Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 9th, 2010

Super-tasty dinner

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I made Braised Chard with Chicken and Steel-Cut Oats, and man! was it tasty!

My variations:

For the olive oil, I used Lucini Fiery Chili Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and at Whole Foods it’s much cheaper than at the link).

I did watch the clock while browning the thighs, so they did get browner (and better) than I normally would have made.

I cooked the onions and garlic for quite a while, going in the direction of caramelization.

The sauce did not get so thick as I expected.

Simply dumping in the leaves (along with the 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar) at the end and covering for 5 minutes didn’t do a damned thing for me. I like my greens reasonably cooked, so I turned up the heat, stirred the leaves into the sauce, covered, and cooked them for 5-7 minutes. Then I let them sit.

Otherwise, I followed procedure and measures.

Man, is this stuff good!

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 7:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

US still strong in higher education for now

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The Eldest points out this interesting table.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Education

Of course, the GOP interest in spending cuts is like their interest in transparency in government

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Lee Fang at ThinkProgress:

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the leader of the House Republicans, tasked Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) as the party’s chief liaison to corporate lobbyists in early 2009 in preparation for the 2010 elections. Walden carefully courted business leaders by holding a series of meetings with trade associations and lobbyists to help shake the K Street “money tree” to support Republican candidates. After Republicans captured the House, Boehner appointed Walden to lead the Republican Office of Transition — which began meeting the day after the election, November 3.

The GOP Transition Office has widely publicized itself as a mechanism for guiding a “smoothand transparent transition into Republican majority.” Announcing the Transition Office, Walden said he would make Congress “more transparent, cost-efficient, and accountable to the people.” Just this morning, Roll Call published a story with the headline, “Walden: GOP Transition Focusing on Transparency.”

Given Walden’s promise of accountability and transparency, ThinkProgress traveled to the Transition Office today to request documents disclosing who has been attending the transition meetings, what ethics rules have been governing the meetings, and how things are actually being run differently. After asking Walden for a list of the transition meeting participants, he ducked back into the office. Later, a Republican staffer emerged to hand us a press release and a copy of a newspaper article about Walden’s leadership. None of the documents provided to ThinkProgress were actually official disclosures:

TP: Are there going to be any new ethics rules?

STAFFER: You are going to have to ask members of the committee that.

TP: Are lobbyists going to be allowed in these meetings?

STAFFER: You’ll have to ask members of the committee.

Watch it:

ThinkProgress witnessed dozens of men and women, none of them members of Congress, walk in and out of the room. Simply listing the members of Congress on the transition committee is nothing new. Since Republican transition meetings have been occurring since November 3, the public still does not know what has been discussed, which staffers or lobbyists have been involved, or if there are any actual new ethics rules.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 2:34 pm

More evidence of stupidity of legislators

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Pat Garofalo at ThinkProgress:

ThinkProgress has been documenting the struggles that House Republicans have been having as they attempt to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility without laying out any real spending cuts to which anyone might object. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) epitomized this dance, saying on PBS’ Newshour that he had a path to budget balance, and then outlined cuts that amounted to less than one half of one percent of the budget.

One program which House Republicans have consistently seized upon to bolster their budget-cutting bona fides is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Emergency Contingency Fund, a successful program that has created 250,000 jobs in 37 states via subsidized employment programs for low-income and unemployed workers. And according to National Journal, Republicans are once again railing against the program, selecting it as one of their first programs to cut:

House Republicans have targeted one of the first programs they would like to ax: the $25 billion emergency fund for people who lose their jobs, part of last year’s stimulus bill. Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the program encourages states to increase their welfare caseloads “without requiring able-bodied individuals to work, get job training, or make other efforts to move off of taxpayer assistance.”

As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, Price’s characterization of the fund is completely inaccurate. The program has also earned the staunch support of many Republican governors, including Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS), who said it provided “much-needed aid during this recession by enabling businesses to hire new workers, thus enhancing the economic engines of our local communities.”

But the crux of the issue is that eliminating the TANF emergency fund will not save any money because the program has already expired. It was funded at $5 billion for two years, and ended on September 30, 2010. There is no money left for Price to save.

As The Wonk Room has explained, advocates, as well as the Obama administration, have asked that Congress fund the program for an additional year for $2.5 billion. Price multiplied that over ten years to come up with his ludicrous pronouncement that he would save $25 billion by cutting the program.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

At last: US is #1!!!

