Later On

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

Archive for February 17th, 2009

Wonder why the Palestinians are so angry at Israel?

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Here’s an example:

Plans to expand a West Bank settlement by up to 2,500 homes drew Palestinian condemnation Monday and presented an early test for President Obama, whose Middle East envoy is well known for opposing such construction.

Israel opened the way for possible expansion of the Efrat settlement by taking control of a nearby West Bank hill of 423 acres. The rocky plot was recently designated state land and is part of a master plan that envisions the settlement growing from 9,000 to 30,000 residents, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi said.

Israeli officials said any new construction would require several years of planning and various stages of approval.

The outgoing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said it reserves the right to keep building in large West Bank settlement blocs that it wants to annex as part of a final peace deal with the Palestinians. Efrat is in one of those blocs. Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians envision the territory as part of their future state. …

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Interesting post on healthcare

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Ezra Klein notes:

Disclaimer: The following theory is speculative, not reported. But I’m rather curious whether Tom Daschle’s ouster could have been good for Ron Wyden’s health plan. That’s not to set up illusory tension between the two men: They were famous friends, and I was told that Wyden, like many other senators, was devastated by Daschle’s unexpected withdrawal.

But without Daschle acting as the administration’s central health policy voice, other players are, I’m told, stepping into a more significant role. And some of them are more sympathetic to Wyden’s approach. Peter Orszag, for one. Orszag comes at health care from a cost containment perspective. That’s different than most health care reformers, who care first for covering the uninsured and only then for cutting costs. And it’s a sensibility that has given him some demonstrated affinity for the virtues of Wyden’s plan.

Under Orszag, the CBO was uncommonly helpful to Wyden, partnering for the first time with the Joint Committee on Taxation to produce a "preliminary analysis" of his Health Americans Act. Generally, they score legislation at the point of passage. But this time, in order to help Wyden’s efforts to attract cosponsors, they gave it a "preliminary" score that allowed Wyden to argue that CBO had judged his plan as saving money. Which he did. Often. "The proposal," CBO said, "would tend to become more than self-financing and thereby would reduce future budget deficits or increase future surpluses." On the day the analysis was released, …

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 12:00 pm

Excellent post on the F-22

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Matthew Yglesias has an excellent post and excellent links for more on this project. Well worth reading. His concluding paragraph should be noted:

The whole F-22 situation, one should note, relates to the broader institutional pathologies of the Air Force. Fighter pilots and former fighter pilots have a tight grip on the Air Force’s top ranks and institutional self-conception. But barring a bad deterioration in the geopolitical situation, the practical future of the Air Force will increasingly be the use of UAVs for surveillance and tactical strikes.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 11:54 am

Barry Schwartz on our loss of wisdom

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:41 am

Posted in Daily life

Bristol Palin speaks out against abstinence education

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Email from the Center for American Progress:

In 2006, as an Alaska gubernatorial candidate, Sarah Palin filled out a questionnaire emphasizing her support for abstinence education. She wrote that "the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support." Palin’s hard-right views came under fire when it was revealed that her then-17-year-old daughter Bristol was pregnant. In her first public interview, Bristol told Fox News’s chief Palin cheerleader Greta Van Susteren last night that abstinence is "not realistic at all." "I think abstinence is, like — like, the — I don’t know how to put it — like, the main — everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all," Bristol said. When Van Susteren asked Gov. Palin about abstinence later, she seemed similarly dismissive of her former views, admitting, "It sounds naive." Bristol added, "I just — I hope that people learn from my story and just, like, I don’t know, prevent teen pregnancy, I guess." Despite its record of failure, conservatives continue to beat the drum for abstinence-only education. Last week, Republicans were angry that "essential" abstinence education funding had been "eliminated" from President Obama’s recovery and reinvestment bill. A Republican report on the bill expressed its concern "that while abstinence education receives only $176 million annually…contraceptives and family planning already receive $1.6 billion of federal funding."

