Archive for November 11th, 2009
The Wife, who still works fulltime (and a bit more, if you ask me) finds cooking veggies a challenge, so I’m helping. Today she’ll get:
a. Red-leaf kale sautéed with onions and pignolas, with lime juice. I first sautéed the onions (in olive oil) until they were starting to caramelize, then added the kale and pignolas along with lime juice and little water, cooking them covered over low heat at that point.
b. Roasted butternut squash and Japanese sweet potatoes. I cut them into chunks, tossed with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and a little bit of cinnamon before roasting for 40 minutes at 400º F.
c. Bok choy, sautéed in olive and sesame oil.
Who was the commenter who said that we should just trust businesses to do the right thing? I hope he reads this article.
Only, of course there’s just one of me.
Also, I do my workout seated. Sometimes with the chair reclined.
My workout involves headphones, movies, and books.
We’ll be honoring veterans of the resource wars that will set in as global warming accelerates. Take a look at this post. From the post:
… As the NYT reported in August:
The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
The world beyond 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide — possibly even a world beyond 400 ppm — crosses carbon cycle tipping points that threaten to quickly take us to 1000 ppm. It is a world not merely of endless regional resource wars around the globe. It is a world with dozens of Darfurs. It is a world of a hundred Katrinas, of countless environmental refugees — hundreds of millions by the second half of this century — all clamoring to occupy the parts of the developed world that aren’t flooded or desertified.
In such a world, everyone will ultimately become a veteran, and Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day will fade into obscurity, as people forget about a time when wars were the exception, a time when soldiers were but a small minority of the population.
So when does this happen?
Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” sees it happening by the mid-2020s: …
I suspect that more towns and cities will be doing this. Miranda Spivack in the Washington Post:
Montgomery County redefined the way it will grow in the next two decades when lawmakers endorsed a plan Tuesday that encourages development where residents can easily live a car-free lifestyle.
The County Council, after weeks of intense debate over the county’s growth policy, unanimously agreed to give developers discounts to build dense developments near transit stations as long as they also construct bike paths and walkways, put shops and other amenities nearby, and use environmentally friendly construction methods.
Most suburban growth plans — including Montgomery’s, until Tuesday — discourage development in congested areas, including those near public transit, and encourage construction in more sparsely populated communities, on the theory that new developments should arise where traffic is still tolerable.
But Montgomery’s new plan takes a different tack, one that smart-growth advocates say is long overdue. With the population nearing 1 million, the Washington suburb is substantially larger than the big city to its south but is still managing growth as if everyone can hop in a car and quickly get where they want to go.
The county’s growth policy is revisited every two years. The new plan could boost efforts to redevelop the jumbled White Flint area along Rockville Pike and provide new impetus to build a "science city" spearheaded by Johns Hopkins University west of Interstate 270 near Gaithersburg.
Montgomery is shifting direction at a time when jurisdictions across the Washington area are beginning to embrace transit-oriented development…
Harold Meyerson notes the paralysis that has overcome the political process, and points to a Senate in need of institutional reform.
A catastrophic change has overtaken the Senate in recent years. Initially conceived as the body that would cool the passions of the House and consider legislation with a more Olympian perspective, the Senate has become a body that shuns debate, avoids legislative give-and-take, proceeds glacially and produces next to nothing.
The problem, in part, is that Republicans have routinized the filibuster. They have given their leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the power to bring virtually all legislation to a halt…. Establishing a new normal: If we have anything to do with it, nothing moves. Unless you can get a 60-vote majority to end debate, all major bills (and some minor ones) are dead in the water.
Meyerson notes the Democrats’ three great governing opportunities/challenges of the last century. The first was in 1933, when FDR and a Democratic Congress delivered on a New Deal. The second was in 1965, when LBJ and a Democratic Congress advanced the Great Society. The third is right now. And while the first two saw a flurry of legislative successes that came to define a generation, 2009 isn’t working out the same way — partly because Republicans have embraced obstructionism on an unprecedented scale, partly because some Democrats are conservatives who are comfortable with failure, and partly because of legislative procedural hurdles that FDR and LBJ didn’t have to worry about.
