Later On

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

Archive for June 8th, 2010

Caffeine

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I realize (rather vividly at the moment) that if you have been living a caffeine-free life for weeks and weeks, then it’s probably not the best idea to buy and drink a 4-shot latte at 3:00 p.m.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Some things that caught my eye

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2TB Hard Drives Crack the $100 Barrier (don’t worry, I’m not going to start a "when I began programming, we were happy to have 4K of RAM and the hard drive hadn’t even been invented" story)

BP Well Bore And Casing Integrity May Be Blown, Says Florida’s Sen. Nelson

11 Inspiring Life Lessons from Bruce Lee – the scene in Enter the Dragon in which Bruce Lee delivers a series of apothegms under questioning by his master is absolutely terrific. Some of those appear in this post.

For The Love of The Game: Softball Team Forfeits Game To Teach Neophyte Opponents How To Play – just when I was losing hope for the human race, something like this appears. Made me cry.

Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club – we desperately need copyright reform and the first step to chop off the head of Mickey Mouse (and perhaps give it to Wesley)

Clever critters: Bonobos that share, brainy bugs and social dogs – we humans are not so unique as Victorians believed.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Daily life

Smartphones

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A friend is looking to buy a smartphone (iPhone or alternative), so I was looking for comparative reviews, and I found these, which might be of interest more broadly:

iPhone 4 vs Nexus One vs Evo 4G vs Droid Incredible

Apple iPhone 4 versus HTC Evo 4G

10 Things Android Does Better Than iPhone OS

Top Android phones vs. Top Windows Mobile phones

Android Phones

Apple’s control-freakery eclipses iPhone advances

Android army steps up assault on iPhone with 2 new devices

And, should you get an Android phone:

4 Actually Useful Health Apps For Your Android Phone

Two articles that provide useful background information: the Wikipedia entries on GSM and CDMA.

Finally, enjoyable in a “glad I’m not giving the presentation” sort of way:

Watch the Apple Keynote’s Network Meltdown

UPDATE: See also Apple  iPhone 4 Review Roundup: Apple vs. the Competition.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 4:33 pm

Oddities in my diet plan

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I did discover oddities in my diet plan beyond the recommendation of coconut oil (a cooking oil that is highly inflammatory—and people who have excess body fat already have serious problems with inflammation, since excess fat promotes that—telling obese people to use coconut oil is like throwing gasoline on a fire). For example, they list fish that you can eat, and the list includes tilapia (see this post and this post and this post) and orange roughy (which is terribly overfished: see this page). They have a chart showing pesticide residues on produce (good), but fail to explicitly note that the measurements were taken after washing the produce. (People resistant to information that changes their preconceptions will inevitably think—and sometimes say—”But we wash our produce before eating it, so this doesn’t apply”: that loophole should be closed.)

They fail to note the possibility that grapefruit may make the client’s meds ineffective—they should include the note, “Before eating grapefruit, check with your pharmacist to see whether it will affect your meds.”

They also fail (so far) to note helpful tips, such as “Use turmeric in cooking because it’s a powerful anti-inflammatory.”

I’m hoping that I can work with them to contribute to the improvement of the manual. We’ll see. So far no response from the head office to my email warning of the inflammatory effect of coconut oil.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Back from endocrinologist

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My HbA1c was 5.8. I was going for 5.7 since someone I know just today got that.

Now, I’m not a competitive guy. Indeed, if you had a contest to find the least competitive person around, I’m sure I would win by a large margin. Nonetheless, it pains me that I was so close and yet…

Still: I am losing weight and exercising and I have dedicated corps keeping me in line. So we’ll see 3 months from now.

I told my endocrinologist that I was signed up with Prime Monterey for exercise and The Healthy Way for diet. I said, "I finally recognized that knowledge is not enough, and that I required direct personal assistance… well, I guess you know that by now." He smiled, but I caught it. :)

He was kind enough to tell me how to adjust my meds in case, with the combination of diet, exercise, and fat loss, I had low-blood-glucose reactions. (I’ve had them: sort of trembling and weakness—but if you munch a glucose tablet, that takes care of it quickly.) What I do is drop my glipizide dose from bid to QD, and if necessary, drop the glipizide altogether.

