Later On

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

Archive for June 4th, 2007

Yummy dinner

leave a comment »

Large Spatula

6 large shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
2 Tbs olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and shopped
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks

Sauté shallots in olive oil until softened. Add bell pepper and chicken and continue to sauté, turning with a wooden spatula (I use this one constantly: to stir, to lift, to turn) from time to time. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and about 1 tsp sea salt.

1 can organic Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup Trader Joe’s frozen fire-roasted corn kernels
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup ditalini pasta (I used Golden Grain brand—they call it “Salad” pasta)
2 Tbs homemade chile-garlic paste 🙂

Stir, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Serve in bowl topped with fresh ricotta cheese. Extremely tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 7:59 pm

Posted in Recipes & Cooking

Fox News, the Keystone Cops of TV News

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Media

Exceptionally handy kitchen knives

with 2 comments

Dinner is simmering, and I thought I should mention the two knives I used since they’ve proven their worth time and again, and neither is particularly expensive:

Tosagata Hocho

Tosagata Hocho 6″ Santoku Hocho — $35 of total sharpness in carbon steel. Since it’s carbon steel, it holds a very keen edge, but also discolors and/or rusts if you don’t take care. Whenever you use it, rinse it off and dry it. A totally wonderful knife.

S5198 Dexter-Russel

S5198 Dexter-Russell 8″ Chinese Knife — $35 of sharpness in stainless steel and a handy shape. Note that it’s a knife, not a cleaver: don’t try to chop bone, you’ll ruin the edge. I use it as often for a spatula (slide it under stuff I’ve chopped (vegetables, not bone, remember) to transfer it to the pot or pan) as for a knife—and I use it for a knife very often.

These two economical knives are about all I use currently. Great things to have.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 5:33 pm

Your new, more neglectful NASA

leave a comment »

ThinkProgress:

Last week, NPR asked NASA administrator Michael Griffin said that while he was “aware that global warming exists,” he wasn’t sure whether it “is a longterm concern or not.” Griffin said he is “not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”

Griffin subsequently clarified his remarks, stating that protecting the earth against global warming is not in the agency’s mission statement:

The agency is responsible for collecting data that is used by the science community and policy makers as part of an ongoing discussion regarding our planet’s evolving systems. It is NASA’s responsibility to collect, analyze and release information. It is not NASA’s mission to make policy regarding possible climate change mitigation strategies.”

But from 2002-2006, it was. Part of NASA’s mission was to “protect our home planet“:

To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers … as only NASA can.

In Feb. 2006, the mission statement was “quietly altered” to remove the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet.” Even a year ago, NASA scientists predicted that because of the mission statement revision, there would “be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.” Top NASA climatologist James Hansen called the deletion “a shocking loss,” because he had “been using the phrase since December 2005 to justify speaking out about the dangers of global warming.”

In contrast to the previous mission statement, the 2006 revision “was made at NASA headquarters without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or informing them ahead of time.” Instead, it was submitted as part of the 2006 Earth Science Research and Analysis budget, which is a joint product of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget and the NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin.

Therefore, Griffin is right. Unfortunately, protecting the earth against climate change is not part of NASA’s mission anymore. But that’s because he changed the mission.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 3:35 pm

Good discussion of anti-corruption ideas

leave a comment »

Take a look at this post and the following discussion. It’s quite clear that our current arrangement is not working well, with corruption widespread and increasingly accepted. We need to take steps to protect our country. The epidemic of corruption in the long run will damage our country much more than does terrorism.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 11:18 am

Posted in Election, Government

Billy’s been a bad boy

leave a comment »

More on Jefferson’s indictment:

 The 16 count indictment has just been returned.

The charges include racketeering, solicitation of bribes, honest services wire fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice, violating the foreign corrupt practices act, and conspiracy.  The indictment relates to an alleged bribery scheme for him and his family and his alleged bribery of a Nigerian official.

The indictment is 94 pages. If convicted on all charges Jefferson would be sentenced to 235 years in prison.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 10:57 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats

At last!! “Dollar” Bill Jefferson indicted!

leave a comment »

It’s been a long time coming, but at last the day has arrived:

Federal prosecutors are seeking an indictment today against Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) in a longstanding FBI corruption probe centering on allegations that he took bribes to promote high-tech business ventures in Africa, sources familiar with the investigation said.

Prosecutors are presenting the case to grand jurors in Alexandria today, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no charges have yet been filed.

If filed, the indictment would cap a long and tumultuous investigation that was stalled for months because of a legal battle over the constitutionality of an FBI raid on Jefferson’s office last May. The raid came after the FBI found $90,000 in the freezer of his Capitol Hill home.

A political and legal maelstrom followed the raid, prompting President Bush to intervene and seal the seized documents for 45 days. In July, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan, who had signed the search warrant, ruled that the raid was constitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the matter.

Jefferson, 60, is a potential political embarrassment for Democrats, just months after they took over control of Congress. Democrats had campaigned last year on the theme that Republicans had created a culture of corruption. In July, the House officially expelled Jefferson from the prestigious Ways and Means Committee.

