Later On

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

Archive for February 17th, 2007

Bush: Big talk, no action

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or “All hat, no cattle.” From Business Week, a big gap between promises and deeds (aka, “lying”):

Saying the nation is addicted to oil, President Bush has called for a sharp jump in the supply of renewable and alternative fuels. What about the R&D needed to get there? The White House’s 2008 budget, released on Feb. 5, asks for just a 1% increase in real R&D spending in energy, transportation, and the environment. The total amount, $7.5 billion, looks paltry compared with what was spent in the past. In real terms, it is almost 19% lower than in 1994 and about 40% less than its 1979 peak. Here’s how the amount measures up historically as a share of GDP:

Talk instead of dollars

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 3:49 pm

My bad hip

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Many years ago in a small Oklahoma village, when I was around 4 or 5, a tractor went down the street pulling a wagon containing some watermelons for sale. All the children ran alongside, jumping up to hold on to the wagon and get carried along. Me, too. But several blocks later, I fell, one leg went under the wagon, and the wagon’s right rear wheel rolled over my thigh.

The noise of the tractor meant that my cries were unheard, and the wagon and children moved on. Pretty soon, though, I was noticed lying in the road, and someone came out and took me home. The boy from across the street had the task of tell my mother, and he broke the news gently.

“Mickey’s outside,” he said. “Good,” said my mother. “Could you come out and see him?” “He can come in and see me.” “Well, he can’t. A tractor ran over him.”

So Mother ran out, found me still living, and rushed me to the doctor. An X-ray showed that I had a greenstick fracture of the femur, and the doctor said I would be fine.

But years later, in my early 30’s, I developed varicose veins—rather severe ones—in my right leg. I had surgery and they were removed, not to return. But the right leg only, not the left. My suspicion is that the pressure from the wagon wheel caused the valves in the veins to be ruptured or weakened.

And now, suddenly, for the past two weeks I’ve had pain in my right hip joint—right only, not the left. Hmmm. After the pain’s sticking around (and it took me 10 days to remember ibuprofen), I finally went to the doctor. An X-ray did reveal some problems with the hip joint, so I now have to go back for another X-ray.

Is hip replacement surgery in my future? Fortunately, that procedure seems well worked out, with a satisfaction rate above 90%. It’s not quite an office procedure with a local anesthetic yet, but at least it’s frequently done. We’ll see.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 11:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Contrasting idea development

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Science vs. faith

Click twice to see full size. Via Boing Boing from here.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 11:44 am

Posted in Religion, Science

Things are starting to come out

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and the wheels are starting to fall off:

Officials of a Navy brig where suspected al-Qaida operative Jose Padilla was held have been ordered to testify at a hearing next week to determine whether his treatment there has left him unfit to stand trial.

It will be the first time Defense Department officials with direct knowledge will speak publicly about Padilla’s 3 1/2 years of confinement _ which defense experts say has caused him irreparable mental harm and made it impossible for his lawyers to adequately prepare for trial.

Federal prosecutors fought to keep the officials out of Thursday’s competency hearing, arguing that the sole issue to be decided is Padilla’s mental state now.

“The focus of the competency hearing is present function and present capability,” said prosecutor John Shipley. “What the defense wants to do is something much more broad than that.”

But in her ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke sided with defense lawyers, who argued that a Bureau of Prisons mental expert had interviewed the brig officials for his own report which concluded that Padilla is competent. That report has not yet been publicly released.

“He did it by something other that tarot cards and tea leaves,” Cooke said of how the expert reached his conclusions. “These are the people from his time in the brig who would know that. What’s the problem?”

Prosecutors fear that defense lawyers will use the officials’ testimony as an excuse to pursue their claims that Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen originally arrested in May 2002, was tortured during interrogation at the brig.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 11:37 am

Sexual harassment training video

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 10:52 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Video

Interesting study on GM potatoes

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Really, it would be good to have a carefully conducted study done in the open, with full publication of methods, results, reviews, and the like. Without pressure from biotech companies, of course. Here’s what we do have:

Campaigners against genetically modified crops in Britain last are calling for trials of GM potatoes this spring to be halted after releasing more evidence of links with cancers in laboratory rats.

UK Greenpeace activists said the findings, obtained from Russian trials after an eight-year court battle with the biotech industry, vindicated research by Dr Arpad Pusztai, whose work was criticised by the Royal Society and the Netherlands State Institute for Quality Control.

The disclosure last night of the Russian study on the GM Watch website led to calls for David Miliband, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to withdraw permission for new trials on GM potatoes to go ahead at secret sites in the UK this spring. Alan Simpson, a Labour MP and green campaigner, said: “These trials should be stopped. The research backs up the work of Arpad Pusztai and it shows that he was the victim of a smear campaign by the biotech industry. There has been a cover-up over these findings and the Government should not be a party to that.”

Mr Simpson said the findings, which showed that lab rats developed tumours, were released by anti-GM campaigners in Wales. Dr Pusztai and a colleague used potatoes that had been genetically modified to produce a protein, lectin. They found cell damage in the rats’ stomachs, and in parts of their intestines.

