Later On

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

Archive for February 24th, 2009

Shallot salt report

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I just opened my latest order from Penzey’s, and you’re never gonna guess what they packed as a sample: shallot salt! It’s superfine and super tasty and struck me as an ideal popcorn salt. I’ll give it a try tomorrow.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Wow! $900 million is close to serious money

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From the NY Times today:

The Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month, administration officials said Monday.

In an early sign of how the administration plans to deal with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, an official said that the aid would not go to Hamas but that it would be funneled through nongovernmental organizations.

By seeking to aid Gazans but not Hamas, the administration is following the lead of the Bush administration, which sent money to Gaza through nongovernmental organizations. In December, it said it would give $85 million to the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and the Bush administration refused to have any formal dealings with the group.

The aid will include new spending as well as money already set aside for the Palestinian Authority, and it will be formally announced next week when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travels to a Palestinian donors’ conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, the officials said. …

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 1:39 pm

Jerk Sauce

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The Eldest just sent me this recipe, saying it sounded interesting:

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 2 tablespoons Pickapeppa sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated peeled ginger
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Pulse the vinegar, rum, brown sugar, scallions, garlic, chile, Pickapeppa sauce, ginger, allspice, and pumpkin pie spice in a food processor to make a slightly chunky sauce. Heat the oil in a medium skillet, add the sauce, and cook, stirring, until the oil is absorbed and the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Cool.

It does, doesn’t it? I’m just finishing up a new batch of pepper sauce for the Canadian family and had thought about adding some ground cloves (before I read the above). Here’s what I did use:

  • 1/2 cup lime juice, with lime zest in it as well
  • 1/2 cup dark rum (Meyers)
  • 1/4 cup sea salt
  • 1 handful raisins
  • 14 red Fresno peppers, stems cut off (SCO)
  • 2 dried chipotle peppers SCO
  • 2 dried ancho peppers SCO
  • sherry vinegar and white wine vinegar to make a quart, about half and half
  • dash of soy sauce

Blend, simmer 20 minutes, cool 30 minutes, blend again, and bottle.

It came out a little too thin, so next time I’ll use 20 red Fresno peppers. I also need to make a total volume of about 4.5 cups since I fill the 8 oz bottles very full, so probably getting 9 oz or more into the bottle.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

AIPAC Prosecution has a setback

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bmaz at Emptywheel:

Most of you know about the AIPAC criminal case that has been simmering below the main media radar since it was filed in May, 2005. In a nutshell, the indictment alleges that Lawrence Franklin, a DOD/Pentagon official working in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s office (with everyone’s favorite public servants Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz), passed top-secret information relating to Iran and Iraq to Steve Rosen, AIPAC’s then-policy director, and Keith Weissman, a senior Iran analyst with AIPAC. Franklin pled guilty and was sentenced in January, 2006.

In the three, count ’em three, years since Franklin’s plea, the government has pressed on with the prosecution of Franklin’s co-defendants Rosen and Weissman. That may be nearing an end though with a critical decision issued by the trial judge in the case, Judge Thomas Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) on February 17. The opinion is not only important for the AIPAC case, but for many, if not all, of the secrecy cases that are currently in play in Federal courts across the country.

A little background is in order. The defendants, Rosen and Weissman, sought to introduce the expert testimony of Bill Leonard, a retired United States government official with substantial experience and expertise in the field of information classification, as part of their defense at trial. Leonard, who retired last year, was formerly the director of the government’s Information Security Office responsible for oversight of the entire U.S. classification system.

Leonard, from all appearances, was willing to testify, however, fearing prosecution himself, he insisted on a subpoena and then personally moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that his testimony might be barred by 18 USC 207, which restricts the activities of former executive branch officers and employees. The government, not wanting to be crucified by their own former guy, through the Department of Justice joined in Leonard’s motion to quash. Defendants Rosen and Weissman’s attorneys, obviously, opposed the motion to quash and argued that section 207 did not preclude Leonard’s testimony, and asserted that the court should enter an order directing Leonard to give said testimony at trial. Effectively, Leonard was seeking cover from the court so he could not get jerked around by the government for being wiling to testify. Very smart move by a very smart man, especially since the Bush/Cheney DOJ prosecutors were threatening that he might be liable for up to a year in jail if he testified.

Judge Ellis roundly slapped down the government and gave Leonard the court’s blessing and order to testify as requested by the defense. But the more interesting, by far, portion of Ellis’s opinion is contained in the discussion portion. From the February 17 memorandum opinion: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 11:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Why the secrecy about Guantánamo?

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Daphne Eviatar asks the question in the Washington Independent:

The Pentagon’s report yesterday that the conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp meet all the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, was, not surprisingly, met with a mixture of skepticism and downright hostility.

Adm. Patrick Walsh reported that based on more than 100 interviews over 13 days, inspections of all the camps at the prison and observation of daily operations, “it was apparent that the chain of command responsible for the detention mission at Guantanamo consistently seeks to go beyond the minimum standard in complying with Common Article 3,” he said. “We found that the chain of command endeavors to enhance conditions in a manner as humane as possible, consistent with security concerns.”

Advocates for the detainees such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, however, were not convinced.

