Later On

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

Archive for December 11th, 2007

New projection from pundit class

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Not in the sense of “prediction” but in the sense “if I believe it, then most people think the same way.” Glenn Greenwald:

The other item about which I wanted to write was this new poll (.pdf) from CBS and The New York Times. The latest flock-like chirping from our pundit class is that the Iraq war’s “improving” prospects war mean that it will no longer play a significant role in the 2008 election. David Brooks today was but the latest to unveil this new wisdom, following along with Peter Beinart’s fact-free declaration last week that the diastrous war he cheered on is now politically irrelevant (a column that, as intended, predictably caused people like National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru to issue the ultimate TNR/NR ComplimentCliche: “Peter Beinart has a smart column”).

But look at virtually every question about Iraq from today’s comprehensive poll (questions 3, 6, 15, 78, 80, 82). Public opinion about Iraq is substantially unchanged when compared to two months ago, six months ago and even a year ago. Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to the war and few if any other issues compete with it in terms of importance or intensity.

And all of that is true even though the perception has marginally increased that the “surge” has resulted in a decrease in violence (questions 79, 81). Yet even with perceptions of decreased violence, Americans believe that the war in Iraq was a grave mistake; only a small minority believes we are “winning”; and they overwhelmingly want to withdraw — not “whenever the job is complete,” but rather, within less than a year (49%) or, at most, within 1-2 years (24%). Only a miniscule minority (8%) endorse the pro-war mantra of staying “as long as it takes.”

The alleged improved perception of this war among Americans and its disappearance as a critical political issue is purely a figment of the active imagination of the Beltway pundit class (motivated, at least in part, by the desperation to rid themselves of the damned spot that cannot be scrubbed out). One of the principal ways that the Beltway establishment enforces its own undemocratic power is studiously to ignore public opinion and dismiss it as irrelevant, no match for the wise and gilded wisdom of their high priests. But here we see self-interested propagandists like Peter Beinart and David Brooks not merely dismissing public opinion as irrelevant, but just brazenly distorting it, all in order to align public opinion with their own desires, thus enabling them to pose deceitfully as the Voice of the People even as they espouse views which the vast majority rejects.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Iraq War, Media

565 mpg

with 4 comments

A smart automaker would start making these to improve their Corporate Average Fuel Economy. From ecoGeek:


… People might think you’re crazy, but after you tell them how far you can go on a two-gallon tank of gas, maybe they’ll start to question their own insanity. So when we came across the Twike, we got pretty excited.

The Twike was originally designed by a bunch of students in Switzerland in the ’80s and then taken on by a German firm for production. While it may look like the usual “bizarre” electric vehicle (it’s fully electric, zero emissions), taking a look inside reveals that you can actually pedal to produce up to 500 watts in tandem with a passenger to extend the range of the car by up to 50%. Now THAT’S new!

The car is steered using a joystick configuration, much like in an airplane, and has the accelerator and brakes (regenerative brakes of course) operated by buttons built into the stick. Awesomely geeky! The batteries are lithium-ion and can be charged from a regular household outlet, though slower here than in Europe, where it charges at a rate of about 1km potential per minute. Of course at 12.5 miles per KWh, which is the equivalent of 565 mpg, charging overnight is fine by me! The range on a single charge is anywhere from 20-90 miles depending on driving conditions (and how in shape your legs are!).

They talk about “Grey energy” on their website, the amount of energy used to produce a vehicle, which in this case is 8,400 KWh, compared to 42,000 KWh for a conventional car. What’s the best line from their website though?

“Tailpipes? We don’t need no stinking tailpipes.” Sweet!

