Later On

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

Archive for January 2nd, 2009

Kale again

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I liked the sautéed kale so much I’m now making it again. This time I’m using red kale. Other changes: a somewhat larger onion and a bunch of scallions sautéed after bacon browns and before adding kale. I’m thinking also I’ll add some pine nuts and use fresh lemon juice instead of sherry vinegar. Maybe some sheep’s-milk feta as well.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 2:41 pm

Ruining the government

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The GOP basically does not like government (cf. Grover Norquist), so when they are placed in government agencies, they do all they can to destroy the agencies (cf. EPA, FDA, OSHA, et al.). The result at the Department of Justice, as described Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

After 29 years enforcing the civil rights laws at the Department of Justice, in 2002 Richard Ugelow was abruptly transferred from his position as deputy chief of employment litigation to an administrative job in the civil division, which defends the government against, among other things, claims of civil rights violations. Ugelow was just one of many highly experienced justice department lawyers who, beginning in the early years of the Bush administration, were transferred, demoted or otherwise pushed out of their positions at Justice because their aggressive enforcement of federal laws didn’t match the new administration’s conservative ideology.

That’s just one of the many serious problems at the Department of Justice that the incoming Obama administration will have to rectify, say former Justice Department employees, law professors and civil rights advocates. As internal government reports and congressional hearings have documented, the Bush Justice Department over the last eight years expelled or ignored attorneys that it didn’t agree with and replaced them with inexperienced lawyers hired more for their ideology than their qualifications. Many of those promoted and implemented conservative agendas that in some cases turned out to be illegal. Those lawyers who were given career positions can’t simply be pushed out by a new administration, however – and they could make it difficult for Obama to implement a new agenda.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 1:01 pm

“Don’t drink the water, don’t breathe the air”

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That line is from an old Tom Leher song, but it applies today to those downstream from the gigantic spill of toxic sludge by the TVA. From this story:

… Tuberty and Babyak conducted tests for 17 different heavy metals in triplicate using standard EPA methods. The samples were collected on Saturday, December 27 by Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby from three separate locations on the Emory River.

According to the tests, arsenic levels from the Kingston power plant intake canal tested at close to 300 times the allowable amounts in drinking water, while a sample from two miles
downstream still revealed arsenic at approximately 30 times the allowed limits. Lead was present at between twice to 21 times the legal drinking water limits, and thallium levels tested at three to four times the allowable amounts.

All water samples were found to contain elevated levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and thallium. The samples were taken from the immediate area of the coal waste spill, in front of the Kingston Fossil plant intake canal just downstream from the spill site, and at a power line crossing two miles downstream from the spill.

“I have never seen levels of arsenic, lead and copper this high in natural waters,” said Babyak.

In the meantime, the Bush EPA is putting off testing the water.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 12:50 pm

Friday cat-blogging: Molly and the gravy

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molly-gravy

Here you see Molly, post-Xmas-meal, trying to get to the gravy, which is covered by the saucer you see. Molly is not exactly a bad kitty, just a kitty.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Fish from China: avoid

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Marion Nestle warns us:

Food Chemical News (December 31) says the FDA will be testing for melamine in farmed fish and fish feed from China.  When Hong Kong officials said they found melamine at 6.6 ppm in fish feed, the FDA wondered whether melamine could accumulate in fish tissues.  Apparently, it that is exactly what it does.  The Los Angeles Times (December 24) says FDA testing found whopping amounts of melamine – 200 ppm – in catfish, trout, tilapia and salmon that had eaten melamine-tainted fish feed.  This is way higher than the maximum “safe” level of 2.5 ppm in food.  So put fish from China on your list of what not to eat.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 11:35 am

Elance for freelancers

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Kevin Kelly describes a great idea on Cool Tools:

Elance is a global marketplace for freelancers. You post a job you want done, and freelancers around the world will bid on it in a matter of hours. Once the price and deadline are agreed upon, the work will be delivered to you very rapidly. Because of its global nature, your costs may be very low.

Elance has a pool of 135,000 pros expert in programming, design, writing, and legal matters. People use them to design a logo, create marketing materials, tweak a database, code a website, create an iPhone app. I’ve used Elance three times now and have had fantastic results. For instance recently I had to move 3,000 images from Cool Tools’ old Moveable Type database to a new one in a very hairy non-trivial manner. Estimates from US shops for writing the necessary script went as high $6,000 and would take months from specs to testing. We went on Elance, got a bid for $250 to do it manually (without scripts) and it was done perfectly in a week. You could start a company with them. In fact Kevin Rose hired an Elancer to code the first version of the now-popular website Digg.

