Later On

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

Archive for June 12th, 2009

Cherrystone clams tonight

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I’m making this recipe, but with just half a dozen clams:

Steamed Clams

2 dozen cherrystone clams
2 Tbs chopped parsley
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of water
dash of salt and pepper

Scrub clams clean. Heat oil in a large pot with cover. Add garlic and parsley and simmer for a few minutes. Add water, salt, and pepper. Add the clams, cover pot, and steam over medium flame until the clams open. Discard any clams that don’t. Place the clams in a large bowl and pour the broth over them.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Kindle DX review in BusinessWeek

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The review:

At first glance the new Kindle DX seems to be just an oversized version of Amazon.com’s (AMZN) popular e-book reader. Except for its bigger scale—the 9.7-inch display is nearly three times the size of a standard Kindle screen—the DX looks very much like its smaller sibling and shares its virtues if you are just reading a book.

But a close look at the capabilities of the $489 DX shows it to be a powerful tool for business and education as well.

Other than size, there are just two major hardware changes. The next page/previous page buttons on the left side of the screen are gone, and Amazon added a motion sensor that automatically rotates the display image, sometimes a bit sluggishly, when you turn the device sideways. There are also some relatively small design changes, plus one new trick that really makes a difference: The big screen allows you to handle large-format documents, including ones you create, in very appealing ways.

That’s not completely new. Both the original Kindle and the Kindle 2 can theoretically display user-created documents, including Microsoft Word (MSFT) and Acrobat (ABDE) PDF files. You send the file as an e-mail attachment to a special address associated with your Kindle. Amazon converts this to its own Kindle format and, at a charge of 15¢ per megabyte, sends it back wirelessly to your device. But in reality this conversion feature rarely works well in older Kindles. Complex formatting often gets damaged in transmission, and while PDFs usually retain their design features, the text often becomes too small to read.

Unlike the other Kindles, the DX can display PDF files without any conversion. Essentially, a PDF document appears on the Kindle screen exactly as it would on paper except, of course, for the loss of color…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 2:35 pm

Books I haven’t recommended enough

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I feel guilty about a whole series of excellent books that I’ve read but not talked about enough. So here’s a brief discussion of some of them:

Olen Steinhauer’s Eastern Europe series:

  • The Bridge of Sighs (2003)—Emil Brod, 1948 (nominated for five awards)
  • The Confession (2004)—Ferenc Kolyeszar, 1956
  • 36 Yalta Boulevard (2005)—Brano Sev, 1966-7
  • Liberation Movements (2006)—Brano Sev, Katja Drdova, Gavra Noukas, 1968 & 1975 (nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel)
  • Victory Square (2007)—The final book in the series, dealing with 1989, the end of communism, and the return to the main character of the first book, Emil Brod.

The above is from Wikipedia. I highly recommend the series—which could have been published as a long and intricate novel—with the proviso that the books be read in order of publication. Extremely good.

Edward Conlon’s Blue Blood (available for $1 at the link) is the best book on police work I’ve read. It’s a memoir of his career in the NYPD from the time he graduated and started on the force until he received his gold shield as detective sometime after 9/11. Extremely well written and laugh-out-loud funny in spots. Don’t miss it, particularly if you live in New York City.

Two superb books on the Labor movement and unions: The first is a memoir by Thomas Geoghegan, Which Side Are You on?: Trying to Be for Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back: funny, informative, and highly readable. The other is a fascinating history of the American Labor movement, by Jeremy Brecher, titled Strike!. Again, copies are available for $1 at the links.

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto is interesting and highly informative. He talks about how foods are being replaced by “nutrients,” based on pretty conjectural science. The problem with nutrition studies, as he explains, is that you can’t alter a single variable. If you decide to cut back on fats in a diet, for example, you inevitably increase the proportion of carbohydrates and protein, and that will cause changes independent of the lack of fat. He offers a good story and intriguing insights, and I recommend the book highly.

