Later On

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

Archive for July 17th, 2007

Snack

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Tonight:

1 small can water-packed sardines from Portugal
Some chopped onion
Juice of a small lemon
1 Tbsp capers & a little of the liquid
1/2 Tbsp Chinese Smoked Tea Dijon mustard
1/2 c. non-fat cottage cheese

Smush together and eat with a small spoon. Very tasty and high in omega-3.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Getting exercise

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We all need it. I especially do. And this looks like fun, from Cool Tools. (Videos here.)

Trikke

trikke-sm.jpg

The Trikke is a machine you ride and propel by wiggling your body in a way that’s Zen training on three wheels. It puts into direct use the conservation of angular momentum — if you carry a mass through a turn around a center with a radius that decreases while you’re turning, then your linear velocity will increase. You move the Trikke by leaning and ‘S-turning’ your way through a succession of these turns. The Trikke manages to turn all this physics into a fun ride as well as a no-impact aerobic workout (good for aging skeletons).

It was a slow learn for me — took about a month — but skiers, rollerbladers, and almost any kid will get it right away. Adults who’ve forgotten some of the finer points of operating their bodies will take longer, but that’s one of the neat things about this no-pedal, definitely-not-a-scooter, tricycle: it will teach your body, all by itself, to make it go. You’ll learn faster if, unlike me, you keep your mind out of the process.

When you do finally get into the groove, the feeling is beguiling. You move in a sinuous carving motion gently S-curving your way along city streets or park paths on the flat, downhill, and (eventually) uphill at an average 8 mph. It never (not in 8 months, anyway) gets boring. It requires upward of 350 of your calories per half-hour for propulsion, so it’s damn good exercise. It involves 20 or 30 muscles from your neck all the way down to your feet, working in concert, so you don’t hurt or feel exhausted after a workout; you just feel the afterglow of a good generalized energy output.

You also look both weirder and cooler on a Trikke than a penguin on skis, so if you don’t like the idea of getting double-takes (and questions) from almost everyone you pass, that might be a reason not to ride one of these.

Trikke-Tech makes models with air tires and solid polyurethane wheels. For an adult, in normal city environments, I’d say air is the only way to go because of its natural shock-absorption. I have the sporty T-8 Convertible, the smallest adult-sized Trikke with optional air tires. The $500 T-12 is, apparently, the Cadillac of the line; according to Trikke obsessives, it gives the cushiest ride and is best for long cruises. Nevertheless, I’ve found the cheaper T-8 to be fast on its “feet” and very responsive, and it folds up into a package that fits into almost any car trunk.

— Craig Umanoff

Trikke $370 Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Trikke Tech, Inc.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 5:35 pm

AT&T: heavy-footed behemoth

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Kevin Drum:

The LA Times solves a mystery, sort of:

Millions of Californians will start paying several dollars a month more for land-line phone service after AT&T’s second price increase for custom-calling features since the state lifted rate caps last year.

….Many customers used to paying $6.17 for caller ID in December, who had already seen one price increase to $7.99 a month, will now pay $9. Call waiting, speed dialing and other features that cost $3.23 in December now run $5 after two price hikes.

A few weeks ago my friends suddenly started complaining that whenever they called me they were forced to identify themselves before their call was put through. After a few days we figured out that Caller ID Blocking had been turned on for us, even though we didn’t want it. So we called AT&T to find out what was going on.

The first two times, they hung up on us after we’d been on hold for 20 minutes. The third time, I got transferred to about nine different people, including twice to India, before someone finally transferred me to “AT&T California,” where I learned, among other things, that my phone service had been switched from “Legacy AT&T” to “The New AT&T.” Fine. Whatever. But I don’t want all these new services (caller ID blocking turned out to be just one of many new services I now had), so can I get rid of them?

Long story short, the answer was no. I could get rid of them all and just pay for the two or three I wanted, but that would actually cost more. More? Yes indeed. OK then, I’ll keep them. But how do I turn off this annoying caller ID stuff? The customer service rep didn’t know, but ten minutes later after making several internal calls, she decided she could do it. No more caller ID blocking.

Whew. But then she told me that this was just the beginning. Eventually my long distance service was bound to get switched to The New AT&T™ as well. Did I want to just go ahead and make the switch now? Sure. I guess so.