Elance’s escrow service holds the payment and protects both the work provider and you the employer. The site provides status updates on work done, and plenty of communication between the parties. Workers must pass a competency test to qualify to be listed. Some freelancers can also pass expertise tests in a mild form of certification, say for working on java or ajax, etc. Elance freelancers did about $60 million of work last year and less than 1% of the jobs had any kind of dispute, and most of those were self-resolved by the fact that the entire transaction correspondence is logged.

While I went to Elance for cheap labor, others go to it to get jobs done in a hurry, or to find expertise that they can’t find locally. (Fifty percent of Elancers live in North America.) If you have work, and you know what you want, this is a great service.

The real trick in using Elance, or its competitors RentACoder, GetAFreelancer and oDesk (which I have not used) and Guru (which I have used with satisfaction) is in being able to specify the deliverable you want without spending more time that it would take to do the project itself. This kind of outsourcing is best for bite-sized chunks of work. The more precise you can detail your job the better that Elance or the others will work for you. It’s not good for consulting, hand-holding, or mind-changing assignments. But it can be cheap enough that you can try lots of things. It costs you nothing to post a job on Elance. (The winning provider will pay a 5-10% fee to Elance.) You can pay with PayPal.

And it is not just for coders. I hired a guy to run ethernet cable in our home, and others have found a videographer for their wedding, or a translator for their manual, etc. Like any remote relationship, you get what you put into it. Elance, Guru and GetaFreelancer use escrows, which protect you (and the worker). Elance has open bidding, GetAFreelancer has the option of closed bidding. To date, Elance is the marketplace that seems to have the most action so that is why I use them.

It’s a great tool when you need to hire expertise.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Movies report

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I’ve been watching a fair number of movies. A few comments:

Django: This 1966 spaghetti western is probably the classic of the genre. The extra features include a commentary on the casting of the film that is fascinating. But what puts this film on the list is the “Gatling gun” that stars in part of the film. I can only assume that the filmmakers had never seen a real Gatling gun, nor had any idea at all of how one works. What they show seems to be a mitrailleuse.

The Visitor: An excellent movie by the director who made The Station Agent. It’s a quiet movie, but very moving, and Richard Jenkins (for whom, The Eldest tells me, the movie was written) does a fantastic job. Not to be missed.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 11:31 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Latest GOP talking point: FDR lengthened the Great Depression

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The idea that FDR lengthened, instead of curtailed, the Great Depression is false, but that just makes it a better talking point for the GOP: they love to get behind a lie and talk it into the public consciousness.

The GOP has been working the FDR lie for a while—see this post for a good example, and note this graph.

In fact, as Paul Krugman patiently points out to George Will, FDR’s New Deal made immediate improvements.

But George Will and other conservatives are not ones to be dissuaded merely because the facts are against them. Patient repetition throughout the conservative media (Fox news, AM radio, many newspaper columnists, the talk shows) will, they hope, make people believe the lie.

I would think that the graph at the above link shows the foolishness of the GOP line—but then I would think the GOP’s performance when they controlled both the White House and Congress would show the foolishness of the GOP line. At any rate, David Sirota has a good article on the topic::

…I was momentarily tongue-tied last week after running face-first into conservatives’ newest (and most ridiculous) talking point: the one designed to stop Congress from passing an economic stimulus package.

During a Christmas Eve appearance on Fox News, I pointed out that most mainstream economists believe the government must boost the economy with deficit spending. That’s when conservative pundit Monica Crowley said we should instead limit such spending because President Franklin Roosevelt’s “massive government intervention actually prolonged the Great Depression.” Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett eagerly concurred, saying “historians pretty much agree on that.”

Of course, I had recently heard snippets of this silly argument; right-wing pundits are repeating it everywhere these days. But I had never heard it articulated in such preposterous terms, so my initial reaction was paralysis, the mouth-agape, deer-in-the-headlights kind. Only after collecting myself did I say that such assertions about the New Deal were absurd. But then I was laughed at, as if it was hilarious to say that the New Deal did anything but exacerbate the Depression.

Afterward, suffering pangs of self-doubt, I wondered whether I and most of the country were the crazy ones. Sure, the vast majority of Americans think the New Deal worked well. But are conservatives right? Did the New Deal’s “massive government intervention prolong the Great Depression?”

Ummm … no.

On deeper examination, I discovered…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:54 am

Posted in Business, Congress, GOP, Government

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Caprese Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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This salad looks divine. Note the suggestion in comments about using balsamic vinegar.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:35 am

Big Business cashes in as Bush readies to leave

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Getting settlements at the last moment under a business-fawning administration:

The Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the presidential election, with more in the pipeline for January, prompting lawyers and interest groups to assert that companies are seeking more favorable terms before the new administration arrives.

The climate for business settlements could grow more harsh when Obama appointees seize the reins at the Justice Department, corporate lawyers say. They point to statements by Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr., who told an audience last month that he would expand the focus of federal prosecutors into corporate suites.

A review of 15 agreements involving corporations since early November suggests that much of the alleged misconduct dates back five years or more, provoking questions about why the cases took so long to mature and why resolutions are coming with only weeks left in President Bush’s term.

“What they obviously are trying to do is take advantage of an administration that’s deemed to be more friendly to business,” said Cono R. Namorato, a Washington defense lawyer who ran the Internal Revenue Service’s office of professional responsibility earlier in the Bush administration. “I know of no tax reason for doing it now.” …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:32 am

Franken has won, essentially

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The recount is almost over, with a victory for Franken. Of course, Coleman could delay Franken’s taking office by filing futile lawsuits, a dog-in-the-manger activity that would be spiteful and meanspirited. And Coleman is, after all, the candidate who called for his opponent to concede so that the healing could begin, so surely Coleman would take his own advice. But wait: Coleman is a Republican. So what can we expect?

Al Franken could be declared the winner of the Minnesota recount as soon as Monday, but due to the peculiarities of Minnesota election law, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) could keep the seat bottled up in the courts for weeks or even months before a decisive resolution to the race, making it harder for the Democratic majority in the Senate to seat Franken on even a provisional basis.

Assuming Franken emerges as the recount winner at Monday’s meeting of the state canvassing board, what happens next?

The Coleman campaign has publicly guaranteed that they will file an election contest, challenging the result in court. That would be a key development because Minnesota law actually prevents the issuing of a certificate of election to the winner until a contest proceeding is settled (unlike other states that will certify a win, and then allow the loser to pursue legal challenges if they want).

The bottom line here is that even if Coleman ultimately loses the recount plus the formal court contest, he could be able to drag out the seating of Franken for quite some time, well beyond next week’s swearing of the 111th Congress.

The contest will be filed in state courts, but due to the presence of various constitutional questions…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Election

Burris does have his flaws

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Like trying to send an innocent man to death:

Former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s pick to replace Barack Obama in the Senate, is no stranger to controversy.

Public fury over the governor’s alleged misconduct has masked the once lively debate over Burris’ decision to continue to prosecute – despite the objections of one of his top prosecutors – the wrong man for a high-profile murder case.

While state attorney general in 1992, Burris aggressively sought the death penalty for Rolando Cruz, who twice was convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old girl in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. The crime took place in 1983.

But by 1992, another man had confessed to the crime, and Burris’ own deputy attorney general was pleading with Burris to drop the case, then on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Burris refused. He was running for governor.

“Anybody who understood this case wouldn’t have voted for Burris,” Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, told ProPublica. Indeed, Burris lost that race, and two other attempts to become governor.

Burris’ role in the Cruz case was “indefensible and in defiance of common sense and common decency,” Warden said. “There was obvious evidence that [Cruz] was innocent.”

Deputy attorney general Mary Brigid Kenney agreed, and eventually resigned rather than continue to prosecute Cruz.

Once Burris assigned Kenney to the case in 1991, she became convinced that Cruz was innocent, a victim of what she believed was prosecutorial misconduct. She sent Burris a memo reporting that the jury convicted Cruz without knowing that Brian Dugan, a repeat sex offender and murderer, had confessed to the crime. Burris never met with Kenney to discuss a new trial for Cruz, Kenney told ProPublica…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with

Floral morning

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Tryphon Violet shaving cream provided a nice counter-season fragrance, and the lather made with my favorite Omega brush, was wonderful. The Gillette Aristocrat did a fine job, and I even did an “oil” pass with Avalon Organics (brushless) Cream Shave. And then Booster Lilac provided another out-of-season fragrance.

Mikael Persson from Sweden pointed out this nice display of Omega badger-hair shaving brushes. If you click any of the photos, you get individual photos, and if you click one of those, you get full details.

Written by Leisureguy

2 January 2009 at 10:21 am

Posted in Shaving

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