Later On

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

Archive for August 2008

This makes no sense to me

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I’ve blogged about this before, and I thought Creekstone Farms had prevailed. But no. AP’s Mike Apuzzo reports:

The Bush administration can prohibit meat packers from testing their animals for mad cow disease, a federal appeals court said Friday.

The dispute pits the Agriculture Department, which tests about 1 percent of cows for the potentially deadly disease, against a Kansas meat packer that wants to test all its animals.

Larger meat packers opposed such testing. If Creekstone Farms Premium Beef began advertising that its cows have all been tested, other companies fear they too will have to conduct the expensive tests.

The Bush administration says the low level of testing reflects the rareness of the disease. Mad cow disease has been linked to more than 150 human deaths worldwide, mostly in Great Britain. Only three cases have been reported in the U.S., all involving cows, not humans.

A federal judge ruled last year that Creekstone must be allowed to conduct the test because the Agriculture Department can only regulate disease “treatment.” Since there is no cure for mad cow disease and the test is performed on dead animals, the judge ruled, the test is not a treatment.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that ruling, saying diagnosis can be considered part of treatment. …

Creekstone wants to test all its cattle because it sells to Japan, which insists on 100% testing. And the cost of 100% testing would add about 1¢/lb to the cost of beef—plus would probably find a lot of mad cow disease, which I believe is the beef industry’s fear.

Note how the Dept. of Agriculture does whatever the big beef producers tell it to do?

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2008 at 5:29 pm

Fascinating post on Public Relations

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Read it. It begins:

For my sins, I was once a public relations guy, for an educational institution, and I held positions roughly in that domain (e.g., as public communications manager for a medical research institute, although I managed the means not the message) for the bulk of my professional life until I finally took up a position as an academic philosopher four years ago. It was not my vocation, I hasten to add, but the way I supported my book habit and fondness for eating and feeding my family.

I have been asked to address a science communication class on the failure of science to communicate to the public, and that led me to reflect upon my former life in the dark side. I have come to this conclusion: the greatest tragedy of public polity, in science and without, in the democratic nations, one that looks very likely to me to be the major proximal cause of the ultimate failure of democracy, is the invention of public relations.

It’s worth noting that before the second world war, what we now call public relations was called propaganda: that which is propagated (to the audience). Goebbels‘ Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was, in effect, a public relations campaign designed to ensure not that the audience was enlightened, but the contrary. Propaganda, and modern public relations, is fundamentally about changing attitudes, not informing.

And moreover, it is about changing attitudes not informing people, despite what the erstwhile founder of modern PR, Edward Bernays, said. From the very beginning, including the work done by Bernays himself, public relations has deliberately worked to promote products that were known to be unsafe or unhealthy, such as tobacco. For that reason the public relations “official” body, the Public Relations Society of America, was formed in 1948 and immediately failed to take action on unethical behaviours.

The history of propaganda is often separated from that of public relations, due in no small part to the efforts of public relations professionals writing their “history”, but an unbiassed view sees the identity immediately. And from the start, PR worked against science, especially medical science. Here is a list of the use of PR to defend the indefensible, which I quote in the indented parts: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2008 at 5:23 pm

Walking toward a police state

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It’s worse than I thought. Glenn Greenwald:

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue — see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice, seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway — it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that “the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Today’s Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.” Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force — an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI — was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate “vegan groups” and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that …

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2008 at 5:10 pm

McCain-Palin

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 August 2008 at 9:18 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Getting a shaving (or Megs) feed only

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A commenter asked me whether he could get an RSS feed of just the shaving posts. I told him I would check, and on looking at the WordPress FAQs, I see:

Just go to any tag page, like this one, and add /feed/ to the end of it. To get an Atom feed just add /feed/atom/ to the end of it.

So http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/category/shaving/feed/ should get you only the shaving posts, http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/category/megs/feed/ only the Megs posts, and so on.

I just tried it in Google Reader, and it works.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 3:12 pm

Rove on vice-presidential pick and what it tells us

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Rove is right on target, no?

Republican strategist Karl Rove said on Face The Nation Sunday that he expects presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama to choose a running mate based on political calculations, not the person’s readiness for the job.

“I think he’s going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice,” Rove said. “He’s going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he’s going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He’s not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.”

Rove singled out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, also a Face The Nation guest, as an example of such a pick.

“With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished,” Rove said. “I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America.” [i.e., Richmond, VA, with a metropolitan area population of 1.1 million ; Palin has been governor of Alaska for a few months, Alaska pop. 683,478. - LG]

Rove continued: “So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I’m really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States.”

