Later On

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

Archive for January 15th, 2009

Interesting torture discussion

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Extremely interesting discussion of the legal problems raised by Bush’s policy of torture among panel convened by the NY Times. Now I want to read that first discussion on the legal challenges of closing Guantánamo.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 4:58 pm

Status of the war on science

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Chris Mooney has a good column in Slate, which begins:

The “war on science” is over. Or at least it is in the sense that I originally meant the phrase: We’re at the close of the Bush administration’s years of attacks on the integrity of scientific information—its biased editing of technical documents, muzzling of government researchers, and shameless dispersal of faulty ideas about issues like global warming.

The attacks generated dramatic outrage and considerable activism from the traditionally staid science community and the sympathy of politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. So it’s no great surprise to find the president-elect setting out to restore dignity to the role of science in government. George W. Bush didn’t even bother to name his White House science adviser until well into his first term, and his appointee (physicist John Marburger) didn’t win Senate confirmation until October 2001. In contrast, Obama has already named a Nobel laureate physicist (Steven Chu) to head the Energy Department and a climate specialist and prominent leader of the scientific community, Harvard’s John Holdren, as his Cabinet-level science adviser.

Scientists are ecstatic about these developments and about Obama’s recent promise to listen to them “even when it’s inconvenient—especially when it’s inconvenient.” But it would be the gravest of errors for researchers to simply return victorious to their labs and fall back on a time-honored stance of political detachment. If the war on science is over, we’re now entering the postwar phase of reconstruction—the scientific equivalent of nation-building. The Bush science controversies were just one manifestation of a deeper and long-standing gulf between the science community and the broader American public, one with roots stretching back to our indigenous tradition of anti-intellectualism (as so famously described by historian Richard Hofstadter in his classic work from 1963) and Yankee distrust of expertise and authority. So this is certainly no time for complacency. Scientists, with the support of the administration, should now be setting out to win over the hearts and minds of the American public, creating a stronger edifice of trust and understanding to help ensure that conflict doesn’t come raging back again.

Consider: While scientists may be resurgent in Washington, their world as a whole remains distant and bizarre to most Americans. Only 18 percent of us know a scientist personally, according to a 2005 survey (subscription required), and when asked in 2007 to name scientific “role models,” the results were dismal. Forty-four percent of Americans couldn’t come up with a name at all, and among those few who did, their top answers were either not scientists or not alive: Bill Gates, Al Gore, Albert Einstein.

This bad news comes at a time when we need …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The Ludlow Massacre: Free-market capitalism in action

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Fascinating book review in the New Yorker. A few snippets:

… Oddly, in a phenomenon that Andrews calls “the paradox of coal,” one of the few things unchanged by the fossil-fuel revolution was the way that fuel itself was mined. First, a worker undermined a chunk of coal by chipping away at the foot of it with his pick, creating a gap called a kerf. Then he drilled holes, filled them with explosives, and detonated. Finally, he loaded the coal loosened by the blast onto a car. Except for the explosives, the only energy deployed was the miner’s own. An attempt at mechanization, in 1881, failed; the machines kept breaking down and miners hated them so much that they deserted. For decades, companies simply hired more men. Coal made this easy to do, because it had boosted population and efficiency—so that everywhere there were more people and less work—and had also made travel cheaper than ever before. By the eighteen-nineties, three or four thousand tons of coal could push a steamer across the Atlantic in just six days, and a ticket aboard cost only thirty dollars. Between 1870 and 1910, the non-indigenous population of Colorado grew twentyfold. Unskilled workers from Italy, Greece, Japan, the doddering Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Spanish-speaking New Mexico were hired for their muscles and their willingness to risk their lives. As an individual, a miner was expendable, and, to prevent unionizing, mine operators kept their workforce polyglot. In some Colorado counties, democracy was nearly vestigial. Industrialization was gradually reproducing the conditions of feudalism…

… Miners feared the company’s power. Those who criticized the company were often sent “down the canyon” (blacklisted) or “kangarooed” (beaten up). On Election Day, the company supervised voting, and when the Republican Party needed a victory one sheriff obliged by counting as voters the heads of passing sheep. “I am king of this county,” he once boasted. Whenever a miner died in an accident, the undersheriff asked the mine superintendent whom to put on the coroner’s jury. In the decade leading up to the Ludlow massacre, just one mining fatality in Huerfano County was blamed on management, leaving payments to widows and orphans in the other eighty-nine cases to the company’s discretion…

… In 1907, to stanch C.F. & I.’s losses, Rockefeller assigned it a minder. LaMont M. Bowers was old school; he scorned “muckrakers, labor disturbers and the milk and water preachers and professors.” Upon arrival in Colorado, he shortened lunch breaks in the office, pruned the Sociological Department until miners’ living standards fell, and even reduced bribes to politicians. The company turned profitable. In 1910, when an explosion killed seventy-nine miners and the Colorado Bureau of Labor Statistics accused C.F. & I. of “cold-blooded barbarism” in its neglect of safety measures, Bowers assured his superiors in New York that the miners would soon “get over the excitement.” In reply, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to whom his aging father was ceding control, merely asked why C.F. & I. wasn’t growing faster. The younger Rockefeller had recently resigned from the board of Standard Oil to devote his energy to philanthropy. He was particularly concerned about fallen women…

… Once the National Guard was deployed, its general claimed the power of martial law, holding prisoners incommunicado, setting up a military commission to review detentions, and threatening to jail a local district attorney if he interfered. According to Papanikolas, one union organizer took advantage of his indefinite incarceration to read “The Pickwick Papers,” “The Three Musketeers,” and “Les Misérables.” Mother Jones took advantage of hers to win publicity, and, when a thousand women protested her detention by marching through the city of Trinidad, the general, who in peacetime served Denver as an ophthalmologist, panicked. On horseback, he kicked a sixteen-year-old girl; then he fell off his mount and in revenge cried out, “Ride down the women!”—an order that led his cavalry to slash with sabres at a square full of women. One was cut on the face, another on her hands, and a third had an ear partly severed…

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Government

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Question for Israel

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Israel says that it regrets the deaths of civilians, including children, but that Hamas takes positions where it is surrounded by civilians, so what to do?

My question: Suppose Hamas has taken a position surrounded by Israeli civilians. Is it just tough luck for those civilians?

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

UN headquarters in Gaza hit by Israeli ‘white phosphorus’ shells

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The London Times reports:

The main UN compound in Gaza was left in flames today after being struck by Israeli artillery fire, and a spokesman said that the building had been hit by shells containing the incendiary agent white phosphorus.The attack on the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came as Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, arrived in Israel on a peace mission and plunged Israel’s relations with the world body to a new low.

Mr Ban expressed his “strong protest and outrage” at the shelling and demanded an investigation, only to be told by apologetic Israeli leaders that their forces had been returning fire from within the UN compound.

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15 January 2009 at 12:31 pm

Photos of the Earth from high up

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Some cool photos here.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Daily life

The English Shaving Company sale

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Bridgit Jagger just let me know that The English Shaving Company (home of the Edwin Jagger razors, brushes, shaving cream, etc.) is having a sale:

Just wondered whether you have heard we have a sale on the site.  Discounts with a promotional code TE0109.  Thought you might be interested but you can share the promo code with your family, friends, and colleagues too.  Thanks.

By the way the Edwin Jagger shaving creams and soaps are flying.  Great news.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 11:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Pasta Puttanesca

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Mark Bittman has a useful winter recipe today. I think I’ll make it. Full story behind the recipe at the link.

Pasta Puttanesca

Yield 3 to 6 servings Time 30 minutes

Start the sauce while the pasta water is coming to a boil; finish it while the pasta is cooking. Add a salad and a loaf of bread and you’re out the door to your evening’s activity, whatever it might be.

  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 or more cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
  • 3 or more anchovy fillets
  • 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 pound linguine or other long pasta
  • Chopped fresh parsley, oregano, marjoram or basil leaves for garnish, optional

1. Bring pot of water to boil and salt it. Warm 2 tablespoons oil with garlic and anchovies in skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is lightly golden.

2. Drain tomatoes and crush with fork or hands. [Crushing with your hands is more fun and does a better job, but be sure to poke the tomato with a finger before crushing, else it may explode when you squeeze it. – LG] Add to skillet, with some salt and pepper. Raise heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and mixture becomes saucy, about 10 minutes. Stir in olives, capers and red pepper flakes, and continue to simmer.

3. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is tender but not mushy. Drain quickly and toss with sauce and remaining tablespoon of oil. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary, garnish with herbs if you like, and serve.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 11:26 am

Why we don’t trust pundits

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In Newsweek’s cover story this week, Evan Thomas and Stuart Taylor, Jr., argue that President-elect Barack Obama should embrace Vice President Dick Cheney’s movement for the expansion of executive power. They conclude that Cheney’s work, especially with respect to torture, may be a necessary evil:

The issue of torture is more complicated than it seems. America brought untold shame on itself with the abuses at Abu Ghraib. It’s likely that the take-the-gloves-off attitude of Cheney and his allies filtered down through the ranks, until untrained prison guards with sadistic tendencies were making sport with electric shock. But no direct link has been reported. […] It is a liberal shibboleth that torture doesn’t work—that suspects will say anything, including lies, to stop the pain. But the reality is perhaps less clear.

But, as Big Tent Democrat points out at Talk Left, Thomas came to a much different conclusion in 2006, reporting in Newsweek that “most intelligence experts” say torture is ineffective:

In recent interviews with NEWSWEEK reporters, U.S. intelligence officers say they have little—if any—evidence that useful intelligence has been obtained using techniques generally understood to be torture.

Experts widely believe that torture fails to provide reliable intelligence. In an article for Vanity Fair last month, the counterterrorism officials with whom David Rose spoke were “unanimous” in their belief that torture does not work:

Their conclusion is unanimous: not only have coercive methods failed to generate significant and actionable intelligence, they have also caused the squandering of resources on a massive scale through false leads, chimerical plots, and unnecessary safety alerts

Newsweek’s recent claim that torture is effective fails to consider the consequences of its usage. Not only has torture caused the United States to lose standing in the world, but the perception that the U.S. tortures “directly and swiftly” helps terrorists recruit.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 11:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Media

Rationality returns… at last!

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Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 11:02 am

The shaving collection

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A commenter mentioned that he wish he had room in his bathroom for a shaving collection. I have to admit that I don’t really have room for it, as these photos attest. Click photos to enlarge; click enlargement for actual pixels.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 9:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

War crimes in Gaza?

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From the NY Times:

Nine Israeli human rights groups called on Wednesday for an investigation into whether Israeli officials had committed war crimes in Gaza since tens of thousands of civilians there have nowhere to flee, the health system has collapsed, many are without electricity and running water, and some are beyond the reach of rescue teams.

“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes,” the groups said in their first news conference on the 19-day-old war.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jakob Kellenberger, who spent Tuesday in Gaza City, agreed that the situation with civilians was dire but said the principal hospital was making do with medical supplies, and doctors, working around the clock, were mostly coping with the flow of injured.

“In general they did not complain about the lack of equipment or material,” he said at separate a news conference in Jerusalem.

