Later On

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

Archive for February 14th, 2009

Drugs drive politicians out of their minds

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Interesting editorial in New Scientist:

Imagine you are seated at a table with two bowls in front of you. One contains peanuts, the other tablets of the illegal recreational drug MDMA (ecstasy). A stranger joins you, and you have to decide whether to give them a peanut or a pill. Which is safest?

You should give them ecstasy, of course. A much larger percentage of people suffer a fatal acute reaction to peanuts than to MDMA.

This, of course, is only a thought experiment; nobody would consider doing it for real. But it puts the risks associated with ecstasy in context with others we take for granted. Yes, ecstasy is dangerous and people who take it are putting their lives on the line. But the danger needs to be put in perspective.

Sadly, perspective is something that is generally lacking in the long and tortuous debate over illegal drugs. In this magazine, we have argued that drug policy should be made on the basis of evidence of harmfulness – to individuals and to society. The British government’s stated line is similar, yet time and again it ignores its own rules and the recommendations of its experts. Most other western governments act in a similar way.

The latest example of doublethink concerns MDMA. As New Scientist went to press, the UK government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs was widely expected to recommend downgrading it, based on evidence of its limited harmfulness (see "Ecstasy’s legacy: so far, so good"). Yet the government has already rejected the advice.

No doubt this is partly a reaction to the furore over the government’s de facto decriminalisation of cannabis in 2004, based on another advisory council recommendation. Despite the fact that the move actually reduced the quantity of cannabis being smoked – surely a welcome outcome of any rational drug policy – the government recently reversed it in the face of implacably bad press.

For evidence of how irrational and lacking in perspective the public debate has become, consider how the advisory council’s chairman, David Nutt, found himself in hot water last weekend for comparing the harm caused by ecstasy to the harm caused by horse riding, or "equasy" as he dubbed it. Nutt’s intention was simply to put ecstasy in context with other sources of harm. But his comments – which he actually made last month in an editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology – caused predictable squeals of outrage and calls for his head.

This is a worldwide problem. We need a rational debate about the true damage caused by illegal drugs – which pales into insignificance compared with the havoc wreaked by legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Until then, we have no chance of developing a rational drug policy.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 2:23 pm

Outlook add-ons

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Very useful post by Kevin Purdy at Lifehacker.com on useful software accessories for Outlook.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 11:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Back from outing

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Did some grocery shopping: fruit (clementines, red pears, Brae Burn apples—I’m trying for more variety in the fruit department. I also got some raisins and dried figs.), Chinese long beans (very tasty), ingredients for the roasted-beet salad, some greens, and a bargain from the discount bin at Safeway: pork chops 30% off the discount price. I find that with greens-centered meals, half a pork chop (cut into small pieces and cooked with the greens) is enough for two meals. In fact, greens-centered eating seems to easily slide into vegetarian meals since the meat is such a small part—just for the protein, and last night I met that requirement with edamame (soybeans) and some cheese I added to the kale and asparagus.

Now to do some cooking.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

RailRiders

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I like the Back Country Khakis I ordered from RailRiders.com so much that I’ve bought a second pair. Their grey-green is fairly light and looks to me very like a shade of khaki. Pants are comfortable, well-made, and will be durable. Great stuff for a casual lifestyle (or even an adventurous lifestyle, for which they’re really made).

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 10:10 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Roasted beets in a salad

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Some good tips on roasting beets in this article (cube them and toss them with oil before roasting) and an interesting salad using the roasted beets (reproduced below, sans photo). I’m going to make the salad today. Also note this recipe for a beet nosh with drinks.

UPDATE: Salad is excellent. I used goat cheddar that I bought at Trader Joe’s. It takes about a cup of pistachios in the shell to get 3/4 cup shelled pistachios.

Beet and Radicchio Salad With Goat Cheese and Pistachios

Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

2 pounds red beets, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 head radicchio, cut into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
1 large head endive, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces bucheron or other goat cheese, cut into cubes
2/3 cup shelled, toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped.

1. Preheat oven to 375º. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the beets, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Arrange beets in a single layer on baking sheet and cover with foil. Bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake until tender and golden around edges, about 20 minutes more. Cool; transfer to a small bowl.

3. With mortar and pestle, or the back of a knife, mash garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt to form a paste. In a small bowl, whisk together with remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, then remaining 6 tablespoons oil and the tarragon. Season with pepper and additional salt, if necessary.

4. Toss beets with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. In a large bowl, combine radicchio, endive and parsley. Toss with remaining vinaigrette. Add beets and goat cheese, and toss gently. Serve garnished with pistachios.

Yield: 6 appetizer-size servings.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 10:05 am

The peanut butter saga continues

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Marion Nestle in Food Politics:

The peanut butter story gets more sordid by the minute.  Peanut Corporation of America, owner of the Georgia plant that shipped peanut butter laced with Salmonella, has gone belly up.    By filing for bankruptcy, it gets to avoid claims and class action suits related to the illnesses and deaths caused by the tainted peanut butter.  Check out what Consumers Union has to say about this ploy.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 9:52 am

Continuing lies from the Right

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It’s like a low, constant sound of thunder in the distance: lie after lie after lie from the Right. I suppose that they have nothing else, since the truth hurts their cause so much. Here’s an example that Kevin Drum blogs:

Here’s the headline in today’s Washington Post:

Despite Pledges, Package Has Some Pork

And the evidence?  $8 billion for high-speed rail, $2 billion for the lithium ion battery industry, $200 million for Filipino vets, and $100 million for small shipyards.  And if that all sounds oddly non-porcine to you, you’re right:

None of the items in the sprawling $789 billion package are traditional earmarks — funding for a project inserted by a lawmaker bypassing the normal budgeting process — according to the White House and Democratic leaders….But many Republicans, anti-tax advocates and other critics argue that the final version of the bill is still larded with wasteful spending and dubious initiatives that will do little to create jobs or spur financial markets.

