Later On

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

Archive for January 28th, 2009

Indoor Meyer lemon trees

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Oh, my: take a look at this.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

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Blind orthodoxy leads to dead ends

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Paul Krugman:

There seems to be an amazing amount of misunderstanding of the basics of fiscal policy, even among people who should know better. Leave on one side the remarkable parade of economists who think that the savings-investment identity proves that government action can’t increase spending; PGL points us to a higher-level fallacy: the widespread belief that Ricardian equivalence doesn’t just say that tax cuts have no effect — which it does — it also says that private consumption automatically offsets any rise in government spending, which is just wrong.

Justin Wolfers suggests that this is because economists just haven’t been thinking and writing about fiscal policy. Maybe. But in my own neck of the woods, that isn’t true. In the New Open Economy Macroeconomics, which dates back to classic work by Obstfeld and Rogoff in the early 90s, both fiscal and monetary policy are usually analyzed.

And by the way: these are extremely buttoned-down models, with lots of intertemporal maximization, careful attention to budget constraints, and at most some assumption of temporary price rigidity. Nobody who was at all familiar with this literature could make the logic mistakes that are coming fast and furious from the fresh-water economists.

What this reveals, I think, is just how insular part of the macroeconomics profession has become. They just don’t read anything that doesn’t come from their cult circle; they just weren’t aware of major bodies of work that didn’t happen to be in their preferred style.

This insularity is asymmetric. Ask a PhD student at Princeton what a real business cycle theorist would say about something, and he or she can do that; ask a student at one of the freshwater schools what a new Keynesian would say, and I doubt that he or she could answer. They’ve been taught that there is one true faith, and have been carefully protected from heresy.

It’s a sad story.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 1:33 pm

Posted in Government, Science

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Understanding Science: a site to bookmark for your kids

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Or maybe even for yourself. It looks good. One small box on the home page:

Teaching resources — find classroom activities, teaching tools, a K-16 conceptual framework, tips, and strategies for integrating the process of science into your teaching, and more.

Correcting misconceptions — clear up common misconceptions about the nature of science.

Science in action — explore case studies, profiles, and news about scientists and how they work.

Frequently asked questions — find answers to common questions about how science works and submit your own.

… and much more coming soon, including an image library, advanced side trips, and new research profiles.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 1:30 pm

Criticizing religions: not done?

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Interesting article by Johann Hari in The Independent:

The right to criticise religion is being slowly doused in acid. Across the world, the small, incremental gains made by secularism – giving us the space to doubt and question and make up our own minds – are being beaten back by belligerent demands that we "respect" religion. A historic marker has just been passed, showing how far we have been shoved. The UN rapporteur who is supposed to be the global guardian of free speech has had his job rewritten – to put him on the side of the religious censors.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated 60 years ago that "a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief is the highest aspiration of the common people". It was a Magna Carta for mankind – and loathed by every human rights abuser on earth. Today, the Chinese dictatorship calls it "Western", Robert Mugabe calls it "colonialist", and Dick Cheney calls it "outdated". The countries of the world have chronically failed to meet it – but the document has been held up by the United Nations as the ultimate standard against which to check ourselves. Until now.

Starting in 1999, a coalition of Islamist tyrants, led by Saudi Arabia, demanded the rules be rewritten. The demand for everyone to be able to think and speak freely failed to "respect" the "unique sensitivities" of the religious, they decided – so they issued an alternative Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. It insisted that you can only speak within "the limits set by the shariah [law]. It is not permitted to spread falsehood or disseminate that which involves encouraging abomination or forsaking the Islamic community".

In other words, you can say anything you like, as long as it precisely what the reactionary mullahs tell you to say. The declaration makes it clear there is no equality for women, gays, non-Muslims, or apostates. It has been backed by the Vatican and a bevy of Christian fundamentalists.

Incredibly, they are succeeding. The UN’s Rapporteur on Human Rights has always been tasked with exposing and shaming those who prevent free speech – including the religious. But the Pakistani delegate recently demanded that his job description be changed so he can seek out and condemn "abuses of free expression" including "defamation of religions and prophets". The council agreed – so the job has been turned on its head. Instead of condemning the people who wanted to murder Salman Rushdie, they will be condemning Salman Rushdie himself.