The research is likely to spark a fresh row about GM crops in Britain. Graham Thompson, a Greenpeace campaigner, said: “It is important because it backs up the research by Pusztai, which was smeared at the time by the industry.”

Brian John of GM Free Cymru, who released the findings, said the research was conducted in 1998 by the Institute of Nutrition of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and has been suppressed for eight years.

It showed that the potatoes did considerable damage to the rats’ organs. Those in the “control groups” that were fed non-GM potatoes suffered ill-effects, but those fed GM potatoes suffered more serious organ and tissue damage.

The potatoes contained an antibiotic resistance marker gene. The institute that carried out the studies refused to release all the information. However, Greenpeace and other consumer groups mounted a protracted legal battle campaign to obtain the report. In May 2004 the Nikulinski District Court in Russia ruled that information relating to the safety of GM food should be open to the public.

The institute, however, refused to release the report. Greenpeace and Russian activist groups again took the institute to court, and won a ruling that the report must be released.

Irina Ermakova, a consultant for Greenpeace, said she had conducted her own animal feeding experiments with GM materials. “The GM potatoes were the most dangerous of the feeds used in the trials … and on the basis of this evidence they cannot be used in the nourishment of people.”

Greenpeace said the Russian trials were also badly flawed. Half of the rats in the trial died, and results were taken from those that survived, in breach of normal scientific practice.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 9:51 am

Last of the stick/adjustable series

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I was going to use QED’s Badger & Blade shaving stick, but since I got such a late start, went with their Espresso instead. Used the Rooney Style 2 Finest to produce a fine lather, and shaved with a Gillette Slim Handle Adjustable holding a new Feather blade. The shave was okay—that’s not a razor I particularly like, I’ll admit, though it does have its fans. Finished without nicks, enjoyed the alum bar and the Thayers Peach Witch Hazel and, after that tried, applied a little Trumper Coral Skin Food just for a change of pace. Very pleasant stuff. And my coffee is now only 23 seconds from being finished. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Rick Perlstein was there before me

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Glenn Greenwald, in his Salon.com post this morning, points to this Rick Perlstein column:

Chalk up 7:22 a.m. EST on Tuesday, January 23, 2007, as the moment a milestone was passed. On Time‘s new blog, Swampland, D.C. Bureau Chief Jay Carney posted a pre-assessment of the State of the Union address comparing President Bush’s political position to Bill Clinton’s in January of 1995. Like Bush, “President Clinton was in free fall. … His approval ratings were mired in the 30’s, and seemed unlikely to rise.”

Moments later, a writer identifying himself as “TomT” pointed out an error in Carney’s “nut graf” that would have earned a failing grade for a first-year journalism major: “Clinton’s approval rating in January [of 1995] was 47 percent. It was not mired in the 30s.” At 9:12, the blogger Atrios, also known as Duncan Black, alerted his readers to the gaffe, and they descended on the Time blog like locusts–and, to mix the Biblical metaphor, served Jay Carney’s head up on a charger.

They tabulated several more boneheaded errors: Carney wrote that 1995 was Clinton’s first State of the Union “with Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole seated behind him as Speaker and Senate Majority Leader”; but, of course, it is the vice president, not the Senate majority leader, who sits behind the president. He also wrote of Clinton’s “recovery… during Monica, in 1999”–but, as a commenter reminded him, “Clinton never had to ‘recover’ from Monica, unless polls in the high 50s and 60s are something you have to recover from.”

Then the commenters unraveled the entire foundation of Carney’s argument. He had said that, because “Americans reward presidents who, even in the face of enormous distractions, focus on issues that matter to them. … Bush won’t spend much time tonight talking about surging troops in Iraq or the Global War on Terror.” But, as writers identifying themselves as “jjcomet,” “dmbeaster,” and “Newton Minnow” pointed out, the issue of greatest concern to the nation “is far and away the war in Iraq, at 48% the only issue in double digits.” Another made a similar point, shall we say, more qualitatively: “The Iraq War is a DISTRACTION?? Are you serious? Am I wrong or did he compare the Lewinski scandal to Iraq??? What is the matter with you!?!?”

At which Carney snapped back so churlishly (“the left is as full of unthinking Ditto-heads as Limbaugh-land”) that, for a moment, it was hard even to remember–why was it, again, that we were supposed to defer to the authority of newsweeklies (and the mainstream press) in the first place? Carney was rude and wrong. The barbaric yawpers of the netroots were rude and right.

All in all, a rough day for Jay Carney. It inaugurated a rough week for those who still wish to uphold a model of cultural authority in which the fact that someone is a professional with a famous name–credentialed by other professionals with famous names–can serve as a reasonable proxy for trustworthiness. It marked one more step in the arrival of our new, more uncomfortable media world–one in which, to judge a piece of writing, we must gauge not the status of the writer, but his or her words themselves, unattached to the author’s worldly rank.

That’s all right by me. In his brilliant 1990 study The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America, literary scholar Michael Warner argues that this is precisely why so many Founding Fathers insisted that public debates be carried out by pseudonym. “Publius,” he points out–the pen name under which the newspaper arguments for ratifying the Constitution collected as The Federalist Papers were published–“speaks in the utmost generality of print, denying in his very existence the mediating of particular persons.” In other words, it wasn’t supposed to matter that the author was the distinguished gentleman Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, or James Madison. You were just supposed to judge according to the words on the page.

Or on the screen. January 23, the day Carney landed on his own petard, was also, as it happens, the first day of testimony in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of former vice-presidential Chief of Staff Scooter Libby. And some of the distinguished gentlemen and gentleladies of the press have seemed none too pleased that the journalistic pace is being set by the rotating cast of “live bloggers” at Firedoglake (FDL), who, thanks to a press pass secured by Arianna Huffington, have been providing a near-transcript-quality record in real time of the proceedings, interwoven with contextualization by writers more expert in many cases than the cable news legal commentators, wrapped up each afternoon by a video summary.

By phone from her home in Chicago, Christina Siun O’Connell, FDL’s part-time press secretary (yes, blogs now have press secretaries; full disclosure: she is also my friend), lists the names of the team, some of whom write under pseudonyms: Pachacutec; TRex; Swopa (“Plame geek extraordinaire”); ERiposte (“who, I think, is male”). The most expert among them, Marcy Wheeler–a former academic from Ann Arbor whose book Anatomy of Deceit was published to coincide with the case by a brand new book imprint, Vaster, established by bloggers (the book is already in a second printing)–has only recently come out of the shadows. (She used to be known as “emptywheel.”)

Wheeler’s partner at her own site, The Next Hurrah, calls himself Meteor Blades, nothing else. And he used to be a top editor at two major daily newspapers. “We’ve been beating them,” Wheeler notes of The Next Hurrah‘s coverage of the CIA leak scandal. “The New York Times can’t cover the story. They’re constitutionally incapable.”

She puts it even more bluntly in her book: “[T]he CIA leak case is a story about how our elected representatives exploited the weakness of our media.” Part of that weakness was their overweening self-regard. At first, in the eighteenth century, when an anonymous writer launched charges against “gentlemen”–quite often in the rudest language imaginable–it was a scandal “in a social order of deference,” Warner writes in Letters of the Republic. But, by striking down deference, pseudonyms forced arguments to be stronger; Warner even argues that the anonymous culture of print is what made republican consciousness possible. Like “jjcomet,” “dmbeaster,” and “Newton Minnow,” our Founding Fathers only had only their words to rely on for their authority. Every day, I find faceless netroots citizens reprising their wisdom, as against gentlemen and gentleladies of the press who sometimes seem more interested saving face than doing sound work.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 8:38 am

Posted in Media, Software, Technology

GOP: “Democrats encourage the terrorists”

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The GOP never tires of claiming that the Democrats, in supporting the US Constitution and working for the rule of law, are somehow encouraging terrorists. Well, maybe, but at least Democrats don’t fund terrorists like some Republicans are accused of doing:

Terrorism charges brought Friday against the administrator of a loan investment program claimed that he secretly tried to send $152,000 to the Middle East to buy equipment such as night vision goggles for a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.

Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari, 53, of Ardsley, N.Y., pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to an indictment accusing him of terrorism financing, material support of terrorism and other charges. The charges carried a potential penalty of 95 years in prison.

Alishtari, also known as Michael Mixon, was detained pending a court appearance next week after Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Kolodner said Alishtari was a danger to the community and a risk to flee. He was arrested on Thursday in Manhattan, prosecutors said.

Alishtari’s court-appointed lawyer, Richard Greenfield, said he was not familiar enough with the case to present a bail package. Outside court, Greenfield declined to comment.

The indictment said Alishtari tried to support terrorists between June and December by accepting an unspecified amount of money to transfer $152,000 that he believed was being sent to Pakistan and Afghanistan to support an Afghanistan terrorist training camp.

He believed the money would be used to fund the purchase of night vision goggles and other equipment, the indictment said.

He was also charged with money laundering for allegedly causing the transfer on Aug. 17 of about $25,000 from a bank account in New York to a bank account in Montreal, Canada. The money was to be used to provide material support to terrorist, prosecutors said.

The indictment also charged him with wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud. It said he devised a scheme to administer and promote a fraudulent loan investment program known as “Flat Electronic Data Interchange” through which Alishtari and others fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from investors by promising high guaranteed rates of return.

CBS News has confirmed that Alishtari is a donor to the Republican Party, as he claims on his curriculum vitae. Alishtari gave $15,500 to the National Republican Campaign Committee between 2002 and 2004, according to Federal Election Commission records. That amount includes $13,000 in 2003, a year when he claims to have been named NRCC New York State Businessman of the Year.

Alishtari also claims to be a lifetime member of the National Republican Senate Committee’s Inner Circle, which the NRCC describes as “an impressive cross-section of American society – community leaders, business executives, entrepreneurs, retirees, and sports and entertainment celebrities – all of whom hold a deep interest in our nation’s prosperity and security.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 8:22 am

Posted in GOP, Iraq War

A good story of a cockatiel family

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With one very sad moment…

The story, illustrated with photos.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2007 at 7:49 am

Posted in Daily life

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