Later On

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

Archive for May 20th, 2009

How to stay healthy while flying

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Happened across an old clipping from The Week, which got it in turn from Men’s Health:

  • Schedule some tea time. Begin drinking 20 ounces of black tea daily a week before your trip. According to the National Academy of Sciences, it causes the body to secrete two to four times more interferon, strengthening the immune system.
  • Eat and drink properly. Hydration is key, as is figuring out the right preflight meal. Before flying, eat a protein-packed meal, such as a burger, to avoid nausea. Drink 64 to 80 ounces of water per day. Limit alcohol, caffeine, and other diuretics, and avoid in-flight coffee and tea, which are usually made with a jet’s tank water.
  • Talk to your doc. An airplane’s reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels can result in headaches, nausea, and dizziness. Before departing, consider asking your physician for acetazolamide, a drug that helps your body metabolize more oxygen. Taking 250 milligrams twice a day after traveling can relieve those symptoms.

A hamburger is more fat than protein. How about a couple of hard-boiled eggs instead? And taking the acetazolamide AFTER traveling doesn’t make sense to me. I plan to take one the night before I leave, and then the morning and evening of the trip. It’s just a day, so taking more the following day (when I am under regular pressure and oxygen levels) doesn’t seem necessary.

I am not a physician. If you decide to follow the above advice, it’s at your own risk.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Daily life

"Pelosi’s probably right"

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Jay Newton-Small writes in Swampland:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has had a tough week much of it her own making. But in looking at the substance of the accusations, it increasingly looks like she was right. Porter Goss was careful to parse his words in the conditional future tense when talking about what, exactly, he and Pelosi were briefed on in September 2002:

Today, I am slack-jawed to read that members claim to have not understood that the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed; or that specific techniques such as "waterboarding" were never mentioned.

And Senator Richard Shelby also carefully avoided saying he’d been briefed on EITs that had already been used, saying only that he’d been told about the techniques. And “purported” isn’t exactly a strong word – it’s a synonym of suggested or claimed. From his statement:

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2002, Senator Shelby was briefed by the CIA on the Agency’s interrogation program and the existence of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs). To his recollection, not only did the CIA briefers provide what was purported to be a full account of the techniques, they also described the need for these techniques and the value of the information being obtained from terrorists during questioning.

Bob Graham, who was theoretically in the room with Shelby, says he has no recollection of the meeting at all – this from a man who famously details his every waking minute. Perhaps the most astonishing response has been from the CIA Director Leon Panetta, who basically said: Don’t trust our records. Which begs the question: what other issues have they kept questionable records on?

But all of this has been lost in the GOP sturm und drang, led, by – of all people – Pete Hoekstra and Newt Gingrich. Yes, Pelosi needs a serious lesson in public relations but it increasing looks like there’s nothing wrong with her memory.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:46 pm

Why are prisoners called "detainees"?

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I don’t get it. They’re imprisoned. Shouldn’t they be called “prisoners”? Being detained normally means that you’re held up for a while—maybe an hour. These people have been in prison for six years. Haven’t they earned the right to be called prisoners? Or is “detainee” part of the Newspeak we’re supposed to learn.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Daily life

Two Democratic Senators with some guts

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Spencer Ackerman:

Two Democratic senators who are apparently unafraid of jailing Guantanamo detainees in civilian prisons in their states: Dianne Feinstein of California and Carl Levin of Michigan. Ali Frick of ThinkProgress and Josh Rogin of CQ report.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Disarming someone

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Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

1,000,000 rounds per minute

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This is amazing:

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:27 pm

Five-shot 12-gauge pistol with no moving parts

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Each round is fired electronically: "fire by wire," I guess you would call it. From the video, it doesn’t seem to have much recoil. Via The Firearms Blog.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Add Wolfram Alpha to your Firefox search-engine list

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Via Lifehacker, this little add-on.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:18 pm

Number of persons escaping from secure Federal Prisons in the last 30 years

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Actually, I don’t know, but I’d love to. Wolfram Alpha was no help, Google was no help. Anybody know?

I’m talking about maximum-security Federal prisons, not medium- or low-security prisons (e.g., prison farms). The real stuff, like Ft. Leavenworth.

UPDATE. Thanks to EP (see comment below):

Prison escapes

Those are the most recent data. What it doesn’t show is how quickly the escapees were caught—generally they don’t get far before they’re picked up. The table is from this PDF.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Gitmo prisoners go… where?

