Archive for October 25th, 2006
Nicaragua is set to ban all abortions—all abortions. The Roman Catholic church naturally supports the ban, and the country is intensely Roman Catholic, so all political parties are supporting the ban:
Nicaragua’s legislature Thursday is expected to approve a law that outlaws all forms of abortion, including those procedures intended to save the life of a pregnant mother.
The measure has been supported by most major political parties, heading into the Nov. 5 presidential election, as they seek to win over voters in this overwhelmingly Catholic country. Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church helped draft the bill and have mobilized followers to support it.
Medical associations in Nicaragua and international human-rights groups have strongly criticized the proposal.
Since the late 1980s,Latin America’s El Salvador and Chile have adopted similar measures. At least 34 countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, prohibit all abortions, without exception, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group based in New York.
The law would establish prison sentences of 6 to 30 years for women who abort their pregnancies and the doctors who perform the procedure.
Leaders of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front and the ruling right-wing Liberal Alliance have said their representatives would vote for the proposal. The two groups control all but one of the seats in the 92-member legislature.
“The current law allows a small door in which abortions can be performed, and we are trying to close that door,” said Dr. Rafael Cabrera, an obstetrician and leader of the Yes to Life Movement. “We don’t believe a child should be destroyed under the pretext that a woman might die.” Read the rest of this entry »
Via Lifehacker, this excellent guide to spiffing up your photography. One suggestion: use a cheap camera.
Via Atrios, I see that ABC News is running a story today about right-wing attack ads. The story acknowledges that “the nastiest rhetoric right now is coming from the political right,” and Jake Tapper and Greg McCown document this with several examples. Then they end with this:
Democrats aren’t necessarily running clean campaigns, though. As the races tighten in the next couple of weeks, the left will likely unleash its garbage as well.
Needless to say, they present exactly zero evidence for this.
I’m not breaking any new ground here when I say that this is, as usual, inexplicable. Sure, neither party is simon pure, but Tapper and McCown know perfectly well that the nauseating and polarized nature of modern American politics is almost entirely a Republican invention. From Lee Atwater to Rush Limbaugh to Newt Gingrich to Ken Starr to Tom DeLay to the Rove/Bush/Cheney machine, the Republican Party has pioneered a scorched-earth approach to politics that Democrats have never come close to matching. Their destruction of congressional traditions in the service of power has gone immensely farther than anything Democrats did when they were in power. Their deliberate and single-minded fealty to K Street lobbyists makes Democrats look like pikers.
Tapper and McCown know this. But they still insist on acting as if somehow both parties are equally responsible for this state of affairs.
I know I’m a partisan observer. But no one who’s followed politics for the past decade or two can pretend not to know how we got where we are today. For some reason, though, they sure do try.
It makes my head hurt. Here’s an example of one of Croker’s ads—one that was so rancid that some TV stations refused to run it without some documentation of the truth of the claims. For comparison, here’s a Ford attack ad against Croker. And here’s another one of Croker’s ads attacking Ford. Notice in this one that each of the “average person” spokespeople seems to have a policy issue: estate taxes, gun control, foreign policy for North Korea—but the bimbo: what’s the policy issue there? Interracial dating/sex? Josh Marshall says that the entire ad is structured just to get the racist message across—the policy issues included are just filler. Great ad, huh?
Via Boing Boing, an interesting citizen initiative:
Join us at VideoTheVote.org — Our goal is to protect the vote by being the eyes and ears where ballots are cast and counted on Election Day. We will document and report any irregularities that occur at polling places and boards of elections while they are happening, enabling the media and public to watch-dog the electoral process across our country.
And here is a video showing why the effort is being made.
Normally, you’d think that this is an effort that would be bipartisan, since all citizens, whether liberal or conservative, are interested in citizens being able to vote. You’d be wrong, though: the GOP has a long, sordid history of trying to suppress voting—among the poor, minorities, and the working class. The GOP feels that such people would likely vote Democratic, so (in the eyes of the GOP) it’s better to keep them from voting at all. So the people who will be videoing the vote to see that everyone gets a chance to vote will be Democrats, almost certainly.
This is another reason why I lack respect for the GOP.
UPDATE: Via Boing Boing, a legal guide for those who will monitor the voting.
This slide show of self-portraits done by an artist with Alzheimer’s shows how the progress of the disease affects the portraits.
It happens too often: great report from endocrinologist leads to a sloppier set of habits, which results in a not so good report. Weight up 3 lbs from 3 months ago, and my HbA1c then of 5.4%—excellent—is now up to 6.6%—tolerable but getting too high. The problem, clearly enough, is fat: too much of it, and not enough of exercise. So: renewed determination and resolution. Other indicators—blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL, LDL, kidney function, etc.—all fine. But: need to pay attention, and one never gets enough ahead to coast. Alas.
Lifehacker’s Gina Tripani, always worth reading, has a very nice post on tweaking Firefox 2 to customize it to your liking. I haven’t yet moved to Firefox 2—waiting a bit longer for the early adopters to debug it—but I’m saving this link for when I do.
A lot of business travelers are walking around with laptops that contain private corporate information that their employers really do not want outsiders to see.
Until recently, their biggest concern was that someone might steal the laptop. But now there’s a new worry: the laptop will be seized or its contents scrutinized at customs and immigration checkpoints upon entering the United States.
Although much of the evidence for the confiscations remains anecdotal, it is a hot topic this week among more than a thousand corporate travel managers and travel industry officials meeting in Barcelona at a conference of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives.
Last week, an informal survey by the association, which has about 2,500 members worldwide, indicated that almost 90 percent of its members were not aware that U.S. customs officials have the authority to scrutinize the contents of travelers’ laptops and even confiscate them for a period of time, without giving a reason. Appeals are under way in some confiscation cases, but the law is clear.
“They don’t need probable cause to perform these searches under the current law,” said Tim Kane, a Washington lawyer who is researching the matter for corporate clients. “They can do it without suspicion or without really revealing their motivations.”
Laptops may be scrutinized and subject to a “forensic analysis” under the so-called border search exemption, which allows searches of people entering the United States and their possessions “without probable cause, reasonable suspicion or a warrant,” a U.S. court ruled in July. Read the rest of this entry »
Via Boing Boing, from Google Earth.
I hadn’t realized, but Scott Adams, creator and writer/drawer of Dilbert, lost his ability to speak about 18 months ago. He explains how he remapped his mind and regained the ability:
As regular readers of my blog know, I lost my voice about 18 months ago. Permanently. It’s something exotic called Spasmodic Dysphonia. Essentially a part of the brain that controls speech just shuts down in some people, usually after you strain your voice during a bout with allergies (in my case) or some other sort of normal laryngitis. It happens to people in my age bracket.
I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero. While there’s no cure, painful Botox injections through the front of the neck and into the vocal cords can stop the spasms for a few months. That weakens the muscles that otherwise spasm, but your voice is breathy and weak.
The weirdest part of this phenomenon is that speech is processed in different parts of the brain depending on the context. So people with this problem can often sing but they can’t talk. In my case I could do my normal professional speaking to large crowds but I could barely whisper and grunt off stage. And most people with this condition report they have the most trouble talking on the telephone or when there is background noise. I can speak normally alone, but not around others. That makes it sound like a social anxiety problem, but it’s really just a different context, because I could easily sing to those same people. Read the rest of this entry »
Very different from the RNC ads—for example, the openly racist ad they’re running in Tennessee in support of Croker, the Senator who says “stay the course” and then later says “I have never ever said, ‘Stay the course’.” (His emphasis) The DNC just has to show the GOP in action; the GOP apparently must lie, appeal to racists and bigots, etc. Well, it’s worked for them in the past.
Most of whom write for the Washington Post, which is why most of the columns (Dan Froomkin notably excepted) are garbage written by over-the-hill out-of-touch windbags. Atrios quotes a column from one, written 6 October 2002—four years ago, before we invaded Iraq. If you go to the link and scroll up and down you can read more foolishness from the Wise Old Men. Here’s this serving of steaming horseshit:
Many analysts warn of the disasters that await in this postwar Iraq, but frankly I’m not convinced. Yes, Iraq is a country with many ethnic groups that don’t always get along. And, yes, there will be a risk of revenge killings and general mayhem as the millions of Iraqis who suffered from Hussein’s torturers seek to settle scores.
But these strike me as manageable problems, especially if people think carefully about them beforehand. Maintaining order will be essential in the first weeks and months after Hussein and his secret police are gone, and Washington should be training military police who will keep the peace, even as it drills the soldiers who will do the fighting. Yet we hear little of these plans — even though they would encourage Iraqis and other Arabs, and even Europeans, to feel that the war is worth fighting.
In truth, Iraq is probably more ready for democracy than any nation in the Arab world. That’s partly because its people have suffered so much from the cruelty of the current regime. But it’s also because the Iraqis are the most likely Arabs to build a truly modern nation. For centuries, Baghdad has been a center of learning, and the Iraqis gained a reputation as the Prussians of the Arab world. It was no accident that Iraq was the only Arab country with the scientific brainpower to mount a serious nuclear weapons program.
And the talk of Iraq’s internecine strife is overblown, too. The long-repressed Shiite community forms a majority of its population, which leads some analysts to fear Shiites will create a radical Muslim regime. But the Shiites of Iraq are Arabs who stayed loyal to Hussein through nearly a decade of war against the Persians of Iran. Iraq’s Shiite elite has been the country’s leading modernizers, supplying more than their share of scientists and engineers.
One Iraqi who is planning for the future is Kanan Makiya, who is heading a project to draft a new constitution, under the sponsorship of the opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress. I first talked with Makiya more than a decade ago, after he bravely published a book called “Republic of Fear,” which documented the vicious torture and repression that sustained Hussein and his cronies in power.
Makiya and other Iraqi dissidents describe scenes of unimaginable cruelty — children thrown from helicopters to force their parents to confess to crimes against the regime, for example. “Hope itself has been killed,” he once wrote.
It’s strange that liberals haven’t paid more attention to the egregious human rights abuses of the Iraqi regime. To quote one horrific passage from the recent (widely ignored) British government report on Iraq: “Prisoners at the Qurtiyya Prison in Baghdad and elsewhere are kept in metal boxes the size of tea chests. If they do not confess they are left to die.”
The GOP candidate for Nevada Governor, Jim Gibbons (mentioned earlier for assaulting a woman in a parking garage after drinking with her) has made strong anti-immigration statements. Yet it turns out that he knowingly employed an undocumented immigrant for years. What a hypocrite. You can see the news report here.
Windows Defender has now been released. Free, and apparently effective.
Briefli will search all over the web for the file you specify by title and type—e.g., the audio file “Death Cab for Cutie” in .mp3 format. Take a look and give it a go.
I received a note from a fellow diabetic asking for more info about how I cook the groats and other thoughts on diabetes.
I use a rice cooker, specifically the National SR MM10N. A 5-cup capacity is plenty for me. The features I use most are the “porridge” setting and the timer. It’s a few years old, so there are probably better ones now available. Read the comments at the link. I’ve never had any problems at all with chippping in the cooking pot (an easily removeable non-stick aluminum pot), but I wash it carefully by hand and don’t use anything scratchy. Also, I use the plastic paddle that came with it to dip out the rice or groats, not anything metal.
Porridge takes about an hour, I think—I start it going before I shave, and I sit at the computer and finish my coffee, so it’s generally at least an hour before I want the groats. The cooker will keep the groats warm very nicely. Does the same thing with white rice but, interestingly, not brown rice: once brown rice is done, you need to turn it off.
Because the porridge takes so long, I would recommend setting everything up in the evening and using the timer to start the cooking an hour before you get up. The porridge will then be ready when you are.
I use 1/3 cup oat groats and 1 cup of water. This produces a non-liquidy result—more like a cooked grain, less like traditional oatmeal. As noted, since I like a savory breakfast, not a sweet one. So I salt and pepper the groats, add a dash of some kind of pepper sauce, some grated cheese, and stir it up. Then I put just a little olive oil on it (in lieu of butter). Some ground cinnamon, about 1/2 tsp, would be good for diabetics, but I don’t do it yet.
I buy the groats at Whole Foods, where they have it/them in bulk in the bin section. I usually get 5 lbs at a time, and I keep it in a Rubbermaid container.
Other comments on the cooker: the steamer function isn’t worth using with vegetables—it overcooks them. The cooker makes a superb risotto. I got The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook to maximize my use of the cooker.
I previously mentioned Elizabeth Hiser’s excellent The Other Diabetes—a great book for type 2 diabetics, with lots of information on a variety of topics important to us. Indeed, anyone veering toward type 2 diabetes (overweight, sedentary) should read the book and follow its advice while the advice is still optional.