Archive for February 24th, 2010
I just watched Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying. The movie starts slow and gathers speed only gradually, but then, with the underbrush cleared, he hits his pace and I found it both enjoyable and thought-provoking. YMMV, of course.
Here is my current recipe:
1 can Wild Planet sardines in extra-virgin olive oil (free shipping)
1/2 ripe avocado
1-2 Tbsp grated onion
good dash Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
ground black pepper
1-2 Tbsp sherry wine vinegar
Mash that all together (including the olive oil in the can), then spread half on a slice of whole-wheat bread for an open-face sandwich. (My toaster’s put away, but toasting the bread would be nice.)
Next time try adding paprika, soy sauce.
The above is terrifically yummy.
As it happens, I have a couple of pounds of fresh asparagus, so I’ll be making this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman.
1 pound asparagus
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or sherry vinegar, or 1 tablespoon each fresh lemon juice and vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or a mixture of parsley, chives and tarragon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Steam for five minutes. Refresh with ice-cold water, then drain and dry on paper towels. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
2. Cut the boiled eggs in half, mince the yolks and whites separately, and season with salt and pepper
3. In a salad bowl, whisk together the vinegar (or lemon juice and vinegar) and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the asparagus, capers and herbs, and toss together. Add the chopped egg yolks and whites, then toss together again and serve.
Yield: Serves four
Advance preparation: You can have all of the ingredients prepared hours before serving, but don’t toss them together until ready to serve.
UPDATE: Good, but WAY too much dressing. Cut it in half, at least.
House Representative Bob Marshall (R-Virginia), speaking at a press conference on February 18 to oppose funding for Planned Parenthood, said that disabled children are God’s punishment for women who have aborted their first pregnancy. Marshall said,
Looking at it from a cultural, historical perspective, this organization should be called “Planned Barrenhood” because they have nothing to do with families, they have nothing to do with responsibility … The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment, Christians would suggest.
But the following week, Marshall disputed the accuracy of his statements, claiming they were taken out of context and that the complete opposite was true: “I don’t believe that disabled kids are God’s punishments, period, end of discussion. I have defended disabled kids.” He also put out a press release insisting that he is a champion of disabled children, and saying he “regrets any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created.”
Private insurance must show a profit—and moreover, that profit must increase from year to year or the stock price suffers. Igor Volsky at ThinkProgress:
Today, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) questioned WellPoint CEO Angela Braly about the company’s proposed rate increases in California’s individual health insurance market. The congressmen read from a series of internal company emails which revealed that WellPoint was rising premiums simply to increase its profits:
– “The average increase is 23 percent and is intended to return California to a target profits of 7 percent, versus 5 percent this year.” [WellPoint email, October 7, 2009]
– “We’re asking for premiums that would put us $40 million favorable…if we get the increases on time, we will see an opt gain upside of $30 million downgrades and rate cap.” [WellPoint email, November 2, 2009]
– “[W]e needed to reach agreement on filing strategy quickly — specifically in the area of do we file with a cushion allowed for negotiations.” [WellPoint email, 10/24/2009]
Watch a compilation:
WellPoint acknowledged setting its increases to keep up with medical costs and maintain a 2% profit, but justified the increases by arguing that the company lost money in the individual market in California. “I don’t mind you making a profit but at the end of the year, 2009 a horrible year, you still made 2 point something billion dollars, and that’s not enough,” Stupak remarked, noting that WellPoint’s high profit margin is the reason “many of us believe in a public option.”
The military, deep down, doesn’t care about the troops. It may be a psychological device for distancing those who are likely to die in combat. I don’t know. But I have observed over and over that the military puts the troop in dangers completely unrelated to combat. For example, this article by Barbara Barrett for McClatchy:
The Navy has agreed to pay $1.53 million for a mortality study that could show a linkage between toxic water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the deaths of Marines and their family members who lived there over a 30-year period.
Some estimates are that during that time, as many as 1 million people were exposed to well water at the base that contained trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride.
The chemicals were dumped into storm drains, leaked from fuel tanks or were buried in pits across the base. They seeped through the groundwater and into wells that fed the base areas of Hadnot Point and Tarawa Terrace.
