Archive for August 2012
In an email from the Marijuana Policy Project:
Five years ago, Montana’s most outspoken medical marijuana patient — Robin Prosser — committed suicide after the DEA seized her medicine, making her life unbearable.
Now flash forward to this past Wednesday night, when the feds’ war on medical marijuana claimed another Montana citizen’s life …
Former medical marijuana provider Richard Flor died on Wednesday after suffering heart attacks and kidney failure about six months into his five-year federal sentence. Richard was sentenced despite suffering from diabetes, Hepatitis C, and osteoarthritis.
For months, the federal government failed to place him in a facility that could give him the medical care he needed — and that the judge recommended.
Richard was Montana’s first registered caregiver, under a law that MPP passed via voter initiative in November 2004. He was assisting his wife Sherry — who suffers from chronic pain and is allergic to pain medications — as well as other patients.
Richard believed President Obama and his Justice Department when they said that medical marijuana providers would not be a federal enforcement priority. So, in 2009, Richard co-founded Montana Cannabis, where patients could get reliable, safe access to their medicine. But then the feds suddenly shifted their policy in March 2011, targeting Montana Cannabis and several other providers without warning.
The feds didn’t spare Sherry, either: She is serving a two-year sentence.
Please email your U.S. House representative to ask them to pass legislation to give legal protection to medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and businesses in the 17 (and soon to be more) states and the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.
The broken promise—the promise that the Federal government would take no action against patients using medical marijuana and their dispensaries operating in accordance with state laws—is a war on people who are ill. Obama and Holder should be ashamed, but people who routinely break their promises seldom are.
I just made my first GOPM. It was a slight variation of “Thai Larb,” p. 112, in Elizabeth Yarnell’s cookbook. I used the Staub 2.25-qt. round cocotte. Layers, starting with the bottom:
1/3 cup converted rice
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
Layer of fat thin-sliced lemon, ends cut off, quartered and run through thin slicer of Cuisinart
Layer of a veggie/meat mixture dropped in but not packed: 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 1/2 tsp light brown sugar, 1 tsp minced jalapeno chile, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 scallions chopped, 1/2 red bell pepper diced, a little over 1/4 cup chopped mint, whisked together, then with 3/4 lb. ground pork forked and incorporated in.
1 cup snow peas cut in thirds
Pot filled at top with minced (Cuisinart) green cabbage
My most innovative part was adding the thinly sliced lemons and they really added to it. When I decided to just put the whole package of fresh mint in, which was pretty much more than a cup, I was afraid that would make it taste “too minty,” but it didn’t.
Author said to use 1/2 to 3/4 lb. ground meat and I wanted to use the lesser, but when I got the package out, it held 3/4 and I just didn’t want to store and use a 1/4 another time. I reversed her order of cabbage and snow peas at the top layers because I certainly wanted to use all my cup of snow peas and then the fill-in to the top could be the cabbage; that didn’t matter at all.
R. (The Bro-In-Law) can sometimes gripe if something is too spicy hot, so I strictly went along with her recipe, cutting off the end of a nice, fat jalapeno to mince out a tsp. and adding 1/8 tsp. of red pepper flakes. BUT I couldn’t taste any spicy heat in the dish at all and wished I’d used all that nice big jalapeno.
The verdict? Nowadays it’s a compliment from R. if he just eats all his meal, but last night, after a bite or two, he said, “This is interesting.” And later, “This is tasty.”
Half the pot is almost too filling for us though. I maybe filled up too much to finish my half and R. asked couldn’t finish all of his. So I just put his leftover in his bowl in the fridge. In a midnight raid, I came in and finished his off. It was good cold!
Making one’s first GOPM is sort of an adventure: it’s hard to believe that it will work—and that you can mix frozen foods (e.g., green beans, corn) in and still have everything come out right. But it really does work.
I find Yarnell’s recipes somewhat bland, but they’re easy to spice up. It occurred to me that in the recipe above, one could add a layer of peanuts (or some dollops of peanut butter) atop the meat, but in that case I would definitely use only 1/2 lb or even a little less.
Yarnell tends to cook 4 servings of rice (1 cup uncooked rice) for two meals, but it’s easy enough to simply use 2 servings (1/2 cup) or even a little less if you don’t want the carbs—1/3 cup, as shown above. I do the same: 1/3 cup seems plenty.
Bob Slaughter pointed out a brief (too brief, as he noted) discussion of a brain function that brought us language. Maria Popova notes in Brain Pickings:
In 2004, Noam Chomsky — pioneering MIT linguist, cognitive scientist, education guru, Occupy pamphleteer — sat down with McGill University professor James McGilvray to talk about the origin and purpose of language. In 2009, the two reconvened to discuss how half a decade of scientific progress, including developments like “biolinguistics” and computational linguistics, has altered our understanding of the subject. Their fascinating conversations have now been gathered in The Science of Language (public library) — a fine addition to these essential books on language.
Rather than a gradual evolutionary progression, language, says Chomsky, developed incredibly rapidly somewhere between 100,000 and 60,000 years ago — an occurrence he calls “just an outburst of creative energy that somehow takes place in an instant of evolutionary time.” And even though we now know that there is no such thing as a first human being, this cognitive growth spurt could only be explained by some genetic modification that resulted from a small mutation that happened in a single person.
It looks as if — given the time involved — there was a sudden ‘great leap forward.’ Some small genetic modification somehow that rewired the brain slightly [and] made this human capacity available. And with it came an entire range of creative options that are available to humans within a theory of mind — a second-order theory of mind, so you know that somebody is trying to make you think what somebody else wants you to think.
Well, mutations take place in a person, not in a a group. We know, incidentally, that this was a very small breeding group — some little group of hominids in some corner of Africa, apparently. Somewhere in that group, some small mutation took place, leading to the great leap forward. It had to have happened in a single person.
But what, exactly, happened in our great linguistic grandmother or grandfather? Chomsky calls it Merge — a basic cognitive function that, in its simplest form, enables you to take two things and construct a thing that is the set of the two things. . .
Interesting note for beer drinkers by Jef Akst in The Scientist:
Beer drinkers in the United Kingdom are influenced by an optical illusion caused by the shape of a curved glass. According to a new study published this month (August 17) in PLoS ONE, certain glass shapes can actually make people down a beer more quickly, possibly contributing to the rising binge drinking problem in the U.K. that legislation has failed to control.
Different glass shapes can give the same volume of liquid the appearance of varying volumes, reasoned experimental psychologist Angela Attwood of the University of Bristol. So she and her colleagues set out to test how much glass shape affected beer drinkers’ intake. They tested 160 healthy young people, who were categorized as “social beer drinks,” not alcoholics, according to the standard WHO test for hazardous drinking. The researchers then asked each participant to drink one of two volumes of lager or soft drink—either 177 milliliters or 354 milliliters—from either a straight or curved glasses, while watching a nature documentary. At the end of each session, the participants performed a word search task, the purpose of which was merely to throw them off the true purpose of the study.
Reviewing the data, the researchers found that people drinking a full glass of beer from a curved glass drank significantly faster—in about 8 minutes, compared to the average 13 minutes it took people drinking from a straight glass. They found no differences in drinking time, however, between curved and straight glasses of half a beer.
According to Attwood, social beer drinkers naturally pace their drinking by judging how quickly they reach the halfway point. Because a curved glass holds more beer in the top half, it unconsciously motivates drinkers to speed up, reasons Attwood, who suggests a solution of marking beer glasses with a half-full line. “We can’t tell people not to drink, but we can give them a little more control,” she told ScienceNOW.
Paul Krugman in today’s NY Times:
Paul Ryan’s speech Wednesday night may have accomplished one good thing: It finally may have dispelled the myth that he is a Serious, Honest Conservative. Indeed, Mr. Ryan’s brazen dishonesty left even his critics breathless.
Some of his fibs were trivial but telling, like his suggestion that President Obama is responsible for a closed auto plant in his hometown, even though the plant closed before Mr. Obama took office. Others were infuriating, like his sanctimonious declaration that “the truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” This from a man proposing savage cuts in Medicaid, which would cause tens of millions of vulnerable Americans to lose health coverage.
And Mr. Ryan — who has proposed $4.3 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, versus only about $1.7 trillion in specific spending cuts — is still posing as a deficit hawk.
But Mr. Ryan’s big lie — and, yes, it deserves that designation — was his claim that “a Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare.” Actually, it would kill the program.
Before I get there, let me just mention that Mr. Ryan has now gone all-in on the party line that the president’s plan to trim Medicare expenses by around $700 billion over the next decade — savings achieved by paying less to insurance companies and hospitals, not by reducing benefits — is a terrible, terrible thing. Yet, just a few days ago, Mr. Ryan was still touting his own budget plan, which included those very same savings.
But back to the big lie. The Republican Party is now firmly committed to replacing Medicare with what we might call Vouchercare. The government would no longer pay your major medical bills; instead, it would give you a voucher that could be applied to the purchase of private insurance. And, if the voucher proved insufficient to buy decent coverage, hey, that would be your problem.
Moreover, the vouchers almost certainly would be inadequate; their value would be set by a formula taking no account of likely increases in health care costs.
Why would anyone think that this was a good idea? The G.O.P. platform says that it “will empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Indeed. Because those of us too young for Medicare just feel so personally empowered, you know, when dealing with insurance companies.
Still, wouldn’t private insurers reduce costs through the magic of the marketplace? . . .
The move is rushing toward me. I admit to being terrified, but I suppose it’s not really life-threatening. Still, it’s something I’ve not done for more than 20 years, and I still have a LOT of clutter compared to the space I’ll have once the move is done.
But: these things tend to work out over time. Still, blogging may be a bit off over the coming weeks. And the morning shave photo may be in abeyance for a while.
I was asked how the fragrance of Speick shaving soap (used yesterday) compared to Speick shaving cream, so that directed today’s choices. I went with the Simpson Emperor again, but the 2 instead of the 3, and once more enjoyed a fine lather and the comfortable handle of the Emperor brush.
Speick shaving cream’s fragrance is much more noticeable than the soap’s, whose fragrance is quite muted. The shaving cream has a good, strong, fresh fragrance and makes quite a wonderful lather. Good as the Speick soap is among soaps, I would say that Speick’s shaving cream stands relatively higher among shaving creams.
The iKon OSS with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade did its usual fine and comfortable job: three passes to perfection. A splash then of Specik aftershave and I’m ready and raring to go.
I had a good idea for a grub: the usual onion, garlic, and celery, augmented with a leek, a red bell pepper, three jalapeño peppers, and a zucchini, with pork, half a head of red cabbage, and a bunch of kale, with wild rice for the starch. All to the good, but then I diced a couple of apples and it became way too sweet. I like savory, and I think it would have been good without the apple. Oh, well: live and learn.
I really liked circular slide rules—I had one that was 8″ in diameter, which produced a VERY long scale compared to the regular slide rules. I just listed one on eBay, but it’s a pocket model and just chockablock with useful constants and tables (on the back and on a two-sided pull-out). Quite cute, but I think their day may have passed. As with the pocket chess set, modern technology offers other solutions. But I do like the little guy.
Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and co-author of White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You, has an interesting piece in the NY Times:
Top executives from global megabanks are usually very careful about how they defend both the continued existence, at current scale, of their organizations and the implicit subsidies they receive. They are willing to appear on television shows – and did so earlier this summer, pushing back against Sanford I. Weill, the former chief executive of Citigroup, after he said big banks should be broken up.
Typically, however, since the financial crisis of 2008 the heavyweights of the banking industry have stayed relatively silent on the key issue of whether there should be a hard cap on bank size.
This pattern has shifted in recent weeks, with moves on at least three fronts.
William B. Harrison Jr., the former chairman of JPMorgan Chase, was the first to stick out his neck, with an Op-Ed published in The New York Times. The Financial Services Roundtable has circulated two related e-mails “Myth: Some U.S. banks are too big” and “Myth: Breaking up banks is the only way to deal with ‘Too Big To Fail’” (these links are to versions on the Web site of Partnership for a Secure Financial Future, a group that also includes the Consumer Bankers Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Financial Services Institute).
Now Wayne Abernathy, executive vice president of the American Bankers Association, is weighing in – with a commentary on the American Banker Web site.
These views notwithstanding, mainstream Republican opinion is starting to shift against the megabanks, as former Treasury secretary Nicholas Brady makes clear in a strong opinion piece published in The Financial Times.
Mr. Brady was Treasury secretary under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever accused him of being any kind of leftist.