At the time, then House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the allegations against Jefferson were too egregious to wait for a legal resolution.

“This isn’t about proof in the court or law; this is about an ethical standard,” she said.

News of the FBI probe hurt Jefferson in his reelection bid last fall, but he managed to win in a runoff, garnering 30 percent of the vote in a crowded primary field of 12 candidates. His campaign ads emphasized that he had not been charged with any crime.

The investigation began in March 2005 when Virginia investor Lori Mody, went to the FBI to complain that Jefferson and her business associate were trying to scam her in a high-tech business venture in Africa in which a copper wire technology would be used to deliver the Internet and cable television.

Mody agreed to wear a listening device for federal authorities, previously issued court documents said.

During an undercover sting, on July 21, 2005, Jefferson told Mody that he needed to give Nigerian Vice President Atikua Abubakar $500,000 “as a motivating factor” to make sure they obtained contracts.

Mody eventually agreed to give Jefferson $100,000 — in marked bills from the FBI, court records have indicated. A few days later, $90,000 was found in Jefferson’s freezer.

Eventually, Mody’s business associate Brett Pfeffer and Vernon L. Jackson, the president of iGate, a Louisville based high tech firm, pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson to use his political influence to push through a lucrative contract in Africa to sell technology for the Internet and cable television. Both are serving time in prison.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 9:46 am

Conservatives desperately try to detach from Bush

leave a comment »

Glenn Greenwald has a very good post, with excellent pertinent quotations, about the desperation with which Republicans are trying to remake history and claim that Bush really was never embraced by Conservatives. Read it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 9:18 am

“You can go now. No hard feelings.”

leave a comment »

ThinkProgress:

A legal battle with global implications was set to begin tomorrow with the Guantanamo Bay arraignment of Omar Ahmed Khadr, accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade in 2002, when Khadr was 15 years old. “A range of legal experts describe as the first child fighter in decades to face war-crimes charges.” Now, the case has inexplicably fallen apart:

A military judge has dismissed charges against Canadian detainee Omar Khadr, saying the matter is outside the jurisdiction of the military tribunal system.

Khadr, a Canadian who was 15 when he was captured in Afghanistan…faced terrorism charges Monday under a reconfigured military tribunal system that critics say remains unconstitutional.

A 15-year-old held at Guantanamo for nearly 5 years, and now a day before his arraignment, the U.S. says he’s actually “outside the jurisdiction” of the tribunal system.

Amazing. This is US justice today?

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 8:45 am

Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People

with 2 comments

Back in the days when the US opposed instead of utilized torture, John Conroy wrote an interesting if chilling book: Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture. (You can look over reader reviews of the book.) As much psychological research has shown, perfectly ordinary people can become monsters given a particular context, setting, and encouragement. What happens in the aftermath, though, is frightening: they have to live with their memories and themselves, and if they are not sociopaths, it can be devastating.

Read this account of what a former torturer (this one formerly a member of the US torture team) is going through:

The American interrogator was afraid. Of what and why, he couldn’t say. He was riding the L train in Chicago, and his throat was closing.

In Iraq, when Tony Lagouranis interrogated suspects, fear was his friend, his weapon. He saw it seep, dark and shameful, through the crotch of a man’s pants as a dog closed in, barking. He smelled it in prisoners’ sweat, a smoky odor, like a pot of lentils burning. He had touched fear, too, felt it in their fingers, their chilled skin trembling.

But on this evening, Lagouranis was back in Illinois, taking the train to a bar. His girlfriend thought he was a hero. His best friend hung out with him, watching reruns of “Hawaii Five-O.” And yet he felt afraid.

“I tortured people,” said Lagouranis, 37, who was a military intelligence specialist in Iraq from January 2004 until January 2005. “You have to twist your mind up so much to justify doing that.”

Being an interrogator, Lagouranis discovered, can be torture. At first, he was eager to try coercive techniques. In training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., instructors stressed the Geneva Conventions, he recalled, while classmates privately admired Israeli and British methods. “The British were tough,” Lagouranis said. “They seemed like real interrogators.”

But interrogators for countries that pride themselves on adhering to the rule of law, such as Britain, the United States and Israel, operate in a moral war zone. They are on the front lines in fighting terrorism, crucial for intelligence-gathering. Yet they use methods that conflict with their societies’ values.

The border between coercion and torture is often in dispute, and the U.S. government is debating it now. The Bush administration is nearing completion of a new executive order setting secret rules for CIA interrogation that may ban waterboarding, a practice that simulates drowning. Last September, President Bush endorsed an “alternative set of procedures,” which he described as “tough,” for questioning high-level detainees. And in Iraq last month, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander, warned troops that the military does not sanction “torture or other expedient methods to obtain information.”

The world of the interrogator is largely closed. But three interrogators allowed a rare peek into their lives — an American rookie who served with the 202nd Military Intelligence Battalion and two veteran interrogators from Britain and Israel. The veterans, whose wartime experiences stretch back decades, are more practiced at finding moral balance. They use denial, humor, indignation. Even so, these older men grapple with their own fears — and with a clash of values.

