product tested contained 14 chemicals not listed on the label, some of which are associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions.

Many of the secret chemicals have never been safety-tested for use in personal care products. The secret ingredients include chemicals that tend to accumulate in human tissue, some that are linked to sperm damage in human studies, and a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk.

Why don’t companies list all their fragrance ingredients on the package?

The Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 requires companies to disclose ingredients used in cosmetics on product labels, but explicitly exempts fragrances.

The industry exploits this loophole to avoid disclosing ingredients — even those that pose potential health risks or tend to build up in people’s bodies.

Worse, FDA lacks the authority to make manufacturers test cosmetics and fragrances for safety before they sell them consumers.

As a result, people unknowingly expose themselves to chemicals that may increase their risk of health problems.

The fragrances tested, for example, contained an average of 10 chemicals known to trigger asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis, and allergic reactions to cosmetics and fragrances are a growing problem; in 2007, the Ameriits “Allergen of the Year.”

Some, of course, believe that we can simply trust the businesses involved to act morally and ethically to ensure that their products will not harm those who use them.

Some don’t believe that.

What do you believe?

Myself, I believe that we can trust businesses to do anything at all—unrestrained by moral, ethical, and (often) even legal concerns—that will increase profitability or share price. If discovered, they will lie, start astroturf campaigns, buy scientists and judgeships and legislators, force loopholes into legislation, and stall, stall, stall, so long as they can still make more money. They have no care whatsoever for their customers or their employees, to whom they routinely lie and whom they will kill, particularly if it makes money (e.g., balancing cost of safety measures against mine productivity).

UPDATE: It strikes me that the above is the result of a Gresham’s law of business morality.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 2:28 pm

ADD and medical marijuana

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Andrew Sullivan hears from another of his readers:

I’m a college student (should be writing my final paper right now, in fact), so there isn’t any real stigma regarding smoking marijuana, but I do it for a much different reason than most of my friends. I’m 21 and I have rather severe Attention Deficit Disorder, something I’ve struggled with my entire life.  The only medication that works for me at all is Adderall, which I  think of as meth for rich people.  However, while taking 25mg a day allows me to function normally as a student, it also makes me miserable.  My medication suppresses my appetite to the point where I can’t smell food without feeling nauseous, makes me panicky and paranoid, exacerbates my already bothersome insomnia and migraines, and (perhaps worst of all) destroys my sex drive.  My doctor’s response to these terrible side effects was more medication, mostly sedatives that make me feel like I’m walking on the bottom of the ocean and put me into an uncomfortable, dreamless sleep-coma.

I hated my life.  I almost dropped out of college after my first semester because the idea of spending four years jacked up on Adderall, not sleeping, barely eating, and uninterested in the beautiful college girls all around me, was completely unbearable.

Andrew, weed is nothing short of a miracle for me.

I had smoked it before and enjoyed it, but never while I was taking my medication.  A couple tokes and my headaches disappear, my appetite comes back with a vengeance, and my panicked paranoia melts into comparatively blissful relaxation.  A couple more, and I can get a full night of deep, restful sleep, something I have trouble with even without amphetamines in my system.  Even when I’m not taking Adderall, marijuana helps: my ADD causes my thoughts to jump constantly from topic to topic, my hands get restless if they’re not continuously occupied and I’m always twitchy (which is exhausting when you do it all day) – all of this is much better when I’m stoned.  Plus, it’s fun!  I can stare at the wall forever if I want to!  Maybe that’s not such a novelty to you, but for me, it’s like having a superpower.

Because of weed, I don’t have to choose between being functional and feeling good.  I don’t like having to break the law, but as a well-off, clean-cut white college student in a state with relatively relaxed cannabis laws, the risk for me is minuscule, and well worth the reward.  In every other aspect of my life, I am a model citizen – there’s not so much as a parking ticket on my record. I’m careful and responsible about my drug usage, and try to buy from people who grow it themselves and aren’t using my money to fund violent gangs.  That billions of dollars are wasted in this disastrous War on Drugs and thousands of lives are ruined, all in the name of protecting me from something that makes my quality of life significantly better, is a national outrage.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 1:27 pm

Mark Souder emphasizes abstinence-only sex ed in interview with his mistress

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Most of the videos of the interview of the Congressman by his mistress have been pulled, but here’s one that’s still up.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP, Video

Odd exchange

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I happened across this post by Matt Yglesias:

Glenn Greenwald has a typically lengthy post taking apart a bunch of views he attributes to me, absolutely none of which I hold. I just wanted to note for the record, officially, that I don’t believe any of the things he’s decided to attributed to me.

