Archive for May 2012
Well, the progression of walk times over the past three days—36 minutes, 34 minutes, and 32 minutes—sort of came to a stop. Today: 31 min 45 seconds. Still, a good walk. And Don Quixote has finished the first sally and is going to set out soon with Sancho Panza.
Morning blood glucose 107: not bad, coming down.
Weight 183.6 lbs (21.4% body fat, BMI 24.9: within normal range—but I’ve still got 15 or so pounds to go. Still, making progress down from recent high of 192: got careless.
Our economy—or at least substantial portions of it, like the lobbying industry—has been deformed by the military-industrial-Congressional complex, just as Eisenhower warned in his farewell address to the nation. Every since Vietnam, it seems as though the US is always fighting a war: got to use up that materiel so that more can be bought.
With Iraq pretty much over—wonder how long it will take that country to recover?—and Afghanistan winding down rapidly, I’m sure the urgent need was felt to get into another war to keep that war industry running profitably. It seems now we are waging war on drug smugglers. Damien Cave, Charlie Savage, and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times:
After several villagers were killed on a Honduran river this month during a raid on drug smugglers by Honduran and American agents, a local backlash raised concerns that the United States’ expanding counternarcotics efforts in Central America might be going too far. But United States officials in charge of that policy see it differently.
Throughout 2011, counternarcotics officials watched their radar screens almost helplessly as more than 100 small planes flew from South America to isolated landing strips in Honduras. But this month — after establishing a new strategy emphasizing more cooperation across various United States departments and agencies — two smugglers’ flights were intercepted within a single week, a development that explains why American officials say they are determined to press forward with the approach.
“In the first four months of this year, I’d say we actually have gotten it together across the military, law enforcement and developmental communities,” said William R. Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. “My guess is narcotics traffickers are hitting the pause button. For the first time in a decade, air shipments are being intercepted immediately upon landing.”
With Washington’s attention swinging from Iraq and Afghanistan — and with budget dollars similarly flowing in new directions — the United States is expanding and unifying its antidrug efforts in Central America, where violence has skyrocketed as enforcement efforts in the Caribbean, Colombia and Mexico have pushed cocaine traffic to smaller countries with weaker security forces.
As part of those efforts, the United States is pressing governments across Central America to work together against their shared threat — sharing intelligence and even allowing security forces from one nation to operate on the sovereign soil of another — an approach that was on display in the disputed raid. But reviews from Central America include uncertainty and skepticism.
Government leaders in Honduras — who came to power in a controversial election a few months after a 2009 coup — have strongly supported assistance from the United States, but skeptics contend that enthusiasm is in part because the partnership bolsters their fragile hold on power.
More broadly, there is discontent in Latin America with United States efforts that some leaders and independent experts see as too focused on dramatic seizures of shipments bound for North America rather than local drug-related murders, corruption and chaos.
“Violence has grown a lot; crimes connected to trafficking keep increasing — that’s Central America’s big complaint,” President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala said in an interview. He added that the drug cartels are better organized than they were 20 years ago and that “if there are no innovations, if we don’t see something truly different than what we have been doing, then this war is on the road to defeat.”
Mr. Pérez Molina, a former general, has been criticized by American officials for proposing a form of drug legalization, but he argues that his goal is to create discussion of new ideas — like compensating Central American countries for the drugs they confiscate, or creating a regional court for organized crime.
In the area of Honduras called the Mosquito Coast, where the two recent operations occurred, residents have simpler demands. “If you’re going to come to the Mosquito Coast, come to invest,” said Terry Martinez, the director of development programs for the Gracias a Dios area. “Help us get our legitimate goods to market. That will help secure the area.”
American officials say they know that interdiction alone is not enough. The number of United States officials assigned to programs that are designed to strengthen Central America’s weak criminal justice systems has quadrupled, to about 80 over the past five years. . .
UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that US wars since Vietnam have by no means been continuous. Frequent, yes, but with intervals.
I had bought a couple of Italian eggplants for the swordfish grub, but they were on the bottom shelf so I overlooked them. So they will be in the next batch of grub that I’m making this evening.
My thought with eggplant tends toward ratatouille, so that brings in zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil. But no starch, no protein, no greens, so we quickly go beyond ratatouille. The grub will go something like this:
6-qt large-diameter pot.