But then she sighed and asked a question she had obviously asked a thousand times before: did I have a fax machine at home? Yes I did. Well, you’re not allowed to use a fax machine on The New AT&T’s long distance service. If their computers detect a fax tone on your line, they’ll automatically drop you from the flat rate plan and start charging you ten dollars a minute for all subsequent calls. Or something.

By this time, I was laughing. Even the customer service rep was sort of laughing along. She then made a desultory pitch for AT&T internet service and AT&T television service, and we hung up. But I suppose this means that eventually I’m going to have to switch my long distance to a phone company that allows me to use my fax machine.

The customer service rep I eventually talked to was actually extremely nice, but overall this was by a long margin the most annoying customer service experience I’ve had in years. And just like you, I’ve had lots of annoying customer service calls over the years. To recap: AT&T switched my service without telling me; added some new features I didn’t want; hung up the first two times I called; was flatly unable to figure out who in their vast empire I needed to talk to on the third try; eventually told me there was no way to eliminate a feature unless I wanted to pay more; and then told me that sometime soon I wouldn’t be able to use my fax machine anymore. And by the way, would I like to sign up for their internet and TV service today?

Welcome to the brave new world of telecom competition. It’s working out well, don’t you think?

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Good news: Nicholson quits

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ThinkProgress:

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary, Jim Nicholson, has resigned. In a lengthy press release, the his department praises Nicholson for his “leadership” in “transform[ing] the VA health care system to meet the unique medical requirements of the returning combatants from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In reality, however, Nicholson’s tenure put the health care of both current and future veterans at risk. Some highlights:

– In February 2005, Nicholson kicked off his tenure by calling praising a VA budget proposal that cut “health care staffing, reduced funding for nursing home care and [included] staffing cuts for the Board of Veterans Appeals.” He said it demonstrated of the Bush administration’s “ongoing commitment to provide the very best health care and benefits to those veterans who count on VA the most.” [LINK]

– In May of 2006, Nicholson waited two weeks to notify the Justice Department and FBI of the “largest loss of personal data in U.S. government history.” He then waited another full week before notifying the 26.5 million effected veterans of the theft. [LINK]

– In April of 2006, Nicholson rejected four separate bills “pending before Congress to reduce the 600,000-case backlog of veterans’ benefits claims.” [LINK]

– In May of 2007, the AP revealed that Nicholson awarded “$3.8 million in bonuses to top executives in fiscal 2006″ — many as much as $33,000 — despite the department suffering from a $1.3 billion shortfall. [LINK, LINK]

Nicholson — whose previous posts include chairman of the Republican National Committee and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican — was uniquely unprepared to deal with the challenges of caring for the health our nation’s veterans.

In March 2007, for example, he cynically defended what he called “‘anecdotal’ exceptions” of veterans falling through the cracks. “When you are treating so many people there is always going to be a linen towel left somewhere,” he said.

As Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said today, “The next VA Secretary must have a record of being a strong and independent voice for veterans — not someone being rewarded for political loyalty.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 4:01 pm

I have a tooth

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The long saga of the Tooth That Was Pulled has just ended with a new crown atop the implant that was put into my jaw sometime back in April. The crown feels right at home—just as though it had always been there. So now I can chew better on that side. Good news.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 3:58 pm

Posted in Daily life

Most popular rentals from GreenCine.com

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In their 5-year history, GreenCine.com found that the most popular movies were:

  1. City of God
  2. Battle Royale (Special Edition)
  3. American Splendor
  4. Dead Man
  5. Lost in Translation
  6. Dark Days
  7. Eraserhead
  8. Spirited Away
  9. Kill Bill vol.1
  10. Bottle Rocket

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Healthful foods

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From the Harvard Medical School newsletter:

Forget the hype about single antioxidants, like vitamin E or beta carotene. They’ve never lived up to the promise that they can halt heart disease, cure cancer, eradicate eye disease, or prevent Alzheimer’s.

But that doesn’t mean antioxidants aren’t important to your health. The notion that antioxidants are good for you comes from studies showing that people who eat foods rich in a variety of antioxidants have better long-term health. Trials of single supplements, usually taken in pill form, have yielded disappointing results.

Antioxidants stabilize harmful by-products of the body’s energy-making machinery. These by-products, known as free radicals, can damage DNA, make LDL (“bad”) cholesterol even worse, and wreak havoc elsewhere in the body.

It’s possible that single antioxidants haven’t panned out because it takes a network of antioxidants — like those that exist in foods — to neutralize free radicals. If that’s the case, then it would be helpful to know the antioxidant content of various foods.

An international team of researchers did just that for more than a thousand foods that Americans commonly eat. Topping the list for antioxidant content were blackberries, walnuts, strawberries, artichokes, cranberries, coffee, raspberries, pecans, blueberries, and ground cloves (see “Antioxidant-rich foods”).

Antioxidant-rich foods

Here are the three dozen foods with the highest per-serving content of antioxidants.

Product Antioxidants (mmol/serving)
Blackberries 5.746
Walnuts 3.721
Strawberries 3.584
Artichokes, prepared 3.559
Cranberries 3.125
Coffee 2.959
Raspberries 2.870
Pecans 2.741
Blueberries 2.680
Cloves, ground 2.637
Grape juice 2.557
Chocolate, baking, unsweetened 2.516
Cranberry juice 2.474
Cherries, sour 2.205
Wine, red 2.199
Power Bar, chocolate flavor 1.875
Pineapple juice 1.859
Guava nectar 1.858
Juice drinks, 10% juice, blueberry or strawberry flavor, vitamin C enriched 1.821
Cranapple juice 1.790
Prunes 1.715
Chocolate, dark, sugar-free 1.675
Cabbage, red, cooked 1.614
Orange juice 1.510
Apple juice, with added vitamin C 1.462
Mango nectar 1.281
Pineapples 1.276
Oranges 1.261
Bran Flakes breakfast cereal 1.244
Plums, black 1.205
Pinto beans, dried 1.137
Canned chili with meat and beans 1.049
Canned chili with meat, no beans 1.045
Spinach, frozen 1.040
Whole Grain Total breakfast cereal 1.024
Chocolate, sugar-free 1.001
Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2006

Cooking appears to increase the antioxidant potential of most foods, with the exception of grains such as rice, pasta, and corn grits, which show lower levels after cooking.

The researchers were careful not to claim that eating foods at the top of the list will keep you healthy. Instead, they believe that rating the antioxidant potential of different foods could help test whether antioxidants really do prevent disease. In the meantime, the list toppers are healthy foods, so don’t hesitate to dig in.

For more information on antioxidant-rich foods, order our Special Health Report, The Benefits and Risks of Vitamins and Minerals.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Medical marijuana under attack…

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From the Marijuana Policy Project. Note that it’s very easy to send the letters—just click the link:

Congress is currently considering a bill that could undermine the 12 state laws protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail.

Please take one minute to write your three members of Congress today to oppose this action.

The bill contains a provision offered by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a rabid opponent of medical marijuana who last year told MPP’s lobbyist that “marijuana is not a medicine, and the doctors and scientists who say it is one are smoking it themselves.”

Sen. Coburn’s amendment is a thinly veiled attempt to undermine the 12 state medical marijuana laws — in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington — by placing them under the authority of the FDA, while not providing the same approval process for marijuana as for other drugs seeking FDA approval as prescription medicines.

And the FDA has already demonstrated its hostility to medical marijuana: In April of last year, the FDA released a highly politicized — and incorrect — statement claiming that “no sound scientific studies” support the medical use of marijuana.

Please tell your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators to uphold the will of the voters in the 12 states that have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana. (MPP’s action center is quick and easy to use. You can use one of our pre-written letters, or you can personalize your message.)

If enacted into law, the Coburn amendment could cause medical marijuana patients and caregivers to face even greater risk under federal law than they already do. Even more disturbing, medical marijuana opponents could try to use the provision to shut down state medical marijuana programs across the country.

Please help stop this unprecedented attack on local decision-making and help ensure that medical marijuana patients living in states that have already acted to protect them are able to retain those protections. Please write your members of Congress today.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Congress, Drug laws

My gold Gillette Toggle is up for sale

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Gillette Toggle

:sigh: Continued shaving purchases are forcing me to sell off some of the collection. This is a lovely razor, date code F4 (thus 4th quarter of 1960). Don’t let this one get away… Here’s the listing. (And, of course, upon request I’ll include an autographed copy of the Guide to Gourmet Shaving for an additional $11.95 with no change in the shipping fee.)

