Later On

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

Archive for December 18th, 2007

Finally we may found out how Rep Young did it

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That is, how he changed the contents of a bill after the bill was finalized. From TPMmuckaker:

We may finally get some answers about how Rep. Don Young (R-AK) managed to change the text of a bill after it was passed by Congress in order to benefit a major campaign contributor.

In a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) today, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) called for the creation of a select committee comprised of both representatives and senators to investigate the miraculous change to the 2005 transportation bill.

To review the circumstances of Young’s extra-Constitutional wizardry: Young, then the chairman of the House transportation committee, inserted a $10 million earmark to widen I-75 in Florida’s Collier and Lee Counties in the 2005 bill. The project was supported by local officials. That was the version passed by Congress. But because of Young’s unique position, he was able to make a crucial change: the bill later signed by the President had different language, directing the $10 million to an I-75 interchange at Coconut Road. That project had been opposed by local officials, but aggressively backed by real estate mogul Daniel Aronoff, who’d thrown a $40,000 fundraiser for Young that year.

This August, we plowed into the 800-page 2005 bill to see whether there had been any other substantial changes. We found that out of approximately 6,370 earmarks, Young’s had been the only to undergo such a change. It’s unclear how Young managed that feat, and he’s refused to answer reporter’s questions about it.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 5:45 pm

Posted in Congress

Speaking of recent history,…

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

And, speaking of recent history,…

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Here’s a look back and ahead:

Year end is a good time to look back and reflect on what’s ahead. If past is prologue, however, the outlook isn’t good, and nothing on the horizon suggests otherwise. Voters last November wanted change but got betrayal from the bipartisan criminal class in Washington. Their attitude shows in an October Reuters/Zogby (RZ) opinion poll with George Bush at 24% that tops Richard Nixon’s worst showing of 25% at his lowest 1974 Watergate point. And if that looks bad, consider Congress with “The Hill” reporting from the same RZ Index that our legislators scored a “staggering 11%, the lowest (congressional) rating in history,” but there’s room yet to hit bottom and a year left to do it. Why not with lawmakers’ consistent voter sellout and failure record that keeps getting worse.

It’s been that way ever since 9/11 with both sides of the aisle complicit with the administration. This article looks back at the record, and year end is a good time to review it. It’s hard imagining another as bad with a President defiling the law and once telling Republican colleagues the Constitution is “just a goddamned piece of paper.”

He didn’t just say it. He governs by it, gets away with it, and former Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers fame, says “a coup has occurred (with another to come from) the next 9/11….that completes the first (that’s) seen a steady assault on every fundamental (aspect) of our Constitution (to create) an executive government (to) rule by decree” no different from a police state.

Author Naomi Wolf spells it out in her April, 2007 Guardian article – “Fascist America, In 10 Easy Steps.” In it, she argues the Bush administration is following the same script any “would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms,” and she lists them. They range from “invoking a terrifying internal and external enemy” to “creat(ing) a gulag” to spying on everyone to harassing opposition to controlling the media to calling dissent treason to “suspend(ing) the rule of law.” She also notes how much “simpler” it is to shut down democracy than “to create and sustain” it, and that’s today’s threat.

It’s not with jackboots in the streets but by a steady “process of erosion” with the public largely unaware and distracted by media mind manipulators. It’s happening today, and Wolf sounds the alarm with the words of James Madison saying “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands….is the definition of tyranny,” and that’s the condition now in America. This article reviews the record for the past seven years. It’s not pretty.

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, (unlike every Pope in memory) condemned it in a wide-ranging UK Muslim magazine interview. It was quoted in a November 25 Sunday Times column headlined “US is ‘worst’ imperialist” and wields its power more reprehensibly than Britain ever did in its heyday. He explained that American overseas adventurism led to “the worst of all worlds” and expressed pessimism about the current state of western civilization and Washington’s own misguided sense of mission.

He critiqued the “war on terror” and stated America lost the moral high ground post-9/11 and needs to launch a “generous and intelligent programme of aid to the (nations it) ravaged;….check (its) economic exploitation of defeated territories” and demilitarize them. He called the West fundamentally adrift and our “definition of humanity (isn’t) working.” He denounced America’s violence and belief it can solve problems left for “other people (to clean up and) put….back together – Iraq, for example.” Another is the condition at home.

