Later On

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

Archive for November 10th, 2010

Fat struggle

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This morning I awoke and found that the pounds I lost with the plateau buster are back. I was very bummed out, but the Healthy Ways counselor helped.

First, the gain is totally explicable in looking at the food journal. I tend to celebrate with food (bad idea), and to celebrate the weight loss I cooked the Braised Chard with Chicken and Steel-Cut Oats—chicken thighs, skin on, browned in olive oil, with the oil used as well to cook the onions and garlic and be there in the oats and kale. Plus I had two portions over the course of the evening. Plus, since I had to use 1/2 cup white wine in the dish, I had an open bottle of wine, so two glasses of wine were consumed (one glass with each portion). Huh. Maybe all that has something to do with it.

Second, the key is obviously to control portion size—and that includes the number of portions. So I got out my kid’s plate again and will be using that for meals.

Third, I need low-calorie ways to celebrate. For starters, I bought three liters of sparkling mineral water at Whole Foods along with a bunch of limes and Meyer lemons. That will be a pleasant change.

Finally, even with portion control I will need to keep up aerobic exercise. I’m at 25 minutes nonstop on the Nordic Track cross-country ski machine. I’ll keep that up and on Sunday go to 30 minutes for a week. Ultimate goal is 45 minutes a day, something I’ve done before and isn’t bad at all if you have something to listen to. (After Robinson Crusoe, I have Dombey and Son queued up: the novels written to be read aloud seem to work best—no surprise.)

Again, it was tremendously helpful to be able to talk to a counselor instead of settling down into a blue funk.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

That helpless feeling

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How on earth do we stop this sort of thing?

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 11:03 am

Posted in Business, Government

Corruption of the courts

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We’ve seen corruption become overt in our Courts: Scalia socializing with Cheney when Cheney was part of a case Scalia was judging, Clarence Thomas’s wife’s fundraising activities, and now this by Sam Alito, reported at ThinkProgress by Lee Fang:

Last night, the American Spectator — a right-wing magazine known for its role in the “Arkansas Project,” a well-funded effort to invent stories with the goal of eventually impeaching President Clinton — held its annual gala fundraising event. The Spectator is more than merely an ideological outlet. Spectator publisher Al Regnery helps lead a secretive group of conservatives called the “Conservative Action Project,” formed after President Obama’s election, to help lobby for conservative legislative priorities, elect Republicans (the Conservative Action Project helped campaign against Democrat Bill Owens in NY-23), and block President Obama’s judicial appointments. The Spectator’s gala last night, with ticket prices/sponsorship levels ranging from $250 to $25,000, featured prominent Republicans like RNC chairman Michael Steele, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer (a major donor to Republican campaign committees and attack ad groups), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce board member and former Allied Capital CEO William Walton. Among the attendees toasting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the keynote speaker for the event, was Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito.

It’s not the first time Alito has attended the Spectator dinner. In 2008, Alito headlined the Spectator’s annual gala, helping to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the political magazine. According to Jay Homnick, a conservative who attended the 2008 Spectator gala, Alito spent much of his speech ripping then Vice President-elect Joe Biden as a serial plagiarizer.

As Alito entered the event last night, I approached the Justice and asked him why he thought it appropriate to attend a highly political fundraiser with the chairman of the Republican Party, given Alito’s position on the court. Alito appeared baffled, and replied, “it’s not important that I’m here.” “But,” I said, “you also helped headline this same event two years ago, obviously helping to raise political money as the keynote.” Alito replied curtly, “it’s not important,” before walking away from me.

After the gala, I again tried to approach Justice Alito — this time, with a video camera in hand — to ask him about the ethical issues raised by his right-wing political fundraising. Before I could come close to him, his security guards threatened me with arrest. Watch it:

Apparently, Alito is a regular benefactor for highly political conservative fundraisers. Last year, he headlined the fundraising dinner for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) — the same corporate front that funded the rise of Republican dirty trickster James O’Keefe and anti-masturbation activist Christine O’Donnell. According to the sponsorship levels for the event, Alito helped ISI raise $70,000 or more.

Documents exposed by ThinkProgress last month revealed that Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas have also attended secret political fundraisers. We published a memo detailing fundraising events, organized by oil billionaires David and Charles Koch, to fund Republican campaigns, judicial elections, and groups running ads in the 2010 midterm election. The fundraisers, attended by some of the nation’s wealthiest bankers, industrialists, and other executives, help fund much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo stated the Thomas and Alito were past participants of the Koch fundraisers. Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress’ resident legal expert, noted:

A Supreme Court justice lending a hand to a political fundraising event would be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, if it wasn’t for the fact that the nine justices have exempted themselves from much of the ethical rules governing all other federal judges. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court tells ThinkProgress that “[t]he Justices look to the Code of Conduct for guidance” in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities.