This is what I think: If public opinion were friendly to civil liberties, then public policy in the Obama era would be friendlier to civil liberties than it currently is. Does Greenwald really deny that? I don’t think he does. And I don’t believe any of the things he seems to think I believe.

Wow. So I went to Greenwald’s post, and found it pretty tame—plus he quoted Yglesias before launching into his rebuttal, so I thought Greenwald was in the right. Also: "typically lengthy post"? That’s sort of repulsive. Better to argue on the merits rather than getting catty. I would say that Greenwald’s post (which seemed the right length for what he wanted to say, FWIW) is well worth reading. It begins:

Writing about my post from last week on the diversion of civil liberties erosions from non-citizens to citizens, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Charli Carpenter asks what (if anything) can be done to combat this trend:

[I]s it too late for dissent to make a difference? I welcome readers’ ideas. I think many voters thought they’d already taken the appropriate step by electing a progressive, pro-civil liberties leader. With the writing on the wall, what now?

In replying to her question, Matt Yglesias attempts to re-direct blame away from Obama by invoking the Public Opinion Excuse:

I don’t think the answer to her question is particularly difficult — people who want to halt the erosion of civil liberties need to do a better job of persuading people that the erosion of civil liberties would be a bad thing. If you have an incumbent administration being urged by the opposition to seize more power, and the public wants the administration to seize more power, then you get what we have today. People on the good team are sometimes in denial about opinion on this subject, but read the numbers — the public wants Guantanamo Bay open, wants suspects tried in military courts, and thinks we should give up more civil liberties in order to enhance security.

Public opinion on these issues is much more mixed than Matt suggests (the very first poll cited in his link shows the public almost evenly divided — 45-47% — on whether the alleged Times Square bomber should be tried in a civilian court or a military commission).  And if public opinion were really as clear and decisive in favor of those policies, it’s hard to explain how Barack Obama — who ran on a platform of reversing them, not as a side issue but as a central plank in his campaign — could have possibly won the election.  But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Matt’s right about the state of public opinion.  His claim — that Presidents in general merely follow what public opinion dictates, and Obama is continuing the erosion of civil liberties because public opinion desires that — is as common as it is mythical, for multiple reasons.

First, Presidents often insist on polices which public opinion rejects.  Bush continued and even escalated in Iraq when large majorities opposed the war, and Obama has done the same in Afghanistan (with less pervasive though, at least at times, substantial majoritarian opposition).  Obama fought for passage of a health care reform bill in the face of overwhelming public sentiment against it, and he favored the Wall Street bailout under the same circumstances.  Obama has strongly condemned, and threatened to take action against, the Arizona immigration law despite widespread public support for it.  Clearly, when a President believes a policy is sufficiently important, he’ll insist on it (often successfully) despite public opposition; conversely, when he genuinely opposes a policy, he’ll reject it despite public sentiment in favor.  That, I believe, is called leadership.

Second, …

Continue reading.

If you understand why Yglesias has his knickers in a knot over this, please explain in comments. I thought Greenwald was quite civil and offered a good analysis.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:57 am

GOP again protects oil companies against liability for their spills

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Steve Benen:

The political circumstances would seem to benefit the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act." Under existing law, there’s a $75 million liability cap for oil spills. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) want to increase it to $10 billion.

The impetus for approving the measure should be obvious — the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf keeps getting worse, and may soon no longer be limited to the Gulf. It’s hardly a good time for a politician to take a shameless stand to limit industry liability costs.

And yet, it keeps happening. Last week, it was Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Today, it was Sen.Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) stopped Democrats’ efforts on Tuesday of passing a measure to increase oil companies’ liability for accidents resulting from offshore drilling.

Inhofe objected to a unanimous consent request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who took a second stab Tuesday at passing the bill in an expedited way.

Menendez and his partners on this intend to keep trying — and the DSCC intends to use Republican opposition as a campaign issue.

The GOP doesn’t think oil companies should have to pay for all the damage they cause because… well, it would cost them a lot of money. So it’s better to have the taxpayers pay for it.

