Later On

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

Archive for November 26th, 2012

Using a bean pot in a bean-hole

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Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Using Gochujang

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I’ve become quite fond of Gochujang, the Korean hot sauce. This page discusses it briefly and then there’s this terrific-sounding recipe on the following page.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Cute maze

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Techie toys

Bicyclists and others: Superior (chain) lubricant

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Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

5 burning questions about legalizing marijuana

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From a PBS program, this transcript via Alternet:

PBS recently ran a Need to Know [5] segment on marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado. The episode featured interviews with three prominent marijuana policy reform activists: Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML; Major Stanford “Neill” Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department and the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP [6]); and Mason Tvert, co-founder of SAFER [7] in 2005 and the SAFER Voter Education Fund [8] in 2006. See transcript below:

How does legalization in the U.S. or parts of the U.S. affect our security and law enforcement relationship with Mexico, a country with a history of opposition to such legislation?

Paul Armentano: U.S. drug policy drives international drug policy and not vice-versa. In fact, Mexican lawmakers are ready to pursue alternative approaches to drug prohibition. Former Mexican President Vincente Fox has publicly called the global drug war an ‘absolute failure’ and has called for replacing criminal prohibition with regulatory alternatives — both in Mexico and in the United States. In 2009, Mexico’s Congress approved legislation decriminalizing the possession of personal use of illicit substances, including cannabis. Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, has said that legalizing the marijuana trade is a legitimate option for both the Mexican and U.S. governments. President Felipe Calderon has publically called for ‘market alternatives’ to address the growing level drug prohibition-inspired violence in Mexico and along the U.S. southern border. Just this week, a Mexican lawmaker announced intentions to introduce legislation [9]to legalize the production, sale and consumption of cannabis.

Mexican officials understand that the U.S. demand for cannabis, combined with its illegality, is fueling violence and empowering criminal traffickers. Mexico today has a growing body count ( anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 dead citizens) to attest to this. Yet our own DEA administrator, Michelle Leonhart, has publicly described this bloodshed as “a signpost of success.” Hardly. It is a tragic yet predictable failure of U.S. drug policy. When the U.S. finally begins to address the failure of this policy and embrace alternatives, much of the world, particularly Mexico, will no doubt follow suit.

Neill Franklin: Bringing marijuana aboveground and out of the illegal market can only improve security in our communities both here in the U.S. and in Mexico. As long as marijuana is prohibited, 100% of its profits (and all the decisions about where, how and to whom it is sold) are controlled by gangs and drug cartels. It is clear that Mexican leaders have been waiting for the U.S. to move away from prohibition for some time now. More than 60,000 people have died there over the past six years because drugs are sold only in the illegal, unregulated market.

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon has talked about the need for “market alternatives” if a prohibition approach continues to be unsuccessful in reducing demand for drugs. Mexican ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan has said that those who are pushing for legalization “understand the dynamics of the drug trade.” Former President Vicente Fox has repeatedly said it is time for legalization, and incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto has said he’s open to considering legalization as a way forward. Now that two U.S. states have voted to legalize marijuana, expect to see more sitting officials talking about the need for policy change even more clearly and frequently. The U.S. can’t credibly bully other countries into maintaining a prohibitionist approach while states within its own borders are recognizing the senselessness of this approach and embracing legalization.

Mason Tvert: Marijuana prohibition in the U.S. is steering profits from marijuana sales toward cartels and gangs instead of legitimate, tax-paying businesses. In doing so, it is propping up these criminal enterprises and subsidizing their other illegal activities, including human trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, and the sale of other drugs. Much of the violence escalating on the Mexican border revolves around the actions of Mexican drug cartels who fight over profits from marijuana sales. Whether they are large-scale drug cartels or small-town street gangs, the vast supply and demand surrounding marijuana will ensure they have a constant stream of profits to subsidize other illegal activities. Regulating marijuana like alcohol would eliminate this income source and, in turn, eliminate the violence and turf battles associated with the illegal marijuana market.

Millions of Americans use marijuana. They should be able to do so without being made criminals and without supporting violent criminals.

Why is legalization a more effective step in curbing drug related violence or dependence than simply decriminalizing? . . . 

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Drug laws

God’s imperfections

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The notion of a perfect God fails to make sense—indeed, that’s one of the points made in Charles Hartshorne’s wonderful book Omnipotence and Other Theological MistakesOmnipotence is a theological mistake because it’s a logical fallacy: like the set of all sets—sounds good, doesn’t—can’t—exist. Inexpensive copies at the link, and well worth reading. Hartshorne is a major figure in process theology, which so far as I can tell is the only theology that makes any sense at all—and the only one that connects with our experience. (I have some previous posts on process theology—see at right the “Useful Posts” link.)

Yoram Hazony has an interesting Op-Ed today in the NY Times on the subject:

Is God perfect? You often hear philosophers describe “theism” as the belief in a perfect being — a being whose attributes are said to include being all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, perfectly simple, and necessarily existent (among others). And today, something like this view is common among lay people as well.

There are two famous problems with this view of God. The first is that it appears to be impossible to make it coherent. For example, it seems unlikely that God can be both perfectly powerful and perfectly good if the world is filled (as it obviously is) with instances of terrible injustice. Similarly, it’s hard to see how God can wield his infinite power to instigate alteration and change in all things if he is flat-out immutable. And there are more such contradictions where these came from.

The second problem is that while this “theist” view of God is supposed to be a description of the God of the Bible, it’s hard to find any evidence that the prophets and scholars who wrote the Hebrew Bible (or “Old Testament”) thought of God in this way at all. The God of Hebrew Scripture is not depicted as immutable, but repeatedly changes his mind about things (for example, he regrets having made man). He is not all-knowing, since he’s repeatedly surprised by things (like the Israelites abandoning him for a statue of a cow). He is not perfectly powerful either, in that he famously cannot control Israel and get its people to do what he wants. And so on.

Philosophers have spent many centuries trying to get God’s supposed perfections to fit together in a coherent conception, and then trying to get that to fit with the Bible. By now it’s reasonably clear that this can’t be done. In fact, part of the reason God-bashers like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are so influential (apart from the fact they write so well) is their insistence that the doctrine of God’s perfections makes no sense, and that the idealized “being” it tells us about doesn’t resemble the biblical God at all.

So is that it, then? Have the atheists won? I don’t think so. But it does look like the time has come for some rethinking in the theist camp.

I’d start with this: Is it really necessary to say that God is a “perfect being,” or perfect at all, for that matter? As far as I can tell, the biblical authors avoid asserting any such thing. And with good reason. Normally, when we say that something is “perfect,” we mean it has attained the best possible balance among the principles involved in making it the kind of thing it is. For example, if we say that a bottle is perfect, we mean it can contain a significant quantity of liquid in its body; that its neck is long enough to be grasped comfortably and firmly; that the bore is wide enough to permit a rapid flow of liquid; and so on. Of course, you can always manufacture a bottle that will hold more liquid, but only by making the body too broad (so the bottle doesn’t handle well) or the neck too short (so it’s hard to hold). There’s an inevitable trade-off among the principles, and perfection lies in the balance among them. And this is so whether what’s being judged is a bottle or a horse, a wine or a gymnastics routine or natural human beauty.

What would we say if some philosopher told us that a perfect bottle would be one that can contain a perfectly great amount of liquid, while being perfectly easy to pour from at the same time? Or that a perfect horse would bear an infinitely heavy rider, while at the same time being able to run with perfectly great speed? I should think we’d say he’s made a fundamental mistake here: You can’t perfect something by maximizing all its constituent principles simultaneously. All this will get you is contradictions and absurdities. This is not less true of God than it is of anything else.

The attempt to think of God as a perfect being is misguided for another reason as well. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Religion

Tagged with

When Right-wing blather killed millions

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The Great Famine in China (also, this post) was nothing compared to the Great Famine in Ireland, which killed over 30% of the population. Joan Walsh points out certain similar political positions at that time which still find voice today:

Taking a break from 24/7 politics after the election, I finally read John Kelly’s troubling The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People. Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

I don’t believe in appropriating epochal tragedies and singular cruelties for modern political use. Genocide, slavery, famine, the Holocaust; rape, incest, lynching – those terms mean something specific.  A recession, or even a depression, can’t be equated with famine, let alone genocide. Nor can rampant child poverty: we fend off starvation pretty successfully with food stamps, government help and charity today. We still have poverty programs, even though we slashed them in an anti-dependency backlash Trevelyan might have approved. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, acting at least partly on Ronald Reagan’s insight that “we fought a war on poverty, and poverty won,” eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children in 1996 and replaced it with a time-limited, work-incentive program that cut its rolls by 58 percent in the last 15 years. One in five children was poor in 1996; the exact same percent are poor today. (Among black children, the rate is almost 2 in 5.) Whether we’re fighting a war on poverty or a war on the poor, what we are doing isn’t working.

But instead of digging in to find solutions to growing poverty in the midst of plenty, and increased suffering even among people who aren’t technically poor, Republicans spent the last year recycling theories from the Irish famine era. They’re best expressed in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 9:54 am

Fighting fiscal phantoms

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Paul Krugman today in the NY Times:

These are difficult times for the deficit scolds who have dominated policy discussion for almost three years. One could almost feel sorry for them, if it weren’t for their role in diverting attention from the ongoing problem of inadequate recovery, and thereby helping to perpetuate catastrophically high unemployment.

What has changed? For one thing, the crisis they predicted keeps not happening. Far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have continued to pile in, driving interest rates to historical lows. Beyond that, suddenly the clear and present danger to the American economy isn’t that we’ll fail to reduce the deficit enough; it is, instead, that we’ll reduce the deficit too much. For that’s what the “fiscal cliff” — better described as the austerity bomb — is all about: the tax hikes and spending cuts scheduled to kick in at the end of this year are precisely not what we want to see happen in a still-depressed economy.

Given these realities, the deficit-scold movement has lost some of its clout. That movement, by the way, is a hydra-headed beast, comprising many organizations that turn out, on inspection, to be financed and run by more or less the same people; dig down into many of these groups’ back stories and you will, in particular, find Peter Peterson, the private-equity billionaire, playing a key role.

But the deficit scolds aren’t giving up. Now yet another organization, Fix the Debt, is campaigning for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even while making lower tax rates a “core principle.” That last part makes no sense in terms of the group’s ostensible mission, but makes perfect sense if you look at the array of big corporations, from Goldman Sachs to the UnitedHealth Group, that are involved in the effort and would benefit from tax cuts. Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.

So should we take this latest push seriously? No — and not just because these people, aside from exhibiting a lot of hypocrisy, have been wrong about everything so far. The truth is that at a fundamental level the crisis story they’re trying to sell doesn’t make sense.

You’ve heard the story many times: Supposedly, any day now investors will lose faith in America’s ability to come to grips with its budget failures. When they do, there will be a run on Treasury bonds, interest rates will spike, and the U.S. economy will plunge back into recession.

This sounds plausible to many people, because it’s roughly speaking what happened to Greece. But we’re not Greece, and it’s almost impossible to see how this could actually happen to a country in our situation.

For we have . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 9:47 am

Posted in Business, Government

Sea Salt Soap again, with Primalan

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Swedish Dream Sea Salt Shaving Soap is peculiar stuff. It does seem to lather somewhat better after a few uses, as though the first layer of soap has oxidized or some such, but still the lather seems to fade somewhat. On the whole, I prefer soaps that produce a more luxuriant lather, but this one works. I used a Wet Shaving Products “Prince” shaving brush, an excellent brush that I received gratis to try. (I’ve since bought one of their Monarch brushes.)

The trusty bakelite slant with a previously used Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade did a fine job, and a small-pea-sized amount of Primalan, an excellent balm, finished the job. If you’re more inclined to fruit comparisons, a drop the size of a wild (not domestic) blueberry is about right: a very little goes a very long way. It leaves my skin feeling quite soft and nice, though perhaps the Sea Salt Shaving Soap should get a modicum of credit.

Great shave, and out for errands. Back soon.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2012 at 9:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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