Later On

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

Archive for December 5th, 2008

Driving me crazy

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Yesterday I saw somewhere an excellent post. Some GOP politician (Saxby Chambliss?) was saying that, with the economy going south and all the Federal debt, it’s important for the government to cut back spending until it gets things under control—just as one would do in one’s family.

The post  pointed out that microeconomics (the family) runs under very different rules than macroeconomics (the nation), and that the prescription suggested would make things much, much worse. I liked the post because it did a good job of explaining why. But I can’t now find it anywhere (thus driving myself crazy). So to get it off my mind, I’m blogging this note. Sorry it doesn’t have more content.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Daily life

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No good peppers, so monkfish instead

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I’m just back from Whole Foods. Very minimal pepper selection: jalapeño, sienna, and anaheim: no red peppers, no habaneros, etc. So no pepper sauce making today. When I do make it, BTW, I’m going to include a handful of chipotles.

I did find a very nice piece of monkfish, which I’ll roast.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

BofA backs off financing mountain-top removals

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Today, Bank of America announced it would begin phasing out financing of mountaintop removal operations in Appalachia. The bank is making the change after activists from Natural Resources Defense Council flew executives over coal mine sites and personally introduced them to local residents affected by mountaintop removal. From Bank of America’s release:

Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Business, Environment

Guide to Gourmet Shaving now #358 on

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I’m pleased to see that Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving now stands at number 358 in the bestseller list. I would anticipate that the book will be in the top 300 by January or February.

You still have enough time to order copies for gifts for the holidays—just remember to allow an extra week for Lulu to print the copies you order.

UPDATE: See this post on Mantic’s shaving blog for information on some special deals for the new traditional shaver.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 10:41 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

An important gender-discrimination case

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UPDATE: See the comment section for a lengthy explanatory comment from the plaintiffs.

Douglas Kmiec explains:

The Supreme Court argument this week in Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee was less than helpful to the petitioner’s constitutional cause. The Justices were given little help by counsel in working through the complex interrelationships between constitutional and statutory remedies for gender discrimination. Normally, when the correct interpretation of a major federal statute outlawing gender discrimination by educational institutions (Title IX) is at stake, not to mention constitutional equal protection rights, the Court can count on the Solicitor General to help. But the Bush SG was nowhere to be found, and as a result, the Justices were unsure, with the always-self-confident exception of Justice Scalia, as to why this important case was even granted review.

Yet, the reason to grant review is all over the record and the question to be decided is unmistakably important: Do claims of gender discrimination deserve (and were they intended to have) both constitutional and statutory remedies? If the Court gets past its oral argument floundering and pays attention to Congress’ intent and the particular equities of this case, the answer should be a resounding “Yes.”

The case is one of the most significant of the current Supreme Court Term. It is also one that unfortunately illustrates the difference between the Bush Administration and the incoming Obama Administration – even though neither is a party in the litigation. But, of course, therein lies the difference: The Bush Justice Department isn’t in a lawsuit where the demands of constitutional justice – not to mention the practical importance of assisting the Justices – say that it should have been, and it is hard to imagine that the Obama Administration will not be in cases like this one that occur on its watch.

The Statutory Background:

Congress enacted what is now 42 U.S.C. § 1983 shortly after the Civil War, in order to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws. The statute allows civil actions for damages to be brought based on allegations of violations of constitutional rights. Since then, § 1983 has served to make tangible the Constitution’s promises of equal protection, due process, and other rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment.

In particular, Section 1983 has played a critical role in combating unconstitutional discrimination in education. Women and girls have made progress, but no one with a daughter – and I have three – would ever question that in 2008, women and girls still face serious discrimination. They may also – as this case regrettably illustrates – sometimes face harassment from the earliest moments in their pursuit of education.

The notion that Congress passed Title IX to displace the existing constitutional remedy § 1983 provides is simply untenable. Congress passed Title IX as an additional, not a substitute, remedy. The idea was to enhance civil rights protection, not to engage in a type of legal bait-and-switch, which would leave outrageous examples of gender harassment, and of official indifference to it, unremedied. Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination applies only to educational programs and activities, whether public or private, that receive federal funds. Receipt of such funds is voluntary: a school district or educational program could purposefully avoid Title IX’s requirements by declining to accept them. In contrast, the Equal Protection Clause applies to all “state actors,” regardless of whether they receive federal funds, and a public school or program that does not receive federal funds cannot thereby evade its constitutional obligations.