The GOP: Always in favor of Big Business, always against taxpayers. What a crappy political party.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:46 am

Interesting blog by a Air Force officer

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Via Tom Ricks, a blog by a guy who signs his posts "Reach 364". More about him:

I am a Captain in the United States Air Force and a C-17 pilot. I have a Master’s Degree in International Relations, studied Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, and am currently furthering my graduate studies in Amman, Jordan. My wife is an educator with a heart for social justice and racial reconciliation. Together we feel called to the business of peacemaking. We do not believe peacebuilding is easy. It is hard, and false idealism is dangerous. But we believe that the small, incremental actions of dedicated individuals can, in the long run, build a better world.

I also believe in openness, transparency, and the power of new media to improve decision-making processes and create better policy. This blog chronicles my own development as an officer and is my contribution to the marketplace of ideas.

Reach 364 was the callsign of my first international mission as a C-17 Aircraft Commander.

These are my personal views and do not reflect the position of the Air Force or the US government.

Here’s a recent post:

An amusing cab ride

I had a funny experience yesterday. While on the way home from university, I had a pretty standard conversation with a cab driver, which goes something like this:

(1) Greetings
(2) Shock that I speak Arabic. Brief discussion about how I learned.
(3) How do I find Jordan and the people here?
(4) The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Your average Jordanian believes that the conflict would be over tomorrow if Israel would finally just agree to a deal. Arab and Palestinian hands, they say, are extended in peace. Since Israel clearly does not want peace, they say, it is up to the United States to pressure them–but the U.S. refuses to do this because the Israel Lobby controls everything.

I always push back in these conversations, so I had a pretty spirited debate the whole way home with my cab driver. I argued that there are many problems on both sides of the conflict. Israel can’t possibly agree to a deal now, because there is no unified representative of the Palestinian people–the division between Hamas and Fatah is too deep. My driver argued that the division would never have happened if the U.S. had respected the wishes of the Palestinian people when they democratically elected a Hamas-controlled government. He went on to tell me that he is a proud Hamas supporter, because Fatah is so corrupt and has done so little for the Palestinian people.

We went back and forth until we approached my house. Embassy employees all have certain security features at their homes (sorry, being intentionally vague here) that are strong clues we work for the U.S. government. As soon as the cab driver saw them, his entire demeanor changed. He fell silent and his hands started to writhe on the steering wheel. When I stepped out of the car, he was bumbling and apologetic. "I hope I didn’t offend you," he told me, then drove meekly away.

That’s how things go in a country where people live in so much fear of the all-seeing government intelligence service. The experience reinforced an important lesson for me: it can be a real challenge to get people to share their honest-to-god opinions. In cross-cultural situations, the information that reaches us–as Americans, or especially as representatives of the U.S. government–is usually heavily filtered. It takes a lot of discernment and effort to get at the truth. In this case, the process worked backwards. The cab driver was perfectly willing to talk to a university student, but the moment he suspected I was something more than that, the shields went up and the conversation was over.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:35 am

Differential response times from the Catholic hierarchy

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Andrew Sullivan:

A nun is "automatically excommunicated" (and reassigned) because she was part of a medical ethics committee that concluded that a woman had to have an abortion or risk her own death. I always understood the life of the mother to be a reasonable excuse for such a thing, but apparently not:

"I am gravely concerned by the fact that an abortion was performed several months ago in a Catholic hospital in this diocese," Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said in a statement sent to The Arizona Republic. "I am further concerned by the hospital’s statement that the termination of a human life was necessary to treat the mother’s underlying medical condition. An unborn child is not a disease. While medical professionals should certainly try to save a pregnant mother’s life, the means by which they do it can never be by directly killing her unborn child. The end does not justify the means."

Olmsted added that if a Catholic "formally cooperates" in an abortion, he or she is automatically excommunicated.

Funny how quickly they can act if a woman is deemed to have in good conscience saved a life, and how slowly they move when a man rapes a child.

It’s interesting that she is punished (condemned to everlasting torment in Hell is, I believe, the intention) merely for being a member of the committee, without (apparently) taking into account what her position was, what she said, or how she voted (if there were a vote). Just being present is enough to send her to Hell. Jesus is undoubtedly very pleased.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:30 am

The Right’s reaction to the new Miss USA

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Adam Serwer at Tapped:

Apparently the new Miss USA, Rima Fakih, is of Lebanese descent. For the anti-Muslim right, her winning is a sign of the apocalypse.

Michelle Malkin is savvy enough to mostly cloak her freak-out behind horror over Fakih’s politics (although she can’t resist a dig at those "identity politics" people), while other conservative bloggers just go ahead and call her a terrorist. Professional Islamophobe Daniel Pipes combs the internet for other instances in which Muslim women have won beauty contests, and concludes there’s some kind of "an odd form of affirmative action" going on. Because how could anyone choose a Muslim over a "real American" in a beauty contest?

I’m not really a fan of beauty contests, but the tone and substance of the fever swamp’s reaction to an Arab-American winning a beauty contest is at least useful for pointing out how some people’s political opinions aren’t based so much in questions of policy as anti-Muslim animosity. The level of anger is just so plainly disproportionate to the matter at hand as to be self-implicating. These people aren’t worried about terrorism — they’re offended by the idea of Muslims being integrated into the most mundane and banal aspects of American society.

In a word, they are hate-filled ignorant bigots.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Badly designed, poorly constructed, expensive stoves

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One would want to avoid those, right? Here’s a sad article about buying an expensive bad stove, but what really interested me are the comments, in which people discuss the strong and weak points of various brands of cooking stoves.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Rove rides again

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Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone:

One afternoon in late April, Karl Rove welcomed an elite group of conservative political operatives and moneymen into his home in Washington, D.C. Along with his protégé Ed Gillespie, who succeeded him as George W. Bush’s top political adviser, Rove had gathered together the heavyweights of the GOP’s fundraising network. In attendance were the political director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as the leaders of two new megadollar campaign groups loyal to Rove: American Crossroads and the American Action Network. Rove’s plan was straightforward: to seize control of the party from Michael Steele, whose leadership of the Republican National Committee was imploding in the wake of a fundraiser at a lesbian bondage club. By building a war chest of unregulated campaign cash – an unprecedented $135 million to be raised by these three groups alone – Rove would be able to wage the midterm elections on his own terms: electing candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors and corporate patrons. With the media’s attention diverted by the noisy revolt being waged by the Tea Party, the man known as "Bush’s brain" was staging a stealthier but no less significant coup of the Republican Party.

"What they’ve cooked up is brilliant," says a prominent Democrat. "Evil, but brilliant."

Rove and Gillespie, who effectively ran the Republican Party throughout the past decade, recognized that Steele’s weakness represented an opportunity to stage a quiet comeback. But taking control of the party, they knew, would require a new kind of political machine. The Supreme Court, in its recent decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, opened the floodgates for unlimited political spending by corporations and individuals. But the court left in place strict limits on contributions to party committees – and it preserved the legal firewall that bars campaigns from coordinating directly with the outside groups now empowered to spend millions on their behalf.

That’s where Rove and Gillespie come in. As free-agent strategists, they are in a unique position to skirt such prohibitions and coordinate all parts of the GOP – both inside and outside the official party structure – because they’re not officially in charge of any of it. In the run-up to November, they will be the ones ensuring that the many tentacles of the court-sanctioned shadow party – from startups like American Crossroads to stalwarts like the National Rifle Association – operate in concert. "They will be making sure that everybody is expending themselves properly, as opposed to duplicating efforts or working at cross-purposes," says Mary Matalin, who served with Rove in the Bush White House. "That’s something that the committees and the campaigns really don’t do – legally cannot do."

As demonstrated by the big-money meeting at Rove’s home – first reported by the National Journal and confirmed to Rolling Stone by one of its boldface-name guests – Rove’s fundraising prowess makes him the undisputed ringleader on the "independent" side of the firewall. At the same time, he continues to strategize with party officials, enabling him to coordinate the GOP’s national effort with individual campaigns across the country. "Members of Congress in both chambers continue to be in touch with him," Matalin says. "Governors continue to be in touch with him. Individual races continue to be in touch with him. That’s just Karl, and that’s undeniable."

The GOP’s Dirty War: How Republicans have risen from the dead by distorting Obama’s agenda and shutting down the government.

For the man known as Turd Blossom, it’s been a treacherous, four-year climb back to the pinnacle of GOP politics. The Rove brand was tarnished in 2006, when Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate. His exit from the White House the following year was dogged by scandals, from the political firing of U.S. attorneys to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. And with his longtime enemy John McCain serving as the party’s standard-bearer in 2008, Rove could only sit by and watch as the fearsome big-money machine he built over the course of a decade – his political Death Star – was blasted out of orbit by an insurgent Obama campaign powered by hundreds of millions in small-dollar donations.

This is a tale of how the empire strikes back…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:21 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Politics

Fighting the Tea Party

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Via Balloon Juice—and this one works best if you click the button to expand it to full-screen size.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Politics, Video

Weed Hound Dandelion Puller

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Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life

La Guillotine Ver. 2.0

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Looks good, sounds even better. Another in a series of exceptional hamburgers. Recipe at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

California lawmaker proposes bill to keep Texas textbooks out of the state

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Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress:

Earlier this year, Texas faced national scrutiny for the efforts of a determined bloc of far-right ideologues on the Texas State Board of Education to rewrite history in the state’s social studies textbooks and curriculum. They succeeded in making students learn about the “conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” “documents that supported Cold War-era Sen. Joseph McCarthy,” and the difference “between legal and illegal immigration.” Because of the state’s size, Texas has significant pull in shaping what the nation’s social studies books will say. However, California state Sen. Leland Yee (D) has introduced a bill to keep Texas at bay:

Under Yee’s bill, SB1451, the California Board of Education would be required to look out for any of the Texas content as part of its standard practice of reviewing public school textbooks. The board must then report any findings to both the Legislature and the secretary of education.

The bill describes the Texas curriculum changes as “a sharp departure from widely accepted historical teachings” and “a threat to the apolitical nature of public school governance and academic content standards in California.”

Tom Adams, director of the state Department of Education’s standards and curriculum division, said the Texas standards could make their way into national editions of textbooks, but those aren’t used in California.“Our main concern is whether materials meet California’s standards,” he said. “There’s nothing in our review process that says we should be following Texas or anything like that.”

A new report in the Guardian reveals that the Texas State Board of Education also “dropped references to the slave trade in favour of calling it the more innocuous ‘Atlantic triangular trade,’ and recasts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as driven by Islamic fundamentalism.” The board will be meeting again this week and conservatives have promised to “keep working to the last moment to correct years of liberal bias in history classes.”

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:10 am

What Israel’s illegal settlements mean

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Israel has been casually breaking the law and violating its agreements for years, putting more and more illegal settlements on Palestinian land, clearly to force Palestinians to leave, again. Andrew Sullivan:

A scene from the weekly protest at An Nabi Saleh, a Palestinian village in the West Bank. It’s a tiny village, with only 500 or so residents, but is now flanked by an illegal Israeli settlement. Wikipedia:

Near the village the is a natural spring named Ein Al Kus (“the Bow Spring”). In 2009 settlers from the nearby settlement of Halamish took control over the spring and its surroundings while preventing Palestinian access to it. Subsequently, people of Nabi Salih and the nearby village of Dir Nizam began regular Friday protests for the spring which they claim as their own, and against the Israeli occupation in general.

Some also say that some olive trees were taken. An account of a previous clash in which several were injured is here. But what you can see more generally is what Israel has to do in the face of these settlers’ provocations: they have to arrest and mistreat peaceful protesters and they have to shoot live ammunition to keep villagers at bay. This is the trap Israel is in, the trap that is getting tighter and more lethal by the day.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:05 am

How Are Things Going in Afghanistan?

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Fred Kaplan in Slate:

Hamid Karzai has gone back to Afghanistan, and so the denizens of the Pentagon’s E Ring and Foggy Bottom’s seventh floor can drop their strained smiles and resume biting away at their fingernails.

Things in that unhappy country are going badly—much worse, of course, than Team Obama had to pretend this week but quite a bit worse than even a sensible skeptic might think. And unless Karzai takes to heart the lectures he heard (someone must have given him a stern talking-to amid all the bonhomie), things are only going to get worse still.

The evidence for this comes from an unclassified, 150-page Defense Department document called "Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan." Released in late April, it’s the fifth in a series of semi-annual reports mandated by Congress. A few disheartening lines from its executive summary were duly recited by the media. But the full report is a hair-raiser. The news is almost all bad; and the few bits of good news turn out, on close inspection, to be extremely misleading.

Let’s take a look at one of those bits of pseudo-good news. The executive summary proclaims, "Polls consistently illustrate that Afghans see security as improved from a year ago." The report, on Page 7, quantifies this claim as "a 50 % increase in the proportion of Afghans that saw security improve."

That sounds very positive. But wait: "a 50 percent increase" compared with what? The answer comes in a footnote on Page 27: When Afghans were asked in July 2009 how security had changed in their area in the previous six months, 22 percent said it had improved; in November, the figure rose to 33 percent. Yes, 33 percent represents "a 50 % increase" over 22 percent, but it’s still a pretty paltry share of the population.

It gets worse. A footnote on Page 28 reveals …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 11:02 am

Conficker: The enemy within

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Mark Bowden in the Atlantic Monthly writes about a bad situation:

The first surprising thing about the worm that landed in Philip Porras’s digital Petri dish 18 months ago was how fast it grew.

He first spotted it on Thursday, November 20, 2008. Computer-security experts around the world who didn’t take notice of it that first day soon did. Porras is part of a loose community of high-level geeks who guard computer systems and monitor the health of the Internet by maintaining “honeypots,” unprotected computers irresistible to “malware,” or malicious software. A honeypot is either a real computer or a virtual one within a larger computer designed to snare malware. There are also “honeynets,” which are networks of honeypots. A worm is a cunningly efficient little packet of data in computer code, designed to slip inside a computer and set up shop without attracting attention, and to do what this one was so good at: replicate itself.

Most of what honeypots snare is routine, the viral annoyances that have bedeviled computer-users everywhere for the past 15 years or so, illustrating the principle that any new tool, no matter how useful to humankind, will eventually be used for harm. Viruses are responsible for such things as the spamming of your inbox with penis-enlargement come-ons or million-dollar investment opportunities in Nigeria. Some malware is designed to damage or destroy your computer, so once you get the infection, you quickly know it. More-sophisticated computer viruses, like the most successful biological viruses, and like this new worm, are designed for stealth. Only the most technically capable and vigilant computer-operators would ever notice that one had checked in.

Porras, who operates a large honeynet for SRI International in Menlo Park, California, noted the initial infection, and then an immediate reinfection. Then another and another and another. The worm, once nestled inside a computer, began automatically scanning for new computers to invade, so it spread exponentially. It exploited a flaw in Microsoft Windows, particularly Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003—some of the most common operating systems in the world—so it readily found new hosts. As the volume increased, the rate of repeat infections in Porras’s honeynet accelerated. Within hours, duplicates of the worm were crowding in so rapidly that they began to push all the other malware, the ordinary daily fare, out of the way. If the typical inflow is like a stream from a faucet, this new strain seemed shot out of a fire hose. It came from computer addresses all over the world. Soon Porras began to hear from others in his field who were seeing the same thing. Given the instant and omnidirectional nature of the Internet, no one could tell where the worm had originated. Overnight, it was everywhere. And on closer inspection, it became clear that voracity was just the first of its remarkable traits.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 10:58 am

Blind faith: American Jews and Israel’s far right

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Joe Conason has an interesting column on Peter Beinart’s big piece on Israel and the Palestinians:

Not too many years ago, the Washington establishment welcomed Peter Beinart as one of those journalists who could be relied upon to fashion liberal arguments for conservative policy — notably the invasion of Iraq, a fiasco that forced him to think again.  That personal history, however regrettable, clearly equipped the former New Republic columnist, who now writes for the Daily Beast, with an acute ability to detect bad faith among those with whom he once made common cause.

Now he has published a courageous and carefully reported essay for the New York Review of Books on the relationship between American Jews and the state of Israel, questioning the mythology that now sustains those ties as the Jewish state veers further and further rightward. As an Orthodox Jew and a committed democrat, Beinart asks how long the American Jewish leadership will continue to deceive itself about the nature of the Netanyahu government, the ideology of the settler movement, and above all, the alienation of young American Jews from the Zionist project. He sharply identifies the contradictions between the traditional liberal rhetoric of Israel’s friends and supporters in the United States and the actual policies and platforms of the Israelis in power.

He musters the evidence that the Jewish leadership here is tacitly encouraging the likes of Knesset member Effi Eitam, who said in 2008 that "we’ll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from political system," and Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu’s extremist foreign minister: …

Continue reading. But also read Beinart’s original article.

Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 10:48 am

A Beer for Palestine

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Very nice column by Roger Cohen in the NY Times:

Few people vacation on the West Bank, but if they did they might head for Taybeh, a hilltop village clustered around a church whose charm trumps the Israeli checkpoints that have to be negotiated to get there. The air is good, the stones smooth, the light brilliant — and the beer excellent.

I was there last month visiting David Khoury, who, in 1995, mortgaged a house and sold property in Brookline, Massachusetts, in order to found the first microbrewery in nascent Palestine. That was a time of Oslo-induced optimism. But of course Palestine, to the world’s frustration and cost, is still waiting, 15 years later, to be born.

The Khoury family had done all right in Brookline running a liquor store called Foley’s in what was an Irish-American neighborhood. The store had been there for decades. They saw no reason to change its name. Who in the United States cares if a store with an Irish name is in fact run by Palestinian Christians from a state-in-waiting somewhere in the Middle East?

It’s not easy to trade that sort of buck-is-a-buck agnosticism for the ferocious identity politics of the Holy Land, where blood trumps money. But that’s what David and his master-brewer brother Nadim Khoury did to help a Palestinian state get on its feet. When brains and cash move in rather than out, they figured, good things start happening.

That was theory. Practice proved near disastrous. After a strong start — with their Taybeh beer selling well in Israel, ingredients coming in smoothly from Israel, sales growing in Gaza and a franchise established in Germany — their company almost fell victim to yet another sterile spasm of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The second intifada of 2000 cut Taybeh staff from 15 to zero by 2002. Hops, yeast and barley no longer reached them from the port of Ashdod. Sales in Israel collapsed. Jordan, to the east, became inaccessible. Soon the Israeli wall-fence started going up, cutting off Jerusalem to the west. Hamas in Gaza meant an end to sales of alcohol there.

Not the sort of stuff that happens in Brookline.

“Fortunately, we didn’t owe much to banks because they never thought investing in a beer company in a mainly Muslim environment made sense,” David Khoury told me. “We would not have survived.”

Now the Taybeh beer company is coming back. There are things to celebrate again — weddings, homecomings, nonviolence. Some 70 percent of sales are made in the West Bank — nearly that much used to be in Israel — and profit has returned.

The company is not a bad barometer of the fast-growing West Bank economy and how, quietly, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is building the elements and institutions of statehood. Khoury knows that, as he put it, “We could wake up one day and all this will be under siege again,” but he’s placing his faith in Fayyad’s “wise leadership.”

I asked Khoury what he would say to an Israeli general if he had the chance. “I would tell him that Israel is a reality and the Palestinian people are ready to live in peace,” he said. “We are not terrorists but we have the right to resist occupation. I would say that you are greedy. You have to give up the West Bank and go back to the 1967 borders, for the sake of Israeli women and children and Palestinian women and children. Enough is enough.” …

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Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 10:23 am

In search of the meaning of ‘Mozingo’

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Very interesting story in the LA Times by a guy who was curious about his surname and traced it back. The story begins:

My father’s family landed in 1942 Los Angeles as if by immaculate conception, unburdened by any past.

Growing up, I knew all about how my mother’s grandparents came to California from southern France and Sweden. But my dad’s side was a mystery.

All I heard were a few stories about my grandfather as a youth in Hannibal, Mo., how he found a tarantula in a shipment of bananas at his dad’s corner store, how he and a friend once rode motorcycles out west. But no one talked about Mozingos further back, or where they came from.

I might never have given the subject any thought except for a strange word: our name. All my life, people had asked me about it.

I began to look into it, and the more I learned, the more I realized our history had been buried. My curiosity turned to compulsion. I had to unearth the truth about our origins and the forces that had obscured them for centuries. I wanted to know my forebears and feel myself among them, to see if their forgotten personalities and struggles and secrets somehow still lived within us.

I set out last year to learn our story, traveling from the Tidewater of Virginia to the hollows of Kentucky and southeastern Indiana and beyond. At times, I struggled to absorb what I was finding, and I met Mozingos who were skeptical of it, or ambivalent, or fiercely resistant.

I learned that our early ancestry reflected not so much a quirk of American history as the messy start of it, seeding a furious internal conflict that continues today.

With us, the whole battle was embodied in a family — and a name.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 May 2010 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life

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