I’ve mentioned Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism a few times. It’s a great read just for the descriptions of the experiments, much less the findings. Check it out. At the link you can find copies for $1.

And, for something completely different, a fascinating novel set in Victorian England: Quincunx, by Charles Palliser. It’s a puzzle and a mystery and a totally wonderful read. — Well, wait. One more: The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade—another long and absorbing historical novel. Links to copies for $1.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Today I will be Kindled

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Afire with enthusiasm for reading, I ordered the Kindle DX some time back and it’s scheduled for delivery today. I hesitated on getting an eBook reader until I could easily get public-domain formats, and the DX does display PDFs correctly, it claims. Just this morning I copied a long newspaper article to MS Word, and then used the Adobe Acrobat add-on to save it as a PDF. My plan is to read it in comfort this afternoon.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 1:06 pm

Cooking as a driver of human evolution

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I knew cooking was important, of course, but had no idea how important. Dwight Garner reviews a book in the NY Times:

Human beings are not obviously equipped to be nature’s gladiators. We have no claws, no armor. That we eat meat seems surprising, because we are not made for chewing it uncooked in the wild. Our jaws are weak; our teeth are blunt; our mouths are small. That thing below our noses? It truly is a pie hole.

To attend to these facts, for some people, is to plead for vegetarianism or for a raw-food diet. We should forage and eat the way our long-ago ancestors surely did. For Richard Wrangham, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard and the author of “Catching Fire,” however, these facts and others demonstrate something quite different. They help prove that we are, as he vividly puts it, “the cooking apes, the creatures of the flame.”

The title of Mr. Wrangham’s new book — “Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human” — sounds a bit touchy-feely. Perhaps, you think, he has written a meditation on hearth and fellow feeling and s’mores. He has not. “Catching Fire” is a plain-spoken and thoroughly gripping scientific essay that presents nothing less than a new theory of human evolution, one he calls “the cooking hypothesis,” one that Darwin (among others) simply missed.

Apes began to morph into humans, and the species Homo erectus emerged some two million years ago, Mr. Wrangham argues, for one fundamental reason: We learned to tame fire and heat our food.

“Cooked food does many familiar things,” he observes. “It makes our food safer, creates rich and delicious tastes and reduces spoilage. Heating can allow us to open, cut or mash tough foods. But none of these advantages is as important as a little-appreciated aspect: cooking increases the amount of energy our bodies obtain from food.”

He continues: “The extra energy gave the first cooks biological advantages. They survived and reproduced better than before. Their genes spread. Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology and society.” Put simply, Mr. Wrangham writes that eating cooked food — whether meat or plants or both —made digestion easier, and thus our guts could grow smaller. The energy that we formerly spent on digestion (and digestion requires far more energy than you might imagine) was freed up, enabling our brains, which also consume enormous amounts of energy, to grow larger. The warmth provided by fire enabled us to shed our body hair, so we could run farther and hunt more without overheating. Because we stopped eating on the spot as we foraged and instead gathered around a fire, we had to learn to socialize, and our temperaments grew calmer.

There were other benefits for humanity’s ancestors. He writes: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 11:00 am

Marion Nestle on Food Inc.

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Marion Nestle’s comment on the new movie:

Today is the official release date for Food, Inc., the latest film about our food production system and its discontents.  This one has generated tons of interest, and for good reason (I’ve seen it twice).  For one thing, it is star-studded: Eric Schlosser!  Michael Pollan!  For another, it takes a hard look at the less savory aspects of industrial food production for a purpose: to make you think before you eat.

To that end, the film comes with:

And, not least,

  • Its very own anti-Food Inc. website, a contribution from meat and poultry trade associations eager to provide a point-by-point rebuttal of every scene in the movie.

Here’s my favorite quote from the review in the New York Times:

one of the scariest movies of the year, “Food, Inc.,” [is]an informative, often infuriating activist documentary about the big business of feeding or, more to the political point, force-feeding, Americans all the junk that multinational corporate money can buy. You’ll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch.

