Later On

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

Archive for January 26th, 2009

Great—easy, fast—way to peel garlic by hand

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The Kitchn [sic] has the method illustrated. I just tried it on six cloves of garlic, some small, some large, some in-between. It worked like a charm on all of them. I’m convinced.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Morning report

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Got a quick haircut at Supercuts. I regularly use competitor coupons, so this haircut cost me $8.95—not bad, considering what I used to pay. I wondered whether others were abandoning more expensive salons, so I asked how business at Supercuts had been. It’s up.

Then to Whole Foods to buy some squid for the squid in red-wine sauce recipe. Also got more bunches of greens and a couple of fillets of sockeye salmon that were reasonably priced. And they had fresh Fresno peppers, so another batch of pepper sauce is coming up.

Now some reading is in order, but first I’ll cook the squid for lunch.

UPDATE–SQUID REPORT

Truly delicious. I was surprised. I made it out of curiosity about how it would taste. I was open to a range of possibilities, including some negative ones, but it was really excellent. Go figure.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 11:36 am

Promoting brand loyalty: for materialists, go with death anxiety

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Interesting:

Materialistic people tend to form strong connections to particular product brands when their level of anxiety about death is high, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Authors Aric Rindfleisch (University of Wisconsin-Madison and Korea University), James E. Burroughs (University of Virginia), and Nancy Wong (University of Wisconsin-Madison) examined levels of materialism and insecurity in consumers and discovered that the combination of "death anxiety" and materialism led to strong attachment to brands.

While conventional wisdom holds that materialistic individuals are weakly connected to brands and use them as superficial status badges, the new research proves that brands hold more meaning for materialistic consumers than previously thought. When those individuals are also worried about death, their brand attachment grows.

"We propose that materialistic individuals form strong connections to their brands when death anxiety is high but not when death anxiety is low," write the authors. "Materialistic individuals are strongly connected to their brands and employ them as an important source of meaning in their lives."

The authors tested their hypothesis by conducting two different but related studies. The first study asked adults in the United States to rate their degrees of materialism, death anxiety, and brand connection. In the second study, conducted among college students, the researchers manipulated death anxiety by having participants consider their own deaths in detail. In both studies, participants rated their degree of connection to a variety of products including cars, microwaves, jeans, cell phones, MP3 players, and sunglasses.

"Materialistic consumers with anxiety about their existence are especially in need of the symbolic security that brand connections provide," write the authors. "Given the recent rise in materialistic tendencies along with the media’s heightened focus on existential threats, the number of consumers who display this combination of values and motives should increase in the near future."

Source: University of Chicago Press Journals

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 9:49 am

Obama’s education from the military on torture

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Fascinating account by Jane Mayer:

On Thursday, President Barack Obama consigned to history the worst excesses of the Bush Administration’s “war on terror.” One of the four executive orders Obama signed effectively cancelled seven years of controversial Justice Department legal opinions authorizing methods of treating terror suspects so brutal that even a top Bush Administration official overseeing prosecutions in Guantanamo, Susan Crawford, recently admitted they amounted to torture. According to some of those opinions, many of which remain classified, President Bush could authorize U.S. officials to capture, interrogate, and indefinitely imprison terror suspects all around the globe, outside of any legal process.

The Obama Administration’s reforms may have seemed as simple as the stroke of a pen. But on Friday afternoon, the new White House Counsel, Greg Craig, acknowledged that the reversal had been gestating for more than a year. Moreover, Craig noted in his first White House interview that the reforms were not finished yet and that Obama had deliberately postponed several of the hardest legal questions. Craig said that, as he talked with the president before the signing ceremony, Obama was “very clear in his own mind about what he wanted to accomplish, and what he wanted to leave open for further consultation with experts.”

The steps already taken amount to a stunning political turnaround. One of the executive orders places all terror suspects held abroad unambiguously under the protection of the Geneva Conventions, which outlaw any cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.. Obama also unilaterally closed the C.I.A.’s “black sites,” and set a one-year deadline for closing the military prison camp in Guantanamo. He decreed that, from now on, the International Committee for the Red Cross must have access to all detainees in U.S. custody; the Bush Administration barred the Red Cross from seeing prisoners held by the C.I.A. …

Continue reading.

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26 January 2009 at 9:25 am

Israeli “cease-fire” shelling continues

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From McClatchy newspapers:

It is Day Five of the cease fire, and the Israeli gunboats are booming off the Mediterranean coast.

