Later On

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

Archive for August 5th, 2010

Extreme weirdness on Wall Street

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This post is worth the click—and worth reading, too.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 4:34 pm

Why on earth are they called "Democrats"?

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Charlie Eisenhood at ThinkProgress:

Last month, as the Senate was gridlocked by a Republican filibuster of a bill to extend much-needed unemployment benefits to millions of out-of-work Americans, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) stood with the GOP against the extension. Nelson claimed that his concerns about the deficit overrode his support for the extension; he voted against the bill that finally passed 60-40.

Later that week, Nelson came out in support of an extension — “for now” — of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which adds many billions more to the deficit than the unemployment insurance extension. In fact, extending the Bush tax cuts for one year alone would add $115 billion to the deficit, compared to the “relatively tiny budgetary cost of $33 billion” for the extension of UI benefits.

Today, though, Ben Nelson provided further evidence that he is a deficit peacock — someone who claims to be concerned about the deficit but isn’t actually interested in taking serious steps toward a balanced budget. Before the final vote on the states’ aid bill that passed today, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered two amendments that would, in effect, permanently extend the Bush tax cuts. David Dayen has the results:

Before passing the state fiscal aid bill, Democrats actually gave Jim DeMint two votes on tax rates. He wanted to add massively to the deficit – literally trillions of dollars – by freezing in place the tax rates on individuals and “small businesses” that we have now, and which make us one of the most lightly-taxed industrialized nations on the planet. And look at this: Democrats rejected the measure entirely. On both votes, only Ben Nelson [and Sen. Blanche Lincoln (AR)] crossed the aisle to vote with all Republicans [except deficit hawk George Voinovich (OH)]

Nelson and Lincoln (who also claims to be concerned about deficits) apparently don’t mind spending $3.1 trillion over the next ten years to pursue ineffective tax cuts for the wealthy. Perhaps they should have listened to their colleague, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), who said of DeMint’s proposal, “that’s not serious. Is that a stunt? Yes, it’s a stunt. Is it a gimmick? Yes, it’s a gimmick. Is it serious? No, it’s not serious.”

DeMint is particularly “not serious” when it comes to paying for his extraordinarily expensive amendments. Both came “with instructions to offset as necessary through spending reduction,” Senate-speak for “we’ll worry about the cost later.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 3:32 pm

New to me shaving vendor

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And he has a ton of Mühle stuff I haven’t seen elsewhere. Here’s the essence:

The Superior Shave – – 904-482-1175 Eastern Time – Derby, Dovo, Feather, Merkur, Mühle, Omega, Parker, Proraso, Simpson, Thiers-Issard, Valobra, Vulfix.

UPDATE: I just placed an order (using Google checkout, so no problem), but my email to the vendor at the address he provided bounced. I got a message machine at the above number (but it’s after 5:00 out there), and the mobile number doesn’t answer.

UPDATE 2: Everything is copasetic and my new brush is on the way. Jerrod, the proprietor, said that the machining on the Mühle travel brushes is extremely well done, and the aluminum ones are quite light (for travel), while the nickel-plated brass one is more hefty.

I particularly like the design of the Mühle travel brush because it puts a large opening just above the knot, which promotes faster drying of the knot.

The Superior Shave has a lot of good stuff. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Business, Shaving

Cool travel shaving brush

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The brush above I got some years ago, and later gave it to The Son-In-Law. It has no markings on it at all, but the design makes me think that it’s a Mühle travel brush. It looks a lot like this brush, except that the one I have is silvertip:

(Note, BTW, that it looks pretty cool in black—so, naturally, the black is out of stock. But they do have blue.)

It’s a very neat design, and having the large opening over the brush (when it’s packed) would help the brush dry. Here are the three components:

If only Mühle would sell the brush part separately…

Anyone know where this design can be hand with a silvertip brush?

Click on any photo to enlarge.

UPDATE: The more I look at the current Mühle models (scroll down to see some good photos here), the more I believe that my copy is a prototype and not regular production (hence the lack of identifying info).

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Shaving


with 14 comments

As I watch my movies and read my novels, I see quite frequently that revenge serves as the motivation for major actions, including plans stretching many years.

My personal life experience makes me question whether that situation matches reality. In my experience, revenge is seldom a reason for any action, and when it is, it almost always involves (a) doing something that requires little if any effort, and (b) the revenge-seeker is unlikely to be called on it.

There are exceptions, sure, but look at your own life. And also consider the psychodynamics: If revenge is to be a real motivation for complex actions, then the revenge-seeker must dwell upon the need for revenge and, necessarily, the injury for which revenge is sought. But people do not like to dwell on injuries, on the whole: it’s unpleasant, and it’s much nicer to dwell upon happier thoughts.

