Later On

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

Archive for January 17th, 2009

Roger Cohen on Gaza

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From the NY Review of Books:

I had a dream: Israeli Arab students, enraged by the war in Gaza, were protesting at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. A counterdemonstration by Jewish students erupted. When the head of university security, a Holocaust survivor, tried to intervene, the Arab students called him a Nazi.

Actually, I didn’t dream this. Shlomo Avineri, a political scientist at the university, related the incident, which occurred in the first days after Israel began its Gaza war on December 27. But dreams cut to the quick. There’s no point denying that a line of sorts runs from the forty-three people killed by Israeli fire near a United Nations school in Gaza on January 6 back to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948 and to Berlin, 1945.

History is relentless. Sometimes its destructive gyre gets overcome: France and Germany freed themselves after 1945 from war’s cycle. So, even more remarkably, did Poland and Germany. China and Japan scarcely love each other but do business. Only in the Middle East do the dead rule. As Yehuda Amichai, the Israeli poet, once observed, the dead vote in Jerusalem. Their demand for blood is, it seems, inexhaustible. Their graves will not be quieted. Since 1948 and Israel’s creation, retribution has reigned between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements.

I have never previously felt so despondent about Israel, so shamed by its actions, so despairing of any peace that might terminate the dominion of the dead in favor of opportunity for the living.

More than dreams, I’ve been having nightmares. I cannot see a scenario in which any short-term Israeli tactical victory over Hamas is not overwhelmed by the long-term strategic cost of this war. Khaled Meshal, the political director of Hamas in Damascus, declared fifteen days into the war that it had “destroyed the last chance for negotiations.” A little over a year after the Bush administration’s much-heralded Annapolis conference, a Mideast peace has never seemed more distant. On Israel–Palestine, as much else, the outgoing president’s capacity to exit in flames is conspicuous.

But before I get to that, let me return, for a moment, to those protesting Israeli Arab students. There are about 1.3 million Arab citizens of Israel, or a little less than 20 percent of the population. Their loyalties are divided, but never before have they protested so vigorously. That’s a fair guide to the virulence of Arab sentiment, stoked by graphic around-the-clock coverage of the Gaza carnage from the al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya networks. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, resorting to the same loaded World War II lexicon, has called Gaza “a concentration camp,” a term also recently used by Cardinal Renato Martino, the head of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace.

These jackboot allusions—which include Meshal’s reference to a Gaza “holocaust”—are untenable: a Jewish minority in any Arab state of the size of the Arab minority in Israel is unimaginable. Israel remains a small island of relatively liberal democracy in a repressive Arab sea. But it is ghettoizing itself, not least from the agonizing plight of the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into the narrow strip of land that is Gaza.

The high-tech security fence built to wall off the West Bank and the near-hermetic sealing of Gaza since the Israeli withdrawal in 2005 are in the end attempts to shut out reality…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Bush kept the country safe — not

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From Dan Froomkin’s column yesterday:

Ken Bode writes in the Indianapolis Star op-ed: “Last week, the White House issued a report titled, ‘100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration.’ Bush did 12 press interviews, one final press conference and a final speech to the nation Thursday night. The number one assertion in all of these: ‘I kept America safe.’

“Well, the number one fact Americans need to remember is that on Aug. 6, 2001, Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice were given an intelligence report headed, ‘Osama Bin Laden Is Determined to Strike in the U.S.’ Rice was warned that instigators might already be in place. What did The Decider do? He handed back the report to the CIA analyst and said, ‘All right, you’ve covered your ass now.’ . . .

“‘We kept America safe’ is their first great lie.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 11:42 am

Three sites to track everyday activities

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From The Week, three web sites that you may find useful:

Welcome to Dopplr, an online service for smarter travel.
Learn more about Dopplr, sign up now, or visit the city page for Helsinki.

“You put in your travel schedule and link to your friends. It allows you to see where everyone is. I love it.” – Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia in The New York Times.

Mon.thly.Info is a simple tool to help you keep track of your menstrual cycles.

Thank God I discovered Mon.thly.Info—a website that takes the guesswork out of menstruating by tracking and predicting your period, free of charge.” —BUST Magazine

I think the only way it could be better is if it delivered tampons, put my heating pad in the microwave and massaged my feet.” —CheeseDip

Oh, and it’s free. This is why the internet was invented.” —Jezebel

Bedpost is a personal web application that will give you some insight into your sex life.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Parliamentary government

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Matt Yglesias makes the case for it.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 11:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Unreasonable searches

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John Cole of Balloon Juice:

Via James Joyner, more lunacy in the drug war front:

The strip-search case was brought by the mother of Savana Redding, who in 2003 was an eighth-grade student at a public middle school in Safford, Ariz. Another student, found with ibuprofen pills in violation of a strict school policy, said Savana had given them to her.School officials searched Savana’s belongings, made her strip to her bra and underwear, and ordered her, in the words of an appeals court, “to pull her bra out to the side and shake it” and “pull out her underwear at the crotch and shake it.” No pills were found. The pills that prompted the search had the potency of two over-the-counter Advil capsules.