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, GOP

25 best blogs of 2009

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TIME magazine has picked its selection of the 25 best blogs of 2009. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:20 am

Posted in Daily life

Lamb bacon

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:16 am

At least those peanuts were organic

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From Obama Foodorama:

Much of the peanut butter e mail we’ve received recently is from worried readers who want to know if the organic peanut butter they’re eating is “safe.” Well, “safe” is a moving target, if the salmonella peanut butter congressional hearing we attended last week is any indication. And though we write about food safety almost daily, we’re newly impressed at the miracle that America has been collectively experiencing—the miracle that the death rate from food borne disease outbreaks in the US is “only” at around 5,000 people annually. Because seriously… our elected officials simply are not doing anything proactive about food safety in any kind of reasoned, science-based and expeditious way, despite the recent pronouncements of the lovely Rep. Rosa DeLauro and our charming, eating-disordered Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

So peanut butter lovers, watch out, because here’s what’s buried in the bankruptcy filings of Peanut Corporation of America: The Texas branch of the company was Certified Organic. Correct, Certified Organic by the USDA…

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, and it’s interesting and informative.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:11 am

Justice Department report

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Email from the Center for American Progress:

A soon to be completed internal Justice Department report condemns the legal reasoning offered by Bush administration lawyers to justify waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics. The report is the culmination of over a year of research led by H. Marshall Jarrett of the DOJ’s watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), aiming to determine if the Bush team’s legal advice permitting unprecedented interrogation methods "was consistent with the professional standards that apply to Department of Justice attorneys." It focuses primarily on the legal memos authorizing torture written by three top Bush officials: Jay Bybee, John Yoo, and Steven Bradbury. A draft of the report submitted in the final weeks of the Bush administration prompted the sharp criticism of then-attorney general Michael Mukasey. "OPR is not competent to judge [the opinions by Justice attorneys]," he said. "They’re not constitutional scholars." Attorney General Eric Holder will have to decide whether or not to approve the findings and make the report public. But Holder’s expected response to this report remains unclear. During his confirmation hearing, he explicitly stated that waterboarding is torture, but he has declined to say whether he will pursue charges against Bush officials who authorized the the technique.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:07 am

Portions uncontrolled

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Interesting post from Marion Nestle at Food Politics:

Brian Wansink’s latest paper is an analysis of the increasing size of servings and meals through multiple editions of the classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking. These, he finds, have increased by 35%.  My former doctoral student, Lisa Young, looked at how portion sizes began to balloon in the early 1980s in parallel with increasing calories in the food supply (from 3,200 to 3,900 per day per capita) and with rising rates of obesity.  She showed how readers using identical recipes were instructed to make far fewer cookies in newer editions of the Joy of Cooking and wrote about this phenomenon in her book, The Portion Teller.

I wrote about this last year in a letter to the New York Times: “To the Editor: I could not resist looking up the calories for the gorgeous chocolate chip cookie recipe given on July 9. That recipe calls for about 4 pounds of ingredients to make only 18 cookies, each of which runs 500 calories — one quarter of the amount needed by most people for an entire day. I’d call one of those cookies lunch or share it with three friends. By the way, a similar recipe in the 1975 “Joy of Cooking” made 45 cookies with just half the ingredients. These would be just under 100 calories each.”

The point of all this: larger portions have more calories! And you need no further explanation for rising rates of obesity.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Shrimp in green sauce

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I bought a pound of lovely wild shrimp yesterday, and I’ll cook them for lunch/dinner (cook once, two meals) using this recipe from Mark Bittman, cutting it half, more or less:

Shrimp in Green Sauce

Green sauce means different things to different cooks, but I like the Iberian interpretation best. It draws its color from parsley and its impact from chilies, scallions, and, mostly, garlic. I find it difficult to use too much garlic here; my recipe calls for six cloves, but twice that amount is not unreasonable.