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Unfortunately, the category is "stupidity of legislators":

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 2:24 pm

Buying silence, I presume

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A very bad decision not to bring charges (obstruction of justice is the obvious charge) against those at the CIA who protected themselves and their superiors by destroying evidence—namely, the video records of CIA interrogation of terrorists. Destroying such tapes is clearly contraindicated if one’s goal is to fight terrorism: the tapes would normally be kept and reviewed as more evidence is found and as events transpire. The fact that they were destroyed pretty much demonstrates that war crimes were indeed committed—crimes so horrific that viewing the tapes would shock the conscience as well as lead to indictments and convictions—and the fact that no charges will be brought pretty much demonstrates that some very highly placed and influential people are paying off a serious debt.

I think the US is pretty much over, as any sort of model. It’s true the evidence shows that the US was never as good as it proclaimed, but now it doesn’t even seem to try: our president cajoles other leaders to investigate potential past crimes in their countries while resolutely blocking any investigation of wrongdoing in the US. Indeed, our president launches investigations and indictments to protect wrongdoing, not to expose it. (I’m thinking here of the wrathful legal actions against whistleblowers who expose government waste and corruption.) And this is done quite openly: the US public no longer cares.

Here’s the latest writing on the wall, this time by Mark Mazzetti and Charlie Savage in the NY Times:

A federal prosecutor will not bring criminal charges against any of the Central Intelligence Agency officers involved in destroying videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of Al Qaeda detainees, the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

After an investigation spanning nearly three years, John H. Durham, the special prosecutor assigned to the case by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, has decided not to charge the C.I.A. undercover officers and top lawyers at the agency for their roles in the destruction of the tapes.

Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said that since that appointment, “a team of prosecutors and F.B.I. agents led by Mr. Durham has conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter.” He continued, “As a result of that investigation, Mr. Durham has concluded that he will not pursue criminal charges for the destruction of the interrogation videotapes.”

Jose A. Rodriguez, the former head of the agency’s clandestine service, ordered his staff in November 2005 to destroy tapes of the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The tapes had been kept in a safe in the agency’s station in Thailand, the country where the interrogations were conducted in 2002.

Mr. Rodriguez took responsibility for the destruction of the tapes, according to current and former government officials, and said that C.I.A. lawyers had authorized his order. The agency withheld the fact that the tapes existed from , federal courts and the Sept. 11 Commission, which had asked the agency for records of the interrogations.

The destruction of the interrogation tapes was first reported by The New York Times in December 2007.

The announcement that there will be no charges in the destruction of the tapes leaves unanswered whether Mr. Durham will bring other charges related to the death or mistreatment of detainees in the hands of the agency, or to any false statements made by officials to investigators about harsh interrogations. The anti-torture act has an eight-year statute of limitations, and there is no time limit for murder charges.

Documents released earlier this year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties Union showed that the C.I.A. destroyed the tapes on the morning of Nov. 9, 2005. The five-year statute of limitations for filing charges of obstruction of justice related to their destruction expired on Tuesday.

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, condemned Mr. Durham’s failure to file charges. He noted that at the time the tapes were destroyed, they were pertinent to several pending legal cases, including a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the A.C.L.U. in 2004.

“It strains credulity that the conscious destruction of tapes depicting torture would not be a crime,” Mr. Romero said. “How the destruction of evidence in the middle of many pieces of litigation directly on point to what was captured on the videos is not seen as obstruction of justice is hard to imagine. The destruction of the tapes, and Durham’s conclusion, raise serious doubts about whether the government has the political will to police itself.”

But Robert S. Bennett, Mr. Rodriguez’s attorney, said in an interview that he was pleased that the Justice Department “did the right thing.”

Mr. Rodriguez is “a hero and a patriot, who simply wanted to protect his people and his country,” Mr. Bennett said [apparently without gagging – LG].

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 2:04 pm

Canada outlaws BPA; US continues to await permission from business

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I don’t understand why the US is so cavalier about the health of its citizenry—more of that rugged individualism, I suppose. Bryan Walsh reports in TIME:

It’s used almost everywhere. It’s in almost all of us. It does weird things to rodents and it may be doing weird things to us—but it’s tough to be certain. Bisphenol-A (BPA) has become a litmus test for how people view environmental health and the risks of common household chemicals—as I wrote in a long story for TIME earlier this year. The chemical has countless industrial uses, most often in the epoxy liner of cans and in plastic bottles. But BPA is also an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it has the capacity to mess with our hormones and potentially impact health—especially in developing fetuses—even at relatively low doses. (Because they can mimic hormones—which cause enormous changes in our bodies even at relatively low amounts—the dose-response relationship used to evaluate traditional toxins like lead may not work with BPA.)

Green advocates like the Environmental Working Group have pushed hard to restrict and even ban BPA, citing the potential risk to human health, while industry groups like American Chemistry Council have fought tooth and nail to keep the chemical in use, casting doubt on the animal studies that have shown harm from BPA. In the U.S. so far the result has been something of a stalemate—public worry about BPA is definitely on the rise, especially in the media, and professional groups like the Endocrine Society have raised their own warnings about the chemical, but there’s been no real change in regulation yet from the U.S. government.

Beyond our borders, however, governments are swinging into action. Yesterday Canada—with very little fanfare—declared BPA a toxic substance, both to the environment and to public health. The listing doesn’t mean that all BPA will need to be banned immediately—Canadian officials said that the declaration would be the first in a multi-step process to better regulate BPA. By listing the chemical as toxic, it’s easier for officials to ban the use of BPA in specific products through regulations, rather than amending laws or writing new legislation. Canada has already banned BPA in baby bottles, and this new listing will likely bring an end to food-related uses for BPA, in bottles and possibly cans as well. Here’s an excerpt from the Canada Gazette explaining the decision:

Concern for neurobehavioural effects in newborns and infants was suggested from the neurodevelopmental and behavioural dataset in rodents. Given that available data indicate potential sensitivity to the pregnant woman/fetus and infant, and that animal studies suggest a trend towards heightened susceptibility during stages of development in rodents, it was considered appropriate to apply a precautionary approach when characterizing risk to human health. Therefore, it was concluded that bisphenol A should be considered as a substance that may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.

The Canadian move was done in the face of intense opposition from the chemical industry, which was quick to respond to the decision. Here’s Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 12:51 pm

Going West

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Books, Video

Government efficiency

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It’s an article of conservative faith that government agencies are inefficient and can’t match the performance of private industry, despite the clear evidence of how efficiently the Social Security System works, how well the USPS functions (at least in my experience), and today how smoothly I renewed my auto registration including a smog check.

I get a form from California DMV that my registration is due for renewal and this year I require a smog check on the vehicle. (It’s a 1996 Nissan.) Although the form can be completed and filed by mail, I instead follow their instructions to go to a particular URL. I enter my registration number (the number on my car license plate), which is on the form, and also a six-digit identifier, also on the form. I then enter my credit card info, and that’s done.

Next, I take the form to my local smog-check business (no appointment necessary). They scan the barcodes on the form, and have to manually enter only two pieces of information: my phone number and the current mileage on the car.

I sit for a 15-minute wait, pay the inspection fee, and I’m done. They’re on-line to DMV and the test results are uploaded, and now DMV will mail me my renewal sticker for the license plate. Very smooth, very easy, very efficient.

Obviously, government operations are not automatically efficient, no more than private-industry operations. It helps greatly to have a citizenry that feels government service is a good thing to do and who also follow fairly closely reports on government operations that are published by a free, fearless, and motivated press corps—that last is, of course, being systematically destroyed by large corporations who force the press to support their business overlords.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Bill Moyers delivers the first Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture

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Well worth watching, and on a topic just  now active in comments. Check it out.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 12:34 pm

The American idea of "justice"

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Excellent editorial in today’s NY Times (emphasis added):

In reaching a plea deal to end the prosecution of Omar Khadr, a former child soldier held at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention center, the Obama administration achieved its political goal of avoiding having this disturbing case be the first to go to trial under its revamped military commissions. But this is not a legal victory anyone can feel proud about.

Mr. Khadr, a 24-year-old Canadian, was captured in Afghanistan when he was 15. He was thrown into armed conflict by his Al Qaeda-linked father, who was killed by Pakistani forces in 2003. As part of the plea deal, Mr. Khadr admitted that he threw a grenade that killed an American soldier during a 2002 firefight and that he planted roadside bombs. In exchange, his sentence was capped at eight years. After a year, he will be allowed to transfer to Canada to serve the remainder of his term.

It is hard to know what to make of Mr. Khadr’s admission of guilt. It may be truthful or driven by a fear that going to trial would mean a life sentence.

That concern became more acute following an appalling pretrial ruling by the military judge. He refused to exclude from evidence incriminating statements obtained under coercive and abusive circumstances by Mr. Khadr’s interrogators — including someone who implicitly threatened the frightened and severely wounded youngster with gang rape and was later convicted of detainee abuse in another case.