Continue reading.

UPDATE: There’s a recent book, The Lucifer Effect, by Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who ran the Stanford experiment that first showed how quickly ordinary people can become sadistic prison guards. One of several reviews:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 8:16 am

Cassandra in the CIA

leave a comment »

Writing papers on the consequences of invading Iraq. Alas, poor Cassandra. It’s a terrible curse to be both right and ignored:

On Aug. 13, 2002, the CIA completed a classified, six-page intelligence analysis that described the worst scenarios that could arise after a U.S.-led removal of Saddam Hussein: anarchy and territorial breakup in Iraq, a surge of global terrorism, and a deepening of Islamic antipathy toward the United States.

Titled “The Perfect Storm: Planning for Negative Consequences of Invading Iraq,” the paper, written seven months before the war began, also speculated about al-Qaeda operatives taking “advantage of a destabilized Iraq to establish secure safe havens from which they can continue their operations,” according to a report about prewar intelligence recently released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The report said the CIA paper also cautioned about outcomes such as declining European confidence in U.S. leadership, Hussein’s survival and retreat with regime loyalists, Iran working to install a friendly regime “tolerant of Iranian policies,” Afghanistan tipping into civil strife because U.S. forces were not replaced by United Nations peacekeepers and troops from other countries, and violent demonstrations in Pakistan because of its support of Washington.

Before the war, while the Bush administration was putting a spotlight on the CIA’s intelligence on Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be wrong, it either buried or ignored the agency’s more accurate assessments of the problems that could emerge in the aftermath of regime change in Iraq, the Senate report said.

At the time the “Perfect Storm” report was finished, the administration was already heading toward the decision to invade. A CIA assessment completed on Aug. 8, 2002, and also sent to the White House, found that while “on the surface, Iraq currently appears to lack both the socio-economic and politico-cultural prerequisites that political scientists generally regard as necessary to nurture democracy . . . we believe that Iraq has several advantages that, if buttressed by the West, could foster democracy in post-Saddam Iraq.”

It warned, however, that chances of even partial success would require “long-term, active U.S./Western military, political and economic involvement.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 7:45 am

Talk’s cheap

leave a comment »

The GOP can talk a good fight, but (as shown by any number of things) they are incompetent when it comes to the “doing” part. They don’t know how to wage war, they don’t know how to govern, and they don’t even know how to back up their words with action. ThinkProgress:

If the Senate moves ahead with a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales next week as planned, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already made clear he will “tie up the Senate floor with all kinds of procedural mischief and introduce any number of amendments.”

McConnell has also cracked the whip and brought his caucus into line. Roll Call reports today that none of the six conservative senators who have called for Gonzales to resign have said they will vote for the measure.

Six GOP Senators have gone on the record essentially demanding Gonzales’ resignation, and one of them — Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) — already has declared he’ll vote against the nonbinding no-confidence resolution.

The five others — Sens. John Sununu (N.H.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Gordon Smith (Ore.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Norm Coleman (Minn.) — were unwilling to tip their hands about how they will vote, despite repeated attempts to contact them last week.

All five undeclared senators have offered harsh words for Gonzales in the past, garnering press attention and bolstering their image:

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH): “The president should fire the attorney general and replace him as soon as possible with someone who can provide strong, aggressive leadership.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE): “The American people deserve an Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of our country, whose honesty and capability are beyond question. Attorney General Gonzales can no longer meet this standard. He has failed this country. He has lost the moral authority to lead.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “I think that out of loyalty to the president that that [resignation] would probably be the best thing that he could do.”

Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)- “For the Justice Department to be effective before the U.S. Senate, it would be helpful.

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN): “I don’t believe that Gonzales has the type of leadership that the department needs.

Now, forced to choose accountability over party loyalty, these senators have gone silent.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 7:23 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

Condi working upstream

leave a comment »

I deleted a snarky post about Condi Rice after Section 9 pointed out that it did nothing to advance the conversation, and in thinking about what she is currently doing, I have to admit that she’s working hard to get the notoriously stubborn and unreflective George Bush to engage in some meaningful diplomacy with Iran (instead of moving at once to bomb them, as Cheney and his cohorts seem to want) and is undoubtedly the force behind the meeting between Bush and Putin, though I’m dubious that this will have much effect. Still, she’s undoubtedly more effective in this job than when she was National Security Adviser (though that sets the bar flat on the ground), and for the direction she’s going she should be commended.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 6:21 am

Clive will be proud

leave a comment »

Ample lather—nay, luxurious lather. All created by the Plisson High Mountain White 12 from the soap scraped from a D.R. Harris Almond shaving stick by my two days’ growth of beard. Lather left over, and lather of a wonderful consistency and texture.

The shave—Futur set at 2.0 with a Feather blade—went perfectly, and there emerged an incredibly smooth face, to be treated to a splash of Woods of Windsor aftershave. It’s shaves like this that make you know you’re right.

Written by Leisureguy

4 June 2007 at 6:17 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: