Later On

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

Archive for November 18th, 2008

Another NaNoWriMo interview

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Hope this helps you writers—those still in the running.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Writing

It was NOT Fannie & Freddie

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A new conservative talking point (and lie): the housing bubble was caused by  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Paul Krugman:

Some readers have asked for data showing that Fannie and Freddie did not play a key role in the housing bubble. Mark Thoma has a good picture, link here.

The two lines to track are the ones at the top. One shows the share of mortgages accounted for by S&Ls, the other the share accounted for by agency-backed pools — i.e., Fannie/Freddie mortgages. Fannie and Freddie did get very big in the 90s, basically filling the hole left by the S&Ls. But they pulled back sharply after 2003, just when housing really got crazy.

So who drove the bubble? The blue line, “asset-backed securities issuers.” Notice, by the way, that these were not depository institutions — and therefore not subject to the Community Reinvestment Act.

Once again, the whole Fannie/Freddie/liberal mandates story is phony.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 1:39 pm

Do you have a backyard? Yes? Let’s see your chickens.

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Raising chickens at home for food or pets or eggs… what an idea. There certainly are pet-quality chickens: exotic, showy breeds, but it seems like quite a few people are going for standard breeds. Take a look at this article, which begins:

In the backyard of a suburban home in Denver, Colorado, 22 chickens are hiding out from the law.

They arrived when a member of BackyardChickens, an online forum, ordered the birds in the mail this past May. “I actually get my chicks in today hopefully, and I am worried that animal control will be at the post office waiting for me with hand-cuffs,” the new poultry farmer wrote.

An underground “urban chicken” movement has swept across the United States in recent years. Cities such as Boston, Massachusetts, and Madison, Wisconsin, are known to have had chickens residing illegally behind city fences.

But grassroots campaigns, often inspired by the expanding movement to buy locally produced food, are leading municipalities to allow limited numbers of hens within city limits.

Cities such as Anne Arbor, Michigan; Ft. Collins, Colorado; and South Portland, Maine have all voted in the past year to allow residents to raise backyard poultry. “It’s a serious issue – it’s no yolk,” said Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin, when his city reversed its poultry ban in 2004. “Chickens are really bringing us together as a community. For too long they’ve been cooped up.”

Raising backyard chickens is an extension of an urban farming movement that has gained popularity nationwide. Home-raised livestock or agriculture avoids the energy usage and carbon emissions typically associated with transporting food.

“Fresh is not what you buy at the grocery store. Fresh is when you go into your backyard, put it in your bag, and eat it,” said Carol-Ann Sayle, co-owner of five-acre (two-hectare) farm in Austin, Texas, located within walking distance from the state capitol. “Everyone should have their own henhouse in their own backyard.”

Continue reading. If the grandsons start raising chickens, let me know.

UPDATE: Click on the breed of interest to you. No sense getting generic chickens.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

The financial meltdown in China

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Very interesting article by Joshua Kurlantzick in The New Republic. It begins:

Normally, the Pearl River Delta, a manufacturing hub in southern China, whirs with the sound of commerce. Alongside massive new highways, clusters of factories churn out toys, electronics, and other consumer products for the world; in Pearl River cities like Guangzhou, nouveau riche businesspeople cut deals at swank hotels.

But in recent months, the Delta has started to seem more like Allentown, circa 1980s. As the global financial crisis hits Western consumers’ wallets, orders for the Delta’s products have dried up. And angry factory workers, many owed back pay, have taken to the streets. In one recent incident, some 300 suppliers and creditors “descended on the River Dragon complex [a factory where the owners vanished] looting warehouses in the hopes of salvaging something,” As USA Today reported.

This unrest is likely to spiral. As the Chinese economy sours for the first time in years, the government this week announced a $586 billion stimulus package. But in some ways, much more is at stake: While, in the U.S., a financial failure would simply mean another dent in George W. Bush’s reputation, in China it could mean the breakdown of the entire political order.

For years, the Beijing regime has stayed in power using a basic bargain with its citizens:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 1:32 pm

Aspirin v. marijuana

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Interesting post, which begins:

When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until marijuana prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic that the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. Since the herb is extremely potent and essentially non-toxic, the AMA considered it a potential wonder drug.

Instead, the invention of aspirin gave birth to the modern pharmaceutical industry and Americans switched away from cannabis in the name of “progress.” But was it really progress? There can be no doubt that aspirin has a long history as the drug of choice for the self-treatment of migraines, arthritis, and other chronic pain. It is cheap and effective. But is it as safe as cannabis?

History
Marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years.
No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.

Aspirin has been used for 108 years.
Approximately 500 people die every year by taking aspirin

The Law:
Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the US government believes it is extremely dangerous, highly addictive, and of no medical value.

Aspirin is available for pennies and can be purchased by children at any drug, grocery, or convenience store. Often aspirin is just handed out free by people with no medical education.

Marijuana side effects and dangers: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 1:25 pm

Pork, but shoulder, not belly

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I’m sort of making this recipe, but since I couldn’t find pork belly locally, I’m using a pork shoulder. I’ll have to adjust cooking times, since this chunk of meat is twice as large as the pork belly described in the post at the link. I’m also slow roasting it at 200º F rather than 150º. But other than those adjustments, I’m following the recipe—even went out and bought a bottle of (real) cider.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

One Laptop Per Child: give one, get one is back on

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You can (for $400) now buy a OLPC computer for yourself (or your child) and simultaneously buy one that will go to a third-world schoolchild. See this offer. This version still is the one that runs Linux.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 10:56 am

Joe Lieberman, bipartisanship, and so on

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Some (including me) have felt some dismay that Obama seems to feel that Lieberman should keep his plum committee chairmanship (and it looks as though he will) and that it’s not worthwhile to dig into the crimes of the Bush Administration and prosecute the most flagrant lawbreakers. What’s with that?

Last night I was thinking about this, and tried to get a feel for such a point of view. I gradully thought about the problems—the highly critical problems—that Obama faces, global warming a key problem among them, that (if unsolved) will totally change our planet and kill off thousands of species. There’s also the problem of the economy, and of getting the Federal government back on task and staffed with competent decisionmakers. And the problem of national healthcare, particularly in an economy in which many are losing jobs and insurance companies will do anything to avoid payouts.

As I thought about these things, some of the Washington obsession with politics as usual, and getting even, and trying to stymie the other party began to look quite small and irrelevant. It occurred to me that Obama really is trying to change the nature of the game so that crass politics as usual becomes socially unacceptable—much as scurrilous attacks in the last campaign began to lose traction as people turned against that mode of campaigning.

Social pressure is extremely powerful (for humans are a social species), and a change in point of view can lead to permanent changes in behavior. I don’t think Ted Stevens or Tom DeLay or the like will change—but they are the generation now passing into history. The millions of young voters who flocked to Obama are likely to share his values and to focus on problems and how to solve them rather than on distractions like getting even.

Just a thought. I personally would like to send quite a few in the Bush Administration to jail or into exile, but I can see another approach that in the long run might be more fruitful.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 10:14 am

More on the Siegelman case

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Paul Rosenberg posts:

The case of former Alabama governor Don E. Siegelman just keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser.” Remember-the “crime” that Siegelman was convicted of was appointing a campaign contributor to a position he had already held previously.  If this is a crime, then probably every governor in the country over the past half century is a criminal, too.Now Time is reporting that a whistleblower has turned over some internal prosecution e-mails (pdf) to the Justice Department and the House Judiciary Committee, revealing two types of forbidden communication during the investigation and trial, which have remained hidden until now.  First, they show that Leura G. Canary, the conflict-ridden US Attorney who began the investigation, but then recused herself, did not remain uninvolved in the case, as recusal requires.  (Canary’s husband, was a close friend of Karl Roves and top GOP operative in the state.)  Second, they show that there was communication between the jurors and the prosecutorial team, facilitated by the U.S. Marshalls.