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 11:52 am

Posted in Shaving

Nap for Megs

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Megs nap 1 Nap Megs 2

Megs is—surprise!!—taking a nap, carefully covering her little nose, either to keep it warm or because her paw smells nice. She was very sound asleep. She currently loves the quilt shown in the photo. Since The Week is there, I imagine she was reading and then fell asleep.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 11:22 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Wall Street analysts live in an alternate universe

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Read this—and think about the likelihood that Wall Street analysts would say that their own pay and benefits should be cut:

You’d think that if a company treats its employees well (a lot better than their competitors) and gets great business results because of it, that this company and it executives would be celebrated and praised for it.

You’d be wrong.

The New York Times has a great article about Costco, the huge American chain of supermarkets who spend much more on their employees than their main competitors:

Costco’s average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam’s Club. And Costco’s health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish.

According to Costco’s CEO Jim Sinegal, this makes good business sense:

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco’s customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers’ expense. “This is not altruistic,” he said. “This is good business.”

The results are pretty impressive:

Costco’s stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart’s has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19.

So how do stock analysts react to this? They tell Costco to start treating their employees worse:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:52 am

Posted in Business

Petraeus caught in “New Jesus” situation

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It’s tough. I’ve been a New Jesus myself on occasion. James Fallows explains:

One memoir of life at the New Yorker under its founding editor, Harold Ross — maybe it was James Thurber’s The Years with Ross, maybe Brendan Gill’s Here at the New Yorker — described the concept of the “New Jesus.” Everyone who has ever worked in an office will recognize the idea. The New Jesus is the guy the boss has just brought in to solve the problems that the slackers and idiots already on the staff cannot handle. Of course sooner or later the New Jesus himself turns into a slacker or idiot, and the search for the next Jesus begins.

As has been widely noted, Gen. David Petraeus is getting the full New Jesus treatment. It’s underway to an extent I can barely remember happening before. OK, maybe one exception: When Coach Joe Gibbs was brought back to “save” the Washington Redskins three years ago, under their lamentable owner, Dan Snyder. The subsequent travails of Coach Gibbs illustrate the standard New Jesus cycle.

Petraeus is a serious man, but the expectations being heaped on him are simply laughable, and it’s worth noting the proportions this phenomenon has taken on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:45 am

Being a Republican means having no shame

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Look at this:

Tonight, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) will keep the Senate “working through the night” in an effort to force conservatives to stand and filibuster the Levin/Reed plan for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

The same conservatives filibustering tonight were singing a different tune two years ago. When Democrats held up the confirmation of a few of President Bush’s right-wing judicial nominees, conservatives repeatedly complained of “obstructionism.”

Senate conservatives had threatened to deploy the “nuclear option,” which would have eliminated the traditional Senate practice of filibustering.

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS): “[Filibustering] is wrong. It’s not supportable under the Constitution. And if they insist on persisting with these filibusters, I’m perfectly prepared to blow the place up.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spokesman: “Senator McConnell always has and continues to fully support the use of what has become known as the ‘[nuclear]’ option in order to restore the norms and traditions of the Senate.”

Today, however, these conservatives are proposing the exact opposite of the nuclear option — a permanent filibuster. The Washington Post reports today that McConnell has requested that all Iraq amendments meet a 60 vote threshold, an effort designed to quietly block withdrawal legislation from ever passing the Senate:

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles. … [A]ll the controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate in January have required 60 “yeas” to pass.

“It’s a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we’re in,” McConnell said. “It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation.”

Conservatives who decried obstructionism when advocating for an up-or-down vote on Bush’s right-wing judicial nominees today stand in the way of an up-or-down vote on withdrawing troops from Iraq.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Before and after retouching

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So it goes: the real vs. the retouched. Scroll down and watch.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:11 am

Bush never bothers to be consistent

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Froomkin again:

Bob Egelko writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: “President Bush’s rationale for sparing Lewis ‘Scooter” Libby from prison — that his 2 1/2-year sentence was more severe than the former vice presidential aide deserved for lying to a grand jury — is at odds with his support of new legislation that, by the administration’s description, would make such sentences mandatory.”

Mandatory, that is, unless you have information that would make Bush and Cheney look bad.

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:08 am

No Child Left Behind—except those who are ill

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Dan Froomkin’s column:

As Robert Pear wrote recently in the New York Times, the White House has announced that Bush “would veto a bipartisan plan to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program, drafted over the last six months by senior members of the Senate Finance Committee.

“The vow puts Mr. Bush at odds with the Democratic majority in Congress, with a substantial number of Republican lawmakers and with many governors of both parties, who want to expand the popular program to cover some of the nation’s eight million uninsured children.”

The Washington Post editorial board writes: “In the decade since its enactment, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program has helped provide insurance coverage for millions of children whose families have modest incomes but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Now the Bush administration is picking an unnecessary, and unnecessarily ideological, argument over the program’s reauthorization.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:07 am

Sweet story, especially for an ad

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Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

No nuance, all ideology

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From Dan Froomkin’s column today:

Jim Lobe writes for the Inter Press Service, an alternative news service: “‘It’s not only too little too late, it’s actually a little more dangerous than that,’ said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. . . .

“‘The hallmarks of this administration’s policy have been neglect when they could do something, then letting ideology trump reality when they do do something, and then being ineffective as a result,’ Zogby said. ‘This has all the earmarks of that.'”

Augustus Richard Norton and Sara Roy write in a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece: “The Bush administration’s approach to the divided Palestinian territories is inviting disaster. By favoring the ‘good’ Fatah over the ‘evil’ Hamas, it is letting a dysfunctional ideology trump a good opportunity to bring progress to the Palestinians — and to the larger quest for peace with Israel. There can be no peace process with a Palestinian government that excludes Hamas. . . .

“How did the US end up in its current predicament? In January 2006, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza cast their ballots. Voting for the first time in 10 years, and resentful of corruption and arrogance in the Palestinian Authority, they decided for Hamas, described by many in the West as a terrorist group. Blindsided by its legitimate victory, the Bush administration faced a stark dilemma. If it accepted the result, a group that has launched terrorist attacks against Israel would be permitted to enjoy power. However, since the US had strongly backed the elections, rejecting the outcome would be hypocritical.

“Seasoned diplomats urged a middle path: Work with Hamas and foster a pragmatic dialogue with Israel. But the US rejected this. Instead, it campaigned to isolate and financially undermine the Hamas government, while working secretly to overthrow it.

“That policy prompted derision of US claims to foster democracy in the Arab world. And it upheld the radical Islamists’ claim that democracy is a sham.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 9:54 am

Theology-based political decisions

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From Glenn Greenwald’s column:

Aside from his depiction of Bush as the Strong, Determined, Principled Warrior-Leader, Brooks also includes this report:

[H]is self-confidence survives because it flows from two sources. The first is his unconquerable faith in the rightness of his Big Idea. Bush is convinced that history is moving in the direction of democracy, or as he said Friday: “It’s more of a theological perspective. I do believe there is an Almighty, and I believe a gift of that Almighty to all is freedom. And I will tell you that is a principle that no one can convince me that doesn’t exist.”

This has been the great unexamined issue of the Bush presidency — the extent to which Bush’s unwavering commitment to Middle East militarism is, as Bush himself has made clear, rooted in theological and religious convictions, not in pragmatic or geopolitical concerns. That Bush’s foreign policy decision-making is grounded in absolute moral and theological convictions and therefore immune from re-examination or change is an argument I examine at length in A Tragic Legacy because it is one of the principal — and most dangerous — forces driving the Bush presidency. At a September 2006 gathering of right-wing pundits, Bush waxed endlessly about his belief that the U.S. is currently in the midst of a Third Religious Awakening and that the wars over which he presides are a central part of that Awakening. At least in large part, Bush sees the “battles” he is waging in epic theological and religious terms, and as a result, political constraints and pragmatic limits are irrelevant to his actions. It is such an uncomfortable reality that it has been ignored almost completely over the last five years, even though ample evidence exists proving that it is true, beginning with his continuous own statements.

The danger in cynically dismissing religious fervor as a motivating force for Bush — the insistence that Bush’s religious beliefs are contrived and nothing more than a political tool — is that it conceals the true threat posed by having a President who is not merely religious (there is nothing uncommon or dangerous about that), but who draws no distinction between his political decisions and his religious obligations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 8:24 am

Reason to reject a condom commercial

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This sort of stuns me:

When Trojan introduced the condom commercial last month, it was rejected as national advertising by … Fox. Fox said it objected to the message that condoms can prevent pregnancy.

It’s the 21st century. And yet…

Written by Leisureguy

17 July 2007 at 7:58 am

Posted in Business, Health

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