Since taking office in January, 2001, George Bush signed a blizzard of Executive Orders and attached dozens of “signing statements” to hundreds of law provisions even though nothing in the Constitution allows this practice, and the Supreme Court banned line-item vetos. He continues to do it while Congress and the courts condone his claiming unconstitutional “unitary executive” authority to ignore the law and do as he pleases in the name of “national security” on his say alone.

It began on 9/11 when….

Continue reading. It’s a long and careful article, well worth reading…

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 12:28 pm

Dry-aging beef at home

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I’m looking around at dry aging a roast, and came across this interesting note from Cook’s Illustrated. I’ll have to try this:

Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Steaks

The Problem: Pan-searing a thick-cut steak (a steak almost as thick as it is wide) presents a unique challenge: How to keep the perimeter from overcooking while the very center of the steak reaches the desired temperature.

The Goal: We wanted our steak to have a good crust and medium-rare center, without a wide band of dry, gray meat between the two.

The Solution: We found it was essential to sear the steaks quickly to keep the meat directly under the crust from turning gray. The key was to start with dry meat. We moved the steaks straight from the fridge into a 275-degree oven, which not only warmed them to 95 degrees but also dried the meat thoroughly. At this temperature, when the steak met the hot skillet, it developed a beautiful brown crust in less than four minutes, while the rest of the meat stayed pink, juicy, and tender.

Our steaks spend a long time in a warm oven, yet taste more tender than traditionally prepared steaks, which can be tough and chewy.

The explanation? Meat contains active enzymes called cathepsins, which break down connective tissue over time, increasing tenderness (a fact that is demonstrated to great effect in dry-aging meat). As the temperature of the meat rises, these enzymes work faster and faster until they reach 122 degrees, where all action stops. While our steaks are slowly heating up, the cathepsins are working overtime, in effect “aging” and tenderizing our steaks within half an hour. When our steaks are cooked by conventional methods, thier final temperature is reached much more rapidly, denying the cathepsins the time they need to properly do their jobs

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 12:16 pm

The Fightin’ Twins

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Wax-cylinder recordings of Christmas music

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You can listen here to a selection of carefully restored wax-cylinder recordings. Via Boing Boing.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 11:47 am

Posted in Music

A history of the FISA fight

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Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column detailing the recent history that led to Dodd’s stand and Harry Reid’s pulling the current FISA bill. It clearly shows the power of the Internet—the blogs, the ease with which people can communicate among themselves and to their Representatives and Senators—and it provides some hope that the fight, which continues, will be resolved in favor of the US Constitution. Here’s what he writes:

It is absolutely true that yesterday’s victory in forcing Harry Reid to pull the FISA bill from the Senate floor is temporary. Allies of the administration and lawbreaking telecoms will spend the next several weeks plotting to overcome the obstacles thrown in their path yesterday and, like a weed that has been cut but not uprooted, will return in January to try again.

Opponents of telecom amnesty and warrantless surveillance ought to and likely will use that time, too, to strengthen the opposition and improve the strategy. There will be ample time for all of that. But yesterday’s victory, while limited, is still very significant in several key respects, particularly in understanding how and why it happened — i.e. the source of the successful opposition — and it is worth taking a step back to chronicle what took place.

On October 18, it was announced that Dick Cheney and Jay Rockefeller had reached an agreement on a new FISA bill that would dramatically expand the President’s warrantless surveillance powers beyond what the original FISA law provided. It also would provide full-scale retroactive immunity for all telecoms which participated in the President’s illegal spying efforts, a gift that would effectively end all efforts to investigate the administration’s illegal spying programs and hold the lawbreakers accountable.

That day, The Washington Post announced that “Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration” which “would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants.”

The Rockefeller-led Senate Intelligence Committee, within a matter of a day or so, quickly passed the White House’s desired bill, one which The New York Times, the next day, revealed had been secretly worked on for months by Rockefeller and, through emissaries, Dick Cheney. As Russ Feingold said yesterday, the Rockefeller proposal passed by the Intelligence Committee “simply gives the Administration everything it was demanding, no questions asked.”

