Later On

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

Archive for December 15th, 2008

Kitty advice re: xmas tree

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 11:04 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Bush’s crimes and the media

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Glenn Greenwald today:

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday — which documents that “former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” and “that Rumsfeld’s actions were ‘a direct cause of detainee abuse‘ at Guantanamo and ‘influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques … in Afghanistan and Iraq'” — raises an obvious and glaring question:  how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution?   The culpability which the Report assigns for these war crimes is vast in scope and unambiguous:

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 10:09 am

Why everyone should learn the theory of evolution

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Interesting article in the Scientific American:

Charles Darwin did not think of himself as a genius. “I have no great quickness of apprehension or wit which is so remarkable in some clever men …” he remarked in one passage of his autobiography. Fortunately for the rest of us, he was profoundly wrong in his assessment. So on February 12 the world will mark the bicentennial birthday of a scientist who holds a rightful place alongside Galileo, Copernicus, Newton and Einstein.

Darwin’s genius—and, yes, genius is the right word—is manifest in the way his theory of evolution can tie together disparate biological facts into a single unifying framework. Evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky’s oft-cited quotation bears repeating here: “Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution.”

Yet it is also worth noting during this anniversary year that Darwin deserves a lot better than he gets. When the popular press needs an iconic image of a brilliant scientist, it invariably recycles the famous photograph of Albert Einstein having a bad hair day. (Einstein accompanies John Lennon and Andy Warhol on Forbes’s list of top-earning deceased celebrities.) Darwin’s failure to achieve icon status is the legacy of creationists and neocreationists and of the distortion of his ideas by the eugenics movement a century ago.

But Darwin is so much more than just a quaint, Victorian historical figure whose bust in the pantheon deserves a place among those of other scientific greats. Theory needs to explain past, present and future—and Darwin’s does all three in a form that requires no simplifying translation. His theory is readily accessible to any literate person who allots a pleasurable interlude for On the Origin of Species, its prose sometimes bordering on the poetic: “… from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

Most important, Darwin’s legacy has a direct bearing on …

Continue reading. And see also this timeline/slide show on the theory of evolution.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Tagged with

Why we should throw shoes at Bush

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I posted the video, but in case you didn’t watch it, here’s part of the transcript:

BILL MOYERS: To be fair, you make a strong case in here that we have to stand up to extremism but that we have to protect our own constitutional principles while we do. And as I read both of these books, it is the sense that out of this Manichean view there came this whole notion that you say is alien to America, this unitary executive powers of the presidency. Have I stated that right?

GLENN GREENWALD: You have. Let’s just quickly describe in the most dispassionate terms, as few of euphemisms, as possible, where we are and what has happened over the last eight years. We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.

We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they’ve done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we’re deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.

And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world’s population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.

What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.

They have license to break the law. That’s what we’re deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn’t be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they’ve broken. And I can’t think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 9:33 am

More on Sen. Schumer

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UPDATE: Excellent post here by Zachary Roth.

Chuck Schumer did more than push Mukasey through the Senate for the Attorney General slot (that alone should show his judgment is questionable), he also pushed hard for the telecoms to be above the law, given immunity for whatever crimes they committed (crimes still unknown, thanks in part of Schumer). And now we see he was in the pocket of Wall Street and working hard to remove regulations and oversight from the financial community. From the NY Times:

… An exceptional fund raiser — a “jackhammer,” someone who knows him says, for whom “ ‘no’ is the first step to ‘yes,’ ” — Mr. Schumer led the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the last four years, raising a record $240 million while increasing donations from Wall Street by 50 percent. That money helped the Democrats gain power in Congress, elevated Mr. Schumer’s standing in his party and increased the industry’s clout in the capital.

But in building support, he has embraced the industry’s free-market, deregulatory agenda more than almost any other Democrat in Congress, even backing some measures now blamed for contributing to the financial crisis.

Other lawmakers took the lead on efforts like deregulating the complicated financial instruments called derivatives, which are widely seen as catalysts to the crisis.

But Mr. Schumer, a member of the Banking and Finance Committees, repeatedly took other steps to protect industry players from government oversight and tougher rules, a review of his record shows. Over the years, he has also helped save financial institutions billions of dollars in higher taxes or fees.

He succeeded in limiting efforts to regulate credit-rating agencies, for example, sponsored legislation that cut fees paid by Wall Street firms to finance government oversight, pushed to allow banks to have lower capital reserves and called for the revision of regulations to make corporations’ balance sheets more transparent.

