Later On

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

Archive for February 22nd, 2009

Supreme Court reform

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The recommendations in this article are clearly very good. But can Congress do anything?

If we had it to do all over again, would we appoint Supreme Court justices for life? Allow the chief justice to keep his job forever? Let the court have the final word on which cases it hears and those it declines?

A group of prominent law professors and jurists thinks not, and the group says in a letter to congressional leaders that there is no reason Congress should consider the operation of the high court sacrosanct.

"We do not suggest, and would oppose, any interference with the substance of the court’s work," says the letter, which was organized by Duke University law professor Paul D. Carrington and signed by 33 others from different stations in the political spectrum.

But the group said Congress has every right to address how the court operates, "a subject it appears not to have seriously considered for at least seventy years."

Carrington said the four proposals in the letter — sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the congressional judiciary committees, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Vice President Biden — are drawn from various studies, commissions and reform efforts that have foundered in the past.

He’s not particularly optimistic they will fare any better now and notes that even this group was not unanimous on any of the proposals. "The politics of this are very difficult," he said. "Nothing on this is really going to happen until someone invests his or her career on the issue."

He’s confident of one other thing: "I’m sure the justices would hate it."

For starters, the group proposes a form of term limits, moving justices to senior status after 18 years on the court. The proposal says that justices now linger so long that it diminishes the likelihood that the court’s decisions "will reflect the moral and political values of the contemporary citizens they govern."

To get around the Constitution’s prescription that justices serve for life, the group would let justices stay on the court in a senior role — filling in on a case, perhaps, or dispatched to lower courts — or lure them into retirement with promises of hefty bonuses.

It would set up a regular rotation on the court by …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Congress, Government

Yglesias on marijuana

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Matt Yglesias has a very interesting post (with interesting comments at the link):

Speaking of marijuana legalization polls, the question of course arises as to whether we should legalize pot. On this, I’ve come to stand with Mark Kleiman who conveniently repeated his gospel yesterday:

Substantively, I’m not a big fan of legalization on the alcohol model; a legal pot industry, like the legal booze and gambling industries, would depend for the bulk of its sales on excessive use, which would provide a strong incentive for the marketing effort to aim at creating and maintaining addiction. (Cannabis abuse is somewhat less common, and tends to be somewhat less long-lasting, than alcohol abuse, and the physiological and behavioral effects tend to be less dramatic, but about 11% of those who smoke a fifth lifetime joint go on to a period of heavy daily use measured in months.) So I’d expect outright legalization to lead to a substantial increase in the prevalence of cannabis-related drug abuse disorder: I’d regard an increase of only 50% as a pleasant surprise, and if I had to guess I’d guess at something like a doubling.

So I continue to favor a “grow your own” policy, under which it would be legal to grow, possess, and use cannabis and to give it away, but illegal to sell it. Of course there would be sales, and law enforcement agencies would properly mostly ignore those sales. But there wouldn’t be billboards.

That beautifully-crafted policy has only two major defects that I’m aware of: it wouldn’t create tax revenue, and no one but me supports it. On the drug-warrior side of the argument, even those who can read the handwriting on the wall won’t dare to deviate from the orthodoxy. As we did with alcohol, the country will lurch from one bad policy (prohibition) to another (commercial legalization). I just hope the sellers are required to measure the cannabinoid profiles of their products and put those measurements on the label.

I support it too! But if it is true that we need to choose between the current regime and an alcohol-style regime, I would certainly prefer commercial legalization. The public health harms would be real, but they’d be more than offset by the benefits—gains to non-abusive users, increased tax revenues that could fund worthwhile endeavors, resources currently devoted to a senseless criminalization scheme could be repurposed. This would also be an area in which America’s tradition of federalism and localism could be put to good use. In many parts of the country, people probably wouldn’t want to see any pot stores or “coffee shops” and they could, presumably, decline to license any even if federal law permitted such licenses in general.

Also, see this post, in which Yglesias compares the relative popularity of legalizing marijuana and various conservative leaders.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 12:45 pm

Unobtrusive technology

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Or, as the Archdruid calls it, unnoticed technology. Interesting post, which begins:

When people talk about the role of technology in the future, most of the time the technologies they have in mind are the flashy ones – that is, those that haven’t been around long enough to slip into the background texture of everyday existence. Especially in periods of decline, though, it’s far more likely to be the technologies so common they’re hardly noticed that determine, by their survival or disappearance, the fate of societies.

For the Polynesian inhabitants of Easter Island, for example, deepwater canoes had been part of daily life for thousands of years. This, I suspect, is among the core reasons that nobody on Easter Island seems to have anticipated the consequences of cutting down too many trees. The resulting deforestation eliminated an essential resource – large tree trunks – without which deepwater canoes could not be made, cutting off the majority of the island’s food supply and, at the same time, the only way out of the trap the Easter Islanders set for themselves. The canoe had been so omnipresent a part of life for so long that the possibility of its absence very likely never entered into the islanders’ darkest dreams.

A similar sort of inattention, according to the medieval Arab historian ibn Khaldûn, played a catastrophic role in the collapse and abandonment of cities across the Middle East and North Africa in the centuries prior to his own time…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 11:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Daphne Eviatar fan club member

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I really like Eviatar’s reportage. Here are two recent articles in the Washington Independent that illustrate why:

Obama Justice Department Backs Bush on Bagram

Leahy Would Investigate Democrats, Too

Both are well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 11:41 am

Sylvia Earle

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Very good talk.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Sylvia Earle", posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life

The library

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Or, as one of my bosses used to say, the "liberry." The library should be an important source of information for anyone: books, movies, magazines, CDs, whatever. The library is supported by your taxes, and your patronage makes them happy and saves you money: win-win.

I keep in ReminderFox the next due-date for the books I’ve checked out. With the pop-up reminder to renew or return, I’ve not had any fines for quite a while.

So how to get the most out of your library.

Wowbrary will send you email alerts on new acquisitions at your local library.

Book Burro is a Firefox (and Flock) add-on that, when you look at a book online, will tell you which nearby libraries have the book and whether it’s available through and the like.

13 Book Hacks for the Library Crowd is a good post that provides several links that provide information and/or tools on improving your book-finding and –using experience.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 11:08 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Morning report

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Sort of a slow start today—partly because I put off that first cup of caffeine (today: coffee).

Books: Finished John Grisham’s The Associate, which was remarkably weak. More or a less a book treatment, which should have been returned with the note, "Payoff too weak. Rework. Make characters more real, while you’re at it."

I’m now reading Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, which I had recommended to the library as a purchase. They did indeed get it, and I’m the first reader. So far, fascinating. People who enjoy this blog will enjoy this book.

I updated the earlier post on the AA-12 to include a recommendation to read National Defense, by James Fallows. It’s old, but fascinating, and every American should know the grim story of how the Army ruined the AR-15 and sacrificed the lives of hundreds if not thousands of American soldiers just to protect some internal turf. At the link, you can find copies for $1.

Movies: Last night I watched City of Ember, a science-fiction movie for kids. It was pretty good, especially the baroque machines. Very Terry Gilliam-ish, I thought. Also I saw Dog Park, which, though not completely successful, had several things I liked. Among the high points: a moving speech on what pets do for us, and a laugh-out-loud session with the dog psychiatrist with the dog’s owners, who are now separated. I tried watching Heroes, but couldn’t really make it through the pilot: too slow-moving. I did think that Sendhil Ramamurthy has to be one of the more handsome men on the planet. The Wife knew a guy who looked very like that, and he said that he looks pretty much like everyone in his village. I think I’ve met a couple of Indian women from the same village: absolutely stunning.

Tasks: Today I’m going to do our taxes. I always hate this task, which is never so bad as I imagine once I get started, and I hate even more having it hanging over my head. I want to get rid of it now. Also, the kitchen once again desperately needs cleaning and I need to do all the usual Sunday chores. First, though, I’ll blog a little and read a little and make my lunch.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 10:52 am

How to break down a chicken

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My post on how to spatchcock a chicken still gets a lot of hits. But that takes the process only so far: removing the backbone and, optionally, cutting the chicken into two halves. (The backbone is great for chicken stock.) Here’s a video on how to break down a chicken into individual pieces. He uses a different method than I, and the pieces come out somewhat different: he gets two boneless breast pieces, for example, while my own method leaves the breast attached to the bone. Still, variety is good, and the explanation is clear.

He does seem to have some grudge against chicken fat. I generally like to render the chicken fat and then use the schmaltz for sautéing vegetables—especially, of course, if I’m sautéing the vegetables to be used in chicken soup.

He also has a video on making chicken stock, and the carcasses he produces are undoubtedly good for stock.

And here’s how to break down a chicken using kitchen shears:

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 9:02 am

Crunchy lime cabbage slaw

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I have a head of Savoy cabbage, and I think I’ll make this recipe today, perhaps with some bacon added. The recipe is from Eggs on Sunday, a blog new to me that looks quite good. Go do a bit of browsing and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s the recipe:

Crunchy Lime Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head green cabbage, core removed and sliced very thinly (about 4 cups)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lime (about 1 tsp)
juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
coarse salt and pepper, to taste

Place the thinly sliced cabbage in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour over the cabbage and toss to combine. Add the chopped cilantro and toss until it’s distributed throughout. Season with coarse salt and pepper (you really do need to season it with salt) — start with about 1/4 tsp salt and work your way up from there if it needs it, according to your taste.

Let the cabbage sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld.

Serves about 4.

UPDATE: Excellent. I’m using the other half head of the Savoy cabbage to make the recipe again. It was good even without bacon. How many dishes can say that? (Ans: None. Dishes can’t talk.)

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 8:44 am

Replating the classics

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Sometimes you find an excellent classic safety razor on eBay, in fine condition except for the finish. Although the finish is cosmetic, still it would be nice to have that same razor looking brand new. I recently learned that the guy behind, which I blogged about, also can replate nickel-plated razors. The difference in appearance once the razor’s been replated is amazing: take a look at the photos in this thread.

Written by Leisureguy

22 February 2009 at 8:37 am

Posted in Shaving

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