Later On

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

Archive for February 16th, 2012

Helping you feel more secure (when the TSA’s not enough)

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This story in the LA Times certainly reassures me:

He came. He brought bombs. Kansas police let him go.

Mark it down as one of the odder-seeming terrorism scares in recent memory, at least thus far. On Wednesday morning, a Kansas state employee called police after noticing a funny-looking pickup truck parked in a restricted lot near the Statehouse.

Its hood was missing, and its front grill was crunched; it had a specialty Florida license plate solely for U.S. paratroopers; and it was smattered with bumper stickers that said such things as “Welcome to America. Now speak English.”

The truck also contained an empty gun holder — and several small homemade bombs designed to spray shrapnel, a Capitol Police spokesman said.

Police cleared the bombs from the area and, using the plate numbers, got a photo of the driver. They soon tracked him down in a tunnel between the Capitol and legislators’ offices. After interviewing the suspect, who Capitol Police said lives in Kansas and was unarmed, investigators searched his home. There, they said, they found bomb-making materials.

Open and shut case of potential terrorism, right? Not quite.

A day after the scare, the suspect, whom police will not identify, is free. In fact, according to Capt. Jimmie Atkinson of the Kansas Highway Patrol: “In this one, we did not actually take the suspect to jail and arrest him.”

Count that as one of the very few solid facts that’s been released thus far in a case that remains hazy.

When asked about the case Thursday morning, officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kansas Highway Patrol and Topeka Police Department even seemed somewhat confused about who was in charge of the investigation.

Finally, by Thursday afternoon, Atkinson said: “We are going to be going forward with the charges because the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] did not want to file charges.”

What charges would be filed? Atkinson wouldn’t say. Nor would he say why the suspect was at the Capitol.

Police said Wednesday that the man claimed to have an appointment inside the Capitol when confronted by the authorities, but no appointment was verified.

The apparent anti-immigrant stickers on the truck raised eyebrows, as the Kansas legislators were meeting that day to discuss contentious immigration legislation that would crack down on undocumented workers, who play a significant role in Kansas’ agricultural industry. A rally outside the Capitol drew about 300 protestors, according to a count by the Topeka Capitol-Journal.

When asked whether he thought the suspect, now free, posed any danger, Atkinson paused and then said he wouldn’t speculate. “Anybody could be dangerous,” he said. “I can say if we thought he’d be a continued threat, more than likely we would have kept him incarcerated, and we would have posted the bond then.”

He wouldn’t say any more.

Atkinson said the charges would be hashed out with the Shawnee County district attorney next week — the earliest day an appointment could be arranged.

Capitol Police said the suspect did not have any connection to another man who was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of making threatening phone calls to the governor.

Do you see the fiendish cleverness of the guy? He very cleverly did not drive the truck through the departing passengers line at an airport. Too scared. It’s working, people, it’s working. Soon we’ll have everything under control.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 4:47 pm

Why you are a slave to business

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Because they know about you more than a rancher knows about his livestock. They allow you to be free-range because you really never leave their control. Charles Duhigg reports in the NY Times:

Andrew Pole had just started working as a statistician for Target in 2002, when two colleagues from the marketing department stopped by his desk to ask an odd question: “If we wanted to figure out if a customer is pregnant, even if she didn’t want us to know, can you do that? ”

Pole has a master’s degree in statistics and another in economics, and has been obsessed with the intersection of data and human behavior most of his life. His parents were teachers in North Dakota, and while other kids were going to 4-H, Pole was doing algebra and writing computer programs. “The stereotype of a math nerd is true,” he told me when I spoke with him last year. “I kind of like going out and evangelizing analytics.”

As the marketers explained to Pole — and as Pole later explained to me, back when we were still speaking and before Target told him to stop — new parents are a retailer’s holy grail. Most shoppers don’t buy everything they need at one store. Instead, they buy groceries at the grocery store and toys at the toy store, and they visit Target only when they need certain items they associate with Target — cleaning supplies, say, or new socks or a six-month supply of toilet paper. But Target sells everything from milk to stuffed animals to lawn furniture to electronics, so one of the company’s primary goals is convincing customers that the only store they need is Target. But it’s a tough message to get across, even with the most ingenious ad campaigns, because once consumers’ shopping habits are ingrained, it’s incredibly difficult to change them.

There are, however, some brief periods in a person’s life when old routines fall apart and buying habits are suddenly in flux. One of those moments — the moment, really — is right around the birth of a child, when parents are exhausted and overwhelmed and their shopping patterns and brand loyalties are up for grabs. But as Target’s marketers explained to Pole, timing is everything. Because birth records are usually public, the moment a couple have a new baby, they are almost instantaneously barraged with offers and incentives and advertisements from all sorts of companies. Which means that the key is to reach them earlier, before any other retailers know a baby is on the way. Specifically, the marketers said they wanted to send specially designed ads to women in their second trimester, which is when most expectant mothers begin buying all sorts of new things, like prenatal vitamins and maternity clothing. “Can you give us a list?” the marketers asked.

“We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years,” Pole told me. “As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they’re going to start buying everything else too. If you’re rushing through the store, looking for bottles, and you pass orange juice, you’ll grab a carton. Oh, and there’s that new DVD I want. Soon, you’ll be buying cereal and paper towels from us, and keep coming back.”

The desire to collect information on customers is not new for Target or any other large retailer, of course. For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy. “If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we’ve sent you or visit our Web site, we’ll record it and link it to your Guest ID,” Pole said. “We want to know everything we can.”

Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you’ve moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. (In a statement, Target declined to identify what demographic information it collects or purchases.) All that information is meaningless, however, without someone to analyze and make sense of it. That’s where Andrew Pole and the dozens of other members of Target’s Guest Marketing Analytics department come in.

Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a “predictive analytics” department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them. “But Target has always been one of the smartest at this,” says Eric Siegel, a consultant and the chairman of a conference called Predictive Analytics World. “We’re living through a golden age of behavioral research. It’s amazing how much we can figure out about how people think now.”

The reason Target can snoop on our shopping habits is that, over the past two decades, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Hottest chili pepper in the world—and he eats it!

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Thanks to TYD for sending this. Here’s the backstory:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Food, Video

Arcosanti today

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I remember when Arcosanti was a Big New Thing. Michael Tortorello in the NY Times takes a look at it today:

THE pilgrimage began with a black-and-white handbill on a campus bulletin board. At the top was a sketch of an ultramodern compound rising above a desert canyon: a city upon a hill.

Next came the manifesto. “If you are truly concerned about the problems of pollution, waste, energy depletion, land, water, air and biological conservation, poverty, segregation, intolerance, population containment, fear and disillusionment,” the poster began. Then, at the bottom, the remedy: “Join us.”

Occupying the middle of nowhere must have appealed to the students, architects and seekers of the 1970s who founded Arcosanti, an “urban laboratory” in the desert 70 miles north of Phoenix. After following a washboard road to the desolate camp, they would find a kind of kibbutz. Here, in workshops, they might build a 30-foot-high concrete vault or plant olive trees or cast bells in silt to sell for construction money.

Above all, they were able to join an ongoing colloquy with the city’s visionary designer, Paolo Soleri. In a cosmic language of his own invention (filled with phrases like the “omega seed” and “miniaturization-complexity-duration”), Mr. Soleri proselytized for a carless society in harmony with the natural world. Over the course of 40 years, some 7,000 souls would come and go.

For the most part, though, they left. And last fall, Mr. Soleri joined this group himself, retiring at age 92 as the president of the parent Cosanti Foundation.

Now, Arcosanti is experiencing its own version of Cuba’s “special period”: a transitional era of privation and possibility. And the man who would be Raúl Castro in this analogy is the foundation’s new president, Jeff Stein, 60, formerly dean of the Boston Architectural College.

As a resident of Arcosanti in its heyday, “he has all the qualities to be the guardian of the faith,” said Michel Sarda, 69, a foundation trustee and a publisher of Mr. Soleri’s books.

But if Mr. Stein can’t miraculously transform Arcosanti into a dense eco-city for 5,000 residents — and that was always Mr. Soleri’s plan — what should it become instead?

Mr. Sarda speaks enthusiastically about building a retirement tower for golf-shy retirees and the project’s alumni. Mr. Stein’s immediate proposals are more modest: a canopy for the outdoor amphitheater, a renovated commercial bakery, a storage unit for Mr. Soleri’s collection of fantastical architectural models and a half-dozen new apartments.

Whatever Mr. Stein may wish to do, for now it will have to be accomplished with an operating budget of less than $1 million. That annual sum includes payroll, utilities, food, building materials, insurance: everything. It is, by his estimation, about a 10th of what the community needs to build new housing and attract new residents and businesses. That is, to turn a somewhat derelict complex of a dozen-odd concrete structures into something more like a city.

His first job, perhaps, is to become an ambassador: to remind the world that Arcosanti exists as a going concern. Visitors (and some 25,000 stop here each year) often observe that this city of the future seems more like a city of the past. Part Mos Eisley, part Ozymandias. But that description fails to account for the 56 inspired souls who continue to live and work and dream in the Arcosanti that exists today.

One such latter-day disciple is Maureen Connaughton, 37, who until last year was a project manager in Philadelphia for a specialty fabrication company. On a cold Tuesday night in January, Ms. Connaughton was sitting with Mr. Stein and a few dozen of her fellow Arconauts in the dining hall, known as Crafts III in the local dialect, tucking into a community meal of breaded pork chops and fried tofu. They were bundled in sweaters and hats and Carhartt jackets. Mr. Soleri may have shown a genius for passive solar design, but at Arcosanti he didn’t really do central heat.

If you were an optimist, like Ms. Connaughton, who lives in an apartment beneath the cafe and dining hall, you might note that it’s easy to sleep in the cool Arizona winter. Yes, the building’s aging concrete has a habit of flaking onto your bed. But “what you get in exchange is just so worth it,” she said. “To have this big round window and look out at the canyon.”

At a fall building workshop here in 2010, she discovered . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Daily life

Public files for 3-D printers

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It begins. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Wisdom, etc.

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At this point (age 72 and progressing) I should have access to a bountiful harvest of wisdom, but I’m not sure what it looks like. I did go out for a good sushi lunch, post-suffering: hamachi sashimi as part of a mixed sashimi plate, but also a little order of saba (mackerel sashimi). My sushi place, like any good sushi place, pickles its own saba, and they do quite a good job. That, a small order of nigiri sushi, a seaweed salad, and a small bottle of sake: I’m feeling rewarded for my pluck. I thank me for recognizing my need for a little feast.

One thing I noticed in terms of viewing things differently at this point: people inhabit their age only briefly: teens? Gone before you can find your footing—really, from 15 through 19 is about it, and then it’s over. The 20′s? You get one look at your early 20′s, in your late 20′s, but then you’re into your 30′s.

I look at movies of men in WW II: a totally overwhelming experience, very quickly things have changed and the survivors must find new roles and new uses for those memories and experiences.

Life keeps changing, and this stage of your life—whatever it is—cannot be viewed as a resting place: you instead must exploit what you’ve learned to date and ready yourself for the next step.

The take-home: Whatever you’re planning to do at this stage in your life, you’d better get a move on. You’re not here long, so get cracking. And learn efficiency as well as effectiveness. There’s really very little time.

Still, I do feel as though I’ve reached a spot at which I can enjoy the vista. Quite amazing.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Rick Santorum’s plans for your sex life

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It’s good to know that Rick will be taking care of our sex lives for us. Mr. Beetner passes along this link. It’s going to be quite a change under Rick. My only question is whether the government will take over Inquisitorial duties or outsource it to the Catholic church (experience) or HBR (equipment).

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 10:25 am

Good point: If the war’s over, we release prisoners of war

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Excellent column by Mary Dudziak in the NY Times:

THE defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, recently announced that America hoped to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013 as it did in Iraq last year.  Yet at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, the United States continues to hold enemy detainees “for the duration of hostilities.”

Indeed, the “ending” of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have no consequences for the ending of detention. Because the end of a war is traditionally thought to be the moment when a president’s war powers begin to ebb, bringing combat to a close in Afghanistan and Iraq should lead to a reduction in executive power — including the legitimate basis for detaining the enemy.

But there is a disconnect today between the wars that are ending and the “war” that is used to justify ongoing detention of prisoners. Originally, the war in Afghanistan was part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”  This framing had rhetorical power, but it quickly drew criticism because a war on terror has no boundaries in space or time, and no prospect of ever ending.