Anything which can be deemed "religious" is no longer allowed to be a subject of discussion at the UN – and almost everything is deemed religious…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Religion

Chicken wings

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UPDATE: Most important: they’re delicious. Two other notes: 1. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil before placing the rack on it: the marinade that drips from the wings will burn tight to the baking sheet (or the foil). 2. The timings are wrong for 425º: try 17 minutes on the first side and 13 minutes on the second, total of 30 minutes instead of 40. The timings might be right for 350º but are way too long for the higher temperature.

I’m going to make chicken wings tonight, using this marinade by Keith Dixon:

Chicken Wings With Chili, Scallion, Soy Sauce and Sesame Oil

Yield 2 dinner-sized servings, or 4 snack-sized servings

  • 2 1/2 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 piece of ginger half the size of your thumb, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 scallions, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Using a sharp knife or poultry shears, separate the wings down the middle, slicing the drumette from the double bone piece—don’t worry about getting the separation point exact. Set aside.

2. Add the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds to a food processor and puree. Pour puree into a bowl, add the chicken pieces, and combine well, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 425. When ready to cook, place a baking rack on a baking sheet with raised sides—shake extra marinade off the chicken, then lay the chicken pieces on the rack, leaving space between each. Roast 20 minutes, remove from oven, flip pieces, scatter the sesame seeds over the chicken, then roast another 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

At the link, you’ll also find a recipe for “Chicken Wings With Chili, Saffron, Wine, Rosemary and Garlic.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:53 pm

Miss Megs in the morning

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Megs was quite talkative this morning as I set up the shaving photo. She seemed to want her photo taken, so:

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Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Cats, Megs

Personal quirks in learning style

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Good post at Mind Hacks:

The glorious truth is that people think and learn differently. Some people like words, but not pictures, some like movements rather than sounds. Why are people different? Who knows, perhaps because Allah loves wondrous variety.

A funny thing is that we have the tendency to ignore this fact. Perhaps because empathy is difficult, perhaps because learning makes itself invisible. I have a dear friend, Cat, who doesn’t have visual imagery. When she thinks of a dog, for example, she doesn’t see one in her mind’s eye. She doesn’t see anything. When she dreams she rarely has pictures — she just knows what is happening in the dream. People often don’t believe this. They think that everyone must experience their inner world in pictures, the way they do. Sorry. People are just different. Some always see things when they imagine them, some don’t. Some people have a sense of pitch, some don’t. So it goes.

So the idea of learning styles makes a lot of intuitive sense. Surely if we know that people think and learn differently, we should be able to design our teaching to take advantage of different learning styles. Right?

This is where we hit problems. Are learners either primarily visual, auditory, kinesthetic (as claimed in NLP)? Or are they primarily analytic, creative or pragmatic (as proposed by Robert Sternberg). Is the world made of Convergers, Divergers, Assimilators and Accomodators? Maybe instead we should use the Myers-Briggs categories of Sensers, Intuitors, Thinkers and Feelers?

Faced with these possibilities an academic psychologist has a standard set of questions they would like answered: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Education, Science

More news on BPA—and it’s not good

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Take a look:

A University of Rochester Medical Center study challenges common assumptions about the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), by showing that in some people, surprisingly high levels remain in the body even after fasting for as long as 24 hours. The finding suggests that BPA exposure may come from non-food sources, or that BPA is not rapidly metabolized, or both. The journal Environmental Health Perspectives published the research online January 28, 2009.

Controversy around BPA is mounting. In December the U.S. Food and Drug Administration agreed to reconsider the health risks of the chemical, which is used to make plastic baby bottles, water bottles and many other consumer products. Scientific studies suggest that BPA may harm the brain and prostate glands in developing fetuses and infants; adults with higher BPA levels in their urine were linked to higher risks for heart disease and diabetes, according to a study published last September in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The latest finding from Rochester is important because, until now, scientists believed that BPA was excreted quickly and that people were exposed to BPA primarily through food. Indeed, the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority have declared BPA safe based, in part, on those assumptions.

"Our results simply do not fit that picture," said lead author Richard W. Stahlhut, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center. "The research community has clues that could help explain some of these results but to date the importance of the clues have been underestimated. We must chase them much more vigorously now."

