Later On

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

Archive for July 2nd, 2012

This is the best it will be; or, Downill from here

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I’m talking about the climate. The shocking and extreme weather we’re seeing were predicted 20-30 years ago—not in detail, but as part of what will happen with global warming. And the extreme droughts combined with high temperatures that are producing catastrophic forest fires: also predicted.

Keep in mind that the current conditions and situations are much better than what will follow: enjoy this, because it just gets worse.

This was all well known and predicted at length, but too many did not want to listen and did not want any action taken to prevent the problems. In fact, most of those are still highly active and very vocal. But it will get worse—much worse. Wait until the food riots/wars start as crop failures become common.

In the meantime: Ari LaVaux reports at AlterNet:

In a dirt parking lot near Many Farms, Arizona, a Navajo farmer sold me a mutton burrito. He hasn’t used his tractor in two years, he told me, and is cooking instead of farming because “there isn’t any water.” He pointed east at the Chuska mountain range, which straddles the New Mexico border. In a normal year, water coming off the mountains reaches his fields, he said.

But this might be the new normal for the American Southwest, writes William deBuys in his new book, A Great Aridness. It was published late last year, months after one of the Southwest’s driest summers in recorded history, during which fires of unprecedented size scorched hundreds of thousands of acres of forest. This summer is worse than last; forest fires have already broken last year’s records. The rains haven’t come, and temperature records are falling like leaves from a dried-up tree. Springs, wells and irrigation ditches are bone dry. Farms are withering. We’ve all heard the gloomy scenarios of global warming: extreme weather, drought, famine, breakdown of society, destruction of civilization.

My current perch in Placitas, New Mexico feels like a front-row seat to the apocalypse.

Intuitive as the connection may seem, we don’t know if the current drought is a consequence of global warming, deBuys writes. Periodic, decades-long droughts have been relatively common in the last few thousand years, according to analysis of dried lake beds. Most of the area’s famously collapsed civilizations–Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, the Galisteo pueblos–are thought to have died out for lack of water in these extended dry periods, which deBuys calls “megadroughts.”

By contrast, the last century’s human population growth in the American Southwest occurred during a relatively wet period in the climactic record. We were due for another megadrought sooner or later, deBuys writes, which could be expected to dramatically alter human settlement patterns in the area. While this current heat may not be caused by global warming, he writes, climate change could nonetheless trigger the next megadrought.

In the Sandia Mountains above Placitas, last winter’s snowpack was relatively high. But the spring runoff never came, because the snow evaporated straight into the air of the hottest spring on record.

Lynn Montgomery has been farming in Placitas for more than 40 years. Like many farmers in northern New Mexico, he irrigates his land with water from an acequia, a type of canal system implemented by Spaniards, who’d adopted the technique from the Moors. This year, for the second year in a row, Montgomery’s acequia has run dry. Last year summer rains came in time to save his crops, but this year the rains haven’t come. The ditch is dry. His farm is dying.

First to go were . . .

Continue reading. I wonder how much longer all those Las Vegas fountains will spray water into the desert air.

I was telling someone about this today, and they didn’t even seem to have head of global warming, nor did they understand what happens when some have food but most don’t. OTOH, when I mentioned the upcoming global depression that will probably be set off when the Eurozone fails—thanks in large part to a failure of leadership, abdication of responsibility, and Angela Merkel’s personal stubbornness, the response I got was, “Eurozone?” It was an unfamiliar term.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Global warming

Pretty active day

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According to my Fitbit:

I also made a very nice batch of grub. I won’t describe the process, just list the ingredients:

1 fresh cipollini onion, including all the green part
1/2 red onion
freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
3 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Serrano peppers, sliced thin
2 carrots, diced
1 cup chopped celery
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
10 Indian eggplant, the size of a small egg, chopped
1 yellow crookneck squash, diced
3 Roma tomatoes diced
1 whole chicken breast, pretty good-sized (1.2 lb), skinless, cut into cubes
1 good-sized handful green beans, cut into 1″ pieces
2 lemons, diced (ends discarded, and diced with the skin)
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar (on hand, not special purchase)
1/2 cup Amontillado sherry
Black rice: I cooked 1 cup rice in 2 cups water earlier, added here as the starch
2 wads slivered dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Taste #5 umami paste (since soy sauce also adds umami, this should be intense)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 good-sized bunch of red kale, stems minced, leaves chopped small
1 good-sized bunch of collards (8 large leaves), stems minced, leaves chopped small
1 pint water

Update: That’s all I can remember now. If I think of other things, I’ll add them later to the list.