Yet Mr. Brady’s thinking in his Financial Times commentary is strikingly similar to the reasoning that motivated the Brown-Kaufman amendment (supported by 30 Democrats and three Republicans) in 2010, which would have put a hard cap on the size and leverage of our largest banks, i.e., how much an individual institution could borrow relative to the size of the economy. (See this analysis by Jeff Connaughton, who was chief of staff to Senator Ted Kaufman; Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, is still pushing hard on this same approach.)
Mr. Brady also stresses that . . .
I just received a message from CreateSpace confirming that the new (good) conversion will have the same ASIN as the earlier (poor) conversion, so that early purchasers will indeed be able to get the new version at no cost. They also wrote that the new version would be completed before 17 September, so things are looking good.
What a relief!
Dean Baker has a good column in the Huffington Post:
Recent trends in poverty rates should have the country furious at its leaders. When we get the data for 2011 next month, we are likely to see yet another uptick in poverty rates, reversing almost 50 years of economic progress. The percentage of people in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the poverty level, is likely to again hit an all-time high since the data has been collected.
The situation is made even worse by the fact that so many of those in poverty are children. In 2010, 27 percent of all children in the country were reported as living below the poverty level. For African-American children, the share in poverty is approaching 40 percent.
Many will blame the welfare reform law in 1996 that passed with bipartisan support. That is appropriate. This bill involved a great deal of political grandstanding and removed guarantees that could have protected millions of families in a severe downturn like what we are now seeing.
Advocates of this bill who now profess surprise at the result need to turn to a new line of work. There were plenty of people at the time who warned that the lack of federal guarantees could lead to severe hardship in an economic downturn. No one has a right to be surprised on this one. The surge in the poverty rate in a downturn like the present one was a predictable and predicted outcome of the legislation.
However, there is the other side of the story, the overall state of the economy, which is the more important cause of the increase in the poverty rate. The vast majority of the people in this country rely on work for the bulk of their income and that would also be true for the tens of millions of people in poverty, if work was available. These people cannot find jobs in today’s economy, or at least not full-time jobs that pay anything close to a living wage.
The reason why so many of these people cannot find jobs is . . .
Phillip Smith writes a very interesting review of a recent book on the high costs (beyond the money spent) of the War on Drugs. From the review:
. . . What is newsworthy about Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States is who has produced it. The authors, Nigel Inksterand Virginia Comolli, are, respectively the director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and a research analyst at that august institution. Not only that, Inkster is a veteran of the British Secret Intelligence Service who spent his last two years as the Assistant Chief and Director for Operations and Intelligence.
The IISS, which was founded to manage the Cold War for the West more than half a century ago, describes itself as “the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict.” With many former US and British government officials among its members, IISS very much is the establishment, an organ of the global security elite.
When the IISS says a policy has not only failed but has produced counterproductive results, governments tend to listen. Now, we have the IISS quite clearly and vehemently saying that drug prohibition has done both. And that’s what makes Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States so remarkable — not that we want to give short shrift to the cogent analysis in the book.
It is noteworthy that the authors also take on the international drug control bureaucracy based in UN agencies such as the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the Office on Drugs and Crime. They chide the INCB for not only failing to control the illicit drug traffic, but also with failing to uphold the other part of its mandate: ensuring an adequate supply of opiate-based pain medications. Noting that a handful of Western countries account for a staggering 80% or more of all opioid pain medication usage, Inskter and Comolli clearly think vast portions of the planet are not getting sufficient pain medications, and they blame the INCB. To be fair, though, they also acknowledge other obstacles to the effective treatment of pain in developing nations.
Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States is also useful for . . .
This article by Sabrina Richards in The Scientist adds more information to the NY Times report I blogged yesterday. For example:
Longevity differences aside, the two studies found remarkably similar health benefits of CR monkeys. Both found that monkeys on CR diets were less likely to develop tumors, showed reduced evidence of cardiovascular disease, and had better blood sugar control. Both studies have also found evidence that calorie restriction slows brain aging. The Wisconsin researchers found that age-related brain atrophy is lessened in CR monkeys, while the NIA group previously published that a CR regimen helps prevent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in macaques.
“I love the fact that in a lot of ways what we say really is the same,” said Ricki Colman, first author on the Wisconsin group’s 2009 paper. Colman pointed out that although CR-promoted longevity may get the most attention, possible health benefits are more important. “The point is not to live forever, but live a healthier life,” he said. “That’s what most people are after.”
A very interesting article in Jacobin by James Oakes:
On 6 November 1860, the six-year-old Republican Party elected its first president. During the tense crisis months that followed – the “secession winter” of 1860–61 – practically all observers believed that Lincoln and the Republicans would begin attacking slavery as soon as they took power.
Democrats in the North blamed the Republican Party for the entire sectional crisis. They accused Republicans of plotting to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition against direct federal attacks on slavery. Republicans would instead allegedly try to squeeze slavery to death indirectly, by abolishing it in the territories and in Washington DC, suppressing it in the high seas, and refusing federal enforcement of the Slave Laws. The first to succumb to the Republican program of “ultimate extinction,” Democrats charged, would be the border states where slavery was most vulnerable. For Northern Democrats, this is what caused the crisis; the Republicans were to blame for trying to get around the Constitution.
Southern secessionists said almost exactly the same thing. The Republicans supposedly intended to bypass the Constitution’s protections for slavery by surrounding the South with free states, free territories, and free waters. What Republicans called a “cordon of freedom,” secessionists denounced as an inflammatory circle of fire.
The Southern cooperationists – those who opposed immediate secession – agreed with the secessionists’ and Northern Democrats’ analysis of Republican intentions. But they argued that the only way the Republicans would actually have the power to act on those intentions was if the Southern states seceded. If the slave states remained within the Union, the Republicans would not have the majorities in Congress to adopt their antislavery policies. And if the South did secede, all bets would be off. The rebellious states would forfeit all the constitutional protections of slavery. The South would get something much worse than a cordon of freedom. It would get direct military intervention, leading to the immediate and uncompensated emancipation of the slaves.
The slaves themselves seem to have understood this. They took an unusual interest in the 1860 election and had high hopes for what Lincoln’s victory would mean. They assumed that Lincoln’s inauguration would lead to war, that war would bring on a Union invasion of the South, and that the invading Union army would free the slaves.
But to read what historians have been saying for decades is to conclude that all of these people – the Democrats, the secessionists, the cooperationists, and the slaves – were all wrong. The Northern Democrats were just demagogues. The secessionists were hysterical. And the slaves were, alas, sadly misguided.
Unwilling to take seriously what contemporaries were saying, historians have constructed a narrative of Emancipation and the Civil War that begins with the premise that Republicans came into the war with no intention of attacking slavery – indeed, that they disavowed any antislavery intentions. The narrative is designed to demonstrate the original premise, according to which everyone at the time was mistaken about what the Republicans intended to do. . .
Speick makes good stuff. The shave stick produces a fine lather, generated this morning by the Simpson Emperor 3 Super. The knot looks lopsided because of a crowded brush rack: it dried with the knot pressed against one side of the rack. But once wet, it straightened up and did a fine job. The Emperor handle is particularly nice, and I’ve not seen another brush with the same sort of grip.
The DLC Weber with an Astra Superior Platinum blade did a fine job. The DLC and the ARC definitely differ in the feel on the face, but both are comfortable and efficient in shaving. Three passes followed by a splash of Speick’s aftershave. Good start to the day.
And given the closeness of the relationship, this suggests that calorie restriction won’t do much for humans, either. Report in NY Times by Gina Kolata:
For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.
The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys that were put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.
Lab test results showed lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the male monkeys that started eating 30 percent fewer calories in old age, but not in the females. Males and females that were put on the diet when they were old had lower levels of triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease risk. Monkeys put on the diet when they were young or middle-aged did not get the same benefits, though they had less cancer. But the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally. Rafael de Cabo, lead author of the diet study, published online on Wednesday in the journal Nature, said he was surprised and disappointed that the underfed monkeys did not live longer. Like many other researchers on aging, he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.
But even that study had a question mark hanging over it. . .
I’ve been using up my collection of South River miso by making miso soup in my 1-pint mug: some instant dashi, a big tablespoon of miso, some Eden Organics Wakame Flakes, and juice of a lemon or half a lemon: not authentic, but tasty. The Dandelion-Leek miso makes a tasty broth, as does the Garlic Red Pepper.