Later On

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

Archive for June 11th, 2008

More on the gag order and the corruption

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 7:26 pm

McCain campaign knows itself

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From Balloon Juice, this funny note. McCain’s site sells various accessories (e.g., golfing equipment), along with this nautical lapel pin:

The flippin’ $200 boat lapel pin (what’s this, a yacht tax?), spells his initials with nautical flags. Thing is, nautical flags also refer to conditions. The flags mean:

J – Juliet – On Fire, Keep Clear
S – Sierra – Engines Going Astern
M – Mike – I Am Stopped

Perfect metaphor for the whole dang campaign.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Grammatical and legal sentence

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” Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

Explanation.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Daily life

The GOP are incompetent

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FEMA, still completely clueless. This CNN story by Abbie Boudreau and Scott Zamost, via John Cole:

FEMA gave away about $85 million in household goods meant for Hurricane Katrina victims, a CNN investigation has found. These items, stored by FEMA, were meant for Katrina victims but were given to state and federal agencies.

The material, from basic kitchen goods to sleeping necessities, sat in warehouses for two years before the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s giveaway to federal and state agencies this year.

James McIntyre, FEMA’s acting press secretary, said that FEMA was spending more than $1 million a year to store the material and that another agency wanted the warehouses torn down, so “we needed to vacate them.”

“Upon review of our assets and our need to continue to store them, we determined that they were excess to FEMA’s needs; therefore, they are being excessed from FEMA’s inventory,” McIntyre wrote in an e-mail.

He declined a request for an on-camera interview, telling CNN the giveaway was “not news.”

Photos from one of the facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, show pallet after pallet of cots, cleansers, first-aid kits, coffee makers, camp stoves and other items stacked to the ceiling. Video Watch dismay over “out of touch” FEMA »

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 5:48 pm

Soon, we hope, Lieberman can be tossed from the caucus

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 5:31 pm

GOP successfully obstructed solar power tax credits

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Of course, the GOP is perfectly willing to pour billions in subsidies to oil companies, but they successfully filibustered against extending solar tax credits to help that industry develop. From EcoGeek’s Jaymi Hembuch:

Earlier this week we talked about SunPower packing their bags should the investment tax credit (ITC) fail to pass the Senate for renewal. We were hopeful about HR 6049, the Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, passing. But if SunPower holds to their word, start waving good-bye now because…the bad news happened. The Senate didn’t manage to overcome a filibuster to pass good ol’ HR 6049, which would have renewed solar tax credits for another six years.

Congress did more than just drop the ball on this credit. It’s basically equal to giving the finger to the entire solar industry, green power, global warming, renewable energy, new jobs, our future. Yes, disappointment often sends me straight to doom-and-gloom thinking, but am over reacting? Pause for a moment and consider the snowball effect on alternative power should one of the leading companies of one of the leading components of alternative power ditch our country, especially when our economy is shady at best (pun not intended but I’ll take credit), with investors getting jumpy and everyone with less expendable income in their pockets. It is expected that we’ll see about $19 billion of lost investment and about 16,000 lost employment opportunities, with California – a significant economy that is already significantly suffering – being one of the hardest hit. That’s a lot of doom and gloom, in my book.

Everyone has their opinions about the ITC and if it is or isn’t a good thing for business. Reality is it’s not around any more, so some of those opinions are about to go for a test run. For your researching pleasure, you can find out more with:

Economic Impacts of the Tax Credit Expiration Study

Summary of H.R. 6049

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 1:58 pm

More: a gag order to foil investigation

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Via ThinkProgress, this BBC story:

A BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.

The BBC’s Panorama programme has used US and Iraqi government sources to research how much some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding.

A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations. The order applies to 70 court cases against some of the top US companies. While Presdient George W Bush remains in the White House, it is unlikely the gagging orders will be lifted.

To date, no major US contractor faces trial for fraud or mismanagement in Iraq.

The president’s Democratic opponents are keeping up the pressure over war profiteering in Iraq. Henry Waxman, who chairs the House committee on oversight and government reform, said: “The money that’s gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, it’s egregious. It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history.”

In the run-up to the invasion, one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth $7bn that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.

Unusually only Halliburton got to bid – and won.

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 1:31 pm

Sen. Coburn (R-OK): obstructionist

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Senator Tom Coburn proudly embodies the obstructionism of the GOP. When you consider that the other Oklahoma Senator is Jim Inhofe, you can see that why I don’t live in Oklahoma, though I was born there.

The Senate has introduced a bipartisan bill tripling funding for President Bush’s program to fight HIV/AIDS. The $50 billion budget over five years would go toward the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is set to expire in September.

The legislation, however, is being held up by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and six other conservative senators who object to the fact that the program would direct most of the spending on the “prevention” of HIV/AIDS, rather than just “treatment.” The treatment of HIV/AIDS-infected individuals is “the No. 1 prevention protocol we have” argued Coburn.

Coburn may be an obstetrician, but he seems to be out of the mainstream with other medical professionals on this issue, who say that focusing on treatment as a form of prevention is short-sighted and ineffective:

“Most experts agree that treatment is only one small part of the prevention agenda,” said Denis Nash, director of monitoring, evaluation and research at the International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs at Columbia University. […]

The prevention effect of treatment is not likely to be anywhere near the magnitude of prevention through prevention,” including safe-sex education and condom distribution, said Mead Over, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Coburn has a habit of blocking bills funding medical research, and his record on health care is abysmal. Coburn has repeatedly blocked legislation funding breast cancer research, doing so as recently as April, as well as funding to screen returning veterans for signs of suicide risk. In 2005, he proclaimed that silicone breast implants “make you healthier.” When running for Senate in 2004, he suggested the death penalty for abortion doctors.

In a letter to Senate leaders last month, 14 GOP senators urged the passage of the PEPFAR funding bill. ONE has a petition here urging senators to support the legislation.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 1:26 pm

GOP: more obstructionism

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ThinkProgress:

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on how recent Supreme Court decisions have restricted protections of American workers and consumers. Fulfilling their role as the Grand Obstructionist Party, Senate conservatives deployed an obscure parliamentary tactic to halt the hearing, as committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) explained:

This morning an all too familiar pattern was underscored when a hearing on a topic our Republican colleagues did not like was cut short, without warning, by an anonymous Republican objection. … I share the sentiments Senator Whitehouse expressed before recessing the hearing — this behavior is a disgrace to the Senate, and it is especially shameful given that the victims who traveled a long way to tell their stories to the Committee did not get a full hearing.

Conservatives used the same technique yesterday to shut down a hearing on torture tactics used against detainees in U.S. custody.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Cuba’s urban gardens

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It’s always interesting about the things that Cuba does well (for example, their hurricane response program). (And I devoutly hope that under President Obama we’ll move toward a more rational and constructive relationship with the island nation—if we can cooperate with China, why not with Cuba?) This article in Slashfood describes the urban garden program that Cuba has implemented. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 12:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Government

The Bento box trend

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Extremely interesting post on the Bento box trend, including some consideration that it may not be a trend. My own thought is that the trend is just beginning: with the recession clamping down, people are going to start making their own lunches (for themselves and their kids), and the Bento box is a convenient (and pleasant) way to pack the lunches. We’re going to be seeing a lot more.

The post is particularly valuable for its many links. Here’s just a brief segment from the beginning:

Are bento lunches becoming a trend in the U.S.? I think we’re starting to see indications of that, as shown by this article in Newsweek magazine about bento boxes for the preschool set.

Newsweek contacted me a few weeks ago to discuss the growing popularity of bento box lunches in the United States. They wound up running a photo of this bento lunch for my three-year-old, who attends a Japanese immersion preschool in San Francisco where bentos are the norm (click for the lunch’s full contents, packing details, and speed tips). On the spectrum of kyaraben food art to Lunchables or PB&J sandwiches in plastic baggies, hopefully my everyday speed bentos fall right in the middle (ideally made in under 10-15 minutes, but still appealing).

Much more at the link. Read it all: fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

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Protect whistleblowers: best defense against corruption

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The Watchdog Blog’s Anglea Canterbury has a strong post on the necessity of whistleblower protection:

For years now, corrupt interests have co-opted our government for political gain and private profiteering. Our best line of defense when the law is ignored and regulation fails are the informed insiders who believe so strongly in the importance of accountability and saving taxpayer dollars – and often saving lives – that they are willing to risk their careers and safety to expose government wrongdoing.

It is a national disgrace that speaking out about government fraud, misconduct, waste and corruption is still such a risky endeavor. More often than not, whistleblowers suffer from some form of serious retaliation, including threats, demotion or outright firing for exposing wrongful conduct. Conscientious civil servants deserve strong statutory protections, not risk and intimidation. Yet many end up sacrificing because the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act has been interpreted and enforced in a way that weakens the protections Congress intended – protections that government whistleblowers desperately need.

