Later On

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

Archive for August 23rd, 2010

Wow! The Bush Administration could certainly pick ’em, Blackwater edition

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Warren Strobel for McClatchy:

The company formerly known as Blackwater violated U.S. export control laws nearly 300 times, ranging from attempts to do business in Sudan while that country was under U.S. sanctions to training an Afghan border patrol official who was a native of Iran, the State Department said Monday.

The alleged violations were spelled out in documents released Monday by the State Department as part of a $42 million settlement with Blackwater that will allow the company, now known as Xe Services LLC, to continue receiving U.S. government contracts.

The agreement appears to spell the end of a three-and-a-half-year, multi-agency federal probe into Xe Services’ unauthorized exports of defense technologies and services. While elements of the case were presented to a federal grand jury, the company and its currently serving officers have avoided criminal prosecution.

The State Department said Monday that Xe Services’ alleged violations, while widespread, "did not involve sensitive technologies or cause a known harm to national security." Additionally, it said, they took place while Xe "was providing services in support of U.S. government programs and military operations abroad."

Under the agreement with the U.S. government, the Moyock, N.C., company was levied a $42 million fine, but Xe is allowed to use $12 million of that to strengthen the company’s export control compliance programs. Xe won’t be barred from further U.S. government contracts, and a government policy of denying most of the firm’s export control applications, in place since December 2008, will be lifted.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater founder Erik Prince, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment. Prince recently moved to the United Arab Emirates, and has put Xe Services up for sale…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 5:39 pm

Decline of the US

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Steve Benen:

There’s been a fair amount of attention lately on the kind of budget cuts states and municipalities have been forced to make during lean times. Hawaii is going to a four-day school week; an Atlanta suburb has shut down its public bus system; and parts of Colorado Springs are going without streetlights to save money on electricity.

Paul Krugman added in a recent column, "[A] country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel."

But Alyssa Battistoni flagged a report I’d overlooked last week:

It has come to this: Parents are now being asked to send their children to school with their own toilet paper. And not just toilet paper, but all sorts of basic items that schools themselves used to provide for kids. It’s all part of a disturbing trend, highlighted by the New York Times last week, of cash-strapped public schools — their budgets eviscerated by state cutbacks — shifting more and more financial responsibility onto parents.

This isn’t an exaggerated anecdote. The NYT report noted that schools that used to simply require students to bring in glue, scissors, and crayons, are now demanding that families provide everything from paper towels to garbage bags to liquid soap.

Pre-kindergartners in the Joshua school district in Texas have to track down Dixie cups and paper plates, while students at New Central Elementary in Havana, Ill., and Mesa Middle School in Castle Rock, Colo., must come to class with a pack of printer paper. Wet Swiffer refills and plastic cutlery are among the requests from St. Joseph School in Seattle. And at Pauoa Elementary School in Honolulu, every student must show up with a four-pack of toilet paper.

As Natasha Chart put it, "Because nothing says ‘superpower’ like when your public schools can’t afford toilet paper."

It’s probably worth noting that raising taxes on the wealthy, just a little, back to the levels seen in the 1990s when the economy was booming, could help make much of this far less necessary. We live in the wealthiest country in the planet, but as officials fight to cut spending and reduce taxes on the wealthy, we’re left with often-ridiculous cuts and children who have to bring toilet paper to school.

Battistoni concluded, "The best-case scenario is that the impact of these cuts will help people understand just what their tax dollars are paying for and spur greater consciousness about the relationship between public spending and public goods. Now that shortages of teachers and books are spreading to suburbia, we’ll decide that shortfalls in education funding are unacceptable after all. The worst-case scenario, though, is that reduced public spending on essential goods and services will continue to hollow out our infrastructure and reduce our capacity to meet the needs of most Americans."

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

National medical malpractice statistics

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Interesting:

1. Fewer than one-half of 1% of the nation’s doctors face any serious state sanctions each year. 2,696 total serious disciplinary actions a year, the number state medical boards took in 1999, is a pittance compared to the volume of injury and death of patients caused by negligence of doctors. A recent study by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences estimated that as many as 98,000 patients may be killed each year in hospitals alone as a result of medical errors.Earlier studies also found that this was a serious national problem.

2. Harvard researchers found that 1% of a representative sample of patients treated in New York state hospitals in 1984 were injured, and one-quarter of those died, because of medical negligence.Nationwide, that would have translated into 234,000 injuries and 80,000 deaths in 1988 from negligence in American hospitals. Most of this involves physicians. There is no clear evidence that there has been significant improvement since then.

