Later On

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

Archive for January 16th, 2009

Wow! Fantastic side dish!

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My friend Linda told me about this, and said it was something she had thought up herself.

Take one head of cauliflower, cut away leaves (but not the central stalk), and cut into large pieces. Put those into the top of a steamer and steam them for around 15 minutes. Put cauliflower in a bowl, add a slab of butter, and use a potato masher to mash it. It will have the fluffy texture of a perfectly roasted Idaho potato. Add salt and pepper and (for me) the juice of half a Meyer lemon, stir, and eat.

Absolutely divine!

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 2:17 pm

Joe Conason on the real reasons for the Marc Rich pardon

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Very interesting indeed:

From beginning to end, the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Eric Holder’s nomination as attorney general observed the ban on candid discussion of the main objection to confirming him. The forbidden topic: the real reason behind the pardon of Marc Rich eight years ago, a controversial action that Holder reviewed as deputy attorney general — and that he failed to oppose for reasons he did not mention.

In an editorial that appeared on the morning of the hearings, the Washington Post urged the Senate to question Holder “closely” on the Rich matter. But it is difficult for senators (and editorial writers) to ask pertinent questions when they are completely ignorant of the real background and motivations of the players in the case. Even now, the true machinations behind the Rich pardon cannot be discussed honestly — perhaps because they implicate the government and the security services of the state of Israel.

Sitting quiet and grave before the committee, Holder listened as Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., one of the leading windbags of our time, held forth on how dreadful Rich is and how awful the pardon was. The fugitive trader, who still lives in Switzerland, had “a reprehensible record,” Specter said — alluding to reports that Rich did business in Iraq and Iran. The Pennsylvania Republican demanded to know how Holder could possibly have recommended a pardon for such an odious figure.

No doubt Holder was advised by the president-elect’s transition team not to argue with Specter or anyone else about Rich. He must have been told not to talk about the foreign-policy issues that heavily influenced his view of the Rich decision. So he offered a meek mea culpa, took his lumps from Specter, and promised that his mistakes had made him a better man. Considering that his objective is to get through the hearings without undue stress, that was probably the wisest course. Telling the truth would only have inflamed the Republicans and the press, while creating unwanted drama for Obama.

Still, it would have been a refreshing change from the usual confirmation minuet if instead of humbly apologizing, Holder had tartly instructed the buffoonish Specter, his fellow senators, the press, and the public about the actual circumstances of the Rich affair. He might have started with the fact that continuous lobbying on Rich’s behalf from the highest Israeli leaders and their American friends — among whom Specter no doubt counts himself — became even more intense in the days before Clinton left office. He could have noted that such pressures coincided with Clinton’s efforts to conclude a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. And he could have explained to Specter that Rich’s deals in Iran and Iraq were often related to his other role — as an asset of the Mossad who gathered intelligence and helped to rescue endangered Jews from those regimes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 1:26 pm

Pumpkin snack

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Take a small bowl of canned pumpkin. Stir in some cinnamon, small pinch of salt, apple-pie spice (or pumpkin-pie spice), and slivered almonds. Top with crème fraîche or nonfat yogurt. Tasty and healthful.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 1:18 pm

Things that give one hope

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This statement from Obama, for example:

Five days before taking office, Obama was careful not to outline specific fixes for Social Security and Medicare, refusing to endorse either a new blue-ribbon commission or the concept of submitting an overhaul plan to Congress that would be subject only to an up-or-down vote, similar to the one used to reach agreement on the closure of military bases.

But the president-elect exuded confidence that his economic team will succeed where others have not.

“Social Security, we can solve,” he said, waving his left hand. “The big problem is Medicare, which is unsustainable…. We can’t solve Medicare in isolation from the broader problems of the health-care system.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 1:08 pm

Marijuana Policy Project’s plans for 2009

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Interesting email I just received:

In 2009, MPP will work to introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress that will remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession. In order to generate support, we need your help. Please visit our action center today and send a letter to your member of Congress.

