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Military presents results of its investigation of the attack on the MSF hospital

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Kevin Drum summarizes the report here.

I have to say the military’s story of what happened strains my credulity to the breaking point. I can see why the military and President Obama were so strongly opposed to an independent investigation, given that this is the best they could come up with. It is not believable. Too many routine procedures in a row violated by trained and experienced staff. Simply not believable, though if it had been an independentinvestigation, it might be credible. But the determination to keep independent investigators away has already released a bad odor. This silly story makes it worse.

If you think the story is true, then you still are left with the question of why was an independent investigation so strongly (and successfully) resisted? Normally that would be taken to mean that they were trying to hide something.

And it’s weird when the target cannot be found that they simply decide to pick some nearby building and blow it to hell. Really? They just pick something that’s in the neighborhood—in this case a large building with the lights on and a big Red Cross flag on the roof.

The military also does not address the phone call MSF made (and logged) to military headquarters at the very beginning of the attack to call the attack off. The attack continued. This is well described in this excellent column by Amy Davidson, based on the timely report by MSF>

The MSF response in the LA Times story is right on target:

. . . The summary did not answer all the questions about what went wrong, including whether the errors identified in the report constitute war crimes or why the crew opened fire when it appears they had reason to be uncertain about the target. [It also does not address the fact that the MSF immediately contacted military headquarters directly as soon as the attack began, but the attack continued for half an hour or more. – LG] Campbell did not take questions from reporters after his statement.

Doctors Without Borders, which had previously said the attack likely was a war crime, released a statement saying the report left “more questions than answers.”

“It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S. forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list and have malfunctioning communications systems,” said the statement from the group, also known as MSF, its French acronym.

“It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied life-saving care in Kunduz simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and ‘roughly matched’ a description of an intended target,” the statement said.

“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war,” the group said, repeating its call for an “independent and impartial investigation.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

25 November 2015 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

Why Democrats lost the white South

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Kevin Drum has a very clear explanation, with some wrinkles new to me:

Modern conservatives are oddly fond of pointing out that it was Democrats who were the party of racism and racists until half a century ago. There’s always an implied “Aha!” whenever a conservative mentions this, as though they think it’s some little-known quirk of history that Democrats try to keep hidden because it’s so embarrassing.

It’s not, of course. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and Republicans were the face of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Because of this, the South became solidly Democratic and stayed that way until World War II. But in the 1940s, southerners gradually began defecting to the Republican Party, and then began defecting en masse during the fight over the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But wait: the 1940s? If Southern whites began defecting to the GOP that early, racism couldn’t have been their motivation. Aha!

But it was. The Civil Rights movement didn’t spring out of nothing in 1964, after all. Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless champion of civil rights, and famously resigned from the DAR when they refused to allow singer Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939. FDR was far more constrained by his need for Southern votes in Congress, but the WPA gave blacks a fair shake and Harold Ickes poured a lot of money into black schools and hospitals in the South. In 1941 FDR signed a nondiscrimination order for the defense industry—the first of its kind—and he generally provided African-Americans with more visibility in his administration than they had ever enjoyed before. After decades of getting little from Republicans despite their loyal support, this was enough to make blacks a key part of the New Deal Coalition and turn them into an increasingly solid voting bloc for the Democratic Party.

From a Southern white perspective, this made the Democratic Party a less welcoming home, and it continued to get less welcoming in the two decades that followed. Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948, and Hubert Humphrey famously delivered a stemwinding civil rights speech at the Democratic convention that year. During the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was widely viewed—rightly or wrongly—as unsympathetic to civil rights. Conversely, LBJ was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

In other words, Southern whites who wanted to keep Jim Crow intact had plenty of reasons to steadily desert the Democratic Party starting around World War II. By the early 60s . . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. Later:

. . . This history is what makes the conservative habit of pointing out that Democrats were the original racists so peculiar. It’s true, but it makes the transformation of the party even more admirable. Losing the South was a huge electoral risk, but Democrats took that risk anyway. That made it far more meaningful and courageous than if there had been no price to pay. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

25 November 2015 at 11:58 am

Agriculture Linked to DNA Changes in Ancient Europe

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Carl Zimmer reports in the NY Times:

The agricultural revolution was one of the most profound events in human history, leading to the rise of modern civilization. Now, in the first study of its kind, an international team of scientists has found that after agriculture arrived in Europe 8,500 years ago, people’s DNA underwent widespread changes, altering their height, digestion, immune system and skin color.