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

Kitty owners: make you cat a cardboard chaise lounge

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

RFID off-limits to Mythbusters

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Via Boing Boing:

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Business

One more Palin post

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

The secret life of paper

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Via Inhabitat (and do read at the link), this interesting video:

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment

Thinking over the Palin pick

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I won’t say much more about this: the press and indeed her own state are busily toting up the drawbacks of her being Vice President. But this post by Joe Klein and this post by Steve Benen made me realize what’s up: McCain was a fighter pilot, not a bomber pilot. Bombers are crew-operated airplanes (I’m thinking WWII here, when the studies were done), and bombers fly in formation as part of a group. A bomber pilot was in those days a methodical, systematic, careful man: he was selected for those attributes. He also was a good manager—works well with others, has a crew that is loyal and respects him, and plays his part in the overall bombing mission.

A fighter pilot, OTOH, had just a wingman and was generally a daredevil sort of personality, willing to take chances to get the kill. In dogfights, there was not formation flying, and the willingness to take chances increased one’s survival odds. The last thing a pilot should be in a dogfight is predictable.

For a fighter pilot, the best defense is a good offense. For a bomber pilot, the best defense is to stay in formation so that the other bombers could provide supporting fire (and your own bomber’s gunners could support them) and provide a steady firing platform for the bomber’s gunners, who were responsible for the defense. The pilot left the combat to the gunners and focused on getting his bomb load to the target and then getting back.

For a president, one would want a bomber pilot, not a fighter pilot. For an entrepreneur, the fighter pilot might represent the better mindset.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 11:22 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Vetiver lovers, take note

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This morning, following the vetiver theme of one previous post, I used QED Vetiver shaving soap—intense! Any true vetiver fan will want to have this one. The Rooney Style 1 Size 1 Super made a great lather, and the shave, with a Hoffritz Slant Bar and an Astra Superior Platinum blade at the end of its life, was okay: the blade really should have been replaced, but with three passes and a jojoba oil polishing pass, the shave was acceptable. Stetson Sierra aftershave.

Late start today: started The Wire Season Five last night.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 August 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Shaving

Palin doesn’t know what a VP does

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At 0:56 she misuses “whom” (using it as the subject of a clause—just one of my pet peeves: people who can’t use good grammar) and (more seriously) at 2:57 she wonders what is it that a Vice President does. Great choice, McCain.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 12:40 pm

Posted in GOP

Ezra on Palin

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Very good post from Ezra Klein:

SARAH PALIN.

You can say this much, at least. She sure won’t be another Dick Cheney.

The choices were all bad. Tim Pawlenty was a lightweight. Joe Lieberman was a liberal. Mitt Romney was a Mormon. Over the past few weeks, it became clear that John McCain couldn’t pick anybody for vice-president. And so he didn’t. Instead, he picked Sarah Palin.

There’s nothing wrong with Sarah Palin. Indeed, she’s a perfectly normal politician. A hardline conservative with a good government streak who’s proven a skillful political comer in a tiny, remote state. It’s just a bit…odd.

McCain speaks often of the transcendent challenges we face. His whole campaign is based on the idea that we need steady, experienced leadership to guide us through a world populated with lethal foreign threats. McCain has amassed that experienced the hard way: He’s a 72-year-old man who’s served in Congress for almost three decades and spent five years languishing in a prison camp. The simple reality of his campaign is that, for reasons of message and age, his vice-presidential pick matters more than most. If the world really is as he describes it, then experienced leadership is enduringly crucial. And it is not unimaginable that there could come a time in his presidency when his understudy must sorrowfully step forward.

Sarah Palin has been in office less than two years. She’s governor of a state with a shade of 600,000 people, and before that she was a mayor of a hamlet with 9,000 people. She has no foreign policy experience. She has no experience making national policy. She has spent fewer than 700 days crafting statewide policy for Alaska. None of this is a moral flaw or personal failing. It just makes it hard to imagine her fit for the vice presidency.

This was, for McCain, a major decision. And we can learn from it. The calculations are gallingly transparent. Understanding that he needed to broaden his electoral coalition, he picked a woman, Understanding he needed youth, he picked a young politician. Understanding he needed to emphasize his reformist credentials, he picked a onetime whistleblower. What he didn’t pick was anyone able to help him govern, or capable of stepping forward in a moment of crisis. Palin is not an experienced foreign policy hand like Lieberman or a successful and experienced governor like Tommy Thomson. Today, McCain chose his campaign over his presidency. Over our presidency. In this decision, country did not come first. Polls did. Palin seems like a promising young politician, but McCain increasingly seems like a desperate one.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 11:24 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Site to bookmark: Periodic Table of Videos

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Take a look at this one. Via Science News, which particularly recommended H, Na, and Hg.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 11:18 am

Posted in Daily life

Design your own fabric

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I have no idea how many readers make their own clothing—or at least the occasional shirt, skirt, or whatever. I once worked with a guy whose wife made him all his suits. Amazing.

At any rate, Cool Tools reviews a site that allows you to design your own fabric. Take a look.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Thanks, Marsha.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 10:35 am

Posted in Daily life

Obama’s acceptance speech

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From TPM Media:

And here’s Joe Klein’s take on it and also Kevin Drum’s.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 10:19 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Downplaying the differences

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For some reason the mainstream media wants to blur the sharp distinctions between Obama’s position on issues and McCain’s. Possibly this is because if McCain’s positions are clearly known, he has no chance whatsoever of being elected: he really is a worse version of George W. Bush. Steve Benen has an excellent post on this problem—worth the click—from which I quote this list:

* Global warming: The AP says both want to combat climate change “in earnest.” In reality, yes, both Obama and McCain agree that global warming is serious. The difference is, Obama has an ambitious policy to combat the trend, while McCain’s rhetoric doesn’t meet reality.

* Taxes: The AP says both want to cut taxes for the middle class. This neglects to mention that Obama’s tax cuts for the middle class are bigger, and that McCain’s tax cuts for the extremely wealthy are even more regressive than Bush’s tax policies.

* Iraq: While there’s been security progress in Iraq, to suggest there are minimal differences between Obama and McCain on Iraq policy is backwards. These two haven’t agreed on almost any aspect of the war for six years.

* Stem cell research: The AP says both want to end the ban on federal money for embryonic stem cell research. That’s true, but it neglects to mention that McCain is running on a party platform that would prohibit any and all research, publicly or privately financed.

* Gay rights: The AP says there are “only shades of difference over key questions about gay marriage.” This neglects to mention that while Obama is a supporter of gay rights, McCain is virulently anti-gay, even opposing civil unions and gay adoption.

* Cap and trade: The AP says, “They are both advocating a cap and trade system that would force companies that cannot meet targets to pay for the right to pollute.” This neglects to mention that McCain recently announced that he no longer supports the “cap” part of his “cap-and-trade” policy.

In other words, even on issues where the media says these two agree, they disagree.

Voters have a choice between two very different candidates, offering two very different agendas, at a critical time in American history. Why would media outlets like the AP deliberately paper over these differences?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 9:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

LBJ’s speech that led to Obama’s speech

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Robert Caro, author of the fascinating biography of Robert Moses The Power Broker and of a multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson, wrote a great column, which begins:

AS I watch Barack Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention tonight, I will be remembering another speech: the one that made Martin Luther King cry. And I will be thinking: Mr. Obama’s speech — and in a way his whole candidacy — might not have been possible had that other speech not been given.

That speech was President Lyndon Johnson’s address to Congress in 1965 announcing that he was about to introduce a voting rights act, and in some respects Mr. Obama’s candidacy is the climax — at least thus far — of a movement based not only on the sacrifices and heroism of the Rev. Dr. King and generations of black fighters for civil rights but also on the political genius of Lyndon Baines Johnson, who as it happens was born 100 years ago yesterday.

When, on the night of March 15, 1965, the long motorcade drove away from the White House, heading for Capitol Hill, where President Johnson would give his speech to a joint session of Congress, pickets were standing outside the gates, as they had been for weeks, and as the presidential limousine passed, they were singing the same song that was being sung that week in Selma, Ala.: “We Shall Overcome.” They were singing it in defiance of Johnson, because they didn’t trust him.

They had reasons not to trust him.

In March 1965, black Americans in the 11 Southern states were still largely unable to vote. When they tried to register, they faced not only questions impossible to answer — like the infamous “how many bubbles in a bar of soap?” — but also the humiliation of trying to answer them in front of registrars who didn’t bother to conceal their scorn. Out of six million blacks old enough to vote in those 11 states in 1965, only a small percentage — 27 percent in Georgia, 19 percent in Alabama, 6 percent in Mississippi — were registered.

What’s more, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 9:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Democrats

The search engine known as Hittery

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Interesting idea, reviewed by MakeUseOf.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2008 at 9:25 am

Posted in Software

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