Later On

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

Archive for November 21st, 2007

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth — on the run

with 3 comments

Good one:

Last Friday, Senator Kerry responded to an offer made by T. Boone Pickens to give one million dollars to anyone who could disprove any of the charges made by the SBVT group against him by taking him up on his bet. Mr. Pickens responded by trying to retroactively change the terms of his original offer to limit its scope and impose additional conditions.

Below is the text of a letter Senator Kerry sent to Mr. Pickens this afternoon in reply.

Dear Mr. Pickens,

Thank you for your response to my acceptance of your challenge.

I’m grateful that you are prepared to make good on your word and fulfill the offer you made publicly at the American Spectator Dinner in Washington, D.C. on November 6th.

I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.

As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.

It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”

Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” ( In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.

I was interested to read in your response that you don’t want to see the SBVT “maligned,” and that you aim “to prevent this important part of American history from being unfairly portrayed.” I accepted your offer precisely because I want to prevent the honorable records of the courageous men who served with me from being maligned by the repeated lies of this organization. I want to see the word “Swiftboat” restored to its original meaning — synonymous with honorable service to country, not political lies aimed to distort and divide. I would hope that your interests should also be in protecting the record of all those who served our country.

As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.

The only thing remaining now is to set the date for our meeting in an appropriate forum, after which I look forward to you keeping your word and writing a check for one million dollars payable to the Paralyzed Veterans of America so that we can put your money to good work for veterans who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.


John F. Kerry
United States Senator

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Tagged with ,

Ending prohibition: no effect on public safety

leave a comment »

Interesting report:

Decriminalizing so-called ‘victimless’ crimes, particularly those related to drug use, can reduce the US prison population without adversely affecting public safety, according to the findings of a study published this week by the JFA Institute, a Washington, DC criminal-justice think tank.

“According to the US Department of Justice, approximately 30-40 percent of all current prison admissions involve crimes that have no direct or obvious victim other than the perpetrator,” the report finds. “The drug category constitutes the largest offense category, with 31 percent of all prison admissions resulting from such crimes.”

Previous data released last year by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 12.7 percent of state inmates and 12.4 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for drug violations are serving time for marijuana offenses.

The report states, “[V]iolence that surrounds drug trafficking in the United States is largely absent” in Western European countries that have liberalized their drug possession policies. The authors further note that the decriminalization of drugs, particularly marijuana, in regions that have enacted such reforms has not been associated with an increase in crime rates.

The report speculates that decriminalizing illicit drugs, along with enacting modest reforms in sentencing and parole, would save taxpayers an estimated $20 billion per year and reduce the prison population from 1.5 million to below 700,000. [To the $20 billion savings, one should add the anticipated tax revenue from taxing the sale of the now legal drugs. – LG]

Currently, more than 1.5 million Americans are serving time in state and federal prisons, up from fewer than 200,000 in 1970. (Another 750,000 Americans are incarcerated in local jails.) Yet, despite this increase in incarceration, the US crime rate today is approximately the same as it was in the early 70s, when the prison boom began.

A previous JFA report, commissioned for the NORML Foundation in 2005, concluded that depenalizing minor marijuana possession offenses would not increase marijuana use and would enable law enforcement to reallocate criminal justice resources toward addressing more serious crimes.

This and other JFA reports are available here.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Reckless & unwarranted use of the Taser

leave a comment »

This story includes a video, which catches the officer in a lie.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Carving the turkey like a butcher

leave a comment »

Carving turkey

That is, skillfully, quickly, efficiently. Read the article, which includes a video. Click the thumbnail for an illustrated guide.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:38 pm

Those creating college class schedules

leave a comment »

will find this Web 2.0 application useful: CollegeRuled. You need a .EDU address, but it looks pretty slick.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:33 pm

What Google would do with Skype

with one comment

This is an interesting possibility:

Yeah, we know this is just a rumor, but it has quickly bubbled to the top of the VoIP blogosphere, and the ramifications are looming large. Skype may be on eBay’s auction block (no pun intended). Among the potential buyers for such a property are the usual suspects–Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and even Facebook if they could afford it. But the excitement about Google seems to be the most fervent. Here’s why.

Google is a platform company. Their platform is all about monetizing other people’s content. They do it by providing self-service solutions that capture revenue generated on the backs of other content producers. One of their clarion calls has always been–increase use to increase revenue. And nobody does this better than Google.

