Later On

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

Archive for October 5th, 2007

The change in conservatives

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I’m now reading John Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience, in which he traces the change in the GOP. It’s a fascinating and (so far) highly readable book, and there does seem to have been an almost abrupt change in the GOP in the 90’s. The Anonymous Liberal has a post today describing the results of that change:

In his column in the New York Times today, David Brooks explains the collapse of the Republican brand this way:

To put it bluntly, over the past several years, the G.O.P. has made ideological choices that offend conservatism’s Burkean roots. This may seem like an airy-fairy thing that does nothing more than provoke a few dissenting columns from William F. Buckley, George F. Will and Andrew Sullivan. But suburban, Midwestern and many business voters are dispositional conservatives more than creedal conservatives. They care about order, prudence and balanced budgets more than transformational leadership and perpetual tax cuts. It is among these groups that G.O.P. support is collapsing.

John Cole, a Republican-voter as recently as 2004, strongly dissents and offers a different explanation:

Like me. It had nothing to do with Burke, and everything to do with what the party had become. A bunch of bedwetting, loudmouth, corrupt, hypocritical, and incompetent boobs with a mean streak a mile long and no sense of fair play or proportion. . . .

Screw them. I got out. They can have their party. I will vote for Democrats and little L libertarians and isolationists until the crazy people aren’t running the GOP. The threat of higher taxes in the short term isn’t enough to keep me from voting out crazy people and voting for sane people with whom I merely disagree regarding policy. Hillarycare doesn’t scare me as much as Frank Gaffney having a line to the person with the nuclear football or Dobson and company crafting domestic policy.

I think Cole is much closer to the truth here than Brooks. I think the reason the Republican brand has suffered so much of late is because many people have become embarrassed by and no longer want to be associated with the party’s public representatives; its most visible television personalities, radio hosts, writers, bloggers, and activists, are by in large, obnoxious, crazy, and embarrassing. It’s a clown show. Intelligent conservatives cringe when they see people like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh on television spouting their toxic nonsense, but this toxic gasbag contingent has come to dominate the GOP. And while this stuff might be red meat to much of the Republican base, it’s scaring away the more educated members of the party.

I know this because I know a number of people who, not so long ago, were very proud Republicans and were not at all embarrassed about saying so. And now they’re all very disillusioned and quick to tell you that they’re not that kind of Republican. The problem for the GOP is that it has allowed a bunch of rabid loons to take control of its messaging and they are tarnishing the brand with their relentless idiocy. As long as this continues, there will continue to be an exodus from the party of people like John Cole, who may not agree with the Democrats on everything, but are just sick and tired of the GOP clown show.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 6:03 pm

How to read a painting

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A deepened appreciation of art through a few simple techniques.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 12:55 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Education

A sustainable lifestyle

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The problem with an unsustainable lifestyle (say, the lifestyle of the US overall) is that it’s not sustainable (obviously): sooner or later, it comes time to pay the piper, and the longer the dance, the more the piper wants. The piper of global warming is already kicking down the door. Other pipers will soon arrive.

Take a look at this graph: above the 80% line vertically, you have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle. The horizontal axis shows how many planet Earths (i.e., planets of resources like the Earth’s resources) it takes to maintain the lifestyle.

Clearly the sweet spot is above .8 (80%) and to the left of 1 Earth. Only one nation fits there today—Cuba—and that’s transitory, as the article below explains.


This bodes ill, doesn’t it?

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Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Environment

Dubious tactics of climate skeptics

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An editorial from the New Scientist:

We need climate change sceptics. Not because they are right – at least not on the big issue of human culpability in recent warming – but because they ask hard questions that lead to deeper knowledge. What we do not need from them is misrepresentation and cynical trashing of scientists’ work.

Take the latest claims attributed to Fred Singer, arch-exponent of the idea that solar cycles explain everything about climate change, and economist Dennis Avery from the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington DC. They made headlines with their list of 500 scientists who they say have refuted “at least one element of current man-made global warming scares”. The list, says Avery, “makes a mockery of recent claims that a scientific consensus blames humans as the primary cause of global temperature increases since 1850”.

There is sleight of hand in here, and the words “at least one element” and “since 1850” leave plenty of wriggle room. Sadly, some members of the press have chosen to interpret the release as saying that 500 scientists are “doubtful” that present global warming is down to human activity.

Now some of the 500 are demanding that their names be removed from the list. Leading the field is Joanna Haigh of Imperial College London, an investigator of possible solar influences on climate via cosmic rays. She says: “I believe that changes in the sun influence climate, but I have never claimed that solar forcing is responsible for recent global warming. It is mendacious of them to include me in a list of those refuting human activity as the major cause.” Another on the list, climatologist Michael Mann of Penn State University, adds: “This is a dishonest and cynical misrepresentation of my findings and views, and those of many of my colleagues.”

Singer responded with a note saying: “I was not involved in this exercise – or consulted.” Avery explained his interpretations, helpfully telling Haigh: “I carefully avoided saying that you agree with our interpretations.”

Once research findings are published they, of course, become public property, available to be contested and reinterpreted by all. But researchers do have a right not to be blatantly misrepresented. Sadly, the spin doctors of climate scepticism have a history of mangling research and traducing the integrity of climate scientists.

Another absurd recent claim attributed to Singer is that “the widely touted ‘consensus’ of 2500 scientists on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an illusion: most of the panelists have no scientific qualifications“. This stuff is bad not only for science, but also for the sceptical cause. No one wants to silence sceptics: we need scepticism. We just wish they were better at it.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 12:43 pm

Day 10 of walking: 10 blocks out, 10 back

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And just over 30 minutes. So it looks very much as though a week from today I’ll be at the 45-minute walk mark, where I’ll remain until this new habit is nailed down. Still using lunchtime as a trigger, which works quite well: finish the sandwich, then head out the door.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Tagged with ,

Video of the sun snipping off a comet’s tail

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Watch it happen.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 11:10 am

Posted in Science

Tagged with ,

Take a look

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Cool little device when you need to see, e.g., inside an engine cylinder—or even what’s on the back of a top shelf or way back under the refrigerator. The camera head includes lighting (2 LEDs).

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Friday cat-blogging: Megs and mousie

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Megs & mousie 1 Megs & mousie 2 Megs & mousie 3 Megs & mousie 4 Megs & mousie 5

Megs and her mousie—well, the mousie is not in the frame, just its string and stick. (It’s a mousie that one dangles and pulls for Megs to attack). Megs is trying to get the thing free of the headphone cable. She’s not making much progress, as you see.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Cats, Megs


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Aristotle famously said that one who would live alone is a god or a beast. To be human, it’s implied, is to live with one’s fellows. But it’s certainly possible to live in a community without feeling connected to others—to view others as impediments or as cattle, more or less. Some will feels themselves superior, and—naturally enough—look for others who will share and reinforce those feelings. Those others might be toadies (think Alberto Gonzales) or persons with the same worldview. People of this sort lack compassion—they never think, when viewing someone less fortunate, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” In a word, they lack compassion.

The GOP has consistently supported and proposed programs to help those who have much, and have consistently tried to cut program for those who have little. The famous tax cuts are an obvious example. Indeed, it is this well-known characteristic of the GOP that made the slogan “compassionate conservatism” have such resonance: the two words had not before been put together.

Of course, it quickly became apparent that the slogan was simply election politics, with no intention whatsoever of breathing life into any GOP initiative. Paul Krugman speaks to this point today:

In 1960, John F. Kennedy, who had been shocked by the hunger he saw in West Virginia, made the fight against hunger a theme of his presidential campaign. After his election he created the modern food stamp program, which today helps millions of Americans get enough to eat.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

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Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 8:19 am

Who started the mercenary push?

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Oddly enough, it turns out that one man can be identified as the prime mover into the US hiring mercenaries and setting them loose in a war zone: Mike McConnell. Frank Viviano of CBS reports:

Where does the buck stop? It’s a question that Washington has ignored through a long succession of scandals in Iraq, while senior officials plead ignorance and the buck – responsibility – skids to a halt at grunt level.

It is the question we ought be asking today about the widespread and controversial use of mercenaries, known formally as “private contractors,” in war zones. And it should be directed squarely at Admiral J. “Mike” McConnell, the Bush Administration’s Director of National Intelligence.

Admiral McConnell is not simply the boss of sixteen separate U.S. intelligence and security agencies. In the netherworld where private security firms and public institutions do business, he was a principal architect of the system that led to the Blackwater USA disaster, with its revelations of trigger-happy hired gunmen shooting innocent civilians in the name of the State Department.

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Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 7:45 am

Puzzle solved

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This morning I tried to replicate the Monday morning shave by going through the same prep: quick wash with MR GLO, TOBS St. James shave stick, and the Simpsons Major Super brush. I realize now that I was eager to get to the shave, so probably rushed the prep: I held the brush under the hot water, gave it a little shake, and brought forth the lather from the soap my beard had scraped from the shave stick. The lather comes up quickly, and I immediately set to shaving—as I did again this morning, with the same result: “dull” blade, with lots of uncomfortable tugging, not much cutting.

So I stopped, wet the brush more, and worked more with the lather. The Simpsons Major sports a small brush—40 mm loft, 19 mm knot—so once shaken the amount of water remaining in the brush is not great. With this brush, more than with a larger brush, adding more water is essential. With the water added, the lather did not thin but simply became more ample (and wetter). I added a little water yet again, brushed over and into my beard thoroughly, and picked up the razor once more.

What do you know? The blade was no longer “dull”—it cut smoothly, effortlessly, and cleanly. I had a great shave, and finished with Jade East aftershave, very nice.

The lesson I learned is to take more account of the brush in the prep, and consider how much water it brings to the lather. Moreover, after making sure the lather holds sufficient water, give it time to soften the stubble. Then the blade can do its job.

Looking at the blade as the problem, you’ll note, would have solved nothing. I’m reminded of the time that our dryer seemed to be on the blink—it just wasn’t getting the clothes dry in the usual spin cycle. We called the repairman, and he quickly fixed the problem. The dryer was fine, but the belt was worn on the washer so in its final spin it wasn’t getting the water out of the clothes as it should. A new belt on the washer, and the dryer started working fine once more.

Written by Leisureguy

5 October 2007 at 7:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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