Later On

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

Archive for September 27th, 2008

Walkies

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Same route as yesterday: hilly out, hilly back.  0 (zero!) hours 59 minutes 16.19 seconds.

Next go, I’ll add two blocks.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

Database of outcomes of clinical trials

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This is interesting.

Many of the most promising new medical treatments are just beyond the grasp of consumers simply because they don’t know about them. But that’s about to change. Beginning tomorrow, the nation’s database for clinical trials, www.ClinicalTrials.com, will begin adding the results of trials of drugs, medical devices and biologic products (such as vaccines) conducted in the United States.

ClinicalTrials.com was launched in 2000 to provide people with easy access to information about clinical trials. But until now, consumers who went to the website could find only details about the trial’s launch, such as the study’s design and who is eligible to enroll. Under the new rule, researchers sponsoring the trial must go back and post their results (except for very early-stage experiments, which are called Phase 1 trials) online within one year of the study’s conclusion or within 30 days of approval of a product by the Food and Drug Administration. The database will carry results of trials that were underway as of Sept. 27, 2007. However, researchers of previously completed trials have been encouraged to post their results, too.

The rule is a result of a law passed last year to demand more transparency in clinical trials. Consumer health advocates hope the requirement will make it harder for study sponsors to hide unexpected or harmful reactions to drugs or devices. In the past, consumers could only turn to medical and scientific journals to find out a study’s results. If the study wasn’t published, which sometimes happens especially if the trial failed, no one knew. Some pharmaceutical companies have been accused of hiding the results of studies, such as the side effects that were discovered with the arthritis medication Vioxx that was removed from the market in 2004.

“Providing scientists, physicians and the public with results information could go a long way toward improving safety,” said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, which operates the 62,000-study database.

Questions remain about how useful the database will be to the average person, however. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 12:27 pm

The Keating scandal

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Lets we forget:

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Afghanistan

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Via Andrew Sullivan, Janine Davidson has an interesting column in today’s WaPo. It begins:

Tom Johnson and M. Chris Mason have an excellent short piece, “All
Counterinsurgency Is Local
,” in the latest Atlantic magazine.

They critique the NATO counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan for its ill-conceived emphasis on strengthening national-level governance and its disregard for the smaller districts, where the real center of gravity is for Afghan society.

Politically and strategically, the most important level of governance in Afghanistan is neither national nor regional nor provincial. Afghan identity is rooted in the woleswali: the districts within each province that are typically home to a single clan or tribe. Historically, unrest has always bubbled up from this stratum-whether against Alexander, the Victorian British, or the Soviet Union. Yet the woleswali are last, not first, in U.S. military and political strategy.

This is a simple, yet not-so-obvious observation. Despite headlines that emphasize military operations and chasing bad guys in Afghanistan and Iraq, at the end of the day counterinsurgency is about armed competition for governance. Thus, good counterinsurgency strategy should focus at the level of society where governance takes place.

In contrast, classic counterinsurgency theory, combined with the U.S. emphasis on democratization and mirror imaging, has led to a conflation of counterinsurgency with nation-building. The thinking goes that we need to help countries govern, by which we mean develop the capacity to carry out their obligations — both internally with respect to their citizens and internationally with respect to other nations. The intervening force (us) can’t leave until local systems are able to take on these key tasks of governance and resist further subversion and rebellions. Ideally, we’d like to leave behind a nation-state with which we can sustain diplomatic relations. Thus, we identify governance from the perspective of the Westphalian international system and a Weberian bureaucratic structure.

But Johnson and Mason make an interesting point. How good is this Westphalian/Weberian approach in a society that looks to local-level authorities for its basic needs? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 11:28 am

Interesting/useful insights on the debate

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I’ll continue to update this post as I come across things worth noting. To begin:

Hilzoy

Andrew Sullivan

John Cole

Joe Klein

Matt Yglesias (link fixed; sorry)

AmericaBlog

Brad DeLong

Steve Benen

James Fallows 1

James Fallows 2

Dan Drezner, who notes this comment by Megan McArdle:

The most grating moment came when John McCain called himself a maverick.  As Megan McArdle observes, “no one should ever, ever refer to themselves as a maverick unless they are currently James Garner.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Election

Be careful: Financial crisis is the symptom, not the problem

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Very interesting post by Paul Rosenberg, from which the following:

Furthermore, Mark Matson is quite right to note:

A liquidity crisis by definition means people are hording money, not that the money doesn’t exist.

But this doesn’t invalidate what I take to be Rogoff’s point.  To wit: if the absence of money is not the problem, then throwing money at the problem won’t solve it.

In short, something needs to be done, but the bailout isn’t it.  Indeed, there’s a significant argument to be made that the bailout is aggravating the problem, and pushing it into crisis mode.

If we take this perspective, then we can revisit the larger array of problems that Jonweasel mentions, and that folks like Roubini have been warning about for quite some time.  In doing so, we can say something like this: …

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 11:08 am

BREAKING: McCain is replacing Palin!

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Andy Borowitz has the story:

With less than a week to go before the crucial vice-presidential debate, GOP presidential nominee John McCain announced today that he was replacing his running mate, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, with a startled deer.

According to campaign insiders, the decision to select a hoofed mammal to replace Gov. Palin evolved after Sen. McCain watched his running mate’s performance in a series of interviews with CBS’s Katie Couric.

“Good Lord, a startled deer could do better than that,” Sen. McCain reportedly said, prompting his aides to draw up a shortlist of startled deer.

The Arizona senator supposedly brushed aside concerns that a startled deer would wilt under the pressure of a televised debate, telling aides, “At least a goddamn deer won’t go on about Alaska being close to Russia.”

The McCain campaign said today that Sen. McCain’s new running mate, Bucky the Red Deer, would not be made available to the press prior to the debate.

“Bucky is very much a work in progress,” said McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. “Right now we’re working on keeping him from bolting off the stage.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 10:25 am

Posted in Election, GOP

A more ambitious pot roast

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As I get my pot roast chops into shape, I’m expanding the elements. Today:

Boneless chuck roast, seasoned and browned on both sides in large sauté pan.

Added to pan:

1/4 c red wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 stalk celery, minced (to augment flavor)
4 large cloves garlic, minced (same reason)
4 carrots, cut into chunks (smallish carrots)
2 medium onions, cut into chunks
1 c domestic mushrooms, sliced thick
6 small Dutch Baby potatoes
dried oregano, sprinkled over roast and veggies
Worcestershire sauce, sprinkled over top of roast
Salt and pepper over vegetables

Into 210º oven for the day.

It occurs to me that if you cook this for vegetarians, you should substitute soy sauce for the Worcestershire sauce, which contains anchovies.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 10:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Torture American-style

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Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:50 am

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

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Dahlia Lithwick wrote a fine obituary, which begins:

The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp opened in Connecticut in 1988 to provide a summer camping experience—fishing, tie-dye, ghost stories, s’mores—for seriously ill children. By 1989, when I started working there as a counselor, virtually everyone on staff would tell some version of the same story: Paul Newman, who had founded the camp when it became clear his little salad-dressing lark was accidentally going to earn him millions, stops by for one of his not-infrequent visits. He plops down at a table in the dining hall next to some kid with leukemia, or HIV, or sickle cell anemia, and starts to eat lunch. One version of the story has the kid look from the picture of Newman on the Newman’s Own lemonade carton to Newman himself, then back to the carton and back to Newman again before asking, “Are you lost?” Another version: The kid looks steadily at him and demands, “Are you really Paul Human?”

Newman loved those stories. He loved to talk about the little kids who had no clue who he was, this friendly old guy who kept showing up at camp to take them fishing. While their counselors stammered, star-struck, the campers indulged Newman the way they’d have indulged a particularly friendly hospital blood technician. It took me years to understand why Newman loved being at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. It was for precisely the same reason these kids did. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Daily life

Nanotube technology in the 1600s

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Fascinating post by Ed Yong begins:

In medieval times, crusading Christian knights cut a swathe through the Middle East in an attempt to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Muslims in turn cut through the invaders using a very special type of sword, which quickly gained a mythical reputation among the Europeans. These ‘Damascus blades‘ were extraordinarily strong, but still flexible enough to bend from hilt to tip. And they were reputedly so sharp that they could cleave a silk scarf floating to the ground, just as readily as a knight’s body.

They were superlative weapons that gave the Muslims a great advantage, and their blacksmiths carefully guarded the secret to their manufacture. The secret eventually died out in the eighteenth century and no European smith was able to fully reproduce their method.

Two years ago, Marianne Reibold and colleagues from the University of Dresden uncovered the extraordinary secret of Damascus steel – carbon nanotubes. The smiths of old were inadvertently using nanotechnology.

Damascus blades were forged from small cakes of steel from India called ‘wootz’. All steel is made by allowing iron with carbon to harden the resulting metal. The problem with steel manufacture is that high carbon contents of 1-2% certainly make the material harder, but also render it brittle. This is useless for sword steel since the blade would shatter upon impact with a shield or another sword. Wootz, with its especially high carbon content of about 1.5%, should have been useless for sword-making. Nonetheless, the resulting sabres showed a seemingly impossible combination of hardness and malleability.

Reibold’s team solved this paradox by analysing a Damascus sabre created by the famous blacksmith Assad Ullah in the seventeenth century, and graciously donated by the Berne Historical Museum in Switzerland. They dissolved part of the weapon in hydrochloric acid and studied it under an electron microscope. Amazingly, they found …

Continue reading. Photos at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:36 am

“Please, no paper trail.”

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That Ted Stevens, what a rascal

Even as Veco Corp. was paying the bills for renovations on Sen. Ted Stevens home in Alaska, the oil services company covered up the nature of the work in its own internal books, the corporate bookkeeper testified Friday.

Veco bookkeeper Cheryl Boomershine testified that when she asked for an explanation for a $2,000 handwritten expense claim from the construction foreman, an attached note came back with the instructions that there should be no written records.

The orders “no paper trail” were per Bill Allen, the company’s chief executive officer, Boomershine said, and they were written on the back of the expense form submitted in connection with the 2000 renovation of Stevens’ home.

Boomershine also said that the company assigned some costs to an account called “Girdwood Consultants.” One of the consultants, she testified, was a plumber. …

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:26 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Tagged with

How $#*%ing many times do we have to learn this lesson?

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I am controlling my pointless rage. This lede in a NY Times story caused it:

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down.

Jesus H. Christ! Of course a voluntary program doesn’t work—that’s why businesses love them and are constantly proposing them. Are people so stone stupid that they haven’t noticed?

“We don’t need a law/regulation,” says the chairman of business X. “We’ll voluntarily comply with the same requirements.” Oh, yeah. Right. Well, since you’re complying, we’ll just pass the law/regulation as a reminder of your voluntary compliance.

Over and over and over again, businesses propose voluntary standards and programs to avoid laws, and then ignore the voluntary standards and programs. My first encounter with this was back in 60’s, when Ford Motor Company fought off some regulation (emissions? safety? mileage?  — I can’t recall) by saying that they would voluntarily observe the requirement. And they did, for about 3 months. Then pursuit of profits led them to voluntarily ignore the requirement.

And it INEVITABLY happens. Are these people simply not paying attention? Would it help if we cut off one hand of the SEC chairman? Would that aid memory?

UPDATE: A thought just occurred to me: when Congress is going to pass some regulation and the industry group says, “No need. We’ll start a voluntary program,” etc., Congress should go ahead and pass the regulations to take effect the first time it’s found that the voluntary program has not been observed by some business. (Those voluntary programs, BTW, never have any teeth in them.)

UPDATE 2: A thought: “Also, please sign this binding contract to give the US treasury $100 million dollars, not to be treated as an expense but paid from net profits, should it be found that the voluntary program is not followed.”

UPDATE 3: Kevin Drum:

QUOTE OF THE DAY….From SEC chairman Christopher Cox:

“The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work.”

Manfully owned up to, Mr. Chairman. Only one thing: you need to change “last six months” to “last ten thousand years.”

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Government

Financial crisis overblown?

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UPDATE: A very interesting post that complements David Sirota’s post discussed below.

Yesterday I blogged about the plea from 150 economists that Congress NOT rush into a bailout. I also had a post with quotations from various economists arguing that a bailout is not needed. And today there’s this  post by David Sirota:

Harvard’s Elizabeth Warren has the story on former top IMF and Federal Rerserve official Ken Rogoff (now a top economist at Harvard) saying the liquidity crisis is a creation – an illusion of a crisis actually CAUSED by the prospect of a $700 billion bailout proposal, rather than a bailout proposal being proposed in response to a natural emergency. Here’s the key point:

Ken said that his many friends in investment banking said that there is plenty of money to invest in financial services, but right now it is “sitting on the sidelines.” Why? Because the financial services industry does not want to pay the terms demanded. As he put it, why do business with Warren Buffett who will negotiate a tough deal, if you believe that the government will ride in soon with cheaper cash?

This follows a McClatchy newspaper story noting that “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.”

This should really be the last straw for anyone still wondering whether this whole thing is a manufactured emergency designed to enrich the wealthiest people on the planet. And yet, both parties seem to be slowly but surely moving toward passage.

Keep contacting your members of Congress and telling them the simple message: Hell no.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 8:03 am

McCain’s avoidance of eye contact

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James Fallows commented on how McCain avoided eye contact with Obama in the debate, and Josh Marshall has an interesting communication from a reader on one possible reason.

McCain’s unwillingness to make eye contact with Obama through the debate seems to be getting picked up by a lot of observers. Here’s an interesting exchange on the subject between Chris Matthews and the Post’s Eugene Robinson …

Here’s one comment we got from TPM Reader EO

As a psychotherapist and someone who treats people with anger management problems, we typically try to educate people that anger is often an emotion that masks other emotions. I think it’s significant that McCain didn’t make much, if any, eye contact because it suggests one of two things to me; he doesn’t want to make eye contact because he is prone to losing control of his emotions if he deals directly with the other person, or, his anger masks fear and the eye contact may increase or substantiate the fear.I noticed him doing the same thing in the Republican primary debates. The perception observers are likely to have is that he is unwilling to acknowledge the opponent’s legitimacy and/or is contemptuous of the opponent.

And here’s another note from TPM Reader TB. I guess I’m really not sure quite how to characterize it …

I think people really are missing the point about McCain’s failure to look at Obama. McCain was afraid of Obama. It was really clear—look at how much McCain blinked in the first half hour. I study monkey behavior—low ranking monkeys don’t look at high ranking monkeys. In a physical, instinctive sense, Obama owned McCain tonight and I think the instant polling reflects that.

So McCain may have given away his status as a low-ranking monkey. I’d never even considered monkey rank.

Late Monkey Science Update: In case anyone’s wondering, I looked up TPM Reader TB’s page at the University he teaches at. And no doubt about it, he appears to be a genuine monkey scientist, or to be more specific a researcher on social cognition and behavior in primates. I’d link to his page. But readers remain anonymous, save for their initials, until they tell us otherwise.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 7:53 am

Posted in Election

Walkie report

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This is weird: I’m losing weight. Wonder if the one-hour walk has anything to do with it? And I’m starting to enjoy the walk for itself—getting out of the apartment into some fresh air and music. I like the hilly route (both ways) because the street has little traffic (hilly) and so the music is more easily heard.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 7:48 am

Posted in Daily life

English Lavender and Big Ben

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An English-themed shave this morning, and a very pleasant one, too. First, Tryphon English Lavender shaving cream (Italian), which is my favor lavender shave cream or soap. Then a new blade: Big Ben, made in Egypt. I put it in the Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth (English), a nice hefty razor with an elite version of the Merkur Classic head (Germany). The Simpsons Key Hole 3 Best worked up a fine and fragrant lather, and the Chatsworth and Big Ben shaved away the stubble smoothly and effortlessly. I would say that the Big Ben blade is better than the Racer blade, but of course I used the two in different razors and the weight of the Chatsworth may have added to the smoothness of the shave. But the Big Ben seemed nicely sharp.

The finish was D.R. Harris Marlborough aftershave, English in origin and name.

Great shave.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2008 at 7:45 am

Posted in Shaving

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