Later On

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

Archive for June 10th, 2009

Republican Congressman working to undermine US internationally

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Steven Benen in Political Animal:

We talked yesterday about Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who claims to have met with officials in China, encouraging them not to believe the U.S. government when it comes to budget issues. It was, to my mind, one of the more striking examples in recent memory of an American lawmaker trying to undermine the United States on the international stage.

Last night, Kirk sat down for an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. For reasons that I’ll never understand, Van Susteren not only failed to ask the Illinois Republican about his efforts to undercut the U.S. with China, but actually encouraged his efforts.

The interview, in a nutshell, was a discussion about Chinese fears. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said China has full confidence in the U.S. Kirk claims a) that Chinese officials are more afraid than Geithner realizes; and b) he warned them that U.S. budget figures are not at all credible. He told Van Susteren:

“[P]rivately, the key concern [among Chinese officials] is, Should we buy any more U.S. debt? And over time, what’s happening is China is beginning to cancel Congress’s credit card, doesn’t want to lend much more money to the United States, and especially is worried about the Fed’s policy of printing money to buy new debt.”

Now, if China were to decide to stop lending us money, the consequences would be severe. Kirk knows this. It’s why it’s remarkable that he went to China to directly encourage them not to trust the United States. If Hugo Chavez were to tell the Chinese that Americans are untrustworthy, I’d understand. If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad encouraged China to question Americans’ word, that would hardly be a surprise.

But Mark Kirk is an American elected official. He told Fox News last night that China is “worried,” but he neglected to mention that he encouraged the Chinese to be more worried about the reliability of the United States government.

Greta Van Susteren added, “”[I]f our credit is so lousy, if this is getting so grim, why in the world would the Chinese want to pick up any more of our debt? I wouldn’t!”

I’m generally reluctant to ask questions like these, but I can’t help but wonder — whose side are these guys on?

Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 11:24 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Israel to meddle in US elections?

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This strikes me as overreaching. Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent:

Via Robert Farley, Yossi Peled, an Israeli cabinet minister, proposes that Israel stop buying U.S. military equipment if the Obama administration continues to insist on a settlement freeze and negotiations with Iran. The Jerusalem Post reports that Peled wrote his cabinet colleagues an 11-page letter lamenting President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world:

“Obama’s ascendance represents a turning point in America’s approach to the region, especially to Israel,” he wrote in the letter. “The new administration believes that in order to fight terror, guarantee stability and withdraw from Iraq, a new diplomatic slant is needed involving drastic steps to pacify the Muslim world and the adoption of a more balanced approach to Israel, including intensive pressure to stop building in settlements, remove outposts and advance the formation of a Palestinian state.”

This, for instance, won’t go over well:

Peled recommends intervening in American congressional races to weaken Obama and asking American Jewish donors not to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates. He predicted that this would result in Democratic candidates pressuring Obama to become more pro-Israel.

Peled called for the formation of a new body intended to influence American public opinion. The groups he suggests courting include Hispanic Americans and Labor unions in industries that benefit from Israeli military acquisitions.

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 11:22 am

Slow-smoking whole hogs over hardwood coals

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I would love to visit this place, based John Edge’s report in the NY Times:

AT 3:45 on a recent Saturday morning — as frogs croaked into the void and a mufflerless pickup downshifted onto Cow Head Road — Rodney Scott, 37, pitmaster here at Scott’s Variety Store and Bar-B-Q, gave the order.

“Flip the pigs,” he said, his voice calm and measured. “Let’s go. Some char is good — too much and we lose him.”

A. J. Shaw, a college student home for the summer, and Thomas Lewis, a onetime farmer, left their seats and joined Mr. Scott in the pit room, a rectangular shed dominated by two waist-high concrete banks, burnished ebony by wood smoke, ash and grease.

Ten butterflied pig carcasses — taut bellies gone slack, pink flesh gone cordovan — were in the pits when Mr. Lewis reached for the sheet of wire fencing on which one of the pigs had been roasting since 4 the previous afternoon. In lockstep, Mr. Shaw topped that same pig with a second sheet of fencing, reached his gloved fingers into the netting, and grabbed hold.

As the men struggled, the 150 pounds of dead weight torqued the makeshift wire cage. When the carcass landed, skin-side down, on the metal grid of a recently fired pit, skeins of grease trailed down the pig’s flanks, and the smoldering oak and hickory coals beneath hissed and flared.

“I cooked my first one when I was 11,” Mr. Scott said, as he seasoned the pig with lashings of salt, red pepper, black pepper and Accent, a flavor enhancer made with MSG.