Go see it and decide for yourself!

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 10:14 am

Food, Inc.

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Looks like a very interesting movie:

The Ethicurean comments on the movie:

You’ve most likely heard about “Food, Inc.,” the new documentary about the U.S. industrial food system. (Watch trailer, embedded above right.) The buzz for the film is intense, amplified by an aggressive marketing campaign by Participant Media Productions (the people who midwifed “An Inconvenient Truth,” to which this is being compared). “Food Inc.” opens in limited release today, and more widely on June 19. It’s already been extensively, and favorably reviewed: Metacritic.com assigns the film an above-average critics’ score of 82/100, which doesn’t include recent thumbs-up from the New York Times and the Atlantic.

In reaction, the food industry has mounted a Rovean-strength, batten-down-the-hatches preëmptive defense. (I can just picture the discussions in corporate agribusiness headquarters: “Gentleman, we thought ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma‘ would never spread past the arugula set. We won’t make that mistake again.”) They’ve got a counter-propaganda website, SafeFoodInc.org, and are penning flurries of blog posts and press releases accusing the film of scaremongering and factual distortion. (Monsanto’s spin minions have handily collected all the film’s various rebuttals for you in one place.)

Why are they scared? Well, “Food, Inc.” is being billed by its makers as the film that food industry titans don’t want you to see for the simple reason that “if you know the truth about what you’re eating…you might not want to eat it anymore,” as journalist Eric Schlosser says in the movie’s first five minutes. He might be right, although I’m not hopeful: I knew cigarettes were bad for me, and the tobacco companies I was financially supporting were essentially sociopathic, but I still smoked for 10 years.

What’s really worrisome about the industry’s multimillion-dollar anti-”Food, Inc.” campaign is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 10:12 am

More on the Right’s self-pity and sense of victimization

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Glenn Greenwald:

The most predominant mentality in right-wing discourse finds expression in this form:  "I am part of/was born into Group X, and Group X — my group — is better than all others yet treated so very unfairly."  This claim persists — indeed, is often intensified –  even when Group X is clearly the strongest, most privileged and most favored group.  So intense is their need for self-victimization — so inebriating is their self-absorption and so lacking are they in any capacity for empathy — that, for all the noise and rhetoric, the arguments they make virtually always have this tribalistic self-absorption at its core.

Last week, Charles Krauthammer accused President Obama of treating every country in the world so well — except for one, the one for which Krauthammer bears great love and affection and with which he was taught from childhood to identify:

President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. . . . An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone — Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity.

The U.S. transfers tens of billions of dollars to Israel — more than any other country in the world.  We demand that no country in the Middle East have nuclear weapons — except Israel.  We fuel Israel’s wars with weapons transfers, ensure it is the most militarily powerful country in its region, and loyally protect it from U.N. sanctions using our veto power.  It’s virtually impossible to imagine one country that is more favorably treated by another than the various forms of largesse Israel receives from the U.S.  But no matter.  In Krauthammer’s eyes, the opposite is true:  the U.S. treats every country fairly except Israel.  That’s the country that, to him, is singled out for unfavorable treatment by the U.S.  Israel is the victim of unfair treatment at the hands of Obama.

Identically, in his column today, Krauthammer attacks Obama for daring in his Cairo speech to suggest that the U.S. has done bad things in the past and has contributed to the hostilities between the U.S. and the Muslim world.  As a result of Obama’s statement of the obvious — that the U.S. also bears responsibility for the enmity that exists — Obama stands accused in Krauthammer’s column of "a disturbing ambivalence about his own country."  To Krauthammer, Obama’s sins include "transcultural evenhandedness," "moral equivalencies and self-flagellating apologetics" and "creating false equivalencies."

