Later On

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

Archive for November 16th, 2012

Friday-night chicken GOPM

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The Wife made up this recipe:

In 2.25-qt Staub round cocotte, wiped out with a little olive oil to coat bottom and sides:

1/2 cup converted rice
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1/2 large Spanish onion, chopped small
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (.63 lb), cut into chunks
good sprinkling of a rosemary-and-garlic-powder seasoning
1 large Meyer lemon, not peeled, diced (but do remove label stuck on it)
1/2-2/3 c pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Then fill pot with shredded brussels sprouts

I cut brussels sprouts in half vertically, then thinly slice crossways


2 Tbsp Penzey’s Country French vinaigrette made according to instructions
1 Tbsp Annie Chuns Gochujang sauce (a good squeeze)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp horseradish
2-3 tsp sweet paprika
3 Tbsp Amontillado sherry
good grinding black pepper

Shake well, pour over, cover, put in 450ºF oven for 45 minutes.

This one seemed exceptionally good.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 7:09 pm

A jaundiced view of David Petraeus

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From the grandson of a highly regarded WWII general, Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.:

FASTIDIOUSNESS is never a good sign in a general officer. Though strutting military peacocks go back to Alexander’s time, our first was MacArthur, who seemed at times to care more about how much gold braid decorated the brim of his cap than he did about how many bodies he left on beachheads across the Pacific. Next came Westmoreland, with his starched fatigues in Vietnam. In our time, Gen. David H. Petraeus has set the bar high. Never has so much beribboned finery decorated a general’s uniform since Al Haig passed through the sally ports of West Point on his way to the White House.

“What’s wrong with a general looking good?” you may wonder. I would propose that every moment a general spends on his uniform jacket is a moment he’s not doing his job, which is supposed to be leading soldiers in combat and winning wars — something we, and our generals, stopped doing about the time that MacArthur gold-braided his way around the stalemated Korean War.

And now comes “Dave” Petraeus, and the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. No matter how good he looked in his biographer-mistress’s book, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we failed to conquer the countries we invaded, and ended up occupying undefeated nations.

The genius of General Petraeus was to recognize early on that the war he had been sent to fight in Iraq wasn’t a real war at all. This is what the public and the news media — lamenting the fall of the brilliant hero undone by a tawdry affair — have failed to see. He wasn’t the military magician portrayed in the press; he was a self-constructed hologram, emitting an aura of preening heroism for the ever eager cameras.

I spent part of the fall of 2003 with General Petraeus and the 101st Airborne Division in and around Mosul, Iraq. One of the first questions I asked him was what his orders had been. Was he ordered to “take Mosul,” I asked. No answer. How about “Find Mosul and report back”? No answer. Finally I asked him if his orders were something along the lines of “Go to Mosul!” He gave me an almost imperceptible nod. It must have been the first time an American combat infantry division had been ordered into battle so casually. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Army, Military

Amazingly good editorial at the Washington Post

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The Washington Post seems frequently to take very conservative, even wrong-headed, positions, but this editorial is like a breath of fresh air—and perhaps augurs a turning point in conservative thought.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 11:17 am

The invalidity of arguments to raise the retirement age

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Paul Krugman makes a very important point in today’s NY Times:

America’s political landscape is infested with many zombie ideas — beliefs about policy that have been repeatedly refuted with evidence and analysis but refuse to die. The most prominent zombie is the insistence that low taxes on rich people are the key to prosperity. But there are others.

And right now the most dangerous zombie is probably the claim that rising life expectancy justifies a rise in both the Social Security retirement age and the age of eligibility for Medicare. Even some Democrats — including, according to reports, the president — have seemed susceptible to this argument. But it’s a cruel, foolish idea — cruel in the case of Social Security, foolish in the case of Medicare — and we shouldn’t let it eat our brains.

First of all, you need to understand that while life expectancy at birth has gone up a lot, that’s not relevant to this issue; what matters is life expectancy for those at or near retirement age. When, to take one example, Alan Simpson — the co-chairman of President Obama’s deficit commission — declared that Social Security was “never intended as a retirement program” because life expectancy when it was founded was only 63, he was displaying his ignorance. Even in 1940, Americans who made it to age 65 generally had many years left.

Now, life expectancy at age 65 has risen, too. But the rise has been very uneven since the 1970s, with only the relatively affluent and well-educated seeing large gains. Bear in mind, too, that the full retirement age has already gone up to 66 and is scheduled to rise to 67 under current law.

This means that any further rise in the retirement age would be a harsh blow to Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution, who aren’t living much longer, and who, in many cases, have jobs requiring physical effort that’s difficult even for healthy seniors. And these are precisely the people who depend most on Social Security.

So any rise in the Social Security retirement age would, as I said, be cruel, hurting the most vulnerable Americans. And this cruelty would be gratuitous: While the United States does have a long-run budget problem, Social Security is not a major factor in that problem. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 11:13 am

When Right-Wing Christians Stopped Thinking of Women as People

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In view of yesterday’s post about the decision to allow a mother to die rather than have an abortion (of a non-viable foetus) makes Valerie Tarico’s article even more pertinent:

In the autumn of 1978 the Washington Association of Churches and the Washington State Catholic Conference jointly published a six-page pamphlet [3] they called “Abortion: An Ecumenical Study Document.” Their work offers a fascinating snapshot of Christian thinking at the time and raises some equally fascinating questions about what, exactly, has happened in the last 35 years.

The pamphlet does not contain a position statement. Quite the opposite, in fact. From the beginning, the authors explain that such an agreement is impossible: “Clearly there is no Christian position on abortion, for here real values conflict with each other, and Christian persons who seek honestly to be open to God’s call still find themselves disagreeing profoundly.”

At the time, five years had passed since the Rove v. Wade decision, and the Church, broadly, was wrestling with ethical and spiritual complexities the decision brought to the surface. WAC, which existed “to express and strengthen the unity Christians have in Jesus Christ” had asked member denominations to create a study group because strong feelings on the question of abortion were threating that mission. In the absence of an agreement, the study group articulated a set of shared values and then assembled statements on abortion from member denominations.

Some of the contents would come as little surprise to anyone aware of today’s struggles over abortion ethics and rights. For example, the Catholic Church pronounced that even when pregnancy threatens a mother’s life, abortion “increases the overall tragedy.” Catholicism has wavered [4] over the centuries about when a fetus becomes a person with a soul, but the hierarchy has been consistent in its opposition to abortion after ensoulment, which is now proclaimed to happen at conception. Furthermore, the Catholic hierarchy has long sought to enforce its ethical judgments via civic and criminal codes, and 1978 was no exception: “A legal context in which abortion is presented as a legitimate way of resolving tragic situations creates an atmosphere that reduces respect for the value of life. Ultimately, such an atmosphere dehumanizes the lives of all who live in it.”

What might be surprising is how little the other denominations represented in the 1978 study group agreed with them. Consider the following statements:

Because Christ calls us to affirm the freedom of persons and the sanctity of life, we recognize that abortion should be a matter of personal decision. –American Baptist Churches

The ALC recognizes the freedom and responsibility of individuals to make their own choices in light of the best information available to them and their understanding of God’s will for their lives, whether those choices be in regard to family planning or any other life situations. –American Lutheran Church

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) believes that the mother has an overwhelming stake in her own pregnancy, and to be forced to give birth to a child against her will is a peculiarly personal violation of her freedom . . . . The fetus is seen as a potential person, but not fully a person in the same developed sense in which the mother is a person with an ability to think, to feel, to make decisions, and choices concerning her own life. . . . That prior right however, carries with it a tremendous responsibility, for human life, even potential human life is valued. –Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Abortion should be accepted as an option only where all other possible alternatives will lead to greater destruction of human life and spirit. . . . We support persons who, after prayer and counseling, believe abortion is the least destructive alternative available to them, that they may make their decision openly, honestly, without the suffering imposed by an uncompromising community. –Church of the Brethren