In other words, this isn’t pork at all.  It’s just normal spending — and after all, if you’re going to have a stimulus bill you have to spend the money on something, don’t you?  All this is, it turns out, is spending Republicans don’t like.

So why does the Post collude with the GOP to pretend instead that this is pork, when their story admits just the opposite?  It is a mystery.

The Post colludes with the GOP because, as the GOP tells us, the media have a liberal bias. If that doesn’t make sense, then neither does the GOP.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 9:41 am

Posted in GOP, Media, Washington Post

Uncomfortable fact about Iraq

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The US is responsible much death and destruction in Iraq, due to a discretionary invasion on false pretexts. And the on-going crisis there is fallout from Bush’s plan. ThinkProgress:

In an analysis of trends in suicide attacks worldwide since 1981 (pdf), researcher Assaf Moghadam presents a pretty shocking statistic:

Iraq accounts for 1,067 suicide attacks in the period under review — “a number that accounts for more than half (54.8%) of all suicide attacks since 1981. The sheer volume in which this tactic has struck Iraq is even more impressive since no suicide attacks were recorded in Iraq prior to the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss comments: “Understand, this is what George W. Bush’s strategy of ‘fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here’ entails. Luring terrorists to Iraq to blow themselves up in markets and mosques wasn’t some tragic side-effect of Bush’s plan, it was in fact a component of Bush’s plan. Let’s not pretend to be confused when Iraqis fail to show appropriate gratitude.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 9:16 am

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

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Interesting article on the Act by Joanna Grossman, a FindLaw columnist and professor of law at Hofstra University, currently a visiting professor of law at Vanderbilt University. She co-wrote an amicus brief in the Ledbetter case with Deborah Brake, Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh. She also attended the Presidential bill signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She writes:

Using a different pen for each letter of his name (to maximize the number of souvenir pens available for those involved in the bill’s passage), President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on January 29. (It became Public Law No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009)).

That the nation’s first African-American president was signing his first bill into law marked an important civil rights moment, but the bill itself marked another. Former President Bush had preemptively refused to sign such a law when it was first proposed almost two years ago, just as he had with a variety of other pieces of anti-discrimination legislation. (I have written in a previous column about Bush’s preemptive strike against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, for example, which would have banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.)

President Obama’s decision to proudly sign the Ledbetter Act thus signals not only more robust protection against pay discrimination, but also the potential for further improvements and expansion to our nation’s civil rights laws. As Obama declared in his speech at the Ledbetter signing, the bill sends "a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody."

The Supreme Court Decision That Made the Ledbetter Act Necessary

In May 2007, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The 5-4 ruling undercut the ability of employees to seek redress for pay discrimination under Title VII, the main federal anti-employment-discrimination statute.

The case began when Lilly Ledbetter — now a sort of folk hero, but then a production supervisor at a Goodyear plant in Alabama — took early retirement in 1998, after being involuntarily transferred to a less-desirable job on the production floor. Six months earlier, she had filed a charge of discrimination …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 9:03 am

Political business as usual, perhaps

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Representatives taking credit for a measure that they voted against. In a rational world, people voting against the stimulus would be explaining the reasons behind their vote to their constituents instead of trying to take credit for a bill they voted against. Perhaps newspapers and news programs might point out the facts—oh, never mind. That’s the job of blogs, isn’t it? Soon we’ll have a good database that lets you clearly view the votes cast by your Representative and Senators, and the game will be over. McClatchy:

Rep. John Mica was gushing after the House of Representatives voted Friday to pass the big stimulus plan.

"I applaud President Obama’s recognition that high-speed rail should be part of America’s future," the Florida Republican beamed in a press release.

Yet Mica had just joined every other GOP House member in voting against the $787.2 billion economic recovery plan.

Republicans echoed their party line over and over during the debate: "This bill is loaded with wasteful deficit spending on the majority’s favorite government programs," as Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., put it.

But Mica wasn’t alone in touting what he saw as the bill’s virtues. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, also had nice things to say in a press release.

Young boasted that he "won a victory for the Alaska Native contracting program and other Alaska small business owners last night in H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

One provision would have made it harder for minority businesses to win contracts, and Young explained that he "worked with members on the other side of the aisle to make the case for these programs, and was able to get the provision pulled from the bill."

Yet later in the day Young — who recently told McClatchy that he would’ve included earmarks, or local projects, in the bill if it had been permitted — issued another statement blasting the overall measure.

"This bill was not a stimulus bill. It was a vehicle for pet projects, and that’s wrong," he protested.

That was more in line with the Republican message.

Young wouldn’t return a request for comment on the apparent contradiction of his press releases. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 8:58 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

Rasage Poulin, a well-stocked shaving site

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Rasage Poulin is a shaving store in Calgary, Alberta, and they have a very nice Web site. The store is new to me, but I’m impressed with the range of merchandise. I’m adding it to the vendor list in the next edition of the book, but in the meantime, take a look—especially if you live in Canada.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 8:37 am

Posted in Business, Shaving

Almond and Lilac

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Trumper’s Almond shaving soap today, which the Edwin Jagger medium silvertip brushed into a fine lather. The Gillette English open-comb Aristocrat is one of my favorite razors—well, two of my favorite razors, since I have two. This one has a Polsilver blade still going strong: a very easy and surpassingly smooth shave. Masters Lilac Vegetal was a good finish. And the white tea is brewing.

Written by Leisureguy

14 February 2009 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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