Later On

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

Archive for April 15th, 2011

Superb book so far: Red on Red

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Red on Red, the first novel (and second book) by NYC police detective Edward Conlon is extremely well written and absorbing. Highly recommended. (I finally worked my way up the hold list at the library and got my copy—for two weeks.)

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Books

Weird! What’s happening is exactly what was expected to happen

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The UK conservatives tackled their deficit the old-fashioned, no-nonsense way: cut government spending to the bone, and to hell with Keynes.

And, of course, what has happened and is happening is exactly what economists like Krugman have been saying for years and years.

I’m sure the conservatives will be staggered to discover that their pet theories, dismissed by economists, were dismissed because their pet theories are stupid, ugly, and wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life

Libya uses cluster bombs on its own people

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Horrifying. And focused on civilian noncombatants.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Interesting Pilates success story

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Worth reading. Pilates is an amazingly effective process—and, as The Wife observed early on, it’s “sticky,” unlike Feldenkreis. Feldenkreis can give you very interesting awareness of various aspects of your body structure and muscles, but it’s like a tour of a science exhibit: quite fascinating, but not much impact on daily life. With Pilates, in contrast, the work induces persisting changes, so that (for example) one obtains better balance, better posture, etc., even after the sessions.

Obviously, progress is always possible, and in any event it’s a process. I don’t know that you would ever “complete” the work. But so far the continuing improvements have certainly been more than worth the cost and (relatively mild) effort.

If you have access to a good Pilates instructor with a well-equipped studio, I’d encourage you to give it a go for 10 private sessions if you can. That’s 5 weeks at two sessions a week, enough to get an idea of what it can do.

I was told that Joseph Pilates said, “10 sessions to change your mind, 20 sessions to change your body, 30 sessions to change your life.” Our instructor commented that over and over she’s seen people start Pilates and then seem to start renewal in other parts of their life. Of course, people who start Pilates are already exhibiting interest in renewal, but Pilates had the interesting view that getting your body to do these specific things while exercising control (his own name for the discipline was “Contrology”)—that develops your brain in new ways, the brain being intimately involved since it, after all, is what controls the body. Indeed, controlling the body and internal processes while maintaining awareness of sensory input from internal and external sources so that the organism can respond optimally: that’s the brain’s job description and primary duties. This consciousness, rational thinking, language thing is a Johnny-come-lately and just a tiny sideline of what the brain does—save, of course, this new environment allowed the emergence and evolution of memes, whose own universe of struggle and development so affects our own lives (and evolution).

At any rate, Pilates is certainly correct that learning these new movements and how to exercise the muscle control to do them must of necessity lead to development within the brain, and since the mind resides there somehow, those changes will undoubtedly have ramifications for one’s mind. So perhaps the practice of Pilates does indeed open one’s outlook for new learning and development.

Try it and see.

UPDATE: The idea of signing up for Spanish classes came to me a month after I started Pilates. FWIW.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

Good response to interesting article

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I mailed a link to this article to a lawyer friend (and classmate). His reply:

The article has an interesting perspective which, while not without its truths, seems to me to be a little too far over the economic right in its analysis.

Jefferson for one, as I’m sure you know, was a left-wing radical for his day, hoping for an agrarian, small-town republic not dominated by money interests; and Franklin is famous for a quip to a lady inquiring about what the convention had wrought with the reply, “A republic, Madam if you can keep it,”  (Franklin in fact candidly doubted it would be kept.)

Moreover, while the Electoral College and other devices (such as property limitations on voting) were designed to insulate the republic somewhat from “the mob,” the Founders could hardly have failed to understand the democratic implications of the structure they had built and the realpolitik logic it would have to follow.

The addition of the Bill of Rights (a condition for ratification by New York, among other states) certainly strengthened the democratic thread of the constitutional fabric.

Of course, it’s also true that the Hamiltonians beat out the Jeffersonians in the initial economic structure of the new nation, but John Adams was the first, last, and only Federalist President, allowing Jefferson a latitude that eventually led to Andrew Jackson and the much further democratization of the government.

