Later On

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

Archive for January 30th, 2008

My mouth is on fire! Yum!

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If you like spicy—as who doesn’t?—you probably envy me my little pepper mill (red, naturally) filled with crushed dried habanero peppers. Hah! I thought you would, so I decided to blog it. (I’ve been using it lately: grinding a little habanero over things does pick up the heat level nicely, but also produces some gigantic sneezes from the dust that floats free—a bonus of sorts.)

But when I check, I discover that they now have Bhut Jolokia, the hottest pepper on earth according to the Guiness Book of Records, along with Red Savina Habanero (second hottest pepper), Aji Limon Pepper (not very hot, but tasty), and Indian PC-1 Pepper (middling hot, but enough to get your attention).

Moreover, their MaxiMill has a grinder head that can be put on any of several jars—so you can keep all the dried peppers around, each in its own jar, and grind whichever one appeals to you.

Here’s the catalog.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Food

Two good books

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I’ve already mentioned The Bush Tragedy, but now I’ve finished it. Fascinating view of the underlying psychological causes of what we see now. Not judgmental, and even showing some degree of empathy, the book explores how the character and character flaws of each of the major players created a perfect storm of ill-used power.

The other book is a brief autobiography, focusing mainly on his work in Iraq, of a Marine scout/sniper, Gunnery Sergeant Jack Coughlin: Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper. It’s technical and interesting and shows how Coughlin found a new role for the sniper in modern urban combat.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 4:27 pm

The IT infrastructure as Web utility

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Interesting column:

When the founder of Microsoft retires this year, it will not only mark the close of a remarkable business career. It will signal the end of an era in computing.

“The next sea change is upon us.” Those words appeared in an extraordinary memorandum that Bill Gates sent to Microsoft’s top managers and engineers on October 30 2005.

Belying its bloodless title – “Internet Software Services” – the memo was intended to sound an alarm, to warn the company that a new revolution in computing was under way, and that it threatened to upend Microsoft’s traditional business.

What had always been the linchpin of Microsoft’s success – its control over the PC desktop – was fading in importance. Thanks to the proliferation of broadband connections in homes and offices, people no longer had to buy packaged software programs and install them on their computers. Instead, they could use their web browsers to tap into software supplied over the internet from central data-processing plants.

“The broad and rich foundation of the internet will unleash a ‘services wave’ of applications and experiences available instantly,” Mr Gates wrote. This new wave, he said, “will be very disruptive”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 4:21 pm

The ownership society

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Krugman:

The homeownership rate has fallen sharply again. At this point it’s back down to levels of fall 2001.

Two implications.

First, everything you’ve heard about how subprime lending at least made the dream of homeownership available to many Americans who were previously excluded — never mind. We’re back down to homeownership rates before the subprime boom.

Second, it’s now virtually certain that by the end of the Bush administration homeownership will be lower than it was at the beginning. More of that economy other presidents would envy, I guess.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 4:10 pm

Is your food poisonous?

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Hope not:

Pesticide residue

Government promises to rid the nation’s food supply of brain-damaging pesticides aren’t doing the job, according to the results of a yearlong study that carefully monitored the diets of a group of local children.

The peer-reviewed study found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from area groceries contained biological markers of organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II.

When the same children ate organic fruits, vegetables and juices, signs of pesticides were not found.

“The transformation is extremely rapid,” said Chensheng Lu, the principal author of the study published online in the current issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

“Once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos) that we can measure in the urine disappears. The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets,” said Lu, a professor at Emory University’s School of Public Health and a leading authority on pesticides and children.

Within eight to 36 hours of the children switching to organic food, the pesticides were no longer detected in the testing.

The subjects for his testing were 21 children, ages 3 to 11, from two elementary schools and a Montessori preschool on Mercer Island.

The community has double the median national income, but the wealth of Mercer Island made no difference in the outcome, he said.

“We are confident that if we did the same study in poor communities, we would get the same results,” he said. The study is being repeated in Georgia.

The study has not yet linked the pesticide levels to specific foods, but other studies have shown peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, strawberries and cherries are among those that most frequently have detectable levels of pesticides.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 4:08 pm

Invitation to corruption

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Bad:

… A case in my home state of West Virginia: in 2002, Massey Energy, the largest coal producer in Appalachia, lost a $50 million verdict in the local courts. … The five-member Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia was severely divided. And before Massey’s appeal reached the state’s highest court, the 2004 judicial election would pit a “liberal” incumbent against an unknown corporate lawyer who had never argued a case before the court.

The campaign was high-cost and nasty. Both sides spent more than $5 million. Massey’s CEO alone spent more than $3 million out of pocket to attack the incumbent. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University ranked it one of the nation’s most vicious and costly judicial elections. When all the attacks and counterattacks were over, the unknown attorney defeated the sitting justice.

The Massey appeal reached the West Virginia Supreme Court after the election. The newly elected justice who benefited from the Massey contributions refused to recuse himself. Another justice who had lashed out at Massey’s contributions also refused and a 3-to-2 vote along ideological lines reversed the lower court decision. The matter seemed settled until photos recently surfaced showing another state Supreme Court justice vacationing on the French Riviera with the Massey CEO while the appeal was pending.

The West Virginia Supreme Court has voted to rehear the appeal, but the damage to the integrity of the state’s judiciary has been done.

Thirty-eight states elect their state judges. Judicial elections were less divisive until a 2002 US Supreme Court ruling allowed judicial candidates to speak more openly about political issues on the campaign trail.

Now that a judge can be more open about his or her beliefs, money is flowing into judicial campaigns as never before. The 2006 judicial campaign season was the highest spending on record, according to Justice at Stake, a nonpartisan monitoring group. That year, business interests gave $15.3 million to judicial candidates while attorneys kicked in another $7.4 million. Third-party interest advertising accounted for another $8.5 million. One can only imagine that 2008 will be another record year.

So what can we do to end the money exchange in state judicial elections? Simply put, it’s time to end judicial elections on the state’s highest courts.

The most promising example of selection comes from Missouri. There, a diverse nonpartisan nominating commission selects and forwards the three best candidates to the governor. The governor then chooses from that slate. The judge serves for a trial period and the public then votes in a retention election. If the judge is retained, he or she then serves for a full term.

Many judicial candidates concede the current system is broken. Recently in West Virginia, one Supreme Court candidate admitted that even he favors merit selection.

The Missouri method isn’t perfect, but it’s far better than the interest-group-based money free-for-alls permeating state judicial elections.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Bush picking laws to ignore

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More about the latest laws Bush has said he can ignore: the NY Times:

With President Bush, you always have to read the footnotes.

Just before Monday night’s State of the Union speech, in which Mr. Bush extolled bipartisanship, railed against government excesses and promised to bring the troops home as soon as it’s safe to withdraw, the White House undermined all of those sentiments with the latest of the president’s infamous signing statements.

The signing statements are documents that earlier presidents generally used to trumpet their pleasure at signing a law, or to explain how it would be enforced. More than any of his predecessors, the current chief executive has used the pronouncements in a passive-aggressive way to undermine the power of Congress.

Over the last seven years, Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of these insidious documents declaring that he had no intention of obeying a law that he had just signed. This is not just constitutional theory. Remember the detainee treatment act, which Mr. Bush signed and then proceeded to ignore, as he told C.I.A. interrogators that they could go on mistreating detainees?

This week’s statement was attached to the military budget bill, which covers everything except the direct cost of the war. The bill included four important provisions that Mr. Bush decided he will enforce only if he wants to.

The president said they impinged on his constitutional powers. We asked the White House to explain that claim, but got no answer, so we’ll do our best to figure it out.

The first provision created a commission to determine how reliant the government is on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, how much waste, fraud and abuse has occurred and what has been done to hold accountable those who are responsible. Congress authorized the commission to compel government officials to testify.

Perhaps this violated Mr. Bush’s sense of his power to dole out contracts as he sees fit and to hold contractors harmless. The same theory applies to the second provision that Mr. Bush said he would not obey: a new law providing protection against reprisal to those who expose waste, fraud or abuse in wartime contracts.

The third measure Mr. Bush rejected requires intelligence officials to respond to a request for documents from the Armed Services Committees of Congress within 45 days, either by producing the documents or explaining why they are being withheld. Clearly, this violates the power that Mr. Bush has given himself to cover up an array of illegal and improper actions, like his decisions to spy on Americans without a warrant, to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and to fire United States attorneys apparently for political reasons.

It’s glaringly obvious why Mr. Bush rejected the fourth provision, which states that none of the money authorized for military purposes may be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

It is more evidence, as if any were needed, that Mr. Bush never intended to end this war, and that he still views it as the prelude to an unceasing American military presence in Iraq.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 12:10 pm

Pain as emotion

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Interesting:

I’ve got a new article on the psychology of back pain in the February issue of Best Life (the one with Jeff Gordon on the cover):

From the perspective of the brain, there are two distinct types of pain. The first type of pain is sensory. When we stub our toe, pain receptors in the foot instantly react to the injury, and send an angry message to the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that deals with the body. This is the type of acute pain that doctors are trained to treat. The hurt has a clear bodily cause: if you inject an anesthetic (like novocaine) into the stubbed toe, the pain will quickly disappear.The second pain pathway is a much more recent scientific discovery. It runs parallel to the sensory pathway, but isn’t necessarily rooted in signals from the body. The breakthrough came when neurologists discovered a group of people who, after a brain injury, were no longer bothered by pain. They still felt the pain, and could accurately describe its location and intensity, but didn’t seem to mind it at all. The agony wasn’t agonizing.

This strange condition – it’s known as pain asymbolia – results from damage to a specific subset of brain areas, like the amygdala, insula and anterior cingulate cortex, that are involved in the processing of emotions. As a result, these people are missing the negative feelings that normally accompany our painful sensations. Their muted response to bodily injury demonstrates that it is our feelings about pain – and not the pain sensation itself – that make the experience of pain so awful. Take away the emotion and a stubbed toe isn’t so bad.

Chronic pain is the opposite of pain asymbolia. It’s what happens when our brain can’t stop generating the negative emotions associated with painful sensations. These emotions can persist even in the absence of a painful stimulus, so that we feel an injury that isn’t there. It’s like having a permanently stubbed toe.

Doctors have traditionally focused on the bodily aspects of chronic pain. They assume that a healed body is a painless body. If a patient has chronic back pain, for example, then he is typically prescribed painkillers and surgery, so that the pain signals coming from his spinal nerves are stopped. But the dual pathways of pain mean that this approach only treats half of the pain equation. Unless you find a way to treat the emotional pathway, then the chronic pain will continue.

Alas, the article isn’t online. But researching the piece definitely changed the way I think about my own back. For instance, it’s made me much less concerned with my potential structural flaws – like herniated discs – and much more concerned with my emotional state of mind.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Tagged with

Good genetic modification application

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Interesting:

Auto maker Chrysler is pairing with Purdue University researchers to clean up pollutants at a former oil storage site in Kokomo, Indiana. They are turning not merely to technology but to nature. Specially bred transgenic poplar trees are being planted by the researchers, funded by Chrysler.

These trees have proven capable of absorbing trichloroethylene, or TCE, and other pollutants including leukemia-causing benzene. The pollutants are then metabolized into harmless products. They remove pollutants 100 times faster than non-genetically modified poplars.

The research is funded by a $1.3 million-grant as exploring ways to alter the trees to absorb even more pollution. Richard Meilan, a Purdue associate professor, is leading the study. The duration of the study is relatively short term and is designed to minimize genetic impact via breeding with natural trees; Meilan explains, “Three years should be enough time for them to grow up, send down roots to suck the pollutants up and break them down, then we’ll cut them down before they have the chance to pass on their genes to the environment.”

The burgeoning field of using plants to remove pollution is known as phytoremediation. If the study succeeds, poplars may become one of the field’s biggest tools, as they are relatively hardy and grow over a broad range of climates.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2008 at 11:43 am

“Hunched over the computer” posture correction

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A very nice complement to InstantBoss: exercises to do on your break:

One of the most neglected aspects of our health is our posture. Amongst all the guidelines on healthy eating and workout methods, this essential facet of our well-being is often overlooked.

Posture provides the foundation for a balanced workout, deeper breathing, effective digestion and efficient functioning of organs. Improving your posture will benefit your overall health, give you more energy, help rehabilitate or prevent injury and increase sporting performance.

That’s a lot of benefits for such an overlooked idea and I didn’t even mention that it would help you sit at your workstation longer and work harder without cramping!

Here we take a look at six core stretches that will increase your flexibility from head to toe.

  • Stretch One: The “Superman”
    The aim of this stretch is to finish at 90 degree angle, leaning forward onto a stretch band or other object with your legs straight, torso horizontal and arms extended.

    • Keep your feet shoulder width apart with a slight bend at the knees.
    • Lean forwards with your arms extended and resting on a steady object or stretch band.
    • Push your backside out, keep your shoulders high
    • Gently straighten your legs
    • You control the stretch.

    You should feel the stretch in the front and back of the shoulders, across the back of the neck, through the back, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

  • Stretch Two: The “Reverse Superman”
    The aim of this stretch is to step forward pull your arms upwards behind your back. This is a great stretch for your chest muscles (pectorals) and especially good for anyone who has rounded shoulders from desk work, driving or poor training habits (too many bench presses and no back work!). You’ll need a stretch band for this one.

    • Hang the stretch band over a steady object and grab hold of it behind you.
    • Make sure you have an underarm grip on the stretch band – palms towards ceiling.
    • Keep your arms straight and your body vertical as you step forward, pulling your arms up behind you.
    • Keep your abs tight, chest out and head up.
    • You control the stretch.
  • Stretch Three: Hamstrings
    The soccer player’s favorite! Connected to the glutes (backside) which in turn are connected to the lower back, improving flexibility here can help back issues. A stretch band will help you perform this stretch effectively.

    • Attach stretch band halfway along foot
    • Lift one leg straight in the air
    • Keep the knee straight
    • Pull toes down towards head
    • Stretch a little further as you relax into the stretch.
    • You control the stretch.

    Pulling back the toes will also increase the stretch into the calf muscles.

  • Stretch Four: Posterior Chain
    You’ll feel this stretch in your leg but it primarily targets the lower spine and is particularly effective for lower back issues and sciatica. I consistently use this with great results for clients experiencing back problems.

    • Attach stretch band halfway along foot
    • Hold the elastic in the opposite hand Left leg stretch, right hand elastic)
    • Keep the free arm flat on the floor
    • Gradually increase the stretch as you relax into it.
    • You will feel the stretch in the calf, hamstring and glutes but it also works the lower back.
    • You control the stretch.
  • Stretch five: Glutes (backside)
    OK, it’s time to work on the buns! These are really important muscles in the lower body. They are used for lots of common movements such from sitting and standing to walking up stairs, so get a lot of use and tend to be quite tight, particularly in people with pelvic tilt.

    • Place one leg against a wall at a 90 degree angle for support
    • Place the ankle of the other foot in front of the knee resting against the wall.
    • Pull the heel towards you and push the knee away to control the stretch
    • Hold for 1m on each side

    You should feel the stretch down the outside of your thigh, into your backside and nowhere else.

  • Stretch Six: Hip flexors
    Lordosis (curvature of lower spine) and posterior tilt in the pelvis can cause these antagonist muscles to be particularly tight. Stretching can help align the pelvis, reducing lordosis and alleviating lower back pain.

    • Put one leg on floor at a 90 degree angle
    • Place opposite knee on floor and your toes on wall behind you.
    • Make sure your body is upright
    • Pull back your shoulders and keep your abdominals tight
    • Push hips forward gently above the knee that is on the floor
    • Hold for 1m each side
    • Remember you control the stretch!
  • And that’s the six stretches! Many of my clients have had great results just from improving their flexibility, some have even been on the brink of surgery after exhausting a lot of other options. Correcting the underlying postural imbalances is a great help, but in the first instance these stretches will set you on the right path.

    Written by Jan Keller, Postural alignment and Correction specialist for Keller Postural Specialists.

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 11:24 am

    Posted in Daily life, Health

    Fascinating movie

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    Last night I watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. As the Netflix blurb says, “curiously compelling.” Highly recommended.

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 11:08 am

    Posted in Movies & TV

    The mind of the conservative

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    I have mentioned from time to time my difficulty in understanding the thought processes of those who have a conservative—particularly a hard-right—outlook. A commenter, as noted in the previous post, recently labeled a group of investigative reports as a “Socialist activist group”.

    A Socialist is one who believes that the state should own the means of production—for example, state ownership of coal mines, steel plants, automobile manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and the like.

    I think Socialists are extremely rare these days. So once again I’m at a loss to understand. The comment did suggest that the writer uses “Socialism” to mean, not Socialism, but any regulation of business by the government—that is, “Socialism” becomes “something I don’t agree with.”

    I take it as obvious that businesses require government regulation—there was a time when businesses were not regulated, and the result was unsatisfactory in the extreme. So in response to public pressure, regulations were imposed: to ensure safety of cars and airplanes and our food, to label hazardous substances, to ensure safe disposal of toxic wastes, to minimize stock fraud, and so on. I think (if I read it right) that these things are “Socialism,” which they plainly are not.

    Moreover, the writer mentioned “global warming” in passing, as though that were a Socialist idea.

    Very, very difficult for me to understand.

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 10:54 am

    Looking at the omissions

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    Very interesting. Via an email from what I’m told is a socialist activist group, this note:

    Actress Suzanne Pleshette‘s recent death from “respiratory distress” was sad. Most of the articles about it briefly mention that she had been fighting lung cancer, but fail to mention that she had been a cigarette smoker in the past. Cigarette smoking is the single biggest cause of lung cancer.

    It is rarely discussed, but tobacco has taken an extraordinarily heavy toll on Hollywood. The list of beloved celebrities killed by smokers’ diseases is huge, and growing: George Harrison, Johnny Carson, Dana Reeve, Yul Brynner, Lucille Ball, Walt Disney, Nat King Cole, Joe DiMaggio, Michael Landon, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Betty Grable, and Babe Ruth to name just a few. Despite this, the failure to mention a person’s smoking history in obituary columns is the norm in celebrity deaths. In just one glaring example, a four page obituary about the 2005 death of prominent news anchor Peter Jennings published by his own network, ABC, fails to mention the contribution that smoking made to Jennings’ tragic and untimely death. A CNN’s column about Jennings’ death didn’t mention it either. Something is up when major news organizations omit any mention the single most prominent cause of the death of a renowned news anchor.

    Big Screen Smoking

    Smoking has always been common in the entertainment industry, and Hollywood has a track record of promoting smoking. Lois Lane, a reporter who never smoked throughout her 40 years in Superman comics, was suddenly shown smoking on-screen in the movie Superman II. Tobacco industry documents reveal that Sylvester Stallone signed a contract with Brown & Williamson to plug their brands in five of his movies in exchange for $500,000. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2004 shows that on-screen smoking rates in movies have now returned to rates seen in the 1950s, even though far fewer people smoke now than in the 1950s. Given that smoking was perceived as a more normal activity when Suzanne Pleshette came of age, her smoking wasn’t unusual. As the years went on, she was able to quit. But the harm had already been done.

    So why is the media so reticent to mention the part cigarettes play in killing off so many beloved public figures? Probably because of the cruel but popular belief that people who suffer from lung cancer and emphysema have caused their own diseases. Reporters don’t want to be perceived as blaming the victim.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 10:42 am

    Posted in Business, Daily life, Health

    Strange fixation of current president

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    President Bush has the idea that the president is free to ignore any laws that he (or she) doesn’t like. This is the “unitary executive theory” he’s absorbed from Cheney and Addington. So we see the “signing statements,” which Bush issues after he’s signed new legislation, listing those parts of the legislation that he can ignore (in his view). The latest, as reported by Center for American Progress:

    Earlier this week, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which included a statute forbidding the Bush administration from spending taxpayer money “to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.” But Bush quietly attached a signing statement to the law, asserting a unilateral right to disregard the ban on permanent bases in addition to three other measures in the bill. “Provisions of the act…could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations…to protect national security,” the signing statement read. Reacting to the statement, Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Mark Agrast said, “On the merits, for the president to assert that Congress lacks the authority to say there shouldn’t be permanent bases on foreign soil is fanciful at best.” Bush’s “frequent use of signing statements to advance aggressive theories of executive power has been a hallmark of his presidency,” writes the Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage, who has authored a book on that topic. In 2006, the American Bar Association condemned signing statements as “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers.” Bush’s latest signing statement was immediately met with anger on Capitol Hill. “I reject the notion in his signing statement that he can pick and choose which provisions of this law to execute,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) added, “Congress has a right to expect that the Administration will faithfully implement all of the provisions” of the law — “not just the ones the President happens to agree with.”

    THE POWER TO STAY IN IRAQ FOREVER: Last November, Bush announced that he and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had signed a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship” that set the parameters for negotiating an “enduring” U.S. occupation of Iraq. The negotiations have drawn fire in part because the administration said it does not intend to designate the declaration as a “treaty,” and so will not submit it to Congress for approval. Bush’s attempt to waive the ban on permanent bases is seen as one more step in the direction of establishing a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq. “If Bush is allowed to negotiate a treaty with Iraq that binds the United States under international law, the next president will be handcuffed,” said John Isaacs, Executive Director of the Council for a Livable World. The Guardian notes that permanent bases “are broadly unpopular with Iraqis, who have voiced fears of an ongoing U.S. occupation.” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), who has led the push to prevent permanent bases, explained that Bush’s statement is “sending a dangerous signal to the people of Iraq that the U.S. has a long-term interest in occupying their country, a move that will only enflame the insurgency.” Speaking on the Senate floor yesterday, Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) said that while administration officials frequently state that they do not intend to permanently occupy Iraq, “this signing statement issued by the President is the clearest signal yet that the Administration wants to hold this option in reserve.”

    THE POWER TO PROTECT CONTRACTORS: Among the other provisions in the Defense Authorization Act that Bush asserted an unfounded right to ignore were two accountability measures aimed at private security firms accused of wartime abuses. One of these provisions would establish an independent, bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. The Pentagon’s inspector general, whose office conducts internal investigations, endorsed the commission’s proposal, telling lawmakers in a November meeting, “We’re leaning forward in the saddle, we’re committed to this.” Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) said, “The idea that the president would stand in the way of a non-partisan, independent committee to look into waste and fraud by companies like Blackwater and Halliburton in Iraq is inexcusable and it’s irresponsible, and it ought to ruffle a lot of feathers across the country.” The other provision Bush waived would extend whistleblower protections to employees of defense contractors. “The president doesn’t have the authority to cancel these rights,” said Tom Devine, legal director at the non-profit Government Accountability Project, “unless he sends in troops to stop a jury from hearing whistleblower cases.”

    THE POWER TO COVER UP:
    The fourth and last provision of the law that Bush sought to ignore was a requirement of the administration to turn over “any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate or legal opinion” requested by the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees within 45 days. The New York Times writes, “Clearly, this violates the power that Mr. Bush has given himself to cover up an array of illegal and improper actions, like his decisions to spy on Americans without a warrant, to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and to fire United States attorneys apparently for political reasons.”

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 10:36 am

    Fundraiser for the American Heart Association

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    Man, I would love to go to one of these: a beefsteak. The video at the link is not to be missed.

    It was Friday evening at V.F.W. Post 4591 in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., and the scene was a vegetarian’s nightmare.

    About 350 men, seated shoulder to shoulder at long tables, were devouring slices of beef tenderloin [that had been dipped in melted butter] and washing them down with pitchers of beer. As waiters brought trays of meat, the guests reached over and harvested the pink slices with their bare hands, popping them down the hatch.

    Each slice was perched on a round of Italian bread, but most of the men ate only the meat and stacked the bread slices in front of them, tallying their gluttony like poker players amassing chips [or oyster eaters with stacks of shells – LG]. Laughter and uproarious conversation were in abundance; subtlety was not.

    As anyone in northern New Jersey could tell you, this was a beefsteak. The term refers not to a cut of meat but to a raucous all-you-can-eat-and-drink banquet with a rich history in Bergen and Passaic Counties.

    The events, which typically attract crowds of 150 or more, with a ticket price of about $40, are popular as political meet-and-greets, annual dinners for businesses and civic groups, and charity fundraisers. Caterers said they put on about 1,000 of them in the region last year.

    “Once you start going to beefsteaks, it’s an addiction,” said Al Baker, a Hasbrouck Heights policeman who had organized the evening’s festivities to benefit the Special Olympics. “You’ve got the tender beef, butter, salt, French fries, beer — all your major food groups. But it’s very unique to North Jersey. I go to other places and nobody’s heard of it.”

    Much more at the link. Don’t miss it.

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 10:01 am

    Posted in Food

    When US withdraws from Iraq

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    Of course, the US will not withdraw from Iraq while Bush is president: he’s absolutely determined to leave this problem to the next president. But when we do withdraw, what will happen? Perhaps Basra offers a clue:

    What does the phased British withdrawal from Basra, begun in the fall, say about the viability of a broader withdrawal of forces from Iraq?

    In part, the question is hard to answer: I have had difficulty locating reliable news stories written after December. If any readers care to pass on links, that would help a great deal. Of course, the lack of news in itself may be a good sign: if full-scale genocide or civil war had broken out in Basra, we would likely be hearing about it. On the other hand, one hopes that we would hear about astonishing success as well. The reality may be that the outcome is still mixed.

    Throughout the fall, conflicting reports emerged about Basra.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 9:57 am

    Posted in Iraq War

    Shaving experiment

    with 5 comments

    Steve, of Kafeneio fame, mentioned a while back using Total Shaving Solution in a polishing pass, so I immediately set about finding a way to get some. It’s not sold in the US, but a friend in Ireland (hi, Aniko!) sent me a small vial, which is the way it comes: 2-3 drops for a shave, a vial containing enough for 90 shaves—i.e., 225 drops.

    It has arrived, so this morning the G.B. Kent BK4 brought up a superb lather from the Marke Gold-Dachs-Rasierseife Rivivage Traditional European Shaving Soap (in stock again at ClassicShaving.com, BTW), a soap that seems always to produce a good lather for me.

    I selected the Merkur Futur with its Zorrik blade, and did the usual three passes, creating on the across-the-grain pass a tiny nick on my upper lip. So it goes. Then a rinse, and applied 3 drops of the TSS to my beard area, already quite smooth. And then the polishing pass: feeling with my left hand against the grain for any rough spots, and using the razor to smooth them out.

    The result is indeed a smooth shave. I’m still not much of an oil guy, but this did show me that I was using WAY too much of the cutting balm yesterday, and also that this technique is good to have for occasional use.

    A dab of My Nik Is Sealed (scroll down just a bit) took care of the nick, the aftershave was Pashana, and I’m set for the wait until the next shave. 🙂

    Written by Leisureguy

    30 January 2008 at 9:48 am

    Posted in Shaving

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