Archive for December 2009
Try this one. The Eldest put some on tomato slices, which she broiled and then chopped and tossed with penne pasta (and, I assume, a dab of olive oil).
From the earlier post on New Year’s recipes, I’m making this one:
White Beans With Pig’s Feet
- 1 pound dried white beans
- 2 pig’s feet, split down the middle
- 1 10-ounce can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped, with their juice [I used around a pound of fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped. - LG]
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Coarse salt to taste
- 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
Rinse the beans with cold water and pick them over carefully. Put them in a heavy casserole with water to cover. Add the pig’s feet and the tomatoes. Season with pepper, cover, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until cooked, adding more water if necessary. Set aside until 30 minutes before serving.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stir the parsley, garlic, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, and salt into the beans. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, dot with remaining butter and heat through uncovered until sizzling.
Note: The beans may also be heated on top of the stove. Omit the breadcrumbs. This dish goes well with roast lamb.recipes
I’ll be interested to see how this turns out. The beans are not soaked prior to cooking, and I know that works, but generally you don’t cook fat or acid with the beans, since it tends to make them tough.
UPDATE: The beans cooked all right, but it’s a terribly bland dish. Should have sautéed some chopped onion and chopped green pepper and a jalapeño or two and some chopped parsley at the outset, and cooked the beans and pig’s feet with that included. Today I’ll add stuff to rescue the dish. The topping may have helped, but I skipped that.
UPDATE 2: Rescue successful! I added:
1/2 large Spanish onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1/4 c chipotle pepper sauce (a local brand)—Sriracha would work
dash liquid smoke
good dash soy sauce
I added a little more water, brought it to the simmer and simmered uncovered for quite a while.Then I scooped some into a bowl and noticed immediately that the additional cooking time had been a BIG help—they needed more cooking in the first place, probably 2.5 hours instead of 1.5. It’s done when the pig’s feet are simply falling apart.
I let it cool, squeezed half a Meyer lemon over the top, and ate the whole bowl. It was delicious! So add those things at the beginning—or perhaps 30 minutes before done.
UPDATE 3: Even better than a Meyer lemon is shredded Parmesan sprinkled over the bowlful. :)
There is a myth that the public option was only a tiny idea blown out of proportion for symbolic reasons. The public option was never going to be truly tiny, it was only going to be small at its inception. It is not because it was “weak,” it was just strongly caged in. But even the largest redwood tree starts out as a very small seed.
It is true that the CBO predicted that the negotiated rate public option in the House bill would only cover 6 million people, but that is because it was purposely restricted to a new exchange that would only be used by 30 million people at first. The CBO’s guess was that the public option would be selected by 20% of the people in this new marketplace. While I think their 20% estimate is low, it is important to put that in context–any company that can grab 20% of its market is a major player.
The public option was projected to be “small” because it would be forced to be a big fish in a very small pond. It would have major potential for growth. Progressives would have at their disposal multiple ways to increase the number of people who could have access to the public option. Dramatically expanding employer access to the exchange (something the Secretary of HHS could do without Congressional approval) is one idea. Expanding on Sen. Ron Wyden’s goal of giving people with employer-provided coverage the option of using vouchers to select their own plan on the new exchange is another route. The best solution might have been to attach a simple 12-word provision to the defense appropriations bill to allow the public option to sell outside the exchange. Any of these are very doable changes that could have completely changed the dynamics in only a few years.
If the public option was able to to sell to the entire private insurance market and just not the exchange gaining 20% of the market would have given it over 50 million customers. This would make the public option larger than Medicare, and one of the three largest insurance companies in America. Assuming the public option’s larger market share allowed it to negotiate much better rates (or even better, Congress decided to combine its operations with Medicare), it would probably be able to attract even more than 50 million customers.
The argument over the public option has never been symbolic or about what coverage a small group of Americans would or would not get. This health care fight is not about creating one new, static system that would remain in place forever. To argue otherwise is intellectual dishonesty put forward by many, including the Obama administration. The debate has been about the foundation on which we will build the future of our health care system, and whether the solution to our broken system is public or private insurance. Everyone from progressive activists to health insurance company CEO’s understood that this reform could grow, and only minor tweaks made later would make the public option a serious player. That is why the public option has been such a big fight on both sides. It was never about symbolism, but about laying down an infrastructure that could be quickly built upon.
The progressive demand that public health insurance programs must be part of the solution is based not on pure ideology, but overwhelming domestic and international evidence…
Karl Rove pried himself away from his divorce attorney yesterday, just long enough to show up on Fox News to condemn President Obama for waiting three days before commenting publicly on the failed Abdulmutallab plot. Rove added that he was outraged that White House officials "couldn’t bother to interrupt [the president's] vacation."
Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of September 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called "shoe bomber," Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.
It’s rare to get such a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Reid and Abdulmutallab used the same chemical, the same target, the same intended consequence, in same month of the year, with the same twisted ideology. Reid’s attempt happened when Bush was away from the White House; Abdulmutallab’s attempt happened when Obama was away from the White House.
Any fair evaluation makes clear that the Obama team’s response was faster, more thorough, and offered more depth.
While the Obama White House issued a background statement through a senior administration official calling the incident an "attempted terrorist attack" on the same day it took place, the early official statements from Bush aides did not make the same explicit statement.
Bush did not address reporters about the Reid episode until December 28, after he had traveled from Camp David to his ranch in Texas.
Democrats do not appear to have criticized Bush over the delay. Many were wary of publicly clashing with the commander-in-chief, who was getting lofty approval ratings after what appeared to be a successful military campaign in Afghanistan. The media also seemed to have little interest in pressing Bush about the bombing, or the fact that the incident had revealed a previously unknown vulnerability in airplane security — that shoes could be used to hide chemicals or explosive devices.
Here’s the kicker: while major news outlets have given Obama detractors all kinds of airtime since Friday, six days after Reid’s attempted terrorism, Bush fielded 15 questions from reporters. They asked about the then-president’s holidays plans, but asked literally zero questions about the terrorist attempt to blow up an airplane over American soil six days prior.
If Republicans and/or political reporters can explain this stunning double-standard, I’d love to hear it.
Bruce Schneier points out that change blindness has serious some security implications:
Until early 2009, Silk brand soy milk was made using organic soybeans. But earlier this year, Dean Foods (owner of the Silk brand) quietly switched to conventional soybeans, which are often grown with pesticides. But they kept the same UPC barcodes on their products, and they kept the product label virtually the same, only replacing the word "organic" with "natural" in a way that was barely noticeable. They also kept the price the same, charging consumers "organic" prices for a product that was now suddenly made with conventionally-grown soybeans.
Many retailers and consumers never noticed the bait-and-switch tactic, so they kept buying Silk, thinking it was still organic. The shift on the product label from "organic" to "natural" wasn’t well understood by consumers, either. Many consumers continue to think that the term "natural" is basically the same as "organic," when in fact they are almost opposites. The term "natural" is entirely unregulated, and almost anything can be claimed to be "natural" even when it’s sprayed with pesticides or treated with other chemicals.
This bait-and-switch ploy continued throughout 2009 until a few watchdog organizations started to catch on to the covert switch. In late October, the Cornucopia Institute (www.Cornucopia.org) accused Target stores of misleading consumers by advertising Silk products using the old "organic" labeling even though the product being sold in stores was not organic. Cornucopia’s Mark Kastel accused Target and Dean Foods for "blurring the line between organic and natural," thereby confusing consumers while boosting profits from the more lucrative sales of non-organic products sold at organic prices. (http://www.cornucopia.org/2009/10/o…) …
Yes, you can trust businesses—trust them to go to any lengths to improve revenue and profit, regardless of ethics, morals, or laws.
I moved from Travels with Herodotus to the real deal, getting a copy of the recent translation by Robin Waterfield.
In reading it, I came across a couple of passages that struck me:
… By the time we have read to the end of Book 9, we understand that, although Greek valor was necessary to resist the Persians, what really undid the Persians at the end were certain habits of thought that their long experience in imperial conquest had ingrained in them. Kings and other powerful people in the Histories tend to assume that their power is more far-reading than it is, and the Persian kings exemplify this trait particularly clearly. Information was available to Xerxes from his Greek advisers that could have made his invasion of Greece much more successful than it was, but, insulated by his ambitious courtiers and his own assumptions, he did not take advantage of it.
We have already noticed, in discussing his treatment of Persian imperial accomplishments, the tendency for powerful men—men like Croesus, Cyrus, or Xerxes—to ignore the limitations that the world has placed on their power, and in particular to fail to hear information that would be useful but does not fit their own notions of the scope of their personal control over events.
You can see this mindset—sure of its proven strategies, not open to new information—in the downfall of General Motors. Indeed, it’s probably common to the downfall of many companies and countries.
And that mindset seems to apply strongly to the US today. We are now in five wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen), with some components of those wars operating in secret from the US public (and probably Congress as well). The Right, of course, is pushing for more wars—Iran, for example. Yet we cannot afford more wars, pure and simple.
The problem, I think, is that the attitudes that control and govern the country today—the mindset that cannot grasp significant facts because those facts don’t fit their habits of thought—is not the Executive Branch, or the Congress, but the Military-Industrial-Congressional complex, now extremely wealthy and, through the Congressional part of the group, having direct control of the legislative process, while the Military and Industrial segments work to control the Executive. The MIC seems determined to stay on its course regardless of the damage done.
Maybe this is the reason that the US is continually involved in wars—war after war after war.
It will be interesting to see whether the US can reform itself to pursue rational goals.
Today’s GOP is not only rooting for Obama to fail, they are working hard to ensure that he does fail (for example, refusing to confirm qualified appointees). They want him to fail regardless of the harm to the US and its people.
No one, Democrat or Republican, wanted Bush to fail. The Democrats understood that a failed presidency would hurt the country, and they tried to make things work. But then Bush practically embraced failure, stumbling and bumbling, governing like a Texas bull in a Constitutional china shop. His entire two terms were failures in every way possible. But, looking at Bush’s entire career, it’s clear that if he understands anything, he understands how to fail.
I’ve noted that the FBI seems eager to forget about the anthrax attacks and they’re fumbling around with the investigation. That reminded me that the FBI seems to have been going through some bad times—and perhaps Mueller is the wrong guy to head the agency. You’ll recall the brouhaha about the FBI labs, and the FBI definitively identifying the Oregon lawyer as one of the Madrid bombers by fingerprints—only he was so totally not connected it made the FBI (and its ready reliance on fingerprints as definitive proof) look foolish. There was the whole Wen Ho Lee mess—the physicist falsely accused of spying and held in solitary for 9 months when the FBI could not prove a thing. (The judge apologized to Dr. Lee for how he had been treated.) And the FBI whistleblower translator, Sibel Edmonds, was immediately fired and her findings covered up. More on that below. And they fumbled the investigation of flight schools—they caught Moussaoui, but then did not check other flight schools for similar students. And other fumbles.
Yet I think a single action would have redeemed the FBI. The FBI was present—and strongly disapproving—when some of the detainees were first being tortured. The FBI agents present complained to FBI headquarters—among other reasons, torture would mean that the evidence obtained could not be used in court.
But what if the FBI agent on the scene had immediately arrested the torturer (who was committing a crime), handcuffed him, and read him his rights? Of course the torturer would respond that he was merely following orders, but from Nuremberg on that has not been a defense—and it was removed as a defense by the US, among others. And the DoJ memos were just that: memos. What will definitively decide the issue will be a court case.
Of course, we found that the Bush Administration simply ignored court decisions they didn’t like just as ignored laws they didn’t like and just as they ignored facts that they didn’t like—for example, the claim from the Bush Administration that the UN inspectors were thrown out of Iraq by Hussein before the war. In fact, it was the US, the Bush Administration, that made the UN inspectors leave. Or, most significant, the entire argument for the unnecessary, costly, and stupid invasion of Iraq, a war for which the US was unprepared in every respect, from financial (taxes were actually cut—so much for financing the war) to matériel (remember the “hillbilly armor” the troops were improvising). Voluntarily going to war under those conditions certainly qualifies as “stupid.”
Most Americans have never heard of Sibel Edmonds, and if the U.S. government has its way, they never will.
Dana Perino recently said that there was no terrorist attacks in America when Bush was president. This is a staggering statement for those of us who remember the attacks of 9/11 and the later anthrax attacks. I’ve been trying to figure out what she was thinking, and I may have found it.
Technically, as soon as it was obvious that there was an attack, Cheney became de facto president and started immediately making presidential decisions. He saw his chance, and he seized it. So perhaps Perino (not the brightest bulb in the chandelier) was thinking that 9/11 occurred while Cheney, not Bush, was president.
This requires forgetting about the anthrax attacks, but it seems as if we’ve all agreed to do that. Especially the FBI.
The question was simple: Should the lending practices of auto dealers be regulated?