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 red spring onions, bulb and leaves, chopped
12 garlic cloves, more or less, minced
12 Thai peppers (have no idea for right number to use: can always add more)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped celery
2 organic zucchini, diced
1 organic yellow crookneck squash, diced
2 large carrots, diced (color and I need the orange: I also bought some mangoes for my fruit)
kernels cut from 1 ear of fresh yellow corn (color, mainly, but also starch to augment the pasta—I use the Kuhn-Rikon corn stripper which works well once you get the hang of it)
2 Italian eggplant, diced
10 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (the protein)
1 wad dried tomatoes from the little PG produce stand
The above is sautéed in stages, then I’ll add:
28-oz can Muir Glen crushed organic tomatoes (I was going to buy fresh organic Romas, but Whole Foods was charging $4 apiece: forget it.)
1 largish bunch red dandelion greens (one bunch of greens)
1 large bunch Italian parsley (a second bunch of greens)
2 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
5 anchovies, minced
2 rounded Tbsp capers, with juice
1 diced organic lemon, with peel
If a little more liquid is needed, I’ll add some red wine.
I’ll let that cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to cook the greens, then add:
4 oz Fregola Sarda pasta (2 servings starch, but this will make 4-6 meals, so that’s fine—the corn is also a starch)
Cook for 20 minutes more.
This is true grub. I’ll probably add black olives later. I have some freshly grated Parmesan and some freshly grated Romano, so I’m going to be doing some comparisons.
UPDATE: Extremely tasty grub. The pasta was a good choice, the lemon was a good idea, and altogether it worked out great. Plus I have enough for 6 meals easy: made a big batch. It’s not especially hot, so I’m adding more Thai chili peppers and upping the count in the recipe. Extremely tasty with the Parmesan. I added the 7 more Thai chilis before the second serving and still not very hot: some afterglow, but nothing searing.
UPDATE 2: Here’s the grub in the larval stage:
William Grimes reports in the NY Times:
IT started out in the 1950s as an effort-saving gadget, like the electric can opener or electronic car keys. It evolved into a necessity, a cultural magic wand that has transformed the relationship of viewers to their televisions, and the style and content of the programs on view.
Today, American television viewers click away at some 335 million TV remotes — nearly three per household. No longer a curiosity, the remote is as much a part of the American home as the personal computer or the cellphone.
The novelist Saul Bellow denounced it as a malign invention whose invitation to jump from channel to channel, scrambling stories, “makes mental mincemeat of us.” Ellen Goodman called it “the most reactionary implement currently used to undermine equality in modern marriage” in a 1992 column for The Boston Globe, noting its resemblance to a royal scepter and the tendency of men to dictate its use.
“It really changed, in a fundamental way, our interaction with technology and with each other,” said Edward Tenner, a historian of technology and culture and the author of “Our Own Devices.” “Think of the clickers that allow us to communicate with all sorts of electronic devices. The TV remote was the origin of that idea.”
No one foresaw the transformative power of the device when Zenith unveiled the first cordless remote, the Flash-Matic, in 1955. Created by Eugene J. Polley, who died May 20 at 96, it looked like a small ray gun. By directing a beam of light at four photo cells, one at each corner of the screen, the viewer could change channels up or down, and increase or decrease the volume.
The company’s advertisements proclaimed the Flash-Matic “a marvel of the electronic age that gives you remote control without wires, cables or cords.” Unlike the Lazy Bones, Zenith’s first remote, introduced in 1950, it did not have a wire connecting it to the television.
But it did have other drawbacks. The photocells could be activated randomly by bright sunlight during the day, and by the lights of passing cars at night. . .
It was Pepsi that first discovered the Law of Snack Foods. They ran an experiment in which consumers could have as much free Pepsi as they wanted. What they discovered was that the consumer would consume as much as they took home, regardless of the amount.
Thus Pepsi wanted to make it easy to take home more of their products: thus the 2-liter soda pop bottles, the enormous bags of potato chips, the case and half-case packages of canned soda: get it into the house, and they’ll consume.
Looks like New York is going to cut back on that. Michael Grynbaum reports in the NY Times:
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores.
“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall.
“New York City is not about wringing your hands; it’s about doing something,” he said. “I think that’s what the public wants the mayor to do.”
A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, an arm of the soda industry’s national trade group, criticized the city’s proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the city’s health department, saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause. . .
Continue reading. It’s probably redundant to point it out, by the Beverage Association here has a rather obvious conflict of interest.
Thank God. The Associated Press reporting in the NY Times:
A federal appeals court Thursday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples, a groundbreaking ruling all but certain to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In its unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston said the 1996 law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.