By that point, both prongs of the White House’s FISA demands — increased surveillance powers and telecom immunity — seemed to be an absolute fait accompli. It would all follow the same depressing pattern we’ve seen all year long whereby the President easily gets everything he demands from the Congress.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 11:17 am

Where the US spends your money

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On Defense:

For those of you concerned about the state of US security–levees that don’t collapse, for example, or bridges that don’t fall into the Mississippi river, sit down before you see these numbers.

Last week, both houses of Congress approved the conference report on the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization bill, H.R. 1585. The bill includes $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy. The bill also authorizes $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This funding is NOT counted as part of the $506.9 billion.

Center for Arms Control and Non Proliferation has an itemized description of what’s in the budget.

The amount of Cold War lard is truly astonishing, especially given the fact that the military itself is hollering from the hilltops that it can’t be responsible for all of our national security needs and that today’s problems just don’t have military (read “Cold War weapons systems”) answers.

Keep in mind, today’s defense spending is 14% above the height of the Korean War, 33% above the height of the Vietnam War, 25% above the height of the “Reagan Era” buildup and is 76% above the Cold War average

In fact, since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the annual defense budget – not including the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – has gone up 34%. Including war costs, defense spending has gone up 86% since 2001.

Even the venerable Council on Foreign Relations has thrown down the glove on defense spending. Check out this very nice piece by Richard Betts in this month’s Foreign Affairs. Oh, and even the director of the Congressional Budget Office is commenting on defense spending. (so much for stodgy bureaucracy, this guy has his own blog!!!) He has a good comment up, but I’ve had enough business school classes to know that all of this means that we are in deep financial trouble when it comes to security finances– and just digging ourselves deeper.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 11:07 am

The guy who gave great info under torture?

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Well, he didn’t. But he did talk a lot, telling the CIA whatever he could think of to make them quit. Here’s the story.

Al-Qaeda captive Abu Zubaida, whose interrogation videotapes were destroyed by the CIA, remains the subject of a dispute between FBI and CIA officials over his significance as a terrorism suspect and whether his most important revelations came from traditional interrogations or from torture.

While CIA officials have described him as an important insider whose disclosures under intense pressure saved lives, some FBI agents and analysts say he is largely a loudmouthed and mentally troubled hotelier whose credibility dropped as the CIA subjected him to a simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding and to other “enhanced interrogation” measures.

The question of whether Abu Zubaida — whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein — was an unstable source who provided limited intelligence under gentle questioning, or a hardened terrorist who cracked under extremely harsh measures, goes to the heart of the current Washington debate over coercive interrogations and torture.

The House has approved legislation that would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding and other harsh measures, but it has stalled in the Senate under a veto threat by President Bush.

A public assessment of Abu Zubaida’s case has been complicated by the newly revealed destruction of the videotaped record of his questioning, according to congressional sources. Intelligence officials say no verbatim transcripts were made, although classified daily summaries were prepared.

Bush has sided publicly with the CIA’s version of events. “We knew that Zubaida had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking,” Bush said in September 2006. “And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures,” which the president said prompted Abu Zubaida to disclose information leading to the capture of Sept. 11, 2001, plotter Ramzi Binalshibh.

But former FBI officials privy to details of the case continue to dispute the CIA’s account of the effectiveness of the harsh measures, making the record of Abu Zubaida’s interrogation hard for outsiders to assess.

Much more at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 11:03 am

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

Tagged with ,

The FISA fight

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From Froomkin:

Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane write in The Washington Post that the turnabout came when Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) “abruptly withdrew” the legislation.

“Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) — a presidential candidate who returned from Iowa Sunday night to fight the measure — quickly claimed victory after the bill’s withdrawal, and he again vowed to ‘utilize all the tools available’ to block passage once Reid calls it up in January. . . .

“The White House yesterday strongly defended its push for immunity and raised the prospect of a veto if Congress sends the president a surveillance bill without indemnity.”

From Sen. Edward Kennedy‘s floor statement: “Think about what we’ve been hearing from the White House in this debate. The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no new FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he is willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies. . . .

