Later On

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

Archive for September 26th, 2008

A simple request

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After seeing Sarah Palin’s grasp of (at?) the issues, this spot increases in importance.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Good literature

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Download Squad has a good link to what they call “Classic Literature” (which I would take to be Greek and Roman literature of antiquity, but they apparently mean good literature). At any rate, worth a click.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

5 ways to fall asleep quicker

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Falling asleep has never been much of a problem for me. My method is to lie down, close my eyes, and breathe and then I’m asleep. But others (e.g., The Wife) sometimes find it more difficult. Thus the 5 methods outlined in this post are worth knowing. The five ways are:

  1. Meditate Before Bed Time
  2. Write Down Your Thoughts
  3. Gaze Into A Candle For 5 Minutes
  4. Eat Enough During The Day
  5. Read A Relaxing Novel

The commentary on each method is well worth reading. For example, the “Write Down Your Thoughts” includes a gratitude journal, to turn your thoughts toward the good parts of the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

What a well run bank thinks of the bailout

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Via Liz, a bank that exercised good judgment and prudence writes to Congress to weigh in on the bailout. Read their letter (PDF).

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 2:27 pm

Walkies

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New route: 1 hour 1 minute 13.58 seconds. This is the same as the old route on the way out, but then I turn around and go back the same (hilly) way instead of looping around for a flat route back. This route is just a little shorter, but: hills.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Predatory lenders

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Interesting column by Eliot Spitzer. It begins:

Several years ago, state attorneys general and others involved in consumer protection began to notice a marked increase in a range of predatory lending practices by mortgage lenders. Some were misrepresenting the terms of loans, making loans without regard to consumers’ ability to repay, making loans with deceptive “teaser” rates that later ballooned astronomically, packing loans with undisclosed charges and fees, or even paying illegal kickbacks. These and other practices, we noticed, were having a devastating effect on home buyers. In addition, the widespread nature of these practices, if left unchecked, threatened our financial markets.

Even though predatory lending was becoming a national problem, the Bush administration looked the other way and did nothing to protect American homeowners. In fact, the government chose instead to align itself with the banks that were victimizing consumers.

Predatory lending was widely understood to present a looming national crisis. This threat was so clear that as New York attorney general, I joined with colleagues in the other 49 states in attempting to fill the void left by the federal government. Individually, and together, state attorneys general of both parties brought litigation or entered into settlements with many subprime lenders that were engaged in predatory lending practices. Several state legislatures, including New York’s, enacted laws aimed at curbing such practices.

What did the Bush administration do in response? Did it reverse course and decide to take action to halt this burgeoning scourge? As Americans are now painfully aware, with hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing foreclosure and our markets reeling, the answer is a resounding no.

Not only did the Bush administration do nothing to protect consumers, it embarked on an aggressive and unprecedented campaign to prevent states from protecting their residents from the very problems to which the federal government was turning a blind eye.

Let me explain: The administration accomplished this feat through an obscure federal agency called the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The OCC has been in existence since the Civil War. Its mission is to ensure the fiscal soundness of national banks. For 140 years, the OCC examined the books of national banks to make sure they were balanced, an important but uncontroversial function. But a few years ago, for the first time in its history, the OCC was used as a tool against consumers.

In 2003, during the height of the predatory lending crisis, the OCC invoked a clause from the 1863 National Bank Act to issue formal opinions preempting all state predatory lending laws, thereby rendering them inoperative. The OCC also promulgated new rules that prevented states from enforcing any of their own consumer protection laws against national banks. The federal government’s actions were so egregious and so unprecedented that all 50 state attorneys general, and all 50 state banking superintendents, actively fought the new rules.

But the unanimous opposition of the 50 states did not deter, or even slow, the Bush administration in its goal of protecting the banks. In fact, …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 1:00 pm

Planning torture

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Some war-crimes indictments should come along for many in the Bush White House. Here are more revelations about how Bush’s aides, with his knowledge, planned to torture prisoners.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 12:53 pm

“Just making things up.”

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One common criticism of the GOP’s tendency to make fact-free assertions (“China is drilling for oil just off Cuba”; “No oil platforms were harmed during Hurricane Katrina”; and many others) is that they have a tendency just to make things up. Apparently Alberto Gonzales took that approach to heart, according to Murray Waas in a fascinating article in The Atlantic Monthly, which begins:

The Justice Department is investigating whether former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales created a set of fictitious notes so that President Bush would have a rationale for reauthorizing his warrantless eavesdropping program, according to sources close to the investigation.

President Bush reauthorized the surveillance program on March 11, 2004, one day after the hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to sign a certification saying that the program was legal and could therefore continue.

In reauthorizing the surveillance program over the objections of his own Justice Department, President Bush later claimed to have relied on notes made by Gonzales about a meeting that had taken place the day before (March 10), in which Gonzales and Vice President Cheney had met with eight congressional leaders—also known as the “Gang of Eight”—who receive briefings about covert intelligence programs. According to Gonzales’s notes, the congressional leaders had said in the meeting that they wanted the surveillance program to continue despite the attorney general’s refusal to certify that it was legal.

But four of the congressional leaders present at the meeting say that’s not true; they never encouraged the White House to sidestep the objections of the attorney general and continue the program without his approval.

Investigators are skeptical of the notes because Gonzales did not write them until days after the meeting with the congressional leaders, and he wrote them after both Bush and Gonzales had together signed a reauthorization of the surveillance program.

Gonzales, who was White House counsel at the time he met with the congressional leaders, has told investigators working for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General that President Bush personally directed him to write the notes so that he could “memorialize” what the legislators had told him, according to a report made public by the Inspector General’s Office on September 2 and sources close to the investigation.

It is unclear whether it was before the March 10 meeting that Bush directed Gonzales to write the notes, or after the meeting occurred. The White House declined to comment for this story. An attorney for Gonzales, George J. Terwilliger III, himself a former deputy attorney general, declined to comment as well.

The timing of when Bush directed Gonzales to write the notes is important: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 12:51 pm

Economists: do NOT rush bailout plan

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Bloomberg’s Matthew Benjamin reports:

More than 150 prominent U.S. economists, including three Nobel Prize winners, urged Congress to hold off on passing a $700 billion financial market rescue plan until it can be studied more closely.

In a letter yesterday to congressional leaders, 166 academic economists said they oppose Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson‘s plan because it’s a “subsidy” for business, it’s ambiguous and it may have adverse market consequences in the long term. They also expressed alarm at the haste of lawmakers and the Bush administration to pass legislation.

“It doesn’t seem to me that a lot decisions that we’re going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,” said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the letter. “The situation may get urgent, but it’s not urgent right now. Right now it’s a financial sector problem.”

The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.

Some lawmakers are already citing the letter as reason not to endorse the Paulson plan. Today Senator Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said he has “five pages of the leading economists in America that wrote to me and the leadership saying the Paulson plan is a bad plan. It will not solve problems. It will create more problems.”

`How Capitalism Works’

The letter, initially conceived by economists at the University of Chicago, was signed by professors from dozens of American universities and several outside the U.S.

David I. Levine, a professor of economics at University of California-Berkeley, says the current plan being discussed has the wrong structure.

“The structure is designed for the Treasury to be the first line of defense,” said Levine, who studies organizations and incentives. “A whole lot of people made money supposedly by putting their capital at risk, and those are supposed to be the first line of defense, that’s how capitalism works.”

Jeffrey Miron, a Harvard University professor and self- described libertarian, objects to what he says is “a stunningly broad, aggressive government intervention without appropriate precedents.”

He advocates allowing the normal process of business failure and bankruptcy to run its course. “It’s just nothing like the calamity the administration is making it out to be,” he said. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 12:30 pm

Fallows on Couric interviewing Palin

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Interesting and spot-on:

I’ve now seen much of the Katie Couric / Sarah Palin interview and I genuinely feel sorry for Palin. This really is pathetic. Again it’s not a mass/elite matter. Anyone who has been to high school immediately recognizes the terror of facing a pop quiz or an oral exam when you just have no idea what you’re talking about.

One hour after her pick was announced, I wrote here:

Let’s assume that Sarah Palin is exactly as smart and disciplined as Barack Obama. But instead of the year and a half of nonstop campaigning he has behind him, and Joe Biden’s even longer toughening-up process, she comes into the most intense period of the highest stakes campaign with absolutely zero warmup or preparation. If she has ever addressed an international issue, there’s no evidence of it in internet-land.

The smartest person in the world could not prepare quickly enough to know the pitfalls, and to sound confident while doing so, on all the issues she will be forced to address…

So the prediction is: unavoidable gaffes. The challenge for the McCain-Palin campaign is to find some way to defuse them ahead of time, since Socrates, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz reincarnated would themselves make errors in her situation. And the challenge for Democrats is to lead people to think, What if she were in charge?, without being bullies about it.

My for-the-sake-of-argument assumption was unwarranted. She is not as smart or disciplined as Barack Obama. If she were, she would sound better than she does at this point. And the McCain team has done absolutely nothing to defuse these problems — nor, to be honest, has Palin herself apparently learned the first thing about successfully finessing questions she is not ready to handle. (Hint: the approach is not the one she has tried to apply with Katie Couric, that of repeating verbatim the answer that did not do the job the first time around.)

Couric deserves better ratings for the CBS news based on the steely relentlessness of her questions. Unlike Charlie Gibson, and unlike Joe Biden in a (possible!) future debate, she has no background complications of the older white man bullying the younger, attractive woman. She was a professional woman who has clearly earned her position grilling someone whose bona fides she cleared doubted.

And Couric displayed one brilliant technique I recommend to all future questioners.  When Palin ducked a question about financial-bailout provisions, saying that “John McCain and I” had not yet reached a decision, Couric asked the deadly question: “So what are the pros and cons?” There is no way to fake your way around that. As Palin showed.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP, Media

Do we even need a bailout?

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Interesting question, eh? Kevin Hall explains:

A funny thing happened in the drafting of the largest-ever U.S. government intervention in the financial system. Lawmakers of all stripes mostly fell in line, but many of the nation’s brightest economic minds are warning that the Wall Street bailout’s a dangerous rush job.

President Bush and his Treasury secretary, former Goldman Sachs chief executive Henry Paulson, have warned of imminent economic collapse and another Great Depression if their rescue plan isn’t passed immediately.

Is that true?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 8:42 am

TPM Media has some good stories

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Check them out:

1) Pundit Patrol
He said, she said, right said, left said … (TPM)

2) Palin Explains Why Alaska Experience Gives Her National Security Credentials
Just watch the video. (Election Central)

3) Letting Sarah Palin Answer Questions Is Very, Very Dangerous
Apparently. (Election Central)

4) Despite “Suspension” Of Campaign, Two McCain Advisers Attacked Obama Today
Nancy and Tucker didn’t get the memo. (Election Central)

5) Obama Rejects McCain’s Call For Suspension Of Debate; Says He Was Blindsided
Let’s debate! (Election Central)

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 8:34 am

Posted in Election

Palin needs more TV exposure

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Is she ready to be president? This video might provide some information. (I am right next to Monterey Bay, BTW: just 3 blocks from the water. I can see the bay, the sailboats, the fishing boats, and yet, somehow, I still don’t know much marine biology or how to sail or fish. Proximity is not knowledge, it turns out—so much for all the books I keep nearby, unread.)

And one pissed-off David Letterman:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 8:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

FULL disclosure, please

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Not enough, at least for me. Some, of course, think we can trust Big Business to do the Right Thing.

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has announced that it will begin reporting its payments to doctors in late 2009, using an online database. But the disclosure is limited to payments of more than $500 made for giving talks or advice to the company; payments for other services or gifts will not be included. Payments made before 2009 will also not be disclosed. Eli Lilly president and CEO John Lechleiter explained the move by stating, “We’ve learned that letting people see for themselves what we’re doing is the best way to build trust.” In mid-2007, as the U.S. Senate Finance Committee was investigating drug company grants to patient groups, Eli Lilly began disclosing its grants to U.S. nonprofit groups and educational institutions. Its new registry of payments to doctors comes as Congress considers the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The bill would require disclosure of any drug company payment to doctors of more than $25, whether the payment was for food, travel, entertainment, gifts, consulting fees or any other purpose.

Source: Wall Street Journal health blog, September 24, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 7:48 am

Posted in Business, Government

Gentleman’s Blend

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Mama Bear’s Gentleman’s Blend soap, producing a fine lather with the Rooney Style 2. Then the Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth with a previously used Treet Classic blade. Three smooth passes, then Stetson Sierra aftershave. A good start, especially since I have my coffee sitting right here and all dishes are washed. 🙂

One problem I had yesterday, I realized late in the day, is that I omitted the morning coffee.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2008 at 7:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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