Later On

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

Archive for November 28th, 2009

Mushroom burger

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I’m making the mushroom burgers again, this time with 3 eggs rather than 2.

UPDATE: I also added a tablespoon of Dijon mustard to the recipe, along with a good dash of soy sauce. Extremely delicious.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

The resource wars are starting

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Depressing story by Edmund Sanders in the LA Times:

Have the climate wars of Africa begun?

Tales of conflict emerging from this remote, arid region of Kenya have disturbing echoes of the lethal building blocks that turned Darfur into a killing ground in western Sudan.

Tribes that lived side by side for decades say they’ve been pushed to warfare by competition for disappearing water and pasture. The government is accused of exacerbating tensions by taking sides and arming combatants who once used spears and arrows.

The aim, all sides say, is no longer just to steal land or cattle, but to drive the enemy away forever.
It’s a combustible mix of forces that the United Nations estimates has resulted in at least 400 deaths in northern Kenya this year. Moreover, experts worry that it’s just the beginning of a new era of climate-driven conflict in Africa.

"There is a lesson in Darfur," said Richard Odingo, vice chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a global scientific body that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore. "Every dry area has the potential to be a flash point if we are not careful." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 12:14 pm

Med Grow Cannabis College

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Interesting article by Tamar Lewin in the NY Times:

At most colleges, marijuana is very much an extracurricular matter. But at Med Grow Cannabis College, marijuana is the curriculum: the history, the horticulture and the legal how-to’s of Michigan’s new medical marijuana program.

“This state needs jobs, and we think medical marijuana can stimulate the state economy with hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars,” said Nick Tennant, the 24-year-old founder of the college, which is actually a burgeoning business (no baccalaureates here) operating from a few bare-bones rooms in a Detroit suburb.

The six-week, $485 primer on medical marijuana is a cross between an agricultural extension class covering the growing cycle, nutrients and light requirements (“It’s harvest time when half the trichomes have turned amber and half are white”) and a gathering of serious potheads, sharing stories of their best highs (“Smoke that and you are … medicated!”).

The only required reading: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible” by Jorge Cervantes.

Even though the business of growing medical marijuana is legal under Michigan’s new law, there is enough nervousness about the enterprise that most students at a recent class did not want their names or photographs used. An instructor also asked not to be identified.

“My wife works for the government,” one student said, “and I told my mother-in-law I was going to a small-business class.”

While California’s medical marijuana program, the country’s oldest, is now big business, with hundreds of dispensaries in Los Angeles alone, the Michigan program, which started in April, is more representative of what is happening in other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Under the Michigan law, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 12:07 pm

Lessons learned: Secret prisons

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Apparently no lessons were learned and the US still has its gulag of secret prisons. Alissa Rubin in the NY Times:

An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates for sometimes weeks at a time and without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

The site consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each lighted by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day, where detainees said that their only contact with another human being was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. In this case, that means isolating certain prisoners for a period of time so interrogators can extract information or flush out confederates.

While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, that order did not apply to this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Military officials said as recently as this summer that the secret Afghanistan jail and another like it at the Balad Air Base in Iraq were being used to interrogate high-value detainees. And officials said recently that there were no plans to close the detention centers.

In August, the administration restricted the time that detainees could be held at the secret jails to two weeks, changing previous Pentagon policy.

In the past, the military could obtain extensions. The interviewed detainees had been held longer but before the new policy went into effect.

Detainees call the Afghan site the black jail…

Continue reading. The degradation of US ideals continues apace.

UPDATE: The WaPo also has a story on this.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 12:04 pm

Is Obama’s civil liberties record understandable?

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Glenn Greenwald does his best:

Earlier this week, Kevin Drum said that "nine times out of ten" Obama’s policies are "pretty much what [he] expected" but that "the biggest one-time-out-of-ten where he’s not doing what [he] expected is in the area of detainee and civil liberties issues."  Similarly, Andrew Sullivan cited "accountability for war crimes and civil rights" as among the very few issues on which he finds fault with Obama.  Matt Yglesias objects to those observations as follows:

Both Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan say they think most people are too hard on Obama, but express disappointment at his record on civil liberties issues. I agree that the civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted, but I’m continually surprised that people are disappointed in this turn. Of all the things for an incumbent President of the United States to take political risks fighting for, obviously reducing the power of the executive branch is going to be dead last on the list. If you want to see civil liberties championed, that’s going to have to come from congress.