Manufacturers use BPA to harden plastics in many types of products. In addition to plastic bottles, BPA is used in PVC water pipes and food storage containers. BPA also coats the inside of metal food cans, and is used in dental sealants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:27 pm

Boost metabolism by regular 3-minute sprints

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Very interesting:

A regular high-intensity, three-minute workout has a significant effect on the body’s ability to process sugars. Research published in the open access journal BMC Endocrine Disorders shows that a brief but intense exercise session every couple of days may be the best way to cut the risk of diabetes. Professor James Timmons worked with a team of researchers from Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, Scotland, to investigate the effect of ‘high-intensity interval training’ (HIT) on the metabolic prowess of sixteen sedentary male volunteers. He said, "The risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes is substantially reduced through regular physical activity. Unfortunately, many people feel they simply don’t have the time to follow current exercise guidelines. What we have found is that doing a few intense muscle exercises, each lasting only about 30 seconds, dramatically improves your metabolism in just two weeks."

Current exercise guidelines suggest that people should perform moderate to vigorous aerobic and resistance exercise for several hours per week. While these guidelines are very worthwhile in principle, Timmons suggests that a lack of compliance indicates the need for an alternative, "Current guidelines, with regards to designing exercise regimes to yield the best health outcomes, may not be optimal and certainly require further discussion. The low volume, high intensity training utilized in our study substantially improved both insulin action and glucose clearance in otherwise sedentary young males and this indicates that we do not yet fully appreciate the traditional connection between exercise and diabetes".

The subjects in this trial used exercise bikes to perform a quick sprint at their highest possible intensity. In principle, however, any highly vigorous activity carried out a few days per week should achieve the same protective metabolic improvements. Timmons added, "This novel approach may help people to lead a healthier life, improve the future health of the population and save the health service millions of pounds simply by making it easier for people to find the time to exercise".

Source: BioMed Central

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Bad news: Diabetes increases risk for dementia

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Uh-oh:

Diabetics have a significantly greater risk of dementia, both Alzheimer’s disease — the most common form of dementia — and other dementia, reveals important new data from an ongoing study of twins. The risk of dementia is especially strong if the onset of diabetes occurs in middle age, according to the study. "Our results . . . highlighted the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle during adulthood in order to reduce the risk of dementia late in life," explained Dr. Margaret Gatz, who directs the Study of Dementia in Swedish Twins.

In a study published in the January 2009 issue of Diabetes, Gatz and researchers from Sweden show that getting diabetes before the age of 65 corresponds to a 125 percent increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly 21 million people in the United States have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, which publishes the journal.

This risk of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia was significant for mid-life diabetics — as opposed to those who develop diabetes after 65 — even when controlling for family factors. In other studies, genetic factors and childhood poverty have been shown to independently contribute to the risk of both diabetes and dementia.

"Twins provide naturally matched pairs, in which confounding factors such as genetics and childhood environment may be removed when comparisons are made between twins," explained Gatz, professor of psychology, gerontology and preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and foreign adjunct professor of medical epidemiology and biostatistics at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.

Indeed, the chances of a diabetic developing Alzheimer’s disease may be even greater in real life than in the study, the researchers write. They identify several factors that might have led them to underestimate the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s among those who develop diabetes before the age of 65.

Diabetes usually appears at a younger age than dementia does, the researchers note. Diabetes is also associated with a higher mortality rate, which may reduce the size of the sample of older adults. In addition, approximately 30 percent of older adults with diabetes have not been diagnosed.

The results of the study implicate adult choices such as exercise, diet and smoking, as well as glycemic control in patients with diabetes, in affecting risk for Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, according to the researchers.

The sample for the study was 13,693 Swedish twins aged 65 or older in 1998, the year tracking for dementia began. Information about diabetes came from prior surveys of twins and linkage to hospital discharge registry data beginning in the 1960s.

Source: University of Southern California

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:21 pm

The importance of names

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Two studies recently have revealed that names are important. First:

A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly examined the relationship between first name popularity in adolescents and tendency to commit crime. Results show that, regardless of race, juveniles with unpopular names are more likely to engage in criminal activity. David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee of Shippensburg University analyzed state data by comparing the first names of male juvenile delinquents to the first names of male juveniles in the population.

Researchers constructed a popularity-name index (PNI) for each name. For example, the PNI for Michael is 100, the most frequently given name during the period. The PNI for David is 50, a name given half as frequently as Michael. The PNI is approximately 1 for names such as Alec, Ernest, Ivan, Kareem, and Malcolm.