The main contaminated well was shut down in November 1984.
Documents that McClatchy revealed Sunday indicate that a fuel storage farm at a central part of the base might have had far greater significance to the contamination than previously was known.
Some 800,000 gallons of fuel were thought to have been spilled over the years from the fuel farm, close to the main well serving Hadnot Point — the location of the base’s enlisted barracks, some officers’ quarters and the hospital.
Benzene is a component of fuel and a known carcinogen.
Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said in a statement this week that the new information changed the science behind the contamination…
Via Schneier on Security, this interesting, lengthy, and detailed post (if you’re an IT pro, you’ll be particularly fascinated):
This investigation into the remote spying allegedly being conducted against students at Lower Merion represents an attempt to find proof of spying and a look into the toolchain used to accomplish spying. Taking a look at the LMSD Staff List, Mike Perbix is listed as a Network Tech at LMSD. Mr. Perbix has a large online web forum footprint as well as a personal blog, and a lot of his posts, attributed to his role at Lower Merion, provide insight into the tools, methods, and capabilities deployed against students at LMSD. Of the three network techs employed at LMSD, Mr. Perbix appears to have been the mastermind behind a massive, highly effective digital panopticon.
The primary piece of evidence, already being reported on by a Fox affiliate, is this amazing promotional webcast for a remote monitoring product named LANRev. In it, Mike Perbix identifies himself as a high school network tech, and then speaks at length about using the track-and-monitor features of LanRev to take surreptitious remote pictures through a high school laptop webcam. A note of particular pride is evident in his voice when he talks about finding a way outside of LANRev to enable “curtain mode”, a special remote administration mode that makes remote control of a laptop invisible to the victim. Listen at 35:47, when he says:
“you’re controlling someone’s machine, you don’t want them to know what you’re doing”
It isn’t until 37 minutes into the video till Perbix begins talking about the Theft Tracking feature, which causes the laptop to go into a mode where it beacons its location and silent webcam screenshots out to an Internet server controlled by the school…
Interesting piece by Robert Wright in the NY Times:
Joseph Stack had barely finished flying his airplane into a Texas office building when the battle over his legacy began.
Bloggers on the left asked why people — especially people on the right — weren’t calling him a terrorist. “If this had been done by a brownish-looking Muslim guy whose suicide note paralleled Islamist political themes,” wrote Matthew Yglesias, then right wingers would be “demanding that anyone who refused to label the attack ‘terrorism’ be put up on treason charges.”
Bloggers on the right, such as Conn Carroll, asked why people — especially people on the left — were acting as if Stack was a “conservative Tea Party nut” when the anti-tax animus that led him to point his plane at I.R.S. offices was only one part of an eclectic ideology.
These are arguments worth having, for two reasons.
First, the label “terrorist” shapes our immediate response to attacks and our long-term policies. We’ve invaded countries and altered domestic surveillance laws as part of a “war on terror,” whereas we wouldn’t do such things as part of a “war on a nut who flew his plane into a building and is dead now.”
Second, given the apparent momentum of the Tea Party movement, it would be nice to know if Stack’s kamikaze mission was a not-all-that-shocking emanation from it — whether, as some claim, more than a few Tea Partiers are unhinged.
In common usage, a “terrorist” is someone who attacks in the name of a political cause and aims to spread terror — to foster fear that such attacks will be repeated until grievances are addressed. Thus, Amy Bishop, the vehement Alabama tenure-seeker, wouldn’t qualify as a terrorist; she seems to have no cause larger than herself and, when she gunned down colleagues, presumably wasn’t hoping to strike fear of the untenured into the hearts of tenured faculty everywhere.
Stack, in contrast, saw himself as part of a cause, as one in a long line of fighters against tyranny. The manifesto he left behind reads, “I know there have been countless before me and there are sure to be as many after. … I can only hope that the numbers quickly get too big to be whitewashed and ignored” — at which point, God willing, “the American zombies wake up and revolt.” This man was, by prevailing semantic conventions, a terrorist…
Continue reading. Of course, Bush’s DHS published a paper on the growing dangers from right-wing extremists, but then the GOP threw one of its notorious hissy fits that of course there was NO threat from right-wing extremists and the very existence of the report was a sign of how corrupt Democrats were (although the report came from the Bush Administration). The Right simply is not serious: they like to create conflict and fight (with Democrats or among themselves, doesn’t seem to make much difference), and they have no interest in (a) reality or (b) governing, the latter because they hate government (and, I presume, want us to live in a state of anarchy).
Source: PR Newswire, February 23, 2010
The House of Representatives today introduced legislation to repeal an exemption to federal anti-trust laws that the insurance industry, including health insurers, has enjoyed since 1945. The McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945 gave states the authority to regulate the insurance business without interference from federal regulation, unless federal law expressly provides otherwise. Federal anti-trust laws protect consumers by preventing unfair business practices like price-fixing, bid-rigging, and allocation of markets, and are aimed at helping keep competition honest. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference February 23 to announce the "Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act," and the Center for Media and Democracy’s Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, was invited to speak at the event. Mr. Potter, who worked inside the insurance industry for 20 years, said the exemption for insurers has "contributed to a health care system that has become one of the most dysfunctional and one of the most expensive in the world. And it is time that the health insurance industry begins to abide by the same rules and regulations that every other industry in this country has to abide by." Democrats hope the bill will lower premiums by giving consumers more choices. The White House supports the legislation. The insurance industry’s trade group,America’s Health Insurance Plans, opposes the measure, saying that their industry is already highly regulated and that mergers and other business practices are already subject to federal anti-trust laws. They also say the law would create "legal uncertainty," which would be bad for the industry. Read Mr. Potter’s entire statement in support of the bill here.
At least for a while. Steve Benen:
The case of Najibullah Zazi continues to be under-appreciated victory for the United States. A deadly attack was thwarted; intelligence was collected; and justice was served. No torture, no military commissions, no need to stray from the legal process. The legal system was followed to the letter, and it worked beautifully.
And conservatives really don’t want to talk about it.
The Republicans who most vociferously blasted the Obama Administration for putting the attempted Christmas bombing suspect through the criminal justice system have apparently been silent on another high-profile terrorism case making its way through the civilian system. [...]
Given the GOP outrage over the administration’s decision to charge attempted Christmas bomber Umar Abdulmutallab in criminal court, one might have expected a flurry of Republican press releases and TV appearance this week over the handling of the Zazi case.
But the press releases never came, and the TV appearances were never scheduled.
On the Hill, the usual suspects of hysterical conservatives — Kit Bond, Pete Hoekstra, Pete King — haven’t said a word. And what about their media allies? Even when Zazi’s guilty plea became a major development, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity literally didn’t say a word about the guilty plea of a man who would have killed innocent Americans in a terrorist attack in New York City.
I guess this was an American story that simply proved un-spinnable to the GOP and its cohorts.
Here we had a serious terrorist threat — arguably the most important since 9/11 — and an al Qaeda recruit who was poised to kill a lot of people. The Obama administration thwarted Zazi’s plan, took him into custody, read him his rights, and gave him a lawyer.
And the results couldn’t have been better for the United States. Zazi will spend the rest of the his life behind bars, but only after cooperating with federal officials and becoming a valuable source of intelligence.
I wonder why Republicans would choose to deliberately ignore this. Don’t they want to debate the efficacy of U.S. counter-terrorism policy? Where’d they all go?
12 cans Wild Sardines in Oil with Lemon – the oil in this case is soybean oil, which I hadn’t realized. I won’t be buying these again. Good to avoid soybean oil: extremely high ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3.
6 cans Wild Albacore Tuna – No Salt Added (line-caught)
Can’t wait to try them. Free shipping is nice.
This looks like a good recipe. Ingredients:
500 g tub of Greek yogurt, or strain a 900 g tub of plain yogurt (discard the liquid)
1/2 large English cucumber, seeds removed
2 T olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 of a red onion, finely minced
1 t kosher salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1/4 t paprika
1 T dried dill
juice & zest of 1 small lemon
500 g is 1.1 lb, and assuming a pint’s a pound the world around, that would be a 1-pint container of Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt (at least for me). The cucumber is grated. I assume English cucumber is used so that you don’t need to peel it. Full recipe here.
In April, 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney called for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release classified memos he said demonstrated how well "harsh interrogation methods" — torture — worked to prevent terrorist attacks and save lives. But investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) just released a report saying that the CIA memo Cheney cited as justifying U.S. torture contains "plainly inaccurate information" that undermines its conclusions.
The memo Cheney pointed to as justifying torture is called the "Effectiveness Memo." It is the same memo that Steven G. Bradbury, the Justice Department’s former acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel, relied upon to write additional memos in 2005 and 2007 that gave the CIA the legal go-ahead to continue torturing captive terrorism suspects. The"Effectiveness Memo" reviewed the results of the use of "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" (EITs), the government’s euphemism for torture, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and forced nudity, against two notorious terrorism suspects: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubayda. The memo claims that the CIA’s torture of Zubaydah extracted significant information about Jose Padilla, who "planned to build and detonate a ‘dirty bomb’ in the Washington, D.C. area." It further states that "Zubaydah’s reporting led to the arrest of Padilla on his arrival in Chicago in May 2003." But this information is wrong. DOJ says "In fact, Padilla was arrested in May, 2002, not 2003 … The information ‘[leading] to the arrest of Padilla’ could not have been obtained through the authorized use of EITs," since the use of such torture techniques was not authorized until August 1, 2002. Zubaydah was not waterboarded until later that same month. The Justice Department says Bradbury "relied upon this plainly inaccurate information." Moreover, the information about Padilla was extracted from Zubaydah by using traditional, non-abusive interrogations.
So Cheney relied on incorrect information when he frequently insisted in the media that U.S. torture is justified, even necessary. It remains to be seen whether he will acknowledge his mistake, backtrack on his claims, or apologize for misleading the few remaining Americans who still believed he was credible on the issue of national security. Whether or not he does any of those things, though, maybe this huge error will finally provide Cheney with the impetus he needs to quietly exit the political stage and let America move on from our dark era of sanctioning torture.
I wasn’t aware of this series in the NY Times, but I’m certainly following it from now on.
Here’s a quick way to catch up: a list of the recipes in descending chronological order, along with a topics index. Here are just a few of the recipes:
Many more at the link above.
This recipe by Martha Rose Shulman in the NY Times looks quite tasty:
These beans become creamy as they bake slowly in a sweet and sour broth flavored with honey and vinegar. You can make the dish with regular white beans, which will require soaking, or with large lima beans, which will not.
1 pound dried large lima beans or white beans, soaked if necessary for six hours or overnight in 2 quarts of water and drained (limas require no soaking)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, preferably a sweet red onion, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons honey, such as clover or acacia
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup, loosely packed, chopped fresh dill
1. Combine the drained beans and water to cover by 3 inches in a large, oven-proof casserole or Dutch oven, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium size, heavy skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender and lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. After 30 minutes, drain the beans and return them to the pot. Add the remaining olive oil, the tomatoes and the liquid in the can, bay leaf, honey, and 2 cups water or enough to just cover the beans. Stir in the onion, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and place in the oven. Bake one hour, stirring often and adding water if necessary. Add the tomato paste, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 more minutes, until the beans are tender and the mixture is thick.
4. Stir in the dill, cover and let sit 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with thick slices of country bread.
Yield: Serves six.
I think I’ve found it. At least some of the GOP are terminally stupid—and I know, you’re thinking of James Inhofe. And you’re right: he’s one of six GOP Senators who tried to filibuster a bill that they actually favored: when the filibuster failed, these 6 voted for the bill. Get that? First they try to kill the bill, which turns out to be a bill that they favor. Here are the names.
With leaders like these, is it any wonder that the GOP is in trouble?
UPDATE: Steve Benen notes:
… This, alas, isn’t especially new. For a year now, Republicans have repeatedly tried to block up-or-down votes on all kinds of bills and nominations, only to vote in support once their obstructionist tactics are defeated. For petty partisans like these GOP clowns to block votes on measures they end up voting for anyway is the height of cynical and pointless obstructionism.
What an embarrassment.
At the end of this post, Drum notes:
… And then there’s this [headline], about Republican Scott Brown’s vote to support a tax cut that would help employers increase hiring:
#5 GOP’s Brown branded turncoat for vote on jobs bill "Literally overnight, the fledgling Republican senator who ended Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority by winning a special election in Massachusetts has gone from being the darling of America’s conservative activists to being their goat….The conservative Drudge Report colored a photo of Brown on its home page in scarlet. Cries of ‘let down,’ ‘betrayal,’ ‘sell out,’ and ‘RINO’ — Republican In Name Only — flew around Twitter. By Tuesday afternoon, more than 4,200 people had left comments on Brown’s Facebook page, the majority of which were harshly negative."
Ladies and gentlemen, the modern Republican Party. In the midst of the deepest, sharpest economic slowdown since the Great Depression, only five of 41 GOP senators were willing to vote for a modest jobs bill based entirely on tax cuts. One of those five, a conservative hero a mere four weeks ago, is practically excommunicated from the movement for voting in favor of the bill. A bill, to repeat, based entirely on tax cuts that would spur hiring. What’s left to say?
Fascinating article in The Washington Monthly by Michael Bobelian:
Three days before Christmas 1972, a twenty-two-year-old nurse named Diana Sylvester wrapped up her night shift at the University of San Francisco Medical Center and made her way to her apartment, halfway between the hospital and Golden Gate Park. She arrived around 8:00 a.m. and set her newspaper and purse on the kitchen table. A few minutes later, Sylvester’s landlord, Helen Nigidoff, heard loud thuds and screams emanating from Sylvester’s unit upstairs. With her apron still on, Nigidoff rang the doorbell before opening a door leading up to Sylvester’s apartment, where she came face-to-face with a stranger. "Go away," he growled angrily. "We’re making love." As Nigidoff raced downstairs to call the police, the man ran out of the building holding a denim jacket over his face.
When the officers arrived a half hour later, they found a gruesome scene. Sylvester lay motionless next to the Christmas tree on her living-room floor, her mouth unnaturally agape, blood oozing from her chest like molten lava. An autopsy revealed that Sylvester’s attacker had forced her to perform oral sex and then strangled her, before plunging a knife into her chest two times. One stab pierced her heart. The other tore through her left lung, drowning her in her own blood.
Police immediately scoured Sylvester’s apartment and questioned the landlady, who offered a description of the assailant: white, medium height, and heavy-set, with curly brown hair and a beard. But neither these details nor the bits and pieces of evidence they collected in the months-long investigation that followed were enough to pinpoint the culprit. The few leads investigators turned up fizzled, and the case went cold.
Then in early 2003 the San Francisco Police Department, which had received a grant to use DNA technology to crack unsolved crimes, dug Sylvester’s case file out of storage and discovered a slide with sperm that had been swabbed from Sylvester’s mouth after her death. The sample was badly deteriorated and contained less than half the DNA markers that are normally used to link a suspect to a crime. But investigators ran the profile through California’s DNA database and turned up a match: an ailing seventy-year-old man named John Puckett, who had a history of sexual violence. There was no other physical evidence linking him to the crime. But Puckett was arrested, tried, and eventually convicted based mostly on the DNA match, which was portrayed as proof positive of his guilt—the jury was told that the chance that a random person’s DNA would match that found at the crime scene was one in 1.1 million.
If Puckett’s were an ordinary criminal case, this figure might have been accurate. Indeed, when police use fresh DNA material to link a crime directly to a suspect identified through eyewitness accounts or other evidence, the chances of accidentally hitting on an innocent person are extraordinarily slim. But when suspects are found by combing through large databases, the odds are exponentially higher. In Puckett’s case the actual chance of a false match is a staggering one in three, according to the formula endorsed by the FBI’s DNA advisory board and the National Research Council, a body created by Congress to advise the government and the public on scientific issues. But the jury that decided Puckett’s fate never heard that figure. In fact, his lawyers were explicitly barred from bringing it up.
Over the past quarter century, DNA evidence has …