Later On

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

Archive for January 2007

High-fiber food bars

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They actually look pretty good. Via Vegan Lunch Box. I think I’ll try them.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

The new US Iron Curtain

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Travelers being “detained” and “questioned”—increasingly the US is becoming like the old Soviet Union. I commented earlier about the Political Commissars the US is putting into place. Now, “Your papers, please.”

“Why are you travelling so often to Canada?” the tough U.S. border guard barked. I was on Amtrak, going from New York to Montreal, as I’d done dozen of times before over several decades. This was my first experience (summer 2006) of the increasingly standard and intrusive “U.S. Exit Interviews” on trains crossing the border.

I’ve been hassled on every train crossing since then, most recently January 2007. The U.S. now has a combined FBI-compiled file of all arrests and charges at all government levels for millions of Americans, and this is instantly viewable by police in many jurisdictions, including border officials of the U.S. and most other countries. In some cities, local police can access this file via one’s license plate. The files do NOT show the favorable disposition of arrests that did not lead to charges or of dismissals and findings of innocence. “And what’s this entry stamp from Canada, with no country of departure? Was that from Cuba? You know U.S. citizens may not travel to Cuba—you could be imprisoned and fined.”

This line of questioning has been part of every exit interview since. The first time, the guard took my passport and kept it for about 30 minutes. Others—Canadians and foreigners as well as U.S. citizens—were getting similar queries, but mine took much longer. “We’ll let the Canadians handle this,” the guard said as he handed back the passport. Moments later, across the border, I heard a Quebecois immigration agent tell her colleague, gesturing at me, “He’s the one.” She, too, took my passport for quite awhile. “She came back with information from my FBI file—I have a long record of political arrests from civil rights and anti-war actions. The Canadians said the FBI file showed a conviction in 1970 for a draft-board sit-in. The agent said I would be admitted only for two weeks and could not re-enter until my file was fully investigated. She told me she understood the conviction was for a political act with which “Canada agreed at the time,” but said the Canadians had an agreement with the U.S. to investigate such cases.

Two weeks after I returned from Canada, the Canadian immigration agent called me: “We have fully investigated your dossier—you have been approved and are welcome to return when you wish.” Since that time, I continue to be hassled by the U.S. “exit” police, but I am always dealt with quickly and politely by the Canadians. It is clear from my experience—as well as that of U.S. Green Party and peace activists barred from entering Canada during anti-globalization demonstrations two years ago, that a million or more former peaceniks and other radicals will now see more and more attempts to keep them at home.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 9:10 pm

Cool tea blog and book

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Pointed out by reader DF, the blog T Ching looks like a very good blog about tea. The Younger Daughter is an avid tea drinker and will enjoy this.

One of the blog’s contributors is James Norwood Pratt, who has a regular post “Tuesday’s [sic] with Norwood.”

James Norwood Pratt published his first book on tea in 1982 and is widely acknowledged as an instigator and prophet of America’s present tea renaissance. With numerous columns, articles and interviews in overseas tea periodicals and books which have been translated into French, German, Czech and Chinese, he is perhaps the world’s most widely read author on the subject today. He was made Honorary Director of America’s first traditional Chinese tea house, was instrumental in creating APTI (precursor of the current Specialty Tea Institute), has been editor-in-chief of two tea magazines and leads tea tours to China and India. In 2005 he was chosen International Juror in India’s first-ever tea competition. His entertaining talks and tea classes reach growing audiences each year and James Norwood Pratt’s “New Tea Lover’s Treasury”, his now classic “bible of tea”, remains the most comprehensive compendium on tea in English. Besides his “International Tea Dictionary” for the tea trade, his works in progress include “All About Black Tea: For those who’ve given tea a thought but not a try.” T Ching will preview selected excerpts.

Some of his books: The Tea Lover’s Treasury; The New Tea Lover’s Treasury; The Wine Bibber’s Bible.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Books, Caffeine, Daily life

One reason I like California

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This story, for example:

A California lawmaker wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs as part of California’s groundbreaking initiatives to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

The “How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act” would ban incandescent lightbulbs by 2012 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

“Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications,” California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine said Tuesday.

“Meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light.” Levine is expected to introduce the legislation this week, his office said.

If passed, it would be another pioneering environmental effort in California, the most populous U.S. state. It became the first state to mandate cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, targeting a 25 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) use about 25 percent of the energy of conventional lightbulbs.

Many CFLs have a spiral shape, which was introduced in 1980. By 2005, about 100 million CFLs were sold in the United States, or about 5 percent of the 2-billion-lightbulb market, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

That number could more than double this year. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (Charts) alone wants to sell 100 million CFLs at its stores by the end of 2007, the world’s biggest retailer said in November.

While it will not give opinion on the possible California law, the EPA recommends CFLs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Environment, Government

Firefox command to open tab last closed

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From the redoubtable Gina Trapani:

The heavens opened and a bright warm light shone down today when I discovered the Firefox keyboard shortcut that re-opens the most recently closed tab: Ctrl-Shift-T. (Cmd-Shift-T for Mac users.)

This one ranks up there with Ctrl-T (new tab) and Ctrl+L (go to address bar). Our time together was short and clicky, but now it’s over between us, tab bar right-click menu. Fare thee well. — Gina Trapani

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Firefox, Software

A fiber that fights obesity

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From Science Daily:

It sounds almost too good to be true, but Dr. Raylene Reimer, a researcher at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Kinesiology, believes she may have found an important weapon in the war against obesity.

Reimer and her colleagues are launching the first human trials anywhere to assess a promising natural fiber, which has already been shown to be effective in tests involving genetically obese rats.

“It may not be the magic bullet,” Reimer says, “but in all likelihood this will likely be one factor that people can change in their life to help achieve a healthy body weight. It won’t cure obesity or cause people to drop half their body weight — not even our strongest obesity drugs can do that — but we believe it could help.”

The fiber is called oligo fructose. “It’s not a chemical or a drug. In fact it’s a food product that is already being used in things like yogurt, cereal and baby food. We have found in a previous study with rats that the fiber increases the levels of a satiety hormone called glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) in the body and increases a gene in the intestines that helps the body to create more GLP-1.”

In a study with genetically obese rats, Reimer and U of C PhD Student Jill Parnell found that consuming the natural fiber helped the rats to significantly reduce their food intake and improved their blood lipid profile.

The new study will involve human subjects for the first time. The researchers are looking for 50 overweight, but otherwise healthy individuals living in Calgary, Canada. The subjects would be required to take a dietary supplement over a three-month period while making no other lifestyle changes. Participants’ body composition will be tracked using cutting-edge technology to determine their body fat ratios.

“What we have found so far in our animal studies has been very encouraging,” says Reimer. “Another short study done by some Belgian researchers also indicates that the fiber will work for people, but we really won’t know until we complete this detailed, long-term study.”

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Two good posts at Cosmic Variance

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First, why are there fewer women chess grandmasters than men?

Second, why do people so often choose “17” when asked to pick a number between 1 and 20?

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Extremely cool movie

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Made by the Cassini spacecraft as it passes through the plane of Saturn’s rings, from the sunlit side to the dark side.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Science

More on Bush not supporting troops

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From ThinkProgress:

The Bush administration claims that any congressional resolution opposing escalation would hurt the morale of U.S. troops. “It would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops,” Vice President Cheney said last week.

Cheney should spend less time on non-binding resolutions and more on equipping our forces. An audit by the Pentagon’s Inspector General released to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) shows that U.S. soldiers have had to go without the necessary weapons, armor, vehicles, and equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan:

The Inspector General found that the Pentagon hasn’t been able to properly equip the soldiers it already has. Many have gone without enough guns, ammunition, and other necessary supplies to “effectively complete their missions” and have had to cancel or postpone some assignments while waiting for the proper gear, according to the report from auditors with the Defense Dept. Inspector General’s office. Soldiers have also found themselves short on body armor, armored vehicles, and communications equipment, among other things, auditors found.

“As a result, service members performed missions without the proper equipment, used informal procedures to obtain equipment and sustainment support, and canceled or postponed missions while waiting to receive equipment,” reads the executive summary dated Jan. 25. Service members often borrowed or traded with each other to get the needed supplies, according to the summary.

More bombshells are likely to come soon. Following a letter last year from Slaughter to the Pentagon, the Inspector General’s office reported two ongoing audits into the procurement of armored vehicles and body armor for American soldiers. “The results of those studies will be available in July and October of 2007, respectively,” Slaughter’s office says.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:49 pm

New report from the Libby trial

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More reports here.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:40 pm

How Bush approaches global warming

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He minimizes it:

Under its new Democratic chairman, Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform took on the Bush administration’s handling of climate change science yesterday, and even the Republicans on the panel had little good to say about the administration’s actions.

The subject of the hearing was accusations of administration interference with the work of government climate scientists. Almost to a person, Republicans on the panel introduced themselves by proclaiming their agreement that the earth’s climate was warming and that the principal culprit was greenhouse gases generated by people and their machinery.

And when witnesses spoke in defense of the administration, it was often to say only that there were still some scientists who doubted that climate view or that the administration’s approach was not unique.

“Cherry-picking” science to suit policy or political goals is at least as old as the Eisenhower administration, said Roger Pielke Jr., a professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado. The committee itself is guilty of it, he added, pointing to a news release linking rising ocean temperatures to bigger and more frequent coastal storms, something about which there is still debate.

But the other witnesses spoke about how the administration had delayed, altered or watered down the findings of government scientists, the kind of thing they said they had not experienced in the Clinton administration.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:34 pm

Bush the felon

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Via Dan Froomkin, an Op-Ed in the NY Times by James Bamford:

Last August, a federal judge found that the president of the United States broke the law, committed a serious felony and violated the Constitution. Had the president been an ordinary citizen — someone charged with bank robbery or income tax evasion — the wheels of justice would have immediately begun to turn. The F.B.I. would have conducted an investigation, a United States attorney’s office would have impaneled a grand jury and charges would have been brought.

But under the Bush Justice Department, no F.B.I. agents were ever dispatched to padlock White House files or knock on doors and no federal prosecutors ever opened a case.

The ruling was the result of a suit, in which I am one of the plaintiffs, brought against the National Security Agency by the American Civil Liberties Union. It was a response to revelations by this newspaper in December 2005 that the agency had been monitoring the phone calls and e-mail messages of Americans for more than four years without first obtaining warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In the past, even presidents were not above the law. When the F.B.I. turned up evidence during Watergate that Richard Nixon had obstructed justice by trying to cover up his involvement, a special prosecutor was named and a House committee recommended that the president be impeached.

And when an independent counsel found evidence that President Bill Clinton had committed perjury in the Monica Lewinsky case, the impeachment machinery again cranked into gear, with the spectacle of a Senate trial (which ended in acquittal).

Laws are broken, the federal government investigates, and the individuals involved — even if they’re presidents — are tried and, if found guilty, punished. That is the way it is supposed to work under our system of government. But not this time.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:31 pm

Empire vs. Democracy

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A very interesting post worth reading in full. Let me get you started:

History tells us that one of the most unstable political combinations is a country — like the United States today — that tries to be a domestic democracy and a foreign imperialist. Why this is so can be a very abstract subject. Perhaps the best way to offer my thoughts on this is to say a few words about my new book, Nemesis, and explain why I gave it the subtitle, “The Last Days of the American Republic.” Nemesis is the third book to have grown out of my research over the past eight years. I never set out to write a trilogy on our increasingly endangered democracy, but as I kept stumbling on ever more evidence of the legacy of the imperialist pressures we put on many other countries as well as the nature and size of our military empire, one book led to another.

Professionally, I am a specialist in the history and politics of East Asia. In 2000, I published Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, because my research on China, Japan, and the two Koreas persuaded me that our policies there would have serious future consequences. The book was noticed at the time, but only after 9/11 did the CIA term I adapted for the title — “blowback” — become a household word.