Researchers had found indirect clues of some of these alterations by studying the genomes of living Europeans. But the new study, they said, makes it possible to see the changes as they occurred over thousands of years.

“For decades we’ve been trying to figure out what happened in the past,” said Rasmus Nielsen, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the new study. “And now we have a time machine.”

Before the advent of studies of ancient DNA, scientists had relied mainly on bones and other physical remains to understand European history. The earliest bones of modern humans in Europe date to about 45,000 years ago, researchers have found.

Early Europeans lived as hunter-gatherers for over 35,000 years. About 8,500 years ago, farmers left their first mark in the archaeological record of the continent.

By studying living Europeans, scientists had already found evidence suggesting that their ancestors adapted to agriculture through natural selection. As tools to sequence DNA became more readily available, researchers even discovered some of the molecular underpinnings of these traits.

But these studies couldn’t help determine exactly when the changes occurred, or whether they resulted from natural selection or the migrations of people into Europe from other regions.

Scientists are now tackling these questions in a much more direct way, thanks to a rapidly growing supply of DNA from ancient skeletons. These studies have revealed that the DNA of Europeans today comes from three main sources. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2015 at 9:24 pm

A logical extension of the refusal to help refugees

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The next step, I would think, is to institute punishment of victims of crimes—which, to a great extent, describes the Syrian refugees, of course, but the next step would be to punish domestic crime victims. It makes as much sense.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 November 2015 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Two-tiered water restrictions in California

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Ian Lovett reports in the NY Times:

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — Outside her two-story tract home in this working-class town, Debbie Alberts, a part-time food service worker, has torn out most of the lawn. She has given up daily showers and cut her family’s water use nearly in half, to just 178 gallons per person each day.

A little more than 100 miles west, a resident of the fashionable Los Angeles hills has been labeled “the Wet Prince of Bel Air” after drinking up more than 30,000 gallons of water each day — the equivalent of 400 toilet flushes each hour with two showers running constantly, with enough water left over to keep the lawn perfectly green.

Only one of them has been fined for excessive water use: Ms. Alberts.

Four years into the worst drought in California’s recorded history, the contrast between the strict enforcement on Californians struggling to conserve and the unchecked profligacy in places like Bel Air has unleashed anger and indignation — among both the recipients of the fines, who feel helpless to avoid them, and other Californians who see the biggest water hogs getting off scot-free. . .

Continue reading.

This is unjust. Something is very, very wrong here. Read the entire article. Later in the article:

. . . The top 10 residential water users in Los Angeles collectively used more than 80 million gallons of water in the year that ended April 1. [That’s an average of 8 million gallons of water used in one year per household. – LG] The “Wet Prince” topped the list at 11.8 million gallons during that time — enough for about 90 typical California families — at an estimated cost of $90,000, as first reported by the California-based Center for Investigative Reporting.

But none of the city’s top water hogs have been fined. Instead, they have been insulated from financial penalties: Because less-affluent residents of Los Angeles have conserved, the city is easily meeting its 16 percent mandated reduction and has had no need to force its wealthiest residents to pare back. (Districts where average use was higher were ordered to cut more.)

Though no names or addresses of Los Angeles water hogs have been released, it is easy to find homes where they might live: In Brentwood, one home listed for sale offers 12 bathrooms and a water slide that goes from inside the house to one of two pools. Another home under construction in Bel Air has been issued permits for five pools.

Maureen Levinson, a Bel Air resident, winced as she pointed out homes being built in her neighborhood with water features she likened to “moats.” “Someone has to say, ‘You can’t have five pools — you can have one pool,’” she said. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2015 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Do the Kochs have their own spy network?

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Astonishing. Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker:

ve years ago, when The New Yorker published my piece “Covert Operations,” about the ambitious and secretive political network underwritten by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, the Koch brothers complained mightily about the story’s title, protesting that there was nothing at all covert about their political activities. Since then, the two have embarked on an impressive public-relations campaign meant to demonstrate their transparency and openness. But today, the Politico reporter Kenneth Vogel came out with a blockbuster scoop suggesting that the brothers, whose organization has vowed to spend an unprecedented eight hundred and eighty-nine million dollars in the 2016 election cycle, are more involved in covert operations than even their own partners have known.

