Later On

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

Archive for October 2nd, 2008

Our democracy needs a lot of work

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Ezra Klein:

It’s baffling that a country that so prides itself on being a democracy doesn’t take the legitimacy of its democratic process more seriously. A good example is vote purging. “Voter registration lists, also called voter rolls, are the gateway to voting. A citizen typically cannot cast a vote that will count unless her name appears on the voter registration rolls. Yet state and local officials regularly remove — or ‘purge’ — citizens from voter rolls. In fact, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported purging more than 13 million voters from registration rolls between 2004 and 2006. Purges, if done properly, are an important way to ensure that voter rolls are dependable, accurate, and up-to-date. Precise and carefully conducted purges can remove duplicate names, and people who have moved, died, or are otherwise ineligible.” The problem, as this Brennan Center report concludes, is that our voter purges are not being done properly. Not even close: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Election

“No-Drama” Obama

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Joe Klein has a good post on the difference in temperament between Obama and McCain. Obama: calm, thoughtful, and measured; McCain: angry, impulsive, and reckless.

As Klein notes, the calm approach is often overlooked—because there’s nothing to see. In a business context, you often run across the Crisis Hero—the guy or gal who will work 20 hours a day to resolve a crisis, saving the day at the last minute. The problem is that this sort of temperament grows to crave the rush and the heroism and the accolades and so fails to improve the process so that heroics are not necessary. In some cases, the Crisis Hero will create a crisis in order to be a hero once again.

When I was working, I hated crises. For one thing, I had a life and interests outside the office. For another, the rush of heroism generally leads to oversights and errors that bite you badly later on.

Moreover, most crises are periodic: starting too late to design and develop the annual conference; starting too late to do revenue projections and budgets; even starting too late to do the monthly expense report. So every time I hit a crisis, I immediately made an entry in my calendar so that next time, I would start a week earlier. If it was still a crisis, it went into the calendar another week earlier. Eventually, I had a series of reminders for various tasks that allowed me to work calmly and reasonably, with no overtime, and complete the task earlier.

“Early,” as I’ve pointed out before, is the secret. If you have a paper due in a month, do the outline now and try to have the first draft completed this week. Then you have lots of time to revise, expand, and tinker and still turn in the paper a few days early.

I’m glad to have a president who thinks ahead and avoids crises. Bush certainly is not one, nor would McCain be one.

From Klein’s post:

… Part of Obama’s steadiness is born of necessity: An angry, or flashy, black man isn’t going to be elected President. But I’ve also gotten the sense, in the times I’ve interviewed and chatted with him, that calm is Obama’s natural default position. He is friendly, informal, accessible…and a mystery, hard to get to know. He doesn’t give away much, doesn’t — unlike Bill Clinton — have that desperate need to make you like him. His brilliant, at times excessive, oratory is an outlier — the only over-the-top, Technicolor quality he has. There has been no grand cathartic moment for him in this campaign, but rather a steady accretion of trust, a growing public sense that he knows what he’s talking about and isn’t going to get crazy on us. His demeanor has rendered foolish all the rumors about his alleged radicalism. This guy is the furthest thing imaginable from an extremist; McCain, by his own admission, is the bomb-thrower in this race. …

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good basic computer tips

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For the novice user—and sometimes the not-so-novice user.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Conservatives will say anything

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Glenn Greenwald:

With apologies and regrets to Ed “Captain Ed” Morrissey, whose well-deserved “Funniest Blog Post Ever” crown is being snatched away after such a tragically short period of time, this observation today, from National Review‘s Mark Levin, will be hard to top for many years to come, even by the most imaginative right-wing satirists:

The liberal uses crises, real or manufactured, to expand the power of government at the expense of the individual and private property. He has spent, in earnest, 70 years evading the Constitution’s limits on governmental power. If conservatives don’t stand up to this, who will? If they don’t offer serious alternatives that address the current circumstances AND defend the founding principles, who will?

Indeed. I wish those liberals would stop exploiting crises in order to expand the power of Government at the expense of the individual, but I sure am grateful that our nation is teeming with stalwart conservatives who defiantly stand up to those erosions, because if they didn’t, who would? You can read all about the conservatives’ heroic stance in defense of our Founding Principles over the last eight years, and their epic struggle to battle against the Left’s exploitation of crises in order to “expand the power of government at the expense of the individual,” in numerous books, including this one, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charlie Savage: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 12:12 pm

Posted in GOP

Sarah Palin: the lies never stop

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From an article by Martha Mendoza in the Anchorage Daily News:

… Palin herself has said repeatedly that her job is inherently international because of Alaska’s location, across the Bering Strait from Russia.

In an interview last week with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, Palin suggested that her contact was more than just awareness of Russia’s nearness. When Couric asked Palin if she’d “ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians,” the governor replied, “We have trade missions back and forth.”

But Steve Smirnoff, the Russian Federation’s honorary consul in Anchorage, said Palin never accepted his invitation to open a dialogue with Alaska’s neighbor.

When Palin took office in December 2006, Smirnoff says, he sent her a letter suggesting “she could be instrumental in reviving relationships between Alaska and Russia, and the rest of the world.”

Smirnoff said he’d met Palin years before, when they both worked on then-Gov. Frank Murkowski’s campaign. Smirnoff had hoped for some rapport, but “I never received a response,” he said. “I don’t know if it was taken to heart or thrown in the trash basket.”

Patricia Eckert, who works in the governor’s Office of International Trade, confirmed that Palin had not held meetings with Russian officials during her term. The closest interaction she cited was when the Seattle-based Russian consul general attended a reception for the diplomatic corps that Palin hosted in Fairbanks. …

McCain said that he “often” consults with Palin on foreign policy.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 12:10 pm

Posted in GOP

Moving speech

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Via Andrew Sullivan:

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 12:04 pm

Low-energy streetlights that shine only when needed

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Very cool idea: equip a low-energy (LED lights) streetlight with a sensor so that the streetlight can dim itself (or even turn itself off) when ambient light (from the moon and stars) is sufficient. More info here.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 11:56 am

Interesting video on the Federal Reserve

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Via Liz:

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 11:49 am

“Make-Believe Maverick”

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The lede to an article in Rolling Stone by Tim Dickinson:

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation’s capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It’s the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door.

There’s a distance between the two men that belies their shared experience in North Vietnam — call it an honor gap. Like many American POWs, McCain broke down under torture and offered a “confession” to his North Vietnamese captors. Dramesi, in contrast, attempted two daring escapes. For the second he was brutalized for a month with daily torture sessions that nearly killed him. His partner in the escape, Lt. Col. Ed Atterberry, didn’t survive the mistreatment. But Dramesi never said a disloyal word, and for his heroism was awarded two Air Force Crosses, one of the service’s highest distinctions. McCain would later hail him as “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

“I’m going to the Middle East,” Dramesi says. “Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran.”

“Why are you going to the Middle East?” McCain asks, dismissively.

“It’s a place we’re probably going to have some problems,” Dramesi says.

“Why? Where are you going to, John?”

“Oh, I’m going to Rio.”

“What the hell are you going to Rio for?”

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

“I got a better chance of getting laid.”

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. “McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man,” Dramesi says today. “But he’s still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in.”

McCAIN FIRST

This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has …

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Election, GOP

The secret Jews of San Luis Valley, Colorado

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Fascinating story by Jeff Wheelwright, which begins:

One September day in 2001, Teresa Castellano, Lisa Mullineaux, Jeffrey Shaw and Lisen Axell were having lunch in Denver. Genetic counselors from nearby hospitals and specialists in inherited cancers, the four would get together periodically to talk shop. That day they surprised one another: they’d each documented a case or two of Hispanic women with aggressive breast cancer linked to a particular genetic mutation. The women had roots in southern Colorado, near the New Mexico border. “I said, ‘I have a patient with the mutation, and she’s only in her 40s,’” Castellano recalls. “Then Lisa said that she had seen a couple of cases like that. And Jeff and Lisen had one or two also. We realized that this could be something really interesting.”