My own observation is that people normally strive to play down the injury (since otherwise they are portraying themselves as a loser in the situation) and then forget them. Indeed, the popularity of the saying “living well is the best revenge” reflects just this dynamic.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

The guy behind the Shirley Sherrod smear

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Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Shooting dogs

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Andrew Sullivan:

In Maryland, a federal police officer shoots a dog at a public park and gets away with it. Radley Balko reacts:

I’ m certain that if I (or anyone else who isn’t a cop) pulled out a gun and shot a dog at a dog park in a residential area, I’d be facing criminal charges. And rightly so. Even if the dogs were fighting, there’s no justification for shooting one of them, particularly around other dogs and people. It’s reckless, trigger-happy, and dangerous. It’s also safe to say that if this had been anyone other than a cop, the local police department would have no qualms about releasing his name to the press.

This sort of thing happens with startling frequency in Maryland. And elsewhere too. Mercifully, a backlash is underway.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 11:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

A rational conservative!!

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I’m so excited. I have grown dismayed by the blithering idiots who have taken over GOP and the right. But E.D. Kain has been added to the roster at, and here he makes a terrific point:

Today is International Beer Day (the site was down last I checked so here’s the wiki article). My favorite beer is Fat Tire. I like New Belgium both as a company and because they make lots of good brews. I also enjoy all the local breweries here, and going to local breweries when I’m no the road.

If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries as opposed to say Bud Light or Coors, you should say a little thank you to Jimmy Carter. Carter could very well be the hero of International Beer Day.

To make a long story short, prohibition led to the dismantling of many small breweries around the nation. When prohibition was lifted, government tightly regulated the market, and small scale producers were essentially shut out of the beer market altogether. Regulations imposed at the time greatly benefited the large beer makers. In 1979, Carter deregulated the beer industry, opening  back up to craft brewers. As the chart below illustrates, this had a really amazing effect on the beer industry:


That’s the number of large and small-scale breweries in the US. You can see how the large brewers continued to consolidate and grow and absorb more and more market share right up to the point where Carter deregulated the industry.

Obviously not all deregulation is going to work this way, nor are all matters of regulation as relatively unimportant as beer. But this is a good example of how regulation can crowd out small businesses and local economies in favor of big corporations with ties to powerful legislators. If anything, it should be a reminder that regulation in and of itself is pretty meaningless. While requiring offshore drilling rigs to be equipped with some form of safety mechanism to prevent massive oil spills makes a great deal of sense, many regulations are actually written by the special interests who stand to gain most from their implementation, either by gaining special legal perks or by crowding out competition.

Maybe instead of using regulation or deregulation as starting points, we should look at ways to create more transparency in Washington and more oversight of the regulators themselves. I’m not sure how to close the many revolving doors between industry and Washington, D.C. I’m not sure it’s even possible. But when I talk about limiting government, this is partly what I mean – limiting the way that government and special interests (including powerful corporations) work together at the expense of the rest of the country.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 9:56 am

Priorities for the US

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Matthew Yglesias:

Mark Kleiman sums it up well—in order to overcome filibusters in the Senate, Harry Reid’s had to agree to pay for avoiding teacher layoffs by cutting nutrition assistance to poor families while in order to secure passage of the New START arms reduction treaty it’s necessary to agree to tens of billions of dollars in deficit-financed spending on new and unnecessary nuclear weapons.

This kind of mentality, refusing to invest in the future of the country while insisting on massive unproductive defense expenditures has been very costly to the country over the past thirty years and it only seems to be getting worse. The hypocrisy of so-called “deficit hawks” who want to lavish cash on the top two percent and sundry defense contractors rankles, but hypocrisy aside the choice of absolute priorities is just laughably misguided. Meanwhile, the level of state and local government fiscal assistance purchased through those SNAP cuts won’t be enough to prevent massive cutbacks in early childhood education.

Even in strict national security terms, if you think about what’s going to matter in determining the US-China balance of power in 2050 the performance of our education system this decade—a major determinant of our future level of prosperity and technology—will be much more important than whether we stockpiled nuclear weapons in 2010.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:59 am

Another sign of coming times

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Andrew Kramer and Jack Healy report in the NY Times:

Russia announced Thursday that it would ban grain exports through the end of the year, a response to a scorching drought that has destroyed millions of acres of Russian wheat and hobbled the country’s agricultural revival.

The ban on grain exports by Russia, one of the world’s largest wheat producers, helped propel wheat prices in the United States toward their highest levels in nearly two years and raised the prospect that consumers could pay more for products like flour and bread as Russia tries to conserve its supplies of wheat, barley and other grains for its own people.

In announcing the ban, which is in force from Aug. 15 to Dec. 31, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said that Russia had sufficient stockpiles of grain but that blocking exports was an appropriate response to the worst drought in decades.