It was for this reason–increasing use–that eBay invested in Skype. But post-merger politics ruined the exciting possibilities. We never got widespread adoption of Skype on eBay because in order to promote Skype, eBay must also have allowed Skype’s competitors (or at least refrain from blocking their use on the site). That was never going to work. The 1.0 mentality at eBay was just too pervasive, even with such a future-bright asset like Skype.

Google, on the other hand, opens just about everything up. So Google’s idea of competing is to show the competition exactly what they’re holding, source code and all. And that’s the crux of it–if Google does get its hands on Skype, count on getting access to Skype you previously never dreamed of: full-blown APIs, web service models, the specs for the Skype signaling protocol, and yes, almost certainly, source code.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:22 pm

Do you eBay?

leave a comment »

If you’re selling on eBay, the eBay fees calculator may be of interest.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Why medical malpractice insurance is expensive

leave a comment »

Because of medical malpractice. Example:

Some of you might have heard about the doctor in New York, Dr. Harvey Finkelstein, who risked exposing over 600 people to HIV, hepatitis and other deadly diseases by reusing syringes. Among the many horrendous practices brought to light with this case, there are two that particularly highlight issues with the state’s health officials and medical board.

State health officials delayed the public release of the information to patients, which inexcusably delayed testing and possible treatment for those exposed. Then the state’s medical board incredibly found “no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Unfortunately, this is by no means a singular example of the worst medical malpractice offenders being ignored by the New York State Medical Board. Of the 127 doctors in New York who have made 10 or more malpractice payments since 1990, less than one-third have had reportable licensure actions taken against them.

It is clear that we need to fix the system that allows monstrous unaccountability like Finkelstein. As our Director, Laura MacCleery, put it, “The ‘I’ll scratch your back’ culture in medicine, in which doctors have claimed they are competent to police themselves, must end before more people are killed by criminal negligence.”

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:18 pm

Good letter to the WSJ on mandatory arbitration

leave a comment »

This letter spells it out so that even the WSJ should understand:

“Party at Joan’s”
Wall Street Journal, November 17, 2007; Page A9

Your Nov. 7, broadside (“Party at Ralph’s”) on arbitration was baseless. We oppose mandatory not voluntary arbitration requirements buried in the fine print of consumer contracts  because they shred consumers’ legal rights in favor of a secret,  expensive, business-dominated system.

The consumer attorneys attending a reception at Public Citizen’s office are legal aid and private attorneys who toil in some of the least glamorous corners of the law. They see firsthand the unfairness of this industry-created system to avoid accountability. They work for consumers harmed by home foreclosures, truth-in-lending violations, unfair debt collection practices, predatory lending, auto dealer fraud and other marketplace abuses.

To acquire a credit card, buy a home or car, open a bank account, use a cell phone or get cable television, consumers usually must sign a contract mandating arbitration to settle disputes. A mere signature effectively eliminates their constitutional right to the public courts, extinguishes the right to appeal, favors corporate repeat offenders whom arbitrators want to please and imposes substantial upfront costs.

“Studies” to justify mandatory arbitration, often cited by industry, misleadingly lump together people who voluntarily enter arbitration with those given no choice. In contrast, Public Citizen’s recent report evaluated 34,000 consumer mandatory arbitration cases in California. The results: Consumers lost 94% of the time.

No wonder the Journal editorial page and the paper’s business advertisers love this stacked deck. Your justification for it rests on the deeply flawed Tillinghast Tower Perrin report on the cost of litigation. Yet Tillinghast admits its numbers are not actual costs: Almost a quarter are for insurance industry administrative costs, and most are associated with auto insurance. Conservative jurist Richard Posner challenges Tillinghast estimates as “fictitious.”

Amazingly, the Journal, which lauds a free market, opposes the Arbitration Fairness Act, even though it would allow consumers to freely choose or reject arbitration and not be coerced into it. Congress should move quickly to enact the bill.

Finally, please note that Ralph Nader left Public Citizen more than 25 years ago, during which time I have led the organization, which has grown into a potent force for consumer good. Thus, in the future, please reference our events as a “Party at Joan’s.”

Joan Claybrook
Public Citizen
Washington, D.C.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

Tagged with ,

Scenic steps in San Francisco

leave a comment »

Steps 1 Steps 2

Two photos from The Wife’s cellphone of a stairway/mural in San Francisco that we saw yesterday. Each level of steps has a slightly different theme, but they are designed so that the entire stairway creates a single mural, that goes from below the ocean (at the lowest level) up through to the sun above (at the highest). Quite remarkable. It’s not evident in the photo, but the little mural on each riser includes names of local people and businesses in the ceramics.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

WiFi in apartment buildings

leave a comment »

Starting recently, I have been noticing some problems:

  • My cordless phones have trouble making a connection, and when I try to talk on them, there’s lots of interference.
  • My clocks and watches which set themselves each night from the NIST radio signal won’t set themselves anymore. (This has not happened before: the resetting has always been reliable.)

What I think is happening is that someone in one of the apartments has gotten a WiFi router that emits a really strong signal, strong enough to interfere with other apartments. Obviously, given the size of these apartments, a strong signal is overkill.

It could be a new tenant, setting up the router that was necessary in their previous place, or it could be someone who simply got a new router.

It’s certainly inconvenient. I probably could do without the clock’s resetting themselves, though I do like the accuracy, but not being able to reliably use the phone is a problem.

This is certainly a modern-day problem, but it’s not unlike other problems in which one apartment’s set-up interferes with other apartments—I think of smoky grills, loud wind-chimes, a bird-feeder, and so on.

But does it seem likely, you who understand WiFi tech, that this could be the cause? And would a lower-power router be the likely fix?

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Effects of climate change

with one comment

As I note from time to time, Dana Perino likes to mention the benefits that will come from global warming. Here’s another view:

Climate change may be one of the most significant threats facing humankind. A new study shows that long-term climate change may ultimately lead to wars and population decline.

The study, published November 19 in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), revealed that as temperatures decreased centuries ago during a period called the Little Ice Age, the number of wars increased, famine occurred and the population declined.

Data on past climates may help accurately predict and design strategies for future large and persistent climate changes, but acknowledging the historic social impact of these severe events is an important step toward that goal, according to the study’s authors.

“Even though temperatures are increasing now, the same resulting conflicts may occur since we still greatly depend on the land as our food source,” said Peter Brecke, associate professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and co-author of the study.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 11:07 am

Gitmo manual leaked

leave a comment »

You can download it as a PDF and see how carefully we treat the detainees/suspects.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 11:03 am

Social Security: in trouble or not?

leave a comment »

Interesting exchange of columns: Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post saying that Paul Krugman’s head is in a place where it does no good regarding the Social Security crisis (she said “head in the sand,” but we all know what she was thinking), and Paul Krugman responding to point out the flaws in her quotations, etc. Interesting exchange.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 10:10 am

More on chia seed

with 6 comments

We got to talking yesterday about chia seed, so I thought I’d post a summary of health benefits. I get my chia seed here, buying the black seed. I got one refillable bottle and now I order the packets, 3 at a time. (Also, see this post for the highly informative comment thread.)

Chia seeds are grown organically in southern Mexico.

These tiny seeds are one of nature’s perfect foods and they contain essential fatty acids (an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid), protein, soluble fibre, protective antioxidants, vitamins & minerals. Native Americans in what is now Mexico and the south western United States consumed the seeds of the chia plant for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. Chia was cultivated by the Aztecs, Mayas, Tehuantapecs, and other native American peoples and were so highly prized that they were at one point used as valuable currency.

Here are some benefits to using chia seed. Chia seeds are:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Tagged with

And even more: 3000 IU vitamin D daily?

with 5 comments

Take a look at this:

Advances in Vitamin D nutritional physiology since publication of the DRIs in 1997 are briefly summarized. Available data indicate that (1) Vitamin D’s canonical function, optimizing intestinal calcium absorption, is fully expressed at serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) concentration of not, vert, similar80 nmol/L; (2) elevated parathyroid activity, typical of aging populations, is minimized at the same 25OHD value and (3) osteoporotic fractures are reduced when serum 25OHD is raised to near 80 nmol/L. Depending upon starting value, achieving 25OHD concentrations of 80 or higher may require a daily oral intake of 2200 IU (55 μg) or more in addition to prevailing cutaneous inputs. The tolerable upper intake level (TUIL), currently set at 2000 IU (50 μg)/day, is too low to permit optimization of Vitamin D status in the general population. Actual toxicity is not seen below serum 25OHD values of 250 nmol/L, a value that would be produced only at continuing oral intakes in excess of 10,000 IU (250 μg)/day.

