Later On

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

Archive for August 20th, 2008

Carl Honore praises slowness

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Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Daily life

Was McCain tortured, as the GOP understands it?

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Via AmericaBlog, Andrew Sullivan raises an interesting point:

In all the discussion of John McCain’s recently recovered memory of a religious epiphany in Vietnam, one thing has been missing. The torture that was deployed against McCain emerges in all the various accounts. It involved sleep deprivation, the withholding of medical treatment, stress positions, long-time standing, and beating. Sound familiar?

According to the Bush administration’s definition of torture, McCain was therefore not tortured.

Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of “long-time standing” that victims of Bush’s torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely “enhanced interrogation.”

No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the “intelligence” we have procured from “interrogating” terror suspects. Feel safer?

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP

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Reaping the whirlwind: torture cases burgeoning

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Well, if you torture people and it’s illegal, I guess you have to expect that you’ll end up in court. Daphne Eviatar writes in the Washington Independent:

Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals announced that its full court would reconsider the disturbing case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen arrested by U.S. authorities at JFK airport in 2002 and forcibly extradited to Syria for interrogation. As U.S. officials surely expected, Arar was questioned under torture for the next year in a Syrian prison. He was eventually released without charge.

One of the first known victims of the Bush administration’s secret “extraordinary rendition” policy, Arar sued U.S. authorities in 2004 for conspiring in his torture. A three-judge panel dismissed the case in January, saying that as an alien deported by immigration authorities, he had no right to bring a claim. But as more such cases are being filed, it appears the courts are beginning to reconsider. The entire Second Circuit court — all 22 judges — last week announced sua sponte that it would take a second look at Arar’s case. Meanwhile, similar cases filed by former detainees apparently tortured under the direction of U.S. officials could be headed to the Supreme Court.

Legal experts predict that many more such cases could be filed — as the hundreds of prisoners abused and then released from U.S. detention centers around the world begin seeking redress from Washington. The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, an independent non-governmental organization, has already documented more than 330 cases in which “U.S. military and civilian personnel are credibly alleged to have abused or killed detainees” in detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those were three British citizens — Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed — who traveled to Afghanistan in October 2001 to offer humanitarian relief to civilians displaced by the war. In late November, they were kidnapped by Rashid Dostum, an Uzbeki warlord and leader of the U.S.-supported Northern Alliance. He turned them over to U.S. custody – apparently for bounty money that American officials were paying for suspected terrorists. In December, without any independent evidence that the men had engaged in hostilities against the United States, U.S. officials sent them to Guantanamo Bay. Over the next two years, they claim, they were imprisoned in cages, tortured and humiliated, until they were returned to Britain in 2004. None was ever charged with a crime.

Seven months later, the three men, as well as another British citizen picked up in Afghanistan and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, sued former Defense Sec. Donald Rumsfeld and a host of other military commanders for directing and authorizing their torture, as well as violating their religious rights. (They were forced to shave their beards and watch as their Korans were flushed down the toilet.)

In January, a federal appeals court decided that even if all their claims are true, Rumsfeld and his fellow military commanders are immune from suit.

Though torture, physical abuse and humiliation of prisoners violate domestic and international law — as well as the U.S. Constitution — the court had found that the officials were acting “within the scope of their employment” and cannot be held personally responsible. What’s more, the court reasoned, they’re immune from liability because it wasn’t clear when they authorized the torture that detainees at Guantanamo Bay had any enforceable rights. As for the men’s religious rights, the court decided that none were “persons” entitled to the protection of the law they sued under. Case dismissed.

It’s become a common refrain that even if government officials broke the law, there’s no one willing to enforce it. Several other cases brought by prisoners who say they were tortured in U.S. custody have been dismissed on similar grounds, before ever reaching the merits. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey has repeatedly said he won’t even investigate whether government officials committed crimes by authorizing the torture of prisoners, despite the growing volume of evidence supporting that charge.

Still, it’s not clear that those who authorized the brutal interrogations at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere will all get off scot-free. Lawyers representing the former British detainees say they plan to seek review in the Supreme Court. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 2:14 pm

English-language oddities

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Normally, one would think “not safe” can be replaced by “unsafe”. But I guess not: consider this headline:

“Codeine not safe for all breastfeeding moms and their babies”

The story makes clear that the headline means that “codeine is safe for not all breastfeeding moms and their babies”. But that sounds a little odd, so “not” was moved to modify “safe” instead of “all,” with the result that the meaning blurs into “codeine unsafe for all breastfeeding moms and their babies.” I think a better headline, unambiguous, would be:

“Codeine unsafe for some breastfeeding moms and their babies”

The article, BTW, is here.

This particular little difficulty is old: in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare (or whoever) writes: “All that glisters is not gold.” (“Glisters” = “glistens”) Logically, that would mean that something that glisters can’t be gold, though gold indeed glisters—but what is meant is “Not all that glisters is gold.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Daily life

Duty, honor, country, and cover-up

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The modern Army spends quite a bit of its effort in lying and covering up its bad decisions. Yet another example, from ThinkProgress:

On Monday, USA Today reported that barracks for wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan at the Army’s Fort Sill were infested with mold. In addition, soldiers living in the units said that “their complaints about mold and other problems” have been ignored for months and that they were told to keep quiet about the problems:

Twenty soldiers, who spoke to USA Today early last week, said their complaints about mold and other problems went unheeded for months. They also said they had been ordered not speak about the conditions at Fort Sill.

The base commander, Maj. Gen. Peter Vangjel, said in response to inquiries about the ongoing problems, “We’re going in and we’re going to take care of this for these guys.” In a later Associated Press report, Vangjel acknowledged that soldiers who knew about the mold were ordered to “remain silent,” but added that suggestions that the complaints were ignored are “simply not true.”

But now the Army appears to have retaliated against the Army social services official, Chuck Roeder, who first reported the poor conditions at Fort Sill — and their neglect — to the media. USA Today reports that Roeder has been forced out of his job:

An Army social services coordinator…who told USA Today about poor conditions at Fort Sill’s unit for wounded soldiers has been forced out of his job, the employee and base officials said Tuesday.

Soldiers meeting with Army Secretary Pete Geren…on Tuesday said Chuck Roeder, 54, was a strong advocate for their problems and should not have been forced to leave. […]

Roeder, a retired soldier, said he was told to resign or he would be fired.

An executive officer at Fort Sill said Roeder’s departure is “purely coincidental.”

The episode at Fort Sill is reminiscent of the handling of the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed uncovered by the Washington Post last year. In the aftermath of the Post’s report, CQ Today revealed that Walter Reed’s problems were long-known to officials in the Army and Congress, the Army accused the media of propagating “misinformation,” and the Pentagon tried to quiet criticisms by blocking the congressional testimony of the former Walter Reed Chief.

Noting that Fort Sill is the second Army installation in recent months to have such problems with barracks for returning soldiers, VetVoice writes, “this is pathetic.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:49 am


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I have to admit that I don’t understand those who stick to their guns in the face of overwhelming evidence: cigarette smokers, global-warming deniers, and flat-earthers. How would a flath-earth advocate explain, for example, this photo?

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Alexander technique for back pain

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Kafeneio had a post this morning on a good chair (the “perfect chair,” in fact) for those who suffer chronic back pain. And now this finding about the Alexander technique:

Alexander technique lessons in combination with an exercise programme offer long-term effective treatment for chronic back pain, according to a study published on today. Back pain causes more disability than almost any other condition in Western societies, but very few effective long-term treatments are available to patients.

Previous research shows that the Alexander technique* and massage may help relieve back pain in the short-term, but little is known about the long-term outcomes.

A team of researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol compared the effectiveness of massage, exercise and the Alexander technique for the relief of back pain over one year.

Professor Little and colleagues recruited 579 patients with chronic or recurrent back pain from 64 general practices in the south and west of England. Patients were randomised to receive normal care, massage, six Alexander technique lessons, or 24 Alexander technique lessons. Half of the patients from each of the groups were also prescribed an exercise programme (brisk walking for 30 minutes per day five times a week).

Patients were sent disability questionnaires at three months and one year to record which activities were limited by their back pain. For example, walking more slowly than usual or getting out of the house often.