It’s time to end the discrimination and retaliation – as well as the unmistakable and deeply chilling message it sends to all employees that they should keep quiet, or else. Congress should complete the marathon legislative effort to restore a credible Whistleblower Protection Act.

In March 2007, the landmark “Whistleblower Enhancement Protection Act of 2007” passed the House by a veto-proof majority, 331-94. A weaker Senate version, S. 274, passed last year by unanimous consent.

The differences between the bills are manageable. Yet negotiations have stalled as industry lobbyists have swarmed the Capitol, imperiling many critical protections that already passed with strong majority support. Especially during this time of war, it is critical that we extend protections to federal employees who work in national security, including those at intelligence agencies, as well as to federally funded contractors. Scientists also require specific protection.  Most importantly, all federal employees and contractors also must have a right to jury trials in federal court when other administrative remedies have failed.

We join 111 other concerned organizations in calling on Congress to waste no more time enacting these protections – and not put more whistleblowers at risk by hesitating. They deserve better. And the American people deserve a government in which employees are not threatened and penalized for being stewards of the public trust. We need them now, more than ever.

Take Action!

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

Tagged with

Make your own mustard

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Miss Ginsu has a good post today that includes a recipe for making your own mustard—and then a recipe that uses it to make a vinaigrette. (Miss Ginsu also suggested earlier that you make your own aromatic bitters, you may recall).

Here’s the mustard recipe, but read her post for more:

Spicy Horseradish Mustard (Makes 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup wine vinegar (red or white)
1/8 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup dry mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt

1. Combine the vinegar, mustard seeds, dry mustard, garlic, horseradish, sugar and salt with 1/4 cup of water in a jar with a lid.

2. Cap the jar and shake well.

3. Refrigerate for two days.

4. Purée mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to the jar and use immediately or store, chilled. Your mustard will mature and improve over a few weeks’ time.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 11:43 am

Minimizing meat in your diet

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Without becoming a vegetarian or vegan, you can cut way back on the amount of meat you eat, with good effects on your health and your budget and the planet (see this chart (PDF) of the global effects of cutting back on meat). Most countries, as Bitten points out in his article on how to put meat in its place, use meat as a condiment or as a treat: lots of vegetables, tiny amounts of meat. The article has quite a few good tips and is worth reading (and saving).

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 11:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

The Civil War from the slaves’ point of view

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Many still claim that the Civil War was not fought to keep slavery intact. That’s not how the slaves saw it. Read this review by Adam Kirsch, the book critic of the New York Sun,  of The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves, by Andrew Ward:

“It was God’s blessing to the black peoples to come out from bondage, to belong only to their selves and God, to read about what’s going on in the world and write and figure for theirselves.” So said Louis Meadows, a former slave from Georgia who is the last of many hundreds of African-Americans quoted in The Slaves’ War, Andrew Ward’s innovative and powerful new study of the Civil War. By granting Meadows the final word in his dense mosaic of quotations, Mr. Ward underlines one of the major themes to emerge from slaves’ testimony: the supreme importance of “figuring,” of being able to interpret the world for oneself through reading and writing.

Compared to the grosser kinds of terror America’s slaves suffered at the hands of their masters — the humiliations, beatings, rapes, family separations, and summary killings — being deprived of the information and skills necessary for “figuring” might seem relatively trivial. Yet again and again in Ward’s book, former slaves testify to the immense value they themselves placed on reading and writing, on accurate information about the wider world — in short, on a true understanding of history.

One man remembers how “boys used to crawl under the house and lie on the ground to hear Master read the newspaper to Missus when they first began to talk about the war.” Another reports that “our boys used to climb into [a] tree and hide under the long moss while Master was at supper, so as to hear him and his company talk about the war when they come out on the piazza to smoke.” A waiting-maid says that when her master and mistress spelled out words and even whole sentences they didn’t want her to hear, she would memorize the letters and report them to an uncle who could read.

Such tactics were necessary thanks to the slaveowners’ constant conspiracy to keep African-Americans in ignorance. Harry Smith, from Kentucky, wrote in his autobiography that on his plantation, “if any were caught reading to the slaves, or giving them any information, they were tied and received fifty lashes.” A slave belonging to Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, recalled that his fellow slaves were “more scared of newspapers than they is of snakes now, and us never knowed what a Bible was.” Booker T. Washington likewise remembered that “there was not a single slave on our plantation that could read a line.” Yet despite this, he insisted that they “in some way were kept informed of the progress of the war almost as accurately as the most intelligent person.”

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 11:18 am

Posted in Books, Education

Moog guitar

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Not sure whether I number guitarists among my readers, but this is interesting in any case. Via Gearlog:

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 10:17 am

Posted in Music, Technology

Vietnamese iced coffee

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This is a great summertime drink—and easy to make. Step-by-step instructions here, with photos.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 9:55 am

Chutzpah in action

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This is hard to believe, except that we’ve seen so many examples in the Bush Administration. Why is the State Department so determined to give immunity to Blackwater for anything Blackwater might do (for example, gunning down civilians who were doing nothing)? Again from the Center for American Progresss:

Yesterday, David Satterfield, the top State Department official in Iraq, conceded to reporters that the impasse over the long-term U.S.-Iraqi security deal is due in large part to issues regarding the presence of foreign “security contractors.” Iraqi lawmakers have expressed outrage that the U.S.-sponsored deal would continue to extend immunity from prosecution to private military contractors such as Blackwater, the private military firm implicated in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians last September. According to the AP, U.S. officials are considering alternative solutions for ensuring Iraqi sovereignty over airspace and U.S. troop movements, but are steadfast in their demand for blanket immunity for security contractors working under the Defense and State Departments. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) yesterday sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting information about the controversial decision to renew Blackwater’s contract in Iraq and inquiring about the “driving forces that resulted in the U.S. government needing to rely so heavily upon private security contractors.” Security contractors are getting increased scrutiny for their U.S. operations as well. San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre is pushing for local oversight over a planned Blackwater military training facility by forcing state courts to handle the city’s attempt to review the security firm’s application.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 9:53 am

GOP Obstruction

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A report from the Center for American Progress, via email:

Yesterday, Senate conservatives continued their stated strategy of “making political points” by obstructing legislation meant to address America’s energy and environmental challenges. First, in a 51-43 vote, conservatives successfully used the threat of a filibuster to block the Consumer-First Energy Act, which would have “levied a 25 percent tax on ‘windfall profits’ of major oil companies” that don’t invest more in renewable energy. Daniel J. Weiss, the Center for American Progress’s Director of Climate Strategy, says that such a tax would “spur investments in clean energy alternatives.” The bill would also have “given the government more power to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against countries belonging to the OPEC oil cartel, and made energy price gouging a federal crime.” The second bill blocked by conservatives, the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, failed by a vote of 50-44. It would have extended popular tax breaks for renewable energy that are set to expire at the end of this year. The failure to pass the tax breaks is worrisome to the renewables industry, which is “already seeing a slowing of growth in the sector because companies are hesitant to start new projects without the assurance that these credits will be available.” Yesterday’s obstructionism is the third time in less than a week that Senate conservatives have used parliamentary tactics to block energy legislation. On Friday, conservatives blocked the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act after first shutting down the Senate by forcing the clerk to read the entire bill on the Senate floor.

A ‘CYNICAL’ STRATEGY OF OBSTRUCTION: A Republican strategy memo obtained last week by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made clear that the obstructionist tactics employed by conservatives were aimed solely at “making political points” rather than “affecting policy.” “You could not make up anything more cynical,” said Reid when he revealed the memo on the Senate floor. As Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) noted on the Senate floor yesterday, conservatives in Congress have broken historical precedent by engaging in 75 filibusters this Congress. But the filibuster isn’t the only obstructionist tactic employed by Senate Republicans. Yesterday, Senate conservatives used a rare maneuver to shut down a Judiciary Committee hearing on torture by forcing the Senate into recess. Reid called the maneuver by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) “part of a pattern of obstruction.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who has been in the Senate since 1992, remarked that the shut down was “very, very unusual.”

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Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 9:49 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

Bay Rum today

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Em’s Place makes very nice shaving creams that produce a stout lather, and I used her Bay Rum today on the Simpsons Key Hole 3 Best shaving brush. I picked up a Gillette English razor—it looks like a gold English Aristocrat, with spiraled handle and closed end—that carried an Iridium Super blade, still very sharp and smooth. Pleasant shave, with my own mix for the oil pass, and then Booster’s Island Bay Rum aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

11 June 2008 at 9:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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