He also smiled at my story about how I realized that, once I "finished" dinner, I continued to go into the kitchen at intervals throughout the evening "just for a bite." (Lucky I go to bed early.)

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Obama’s legacy

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I wonder if he’s given thought to what he leaves behind. Greenwald:

Physicians for Human Rights yesterday released a report documenting (while relying on heavily redacted material) that "medical professionals who were involved in the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogations of terrorism suspects engaged in forms of human research and experimentation in violation of medical ethics and domestic and international law."  To those paying close attention, the evidence suggesting that this occurred has long been clear.  Today, The New York Times Editorial Page said this:

The report from the physicians’ group does not prove its case beyond doubt — how could it when so much is still hidden? — but it rightly calls on the White House and Congress to investigate the potentially illegal human experimentation and whether those who authorized or conducted it should be punished. Those are just two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet.

When the history of the Bush era is written, the obvious question will be:  what was done about the systematic war crimes, torture regime, chronic lawbreaking, and even human experimentation which that administration perpetrated on the world?  And the answer is now just as obvious:  nothing, because the subsequent President — Barack Obama –decreed that We Must Look Forward, Not Backward, and then engaged in extreme measures to carry out that imperial, Orwellian dictate by shielding those crimes from investigation, review, adjudication and accountability.

All of that would be bad enough if his generous immunity were being applied across the board.  But it isn’t.  Numerous incidents now demonstrate that as high-level Bush lawbreakers are vested with presidential immunity, low-level whistle blowers who exposed serious wrongdoing and allowed citizens some minimal glimpse into what our government does are being persecuted by the Obama administration with a vengeance.  Yesterday it was revealed by Wired that the Army intelligence officer analyst who reportedly leaked the Apache helicopter attack video to Wikileaks — and thus enabled Americans to see what we are really doing in Iraq and other countries which we occupy and attack — has been arrested (Wikileaks denies the part of that report claiming that the whistle blower also leaked to it "hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records").  This latest episode led Der Spiegel today to decry Obama’s "war on whistle blowers" as more severe than the one waged by the Bush administration (English translation here).

At least in these areas, that’s the Obama administration in a nutshell:  protecting Bush extremism and war crimes from any form of accountability while significantly escalating the punishment for those who tried to bring about some minimal degree of transparency (thereby also escalating the intimidation toward those who might want to do so in the future).  As the very pro-Obama NYT Editorial Page puts it today:  the human experimentation accusation and the question of whether crimes were committed are just "two of the many unresolved issues from the Bush administration that President Obama and Congressional leaders have swept under the carpet."  If you really think about it, that’s a rather damning statement.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 2:43 pm

David Vitter, bought and paid for

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I suppose he was bought off by money and prostitutes, but by God! he’s staying bought. Lee Fang at ThinkProgress:

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has been fighting aggressively to defend the oil industry even as BP’s oil disaster gets worse and worse by the day. Yesterday, Vitter blasted an e-mail attacking his Democratic opponent this November, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA), for having the audacity to point out that unregulated free-market policies have allowed the “oil industry to ruin our wetlands.”

Also on Monday, Vitter sent yet another letter to the Obama administration requesting a “quick end” to the “six-month ban on drilling in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.” The moratorium was issued to allow federal authorities to investigate the problems at deepwater drilling platforms and to propose new regulations. Indeed, deepwater drilling platforms like BP’s Atlantis platform in the Gulf of Mexico have been cited for “disturbing reports” of safety lapses.

Nevertheless, Vitter wrote that any moratorium on deepwater drilling “will cost us more jobs and economic devastation than the oil spill itself“:

As I stated, there is no one more environmentally devastated by this oil disaster than the people of the Gulf Coast. It’s our coast, our marshes, and our way of life that is being impacted. However, despite the ongoing oil spill disaster, the great majority of Gulf Coast citizens feel strongly that the administration’s deepwater moratorium is a major mistake. Simply put, it will cost us more jobs and economic devastation than the oil spill itself.

