Later On

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

Archive for June 9th, 2007

Good thoughts

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These seem worth pondering:

  1. Stop taking so much notice of how you feel. How you feel is how you feel. It’ll pass soon. What you’re thinking is what you’re thinking. It’ll go too. Tell yourself that whatever you feel, you feel; whatever you think, you think. Since you can’t stop yourself thinking, or prevent emotions from arising in your mind, it makes no sense to be proud or ashamed of either. You didn’t cause them. Only your actions are directly under your control. They’re the only proper cause of pleasure or shame.
  2. Let go of worrying. It often makes things worse. The more you think about something bad, the more likely it is to happen. When you’re hair-trigger primed to notice the first sign of trouble, you’ll surely find something close enough to convince yourself it’s come.
  3. Ease up on the internal life commentary. If you want to be happy, stop telling yourself you’re miserable. People are always telling themselves how they feel, what they’re thinking, what others feel about them, what this or that event really means. Most of it’s imagination. The rest is equal parts lies and misunderstandings. You have only the most limited understanding of what others feel about you. Usually they’re no better informed on the subject; and they care about it far less than you do. You have no way of knowing what this or that event really means. Whatever you tell yourself will be make-believe.
  4. Take no notice of your inner critic. Judging yourself is pointless. Judging others is half-witted. Whatever you achieve, someone else will always do better. However bad you are, others are worse. Since you can tell neither what’s best nor what’s worst, how can you place yourself correctly between them? Judging others is foolish since you cannot know all the facts, cannot create a reliable or objective scale, have no means of knowing whether your criteria match anyone else’s, and cannot have more than a limited and extremely partial view of the other person. Who cares about your opinion anyway?
  5. Give up on feeling guilty. Guilt changes nothing. It may make you feel you’re accepting responsibility, but it can’t produce anything new in your life. If you feel guilty about something you’ve done, either do something to put it right or accept you screwed up and try not to do so again. Then let it go. If you’re feeling guilty about what someone else did, see a psychiatrist. That’s insane.
  6. Stop being concerned what the rest of the world says about you. Nasty people can’t make you mad. Nice people can’t make you happy. Events or people are simply events or people. They can’t make you anything. You have to do that for yourself. Whatever emotions arise in you as a result of external events, they’re powerless until you pick them up and decide to act on them. Besides, most people are far too busy thinking about themselves (and worry what you are are thinking and saying about them) to be concerned about you.
  7. Stop keeping score. Numbers are just numbers. They don’t have mystical powers. Because something is expressed as a number, a ratio or any other numerical pattern doesn’t mean it’s true. Plenty of lovingly calculated business indicators are irrelevant, gibberish, nonsensical, or just plain wrong. If you don’t understand it, or it’s telling you something bizarre, ignore it. There’s nothing scientific about relying on false data. Nor anything useful about charting your life by numbers that were silly in the first place.
  8. Don’t be concerned that your life and career aren’t working out the way you planned. The closer you stick to any plan, the quicker you’ll go wrong. The world changes constantly. However carefully you analyzed the situation when you made the plan, if it’s more than a few days old, things will already be different. After a month, they’ll be very different. After a year, virtually nothing will be the same as it was when you started. Planning is only useful as a discipline to force people to think carefully about what they know and what they don’t. Once you start, throw the plan away and keep your eyes on reality.
  9. Don’t let others use you to avoid being responsible for their own decisions. To hold yourself responsible for someone else’s success and happiness demeans them and proves you’ve lost the plot. It’s their life. They have to live it. You can’t do it for them; nor can you stop them from messing it up if they’re determined to do so. The job of a supervisor is to help and supervise. Only control-freaks and some others with a less serious mental disability fail to understand this.
  10. Don’t worry about about your personality. You don’t really have one. Personality, like ego, is a concept invented by your mind. It doesn’t exist in the real world. Personality is a word for the general impression that you give through your words and actions. If your personality isn’t likeable today, don’t worry. You can always change it, so long as you allow yourself to do so. What fixes someone’s personality in one place is a determined effort on their part-usually through continually telling themselves they’re this or that kind of person and acting on what they say. If you don’t like the way you are, make yourself different. You’re the only person who’s standing in your way.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 3:35 pm


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The Liberal Avenger quotes:

Timothy Shortell, Ph.D. had the perfect comment:

Is there a more cartoonishly evil person in the American public sphere? He is so far off the scale of ordinary decency that you can’t parody him. How could you? Let’s see, you could have him get drunk and shoot a friend in the face and then refuse to go to the hospital with him because you’d miss dinner. No, wait. That actually happened.

You could have him make a bold-faced lie on national television and then deny having lied (in the process, lying again on national television) despite the fact that the transcript and video of the original interview are widely available. No, wait. That actually happened too.