The court didn’t rule on the law’s more politically combustible provision, which said states without same-sex marriage cannot be forced to recognize gay unions performed in states where it’s legal. It also wasn’t asked to address whether gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.
The law was passed at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004.
The court, the first federal appeals panel to deem the benefits section of the law unconstitutional, agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns. . .
We’ll be fine. The Mayans were not so gloomy as supposed about the future of the planet.
It turns out that Cardinal Dolan not only paid large cash amounts to pedophiles (rather than reporting to the police—but it was a hard decision for Dolan, no doubt: “Hmm. This guy’s been raping children. Should I turn him over to the police or give him a lot of money and protect him from the police? Seems pretty clear to me that the moral and Christian and ethical thing to do is the latter. He can then go rape children elsewhere, and good riddance!” And I’m sure he felt he had done the right thing and his duty.
And yet he must have harbored some doubts because he flat-out lied about what he did and denied his actions totally. But in fairness, lying is the least offensive thing he did. And this man is president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference, apparently an exemplar for all Bishops.
This is a surprising interpretation of, say, the Sermon on the Mount (or any other teaching of Jesus with which I’m familiar). I wish the Cardinal would explain, but he seems oddly reticent.
The story, by Laurie Goodstein in the NY Times:
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.
Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”
But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.
A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.
“It was a way to provide an incentive to go the voluntary route and make it happen quickly, and ultimately cost less,” said Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese. “Their cooperation made the process a lot more expeditious.”
Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the national bishops’ conference and fast becoming the nation’s most high-profile Roman Catholic cleric, did not respond to several requests for comment.
A victims advocacy group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent a letter of protest to the current archbishop of Milwaukee on Wednesday asking, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?” . . .
You’ll note at the end of the story, the Catholic diocese filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying victims. Money for perpetrators, nothing for victims: that’s the way the Catholic church rolls. And don’t tell me the Catholic church lacked money to pay the victims: the Roman Catholic church—particularly in the Vatican—has treasures aplenty (which it values much more than children raped by its priests, thank you very much.)
The problem with oppressive government, from the point of view of the oppressors, is that it’s a never-ending task: people seem compelled to speak up, object, complain, point out problems (despite best efforts of governments to conceal problems), and so on. And now with the Internet, with international communication and many points of view available and contending, it’s an authoritarian’s nightmare. But Steps Are Being Taken, as reported by Cecilia Kang in the Washington Post:
U.S. officials and high-tech business giants have launched an assault against what they view as a massive threat to the Internet and to Silicon Valley’s bottom lines: foreign governments.
In a congressional hearing Thursday, they will warn lawmakers of a growing movement led by China, Russia and some Arab states to hand more control of the Web to the United Nations and place rules on the Internet that the U.S. companies say would empower governments to clamp down on civil rights and free speech.
That could mean the Web might look drastically different in other countries than it does in the United States, opponents of the proposals say. An Internet user in Uzbekistan could be more easily tracked by government officials and might get access to only a portion of the Google search results seen in the United States, for example.
In a rare coordinated effort to knock down the proposals, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Cisco also warn of financial risks to their businesses if new rules are adopted. They say some nations may push forlaws on Internet firms that could lead to tariffs on Internet service providers such as Verizon, or even Web firms such as Facebook that enable people to communicate over the Internet. . .
What a wonderful shave today! I really must use J.M. Fraser shaving cream more often—a top-notch shaving cream for 3¢/ml. (Comparison: Castle Forbes Lime is 19¢/ml.) I love the lemon or lime fragrance, and the lather was excellent. This is an older jar, so I brushed the cream briskly with the wet brush, much as I would a soap, and loaded the wonderful Rooney brush with shaving cream, then took my time on my face.
The Gillette President (the one in the photo has been replated in rhodium) with an Astra Superior Platinum blade delivered a wonderful shave, and June Clover seemed just the right fragrance—it’s a favorite, and I don’t know why I haven’t been using it more often. It will appear frequently in June.
The lather was quite good—not quite the same as soap lather, but plenty thick and rich enough, and once again my shave was exceptionally good.
The President is making its appearance because a guy on Wicked_Edge just bought a President, which brought mine to mind.
A fine and enjoyable shave.
It’s really simple, once you think of it: make global warming against the law! There! Job done. Man, that was ever so much easier than things proposed by those pointy-headed, needle-necked scientist fellers.
Here’s the story, thanks to TYD.
You really have to read it. Are North Carolina legislators really so boneheaded stupid as that? I had assumed that the majority would have at least a high-school education. Apparently not.
UPDATE: It occurred to me that this is another example of bending the needle—basically, denying reality and substituting for it a construct that is more in line with what we want. Another example is Obama’s decision that every adult male our drones kill is by definition a terrorist: that bends the needle in the direction of making the US look better to itself, but if the reality is that innocent people are killed—and that indeed seems to happen—the people who know them are enraged, and thus we facilitate, to some degree, Al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts.
I had not realized that the US had moved to a new definition: a “terrorist” is anyone who is killed in a drone attack. That’s why the CIA claims zero civilian casualties: if they kill someone, then ipso facto that person is no civilian. Proof: we do not kill civilians, and we killed that person, so that proves that the person was not a civilian. Whether the person is a child or whatever makes no difference: they’re dead, aren’t they?
Just days after taking office, the president got word that the first strike under his administration had killed a number of innocent Pakistanis. “The president was very sharp on the thing, and said, ‘I want to know how this happened,’ “ a top White House adviser recounted.
In response to his concern, the C.I.A. downsized its munitions for more pinpoint strikes. In addition, the president tightened standards, aides say: If the agency did not have a “near certainty” that a strike would result in zero civilian deaths, Mr. Obama wanted to decide personally whether to go ahead.
The president’s directive reinforced the need for caution, counterterrorism officials said, but did not significantly change the program. In part, that is because “the protection of innocent life was always a critical consideration,” said Michael V. Hayden, the last C.I.A. director under President George W. Bush.
It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.
Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.
This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.
But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.
“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”
At one time each news article in a paper was prefaced by location and date. You still see location from time to time, but the date has vanished. Too bad, because it’s an important datum unless you live outside time.
Dayton, Ohio – As cities like this one try to reinvent themselves after losing large swaths of their manufacturing sectors, they are discovering that one of the most critical ingredients for a successful transformation — college graduates — is in perilously short supply.
Just 24 percent of the adult residents of metropolitan Dayton have four-year degrees, well below the average of 32 percent for American metro areas, and about half the rate of Washington, the country’s most educated metro area, according to a Brookings Institution analysis. Like many Rust Belt cities, it is a captive of its rich manufacturing past, when well-paying jobs were plentiful and landing one without a college degree was easy.
Educational attainment lagged as a result, even as it became more critical to success in the national economy. “We were so wealthy for so long that we got complacent,” said Jane L. Dockery, associate director of the Center for Urban and Public Affairs at Wright State University here. “We saw the writing on the wall, but we didn’t act.”
Dayton sits on one side of a growing divide among American cities, in which a small number of metro areas vacuum up a large number of college graduates, and the rest struggle to keep those they have.
The winners are metro areas like Raleigh, N.C., San Francisco, and Stamford, Conn., where more than 40 percent of the population has a college degree. Metro areas like Bakersfield, Calif., Lakeland, Fla., and Youngstown, Ohio, where less than a fifth of the population has a college degree, are being left behind. The divide shows signs of widening as college graduates gravitate to places with a lot of other college graduates and the atmosphere that creates. . .
Very interesting article in the NY Times by Andrew Rosenthal. This sort of leapt out at me from the article:
When he was campaigning for the presidency, Mr. Obama promised to raise the federal minimum wage annually. That hasn’t happened. It’s the same as it was in January of 2009: $7.25 an hour. According to Bloomberg View, that amount, adjusted for inflation, “is actually lower than what a minimum-wage worker earned in 1968.”
Obama breaks promises without a second thought: his promises, in my view, are worthless, so it’s necessary to elect some counterbalancing views to Congress (people, for example, who believe that the President does not have the right to order killed those whom he chooses, with no trial or judicial review—a extra-Constitutional right Obama simply made up, like his right to ignore laws (such as the Convention Against Torture) that he decides he doesn’t want to enforce (because it would be a lot of bother, I imagine). He does have a nice smile and nice family though.
Just finished the same walk: 32 minutes today. (Yesterday, 34 minutes; day before, 36 minutes.) Let’s see.. with a little arithmetic I can figure out the day I’ll break the sound barrier. You’ll probably want to be here for that.
For lots more info, check out the report and see how your own state rates. So far as I can tell, the corruption seems almost exclusively from businesses (which have the money) rather than private citizens (for whom the government is supposed to be working).