“It’s painfully clear what the President’s request for retroactive immunity is really about. It’s a self-serving attempt to avoid legal and political accountability and keep the American public in the dark about this whole shameful episode. Like the CIA’s destruction of videotapes showing potentially criminal conduct, it’s a desperate attempt to erase the past.”

And from Sen. Russell Feingold: “Let me say now to my colleagues: Do not believe everything you hear. Last week I sat with many of you in the secure room in the Capitol, S-407, and listened to arguments made by the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that several of the examples they gave were simply wrong. I am happy to have a classified meeting with anyone in this body who wishes to discuss this. . . .

“Based on what I have learned, I have very serious questions about the way that the Administration is interpreting and implementing the Protect America Act, including its effect on the privacy of Americans.”

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 10:49 am

When to take your hypertension meds

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The Eldest sent me this. Don’t know whether any of you take meds for hypertension, but if you do, it seems as though they should be taken in the evening—and I’ve been taking mine in the morning. Time to switch.

Taking a blood pressure pill at bedtime instead of in the morning might be healthier for some high-risk people.

New research suggests that simple switch may normalize patterns of blood pressure in patients at extra risk from the twin epidemics of heart and kidney disease.

Why? When it comes to blood pressure, you want to be a dipper. In healthy people, blood pressure dips at night, by 10 to 20 percent. Scientists don’t know why, but suspect the drop gives arteries a little rest.

People with high blood pressure that doesn’t dip at night — the non-dippers — fare worse than other hypertension sufferers, developing more serious heart disease. Moreover, heart and kidney disease fuel each other — and the 26 million Americans with chronic kidney disease seem most prone to non-dipping. In addition to heart problems, they’re at extra risk of their kidney damage worsening to the point of dialysis.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 10:39 am

Asking Obama the tough questions

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 10:36 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Review sites

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Cool Tools has a useful post: a list of sites that review various things: recumbent bikes, binoculars, coffeemakers, and so on. Each site has a particular focus and they seem to be labors of love. Check out the list.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life

The secret government

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A one-time reader tried to maintain that the Bush administration was no more secret than the Clinton administration. I pointed out all the Clinton advisers, counselors, cabinet officers, and officials who had willingly gone to Congress when asked to provide public, sworn, on the record testimony; the significant expansion of the Freedom of Information Act; the willingness of Clinton to meet with the press and the people and answer unscreened questions; and so on. So he quit the blog. But the Bush secrecy continues to grow. This story is interesting:

The federal government has agreed to pay $105,000 in attorney fees for The News-Press after the newspaper successfully sued the Department of Homeland Security for the release of public records.

The News-Press and its sister Gannett Co. Inc. newspapers, The Pensacola News Journal and Florida Today, sued the agency when it refused to release details on the 1.1 million recipients of $1.2 billion in disaster aid after four hurricanes ripped through Florida in 2004.

The money was distributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a branch of Homeland Security. FEMA refused to detail who received the aid after the newspapers requested that data under the Freedom of Information Act.

The newspapers initially failed in the attempt to get the information from the government, but they prevailed in The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

The government was ordered to turn over the addresses of recipients of disaster aid.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, winning a release of the records allowed the plaintiffs to return to court to request attorneys’ fees from the government agency.

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Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 9:51 am

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

Tagged with ,

A wonderful Christmas song

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Watch it. Sound required, of course. Thanks to The Wife for the link.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 9:33 am

Posted in Music, Video

Agh! a cut!

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Very nice shave except for that, though. Still, it was the first cut I’ve had in two years that required toilet paper in addition to My Nik Is Sealed. I could have kept this secret, but this is a Full Disclosure Blog™.  No pain, of course: the blade’s too sharp. But more…

Started out great: used the Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar shaving cream, a great fragrance, and the ebony-handled Sabini brush. Fine lather. Picked up the gold Merkur Progress, which I like a lot. All went well until the fourth pass. Coming up the front of my chin, I let my skin slacken: bad move.

Aftershave was TOBS Shaving Shop splash, and I used both MNIS and toilet paper and am now happily blogging with coffee.  I expect it will be another two years before I get another such cut.

Written by Leisureguy

18 December 2007 at 9:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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