Vitter, who has been bankrolled by over $783,835 from the oil and gas industry, has been a reliable ally for companies like BP. Shortly after BP’s spill this year, Vitter introduced a bill to limit an oil company’s liability to the amount of its profit in the last four quarters, or $150 million, whichever is greater. This is allegedly to protect small companies with small profits, but if a big company like BP happened have a bad year and made little or no profit, they would be responsible for only the $150 million. As The Daily Kingfish pointed out, this is exactly the case with Anadarko, the oil company which owns 25 percent of the lease in the Deepwater Horizon well.

It’s amazing how tolerant Congress is at outright bribes, provided they’re to members of Congress.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 2:10 pm

Incredibly boorish behavior by Americans

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Colleen Guest in the Washington Times:

His name was Marine Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson – although I did not know it when his life brushed mine on March 25 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Lance Cpl. Wilson was not there in the terminal that afternoon; at age 24 and newly married, he had been killed in Afghanistan on March 22 by a roadside bomb. A coincidence of overbooked flights led our lives to intersect for perhaps an hour, one I will never forget.

I did not meet his family that day at the airport, either, although we were there together that evening at the gate, among the crowd hoping to board the oversold flight. I did not know that I had a boarding pass and they did not. I did not know they were trying to get home to hold his funeral, having journeyed to Dover, Del., to meet his casket upon its arrival from Afghanistan.

I also did not know that they already had been stuck for most of the day in another airport because of other oversold flights. But I did not need to know this to realize what they were going through as the event unfolded and to understand the larger cause for it. No matter how we as a nation have relearned the lesson forgotten during Vietnam – that our military men and women and their families deserve all the support we can give them – despite our nation’s fighting two wars in this decade, it is all too easy for most of us to live our lives without having the very great human cost of those wars ever intrude.

But it did intrude heartbreakingly that day at the airport gate. It began simply enough, with the usual call for volunteers: Anyone willing to take a later flight would receive a $500 flight voucher. Then came the announcement none of us was prepared to hear. There was, the airline representative said, a family on their way home from meeting their son’s body as it returned from Afghanistan, and they needed seats on the flight. And there they were, standing beside her, looking at us, waiting to see what we would decide. It wasn’t a hard decision for me; my plans were easily adjusted. I volunteered, as did two women whom I later learned sacrificed important personal plans.

But we three were not enough: Six were needed. So we stood there watching the family – dignified and mute, weighed with grief and fatigue – as the airline representative repeatedly called for assistance for this dead soldier’s family…

Continue reading. This to me speaks of a broken community: Americans who should see other Americans as “us” seeing them as “other” and thus not caring—even though the situation involved an American soldier who had lost his life in the service of this country and its people. What has happened to the sense of community? Why is it breaking down?

And read this comment on the story by LAW in the blog Left Face:

Today, on Facebook, I clicked on a link to this story.  The story of a family, at the worst time of their life, witnessing the true callousness of the American traveling public.  The story of the family of Lance Cpl. Justin Wilson, who had flown to the East Coast to welcome the body of their loved one at Dover.  The story of the family who were trying to get home, to bury that 24 year old, a newly wed, who had been killed in Afghanistan.  The story of the truly reprehensible conduct of a group of travelers, who sat in silence when asked to give up their seats so they could get home.   The story of the ground crew that had to beg, with tears in their voices, for 3 more people to give up their seats so the 6 members of the family, standing in front of them all with their grief apparent, could get home.

I should, I suppose, be used to this by now.  Eight years into two wars, with reports of “compassion fatigue”, with comments to letters to the editor, or articles in magazines,  that tell military families to just shut up, suck it up, quit whining, stop expecting everything for free, I should expect that the “others” won’t do the right thing in that situation.   After all, I just read a retired military officer in a respected military group publication, say just that!

But this.  This horrified me, and I don’t understand the people that could sit in silence and actually LOOK at the grieving family, who had to endure the stares and sliding sideways glances.  HOW?  HOW do Americans NOT stand up en masse and volunteer?  The author, Colleen Getz, tried to excuse the other passengers, saying they were caught off guard.  Off Guard?  Do Americans need to be prepared to do the right thing?  Are we so consumed with our own lives, so inured to the pain going on in front of us, that we just refuse to react to it?