3. A similar study conducted in California in 1974 found that 0.8% of hospital patients had either been injured by negligence in the hospital or had been hospitalized because of negligent care. Extrapolation of those findings would have yielded an estimate of 249,000 injuries and deaths from negligent medical practice in 1988.

4. In 1976 the HEW Malpractice Commission estimated similarly that one-half of 1% of all patients entering hospitals are injured there due to negligence. That estimate would have indicated 156,000 injuries and deaths resulting from doctor negligence in 1988.

5. Expanding these estimates to include general medical practice outside of a hospital, the potential abuse by physicians is even greater. An in-depth interview with 53 family physicians revealed that 47% of the doctors recalled a case in which the patient died due to physician error. Only four of the total reported errors led to malpractice suits, and none of these errors resulted in an action by a peer review organization.

6. Medical students at SUNY-Buffalo were asked to recall incidents during their clinical training that raised ethical concerns. More than 200 students responded (40% of total sample); the majority of instances they reported (60%) did not in the researchers’ opinions threaten the patient’s life, health or welfare. This, however, implies that potentially 40% did.

7. It is not unreasonable to estimate that at least 1 percent of doctors in this country deserve some serious disciplinary action each year. This would amount to 7,703 physicians being disciplined each year, a number that, unfortunately far exceeds the actual number of physicians disciplined.

8. Sexual abuse of or sexual misconduct with a patient is also a serious issue. Six to ten percent of psychiatrists surveyed confessed to having engaged in sexual contact with a patient and in a longitudinal study.

9. Two studies surveyed residents to determine the incidence of substance use. Recent alcohol use was extremely high in both groups (87% within the last year for emergency medicine residents; 74% within the past 30 days for surgery residents).Additional findings proved extremely disturbing; although the emergency medicine program directors accurately determined the incidence of alcohol use amongst residents, they dramatically underestimated the percent who were actually impaired by the substance as indicated by diagnostic tests (1% estimate impaired vs. 13% diagnosed.)

10. This does not bode well for creating a medical system that prevents mishaps before they occur. And although the surgery residents reported negligible recent cocaine use, when employed, the drug was typically obtained from the hospital supply, indicating a greater ease of access than for the general population.

11. residents excessive work hours Their longest period without sleep during their first year of residency was an average of 37.6 hours (standard deviation (SD) 9.9).

· During a typical work week, they worked an average of 56.9 total hours (SD 30.19) in on-call shifts (as distinguished from the total average number of hours they worked per week). An on-call shift is a continuous shift at the hospital allowing for little to no sleep; two on-call shifts are typically scheduled per week.

· 25% reported being on-call in the hospital a total of over 80 hours per week. Surgeons reported the highest average hours of on-call time per week (72.5).

· On a scale of 0 (never) to 4 (almost daily), residents most frequently gave a response of 3 for the amount of sleep deprivation experienced during the first year. Over 10% of residents indicated sleep deprivation was an “almost daily” occurrence.

12. Just 5.1 percent of doctors account for 54.2 percent of the malpractice payouts, according to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank. Of the 35,000 doctors who have had two or more malpractice payouts since 1990, only 7.6 percent of them have been disciplined. And only 13 percent of doctors with five medical malpractice payouts have been disciplined.

13. Between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in hospitals annually each year due to preventable medical errors, the Institute of Medicine found. A survey of doctors and other adults released in December in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more than a third of the doctors said they or their family members had experienced medical errors, most leading to serious health consequences. The cost to society in terms of disability and health care costs, lost income, lost household production and the personal costs of care are estimated to be between $17 billion and $29 billion. In contrast, the medical liability system costs $6.7 billion annually, about what is spent on dog food each year.

14. There is no growth in the number of new medical malpractice claims. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the number of new medical malpractice claims declined by about four percent between 1995 and 2000. There were 90,212 claims filed in 1995; 84,741 in 1996; 85,613 in 1997; 86,211 in 1998; 89,311 in 1999; and 86,480 in 2000.

While medical costs have increased by 113 percent since 1987, the amount spent on medical malpractice insurance has increased by just 52 percent over that time.

