Later On

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Archive for February 8th, 2010

Roast chicken with a lemon inside

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I’m making this recipe, an old standby at this point:

Roast Chicken with Lemons
Serves 4

3- to 4-pound chicken
salt [I highly recommend kosher salt for this recipe - LG]
freshly ground black pepper
2 small lemons {I use one, though it’s largish. Be sure to get organic lemons. – LG]

1. Preheat oven to 350º F.

2. Wash the chicken in cold water, inside and out. Remove any fat hanging loose. Let the water drain out and pat the bird dry with a towel.

3. Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper on the chicken, inside and out.

4. Wash and dry the lemon(s). Soften each by rolling back and forth on a counter while pressing on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture each lemon in at least 20 places, using a round toothpick, a trussing needle, or a fork. [I used a fork. - LG]

5. Place lemon(s) in the chicken’s cavity. Close the opening with toothpicks or a trussing needle and string. Don’t make it absolutely air-tight—the bird may burst. Tie the legs in the natural position with string. [I made it as tight as possible and it still didn't burst. - LG]

6. Put the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side down. Place it in the upper third of the oven. After 40-45 minutes, turn the breast side up. [I’ve adjusted the time. – LG] Try not to puncture the skin, but don’t worry if you do. The chicken will be just as good.

7. Cook for another 30-35 minutes, the increase the heat to 400º F, cook for 20 minutes more. Plan on 20 to 25 minutes of total cooking time per pound. There is no need to turn the chicken again. When you believe the chicken is done, use a meat thermometer to see if your belief is correct.

8. Bring the bird to the table whole. Leave the lemons in it until the chicken is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. [I let the chicken sit out of the oven on the carving plate for 15 minutes before I started carving. That probably contributed to the juiciness of the meat. - LG]

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

How Google was hacked

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A forensic report has been completed. Kim Zetter at Wired:

It’s been three weeks since Google announced that a sophisticated and coordinated hack attack dubbed Operation Aurora recently targeted it and numerous other U.S. companies.

Until now we’ve only known that the attackers got in through a vulnerability in Internet Explorer and that they obtained intellectual property and access to the Gmail accounts of two human rights activists whose work revolves around China. We also know a few details about how the hackers siphoned the stolen data, which went to IP addresses in Taiwan. About 34 mostly undisclosed companies were breached.

Now a leading computer forensic firm is providing the closest look so far at the nature of the attacks, and attackers, that struck Google and others. The report never mentions Google by name, or any other companies, but focuses on information gathered from hundreds of forensic investigations the firm has conducted that are identical to what we know about the Google hack.

What the information indicates is that the attack that hit Google is identical to publicly undisclosed attacks that have quietly plagued thousands of other U.S. companies and government agencies since 2002 and are rapidly growing. They represent a sea change from the kinds of attacks that have commonly hit networks and made headlines.

“The scope of this is much larger than anybody has every conveyed,” says Kevin Mandia, CEO and president of Virginia-based computer security and forensic firm Mandiant. “There [are] not 50 companies compromised. There are thousands of companies compromised. Actively, right now.”

Mandiant released the report last week at a closed-door cybercrime conference, sponsored by the U.S. Defense Department, in an effort to make companies aware of the threat.

The firm has been investigating the Google breach and many of the most high-profile breaches of the last few years, such as those that occurred at credit and debit card processors Heartland Payment Systems and RBS Worldpay. Unlike those latter attacks, however, the breed of attacks that struck Google and others is markedly different.

Called Advanced Persistent Threats (APT), the attacks are distinctive in the kinds of data the attackers target, and they are rarely detected by antivirus and intrusion programs. What’s more, the intrusions grab a foothold into a company’s network, sometimes for years, even after a company has discovered them and taken corrective measures.

“APT is a very unique threat out of the Asia Pacific that . . . looks different and is much more widespread than the criminal compromises,” Mandia says in a recent phone interview.

The Heartland and RBS attackers, and other criminal hackers of their ilk, tend to use SQL injections attacks to breach front-end servers. The APT attackers, however, employ undetectable zero-day exploits and social engineering techniques against company employees to breach networks.

The non-APT hackers target only financial data or sensitive customer data for identity theft, while the APT attackers never target such data. Instead, their focus is espionage. They attempt to take every Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Adobe PDF document from every machine they compromise, as well as all e-mail, says Mandia.

The non-APT hackers also employ …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

More proof of global warming

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From Climate Progress:

Another massive mid-Atlantic precipitation event, another piece of nonsense from the anti-science crowd.   Kevin Mooney of the American Spectator actually wrote an article titled, “Snowmageddon” Versus “Overwhelming Scientific Evidence,” which asserts:

This is the first time since record keeping started that two storms of such magnitude have hit the region during one winter. Already some localities are reporting the largest snowfall ever recorded.

To be sure, these events do not prove or disprove human caused global warming. But the momentum is now very much on the side of skeptical scientists who question these theories and President Obama should at least pull back from his awkward juxtapositions.

Yes, for the anti-science crowd, the kind of extreme precipitation event the mid-Atlantic states just experienced somehow weighs against the overwhelming scientific evidence for human-caused climate change — even though it is entirely consistent with the predictions of climate science (see Was the “Blizzard of 2009″ a “global warming type” of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)? and analysis by uber-meteorologist, Dr. Jeff Masters below).

Memo to anti-science crowd:  Precipitation isn’t temperature!

What’s particularly laughable about Mooney’s article is that according to the UAH satellite data so beloved of the anti-science crowd, the storm occurred on the warmest February 6 — and indeed, during the warmest winter — in the temperature record (data here — the orange line ending in the white box in the figure above tracks temperatures in 2010).

Capital Climate has an excellent analysis on Super Storm 2010, which finds: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 1:15 pm

Steve Benen comments on some GOP insanity

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Benen:

John Brennan, President Obama’s senior counterterrorism adviser, offered a rather forceful response to Republican criticism of the Abdulmutallab case, and GOP demands that the attempted terrorist be treated as an enemy combatant.

Brennan said that on Christmas night he had briefed four senior House and Senate Republicans about Abdulmutallab, who was "in FBI custody" and at that point "talking" and "cooperating." He said that at no point did any of the four — Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate Republican minority leader; Sen. Christopher S. Bond (Mo.), ranking GOP member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader; and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), ranking minority member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — raise concerns about Abdulmutallab being placed in military custody or being Mirandized.

Brennan said "quite a bit of an outcry after the fact" led him to be "concerned on behalf of the counterterrorism professionals" that politicians are using the issue for partisan purposes, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.

Republicans conceded that the administration alerted GOP officials to developments just hours after the incident, but they raised a new complaint — just because they knew Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody didn’t mean they knew that Abdulmutallab would be treated the way the FBI has already dealt with attempted terrorists.

In other words, Republican leaders are outraged because they weren’t entirely sure what happens after someone gets arrested, and assumed without reason that the FBI would handle the Abdulmutallab case differently than every related and similar case in recent memory.

It’s an extremely odd argument. Republicans are angry because they’re ignorant? In reference to GOP leaders Boehner, McConnell, and others, Spencer Ackerman added, "Apparently these men, who claim leadership on national security, know less about FBI procedure than the average moviegoer. Obviously the FBI Mirandizes suspects in their custody."

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 12:05 pm

The medical malpractice myth

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Another good article by Ezra Klein, this one from 2006 in Slate. A couple of paragraphs from the article:

… The best attempt to synthesize the academic literature on medical malpractice is Tom Baker’s The Medical Malpractice Myth, published last November. Baker, a law professor at the University of Connecticut who studies insurance, argues that the hype about medical malpractice suits is "urban legend mixed with the occasional true story, supported by selective references to academic studies." After all, including legal fees, insurance costs, and payouts, the cost of the suits comes to less than one-half of 1 percent of health-care spending. If anything, there are fewer lawsuits than would be expected, and far more injuries than we usually imagine…

and:

… Anesthesiologists used to get hit with the most malpractice lawsuits and some of the highest insurance premiums. Then in the late 1980s, the American Society of Anesthesiologists launched a project to analyze every claim ever brought against its members and develop new ways to reduce medical error. By 2002, the specialty had one of the highest safety ratings in the profession, and its average insurance premium plummeted to its 1985 level, bucking nationwide trends. Similarly, feeling embattled by a high rate of malpractice claims, the University of Michigan Medical System in 2002 analyzed all adverse claims and used the data to restructure procedures to guard against error. Since instituting the program, the number of suits has dropped by half, and the university’s annual spending on malpractice litigation is down two-thirds. And at the Lexington, Ky., Veterans Affairs Medical Center, a program of early disclosure and settlement of malpractice claims lowered average settlement costs to $15,000, compared with $83,000 for other VA hospitals…

Read the whole thing. It’s clear that medical malpractice is a problem, but not with the courts and torts—it’s a problem for the medical profession, which on the whole refuses to address the problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Law, Medical

GOP healthcare ideas already in the legislation

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Interesting that the GOP is going to the healthcare summit to trot out their ideas—when, as Ezra Klein points out, their ideas are already in the legislation:

At this point, I don’t think it’s well understood how many of the GOP’s central health-care policy ideas have already been included as compromises in the health-care bill. But one good way is to look at the GOP’s "Solutions for America" homepage, which lays out its health-care plan in some detail. It has four planks. All of them — yes, you read that right — are in the Senate health-care bill.

(1) "Let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines." This is a long-running debate between liberals and conservatives. Currently, states regulate insurers. Liberals feel that’s too weak and allows for too much variation, and they want federal regulation of insurers. Conservatives feel that states over-regulate insurers, and they want insurers to be able to cluster in the state with the least regulation and offer policies nationwide, much as credit card companies do today.

To the surprise and dismay of many liberals, the Senate health-care bill included a compromise with the conservative vision for insurance regulation. The relevant policy is in Section 1333, which allows the formation of interstate compacts. Under this provision, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho (for instance) could agree to allow insurers based in any of those states to sell plans in all of them. This prevents a race to the bottom, as Idaho has to be comfortable with Arizona’s regulations, and the policies have to have a minimum level of benefits (something that even Rep. Paul Ryan believes), but it’s a lot closer to the conservative ideal.

(2) "Allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do." This is the very purpose of the exchanges, as defined in Section 1312. Insurers are required to pool the risk of all the small businesses and individuals in the new markets rather than treating them as small, single units. That gives the newly pooled consumers bargaining power akin to that of a massive corporation or labor union, just as conservatives want. It also gives insurers reason to compete aggressively for their business, which is key to the conservative vision. Finally, empowering the exchanges to use prudential purchasing maximizes the power and leverage that consumers will now enjoy.

(3) …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:51 am

Lion’s share of the US Federal budget: The military

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I just had an informative comment posted by Neville, but then he claimed that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security account for 54% of the Federal budget. That is untrue. Take a look at this chart:

Military

As explained at the link, the 2009 Fiscal Year saw Total Outlays (Federal Funds) of $2.65 trillion, of which:

MILITARY: 54% and $1.449 trillion
NON-MILITARY: 46% and $1.21 trillion

We could pay for an awful lot of civic improvements, education, healthcare, and so on if we would just cut the military budget, but of course politicians are notorious cowards about things like that.

Does anyone believe that we really need to spend around 1.5 trillion dollars every year to have a good military? Let me provide some context (from the same link):

USvsWorld

As pointed out at the link:

The United States accounts for 47 percent of the world’s total military spending, however the U.S.’s share of the world’s GDP is about 21 percent. Also note that of the top 15 countries shown, at least 12 are considered allies of the U.S. The U.S. outspends Iran and North Korea by a ratio of 72 to one.

Another budget graph is in the NY Times today, showing the current budget. Click the “hide mandatory spending” button and see what funds are actually available to reallocate.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:29 am

Cool ring

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$165.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:09 am

Posted in Daily life

Pickapeppa Chicken

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I like Pickapeppa Sauce a lot and keep a bottle on hand, so I naturally will try this recipe (and great photos at the link). Although he uses a covered grill to cook the chicken, he also uses indirect heat, so I think a 400º F oven would work as well, with the chicken thighs on a rack. To start with, just look at the marinade:

8-12 chicken thighs
1 bottle Pickapeppa Sauce – 5oz ‘Classic Pickapeppa Sauce
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar [I might substitute Grade B maple syrup - LG]

Read the whole thing.

I use Grade B maple syrup because it has a stronger maple flavor. Grade A is very light and has not nearly so much flavor.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 11:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Chicken and Lentils

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This recipe sounds very good indeed—and I’m a fan of Luisa, so I was also interested in reading about her apartment hunting in Berlin—apparently not an easy place to find an apartment (worse than NYC).

At any rate, here are the ingredients:

Chicken Baked with Lentils
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, in one slice, diced
3 pounds chicken thighs, 6 to 8 pieces, patted dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped celery, about 1 rib
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cups finely chopped radicchio, about 1/2 head, cored
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
2 cups lentils
3 cups chicken stock, more if needed

Read the recipe. It’s easy.

UPDATE: I made it. Extremely tasty and a good winter dish. I’ll make it again.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 10:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The Surgeon General’s priorities for a healthy nation

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Very good post by Marion Nestle, directly related to the previous post. From that post:

Let’s give Dr. Benjamin credit for taking on obesity in one of her first public actions: the release of “Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation.“   The Vision, which comes with a press release and a fact sheet, recommends these actions to prevent obesity:

  1. Reduce consumption of sodas and juices with added sugars.
  2. Reduce consumption of energy dense foods that primarily contain added sugars or solid fats.
  3. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  4. Control your portions.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Choose low-fat or non-fat dairy products.
  7. Limit television viewing time and consider keeping televisions out of children’s rooms.
  8. Become more physically active throughout the day.
  9. Breastfeed exclusively to 6 months.

These are all useful suggestions but we have heard them before.  The real issue is how to achieve them.  Here, the report disappoints.

The first two items should have grabbed attention: targeting soda reduction as as the first line of defense against obesity, and eating less junk food (my translation) as the second.

But Dr. Benjamin assigns parents the responsibility for feeding kids healthfully.  Fine, but what about about public health approaches to reducing soda consumption?  To pick a non-random example, soda  taxes are under intense debate right now.  Does Dr. Benjamin weigh in on such approaches?  Alas, no.  Only on the second-to-last page does she summarize suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Promotion (CDC), among them:

  • Increase availability of healthy, affordable food and beverage choices in public service venues.
  • Improve geographic availability of supermarkets in underserved areas.
  • Improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables by providing incentives for the production, distribution, and procurement of foods from local farms.
  • Limit advertisements of less-healthy foods and beverages.

I wish the report had focused on such ideas, instead of leaving them to an afterthought and personal responsibility. It’s great that the nation’s doctor cares about obesity but her Vision isn’t nearly as tough or realistic as it needs to be.  For that, we need the CDC or the report on food marketing to kids that the Institute of Medicine produced in 2005

This is only part of the post. Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 10:27 am

Lobbyists control Congress: Soda-pop division

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Thank God! the Supreme Court is allowing corporations to spend more money to control Congress—every now and then Congress will go wild and pass some legislation to improve the public welfare, and we can’t have that! But even with the old rules, business kept Congress on a pretty short leash. This story, via Accidental Hedonist, is a good example of business control. First, a little test. Congress developed a plan to tax sugared beverages—which have been tied to childhood obesity, diabetes, and other problems (and in fact have no nutritional value at all)—as a source of revenue to help pay for healthcare reform. It was a two-fer: discourage drinking of bad beverages and help pay for healthcare.

Can you guess in which year Congress came up with the plan? Hint:

Sugar

The story begins:

Employing a broad-based lobbying effort, the soft drink industry has smothered a plan to tax sugared beverages — a plan advocates said would have reduced obesity and helped finance healthcare reform.
Only months ago, public health advocates thought the tax would be a natural for congressional Democrats looking for revenue to fund expanded health insurance coverage. The soaring costs of treating ailments related to excess weight — including diabetes and heart disease — added urgency to the issue.

But the White House staff reviewing funding options never embraced the idea even after President Obama expressed interest last summer. A key congressional committee, after initially seeming receptive, ended up refusing to consider it. Several minority advocacy groups, including some committed to fighting obesity, lined up against the tax after years of receiving financial support from the industry.

There is no sign that First Lady Michelle Obama will mention taxes Tuesday when she unveils her new healthy-eating initiative, which had input from fast food and soft drink representatives.

Meanwhile, beverage lobbyists attacked some of the country’s most distinguished nutrition scientists, accusing them of bias and distorting available evidence. The beverage industry also financed research that reached conclusions favorable to its position.