I talked to my husband about it, and he gave me that look, and said “they don’t WANT to know.  They don’t want to see it, they don’t care anymore.”

I guess the flag waving is over, the “support the troops” yellow ribbons on the backs of cars have faded into pale cream with unreadable faint letters, the flags on the houses have become tatty and shredded and been replaced with butterfly banners – at least for them.  The them that could sit and stare at that family, stone faced, and refuse to give up their seats;  the them that get angry when another funeral procession ties up traffic; the  them that want to know why so much money is being spent on military health care, or get angry about subsidized child care.   But we , the One Percenters,   WE understand.  We are tired too, but I know that each and every one of us would have given up our seats.   Right?   I sure hope I’m right.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Daily life

Rare unanimity

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John D. Podesta is founder and president of the Center for American Progress. Robert A. Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute. Together, they wrote this op-ed in the Washington Post:

Nearly a century after the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that "marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man.’ " That 1967 case, Loving v. Virginia, ended bans on interracial marriage in the 16 states that still had such laws.

Now, 43 years after Loving, the courts are once again grappling with denial of equal marriage rights — this time to gay couples. We believe that a society respectful of individual liberty must end this unequal treatment under the law.

Toward that goal, we have agreed to co-chair the advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights. The foundation helped launch the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which is currently before a federal district court in California but is likely to be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Perry case — scheduled for closing arguments next Wednesday — was brought by two couples whose relationships are marked by the sort of love, commitment and respect that leads naturally to marriage. Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and their four children, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, ask for no more, and deserve no less, than the equal rights accorded to every other American family. But they are blocked from obtaining marriage licenses under California’s Proposition 8.

The plaintiffs’ legal team, headed by former Bush v. Gore antagonists Theodore Olson and David Boies, has demonstrated that no good reason exists for the denial of fundamental civil rights under Proposition 8. We support that position.

Although we serve, respectively, as president of a progressive and chairman of a libertarian think tank, we are not joining the foundation’s advisory board to present a "bipartisan" front. Rather, we have come together in a nonpartisan fashion because the principle of equality before the law transcends the left-right divide and cuts to the core of our nation’s character. This is not about politics; it’s about an indispensable right vested in all Americans.

Over more than two centuries, minorities in America have gradually experienced greater freedom and been subjected to fewer discriminatory laws. But that process unfolded with great difficulty.

As the country evolved, the meaning of one small word — "all" — has evolved as well. Our nation’s Founders reaffirmed in the Declaration of Independence the self-evident truth that "all Men are created equal," and our Pledge of Allegiance concludes with the simple and definitive words "liberty and justice for all." Still, we have struggled mightily since our independence, often through our courts, to ensure that liberty and justice is truly available to all Americans.

Thanks to the genius of our Framers, who separated power among three branches of government, our courts have been able to take the lead — standing up to enforce equal protection, as demanded by the Constitution — even when the executive and legislative branches, and often the public as well, were unwilling to confront wrongful discrimination.

Indeed, the Supreme Court issued its Loving ruling in the face of widespread opposition. A Gallup poll taken within months of the decision found that ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

US Catholic Bishops strongly in favor of discrimination

with 7 comments

Yeah, it shocks me, too. But then perhaps the Catholic Bishops know a secret verse in the New Testament in which  Jesus said, “Hate those who are not like you, and persecute them everywhere, and do not let them find jobs so that they suffer. It pleases me when people are made to suffer because they are different.”

Take a look at a letter objecting to the Bishops efforts to ensure that we can still discriminate against certain people and deny them jobs, housing, and the like.

I’m hoping that the Catholic church in America fail utterly rather than a little at a time.

Well, I am sure that the Catholic church does some good, but the American Bishops do their best to fight that.

UPDATE: I do understand that homosexuality is a mortal sin under church doctrine, something specifically forbidden—like, say, divorce, or using birth control. I want the Bishops to come out and say that persons who have been divorced can be discriminated against freely. But they don’t. Why not?

UPDATE: I have corrected the link, which previously took one to a youtube video of Plato’s Cave in the Republic (not totally irrelevant, but not the link I wanted).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:50 pm

Plato’s Cave in Book VII of the Republic

with 4 comments

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Pheasant under glass

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When I was growing up, pheasant under glass was know nationally as the ultimate in high-class dining. The phrase was freely used in radio programs, daily conversation, and writing. Last night I got to wondering what the heck it is?

It’s hard to find.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

100,000 barrels of oil a day spewed into Gulf

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That’s 1 million barrels of oil every 10 days. This disaster should sink BP altogether. Renee Schoof and Erika Bolstad report for McClatchy:

BP’s runaway Deepwater Horizon well may be spewing what the company once-called its worst case scenario — 100,000 barrels a day, a member of the government panel told McClatchy Monday.

"In the data I’ve seen, there’s nothing inconsistent with BP’s worst case scenario," Ira Leifer, an associate researcher at the Marine Science Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a member of the government’s Flow Rate Technical Group, told McClatchy.

Leifer said that based on satellite data he’s examined, the rate of flow from the well has been increasing over time, especially since BP’s "top kill" effort failed last month to stanch the flow. The decision last week to sever the well’s damaged riser pipe from the its blowout preventer in order to install a "top hat" containment device has increased the flow still more _ far more, Leifer said, than the 20 percent that BP and the Obama administration predicted.

Leifer noted that BP had estimated before the April 20 explosion that caused the leak that a freely flowing pipe from the well would release 100,000 barrels of oil a day in the worst-case scenario.

The oil was not freely flowing before the top kill or before they cut the pipe, Leifer said, but once the riser pipe was cleared, there was little blocking the oil’s rise to the top of the blowout preventer. Video images confirm that the flow of black oil is unimpeded.

"If the pipe behaved as a worst-case estimate you would have no visual change in the flow, and I don’t see any obvious visual change," Leifer said. "How much larger I don’t know but let’s just quote BP."

How much oil is gushing from the well has been the subject of heated debate for weeks, with independent scientists suggesting that as much as 95,000 barrels could be gushing into the Gulf of Mexico each day. For more than a month BP and the Obama administration placed the figure at 5,000 barrels a day…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:41 pm

The endless buying of the GOP

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Don’t you get tired of the GOP? Lee Fang at ThinkProgress gives another example of almost-criminal behavior:

This afternoon, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) held a press conference to tout her “Dirty Air Act” resolution that rolls back the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. As Climate Progress has detailed, Murkowski’s bill was drafted in consultation with Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Roger R. Martella Jr — lobbyists for the coal and oil industry. Despite this fact, Murkowski has tried to downplay the influence of big oil on her efforts, claiming only her staff writes her actual amendments, and that she is motivated purely by the fear of “detrimental consequences” of Clean Air Act regulations.

But Murkowski’s own words help to clarify her relationship with the oil industry. In a startling speech given to the Oil and Gas Association Board of Directors on May 7, 2008, Murkowski asked the oil industry to “mobilize all your resources” for a massive campaign to “beat back bad legislation and regulations.” To combat “the growing hysteria over fossil fuel use,” Murkowski suggested that the oil industry “fund a major campaign to open areas of America to environmentally sensitive oil and gas exploration.” Murkowski commended the oil industry for “fight[ing] off efforts” to “add more red tape to gain drilling permits” and made clear that although she is facing “considerable and growing opposition” from Alaskan fishermen and whalers, her allegiance is with the oil industry in opening new drilling.

But possibly the most stunning statement was Murkowski’s claim that “new technology makes Santa Barbara wellhead blowouts impossible,” and that the oil industry should publicize this claim to the public in pushing for more drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, in the Gulf of Mexico, off Florida’s shores, and elsewhere. Of course, BP’s oil spill disaster appears to have been caused by problems with the wellhead blowout preventer technology, which Murkowski said was impossible:

“In the past six months you have had to fight off efforts to single out multinational oil producers for nearly $18 billion in tax hikes. You have had to fight off a host of proposals in last year’s House energy bill to restrict access to federal lands, add more red tape to gain drilling permits, and fight off efforts to take away your oil and gas leases.[...] A major campaign to explain directional drilling and how it prevents surface disruption over a hundred square miles, how new technology makes Santa Barbara wellhead blowouts impossible [...] But I am here to also encourage your industry to come out of the foxholes and to fully join the battle. Because it is clear that if you don’t mobilize all your resources, no one else is going to be successful in delivering the message that we need a balanced, rational energy policy in this country, and we need it right now.”

Today, ThinkProgress spoke to Robert Dillon, Murkowski’s Communications Director at the Senate Energy Committee, about his boss’s 2008 speech. Dillon explained to ThinkProgress that BP’s oil disaster was not a result of a lack of regulation, but merely a lack of enforcement of existing regulations, and that Murkowski opposes “imposing regulations, more bureaucratic regulations and red tape” on the oil industry. When ThinkProgress pressed Dillon if that means Murkowski would oppose new regulations in the wake of BP’s oil spill, he ironically said no.

Transcript of Dillon’s comments below:

TP: In 2008, Senator Murkowski gave a speech to the executive committee of the U.S. Oil and Gas Association board of directors. And she praised the committee and said, this is a quote, “you have had to fight off efforts to single out multinational oil producers for nearly $18 billion in tax hikes. You have had to fight off a host of proposals in last year’s House energy bill to restrict access to federal lands, add more red tape to gain drilling permits, and fight off efforts to take away your oil and gas leases.” Do you think the Senator regrets praising the oil industry for fighting regulations and red tape.

DILLON: You’ve got a double edged sword here, you’ve got these companies the energy that we use for our national security right. Senator Murkowski supports the strictest environmental safety regulations and holding these companies fully accountable. [...]

TP: Now, we have this disaster in the Gulf that seems to have occurred because there were lax regulations on BP’s oil rig, you know, people weren’t inspecting the blowout protector and other things that could have prevented this tragedy–

DILLON: Yeah but those were regulations that weren’t enforced. That’s a big difference from saying than saying there could have been– I mean Senator Murkowski is saying, you know in that speech, imposing regulations, more bureaucratic regulations and red tape, piling it on, isn’t necessarily a good thing. But that’s completely different from saying we should be enforcing what is already on the books. And the problem we have here is you have things not being enforced, they didn’t follow the procedures that were already in place. And a lot of the problems is not living up to the standards already set–

TP: So, the Senator’s position is, we don’t need new regulations, just enforce the regulations that are already on the books?

DILLON: No, no, no, not fully. I’m saying, you’re talking about this speech, right. Obviously Senator Murkowski has said now, we need to review, she supports the administration’s review, she supports the time out in Alaska. She doesn’t support in shallow water, but she does support the review, the six month review. And she fully, has said repeatedly, that we are going to need to strengthen our safety regulations and we are going to see new regulations come out of that.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:38 pm

Secondhand smoke linked to mental distress

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I can see it now: Smokers are already saying, "The study is flawed." But perhaps we should read more. Bruce Bower in Science News:

Where there’s secondhand cigarette smoke, there’s emotional fire. As exposure to cigarette fumes increases among nonsmokers, so does their risk of developing serious psychological distress and of being hospitalized for mental ailments, a new study finds.

Cigarette smokers have been shown to have more psychological problems than nonsmokers do, and new evidence suggests that nonsmokers who inhale high levels of secondhand smoke may experience nearly as much psychological distress as smokers, say epidemiologist Mark Hamer of University College London and his colleagues. Overall, these findings support the view, largely based on animal studies, that nicotine administered in large enough doses can induce sadness and other negative moods, the researchers propose in the August Archives of General Psychiatry.

“Our data are preliminary, but there is a strong possibility that the observed association reflects a causal link,” Hamer says.

Previous research suggests that nicotine alters mood by disrupting immune responses, stress-hormone regulation and the transmission of dopamine, a chemical messenger in the brain. But little is known about nicotine’s possible relationship to specific psychiatric disorders.

The link between nicotine exposure and mood held up after statistically accounting for participants’ social status, alcohol use, physical activity level, body mass index, chronic physical illness, level of psychological distress upon entering the study and previous hospitalizations for mental illness.

A related study, published in the January Psychosomatic Medicine, found an increased risk for depression symptoms among nonsmokers exposed to modest or greater levels of secondhand smoke. A team led by epidemiologist David J. Lee of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine examined data from a 2005–2006 survey of nearly 3,000 U.S. adults.

