Later On

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

Archive for March 12th, 2008

The EPA staggers on under current leadership

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Pretty bad:

“Multiple senior EPA officials” have told Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) that since December they “have ceased their efforts” to follow the Supreme Court order to determine the hazard posed by tailpipe greenhouse emissions and to propose regulations. In December, EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson agreed with their findings and “forwarded an endangerment finding to the White House and a proposed motor vehicle regulation to the Department of Transportation.” Since then, the officials “did not know what transpired.”

UPDATE: The Washington Post notes the EPA today “decided to lower the allowable amount of smog-forming ozone in the air to 75 parts per billion, a level significantly higher than what the agency’s scientific advisers urged for this key component of unhealthy air pollution” — at the urging of industry officials.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 3:13 pm

Government censorship at work

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Busily preventing thought-crime, the Bush Administration takes steps to ensure that you will know only what it wants you to know.

On Monday, McClatchy reported that a “review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents” captured after the U.S. invasion “has found no evidence” that Saddam Hussein “had any operational links” with al Qaeda. But ABC News reports today that the Pentagon apparently doesn’t want the study “to get any attention” as it has canceled “plans to send out a press release announcing the report’s release and will no longer make the report available online.” One Pentagon official “said initial press reports on the study made it ‘too politically sensitive.’”

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 2:55 pm

Brigit True Organics

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I received some samples of Diabeticae products from Brigit True Organics some time back, and have been meaning to mention my experience. They’re extremely pleasant to use, and while not curative (type 2 diabetes is not currently curable), they offer palliative care. The one I’ve used most is the foot cream, and if you’re a diabetic, you might want to give it a go. It feels good, it smells good, and it seems to help my feet and shins feel better.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Daily life

The Founding Fathers and Christianity

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Interesting post from Kevin Drum:

Religious conservatives have long insisted that the Framers were deeply and traditionally Christian, an assertion central to their contention that America was founded as a “Christian nation.” Secular liberals, by contrast, have long argued that most of the Founders were agnostics or, at best, Deists who believed that reason, not scripture, is the true path to understanding the Almighty.

So which side is right? Neither is, quite, according to Steve Waldman, founding editor of beliefnet.com and the author of a terrific new book, Founding Faith. Waldman has read just about every available thing that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and the rest said and wrote, publicly and privately, about their personal theological views. He comes to two conclusions. First, all the Founders saw themselves as Christians and believed that God in one way or another guides human affairs. So, score one for the religious right. Second, not a single one of the main Founders actually believed in the divinity of Jesus, which is the central tenet of the Christian faith. Score one for the secular left.

Steve is blogging about this over at TPM Cafe. Also he’s compiled an archive of his source material so you can read for yourself what the Founders had to say about their personal religious beliefs. You might also check out the cover story he wrote for the Washington Monthly (where he’s a contributing editor) on the surprising role evangelicals played during the founding in securing religious freedom.

And here’s a detailed review of the book.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Government, Religion

Interesting Obama vs. Clinton observations

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Via Bob Slaughter, from the Mississippi exit polls, reported on C&L:

The exit polls have some interesting numbers on how [Obama] won.

* Gender: Obama won 61% of men and 58% of women. That’s going to lead to a pretty good day.

* Race: It’s fair to say this was an important factor in Mississippi. 91% of African-American voters backed Obama, while 72% of white voters backed Clinton.

* Age: There continues to be a striking age gap between the candidates. Despite Obama’s landslide win, Clinton still won a majority of voters 60 and older.

* Income: Obama won every income group except those making more than $75,000, who preferred Clinton.

* Honesty: Here’s a surprising one. 70% of Mississippi voters said Obama is honest and trustworthy. Only 52% said the same about Clinton.

* Commander-in-Chief test: Voters preferred Obama to Clinton by 10 points on this question, 53% to 43%.

* Republicans: Is Rush Limbaugh’s strategy catching on? 13% of voters in the Democratic primary identified themselves as Republicans, and they overwhelmingly backed Clinton over Obama, 78% to 22%.

* VP: 6 in 10 Obama backers said that he should select Clinton for the ticket if he won the nomination, while 4 in 10 Clinton supporters said she should choose Obama if he she won.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Signs of hope

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Glenn Greenwald detects some signs of hope for the Democrats in Congress—perhaps a little backbone is developing. Read here.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

More on Registry Booster 2 and Microsoft

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Today Microsoft automatically downloaded and installed an update. I ran Registry Booster 2 afterwards, just to check. Yep: 28 new registry errors, thanks to Mr. Microsoft. I cleaned those up, defragmented the registry, and things are cool again.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Software

Law and logic oddities

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Glenn Greenwald has an entertaining post:

Misadventures in logical reasoning

* Sometimes, people get drunk and drive, or get drunk and abuse others. Therefore, we should outlaw all alcohol (rather than just outlaw drunk driving and assault).

* Sometimes, the media libels people and destroys their reputations. Therefore, we should outlaw all freedom of the press (rather than just proscribe libel).

* Sometimes, children get a hold of cigarettes or pornography. Therefore, we should outlaw all smoking and pornography (rather than just outlaw the act of selling cigarettes or porn to minors).

* Sometimes, men rape women or molest minors. Therefore, we should outlaw all sex (rather than just outlaw rape and child molestation).

* Sometimes, people use drugs (prescription or recreational), get addicted and then steal or act violently. Therefore, we should outlaw all drugs (rather than just outlaw theft and violence).

* Sometimes, people force women against their will to work as prostitutes. Therefore, we should outlaw all prostitution (rather than just outlaw forced prostitution and human trafficking).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

“BP” website

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Take a look. It probably won’t be up long. Read carefully.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 12:47 pm

The Power Paradox

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Very interesting:

It is much safer to be feared than loved, writes Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his classic 16th-century treatise advocating manipulation and occasional cruelty as the best means to power. Almost 500 years later, Robert Greene’s national bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power, would have made Machiavelli’s chest swell with pride. Greene’s book, bedside reading of foreign policy analysts and hip-hop stars alike, is pure Machiavelli.

Here are a few of his 48 laws:
Law 3, Conceal Your Intentions.
Law 6, Court Attention at All Costs.
Law 12, Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims.
Law 15, Crush Your Enemy Totally.
Law 18, Keep Others in Suspended Terror.
You get the picture.

Guided by centuries of advice like Machiavelli’s and Greene’s, we tend to believe that attaining power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. Indeed, we might even assume that positions of power demand this kind of conduct—that to run smoothly, society needs leaders who are willing and able to use power this way.

As seductive as these notions are, they are dead wrong. Instead, a new science of power has revealed that power is wielded most effectively when it’s used responsibly, by people who are attuned to and engaged with the needs and interests of others. Years of research suggests that empathy and social intelligence are vastly more important to acquiring and exercising power than are force, deception, or terror.

This research debunks longstanding myths about what constitutes true power, how people obtain it, and how they should use it. But studies also show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and they have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. This presents us with the paradox of power: The skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 12:39 pm

The end of military responsibility: Abu Ghraib

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This is disturbing. The article begins:

There is a phenomenon, known in the film industry, that after getting comfortable in their uniforms, extras on the sets of war movies exhibit a peculiar behavior: Actors suited up as officers refuse to eat lunch at the same table with those playing enlisted men. It doesn’t matter that yesterday they were all ordinary men or that today their circumstance is actually the same; the illusion of power is so fully assumed, and so necessary, that it translates into action with barely a second thought. I was reminded of this watching Colonel Robert Norton, retired, arrive at the judicial center at Fort Meade, Maryland, last summer. He might have been any man who’d got lost on his way to the senior center, weedy and dressed to disappear in off-white casuals, frail almost, except that he was carrying a uniform, and in no time that dark green costume and a pair of shiny high-laced black boots would remake him into a spanky figure, striding toward the witness chair to testify on behalf of Lt. Colonel Steven Jordan.

This was the last court-martial that the Army would convene in the most notorious scandal of the Iraq War, the end of the road from Abu Ghraib that began in the spring of 2004 when photographs of naked, humiliated prisoners and smiling GIs first flashed around the world. Jordan had been the highest-ranking officer living at the prison when those photos were taken, and he was the only officer the Army chose to prosecute. Earlier that day he was acquitted of all charges connected with prisoner abuse, but he faced sentencing for disobeying a general order from a superior officer during the Abu Ghraib investigation. Of the charges he had confronted, this one carried the stiffest penalty—up to five years in prison, as opposed to one year for maltreatment of a fellow human. Like other character witnesses for Jordan, Colonel Norton had made a career depending on orders given and carried out: Special Forces, Vietnam, Haiti, General Dynamics. Like them, he was unfazed by Jordan’s offense. “He’s a man I’d go to war with, in a heartbeat,” Norton told the jurors, nine colonels and one brigadier general, on the panel. “He was a team player.” By then even the prosecutors seemed to agree. The government had begun its pursuit of Jordan more than three years earlier, at one point piling on charges that could have put him away for almost 48 years. Now its lawyers concluded, sighing, “What is a fair and just punishment?…A fine is certainly appropriate”—$7,373.10, one month’s pay—”a reprimand is certainly warranted.” A reprimand is all that Lt. Colonel Jordan got. It’s what he could have got without the expense of a trial and the jury’s affirmation that the authority invested in rank doesn’t carry much responsibility after all, that an officer might just be an empty suit.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 12:36 pm

Ecogeek writes to the coal industry

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Good letter:

I’m a little bit angry right now. For the last 12 hours, unknown to me, the U.S. coal lobby has been plastering EcoGeek with B.S. ads for their B.S. clean coal campaign. I’m not really a big fan of helping to spread their heifer droppings so I’ve blocked the campaign.

But this somewhat rash action makes me feel like I owe the coal lobby an explanation. I just know they’re all sitting in their basements right now thinking, “Why did EcoGeek block us…we’re clean technology…aren’t we?!” So, to put their weary little minds to rest, I’ll answer them.

No…you’re not green. You’re full of crap.

Your industry turns mountains inside out, poisons the water of the rural poor in America and throughout the world. Your industry has never made an environmental move in its long and storied history without being forced to by a government. The promotional video for ‘clean coal’ at your lame PR site lauds a carbon sequestration plant that has now been canceled because it was determined to be pretty much impossible. The cleanest coal plants in the world still create more sulfer dioxide than the environment can deal with without acidifying the rain and the soil.

Of course, the future is in sequestering carbon, right? Pumping it into the ground so that it never hits the atmosphere. The problem is, building a sequestered carbon coal plant is actually more expensive than building a solar thermal plant. Why would we stick with you when solar is revving up to be cheaper than coal without expensive, unrealistic sequestration?

The only thing that makes you seem even a little green today is how extremely destructive you used to be. You cannot be, you will never be, green. Give up…go home…enjoy the next few decades because they will be your last.

We’re moving on without you, and you’re going to have to deal with that. Actual clean technologies are here now. We don’t need you anymore. There are 45 gigawatts of renewable energy planned for the United States. You are not renewable…you are not America’s Power…you are not the future and you sure as hell aren’t green. Stop pretending.

Sincerely,

Hank Green and the EcoGeek Team

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 10:22 am

Top prize goes to a public high school student

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A good—nay, an excellent—public school education certainly should be within the reach of a nation like the US. And there are excellent public schools, which produce students like this:

I was overjoyed this morning to see this glowing face on Shivani Sud, a local young woman of Indian ancestry who took first prize in the Intel Science Talent Search (formerly the Westinghouse Science Talent Search).

Shivani Sud, 17, was awarded a $100,000 college scholarship during a ceremony in Washington for her research to improve colon cancer treatment.Sud, who attends Jordan High School, said Tuesday night she was thankful and proud. “That proud feeling comes from doing what I do and not just the acknowledgement of it,” she said.

Her father, Ish, and her teary-eyed mother, Anu, joined their daughter on stage for pictures right after the announcement at a black-tie banquet for the contest’s 40 finalists. (source)

As fellow blogger, Karen Ventii, said today in her interview with Bora Zivkovic, you’ve got to start them early.

Sadly, though, the very same issue of the local fishwrapper has this story about a recent report on the evaporation of national research support for biomedical researchers who complete doctoral and postdoctoral training.

I sure hope there’s a bright future in the US for brilliant young minds like Ms Sud.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 10:19 am

“Looking the Other Way”

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This is only the first part of a two-part story by Suemedha Sood. The second part will appear tomorrow in the Washington Independent. (And do read John Grisham’s The Appeal).

Jarrett McElheney was four-years-old when the pain started. His joints ached. He was tired but couldn’t sleep. His fever wouldn’t go away and he lost his appetite. After three months of suffering, he was diagnosed with leukemia.

When Jarrett began chemotherapy, his mother, Jill, sat with him in the hospital and read about his disease. She spent a lot of time reading information sent to her by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and she learned that a petroleum byproduct called benzene was a known cause of leukemia. That set off alarm bells, because the McElheneys lived 500 feet from a petroleum tank farm, the term for a petroleum storage facility.

Jill eventually went to talk to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the Centers for Disease Control that investigates such public health problems. Seven years later, the agency still hasn’t finished its analysis.

Six other children living in the area were diagnosed with cancer around the time Jarrett was. The McElheneys have since moved away from their Athens, Ga. home and, over the last few years, have warned other families about living near the hazardous waste site. Since moving, Jarrett’s cancer has gone into remission and he’s now strong at age 13.

In many states, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana and the eight Great Lakes states, citizens and scientists have accused the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of failing to make links between public health problems and industrial sources of pollution, contrary to scientific findings.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 10:12 am

Churches and the Law

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Interesting:

Last November, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley (R) sent letters (pdf) to six of the nation’s largest ministries asking for information about their finances. The request was in response to concerns that church leaders were abusing their tax-exempt status—concerns that seem to be merited in the wake of numerous reports about the platinum lifestyles adopted by some of these folks. (Think: private jets; Trump Tower condos in Manhattan; beachfront Malibu villas—everything a good ascetic needs).

Four months later, however, only two of the six have supplied any information, with one more indicating an intention to do so. The other three, according to a statement (pdf) from Grassley issued Wednesday, are fighting the senator’s request, citing their right to privacy or doubting the authority of the Finance Committee—of which Grassley is the highest ranking Republican—to access the information.

In response, Grassley this week is taking another stab, and he’s recruited a powerful ally in the form of Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). In another round of letters delivered yesterday, the duo gently reminds the church leaders that even God’s institutions are not above Washington’s tax laws.

While the inquiry is not part of an enforcement action, which would properly belong to the IRS, it is within the jurisdiction of the Committee to make these inquiries. The Committee conferred with the Senate Legal Counsel to ensure that the letter was well within the scope of the authority of the Committee and that it does not infringe upon First Amendment rights.

Grassley and Baucus have given until the end of the month for the churches to reply. Expect lawyers to be involved.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 10:09 am

Clinton campaign explains all

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Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 9:50 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Negative news and posts about it

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A friend commented on how many political posts are negative in tone and said that she generally skips those, wondering why I dwell on the negative so much. I thought I’d explain for others who may be wondering the same thing.

Our country and its government have gone in a very bad direction. With the use of government power to further partisan political ends (the co-opting of the Justice department), the establishment of indefinite imprisonment without due process and the torture of suspects, the wholesale monitoring of private communications without any legislative or judicial involvement, the dismantling of effective regulation of businesses through putting business spokesmen and lobbyists in charge of regulatory agencies, we seem to be teetering on the brink of a self-perpetuating authoritarian government, with the powerful (the government and large businesses) cooperating to exploit the powerless. We’ve seen how this Administration has transferred enormous amounts of taxpayer money to the wealthy and powerful: no-bid cost-plus contracts, tax breaks, favoritism, punishment of the critical, … the list goes on.

Because this trend is so dangerous, I believe that we must not avert our gaze, however much the spectacle disgusts us. We must stay informed and take appropriate action: demanding that our Representatives and Senators take action, not simply roll over to please the powerful and to protect their own privilege, as too many do. And that means talking about what’s happening.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 9:39 am

Coconut and orange

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I picked the Geo. F. Trumper Coconut Oil shaving cream this morning, and with the Simpsons Chubby 2 Best brush produced a fine lather. The beautiful, hefty, gold, lined Chatsworth with a Polsilver blade of several shaves performed flawlessly, and the Oil Pass with the Rituals Skincare shave oil produced a wonderful fragrance of oranges as well as a perfectly smooth finish. So for the aftershave, I went with Royall Mandarin. Truly an exceptional shave this morning.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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