The least popular names were associated with juvenile delinquency among both blacks and whites. While the names are likely not the cause of crime, they are connected to factors that increase the tendency to commit crime, such as a disadvantaged home environment, residence in a county with low socioeconomic status, and households run by one parent.

Also, adolescents with unpopular names may be more prone to crime because they are treated differently by their peers, making it more difficult for them to form relationships. Juveniles with unpopular names may also act out because they consciously or unconsciously dislike their names.

"First name characteristics may be an important factor to help identify individuals at high risk of committing or recommitting crime, leading to more effective and targeted intervention programs," the authors conclude.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

Second:

A cow with a name produces more milk than one without, scientists at Newcastle University have found. Drs Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson have shown that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints.

The study, published online today in the academic journal Anthrozoos, found that on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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The GOP doesn’t get it

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From Dan Froomkin today:

Carolyn Lochhead writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: "It’s a rare sight in Washington to see the president walking the halls of the Congress, stopping to talk to reporters in the usual hallway haunts, and rarer still to see him meet with the opposition party to hear their ideas on the first big legislation of his presidency.

"Still stranger was this: The leaders of the out-of-power party, thrashed in two consecutive elections and the subject of all this presidential courting, told their members to vote against the president before he even arrived to hear their grievances.

"Hours before President Obama arrived Tuesday for GOP-only talks in the House and Senate on the $825 billion economic stimulus bill, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio and his deputy, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, told a closed-door meeting of Republicans to vote against the bill because it has too much government and will not revive the economy."

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 11:58 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Auto makers lying, study shows

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Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent:

As the auto industry decries the White House decision to reconsider California’s push for stricter emission standards, some environmental groups are quick to point out that several automakers have already pledged to meet the proposed guidelines.

Business strategies submitted to Congress, as part of a December bailout debate, by Ford and General Motors would, if achieved, make the companies compliant with California’s proposed emission reforms — the same changes the companies have opposed for years — according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

Ford, for example, boasted that it would raise its fuel-economy standards 26 percent above 2005 levels by 2012, and 36 percent above the same baseline by 2015. General Motors, for its part, vowed fleet-wide fuel-efficiencies of 37.3 miles a gallon for cars, and 27.5 mpg for trucks, by 2012. (Chrysler, which did not include fuel-efficiency estimates in its report, was not a subject of the NRDC analysis.)

Both the Ford and GM plans — which surfaced during a December congressional debate over whether the Big Three should receive $34 billion in a taxpayer-funded bailout — set the companies on a pace that “easily” meets California’s proposed reforms, NRDC found.

Lawmakers had requested the strategies as proof that the companies could remain viable if they received the money. It wasn’t granted through Congress, but the Bush administration stepped in later with $17.4 billion in Wall Street bailout funding.

Supporters of tighter emission rules say the business plans are evidence that the automakers would be able to comply with California’s proposed changes, which call for a 30 percent reduction in vehicle emissions by 2016. In light of the sinking economy, they add, the move to more fuel-efficient vehicles might also help them sell more cars.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 11:54 am

Gates: Ethics a barrier to advancement in the Pentagon

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Well, we certainly knew that, but it’s good to have it confirmed:

Lara Jakes buries the lead in her story about all the money ex-Raytheon lobbyist Bill Lynn will make if he sells his company stock to take the No. 2 spot at the Pentagon:

Testifying before the Senate panel Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said stringent ethics rules are a major reason it is difficult to fill top posts at the Pentagon.

It’s funny because it’s true.

Ironically, Gates was testifying in support of Lynn’s confirmation. In his attempt to defend his colleague, Gates inadvertently indicted his department and the entire defense industry as a morass of crony capitalism.

Let’s assume that ethics regulations are a significant obstacle to obtaining top talent at the Pentagon. Let’s assume it’s hard to find senior public servants who haven’t already cashed in on their expertise in the private sector. What does that say about the system?

The Lynn affair is another illustration of the real-world consequences of an unchecked revolving door and the institutions that treat this kind of back-and-forth between government and industry as the norm.

Here is a guy who is probably highly qualified, but who will take office under a cloud. His efficacy may suffer as a result. In a lot of people’s minds, he’s always going to be the lobbyist from Raytheon. That may not be fair to him, and it’s certainly not fair to the institution he serves.

Tougher institutional controls on the revolving door, such as those Obama tried to impose with his executive order, are part of the solution. Sustained public pressure is also important. It’s  harder for lobbyists to slip quietly back into government now that Jack Abramoff is a household name…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 11:50 am

Should people who break serious laws be prosecuted?

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Not, apparently, if they are part of the Bush Administration, which is getting the “special” form of justice: no prosecutions. Spencer Ackerman, in the Washington Independent:

Eli Lake at The Washington Times has the exclusive:

President Obama’s choice to run the Justice Department has assured senior Republican senators that he won’t prosecute CIA officers or political appointees who were involved in the Bush administration’s policy of “enhanced interrogations.”

Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he will support Eric H. Holder Jr.’s nomination for Attorney General because Mr. Holder assured him privately that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program.

So much for all that.

I find this miscarriage of justice intensely disappointing. When people break laws, including international treaties ratified by the US, they deserve prosecution. Certainly they can mount a defense: “Someone told me it would be okay” seems to be the main line of argument. So they can defend themselves and explain the reasons, and the jury will sort it out. That’s the system the US once had, and it seemed to work pretty well on the whole, with exceptions. But the new system, in which people can commit crimes without being prosecuted provided they are well-connected, seems to be a move toward a Mafia-like system of justice.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 11:35 am

American Society of Civil Engineers grades US infrastructure

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Note a very good grade:

Infrastructure grades

Read more, including explanations of the grades.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 10:59 am

Justice: first-class and main-cabin versions

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Very good post by Greenwald:

Aside from the intrinsic dangers and injustices of arguing for immunity for high-level government officials who commit felonies (such as illegal eavesdropping, obstruction of justice, torture and other war crimes), it’s the total selectivity of the rationale underlying that case which makes it so corrupt.  Defenders of Bush officials sing in unison:  We shouldn’t get caught up in the past.  We shouldn’t be driven by vengeance and retribution.  We shouldn’t punish people whose motives in committing crimes weren’t really that bad.

There are countries in the world which actually embrace those premises for all of their citizens, and whose justice system consequently reflects a lenient approach to crime and punishment.  The United States is not one of those countries.  In fact, for ordinary citizens (the ones invisible and irrelevant to Ruth Marcus, Stuart Taylor, Jon Barry and David Broder), the exact opposite is true:

Homeless man gets 15 years for stealing $100

A homeless man robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill. After feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police the next day. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

Roy Brown, 54, robbed the Capital One bank in Shreveport, Louisiana in December 2007. He approached the teller with one of his hands under his jacket and told her that it was a robbery.

The teller handed Brown three stacks of bill but he only took a single $100 bill and returned the remaining money back to her. He said that he was homeless and hungry and left the bank.

The next day he surrendered to the police voluntarily and told them that his mother didn’t raise him that way.

Brown told the police he needed the money to stay at the detox center and had no other place to stay and was hungry.

In Caddo District Court, he pleaded guilty. The judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison for first degree robbery.

Under federal law, “the simple possession of just 5 grams of crack cocaine, the weight of about two sugar packets, subjects a defendant to a mandatory five-year prison term.”  In Alabama, the average sentence for marijuana possession — an offense for which most Western countries almost never imprison their citizens – is

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Media

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More on Israel and the West Bank

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Glenn Greenwald has a column today on the situation in Israel. It begins:

The Jerusalem Post today reports that, according to a newly released study by Peace Now, "the number of new structures in the West Bank settlements and outposts increased by 69 percent in 2008, compared to 2007" and "the settler population grew from 270,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2008."  Earlier this week, the leading candidate to be Israel’s next Prime Minister, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, said that while he "has no intention of building new settlements in the West Bank," he "would let Jewish settlements expand in the West Bank if he’s elected prime minister."

When it comes to explanations about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Americans are typically inundated with reports about the indiscriminate, civilian-targeting violence engaged in by Palestinian religious fanatics and other extremists who oppose the very existence of Israel.  But they hear little about their Israeli counterparts — the religious extremists and radical nationalists who, with the tacit and sometimes active support of the Israeli Government and military (funded and armed by the U.S.), continue to take over more and more land in the West Bank, imposing ever-harsher and more oppressive conditions on West Bank Palestinians.  All of that is making a two-state solution increasingly difficult to envision, if not close to impossible.

Continuing the clear and positive trend of finally having a more balanced discussion of Israel in the U.S. media, 60 Minutes‘ Bob Simon, on Sunday night, broadcast a very good report focusing on how this settlement expansion occurs, the destructive mentality of the Israeli settlers, the devastating impact which settlement expansion has on the lives of Palestinians, and the ways in which settlement expansions — by design — are making a Palestinian state increasingly inconceivable.  It also provides a very clear sense of …

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Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

James Fallows on public diplomacy with China

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James Fallows has a follow-up post on how we should treat China. It begins:

In talking about Timothy Geithner’s warnings on Chinese "currency manipulation" several days ago, my main criticism involved proportion.

Yes, the dollar/RMB exchange rate is one important element of US-Chinese interactions. But even if we’re talking only about economic issues, it is not (in my view) the most important among them. And as soon as we think about the vast range of political, strategic, scientific, cultural and other ways in which the two countries will affect each other, it falls far down the list. I bet that from later historians’ perspectives, whether the two countries can successfully grapple with climate/environmental/energy issues will matter most about their dealings in these next few years.

So why would the Administration choose to kick things off by talking about currency wars — and nothing else

Two positive developments today. One is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 10:17 am

The GOP loves lies

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I’m trying to ignore the GOP as irrelevant these days, though Obama’s catering to their whims on the stimulus package makes them relevant, I suppose. Maybe he’ll get over that: for all that he did, the GOP leadership is demanding that GOP members vote against the package.

And occasionally it’s necessary to post a few facts to counter the unending stream of lies that flows from the mouths of the GOP—ignoring, for the moment, the racist comments from Juan Williams on Fox radio. So here’s Steven Benen setting the record straight once more:

… Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Ensign, the fourth-ranking Republican in the chamber, argued yesterday:

"You know, we have the second highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Microsoft, which is a great American company, has zero exports from the United States. They have a lot of exports from Ireland, because, guess what, Ireland has a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate; we have a 35 percent corporate tax rate."

Are we back to this again? John McCain relied on this talking point quite a bit last year. In the first presidential debate, the Republican nominee said: "Right now, the United States of American business pays the second-highest business taxes in the world, 35 percent. Ireland pays 11 percent. Now, if you’re a business person, and you can locate any place in the world, then, obviously, if you go to the country where it’s 11 percent tax versus 35 percent, you’re going to be able to create jobs, increase your business, make more investment, et cetera."

I’d hoped we were past this, but so long as congressional Republicans want to re-litigate this as part of the stimulus debate, we might as well set the record straight. Igor Volsky explained that the Republican argument is "full of so many other holes, you can drain spaghetti with it."

* America’s Effective Tax Rate Is Comparable To Other G7 Nations: According to a recent U.S. Treasury report, the effective tax rate on equipment financed by equity is 24 percent, the same as the G-7 average. The rate on equipment financed by debt is minus 46 percent, meaning that the government actually subsidizes these investments rather than taxing them.

* America Is The Number One Country To Do Business: The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2007-2008 concluded that the United States is most business friendly, followed by Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Finland and Singapore. Ireland came in at number 22.

* Two-Thirds Of Corporations Did Not Pay Taxes: According to last month’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, between 1998 and 2005 "about two-thirds of corporations operating in the United States did not pay taxes" because of a variety of corporate tax loopholes.

* US Raises Less Taxes From Corporations Than Ireland: In the United States, corporate revenues as a percentage of GDP was about 2.2 percent; Ireland raised close to 4 percent.

Yglesias added a while back, "Ireland really could be a model for successful reform in the United States; reform that would be aimed at growing the tax base by closing loopholes and, in exchange, lowering the rate. That would, if calibrated correctly, both boost economic growth and efficiency somewhat and also increase tax revenues. But a simple across-the-board rate cut would accomplish nothing of the sort."…

There’s more at the link. As to why the GOP continually lies: their policies and the direction they would take the country are seriously unpopular: the American people are, on the whole, progressive. So in order to get elected and stay in office, they must lie. That’s much easier than developing policies for the public good that people would support.

Written by Leisureguy

28 January 2009 at 10:14 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

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