It’s barely dawn and the Israeli warships off the Gaza Strip coast are opening fire on the small Palestinian fishing boats a few hundred yards off the shore. The Palestinians pulling in their meager hauls from the cloudy, sewage-saturated waters try to ignore the incoming fire that splashes in the waters around them.

The Israeli ships enforcing a Naval blockage of Gaza have been firing on the fisherman every morning in an apparent attempt to keep them from getting too far from shore.

But this morning, Thursday, Jan. 22nd, the Israeli fire blasts through the morning all along the coastline. Then the Israeli fire gets closer to shore. By late morning, five Palestinians, including a little girl, have been wounded by the Israeli cease fire shelling.

This is post-war Gaza.

Whole neighborhoods have been reduced to rubble. Dozens of mosque minarets precariously hang at awkward angles. Dirt tank berms have become new playgrounds for Gaza City kids.

It has become easier to give people directions to our Gaza City apartment: Drive down the road and turn off at the sewage-filled bomb crater. Palestinians wait in long lines at UN warehouses to fill up cooking gas canisters.

In Rafah, scores of Palestinians have already begun to dig out their smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border.

Continue reading. And read this excellent post at Firedoglake for more information, including the instructions given to Israeli soldiers.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 9:03 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Closing Guantánamo: The myths

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The Center for American Progress, in an email, debunks these six myths:

MYTH #1 — GUANTANAMO IS A GREAT PLACE TO BE

MYTH #2 — DETAINEES ARE TOO DANGEROUS TO BRING INTO THE UNITED STATES

MYTH #3 — DETAINEES WILL RECEIVE ALL THE BENEFITS OF U.S. CITIZENS

MYTH #5 — 61 RELEASED DETAINEES HAVE RETURNED TO THE BATTLEFIELD

MYTH #6 — WE SHOULD JUST HOUSE THE DETAINEES AT ALCATRAZ

They make this case:

On his second day in office, President Obama took a bold step away from the Bush administration and signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within one year while suspending all military tribunals for six months. Obama said that the United States was sending the world a message that the "struggle against violence and terrorism" would be fought "in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals." Each day that Guantanamo remains open is another day that U.S. troops are put in further unnecessary danger. One U.S. military officer wrote in the Washington Post that he "learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo." Obama has taken the first crucial step in shutting down this stain on America’s reputation. As the Center for American Progress has outlined, the next steps — including arranging for trials in federal or military courts, finding homes for detainees who can’t return to their native countries, transferring detainees who will stand trial into the United States, and establishing a lawful military detention regime for the small number of remaining detainees — won’t be easy, but they’re not impossible. Nevertheless, conservatives are coming up with a number of inaccurate — and often outright ludicrous — excuses for why Guantanamo needs to remain open. The Progress Report debunks some of the most ill-informed myths.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 8:52 am

Civil liberties protection needed

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The Center for American Progress, in an email:

According to federal reports, the "departments of Defense, State, and Health and Human Services have not met legal requirements meant to protect Americans’ civil liberties, and a board that’s supposed to enforce the mandates has been dormant since 2007," USA Today reports. All three departments failed to comply with a 2007 law requiring them to "appoint civil liberties protection officers and report regularly to Congress on the safeguards they use." The oversight board was originally set up by the Bush White House in 2004, but in 2007, Congress ordered that it be recreated as an independent agency by January 2008. The agency sat vacant. In fact, President Bush didn’t nominate a single member until August, eight months after the agency was set up. None were confirmed before Bush’s term ended. In the meantime, the Bush White House worked diligently to undermine the board. In May 2007, Lanny Davis, the sole Democrat on the board, resigned in protest after the administration "made more than 200 revisions" to the panel’s first report to Congress. President Obama has vowed to give the agency subpoena power, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said that departments not following the law will be held accountable. 

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 8:46 am

Paul Krugman explains

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26 January 2009 at 8:37 am

Turning to nuclear power: big mistake

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According to an article in the Washington Monthly by Mariah Blake:

Seven years ago, Finland was faced with a daunting energy dilemma. To keep its domestic industries up and running, it needed to double its electricity supply by 2025. At the same time, it had to cut carbon emissions by fourteen million tons a year to comply with its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The question was how to fill the gap without stifling its flourishing economy or increasing dependence on costly imports.