Given widespread exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, further research on its relation to mental health is warranted, Hamer asserts. A 2006 federal report estimated that 60 percent of nonsmokers in the United States display biological signs of having ingested at least low levels of nicotine via cigarette smoke.

Despite Hamer’s new evidence, scientists cannot rule out that people who experience especially stressful home and work lives are also most likely to encounter secondhand smoke and to develop serious psychological problems, Lee remarks. One promising research direction would be to examine whether policies that ban smoking in public or on the job lead to reductions in depression, anxiety and psychiatric hospitalizations, he says.

Hamer’s team studied 5,560 nonsmokers and 2,595 smokers, with average ages in the mid- to late 40s. Participants came from a nationally representative sample in Scotland that was surveyed in 1998 and 2003 about a variety of health issues. Volunteers completed a 12-item questionnaire that measured psychological distress by inquiring about sleep problems, general levels of happiness and symptoms of depression and anxiety in the previous month…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 1:14 pm

Watching torture become normal in the US

with 3 comments

Jonathan Bernstein in Salon:

I haven’t yet commented on George W. Bush’s remarks on torture this past week, because I can’t really find much to say but how sad it is, at least for those who don’t want to see torture eventually emerging as explicit American policy. In other words, I agree completely with Andrew Sullivan:

To place the full weight of the presidency behind war crimes is sign of where this country is…This remains a live issue. A future Republican president will almost certainly now embrace torture as integral to American values and law.

I will disagree with Sullivan on one thing. He refers to his own attempt to convince Bush to repudiate torture as "sad," by which I guess he means hopeless, or sadly naive. I disagree.  Sullivan’s open letter to Bush was, in my view, noble — an honest attempt to engage with a president who was as apt to say "we don’t torture" as he was to authorize torture. If you haven’t read Sullivan’s letter, you really should. I believed, as Sullivan I think believed, that Bush meant it, both ways, and that it was at least possible that on reflection the "we do not torture" side would win out. That’s why I’ve advocated pardon-plus-commission; I think that it’s very possible that quite a few people involved may believe that torture was a mistake, but that they’ll never say that publicly as long as they, or the people they worked with, could go to jail.

But Bush, at least, doesn’t seem to be headed in the "we do not torture" direction. And I do think that without him, it would be very difficult to move the Republican Party on this issue. The only other hope is that an explicitly pro-torture presidential candidate gets clobbered — which certainly is a plausible scenario  in 2012 — but even then, it’s more likely that the Rush Limbaughs and Marc Thiessens of the world would interpret such an event as a sign that the candidate wasn’t sufficiently strident on the issue. There are to be sure quite a few conservatives who oppose torture, but fewer and fewer of them are candidates for elective office. Barring something new (and Bush could still flip, after all), I think a pro-torture candidate and platform is virtually certain for the GOP in 2012. And we know how the nomination process works (in both parties): candidates who are in reality basically similar in their positions on public policy are driven to differentiate themselves by taking high-profile extreme positions on symbolic, highly visible issues.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 10:39 am

Bush’s Glib Waterboarding Admission Sparks Outrage

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I think that Bush’s remark about the torture reminded everyone that the perpetrators in the Bush-Cheney Administration (many of whom are also in the Obama Administration) are being protected from investigation, prosecution, and justice by Barack Obama’s decision to cover everything up. But, as he’s discovering, murder will out—and so will torture. Turning a blind eye to the misdeeds and abandoning the rule of law is not the right way to address the issue, but certainly Obama and Holder are happy with it (though not so happy as, say, Bybee, Yoo, Addington, Cheney, Bush, and others).

I simply do not understand Obama and Holder on this. They were not elected to provide protection for miscreants.

Dan Froomkin has a good comment at Huffington Post:

George W. Bush’s casual acknowledgment Wednesday that he had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded — and would do it again — has horrified some former military and intelligence officials who argue that the former president doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he is admitting.

Waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, is "unequivocally torture", said retired Brigadier General David R. Irvine, a former strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner of war interrogation and military law for 18 years.

"As a nation, we have historically prosecuted it as such, going back to the time of the Spanish-American War," Irvine said. "Moreover, it cannot be demonstrated that any use of waterboarding by U.S. personnel in recent years has saved a single American life."

Irvine told the Huffington Post that Bush doesn’t appreciate how much harm his countenancing of torture has done to his country.

"Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," Bush told a Grand Rapids audience Wednesday, of the self-professed 9/11 mastermind. "I’d do it again to save lives."

But, Irvine said: "When he decided to do it the first time, he launched the nation down a disastrous road, and we will continue to pay dearly for the damage his decision has caused.

"We are seen by the rest of the world as having abandoned our commitment to international law. We have forfeited enormous amounts of moral leadership as the world’s sole remaining superpower. And it puts American troops in greater danger — and unnecessary danger."

James P. Cullen, a retired brigadier general in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps, told HuffPost that the net effect of Bush’s remarks — and former Vice President Cheney’s before him — is "to establish a precedent where it will be permissible to our enemies to use waterboarding on our servicemen in future wars.

Cheney famously once agreed with an interviewer that "a dunk in the water" was "no-brainer" if it saves lives.

"This is not the last war we’re going to fight," Cullen said. "Americans not yet born are going to be prisoners of war in those conflicts. And our enemies are going to be able to point back to President Bush and Vice President Cheney saying that waterboarding is OK.

"It’s just shocking to me how he can be so flip about something that is so serious," Cullen said.

Matthew Alexander, the pseudonymous former Air Force interrogator and author of "How To Break A Terrorist" e-mailed HuffPost that Bush’s statement "is de facto approval of the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of American soldiers in Iraq who were killed by foreign fighters that Al Qaida recruited based on the President’s policy of torture and abuse of detainees.

"At least now we know where the blame for those soldiers’ deaths squarely belongs. President Bush’s decision broke with a military tradition dating back to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War and the consequences are clear: Al Qaida is stronger and our country is less safe."

Cullen and Irvine are among 15 former military and intelligence officials currently working with Human Rights First in Pennsylvania, meeting with congressional candidates from both parties to help inform them about issues of prisoner treatment and interrogation.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 10:37 am

Tasty slaw

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This one sounds quite good. The warning at the link: Eat the slaw the same day it’s made—after a night in the refrigerator, it loses a lot.

Mexican Slaw

  • 1/2 small red cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small green cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup grated jicama (use large holes on a box grater)
  • 2 serrano peppers, or one jalapeño, minced
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • Pinch cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Serve.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 10:25 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

My Healthy Way progress

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Yesterday was my first day on the full Monty. This first week is a special introductory diet, to set one up for the body composition analysis I’ll get on Friday. (I did sort of segue into it, beginning last week with the breakfast, then the full morning, then the lunch and afternoon, but only yesterday did I do everything, including dinner, according to plan.)

This first week does not include an after-dinner snack, and I must say it felt odd to finish dinner and know that no more food was going into my mouth. It has some significant advantages: I can brush and floss immediately after dinner and not wait for bedtime. (And a good idea: the extra-clean mouth makes me disinclined to eat in any event.) As I watched a movie, I used my Butler GUM picks that the dental hygienist recommended—they go well with movie watching.

I gradually became aware of a sense of incompleteness: whenever I thought of getting up and going into the kitchen, I automatically readied myself for a bite of food. I realized that, after dinner, I really never stopped eating. Previously, I would continue to go into the kitchen (for a glass of water, say), and each trip meant one or two bites of food—leftovers from dinner or, if necessary, a look into the fridge with perhaps a bowl of yogurt with walnuts and little cereal.

To finish dinner and then simply STOP EATING: that was new. I can see where some of the excess fat came from.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 10:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food

Proraso, the summertime shaving cream

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Proraso shaving cream has a fair amount of menthol, so on a summer morning it’s cool and refreshing. The lather, as always, is excellent, helped along here by the Omega silvertip, which I love: big and puffy and a dynamite latherer.

My apologies to the commenter who requested the English Aristocrat razor: it totally slipped my mind, but I have the razor out already for tomorrow, so don’t abandon hope. The Pils caught my eye and did a very nice job with no nicks or burn. A splash of Proraso, and I’m on the way.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 June 2010 at 10:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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