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Gitmo prisoners go… where?", posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Daily life

Clean apartment

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The cleaning ladies were here today, and I’m luxuriating in a spotless apartment. It won’t last, but it’s nice while it does. I’m also greatly enjoying the spy thriller I’m reading. Check out the author Olen Steinhauer at your local library.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Dan Froomkin spots the yellow streaks down Senate Democrats’ backs (where their spines would be if they had any)

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Froomkin today:

Here’s one thing that hasn’t changed in the Obama era: Republicans are still able to come up with scare tactics that turn Senate Democrats into a terrified and incoherent bunch of mewling babies.

It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than the suggestion that bringing some of the terror suspects currently incarcerated in Guantanamo to high-security prisons in America will pose a threat to local communities.

It is nothing more than a bogeyman argument, easily refuted with a little common sense. (Isn’t that what prisons are for?) But that’s assuming you don’t spend your every moment living in fear of Republican attack ads questioning your devotion to the security of the country. Or that you have a modicum of respect for the intelligence of the American public.

Ah well. Old habits die hard, I guess. And Senate Democrats apparently remain an easily frightened bunch, after eight years of faint-hearted submission.

Here’s a question. Democratic congressional leaders ostensibly want to close Guantanamo, which they recognize has become the ultimate symbol of the Bush administration’s violations of human rights. They acknowledge that keeping it open only makes the country less safe — and that any number of the detainees there have been imprisoned sometimes cruelly and often under false pretenses, for as long as seven years. So they want all the detainees there to — what? Vanish? Die? How do they expect any other country to take custody of anyone if we refuse to do it ourselves?

Worrying about releasing prisoners here is one thing. But refusing to even consider putting them in our prisons is nonsense. It it tantamount to insisting that Guantanamo stay open.

But as Shailagh Murray writes in The Washington Post: "Under pressure from Republicans and concerned about the politics of relocating terrorism suspects to U.S. soil, Senate Democrats rejected President Obama’s request for funding to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and vowed to withhold federal dollars until the president decides the fate of the facility’s 240 detainees…

"As recently as last week, Senate Democrats had hoped to preserve a portion of Obama’s Guantanamo funding request. But their resolve crumbled in the face of a concerted Republican campaign warning of dire consequences if some detainees ended up in prisons or other facilities in the United States, a possibility that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has acknowledged." …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

What Congress has come to

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Aaron Wiener in the Washington Independent:

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee got to work on the Waxman-Markey energy and climate bill, debating and voting on six amendments to the legislation. That’s modest progress at best — Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-Texas) has promised 450 amendments, and his fellow Republicans could further delay the process by requesting that the 946-page bill be read aloud. The Democrats’ goal of voting the legislation out of committee by the end of the week appears to be in jeopardy.

So the majority party is taking the necessary precautions: it’s hired a speed reader, just in case.

According to The Wall Street Journal, this new assistant can read a page in 34 seconds, and the entire bill would take him about nine hours.

Just another example of the ridiculous parliamentary dance putting your taxpayer dollars to good use.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

Excellent reference post by Hilzoy on the Uighurs

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This you may want to bookmark. I used Evernote to keep a copy. Hilzoy begins:

This is a post compiling the questionable and/or false claims that have been made about the Uighurs. It contains a few things I have not said in any of my earlier posts, but its main purpose is to collect these points in one convenient location. I have tried to be thorough; those of you who are already bored with this topic might want to skip this one.

As before, I’m taking Newt Gingrich’s column as my starting point, since it conveniently collects these false or questionable claims in one piece of irresponsible prose. Here are the claims Gingrich makes; I’ve added numbers to his claims for convenient reference.

"Seventeen of the 241 terrorist detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay are Chinese Muslims known as Uighurs. These Uighurs have been allied with and trained by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups. (1) The goal of the Uighurs is to establish a separate sharia state. (2) (…)

At Guantanamo Bay, the Uighurs are known for picking up television sets on which women with bared arms appear and hurling them across the room. (3) (…)

By their own admission, Uighurs being held at Guantanamo Bay are members of or associated with the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) (4), an al Qaeda-affiliated group designated as a terrorist organization under U.S law. (…) (5)
Prior to 9/11, the Uighurs received jihadist training in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, a known al Qaeda and Taliban training ground. (6) What’s more, they were trained, most likely in the weapons, explosives and ideology of mass killing, by Abdul Haq, a member of al Qaeda’s shura , or top advisory council. (7) President Obama’s own interagency review board found that at least some of the Uighurs are dangerous. (8) (…)

Even if you accept the argument made by their defenders that the Uighurs’ true targets are Chinese, not Americans, it does nothing to change the fact that they are trained mass killers instructed by the same terrorists responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001. (9)"

Taking these claims in order:

(1) "These Uighurs have been allied with and trained by al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups." The Uighurs deny that they were members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is the "al Qaeda-affiliated group" the government accuses them of being "affiliated" with. They were present at what is variously described as a camp or a village where Uighurs were trained by the ETIM. From this brief (pdf):

"The village itself was no more than a handful of houses bisected by dirt tracks. Each Petitioner, as well as five Uighurs who would later be determined non-combatants, lived in this village in October, 2001. In return for food and shelter, the Uighur men did odd jobs and manual labor. They helped build houses and a mosque."

