Later On

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

Archive for August 30th, 2012

Grub mistake

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I had a good idea for a grub: the usual onion, garlic, and celery, augmented with a leek, a red bell pepper, three jalapeño peppers,  and a zucchini, with pork, half a head of red cabbage, and a bunch of kale, with wild rice for the starch. All to the good, but then I diced a couple of apples and it became way too sweet. I like savory, and I think it would have been good without the apple. Oh, well: live and learn.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Grub

Speaking of obsolete technology: Circular slide rule

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I really liked circular slide rules—I had one that was 8″ in diameter, which produced a VERY long scale compared to the regular slide rules. I just listed one on eBay, but it’s a pocket model and just chockablock with useful constants and tables (on the back and on a two-sided pull-out). Quite cute, but I think their day may have passed. As with the pocket chess set, modern technology offers other solutions. But I do like the little guy.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 11:24 am

Posted in Daily life

Banks showing concern about reform

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Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management and co-author of White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You, has an interesting piece in the NY Times:

Top executives from global megabanks are usually very careful about how they defend both the continued existence, at current scale, of their organizations and the implicit subsidies they receive. They are willing to appear on television shows – and did so earlier this summer, pushing back against Sanford I. Weill, the former chief executive of Citigroup, after he said big banks should be broken up.

Typically, however, since the financial crisis of 2008 the heavyweights of the banking industry have stayed relatively silent on the key issue of whether there should be a hard cap on bank size.

This pattern has shifted in recent weeks, with moves on at least three fronts.

William B. Harrison Jr., the former chairman of JPMorgan Chase, was the first to stick out his neck, with an Op-Ed published in The New York Times. The Financial Services Roundtable has circulated two related e-mails “Myth: Some U.S. banks are too big” and “Myth: Breaking up banks is the only way to deal with ‘Too Big To Fail’” (these links are to versions on the Web site of Partnership for a Secure Financial Future, a group that also includes the Consumer Bankers Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the Financial Services Institute).

Now Wayne Abernathy, executive vice president of the American Bankers Association, is weighing in – with a commentary on the American Banker Web site.

These views notwithstanding, mainstream Republican opinion is starting to shift against the megabanks, as former Treasury secretary Nicholas Brady makes clear in a strong opinion piece published in The Financial Times.

Mr. Brady was Treasury secretary under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever accused him of being any kind of leftist.

Yet Mr. Brady’s thinking in his Financial Times commentary is strikingly similar to the reasoning that motivated the Brown-Kaufman amendment (supported by 30 Democrats and three Republicans) in 2010, which would have put a hard cap on the size and leverage of our largest banks, i.e., how much an individual institution could borrow relative to the size of the economy. (See this analysis by Jeff Connaughton, who was chief of staff to Senator Ted Kaufman; Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, is still pushing hard on this same approach.)

Mr. Brady also stresses that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 8:57 am

Posted in Business, Government

Update on the Kindle version

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I just received a message from CreateSpace confirming that the new (good) conversion will have the same ASIN as the earlier (poor) conversion, so that early purchasers will indeed be able to get the new version at no cost. They also wrote that the new version would be completed before 17 September, so things are looking good.

What a relief!

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 8:24 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

Poverty in the US

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Dean Baker has a good column in the Huffington Post:

Recent trends in poverty rates should have the country furious at its leaders. When we get the data for 2011 next month, we are likely to see yet another uptick in poverty rates, reversing almost 50 years of economic progress. The percentage of people in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the poverty level, is likely to again hit an all-time high since the data has been collected.

The situation is made even worse by the fact that so many of those in poverty are children. In 2010, 27 percent of all children in the country were reported as living below the poverty level. For African-American children, the share in poverty is approaching 40 percent.

Many will blame the welfare reform law in 1996 that passed with bipartisan support. That is appropriate. This bill involved a great deal of political grandstanding and removed guarantees that could have protected millions of families in a severe downturn like what we are now seeing.

Advocates of this bill who now profess surprise at the result need to turn to a new line of work. There were plenty of people at the time who warned that the lack of federal guarantees could lead to severe hardship in an economic downturn. No one has a right to be surprised on this one. The surge in the poverty rate in a downturn like the present one was a predictable and predicted outcome of the legislation.

However, there is the other side of the story, the overall state of the economy, which is the more important cause of the increase in the poverty rate. The vast majority of the people in this country rely on work for the bulk of their income and that would also be true for the tens of millions of people in poverty, if work was available. These people cannot find jobs in today’s economy, or at least not full-time jobs that pay anything close to a living wage.

The reason why so many of these people cannot find jobs is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 8:19 am

Book Review: Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States: The Problems of Prohibition

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Phillip Smith writes a very interesting review of a recent book on the high costs (beyond the money spent) of the War on Drugs. From the review:

. . . What is newsworthy about Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States is who has produced it. The authors, Nigel Inksterand Virginia Comolli, are, respectively the director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and a research analyst at that august institution. Not only that, Inkster is a veteran of the British Secret Intelligence Service who spent his last two years as the Assistant Chief and Director for Operations and Intelligence.

The IISS, which was founded to manage the Cold War for the West more than half a century ago, describes itself as “the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict.” With many former US and British government officials among its members, IISS very much is the establishment, an organ of the global security elite.