I had set out to explain how exactly our government came to be so hated around the world.

section break

As a CIA term of tradecraft, “blowback” does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to, and in, foreign countries. It refers specifically to retaliation for illegal operations carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. These operations have included the clandestine overthrow of governments various administrations did not like, the training of foreign militaries in the techniques of state terrorism, the rigging of elections in foreign countries, interference with the economic viability of countries that seemed to threaten the interests of influential American corporations, as well as the torture or assassination of selected foreigners. The fact that these actions were, at least originally, secret meant that when retaliation does come — as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 — the American public is incapable of putting the events in context. Not surprisingly, then, Americans tend to support speedy acts of revenge intended to punish the actual, or alleged, perpetrators. These moments of lashing out, of course, only prepare the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.

A World of Bases

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Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 4:09 pm

Bush still not supporting troops

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From TPMmuckraker:

Support our troops? Now there’s an idea. But according to a new Defense Department report, that’s one thing the administration isn’t doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Even as the president orders more troops to Iraq, the soldiers already serving there and in Afghanistan lack necessary body armor, communications equipment and other equipment, according to a report summary by the Pentagon’s Inspector General made public today.

Unfortunately, it’s anything but a complete accounting of the problem, thanks to restrictions by senior officers in the field.

Commanders put limitations on which soldiers could talk to inspectors and when they could be available, according to the summary, citing “scheduled operational missions, safety concerns, and availability of transportation.” So inspectors talked to “available Service members” who were approved by their superiors to speak — 1,100 of them. Furthermore, paperwork needed to confirm equipment issues wasn’t always provided to the auditors. “We were not able to validate testimonial evidence against documentation that either did not exist or was incomplete,” the reports says. You can read it here (pdf).

As a result, just how many and which troops are lacking the equipment isn’t clear from the summary, which was declassified and sent to Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) yesterday. The report remains classified. A spokesman for Slaughter said that she “intends to be briefed on the classified version of the report in the near future.”

The IG found that soldiers missing equipment and vehicles sometimes resorted to bartering — “informal procedures,” the report calls them — among themselves to get what they needed.

Business Week first reported the general findings of the summary yesterday.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 3:57 pm

Webb posturing?

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A comment to this post:

Well, Webb is posturing here, and he knows it. Basically, he is trying to tie the hands of the Administration to prevent it from taking any action to keep the Persian Fuhrer and his Revolutionary Guards Corps buddies from getting the atomic bomb. Rice was wise to demur, in order to give the Executive maximum freedom of action against a demonstrably hostile power. Recently, Central Command all but concluded that a unit trained by the IRGC’s Quds Force was responsible for the kidnapping and execution-style slayings of four of our officers in Karbala. The Iranians will be making several aggressive moves in the coming weeks to maintain their connections and status in Iraq.

What will become apparent for the Iranians, however, is the fact that the Iraqi Shi’a are Arab, while most of the Iranians are Persian. Iran’s grand strategy will founder on ethnicity, as ours has. Iraq is the burial ground of ambition. Ask Marcus Crassus.

Ahmadhi-Nejad is attempting to stay on the offensive while Bush is trying to keep the military option on the table. Were we to take the option off the table, Ahmadhi-Nejad’s position, relative to, say, Rafsanjani and other Tehran mafiosi, would strengthen. He is in no mood to compromise, surrounded as he is by “triumphalist” colonels and holding clients in the Council of Guardians. But his anger betrays weakness, something I don’t see too many Dems recognizing.

Rice is playing a very long game, and has successfully beaten back the “Faster Please” caucus surrounding Dick Cheney and, until recently, Don Rumsfeld. What liberals don’t appear to understand is that the U.S. has adopted a defensive posture, building an ethnic Arab coaliton to disrupt the Persian expansionism of the Ahmadhi-Nejad government. That’s what explains the buildup. The notion that we are going to war now, especially given the rising difficulties facing Ahmadhi-Nejad, is laughable.

For example, Hezbollah in Lebanon is in a lot worse shape politically than it was six months ago. It is generally regarded among the Sunnis as a Persian stooge, despite its success against the IDF (which was more apparent than real). Siniora is still in power in Beirut. Meantime, inflation and shortages have wrecked A/N’s popularity among the working classes in Iran itself.