Insurance companies are raising rates because of poor returns on their investments, not because of increased litigation or jury awards, according to J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America. Recent premiums were artificially low.
Malpractice insurance costs amount to only 3.2 percent of the average physician’s revenues.
Few medical errors ever result in legal claims. Only one malpractice claim is made for every 7.6 hospital injuries, according to a Harvard study. Further, plaintiffs drop 10 times more claims than they pursue, according to Physician Insurer Association of America data.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Medical

Snack adjustment

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The snacks (an apple, for example) were dropped from my diet when I was still going for weight loss via calorie reduction alone. Now that I’m exercising, I can tell that the mid-morning snack (at least) should return. So tomorrow back to a midmorning apple.

The afternoon snack I’ll wait and see.

Tonight a celebratory lamb chop (just the one).

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 11:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food

Duke Ellington: C-Jam Blues

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Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

Greenwald on the community center

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Greenwald:

Opponents of the Park51 Islamic community center held a rally yesterday in Lower Manhattan, and a 4-minute video, posted below, reveals the true sentiments behind this campaign.  It has little to do with The Hallowed Ground of the World Trade Center — that’s just the pretext — and everything to do with animosity toward Muslims.  I dislike the tactic of singling out one or two objectionable people or signs at a march or rally in order to disparage the event itself.  That’s not what this video is.  Rather, it shows the collective sentiment of those gathered, as well as what’s driving the broader national backlash against mosques and Muslims far beyond Ground Zero.

The episode in the video begins when, as John Cole put it, "some black guy made the mistake of looking Muslimish and was harassed and nearly assaulted by the collection of lily white mouth-breathers at the event . . . At about 25 seconds in, he quite astutely points out to the crowd that ‘All y’all dumb motherfuckers don’t even know my opinion on shit’."  As this African-American citizen (whom the videographer claims is a union carpenter who works at Ground Zero) is instructed to leave by what appears to be some sort of security or law enforcement official, the crowd proceeds to yell:  "he musta voted for Obama," "Mohammed’s a pig," and other assorted charming anti-mosque slogans.  I really encourage everyone to watch this to see the toxicity this campaign has unleashed:

The New York Times article on this rally describes similar incidents, including how a student who carried a sign that simply read "Religious tolerance is what makes America great" was threatened and told that "that if the police were not present, [he] would be in danger."  Does anyone believe that their real agenda is simply to have Park51 move a few blocks away to less Sacred ground, or that they’re amenable to some sort of Howard-Dean-envisioned compromise that accommodates everyone?

All of this underscores a point I’ve wanted to make for awhile.  There’s been a tendency, which I find increasingly irritating, to dismiss this whole Park51 debate as some sort of petty, inconsequential August "distraction" from what Really Matters.  Here’s Chuck Todd mocking the debate as a "shiny metal object alert" and lamenting "the waste of time" he believes it to be, while Katrina vanden Heuvel, in The Washington Post last week, condemned "pundits and politicians [who] are working themselves into hysteria over a mosque near Ground Zero" on the ground that it won’t determine the outcome of the midterm elections.  This impulse is understandable.  If you chose to narrowly define the topic of the controversy as nothing more than the Manhattan address of Park 51, then obviously it pales in importance to the unemployment crisis, our ongoing wars, and countless other political issues.

But that’s an artificially narrow and misguided way of understanding what this dispute is about.  The intense animosity toward Muslims driving this campaign extends far beyond Ground Zero, and manifests in all sorts of significant and dangerous ways.  In June, The New York Times reported on a vicious opposition campaign against a proposed mosque in Staten Island.  Earlier this month, Associated Press documented that "Muslims trying to build houses of worship in the nation’s heartland, far from the heated fight in New York over plans for a mosque near ground zero, are running into opponents even more hostile and aggressive."  And today, The Washington Post examines anti-mosque campaigns from communities around the nation and concludes that "the intense feelings driving that debate have surfaced in communities from California to Florida in recent months, raising questions about whether public attitudes toward Muslims have shifted."

To belittle this issue as though it’s the equivalent of the media’s August fixation on shark attacks or Chandra Levy — or, worse, to want to ignore it because it’s harmful to the Democrats’ chances in November — is profoundly irresponsible.  The Park51 conflict is driven by, and reflective of, a pervasive animosity toward a religious minority — one that has serious implications for how we conduct ourselves both domestically and internationally.  Yesterday, ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour decided to let Americans hear about this dispute from actual Muslims behind the project (compare that, as Jay Rosen suggested, to David Gregory’s trite and typically homogeneous guest list of Rick Lazio and Jeffrey Goldberg and you see why there’s so much upset caused by Amanpour).  One of those project organizers, Daisy Kahn, said this during her ABC interview:

This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism.  That’s what we feel right now. It’s not even Islamophobia; it’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims, and we are deeply concerned.

Can anyone watch the video of that disgusting hate rally and dispute that?  That’s exactly why I’ve found this conflict so significant.  If Park51 ends up moving or if opponents otherwise succeed in defeating it, it will seriously bolster and validate the ugly premises at the heart of this campaign:  that Muslims generally are responsible for 9/11, Terrorism justifies and even compels our restricting the equals rights and access of Americans Muslims, and more broadly, the animosity and suspicions towards Muslims generally are justified, or at least deserving of respect.  As Aziz Poonawalla put it:  "if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective."

That’s exactly the message that will be sent, and that’s what makes this conflict so significant…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 10:56 am

New vendor for shaving supplies

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Check out Queen Charlotte Soaps, LLC. The vendor wrote in an email: "It is actually more of a shaving cream than a soap. I think the best comparison would be Santa Maria Novella." I’ve ordered a couple of bowls and will be trying it out. Anyone here had experience with it?

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 10:48 am

Posted in Shaving

Ron Paul on the NY community center

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Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress:

In strongly-worded statement released today, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a tea party favorite and perennial GOP presidential candidate, strongly condemned his “fellow conservatives” for opposing the proposed Park 51 Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The outcry over the mosque “implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” Paul said, explaining that the rights of minorities must be protected, even when it’s unpopular. Ultimately, Paul argues that the opposition to the mosque “is all about hate and Islamaphobia,” stoked by “neo-conservatives” who “never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars:”

Many fellow conservatives say they understand the property rights and 1st Amendment issues and don’t want a legal ban on building the mosque. They just want everybody to be “sensitive” and force, through public pressure, cancellation of the mosque construction.

This sentiment seems to confirm that Islam itself is to be made the issue, and radical religious Islamic views were the only reasons for 9/11. If it became known that 9/11 resulted in part from a desire to retaliate against what many Muslims saw as American aggression and occupation, the need to demonize Islam would be difficult if not impossible. […]

It is repeatedly said that 64% of the people, after listening to the political demagogues, don’t want the mosque to be built. What would we do if 75% of the people insist that no more Catholic churches be built in New York City? The point being is that majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society—protecting liberty. […]

This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.

Paul is the first national Republican leader to break with the party and call out the undercurrents of Islamaphobia in the opposition to the mosque. He is also likely to offend some of his own supporters, as many in the tea party movement have come out in strong opposition to the Park 51 project. (HT: Glenn Greenwald)

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 10:45 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

A major personal weakness: Croutons

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I sort of have to avoid buying these, but I read with fascination the ideas in this post.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:57 am

More news about the Bad Obama

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The Obama Administration looks very, very bad. Ed Brayton:

Here’s a rather shocking report from the Associated Press revealing that the Obama administration routed FOIA requests sent to particular agencies through political advisers in the White House:

For at least a year, the Homeland Security Department detoured hundreds of requests for federal records to senior political advisers for highly unusual scrutiny, probing for information about the requesters and delaying disclosures deemed too politically sensitive, according to nearly 1,000 pages of internal e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.

The department abandoned the practice after AP investigated. Inspectors from the department’s Office of Inspector General quietly conducted interviews with employees last week to determine whether political advisers acted improperly.

Let’s be very clear about this: The mere act of forwarding a FOIA request from the agency to political advisers at the White House should be a crime. FOIA requests are supposed to be entirely non-political. Every agency has a FOIA officer to handle requests and those decisions are to be made solely in compliance with the law.

These special reviews at times delayed the release of information to Congress, watchdog groups and the news media for weeks beyond the usual wait, even though the directive specified the reviews should take no more than three days.

This, despite President Barack Obama’s statement that federal workers should "act promptly" under the information law and Attorney General Eric Holder’s assertion: "Unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles have no place in the new era of open government."

The foot-dragging reached a point that officials worried the department would get sued, one e-mail shows.

"We need to make sure that we flip these ASAP so we can eliminate any lag in getting the responses to the requesters," the agency’s director of disclosure, Catherine Papoi, wrote to two of Secretary Janet Napolitano’s staffers. "Under the statute, the requester now has the right to allege constructive denial and take us to court. Please advise soonest."