A trial judge dismissed the parent’s case against the school officials, ruling that they were immune from suit. After a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed that decision, the full appeals court agreed to a rehearing. By 6 to 5, a larger panel of the court reversed the decision, saying the suit could go forward against the assistant principal who had ordered the search.

“It does not require a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old child is an invasion of constitutional rights of some magnitude,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority, quoting a decision in another case. “More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity.”

Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, dissenting, said the case was in some ways “a close call,” given the “humiliation and degradation” Savana had endured. But, Judge Hawkins concluded, “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

While James and the Supreme Court are focusing on worthwhile Constitutional issues, this seems to me to be missing the point, and akin to trying to cure heart disease by making better defibrillators. We need to look at what got us to this point that school officials would even CONSIDER performing a strip search for over the counter medication. This is a manifestation of decades of drug war mania and the ensuing zero tolerance idiocy.

This sort of thing should never have risen to the point that it is a constitutional issue, as this is an issue of common sense. It makes no sense to strip search kids for a pill they can buy at any store without any questions asked, yet this sort of nonsense happens every single day (albeit perhaps not to this degree). This is the school equivalent of the TSA pouring out breast milk because they are worried about lactating mothers blowing up planes. It is insanity, and zero tolerance is shorthand for zero thinking.

That seems to me to be the bigger issue.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 9:17 am

Citizenship of president

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The far-Right is still running in circles trying to say that Obama was not born in the US. They point to the Constitution, which states that “No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President…” (See this Snopes post.)

I’m wondering if they will mount a similar campaign if a Democrat ever runs for president who was delivered via C-section, that failing the test of “natural born Citizen.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:54 am

Posted in Daily life

TV, my bête noire

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Marion Nestle:

Common Sense Media looked at 173 studies of the effects of watching TV on child and adolescent health.  Of 73 studies examining correlations between TV-watching and obesity, 86% found strong associations.  TV-watching was also strongly associated with such unfortunate outcomes as cigarette smoking, drug use, early sexual activity, and poor academic performance.  Conclusion: if you want to encourage kids to be healthier, turn off the TV!

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

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Most common supplements

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This chart via Marion Nestle’s What to Eat blog:


I take fish oil capsules (wild-salmon oil), 2 grams with breakfast, 2 grams with dinner. And I recently started taking Coenzyme Q-10. But I don’t take any of the others. Echinacea, I’ve read, is somewhat good at helping combat minor illnesses, but only if you don’t take it regularly. I do put a tablespoon of flaxseed in with my oat groats when I make hot cereal each morning.

Nestle comments:

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has released its annual statistics on use of such therapies.  I love the definitions: complementary therapies are used along with conventional medicine; alternative is in place of, and integrative uses both.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

For those who read the Greeks

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Two very interesting posts by Mark Kleiman. The first explains why Jefferson (and other figures of the time) did so little reading of the Greek classics, and in particular, very little reading of Plato and Aristotle, whose works today I would consider an essential part of one’s liberal education. The second discusses the sequence in which one might read Plato’s dialogues. Worth reading and quite interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:22 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Chicken Biriyani

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This recipe by Mark Bittman looks easy and tasty.

Chicken Biriyani

Yield 4 servings
Time 1 hour

It is important to leave the lid on as much as possible; you want to make sure the chicken cooks fairly quickly and that the aroma remains in the pot.

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 large pinch saffron
  • 10 whole cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut up and trimmed of excess fat; skin removed if desired
  • 1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds, optional

1. Put 2 tablespoons butter in a deep skillet or casserole that can be covered. Turn heat to medium-high. Add onion and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, 5 to 10 minutes. Add spices, and cook, stirring, another minute.

2. Add rice, and cook, stirring, until ingredients are well combined, 2 or 3 minutes. Add stock, chicken and more salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer.

3. Cook undisturbed for about 25 minutes. When chicken and rice are tender and liquid is absorbed, turn heat off. If either chicken or rice is not quite done, add no more than 1/2 cup boiling water, and cook until done.

4. Melt remaining butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add almonds (or simply melt butter), and brown lightly. Pour mixture over biriyani, and sprinkle with a bit more salt. Let rest 2 or 3 minutes. Take pot to table, and serve.

Note: Cardamom seeds can be eaten, but cloves should be removed after cooking.

I don’t much like the mouthfeel of cardamon seeds and might substitute ground cardamon—except that I have a little jar of cardamon seeds to use up.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:09 am

Duke 3 and Lemongrass soap

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Bernd and Florian from offered to send me a sample puck of their Waro shaving soap. I normally do not accept free samples, but in a moment of weakness I agreed. The soap—the lemongrass fragrance shown at the link—arrived yesterday, and today I lathered up with the Simpsons Duke 3 Best. I got a lather with no problem, but when I applied it to the beard, the lather was a quick-dying kind, hard to see by the end of the pass. Yet there was plenty of lather in the brush for the next pass. So this soap doesn’t work well for me, and I would guess (comparing the lather to other shaving soaps) that something is missing in the formulation that, say, D.R. Harris soaps have. The lemongrass fragrance, though, was very nice.

Still, I did get a good shave with the Apollo Mikron. And the Royall Lyme was, as always, a pleasant finish.

Written by Leisureguy

17 January 2009 at 8:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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