Later On

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

Archive for December 19th, 2008

Raid pesticide kills cats

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Keep your cat away from Raid and any use of Raid. I just read in the new issue of Wired that one of the toxins in Raid is especially deadly to cats.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Sushi eaters: beware of mercury

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Read how Jeremy Piven had so much mercury from eating sushi that he had trouble remembering his lines. From the article:

Let’s say Piven had two six-ounce portions of tuna sushi five days per per week, he would have exceeded the FDA advisory in just one day. According to a the Natural Resources Defense Council’s mercury calculator, the mercury intake for a 5′ 10″ (this is disputed, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt) white male of average weight (170 pounds for a 43-year old this size) consuming 12 ounces of Bigeye and Yellowtail Tuna per day would average an intake of 1.69 micograms per day, more than 15 times the EPA recommendations.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

The top 12 insights of the Right

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Greg Anrig has collected them:

It was a brutal year for the conservative movement, which at long last came crashing down after dominating American politics for nearly 30 years. One small consolation for at least some leading thinkers on the right is that they began to demonstrate perceptiveness that by and large eluded them in preceding years. Here are the top twelve insights of prominent conservatives in 2008: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

My computer is driving me crazy

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About every five seconds, my computer pauses for 2 seconds, though the keyboard buffer continues to work. After the 2-second pause, the text typed miraculously appears, but the wait is annoying, and even more annoying if what I’m waiting for is to switch from one tab to another. I’ve looked at the processes running in Task Manager, and nothing seems out of line there. Weird and highly annoying. Should I get a Mac?

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

The CIA, Bush, and torture

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Spencer Ackerman has an interesting article in the Washington Independent:

About that David Rose piece for Vanity Fair I mentioned: really, give it a read. Rose patiently tracks how the collapse of Jose Padilla’s prosecution begins with the detention and torture of a recovering heroin addict named Binyam Mohammed. When Rose asks FBI Director Robert Mueller if any terrorist attacks on the U.S. were disrupted because of torture, Mueller replies, “I don’t believe that has been the case.” And there’s a special guest appearance by Libby-and-Blagojevich-hunter Pat Fitzgerald, who accompanies an FBI agent in 1998 to Morocco to interrogate a terrorist. (Interestingly nicknamed “Joe The Moroccan.”) They secure his testimony — and use it to convict his accomplices — without laying a finger on him.

And in light of the controversy over John Brennan and finding a new leadership for the intelligence community untainted by torture, consider carefully what this anonymous CIA official tells Rose:

“We were done a tremendous disservice by the administration,” one official says. “We had no background in this; it’s not something we do. They stuck us with a totally unwelcome job and left us hanging out to dry. I’m worried that the next administration is going to prosecute the guys who got involved, and there won’t be any presidential pardons at the end of it. It would be O.K. if it were John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales. But it won’t be. It’ll be some poor G.S.-13 [bureaucrat] who was just trying to do his job.”

You wouldn’t approve of treating Lynndie England or Charles Graner as the architects of torture at Abu Ghraib, would you?

Finally, here’s something that rarely gets discussed in all the talk about intelligence failures from 9/11 to Iraq. …

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Bailed-out banks raise credit card fees

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Mary Kane reports in the Washington Independent:

Since bailouts are so timely today, Bloomberg weighs in to point out that banks that have been recipients of government bailout money are reacting by charging higher fees on credit cards for consumers. Apparently, they’re trying to get ahead of the curve on those new Federal Reserve regulations curbing their bad behavior, which don’t take effect until 2010.

From Bloomberg:

“People are totally confused,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Corp.’s Economy.com. “The taxpayer is essentially a big owner in JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, and these are the folks who make credit-card loans. Many are asking, ‘So why is it that my credit-card loan got pulled? Why am I being charged a higher rate?’”

Wonder if Southern lawmakers who fought so hard against helping the auto industry will be speaking up on this one.

UPDATE: See also this article by Mike Lillis.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 12:30 pm

Watch the Coleman/Franken recount

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This page is updated as the count goes on. Curently, Franken is ahead by 266 and the page projects Frank to win by 82 votes.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Election

Biology, evolution, and war

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Of course, writing both “biology” and “evolution” is probably redundant: biology cannot be understood without evolution. At any rate, this sounds like a fascinating book:

In our new book about the biology of warfare, Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer Future, we trace the biological origins and evolution of war. The conclusion we draw is unavoidable. War, simply put, is a biological phenomenon.

When war and biology are discussed together, it is usually in relation to biological weapons, or the physiology of the battlefield, or, goodness knows, the wounds endured by warriors both in combat and long afterwards. But it turns out that there is a much more intimate connection between biology and organized violence: evolution.

War has most often been studied by social scientists — anthropologists embedding themselves with hunter-gatherer tribes, archaeologists teasing evidence of past epochs of war and peace from the ground, and psychologists and sociologists poking and prodding the minds of warriors and others. But one question often goes unasked: Why war? Why do we humans, almost alone among the animals, band together and intentionally kill members of our own species?

That is a question only biology can answer — and as Theodosius Dobzhansky famously said, “nothing in biology makes sense but in the light of evolution.” Humans, of course, are descended from a long line of ape ancestors, including a common ancestor with chimpanzees some five to seven million years ago. As Jane Goodall, Richard Wrangham and others have shown, we also share with chimps the bizarre propensity to attack and kill others of our own species. And evolution explains why.

Chimpanzees — and virtually every hunter-gatherer society studied — live in male-dominated social groups, in which the males are blood relatives and females move from one group to another. The dominant males largely monopolize breeding opportunities, leaving younger males with little choice but to work their way up the in-group hierarchy, or to launch attacks on neighboring out-groups if they are to secure the resources, territory, and females they require to survive and pass on their genes.

We are all descended, in other words, from …

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 11:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

“I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas”

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Thanks to The Son for pointing out this post. It’s really not Christmas until you hear Spike Milligan singing that traditional holiday favorite, “I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas.”

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life

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When sentinels are ignored

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The Eldest sent me this interesting story:

His repeated warnings that Wall Street money manager Bernard Madoff was running a giant Ponzi scheme have cast Harry Markopolos as an unheeded prophet.

But people who know or worked with Markopolos say it wasn’t prescience that helped him foresee the collapse of Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud. Instead, they say diligence and a strong moral sense drove his quixotic, nine-year quest to alert regulators about Madoff.

“He followed through on everything he ever did. He never let up,” said his mother, Georgia Markopolos, in an interview Thursday. “Some kids just let it go if it’s too hard, but he wouldn’t do that.”

“He feels very sorry for these people that got taken,” she added. “It wouldn’t have happened if they would have listened to him long ago.”

Markopolos waged a remarkable battle to uncover fraud at Madoff’s operation, sounding the alarm back in 1999 and continuing with his warnings all through this decade. The government never acted, Madoff continued his ways, and people lost billions.

Markopolos reached his conclusion with the help of mathematicians like Dan diBartolomeo, whose analysis of the Madoff’s methods in 1999 helped fuel Markopolos’ suspicions. …

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 11:27 am

Posted in Bush Administration, Business, GOP, Government

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Back from outing

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A trip to get a haircut, 4 rolls of quarters (laundry), and peppers to make the pepper sauce today. But first a little more blogging.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life

Mike “Mad Dog” Bell dies

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Story here. He was one of the subjects of his brother’s documentary on steroid use:

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 9:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

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The Ponzi scammers of Wall Street

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Paul Krugman has another excellent column today, in which this paragraph appears:

Wall Street’s ill-gotten gains corrupted and continue to corrupt politics, in a nicely bipartisan way. From Bush administration officials like Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who looked the other way as evidence of financial fraud mounted, to Democrats who still haven’t closed the outrageous tax loophole that benefits executives at hedge funds and private equity firms (hello, Senator Schumer), politicians have walked when money talked.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 9:21 am

Posted in Business, Democrats

Sounds like it was a great radio program

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 9:14 am

Posted in Daily life

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Discussion of depression economics

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There’s a very good discussion going on over at TPMCafé Book Club concerning Paul Krugman’s new book The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008. Various economists post short posts about the book or in reply to other posts. A couple of examples from the thread:

Dean Baker writes:

Now that economists have finally discovered that asset bubbles can be harmful (next week, they learn about the shape of the earth), we are getting a debate about how to deal with them. I’m sure that this debate can provide full-time work to hundreds of economists, but at the risk of sending some of my colleagues to the unemployment lines, let me suggest a simple solution: talk.

Economists seem to hold a bizarre view, that it is both very important that people like Fed chairs and Treasury secretaries be careful about what they say, but also that what they say does not really matter. While such contradictions are standard for the economics profession, I will argue that what these folks say can really matter.

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The discussion begins with Paul Krugman’s post at the bottom of this page, with the subsequent posts above (a push-down stack). That is, the next sequential post is Brad DeLong’s post immediately above the Krugman post, where Brad has a couple of questions. Worth reading.

Lila Shapiro’s introduction:

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 8:54 am

Posted in Books

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Good post on science in the Obama Administration

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UPDATE: James Fallows has an excellent comment.

It’s obvious that Obama respects science and evidence-based decision-making. Steve Benen has an excellent post on what’s happening:

Earlier this week, introducing Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as the next Energy Secretary, Barack Obama made a pointed claim about his upcoming administration: “His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.”

Yesterday, Obama’s commitment to restoring the role for science in government was reinforced even further.

In a sign that President-elect Barack Obama intends to elevate science to greater prominence, John P. Holdren, a Harvard physicist widely recognized for his leadership on energy policy and climate change, will be appointed White House science adviser this weekend, the Globe confirmed yesterday. […]

“I think they’ll be restoring the role of science in the federal establishment,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge-based advocacy organization. “We’ve got a bunch of people across the [new] administration who get it.” […]

Holdren, who was an adviser to the Obama campaign and a member of a scientific advisory committee to President Bill Clinton, is a specialist on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.

Now, “White House science adviser” may sound like an impressive honor, but it’s actually a post with key responsibilities. Joseph Romm noted yesterday that the position “oversees science and technology funding, analysis, and messaging for all federal agencies.” Romm also said the combination of Holdren and Chu sends a signal that Obama is “dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming,” adding, “[A]fter eight years of Bush spreading disinformation and muzzling scientists, putting Holdren in charge of the ‘bully pulpit of science’ is just what the nation and the planet need if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.”

What’s more, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that Obama is also poised to introduce …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 8:44 am

How to Break a Terrorist

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Fascinating interview by Scott Horton:

At 5:15 p.m. on June 7, 2006, two American F-16 fighters dropped 500-pound bombs on a farmhouse about five miles north of the Iraqi town of Baqubah. Within an hour, the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian street thug who had risen to become the head of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, was confirmed. This resulted from one of the most important intelligence breakthroughs of the Iraq War. Matthew Alexander is the pseudonym for an American Air Force major who, through a series of skillful interrogations, secured the information that allowed the military to pinpoint al Zarqawi’s whereabouts and kill him. His book How to Break a Terrorist is a compelling account of the American military’s turn from highly coercive interrogation techniques, which proved consistently unproductive, to confidence-building approaches honed over decades in the American law-enforcement community, which achieved steady success. I put six questions to Major Alexander about his book and the still-ongoing controversy about torture.

1. In the last weeks of the Bush Administration, they’re waging a campaign to convince the public that President-elect Obama’s plans to close Guantánamo, ban torture, and stop extraordinary renditions will make America less safe. Here’s how one of the administration’s apologists recently put things in an op-ed in the New York Times: “if we’d gotten our hands on a senior member of Al Qaeda before 9/11, and knew that an attack likely to kill thousands of Americans was imminent, wouldn’t waterboarding, or taking advantage of the skills of our Jordanian friends, have been the sensible, moral thing to do with a holy warrior who didn’t fear death but might have feared pain?” You actually did have “holy warriors” in your custody who were plotting to kill American soldiers and innocent civilians, and got the results that enabled U.S. fighter bombers to take out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. What do you think of these claims?

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 8:37 am

Posted in Iraq War, Military

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Obama promises more regulation of financial sector

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Thank God. I voted for him in hopes of actions like this, reported by Kevin G. Hall and Margaret Talev for McClatchy:

President-elect Barack Obama signaled Thursday that he plans to put Wall Street on a tighter leash, saying that he’ll soon unveil plans to intensify and perhaps restructure regulation of the financial sector.

“We have been asleep at the switch,” Obama said at a news conference in Chicago, where he unveiled his selection of Mary Schapiro, a longtime regulator, to head the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees finance.

He criticized Wall Street greed, saying that “there needs to be a shift in ethics” and adding that “everybody from CEOs to shareholders to investors are going to have to be asking themselves, not only is this profitable, not only whether this will boost my bonus, but is it right? Does it conform to some higher standards, in terms of how we operate?”

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 7:51 am

Woodstock today

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Copious excellent lather from the Woodstock shaving soap (quite unlike the lather from yesterday’s Wilkinson soap), stirred up by the Rooney Style 2. Then the Merkur Futur did a wonderful job—very nice razor. To my quite smooth face I then applied a good splash of Pashana, a favorite.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2008 at 7:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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