When he took office, President Obama abandoned the “war on terror” rhetoric, focusing instead on Iraq and Afghanistan. American war now seemed more manageable and traditional. A confined war in a specific war zone was a war that presumably could end once the enemy was defeated within that territory. But it was not so simple: Qaeda fighters slipped over the Afghan border to Pakistan, extending the zone of conflict.

Ending wars has never been easy, of course. On the Korean Peninsula, fighting came to a halt with an armistice agreement in 1953, but a peace treaty has never been signed, so there has been no formal end to that war. Faced with continuing threats from North Korea, American troops continue to maintain a presence in South Korea. Had today’s logic been applied there, Korean prisoners of war might still be serving the rest of their years in detention.

During the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese soldiers also crossed a border, into Cambodia. But once that war came to an end, the basis for ongoing detention of North Vietnamese enemy soldiers ended, even if a cold war against communism continued.

America’s recent wars have been hard to end, but our presidents have done their best to argue that our goals have been accomplished. President George W. Bush did this memorably when he declared victory in Iraq in May 2003 on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln under the banner “Mission Accomplished” — and yet that conflict was far from over.

President Obama had his own “Mission Accomplished” moment, when he declared the “end of combat in Iraq” in August 2010. Like Mr. Bush’s episode, Mr. Obama’s was principally a media event, as reporters spoke with excitement about the historic moment, as American combat troops crossed the border into Kuwait. Yet at the time, 50,000 United States troops remained in Iraq, and the Army quickly reassured them that, even though “conflict” had ended, “conflict conditions” persisted, and hence soldiers would still receive additional pay for serving in a hostile zone. That first “ending” of the Iraq war has now been largely forgotten, eclipsed by the December 2011 withdrawal — a much more extensive drawdown than initially planned.

The “end of combat” in Afghanistan, slated for 2013, could become yet another made-for-media event. But at the very least it should force Americans to confront the contradiction of ending two wars while invoking a nebulous and never-ending third one to justify the continued detention of prisoners. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 10:11 am

Gene Lyons on the Catholic bishops

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Catholic bishops seem to lack every shred of decency. I’ve known some decent parish priests, but some strange selection criteria seem to ensure that those who rise to bishoprics — and particularly those who become cardinals — must embrace with enthusiasm hypocrisy of startling density and thickness. Gene Lyons writes:

For the record, the priest who married my wife and me in 1967 advised us that we could in good faith practice birth control. He reasoned that as Pope Paul VI was then preparing an encyclical regarding faith and sexuality, young Catholics could reasonably assume that church dogma regarding contraception would soon change to reflect contemporary realities: specifically that a couple intending to bring children into their marriage might legitimately seek to do so in their own time.

A university chaplain, he no doubt understood how the combination of Rome’s authoritarianism and theological nit-picking tended to drive educated young people from the church. Anyway, everybody knows how that worked out. Next came Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 doubling down on the church’s blanket condemnation of artificial means of birth control — a blast from the medieval past as most American Catholics now see it.

“Vatican Roulette,” we called it, and like the vast majority, declined to play. Surveys have shown that approximately 13 percent of the faithful agree with the Roman Catholic Church’s categorical ban on birth control; a mere 2 percent actually practice what the bishops preach. For most, it isn’t a serious personal issue. Sure, Your Grace, whatever.

For that matter, birthrates are declining in Catholic countries around the world. And a blessing it is, if poverty and human dignity concern you.

Until the U.S. Conference of Bishops recently got crosswise with the Obama administration, even the church rarely emphasized the contraceptive issue. So at first, I was mainly struck by the sheer quaintness of it all. (As, evidently, were many Catholic universities and hospitals quietly complying with state laws mandating contraceptive coverage.) The bishops’ indignant fulminations about their wounded consciences put me in mind of the hilarious production number in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life,” with its chorus of impoverished Catholic urchins singing

“Every sperm is sacred. Every sperm is great.
If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.” . . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 9:01 am

I want a veau chaud so much!

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I can’t wait for my next trip to Paris. Elaine Sciolino describes a delicacy in the NY Times:

PARIS – Despite having three Michelin stars at his restaurant in the Meurice hotel, Yannick Alléno considers himself a man of the people. His parents owned a modest bistro in a Paris suburb, where they served croque-monsieurs and sliced ham on buttered baguettes. “I was born behind the counter,” he said. He hates dishes that seem as if they came out of a chemistry class.

Whenever he goes to New York, he eats a hot dog from a street vendor. “I adore them,” he said. “Even with the bad water they sit in all day.”

It wasn’t much of a leap, then, for Mr. Alléno to create his own chien chaud.

Actually it is a veau chaud (pronounced voh show) — literally hot veal — a slender nine-inch sausage made from edible bits of a cooked calf head, or tête de veau. (The brains, eyes and fat are left out, and egg white and tiny threads of veal added to hold it together.)

The sausage is wrapped in a casing and boiled in a stock of carrots, leeks, onions and cloves. Then the casing is removed and the fragile sausage put in a crusty multigrain baguette.

It is served with gribiche sauce (a vinaigrette with capers, cornichons, hard-boiled egg, herbs and mustard) squeezed from a version of the classic plastic bottle long used in American diners for mustard and ketchup.

“I have adapted the ‘dog’ to the true ambience of Paris,” he said. “There is nothing more Parisian than tête de veau.”

Mr. Alléno has long had a special relationship with tête de veau.

When he was a chef’s apprentice at 15, one of his jobs was to go shopping at the vast Rungis food hall every Sunday morning at 1:30. His last stop was the butcher selling organ meats. The butcher would boil 20-pound têtes de veau in huge iron caldrons and serve his clients big, messy sandwiches filled with bits of cheek, skin, fat, gristle, tongue and brains covered in a white vinaigrette gribiche sauce.

“We worked in the restaurant Saturday night and then went to Rungis as soon as it opened to buy for the next week,” Mr. Alléno recalled in the kitchen of his restaurant. “The triperie was the last stop, and the tête de veau was the way we could finally unwind, rest and talk.”

He considers tête de veau a symbol of his success. In 2007, when he was awarded his third Michelin star, his mentor, Paul Bocuse, honored him with a lunch at his restaurant outside Lyon that started with a classic tête de veau that he had prepared.

Even now, on Mr. Alléno’s menu at his marquee restaurant at the luxurious Meurice is a delicate first course of tête de veau made with cheek and tongue with a gribiche-like sabayon sauce.

Diners who like tête de veau will likely take to the hot-dog version. The taste is more refined than classic tête de veau, the texture softer and more gelatinous than a classic sausage, and without an outer casing, it lacks crunch. It’s probably best for the uninitiated to forget that it started as an animal’s head.

Trying one with a glass of chilled 2009 Chassagne-Montrachet, Jean-Pierre Ribaut, the food critic for Le Monde and Mr. Alléno’s co-author of a two-volume work of classic French recipes, had two words: “Wow! Tasty!”

The nine-euro veau chaud (about $12) will be the star at Terroir Parisien, Mr. Alléno’s informal bistro set to open March 10 at 20 rue Saint Victor, an Art Deco building near the Sorbonne in the Fifth Arrondissement. Designed by the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, it needs a lot more work. The gray stone floor and white wall tiles are in place, but the kitchen is not installed, the walls not painted, the wood-slat central vault unfinished. It will seat 60 at zinc-covered tables and 14 at a center counter, and will be open daily from 8 a.m. until an undetermined time at night.

Mr. Alléno will also serve classic bistro fare: . . .

Continue reading. My favorite taco at Tacos Moreno in Santa Cruz was beef-head taco, which they no longer offer, alas. It was the best!

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 8:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Bill Moyers warns us: Who will hear?

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Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have a devastating jeremiad on the state of US politics:

Watching what’s happening to our democracy is like watching the cruise ship Costa Concordia founder and sink slowly into the sea off the coast of Italy, as the passengers, shorn of life vests, scramble for safety as best they can, while the captain trips and falls conveniently into a waiting life boat.

We are drowning here, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics. Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which has been written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny — they have no shame. Not a decent respect for the welfare of others — the people without means, their safety net shredded, left helpless before events beyond their control.

The obstacles facing the millennial generation didn’t just happen. Take an economy skewed to the top, low wages and missing jobs, predatory interest rates on college loans: these are politically engineered consequences of government of, by and for the 1 percent. So, too, is our tax code the product of money and politics, influence and favoritism, lobbyists and the laws they draft for rented politicians to enact.

Here’s what we’re up against. Read it and weep: “America’s Plutocrats Play the Political Ponies.” That’s a headline in “Too Much,” an Internet publication from the Institute for Policy Studies that describes itself as “an online weekly on excess and inequality.”

Yes, the results are in and our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. Only these kings aren’t your everyday poobahs and potentates. These kings are multi-billionaire, corporate moguls who by the divine right, not of God, but the United States Supreme Court and its Citizens Uniteddecision, are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh. All that money pouring into Super PACs, much of it from secret sources: merely an investment, should their horse pay off in November, in the best government money can buy.

They’re shelling out fortunes’ worth of contributions. Look at just a few of them: Mitt Romney’s hedge fund pals Robert Mercer, John Paulson, Julian Robertson and Paul Singer – each of whom has ponied up a million or more for the Super PAC called “Restore Our Future” — as in, “Give us back the go-go days, when predators ruled Wall Street like it was Jurassic Park.”

Then there’s casino boss Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, fiercely pro-Israel and anti-President Obama’s Mideast policy. Initially, they placed their bets on Newt Gingrich, who says on his first day in office he’d move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that would thrill the Adelsons, but infuriate Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world. Together, the Adelsons have contributed ten million to Newt’s “Winning Our Future” Super PAC. . .

Continue reading. Their conclusion:

. . . When all is said and done, this race for the White House may cost more than two billion dollars. What’s getting trampled into dust are the voices of people who aren’t rich, not to mention what’s left of our democracy. As Democratic pollster Peter Hart told The New Yorker magazine’s Jane Mayer, “It’s become a situation where the contest is how much you can destroy the system, rather than how much you can make it work. It makes no difference if you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ after your name. There’s no sense that this is about democracy, and after the election you have to work together, and knit the country together.”

These gargantuan Super PAC contributions are not an end in themselves. They are the means to gain control of government – and the nation state — for a reason. The French writer and economist Frederic Bastiat said it plainly: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” That’s what the Super PACs are bidding on. For the rest of us, the ship may already have sailed.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 8:48 am

Pakistan government more transparent and accountable than US government

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That’s an astonishing claim, and yet Greenwald supports it with specific court cases. Read his column for the specifics. Conclusion:

One constantly hears in American political discourse that Pakistan is so terribly un-democratic because the shadowy, omnipotent ISI functions with no accountability or transparency. Yet here they are being ordered by that nation’s highest court to account for serious detainee abuse (this, despite the fact that Pakistan’s problems with Terrorism are, at the very least, as pressing as those faced by the U.S.). Yet this type of accountability just brought to Pakistan’s intelligence service is simply inconceivable in the United States. It is virtually impossible to imagine the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the CIA to disclose documents about its treatment of detainees or, even more unrealistically, to permit the victims of CIA abuse to have their grievances heard in court. Anyone who doubts that can simply review the past decade of full-scale immunity bestowed by the Justice Department and subservient American federal courts on all executive agencies in the War on Terror. We should think about that the next time some American pundit, politician, or media figure righteously holds forth on how undemocratic and oppressive is Pakistan as opposed to the U.S.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 8:41 am

Asian kid from Harvard succeeds in New York!

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James Fallows has an intriguing post that presents several interesting things: how a 140-character limit is much less restrictive if you’re writing Chinese (you will be amazed by the tweet: when translated, it is 155 words); how basketball was at one time considered a Jewish game because Jews had obvious racial/ethnic/cultural advantages that made them unbeatable at the sport, and a link to this quite interesting post from a venture capitalist.

All well worth the clicks.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 8:16 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Wanting a BBS shave, slowly I …

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I decided that I wanted a very fine shave today. So after MR GLO, I took my fluffiest silvertip brush, an Omega puffball, and worked up—immediately, with no effort—a fine thick creamy lather from Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap (this soap is not difficult to lather if you use soft water and load the brush fully), and then three passes with a Merkur gold Slant Bar holding the usual Swedish Gillette blade.

What a wonderful shave, and done with full intent. Close enough to BBS as makes no difference. Once more with Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte moisturizing face stuff as the aftershave.

Eye still quite sensitive to light, but not hurting.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2012 at 7:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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