As the Gaza death toll passed 1,000, Hamas militants fired off more than a dozen rockets into Israel, including four longer-range ones near the cities of Beersheva and Ashdod, sending a message of menace but causing no injuries. Three rockets were also fired from Lebanon into northern Israel and Israel returned fire to the source…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 9:24 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

History of the judicial role

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Very interesting review by Judge Richard Posner of the book Law and Judicial Duty, by Philip Hamburger. The review begins:

The most momentous, controversial, even frightening power of the federal judiciary — the one in greatest tension with democracy and federalism — is the power to invalidate federal and state statutes that in the opinion of the judges are inconsistent with the federal Constitution. This power, which lawyers call “judicial review,” has often been regarded as the invention of a handful of free-wheeling late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century American lawyers, notably Chief Justice John Marshall, whose opinion in Marbury v. Madison in 1803 is often thought to have created ex nihilo the “American doctrine of judicial review.” The distinguished constitutional scholar Alexander Bickel called the power of judicial review “Marshall’s achievement.”

For the Constitution does not say that federal courts can invalidate a statute. Article VI, the “supremacy clause,” describes the Constitution, along with federal statutes and treaties made under federal authority, as “the supreme Law of the Land,” and states that “the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby.” But it says nothing about federal judges being empowered to invalidate statutes, whether federal or state. (“Judges in every State” could not include Supreme Court justices, since the Constitution authorized and envisaged the creation of a district — it became the District of Columbia — that would not be part of any state.) In describing federal statutes and treaties as part of the “law of the land,” Article VI could be understood simply to be commanding state judges to acknowledge the supremacy of federal law. Article III confers the “judicial Power of the United States” on the Supreme Court and such lower courts as Congress decides to create, and the power expressly includes the power to decide cases arising under the Constitution, as well as under other federal laws and under treaties — but at most this only implies a power to adjudicate constitutional challenges to federal statutes. “Any explicit grant of this power,” in Robert Jackson’s words, “was omitted…[the power] was left to lurk in an inference.”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 9:21 am

Politicizing the government

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From an email sent by the Center for American Progress, citing some examples of the GOP approach to government:

Bush’s former press secretary Scott McClellan recently admonished his former boss, saying that the White House took a “permanent campaign approach” to governing.  In 2003,  Bush’s political guru Karl Rove or his top aide, Ken Mehlman, “visited nearly every agency to outline White House campaign priorities, review polling data and, on occasion, call attention to tight House, Senate and gubernatorial races that could be affected by regulatory action.” Rove also led an unprecedented campaign to politicize the federal government to serve the interests of the Republican Party. Earlier this year, a Department of Justice report found that agency officials “violated both federal law and Department policy” by hiring, firing and promoting of some Department applicants and officials for political reasons. Another DOJ report released in September found that the firing process of nine U.S. attorneys was “fundamentally flawed” and in some cases governed by politics. For example, Bush appointee and former DOJ official Monica Goodling refused to hire an experienced counterterror official because his wife was a Democrat, and she rejected a DOJ attorney’s promotion because of an “inappropriate” gay relationship. But Justice was not the only department tainted by politics under Bush. A DOJ inspector general released a report just this week finding that Bradley Schlozman, a former Justice official “entrusted with enforcing civil rights laws,” had refused to hire lawyers whom he labeled as “commies” and transferred another attorney for allegedly writing in “ebonics” and benefiting from “an affirmative action thing.” The White House also routinely favored politics over science regarding climate change by muzzling NASA’s chief global warming scientist James Hansen’s climate change findings, censoring scientific evidence on global warming in an EPA report, and editing all government scientists’ testimony to fit its political aims. The Office of Faith Based Initiatives, the General Services Administration, the Interior Department, the Defense Department, Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy were also not spared of politics during the Bush years.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 9:16 am

Two-minute truths about marijuana

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The Marijuana Policy Project is creating a series of two-minute videos to answer common questions about marijuana—and to dispel common myths. They deal with such questions as whether marijuana is a gateway drug, is marijuana addictive, and so on. Here’s an example dealing with whether smoking marijuana causes lung cancer:

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 8:38 am

A breat of fresh air at the EPA

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The GOP, by and large, does not believe in regulatory agencies. When we get a GOP president, the practice has been to appoint people to head agencies who strongly disagree with the mission of the agency, and who then make a determined effort to undermine the agency’s effectiveness. We’ve seen a lot of this over the past 8 years, and not just at the EPA. But now things are looking up: Democrats, by and large, believe in government and see the government having a valid mission in regulating industries and protecting the public. From McClatchy:

Lisa Jackson, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to run the Environmental Protection Agency, promised Wednesday to lead the agency “with science as my guide” and not to allow political appointees to trump the advice of EPA scientists.

Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee bombarded Jackson with environmental issues, everything from climate disruption to coal ash disposal and new air-pollution rules.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the committee’s chairman, and other Democrats said that during the Bush administration the EPA listened to industry lobbyists instead of its own science staff and failed to impose regulations that were needed to protect Americans from toxic pollution and to reduce the emissions that caused global warming.

Boxer said the confirmation hearing for Jackson and Nancy Helen Sutley, Obama’s choice to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, was a turning point for both agencies. “I’ve been waiting for this day for a long, long time,” she said, but she added that the hearing was meant to focus on the future. “You’re today and tomorrow,” she said to Jackson.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 8:24 am

11 best foods you may not be eating

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The article explains how and why to eat them. The foods and my own use:

  1. Beets — I grate the raw beets (including skin) using the food processor, sauté the greens in a little olive oil, and mix all with chopped scallions and feta (and sometimes a can of sardines) and dress with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Great salad. Sometimes I roast the beets. I had these a couple of days ago and another bunch is in the fridge for today.
  2. Cabbage — I like to make slaw and also to stir-fry cabbage. I tend to buy red cabbage.
  3. Swiss chard — I usually get red chard, but I have a bunch of Swiss chard in the fridge now to cook with a little bit of chopped pork, onions, etc.
  4. Cinnamon — 1/2 tsp daily on my hot cereal.
  5. Pomegranate juice — at least a pint a day, mixed with water (about 1 part pomegranate juice to 4 parts water) and the juice of a lemon or lime.
  6. Dried plums — great source of potassium (not mentioned in the article, which states the other benefits). I get them by the bag at Trader Joe’s and keep them beside my reading chair and eat a few a day.
  7. Pumpkin seeds —  sprinkle on my hot cereal and on salads.
  8. Sardines — I eat one or two cans a week, usually in a salad. I buy the water-packed kind based on Corby Kummer’s recommendation, though Trader Joe’s also has them packed in fish oil, and I like those: I dump the whole can, including oil, on salad greens and add some vinegar or lemon juice to complete the dressing.
  9. Turmeric — 1/2 tsp daily on my hot cereal
  10. Frozen blueberries — oops. I haven’t been eating these lately, but I’ll make a trip to Trader Joe’s and stock up. Eat with nonfat yogurt sprinkled with a little cinnamon and slivered almonds.
  11. Canned pumpkin — And I haven’t had this lately. I’ll get some and mix with spices and some crème fraîche as dessert.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 8:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Progress note

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I didn’t do much blogging yesterday because I was working to get Retrospect Professional for Windows 7.5 running—that’s the backup program I use. After much tinkering and reading and experimenting, I did get a back-up and now will get a back up every other day.

Cooked some red cabbage and a little pork along with onion, green bell pepper, garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, and some soy sauce, and had it over brown rice. Tasty and warming.

While I ate, I watched WALL-E, which I enjoyed greatly. A movie to be rewatched from time to time.

I also watched that great 1949 musical On the Town, with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, and Vera-Ellen: much singing, much dancing. I recall The Son at a very young age, totally entranced by the movie, singing “New York, New York—it’s a wonderful town. The Bronks are up, the Battery’s down.” (Spelling to coincide with his interpretation at that age.) He knew the whole song—written, by the way, by Leonard Bernstein.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 8:03 am

Posted in Daily life

A compact shave

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This little grouping seemed quite compact—and it provided a fine shave, very smooth indeed. One tiny nick on my upper lip that I didn’t even notice until later—and My Nik Is Sealed took care of that. And I have coffee at hand.

Written by Leisureguy

15 January 2009 at 7:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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