No one underestimated the difficulty of getting new taxes approved, but Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood), a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said, "We thought we had a chance to punch through."

That was before the industry unlimbered its guns…

Continue reading. It does seem today that Big Business runs the US. How are they doing, do you think?

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 10:23 am

How high will the seas rise?

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One projection that is of great interest is how high will the seas rise as global warming continues (as it surely will, given that we are doing nothing to stop it). Early projections indicated a range of possible levels, but so far the actual outcomes have been in line with the most pessimistic projections. John Cook of Skeptical Science takes a look at an alternate way to estimate the rise:

Predicting future sea level rise is tough. A growing contributor to sea level rise is ice sheets that break off into the ocean. However, ice sheet dynamics are non-linear and difficult to predict. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report essentially ignores ice sheet dynamics, predicting sea level rise of 18 to 59 cm by 2100. More recent research accounting for accelerating ice sheets predict sea level rise of 75 cm to 2 metres by 2100 (Vermeer 2009,Pfeffer 2008). Even these latest predictions admit they may not fully predict the non-linear aspect of ice sheet dynamics. However, there is another way to determine future sea level rise that neatly sidesteps the complexities of non-linear dynamics. Look at how sea level has responded to temperature change in the past.

The last interglacial around 125,000 years ago is a period of special interest. The Earth’s orbital eccentricity was more than twice the current value, meaning the orbit was more elliptical. This caused warmer summer temperatures than current conditions. Sea surface temperatures at the equator were about 2°C warmer than pre-industrial levels. Ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica find polar temperatures were about 3 to 5°C warmer than today.

Thus the last interglacial provides an insight into where our climate is currently headed over the next century and beyond. A global compilation of sea level indicators from reefs, corals and sediments were used to estimate global sea level during this period. The result was that it’s very likely (95% probability) that sea levels were at least 6.6 metres higher than today. It’s likely (67% probability) that sea levels exceeded 8 metres (Kopp 2009).

Continue reading. Obviously a rise of 6.6 metres (just under 22 feet, or about the height of a 2-story building) will do incredible damage to coastal cities—like New York, for example, or Shanghai, or San Francisco, or Miami Beach, or Monterey and Santa Cruz, for that matter.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 10:04 am

America not yet lost

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Paul Krugman:

We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.

What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

This dubious achievement may have inspired Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. In any case, Mr. Shelby has now placed a hold on all outstanding Obama administration nominations — about 70 high-level government positions — until his state gets a tanker contract and a counterterrorism center.

What gives individual senators this kind of power? Much of the Senate’s business relies on unanimous consent: it’s difficult to get anything done unless everyone agrees on procedure. And a tradition has grown up under which senators, in return for not gumming up everything, get the right to block nominees they don’t like.

In the past, holds were used sparingly. That’s because, as a Congressional Research Service report on the practice says, the Senate used to be ruled by “traditions of comity, courtesy, reciprocity, and accommodation.” But that was then. Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.

How bad is it? It’s so bad that I miss Newt Gingrich.

Readers may recall that in 1995 …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:56 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life

Wall Street angry at the Dems

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Greenwald:

Political science professors could require students to read this article from today’s New York Times and little else would be needed to convey the essence of the American political system.  The article describes how Wall Street — which poured massive amounts of money into the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party over the last several years, ensuring unparalleled access and influence — is now threatening to support the Republicans if Obama keeps saying mean things about them.  Wall Street executives are angry that, after duly purchasing the Democrats (they have receipts and everything), the Obama White House is now rousing the dirty rabble with their anti-banker rhetoric:

Republicans are rushing to capitalize on what they call Wall Street’s "buyer’s remorse" with the Democrats. And industry executives and lobbyists are warning Democrats that if Mr. Obama keeps attacking Wall Street "fat cats," they may fight back by withholding their cash.

"If the president doesn’t become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose that support," said Kelly S. King, the chairman and chief executive of BB&T. Mr. King is a board member of the Financial Services Roundtable, which lobbies for the biggest banks, and last month he helped represent the industry at a private dinner at the Treasury Department.

"I understand the public outcry," he continued. "We have a 17 percent real unemployment rate, people are hurting, and they want to see punishment. But the political rhetoric just incites more animosity and gets people riled up" . . . "If the president wanted to turn every Democrat on Wall Street into a Republican," one industry lobbyist said, "he is doing everything right."

There are numerous points to note about all of this.  First, there simply is no more odious faction inside the U.S. than Wall Street bankers — and that’s saying quite a bit.  Just over a year ago, they almost caused a complete global economic collapse — and did cause extreme economic suffering around the world which continues to this day — with their sleazy, piggish, and lawless behavior.  Yet barely a year later, they now turn around and threaten their purchased politicians with punishment if their behavior is meaningfully restricted or even if they’re publicly criticized.  In light of what they did — and are still doing — they should consider themselves lucky that the public hasn’t stormed their homes and offices in mass rage.  Far less pernicious behavior has triggered such uprisings in the past, and if the American public hadn’t been as ingrained with the passivity and learned helplessness they’ve been trained to accept, one would certainly have seen some of that.  In a rational, democratically engaged society, multi-million dollar taxpayer-enabled banker bonuses, combined with mass unemployment and home foreclosures (combined with establishment threats to reduce Social Security and Medicare), is not the ideal means for maintaining social order.

Second, stories like this ought to put to rest forever the notion that ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:54 am

Goodbye to the pika

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The Poor Little Pika

Cute little guy, isn’t he? A relative of the rabbit, the pika lives at high altitudes and does not tolerate heat. They’re dying off and will be extinct soon. In the meantime, the Obama Administration refuses to place the pika on the Endangered Species List (which will soon be very crowded, were it to be used). The story at MSNBC:

Federal officials have decided not to provide endangered species protections to the American pika, a tiny mountain-dwelling animal thought to be struggling because of warming temperatures.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was scheduled to announce the decision Friday.

A copy of the decision listed on a federal Web site on Thursday says while some pika populations in the West are declining, others are not. The agency says Endangered Species Act protections are not warranted.

The activists who had sued to try to get a listing blasted the Obama administration.

“This is a political decision that ignores science and the law,” Shaye Wolf, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Scientific studies clearly show that the pika is disappearing from the American West due to climate change and needs the immediate protections of the Endangered Species Act to help prevent its extinction. The Interior Department has chosen to sit on its hands instead of taking meaningful action to protect our nation’s wildlife from climate change.”

A furry, big-eared relative of the rabbit, pikas live mostly in high, rocky mountain slopes in 10 Western states.

It is well-suited for alpine conditions, with dense fur, slow reproductivity and a thermal regulation system that doesn’t do well in the heat. Even brief exposure to temperatures of 78 degrees or warmer can cause death.

As the West warms, scientists say some pikas have tried to move upslope to find cooler refuges but have run out of room.

Environmentalists had petitioned the federal government to protect the species.

"The pika is the fire alarm and this is our opportunity to come to grips with global warming and prevent an extinction crisis," said Greg Loarie, an attorney with the Earthjustice law firm who has worked on pika lawsuits pressing for protections.

The Bush administration listed the polar bear as a threatened species in 2008, the first and so far only species to be protected because of the threats of global warming. But it also issued a rule stating that the Endangered Species Act may not be used to require reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Last May, the Obama administration reaffirmed that exemption. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace are fighting that rule in court…

Continue reading. Note the stubborn refusal to face facts and act. To be engraved on Earth’s tombstone: "We saw it coming but it was too much trouble to act."

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:50 am

Interesting graph from Speaker Pelosi

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Click to enlarge:

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:43 am

Rocket mass heaters

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I’ve been a big fan of the Rocket stove design since I first learned about it. (See here and also here.) Now Cool Tools reviews the book Rocket Mass Heaters – Fuel-Efficient Wood Stoves YOU Can Build (and snuggle up to). It’s also available as a PDF download at RocketStoves.

Take a look at the review. Interesting stuff.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Speick morning

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Very good lather from the Speick shave stick, thanks to the Persian Jar 2 Super. The Hoffritz slant bar with a newish Astra Keramik provided a very smooth and easy shave—one small nick on left cheek that I never felt (at the time or later), easily fixed with My Nik Is Sealed. Then a splash of Speick to finish the shave and start the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2010 at 9:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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