In 2007, there were more than 775,000 arrests for the simple possession of marijuana – not trafficking or production, but simple possession – and 872,720 total arrests for marijuana offenses. These numbers represent a tremendous cost to American taxpayers ($10 to $14 billion annually by conservative estimates). And yet, despite our strict laws, America has one of the world’s highest rates of marijuana use. Recent studies show that teen marijuana use is on the rise; in some demographics, marijuana use is more common than smoking cigarettes. Marijuana prohibition has failed.

It’s time for Congress to rethink this wasteful and ineffective policy. Please visit this page and send a letter to your member of Congress today.

It’s important for your new representative to hear from you, and it will only take a minute of your time. Thank you.

Do take action. It’s amazing how ignorant our elected Representatives and Senators often are. I’ll never forget the letter I got from Sen. Dianne Feinstein in which she revealed that she thought marijuana was some form of opium.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 12:41 pm

Bad legal reporting from the NY Times

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Anonymous Liberal has an excellent post. It begins:

Here’s Eric Lictblau in the New York Times this morning:

A federal intelligence court, in a rare public opinion, is expected to issue a major ruling validating the power of the president and Congress to wiretap international phone calls and intercept e-mail messages without a court order, even when Americans’ private communications may be involved. . . .

The decision marks the first time since the disclosure of the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program three years ago that an appellate court has addressed the constitutionality of the federal government’s wiretapping powers. In validating the government’s wide authority to collect foreign intelligence, it may offer legal credence to the Bush administration’s repeated assertions that the president has constitutional authority to act without specific court approval in ordering national security eavesdropping.

Umm. No. Though the opinion itself hasn’t been released yet, it’s clear from the rest of the article that the ruling had nothing to do with the president’s authority. Rather, the court upheld the Protect America Act against a constitutional challenge, likely on Fourth Amendment grounds. In other words, the court ruled that Congress was within its constitutional authority to pass that statute, a completely unsurprising conclusion.

If that’s the case, and I’m virtually certain it is, there is nothing at all in this ruling that offers any …

Continue reading. AL does later in the post get a link to the opinion, and his suppositions about its content turn out to be correct.

It’s amazing how often prestigious newspapers simply get their stories wrong, reporting errors as fact, injecting opinion and showing bias, and so on. But getting the plain facts wrong—inexcusable. Thank God we have knowledgeable people in the blogosphere to point out those errors, however much it infuriates the reporters to be called out on their mistakes.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Government, Media, NY Times

Four powerful Greenwald columns

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All four of these are well worth reading. They include statements casually made (by Tom Friedman, for example) that just take your breath away.

Tom Friedman offers a perfect definition of “terrorism

Establishment Washington unifies against prosecutions

Today’s FISA ruling: a case study in 8 years of lying and ignorance

A real discussion on TV regarding U.S. policy towards Israel

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 12:32 pm

US war crimes trial—for children

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Daphne Eviatar of the Washington Independent writes:

The United States could be the first Western nation in recent years to try a prisoner for war crimes allegedly committed as a child.

So says the ACLU, which is calling on the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child and the U.N. Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to stop the military commission war crimes trial of Omar Khadr, the 22-year-old Canadian national who the Bush administration wants to try at Guantánamo Bay for war crimes he allegedly committed when he was 15. Khadr’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 26.

Will Obama let it happen?

The ACLU wrote yesterday to the UNCRC, urging it to stand up to the United States and oppose the trial: “while such a public statement is an exceptional measure for the Committee to adopt, it is warranted by the urgent circumstances. If the trial of Omar Khadr goes forward, it would establish dangerous precedent for the United States and the entire world.”

The ACLU’s letters ask the organizations to call on President-elect Barack Obama to suspend the trial. But it raises an interesting question: Even if he stops the military commissions from going forward, what’s Obama going to do with these guys?