So I think the article—again, while not without its kernels of truth—reflects a bit of wishful thinking and cynicism about the true range of the Founders’ thinking.  Its principles, I’m sure they realized, had an inexorable logic of their own, despite the threads of financial self-interest of the well-propertied the document was partly designed to protect.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Government, Politics

Could be worse: An example: Italy

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Although the US has fallen on hard times, it is still leagues ahead of poor Italy, as described in this note by in the New Yorker:

Anniversaries are uplifting when you have something to celebrate. A couple on the edge of divorce do not rejoice that their wedding anniversary is around the corner. Something of the same uneasiness surrounded the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the Italian state, on March 17th. As late as February, the government couldn’t decide whether the day should be declared a national holiday. The Northern League, a major party in the ruling coalition, complained about the loss of working hours; many of the League’s members have a separatist agenda and want to avoid a surge in national pride. The governor of South Tyrol, a German-speaking province ceded to Italy after the First World War, said that it was unreasonable to expect his people to celebrate their subjugation to an alien culture.

Nor does the rest of Italy see much reason to celebrate. The economy lags behind the French and German economies. Unemployment is at 8.6 per cent and youth unemployment at nearly thirty per cent. Wages are low, growth negligible. Meanwhile, Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is on trial for allegedly bribing a lawyer and has recently been charged with paying a minor for sex and then trying to obstruct police inquiries. Far from resigning, he has promised to use the trial to denounce a conspiracy against him by “Communist” magistrates and has introduced a bill to curb their powers. A constitutional crisis is brewing at a time when the government’s energies are required elsewhere.

Deeper than this, there has long been a feeling in Italy that the project of national unity was flawed from the start, and will never work satisfactorily—that the country’s government will always be stalled, and the south forever the unmanageable territory of organized crime. Three recent books express the mood in their titles: Manlio Graziano’s ambitious “The Failure of Italian Nationhood” (Palgrave; $80) seeks to get to the heart of the problem, examining crisis after crisis in the past century and a half in search of some recurrent behavior pattern that might explain Italy’s troubles; “Resisting the Tide: Cultures of Opposition Under Berlusconi” (Continuum; $130) and “Italy Today: The Sick Man of Europe” (Routledge; $47.95) are collective efforts. The first, edited by a group of Italian scholars from the University of Birmingham—Daniele Albertazzi, Clodagh Brook, Charlotte Ross, and Nina Rothenberg—documents the difficulties of opposing a Prime Minister who owns the three major private TV networks, exercises a profound influence on the three public networks, and controls a large part of the press, the publishing world, and the advertising industry. The second, edited by Andrea Mammone and Giuseppe Veltri, examines a range of troubling economic, political, and social issues. Where many accounts of recent Italian history have been prone to overheated rhetoric and cries of scandal, all three of these books are admirable for their sober, businesslike tone. Nevertheless, their findings are far from optimistic.

The idea of laying bare some persistent group dynamic that would explain the vagaries of Italian public life—Graziano’s aim—has haunted me throughout my thirty years in the country. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 1:57 pm

Possible miracle

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On my walk today, I came across a curious sight:

Apparently someone had no more need for his or her crutches, and there they are, discarded beside the sidewalk. Odd.

I took a fairly long walk: 30 minutes or so. I want to see if my knee can really take it now.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life

OpenIDEO

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Very interesting post pointed out by The Eldest (and it’s on quite an interesting group blog):

In the past few weeks, I’ve become addicted to this new online thing.

And by addicted, I simply mean that participating in it has sort of taken over my free time.

No, it’s not Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin or FourSquare…in fact, it’s not any of the usual suspects.

My latest web crush is called OpenIDEO.

It’s an online platform developed by the design firm, IDEO, as a way to include a broader range of people in tackling significant global problems through the design process.

Basically, it works like this:

1.    A challenge is issued (e.g., How might we increase the number of registered bone marrow donors to help save more lives?).

2.    Participants contribute inspirations and concepts, collaborate with others, and evaluate ideas.

3.    Through this process, winning concepts rise to the top.

Why should you (the artist/arts professional) care? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:34 am

Posted in Daily life

A victim of our two-tiered Justice system speaks out

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This is painful to read, but very important. John Thompson writes an Op-Ed in the NY Times:

New Orleans – I spent 18 years in prison for robbery and murder, 14 of them on death row. I’ve been free since 2003, exonerated after evidence covered up by prosecutors surfaced just weeks before my execution date. Those prosecutors were never punished. Last month, the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a case I’d won against them and the district attorney who oversaw my case, ruling that they were not liable for the failure to turn over that evidence — which included proof that blood at the robbery scene wasn’t mine.

