Later On

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

Archive for January 26th, 2008

Key rulings on medical marijuana

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Useful information with links to the rulings. Bottom line seems to be this: if a state has passed laws making medical marijuana legal (as 12 states have so far), then physicians have nothing to fear from the state in prescribing medical marijuana. Based on the first Federal decision below (along with the US Supreme Court’s decision to let it stand), physicians also have nothing to fear from Federal regulators—specifically, the physician cannot be investigated or his/her license to prescribe medicines revoked. The only people still facing a problem in states with legal medical marijuana are those actually possessing marijuana: the dispensaries, the patient, and those growing it for the dispensaries. So long as the physician is not involved in transactions (sales, distribution) of actual, physical marijuana, the physician is safe and protected by law, both state and Federal:

Many enforcement officers still cite or arrest legitimate medical cannabis patients and their caregivers. When the issue goes before a judge, state or federal, their final ruling is viewed as a legal interpretation of the law. The ruling, in effect, becomes part of the medical cannabis law. However, federal rulings do not have merit in state court. Legitimate patients and caregivers, arrested or cited for cannabis violations despite protections offered by CA state law, have been to both the California and United States Supreme Courts fighting for their right to safe and affordable medical cannabis.

Federal Medical Cannabis Rulings

Conant v. McCaffrey

(2000): The government was enjoined by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco from punishing physicians or taking their DEA licenses for recommending medical use of cannabis. The ruling states that physicians have a First Amendment right to make recommendations, but may not aid or abet patients in actually obtaining marijuana. Click to view the ruling. [An important follow-on to this ruling is that the US Supreme Court refused to review the case, so the ruling stands as law: “In a case brought by the ACLU and others, Walters v. Conant, the Court chose to let stand the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that under the First Amendment doctors can recommend and discuss medical marijuana with patients.” More here and here. – LG]

Conant v. Walters

(2002): The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the federal government could not punish, or threaten to punish, a doctor merely for telling a patient that his or her use of marijuana for medical use is proper. However, because it remains illegal for a doctor to “aid and abet” a patient to obtain marijuana or conspire with him or her to do so, the court drew the line between protected First Amendment speech and prohibited conduct as follows — A physician may discuss the pros and cons of medical marijuana with his or her patient, and issue a written or oral recommendation to use marijuana within a bona fide doctor-patient relationship without fear of legal reprisal. And this is so, regardless of whether s/he anticipates that the patient will, in turn, use this recommendation to obtain marijuana in violation of federal law. On the other hand, the physician may not actually prescribe or dispense marijuana to a patient, or recommend it with the specific intent that the patient will use the recommendation like a prescription to obtain marijuana. There have been no such criminal or administrative proceedings against doctors to date. Click to view the ruling.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 8:37 pm

Cooking note: garlic-red pepper miso

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This stuff is awesomely good. I mixed some with a little white wine to use as a liquid to help cook down some spinach, and I sneaked a taste direct. Yummy.

Mildly spicy and deeply warming, this autumn-orange-colored specialty is made with immune-strengthening fresh garlic and sun-baked Turkish red pepper paste and nettle greens mixed and aged with Chickpea Miso (brown rice and chickpeas). Warms the body and the soul. Soy Free. Gluten Free Ingredients.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Food

Fascinating blog on materials technology

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Very interesting blog with good photos. Go see.

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26 January 2008 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Low-serotonin theory: no basis in evidence

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Good to know:

Bad Science has a fantastic article on antidepressants and the widely-promoted but scientifically unsupported ‘low serotonin theory’ of depression.

Owing to a huge advertising push by drug companies, not only the ‘man on the street’, but also a surprisingly large numbers of mental health professionals (clinical psychologists, I’m look at you) believe that depression is linked to ‘low serotonin’ in the brain.

The only drawback to this neat sounding theory is that it is almost completely unsupported by empirical evidence or scientific studies.

Experiments that have deliberately lowered serotonin levels in the brain have found that it is possible to induce ‘negative mood states’ (usually milder and as short-lasting as a slight hangover), but these do not even begin to compare to the depths of clinical depression.

In terms of patients with the clinical mood disorder itself, not a single study has found a link to reduced serotonin.

Bad Science neatly reviews the science, and also discusses a new research study which chased up journalists that propagated the myth to ask for their sources.

Needless to say, none of them had any sound scientific basis for their claims.

This is not to say that antidepressants don’t help treat depression, (evidence suggests they do – although the effect is more modest than drug companies would have us believe), or that neurobiology isn’t important (by definition, if it’s a change in thought and mood, it’s a change in brain function).

