Archive for May 9th, 2009
I’m roasting a chicken using this foolproof method, and I found I was out of kitchen string, so I had to make do with dental floss. With the size of chickens and lemons that I buy, one lemon seems to be plenty. I’ll roast this one, then let it sit and cool and eat it cold later. Nothing like a bottle and a cold bird.
Thanks to Beth for sending the link. The note at the YouTube video says:
A random clip from the cult classic “Incubus”. It is one of the only films made entirely in Esperanto. However, language enthusiasts have noted that the actors’ pronunciation here is not always accurate. Ann Atmar’s pronunciation is decent, but Shatner sounds French at times.
Suppose you were writing about the financial-policy mistakes that helped bring on the Great Depression. And you wanted to dramatize the damage done by adherence to the gold standard, which meant that the central banks of Britain, France, Germany, etc could issue only as much money as they happened to have gold in their vaults.
As the world financial crisis spread after the 1929 stock market crash, the flow of gold became highly unbalanced. The United States, with its undamaged industrial-export base (and its determination to collect on wartime loans to the Allies) was piling up gold. So were the French, for various reasons of their own. This meant big trouble most of all for England, which was losing gold and therefore had to imposes a domestic credit squeeze. You could put it that way — or you could write this:
"Unknown to most people, much of the gold that had supposedly flown into France was actually sitting in London. Bullion was so heavy — a seventeen-inch cube weighs about a ton — that instead of shipping crates of it across hundreds of miles from one country to another and paying high insurance costs, central banks had taken to ‘earmarking’ the metal, that is, keeping it in the same vault but simply re-registering its ownership. Thus the decline in Britain’s gold reserves and their accumulation in France and the United States was accomplished by a group of men descending into the vaults of the Bank of England, loading some bars of bullion onto a low wooden truck with small rubber tires, trundling them thirty feet across the room to the other wall, and offloading them, though not before attaching some white name tags indicating that the gold now belonged to the Banque de France or the Federal Reserve Bank. That the world was being subjected to a progressively tightening squeeze on credit just because there happened to be too much gold on one side of the vault and not enough on the other provoked Lord d’Abernon, Britain’s ambassador to Germany after the war [WW I] and now [1930s] an elder statesman-economist, to exclaim, ‘This depression is the stupidest and most gratuitous in history.’ "
This paragraph is from Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance, recommended here previously. There are many touches I love in this passage, from the "small rubber tires" detail and mot juste "trundling" term, to the vivid real-world description of how grand policies worked in practice, to the perfectly used quote at the end. No larger point here; just worth noticing admirable examples of explaining the world.
I have the book whose title appears above. Culinate offers an extract. Take a look.
Interesting article in Business Week. I’m particularly interested to try Wolfram Alpha, which will launch next Friday. The article begins:
Google dominates Internet search, but a growing number of companies are trying to come up with something better. On May 15, British mathematician Stephen Wolfram plans to launch an online service intended to provide more useful answers to search queries than the standard list of Web pages. IBM just took the wraps off a computer program designed to field questions well enough that it can compete on Jeopardy! with the game show’s best human contestants. And Microsoft is planning to relaunch its own search service this spring, though the details are top secret.
Why challenge a company that has crushed every contender to date? Certainly, rivals want a slice of Google’s $20 billion in search-related revenue. But they also see that search has loads of room for improvement. Too often, search engines return a list of Web sites people must comb through for information, and that’s if they get the right sites at all. The Google challengers, as well as Google itself, aim to divine the essence of what people are searching for and to provide answers that come closer to what they actually want than the standard list of blue Web site links…
Slashfood offers a quick and easy method that sounds quite good.
Fascinating article in Business Week:
Congressional leaders say they’ll have a health-care bill in June that will deal with the uninsured. Fine, says business, as long as the existing employer-based insurance system is maintained. That seems counterintuitive, given that health care is the fastest-growing cost for U.S. companies. “I’ve worked in the employer-based market for 35 years, and it’s bizarre that CEOs continue to support this system,” says Robert Laszewski, president of consultants Health Policy & Strategy Associates.
But perhaps they really don’t. Health reform experts say many CEOs would secretly love the federal government to take on the burden–and some don’t bother to hide it. “There are employers that don’t want the responsibility, and we are in that category,” says Carl T. Camden, CEO of Kelly Services. Managing insurance for his vast, geographically dispersed workforce of temporary workers is horrendously expensive, he complains: “My health-care costs total more than my profits.”