As it hunted for solutions, the Finnish government decided to consider a controversial option: building another nuclear power plant. It was not a new idea; in fact, the Finns had weighed and rejected it nine years earlier. But since then, officials reasoned, the situation had changed. Besides a new imperative to reduce carbon emissions, a new generation of nuclear reactors had recently come onto the market. None had been built, but the industry claimed that their simple, standardized designs and modular components would make them far easier and less expensive to assemble than their predecessors. In fact, a study by the Lappeenranta University of Technology, which used figures on par with industry estimates for capital costs, found that a new atomic plant could deliver electricity more affordably than any other large-scale energy option. A group of lawmakers appointed by Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen to study the issue also concluded that a single reactor could create a much greater drop in greenhouse gas emissions than the next cheapest option, building more gas-fired plants. This meant there would be less pressure on the government to enact other mechanisms, such as a gasoline tax, that might put a dent in consumer spending and hamper economic growth.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 8:22 am

California on the ropes

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Arnold Schwarzenegger has not done a very good job as governor, nor have our state legislators done a very good job as state legislators. The time to pay the piper arrives in a week:

This is what life was like the last time California government had at least as much money in its coffers as it was spending on a daily basis:

• The leading presidential campaign contribution collector in the Sacramento metro area was GOP contender Mitt Romney.

• Baseball slugger Barry Bonds was 26 days from setting the all-time home run record.

• "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" had just set a one-day box office record for a film opening in midweek.

• The Dow Jones industrial average was at 13,861.

It was July 12, 2007, and since then California has been living on borrowed money.

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Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 8:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Testing Obama’s position on torture

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Very interesting story by Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent. It begins:

President Obama’s sweeping reversals of torture and state secret policies are about to face an early test.

After Obama issued an executive order and two presidential memoranda last week proclaiming a new transparency in the workings of the federal government, advocates for open government were thrilled.

“That was an order we were really looking for,” said Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The test of those commitments will come soon in key court cases involving CIA “black sites” and torture that the Bush administration had quashed by claiming they would reveal state secrets and endanger national security. Legal experts say that the Bush Department of Justice used what’s known as the “state secrets privilege” – created originally as a narrow evidentiary privilege for sensitive national security information — as a broad shield to protect the government from exposure of its own misconduct.

One such case, dealing with the gruesome realities of the CIA’s so-called “extraordinary rendition” program, is scheduled for oral argument before a federal appeals court in early February. The position the Obama administration takes in this case may be the first major test of its new policies on transparency in government.

Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. involves five victims of CIA rendition, or “torture by proxy,” as it’s also known. Abducted abroad, the men were flown by the CIA to cooperating countries whose agents interrogated them under torture. Because federal officials are usually immune from lawsuits, the men later sued the private aviation data company, Jeppesen — a subsidiary of Boeing, one of the largest federal defense contractors — that knowingly provided the flight plans and other assistance necessary for the CIA to carry out its clandestine operations.

The ACLU filed suit on behalf of this group of victims in May 2007, but …

Continue reading.

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26 January 2009 at 8:05 am

A family in Gaza recounts their experience

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Israel is strongly resisting any war-crimes investigation, for obvious reasons: they seem clearly to have committed quite a few. The LA Times recounts this story:

There were 14 of them huddled under the stairs. Israeli shells and airstrikes had long since shattered every window of the Helw family’s three-story home. But underneath the concrete staircase, they said, they felt relatively safe — until the soldiers came early in the morning on Jan. 4.

There was pounding on the courtyard door, they recalled last week, and voices in accented Arabic shouted, “Who’s in there?”

As the troops burst inside, family members said Fuad Helw, 55, jumped up with his arms in the air.

“We all put our hands up and yelled, ‘We’re women and children. We’re not the resistance,’ ” recalled Sherine Helw, Fuad’s daughter-in-law.

The soldiers opened fire on Fuad, said Sherine, and he died in front of his family.

There are no independent accounts of what happened that day, when Israeli tanks rolled into the Zeitoun neighborhood on the outskirts of Gaza City at the beginning of the land offensive. The Israeli army, which staged its offensive after years of rocket attacks against southern Israel emanating from the Gaza Strip, refuses to discuss individual charges in detail.

“As a matter of policy, we do not target civilians,” an army spokesman said on condition that his name not be published. “These situations are very complex and our soldiers do the best they can.”