“The men at Guantanamo are deteriorating at a rapid rate due to the harsh conditions that continue to this day, despite a few cosmetic changes to their routines,” said CCR staff attorney Pardiss Kebriaei in a statement released yesterday. “They are caught in a vicious cycle where their isolation causes psychological damage, which causes them to act out, which brings more abuse and keeps them in isolation. If they are going to be there another year or even another day, this has to end.” The advocates have released their own report on conditions at the prison.

Of course, both things could be true. Men who are abducted, beaten, hooded, flown across the world and thrown in a rudimentary cage-like prison, subjected to “extreme” interrogations and held for up to seven years without charge aren’t likely to be all that cooperative after a while. Their captors may well believe that isolating the men will ensure security, even if it contributes to destroying the prisoners’ mental health. And whether isolation, force-feeding someone who’s trying to starve himself to death, or not letting a prisoner out in the sunshine violates the Geneva Conventions’ ban on “humiliating and degrading treatment” is arguable.

But that seems to be missing the point. The controversy over conditions at Guantanamo really raises two key questions.

First, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 11:30 am

There is NO Social Security Crisis

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Over and over it’s necessary to demonstrate that Social Security is not in crisis. It’s good as it is until 2040, and after that it can continue to work with minor adjustments. Paul Waldman in the American Prospect:

There’s a time-tested way to curry favor with the permanent Washington establishment. That is, having David Broder praise you for being "responsible" and being considered a Very Serious Person by the Sunday shows. All you need to do is proclaim ominously that entitlements are a ticking time bomb, a looming storm on the horizon, a hungry beast ready to devour our nation’s finances, or whatever metaphor you find most frightening. The more unpleasant the solution you propose — tax increases are good, but benefit cuts are even better — the more the Beltway Brahmins will approve.

So yesterday’s White House entitlement’s summit, which appeared, when announced, to repeat the conventional doomsday wisdom, wasn’t too much of a surprise. And indeed, at various times over the past couple of years, President Obama has seemed to suggest that he will be addressing this thorny long-term problem, leading to no end of heartburn among progressives who view Social Security as one of the cornerstones of the American social contract.

But as he has made clear, Obama is not unsheathing his blade to begin hacking away at our government pensions. Nonetheless, because conservatives will continue to conflate issues that should be separate and to further the assault on Social Security launched at the program’s enactment in 1935, it’s an opportune time to get a few things straight. The most important is this: There is no Social Security crisis.

If there is an "entitlement crisis," it’s a crisis in Medicare. But as Ezra Klein explains so well, there really isn’t a Medicare crisis, either. Medicare’s funding problem is a problem of the ballooning cost of health care in general; fix that, and you’ve fixed the Medicare problem.

The myth of the "Social Security crisis" is so pervasive and so pernicious that it’s necessary for those of us who actually believe in the program to respond to the crisis-mongers whenever we can. And they’ve got muscle — witness the recent round of full-page newspaper ads featuring a looming iceberg and screaming headlines about the $56 TRILLION!!! we’re supposedly in the red (these are funded by hedge-fund billionaire Pete Peterson, the Daddy Warbucks of the entitlement fear factory). So let’s examine what the crisis-mongers say, and what the truth is.

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 11:27 am

Social influence on reactions to drugs

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In this case, drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, Ecstasy, and the like. From Mind Hacks:

BBC Radio 4’s eclectic sociology programme Thinking Allowed recently had a fascinating discussion on how drug users learn to experience the effects of a substance and how society has an influence on the personal drug experience.

We tend to assume that drugs have fairly fixed effects but sociology has a long history of studying how users learn to manage and steer the effects of particular drugs.

The programme touches on Becker’s classic study [pdf] ‘Becoming a Marihuana User’ where he charted the informal social initiation into dope smoking in 1960s America.

Importantly, it wasn’t just the rituals that accompanied the smoking that were socially acquired, but also knowledge about what ‘counted’ as the enjoyable aspects of the drug, how to steer the effects and so on.

This is known to be particularly important for psychedelic drugs, with the so-called set and setting having a big influence over the likelihood of having an enjoyable trip.

However, the same applies to drugs such as alcohol, where the effects of having a drink varies between cultures, largely ascribed to the beliefs each culture instills about what are the likely and permissible effects of drunkenness.

This was tackled in another sociological classic, David Mandelbaum’s 1965 paper ‘Alcohol and culture’ where he described the different effects of alcohol in cultures around the world.

However, if you’re looking for a punchy overview of the field, the Social Issues Research Centre has a great page on the social and cultural aspects of drinking which I highly recommend.

These situation or culture specific effects have been tackled on the cognitive and neural level, but unfortunately I can’t access one of the key papers in the field [update: pdf], although the abstract has the main punchline:

In situations involving inter-neuronal events, these processes of adjustment may take the form of learned modifications that can be re-evoked on future occasions by events that co-occurred at the time of the original modifications.

Sensitization, defined as the enhancement of a directly elicited drug effect, though adaptive, appears to represent facilitation within a system, making the effect easier to elicit on future occasions.

Like tolerance, sensitization of a drug effect can become linked to the events that co-occurred when the effect was originally elicited, making it possible for sensitization to come under selective event control.

In other words, the article argues that learned associations have an effect on the overall experience of repeat drug taking. Of course culture can create learned associations, but changing the context can also mean certain associations are no longer triggered, leaving a great deal of room for situation specific effects.

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter dangermusic for finding a copy of the ‘key paper’ noted above. I’ve added a link into the text above or you can just grab it here as a pdf.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 February 2009 at 11:23 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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