Here again we find the same adolescent self-absorption:  the group into which I was born  and was instructed from childhood to believe is the best — America — is, objectively, superior.  It is so much better than everyone and everything else that even to suggest that we have flaws comparable to others is to engage in "false moral equivalencies."  To do anything other than emphatically proclaim my group’s objective superiority is to treat my group unfairly [leave to the side the irony that the same people who want to suppress torture photos because they don’t want to inflame anti-American sentiment apparently want the U.S. President to announce to the Muslim world that we are superior to them, have no serious flaws, have made no meaningful mistakes, and that everything is their fault — that sort of pompous self-glorification won’t inflame anti-American sentiment at all].

And then, finally, we have Jonah Goldberg actually anointing himself as the leading opponent of

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

A sign that the healthcare proposals are good

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From the Center for American Progress:

Health care lobbyists are spending increasing amounts to defeat President Obama’s health care plan. "The five largest private insurers and the trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans spent a total of $6.4 million in the first quarter, an increase of more than $1 million from the same quarter last year."

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:53 am

Keynesian economics seems to work

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Europe—and in particular, Germany—has taken a Hoover approach to the financial crisis: cutting government spending (so that overall demand tanks, with consumers, businesses, and government not spending), which exacerbates the crisis—the exact approach taken by Hoover and strongly recommended by the Right. In the US, on the other hand, Obama and his administration have pushed for government spending to ramp up demand, and the stimulus bill was passed (though Krugman believes it was not aggressive enough) and government funds have begun to flow to the states. Nelson Schwartz reports in the NY Times on the result:

There was more evidence Thursday that the United States economy might be stabilizing, if not rebounding, even as economic reports in Europe remained gloomy.

The American news — showing slight growth in retail sales and a dip in first-time jobless claims, as well as rising stocks — was not enough to end the disagreement between bulls and bears over how soon the economy would improve.

But the apparent divergence of fortunes between America and Europe highlighted the different approaches to solving the financial crisis, and why some economists say the more aggressive American strategy may be working better, at least for now.

It is a debate that is likely to be one of the issues dominating discussions when finance ministers from the eight largest economies meet in Italy this weekend.

Some private economists are even predicting that the American economy will resume growth in the fourth quarter, while Europe’s economy is expected to remain in recession well into 2010, after contracting an estimated 4.2 percent this year compared with an expected 2.8 percent decline in the United States.

“The shock originated in the U.S., but Europe is paying a higher price,” said Jean Pisani-Ferry, a former top financial adviser to the French government who is now director of Bruegel, a research center in Brussels.

Almost from the beginning of the crisis, the United States and Europe chose largely different paths to aiding their economies. The most stark was Washington’s willingness to commit hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulus spending — in addition to moving aggressively to shore up banks and keep credit flowing — versus Europe’s worry that similar spending would increase inflation in the future.

Just as the policies pursued during the Great Depression have been dissected ever since by economists, the fate of the United States and Europe as the two regions emerge from the global crisis will be analyzed for decades to come.

The lessons will not only guide policy makers in future crises, but also could redefine the debate over how much state intervention in the economy is appropriate.

“History is one big laboratory experiment that only gets run once,” said Niall Ferguson, an economic historian at Harvard who has been one of the loudest critics of the White House’s spending initiatives.

The argument behind the American approach — staggering stimulus spending — is that the economy must be prevented from falling into a self-perpetuating downward spiral, and that increasing the deficit to do that is prudent.

One crucial concern about America’s increased deficit spending — that it would lead investors to demand higher interest rates on United States debt, making it far more expensive to borrow and slowing the economy — has been allayed, for now. An auction on Thursday of $11 billion in 30-year Treasury bonds found enthusiastic buyers, helping to push the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a seven-month high.