Insurance premiums charged to employers have soared 119% over the past decade, four times faster than wage increases. Based on a survey of 428 companies, Mercer, the consulting division of Marsh & McLennan, estimates that 46% of employers plan to shift more health costs to employees in 2010.
Nevertheless, CEOs tend to insist they want to keep offering benefits for two reasons. They’re a valuable employee perk, as the Business Roundtable and other corporate groups point out. Further, top executives figure they would pay for health care anyway if the government took control, through higher taxes or fees, while losing the ability to hold down costs.
But in private, “CEOs overwhelmingly want out of this business,” says Benjamin Sasse, an Assistant Secretary of Health & Human Services under President George W. Bush who’s now an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “They just do not want to be seen as more willing to dump [benefits] than their competitors are.” Sasse says many CEOs he has talked with would even pay a new tax if it got them out of the insurance business…
Continue reading. The concluding paragraph is worth quoting:
James Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, describes himself as a conservative. Nevertheless, he sees much to like in the national health systems of Europe. “If someone said to me, ‘you can pay the same amount [for health care] and we will redeploy to a national system,’ I’m fine,” he says. “Why would I argue with that?”
Obviously the head of the USDA Food Inspection Service (which inspects meat, poultry, and eggs) is a critical pick. Unfortunately, it looks likely that we’ll get another meat industry puppet. Obama Foodorama:
Secretary Vilsack has shown himself to be a champion of the US meat industry. But will his pick to head the FSIS do more harm than good for consumers?
The scuttle from Capitol Hill and USDA today: Dr. Michael Doyle is Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack’s leading contender to head USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (Doyle, in pic). This crucial branch of the agency covers meat, poultry and eggs, and given our current crisis mode in food safety–including about four years of massive recalls for all kinds of pathogen problems in poultry and beef–it’s a very important position. Ron Hicks, a USDA systems manager, is currently the acting undersecretary. Those in the know on the pick say the choice of Doyle is a step backward for Sec. Vilsack, who has so far put together a swell team at USDA. But Doyle’s been on Vilsack’s "top five" list since January.
Doyle is currently Director of the Center For Food Safety at the University of Georgia, and a professor in the department of food safety and technology. His work at the land-grant university has been heavily funded by major meat industry concerns, and Doyle has won big acclaim for his industry-friendly policy wonking, in particular from …
At first glance, Sonia Sotomayor would seem to be the ideal Supreme Court candidate for President Barack Obama. A highly respected judge on the prestigious Second Circuit Court of Appeals, she was first appointed to the federal bench by a Republican, President George H.W. Bush. Raised in a housing project in the South Bronx to a family of Puerto Rican descent, she went on to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and become a law review editor at Yale Law School, mirroring Obama’s own unlikely yet quintessentially American success story. So Sotomayor would certainly seem to embody the bipartisanship, intellectual prowess and capacity for empathy that Obama has suggested are key traits for this first Supreme Court pick.
But as TWI’s David Wiegel wrote yesterday, conservatives are eager to wield this first choice for the high court against Obama and the Democratic party. Obama’s statement last week that he wants a justice with “empathy” who “understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book,” but also “about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives” has become a rallying cry for conservatives, who see “empathetic” as code for “judicial activist” eager twist the law to further liberal sympathies at the expense of constitutional principle.
That Obama said he also wants “somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role” has been largely ignored.
Perhaps because of her seemingly stellar credentials for the job – and the fact that as a woman of Puerto Rican descent Sotomayor would bolster Obama’s reputation with key constituency groups – Republicans have been particularly aggressive in attacking her.
Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the right-wing American Center for Law and Justice, recently claimed on Fox News that Sotomayor is “to the left of Ginsburg and Souter,” without naming a single opinion she’s written. And former Bush advisor Karl Rove, also on Fox, said Sotomayor has a reputation as “very liberal and very expansive” in her reading of the constitution, suggesting that she “makes determinations based on [her] personal feelings towards the plaintiff” rather than based on the law. Again, he cited no examples.
Supreme Court experts are not surprised. “There’s probably a strong correlation between the amount of criticism she’s receiving and the likelihood that she’s going to be selected,” said Adam Winkler, a Constitutional law professor at University of California, Los Angeles.
The three major criticisms circulated by conservative advocates and bloggers are …
Good post by Karen Tumulty, which begins:
One of the few things that just about all sides agree upon in this health care debate is that we need more primary care providers — lots more. And an already serious shortage will only get worse if we succeed in expanding coverage to some or all of the 47 million Americans who now lack it. That is one of the lessons of health care reform in Massachusetts, whose success in moving toward universal coverage has created what the Massachusetts Medical Society deems a "critical" need for internal medicine and family practice physicians.
The good news, however, is that there is a large army of reinforcements out there–primary care providers who are proving their worth every day, particularly in underserved areas like rural America. They’re called … nurses. More specifically, nurse practitioners. In 2006, there were nearly 145,000 nurse practitioners …
Very good post at Synthesis, which begins:
To succeed in American politics, all politicians, Democrat and Republican alike must have a reputation of being tough on crime. In fact, on a percentage basis, you’re more likely to succeed vs. any opponent if you’ve got a background in criminal justice (prosecutor, attorney general, etc.), and specifically on the “jes’ throw all them f#%@ers in jail” side.
According to this, in 2007 more than 7.3 million adults were under some form of correctional supervision. That’s 2.4% of the country, or 1 in 41 people! But only 75% of America’s population is adults, so it’s really 3.2%, or 1 in 31 adults!! OMG!!
This includes those in prison, jail, on parole or probation; so for context, the number of people in prison or jail was just under 2.3 million, or about one-third.
The impact to our economy is noteworthy. Check out the chart …
Continue reading. Good graphs at the link.
Thanks to The Younger Daughter, this fascinating slide show of job gains and losses—watch it play and be astounded. EP: it requires flash. Sorry.
David Sirota has a good article in Salon.com:
Even if you don’t dig on swine, it has become impossible to avoid them. If you’re not pummeled by television reports about Wall Street oinkers, you’re bombarded by talk-radio rants about congressional pork and newspaper dispatches about swine flu.
The bacon-flavored themes probably aren’t purposefully repetitive, but that’s OK because these seemingly unrelated story lines share a common bond: They are each part of what might be called piggish capitalism — an economic theory that mixes subsidization, consolidation and deregulation and that now endangers us all.
Take the pandemic scare: The Associated Press says scientists suspect swine flu began in a Mexican town that "has been protesting pollution from a large pig farm" partially owned by the Smithfield company. That’s the same Smithfield that used three decades of lax antitrust enforcement and corporate welfare to become one of the few mega-corporations now controlling global agribusiness.
Whether or not swine flu is ultimately attributed to this company is less important than the justifiable reason factory farming is a suspect. As Pew Charitable Trusts documented in 2008, researchers have long warned that industrial agriculture means high concentrations of waste, overuse of antibiotics and "continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds" — all factors that increase the possibility of diseases like swine flu.
Yet, Congress has repeatedly rejected bills to mandate vigorous health inspections, stop agribusiness consolidation and halt subsidies underwriting that consolidation, meaning these companies are now so huge and unchecked that they can pose a worldwide threat when livestock-borne disease strikes. It’s easy to understand why: A virus that might have been constrained by small herds in our family-farm-dominated past can now exponentially metastasize in our factory-run present. Thus, Wired magazine’s article noting that "scientists have traced the genetic lineage of the new H1N1 swine flu to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory farms, where it spread and mutated at an alarming rate."
Unregulated, taxpayer-subsidized oligopoly spreading risk … Sounds familiar, right? It should, because at the very moment agribusinesses were vertically and horizontally integrating themselves, so too were financial firms.
In 1999, five days before Congress rejected a proposal to temporarily halt agribusiness consolidation, …
We wet-shavers that fancy single-blade shaving are well aware that earlier technologies can be better the modern market-driven innovations. Adam Gopnik has an article that touches on the modern razor “advances,” and muses on how Gillette deftly marketed and sold the Mach 3 and now, with the Fusion, must some dismarket and unsell the Mach 3.
But the article also includes his search for a good reading light to use in bed: enough light to read by, not so much as to disturb a sleeping partner. All the modern booklights were unsatisfactory: batteries ran out too quickly, light was too bright, light was to focused on center of page, and so on. He finally discovered the perfect reading light: a candle. Nice warm light, bright enough to read by, calming, no batteries required, and when the book is finished, you just blow out the light.
UPDATE: A good beeswax taper will drip little, and you can cut the candle so that it burns only for the amount of time you plan to read—and a glance at the candle will show how much time you have left. See comments for more. And the kind of holder I envisage is this guy:
I liked yesterday’s bitter-almond fragrance from the Figaro shaving cream, so today I got out my Virgilio Valobra shaving soap—though it’s a soft soap, about the consistency of clay. I took the bar and mashed it into the jar you see in the photo. It’s really great stuff—as is the Figaro—and, like Figaro, has the bitter-almond fragrance.
Extremely nice shave: the lather was copious and good, the Vision 2000 did a fine, smooth job, and the Floïd aftershave hit the spot.