The case had other troubling aspects. Usually in war, battlefield killing is not prosecuted. The United States argued that Mr. Khadr lacked battlefield immunity because he wore no uniform. On the eve of a hearing, commission rules were hastily rewritten to downgrade “murder in violation of the laws of war” to a domestic law offense from a war crime in order to avoid seeming to concede that Central Intelligence Agency drone operators who reportedly fly the aircraft from agency headquarters in Virginia and also kill while not wearing uniforms commit war crimes.

United Nations officials and human rights groups objected to the prosecution’s dubious legality under international law. They noted the dangerous precedent set by making him the first person in many decades prosecuted for war crimes allegedly committed as a juvenile.

Then there is the matter of Mr. Khadr’s abusive treatment in custody. One witness at his pretrial hearing told of seeing him hooded and handcuffed to his cell with his arms extended painfully above his shoulders. In January, the Supreme Court of Canada criticized his lack of counsel and inclusion in the “frequent flier” program, which used sleep deprivation to get prisoners to talk.

Under military rules, Mr. Khadr’s case still had to go to a jury after the plea deal for a verdict that is mostly ceremonial. In a shabby yet perversely fitting conclusion, the prosecution asked the jury to recommend a long sentence and called a forensic psychiatrist who pronounced Mr. Khadr “highly dangerous.” On cross-examination, it turned out, the doctor’s views were colored by the work of a notorious Danish psychologist, Nicolai Sennels, who has called the Koran a “criminal book that forces people to do criminal things” and urges Western countries to halt all Muslim immigration.

A plea deal of eight years is better, obviously, than requiring Mr. Khadr to live his entire life behind bars. But he has already been imprisoned for eight years. That should have been enough.

The US should bow its head in shame. In the meantime, George W. Bush publishes a book in which he explicitly admits to committing war crimes and undoubtedly laughs about how Obama is protecting him (while Obama simultaneously scolds other countries to investigate their past crimes). What a farce.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 10:47 am

Nordic Track

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25′, nonstop. Listening to Robinson Crusoe helps a lot. He’s now a Brazilian planter and is about to set off on the voyage that will maroon him. Defoe does a good job of building his character’s skill set before he has to make it alone.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 10:41 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Fitness

Why so much aggressive patriotism?

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Julian Sanchez has a good answer:

Michael Kinsley unloads on “American exceptionalism”:

The theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters and approximately 100 percent of all U.S. politicians, although there is less and less evidence to support it. A recent Yahoo poll (and I resist the obvious joke here) found that 75 percent of Americans believe that the United States is “the greatest country in the world.” Does any other electorate demand such constant reassurance about how wonderful it is — and how wise?

It occurs to me that there’s an obvious link here with the idea that the contemporary populist right is heavily driven by ressentiment—and that a lot of our current politics has less to do with actual policy disagreements than with resolving status anxieties. You can think of patriotism as a kind of status socialism—a collectivization of the means of self-esteem production. You don’t have to graduate from an Ivy or make a lot of money to feel proud or special about being an American; you don’t have to do a damn thing but be born here. Cultural valorization of “American-ness” relative to other status markers, then, is a kind of redistribution of psychological capital to those who lack other sources of it.

You can gin up bogus reasons why it might matter from a policy perspective when the president says something that can be construed as “apologizing for America,” or doesn’t engage in a lot of symbolism that’s supposed to signal commitment to “American values”—but none of them have ever made much sense. The conventional take is that it’s really about markers of tribal affinity, but we can go a step further: Maybe it’s more precisely that people want high-status figures to invest in building the brand of their shared identity—a sort of status redistribution as noblesse oblige.

Update: Lest I I be thought to be making any claim to originality here, South Bend Seven notes that the basic idea here should be familiar enough from readers of the likes of Eric Hoffer:

The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.

The True Believer, Section 9

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 10:02 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Democratic cowardice and irresponsibility

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One problem with the Democratic party is that it is extraordinarily timid and totally unwilling to step up to the plate and defend its principles. I suspect that many elected Democrats don’t even know the principal beliefs and positions of their party—at least they act as though they live in ignorance as well as fear. Ed Brayton has a good post excoriating the Democrats for their failure to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which he ends with this succinct observation:

With two years of total control of both houses of Congress and the White House, they couldn’t pass a measure with 70% support from the public. Speaks volumes, I think.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 9:57 am

Extremely good shave

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An exceptionally smooth shave today, perhaps due to new toys. My new Omega “Vivaldi” brush—artificial badger—created a wonderful lather from Prairie Creations tallow & lanolin Gentleman’s Pipe shaving soap, and the Feather premium razor with a still newish Feather blade gave three smooth passes. At the end, a splash of my new Klar Seifen Rasierwasser Klassik was a great pleasure—and a fine fragrance.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2010 at 9:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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