The authors found that after one year, exercise combined with lessons in the Alexander technique significantly reduced pain and improved functioning whereas massage offered little benefit after three months.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:39 am

Posted in Daily life

Gretchen Rubin’s exercise tips

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Some tips for us exercise wannabes. I’ll give them a go.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

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How much longer will we tolerate it?

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At some point, I hope, the American public will be enraged enough to put an end to the petty tyranny that that continues to grow and spread throughout what was at one time called “the land of the free.” From Boing Boing:

Here are a couple of accounts of commercial airline pilots, one of whom has been put on the TSA’s no-fly list and the other is on the terrorist watch-list, for reasons that no one will disclose.

A Gulf War veteran and his wife say they’ve been unfairly placed on a federal list that limits their commercial flight access and threatens his job as a commercial pilot. To fight back, the couple, who are Muslim, filed a lawsuit today against a host of U.S. government agencies. “We don’t know why they’re on the list. They don’t know why they’re on the list. The government won’t tell us why they’re on the list,” said Amy Foerster, an attorney with Saul Ewing, who is providing pro bono counsel and working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the Schuylkill County couple on the case, which was filed in U.S. district court…James Robinson is a retired Air National Guard brigadier general and a commercial pilot for a major airline who flies passenger planes around the country. James Robinson is a retired brigadier general and a commercial pilot. His name is on the terrorist “watch list.”

He has even been certified by the Transportation Security Administration to carry a weapon into the cockpit as part of the government’s defense program should a terrorist try to commandeer a plane.

But there’s one problem: James Robinson, the pilot, has difficulty even getting to his plane because his name is on the government’s terrorist “watch list.”

Robinson is one of many James Robinsons on the list, including a 5-year-old. Good news, though — all you need to do to avoid the secondary screening is fly under your initials, rather than name. Better hope the terrorists never figure that out. Ho ho ho. Airline captain, lawyer, child on terror ‘watch list’, Grounded pilot, wife sue over ‘no-fly’ list (via MeFi)

Remember: no agency will voluntarily relinquish any part of its power.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:29 am

How to make good fried rice

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Some excellent tips in this post, along with a recipe for Shrimp Fried Rice. For example, I didn’t realize (a) that you use yesterday’s rice, not rice cooked today, and (b) you spread the rice over the bottom of the sauté pan or wok and let it sit there and cook for a while, not be constantly stirring and flipping. More hints at the link—and, of course, the recipe.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:20 am

Windows Freeware

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Excellent list of Windows freeware with brief reviews of each item. I have several of the packages listed. He ends his list with these links:

  • Large list of over 450 freeware applications – Link
  • Freeware listing for both Windows and Mac – Link
  • Another list of all the popular freeware – Link

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Interesting point: What does Michael Phelps do next month?

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Sonja Lyubomirsky has an interesting article which asks the question: Will the rest of Michael Phelps seem to him downhill?

Certainly we’re familiar with high school or college athletes who had great success at their sport, but not enough to turn pro, and then in later years always looked back to that fleeting greatness. In fact, one of Irwin Shaw’s best short stories, “The Eighty-Yard Run,” is based on this idea. (It was later made into a 1958 production on Playhouse 90 as “The 80-Yard Run,” with a cast that included Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.)

So it’s clearly a danger, but how can he avoid it?—especially given that (in Phelps’s case) people will be reminding him all his life of his spectacular triumph: he won’t be able to let it go because it will be continually pressed back on him. The same with hs football heroes who settle down in the same small town that witnessed their triumphs: the memory comes back every fall with reminders from old friends.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 10:11 am

Posted in Daily life

What Vernor Vinge is reading

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Vernor Vinge wrote one of the great SF novels of all times, A Fire Upon the Deep, so his reading list is of interest:

What is futurist Vernor Vinge reading? His coffee table—a metal bookcase topped with a piece of plywood—is “covered by a deep layer of books,” Vinge says, as are most other surfaces in his San Diego, California, home. His current pile includes:

– Books by Charles Stross and Karl Schroeder. “If I can’t find my science fiction to read at night before I go to bed, I begin to get stressed out.”