Rice understood that we had more time than the “attack now” caucus ever believed. There are those in Iran who do want a relationship with the West. The present leadership is not open to change, however. A subsequent leadership will be. And that makes all the difference. George Friedman pointed this out in his take on the war in Stratfor: neither side can get its maximalist aims. There will, of needs be, have to be a settlement.

Meantime, Webb can posture.

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Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 3:44 pm

Tom Friedman: a man without care

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or conscience, for that matter. From the Horse’s Mouth:

A couple weeks ago, Radar magazine published a well-read piece pointing out that the pundits who were wrong about the Iraq war are not suffering professionally for their mistake but rather are getting richer even as Iraq sinks ever deeper into disaster. The piece observed that while New York Times columnist Tom Friedman was commanding only $40,000 per speech before backing the invasion, he’s now “on top of the world.”

Now Friedman has responded to Radar‘s piece. Friedman sent the following email to the mag:

Thanks for your piece on Radar[Online]. You got all your facts right, but one. We don’t have a second home in Aspen, or anywhere else. I will need to get more things wrong to achieve that status. I think you might be referring to my in-laws’ home, where we stay when we visit them. You seem to be interested in facts, so I figured you would want to know. All best, Tom Friedman

Friedman probably thought he was being funny in a cutting sort of way, but his flip and dismissive response to the important point raised by Radar — that there’s no accountability for pundits who get it wrong, even if it helps lead the country to disaster — got me wondering about something.

Tom Friedman is among the most important interpreters of the Middle East for American audiences. They rely on him to explain and exercise sound judgment on a fraught and confusing part of the world whose affairs have more of an impact on us right now than any other region. That is a position of immense consequence. And the decision to back the invasion of Iraq was — and will be — the single most important decision of his career. He blew it, and right now he should feel like Bill Buckner felt after he let the ground ball dribble between his legs — only infinitely worse, because by dint of his role as one of America’s principle interpreters of the Middle East, he helped create a catastrophe that has destroyed thousands of families and will have untold consequences for many decades.

Yet has anyone seen a single sign anywhere that Friedman has ever suffered a moment’s anguish or even self-doubt about this catastrophic failing? I haven’t. If you’ve seen any, please send along. Look, there are no easy answers to the question of how — or whether — pundits like Friedman should be held accountable for getting it wrong, however disastrously. But how about a little self-imposed accountability? What about a hint of remorse? Friedman’s email makes you wonder whether to him all this is anything more than a big fat joke. Who cares if I was wrong about the most important foreign policy decision this country’s made in decades? Just get my assets right, please.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Iraq War, Media

Bento blow-out

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Here’s a long list of bento-related links, for those who enjoy that, from the blog Cooking Cute.

And, speaking of bento supplies, those of you who take your lunch (thus with the potential of improving your nutrition and saving your money simultaneously), check out the Ms. Bento kit.

And here’s a good 4-level lunch box.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 2:53 pm

The Prius returns!

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The Wife just picked up her Prius at the body shop. So tomorrow on her commute she can again use the car-pool lanes. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 2:49 pm

Posted in Daily life

Back from ophthalmologist

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Mainly for visual field test, but pressure was tested and is good: 11 in one eye, 12 in the other.

Stopped by to pick up some iron-rich foods:

  • Veal liver this time instead of beef liver, heeding the advice of The Younger Daughter
  • Some mussels (mussels and clams are iron-rich foods as well)
  • Beets with beet greens (beet greens have more iron/calorie than spinach)
  • Spinach (iron is accessible if the spinach is cooked)

Spearmint is a very good source of iron, but I can’t quite see cooking up a big mess of spearmint and chowing down.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

How to get rid of those Snap previews

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WordPress added Snap previews (without asking me, I might add), and I find them highly obnoxious. I do like Cooliris, which does much the same thing, only better and under my control.

Fortunately, you can turn Snap off.

UPDATE: I just learned from WordPress support how to turn off Snap on my site. If you want previews, download and install Cooliris. Snap should no longer be available here.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2007 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Software

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