“We need to prevent a rise in domestic food prices, we need to preserve the number of cattle and build up reserves for the next year,” he said during a televised cabinet meeting, according to The Associated Press. “As the saying goes: reserves don’t make your pocket heavy.”

Russia’s agricultural output, once the victim of chronic shortages during the Soviet era because of unwieldy bureaucracy and failed farm policies, had grown as the country privatized old collective farms and gained force as a food exporter.

But this summer’s persistent drought, accompanied by weeks of record heat, depleted depleting fish stocks in its rivers and filled the air around Moscow with haze and smoke from peat bog fires, has left the rich soils of country’s Black Earth growing region parched…

Continue reading.

In the meantime, the Right continues to deny global warming and to block all attempts to fight it, even when the Right itself is the source of the ideas (cap and trade, for example).

Food shortages will have a heavy impact on governments and order. And all the GOP can talk about is that Al Gore is fat.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:51 am

Incorrect information we all believe

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Jeff Wagg sets us straight:

People are often wrong. Experts are only as good as their knowledge, observations, and ability to interpret what they see. In the three cases above, studies and new thinking have replaced "what everyone knows" with new knowledge – and they’re all false.

While making your bed may seem tidy, it’s been known by scientists for years that making your bed increases the growth of mites. During the night, you sweat and that moisture is absorbed by the bed. In turn this moisture provides a hospitable environment for the mites who breed and multiply as they feed on your dead skin cells. If their concentrations get too high, you may experience itchiness or other symptoms from their excrement. For the best results, don’t make your bed, which helps it dry out during the day.

As for chicken, it’s also been known for years that washing raw chicken increases the likelihood of food poisoning. Why? Because chicken meat and skin are often covered with harmful pathogens. While cooking the chicken kills these pathogens, washing the chicken just spreads them around to the sink, counter, cutting board… and your hands. It’s far better to handle the chicken as little as possible and then wash your hands and anything else that has come into contact with the chicken.

And if you’re choosing to make chicken salad out of that chicken, know that mayonnaise is a preservative, not something that makes the chicken go bad faster. Mayonnaise has a pH of 3.7, which is acidic enough to retard the growth of most bacteria. That doesn’t mean food should be left out – bacteria will grow eventually. Just know that if you get sick, it was likely the chicken’s fault rather than the mayo.

Don’t believe me? See what Google says. And see what we’ve known for years.

Except that we haven’t, have we? I’ll wager that many of you believed some if not all of these pieces of wisdom. The fact that they’re "time-honored" and dare I say "ancient wisdom" has no bearing on the fact that according to the best information we have available today, they’re all false.

Yet many would claim that we not update what we "know" based on new information. Purveyors of "ancient arts" like homeopathy, Ayurveda, bloodletting, the four humors, acupuncture, and phrenology fail to embrace this idea.

Science is not about what we know, but about how we know. And we know that as we gather more information, we’ll have a more accurate view of the way the world works.

And that means… I don’t have to make my bed anymore. Yay science!

For the record: I have always left my bed covers thrown back with the specific purpose of airing the bedding.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:31 am

Posted in Daily life

The psychology of conspiracy theories, with example

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Interesting note at Wired by Jonah Lehrer on the psychology of conspiracy theories:

In case you haven’t noticed, this site is currently being bombarded with a certain strand of conspiracy theorist. I’m still not entirely sure what these people believe in, apart from being absolutely certain that the government is developing brain-eating vaccines, spiking the water with lithium and trying to subdue the population with “reactive” medicine. While it’s always sad to see so much angry ignorance on parade, it’s also a fascinating case study in cognitive dissonance.

The theory of cognitive dissonance – one of most influential theories in social psychology – was pioneered by Leon Festinger, at the University of Minnesota. In the summer of 1954, Festinger was reading the morning newspaper when he encountered a short article about Marion Keech, a housewife in suburban Minneapolis who was convinced that the apocalypse was coming. (Keech was a pseudonym.) She had started getting messages from aliens a few years before, but now the messages were getting eerily specific. According to Sananda, an extra-terrestrial from the planet Clarion who was in regular contact with Keech, human civilization would be destroyed by a massive flood at midnight on December 20, 1954.

Keech’s sci-fi prophecy soon gained a small band of followers. They trusted her divinations, and marked the date of Armageddon on their calendars. Many of them quit their jobs and sold their homes. The cultists didn’t bother buying Christmas presents or making arrangements for New Years Eve, since nothing would exist by then.

Festinger immediately realized that Keech would make a great research subject. He decided to infiltrate the group by pretending to be a true believer. What Festinger wanted to study was the reaction of the cultists on the morning of December 21, when the world wasn’t destroyed and no spaceship appeared. Would Keech recant? What would happen when her prophesy failed?

On the night of December 20, Keech’s followers gathered in her home and waited for instructions from the aliens. Midnight approached. When the clock read 12:01 and there were still no aliens, the cultists began to worry. A few began to cry. The aliens had let them down. But then Keech received a new telegram from outer space, which she quickly transcribed on her notepad. “This little group sitting all night long had spread so much light,” the aliens told her, “that god saved the world from destruction. Not since the beginning of time upon this Earth has there been such a force of Good and light as now floods this room.” In other words, it was their stubborn faith that had prevented the apocalypse. Although Keech’s predictions had been falsified, the group was now more convinced than ever that the aliens were real. They began proselytizing to others, sending out press releases and recruiting new believers. This is how they reacted to the dissonance of being wrong: by becoming even more certain that they were right.

There is, of course, something deeply troubling about cognitive dissonance, since it suggests that we double-down on our beliefs in light of conflicting evidence. While neuroscientists have begun to decipher the anatomy of this mental flaw – you can blame your anterior cingulate cortex – I sometimes worry that the internet is making things worse. Although we’re all vulnerable to cognitive dissonance (and the paranoid style has always been a loud presence in American politics) we seem to squander ever more oxygen on worthless conversations about Obama’s birth certificate or the spurious link between autism and vaccines. After all, thanks to Google we can find “evidence” in support of practically any belief. If you can imagine the conspiracy theory, there is a website out there ardently promoting it, and a clan of fellow believers who share your peculiar obsession with fluoridated drinking water and the New World Order. The end result is that we never have to recant. We can always find another link to “prove” that the government is trying to “zombify” us, or that aliens are going to destroy the earth at midnight.

And an example from Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.):

Shortly before the runoff primary election, Inglis met with about a dozen tea party activists at the modest ranch-style home of one of them. Here’s what took place:

I sat down, and they said on the back of your Social Security card, there’s a number. That number indicates the bank that bought you when you were born based on a projection of your life’s earnings, and you are collateral. We are all collateral for the banks. I have this look like, "What the heck are you talking about?" I’m trying to hide that look and look clueless. I figured clueless was better than argumentative. So they said, "You don’t know this?! You are a member of Congress, and you don’t know this?!" And I said, "Please forgive me. I’m just ignorant of these things." And then of course, it turned into something about the Federal Reserve and the Bilderbergers and all that stuff. And now you have the feeling of anti-Semitism here coming in, mixing in. Wow.

What the numbers really mean, according to Kevin Drum. Here’s what they’re talking about:


Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:26 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Want some photos of yourself naked? Just wait

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Dan Gillmor at

When government officials launch new security technologies, they always promise that the devices and methods will A) not unnecessarily invade people’s privacy;  B) have strong policies in place to prevent abuse; and C) not go beyond their initial mandate. Then they break the promises.

The latest case in point involves the full-body scanners that are being installed in airports and some other federal installations: As CNET reports:

For the last few years, federal agencies have defended body scanning by insisting that all images will be discarded as soon as they’re viewed. The Transportation Security Administration claimed last summer, for instance, that "scanned images cannot be stored or recorded."

Now it turns out that some police agencies are storing the controversial images after all. The U.S. Marshals Service admitted this week that it had surreptitiously saved tens of thousands of images recorded with a millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of a single Florida courthouse.

It’s an example of "mission creep" — the pervasive tendency to expand original goals or tactics beyond supposedly narrow original goals. It’s how laws supposedly aimed solely at crime lords end up being used against average folks. The only surprise in this case is that anyone would be surprised.

The misrepresentations about the body scanners have been a key feature of the machines’ rollout. First we were told that no images could be stored because they’d be automatically deleted. Whoops, not true. In fact, these machines are specifically designed to store the images.

Now the Department of Homeland Security has done what everyone paying attention knew was coming: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:16 am

Three Writing Tips for Building an Outline

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Outlining is a foundational skill for writing. This post outlines three types of outlines:

  1. The Classic
  2. The Scatter Method
  3. The Visual/Kinesthetic Learner Option

This is the method I learned. And don’t forget the free Web outliner

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:13 am

Cake art

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:08 am

Posted in Daily life

Boar brush and VB soap

with 2 comments

I haven’t used my trusty Omega Pro 48 boar-bristle brush recently, so today I gave it a go with the Vintage Blades soap. I did soap the boar brush during my shower, and I got plenty of good lather—not quite the snowy abundance of a fine badger brush, but plenty good, and the long loft of the brush made working up the lather a pleasure.

Three passes with the Feather razor and its original Feather Hi-Stainless blade gave me a nick-free smooth face, and a splash of Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather was a fine finish.

Tomorrow I’ll compare this lather with the lather from the Rooney 2 Finest.

Written by Leisureguy

5 August 2010 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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