Later On

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

Archive for August 14th, 2007

Poach pod

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This is on my Christmas wishlist. More info here. They’re silicone, so the cooked egg pops right out. UPDATE: The Wife points out that these would also make great bathtub toys. 🙂

PoachPod

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

The CIA history in the heroin trade

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I read this fascinating post in Booman Tribune—it’s a jaw-dropper: how the CIA aided and abetted heroin production. No wonder some seriously thought that the CIA was behind the crack epidemic. The post at the link is just a part of the interview. You can read the full interview here:

It’s an amazing interview, and here is the beginning:

Barsamian: This is David Barsamian and my guest is Alfred McCoy, author of “The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia” and “Drug Traffic: Narcotics and Organized Crime in Australia”. Alfred McCoy is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In your book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, you demarcate very carefully that the United States was poised at the end of World War II, in 1945, to… I don’t have your exact words … to terminate the problem of drug addiction in the United States and it could have done so but for forces that I’d like you to discuss – was unable to do so.

McCoy: The problem with America’s failed chance at essentially reducing if not eliminating drugs as a problem was a contradiction between the needs of domestic policy and the national security state. After World War II the United States became a global power and set up a number of agencies to exercise this global power, most importantly the executive agency known as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency when it was ultimately formed in 1948. The CIA, in order to conduct its campaign against communism, which was seen as an overweening evil that had to be stopped, was willing to ally with anybody and everybody that could provide during what was seen as a critical period, some strength, some support in the global struggle against communism.

In Europe and Asia the CIA allied themselves with major drug brokers and organized crime syndicates. In sum, what they did was to create a mainline flow of narcotics from the Middle East through Europe to the United States which dominated America’s drug markets until the 1960s. At the same time, the CIA was forging alliances and protecting the traffickers in Europe, for reasons of intelligence. They also formed similar alliances in Asia – alliances which were actually deeper and had much more profound and lasting impact on the Asian drug trade.

As the European trade began to diminish in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the second stream, the flow of Asian drug traffic came into the United States and supplanted the old Turkey- Marseilles heroin connection. But, ultimately, when you look at the source of supply and the politics that provided drugs to America in the post-war era, you came down to this contradiction between the weak drug policy and same kind of vague commitment to doing something about drugs versus a very high profile, very important effort to contain communism globally. In this balance between an inarticulated, poorly formed narcotics policy and a very clear national goal of containing communism, narcotics policy was barely considered.

The CIA in this era was dealing with governments, intelligence chiefs, warlords, gangsters, traffickers of all sorts – good character was not considered of moment. The only thing that counted during the period from the late 1940s through the late 1960s was containing communism.

Barsamian: You trace the involvement of the Mafia – the U.S. Mafia – in the promotion of narcotics trafficking in the United States. How did the politics get involved with the Mafia?

McCoy: We have to step back a bit to the origin of the drug problem. Since the 1800s western societies – Europe, Australia, America – have had very extensive drug problems.

And it goes on…

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Government

The US: We’re #1! (in imprisoning citizens)

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Yes, the US leads the world in the percentage of its citizens that it locks up in prisons! Maybe in comparison to other nations we’re not doing so great in healthcare, and our educational system isn’t doing such a hot job, but by golly in at least one area we lead the world:

According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States—with five percent of the world’s population—houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates. Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia). Other industrial democracies, even those with significant crime problems of their own, are much less punitive: our incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan. We have a corrections sector that employs more Americans than the combined work forces of General Motors, Ford, and Wal-Mart, the three largest corporate employers in the country, and we are spending some $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections at all levels of government, a fourfold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century.

Never before has a supposedly free country denied basic liberty to so many of its citizens. In December 2006, some 2.25 million persons were being held in the nearly 5,000 prisons and jails that are scattered across America’s urban and rural landscapes. One third of inmates in state prisons are violent criminals, convicted of homicide, rape, or robbery. But the other two thirds consist mainly of property and drug offenders. Inmates are disproportionately drawn from the most disadvantaged parts of society. On average, state inmates have fewer than 11 years of schooling. They are also vastly disproportionately black and brown.

Read the whole article.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 3:32 pm

Limits on government power

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I think that all of us, both conservative and liberal, believe that government powers must have limits, and among those limits are time-honored (and Constitutional) limits specified in the Bill of Rights. When the government deliberately violates those rights, we all must be angered, for those rights are our safeguards. The Anonymous Liberal looks at an argument made in favor of violating those rights:

Marty Lederman highlights a truly stunning document, a government declaration submitted to a federal court back in 2003 in defense of Jose Padilla’s processless incommunicado detention. In it, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, argues that permitting Padilla any process whatsoever would interfere with the government’s goal of convincing Padilla that he has no hope of ever being freed.

Permitting Padilla any access to counsel may substantially harm national security interests. As with most detainees, Padilla is unlikely to cooperate if he believes that an attorney will intercede in his detention: DIA’ s assessments that Padilla is even more inclined to resist interrogation than most detainees. DIA is aware that Padilla has had extensive experience in the United States criminal justice system and had access to counsel when he was being held as a material witness. These experiences have likely heightened his expectations that counsel will assist him in the interrogation process. Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla.

Because Padilla is likely more attuned to the possibility of counsel intervention than most detainees, I believe that any potential sign of counsel involvement would disrupt our ability to gather intelligence from Padilla. Padilla has been detained without access to counsel for seven months-since the DoD took control of him on 9 June 2002. Providing him access to counsel now would create expectations by Padilla that his ultimate release may be obtained through an adversarial civil litigation process. This would break-probably irreparably-the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.

Of course the reason Padilla is “more attuned to the possibility of counsel intervention” is because he’s a U.S. freakin’ citizen who, by virtue of having been born and raised here, likely has at least a passing familiarity with the Bill of Rights. Here we have a high-level government official asserting in federal court that the government has to be able to hold this U.S. citizen incommunicado and without any process because it is the only way to break his will and crush his soul, thereby allowing the government to extract information from him (assuming he actually has any information).

Talk about grim logic. To me, that’s like Jeffrey Dahmer arguing that he had to cut his victims’ heads off because it was the only way to fit them in the freezer.

That is to say, it’s an ends-justify-means argument in which the ends are as repulsive as the means.

The government should simply not be in the business of trying to destroy people’s minds (much less those of U.S. citizens), which is what they did to Padilla. As Jack Balkin put it:

If the President had his way, the government, on the basis of information that never had to be tested before any neutral magistrate, could pluck any citizen off the streets, throw them in a military prison, and proceed to drive them insane.

Those are the powers that the Bush Administration sought. I will not mince words: They are the powers of a dictator in an authoritarian regime. They are the powers of the old Soviet Union, of the military junta in Argentina during the time of the disappeared.

To be sure, the President thought that Padilla was a dangerous man. But authoritarian regimes always think that the people they lock up are dangerous. They always do it to keep the country safe, to save the country from its enemies. The question is at what cost do they assume such power without accountability.

The fact that this is “the question” here in the year 2007 is depressing beyond measure. If the rule of law and the concept of due process are to have any meaning at all, these kind of powers cannot be tolerated. Not now. Not ever.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 3:25 pm

Bottled barbecue sauces

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EatingWell did a taste test, and the winner was Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering Sauce. Thought you’d want to know.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

US going in a bad direction, says GAO

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From the Financial Times:

 The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic healthcare underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”.

These include “dramatic” tax rises, slashed government services and the large-scale dumping by foreign governments of holdings of US debt.

Drawing parallels with the end of the Roman empire, Mr Walker warned there were “striking similarities” between America’s current situation and the factors that brought down Rome, including “declining moral values and political civility at home, an over-confident and over-extended military in foreign lands and fiscal irresponsibility by the central government”.

“Sound familiar?” Mr Walker said. “In my view, it’s time to learn from history and take steps to ensure the American Republic is the first to stand the test of time.”

Mr Walker’s views carry weight because he is a non-partisan figure in charge of the Government Accountability Office, often described as the investigative arm of the US Congress.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Obviate inflammation

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From the Harvard Medical School Newsletter:

7 simple steps to fend off harmful inflammation

Inflammation is an essential part of the body’s healing system. Without it, injuries would fester and simple infections could be deadly.

Too much of a good thing, though, is downright dangerous. Chronic low-grade inflammation is intimately involved in all stages of atherosclerosis, the process that leads to cholesterol-clogged arteries. This means that inflammation sets the stage for heart attacks, most strokes, peripheral artery disease, and even vascular dementia, a common cause of memory loss.

Inflammation doesn’t happen on its own. It is the body’s response to a host of modern irritations that our Stone Age genes haven’t quite caught up to. The main ones are smoking, lack of exercise, high-fat and high-calorie meals, and highly processed foods.

Medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies are hot on the trail of inflammation-busting drugs. Don’t bother waiting — they are a long way off, are bound to be expensive, and will almost certainly have side effects. Instead, you can turn to simple tools that ease inflammation. We’ll focus on diet here, but don’t forget about avoiding cigarette smoke (yours or someone else’s), exercising, watching your weight, and taking care of your teeth.

Simple changes

What you eat may fan the fires of inflammation. With some small changes — no crazy new foods involved — you can douse them. Here are some suggestions:

1. Get an oil change. Eating a lot of saturated fats and/or trans fats is linked with higher levels of inflammation. Swap them for olive oil, which has potent anti-inflammatory properties, or polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fats from fish.

2. Don’t be so refined. The bolus of blood sugar that accompanies a meal or snack of highly refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, French fries, sugar-laden soda, etc.) increases levels of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Eating whole-grain bread, brown rice, and other whole grains smooths out the after-meal rise in blood sugar and insulin, and dampens cytokine production.

3. Promote produce. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower the burden of inflammation. Why? They contain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of substances that squelch inflammation-rousing free radicals; some act as direct anti-inflammatory agents.

4. Go nuts. Adding walnuts, peanuts, almonds, and other nuts and seeds to your snacks and meals is another tasty way to ease inflammation.

5. Cocoa lovers rejoice? In laboratory studies, cocoa and dark chocolate slow the production of signaling molecules involved in inflammation. The trick is to get them without too much sugar and fat.

6. Alcohol in moderation. A drink a day seems to lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a powerful signal of inflammation. Too much alcohol has the opposite effect on CRP.

7. Spice it up. Herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, basil, pepper, and many others have anti-inflammatory properties.

If you adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, you probably won’t see or feel any different. Angina won’t suddenly disappear or heart failure reverse itself. But you will be doing your heart, arteries, and the rest of you a huge favor that will pay off in many ways.

For more information on extending your life, order our Special Health Report, Living Better, Living Longer: The secrets of healthy aging.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Medical

Karl Rove retrospective

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With Rove leaving the White House, columns looking back at his accomplishments and legacy abound. Dan Froomkin provides snippets and links.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 11:44 am

Compassionate as hell

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Via Kevin Drum, this anecodote from Joshua Green’s profile of Karl Rove in the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly, told by Dick Armey, the GOP House Majority Leader:

“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.”

Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,'” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 11:34 am

Salba = Chia seed

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Apparently Salba ($30/lb) is just a registered trademark for a particular variety of chia. You can also get generic chia seeds. See here. Note price difference. And it’s $6/lb here. [It was at the time—the price has gone up. – LG]

UPDATE * : It’s only fair to note that Salba (the patented [not patented, as it turns out – LG]variety that really put chia on the map) was the subject of this nutritional study. Aviva sells both generic chia and Salba. And SourceSalba is the Salba home. This post has some interesting information, including links to videos about Salba and the difference between Salba and generic chia.

UPDATE 2: I notice that now Amazon.com offers chia seed, including some with no shipping charge.

UPDATE 3: Policy for this thread: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I’m tired of the accusations and counter-accusations.

* UPDATE 4: Regarding the first update, please not corrective information in this comment.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 11:26 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

The while-people-are-boarding journal

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Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

Another exciting afternoon at chez Leisureguy

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Megs in action

Action shot of Megs.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 9:08 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Barbiera Italiana morning

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Another day of rose, with emphasis today on Barbiera Italiana: blade, soap, and aftershave all from there.

I used the Rooney Style 3 Small Super Silvertip brush, which I cleaned yesterday following Em’s video instructions. The cleaning really worked: no more waterproof.

The soap was Tryphon Rosa, which produced a thick and rose-fragrant lather quite quickly. I used the Merkur Futur with a Treet Platinum blade: quick and smooth shave. And the aftershave was again Manetti & Roberts Acqua di Rose.

Yet another wonderful shave.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2007 at 7:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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