Under the directive, career employees were ordered to provide Napolitano’s political staff with information about people who asked for records, such as where they lived and whether they were reporters, and details about their organizations.

If a member of Congress sought such documents, employees were told to specify Democrat or Republican.

And here’s the really disturbing part: The administration was most concerned about the views and motivations of those making the FOIA requests:

E-mails obtained by AP do not show political appointees stopping records from coming out. Instead they point to acute political sensitivities that slowed the process, a probing curiosity about the people and organizations making the requests for records and considerable confusion.

The directive laid out an expansive view of what required political vetting.

Anything that related to an Obama policy priority was pegged for this review. So was anything that touched on a "controversial or sensitive subject," that could attract media attention or that dealt with meetings involving business and elected leaders.

Anything requested by lawmakers, journalists, activist groups or watchdog organizations had to go to the political appointees…

In January, Papoi sent an e-mail revealing the frustration the rule was causing between political advisers and career employees in the office that enforces the FOIA.

"These people are going to be the death of me," Papoi wrote to Sandra Hawkins, that office’s administration director. "I know, I know," Hawkins wrote.

Political staffers felt the tension. "They really hate us," Jordan Grossman, special assistant to the chief of staff, wrote to his boss, another political appointee.

Most transparent administration in history? Doesn’t sound like it.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:55 am

Interesting point on the damage parents can do to their children

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Keith Humphreys posts at The Reality-Based Community:

Like many other people in the addiction field, I have been receiving media calls about Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. I had to look up who Lindsay Lohan is (This is probably as good a moment as any to admit that I am neither young nor the owner of a television), and found I could at least say something positive, namely that she was sent by a judge to a real psychiatric care program and not a rehab resort.

It’s much harder to say anything insightful about Charlie Sheen that hasn’t already been said by people appropriately fulminating that he has again become intoxicated, been violent toward a woman, and gotten away with it. In the photos from outside the courtroom Sheen looks like he thinks he just won an award.

The only bit of potential illumination regarding Charlie Sheen I could offer is the suggestion to read Chris Lawford’s book Moments of Clarity. In it, Charlie’s father Martin gives one of the most painfully honest and vivid accounts of what drunken, domineering, violent and egotistical fathers do to their sons. Charlie’s responsibility for his life now has got to be his own, and Hollywood culture plays a big role in enabling his rotten behavior, but Martin Sheen’s guilt that his parenting helped make Charlie what he is also has a rational basis

I credit Martin Sheen for coming clean in the book and for pulling his own life together. We give addicted people a million reasons why they should take steps to change their behavior and lives, but the Sheen family saga gives another one: Seek help now so that you don’t open up a newspaper one day and find out that you’ve raised a son who acts like Charlie Sheen.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:36 am

Posted in Daily life

GOP demonstrates its loyalty to the wealthiest few

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From Paul Krugman’s good column in the NY Times this morning:

. . . According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he’s going to get the majority of that group’s tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few — the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year — would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.

How can this kind of giveaway be justified at a time when politicians claim to care about budget deficits? Well, history is repeating itself. The original campaign for the Bush tax cuts relied on deception and dishonesty. In fact, my first suspicions that we were being misled into invading Iraq were based on the resemblance between the campaign for war and the campaign for tax cuts the previous year. And sure enough, that same trademark deception and dishonesty is being deployed on behalf of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

So, for example, we’re told that it’s all about helping small business; but only a tiny fraction of small-business owners would receive any tax break at all. And how many small-business owners do you know making several million a year?

Or we’re told that it’s about helping the economy recover. But it’s hard to think of a less cost-effective way to help the economy than giving money to people who already have plenty, and aren’t likely to spend a windfall.

No, this has nothing to do with sound economic policy. Instead, as I said, it’s about a dysfunctional and corrupt political culture, in which Congress won’t take action to revive the economy, pleads poverty when it comes to protecting the jobs of schoolteachers and firefighters, but declares cost no object when it comes to sparing the already wealthy even the slightest financial inconvenience…

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:25 am

Resistance to knowledge

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A story is told of a USDA county extension agent offering a farmer advice on his farming methods, and the farmer replying, "Hell, I don’t farm near as good as I know how to now." The refusal to consider improvement over the status quo always surprises me, but then I am a progressive and inclined toward changes and improvements. Emily Sohn reports in the LA Times:

As summer winds down, another new school year brings fresh notebooks, sharp pencils and — for many kids — a new cycle of sleep deprivation.