Curiously, the genetic mutation that caused the virulent breast cancer had previously been found primarily in Jewish people whose ancestral home was Central or Eastern Europe. Yet all of these new patients were Hispanic Catholics.

Mullineaux contacted Ruth Oratz, a New York City-based oncologist then working in Denver. “Those people are Jewish,” Oratz told her. “I’m sure of it.”

Pooling their information, the counselors published a report in a medical journal about finding the gene mutation in six “non-Jewish Americans of Spanish ancestry.” The researchers were cautious about some of the implications because the breast cancer patients themselves, as the paper put it, “denied Jewish ancestry.”

The finding raised some awkward questions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 11:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Web tools to predict your future

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Via Don’stuff, a site with links to a variety of Web tools to predict your future: brief quizzes that provide answers of undetermined accuracy in several areas:

  • Financial Future
  • Love and Relationship Future
  • Educational Future
  • Career and Professional Future
  • Health and Medical Future
  • Just for Fun

As the site says:

When was the last time you were sitting at your desk, bored, and gazing out the window wondering what kind of lucky lotto ticket was going to fall out of the sky and swoop you into the lifestyle of your dreams? The way we see it, you have two options: get off your lazy behind, go back to school, and demand a promotion, or stay on your lazy behind and log online to access these 50 free web tools that can tell you exactly when that lotto ticket will change your life. Welcome to our list of quizzes and tools that can (or at least try to) predict your future, from the silly to the serious.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life

Yet another reason not to live in Texas

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This one:

Justice Dale Wainwright, a sitting Republican member of the Texas Supreme Court, is up for election later this year. Journalist Clay Robison notes that Wainwright is busy fundraising and this “means collecting campaign money, perfectly legally, from litigants and potential litigants.” One of the hosts of a recent fundraising event for Wainwright was the Texas Civil Justice League, which contributed $6,000 to his campaign. The league, Robison writes, is “one of several business-oriented groups that have filed briefs urging the high court to reaffirm a controversial decision giving refineries and other industrial plants a new shield against liability claims from contract workers injured on the job.” The next hearing on the case is in two weeks’ time. Other sponsors of the fundraising event included ConocoPhillips, Koch Industries, American Electric Power, AT&T, Pfizer and the Texas Medical Association, “all of whom also are keenly interested in the outcome of the contract workers’ case or any number of other issues before the high court.”

Source: Houston Chronicle, September 28, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:34 am

Posted in Business, Government

The bailout narratives

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Good post by Paul Krugman explaining two narratives of the bailout and where each falls short.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:32 am

Posted in Business, Government

Obama and the CIA

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Laura Rozen has an interesting post in Mother Jones. It begins:

As has become painfully clear since 9/11, intelligence is only as good as the worldview of the person receiving it. The team of former intelligence professionals who have come together to advise Barack Obama describe a candidate who they believe is open-minded and intellectually inclined to absorb information—not just the recognized current threats (terrorism, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, a resurgent and more belligerent Russia), but the ones on the horizon (nuclear terrorism, water wars, climate change and the conflicts it could generate). But they also are urging him to rethink the architecture of the intelligence community to grapple with both current and emerging threats, and to do away with the Bush administration’s legacy of excessive secrecy and its tendency to view complex international challenges in black-and-white terms.

“The world is a very complicated place and there are not always easy solutions to a lot of the problems out there,” says John Brennan, a top Obama intelligence advisor and former senior CIA official who co-founded the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the National Counterterrorism Center, a post-9/11 effort to integrate the US government’s terror threat intelligence. “If you look at the world in black and white, you miss a lot of the subtleties out there. ‘Either with us or against’—the world is not divided into good and evil a lot of time. Despite America’s military might, a lot of these problems do not lend themselves to kinetic solutions”—i.e. the use of force. And world dynamics are likely to get more complicated and nuanced, not less, by 2025. An intelligence forecast being prepared by the US intelligence community for the next president “envisions a steady decline in US dominance in the coming decades, as the world is reshaped by globalization, battered by climate change, and destabilized by regional upheavals over shortages of food, water and energy,” according to the Washington Post.

Obama himself articulated his approach to intelligence in a speech in July. “It’s time …

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:16 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Another doctor on McCain

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ThinkProgress:

Our guest blogger is Dr. Clark Newhall, MD/JD of Salt Lake City, UT, one of over 2,700 doctors from around the country who signed an open letter calling on John McCain to release his medical records.

In a time of increasingly complex and difficult issues both here and abroad, it is imperative for Americans to know the health of the candidates. Yet John McCain has never released his full medical records and he has severely restricted the public’s ability to judge his health. When McCain publicly “disclosed” his medical history, what he really did was provide a carefully selected set of medical records (1,173 pages in all) to 20 carefully selected reporters who were allowed three hours to review that massive pile of paper. They were not allowed to make copies and not allowed to consult with medical experts during the review. With this kind of pseudo-review, it is certain that we cannot know much about McCain’s health.

What we do know is concerning: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology reviewed the cancer taken off McCain’s head in 2000 and found it to be “highly suggestive of a metastasis of malignant melanoma and may represent a satellite metastasis.” Even with the most optimistic scenario, if McCain has a metastatic malignant melanoma, he has only a 38% chance of surviving past 2010.

McCain had a melanoma taken off his head in 2000 but he has had several other melanoma cancers removed before that. It is not difficult to believe that a previous melanoma could have been the metastasis to the temple that was removed in 2000. If John McCain has a recurrence of melanoma, the attendant surgery with the possibility of chemotherapy is likely to be debilitating.

For these reasons, it is imperative that Americans demand the full and unconditional release of John McCain’s medical records.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:13 am

The level to which the FDA has sunk

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This is astonishing—from the Washington Post, by Robert O’Harrow, Jr.:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had an image problem. For months last year the agency had been pummeled by Congress for poor inspections of tainted vegetables, drugs and other products.

FDA leaders decided to hire a contractor for a public relations campaign that would “create and foster a lasting positive public image of the agency for the American public,” according to agency documents.

A competition, as prescribed by government policy, was not held to get the lowest bid for the $300,000 contract. Instead, FDA officials came up with a plan to ensure the work would go to a Washington public relations firm with ties to the FDA official arranging the deal, according to an examination by The Washington Post.

The plan used a circuitous route around the standard government contracting procedures. The contract was awarded in July to Alaska Newspapers Inc., a firm owned by an Alaska Native corporation that does not have to compete for federal work because it qualifies for special set-asides. The idea was for ANI to hand over the work to Qorvis Communications, the Washington firm, documents show.

After being made aware of The Post’s findings, FDA deputy commissioner John Dyer said this week that he had suspended the contract and ordered an independent investigation.

“Whatever the findings are on this one contract, the FDA has full confidence in the integrity of its contracting procedures as verified by independent third-party reviews conducted several times a year,” Dyer said in a statement Monday.

ANI and its parent company, Calista Corp., did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.

The story behind the FDA’s public relations deal, drawn from interviews and dozens of e-mails obtained by The Post, offers insight into how contract competition requirements designed to get the best deals for taxpayers have often been subverted in recent years for the sake of convenience or to serve narrow interests, according to a congressional study and contracting specialists.

With unusual candor, people involved in the FDA deal discussed the fact that ANI was brought in so the FDA could work with Qorvis, e-mails show.

While the deal was being formulated last October, James Dunn, a private consultant who had dealings with ANI, sent the following e-mail to a Qorvis executive, who forwarded it to an FDA official: “ANI will gladly serve as a prime for Qorvis on the FDA deal, knowing that the agency would intend to direct them to you as a subcontractor to perform all the work.”

Steven Schooner, co-director of the government procurement law program at George Washington University, said he has rarely seen such a detailed example of officials and contractors working to avoid competition.

“The story line is as bad as anything I’ve ever heard,” he said. “It’s not transparent. It’s not competitive. It’s not arm’s length.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 10:11 am

A doctor’s look at McCain

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AmericaBlog has two interesting posts from a doctor who responded to AB’s call for analysis of McCain’s medical profile based on the video. Well worth reading:  here and here. From the end of the first post:

I showed this video to 3 colleagues today – AND a neurologist – all of us agreed – this is concerning and should be immediately evaluated. It is, however, impossible to make medical diagnosis via a video – unless you are Bill Frist or Tom Coburn. I would caution you to be careful about making any insinuations about his medical condition based on just that alone. However, I am concerned enough about what I saw of Senator McCain today that he should be seeing a doctor immediately.

Just talked to two more buddies – again – they totally agree – one of whom is ardent McCain supporter.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 9:19 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Medical

More vegetable stocks

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Mark Bitten points to this column he wrote on several ways of making vegetable stock (including a mushroom stock that looks quite good). Here’s one recipe from the column:

Roasted Vegetable Stock
Time: About 2 hours

1/3.cup extra virgin olive oil
2 trimmed and well-washed leeks, cut in chunks (or 2 large unpeeled onions, quartered)
4 carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
2 celery stalks, trimmed and cut in chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut in chunks (optional)
2 potatoes, washed and quartered
6 cloves garlic
15 to 20 medium white mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1/4 cup soy sauce
10 sprigs fresh parsley
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
10 peppercorns
1/2 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine oil, leeks, carrots, celery, parsnip, potatoes, garlic and mushrooms in a large roasting pan; stir to coat vegetables with oil. Roast, shaking pan occasionally and turning ingredients once or twice, until everything is nicely browned, about 45 minutes.

2. Use a slotted spoon to scoop all ingredients into a stockpot; add all remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) and 8 cups water. Turn heat to high. Meanwhile, put roasting pan over a burner set to high, and add 2 to 4 cups water, depending on depth of pan. Bring it to a boil, and cook, scraping off all bits of food on bottom. Pour this mixture into stockpot (along with 2 more cups of water if you used only 2 cups for deglazing).

3. Bring stockpot to a boil. Partly cover, and adjust heat so mixture sends up a few bubbles at a time. Cook until vegetables are very soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Strain, pressing on vegetables to force out as much juice as possible. Taste, and add more soy sauce, salt or pepper if necessary. Store or serve.

Yield: About 12 cups.

I bought some very nice looking chicken backs at Whole Foods the other day, planning to roast them and then use them for stock. I think now that in the roasting pan with the backs I’ll include some onion, garlic, celery, and carrots to roast along with the chicken backs, and then use them all in the stock.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 8:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Perfection of roasted Brussels sprouts

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I believe I have now a perfect recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts—the kind where, when you taste, you think, “Man, it’s been way too long since I’ve had this.” And it has a special (formerly secret, but I suppose no longer) ingredient.

Cut off any dead stem bit and cut sprouts in half lengthways

Toss the sprouts with olive oil.

Put sprouts into a roasting pan, one layer deep. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and shichimi togarashi.

Put pan into a 400º oven for 40-45 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time.

Remove pan from oven and squeeze the juice of a lemon over the sprouts.

Man, they are good! Though when I told The Wife I was having roasted sprouts for dinner, she said, “You poor thing.”

My little bottle of Shichimi Togarashi is pretty old—and nearly empty—so I need to get more. Great stuff to have on hand.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 8:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Tabac happiness

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Tabac makes a very good shaving soap indeed, and that soap in turn makes a very good lather indeed, this morning with the Rooney Style 2. The Edwin Jagger ivory Chatsworth held a Treet Classic blade, and both did their usual excellent job: three passes, and a smooth face: no nicks, no irritation, just a great shave. Tabac aftershave finished the job.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2008 at 7:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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