Later On

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

Archive for July 19th, 2010

Food note

with one comment

The Moroccan Tomato Soup is excellent. I made mine on the spicy side, which I like, and the celery gives it a nice crunch. The cumin is noticeable but firm, not out of control. I had a cup (about one-fourth the total) well-chilled. Super good.

Additional thought: Dare I say it: the soup may, I think, be improved by the addition of chopped  sweet (Walla Walla) onions. I am going to try that with what’s left.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

States Fail to Report Disciplined Caregivers to Federal Database

leave a comment »

Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein at ProPublica:

Hundreds of state agencies nationwide have never told the federal government about health professionals they disciplined, undermining a central database meant to weed out dangerous caregivers.

The federal database is supposed to contain disciplinary actions taken against doctors, nurses, therapists and other health practitioners around the country so that hospitals and select others can run background checks before they hire new employees.

Federal officials discovered the missing reports after a ProPublica investigation in February found widespread gaps in the data, including hundreds of nurses and pharmacists who had been sanctioned for serious wrongdoing.

Since then, regulators nationwide — prodded by federal health officials — have submitted 72,000 new records to the database, nearly double the total submitted for all of 2009.

All states are required by law to report the licensed health workers they’ve sanctioned to databases run by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). But ProPublica found that many state agencies either didn’t know about the requirement or simply weren’t complying.

The failure to report means frontline health workers who have a record of on-the-job misconduct, incompetence or criminal acts aren’t flagged to hospitals or other potential employers, who pay a fee to run checks on job applicants.

Wisconsin, for example, has not reported sanctions against emergency medical technicians. The state’s Department of Health Services website, however, shows that more than two dozen EMTs have been disciplined, including several for criminal convictions and one for stealing drugs from an ambulance.

An agency spokeswoman said officials are working to submit the missing information.

HRSA’s analysis of 13 nursing boards flagged by ProPublica as missing records shows the depth of the problem. Since being contacted by HRSA, those boards collectively have reported more than 2,000 missing cases, including 147 in California and 66 in Illinois. Florida alone had 972.

Despite the important public safety role of the database, federal officials have little power to enforce compliance. Earlier this month, they took what they said is the strongest action allowed against scofflaws: They put a checkmark next to state names indicating they were "noncompliant" and posted the information on the HRSA website…

Continue reading.

And Michael Kirsch, MD, keeps blogging that we need to rein in the lawyers to end medical malpractice lawsuits.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 1:47 pm

Strange politics

leave a comment »

Steve Benen:

By most measures, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren seems like the obvious choice to lead the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The bureau itself almost certainly wouldn’t exist were it not for Warren’s work, and by most accounts, she’s the one who proposed creating the office in the first place.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod told reporters the other day that Warren, currently the leading watchdog of the financial industry bailout, is "a great, great champion for consumers," adding that she’s "obviously a candidate to lead this effort" at the CFPA.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other qualified candidates, but Warren appears to be in a class of her own. So, what’s the problem? There have been widespread rumors about Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner raising concerns, but today, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) suggested there’s a more obvious impediment.

Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said he sensed rumblings among colleagues that Warren, the chairwoman of the panel overseeing the 2008 Wall Street bailout program, might not get the 60 votes necessary to win confirmation.

"I think Elizabeth would be a terrific nominee," Dodd told NPR’s Diane Rehm on Monday. "The question is, ‘Is she confirmable?’ And there’s a serious question about it."

"The question is, can we get someone who is confirmable? She may be, but that’s not the only potential nominee — there are many fine nominees," he said.

Just so we’re clear, in a 59-41 Senate, with the White House’s party in the majority, the president may be discouraged from nominating the most qualified choice to lead a key consumer protection agency because conservative senators probably won’t let her have an up-or-down vote.

Perhaps now would be a good time to mention that this is no way to run a government.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 1:44 pm

BP *is* the government in some counties

leave a comment »

Marian Wang in ProPublica:

In One Gulf County, Officials Take Home Government Salaries, Plus Pay from BP

Gulf County, Fla. — population 15,000 — has been clear of BP’s oil so far, but it has tried to get ready. The small coastal county, according to one county commissioner, has spent hundreds of thousands to protect itself, aware that the crude hitting its neighboring counties could creep closer.

But these days, when the Gulf County Board of Commissioners votes on anything BP-related, only two members of the five-person board can participate. The other three must abstain. Two of them, on top of their duties to the county, also work for BP contractors. One has a son who is helping in the cleanup.

I chanced upon this nugget of news last week when I reported about the challenges posed by the BP reimbursement process for some local governments along the Gulf Coast. When I called the board chairman, Carmen McLemore, to ask about his county’s experience with the reimbursement process, he refused to answer.

“I’m actually working with BP and they won’t allow me to talk to reporters,” he told me.

“BP told you you can’t talk to reporters?” I asked.

“No news media. Bye!” And McLemore hung up.

When I called up his fellow commissioner Billy Traylor, who also works for a BP contractor, Traylor didn’t have the same problems talking to me. So I asked whether he feels he has a conflict of interest, given that he’s getting paid both by the county and, ultimately, by BP.

“There’s been several issues come up about BP—BP this and BP that,” Traylor said, regarding some of the county commissioners’ votes. “I’ve had to abstain from some of those issues because as a subcontractor, I cannot vote."

Some people might see it as a conflict, but he doesn’t see one. “As a matter of fact,” he told me, “it is a blessing that I’m working out here. I actually know what’s going on. If I had been a commissioner sitting on the outside—and I mean no disrespect to my fellow commissioners—I would not have a clue as to what was happening as far as beach operations, as far as what’s happening on site with local hiring." …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Business, Government

More on DOMA

leave a comment »

Joanna Grossman at FindLaw:

Earlier this month, a federal district court judge in Massachusetts issued two opinions, in which for different, but related reasons he invalidated a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 ("DOMA") as applied to the plaintiffs before the court.

Section 3 of DOMA provides that marriage is defined as the union between a man and a woman for all federal-law purposes — of which there are 1,138. By defining marriage at all, rather than deferring to each state’s definition of marriage, Congress certainly departed from its past tradition. But was the departure constitutionally invalid? That is the question that has been explored (and answered "Yes") in both Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Part One of this two-part series, I will describe DOMA and explain the reasoning that led Judge Joseph L. Tauro, in Gill , to invalidate section 3 as applied to the plaintiffs in that case.

In Part Two — appearing on FindLaw tomorrow, Tuesday, July 20 — I will discuss the ruling in Commonwealth and consider the marriage-regulation history that is so central to the court’s reasoning in both cases.

Where the Story Begins: The Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA)

In a way, the story here begins fourteen years ago. In 1996, it seemed very likely that Hawaii was about to become the first state in the union to legalize same-sex marriage. In fact, Massachusetts took those honors in 2004, followed several years later by four additional states and the District of Columbia. But, for a time, all eyes were on Hawaii because its highest court had ruled, in Baehr v. Lewin, that a ban on same-sex marriage was a form of sex discrimination that warranted the highest form of judicial scrutiny (and, presumably, would be invalidated once that scrutiny was applied).

Out of fear of the effects Hawaii’s anticipated ruling might have on other states and on the federal government, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA) in haste, just a few weeks before the 1996 presidential election. DOMA was pushed through quickly in anticipation of Hawaii’s legalization of same-sex marriage, and the legislative history of DOMA reveals an intense focus on confining such marriages to the state of Hawaii alone.

DOMA’s scheme for confining same-sex marriage to Hawaii (or to any other state that might eventually legalize it) was twofold. Section Two of DOMA purports to give states the right to refuse recognition to same-sex marriages that have been celebrated in other states — while, at the same time, leaving open the possibility that each state might permit same-sex marriages within its own borders. Second, and more pertinent here, Section Three of DOMA provides that, for any federal-law purpose, "the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife."

The Claim in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management : The Intent of the DOMA Drafters

The plaintiffs in Gill — one of the Massachusetts federal district court cases before Judge Tauro — are same-sex couples who legally married in Massachusetts, and yet were each denied some marriage-based entitlement by the federal government. Among the entitlements denied were spousal health benefits for federal employees, retirement and survivor benefits under the Social Security system, and joint filing status with the IRS. In each instance, the married couple presented satisfactory proof of marriage to the federal agency in question — and in each instance, they were told, nevertheless, that Section Three of DOMA prevents the federal government from giving effect to the marriage.

The various agencies were no doubt applying Section Three of DOMA exactly as Congress wrote and intended it. Under DOMA, these same-sex marriages were to be ignored under federal law, even though …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

The VoteVets ad Fox will not run

leave a comment »

Via Steve Benen:

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

2.5 lbs/week

leave a comment »

That seems to be the rate (as of today) that I’m losing weight. 15.25 lbs lost to date, over 6 weeks.

It’s certainly true that I’m losing weight be eating less, but it’s also true that I have a team helping me.

It occurs to me that the US prizes individualism to the extent that, for some tasks, one is considered to have failed if one cannot do it alone. My previous weight-loss attempts fall into the category of failure. But when I decided to hire a team to assist me, I’m having success. YMMV, of course, but coaches, trainers, counselors, and the like have had a long and honorable role as helpers who enable one to do more than one could do by himself.

UPDATE: As I continued to mull this over, it struck me that many middle-class Americans do have a regular team of experts to assist them in various ways: doing it all by yourself is to some extent an anomaly. It’s not beyond reason for a family to have a gardener, a house cleaner, a lawyer, an accountant, a dentist, a doctor, and the like. Adding a trainer and a diet counselor to the list just augments the team.

And, in terms of doing it on one’s own, I went out and hired the trainer and the diet counselor on my own, so I am owning the problem and owning my solution (which involves the team). Just as a person might say of their home, “I built this,” meaning that an architect was hired and a general contractor, with the owner doing none of the actual work but still feeling responsibility for the result.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 11:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Top-Secret America

leave a comment »

The Washington Post has a lengthy report on the secret parts of the US government. Worth reviewing.

And Andrew Sullivan has a post quoting various reactions to the piece. Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 9:20 am

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Josper?

leave a comment »

Take a look.

On closer inspection, the dial seems to show both Celsius (outer ring of numerals) and Fahrenheit (inner ring). That’s a very nice gesture, given that the US is the only country that uses Fahrenheit. (There are a couple of others, but as markets they are minimal.)

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 9:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Technology

Seepage may signal end of story

leave a comment »

Read this post by John Cole. The payoff is in an email he received. From the post:

I still have no clue why I should be concerned about seepage. Fortunately, someone emailed me in response to a tweet I made asking what the hell is meant by a seep:

…it means that the entire oil reserve’s casing might be collapsing. To give you a visual metaphor: they are currently trying to fix the plumbing in the bathroom, maybe stop the shower from leaking. What might be happening now amounts to the huge water main under the house breaking and causing the entire house to sink, bathroom and all.

The problem is that the well is deep underground and under high pressure, so once it springs a leak it just worms its way to the surface through a thousand crevices and makes them bigger and bigger over time. You can’t “plug” them because… well, to use another metaphor, imagine you have a garden hose that’s blocked by a pillow. Once the water works its way through the pillow and soaks through, you have water leaking from every fiber of the thing, and putting a little rubber patch on any given part of the pillow is really just pointless. This is why the government was worried about capping the well: it amounted to blocking the only escape route for the pressure, thereby forcing out of other little holes in the compromised reservoir, which as I said become bigger and bigger with time.

If the reservoir casing is compromised, we’re fucked, end of story.

Now granted, CNN, the NY Times, and the WaPo can’t drop f-bombs, but which of those actually informed you why the seep was a concern? Why doesn’t every MSM story about the “seepage” include a simple description like that to inform people? Instead, we are told what the government and BP are “doing,” but no one understands what they are doing or why.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 8:59 am

The story of Wikileaks

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 8:57 am

The decline of the US

with 3 comments

It seems to be well underway. I was reading about the fight between Steve Jobs and AT&T—AT&T has not invested in keeping their network upgraded, and now the iPhone 4 has features that AT&T cannot support (though iPhone 4 uses in Europe, Japan, Korea, and other countries can readily use the features). AT&T, in the mindset typical of American corporations, attempted to get Jobs to remove the features from the iPhone and not talk about them, but Jobs rightly refused to cripple the customer experience simply so AT&T’s neglect of its networks would not be evident.

Of course US “broadband” speeds in general are a joke when compared to those of advanced nations. Our healthcare system is struggling to improve, but we still spend much more per capita than other nations for worse outcomes. And, of course, the plan has no public option.

Our politicians (who work at jobs that do not require heavy lifting or outdoor work in inclement weather or empathy or compassion or intelligence or knowledge—well, these last are desirable, but most politicians seem to lack them) are working hard to ensure that the Social Security system is dismantled to the extent possible, including requiring people to work until their 70’s to qualify (and good luck to the 65-year-olds who will be looking for work).

Steve Benen posts on how states are reverting from paved roads to gravel roads because people no longer want to pay taxes (though they do want the paved roads, perhaps thinking that the paved-road fairy will build them overnight if you leave out a saucer of milk). [UPDATE: The WSJ on the unpaving of roads. – LG]

The jobs situation is likely to remain bad for another decade or so because the GOP (and Blue-Dog Democrats like Ben Nelson) will block any additional stimulus. That means millions out of work, a depressed economy, and more falling behind, even as the country’s wealth goes to buy billions upon billions of dollars of military equipment that the Pentagon does not want and that Robert Gates has asked be eliminated. Better, Congress thinks, to piss the money away on military equipment than make the country better.

We get more and more bogged down in foreign wars and pay handsomely to maintain military bases all over the world—indeed, the US spends as much on its military as all others countries combined spend on theirs. That’s tax money unavailable to help the people of this country.

As Steven Benen notes:

The chart [click to enlarge – LG] was put together by the Brookings Institute, and highlights how long it will take our economy to return to the unemployment levels that existed before the Great Recession began. If the economy added an average of 208,000 jobs per month — a rate we’re still not close to reaching — it would take 136 months to get back to where we were. That translates to more than 11 years.

That’s not a typo. Moderate monthly job growth would get us back to a pre-recession job market in 2021.That’s how deep a hole we fell into. Obviously, more robust economic growth would get us back to pre-recession levels much faster, but by any scenario, we’re still years away.

From where I sit, it looks like decline, without even factoring in the damage that climate change will do. You think people are unhappy now because there are not enough jobs? Wait until you see what they’re like when there’s not enough food.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 8:45 am

Coates and iKon

with one comment

The Coates Lime is an excellent shaving cream, with the lime fragrance quite muted (which is fine with me). I got a great lather with the Edwin Jagger synthetic-bristle brush, and the iKon with its Swedish Gillette blade (previously used) once again provided a totally comfortable shave. This razor (along with the Apollo Mikron, the Pils, the Fat Boy, the Feather stainless, the slant bar, the English Gillette open comb #22, and others) is now a favorite. Very smooth shave, and then a splash of Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes—not a muted fragrance—to finish.

Written by Leisureguy

19 July 2010 at 8:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

%d bloggers like this: