Later On

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

Archive for April 3rd, 2008

There will be a quiz

with one comment

Learn it fast.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Religion

The Zen of Zen

leave a comment »

101 Zen stories.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Religion

A nice dinner

leave a comment »

A duck breast sautéed in the cast-iron skillet. Poured off most of the fat and removed the duck breast, then sautéed a few minced cloves of garlic, a small chopped onion, several sliced plain white mushrooms, and bunch of fresh spinach. A little balsamic vinegar over that. A glass of red wine, the duck, the spinach: very satisfying.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Another KBR rape case

leave a comment »

ThinkProgress has this note:

Last December, former KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones alleged publicly that she had been “gang-raped” while working for the company in Iraq. Since then, nearly a dozen women have contacted Jones to say that they too were sexually assaulted by contractors in Iraq. Now, in a new Nation article, another female KBR employee says she was raped in Iraq in January 2008. But, she says she was “told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor” and warned that if she spoke up, she would be “in danger.”

It seems that KBR and the rapists who work for it will escape any punishment at all, and the cases can’t even go to trial because of a mandatory arbitration clause in the employment contracts. The article at the last link in the note above begins:

It was an early January morning in 2008 when 42-year-old Lisa Smith [pseudonym – LG], a paramedic for a defense contractor in southern Iraq, woke up to find her entire room shaking. The shipping container that served as her living quarters was reverberating from nearby rocket attacks, and she was jolted awake to discover an awful reality. “Right then my whole life was turned upside down,” she says.

What follows is the story she told me in a lengthy, painful on-the-record interview, conducted in a lawyer’s office in Houston, Texas, while she was back from Iraq on a brief leave.

That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand–but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 4:09 pm

Thoughts on the role of the blogosphere

leave a comment »

This is quite an interesting post:

There has been a lot of discussion lately in Democratic circles about the importance of effectively framing discourse in contemporary politics. While this may seem like a simple point, it is pretty clear that Republicans figured this out and took advantage of it long before Democrats did. Now, an interesting dialogue is developing around the role of the progressive blogosphere in political discourse.

Atrios, as usual, has some interesting thoughts on the role of the blogosphere in framing political discourse.

Overall what blogs have been able to do is create an unfolding political narrative which has been largely absent elsewhere. Sometimes it’s about emphasizing different things, sometimes it’s about combating DC conventional wisdom, sometimes it’s about highlighting things which are being ignored. But taken all together it’s about telling the story of politics in a different way.While there are other elements – fundraising, various types of activism, etc… – day to day the power of the blogosphere is that it offers up a competing version of political reality, in opposition to the Russert/Matthews/Dowd version and in opposition to the Limbaugh/Hannity/Fox News/Heritage Foundation version.

I think this is an important point, and Duncan nailed it. When the conventional wisdom of the beltway punditocracy isn’t considered wise by ordinary Americans, something has to give. As Amy Goodman likes to point out, “We need a media that covers power, not covers for power. We need a media that is the fourth estate not for the state.” In a fascinating Bill Moyers interview, John Stewart makes the case that this problem stems from the fact that the press corps and politicians work so closely together that they have become accustomed to the comfortable roles they play. This lack of accountability on the part of corporate media was especially apparent in the buildup to the Iraq War and coverage of the 2004 Presidential election.

Corporate media’s failure to fulfill it’s duty as a watchdog of the government has created a vaccuum that is quickly being filled by the blogosphere and other forms of independent media.

Duncan continues:

Continue reading—there’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 3:59 pm

Where are the protest songs?

with 7 comments

I can understand Britney wouldn’t sing one, but where are they? The question is raised in this post:

So here I am, working my day job and expressing my white boy anger by rocking out to some Rage Against The Machine and I had one of those classic thoughts, “a band like this would never make it in todays market.” And then it hit me. Hard. I couldn’t think of one popular protest song. Not one. I will be the first to admit I am not very knowledgeable about current pop music so if someone knows one, please, correct me and I will be happily wrong about this. But here we are, 5 years into a war that is extremely unpopular with the public and I couldn’t think of one anti-war song that is played on the radio. No Fortunate Son. No Blowing In The Wind. No Give Peace A Chance.

More at the link. But he’s right: it’s a strong contrast to the Vietnam War, when protest songs filled the airwaves.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Media, Music

The candidates on medical marijuana

leave a comment »

You can see all presidential candidates and their positions, but the big three:

Against medical marijuana: Clinton, McCain

For medical marijuana: Obama

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Election

Wet shaving by a new fan

leave a comment »

Via Mantic’s blog, this endearing video. And I should add that Mantic’s blog is as good a resource as his videos.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 3:05 pm

Posted in Shaving

Took the walk

with one comment

Hilly out, flat back. Stopped by our good liquor store to see if they had Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. No. Bitter, indeed. But then I found on Amazon a set of Fee Brothers Bitters: Peach, Orange, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mint, and Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters, all from West Indies.

I was accompanied by Jo Stafford—for example:

After she retired, she and her husband Paul Weston worked up a comic duo “Jonathan and Darlene Edwards,” playing and singing with determination and a tin ear, as a party gag. People loved it and talked them into recording. (Greatest Hits I and Greatest Hits II.)It’s quite enjoyable once you know it’s a gag. I couldn’t find much, but here’s Jonathan Edwards showing his chops on the piano:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Humor, Music

Cool watch

with 2 comments

Nifty, eh?

Zulu watch

A wealth of useful time information including local time, times for sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moon-set, lunar phase, length of day/night, digital time, and military time are presented at a glance in a straightforward, easy-to-comprehend format. Astronomers can use this information to plan for the best time to star hop. Photographers are able to capture the magic light of dusk and dawn. Travelers can rejoice because it keeps time for over 500 cities worldwide and helps them get over jet lag.

A collection of solar and lunar algorithms from distinguished astronomers, the US Naval Observatory and NASA, are incorporated into a sophisticated program that calculates extensive time data through the year 2099. All of this information can be immediately accessed regardless of where you might find yourself on the planet. In addition, the Yes Zulu Watch offers a beautifully understated look as well as great readability due to a high contrast black & white LCD display. The moon stone indicating midnight makes it a purely personal time piece.

Also has these great features:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Techie toys

Water heater improvements

leave a comment »

Again via Ecogeek, this good news:

Until today, Energy Star didn’t regulate water heaters at all. They’re the most energy-hungry single appliance in the home, responsible for about 17% of residential energy use. But because of a lack of consensus on how they should be regulated, and resistance from industry, their efficiency went completely unregulated.

Well, that all changed today. Along with the announcement that the new standards will save Americans hundreds of billions of dollars per year, comes two new water heaters from GE that will, of course, meet the new standards.

The first is available now. It’s a tankless heater that provides hot water only when you need it. The result is an unlimited supply of hot water, and about 25% less energy use per gallon of hot water produced.

The second is even more exciting, though, unfortunately, it won’t be available until 2009. GE is calling it a “hybrid electric” water heater… The water heater first uses a heat pump to bring the water up to the temperature of the ambient air. Then the electric water heater takes over, bringing the water up to 140 degrees F.

This new design is more than 50% more efficient than previous water heaters. If every home in America had one right now, we would need 30 fewer coal-fired power plants! Every home that installs one will see their yearly power bills drop up to $250.

Because the new device uses a heat exchanger, it will actually make your furnace work harder during the winter. But in the summer, and in warm climates, it will actually help cool your house!

This is exactly the kind of technology we need to hold us over until renewables take over for coal. GE’s got a video featuring the new devices online if you’d like to check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 12:03 pm

Bottled water: a highly successful scam

leave a comment »

Bottled water has worked out well as a big money-maker—especially now that companies that sell bottled water are getting agreements from schools, businesses, and other organizations to remove water fountains and replace them with vending machines that sell water in disposable plastic bottles. (We here use refillable bottles.) EcoGeek provides some data:

… The world spends $100 billion on bottled water every year. Strangely enough, this water does not get to the millions of sick and dying people who do not have access to clean drinking water.

To bring potable water to the entire world would cost around $30 billion…less than half of the amount that people who have access to clean drinking water spend on bottles of the stuff every year.…

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 12:00 pm

Disrespecting the Constitution

leave a comment »

In a meeting with Republican legislators about the renewal of the Patriot Act, Bush famously declared (late in 2005) that the Consitution was just a piece of paper:

GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”

“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”

“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”

And when he was still White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales wrote that “the Constitution is an outdated document.”

True to their beliefs, the Bush Administration has consistently ignored the Constitution when it got in the way of what they wanted to do. For example:

For at least 16 months after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001, the Bush administration believed that the Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures on U.S. soil didn’t apply to its efforts to protect against terrorism.

That view was expressed in a secret Justice Department legal memo dated Oct. 23, 2001. The administration on Wednesday stressed that it now disavows that view.

The October 2001 memo was written at the request of the White House by John Yoo, then the deputy assistant attorney general, and addressed to Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel at the time. The administration had asked the department for an opinion on the legality of potential responses to terrorist activity.

The 37-page memo is classified and has not been released. Its existence was disclosed Tuesday in a footnote of a separate secret memo, dated March 14, 2003, released by the Pentagon in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations,” the footnote states, referring to a document titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 11:16 am

Did Mukasey just tell a big, fat lie?

leave a comment »

Answer: Yes, probably. Read Glenn Greenwald for details. The lie:

Last week, during a question-and-answer session following a speech he delivered in San Francisco, Attorney General Michael Mukasey revealed a startling and extremely newsworthy fact. As I wrote last Saturday, Mukasey claimed that, prior to 9/11, the Bush administration was aware of a telephone call being made by an Al Qaeda Terrorist from what he called a “safe house in Afghanistan” into the U.S., but failed to eavesdrop on that call. Some help is needed from readers here to generate the attention for this story that it requires.

In that speech, Mukasey blamed FISA’s warrant requirement for the failure to eavesdrop on that call — an assertion which is, for multiple reasons that I detailed in that post, completely false. He then tearfully claimed that FISA therefore caused the deaths of “three thousand people who went to work that day.” For obvious reasons, the Attorney General’s FISA falsehoods themselves are extremely newsworthy, but it is the story he told about the pre-9/11-planning call from Afghanistan itself that is truly new, and truly extraordinary.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 11:01 am

“Public” trials at Guantánamo

leave a comment »

The Sixth Amendment provides one of our more important rights under the Constitution (as amended):

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

This was added after some hard lessons learned from Star Chamber and other secret proceedings wherein someone could be convicted in absentia, with no opportunity to offer a defense. The trial must be public so the people can see for themselves that it’s a fair trial.

That’s not what will happen in Guantánamo. McClatchy reports:

A defense lawyer lets slip at the war court convening here that a battlefield commander changed an Afghanistan firefight report in a way that seemed to help a U.S. government murder case. Reporters hear the field commander’s name but are forbidden to report it.

In another case, a judge approves the release of a captive’s interrogation video showing the blurred face of an American agent. But a federal prosecutor on loan to the Pentagon withholds it “out of an abundance of caution.”

Even as the U.S. government edges toward full-blown, war-crimes trials by military commission here, with more hearings next week, all sides are grappling with what information can be made public and what must be kept secret.

Consider: A new courtroom here sequesters Pentagon-approved spectators behind a soundproofed window. If a terror suspect tries to shout about his treatment in U.S. custody, a military censor can mute the audio feed that observers hear.

Under rules that protect interrogation techniques, the Pentagon’s war court won’t let the reputed 9/11 architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, say he was waterboarded — something the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, confirmed on Feb. 5.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 10:13 am

Good educations

with 2 comments

Kevin Drum points to a study (PDF) that would be important if we acted on it: “A new report examines the common characteristics of school systems producing students who perform well on international tests.” One common characteristic, as Drum points out, is starting salary. Think about this chart:

Starting Pay

School systems, from Seoul to Chicago, from London to New Zealand, and from Helsinki to Singapore, show that making teaching the preferred career choice depends less on high salaries or ‘culture’ than it does on a small set of simple but critical policy choices: developing strong processes for selecting and training teachers, paying good starting compensation, and carefully managing the status of the teaching profession.

Read Kevin’s post—and the comments

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 9:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Torture at Guantánamo

leave a comment »

Vanity Fair has an article worth reading. Here’s the blurb:

As the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, and a prized Guantánamo detainee wouldn’t talk, the Bush administration’s highest-ranking lawyers argued for extreme interrogation techniques, circumventing international law, the Geneva Conventions, and the army’s own Field Manual. The attorneys would even fly to Guantánamo to ratchet up the pressure—then blame abuses on the military. Philippe Sands follows the torture trail, and holds out the possibility of war crimes charges.

These people are war criminals, and if there were any justice, they’d be tried as such. The article begins:

The abuse, rising to the level of torture, of those captured and detained in the war on terror is a defining feature of the presidency of George W. Bush. Its military beginnings, however, lie not in Abu Ghraib, as is commonly thought, or in the “rendition” of prisoners to other countries for questioning, but in the treatment of the very first prisoners at Guantánamo. Starting in late 2002 a detainee bearing the number 063 was tortured over a period of more than seven weeks. In his story lies the answer to a crucial question: How was the decision made to let the U.S. military start using coercive interrogations at Guantánamo?

The Bush administration has always taken refuge behind a “trickle up” explanation: that is, the decision was generated by military commanders and interrogators on the ground. This explanation is false. The origins lie in actions taken at the very highest levels of the administration—by some of the most senior personal advisers to the president, the vice president, and the secretary of defense. At the heart of the matter stand several political appointees—lawyers—who, it can be argued, broke their ethical codes of conduct and took themselves into a zone of international criminality, where formal investigation is now a very real option. This is the story of how the torture at Guantánamo began, and how it spread.

ThinkProgress has a good quotation from the article:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 9:33 am

Wednesday’s steps: rained out

with 2 comments

It rained most of Wednesday, so I took the day off. It’s sunny today, though, so I’ll be stepping along. Probably just as well to have a little break after the 9900-step day.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 9:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Fast shave

leave a comment »

I woke up late this morning—7:40 and car due in for service at 8:00—so I had to move quickly. I discovered that a complete morning bathroom routine (shower, shampoo, and 3-pass shave) takes 15 minutes when I’m in a hurry.

The Rooney Heritage Alibaba Large was the brush, and I used the mango oil soap. Tomorrow I’ll use the same soap with the Rooney Style 2 Finest, because right now my impression is that it is significantly better than the Alibaba: more resilience (the Alibaba is too stiff) and holds more lather (the Alibaba is too dense).

Still I got a reasonably good lather, though I did the third pass with Pacific Oil Company’s All Natural Shaving Oil. The razor was the Merkur Futur with a Trig blade that I’ve used at least once. The aftershave was Draggon Noir.

Result was a smooth and nick-free shave, highly satisfactory in the outcome department, but I do prefer a more leisurely process.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2008 at 9:27 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: