Later On

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

Archive for May 4th, 2013

The Newest Grandson’s finger food

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I’m very pleased and proud to report that The Youngest Grandson, now aged just over 10 months, very much likes sardines as finger food. Excellent choice: high in protein, calcium, and omega-3, plus very low on the food chain (so no accumulation of toxins—cf. tuna, swordfish, mackerel).

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Food, Health

Danger signal: Insufficient inflation

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Paul Krugman explains in the NY Times:

Ever since the financial crisis struck, and the Federal Reserve began “printing money” in an attempt to contain the damage, there have been dire warnings about inflation — and not just from the Ron Paul/Glenn Beck types.

Thus, in 2009, the influential conservative monetary economist Allan Meltzer warned that we would soon become “inflation nation.” In 2010, the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development urged the Fed to raise interest rates to head off inflation risks (even though its own models showed no such risk). In 2011, Representative Paul Ryan, then the newly installed chairman of the House Budget Committee, raked Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, over the coals, warning of looming inflation and intoning solemnly that it was a terrible thing to “debase” the dollar.

And now, sure enough, the Fed really is worried about inflation. You see, it’s getting too low.

Before I get to the trouble with low inflation, however, let’s talk about what we should have learned so far.

It’s not hard to see where inflation fears were coming from. In its efforts to prop up the economy, the Fed has bought more than $2 trillion of stuff — private debts, housing agency debts, government bonds. It has paid for these purchases by crediting funds to the reserves of private banks, which isn’t exactly printing money, but is close enough for government work. Here comes hyperinflation!

Or, actually, not. From the beginning, it was or at least should have been obvious that the financial crisis had plunged us into a “liquidity trap,” a situation in which many people figure that they might just as well sit on cash. America spent most of the 1930s in a liquidity trap; Japan has been in one since the mid-1990s. And we’re in one now.

Economists who had studied such traps — a group that included Ben Bernanke and, well, me — knew that some of the usual rules of economics are in abeyance as long as the trap lasts. Budget deficits, for example, don’t drive up interest rates; printing money isn’t inflationary; slashing government spending has really destructive effects on incomes and employment.

The usual suspects dismissed all this analysis; it was “liquidity claptrap,” declared Alan Reynolds of the Cato Institute. But that was four years ago, and the liquidity trappers seem to have been right, after all.

And it’s worth mentioning another issue on which the inflation non-worriers have been vindicated: how to measure inflation trends. The Fed relies on a measure that excludes food and energy prices, which fluctuate widely from month to month. Many commentators ridiculed this focus on “core” inflation, especially in early 2011, when rising food and energy prices briefly sent “headline” inflation above 4 percent even as the core stayed low. But, sure enough, inflation came back down.

So all those inflation fears were wrong, and those who fanned those fears proved, in case you were wondering, that their economic doctrine is completely wrong — not that any of them will ever admit such a thing.

And, at this point, inflation — at barely above 1 percent by the Fed’s favored measure — is dangerously low.

Why is low inflation a problem? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 11:08 am

George W. Bush and Harry S Truman: Similar presidencies?

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Not by a long shot. Jonathan Alter blogs at The Washington Monthly:

The dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum was more than an opportunity for the five living U.S. presidents to compare notes on what Stefan Lorant called “the glorious burden” of the office.

It also was the beginning of Bush’s campaign for rehabilitation. As Bill Clinton said at the ceremony, all presidential libraries are attempts “to rewrite history.”

Bush’s ultimate goal — already hawked by his former political adviser Karl Rove — is to become another Harry S. Truman, a regular-guy commander-in-chief whose stock rose sharply about 20 years after he left office.

The superficial comparisons are intriguing. Vice President Truman only became president because Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in 1945. The failed haberdasher and product of the Kansas City political machine was unlikely to make it to the top on his own. He was a plain-spoken, unpretentious man who cared enough about racial injustice that he desegregated the armed forces.

Bush became president because he was born on third base, to paraphrase Texas Governor Ann Richards’s quip about his father, and because of the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore in 2000; an unexceptional man who drank heavily until he was 40 probably wouldn’t have made it on his own. He’s a blunt, compassionate conservative who, as Jimmy Carter pointed out at the dedication, saw the ravages of AIDS in Africa and elsewhere and did something about it. (Bush also appointed two black secretaries of state.)

Korean War

Like >Iraq in Bush’s era, the Korean War was hugely unpopular when Truman left office in 1953, and his decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan was at least as controversial as Bush’s support for torture.

Still, you don’t have to be Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to know that the differences between Bush and Truman are much greater than the similarities. With Korea, Truman was responding to communist aggression, not hyping unconfirmed stories about weapons of mass destruction.

While Truman’s “Marshall Plan” (named for his secretary of state, George C. Marshall) produced spectacular results in postwar Europe, Bush apparently didn’t even have a plan for postwar Iraq.

His decision to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 10:43 am

Psychedelics to treat PTSD

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Timothy Leary famously used psychedelics with prisoners to try to encourage a positive change in worldview, the measure being the rate of recidivism of treated vs. untreated prisoners. (More here on that experiment.) Now a proposal is being made to the Pentagon to use MDMA (Ecstasy) to help treat PTSD. Greg Miller reports in Wired Science:

For Rick Doblin, being invited to the Pentagon was an emotional experience. Growing up in the 60s, Doblinembraced the counterculture and protested the Vietnam war and the military-industrial complex behind it.

Yesterday he was at the Pentagon trying to persuade military medical officials to permit a clinical trial that would test MDMA, the active ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy, in conjunction with psychotherapy, in active duty soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There’s been this history of conflict between psychedelics and the military, and we’re trying to say that’s not the only vision,” Doblin said. “There’s a way for us to come together.”

Doblin is the founder and director of the non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies(MAPS), which is trying to get drugs like psilocybin, LSD, and MDMA approved for medical use. MAPS has already sponsored small clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, first in survivors of sexual abuse and assault, and now in military veterans, police, and firefighters.

Doblin spoke with Wired about his military mission and what it says about shifting attitudes towards psychedelic drugs.

Wired: What were you doing at the Pentagon?

Rick Doblin: I am hoping to convince them to back a study with active duty soldiers with PTSD. But I’m not asking them to fund it. MAPS will fund a demonstration project. If it works, I’d hope they will fund future studies. This was our second meeting to talk about some sort of collaboration, and the meeting went really well.

Wired: Was it strange for you to be there?

Doblin: Just walking into the Pentagon and being invited to the Pentagon is a healing process for me personally, and I hope more broadly for society. In the 60s, society went in two directions: There was psychedelics and marijuana and anti-war protestors, and there was alcohol and beer and pro-Vietnam supporters. But now the war on drugs is losing steam, and the culture is coming together again after 45 years.

But I don’t want to underestimate the resistance. When Michael Mithoefer [a South Carolina psychiatrist who has led two PTSD trials sponsored by MAPS] came to the Pentagon with me the first time, he shaved his ponytail off. The last time he did that was when he did his residency interviews after medical school. So we’re trying to do our part not to create countercultural flak, and I think that’s really key.

Wired: The fact that they’re even considering this seems like an indication of how things have changed.

Doblin: For so long the only story that’s been told has been exclusively one of risk. It’s been told for marijuana, MDMA, LSD, and psilocybin, and the risk has been exaggerated. Now that we’ve been able to start getting some evidence on the benefits, it changes people’s calculus. And the benefits are coming in areas that people are more worried about than they are about drugs, like end of life anxiety [in terminal cancer patients] and PTSD in veterans. We’re purposely choosing conditions that will resonate with people.

Wired: What benefits have you seen so far in the study with veterans? . . .

Continue reading.

And here’s another article by Greg Miller on psychedelic medicine.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 10:18 am

Starting to walk

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It will take a while, but I’m starting to feel desperate for exercise—that is the state I apparently must reach before doing any. A 45-minute walk on Thursday from here to Lover’s Point seemed good on Thursday. Friday I did a shorter walk—to my ISP to turn in my old modem and buy a new one. Today I set out for Lover’s Point again, but this time the walk took only about 35 minutes: I’ll have to walk a little farther to reach 45 minutes. But it’s a pleasant walk, along the rocky shore.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 10:05 am

Posted in Fitness

A Rising Marijuana Reform Tide at the Statehouses

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Phillip Smith reports the level of activity at the state level for reform of marijuana laws:

In the wake of the marijuana legalization victories in Colorado and Washington last November, and buoyed by a series of national public opinion polls showing support for pot legalization going over the tipping point, marijuana reform legislation is being introduced at state houses across the land at levels never seen before.

While the mere fact that a bill has been introduced is no guarantee it’s going to pass, that such bills are being introduced in record numbers speaks to how far the marijuana reform movement has come. According to a legislative activity web page maintained by the Marijuana Policy Project, decriminalization bills have been introduced in 10 states and the dependency of the Northern Mariana Islands this year, while outright legalization bills have been introduced in 11 states and the dependency of Puerto Rico.(This article does not review current medical marijuana legislation, which will be the subject of an additional report. In the meanwhile, our Medical Marijuana Update each week provides extensive info on legislation and other developments in the issue.)

Some of the legalization and decrim bills are dead already (see below), but others remain alive. While passage of a legalization bill this year remains a long shot, decriminalization bills in some states may fare better.

NORML founder, erstwhile executive director and current legal counsel Keith Stroup has been fighting for marijuana law reform for more than 40 years. It’s never looked better, he said.

“I wasn’t sure I’d live long enough to see this happening, even though the demographics are on our side,” he said. “A lot of these legislatures, though, are still playing around with medical marijuana, when the truth is voters are ready to go much further, probably for decriminalization and maybe for legalization. But after we won Colorado and Washington, you can see the increased confidence a number of legislators have demonstrated, and there’s only going to be more of that.”

Karen O’Keefe is director of state policies for MPP. She hasn’t been at it as long as Stroup, but she has a solid decade of reform efforts under her belt, and she, too, said things were definitely looking up.

“When I first started at MPP, I don’t think a single state had a tax and regulate bill, and now we have 11 states, and probably Ohio coming on board, too, with tax and regulate. People are realizing it’s a serious issue with majority support, and legislatures are starting to catch up,” said O’Keefe.

“We first saw majority support in the Gallup poll a couple of years ago, but there wasn’t nearly as much activity as this year,” she said. “Having two states approve marijuana legalization with solid majorities made it seem real. Colorado and Washington were initiative states, and the first medical marijuana states were initiative states, too. Once the people have led the way, legislators begin to realize it’s a popular issue that makes sense and they start to act on it.”

Here’s what’s going on in the state legislatures (excerpted with edits from the aforementioned MPP web page), with further discussion following:

Marijuana Legalization Bills

Alabama — House Bill 550, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd, would allow adults 21 and older to possess or grow limited amounts of marijuana. It would also allow a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, in addition to setting up a medical marijuana program. The bill was referred to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

Hawaii — Speaker Joe Souki introduced House Bill 150 and House Bill 699, which would have allowed the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. Both bills would also have allowed adults to cultivate marijuana in a locked, secure facility. On February 12, the House Judiciary Committee deferred action on HB 699, killing the bill for the year. Because of legislative deadlines, the other tax-and-regulate bill also will not be able to advance in 2013, which is the first year of Hawaii’s biennial legislative session.

Maine — Rep. Diane Russell’s LD 1229 would allow adults 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system to license and regulate growers, infused product makers, retail stores, and labs. LD 1229 would impose a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana at the wholesale level. It was referred to the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on March 26.

Maryland — . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 9:11 am

Posted in Drug laws

Another fine shave, with a new finish

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SOTD 4 May 2013

MR GLO first, of course, then a good lather from the Green Mountain Cheaha shaving soap:

Triple milled shaving soap formulated to provide a creamy, sturdy, slick lather. Essential oils of cedarwoods, patchouli and exotic florals, citrus, moss and leather are reminiscent of Mount Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama.

The lather was not so creamy as from some soaps, but quite adequate for a good shave. My Weber ARC razor, holding an Astra Keramik Platinum blade, produced a BBS finish in three very comfortable passes.

I’m enjoying using EDTs as aftershaves: just use a little less, and the result is fine (so far). Today’s “aftershave” is Annik Goutal’s Eau de Sud:

The main notes of this symphony of scents are bergamot, mandarine, and grapefruit, displaying the savors of sun-ripened citrus fruits. Then the fragrance reveals more generous, warm, woody, resinous accents, reminiscent of voluptuous hours of farniente. Eau du Sud reflects the heat of the Mediterranean sun…

Eau de Sud reminds me of the fragrance and stillness of a ssun-drenched summer countryside on a still afternoon in the South of France—“reminds” being a term of art, since I’ve never been there. But it’s what I imagine it must smell like.

A very pleasant start to the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

4 May 2013 at 9:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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