Steven Pearlstein notices the problem, too.
The Washington Post‘s Ruth Marcus explained in her new column that she’s "not a huge fan" of the House health care bill — she didn’t say why, exactly — but the columnist ended up cheering for the legislation anyway. Apparently, Marcus heard an "appalling amount of misinformation being peddled" by Republicans, and grew disgusted.
I don’t mean the usual hyperbole about "a children-bankrupting, health-care-rationing, freedom-crushing, $1 trillion government takeover of our health-care system," as Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling put it. Or the tired canards about taxpayer-funded abortion or insurance subsidies for illegal immigrants. Or the extraneous claims about alleged Democratic excesses….
I mean the flood of sheer factual misstatements about the health-care bill.
Marcus proceeds to document all kinds of lies from a variety of GOP lawmakers. There were obvious falsehoods about Medicare, taxes, Comparative Effectiveness Research, jobs, and the public option. It was as dishonest a display as one will ever see from one party in one day.
You have to wonder: Are the Republican arguments against the bill so weak that they have to resort to these misrepresentations and distortions?
Good question. When you take an intellectually unserious caucus, add dashes of panic and paranoia, and throw in a healthy dose of ignorance, you end up with a group of people who can’t help but lie — they have nothing else of value to say.
Marcus’ column was especially impressive for resisting the urge most of the media establishment gives into: trying to pretend "both sides" are equally bad. It’s lazy but common, and Marcus, to her credit, called it like she saw it. There was no need to put a pox on both houses, when only one had earned it.
House Republicans spent the entire debate shamelessly lying. Here’s wishing other media figures were as willing as Marcus to say so.
The video is from a good post at Climate Progress.
Five months ago, President Obama nominated Tom Shannon to be the U.S. ambassador to Brazil. Shannon is strong, almost obvious, choice — he’s been Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the last five years; he’s a career Foreign Service officer; and he enjoys a strong relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Shannon sailed through the confirmation hearings, and would have been easily approved by the Senate, if only the nomination could be brought to the floor. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) put a months-long hold on Shannon, blocking a vote. Last week, DeMint finally agreed to let the nomination proceed to the floor.
So, the Senate can vote now? No, now there’s another Republican hold.
There may be no better example of how the Senate’s holds and filibusters work now than this one — Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.), who holds his job because his political ally Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) appointed him in September, has placed a hold on the Obama administration’s nominee for ambassador to Brazil. Tom Shannon’s nomination is on hold so LeMieux can "discuss my concerns" and "fully vet" him.
LeMieux didn’t identify what those "concerns" are, or why he didn’t seek answers to these questions before now.
It’s just another day in a legislative chamber that Republicans have apparently broken on purpose.
Keep in mind, these farcical antics have real-world consequences. Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, believes his own GOP colleagues are undermining U.S. foreign policy by forcing these delays.
"I am concerned that unnecessary delays in confirming this outstanding and highly regarded career diplomat are beginning to impede our ability to work with Brazil on pressing regional issues, such as the resolution of the crisis in Honduras," Lugar said yesterday. "Coordination on regional matters is in the interests of our two countries and the region."
If only it was in the interests of the rest of the Senate Republican caucus.
Here’s the kind of welcome one enjoys:
For more doggy welcome-homes, check out this collection (from which the above is taken).
And another way to support our veterans: get Coburn out of the Senate. And note this post by Alex Seitz-Wald at ThinkProgress:
On the eve of Veterans Day, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School has released a study finding that an estimated 2,266 veterans under the age of 65 died last year because they did not have health insurance. That “translates to six preventable deaths per day” and more than twice the number killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.
Being uninsured raises a person’s odds of dying prematurely by 40 percent. The researchers found that 1.46 million veterans between the ages of 18 and 64 lacked insurance in 2008. While most veterans are eligible to receive excellent care from the Veterans Administration, those who were not injured in combat and whose income is above a certain threshold are often ineligible. Others are assigned low priorities, providing them with less consistent and more expensive access to care:
“Like other uninsured Americans, most uninsured vets are working people – too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor at Harvard Medical School. [...]
Dr. David Himmelstein, the co-author of the analysis and associate professor of medicine at Harvard, commented, “On this Veterans Day we should not only honor the nearly 500 soldiers who have died this year in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the more than 2,200 veterans who were killed by our broken health insurance system. That’s six preventable deaths a day.”
Unfortunately, health insurance is just one of many serious problems vets face. Up toone-in-five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while male vets face suicide rates double the national average. And, as the VA under President Obama recognized, veterans still account for up to a quarter of all homeless.
The fact that even veterans cannot receive adequate health care demonstrates that the current system is broken and in need of dramatic overhaul. A robust public optionwill guarantee that vets and all working-class Americans will be able to afford quality health insurance. Still, the study’s authors warn that the health care legislation “would do virtually nothing for the uninsured until 2013” and would “leave at least 17 million uninsured over the long run when reform kicks in,” leaving many veterans without care.
UPDATE: Politico reports, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) ‘illogical’ for holding up a veterans care bill Tuesday, criticizing the Oklahoma Republican for supporting war funding while blocking health care funding for veterans."
Very interesting email from the Marijuana Policy Project:
Yesterday, the American Medical Association — the U.S.’s largest and most influential medical association — passed a new policy stance calling for a government review of marijuana’s legal status.
Marijuana is currently classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, grouping marijuana with drugs like heroin, LSD, and PCP, which are deemed to have no accepted medical uses and considered unsafe for use even under medical supervision.
The AMA’s new policy "urges that marijuana’s status as a federal Schedule I controlled substance be reviewed with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods." It goes on to explain that this position should not be construed as an endorsement of state medical marijuana programs.
This is a major shift from the AMA’s previous position, which recommended that marijuana be kept in Schedule I. What’s more, the AMA also rejected an attempt to urge doctors not to participate in state medical marijuana programs by recommending marijuana to their patients.
This shift, coming from America’s most cautious and conservative major medical organization, is historic. The AMA’s previous position was often cited by our opponents as evidence that medical marijuana’s utility was not widely accepted. This change will make the opposition’s argument significantly more difficult to make.
Since 2006, MPP has been instrumental in persuading medical organizations like the American College of Physicians to issue positions calling on the government to relax restrictions against medical marijuana — with the ultimate goal of persuading the AMA to do the same. Yesterday’s news is a big step toward that goal.
If you want to help us continue this work, we could really use your help. If you haven’t yet donated to MPP’s work this year, or if you can make an additional contribution, please visit our donation page today to help out.
One of the best things about not working at The Atlantic anymore is not counting Robert Kaplan among my professional colleagues. Here’s his take on modern-day Europe:
Europe, having been liberated from nuclear terror at the conclusion of the Cold War, proved unable to muster the gumption to deal with Yugoslavia on its own, or, as the case of Afghanistan shows, to demonstrate much enthusiasm for any great collective effort. Which leads to the question:What does the European Union truly stand for besides a cradle-to-grave social welfare system? For without something to struggle for, there can be no civil society—only decadence.
Thus, with their patriotism dissipated, European governments can no longer ask for sacrifices from their populations when it comes to questions of peace and war. Ironically, we may have gained victory in the Cold War, but lost Europe in the process.
Spencer Ackerman observes that there’s something rather crazy about the view that the Cold War was waged “so that European soldiers would one day become our cannon fodder.” One might further note that it’s not at all clear that the American public has any real desire to sacrifice anything in Afghanistan. It seems to me that one of the key props of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan has been the consensus on both the right (Bush, The Weekly Standard) and the center (Blue Dogs, The Washington Post) that it’s not necessary to raise hundreds of billions in tax revenue in order to pay for hundreds of billions in war expenditures. By far the fastest way to end the war in Afghanistan would be to ask General McChrystal’s staff to produce a plan to make it deficit neutral and find sixty votes in the senate for his financing plan.
In a larger sense, however, Kaplan is merely highlighting the fundamental difference between neoconservative thinking and thinking undertaken by people with a moral compass. As Alex Massie says, present-day Europe’s state of peace, prosperity, and physical security is a good thing. Neoconservatives, however, see war and death as good things. Irving Kristol told Corey Robin that market-oriented conservatism is too “boring” (”The notion of devoting your life to it is horrifying if only because it’s so repetitious. It’s like sex.”) so you need to inject some death and destruction into the mix to keep things interesting.
The world would be a better place if people looking for cheap thrills would stick to the black metal scene or maybe take up extreme sports rather than foreign policy punditry. But the point is that it’s extremely dangerous to take advice from people with this mindset—they’re not even trying to enhance the country’s security, they’re trying to embroil the country in wars.
Kaplan’s stance seems completely insane to me.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Sick leave right now is a privilege based on socioeconomic class. That should not be the case. Matt Yglesias comments:
Advocates for changing the situation have made headway in terms of linking the issue to fears about the spread of H1N1 flu. Does it really serve even the interests of prosperous professionals to live in a country where low-wage food service workers, for example, are likely to show up at work while sick and infect everyone else? This was discussed at a recent CAP panel featuring, among others, Vice President Joe Biden and Domestic Policy Council chief Melody Barnes where they seemed generally supportive. But things took another important step forward today in the somewhat obscure venue of the Senate HELP Committee’s Subcommittee on Children and Families where Seth Harris, Deputy Secretary from the Labor Department, came to offer a strong statement of support for paid sick leave:
In conclusion, it is clear that while much has been done to help prepare for a national health emergency like 2009 H1N1, more is needed to help protect the economic security of working families who must choose between a pay check and their health and the health of their families.That is why the Administration supports the Healthy Families Act and other proposals that advance workplace flexibility and protect the income and security of workers. I appreciate your time today, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
It’s worth observing that this bill would, among other things, be a specific boon to parents since it would allow you to take sick leave in order to take care of a sick child. You’d think that might be the kind of thing “pro-family” conservatives would be interested in along with us godless socialists.
Companies that despoil our society and our environment usually demand that others prove that they are causing harm before they will curtail their activities (usually temporarily). But here’s a better approach:
Researchers from Australia and the UK are calling for a new approach to the debate over whether alcohol industry sponsorship of sports increases drinking among sports participants. They want to shift the burden of proof to the alcohol industry. The debate over sports sponsorship saw renewed activity last year when the findings of a 2008 New Zealand study among sports participants showed that those who received alcohol industry sponsorship – especially in the form of free or discounted alcohol – drank more heavily than those not in receipt of such sponsorship. The study received extensive media coverage, but the Portman Group (a public relations body set up by the alcohol industry) and the European Sponsorship Association (whose members include leading alcohol producers) dismissed the results, citing no causal relationship between sponsorships and alcohol misuse.
In an editorial to be published in the journal Addiction, researchers say that the alcohol industry should be required to prove that industry sponsorship of sports does not cause unhealthy alcohol use among adults or encourage children to drink. They argue that "it should not be left to the public to demonstrate that alcohol industry sponsorship is harmful but rather, it should be up to the proponents of the activity, i.e., the alcohol industry, to show that the practice is harmless." Lead author Dr Kypros Kypri said that the position taken by the drinks industry is reminiscent of that taken by the tobacco companies, which until the 1990s doggedly denied that there was proof of a causal association between smoking and lung cancer. Until the industry has proved lack of harm, governments should prohibit alcohol industry sponsorship of sports.
Interesting story by Laura Figueroa in the Miami Herald:
Ian Pearl once feared a tracheal tube inserted into his throat would render him voiceless.
But he got his voice back — and then some.
He’s using it now to bring attention to the issue of discriminatory health insurance practices against the disabled.
The 37-year-old, who lives in Southwest Ranches, is the inspiration for "Ian’s Law,” legislation being introduced by two New York state legislators that would require insurance companies to get approval from the state before dropping coverage plans for existing clients.
"I fight for my life each day, surviving is a 24/7 job for me,” said Pearl, who was born with muscular dystrophy. "This experience was literally another fight for my life.”
In and out of hospitals his entire life, Pearl has lived the last 18 years on a ventilator hooked to a tracheal tube. Although the procedure is known for helping those with muscular dystrophy live longer, it can come with a cost: the need for 24-hour medical attention.
The insurance policy purchased by Ian’s father in 1981 provided for such care.
But Guardian Life Insurance, which is based in New York, notified the Pearls that it was dropping Ian’s coverage in December as part of a companywide restructuring of its insurance policies.
This past year, Pearl’s medical expenses totaled almost $1 million.
A memo unearthed by Pearl’s attorney referred to costly cases like Pearl’s as "dogs” the company needed to rid itself of.
With his insurance set to expire in weeks, Pearl and his family mobilized to draw attention to their case.
In August, Pearl spoke at a healthcare reform town hall meeting held by state legislators in Tamarac, and also penned an opinion piece for The Huffington Post — a popular political blog.
His mother, Susan Pearl, traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers and spoke before a crowd of 500 at a healthcare reform rally. Soon the family’s story was picked up on the front page of The Washington Times and aired on CNN and MSNBC.
"This isn’t a partisan issue,” Susan Pearl told The Miami Herald. "This is a human issue. We may not be lawmakers, but we’re here to help put a face to the issue of access.”
Soon after, Guardian’s CEO Dennis Manning contacted the family to apologize for the memo. The company also agreed to restore Ian’s coverage and that of two other families under similar situations, even if it still planned on moving forward with eliminating coverage for others…
After Blackwater slaughtered 17 Iraqi civilians, they tried to bribe Iraqi officials to silence criticism and buy loyalty. This company is rotten through and through. Mark Mazzetti and James Risen in the NY Times:
Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Four former executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then Blackwater’s president, had approved the bribes and that the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where the company maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients.
Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives. They said that Cofer Black, who was then the company’s vice chairman and a former top C.I.A. and State Department official, learned of the plan from another Blackwater manager while he was in Baghdad discussing compensation for families of the shooting victims with United States Embassy officials.
Alarmed about the secret payments, Mr. Black cut short his talks and left Iraq. Soon after returning to the United States, he confronted Erik Prince, the company’s chairman and founder, who did not dispute that there was a bribery plan, according to a former Blackwater executive familiar with the meeting. Mr. Black resigned the following year…
This should get people’s attention. Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post:
Exposure to high levels of a controversial chemical found in thousands of everyday plastic products appears to cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men, according to a new study published Wednesday.
The study, funded by the federal government and published in the journal Human Reproduction, is the first to examine the impact of bisphenol A, or BPA, on the reproductive systems of human males. Previous studies have involved mice or rats.
The research comes as government agencies debate the safety of BPA, a compound that is found in thousands of consumer products ranging from dental sealants to canned food linings and that is so ubiquitous it has been detected in the urine of 93 percent of the U.S. population.
Researchers focused on 634 male workers at four factories in China who were exposed to elevated levels of BPA. They followed the men over five years and compared their sexual health with that of male workers in other Chinese factories where BPA was not present.
The men handling BPA were four times as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction and seven times as likely to have difficulty with ejaculation, said De-Kun Li, a scientist at the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute, which conducted the study with funds from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
BPA, which was developed in the 1930s as a synthetic version of estrogen, appears to throw off the hormonal balance in the human body, Li said.
The workers studied did not have to spend years in the factory to develop problems — sexual dysfunction began in new workers after just months on the job, Li said.