If you’re interested in the history of how the ‘low serotonin hypothesis’ came to be thought up and then subsequently promoted, despite the lack of evidence, Professional Psychology: Research and Practice recently published a great article on the topic [pdf].

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 12:44 pm

Compassionate Conservatism: “Let’s kill them”

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The Office of National Drug Control Policy is working hard to make sure that opiate addicts keep dying of overdoses. At least, it’s hard to put any other interpretation on this story:

Public health workers from New York to Los Angeles, North Carolina to New Mexico, are preventing thousands of deaths by giving $9.50 rescue kits to drug users. The kits turn drug users into first responders by giving them the tools to save a life.[snip]

The nasal spray is a drug called naloxone, or Narcan. It blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.

Doctors and emergency medical technicians have used Narcan for years in hospitals and ambulances. But it doesn’t require much training because it’s impossible to overdose on Narcan.


New data compiled for NPR by researcher Alex Kral of the consulting firm RTI International show that more than 2,600 overdoses have been reversed in 16 programs operating across the nation.


John Gatto, executive director of the Cambridge program, says such dramatic results are unusual in the world of substance abuse treatment and prevention.

“In the work that we do, oftentimes the results are very intangible,” Gatto says. “This is amazing to be involved in something that literally can save people’s lives. Why wouldn’t we do it?”

But Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.

“First of all, I don’t agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. That’s No. 1,” she says. “I just don’t think that’s good public health policy.”

Madras says drug users aren’t likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isn’t as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug user’s motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

“Sometimes having an overdose, being in an emergency room, having that contact with a health care professional is enough to make a person snap into the reality of the situation and snap into having someone give them services,” Madras says.

Got that? Preventing thousands of deaths isn’t “good public health policy” if it doesn’t involve the appropriate laying-on-of-hands by the medical priesthood. Anyway, if heroin addicts aren’t afraid of dying, they might keep using heroin.

Why not just go all the way and poison the heroin supply? If withholding Narcan in order to generate more overdoses in order to scare addicts into quitting were proposed as an experiment, it could never get past human-subjects review. But since it’s a failure to act rather than an action, there’s no rule to require that it be even vaguely rational.

I get angry at the people who call themselves the “drug policy reform movement” for their insistence that we could make more drugs legal without having more addiction. But unlike their counterparts in the equally reality-challenged but politically dominant “drug-free America” movement, the “drug policy reformers” lack the power to kill in the service of their dreams.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 12:41 pm

Note from The Niece on No-Knead Bread

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Loaf 1

Loaf 2

The Niece writes:

I made this bread on Thursday night, it was FANTASTIC. Chewy interior with a thin, crispy crust, kind of like ciabatta but less dense. And no kneading = dead easy: mixed it up on Wednesday night before bed, left it on the kitchen counter, came home on Thursday after work and shaped it, let it rest 2 hours, baked it and had fresh bread by 8 pm. Here’s the recipe.

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26 January 2008 at 12:31 pm

Maybe all-electric cars are the answer!

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Very interesting article on a serious venture to build an all-electric automobile to replace the gasoline-powered cars in Israel. Noted in the course of the article:

A grassroots movement of entrepreneurs has sprung up, and it could rescue the world from its oil dependency and gasoline-powered vehicles. So argue Ian Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran in their new book, Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future. Carson and Vaitheeswaran call this the “Great Awakening.” They have little sympathy for the leaders of the energy and auto industries. “Big Oil clearly has no interest in seeing its main product fall by the wayside,” they write, “and the Detroit car industry has shown few signs of real innovation or long-term vision.”

The main article begins:

Just over a year ago, on Dec. 31, 2006, Shai Agassi settled into a leather couch in the office of Ehud Olmert to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister. Agassi, then a top executive at German software giant SAP, had come to pitch the idea of his native Israel reducing its dependence on oil by replacing gas-powered cars with electric ones. Olmert liked the concept but laid down a steep challenge: He wanted Agassi to raise hundreds of millions in venture capital and get an auto industry CEO on board before he would pledge his support. “You go find the money and find a major automaker who will commit to this, and I’ll give you the policy backing you need,” Olmert said.

Within a year, Agassi had pulled off everything Olmert had asked. He raised $200 million in venture capital and, with help from Israeli President Shimon Peres, persuaded Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Renault and Nissan, to make a new kind of electric car for the Israeli market. On Jan. 21, Agassi, Olmert, Peres, and Ghosn unveiled the novel project, under which Agassi’s Silicon Valley company, Better Place, will sell electric cars and build a network of locations where drivers can charge and replace batteries. Olmert has done his part, too. Israel just boosted the sales tax on gasoline-powered cars to as much as 60% and pledged to buy up old gas cars to get them off the road.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 11:04 am

Transferring your taxes to the wealthy

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The Bush administration has shown us, over and over, how the money paid by taxpayers is immediately funneled to Big Business: the no-bid, open-ended contracts, like those given to Halliburton, KMR, Blackwater, et al.—with immunity for any wrong-doing (homicide, gang rape, theft) as an added bonus.

David Cay Johnston has now written a book on this practice: Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill). From a review:

The penetrating anecdotes carefully researched by Johnston and his team of reporters make this a compelling look at just how the game can be altered to serve the wishes of the well-connected few. The author reveals how homeowners’ title insurance is larded with unnecessary costs for home buyers, how government subsidies prop up a posh golf course in Oregon, and even how Warren Buffett’s GEICO insurance company got $100 million in subsidies for a $40 million call center. In one chapter he argues that home alarm companies benefit from a hidden subsidy, too; what they’re ultimately selling is a service—police response—that they pay nothing to provide. Worse, he says, the thousands of false alarms actually make communities less safe, since the cops handling them aren’t out on the beat deterring real crimes.

Particularly galling to Johnston is that some industries dipped into the government trough at a time—1980 to the present—when the vast majority of Americans’ share of national income declined slightly, while it skyrocketed for those at the very top. The rich, as they say, get richer. Johnston argues that government is to blame.

Another example, even more galling: when the big banks or hedge funds or mortgage funds start to fail because the managers were greedy, stupid, crooked, or all three, the government rushes to give them your tax money to keep them in business—provided that they’re big enough. (Motto: “Save the wealthy, the rest can go to hell.”) BusinessWeek has an interesting article on that very topic: “Too Big to Fail“, which includes this passage:

Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and author of Too Big to Fail: The Hazards of Bank Bailouts, says that the seeds of today’s woes may well have taken root during previous interventions. He believes the banks would have curbed some of their bad lending practices and risky subprime investment decisions if they didn’t have implicit guarantees of a government safety net. It’s not unlike what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said about bailouts back in April when he pronounced that bank investors “must be…persuaded that they will experience significant losses in the event of failure.” Otherwise, he said, it’s all too easy for bank executives to waste money on bad loans.

The problem is that banks are paying nothing (zero, bupkis, nada) for this coverage: they can gamble (cheat, steal) freely knowing that they have insurance to cover their mistakes, and the insurance is free to them, though costly to us. Why not charge the banks a hefty tax/fee, based in part on paying back bailouts over the past 20 years? As bailouts become uncommon, the fee drops (though never to zero). This would give the industry some incentive to avoid the need for bailouts—those companies that run a clean game would pressure the government not to bail out the companies that fail.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 10:54 am

Posted in Business, Government

Bill Evans, 1929-1980

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Bill Evans is one of the great jazz pianists, and I had the pleasure of seeing him in a (sold-out) concert at Hancher Auditorium at the University of Iowa (the same venue where I saw another great jazz pianist, Oscar Peterson—whom The Eldest greeted as he arrived late from the airport).

Evans struggled with a drug problem for many years, but still managed to produce some great music, most of which is still available on CD.  Here he is playing Victor Young’s classic “My Foolish Heart”:

“Waltz for Debby” is a musical portrait of Evans’s niece and one of his best-known tunes:

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Ann Arbor goes for 100% LEDs for public lighting

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Very good news, all round: big savings for the city budget is just one facet of this diamond. Photos at the link.

Last year Ann Arbor joined forces with LED manufacturer Cree, Inc, on an ever-expanding citywide LED initiative to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With a recent retrofit contract signed with Lumecon, Ann Arbor is on its way to being the first U.S. city to light up its downtown with 100% LED technology!

The city strung its holiday cheer with about 114,000 LED lights and plans to convert all of its downtown public lighting starting with more than 1,000 LED streetlights. The effort is aligned with other North American cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Toronto, which have both started similar energy-saving efforts.

When Ann Arbor reaches its ambitious goal, city officials expect to see energy use for public lighting cut in half and a reduction of 2,425 tons CO2 annually. The city also expects a short payback of 3.8 years on its investment, which was funded in part with a $630,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.

A pilot program on one city block with 25 LED lights helped bring the LED idea from theory to application with three years of research on how the technology saves the city about 50% on energy and maintenance costs. Based on their research, Ann Arbor city officials project an annual savings of over $100,000 on just the first 1,000 retrofits alone. The city plans to complete the conversion to LED over the next two years.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 9:53 am

Cook’s Illustrated podcasts

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The Younger Daughter passes along a good tip:

I just noticed that iTunes has some free video podcasts from Cook’s Illustrated.  If they are not on the store’s front page when you visit, go to podcasts — food — cook’s illustrated.

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26 January 2008 at 9:40 am

Heartening news on immunity

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Glenn Greenwald writes a round-up of the good news on domestic surveillance and telecom immunity, but the job’s not done until Jay Rockefeller, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, and the like are defeated and driven from the Senate. Here’s Glenn:

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the FISA and telecom immunity conflict, there is something quite unique about how things have proceeded that I think is worth noting. Telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers are exactly the types of issues that normally generate very little controversy or debate. Identically, the bill advocated by Dick Cheney, Jay Rockefeller and Mitch McConnell is the type of bill that is normally passed, quickly and quietly, by Congress without any trouble. That isn’t happening this time, and it’s worth looking at why that is.The establishment media has virtually ignored these matters from the beginning. Most establishment-serving pundits who have paid any attention — the David Ignatiuses and Joe Kleins and Fred Hiatts — have done so by advocating, as usual, the Establishment position: retroactive immunity and warrantless eavesdropping powers are the right thing to do. Although there is no citizen-constituency whatsoever crying out for telecom immunity or new warrantless eavesdropping powers, the forces behind those provisions are the ones which typically dictate what Congress does: namely, the largest corporations and their lobbyists, who have been working, as always, in the dark to ensure that the law they want is enacted.

That’s typically the way Washington works — the most significant laws are seamlessly enacted with little real debate or attention, driven by corporations and lobbyists working in secret with Senators, cheered on by the Serious media pundits, with bipartisan pools of lawmakers silently and obediently on board. And once those forces line up behind any measure, it is normally almost impossible to stop it — not just stop it, but even disrupt it at all. That’s the insulated Beltway parlor, virtually impervious to outside influences, least of all the opinions of the citizen-rabble.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 9:38 am

Bush wants to get rid of FOIA

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The Freedom of Information Act has been a boon to democracy, making it harder for government bureaucracies to hide bad behavior and awful mistakes. The FOIA was expanded under Clinton, and then seriously restricted under Bush—and the latest effort is to throttle it completely. From ThinkProgress:

In August, the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government reported that “current government handling of FOIA requests is deteriorating” and that the Justice Department was “consistently granted the lowest percentage of [FOIA] appeals of any agency.”

On New Years Eve, facing “congressional pushback against the Bush administration’s movement to greater secrecy,” President Bush signed the OPEN Government Act, toughening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The legislation — unanimously passed by the House and Senate — would push agencies to respond more quickly to records requests.

But now, the White House is doing everything it can to neuter the law. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) said yesterday that Bush’s FY2009 “funds for the Office of Government Information Services authorized under the newly enacted OPEN Government Act will be shifted to the Department of Justice” from the National Archives. Congress Daily reports:

“But by shifting the funding to the Justice Department, OMB would effectively eliminate the office, because it appears no similar operation would be created there,” according to an aide to Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). […]

National Archives officials are relatively independent of political pressure, the staffer explained, “but DOJ is different.” Government transparency advocates consider the department hostile to efforts to improve FOIA responsiveness, in part because it represents agencies sued by FOIA requesters.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a cosponsor of the OPEN Government legislation said he “does agree with Senator Leahy and would oppose that effort” of the adminstration.

The Justice Department’s efforts to protect government secrecy are notorious. In fact, in the 109th Congress, the Department “squelched efforts to pass the OPEN Government Act.” But even initially “putting it [funding] in DOJ would essentially obviate what Leahy and Cornyn did with the legislation,” said Patrice McDermott of

Bush’s noncompliance with the legislation makes clear his effort to return to his old ways of egregious government secrecy.

Cornyn, in my book, is extremely conservative, and the fact that he’s aligned with Leahy on this shows just how serious the issue is.

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26 January 2008 at 9:33 am

Tiger again

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No rain today, though still overcast. I decided for a summer feel and selected Cyril R. Salter Fresh Mint, which I applied with a Superior brush—good brush and fine lather.

A new Tiger blade went into the Merkur Futur, which I find I especially like now that I have found the trick of keeping much of the head in contact with my cheek: a very smooth and comfortable shave.

Three passes, then a splash of Stetson Sierra. Extremely nice shave.

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26 January 2008 at 9:29 am

Posted in Shaving

Good site for your kids

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And maybe for you as well: Take a look and bookmark it for your kids—or your grandkids. The featured article right now is how babies learn to speak and has some great photos.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 2:51 am

New name

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The blog has a new name, though the URL ( is unchanged. I think Leisure in Action is more meaningful and descriptive than Later On.

Otherwise, business as usual.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2008 at 2:47 am

Posted in Daily life

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