With classes that start as early as 7 a.m. and buses that pull up long before sunrise, some 80% of American kids in grades 6 through 12 are falling short of sleep recommendations during the school year, according to research by the National Sleep Foundation, a sleep advocacy group.

Overtired kids, studies suggest, struggle with depression. They gain weight and get in more car accidents. Their grades suffer. And many turn to caffeine, with questionable results for productivity and unknown effects on the development of young brains.

Now, fueled by accumulating research showing that adolescent bodies are designed to sleep late and that delaying school start times — even by just 30 minutes — makes a huge difference in how well teens feel and perform, an increasing number of schools around the country are ringing morning bells later than they used to. Many more are thinking about it.

At the same time, however, there are strong pockets of resistance to change from administrators and parents who think that bus schedules will get too complicated, that starting later will interfere with after-school programs or that kids simply will stay up later if they know they can sleep in a little more.

Despite the inconveniences involved in district-wide changes, sleep researchers emphasize the need to view sleep, like food and exercise, as a pillar of health…

Continue reading. The main factor, I think, is that most people don’t care that much about the benefits to the kids—they just don’t want to experience even the tiniest amount of inconvenience themselves, and to hell with the kids.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

The American Muslim success story

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Radley Balko at Reason:

One thing that seems to be overlooked in this Manhattan mosque/activity center scuffle and the broader debate over integration and assimilation is just how well Muslim immigrants have done in the U.S. We don’t have the Muslim ghettos, separatist movements, rioting, and the tense cultural clashes Europe has. There have been some arrests of alleged home-grown Islamic terrorists in America, but there are going to be extremist outliers in any ethnic, religious, or ideological group of 3 million people (the estimated number number of Muslims in the U.S.).

In contrast to many of the minority Muslim populations in Europe, American Muslims embrace modernity, are better educated, and earn more money than their non-Muslim fellow citizens. A 2007 Pew poll suggests American Muslims are also doing just fine when it comes to assimilating and viewing themselves as part of America. According to the poll, just 5 percent of American Muslims express any level of support for Al Qaeda, and strong majorities condemn suicide attacks for any reason (80+ percent), and have a generally positive image of America and its promise for Muslims.

According to the poll, the only subset of American Muslims where support for Al Qaeda and suicide attacks gets uncomfortably high is among native-born African-American converts, many of whom converted in prison. To the extent that this particular subset of American Muslims is more prone to radicalism and less optimistic about America, it has nothing to do with immigration/assimilation problems, and seems more likely to stem from lingering hostility about race. That is, it’s an American problem, not a Muslim problem.

I’m not an immigration expert, so I’m not going to pretend I know everything that factored into it, but it’s worth repeating that the story of Muslim immigrants in America over the last two generations is unquestionably a success story. There’s the temptation to caution that all of the demagoguery and marginalization of Muslims over the Cordoba Center threatens that success, and could shake loose more potent factions of European-style Muslim radicalism in America. But the Pew poll suggests the overwhelming majority of American Muslims held to their sense of place in U.S. society even after September 11 and its immediate aftermath. It’s worth condemning the "Ground Zero Mosque" demagoguery for the naked pandering to fear that it is. But the good news is that Muslim Americans appear to be confident enough with their position here that the escalating hysterics of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, & Co. aren’t likely to budge their general optimism about America.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Being sensitive to the feelings of others

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A surprising number of Americans—principally from the Right—have taken the position that a community center should not be built one block from a couple of strip clubs (New York Dolls and the Pussycat Lounge), which happen to be located on hallowed ground. (The strip clubs, like an off-track betting parlor, are on “hallowed ground” and don’t seem to be a problem.) A block farther away from Ground Zero, at the site of a defunct Burlington Coat Factory store, there’s a plan to build a community center that will be open to all and include, among other things, a prayer room for Muslims, like the one now active in the Pentagon, another target on 9/11.

Those objecting to the community center (which they place two blocks away, directly at Ground Zero, and call a “mosque” because that is scarier than “community center”) say that they recognize that the owner of the building has the right to build a community center there, especially if it includes a prayer room (thanks to Constitutional guarantees and a general feeling that a person can do what they want on their own property), but that exercising that right might hurt the feelings of the victims of 9/11 (except, presumably, the innocent Muslims who were at work in the World Trade Center that day and were also killed).

Strangely, polls done in Manhattan show that people who actually live there have no problem with the community center, but those objecting are so concerned that feelings might be hurt that they ignore the poll and continue to butt into something that really, truly is none of their business: they don’t even live in the neighborhood.