Yield 4 servings; Time 30 minutes

You’ll make far more broth than you need here, and it’s worth saving, because it’s wonderful as part of the liquid used when making risotto or fish stews.

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, leaves and thin stems
  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 dried chilies or a few pinches of crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup stock (shrimp, fish or chicken) or white wine or water.

1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine garlic and oil in a small food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add scallions and parsley and pulse until mixture is minced. Toss with shrimp, salt, pepper and chilies.

2. Put shrimp in a large roasting pan. Add liquid and place pan in oven. Roast, stirring once, until mixture is bubbly and hot, and shrimp all pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve.

UPDATE: Truthfully? Not worth the effort. Take the same sauce ingredients, chop everything finely, sauté briefly in a little olive oil, add shrimp, sauté each side briefly, add stock, cover, and simmer till done. That would be as tasty and a lot less effort (and with no dirty food processor to clean).

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 9:54 am

Roasting note

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Last night I enjoyed a sort of ad-hoc dinner—a smoked trout fillet broken up in a little bowl with lemon juice squeezed generously over it, roasted Brussels sprouts tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, and ground chile de arbol, and pears with goat cheese for dessert.

I suspected that the Brussels sprouts would cook much faster than usual because I was using a baking sheet (sides 3/4" high) instead of a roasting pan (sides 2 1/2" high). I figured that the oven air at 400º would cool after transferring heat to the sprouts and thus pool in the roasting pan (cool air heavier than hot), whereas on the baking sheet, with low sides, the cooled air would just slide off into the bottom of the oven. And indeed the sprouts were well done at 35 minutes instead of 45 minutes. So now I’m roasting veggies on the baking sheet.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 9:48 am

Obama stalls decision on Rove’s testifying

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You’d think that they would have worked out some ground rules about these investigations ahead of time. Marisa Taylor and Margaret Talev of McClatchy report:

The Obama administration is asking for two more weeks to weigh in on whether former Bush White House officials must testify before Congress about the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The request comes after an attorney for former Bush political adviser Karl Rove asked the White House to referee his clash with the House of Representatives over Bush’s claim of executive privilege in the matter.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., has issued a subpoena requiring Rove to appear next Monday to testify about the firings and other allegations that the Bush White House let politics interfere with the operations of the Justice Department.

Michael Hertz, the acting assistant attorney general, said in a court brief released Monday that negotiations were ongoing.

"The inauguration of a new president has altered the dynamics of this case and created new opportunities for compromise rather than litigation," Hertz wrote in the brief dated Friday. "At the same time, there is now an additional interested party — the former president — whose views should be considered."

Members of the committee have been seeking the testimony of Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers since the spring of 2007.

Last July, a federal judge in Washington agreed with the House that Miers didn’t have the right to ignore a subpoena from Congress. District Judge John D. Bates’ 93-page ruling was considered a significant setback for the administration, which had asserted a broad executive-privilege claim that would have protected Miers from appearing.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later delayed the effect of the ruling until after the November elections.

Since then, Rove’s attorney has indicated that …

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Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 9:06 am

Bad DEA decision

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Marisa Taylor reporting for McClatchy:

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration spent more than $123,000 to charter a private jet to fly to Bogota, Colombia, last fall instead of taking one of the agency’s 106 planes.

The DEA paid a contractor an additional $5,380 to arrange Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart’s trip last Oct. 28-30 with an outside company.

The DEA scheduled the trip as the nation was reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades and the national debt was climbing toward $10 trillion. Three weeks later, lawmakers slammed chief executive officers from three automakers for flying to Washington in private jets as Congress debated whether to bail out the auto industry.

William Brown, the special agent in charge of the DEA’s aviation division, said he’d asked DEA contractor L-3 Communications to arrange the flight because the plane that ordinarily would’ve flown the administrator was grounded for scheduled maintenance. He said he didn’t question the cost at the time.