Christians have a responsibility to limit the size of their families and to practice responsible birth control. . . . .where there is substantial reason to believe that the child would be deformed in mind or body, or where the pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest . . . termination of pregnancy is permissible. –Episcopal Church

The status of the fetus is the key issue. That status is affected by consideration of the fact that it is the organic beginning of human life. Further, its status is defined by its stage of development, its state of well-being, and its prospects for a meaningful life after its birth.
–Lutheran Church in America

Human life develops on a continuum from conception to birth. At some point it may be regarded as more “personal” and higher in “quality.” At some undesignated time, the value of this life may actually outweigh competing factors; e.g., the vocational and social objectives of the family, etc. –United Church of Christ

Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion. –United Methodist Church

The artificial or induced termination of pregnancy is a matter of the careful ethical decision of the patient, her physician, and her pastor or other counselor and therefore should not be restricted by law . . . –United Presbyterian Church

Today when we think of Christianity and abortion what comes to mind may be clinic picket lines; or “personhood” zealots who insist that microscopic fertilized eggs merit the same hard-won civil rights as walking, talking, thinking, breathing men and women and children; or even the fanatics who have now murdered eight doctors in the name of life.

The picture of Christianity revealed in the 1978 study document [3] is very different. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 11:10 am

Military rape: We’re not dealing with the problem

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Look at this brief article in the Washington Post. The first paragraph:

An investigation into misconduct by Air Force trainers at a Texas base found that at least 48 female students were victims of sexual assault or other transgressions by their instructors, according to a report released Wednesday that dissected the culture that enabled the worst military sex-abuse scandal in recent history.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 10:57 am

How we could blow the energy boom

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If we don’t invest in improving our electrical energy grid, it’s all for nought. Jeffrey Leonard writes in The Washington Monthly:

For the first time in four decades, spanning the last eight presidents, America is poised to break free of its energy crisis. The country finds itself suddenly awash in domestic energy, especially new supplies of natural gas extracted from shale rock. The economic windfall is already enormous. According to a recent study by energy analysts, consumers saved more than $100 billion in 2010 alone as a direct result of the natural gas boom. Economists at Bank of America calculate that the boom contributes nearly $1 billion per day to the economy, equal to 2.2 percent of GDP—roughly the same as the economy’s rate of growth in recent years.

The environmental windfall is also substantial. Relatively clean-burning natural gas is rapidly replacing coal as our primary source of electricity, leading to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Gas-fired power plants are also more easily integrated with renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, giving that industry a boost. The potential benefits of the gas boom also include the promise of a manufacturing revival in the U.S. based on the comparative advantage of lower energy costs, and the opportunity for the country to overcome its chronic trade deficits. This “energy dividend” could be, in other words, the biggest game changer in global politics and economics in a generation.

Yet this bright shiny future is hardly assured. While natural gas deposits could very well yield enough to sustain our energy needs for another century, there are many reasons to fear that we won’t succeed in maintaining adequate supplies of economically available natural gas, or in putting enough of it to optimal use—generating electricity.

More fundamentally, in order to capitalize on today’s energy dividend, we need to meet a second essential precondition: repairing, expanding, and modernizing our overstrained electrical grid. As it stands, the grid—an interconnected network of 360,000 miles of transmission lines and substations linking more than 6,000 power plants to customers nationwide—is an inefficient and increasingly blackout-prone tangle of 1950s technology. In its present dilapidated state, it is not only imposing unacceptable and avoidable environmental costs due to its inefficiency, it is also making us vulnerable to an array of threats that could dramatically impair the U.S. economy tomorrow—regardless of how much surplus energy we have in the ground.

The gas boom could bring us nearly limitless potential for building a greener and more prosperous future. Yet without long-term planning and bold political leadership to fight for the right policies, America may wind up awash in cheap energy, while American homes and businesses are stuck in the dark.

Many people will come to this subject concerned about the environmental consequences of “fracking”—that is, hydraulic fracturing—of natural gas, and it’s certainly an important issue. But as this magazine has argued (see Jesse Zwick, “Clean, Cheap, and Out of Control,” May/June 2011), with the right regulations we can reduce the adverse environmental consequences without fundamentally altering the total volume of natural gas produced. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 10:54 am

A look at the US practice of drone warfare

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Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 10:50 am

Why progressive taxation is fair: Marginal utility theory of value as foundation for progressive taxation

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Progressive taxation is taxing increasing increments of net income at increasingly higher rates. “Net income” is a bit of a misnomer, since true “net income” the income you have remaining after paying all your expenses, including taxes. I’m discussing how to tax the income that remains after deducting allowable expenses (business expenses, medical expenses above a certain amount, and so on) and other deductions (for dependents, blindness, and so on): the income called on tax forms “adjusted gross income.” For example, look at the current (progressive) tax rates for a single person:

Marginal Tax Rate                Single

10%                                  $0 – $8,700
15%                           $8,701 – $35,350
25%                         $35,351 – $85,650
28%                        $85,651 – $178,650
33%                       $178,651 – $388,350
35%                       $388,351+

The first $8,700 of adjusted gross income (income left after all deductions) is taxed at 10%, and the next $26,650 of AGI is taxed at a higher rate, 15%. The next $50,300 is taxed at a higher rate still (25%), and so on: progressively bigger percentage bites of the higher increments.

The marginal utility of a (fungible) good is based on the observation that the value of an incremental quantity of such a good declines as you get more: the first pound of salt you buy has a value, the second pound a lesser value, and ultimately the value pretty much goes negative: you’d take more only if they paid you.

This applies to fungible goods because with unique goods it’s somewhat different: even if you own many paintings you might still place a high value on a particular additional painting. But with fungible goods the idea does seem to work—with things like salt, sugar, tea (to a degree—not all teas are alike), coffee (same caution), and—a very fungible good—money (any dollar is like any other dollar).

You, for example, place a much higher value on $10,000 than would (say) Bill Gates. One reason the prices for luxury goods seem so high to ordinary consumers is that the price amount holds much greater value for them than it does for (say) a multi-millionaire. The price may well reflect the cost of exquisite materials and superior workmanship and so on, but here I’m talking only about the price amount (in dollars): the value of a given amount of dollars is relative to how many dollars someone already has. A poor person is willing to take more risks for $10,000 than would a wealthy person. This is now well known, thanks in large part to the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman (q.v.).

Thus those higher margins of adjusted income—the income that one gets above and beyond (say) $388,350—is of less value per dollar to the individual than the per-dollar value of income below that level: indeed, according to marginal utility, the per-dollar value drops steadily as you get more dollars. So in terms of taxes, the value of the tax paid, to be constant, must be an increasing percentage of the incremental dollars.

In this way, the value to the taxpayer of the taxes paid is held constant by increasing appropriately the percentage paid at the higher margins. Progressive taxation is thus fair: every increment is taxed at (roughly) the same value to the individual taxpayer. QED.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life

Ecotools: The new starter shaving brush

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I’m making the Ecotools Bamboo Finishing Kabuki brush my standard beginner brush recommendation, though it’s too bad you have to buy a pack of two (at $10.48, Amazon Prime). Still, the spare can be given to a buddy (for shaving) or a girlfriend/wife (for makeup). It is just a dynamtie little brush and the price of $5.24 is hard to beat.

Once again I got a terrific lather with the brush, and a lather with a special character—somewhat more stiffish than regular lather. Because the brush is so soft, you do have to load a little longer than you expect, but it does a make a fine lather and feels great on the skin. The lather today is from the superb Strop Shoppe Special Edition Teakwood, a soap you really should try.

Three smooth and easy light passes of the bakelite slant with an Astra Superior Platinum blade resulted in the usual BBS outcome I get with this razor, and a hearty splash of Saint Charles Shave Woods aftershave finished the shave in grand style.

In fact, I will now recommend you get everything in the photo and treat yourself well. The total cost is modest compared to the quality of the items. Do it to put some punch in your Thanksgiving.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2012 at 7:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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