“Since the financial meltdown, people have been asking, ‘Where was Congress? Why didn’t they see this coming? Why didn’t they provide better oversight?’ ” said Barbara Roper, director of investor protection for the Consumer Federation of America. “And the answer for some, including Senator Schumer, is that they were actually too busy pursuing a deregulatory agenda. Their focus was on how we have to lighten up regulation on Wall Street.”

Much more at the link. Schumer seems to be a free-market Republican in terms of his actions on behalf of the financial community, who give him lots and lots of money.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 9:06 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Lies from the Right

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James Inhofe is an accomplished liar for someone who is apparently rather stupid. Tim Lambert has a comment on Inhofe’s “list of 650 scientists” who repudiate the idea of global warming. It begins:

Inhofe’s list of 650 scientists that supposedly dispute the consensus on AGW reminded me of another list: The Discovery Institute’s list of scientists who dissent from Darwinism, so I thought I’d compare the two lists.

First, numbers. The Discovery Institute’s list has 751 names, while Inhofe’s has only 604. (Not “More Than 650” as he claims — there are many names appearing more than once.)

Second, how do you get on the list? Well, you have to sign up to get on the Discovery Institute’s list, but Inhofe will add you to his list if he thinks you’re disputing the global warming consensus and he won’t take you off, even if you tell him to do so. Yes, there is someone less honest than the Discovery Institute.

Third, what sort of scientists are on the lists? Well, the Discovery Institute list has a distinct shortage of biologists, while Inhofe’s is lacking in climate scientists. It does have a lot of meteorologists, but these are people who present weather forecasts on TV, not scientists who study climate.

Fourth, who is on both lists? There are five names, and two are from the University of Oklahoma.

Here are the five people who couldn’t stop at rejecting just one science:

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 7:33 am

Steven Chu

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Steven Chu, like Gen. Shinseki, is an inspired choice by Obama. James Fallows has some good comments on the selection, along with this video of Chu:

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 7:23 am

A story of various kinds of hogs

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Barry Nolan tells a good story in ThinkProgress. It begins:

According to an article in the New York Times, a typical salary in the Smithfield Packing slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, NC is $11.90 per hour, or $476 for a 40 hour week. Because I am a considerate person, I will spare you any description of the grisly jobs performed by those workers in that slaughterhouse.

The base salary of a U.S. senator is $169,300 a year or $3,255 a week. Because I am a considerate person, I will spare you any description of the job some of those senators are doing on us these days.

The slaughterhouse story in the New York Times looked back on the 16-year long struggle to bring union representation to the 5,000 or so workers in Tar Heel, which ended up in court at one point. In 2006, after seven years of litigation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Smithfield had engaged in “intense and widespread” coercion and ordered Smithfield to reinstate four union supporters it found were illegally fired, one of whom was beaten by the plant’s police on the day of the 1997 election.

The court also said Smithfield had engaged in other illegal activities: spying on workers’ union activities, confiscating union materials, threatening to fire workers who voted for the union and threatening to freeze wages and shut the plant.

But the big news in the Times story, especially if you pack meat, was that after the long struggle with Smithfield, the union finally won. The slaughterhouse is going union.

On the same day MSNBC had a story about a GOP memo titled “Action Alert,” which went out to the Republican senators just before their “No” vote on the Big Three Auto Makers bailout bill. The GOP memo contained this pithy paragraph:

This is the democrats first opportunity to payoff organized labor after the election. This is a precursor to card check and other items. Republicans should stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor, instead of taking their first blow from it.

It has been a longstanding part of the conservative’s core philosophy that unions are simply bad for business. That is why is why conservatives who are making $169 K per year for standing around arguing, just can’t understand why someone who is making the princely salary of $24,752 for working 40 hours a week in a slaughterhouse would ever want to join a union. It could eat into a company’s profits. Never mind that as a non-union hog butcher, you may bring home a little bacon, but good luck sending your kids to college.

The Federal Poverty guideline for 2008, sets $22,200 as the poverty level for a family of four. Those who do the hard spirit killing, tendon ripping work of slaughtering hogs, forty hours a week, 52 weeks a year, are just barely, faintly above the poverty level.

So just who are these people the GOP sees as the enemy? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 7:03 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP

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Kid-friendly Web interface

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For those of you who have computer-using kids, Lifehacker.com points out a good Web interface. Complete review here.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 6:59 am

Hoffritz Slant

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This morning the Hoffritz Slant, with a previously used Swedish Gillette blade, delivered an exceptionally smooth and easy shave, assisted by the fine lather the  Simpsons Key Hole 3 worked up from the Palmolive shave stick. Altogether an enjoyable shave, finished with Acqua di Parma aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 December 2008 at 6:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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