But it is impossible to know how much the apparent, if nascent, stabilization of the American economy comes from the stimulus spending and how much from moves like propping up the banking and credit systems, especially because much of the stimulus money has yet to make it to the economy…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:49 am

The history of Ellis Island

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Sounds like a fascinating book:

American Passage: The History of Ellis Island

by Vincent J. Cannato

A review by Jonathan Yardley

Ellis Island, through which 12 million immigrants passed between 1892 and 1924, is a museum and tourist attraction now, "a success," according to Vincent J. Cannato, "attracting some 2 million visitors a year." A small patch of land in New York Harbor, known two centuries ago as Gibbet Island because so many pirates were hanged there, it occupies a large but somewhat ambiguous place in American history. On the one hand, it is deservedly celebrated as the country’s gateway, not the only one but the largest and most important. On the other hand, it is the place where a deep conflict in American beliefs has been played out:

"The nation’s immigration law was predicated on the idea that a self-governing people could decide who may or may not enter the country. But that idea came into conflict with other ideals such as America’s traditional history of welcoming newcomers. More importantly, it conflicted with the idea that the rights guaranteed in the Constitution were universal rights. How could the Declaration of Independence’s basic creed that all individuals were created equal mesh with the idea that some immigrants were desirable and others undesirable? That conflict between American ideals is central to an understanding of why Ellis Island was created in the first place."

Obviously, the story of Ellis Island remains pertinent today, for the issues it raises still vex and divide us. In the early years of the 20th century, most immigrants came to the United States from Europe, and the question in the minds of many Americans was whether some of them (British, French, German) were more "desirable" than others (Eastern and Southern Europeans). Now the great wave of immigration is from Latin America, and because many of these people enter the country illegally, the question is whether this makes them "undesirable," even though many of them work productively and contribute to the national economy.

Ellis Island was established as a "sieve" through which immigrants could be filtered, the desirable allowed to enter, the undesirable deported back to their countries of origin. But as became plain from almost the moment it opened, defining "desirable" and "undesirable" was difficult and often caused intense controversy. William Williams, director of Ellis Island for many years, was a WASP aristo who "linked undesirability to southern and eastern Europeans," just as many Bostonians regarded the Irish as undesirable. One blue-blooded New England Yankee, discussing the " ‘masses of peasantry’ from Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Russia in the 1890s," didn’t beat around the bush:

"These people have no history behind them which is of a nature to give encouragement. They have none of the inherited instincts and tendencies which made it comparatively easy to deal with the immigration of olden time. They are beaten men from beaten races; representing the worst failures in the struggle for existence. Centuries are against them, as centuries were on the side of those who formerly came to us."

Out of such sentiments grew the Immigration Restriction League, founded in 1894 "to advocate and work for the further judicious restriction or stricter regulation of immigration," i.e., No Italians Need Apply. These and other efforts by Boston Brahmins and their allies stirred up noise and debate but don’t seem to have had all that much effect on the decisions made by officials at Ellis Island, who were chiefly preoccupied with questions of physical and mental health, the ability to earn a gainful wage and "moral turpitude," a euphemism for everything from prostitution to adultery to premarital sex. During World War I "alien enemies" — "any male over the age of fourteen born in Germany, residing in the United States, and not a naturalized U.S. citizen" — found their rights sharply limited and were at risk of being arrested; after the war, fear of radicals generally, and anarchists specifically, added a new category of "undesirables."

A "recurring theme throughout Ellis Island’s history," Cannato writes, is "the chasm between immigration law as written and immigration law as enforced." Or, as he puts it elsewhere, "The immigration problem was a conflict between abstract laws and the individual tragedies those laws sometimes created." It was one thing to deny admission to the "feeble-minded," but quite another when an entire family presented itself for admission and one child was deemed to fit that category. How were officials to respond: Deny admission to the entire family, or admit all save the offending girl? In one such case the second course was chosen, leaving the girl to live out the rest of her life — how she did so we do not know — on her own.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:41 am

The loss of Democratic ideals

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At one time the Democratic party stood solidly for certain ideals. Those days are long gone. I fear that Democrats today are, for the most part, just eager to get elected so they can continue slurping from the gravy bowl. (There are some valiant exceptions, but the majority just want things easy: don’t make waves, just work on getting political contributions.) Mary Agnes Carey and Eric Pianin report in McClatchy:

Senate Democrats are offering to scrap a controversial government-sponsored health insurance provision in an effort to win more than a dozen moderate and conservative Republican votes to extend health care coverage to nearly 46 million uninsured Americans.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Finance Committee, signaled his willingness Thursday to compromise to attract enough GOP support to pass the legislation in the Senate this summer with as many as 70 votes.