Matter by Iain M. Banks, set in a fantastically advanced civilization known simply as the Culture.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, a nonfiction best-seller on randomness by Nassim Taleb: “It’s a rare thing that something liked is also really important.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 9:58 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Mysterious prejudice

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ThinkProgress has an example of job discrimination that totally baffles me:

The Washington Post reports today that Diane Schroer, a 52-year-old former Army Special Forces commander, “testified yesterday in federal court that she was ‘disappointed and dismayed‘ when an official at the Library of Congress rescinded a job offer even though she was the star candidate”:

During lunch, Schroer told Preece [the interviewer] she was undergoing the medical transition to become a woman. She also showed Preece photographs of what she looked like dressed as a woman to allay concerns Preece might have had about her workplace attire. … Preece told Schroer that “you have given me a lot to think about.” […]

The next day, Preece called to tell Schroer that “after a long and sleepless night, I have determined you are not a good fit and not what we want,” Schroer testified.

After 9/11, “Schroer became director of a 120-member classified organization that tracked and targeted international terrorists. She routinely briefed the country’s top officials, including Vice President Cheney,” the Post notes.

For the life of me, I can’t see the problem. Schroer is applying for a job in a library, for God’s sake. What on earth does the transgender operation have to do with the job responsibilities? This is completely ridiculous. Preece should be ashamed—and making a job decision on the grounds Preece used shows a lack of judgment and competence.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 9:13 am

Posted in Daily life

Tomato jam

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I’ve got to make this. The front page of the NY Times Website today has a video that shows Mark Bittman making it, and here’s the article. As Bittman says, “Served plain, on bread, it was sensational; with tuna, meat or white fish, it was even more compelling.” The (extremely easy) recipe:

Tomato Jam

1 1/2 pounds good ripe tomatoes (Roma are best), cored and coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated or minced ginger (Bittman actually uses coarsely chopped ginger)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or other peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste.

1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.

2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use; this will keep at least a week.

Yield: About 1 pint.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 9:02 am

The Omnivore’s 100

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Via Square with a Round Corner, this game:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The original list contains the links shown below, which define the food via a Wikipedia entry. I’ve eaten all but 26, and except for eating a plain, raw Scotch Bonnet pepper, I’m up for trying the rest. In fact, I had an excellent opportunity at roadkill: I smacked a pheasant with the windshield of my VW bug in Iowa once: it died instantly, of course, and I could have stopped for it, but I was too rattled.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. [My blog bolds links, so I’ve starred items I’ve not eaten. – LG]
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
* 2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
* 6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
* 14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
* 16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
* 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
* 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
* 42. Whole insects
* 43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
* 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
* 46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
* 58. Beer above 8% ABV (though my home brew may have reached this point – LG)
* 59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
* 61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
* 63. Kaolin
* 64. Currywurst
* 65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
* 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
* 73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
* 75. Roadkill
* 76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
* 80. Bellini
* 81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
* 83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
* 89. Horse
* 90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
* 93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 8:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Bacon series: Bacon bourbon

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The Eldest, another great bacon fan, passes along this recipe for bacon bourbon.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 8:44 am

Nancy Boy

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Nancy Boy makes excellent skincare products for me (“tested on boyfriends, not animals”), and their shaving cream is a classic. Though it can be used brushless, I use a brush—the Rooney Style 2, which I’m sticking with for a while. The peppermint-lavender fragrance is refreshing, and the shave (with the Slant Bar and Iridium blade, of course) was extremely nice. I used the Standard shaving cream, not the newer cucumber-based shaving cream (though I want to get that, too).

Ingredients: Purified water, potassium myristate (from natural vegetable oils), sodium stearate (from natural vegetable oils), glycerin, cocos nucifera oil (from coconuts), aloe barbadensis leaf juice, avocado oil, pistacia vera seed oil, fragrance (includes lavender, peppermint and rosemary essential oils), allantoin (from comfrey plant), bitter orange flower extract, cucumber extract, propylene glycol, tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E), methyl gluceth-20 (from corn), polyquaternium-7, methylparaben (anti-microbial), hydroxyethylcellulose (natural stabilizer), propylparaben (anti-microbial).

The aftershave was the old-timey Pinaud Clubman. I still haven’t found a domestic source of Pinaud Coachman that has it in stock.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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