As I noted yesterday, a U.S. District Court judge Wednesday ordered another Gitmo prisoner, picked up as a 17-year-old, released. He’d been held for support he allegedly offered to Al Qaeda when he was 11.  And the judge found there wasn’t any credible evidence to support the charges. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:58 am

The role of unions in the air crash miracle

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Much praise is being laid about for the amazing rescue of all passengers and crew after the aircraft crashed into the Hudson River. That miracle is due in no small part to unions.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:46 am

Posted in Daily life

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Tom Ricks on not prosecuting criminals

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Tom Ricks has a good column that begins:

The Obama administration apparently is not going to turn over the rock to investigate the misdeeds and trespasses of the intelligence community in running amok after 9/11, especially with detainees. This is in keeping with Obama’s non-confrontational “no drama” approach, but I think it is a mistake. First, it will look like the rest of the world like a cover-up. Second, I think we need to know what we’ve done, if only to avoid repeating some mistakes.

It’s not what I want to see prosecutions of intelligence officers, especially the front-line guys. Rather, I’d like to see what their chain of command told them, or didn’t tell them. So what I’d like to see is a truth and reconciliation commission, akin to the one initiated by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Of course, to give such a commission teeth, it would have to be able to extend an amnesty to all those testifying — with the caveat that those who didn’t come forward by a certain date would indeed be liable to prosecution.

What has my back up about this today in particular is a quote from CIA chief Michael Hayden in the Washington Post article: “He’s looking forward, and that’s very appropriate.” I get suspicious when someone here uses the word “appropriate” — it’s Washington’s way of telling you to move on, nothing for you little people to worry about.

Read the comments to the column.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:42 am

Explaining things to dim Republicans

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Steven Benen has a very good post, in which he explores how vigorously the Right is misunderstanding a recent Court decision. The whole column is good, but let me just quote this explanation drafted to help WSJ editors understand:

A.L. tries to summarize this in a way that even the Journal‘s editorial board can understand:

1) From 1978-2006, there was a law in place that said “don’t do X; if you do X, it’s a felony.”

2) The Bush administration secretly did X.

3) When it was caught doing X (a felony under existing law), it argued that it had the “inherent authority” to do X regardless of what the law says, a claim that has no support in constitutional case law.

4) This “inherent authority” argument was emphatically rejected by the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case in 2006 in a virtually identical context, causing widespread wailing and gnashing of teeth among right wing true believers (see McCarthy, Andrew).

5) The Bush administration, after a series of adverse court rulings, was finally forced to go to Congress in 2006, and Congress amended the law to expressly allow the Bush administration to do X.

6) Now the FISA Court of Review has ruled that Congress was within its authority to pass that law and so the Bush administration is free to do X.

7) Vindication!

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:39 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Media

Trust but monitor and verify

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David Sirota makes a good catch on our incoming president. I like Obama—heck, I like many politicians—but ALL politicians should be watched closely and reported on. There’s too much money sloshing around DC from business and industry, and that money is used to buy votes and influence. Politicians start out idealistic—some of them, anyway—but the presence of so much money can warp people. So watch closely.

From Sirota’s column:

… After campaigning on populist economic themes, and promising that one of his first presidential priorities would “turn(ing) the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street,” Obama decided to make his very first exercise of presidential power a veto threat aimed at keeping taxpayer money flowing to the same Wall Street firms that underwrote his campaign, and are underwriting his inauguration festivities.

This is disappointing, to say the least. As the column shows, the policy merits of the bailout are few – if any. And you don’t have to trust me on that – trust the GAO, the Congressional Oversight Panel and various news organizations that have shown how the money A) hasn’t helped the broader economy and B) is being used to subsidize executive salaries, dividend payments and bank industry consolidation. Indeed, the New York Times reported this week that “the Treasury says there is no urgent need” for Congress to approve the next $350 billion of the bailout.