It was already October and the 42 Democrats and 29 Republicans on the House Committee on Financial Services had spent the better part of the year hashing out the details of a new federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers from dangerous and deceptive financial products.
Auto dealers seemed like an obvious target for the new agency; nearly every time someone buys a car, the dealer also sells them an auto loan, complete with promises like zero per cent interest and a pile of cash back. Americans hold some $850 billion in car debt and dealers are responsible for marketing roughly four-fifths of that amount. They pocket lucrative commissions with little oversight, and the committee seemed poised to change that.
Enter Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.), a former Saab dealer from Orange County, who according to his latest financial disclosure statement still collects rent from some of his former auto dealer colleagues. Campbell downplayed the importance of his industry partners and proposed an amendment to the bill exempting dealers from the new agency’s purview. On October 22, it came up for a vote.
As usual, the members filed into the high-ceilinged first-floor hearing room in the Rayburn House Office Building. Committee Chairman Barney Frank oversaw the vote atop four tiered rows of seats, a full story above the witnesses and the audience. The longest-serving Democratic members of the panel — informally known as the banking committee — sat to the right or just below the chairman; it can take years, if not decades, for a freshman representative to ascend up the risers.
The clerk called the roll, starting from the top. Senior Democrats roundly rejected Campbell’s amendment. It appeared as if the Democrats would beat back the effort and apply the same standard to car dealers that was applied to everyone else.
Then came the bottom two rows, the place where reform goes to die. Despite the disapproval of the powerful chairman and nearly every consumer group in the country, the Campbell amendment passed by a 47-21 margin.
As dumb as our political discourse typically is, it gets dumber by many magnitudes whenever there’s a terrorism-related scare (of the Islamic variety). From The Washington Post‘s editorial writer Jo-Ann Armao:
Why is Obama still in Hawaii?
President Obama wants us all to know he’s taking seriously the attempted terrorist attack of Christmas Day and that his administration is doing all it can to ensure our safety. But his words would be a lot more convincing if not delivered during time snatched between rounds of golf, swimming and sunbathing. . . .
Returning to Washington would have sent the world a powerful message of a president willing to drop everything and roll up his sleeves — someone who really means business. I can’t imagine Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano initially being so sanguine about the system working if her boss had hotfooted it back to the Oval Office to personally check up on things. Work situations vary, sure, but in my experience there’s always a lot less pressure when the boss is away.
By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike?
Scampering back to Washington — "hotfooted" or otherwise — would have been the worst possible thing that Obama could have done. It would have created a climate of frenzy and panic and thus helped to terrorize the country even more — which, one might want to recall, is the goal, by definition, of Terrorists. The fact that Obama doesn’t hysterically run around like some sort of frightened chicken with his head cut off every time Al Qaeda sneezes — or swagger to the nearest camera to beat his chest and play the role of protective daddy-cowboy — is one of the things I like best about him. As for Armao’s "point" about how Janet Napolitano probably took it easy because the "boss was away" — and her belief that Terrorists will strike more on holidays if Obama isn’t affixed to his chair in the Oval Office, as though he’s the Supreme Airport Screener: those are so self-evidently dumb it’s hard to believe they found their way even into something written by one of Fred Hiatt’s editorial writers.
What this actually illustrates is …
I made vichyssoise from Yukon Gold potatoes. Very tasty, and on this chilly night, I ate it hot. What’s left is for The Wife tomorrow—she has the very devil of a cold.
SD and SDHC memory cards are ubiquitous now. My DVD player has a port for such cards (used in video cameras). My computer has a port for such cards (used in my digital cameras). And with digital recorders now using those cards, I’m wondering whether stereo sets have gotten with the program and provide a port for an SD or SDHC card from your digital recorder.
Come to think of it, all one needs is an SD/SDHC “drive” as a separate component that plugs into the stereo preamp or receiver. All the smarts could be in the drive.
Elyn Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California, a Marshall scholar, and a graduate of Yale Law School. She also suffers from schizophrenia — an illness that many would assume makes her impressive resume an impossibility. In 2007, she published an acclaimed memoir of her struggle with the disease, “The Center Cannot Hold.” Her book is a frank and moving portrait of the experience of schizophrenia, but also a call for higher expectations — a plea that we allow people with schizophrenia to find their own limits. If anything, she says, her work as a scholar has helped her to cope with the disease. In September, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. She chatted with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.
COOK: Can you describe your first experience with schizophrenia, I think you said that you were just 8 years old?
SAKS: I don’t think I would have been diagnosed as someone with childhood schizophrenia, but there were perhaps some early warning signs. For instance, I had periods of disorganization, where it felt like my mind was falling apart: there was no center to take things in, put them together, and make them make sense. Hence, following Yeats, I call my book “The Center Cannot Hold.”
The first frank episode of psychosis happened when I was around 16, and I suddenly started walking home from school in the middle of the day. I began to feel the houses were getting weird; they were sending me messages: “You are special. You are especially bad. Now walk. Cries and whispers.” There were also some warning signs in college but I didn’t really “officially” break down until graduate school at Oxford.
COOK: Can you sum up the subjective experience of breakdown, so that people might understand what a person with schizophrenia is going through?
SAKS: Subjectively, the best comparison I can make is to a waking nightmare. You have all the terror and confusion and the bizarre images and thoughts that you have in a nightmare. And then with the nightmare you sit bolt upright in bed in utter terror. Only with a nightmare you then wake up, while with psychosis you can’t just open your eyes and make it all go away.
That’s subjectively. Objectively, I have delusions (irrational beliefs like that I have killed hundreds of thousands of people with my thoughts); infrequent hallucinations (like watching a huge spider walk up my wall); and disorganized and confused thinking (e.g. what are called “loose associations,” like “my copies of the cases have been infiltrated. We have to case the joint. I don’t believe in joints but they do hold your body together”). These are called “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia. Except for my first two years at Oxford, I have been spared the so-called “negative symptoms”: apathy, withdrawal, inability to work or make friends.
COOK: Do you experience symptoms every day or week? What are they? …
Interesting post by Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine:
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is generally a waste of taxpayer money, but they have sponsored several well-designed large trials of popular herbal supplements. And one by one these studies have shown these popular products, such as echinacea for the common cold, to be ineffective.
To add to the list, published in JAMA this week are the results of the largest and longest trial to date of Gingko biloba for the improvement of cognitive function and to treat, prevent, or reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. The results of the study are completely negative.
The study was very rigorous – a consensus trial designed to address all the criticisms of prior smaller studies. It was a direct comparison of Gingko biloba at 120mg twice a day, double blind, randomized, multi-center trial involving 3019 subjects aged 72-96 for a median of 6.1 years. Subjects were followed with standardized tests of cognitive function.
The results are easy to report – every measure showed no difference between G biloba and placebo. There was no difference in cognitive function, risk of developing dementia, rate of progression of dementia or normal cognitive decline with aging. Usually such studies involve some random noise in the results, especially when several outcomes are measured. But with such a large study, random fluctuations should average out, and that is exactly what happened…
President Obama’s candor Tuesday describing the mosaic of warnings about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that were mishandled by U.S. intelligence officials shouldn’t be noteworthy; it should be routine. But let’s be honest, it isn’t, and Obama deserves credit for bringing what he called "human and systemic failures" out into the light shortly after he learned about them. It seems intelligence agencies had enough information, some of it admittedly scattered, to keep Abdulmutallab from boarding a plane to the U.S. Christmas Day. It’s hard to think of a comparable example of President Bush being so quickly forthcoming about facts that didn’t reflect well on his administration.
So it’s hard to know what to make of the difference between media and political reactions to Obama’s decision to stay on his Christmas vacation and wait three days to make a comment about the bombing attempt, and President Bush’s decision to stay on his Christmas vacation in 2001 – merely three months after the trauma of 9/11 – and wait a surprising six days to even mention Richard Reid’s attempted shoe-bombing (and then he only mentioned it in passing.) Even the New York Times raised an eyebrow at Obama’s delay in addressing the Christmas bomb plot, describing him as "having emerged from Hawaiian seclusion on Monday to reassure the American public and quell gathering criticism." Republicans like Reps. Pete Hoekstra and Peter King have been nastier (and Hoekstra even had the gall to raise money around the attack.)
And hours after this post went up, former Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from his hole and condemned Obama in a statement to his favorite stenographers at Politico: “[W]e are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe,” Cheney said. “Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency – social transformation—the restructuring of American society.” Cheney also seems to be criticizing Obama for trying Abdulmutallab in criminal court — "He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war" — even though the Bush administration did the same with Reid, and crowed about his conviction.