Hmmm… Let’s see. Undermine diplomacy during every international crisis. Endorse torture. Shred the Constitution. Nope, nope and nope. Cheney’s been there, done that.

In fact, read Liberal Avenger’s entire post.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 1:44 pm

Bad things a-comin’ — global warming edition

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The Washington Post today has a front-page article on how cities (and states, as well, though the article’s focus is on cities), rather than continuing to wait on the Federal government (Congress and the Executive Branch) to take action on global warming, have begun programs on their own. The Post allows comments, and the comments on the article reveal how ignorant of the topic some of the most vocal are—indeed, how most don’t even understand the difference between “weather” and “climate.” (I did offer a comment suggesting that those still plagued with doubt might read the articles here, but of course, these ignorant souls are not plagued with doubt, but with certainty, which is worse: doubt at least admits of correction.)

At any rate, I got an email this morning with this interesting review:

Under a Green Sky: Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What They Can Tell Us about Our Future
by Peter D. Ward

This Is How the World Ends
A Review by Doug Brown

Many books on global warming are based upon crude computer models (crude compared to our planet’s actual climate) and hypothetical what-ifs. Thus they are easily dismissed by skeptics as alarmist litanies of, “Here are some really bad things that could maybe possibly happen if the worst-case outcomes of this model which is built on untested assumptions turn out to be right.” Peter Ward, a paleontology professor at the University of Washington (and astrobiologist for NASA), takes a different and much scarier approach. Rather than hypothetical speculations into the future, he starts with actual data from the past. Can we examine the fossil and climate record to identify past instances of greenhouse global warming, and see what happened then? The answer, very disturbingly, is yes.

The first section of Under a Green Sky covers how scientists have examined mass extinctions over time, and how causes are determined. After the Cretaceous-Tertiary event (a.k.a. the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs) was shown to have been largely caused by a meteor slamming into the earth, extraterrestrial impacts became the assumed cause of all mass extinctions. Everyone ran around looking for craters of the approximate correct age to have caused other events. Ward espoused a more systematic approach, where the fossil record itself was first examined in detail to see if extinctions happened slowly, in phases, or all at once (only the latter favoring an impact). The granddaddy of all mass extinctions, the Permian extinction, was a study target for both Ward and the impact crowd. In the Permian event, almost 90% of species died. To find the cause of this event would garner much fame. Thus, when the impact folks thought they found their crater, they promptly reported to the press the extinction had been solved. The fossil data said otherwise. Ward’s wonderfully written book Gorgon discusses this particular debate in more depth, but the short story is the crater turned out to be the wrong age by several million years, and the fossil record indicated waves of extinctions over a short period of time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 8:03 am

New favorite site: Anonymous Liberal, The

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I’ve been reading through posts at The Anonymous Liberal and, my God, they’re all good. What do you do with that? Let me quote just one post in its entirety, and then you will add TAL to your Google Reader subscription list:

In what I’m convinced is some sort of ingenious sociological experiment, the editors of TIME Magazine have hired former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey to guest-post at the magazine’s blog Swampland, which, to its enormous credit, has an unmoderated comment section. I doubt Armey had any idea what he was in for.

Politicians, particularly conservative ones, are used to being able to make conclusory and totally unsupportable assertions without being called on it. This is particularly true when it comes to characterizing the views of their Democratic opponents. Straw man argumentation is such a staple of modern Republican rhetoric that it’s hard to even find examples of a Republican politicians accurately characterizing the views of their Democratic counterparts.

Armey is no exception. His first post at Swampland included such pearls of wisdom as this:

On the Democratic side, we see an abundance demagoguery and proposals for the largest expansion of government since the 1930’s and 1970’s, with socialized health care and severe regulation of the economy, especially the energy sector. Great for sound bites, but a complete disregard for fundamental economic principles.

He was immediately greeted by over 100 comments pointing out the obvious: that his post itself was an example of shameless demagoguery, that the Republican party just presided over one of the biggest expansions of government spending in modern times, and that no one except Dennis Kucinich has even proposed a single-payer health care plan, much less “socialized health care.”

Even Joe Klein felt the need to weigh in, noting that “[t]his kind of stuff may work at CPAC rallies, but not here.”

Armey then followed up with an embarrassingly pseudo-intellectual post that quoted Milton Friedman and claimed that “[the Democrats] proposals would socialize costs when we should be going exactly the opposite direction with policy. It is time to remove the tax advantages given to employer-provided health care and to expand personal medical accounts. Until we remove the artificial walls of separation between consumers and medical providers, the magic of competition which will lower prices, innovate new services and deliver health care more broadly to society will be unnecessarily delayed.”