Working a long-handled mop, he drenched the pig in a vinegar sauce of a similar peppery composition. “You’ve got to always be on point, when you’re cooking this way,” he said.

Cooking this way isn’t done much any more. This place, a couple of hours northwest of Charleston, as well as the Scott family approach to slow-smoking whole hogs over hardwood coals, appears to be vestigial…

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Rep. Louise Slaughter on the FOIA

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I’m happy to report that Rep. Slaughter’s spouse is a reader of this blog—and Rep. Slaughter does excellent work in the House. Glenn Greenwald interviewed her:

In my interview with her yesterday, Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter — the Chairwoman of the powerful House Rules Committee — explained her vehement opposition to the Graham/Lieberman amendment by making a critical point:   the Freedom of Information Act, which Graham/Lieberman is designed to gut, was one of the most significant pieces of Democratic Party legislation in the last 50 years, and is as central to the Democratic Party’s political value system as any other single program.  This is how she put it:

I was startled to see [the amendment] in the bill.  I don’t want to suspend FOIA for anything, certainly not for political expediency . . . . [FOIA] was a Democrat program under Lyndon Johnson for transparency in government and we should never do anything to interfere with that . . . . For us to go to this extraordinary length to interrupt a court case – and to do something that is offensive to me on the face of it, as well as a number of my colleagues — doesn’t make any sense. . . .

There is a strong principle involved here in transparency. Why would we buckle under to Lieberman and Graham anyway? I think [changing FOIA to get around court decisions] would be deplorable and be a terrible precedent – and unlike the Democratic Party that I know and love.  FOIA is as sacred as Social Security and Medicare.

For Democrats, "FOIA is as sacred as Social Security and Medicare."  If Democratic members of Congress aren’t willing to defend the decades-old transparency law which they long championed — all because a Democratic President now wants the power to override it and two neoconservative Senators are spewing the rankest fear-mongering in order to compel its abandonment — then what will they defend?  Wasn’t one of the main criticisms of the GOP Congress that they abdicated their duties to impose checks on the GOP President and instead capitulated to all of his demands, all because they were members of the same party?  Why would the Democratic Congress want to replicate that behavior and allow a Democratic President to constrict their own long-standing transparency law?

This, of course, has long been the primary criticism of the Democratic Party establishment: …

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:31 am

Slowly closing Gitmo

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From the Center for American Progress:

Yesterday, Guantanamo Bay detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was transferred from the military base in Cuba to Federal District Court in Manhattan, where he will stand trial "on charges that he participated in a conspiracy that included the bombings in 1998 of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania." Discussing his case last month, President Obama hit back at critics who are trying to block the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to U.S. soil. "Preventing this detainee from coming to our shores would prevent his trial and conviction," Obama said. "And after over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served, and that is what we intend to do." Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, "The Justice Department has a long history of securely detaining and successfully prosecuting terror suspects through the criminal justice system, and we will bring that experience to bear in seeking justice in this case." Ghailani’s transfer and trial is not only a reminder of the power of the rule of law and the American judicial system; it is also a crucial step toward the ultimate shuttering of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:27 am

Peak coal

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From the Center for American Progress:

The popular characterization of the United States as the "Saudi Arabia of the world when it comes to coal" is "widely overconfident," according to The Wall Street Journal. The estimate by the Energy Information Administration that the U.S. has a 240-year supply of coal was established in 1974, but is now exceedingly outdated. In a study completed last year by the U.S. Geological Society (USGS) of Gillette, WY — an area of the country that supplies one-third of the nation’s coal — less then 6 percent of the coal in the biggest beds can be mined profitably. Brenda Pierce, the head of the USGS team that conducted the survey says, "We really can’t say we’re the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore."

"Peak coal" theorists also warn that the current level of production may prove unsustainable and creates a false sense of security. The characterization of the U.S. as the Saudi Arabia of coal is not new. During the oil crises of the 1970s, politicians used domestic coal as an alternative for oil controlled by OPEC. As the AP reported on July 31, 1979, President Jimmy Carter said, "America is the Saudi Arabia of coal, blessed with enormous reserves. … I would rather burn one ton of Kentucky coal than see our nation become dependent by burning another barrel of OPEC oil." The same slogan lives on today.

The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson notes that "the industry-promoted metaphor" has been adopted by Republican and Democratic politicians alike to justify a continued dependence on this dirty and dangerous fuel, instead of true energy reform. "We are the Saudi Arabia of coal," President Obama said last year on the campaign trail. Steve Forbes, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), and Sen. John Tester (D-MT) are among the many conservatives who are guilty of utilizing the slogan. Johnson adds, "It’s troubling that politicians find the comparison to Saudi Arabia — a dictatorial monarchy that is a breeding ground for religious extremism — so appealing. However, there may be a more apt comparison: Saudi Arabia has done the least to tackle the problem of global warming, with the United States close behind."

Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:25 am

How other nations handle terrorists

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Some other nations follow US ideals in their treatment of terrorists, though the US curiously does not. Glenn Greenwald:

While the U.S. continues to debate whether it must imprison accused terrorists without charges or trial — and now even refuses to say whether it will release those who are given trials but then acquitted — numerous other countries are, with their actions, adhering to the values and principles which we, with words, righteously claim to embody:

From The Associated Press today:

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish appeals court has upheld a verdict sentencing six al-Qaida militants to life in prison for the deadly 2003 bombings in Istanbul.

The court in Ankara says Wednesday it has approved the life sentence for the six of the 74 suspects for their involvement in the attacks on Nov. 15 and Nov. 20, 2003. Those bombings killed 58 people and targeted two synagogues, the British consulate and a London-based bank. . . .

The court has sentenced 33 other suspects to between three years and nine months in prison to 18 years. It acquitted 15 of them, citing lack of evidence, while ordering a retrial for the rest, requesting further investigation.

From The New York Times yesterday:

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:20 am

Poll: Global warming

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Just curious:

Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 9:04 am

Global warming has already changed oceans

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Les Blumenthal of McClatchy:

In Washington state, oysters in some areas haven’t reproduced for four years, and preliminary evidence suggests that the increasing acidity of the ocean could be the cause. In the Gulf of Mexico, falling oxygen levels in the water have forced shrimp to migrate elsewhere.

Though two marine-derived drugs, one for treating cancer and the other for pain control, are on the market and 25 others are under development, the fungus growing on seaweed, bacteria in deep sea mud and sea fans that could produce life-saving medicines are under assault from changing the ocean conditions.

Researchers, scientists and Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter painted a bleak picture Tuesday of the future of oceans and the "blue economy" of the nation’s coastal states.

The hearing before the oceans subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee was expected to focus on how the degradation of the oceans was affecting marine businesses and coastal communities. Instead, much of the testimony focused on how the waters that cover 70 percent of the planet are already changing because of global warming.

Ocean acidification or diseases that thrive in acidified, oxygen-depleted seawater could be responsible for oysters not reproducing in Washington state, said Brad Warren, who oversees the ocean health and acidification program of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in Seattle. A federal study found that two-thirds of larval blue crabs died when exposed to acidity levels like those currently measured off the West Coast, he said.

Federal studies also found acidity levels in the North Pacific and off Alaska are unusually high compared to …

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 8:48 am

Excellent post by Barry Eisler

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His post begins:

What I find most remarkable about America’s debate regarding torture — beyond the fact that such a debate could even be necessary in America — is the continual recourse of both proponents and opponents to the question of whether torture works. I can’t think of any other illegal behavior — not murder, not rape, not kidnapping, not assault — that receives this kind of rhetorical makeover. When a murder has been committed, you don’t hear people agonizing over whether killing can never, ever be justified. When someone has been raped, people don’t ignore the crime in favor of a discussion of whether a rapist’s satisfaction could possibly be proven to outweigh a victim’s trauma and horror. If a child is kidnapped, the airwaves aren’t polluted with discussion of whether kidnapping might actually be an effective way of acquiring ransom money. And so on.

Torture, apparently, is different. Let’s talk about why.

Unlike other crimes, torture has a constituency, in the form of the architects who created America’s torture regime. These are the people who feed the public discourse with a steady supply of, "Can you really say that torture never, ever works?" And, "What would you do if your child were kidnapped and the kidnapper refused to reveal the child’s location?" And, "How can you compare enhanced interrogation techniquing one terrorist to the 3000 people killed on 9/11?" Etc. The architects, and their media allies, know that as long as the talking heads of television and gatherers by office water coolers, literal and electronic, are discussing the morality and practicality of torture, they won’t be talking about the illegality of torture.

But this supply-side explanation is only part of what makes torture different…

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Torture


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A commenter yesterday brought up Yardley shaving soap, another vintage brand, so I thought I would go with Yardley today. A very fine lather with a faint fragrance—probably the faintness due to the age of the soap. I got a wonderful shave using the Gillette NEW, which is getting on to 80 years old. Very smooth result, and a splash of TOBS Shaving Shop aftershave was a good finish.

Father’s Day is coming up. I hope many fathers will be made happy with a gift of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving. Don’t you?

Written by LeisureGuy

10 June 2009 at 8:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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