First: having a right means that you can exercise that right. If you cannot exercise the right, what earthly good is it? It becomes like all the human rights that were included in the Soviet constitution: nice to read, but you couldn’t really use any of the rights. If the guy who owns the building has the right to build the community center, then game over. He can build it.

Second: all these people so concerned about the feelings of others: I wonder what they thought about the “draw-a-cartoon-of-Mohammed” contest, specifically designed to hurt the feelings of orthodox Muslims. I don’t recall the outrage from the Right, protective of the feelings of others, in that affair.

In fact, I believe what is going on is a clear outbreak of religious bigotry. The fact is that Muslim places of worship are being fought—directly against the guarantees of the Constitution and the American spirit of tolerance and religious freedom—all over the country. Some completely despicable politicians try to finesse the issue with all the subtlety of a four-year-old by saying Islam is not a religion. That single statement reveals the rotten core of the movement.

If that’s not convincing, take a look at this post by Matt Duss at ThinkProgress and tell me that what you observe is not religious bigotry:

At an anti-Islam rally yesterday at Ground Zero, a person of color wearing a skull cap and wandering through the crowd was targeted with insults and nearly attacked by protesters for the offense of looking vaguely Muslim. The videographer summarized the episode this way:

A man walks through the crowd at the Ground Zero protest and is mistaken as a Muslim. The crowd turns on him and confronts him. The man in the blue hard hat calls him a coward and tries to fight him. The tall man who I think was one of the organizers tried to get between the two men. Later I caught up with the man who’s name is Kenny. He is a Union carpenter who works at Ground Zero. We discussed what a scary moment that was for him.

Glenn Greenwald observes that the video “shows some extremely ugly stuff that’s been unleashed.” Watch it:

Interesting way to “honor” Ground Zero, no?

John Cole points out:

At about 25 seconds in, he quite astutely points out to the crowd that “All y’all dumb motherfuckers don’t even know my opinion on shit.”

They also fail to understand the principles of the US Constitution and the concept of religious tolerance and seem to have a lot of free time on their hands to get so deeply involved in something that’s absolutely none of their business.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman on Karen Hughes’s contribution to the controversy.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Loyalty, its objects and its subjects

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Loyalty, broadly defined, is tenacious support of the object of the loyalty, as in the Sen. Carl Schurz’s remark in the Senate on February 29 1872: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

Notice that the true loyalty in that phrase is loyalty to the right: if the country is in the wrong, Sen. Schurz would not support its actions, but rather work to set it right. This is similar to the loyalty of the two partners in a good marriage: each is aware of the other’s faults and recognizes errors when made by the other, and each tries to help the other set things right and do better.

But in business, politics, the military, and other venues, "loyalty" is often given another meaning by the powerful—and here I readily find many examples: Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the Kennedy family, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, certain of the directors of Columbia Pictures International (from the book Indecent Exposure: A true story of Hollywood and Wall Street, which I just finished), and so on. This meaning of loyalty is often explicitly requested—"I want a staff that is loyal to me"—and is often a matter of supporting a person especially when they are wrong.  They generally see loyalty as personal loyalty: you support the leader through thick and thin, and she or he will support you.

Of course, in the event (as countless thousands have discovered) loyalty is not really a two-way street: the powerful person has more to lose, and thus is less loyal to the underling than the underling is required to be to the person. Quite a few, for example, have been dumped by politicians seeking survival, regardless of how loyal they’ve been.

Indeed, anyone who demands your loyalty is suspect. Loyalty is properly directed to principles, and only for so long as it can be shown to support the appropriate goals. Being loyal to a person means, in my mind, telling them frankly when you see them as being in the wrong, and offering strategies to set things right. Being told you’re wrong is unpleasant—particularly if you are wrong—and powerful people don’t like to sit still for that. So they usually will say that the person offering the critique is being disloyal and move them out of the inner circle of "truly" loyal supporters. (That is how the powerful drift further and further away from consensual morality, and in particular from the consensual code of ethics.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 8:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Valobra

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The Lucretia Borgia synthetic bristle brush worked up a superb lather from the soap deposited on my beard by the Valobra shave stick. The 1940’s Aristocrat, with a Swedish Gillette blade, did a very smooth shave, with a splash of Arlington a fine finish.

Written by Leisureguy

23 August 2010 at 7:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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