The Facts of the Case Before the Court, and the Decisions Below  …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 10:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Ethan Nadelmann on prohibition

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Good column in the Wall Street Journal by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. It begins:

Today is the 75th anniversary of that blessed day in 1933 when Utah became the 36th and deciding state to ratify the 21st amendment, thereby repealing the 18th amendment. This ended the nation’s disastrous experiment with alcohol prohibition.

It’s already shaping up as a day of celebration, with parties planned, bars prepping for recession-defying rounds of drinks, and newspapers set to publish cocktail recipes concocted especially for the day.

But let’s hope it also serves as a day of reflection. We should consider why our forebears rejoiced at the relegalization of a powerful drug long associated with bountiful pleasure and pain, and consider too the lessons for our time.

The Americans who voted in 1933 to repeal prohibition differed greatly in their reasons for overturning the system. But almost all agreed that the evils of failed suppression far outweighed the evils of alcohol consumption.

The change from just 15 years earlier, when most Americans saw alcohol as the root of the problem and voted to ban it, was dramatic. Prohibition’s failure to create an Alcohol Free Society sank in quickly. Booze flowed as readily as before, but now it was illicit, filling criminal coffers at taxpayer expense.

Some opponents of prohibition pointed to Al Capone and increasing crime, violence and corruption. Others were troubled by the labeling of tens of millions of Americans as criminals, overflowing prisons, and the consequent broadening of disrespect for the law. Americans were disquieted by dangerous expansions of federal police powers, encroachments on individual liberties, increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the prohibition laws, and the billions in forgone tax revenues. And still others were disturbed by the specter of so many citizens blinded, paralyzed and killed by poisonous moonshine and industrial alcohol.

Supporters of prohibition blamed the consumers, and some went so far as to argue that those who violated the laws deserved whatever ills befell them. But by 1933, most Americans blamed prohibition itself.

When repeal came, it was not just with the support of those with a taste for alcohol, but also those who disliked and even hated it but could no longer ignore the dreadful consequences of a failed prohibition. They saw what most Americans still fail to see today: That a failed drug prohibition can cause greater harm than the drug it was intended to banish.

Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.

And look abroad. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Diamond anniversary of the end of Prohibition (alcohol only)

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75 years ago today, the prohibition on the sale of spirits ended in total failure (for the public—prohibition was a fantastic financial boon to organized crime). This did not mean that the sale of liquor was suddenly legal everywhere: while Federal prohibition ended, states could decide for themselves whether to be “wet” (alcohol sold) or “dry” (alcohol not sold) or some weird combination: Iowa, for example, had state liquor stores when I moved there in 1963. Great for patronage, not so good for the public. But although you could buy bottled liquor in Iowa at the time, you could not buy “liquor by the drink” in a bar. This was a big issue at the time, and there was much discussion of it. One bar put up a big sign that said, “Beer by the drink!!”. Liquor by the drink was finally approved.

Oklahoma, when I was growing up, was dry—kept that way by the combined efforts of Baptist ministers and bootleggers—but liquor became legal in the summer of 1958, as I recall. I was in my little Oklahoma home town at the time, and people were braced for cars full of drunks roaring through the streets (and, doubtless, up onto sidewalks), shooting off guns, breaking windows, fistfights, and God knows what. But the day came and nothing happened. A few people went to the state liquor store and bought a bottle, but otherwise: nothing. The reason: those who wanted to drink liquor had already been doing it for years, thanks to active bootlegging, and so when the day dawned the only difference was where you bought your liquor, what it cost, and where the revenue went (and taxes ensured that some went to state coffers).

Texas had an even odder system: county option, so that the state was a matrix of wet and dry counties. What effect this had on liquor consumption and sales I don’t know, but I suspect that those who wanted liquor were not forestalled by having to drive to a neighboring county to do their shopping.

Prohibition is still alive and well with respect to, say, cannabis, though it is not nearly so harmful as alcohol or tobacco. So there’s still work to be done.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 10:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

High-tech unions

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Very interesting post (with comments) from Nathan Newman. It begins:

A lot of folks take the fact that most high-tech industries appeared in the modern period of anti-union rules and thus there are few unions in such industries to mean that unionism itself doesn’t “work” for high tech, high-skilled workers. But then you have one of the original high-tech industries– modern aviation — and a massive union of engineers and technical workers who just approved their contract with Boeing:

Nearly 21,000 engineers and technical workers for The Boeing Co., most of them in the Puget Sound area, have approved new labor contracts that will give them more say in the company’s controversial outsourcing decisions and the use of contract workers. They also will receive more for retirement and a pay raise that will average about 20 percent over four years.

I’ve never quite understood the logic that says that blue-collar manual workers have something to gain from more democratic say over their wages and conditions of work, but higher-skilled workers don’t.Of course, high-skilled workers have always been unionized. In fact, the conventional wisdom among some sectors of the labor movement before the New Deal was that only the most skilled workers could be unionized, since their skills were so indispensable that it gave them the leverage to win strikes. Before the New Deal, a few industries like the miners and garment trades in locations like New York had managed to organize less skilled workers, but it was only in the 1930s that massive numbers of manufacturing workers in routine, assembly-line jobs got organized in unions. And a new Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) had to break off from the original AFL federation, because the original craft union leaders were so doubtful of the possibility of organizing anyone other than skilled workers.

The irony is that …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 9:53 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with

Grief hallucinations

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Very interesting post at Mind Hacks on grief hallucinations. (I can think of one fine movie that used grief hallucinations as a plot device: Truly, Madly, Deeply.) His post:

Scientific American Mind Matter’s blog has just published an article I wrote on grief hallucinations, the remarkably common experience of seeing, hearing, touching or sensing our loved ones after they’ve passed away.

Grief hallucinations are a normal reaction to having someone close to you die and are a common part of the mourning process, but it’s remarkable how often people are embarrassed to say they’ve had the experience because they worry what others might think.

I was inspired to write the piece after reading a wonderful paper, published in Transcultural Psychiatry, by psychiatrist Carlos Sluzki on the cultural significance of one Hispanic lady’s post-grief hallucinations.

My reference to the shadow cat draws on the intro to Sluzki’s article which must be one of the most beautiful openings to an academic article I’ve ever read.

I note that there’s not a great deal of research on grief hallucinations, despite how common they are, although I picked up on a study during the last few days which addressed these curious phenomena in a study on psychotic symptoms.

A thorough population survey in France that appeared earlier this year found that grief hallucinations were the most frequent ‘psychotic’ symptom in individuals without mental illness.

It’s also interesting to read the comments that the article has generated. I really seemed to have pushed a few buttons.

I’m quite proud of the piece though, and it’s a vastly under-discussed and under-researched topic that affects huge numbers of people.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Hot sauce recipe illustrated

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I mentioned in passing a recipe for hot sauce (while mostly complaining about using “DIY” when discussing a recipe, since a recipe already includes the DIY idea). Now the Kitchn [sic] offers an illustrated version of the recipe (still a “DIY recipe”, I fear), which is helpful, along with the advice to use a blender, as the recipe states, rather than a food processor. Today I’ll go out and buy some peppers and make this puppy.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 9:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

More on urban chickens

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The LA Times has a good article on some urban chickens in that city. It begins:

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne started keeping chickens in their Echo Park backyard a little more than a year ago. The two are co-authors of “The Urban Homestead,” a handbook for city dwellers who want to live off the land as much as possible, and the couple were interested in taking their urban farming experiments a step beyond harvesting artichokes, blueberries and zucchinis. So last summer they purchased four chicks, and now they are obsessed.

“I used to think it would be so great to bring the laptop outside and just watch the chickens and work,” Knutzen said. “But I can’t get anything done when I’m out here because I can’t take my eyes off the chickens. They are hypnotic.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 9:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Exceptional shave again

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Sometimes everything comes together and the shave is outstanding, yet you feel you’re doing pretty much the same thing you always do. This morning the Emperor 3 Super created an ideal lather from Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet, and the blade in the Progress was at an ideal stage of sharpness and my beard and skin fully cooperated. Result: shaving perfection, augmented by a splash of Blenheim Bouquet aftershave. A great feeling.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 December 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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