That Code provides that in almost all circumstances, “a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.”

While justices like Alito, Thomas, and Scalia have actively participated in highly political pro-Republican fundraisers, their rulings are increasingly in favor of the corporate right. Last month, a new study found that the Supreme Court has lurched to the far, corporate right in recent years. It found that a “cohesive” conservative majority of Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Scalia and Kennedy favored the position of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest big business lobby, over 80% of the time.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 11:00 am

Posted in Government, Law

Another example of America’s descent

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Ed Brayton:

Here’s an appalling truth revealed by the latest Gallup poll on capital punishment:

The use of the death penalty has been declining worldwide, with most of the known executions now carried out in five countries — China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Anti-death penalty groups in the U.S. continue to fight the use of the death penalty, particularly when there are high-profile instances of its use, such as this year’s execution in Virginia of Teresa Lewis, the first woman to be executed in that state in almost 100 years. Despite this, Gallup’s latest update in October shows no diminution in the strong majority level of support for the death penalty in cases of murder within the U.S.

Iran, Iraq, China and Saudi Arabia — good partners to have when it comes to justice and due process, aren’t they? Here’s something even crazier to add to that data. Another new poll shows that 83 percent of Americans believe that innocent people have been wrongly put to death in this country and only 6 percent believe it hasn’t happened — and they still support the death penalty.

I don’t have a moral problem with the death penalty. I do have a moral problem with using the death penalty given the innumerable ways that our criminal justice system is, in fact, unjust and unfair and unequal in the justice it metes out. In a system where even 25% of the confessions turn out to be false, there is no way in hell we should be putting anyone to death.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 10:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Foreclosures and the Rule of Law

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Frank Pasquale has an interesting post at Balkinization:

Is the US becoming a third world nation? Arianna Huffington’s recent book makes the case, arguing that crumbling infrastructure and vast inequality herald a new era of unaccountable elites. She argues that “our financial system [has] become a bad carnival game where the rich always get the grand prize and the average American walks away empty-handed.”

Matt Taibbi directly connects financialization with the decline of common infrastructure in his new book, Griftopia. He describes a litany of roads and bridges “already leased or set to be leased for fifty or seventy-five years or more in exchange for one-off lump sum payments of a few billion bucks at best, usually just to help patch a hole or two in a single budget year.” Taibbi says the process is “stripping wealth out of the heart of the country,” reminiscent of the extractive industries of Nigeria or Equatorial Guinea. Even the New York Times‘s moderates are finding the US uncomfortably close to a “banana republic,” with Nicholas Kristof concluding that “You no longer need to travel to distant and dangerous countries to observe . . . rapacious inequality. We now have it right here at home.”

Attorneys have a difficult time coming to grips with this new political economy. Many wholeheartedly believe that today’s chief executives deserve to make four or five hundred times the average worker’s wages (rather than the roughly fifty-fold multiple prevalent in 1980 America, and elsewhere in the world today). Perhaps the nation’s richest 1 percent in some sense deserves to have captured 80% of the increase in income from 1980 to 2005. These are moral claims that cannot be conclusively proven or disproven.

But we as attorneys can at least insist on a common rule of law for all. And that’s what our legal system has grievously failed to provide during the foreclosure crisis. As the indisputably pro-market Jonathan Macey notes, “the banks have created significant legal exposure for themselves ‘by committing fraud upon the courts.'” And yet the first thing our Congress could think to do was to endorse legal cover for them, as eagerly as it retroactively immunized warrantless wiretapping.

Was that merely a case where the grandeur of “democracy” deserved to trump punctilious formalism? Had it occurred in isolation, perhaps. But coming after a long line of bailouts, megabonuses, and the refusal of big banks to play even their basic utility role in our economy, it is inexcusable. As Joseph Stiglitz explains, . . .

Continue reading. See also this post. And also this post on cultures of impunity.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 10:55 am

Chronic pain: A disease in its own right

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Harriet Hall has an interesting post at Science-Based Medicine:

Melanie Thernstrom has written a superb book based on a historical, philosophical, and scientific review of pain: The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, Healing, and the Science of Suffering. Herself a victim of chronic pain, she brings a personal perspective to the subject and also includes informative vignettes of doctors and patients she encountered at the many pain clinics she visited in her investigations. She shows that medical treatment of pain is suboptimal because most doctors have not yet incorporated recent scientific discoveries into their thinking, discoveries indicating that chronic pain is a disease in its own right, a state of pathological pain sensitivity.

Chronic pain often outlives its original causes, worsens over time, and takes on a puzzling life of its own… there is increasing evidence that over time, untreated pain eventually rewrites the central nervous system, causing pathological changes to the brain and spinal cord, and that these in turn cause greater pain. Even more disturbingly, recent evidence suggests that prolonged pain actually damages parts of the brain, including those involved in cognition.

Sometimes the original problem creates new ones as the patient distorts posture and avoids exercise in an attempt to reduce the pain.  In chronic pain, the protective mechanism of avoidance becomes maladaptive. Muscles atrophy from disuse and new sources of pain develop. Jerome Groopman, MD, in The Anatomy of Hope, told how he conquered years of chronic back pain by realizing that his pain was not a warning to avoid further damage but a false message that he could refuse to listen to; with exercise and physical therapy he rebuilt his muscles and became pain-free.

Dr. John Sarno believes that chronic musculoskeletal pain is a manifestation of “tension myositis syndrome” due to repressed negative emotions. He recommends renouncing all treatments, accepting that pain is only in the mind, and resuming normal activities. I don’t accept his psychosomatic premise, but there is a grain of truth in his method. If patients can re-frame their thinking and resume normal activities despite the pain, they are more likely to improve than if they maintain the self-image of a sick, disabled victim. [I just watched The Secret Garden, which has that as its theme. – LG]

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 10:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Royal Society: “There are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record.”

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We as a species are working hard to destroy our habitat—and we are succeeding. (But, of course, John Shimkus, the Republican who is aiming for chairmanship of the Energy Committee in the House believes that God has promised everything will be okay (see this video and this post by Juan Cole). Somehow, I do not find that reassuring—quite the contrary, in fact.)

Joe Romm blogs:

A special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Science) — “Biological diversity in a changing world” — paints a bleak picture of what Homo ’sapiens’ sapiens is doing to the other species on the planet.

Prior to this year, I wrote about extinction only occasionally — since the direct impact of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions on humanity seemed to me more than reason enough to act.  But the mass extinctions we are causing will directly harm our children and grandchildren as much as sea level rise.  In particular, I believe scientists have not been talking enough about the devastation we are causing to marine life (see “Geological Society: Acidifying oceans spell marine biological meltdown “by end of century”).

In 2007, the IPCC warned that “as global average temperature increase exceeds about 3.5°C [relative to 1980 to 1999], model projections suggest significant extinctions (40-70% of species assessed) around the globe.”  That is a temperature rise over pre-industrial levels of a bit more than 4.0°C.  So the 5°C rise we are facing on our current emissions path would likely put extinctions beyond the high end of that range.

Given the irreversibility of mass extinction, and the multiple unintended consequences it engenders, it must be considered one of the most serious of the many catastrophic impacts we face if we don’t act soon.

The special issue contains 16 articles by leading scientists.  The abstracts are all online as is the lead piece, also titled, “Biological diversity in a changing world,” by the two biologists who organized the Royal Society’s scientific “Discussion Meeting” and edited the issue.

The authors, Magurran and Dornelas, note that “there are very strong indications that the current rate of species extinctions far exceeds anything in the fossil record,” and conclude that while extinctions are inevitable:

It is the mass extinction currently underway, caused by overexploitation of natural resources, that needs to worry us. Similarly, environmental change has always been prevalent, and has helped shape biodiversity patterns of today. In contrast, never before has a single species driven such profound changes to the habitats, composition and climate of the planet….

As for the oceans, famed oceanographer and ecologist Jeremy Jackson, concludes in his article, “The future of the oceans past“:

Major macroevolutionary events in the history of t he oceans are linked to changes in oceanographic conditions and environments on regional to global scales.  Even small changes in climate and productivity, such as those that occurred after the rise of the Isthmus of Panama, caused major changes in Caribbean coastal ecosystems and mass extinctions of major taxa. In contrast, massive influxes of carbon at the end of the Palaeocene caused intense global warming, ocean acidification, mass extinction throughout the deep sea and the worldwide disappearance of coral reefs. Today, overfishing, pollution and increases in greenhouse gases are causing comparably great changes to ocean environments and ecosystems. Some of these changes are potentially reversible on very short time scales, but warming and ocean acidification will intensify before they decline even with immediate reduction in emissions. There is an urgent need for immediate and decisive conservation action. Otherwise, another great mass extinctio1n affecting all ocean ecosystems and comparable to the upheavals of the geological past appears inevitable.

Jackson is the director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Our ongoing efforts to wipe out sea life may lack the media-grabbing pizzazz of a Titanic oil spill, but it does not lack the punch (see Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”).

As Jackson explains in his 18-minute TED talk,”How we wrecked the ocean”: . . .

Continue reading. In the meantime, the GOP is amassing lies to prevent any action being taken. The truth will overwhelm them in time, but by then it will be too late.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 November 2010 at 10:44 am

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