So why the rush? It’s money politics in its most mundane – and predictable – form. Both parties Washington Establishments – including both Bush and Obama – know that the easiest way to pass a wildly unpopular $350 billion payoff to their donors is to quickly pass it in the middle of a presidential transition, so no one politician or party has ownership over it.

Polls show the public has always opposed this bailout, but they also showed that the original alarmism in September scared the country. It wasn’t enough to get people to say they supported the bailout, but it was enough to mitigate the intensity of the opposition.

The same, I believe, won’t be said this time around. With the failure of the first half of the bailout – with Wall Streeters still pocketing huge bonuses/salaries, with the economy not rising, etc. – and with Treasury acknowledging this next $350 billion isn’t immediately necessary, what was once rationalized as a necessary emergency bitter pill now looks like what it really is: the most overt effort to rob taxpayers in contemporary history.

Though the rationales and explanations from Obama and other bailout supporters in Washington will try to muddle the picture with references to complexity and economic fatalism, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the kleptocracy at work. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:35 am

I don’t think Israel wants observers

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The attacks on the UN installations by Israel reminds me of the bloody daylight attack Israel made on the USS Liberty, which it tried to sink. (Here’s a defense of the attack, which omits significant information—for example, the multiple overflights of the Liberty, clearly flying an American flag, by Israeli planes before the attack.) No real explanation to this day, even though the incident happened in 1967. The general feeling is that Israel was going to slaughter some prisoners and didn’t want any intelligence ships operating in the vicinty and monitoring radio communications. The Liberty was there, but was quite lightly armed, so Israel decided to sink it.

ThinkProgress on the UN attacks:

Israel shelled the UN Relief and Works Agency headquarters in Gaza yesterday, calling the attack a “response to enemy fire.” The attack wounded three people and destroyed a warehouse “full of hundreds of tons of food and medicine.” It was the second attack on a UN facility since violence began.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:25 am

Outliner: ActionOutline

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I tried several outliners (while moaning about the demise of Symantec Grandview, the DOS outliner that was absolutely terrific). ActionOutline seems to be the best—at least, it’s the one I’m using now. I got the paid version, but they have a free version that will give you the idea. Here’s a good review and a link to download it.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 11:15 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Time for Friday exercise break

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Move along with the instructor as you watch the video.

More here. Shakes out the old cobwebs, doesn’t it?

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life

Comment on the plane crash into the Hudson River

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UPDATE: Also read what James Fallows has to say about the event.

Via Mantic’s blog:

Large airliners are quite good gliders. Very clean, for obvious reasons, which is the chief factor. Planes in general do just fine without the engines running. You are going to land soon, but you do get some input as to where.

Sully did a superb job. It’s hard to think of a worse place to lose all your engines. Mountainous terrain at night is bad, but all you will kill on the ground is a moose. NYC? There is no place to go that isn’t going to take out a whole bunch of people.

But to put this in perspective, picture the worst test you took in college. Make it 10 multiple choice questions. Now put the teacher in front of you with a shotgun pointed at your head, who says “you have 180 seconds to get all 10 questions right, and if you get any wrong, any of them, I *will* blow your head clean off, right then. now … go.”

Flying pilot is flying. Non-flying pilot is grabbing checklists, scanning instruments, shutting off beeps and voices, etc. Passengers are starting to scream. No real idea what happened (they almost certainly did not see the birds), and you can’t see the engines from the cockpit. Speed is bleeding off rapidly. Lower the nose. You have to figure out what of maybe 5 or 6 different scenarios that could have made the symptoms you are seeing (compressor stall? some sort of fuel failure? bad pumps, contaminated fuel? funky french computer programming? bird strike? maybe a real honest to god shoe bomber?).

While you are flying and your buddy is pushing buttons, reading checklists and scanning gauges, your choices are changing. The right answer, which you don’t know yet, is changing because your position and altitude are changing. Turn towards westchester? Stewart? Teterboro? The river? Picture taking that multiple choice test in which you have 180 seconds to get 10 questions right, but the questions themselves change every 5 seconds. Can we even do an air restart at this altitude and airspeed?

Plus, as your non-flying checklist reading compatriot is struggling, you have to start concluding you aren’t getting the engines restarted. Which now is a whole different mindset. Look for something, anything to land on that isn’t a huge building or a bridge. Tell your non-flying buddy to start thinking water landing – a whole different set of checklists. Tell the cabin crew.

Start shutting stuff off. Oh yeah, has anyone told the controller anything yet? Watch the airspeed, no stalls here. Squawk 7700? Maybe say I love you to your wife and kids, who will at least get to hear you in the voice recorder?

Buddy, what’s best glide for this weight, look it up right now. Whats the suggested configuration for a water landing, flaps what 10?, 0?, what? What does the wind look like near the surface of the river, we don’t want to hit in a crab, or you get that whole flipping over breaking up thing. Sh*t there’s a bridge. Stretch the glide just a tad. Christ there’s a lot of sh*t in NYC. Please, mr. ferry boat captain, look up.

Keep it stone cold level. Actually use those rudder pedals for once. Hey, it was good working with you.

Bang.

Jesus H. Christ we are still alive.

***

Sully is a hero not because of today, but because Sully’s been a hero for 30 years, but no one knew or cared. Not his employer, not his union, and sadly, by and large, not his customers. But he said fark, I don’t care if everyone around me doesn’t care — I care. And even if I get to retirement and it never made a difference, I was still ready to be a hero every gd day, through
every strike, every bankruptcy, every merger, every stupid corporate policy change, every divorce, every dumbass thing the FAA has done, oil prices, every day. For 30 years.
There are only a few civilian jobs left where everything can go to death defying shit in seconds. Pilot, e.r. doc, big city cop, big city fireman. The rest, it’s all theoretical. The rest, your downside is a bad review. Maybe you have to interview. Not, hey you screwed up the database server, so now we are going to pour jet fuel all over you and set you on fire.

Good job, buddy.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 10:33 am

Posted in Daily life

Center for Consumer Freedom exposed

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Marion Nestle:

Thanks to Robyn O’Brien of AllergyKids.com for telling me about CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) and its website devoted to exposing Richard Berman and the various nefarious activities of his Center for Consumer Freedom.  The Center is set up in a way that allows it to keep its clients secret.  This allows groups like the National Restaurant Association to pretend they are interested in public health while supporting the Center’s attack-dog tactics against critics (like me and others – see previous posts).  A source of information about this group is most welcome.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 10:24 am

43 who helped 43

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George Bush didn’t do all this damage on his own—for one thing, he’s incurious and incredibly lazy: doesn’t do reading or ask questions, takes vacations at the drop of a hat, and doesn’t seem to understand much of anything. But he surrounded himself with people seemingly eager to do damage. The Center for American Progress sent this list by email:

Next week, “change is coming to America,” as President George W. Bush wraps up his tenure as one of the worst American presidents ever. He wasn’t able to accomplish such an ignominious feat all by himself, however; he had a great deal of help along the way. The Progress Report heralds the conclusion of the Bush 43 presidency by bringing you our list of the top 43 worst Bush appointees. Did we miss anyone? Who should have been ranked higher? Let us know what you think.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 10:00 am

Hemp dishcloth

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I had a hemp dishcloth that I bought at Whole Foods for $8. I liked it, but it developed a hole and had to be replaced. I found these for $4 each, but they looked sort of skimpy. Not to worry: the hemp swells a lot when wet, and they are very sturdy little guys—much better, in fact, than the dishcloth I originally got. If you use scrub cloths or dish cloths, give them a go. I really like them.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 9:32 am

Posted in Daily life

Krugman on not prosecuting criminals

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Good column by Krugman today. It begins:

Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.

The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.

Speaking of Iraq, let’s also not forget that country’s failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.

There’s much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 January 2009 at 9:15 am

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