Later On

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

Archive for February 21st, 2011

Professional response and some interesting software

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I sent an email to the Microsoft store to complain about the unavailability of Microsoft OneNote in Office for Mac, and when would OneNote be ported to the Mac. (There is nothing like OneNote for rapidly taking notes in all directions and sorting them as you go, more or less.)

I immediately got a response that included:

Thank you for taking the time to email us at the Microsoft Store. I understand that you have come to enjoy OneNote on your PC, and have been unable to find the equivalent version of OneNote for your Mac. I can see how inconvenient this would be, and would be glad to assist you.

At this time Microsoft has not released a Mac version of OneNote, as I see you have discovered when looking at purchasing Office for Mac Home and Student 2011.

As an online retail store, the Microsoft Store does not have advance information about future product offerings, such as a Mac version of OneNote. I have searched using my resources, and have not found any mention of this software. It would be speculation that there will not be a OneNote for Mac in the 2011 release, as Office for Mac 2011 has been out now for some time. I understand how disappointing this would be.

I have found on Bing, a search listing for an alternative to OneNote, for use on a Mac. This listing can be found here http://www.bing.com/search?q=OneNote+for+Mac+Alternative&src=IE-SearchBox&FORM=IE8SRC .

At the link I found quite a bit of interesting software addressing (with varying degrees of success) the OneNote functionality and niche. One in particular is interesting: according to one of the reviews, it’s from the same shop that created OneNote.

I thought this was a highly professional response that addressed the need I had expressed as well as possible. I’m impressed.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 8:09 pm

Ed Brayton on Islam and Sharia law

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Ed Brayton has an excellent post today, summarizing what one might call the “sensible” position on Islam and Sharia law, grounded in reality. The post itself is worth reading, and the comments are intriguing as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Religion

US continues to make friends in Afghanistan

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My jaw dropped. Reported in the Washington Post by Joshua Partlow:

KABUL – To the shock of President Hamid Karzai’s aides, Gen. David Petraeus on Sunday suggested that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties, according to two participants at the meeting.

Petraeus’s exact language in the closed-door session at the presidential palace is not known, nor the precise message he meant to convey. But his remarks about the deadly U.S. military operation in Konar province were interpreted as deeply offensive by some in the room. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

They said he dismissed allegations by Karzai’s office and the provincial governor that civilians were killed, and said residents invented stories, or even injured their children, to blame U.S. forces for targeting civilians and to stop the operation.

“I was dizzy. My head was spinning,” said one participant about listening to Petraeus. “This was shocking. Would any father do this to his children? This is really absurd.”

Petraeus, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

U.S. and Afghan officials have started to investigate what happened during a three- to four-day operation in the mountains of Ghaziabad district, one of the most dangerous and inhospitable parts of Afghanistan. U.S. military officials said there is no evidence innocent civilians died. The governor of Konar, Fazlullah Wahidi, disagreed, citing reports from villagers that dozens of women and children perished. Karzai’s office placed the civilian death toll at 50 . . .

Continue reading. The military’s record on reporting civilian deaths is extremely clear: the military will immediately and officially say that all deaths were armed insurgents or terrorists or whatever, and then if an independent investigation determines that there were in fact civilian casualties (and occasionally all those killed were civilians, as in the case of the wedding party), the military accepts the findings, expresses regret, and promises to make changes. And so it goes on and on.

But this is a new low.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 3:12 pm

US seeks to win hearts and minds

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And, failing that, simply kill everyone. Here’s an example:

In terms of understanding how the U.S. is perceived in the Muslim world — and why some people might become sufficiently enraged to give up their own lives to attack us — consider the following:

(1) On January 27, Raymond Davis, a former U.S. Special Forces soldier, shot and killed two Pakistani citizens in that nation’s second-largest city, Lahore, using a semi-automatic Glock pistol.  Davis claims he acted in self-defense when they attacked his car to rob him — both of the dead were armed and had lengthy records of petty crimes — but each was shot five times, and one was killed after Davis was safely back in his car and the victim was fleeing.  After shooting the two dead, Davis calmly photographed their bodies and then called other Americans stationed in Pakistan (likely CIA officers) for assistance; one of the Americans’ Land Rovers dispatched to help Davis struck and killed a Pakistani motorcyclist while speeding to the scene.  The Pakistani wife of one of Davis’ victims then committed suicide by swallowing rat poison, saying on her deathbed that she had serious doubts that Davis would be held accountable.

For reasons easy to understand — four dead Pakistanis at the hands of Americans, two of whom (at least) were completely innocent — this episode has become a major scandal in that nation.  From the start, the U.S. Government has demanded Davis’ release on the grounds of “diplomatic immunity.”  But the very murky status of Davis and his work in Pakistan has clouded that claim.  The State Department first said he worked for the consulate, not the embassy, which would make him subject to weaker immunity rights than diplomats enjoy (State now says that its original claim was a “mistake” and that Davis worked for the embassy).  President Obama then publicly demanded the release of what he absurdly called “our diplomat in Pakistan”; when he was arrested, Davis “was carrying a 9mm gun and 75 bullets, bolt cutters, a GPS unit, an infrared light, telescope, a digital camera, an air ticket, two mobile phones and a blank cheque.”  Late last week, a Pakistani court ordered a three-week investigation to determine if Davis merits diplomatic immunity, during which time he will remain in custody.  And now it turns out, according The Guardian last night, that “our diplomat” was actually working for the CIA:

The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time. . . . Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. . . . He served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis had worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

A few caveats are in order here.  Though The Guardian uses unusually strong language for its claim (“the Guardian can confirm”), the reporting appears based mostly if not entirely on Pakistani sources and is entirely anonymous (though Davis’ CIA connection has been speculated from the start and never denied by the U.S. Government).  Most countries, including the U.S., have on occasion been forced to release perpetrators of heinous crimes because they had “diplomatic” status (or were family members of diplomats):  including murder, rape and pedophilia, and it often (and understandably) engenders public rage.  The U.S. is hardly alone in spying under diplomatic cover.  And the general custom is that once a person enters a country with a diplomatic passport — as Davis did here — they are entitled to immunity regardless of their specific work.  In sum, both the factual and legal issues here are both unclear and complex (The Guardian today has an excellent article gathering all the known facts, while The Washington Post‘s “fact-checking” feature reviews the international legal issues and “withholds judgment” on who is right).

But several points are quite clear.  There’s the gross hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department invoking lofty “rule-of-law” and diplomacy principles under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — the very same State Department that just got caught systematically violating that convention when WikiLeaks cables revealed that U.S. “diplomats” were ordered to spy on U.N. officials and officials in other countries.  Then there’s the delusional notion — heard mostly from progressives with romanticized images of the State Department — that WikiLeaks’ release of diplomatic cables was terrible because it’s wrong to undermine “diplomacy” with leaks, since the State Department (unlike the Big, Bad Pentagon) is devoted to Good, Humane causes of facilitating peace.  As this episode illustrates, there’s no separation among the various arms of the U.S. Government; they all are devoted to the same end and simply use different means to accomplish it (when the U.S. Government is devoted to war, “diplomatic” functions are used to bolster the war, as Colin Powell can tell you).

But what this highlights most of all is . . .

Continue reading.

And how is this handled by the American press? Exactly as you would expect nowadays:

Earlier today, I wrote in detail about new developments in the case of Raymond Davis, the former Special Forces soldier who shot and killed two Pakistanis on January 27, sparking a diplomatic conflict between the U.S. (which is demanding that he be released on the ground of “diplomatic immunity”) and Pakistan (whose population is demanding justice and insisting that he was no “diplomat”).  But I want to flag this new story separately because it’s really quite amazing and revealing.

Yesterday, as I noted earlier, The Guardian reported that Davis — despite Obama’s description of him as “our diplomat in Pakistan” — actually works for the CIA, and further noted that Pakistani officials believe he worked with Blackwater.  When reporting that, The Guardian noted that many American media outlets had learned of this fact but deliberately concealed it — because the U.S. Government told them to:  “A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration.”

Now it turns out that The New York Times — by its own shameless admission — was one of those self-censoring, obedient media outlets.  Now that The Guardian published its story last night, the NYT just now published a lengthy article detailing Davis’ work — headlined:  “American Held in Pakistan Shootings Worked With the C.I.A.” — and provides a few more details:

The American arrested in Pakistan after shooting two men at a crowded traffic stop was part of a covert, C.I.A.-led team of operatives conducting surveillance on militant groups deep inside the country, according to American government officials. . . . Mr. Davis has worked for years as a C.I.A. contractor, including time at Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial private security firm (now called Xe) that Pakistanis have long viewed as symbolizing a culture of American gun slinging overseas.

But what’s most significant is the paper’s explanation for why they’re sharing this information with their readers only now:

The New York Times had agreed to temporarily withhold information about Mr. Davis’s ties to the agency at the request of the Obama administration, which argued that disclosure of his specific job would put his life at risk. Several foreign news organizations have disclosed some aspects of Mr. Davis’s work with the C.I.A.. On Monday, American officials lifted their request to withhold publication, though George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined any further comment.

In other words, the NYT knew about Davis’ work for the CIA (and Blackwater) but concealed it because the U.S. Government told it to.  Now that The Guardian and other foreign papers reported it, the U.S. Government gave permission to the NYT to report this, so now that they have government license, they do so — only after it’s already been reported by other newspapers which don’t take orders from the U.S. Government.

It’s one thing for a newspaper to withhold information because they believe its disclosure would endanger lives.  But here, the U.S. Government has spent weeks making public statements that were misleading in the extreme — Obama’s calling Davis “our diplomat in Pakistan” — while the NYT deliberately concealed facts undermining those government claims because government officials told them to do so.  That’s called being an active enabler of government propaganda.  While working for the CIA doesn’t preclude holding “diplomatic immunity,” it’s certainly relevant to the dispute between the two countries and the picture being painted by Obama officials.  Moreover, since there is no declared war in Pakistan, this incident — as the NYT puts it today — “inadvertently pulled back the curtain on a web of covert American operations inside Pakistan, part of a secret war run by the C.I.A. ”  That alone makes Davis’ work not just newsworthy, but crucial.

Worse still, the NYT has repeatedly . . .

Continue reading. I believe that Greenwald is pointing out how the democratic infrastructure of our country—including courageous and straight-talking journalism and a government that acts, if not according to its ideals, at last in accordance with law and the international treaties to which it has agreed. We have lost both, and the situation is much as when an arch loses the keystone, only a little bit slower. But the direction we’re going is quite clear, and since it is in corporate interests to continue in that direction, that’s where we’re going. Hope you like the ride and the scenery.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 2:22 pm

Good Pilates session today

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I read some novel about the military, and I think it was one of the well-known ones—Battle Cry, The Naked and the Dead, From Here to Eternity, maybe even The Last Parallel: A Marine’s War Journal, Martin Russ’s great memoir of the Korean War. At any rate, the enlistees in boot camp have bonded under the pressure of their sergeant, who seems to criticize their every move.

The new troops are disgruntled and tired of the mistreatment, but one day, as they march back to the barracks, chanting, one says to his buddy, “Hey, the sergeant’s not yelling at us much today,” and his buddy replies, “I think we’re starting to do it right.”

I feel as though we are starting to find our groove in the Pilates work. We obviously still require instruction and correction, but we’re starting to understand what it is we are supposed to do and how to breathe in the exercises, and so on. So we have periods where we are just working on the reformer, and the only sound is our breathing.

Of course, we’re also quite a bit stronger at this point, and that helps as well.

Much still to learn, and our form is a LONG way from polished, but progress is noted.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

Diana Krall: “What are you doing New Year’s Eve”

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 10:31 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

“Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain” – Friedrich Schiller

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From Giacomo Casanova’s History of My Life, Vol 2, Chapter IV:

Stupidity is far more dangerous in a housemaid than malice, and more costly to her master, for he may be justified in punishing one who is malicious but not one who is a fool; he can only discharge her, and learn another lesson in the conduct of life. Mine has just used three notebooks, containing a detailed account of what I am about to set down in outline in this one, because she needed paper for her housekeeping. To excuse herself, she tells me that since the sheets were old and scrawled all over and even blotted in places, she though them more fit for her to use than the clean white sheets on my table. If I had thought about it I would not have flown into a rage; but the first effect of rage is precisely to render the mind incapable of thought. I can say to my credit that my anger is always short-lived; irasci celerem tamen ut placabilis essem (“I become angry quickly, even as I am quickly appeased”). After wasting my time treating to epithets whose application  escaped her entirely and proving to her by the most lucid reasoning that she was a fool, she refuted all my arguments by never answering a word. I resigned myself to writing all over again, angrily and consequently badly, what had I been in a good humor I should have written well; but my reader can console himself with the thought that, as in mechanics, he will gain in time what he loses in energy.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 10:29 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

The wonderful Monday shave

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It’s always a good idea to have something about Monday mornings that you look forward to eagerly, and for me it’s shaving smooth the two-day stubble from the weekend: I get the feeling that I’m pulling up my socks and getting things going again.

Today it was a compact shave, as you see: the Plisson HMW 12 with the horn handle worked up a fine lather from the Ogallala Sandalwood-Bay Rum shave stick, the Merkur Slant Bar smoothly sliced away the stubble, and a splash of the Ogallala Bay Rum finished the job. Highly satisfactory.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 February 2011 at 10:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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