Later On

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

Archive for April 12th, 2008

The GOP has one idea

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Cut taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. That’s it. The economy’s bad? Cut taxes. The economy’s good? Cut taxes. We’re getting into a war? Cut taxes. Kevin Drum has an excellent post with a specific example, and concludes:

The lesson here is this: Republicans will never give up. No matter what the problem at hand is, the solution is a corporate tax break of some kind. They will never allow a bill to pass Congress unless there’s a tax cut included, no matter how stupid or misguided. Period.

Democrats need to stop giving in to this blackmail. Let ’em filibuster for the grand cause of the extended tax-loss carryback if they want. The rest of this bill isn’t worth caving in on this, and we have to start fighting back against this kind of lunacy eventually. Why not now?

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 4:19 pm

Scapegoating John Yoo

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Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column on the dangers of making John Yoo and scapegoat than seeing him for what he is: a willing cog in a much larger group eager to institute torture and immunize American officials against their war crimes.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 12:27 pm

The strain on the military

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An email from the Center for American Progress:

While much attention was focused on the Iraq hearings with Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker yesterday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) also held an important, less-publicized hearing about the current strain on the military forces. “That marathon has become an enduring relay and our soldiers continue to run — and at the double time,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody said, referring in part to the consequences of the administration’s decision last year to extend tours of duty in Iraq to 15 months to supply troops for the surge. In response to “intense pressure from service commanders,” President Bush will announce this morning that he is cutting Army combat tours in Iraq from 15 months to 12 months. Despite previously stating he is “keenly aware” of the stress on the forces, Petraeus claimed yesterday that “after several years of a generalization of morale as going down, morale actually went up.” This assessment, however, glosses over the harsh reality facing our troops.

The administration’s plan does not appear to go far enough, as it “will not apply to any soldiers now serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other war zones” and therefore only affect troops sent to Iraq as of Aug. 1. This move means that those already deployed must complete 15-month tours. Bobby Muller of Veterans for America said that nearly “half of the Army’s active-duty frontline units are currently deployed for 15 months, and that Bush’s decision leaves them out.” “In short, this is a hollow announcement; it has no immediate effect,” he said. “[I]t only resets us to where we were last winter,” added Skelton. “This pace will still wear our troops out.” The administration’s plan will also give troops equal rest time at home as deployed. But the White House had this option on the table in 2007, and has stubbornly opposed it. It went on a full-scale assault against Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) “dwell time” bill last year, pressuring Sen. John Warner (R-VA), who introduced a toothless “sense of the Senate” resolution to effectively kill Webb’s “will of the Senate” legislation. In fact, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates even recommended that Bush veto Webb’s “dwell time” proposal, should it ever pass Congress.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 11:30 am

Every cloud has a silver lining

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For example, cloud = economic crisis, silver lining = better health:

If everyone lost just 4 or 5 kilograms, mortality rates would drop dramatically. At least that’s one lesson from the economic crisis Cuba suffered in the 1990s.

When the Soviet empire began to unravel in 1989, Cuba was hit with serious food and fuel shortages. From 1991 to 1995, people were getting only about 1800 calories a day and had to walk or cycle wherever they needed to go.

The result was an average drop in body mass index of 1.5 units, and a halving of the obesity rate to just 7 per cent. In the years that followed, deaths from potentially fatal diseases fell dramatically – diabetes by 51 per cent, coronary artery disease by 35 per cent and stroke by 20 per cent (Canadian Medical Association Journal, vol 178, p 1032).

In countries like Canada and the US, where obesity rates are around 30 per cent, the gains from population-wide weight loss would be even greater, the authors argue.

From issue 2651 of New Scientist magazine, 12 April 2008

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 11:13 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

When frugality hits

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A frugal lifestyle has many benefits, but also some disadvantages. By paying off your mortgage and avoiding the use of credit cards and car loans, you end up with no credit rating—except that some financial firms are developing ways to determine a credit rating from other sources. This article in Business Week explains:

Entrepreneur Kenneth Ellman makes a nice six-figure salary. Yet when he went to refinance his six-bedroom house in Newton, N.J., last year, he hit a snag. The problem: Ellman had paid off his original mortgage a while back and had shunned plastic for years. Without a standard credit score, he turned to Pay Rent, Build Credit, which compiles information like phone and electricity bills to help lenders assess a borrower. By using PRBC, Ellman secured a new loan at an interest rate below 6%.

For years big banks and mortgage brokers had little use for data from PRBC and other alternative credit bureaus. Lenders usually just stuck home buyers with little or no credit history into higher-cost mortgages. In the aftermath of the subprime mess, banks are now eager to gather all the information they can on potential borrowers, especially those who don’t fit typical lending standards. Some 70 million adults, including recent immigrants, new college grads, and freshly divorced or widowed women, don’t have a traditional credit score, making it nearly impossible for them to get a loan in this environment even if they have a good salary and pay their bills on time.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 11:10 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Scott Hamilton

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Scott Hamilton is a fine tenor sax player. Born in 1954, he has recorded a series of great albums for Concord. I particularly like the ballads. The Wikipedia article indicates that his album Organic Duke is a fully matured sound, very much his own style.

Here are a few videos. You can find more on YouTube. The ice skater Scott Hamilton is a different guy. 🙂

Here the Scott Hamilton Quintet performs Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz”:


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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life

What happens to screenplays

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This sounds like a very interesting book: Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made It to a Theater Near You — For Better or Worse, by David S. Cohen. Here’s a review. It begins:

Perhaps you can’t even count the number of times you’ve been sitting in a movie theater, thinking of all the other things you’ll never buy with your misspent money, and you turn and say to your equally dismayed companion, “How did this piece of crap ever get made?”

A fascinating, detailed dissection of the screenwriting process, David S. Cohen’s Screen Plays explores exactly that question — and wonders how the good ones survived the grueling process. Cohen devotes a chapter to each screenplay under scrutiny, interviewing the writer and exploring the sometimes torturous path from idea to finished film from its very root. To his credit, Cohen doesn’t sugar-coat failures; as revealed by the chapter on Evening, last summer’s critically drubbed adaptation of Susan Minot’s novel from The Hours author Michael Cunningham, it’s every bit as instructive to learn what went wrong as what went right.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Business

The campaign

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Via Balloon Juice, two very interesting videos on Obama’s remark about economically frustrated Pennsylvanians being “bitter”.

First a comment on what Hillary has done with Obama’s remark:

And here’s Obama’s response:

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 9:33 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Balancing individualism and conformity

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Interesting article in the NY Times by David Berreby, the author of Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind, which will be published in paperback in the fall. From the article:

… Americans have a prejudice in favor of lone wolves. Moral superiority, we like to think, belongs to the person who stands alone.

Until recently, social science went along with this idea. Lab-based research supposedly furnished slam-dunk evidence that, as the social psychologist Solomon Asch put it, “the social process is polluted” by “the dominance of conformity.” That research, though, was rooted in its time and place: The United States in the aftermath of World War II, when psychologists and sociologists focused on the conformity that made millions give in to totalitarian regimes.

Lately, however, some researchers have been dissenting from the textbook version. Where an earlier generation saw only a contemptible urge to go along, revisionists see normal people balancing their self-respect against their equally valuable respect for other people, and for human relationships. For evidence, revisionists say, look no further than those very experiments that supposedly proved the evils of conformity.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 9:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Friday steps: 11,534

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I’m not sure I’ll get the full 10,000 today. We’ll see. I have to admit that yesterday I was thinking about a schedule of two days of long walks followed by one day of a short walk.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Gem G-Bar: a true gem

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First, of course, the TOBS Herbal Preshave Gel, and letting it sit for a while. Then Floris London JF shaving soap and the inestimable Rooney Style 2 Finest—and a fine, thick, copious lather. The Rooney Style 2 Finest is definitely superior to the Rooney Heritage Alibaba Large (at least for me).

I’ve been using Ted Pella Teflon (PTFE) coated blades in the Gem, but at Giovanni’s suggestion I bought some of the Gem Blue Star blades, which are, after all, made for shaving, not for lab work. And he’s right: I did get a better shave. In fact, quite a good shave, especially after the oil pass with All Natural Shaving Oil. Having only one shaving edge felt a little odd, and certainly it requires more frequent rinsing of the blade, but the Gem G-Bar is a really fine razor. Very nice to use it again.

I owe the use of the G-Bar this morning to this post on the blog Adventures in Wet Shaving.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2008 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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