In an eight-page letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee wrote:

This information, including the attached documents, raises serious questions regarding possible misconduct by the Siegelman prosecution team, including the aparent failure to disclose to the Court or to defense counsel communications received from one or more members of the Siegelman jury while the trial was underway, and also the fialure of United States Attorney Leura Canary to fully honor her recusal from this case.”

And TPM reports :

Siegelman says that new revelations about his prosecution amount to “outrageous criminal conduct in the US Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice,” and are “more frightening than anything that has come before.” And he believes that his case is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of politicized prosecutions by DOJ.

At the same time, however, an article by Charlie Savage at the NYT raises questions over whether this and other investigations really will proceed vigorously under an Obama Administration.

According to Time: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 9:36 am

George W. Bush Outed CIA Agent Valerie Plame

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So it was Bush, after all. Video below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 9:26 am

Posted in Daily life

More on Gulf War Sydrome

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David Goldstein has a report on McClatchy that begins:

Gulf War illness is a real medical condition that’s affected at least 175,000 combat veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, according to a report released Monday.

However, federal research into the causes behind the mysterious malady has “not been effective,” and the report by the congressionally mandated panel suggested that politics or financial concerns might have played a role.

“There is also a common perception that federal policymakers have not vigorously pursued key research in this area and that federal agencies have disincentives — whether political or fiscal — for providing definitive answers to Gulf War health questions,” said the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illness.

The report compared the foot-dragging and denials to the treatment of earlier troops who claimed that they’d been dangerously exposed to Agent Orange and other toxic herbicides in Vietnam and radiation during World War II.

In both cases, the claims turned out to be true.

“Government has been very slow to accept what the research shows,” said James Binns, the committee’s chairman and a former top Defense Department official.

“These problems have for too long been denied or trivialized,” said Binns, speaking at the committee meeting where the report was made public.

Committee members said troops were exposed to a “toxic soup” of chemicals. However, they laid the blame for Gulf War illness primarily on two causes: pesticides sprayed on the troops during deployment and pyridostigmine bromide, an anti-nerve agent.

The small white pills hadn’t been approved for nerve agent protection at the time, but the Food and Drug Administration had given the military a temporary waiver for their use to protect troops in case they were exposed to nerve gas. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 9:11 am

“I hate to shave”

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I came across a forum thread recently where someone had posted a link to the gourmet shaving post and said that he had switched and now found his shave enjoyable. There were several comments following, and finally one guy posted, “God, I hate to shave.” That was all—and I interpreted it to mean that he also didn’t enjoy threads about shaving. 🙂 But that’s the whole idea, isn’t it? If you find that you have to do something and you hate it, it’s getting way ahead of the game if you can convert the thing you must do to something you enjoy rather than something you hate. I don’t understand the impulse to close off new approaches in favor of suffering with what you already know and are doing.

BTW, if you hope to convert some shaving-haters to shaving-lovers by making a gift of the book during the holidays, keep in mind that Lulu prints the book after you order it (cf. Dell computers in the old days: you ordered, and then they built). So when you order, it’s a week before they ship, and then you have shipping time.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 9:01 am

Posted in Shaving

Rivivage

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That’s Rivivage soap in a bowl that I bought separately. Another great lather, with the Rooney Style 2 as shown. The razor is the Gillette Diplomat (Ambassador?), which is identical to the President except that it’s gold-plated instead of nickel-plated. The blade is a previously used Treet Classic. Very smooth and pleasant shave. The Pinaud Clubman aftershave is a pleasant classic and a good finishing touch.

Today I should receive a puck of Gold Dachs soap—apparently not Rivivage—to try tomorrow.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2008 at 8:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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