When the IISS says a policy has not only failed but has produced counterproductive results, governments tend to listen. Now, we have the IISS quite clearly and vehemently saying that drug prohibition has done both. And that’s what makes Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States so remarkable — not that we want to give short shrift to the cogent analysis in the book.

It is noteworthy that the authors also take on the international drug control bureaucracy based in UN agencies such as the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the Office on Drugs and Crime. They chide the INCB for not only failing to control the illicit drug traffic, but also with failing to uphold the other part of its mandate: ensuring an adequate supply of opiate-based pain medications. Noting that a handful of Western countries account for a staggering 80% or more of all opioid pain medication usage, Inskter and Comolli clearly think vast portions of the planet are not getting sufficient pain medications, and they blame the INCB. To be fair, though, they also acknowledge other obstacles to the effective treatment of pain in developing nations.

Drugs, Insecurity, and Failed States is also useful for . . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 8:13 am

Posted in Books, Drug laws, Government

More details on caloric restriction diet in rhesus monkeys

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This article by Sabrina Richards in The Scientist adds more information to the NY Times report I blogged yesterday. For example:

Longevity differences aside, the two studies found remarkably similar health benefits of CR monkeys. Both found that monkeys on CR diets were less likely to develop tumors, showed reduced evidence of cardiovascular disease, and had better blood sugar control. Both studies have also found evidence that calorie restriction slows brain aging. The Wisconsin researchers found that age-related brain atrophy is lessened in CR monkeys, while the NIA group previously published that a CR regimen helps prevent symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in macaques.

“I love the fact that in a lot of ways what we say really is the same,” said Ricki Colman, first author on the Wisconsin group’s 2009 paper. Colman pointed out that although CR-promoted longevity may get the most attention, possible health benefits are more important. “The point is not to live forever, but live a healthier life,” he said. “That’s what most people are after.”

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 7:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Interesting take on the origins of the Civil War

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A very interesting article in Jacobin by James Oakes:

On 6 November 1860, the six-year-old Republican Party elected its first president. During the tense crisis months that followed – the “secession winter” of 1860–61 – practically all observers believed that Lincoln and the Republicans would begin attacking slavery as soon as they took power.

Democrats in the North blamed the Republican Party for the entire sectional crisis. They accused Republicans of plotting to circumvent the Constitutional prohibition against direct federal attacks on slavery. Republicans would instead allegedly try to squeeze slavery to death indirectly, by abolishing it in the territories and in Washington DC, suppressing it in the high seas, and refusing federal enforcement of the Slave Laws. The first to succumb to the Republican program of “ultimate extinction,” Democrats charged, would be the border states where slavery was most vulnerable. For Northern Democrats, this is what caused the crisis; the Republicans were to blame for trying to get around the Constitution.

Southern secessionists said almost exactly the same thing. The Republicans supposedly intended to bypass the Constitution’s protections for slavery by surrounding the South with free states, free territories, and free waters. What Republicans called a “cordon of freedom,” secessionists denounced as an inflammatory circle of fire.

The Southern cooperationists – those who opposed immediate secession – agreed with the secessionists’ and Northern Democrats’ analysis of Republican intentions. But they argued that the only way the Republicans would actually have the power to act on those intentions was if the Southern states seceded. If the slave states remained within the Union, the Republicans would not have the majorities in Congress to adopt their antislavery policies. And if the South did secede, all bets would be off. The rebellious states would forfeit all the constitutional protections of slavery. The South would get something much worse than a cordon of freedom. It would get direct military intervention, leading to the immediate and uncompensated emancipation of the slaves.

The slaves themselves seem to have understood this. They took an unusual interest in the 1860 election and had high hopes for what Lincoln’s victory would mean. They assumed that Lincoln’s inauguration would lead to war, that war would bring on a Union invasion of the South, and that the invading Union army would free the slaves.

But to read what historians have been saying for decades is to conclude that all of these people – the Democrats, the secessionists, the cooperationists, and the slaves – were all wrong. The Northern Democrats were just demagogues. The secessionists were hysterical. And the slaves were, alas, sadly misguided.

Unwilling to take seriously what contemporaries were saying, historians have constructed a narrative of Emancipation and the Civil War that begins with the premise that Republicans came into the war with no intention of attacking slavery – indeed, that they disavowed any antislavery intentions. The narrative is designed to demonstrate the original premise, according to which everyone at the time was mistaken about what the Republicans intended to do. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 7:36 am

Posted in Government

Speick and the DLC

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Speick makes good stuff. The shave stick produces a fine lather, generated this morning by the Simpson Emperor 3 Super. The knot looks lopsided because of a crowded brush rack: it dried with the knot pressed against one side of the rack. But once wet, it straightened up and did a fine job. The Emperor handle is particularly nice, and I’ve not seen another brush with the same sort of grip.

The DLC Weber with an Astra Superior Platinum blade did a fine job. The DLC and the ARC definitely differ in the feel on the face, but both are comfortable and efficient in shaving. Three passes followed by a splash of Speick’s aftershave. Good start to the day.

Written by Leisureguy

30 August 2012 at 7:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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