Baucus emerged from a morning session with key Republicans and Democrats saying he was "inclined toward" jettisoning the proposed government insurance program, which President Barack Obama endorsed last week, in favor of a new proposal to create national, state and regional health care insurance cooperatives.

Republicans oppose the public insurance option, saying it would undermine the private insurance industry and lead to a national health insurance system. Some conservative Democrats also are skeptical of the public plan option, even as they and Baucus support Obama’s goals.

Baucus said that the public insurance plan option is "so opposed at this point by Republicans" that "it’s basically the question of, well, gee, what do we have to do to compromise to get health care passed this year?"…

Continue reading. Sen. Baucus, you’ll recall, was one of the Montana Senators that was fearful of putting Guantánamo prisoners in the Harding prison. He also seems to be afraid of a fight.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:35 am

When Representatives don’t care

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This is bizarre:

John Bailey thought it was great when his neighbor was elected to the House of Representatives in 2007.
"Not everyone lives next door to a congresswoman," he said.

But two years later, he doesn’t feel so lucky. The congresswoman’s house is abandoned and in disrepair, "a blight on the neighborhood," Bailey said.

He thinks the way that Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach) has treated her Sacramento home tells far more about her than her voting record.

"I wouldn’t want anyone that irresponsible to represent me," said Bailey, like Richardson a liberal Democrat. "What I don’t get is how she has the time to visit with Fidel Castro but doesn’t have time for her own house. If you can’t manage your own household, you probably shouldn’t get involved in international affairs."

He’s not alone. Neighbors have complained to the city, written letters and e-mails to Richardson and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi , but the three-bedroom house remains an eyesore. Neighbors just wish she would sell it or let it go into foreclosure, anything to get it into the hands of someone who would care.

"She shows total disregard for everyone in the neighborhood," said Sean Padovan, a retired police sergeant. "She ought to be embarrassed and ashamed."

Richardson did not return phone calls for this story.

The problems with the house began shortly after Richardson was elected to the Assembly in 2006 from Long Beach and bought the two-story house in the leafy Curtis Park neighborhood.

It wasn’t long before Padovan, 62, angry that the lawn wasn’t being mowed, knocked on Richardson’s door, told her he was a neighbor and asked if she minded if he cut the grass. He hauled out his hand mower, and when Richardson still seemed to have no interest in taking care of her yard, he stuck a gardener’s card in her door with a note saying that she should call him if she had questions.

He never heard from Richardson, not a thank-you or a wave as she walked past.

After Richardson was elected to Congress in 2007 in a special election, she moved out around Labor Day. She told Bailey that she planned to rent out the house. Later that year, he sent her an e-mail with a link to a real estate agent who could help. He never received a response.

With no one living in it, the house continued to deteriorate.

Angry at the demise of the once stately home and worried about what it would do to their property values,

Continue reading. You can contact Rep. Richardson here.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:28 am

More conservative whining

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What’s up with the GOP? Are they the source of the fearfulness of the US? From the Center for American Progress:

Based on allegations by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Republicans have been suggesting that the Obama administration was putting America at risk by having the FBI read Miranda rights to detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rogers claimed that this policy would lead to U.S. military forces reading Miranda rights to terrorists captured on the battlefield. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) criticized the policy, saying, "They’re going back to a law enforcement mentality. … This dramatically changes the way that our frontline forces work." The policy has also sparked outrage in right-wing circles, where they say that this is another example of the Obama administration coddling terrorists. The reading of Miranda rights, however, happens only on limited occasions and does not occur on the battlefield. It is also part of standard Department of Justice protocol continued from the Bush administration, which also read Miranda rights to select detainees. "In order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees," said DOJ spokesman Matt Miller. Gen. David Petraeus explained the effect of the policy on the battlefield at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security: "These are cases where they are looking at potential criminal charges. We’re comfortable with this."

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:22 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government, Law

The perpetual whining of conservatives

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The Right has become a party of victims. The latest, from the Center for American Progress:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced this week that Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings will begin on July 13, timing that closely mirrors Chief Justice John Roberts’ Senate confirmation schedule. Therefore, Sotomayor’s hearings will start 48 days after her nomination was announced; Roberts received a hearing after 51 days. The Chief Justice was confirmed 72 days after his nomination, even though senators were distracted from reviewing his record when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. The 72nd day after Sotomayor’s nomination will be Aug. 6, the day before Congress’ summer recess is supposed to begin. Yet despite Leahy’s attempt to achieve parity between President Obama’s and President Bush’s nominees, Senate conservatives immediately complained that Sotomayor is receiving preferential treatment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:20 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Loss of greatness

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It seems to me that the US has somehow lost some of its greatness. I’m not talking about unprovoked wars of aggression and torture this time, but about the strange and pervasive fear that a handful of terrorists, imprisoned on American soil, represents a serious danger to the country and its people. And the fact that 17 people who are NOT terrorists are so frightening that no community could accept any of them.

This fearfulness and timidity seems new to me, and I don’t think it’s a good sign. Maybe it means that the American people no longer trust the institutions that serve and protect us—our institutions. And if we don’t, and we don’t become active in our participation so as to remake those institutions, then our decline has well begun.

From the Washington Post:

The Obama administration has all but abandoned plans to allow Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been cleared for release to live in the United States, administration officials said yesterday, a decision that reflects bipartisan congressional opposition to admitting such prisoners but complicates efforts to persuade European allies to accept them.

Four Uighur detainees, Chinese Muslims who were incarcerated at the U.S. military prison in Cuba for more than seven years, arrived early yesterday in Bermuda, where they will become foreign guest workers. An administration official said the United States is engaged in negotiations with other countries, including Palau, an island nation in the western Pacific, to find places for the remaining 13 Uighurs held at Guantanamo.

The Uighurs, who were ordered released by a federal judge last year, never counted America as an enemy, according to the men’s lawyers and human rights groups, giving the administration grounds to argue that they should live in the United States. Picked up in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2002, the Uighurs were later cleared of the "enemy combatant" label but remained in minimum-security confinement at Guantanamo.

Attempting to settle non-Uighur detainees in the United States would generate even greater congressional opposition, and the administration has decided not to pursue it broadly, an administration official said yesterday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. But he said there may yet be "a few" candidates for settlement in the United States among the dozens of Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release…

Continue reading. Some in Congress were not so fearful: Sen Dianne Feinstein said that California would not be afraid, and Carl Levin spoke for Michigan. The town of Harding, MT, offered to take prisoners for their prison there, but the two Senators from Montana immediately spoke strongly against it, saying that Montanans were afraid to take prisoners (except the Montanans in Harding, apparently). It’s a pitiful spectacle, and the search continues for nations brave enough to accept the prisoners. Bermuda and Palau seem to be braver than the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 9:13 am

Lenthéric: blast from the past

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SOTD090612

Lenthéric is a very pleasant shaving soap indeed, now discontinued (as, come to think of it, is the aftershave I used and the razor I used). It produced an excellent lather with the Simpsons Harvard 3 Best, and the Asco blade, with several shaves on it, produce a very good shave with the Gillette ’40’s Aristocrat. That Asco is a pretty good blade for me. YMMV, of course—that’s the nature of blades.  And I do love the New York aftershave. No more after this bottle, alas.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2009 at 8:47 am

Posted in Shaving

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