"Was it excessive? I guess you could look at it that way, but I don’t think so," he said.

"I understand the concern about costs for these things. But we do our best to keep costs under control. I think the DEA is very conservative compared to other agencies."

Last fiscal year, the DEA’s aviation division spent about $76 million. The agency flies its planes for law enforcement operations and drug surveillance throughout the nation and the world, according to the DEA’s Web site…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 9:03 am

Morning report

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allvarietiesnames

Another cold, dark, rainy day—and with nickel-sized hail in the Santa Cruz mountains. I’m staying indoors, though I’m tempted to make another pear run. The pears at Whole Foods are remarkable right now: perfectly firm and ripe, juicy and delicious. I have avoided pears for some reason, but I can’t get enough of these: Bosc and Red Anjou pears are on the dining room table for snacks, but not enough of them. I have various kinds of goat cheese (goat gouda, goat cheddar, bucheron) to have with them. Man! they’re tasty. I originally bought a couple of Bosc pears to poach, but before I got around to that, I ate them. That’s what started it. More useful pear info here (including recipes).

The Wife will try to find tamarind concentrate while she’s up in Palo Alto today. If that fails, I’ll just order it. I’m eager to make the Worcestershire sauce, especially since I can then tinker with the recipe. I’m already thinking that one anchovy is certainly not enough.

I am actually wanting to start walking again—too much sedentary gets old, I guess. Won’t be walking today, though.

A reader wrote to me, commenting that the brew time for White Tea on the Zarafina seems just too long. I checked, and he’s absolutely right. So I’m writing to Zarafina today.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 8:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, 1924-2007

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Perhaps better known under his stage name Louie Bellson, he was one of the great jazz drummers and said that Duke Ellington called him the greatest drummer in the world. The NY Times has a good obituary, from which this extract:

Mr. Bellson was a dynamic, spectacular soloist known for his use of two bass drums, a technique he pioneered as a teenager and developed from a novelty into a serious mode of expression. But he wasn’t strictly a solo exhibitionist: his attentiveness and precision made him a highly successful sideman, and he was capable of extreme subtlety.

He always proudly maintained that Duke Ellington had called him the world’s greatest drummer. During his tenure with the Ellington band in the early 1950s he was often granted a long drum feature, which he attacked with relish and poise. He also wrote compositions like “The Hawk Talks” and “Skin Deep” that were regularly performed by the band. Later, in 1965, he participated in Ellington’s first Sacred Concert.

Before joining Ellington’s band, Mr. Bellson logged time with the top-flight orchestras of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Harry James. He later worked briefly with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald. As a regular on the impresario Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic tours in the 1950s, he appeared in combos with all-stars like the trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gillespie, the alto saxophonist Benny Carter, and the pianists Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.

In 1952 Mr. Bellson married the singer and actress Pearl Bailey, who had a Top 10 hit that year with her version of “Takes Two to Tango.” He became her bandleader, and their high visibility was significant at a time when interracial relationships were far from common.

Here’s an example of his work:

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 8:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz

Nancy Boy

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Nancy Boy products (“Tested on boyfriends, not animals”) are excellent overall, and the shaving cream is particularly nice. They now have two fragrances, but I haven’t yet tried the newer. Their products even serve as a mental-health measure: the more a guy feels uncomfortable about using a product with the brand name “Nancy Boy” and the more he feels called upon to make jokes about it, the more it indicates that he could benefit from therapeutic counseling to improve his acceptance of human diversity.

That being said, I got yet another excellent shave. Nancy Boy shaving cream is not really a lathering shaving cream, though I do apply it with a brush and work up a little lather. It has a great fragrance and seems quite kind to one’s skin. The Simpsons Duke 3 Best did a fine job, as did the Classic 1904, using a Treet Classic blade. New York seemed a suitably debonair aftershave.

Great start to the day, and I already have a cup of tea beside me.

Written by Leisureguy

17 February 2009 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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