$26,000 US might seem like a lot for a glorified electric bicycle, but amazingly they are sold out for 2007 in North America and are taking orders for 2008. It might not take you on cross-country tours (unless you are in great shape), but as a commuter verhicle, what better way to get to and from that lazy office job and stay in shape?…

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 3:25 pm

The perfect cup of tea

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Very nice post, which includes:

… Now, I like an absorbing ritual as much as the next mildly autistic kitchen geek, but I couldn’t help finding this a little ridiculous. I had always thought of tea as “the hot drink I never particularly want”, or “the hot drink that isn’t coffee”, and while I knew vaguely about Japanese tea ceremonies and Russian samovars, it had never occurred to me that procedure as simple as boil, steep, drink could be made so incredibly complicated. Until, that is, I took a sip of the Silver Needle. It was extraordinary: as alive and nuanced as an aged Bordeaux, at once delicate and rich, astringent and refreshing, it was something not to gulp idly, but to savour and contemplate. For comparison’s sake, I made a cup the old-fashioned way: I set a (non-adjustable) kettle on to boil, then steeped the leaves for while. The result was flat and dull.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Good cookbook

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I just got from the library Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman is “The Minimalist” at the NY Times, and in general I like his recipes a lot—and this book is no exception. If you’re an occasional or perpetual vegetarian—or know such persons—this book would be a good gift (to yourself or to them).

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 1:26 pm

Service Pack 1 for Microsoft Office 2007

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Since I have MS Office 2007, I downloaded the service pack. It’s enormous, but installed readily enough.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Software

Christine Todd Whitman: accountable? She says, “No”

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What would happen if personal responsibility became supported? Accountability? Awful (for some) to contemplate:

A former Environmental Protection Agency chief should not be held personally liable for telling residents near the World Trade Center site that the air was safe to breathe after the 2001 terrorist attack, a government lawyer argued Monday.

Holding Christine Todd Whitman liable will set a dangerous precedent, leaving public officials to worry that their words to reassure the public after disasters will open them up to personal liability, Justice Department attorney Alisa Klein told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“If you speak, you will be potentially held liable,” she said. “Then the clear message for government officials is to say nothing.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer Sherrie Savett said Whitman “made false statements to the public, inducing them, seducing them to go back to their homes and to send their kids back to school.”

Residents, students and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn filed a lawsuit claiming they were exposed to hazardous dust and debris from the fallen twin towers.

They say Whitman should be forced to pay damages to properly clean homes, schools and businesses and be forced to create a fund to monitor the health of victims, some of whom claim they suffer from asthma, lung disease and other ailments.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts in Manhattan refused to dismiss Whitman as a defendant, calling the actions of the former New Jersey governor “conscience-shocking.”

The EPA’s Office of the Inspector General said the agency did not have data and information to support statements made in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that the air was safe to breathe. The EPA’s internal watchdog concluded that the agency, at the urging of White House officials, gave misleading assurances that there was no health risk from the dust in the air after the towers’ collapse.

The lawyers and judges on the panel agreed that holding a member of the president’s cabinet personally liable was unprecedented. Still, one judge said there was a question of accountability. The appeals court declined to immediately rule.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 12:52 pm

The military: circling the wagons

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Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann is the legal adviser at Guantánamo, yet in testimony before Congress he seems not to have any legal knowledge whatsoever. Watch the video clip. His statement is so unethical, dishonorable, immoral, and illegal (clearly he’s perjuring himself—the question asked is exactly the sort of thing for which he is responsishable) that it hurts. I hope his family is ashamed of him.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 12:24 pm

CIA’s history of lying

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It’s biting them in the ass now. ThinkProgress:

 Last week, in his letter to CIA employees informing them of the destruction of videotapes featuring interrogations, CIA director Michael Hayden claimed that “videotaping stopped in 2002.” Hayden said the agency “determined that its documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes.”

But the videotaping may not have actually stopped in 2002. The New York Times reports today that “a lawyer representing a former prisoner,” Muhammad Bashmilah, “who said he was held by the C.I.A. said the prisoner saw cameras in interrogation rooms after 2002“:

Meg Satterthwaite, a director of the International Human Rights Clinic at New York University who is representing Mr. Bashmilah in a lawsuit, said Mr. Bashmilah described cameras both in his cells and in interrogation rooms, some on tripods and some on the wall. She said his descriptions of his imprisonment, in hours of conversation in Yemen and by phone this year, were lucid and detailed.

According to an Amnesty International report, Bashmilah was detained in October 2003 and was transfered nearly a year later to a “detention facility run by US officials, apparently underground.” Bashmilah told Amnesty that there were “surveillance cameras in the cells.” He was released in May 2005.

CIA spokesperson Paul Gimigliano refused to comment on Bashmilah’s claims, telling the New York Times only that “he had nothing to add” to Hayden’s previous statements.

In November, a court filing revealed that “the CIA has three video and audio recordings of interrogations of senior al Qaida captives” that it had previously refused to disclose, but it is unclear when those recordings were made.

It’s possible that the cameras Bashmilah saw weren’t actually recording anything, but if they were, it would mean that Hayden was not being truthful when he said that “videotaping stopped in 2002.”

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman comments: “The CIA lied for years about the existence of videotaped interrogations, so there’s no reason to credit Hayden’s account of when the recordings ceased.”

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 12:14 pm

Very cool airships

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These look intriguing. For example:


Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 12:01 pm

All interrogations should be taped

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Many police departments have a rule that all interrogations should be videotaped. Not only does it obviate illegitimate claims of police brutality, not being advised of rights, etc., it also offers the chance to view the interrogation repeatedly as new evidence is found and other experts become available. It also eliminates things like this:

It’s getting easier to watch the watchers:

A teen suspect’s snap decision to secretly record his interrogation with an MP3 player has resulted in a perjury case against a veteran detective and a plea deal for the teen.Unaware of the recording, Detective Christopher Perino insisted under oath at a trial in April that suspect Erik Crespo wasn’t questioned about a shooting in the Bronx.

But the defense confronted the detective with a transcript it said proved he had spent more than an hour unsuccessfully trying to persuade Crespo to confess.

Perino was arraigned today on 12 counts of first-degree perjury and freed on bail.

My guess is that this sort of perjury occurs more than we realize. If there’s one place I think cameras should be rolling at all times, it’s in police station interrogation rooms. And no erasing the tapes either. (And those tapes must have been really damning. Old interrogation tapes can yield valuable intelligence; you don’t ever erase them unless you absolutely have to.)

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 11:51 am

Posted in Government, Technology

More on the ZENN

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It’s attracting attention:

Here’s a sticker shock that feels good: 245 miles per gallon.

So reads the sign on the two-seater Zenn electric car at a new dealership here that peddles electric cars, scooters and bikes. Green Motors is one of an increasing number of electric-vehicle dealers aiming to tap distaste for high gas prices and growing environmental concerns.

The Zenn, which began selling in the USA a year ago, falls into the category of “neighborhood electric vehicles” (NEVs) or “low-speed vehicles.” NEVs are legal only on roads marked for 35 miles per hour or less. In most states, they can go up to 25 mph; in two states up to 35 mph. Depending on make, NEVs will run 30 to 50 miles after a four-to-eight-hour charge and plug in anywhere.

But unlike electric golf-cart-like vehicles popular in retirement communities, the Zenn looks like a regular car. It’s based on Europe’s Microcar, which has been produced as a gas or diesel-powered low-speed vehicle for more than 20 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Cool architecture

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Take a look at this guy’s work. More on the Bunny Lane house (my fave).

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 10:37 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Technology

Tagged with

IQ and race

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Raymond points to this interesting article by Malcolm Gladwell on the always sensitive topic of IQ and race.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 10:13 am

The Cornell note-taking system

with 2 comments

The estimable Gina Trapani has an excellent post on a method of taking lecture notes that cuts the effort and increases the efficacy of your learning.

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 10:08 am

Posted in Education

More on recent human evolution

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From one of the science blogs:

There is a new paper, just coming out in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that explores the idea that humans have undergone an increased rate of evolution over the last several tens of thousands of years.

By an increased rate of evolution, the authors mean an increased rate of adaptive change in the genome. By recent times, the authors mean various things, depending on which part of the analysis you examine, and depending on what is meant by “increased.” … In other words, the timing of an event that is not really an event (but rather a change in rate of something) is hard to specify. The time scale we are talking about here is several tens of thousands of years.

The authors accredit the major cause of the increase in rate of evolutionary change to an increase in population size during the last 50,000 years, but also point out that the biggest change in the rate of population increase would have been with the origin of agriculture subsequent to about 10,000 years ago. This partly underscores the difficulty of talking about vague (in time and space) events, but it also points out a potential problem with the analysis.

But before I delve into what I think is wrong with the analysis, let’s make clear what they are saying, and point out what is probably very valid and important.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Science

What I seem to have

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I’ve had stiffness and pain in my right shoulder for about three weeks, and today The Eldest passed along this story, which (for obvious reasons) interested me:

 Wake up to find your shoulder killing you but don’t recall an injury? It could be the start of frozen shoulder, a curse of middle-aged women and one of the most puzzling joint conditions.

The shoulder’s normally smooth lining becomes so inflamed it resembles cherry Jell-O. That leads to scar tissue, making the shoulder too stiff to move.

Known medically as adhesive capsulitis, it’s a fairly common ailment — estimated to strike between 2 percent and 3 percent of the population, the vast majority women ages 40 to 60. Yet too few sufferers get diagnosed in time for a simple shot that could cut an astounding year or more off recovery time.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 9:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Human evolution continues

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One strange (and, I think, incorrect) idea that arises in discussions of evolution is the notion of “transitional forms.” Though one does find occasional fossil evidence of, say, a dinosaur that has developed feathers, it doesn’t seem right to view that creature as a transition from dinosaurs to birds. It was an animal in its own right, living and going about its business and reproducing as well as it could, given its abilities, its niche, the changing conditions of the world, and so on. If it thought, it never thought, “Gee, I’m almost a bird. Just a little more…” It was what it was.

One of the facts about evolution is that it doesn’t stop. So long as life exists, it is striving to live and reproduce, and the ability of the various forms to reproduce and live continues to shape them all, as little natural changes make them more or less adapted to the conditions they face. Thus disease microbes evolve so that they are no longer killed by our antibiotics. Moths evolve so that their coloration provides protection—or, in other language, moths whose coloration better hides them more frequently survive and reproduce than those that stand out. So we see the peppered moth of England evolve to a darker color as the soot of the industrial revolution covers the landscape (the first dark peppered moth was found in 1848, and over time 90% of peppered moths were dark), and now evolve back to a lighter color as the soot has been displaced with cleaner fuels.

So also with human evolution: it continues.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Lemon delight

with 2 comments

Decided to go for the same shave, only better. So, another shaving stick: one of Honeybee Spa‘s estimable shea-butter shaving soaps, Fresh Lemon, bought as a shaving stick. Rub thoroughly against the grain of my wet beard, enjoying the fragrance. Then the Simpsons Emperor 3 Super, which suddenly is again my favorite brush—go figure—and it whips up a great lather. Because it has such good water capacity, I so far haven’t had to add a driblet of water.

Then the silver Gillette NEW, but I replaced the blade with a new Treet Blue Special—and the spot of glue was back! so that I could unwrap both the external and internal wrappers with one motion, pulling the wrapper(s) off around the blade! How nice!

One secret of happiness is the ability to take great pleasure in small things—which does require that you notice them (i.e., you’re not distracted by constant internal chatter of reminders, criticisms, corrections, and the like).

The Treet blade did what (for me) it always does: a smooth, perfect shave with no nicks. And to top off the shave, Thayers Lemon Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Astringent (i.e., 10% alcohol). What a great shave!

Written by Leisureguy

11 December 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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