The training consisted in being taught to assemble and disassemble a rifle, and (in some cases) firing a few rounds from it. From the same brief:

"In the village there was a single AK-47 Kalashnikov rifle and a pistol. Sixteen of the eighteen Uighurs (including all Petitioners and all five of the Uighurs later determined to be noncombatants) freely admit that they were shown the Kalashnikov, and how to assemble and disassemble the weapon. Some engaged in target practice. (Akhtar Qassim, later determined not to be an enemy combatant, shot three or four rounds.)"

From this CSRT transcript:

"Q. What other activities were going on at the camp?

A. There was no typical training, whoever volunteered, once in a while people would run or exercise. I would carry wood, water came from far away, bring stone to build houses.

Q. I want to make sure that I understand, you only trained on the rifle for two or three days between the time you arrived and the time you left the camp?

A. I don’t remember the exact date, maybe June 10th or the end of June. One day they showed us an old rusty rifle for about a half hour. Then the second day we shot three to five bullets."

(2) "The goal of the Uighurs is to establish a separate sharia state." I have no idea which Uighurs Gingrich is talking about here, but the Uighurs in detention at Guantanamo have consistently denied this. To my knowledge, there is no evidence at all that it is true…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 12:27 pm

Madoff’s legacy: SEC to lose some powers

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Interesting report by Mary Kane in the Washington Independent:

The Obama administration is considering stripping the Securities and Exchange Commission of some its oversight powers, and shifting that responsibility to the Federal Reserve, Bloomberg reports.

The proposal, still being drafted, is likely to give the Federal Reserve more authority to supervise financial firms deemed too big to fail. The Fed may inherit some SEC functions, with others going to other agencies, the people said. On the table: giving oversight of mutual funds to a bank regulator or a new agency to police consumer-finance products, two people said.

The 75-year-old SEC, chartered to oversee Wall Street and safeguard investors, has seen its reputation tarnished as some lawmakers blamed it for missing the incipient financial crisis and failing to detect Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Any move to rein in the agency is likely to provoke a battle in Congress, which would need to approve the changes, and draw the ire of union pension funds and other advocates for shareholders.

In addition to the SEC proposal, the Obama administration also is considering creating a regulatory commission with broad authority over consumer financial products such as mortgages and credit cards, according to The Washington Post.

That idea mirrors a proposal of top TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren, who has long argued for the creation of a Financial Products Safety Commission. The purpose of such a commission would be to provide safeguards so consumers would understand exactly what they were getting into when they signed up for mortgages and credit cards.

As Bloomberg noted, financial regulatory overhaul is likely to spur a tough turf battle, as agencies like the SEC or the Office of Thrift Supervision lose some powers or merge into other agencies.  And as TWI has pointed out, Warren has become a lightning rod for right-wing critics, who see her as too biased on behalf of consumers.

The fact that the Obama administration is seriously considering her pet project provides a glimpse of which way those in power already are leaning. Score one for Warren, in the long financial regulatory turf war to come.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 12:23 pm

Stopping frivolous (and expensive) libel lawsuits

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Interesting story by David Weigel in the Washington Independent:

In February, Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the Free Speech Protection Act, legislation aimed at protecting Americans from libel lawsuits filed in foreign courts. The bill languished, attracting only two co-sponsors in the Senate, but on May 19 Specter was scheduled to promote the bill at a suitable event–a conference on “Libel Lawfare,” sponsored by a coalition of conservative legal groups and watchdogs of Islamic extremism.

At the eleventh hour Specter pulled out and canceled his opening remarks, citing only a “scheduling conflict.” The Council for American-Islamic Relations claimed credit for Specter’s “decision to withdraw from this inaccurate, inflammatory and agenda-driven conference,” in the words of CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Justin Peyton. “The senator’s appearance at this event,” said Peyton, “would have legitimized views not shared by the majority of Pennsylvanians of all faiths.”

That news wasn’t received well at the Capital Hilton, where a few dozen of more than 200 eventual conference attendees arrived early for a press conference that got scrapped. Brooke Goldstein, the director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum, explained Specter’s decision to the conference, eliciting groans and laughter from the crowd.

“This hasn’t stopped CAIR from issuing a petition,” said Goldstein, “which, ironically, calls for Specter to boycott this conference and refuse to speak out about the issue.” By shutting down its most prominent speaker, CAIR had proved “the point of the conference.”

Despite Specter’s rebuff, the first-of-its-kind conference brought together liberal-leaning and ultra-conservative adherents of a fairly new, and fairly controversial, issue in domestic and international law. In recent years, critics of Islam have accused Muslim activists of waging “legal jihad” against their opponents. In their telling, the activists, often bankrolled by Saudi interests, are using the strict libel laws of European nations to wage expensive lawsuits against people who critique their religion. They are silencing numerous other skeptics–it’s impossible to know how many–by making them afraid to speak out. After years of brewing in the foreign press and obscure corners of the “anti-jihadist” movement, the campaign against this is moving into the open and into the mainstream, at a forum co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and by the Middle East Forum, with input from the most prominent lawyers and pundits who regularly comment on the war on terror.

The push for protection against international libel suits can be traced back to the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, a journalist who did not attend this conference. In 2003 she published “Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It,” and accused Saudi bank tycoon Khalid bin Mahfouz of giving “tens of millions of dollars” to terrorist groups. Bin Mahfouz sued Ehrenfeld in England, taking advantage of the country’s libel laws after 29 copies of her book were sold via Amazon.co.uk. Ehrenfeld lost the case and watched her own, American lawsuit against bin Mahfouz get dismissed from a New York court. That led to a campaign for a law that would allow Americans sued for libel in foreign courts to countersue in America. And in May 2008, Gov. David Paterson (D-N.Y.) signed New York’s Libel Terrorism Protection Act.

So far, the increased attention has come with increased worry about exposure. At the May 19 conference, security guards checked attendees’ badges when they entered the main event hall and then when they entered a separate room for lunch. According to Goldstein, this wasn’t a response to any particular threat as much as a “prudent” response to the “potential for some crazy person to come” and disrupt the proceedings. A panel on “Islamist Lawfare in the United States” brought together critics of extremist Islam who have battled CAIR for years, including Middle East Forum Director Daniel Pipes and Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney. Pipes, the author of 18 books, won a recess appointment from George W. Bush to the United States Institute of Peace, overcoming a Democratic filibuster; Gaffney, a former assistant Secretary of Defense, signed the 1997 “statement of principles” from the Project for the New American Century. A luncheon panel brought together Joe Kaufman of Americans Against Hate and Hassan Dai of IranLobby.com, both of whom had faced tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills after facing libel lawsuits for statements about Islam.

Kaufman’s struggle didn’t involve international libel law…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

BPA-less bottles

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I’m gradually replacing my BPA-containing water bottles and glasses with BPA-free versions. I now have BPA-free bottles for the car and beside the bed, and the glass replacement insulated glasses will soon arrive so that I can discard the BPA-insulated glasses. Now I’m wondering about the Rubbermaid plastic food storage containers.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

"The poor should not have healthful food" – National Review

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Interesting post at Obama Foodorama:

Ob Fo has had the pleasure of watching chef Steve Badt in action at Miriam’s Kitchen, the Washington social services agency that’s been in the media spotlight since First Lady Michelle Obama served food on the hot line on March 5. Mr. Badt, 42, is a professionally trained chef who has a grad degree in non-profit management, and he’s brought all his talents to bear in creating a brilliant model of food service at Miriam’s.

Using generous donations as well as a tiny budget, Mr. Badt creates meals that are nutritious and delicious, and he’s been crucial to Miriam’s overall service mission of helping those who might not otherwise seek help–by attracting them with his excellent meals. Mr. Badt is fortunate to have a devoted, experienced volunteer staff who show up at 6 AM every morning to work in his kitchen. Miriam’s served more than 46,000 meals in 2008, and they’ll far exceed this in 2009.

Right now, as the First Lady keeps reminding us with her frequent service visits, soup kitchens are critical across the country, as the wrecked economy, high unemployment and rising food prices have led far more people to seek assistance. All the same, the charges of Arugula Elitism that have dogged President Obama since Campaign Season are now routinely leveled at Mr. Badt and Miriam’s Kitchen, because Mr. Badt (in pic) is very up front about the fact that he believes that certain foods are a bad idea for anyone to eat, even those in most desperate need of sustenance. Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin were the two most high-profile Cons to be disgusted with Mrs. Obama’s visit to Miriam’s Kitchen, especially when it was reported by the mainstream media that Mr. Badt will only use organic and locally sourced foods.