But interviews across this devastated neighborhood in the aftermath of Israel’s 22-day offensive reveal a stream of accounts of violence, anger, loss and defiance. One of those stories is that of the Helw family, who say the Israeli tank columns charged in from the border fence between 7 and 8 a.m. on Jan. 4…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 7:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Mideast Conflict

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A loyal Bushie burrows in

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Elena Schor of TPM-DC writes:

The Bush administration’s participation in the personnel tactic known as “burrowing” has been well-reported in recent weeks. The practice isn’t unique to the Bush crowd; during presidential transitions, political appointees eager to stay on the government payroll often wriggle their way into secure civil service positions — despite the differing political beliefs of the White House’s new occupant.

But because the central objective of burrowing is for political appointees to fly under the radar while Washington changes hands, it’s often hard to tell when the practice is actually occurring. Consider the case of Kathie Olsen, who just made a very curious move: going from the No. 2 post at the National Science Foundation to the far less influential job of “senior advisor” in the NSF’s Office of Information and Resource Management.

As Science magazine observes, Olsen had already submitted her resignation to the Obama administration and would have been out the door had she not slipped into her new, seemingly secure post. And this isn’t just any Bush appointee avoiding the need to find a new job — Olsen was at the forefront of the former president’s systematic denial of the human causes of climate change.

Before becoming deputy director of the NSF, Olsen was the associate director of the Bush White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her immediate boss there was Bush science adviser John Marburger, who was implicated in the 2007 censorship of congressional testimony that would have publicly illustrated the human health risks of the warming climate.

Remember Phil Cooney, the once and future oil industry representative who habitually erased from government documents any evidence that fossil fuels cause global warming? It was Olsen who first handed Cooney a debunked, Big-Oil-underwritten study that purported to disprove the existence of climate change. As Rolling Stone reported in 2007: …

Continue reading.

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26 January 2009 at 7:46 am

Did Thain earn that bonus?

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Greg Palast writes:

John Thain is the guy that looks like a Clark Kent doll you saw grinning from page one of your paper Friday morning. Thain was just fired by Bank of America because the square-jawed executive demanded a $30 million bonus after losing $5 billion in just three months at the bank’s Merrill Lynch unit. In addition, Thain spent over a million dollars redecorating his office while, at the same time, the U.S. Treasury was bailing out his company with billions in aid. Thain’s office re-do included the installation of a $35,000 toilet bowl.
Thain was robbed. He shouldn’t have been fired; he should have gotten a $60 million bonus — and Obama should immediately hire him as Secretary of the Treasury in place of that tax-dodging lightweight that’s been nominated, Timothy Geithner.

Here’s the facts, ma’am.

Thain was CEO of Merrill Lynch, the big brokerage firm. On a good day, Merrill is worth zero. A week before it was about to go out of business, Thain sold this busted bag of financial feces to Bank of America for $50 BILLION.

I’d say that’s worth a bonus.

But it gets better…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 7:42 am

Posted in Business, Congress, Government

Tagged with

Happy Shrimp for Lunar New Year

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Today begins the Chinese celebrations of the (lunar) new year, and Simply Recipes has a very tasty looking traditional recipe for Happy Shrimp Stir Fry. Bonus: the recipe looks extremely easy. And take a look:

jaden-happy-shrimp

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26 January 2009 at 7:24 am

Timothy Geithner’s criticism of China

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James Fallows, who’s been living in China for the last few years, comments on Geithner’s China remarks. Fallows begins:

Here’s what increasingly bothers me about the recent flap over Timothy Geithner’s “currency manipulation” criticism of China. I am showing this in “extract” format below not because I am quoting someone else because I am quoting the thought that has been running around in my head:

Because Barack Obama has been so knowing-sounding and aware of complexities on so many issues, it’s natural to assume that he and his team will display the same sophistication when it comes to dealing with China. But in reality, virtually nothing that the President or his appointees has said or done on the subject has shown much sophistication at all. I made this point at various stages in the campaign. But as time goes on you inevitably start wondering: If these people are so smart, when will they get around to acting smart about the country whose cooperation they need more than any other’s to avoid true financial catastrophe?

Now, the reasoning behind that assertion: …

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26 January 2009 at 7:19 am

Megs sets out to look for adventures

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Megs seeks adventure

She failed to find adventure immediately, but seemed happy to settle for a nap in her hammock.

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 7:15 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Vanilla cream morning

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Vanilla cream morning

The Chubby 1 Best developed a terrific and fragrant lather from Honeybee Spa’s Vanilla Cream, and the Slant Bar smoothed away all stubble efficiently. Musgo Real aftershave, and now a cup of coffee. Good morning!

Written by Leisureguy

26 January 2009 at 7:13 am

Posted in Shaving

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