Note comment below on interesting finding in the diet. (I did have a link here, but you’ll see why I removed it.)

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Fitness, Food, Grub

This seems harsh, but it’s much better than having the well-to-do pay the tax rates they paid under President Reagan, don’t you think?

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Ethan Bronner reports in the NY Times:

CHILDERSBURG, Ala. — Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked.

When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed — charged an additional fee for each day behind bars.

For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that “two can dine for $5.99,” is not about innocence.

It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions.

“With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,” said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. “The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.”

Half a century ago in a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that those accused of crimes had to be provided a lawyer if they could not afford one. But in misdemeanors, the right to counsel is rarely brought up, even though defendants can run the risk of jail. The probation companies promise revenue to the towns, while saying they also help offenders, and the defendants often end up lost in a legal Twilight Zone.

Here in Childersburg, where there is no public transportation, Ms. Ray has plenty of company in her plight. Richard Garrett has spent a total of 24 months in jail and owes $10,000, all for traffic and license violations that began a decade ago. A onetime employee of United States Steel, Mr. Garrett is suffering from health difficulties and is without work. William M. Dawson, a Birmingham lawyer and Democratic Party activist, has filed a lawsuit for Mr. Garrett and others against the local authorities and the probation company, Judicial Correction Services, which is based in Georgia.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that it is unconstitutional to jail people just because they can’t pay a fine,” Mr. Dawson said in an interview.

In Georgia, three dozen for-profit probation companies operate in hundreds of courts, and there have been similar lawsuits. In one, Randy Miller, 39, an Iraq war veteran who had lost his job, was jailed after failing to make child support payments of $860 a month. In another, Hills McGee, with a monthly income of $243 in veterans benefits, was charged with public drunkenness, assessed $270 by a court and put on probation through a private company. The company added a $15 enrollment fee and $39 in monthly fees. That put his total for a year above $700, which Mr. McGee, 53, struggled to meet before being jailed for failing to pay it all.

“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” said John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga., who is taking the issue to a federal appeals court this fall. “There are things like garbage collection where private companies are O.K. No one’s liberty is affected. The closer you get to locking someone up, the closer you get to a constitutional issue.” . . .

Continue reading. It makes sense: the wealthy really cannot afford to pay taxes, but the poor have money to burn, so get revenue from the poor. Actual reason: the poor are powerless, the wealthy are powerful and now control the government.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 7:29 pm

Best kitty toy ever

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Enthusiastically endorsed by Megs, Molly, and Harry, the new resident Norwegian Forest Cat living with The Eldest and The Grandsons. (Harry won’t share, though.) Here it is.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Cats, Health

James Inhofe and faith-based ignorance

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Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is an aggressive evangelical Christian. In his travels to Africa, he meets with dignitaries and leaders (mainly, I suspect, so he can get us taxpayers to pay for his trips), and he insists on opening meetings with a long prayer and serious discussion of Jesus Christ our Lord, regardless of the wishes or beliefs of those with whom he’s meeting. He continues to deny global warming, apparently in the belief that if it snows some in the winter, then global warming cannot be happening. In that part of the country, a great compliment is to refer to a person such as him as “a man of faith,” as though that were the ultimate accolade. I think the phrase perhaps overlooks some other important characteristics one might have, and I suggest that Sen. Inhofe (among others) be more properly designated as “a nitwit of faith.” I’m sure his faith is genuine, but he’s also an arrogant ignoramus who doesn’t hesitate to push around anyone weaker and to avoid (successfully, so far) learning anything new. I don’t believe the thought has ever crossed his mind that he might be wrong, about anything. So far as I can tell, he views certitude as the primary virtue, regardless of its basis.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 8:45 am

Posted in Daily life

Conservative Southern Values Revived: How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America

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A fascinating article at AlterNet, with links to books I want to read, on something I’ve noticed for a while: the brutalization of corporate America, which now barely pays lip-service to human and civil right and legal responsibilities—it’s more along the lines of a smash-and-grab burglary: move fast, take all you can, and leave the wreckage for others. This goes hand in hand with completely defunding regulatory agencies (I just blogged about how the FTC is helpless to monitor companies today because they simply are not funded for that: a very deliberate step by the corporations that rule us via their Congressional hirelings) and closing down public education through the same mechanism: taking away funds so that schools and universities cannot do the job. The last thing on earth that this sort of ruling class wants is an educated populace: ignorance supports brutality, generally speaking.

Sara Robinson writes:

It’s been said that the rich are different than you and me. What most Americans don’t know is that they’re also quite different from each other, and that which faction is currently running the show ultimately makes a vast difference in the kind of country we are.

Right now, a lot of our problems stem directly from the fact that the wrong sort has finally gotten the upper hand; a particularly brutal and anti-democratic strain of American aristocrat that the other elites have mostly managed to keep away from the levers of power since the Revolution. Worse: this bunch has set a very ugly tone that’s corrupted how people with power and money behave in every corner of our culture. Here’s what happened, and how it happened, and what it means for America now.

North versus South: Two Definitions of Liberty

Michael Lind first called out the existence of this conflict in his 2006 book, Made In Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics. He argued that much of American history has been characterized by a struggle between two historical factions among the American elite — and that the election of George W. Bush was a definitive sign that the wrong side was winning.

For most of our history, American economics, culture and politics have been dominated by a New England-based Yankee aristocracy that was rooted in Puritan communitarian values, educated at the Ivies and marinated in an ethic of noblesse oblige (the conviction that those who possess wealth and power are morally bound to use it for the betterment of society). While they’ve done their share of damage to the notion of democracy in the name of profit (as all financial elites inevitably do), this group has, for the most part, tempered its predatory instincts with a code that valued mass education and human rights; held up public service as both a duty and an honor; and imbued them with the belief that once you made your nut, you had a moral duty to do something positive with it for the betterment of mankind. Your own legacy depended on this.

Among the presidents, this strain gave us both Roosevelts, Woodrow Wilson, John F. Kennedy, and Poppy Bush — nerdy, wonky intellectuals who, for all their faults, at least took the business of good government seriously. Among financial elites, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet still both partake strongly of this traditional view of wealth as power to be used for good. Even if we don’t like their specific choices, the core impulse to improve the world is a good one — and one that’s been conspicuously absent in other aristocratic cultures.

Which brings us to that other great historical American nobility — the plantation aristocracy of the lowland South, which has been notable throughout its 400-year history for its utter lack of civic interest, its hostility to the very ideas of democracy and human rights, its love of hierarchy, its fear of technology and progress, its reliance on brutality and violence to maintain “order,” and its outright celebration of inequality as an order divinely ordained by God.

As described by Colin Woodard in American Nations: The Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, the elites of the Deep South are descended mainly from the owners of sugar, rum and cotton plantations from Barbados — the younger sons of the British nobility who’d farmed up the Caribbean islands, and then came ashore to the southern coasts seeking more land. Woodward described the culture they created in the crescent stretching from Charleston, SC around to New Orleans this way:

It was a near-carbon copy of the West Indian slave state these Barbadians had left behind, a place notorious even then for its inhumanity….From the outset, Deep Southern culture was based on radical disparities in wealth and power, with a tiny elite commanding total obedience and enforcing it with state-sponsored terror. Its expansionist ambitions would put it on a collision course with its Yankee rivals, triggering military, social, and political conflicts that continue to plague the United States to this day.

David Hackett Fischer, whose Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways In America informs both Lind’s and Woodard’s work, described just how deeply undemocratic the Southern aristocracy was, and still is. He documents how these elites have always feared and opposed universal literacy, public schools and libraries, and a free press. (Lind adds that they have historically been profoundly anti-technology as well, far preferring solutions that involve finding more serfs and throwing them at a problem whenever possible. Why buy a bulldozer when 150 convicts on a chain gang can grade your road instead?) Unlike the Puritan elites, who wore their wealth modestly and dedicated themselves to the common good, Southern elites sank their money into ostentatious homes and clothing and the pursuit of pleasure — including lavish parties, games of fortune, predatory sexual conquests, and blood sports involving ritualized animal abuse spectacles.

But perhaps the most destructive piece of the Southern elites’ worldview is . . .

Continue reading. Full disclosure: I grew up in southern Oklahoma, so I’ve seen the fringes of this, but I’ve never lived in the Deep South.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 8:37 am

Pets and the heat

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Some very good information, perhaps more important to dog owners. Dogs seem to have more enthusiasm and less judgment than cats, though cats can be pretty silly as well. Kiera Butler reports in Mother Jones:

I’ve been told that in the Mother Jones DC bureau last week, a debate raged over whether or not it’s only crazy cat ladies who leave the air conditioner on all day for pets. I can see both sides: Sure, it’s pitiful to see dogs pant and cats make themselves as flat as possible to beat the heat, especially during gnarly heat waves. And yes, it’s true that pets are unable to doff their fur coats.

On the other hand, their ancestors lived outside for eons before we domesticated them, so surely they must be heartier than we give them credit for. What’s more, round-the-clock AC is exorbitantly expensive and contributes significantly to climate change, as the New York Times recently reported. Because of the soaring demand for air conditioning worldwide, and because the gases emitted by modern cooling equipment are extremely potent planet warmers, scientists estimate that AC units could account for a staggering 27 percent of global warming by 2050.

So is it really necessary to chill Fido all day long? I decided to call a few veterinarians to settle the argument once and for all. Dr. Helen Myers, veterinarian at the ASPCA‘s Animal Poison Control Center, had this to say in an email: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 8:22 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Health

Weight ups and downs

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Well, the usual happened: with the extra oil and an extra serving of fregola sarda with an improvised sauce (olive oil, the rest of the cipollini onion (everything above the bulb), some garlic, black olives, a couple of anchovies, and a Roma tomato), what with the wine and mussels—a some extra fruit (red raspberries, strawberries, and apricots, consumed separately), my weight is back up a fair amount: 183.6. It must be boring to you to see it fluctuate simply because I can’t resist the temptation to have a rich meal and gorging on seasonal fruit. I sort of find it boring myself. Let’s see if I can lay off the fine foods and extra eating for a while and stick with a more sensible way of eating. An occasional meal of this sort is fine, but it’s better to do that when one is at target weight, not on the way there. Even though fruit (for example) is healthful, it still requires moderation, that difficult skill. Back to fruit only twice a day, mid-morning and mid-afternoon.

I bought some new grub fixings along with the mussels and wine, so I’ll make that today. This time chicken breast for the protein, red kale and collards for the greens. I stopped by the local produce stand to get some dried tomatoes, and they had Indian eggplant: dark purple eggplant the same shape as Italian eggplant, but the size of a small egg. I got several for the grub. Other ingredients on hand: the other cippolini onion, a red onion, garlic (of course), a yellow crookneck squash, celery, a green bell pepper, 3 Roma tomatoes (one went for the extra pasta serving), and a couple of carrots. The starch will be black rice.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 8:10 am

Posted in Fitness, Food

The new Mühle synthetics and another Parker test

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A test shave in two ways. First, the brushes. HJM apparently is Mühle’s cheaper brand, and it’s interesting that they decided on a “pure badger” appearance for that synthetic. The handle treatment of the HJM (or hjm, I’m not sure which is correct) is interesting: stippled rubber on the two sides, regular handle front and back. The brush handle is not so hefty as the other Mühle in the photo, but does not feel cheap or poorly made.

I used both brushes with the Yardley, a very fine shaving soap, and found in the shave that both perform extremely well, and both feel soft and pleasant on the face. The Mühle is more resilient than the HJM, having a bit more backbone, but both work perfectly well and would be an excellent shaving brush even if it were your only brush. On the whole I prefer the Mühle—heftier and more attractive handle and more resilient knot—but both do work well.

The Parker 92R that worked so well with a Swedish Gillette blade did indeed deliver some nicks with the Astra Superior Platinum blade, so perhaps part of my problem with the 99R was the blade. The Swedish Gillette blade that was in the 92R is now in the 99R, and I’ll use it tomorrow as a test.

A splash of New York, and I’m ready for a busy day.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2012 at 7:59 am

Posted in Shaving

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