"That was absurd," Mr. Badt told Ob Fo in a recent chat. "We take whatever we can as long as it’s healthy and nutritious. Some of those reporters really exaggerated the organic angle. I’m not turning down healthy food just because it’s not organic."

But the issue hasn’t gone away. In an ass-backward attempt to criticize President Obama’s stimulus package funding for food banks and soup kitchens, the National Review’s Julie Gunlock just made a full-bore attack on Mr. Badt and Miriam’s Kitchen that took issue with the organic approach. In "Let Them Eat Arugula," a masterpiece of overgeneralization, Ms. Gunlock claims that "trendy food snobbery" has led soup kitchens "all across America off course," and she’s afraid that this will lead to the government having to increase expenditures for soup kitchens, because private citizens won’t want to donate food. Ms. Gunlock hones in on Miriam’s and a Palo Alto soup kitchen that both offer healthy food as examples of elitist foodie orgs that discourage donations, and she uses an old quote from the Washington Post in which Mr. Badt said he would not accept donated donuts as evidence of the kind of food snobbery that will cost taxpayers money. Ms. Gunlock writes: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 11:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOP, Media

Walk

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Same route as yesterday, but it took a little longer: 30 min 55 sec. It was a little warmer today, so maybe that’s why.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Obama continues to stall on DADT

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It was a big deal during the campaign, but of course he’s now been elected and the urgency is gone—at least for him, if not for the hundreds of gay military members that are thrown out of the service every year, weakening our ability to fight terrorism among other things. (An enormous number of Arabic-speaking servicemembers have been dismissed under the DADT rule.) Carol Williams has more in the LA Times:

President Obama’s campaign vow to end the ban on gays in the military — and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that forces thousands of military personnel to stay in the closet — appears to be driven now by a strategy of “don’t rush.”

The recent coming-out by dozens of gay West Point graduates, including Arabic language specialist Lt. Daniel Choi of Tustin, has spotlighted the conflicting policies and put pressure on Congress and the White House to make good on promises to repeal them.

A report issued last week by UC Santa Barbara’s Palm Center research institute said Obama had the power to thwart the discharging of military personnel for their sexual orientation. Under the “stop-loss” provision, Obama can issue executive orders to retain any soldier deemed necessary to the service in a time of national emergency, the report said.

The president also could halt the work of Pentagon review panels that brand troops as gay and thus excluded from service, the report said. And Obama and his Defense secretary could revise discharge procedures, as allowed under the 1993 law banning gays in the military.

Choi, who received a notice of discharge this month for publicly disclosing his homosexuality, doesn’t want Obama to intercede on his behalf. He wants officials to eliminate obstacles to gays serving their country.

“Why would I be comfortable with him making a special case for me when so many others are getting kicked out?” asked Choi, 28, whose Korean immigrant parents have not accepted his homosexuality.

Those who support openly gay troops point to the loss of important skills, such as Choi’s fluency in Arabic and independent study of Persian, as unacceptable costs of an outdated and unfair policy.

But neither Congress nor the White House appears eager to reopen the bitter debate over gays in the military that rocked the early months of the Clinton administration.

“They’re caught in a political double bind. If they move too quickly, they will expend political capital with the military and Congress. Yet if they move too slowly, they will alienate a core constituency and fail to deliver on a very clear campaign promise,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the UC Santa Barbara institute.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said recently that if the ban were lifted, it would be difficult for the military to restructure its units to accommodate homosexuals. National security advisor James L. Jones Jr. also has reacted coolly to the prospect of lifting the ban…

Continue reading. And excuse me? Exactly how would units have to be restructured to “accommodate homosexuals”? Is he thinking of building all-homosexual units to achieve segregation (which certainly hasn’t been necessary to date). That would be enormously stupid—and a regression to the days during WWII in which the military had all-African-American units, until Truman ended segregation.

The Democrats look cowardly. They fear to use their strength in fighting battles. From later in the article:

Since 1994, when “don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect, more than 12,500 men and women have been discharged from the armed forces for being gay, including nearly 800 “mission-critical specialists” such as Choi.

In the first decade after the ban was imposed, the Pentagon was forced to spend an estimated $364 million to train replacements for those discharged for sexual orientation, a 2005 Government Accountability Office report said.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2009 at 10:58 am

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