Again, the commenters immediately responded by exposing Armey’s complete misunderstanding of how health care markets actually work. Here’s a typical comment by someone named “Superfly”:

Um, Dick, first of all, everyone here is much, much smarter than you.

Second, simple macroeconomics doesn’t work in health care, OK? There can be no elasticity in price if there is no elasticity in demand and no range of choice (you know, the supply part). People get sick, it is not a choice or a decision made by a rational actor. To put it in simpler terms that even you can understand, “stuff” happens, and insurance companies make money by not paying to fix that “stuff.” Got it? I’d give you an example, but I fear I may have already lost you.

Better guest posters please.

It never ceases to amaze me what a tenuous grasp conservatives like Armey have on basic market principles. Like parrots, they’ve learned to regurgitate phrases without having any real understanding of what they mean.

Armey’s third foray into the realm of blogging was a post entitled “She is No Moderate.” In it Armey writes:

Clinton may have appeared moderate on the stage last night among liberal candidates, folks who favor importing European style social and economic systems to the United States, but she is no moderate.

To support this claim, Armey provides precisely zero evidence. He simply asserts it, as if it is such an obvious truth that no further explanation is necessary.

Again the commenters were uniformly harsh, and rightfully so. Armey’s post is a classic example of GOP up-is-downism. The fact is that everything Hillary Clinton has said and done during her entire political career has been, without exception, moderate. She is the quintessential moderate, centrist Democrat. But for reasons unspecified, we’re supposed to believe that she is secretly a raging liberal. How totally inane. And typical.

What’s not typical is the fact that hundreds of harsh critiques are appended to Armey’s inane thoughts, for everyone in the world to read. As regular patrons of the blogosphere are well aware, right-wing blogs rarely have comment sections, particularly unmoderated ones. They don’t have them for precisely this reason: because much of what passes for commentary in right-wing circles is just not factually or logically supportable. And if these blogs had comment sections, a bunch of people who know better would point out all the logical and factual flaws in every post.

There is no better example of a functioning marketplace of ideas than a blog with an active and open comment section. The fact that most right-wing commentators choose not to engage with this market speaks volumes about their confidence in their own ideas.

Isn’t that great? Sensible, and so clear that even a Republican should be able to understand it.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 7:43 am

Posted in GOP

“Free Scooter!”

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The Anonymous Liberal has an excellent post about the Right’s clamor to overturn the jury verdict and pardon the convicted felon Scooter Libby. He cogently and clearly traces the tangled threads of illogic that “justify” the push for the pardon. It’s a long post, and well worth reading. Here’s just one of several points s/he raises:

One last point before I go. Allow me to quote a post I wrote following the first round of editorials calling for Libby’s pardon:

These pieces are remarkable not only because they casually call for such an extraordinary remedy, but because of something they don’t do. Typically, when confronted with genuine injustice, a concerned and conscientious observer attempts to identify the broader systemic problem that led to the injustice. He asks himself: how did this injustice come about? Is the law itself unjust? If not, were the rules under which the individual was tried fair and just? Were the individual’s rights to counsel and to present his own defense respected? If so, was there some corruption of the trial process itself, a corrupt or incompetent judge, a biased jury, incompetent counsel, etc.?

The reason a conscientious observer asks these questions is because he wants not only to remedy the injustice that has occurred, but to ensure that it does not happen again or has not happened already to similarly situated defendants. Notably absent from the opinion pieces calling for Libby’s pardon, however, is any attempt to explore or identity the problems in the system that resulted in this supposed injustice. And that absence speaks volumes.

No one is claiming that our laws against obstruction of justice and perjury should be repealed or amended. No one is claiming the jury failed to conscientiously deliberate and consider all the evidence presented to it. Some commentators are taking issue with some of Judge Walton’s evidentiary rulings, but there’s a built-in way of challenging the correctness of those rulings. It’s called an appeal. I’ve yet to hear anyone suggest that the Federal Rules of Evidence themselves need to be amended.

The same is of course true of the complaints about Libby’s sentence. Libby was sentenced in accordance with the federal sentencing guidelines. Yet no one is calling for a repeal or amendment of those guidelines to prevent this sort of “injustice” from recurring. And while the folks at the National Review and elsewhere are complaining about the supposed unfairness of the sentencing proceeding, that’s what appeals are for. If anything was improper, our system has a built-in way of dealing with such errors. But conservatives have no patience for any of this. To quote myself again:

Conservatives are essentially treating the Libby case as a one-off situation. They have no problem with the law itself or with our criminal justice system generally. They just disagree with the outcome in this particular case and want to change it. There’s something almost self-evidently discrediting about that. It shows both disdain for process and a truly myopic degree of partisanship.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 7:27 am

Bad lather, good shave

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Very mediocre lather this morning on a new soap. I will abstain from identifying soap or brush until I give it another go.

