Archive for February 2009
Over the past few weeks, the Obama Administration has been engaged in truly shocking behavior. It is letting Israel know when the U.S. disapproves of its actions, and appointing people to the government who have not been slavish devotees of the right-wing Likud line in the past. George W. Bush never did that!
So Hillary Clinton is under fire for allegedly telling the Israelis that they should open the Gaza borders to humanitarian aid. (The Israeli government is keeping the borders closed as a bargaining chip in the effort to get a soldier held prisoner by Hamas released from captivity.) And various of the usual suspects are bleating about the appointment of the estimable, but too pro-Saudi for my taste, Chas Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council. And others are outraged that the Obama Administration hasn’t ruled out participating in a U.N. Council on racism, which usually features racist diatribes directed at Jews.
Now, many of these neocons have been gunning for Obama from the start…and have been just twitching in anticipation of the chance to paint him anti-Israel or worse. Their tendency to slime their detractors with overwrought epithets—anti-semite is the old standby—has diminished whatever power that term once held. In this case, once again, they are standing athwart America’s best interests—and Israel’s: it’s about time that the U.S. starting calling Israel on its excesses. Clinton is right, for example: Israel’s strangle-hold on the Gaza crossings gave Hamas a rationale for its rocketing of innocent Israeli civilians. And furthermore, Israel’s steady accretion of settlements on Palestinian lands gives credibility to Palestinian extremists who believe that Israel has no interest in a truly viable two-state solution…
Jefferson Morley of the Washington Independent:
The oil industry vows to fight President Obama’s budget proposal unveiled yesterday that would raise $32 billion by taxing oil companies that failed to pay royalties on Gulf of Mexico oil leases issued between 1996 and 2000. Whether they can succeed is another question.
The American Petroleum Institute is objecting, and the major oil companies potentially on the hook are among the biggest of the big lobbying powers in Washington: BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell. They will “hide behind the independent oil companies,” predicts Erich Pica, an analyst for Friends of the Earth, “and threw in everything but the kitchen sink.”
These five companies spent a combined $59.4 billion in lobbying in 2008 alone, according to figures from the nonpartisan OpenSecrets.org, these five companies have plenty of money to throw in. Several prominent former Democrat legislators and staff members lobbied on behalf of these companies in 2008 — including former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux (Shell), former Hill staffer Holly Bode (Exxon), who previously worked for Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.); and former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Paul Brathwaite (BP).
But Big Oil’s ability to prevent the plugging of this loophole could be waning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) targeted royalty relief in her “first 100 days” agenda when Democrats took control of Congress in 2007. The House approved a rollback, but it narrowly failed to gain Senate approval. Since then, pro-oil Republican Sen.Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Wayne Allard of Colorado have been replaced by green Democrats, Tom and Mark Udall, respectively. Pencil in Minnesota’s DFL Senator-in-waiting Al Franken in place of former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, and as Daniel Weiss of the Center for American put it, ”Big oil faces an uphill climb.”
It could have been embarrassing. AP reports:
President Barack Obama’s former nominee to become commerce secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg, steered taxpayer money to his home state’s redevelopment of a former Air Force base even as he and his brother engaged in real estate deals there, an Associated Press investigation found.
Gregg, R-N.H., personally has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cyrus Gregg’s office projects at the Pease International Tradeport, a Portsmouth business park built at the defunct Pease Air Force Base, once home to nuclear bombers. Judd Gregg has collected at least $240,017 to $651,801 from his investments there, Senate records show, while helping arrange at least $66 million in federal aid for the former base.
Gregg said he violated no laws or Senate rules.
But the senator’s mixture of personal and professional business would have been difficult to square with President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to impose greater transparency and integrity over federal budget earmarks — funding for lawmakers’ pet projects. Gregg said that during his consideration for the Cabinet job, the White House did not know about his Pease earmarks, although the administration knew about his investments at Pease.
Under new Senate ethics rules, Gregg had to certify that federal aid he directed to specific projects was not intended solely to enrich him or immediate family, including siblings. Senators are also supposed to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, though the Senate Ethics Committee seldom investigates or disciplines senators when questions are raised about their activities…
A friend advertised on Craigslist for a housekeeper.
Three interesting résumés came to the top. She googled each person’s name.
The first search turned up a MySpace page. There was a picture of the applicant, drinking beer from a funnel. Under hobbies, the first entry was, “binge drinking.”
The second search turned up a personal blog (a good one, actually). The most recent entry said something like, “I am applying for some menial jobs that are below me, and I’m annoyed by it. I’ll certainly quit the minute I sell a few paintings.”
And the third? There were only six matches, and the sixth was from the local police department, indicating that the applicant had been arrested for shoplifting two years earlier.
Three for three.
Google never forgets…
Strange to see the vigor with which Obama’s DoJ is defending Bush policies. Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:
Well, he doesn’t get to go free, but Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri — the last remaining “enemy combatant” who was picked up and held for the past six years without charge on U.S. soil — will finally have the privilege of being transferred to a real federal prison (from a South Carolina Navy brig) and charged in an actual U.S. federal court.
While that doesn’t mean that al-Marri will get out anytime soon, it does at least give him an opportunity to see and contest the charges against him. He will reportedly be charged with providing material support to Al Qaeda.
Today, President Obama issued an official presidential memorandum sealing the deal:
[I]t is in the interest of the United States that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri be released from detention by the Secretary of Defense and transferred to the control of the Attorney General for the purpose of criminal proceedings against him.
One reason it’s in the interest of the United States is because it means the government can now ask the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal pending in his habeas corpus case, as it’s said it will do. The appeal is a direct challenge to the government’s authority to hold a lawful U.S. resident indefinitely and without charge on U.S. soil. Al-Marri’s lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union have said they want to pursue the appeal to the Supreme Court, to obtain a ruling on the issue and “make sure that no American citizen or lawful resident will ever again be imprisoned without charge or trial.” However, it is difficult to imagine that the Supreme Court would choose to address the issue in al-Marri’s case, now that it no longer has to.
In as similar case, involving Jose Padilla, a US citizen held as an enemy combatant without charge by the Bush administration, the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal as soon as he was transferred to civilian custody for a criminal trial.
As a general matter, the Supreme Court will not decide a constitutional issue such as this one unless it is necessary to resolve a pending case. The transfer of al-Marri from Defense Department to Justice Department custody would seem to render the issue moot. However, SCOTUSblog noted yesterday that al-Marri’s lawyers could argue that because the government could change its mind in the future and transfer al-Marri back to military custody, the Supreme Court should go ahead and decide the case.
And Glenn Greenwald is similarly wondering:
Fennel and Celery Salad
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, some fronds reserved
3 celery ribs, trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, more to taste
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese. [My specialty – LG]
1. Cut fennel bulbs in quarters lengthwise, discarding outer layer if it is exceedingly tough. Use a mandoline to slice quarters thinly; slice celery equally thin.
2. Put sliced fennel and celery into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Top with lots of freshly shaved Parmesan and chopped fennel fronds if you like.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Thin-shaved Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes) which, coincidentally, I was served twice in restaurants (Del Posto, Al di La) in the last week. Or radishes, or even turnips. Celeriac, with the fennel (not with celery– redundant). And the herbs — whatever we can lay our hands on.
This is from the Kitchn [sic], where they have a great photo of the finished dish:
Dried hijiki may be found at Japanese and Korean markets and many health food stores, including Whole Foods.
Hijiki with Carrots
1/2 cup dried hijiki seaweed
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup julienned carrots
2 teaspoons sour citrus juice or rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
White pepper, to taste
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Rinse hijiki to remove any sand. (If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer, just swirl the seaweed around in a bowl of water, then drain.)
Place hijiki in a bowl with 1/2 cup warm water. Let soak for 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan, heat sesame oil over low-medium heat. Add carrots and cook until softened.
Add hijiki, citrus juice or vinegar, sea salt, and a dash of white pepper to the carrots. Heat through.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve warm or cool.
In my ma po tofu dishes, I’ve been including some arame seaweed: very nice taste and texture addition. We should all eat more seaweed, yes?