After culling through the latest legally required disclosures, Vogel unearthed a new front group within the Kochs’ expanding network of affiliated nonprofit organizations—a high-tech surveillance and intelligence-gathering outfit devoted to stealthily tracking liberal and Democratic groups which Politico calls the “Koch Intelligence Agency.” The sleuthing operation reportedly includes twenty-five employees, one of whom formerly worked as an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, and follows opponents by harvesting high-tech geodata from their social-media posts.
According to Vogel, the effort is so secretive that very few people know of it even within the Kochs’ own sprawling political operation. Housed with other Koch nonprofit organizations in a bland office building in Arlington, Virginia, the outfit is managed by a limited-liability partnership called American Strategies Group, LLC. The company is part of the Kochs’ main political group: a circle of ultra-conservative donors called Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which describes itself as a “business league” and so claims that it can legally hide the identities of its members.
Reached for comment, James Davis, the spokesman for Freedom Partners, described news accounts comparing the organization’s operation to espionage as “inaccurate.” Davis said, “Like most other organizations, Freedom Partners has a research department that benchmarks our efforts against other organizations.”
While it’s big news that the Kochs are now running their own private intelligence-gathering operation in order to track political opponents, including labor unions, environmental groups, and liberal big-donor groups, it actually isn’t surprising, given their history.
For decades, there have been reports suggesting that Charles and David Koch and Koch Industries have employed private investigators to gather inside information on their perceived enemies, including their own brother, Bill Koch, with whom they fought over control of the family business and fortune. My forthcoming book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” which will come out in January, builds on earlier reporting about this, including my 2010 New Yorker piece. In fact, again and again, those who have challenged the Kochs and Koch Industries—whether they are federal officers, private citizens, or members of the press—have suspected that they have been under surveillance.
In Daniel Schulman’s deeply researched biography of the Kochs, “Sons of Wichita,” for instance, he describes how Angela O’Connell, the lead federal prosecutor in a huge environmental-pollution case brought against Koch Industries in 1995, “began to suspect that Koch had placed her under surveillance. ‘I thought that my trash can was taken outside my house several days,’ she recalled. ‘I was upset enough about it at the time to report what I thought was a bugging and what I thought was the trash being taken—a number of incidents,’ ” Schulman writes that “the Justice Department was never able to prove that Koch had targeted one of its prosecutors, but for the first time in her career, O’Connell operated as if everything she said and did was being monitored.”
Schulman also quotes a lawyer for the plaintiff in a massive fatal personal-injury case, brought against Koch Industries in 1999, as saying that he hired a security firm to sweep his office after suspecting that his phones were bugged. The firm, he said, discovered electronic transmitters had been planted there. “I’m not saying that the Kochs did it,” the lawyer, Ted Lyon, told Schulman. “I just thought it was very interesting that it happened during the time we were litigating the case.”
Similarly, as I reported in my New Yorker piece, when a Senate committee investigated Koch Industries, in 1989, for what its final report called a “widespread and sophisticated scheme to steal crude oil from Indians and others through fraudulent mismeasuring,” the report noted that in the course of the probe Koch operatives had delved into the personal lives of the committee’s staffers, even questioning one’s ex-wife.
Vogel, the Politico reporter who broke today’s story, has had his own run-ins with the Kochs’ hyper-vigilance. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2015 at 5:24 pm

Repeating the US error made at the time of the Holocaust

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The US famously fought to keep Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution from being allowed refuge in the US. It was a shameful exhibition, on a part with the US concentration camps in which we incarcerated Japanese Americans who had done nothing—nothing—wrong. Lee Fang has the depressing story in The Intercept:

During the 1930s and early 1940s, the United States resisted accepting large numbers of Jewish refugees escaping the Nazi terror sweeping Europe, in large part because of fearmongering by a small but vocal crowd.

They claimed that the refugees were communist or anarchist infiltrators intent on spreading revolution; that refugees were part of a global Jewish-capitalist conspiracy to take control of the United States from the inside; that the refugees were either Nazis in disguise or under the influence of Nazi agents sent to commit acts of sabotage; and that Jewish refugees were out to steal American jobs.

Many rejected Jews simply because they weren’t Christian.

In recent days, similar arguments are being resurrected to reject Syrian refugees fleeing sectarian terrorists and civil war.

From talk radio to the blogosphere to leading American politicians, anti-Syrian rhetoric claims that refugees are simply ISIS infiltrators; that migrants are Muslim invaders seeking to establish a “global caliphate” and impose Sharia law on America; and that Syrian refugees are lying about escaping violence and are focused instead on abusing the American welfare system.

And in a rehash of history, politicians are arguing that only Christian, not Muslim, refugees from Syria should be welcomed. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2015 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Daily life


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