But for all that, a very good shave. The Futur with Feather zipped through the beard, and the Masters Lilac Vegetal gave a nice finish. Very, very smooth face.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 7:07 am

Posted in Shaving

Blackwater sues familes of killed contractors

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Blackwater seems to be an even worse company than initially thought. Take a look at this:

The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men’s estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Following these gruesome deaths which were broadcast on worldwide television, the surviving family members looked to Blackwater for answers as to how and why their loved ones died. Blackwater not only refused to give the grieving families any information, but also callously stated that they would need to sue Blackwater to get it. Left with no alternative, in January 2005, the families filed suit against Blackwater, which is owned by the wealthy and politically-connected Erik Prince.

Blackwater quickly adapted its battlefield tactics to the courtroom. It initially hired Fred F. Fielding, who is currently counsel to the President of the United States. It then hired Joseph E. Schmitz as its in-house counsel, who was formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon. More recently, Blackwater employed Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, to oppose the families. To add additional muscle, Blackwater hired Cofer Black, who was the Director of the CIA Counter- Terrorist Center.

After filing its suit against the dead men’s estates, Blackwater demanded that its claim and the families’ existing lawsuit be handled in a private arbitration. By suing the families in arbitration, Blackwater has attempted to move the examination of their wrongful conduct outside of the eye of the public and away from a jury. This comes at the same time when Congress is investigating Blackwater.

Over 300 contractors have been killed in Iraq with very little inquiry into their deaths. The families claim that Blackwater is attempting to cover up its incompetence, its cutting of corners in favor of higher profits, and its over billing to the government. Due to lack of accountability and oversight, Blackwater’s private army has been able to obtain huge profits from the government, utilizing contacts established through Erik Prince’s relationships with high-ranking government officials such as Cofer Black and Joseph Schmitz.

In addition to assembling its litigation troops, Blackwater also stonewalled the families concerning any information about how the men were killed. Over the past two and a half years, Blackwater has not responded to a single question or produced a single document. When the families’ attorneys, Callahan & Blaine, obtained a Court Order to take the deposition of a former Blackwater employee with critical information about the incident, Blackwater quickly re-hired him and sent him out of the country. When the witness returned to the United States more than a year later, the families obtained another Court Order for his deposition. Blackwater again prevented them from taking his deposition by seeking the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to block the deposition under the guise that he possibly possessed national secrets. Following an investigation, the U.S. Army reported that the witness had no secret information and that it had no objection to the deposition.

Blackwater has now lifted this atrocity to a whole new level by going on the offensive and suing the families for $10 million. The families now find themselves looking down the barrel of a gun as Blackwater, armed with a war chest and politically-connected attorneys, is aggressively litigating against them. Blackwater has also threatened to hold the administrator of the estates personally liable to scare him into abandoning his position, and has threatened the families’ attorneys as well.

The families are simply without the financial wherewithal to defend against Blackwater. By filing suit, Blackwater is trying to wipe out the families’ ability to discover the truth about Blackwater’s involvement in the deaths of these four Americans and to silence them from any public comment. In February, the families testified before Congress.

However, Blackwater’s lawsuit now seeks to gag the family members from even speaking about the incident or about Blackwater’s involvement in the deaths. This is a direct attack to their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 7:05 am

USDA dilutes “organic”

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The label “USDA Organic” will not mean anything. Look at this:

With the “USDA organic” seal stamped on its label, Anheuser-Busch calls its Wild Hop Lager “the perfect organic experience.”

“In today’s world of artificial flavors, preservatives and factory farming, knowing what goes into what you eat and drink can just about drive you crazy,” the Wild Hop website says. “That’s why we have decided to go back to basics and do things the way they were meant to be … naturally.”

But many beer drinkers may not know that Anheuser-Busch has the organic blessing from federal regulators even though Wild Hop Lager uses hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides.

A deadline of midnight Friday to come up with a new list of nonorganic ingredients allowed in USDA-certified organic products passed without action from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, leaving uncertain whether some foods currently labeled “USDA organic” would continue to be produced.

The agency is considering a list of 38 nonorganic ingredients that will be permitted in organic foods. Because of the broad uses of these ingredients — as colorings and flavorings, for example — almost any type of manufactured organic food could be affected, including cereal, sausage, bread and beer.

Organic food advocates have fought to block approval of some or all of the proposed ingredients, saying consumers would be misled.

“This proposal is blatant catering to powerful industry players who want the benefits of labeling their products ‘USDA organic’ without doing the work to source organic materials,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Assn. of Finland, Minn., a nonprofit group that boasts 850,000 members.

USDA spokeswoman Joan Shaffer declined to comment on the plan.

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Written by Leisureguy

9 June 2007 at 6:05 am

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