It’s interesting how what was once lambasted as "Constitution-shredding" under George Bush is now nothing more than:  Obama’s "civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted."  Also, the premise implicitly embedded in Matt’s argument is the standard Beltway dogma that there would be serious political costs from reversing the Bush/Cheney abuses of the Constitution and civil liberties.  The success of Obama’s campaign — which emphatically and repeatedly vowed to do exactly that  — ought to have permanently retired that excuse.

Even more important, Matt seems to be implying that he knew all along that Obama never really intended to fulfill his multiple campaign promises to restore civil liberties and dismantle the Bush/Cheney war on the Constitution.  So all of those righteous speeches and commitments and campaign positions were nothing more than dishonest instruments for manipulating and placating  the people who supported his campaign?  I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment.  I neither believed nor disbelieved what Obama said during the campaign, but instead intended to wait for the evidence before deciding.  And particularly once I watched Obama — once his party’s nomination was secure — flagrantly violate his pledge to filibuster any bill containing telecom immunity, I had no expectations that he’d feel at all compelled to adhere to his other promises.

But is it really that surprising that …

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:59 am

Cloture, the Constitution, and Democracy

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Very interesting post by Michael Dorf at Dorf on Law:

The recent procedural theatrics over starting Senate debate on the health care bill provide only the latest occasion for reflecting on the oddity of the cloture rule, which effectively requires 60 votes to accomplish anything in our upper house.  A naive reader of Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution would think that all it takes for the Senate to act positively on a bill is for a simple majority to vote in favor of it.  Section 7 doesn’t expressly state this point, but that’s the only fair inference from a provision that discusses "yeas and nays," and also specifies a particular super-majority (2/3) for overcoming a veto.

Plus, various other provisions of Article I specify various super-majorities, leading to the only plausible inference that ordinary legislation requires only a simple majority.  The kicker is Article I, Section 3, which only gives the Vice President a vote in the Senate if the other Senators "be equally divided."  This provision makes no sense unless it is meant to give the VP the power to break a tie by creating a bare majority.  And indeed, no one has seriously doubted the simple-majority voting rule for ordinary legislation.  Except, of course, that the cloture rule effectively requires a 3/5 majority to accomplish anything, so long as the minority Senators are willing to translate their votes on the merits into votes on whether to end debate.

I am not interested right now in arguing that the cloture rule is unconstitutional.  Article I also gives each house the power to set its own procedural rules, and so it is at least plausible to contend that adding procedural "veto gates" via procedural rules is simply part of the Senate’s power.  Nor is it obvious to me that the various minority protections in the Senate rules (including not just the cloture rule but various individual privileges and the complex committee system) are, over the long run, likely to favor conservatives or progressives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:57 am

Interactive feature: The drug war in Mexico

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In Mexico, the drug war is threatening the stability of the government as more and more government forces, both police and military, are corrupted and co-opted by the drug cartels. The LA Times has a terrific interactive feature on the drug war, including maps, charts, and a lengthy list of links to previous reportage.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:54 am

Posted in Drug laws, Government

Why the media tell climate story poorly

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Tyler Hamilton in the Toronto Star:

I apologize on behalf of my profession.

If it’s true that Canadians and Americans have become less concerned about the potential impact of climate change, and that more consider global warming a hoax, some blame can certainly be directed at the news media.

"The media (are) giving an equal seat at the table to a lot of non-qualified scientists," Julio Betancourt, a senior scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, told a group of environment and energy reporters during a week-long learning retreat in New Mexico.

I was among them, listening to Betancourt and two of his colleagues describe the measurable impacts climate change is having on the U.S. southwest. Drought. More frequent and damaging forest fires. Northward migration of forest and animal species. Hotter, longer growing seasons. Less snow pack. Earlier snow melt.

"The scientific evidence reported in peer-reviewed journals is growing by the day, and it suggests the pace of climate change has surpassed the worst-case scenarios predicted just a few years ago.

Betancourt is the first to admit the science is constantly evolving and that the work at hand is highly complex. One challenge is separating the part of climate change caused by naturally occurring cyclical systems from the part caused by humans, who since the Industrial Revolution have dumped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at an accelerating rate.

Clearly there is an interaction between the two. But can scientists explain it with bulletproof precision using predictive models everyone can agree on? No, of course not. That’s not how science works.

More difficult is that scientists such as Betancourt are realizing the climate changes observed are not happening in a gradual, predictable fashion but, instead, in sudden steps. Systems reach a certain threshold of environmental stress and then "pop," they act quickly to restabilize.

These changes also happen regionally, making it difficult for people in one region of the world to appreciate disruptive changes going on elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, those looking to stall action on climate change – or who altogether deny that humanity is contributing to global warming – are exploiting this complexity and lack of certainty.

A recent Pew Research Center poll of 1,500 Americans found that …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:51 am

Political pressure stymies investigations

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Eli at Firedoglake:

Hey, remember the week after the Fort Hood shooting, when it seemed like every single conservative on the planet was repeating the same “political correctness is to blame” talking point in perfect 814-part harmony?  Well, it turns out they were right about there being a politically-driven communication breakdown after all:

During the Clinton administration, the FBI had access to records of gun background checks for up to 180 days. But in 2003, Congress began requiring that the records be destroyed within 24 hours. This requirement, one of the many restrictions on gun data sponsored by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), meant that Hasan’s investigators were blocked from searching records to determine whether he or other terrorist suspects had purchased guns. When Hasan walked out of Guns Galore in Killeen, Tex., the FBI had only 24 hours to recognize and flag the record — and then it was gone, forever.

As former FBI agent Brad Garrett has said, “The piece of information about the gun could have been critical. One of the problems is that the law sometimes restricts you in what you can do.”

The Tiahrt amendments passed by Congress interfere with preserving, sharing and investigating data on gun purchases by terrorist suspects. If that weren’t bad enough, Congress has also failed to close a gap in federal law that prevents the FBI from blocking a sale to an individual under investigation for terrorist activity.

Even Dubya thought this was a bad idea:

The Bush administration asked Congress to authorize the FBI to block gun sales to terrorist suspects, to no avail. Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed the Obama administration’s support for this legislation — for good reason. A Government Accountability Office report published in June found that individuals on the terrorist watch list had purchased guns and explosives from licensed dealers in the United States on 865 occasions over the past five years.

Whether or not Hasan turns out to be the islamofascist terrorist mole the conservatives say he is, the Fort Hood shootings are another tragic reminder that their own extreme pro-gun legislation actually makes it easier for Islamic terrorists to buy guns without the government being able to stop them or trace them.  Nice going, Daddy Party!  Way to keep us all safe!

I just don’t understand the logic of destroying most of the Bill Of Rights in the name of catching terrorists, and then expanding the only Amendment that would make it easier for those same terrorists to buy deadly weapons.  Hey, terror suspects!  You may not be entitled to a fair trial, but you can have all the guns you want!

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:48 am

Bad medicine: Naturopathic prescribing in Ontario

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David Kroll at Science-Based Medicine:

Two weeks ago, Canadian Skeptics United published on their Skeptic North site a piece by an Ontario pharmacist criticizing a proposal by the province to grant limited prescribing rights to naturopaths. The essay, which was reprinted in the National Post on Tuesday, outlines the intellectual and practical conundrum presented by allowing those with education that diverges from science-based practices to prescribe drugs.

The naturopath lobby came out in force and was relatively unopposed in the 54 comments that followed, primarily because the NP closes comments 24 hours after online posting. Therefore, those with a more rational and considered viewpoint based in facts were locked out from commenting. This is quite disappointing to me personally and professionally because of the wildly emotional appeals, strawman arguments, and smears and attacks on the author himself without, of course, addressing his well-founded criticism of the prescribing proposal before the provincial government.

At the Skeptic North post, the piece even drew a naturopath who equated the criticism of his/her field with the Nazis and Mussolini. However, you can’t write critiques of these practices without attracting attacks ad hominem, especially Godwin’s Law, that are the resort of those whose arguments are logically flawed.
Naturopathy, sometimes called naturopathic medicine, is an unusual and inconsistently regulated alternative medical practice that co-opts some evidence-based medicine, often in nutrition and natural product medicines, but also subscribes to “vitalism” (vis medicatrix naturae) and makes use of homeopathic remedies that defy the rules of physics and dose-response pharmacology…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:46 am

Morning report

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Decided to go to Toasties for breakfast, then a little grocery shopping (I’m going to make the mushroom burgers again, and also roast another chicken over potatoes) and some kitty-food shopping (another case of Evo 95% Duck for Megs).

Rather relaxed day ahead: light blogging and then the walk to the Clock Tower.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 11:40 am

Posted in Daily life

Mühle and Kell’s Original

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An Omega boar, still being broken in, created a fine lather but required a return to the tub for more soap for every pass. Still, the lather was fine, and the Mühle open-comb with a previously used Astra Keramik blade did a really fine job. This is a good razor. Marlborough was a good finish.

Next week I think I’ll go back to badger for a week.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2009 at 9:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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