Later On

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

Archive for September 3rd, 2009

Megs back from vet

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Another blood draw to check parathyroid—a possible source of the elevated calcium readings. Megs is very good in the car: silent, but will talk to me if I initiate the conversation. Silent in the vet’s office, and prefers to remain in her carrier. Silent on the way back, but happy to hop out of her carrier at home. $251 this time.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Medical, Megs

Peculiar memory lapses of the Right

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Glenn Greenwald:

National Review‘s Jay Nordlinger — and others at that magazineare upset that a school is showing a year-old video in which various celebrities spout feel-good platitudes about public service, and — for a fleeting second — Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher vow to "be of service to the President."  This sentiment — a desire to serve the President — is something conservatives would never adopt, apparently:

When I read about that celebrity video where they say, “I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama,” I thought that the people do not deserve to be American citizens, because they have no idea what America or a liberal republic is. . . . Also, it strikes me that "I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama" is the product of a thoroughly secular mind, which is another marker of contemporary America. . . . Did conservatives ever say “I pledge to be of service to Ronald Reagan”? I never heard it — and the notion is preposterous.

I’m always amazed — even though I know I shouldn’t be — at people’s capacity simply to block out events, literally refuse to acknowledge them, when they are inconsistent with their desire to believe things.  Do Nordlinger and the other National Review political experts really not know about this episode, obviously much more consequential than some admittedly creepy though entirely trivial moment in a celebrity "pledge" video:

According to the [Justice Department] OIG report released today, Angela Williamson, a deputy to Monica Goodling at the [Bush] DOJ, was intimately involved in her bosses’ scurrilous hiring practices, attending interviews and often conducting interviews herself.  Here’s a sampling of the same questions that Goodling:

After Goodling resigned, Williamson typed from memory the list of questions Goodling asked as a guide for future interviews. Among other questions, the list included the following:

Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

Prior to Goodling herself testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about her screening of prospective DOJ hires to make certain they were sufficiently devoted to serving George Bush, she shared with a Justice Department official this vow:  "All I ever wanted to do was serve this president."  And she didn’t have a "secular mind."  Even as Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales actually thought his "client" was the President.  The entire DOJ was structured to ensure that its employees, including prosecutors required to act with apolitical independence, were what they called "loyal Bushies."  Pledging "to be of service to George W. Bush" was the prime mandate of the Justice Department, which is why it was headed for his second term by Bush’s most loyal servant.

Beyond the DOJ, huge swaths of the right-wing movement were devoted to an unprecedented veneration of George Bush…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 1:37 pm

Jane Jacobs’s fight against Robert Moses

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Sounds like an interesting book:

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City

by Anthony Flint

A review by Steve Weinberg

In a city like Portland, where residents pride themselves on maintaining small scale in an urban area, Jane Jacobs should fit right in as a heroine.

How Jacobs (born Jane Butzner in 1916 in Scranton, Pa.) gained her influence, then discredited New York City planning czar Robert Moses, is a remarkable saga. Other authors have written about Jacobs, but almost certainly no previous author has published anything as thorough as Anthony Flint, a former Boston Globe reporter now employed at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Moses, on the other hand, has been the subject of The Power Broker, a biography by Robert Caro that some readers (including me) believe qualifies as the most deeply researched, compelling biography published in the English language. [The Power Broker is a fascinating and detailed biography of Robert Moses and his projects. My suggestion is to buy a hardbound copy secondhand. It's a lengthy book. – LG]

Despite Flint’s skills, his explanations of Jacobs’ ideas in Wrestling With Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took on New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City can never match her own, as found in her remarkable best-selling book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Published in 1961, Jacobs’ book reads mostly like it could have been published in 2009. It is easy to find, easy to consume and might, as it did for me in 1970, change the way contemporary readers view metropolises where they live or visit.
Flint comments that the book "would revolutionize urban planning, and turn the tide of Moses and all the other modernist master builders, as an act of intellectual radicalism."

Jacobs never earned a college degree and never studied urban planning, architecture or other obvious disciplines in traditional ways. Rather, she formulated her ideas about preserving and enhancing existing urban neighborhoods through personal observation and civic activism, as well as writing for periodicals interested in such matters (especially Architectural Forum magazine). The reverse side of Jacobs’ advocacy led her to oppose high-rise apartments for low-income residents (often minorities), tearing down existing neighborhoods to build highways and other big-ticket, so-called "urban renewal" projects advocated by Moses and his acolytes.

Flint pinpoints how Jacobs reached some of her revelations…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Drug companies: how they maximize profits

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Businesses in general have zero interest in the public welfare except insofar as they can make a profit from it. And if making a profit undermines the public welfare, then so be it. Gardiner Harris in the NY Times:

The pharmaceutical industry has developed thousands of medicines that have saved millions of lives, but it has also used its marketing muscle to successfully peddle expensive pills that are no more effective than older drugs sold at a fraction of the cost.

No drug better demonstrates the industry’s salesmanship than Lexapro, an antidepressant sold by Forest Laboratories. And a document quietly made public recently by the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging demonstrates just how Forest managed to turn a medicinal afterthought into a best seller.

The document, “Lexapro Fiscal 2004 Marketing Plan,” is an outline of the many steps Forest used to make Lexapro a success. Because of concerns from Forest, the Senate committee released only 88 pages of the document, which may have originally run longer than 270 pages. “Confidential” is stamped on every page.

But those 88 pages make clear that one of the principal means by which Forest hoped to persuade psychiatrists, primary care doctors and other medical specialists to prescribe Lexapro was by finding many ways to put money into doctors’ pockets and food into their mouths.

Frank Murdolo, a Forest spokesman, said the company was “aware” that its marketing plan was circulating around the Senate.

“We’re aware of it but I can’t give you any other comment on it,” he said.

In February, federal prosecutors in Boston announced a civil lawsuit against Forest claiming that the company illegally marketed both Lexapro and a closely related antidepressant, Celexa, for use in children and paid kickbacks to doctors to induce them to prescribe the medicines to children…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 1:11 pm

Better college rankings

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The Washington Monthly has given a lot of thought on how to properly rank colleges and universities, and they’ve come up with new rankings that are quite at variance is the usual US News & World Report rankings. The editors explain here the rationale of their ranking system, and here are the rankings themselves.

Reporting the rankings at this time will help the new class of h.s. seniors make college choices, but at the same time it may make the new class of college freshmen regret their choices. :)

If you know some who are contemplating college, this could be valuable information.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

747 fire-fighting plane

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Interesting post with video in James Fallows blog: a 747 modified to carry 20,000 gallons of water flying low and slow over the fire to make the drop.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Afghanistan War

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Glenn Greenwald:

There was a time, not all that long ago, when the U.S. pretended that it viewed war only as a "last resort," something to be used only when absolutely necessary to defend the country against imminent threats.  In reality, at least since the creation of the National Security State in the wake of World War II, war for the U.S. has been everything but a "last resort."  Constant war has been the normal state of affairs.  In the 64 years since the end of WWII, we have started and fought far more wars and invaded and bombed more countries than any other nation in the world — not even counting the numerous wars fought by our clients and proxies.  Those are just facts.  History will have no choice but to view the U.S. — particularly in its late imperial stages — as a war-fighting state.

But at least we paid lip service to (even while often violating) the notion that wars should be waged only when absolutely imperative to defending the nation against imminent threats.  We largely don’t even bother to do that any more.  Consider today’s defense of the war in Afghanistan from the war-loving Washington Post Editorial Page.  Here’s their argument for why we should continue to wage war there: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2009 at 12:57 pm

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