Because of that, prosecutors are free to do the same thing to someone else today.

I was arrested in January 1985 in New Orleans. I remember the police coming to my grandmother’s house — we all knew it was the cops because of how hard they banged on the door before kicking it in. My grandmother and my mom were there, along with my little brother and sister, my two sons — John Jr., 4, and Dedric, 6 — my girlfriend and me. The officers had guns drawn and were yelling. I guess they thought they were coming for a murderer. All the children were scared and crying. I was 22.

They took me to the homicide division, and played a cassette tape on which a man I knew named Kevin Freeman accused me of shooting a man. He had also been arrested as a suspect in the murder. A few weeks earlier he had sold me a ring and a gun; it turned out that the ring belonged to the victim and the gun was the murder weapon.

My picture was on the news, and a man called in to report that I looked like someone who had recently tried to rob his children. Suddenly I was accused of that crime, too. I was tried for the robbery first. My lawyers never knew there was blood evidence at the scene, and I was convicted based on the victims’ identification.

After that, my lawyers thought it was best if I didn’t testify at the murder trial. So I never defended myself, or got to explain that I got the ring and the gun from Kevin Freeman. And now that I officially had a history of violent crime because of the robbery conviction, the prosecutors used it to get the death penalty.

I remember the judge telling the courtroom the number of volts of electricity they would put into my body. If the first attempt didn’t kill me, he said, they’d put more volts in.

On Sept. 1, 1987, I arrived . . .

Continue reading.

Do you believe that this outcome is just or reasonable? I do not.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Congress wants to keep you in the dark

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One thing that politicians, bureaucrats, businesses, and the military all love is the ability to keep secret what they are doing, planning, and messing up. Quickly classifying as “Secret” anything embarrassing or wrong is a time-honored government practice. Generally speaking, progressives want more information made available and more transparency in government, and conservatives (who claim not to trust government) oppose transparency and favor secrecy for reasons that become apparent when you look at what they do.

Marian Wang at ProPublica tells what’s going on:

Though the budget deal struck by lawmakers over the weekend averted a shutdown of the federal government, it still has open-government advocates worried about a shutdown of another sort: a shutdown in transparency.

Lawmakers in both houses passed a six-month spending bill yesterday, dealing a deep cut [PDF] to key transparency initiatives. Some of those initiatives were launched with much fanfare at the outset of the Obama administration.

Under the budget compromise, funds for the Electronic Government Fund — which supports a number of government transparency websites — were cut by about 75 percent, from $34 million in 2010 down to $8 million. While this isn’t as drastic as the earlier House proposal that would have slashed funding to $2 million, it’s still sizeable compared to the administration’s original request of $35 million.

The reduction has riled transparency groups, which fear that the loss of funding could cripple or completely eliminate sites such as USASpending.gov, Data.gov and IT Dashboard.

As the Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog notes, USASpending.gov — a repository for data on federal contracts — operates under a legislative mandate. Data.gov, a clearinghouse of data from federal agencies, and IT Dashboard, a site that tracks the progress of the government’s IT investments, were created by executive orders and are not guaranteed federal funding, according to the Post.

Sunlight Foundation . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:26 am

Posted in Congress, Government

Intriguing way of eating

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The word “diet” refers to the foods you eat, but in modern usage it has the connotation or artificial (and temporary) restrictions in what you eat—e.g., the grapefruit diet, the Scarsdale diet. But diet in the sense of being simply the foods you normally eat—your diet—is the way I use the word.

Cool Tools has a very intriguing post on the Paleolithic way of eating—restricting oneself to foods available prior to agriculture: no grains or refined foods (sugars, flours, oils). Of course, we have continued to evolve, and many modern humans can digest milk, for example. So we do not exactly match the genetic makeup of our forbears, but the diet is still interesting.

Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:14 am

Posted in Books, Food

America’s two-tiered justice system

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I keep coming back to this Greenwald column. I think he identifies exactly some of the central problems that are undermining this country. The column begins:

Of all the topics on which I’ve focused, I’ve likely written most about America’s two-tiered justice system — the way in which political and financial elites now enjoy virtually full-scale legal immunity for even the most egregious lawbreaking, while ordinary Americans, especially the poor and racial and ethnic minorities, are subjected to exactly the opposite treatment: the world’s largest prison state and most merciless justice system. That full-scale destruction of the rule of law is also the topic of my forthcoming book. But The New York Times this morning has a long article so perfectly illustrating what I mean by “two-tiered justice system” — and the way in which it obliterates the core covenant of the American Founding: equality before the law — that it’s impossible for me not to highlight it.

The article’s headline tells most of the story: “In Financial Crisis, No Prosecutions of Top Figures.” It asks: “why, in the aftermath of a financial mess that generated hundreds of billions in losses, have no high-profile participants in the disaster been prosecuted?” And it recounts that not only have no high-level culprits been indicted (or even subjected to meaningful criminal investigations), but few have suffered any financial repercussions in the form of civil enforcements or other lawsuits. The evidence of rampant criminality that led to the 2008 financial crisis is overwhelming, but perhaps the clearest and most compelling such evidence comes from long-time Wall-Street-servant Alan Greenspan; even he was forced to acknowledge that much of the precipitating conduct was “certainly illegal and clearly criminaland thata lot of that stuff was just plain fraud.”

Despite that clarity and abundance of the evidence proving pervasive criminality, it’s entirely unsurprising that there have been no real criminal investigations or prosecutions. That’s because the overarching “principle” of our justice system is that criminal prosecutions are only for ordinary rabble, not for those who are most politically and financially empowered. We have thus created precisely the two-tiered justice system against which the Founders most stridently warned and which contemporary legal scholars all agree is the hallmark of a lawless political culture. Lest there be any doubt about that claim, just consider the following facts and events:

When Bush officials were revealed to have established a worldwide torture regime (including tactics which Obama’s Attorney General flatly stated were illegal) and spied on Americans without the warrants required by law (which Obama himself insisted was criminal), what happened? This, from The New York Times, January 11, 2009: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 11:04 am

Why the GOP works to keep people from voting

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The GOP understands that, were everyone to vote, they would lose in a landslide: their policies of protecting businesses the wealthy and funding the government on the backs of the poor and middle class and yanking the rug from under consumers and workers are not so popular. So the GOP spends a lot of time constructing barriers to voting, particularly barriers that are most formidable to the elderly, poor, and otherwise marginalized. From The Center for American Progress in an email:

Since taking office in January, conservative legislators in state houses across the country have raised the specter of voter fraud to quietly — and quickly — push through a series of bills that would make it significantly more difficult for large swaths of the population to vote, including college students, rural voters, senior citizens, the disabled, and the homeless.

Proposed legislation would dramatically change how the country votes ahead of the 2012 elections, requiring Americans in some states to present their birth certificate  before registering to vote and show a DMV-issued photo identification at the polls.

These voter ID bills would not only dampen voter turnout — depressing Hispanic turnout by as much as 10 percent — but also cost cash-strapped statehouses (and taxpayers) millions of dollars. Yet in dozens of states, Republicans have made bills restricting voting a central part of their legislative agenda — passing voter ID bills before they even begin to work on budgets.

Conservatives have claimed their assault on voting rights is necessary to combat the threat of mass voter fraud. Yet the Brennan Center for Justice notes that voters are more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud, and the Bush Justice Department’s five-year “War on Voter Fraud” resulted in only 86 convictions out of 196 million votes cast.

As The Progress Report’s Alex Seitz-Wald notes, “The only fraud in voter fraud is the allegation of fraud.” Instead, like their assaults on unions, Planned Parenthood, and AARP,  conservatives’ anti-voter agenda is aimed at silencing the voices of those who disagree with them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 10:14 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Bill Evans: My Foolish Heart

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Great tune.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 10:01 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Lots of useful free on-line timers

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Including a chess clock of all things. Take a look at the choices here (underneath the clock).

I came across this to use in timing my 20 minutes of listening to Spanish, which I’ve just now completed.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 9:02 am

Posted in Daily life

An Elite shave using Speick

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A very fine shave today. The brush (Omega “artificial badger”) and razor (Elite Razor made of black onyx with gold lacings) will, along with Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving, Fourth Edition, a shaving soap, and a bar of MR GLO, will become a silent auction package for The Younger Grandson’s school—I’m shipping them off as soon as I get my order of the book.

So this is a farewell shave, and an excellent shave it was. The Elitle uses the Merkur Classic frame and head, so it’s a fine razor.

First was a terrific lather from the Speick shave stick. Then three smooth passes of the Elite with a previously used Swedish Gillette blade, followed by a splash of Speick. Wonderful!

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2011 at 8:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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