I’m increasing my vitamin D supplement to 3000 IU daily.

And, as noted here:

Vitamin D toxicity, when it occurs, is a serious problem. The first sign is a rise in the ratio of calcium to creatinine in the urine, which precedes hypercalcemia and the problems associated with it. Yet, vitamin D toxicity is rare; its risk has been greatly exaggerated by inappropriate animal studies involving pharmacologic doses of vitamin D that have no relevance to human physiology. Heaney and associates gave people 10 000 IU of vitamin D3 daily for 5 months and did not observe a single adverse urinary calcium–creatinine event.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 9:40 am

Posted in Health, Science

More vitamin D, especially for the pregnant

leave a comment »

The Wife observed that my recommendations regarding vitamin D intake really have no weight unless I attach the references and documentation. And there is good documentation. For example:

Vitamin D does not occur naturally in foods that humans normally eat. Moreover, the widespread use of sunscreens and public health recommendations to avoid sun exposure reduces dermal synthesis of vitamin D3. Most people therefore get vitamin D3 by taking a vitamin D supplement or by consuming vitamin D–fortified milk. These sources are nevertheless inadequate and ordinarily fall far short of actual human requirements.

How much vitamin D3 should we be getting? The current recommended amount for adequate intake (200 IU/d for people aged ≤ 50 yr) was established in 1997.3 Before then, the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin D in infants and children was 400 IU.7 In essence, the scientific basis for this dose was that it approximated that in a teaspoon (15 mL) of cod liver oil, which had long been considered safe and effective in preventing rickets.8 Essentially, these recommendations are all based on a report8 issued 4 decades ago by an expert committee on vitamin D that provided only anecdotal support for what it referred to as “the hypothesis of a small requirement” for vitamin D in adults. The committee recommended half the 400-IU infant dose to ensure that adults had some oral intake of vitamin D.8

Disturbingly, the basis for these recommendations was made before it was possible to measure circulating 25(OH)D, the true indicator of nutritional vitamin D status. A question that has intrigued our group for years is, How can the recommendation of 200 IU of vitamin D daily apply just as well to a 90-kg adult as a 3.5-kg term infant? Biologically and pharmacologically, this makes little sense. That amount may be close to what is needed by a baby, but it will not suffice for an adult.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

The bridge protest

leave a comment »

The bridge players who wrote a little “We did not vote for Bush” sign on the back of a menu and held it up at an awards banquet caused quite a storm. I think this comment best expresses the sense (of those who still have sense) of the brouhaha.

The link is from a comment by The Son, but I wanted to give it more play because the comment is so good.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 8:58 am

Megs on my coming home

leave a comment »

When I got home last night, shortly before 8:00 p.m. after having left at 7:30 a.m., Megs seemed highly annoyed at me. (Some cats miss their owners and are extra affectionate after an absence. Megs isn’t that sort of cat.) She meowed rather harshly at me, and then trotted away into the living room. Later, when she was sitting on her cat platform and staring out at the dark bay, I went over to pet her, and she sort of snapped at me. Very pissy.

But she slept on my last night (she loves the Outlast duvet with all its little Thermocules), and this morning had decided to let bygones by bygones—or, more likely, had forgotten everything. They’re pretty much creatures of the moment, cats.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 8:19 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Surprise shave: 9.89

with 3 comments

I’m reluctant to tag a shave as 9.9, but this one is close. And yet I feel I did nothing special.

QED Bathtub Gin shave stick (which actually smells more like a well-made Martini), then a really fine lather brought forth with the Edwin Jagger Medium Silvertip. The Edwin Jagger Georgian with a thrice-used Sputnik blade did the double down, across, and up, and I could tell after the second down pass that this was going to be smooth. After the across pass my face felt very smooth already, but I did the upward pass which helps the shave last all day.

When I rinsed, I was feeling very good about the shave. Stetson Sierra aftershave, and as I sit here, casually rubbing my face (as if in thought), wow! I’m proud. I did have one tiny nick on my chin, quite small, from making long sweeping strokes across—got a little careless. But My Nik Is Sealed always closes those right up.

Written by Leisureguy

21 November 2007 at 7:55 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: