Later On

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

Archive for November 12th, 2009

Pete Hoekstra, leaker of secrets

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Steve Benen at Political Animal:

Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, confirmed to the Washington Post this week, on the record, that Nidal Malik Hasan had exchanged emails with Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reported Tuesday, it was a problematic revelation — that federal officials had kept secret for a reason.

According to the GOP staff on House Intelligence Committee, they "do not know" if Hoekstra released classified information, but they’re "guessing" his remarks weren’t a problem.

Marc Ambinder followed up today with senior intelligence officials who said "there are concerns" about Hoekstra’s loose lips. The Republican lawmaker, who is routinely briefed on some of the nation’s most sensitive national security secrets, appears to have tipped a radical cleric to surveillance efforts and inadvertently confirmed "a sensitive capability that the N.S.A. regularly employs to collect intelligence."

A former intelligence official privy to details of the NSA’s programs said that it "would appear to be the case" that Hoekstra divulged too much information.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

I realize that leading members of the Intelligence Committees get a lot of information, and it’s no doubt challenging to recognize the difference between information that can be shared with the public and information that must be kept under wraps for national security purposes. People make honest mistakes sometimes.

But Hoekstra isn’t a rookie — he’s a far-right lawmaker who’s frequently complained about leaks, but who’s nevertheless frequently been irresponsible with secret information. That House Republicans haven’t removed him from the committee up until now doesn’t speak well of the caucus.

And in the larger context, as Chris Hayes explained very well on Tuesday, there’s a broader debate about administrative oversight and the question of whether more members of Congress can be trusted with classified briefings. Hoekstra, by leaking like a sieve, is not only demonstrating a reckless disregard for national security, he’s also undermining Congress’ argument about more stringent oversight. Agency officials will no doubt respond to Hoekstra’s remarks as evidence of why lawmakers can’t be trusted with secrets, and they’ll have a point.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 1:31 pm

Excellent post at The American Conservative

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Via John Cole, this excellent post by the conservative Daniel Larison:

But at least you always knew that Bush loved America and that he loved Americans. You knew that he valued America’s allies even if he didn’t always do right by them. You knew that his values were American values.

You can’t say any of that about his successor. ~Caroline Glick

Yes, this is what you would expect from Glick (or from anyone, for that matter, who thinks that the last two years of Bush’s foreign policy were his worst), but it’s offensive all the same. As tempting and easy as it would be to turn this formulation around on one of the worst Presidents of all time, I don’t assume that Bush did any of the things he did because he didn’t have “American values” or didn’t love his country. I don’t assume that he trashed our relations with Europe, Turkey and Russia because he wanted America to be isolated or because he loathed these other nations. It is certainly true that he harmed American interests, weakened American power, wrecked our fiscal house and isolated us from many of our allies and potential partners, but the world is full of stories of people who harm that which they love. Bush’s problem wasn’t that he didn’t love America. The problem was that he had no idea what he was doing and substituted ideological fantasies in place of understanding.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 1:29 pm

Do the Taliban threaten US security?

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If not, why would we fight a war there? John Cole has an excellent post on the decision Obama is considering: how best to proceed in Afghanistan, given the incompetent and corrupt government there. Please read it.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum also has a great post on the situation. Please read it as well.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan also has a great post on the situation. Please read it as well.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 1:24 pm

The Newt Gingrich Syndrome

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Tara Parker-Pope in the NY Times:

When Dr. Marc Chamberlain, a Seattle oncologist, was treating his brain cancer patients, he noticed an alarming pattern. His male patients were typically receiving much-needed support from their wives. But a number of his female patients were going it alone, ending up separated or divorced after receiving a brain tumor diagnosis.

Dr. Chamberlain, chief of the neuro-oncology division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, had heard similar stories from his colleagues. To find out if these observations were based in fact, he embarked on a study with Dr. Michael J. Glantz of the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute and colleagues from three other institutions who began to collect data on 515 patients who received diagnoses of brain tumors or multiple sclerosis from 2001 through 2006.

The results were surprising. Women in the study who were told they had a serious illness were seven times as likely to become separated or divorced as men with similar health problems, according to the report published in the journal Cancer.

Over all, about 12 percent of the patients in the study ended up separated or divorced, a rate that was similar to that found in the general American population during that time period. (Lifetime divorce rates in the United States are higher.) But the pattern changed when the researchers looked at the patient-divorce breakdown by sex. When the man became ill, only 3 percent experienced the end of a marriage. But among women, about 21 percent ended up separated or divorced. Among couples who split up, divorce occurred, on average, about six months after the diagnosis, although there was wide variability in the timing…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Business groups want to keep child labor

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Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

One of the worst abuses in the international labor markets is the use of child labor. The most recent report on the issue by the International Labor Organization found that as of 2004 more than 218 million children were engaged in illegal work, as defined by international treaties. It’s estimated that 126 million of these children were engaged in hazardous work such as “mining or handling chemicals.”

In order to combat the issue, the Senate Finance Committee has included sections in S.1631, the Customs Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Reauthorization Act of 2009, that would ban the importation of goods made “with convict labor, forced labor, or indentured labor under penal sanctions.” Such a measure by the world’s largest importer would strike a crucial blow against the use of child and slave labor.

Business groups and their lobbyists, however, are not taking kindly to the measures. The D.C.-based business newsletter “Inside U.S. Trade” reports that business groups are “worried” about the effects of such a provision, and they expect to see industry lobbyists and foreign governments profiting from child labor to form an “ad hoc” coalition to oppose it:

Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor, or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a customs bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA)

Business sources say this reporting requirement could cause DHS to more actively seek out imported products made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor. […]

Sources conceded that this was a sensitive issue because industry groups do not want to be seen as opposing strict measures guarding against human rights abuses. However, one source did expect a push from lobbyists closer to the finance committee mark-up of the bill, and speculated that U.S. industry groups and foreign governments could form ad hoc coalitions to help send a united message.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow covered the story last night. Addressing the business interests opposing the measure directly, she said, “You think that child labor and slave labor and forced convict labor are cheap and therefore cool with you? Go ahead, make your case. I would love to hear it …. you child labor-endorsing, pro-slavery freaks.” Watch it:

I don’t believe that businesses can be trusted for a second: they must be watched constantly and from time to time laws must be crafted to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Helping veterans

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An email from the Center for American Progress:

In honor of Veterans Day, President Obama traveled to Arlington National Cemetery to pay his respects to fallen service members and honor the veterans who have defended this country. "Today, on Veterans Day, my message to you is simple: Thank you," Obama said. "There’s no tribute, no commemoration, no praise that can truly match the magnitude of your service and your sacrifice." Under a cold rain, Obama laid a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and made an unexpected visit to the special area reserved for the fallen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This year’s anniversary carried special meaning as the "nation reels from the brutal attack at Fort Hood in Texas." Speaking there Wednesday, Obama called the wartime killings of troops on American soil "incomprehensible," saying that "no words can fill the void that has been left." The tragedy at Fort Hood highlighted some of the serious issues facing veterans. As Obama said in Arlington yesterday, "If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that there have been times where we as a nation have betrayed that sacred trust" with our veterans.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:46 pm

Can you spell "conflict of interest"?

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Business, Politics

Monarch Butterfly Chair

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Note the absence of hyphen: it’s not a Monarch-butterfly chair. It’s actually pretty cool:


Note that it balances on two legs, but it’s very comfortable according to this review at Cool Tools:

… One way this chair saves weight is by eliminating the two front legs; you lean back in it as you would when tipping a chair back on its hind legs, using your own legs for control and balance. At first I thought this would be tiring, but it really isn’t. Nearly all of my weight rests comfortably in the seat, with the kind of lumbar support I need. When collapsed, the Monarch fits into not much more space than a water bottle, and it weighs only 18 oz. At least as important, it’s simple to set up and it seems very solidly constructed…

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Another sign that it’s not so simple as "eat less, move more"

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Interesting article in the LA Times by Thomas Maugh II:

A high-fat, high-sugar diet does more than pump calories into your body. It also alters the composition of bacteria in your intestines, making it easier to gain weight and harder to lose it, research in mice suggests. And the changeover can happen in as little as 24 hours, according to a report Wednesday in the new journal Science Translational Medicine.

Many factors play a role in the propensity to gain weight, including genetics, physical activity and the environment, as well as food choices. But a growing body of evidence, much of it accumulated by Dr. Jeffrey I. Gordon of Washington University in St. Louis, shows that bacteria in the gut also play a key role.

Humans need such bacteria to help convert otherwise indigestible foods into digestible form.

Ninety percent of the bacteria fall into two major divisions, or phyla: the Firmicutes and the Bacteroidetes. Previous research had shown that obese mice had higher levels of Firmicutes, and lean ones had more Bacteroidetes.

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

How to roast any vegetable

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Via an email from The Kitchn [sic], but I could not find it on their site:

How To Roast Any Vegetable

While I’m aware of (and happy about) the fact that many of our readers follow our website and subscribe to this weekly email for original recipes, unusual tips, and a specifically spirited perspective on cooking, I hope you also appreciate our approach to simplicity.


I thought about simplicity last night as I slid these heads of cauliflower into the oven for a simple olive-oil-topped roast. I was reminded that this is the time of year in much of the northern hemisphere where we take our last deep whiffs of what the farms have to offer before turning to our winter cooking habits.

This weekend I invite you to find some fresh vegetables to roast from your local market or backyard garden. Stop worrying about how you’re going to cook your turkey and just make something to eat now. Here is a simple formula to start with when thinking about roasting vegetables. With practice, you’ll tinker with the elements and find your own way.

How to Roast Any Vegetable

  • Pre-heat oven to 425°F
  • Chop or break up vegetables, or roast them whole. The larger the piece, the longer it will take to cook.
  • Place in an oven-safe skillet or cast-iron pan, or a roasting pan. Have neither? Make a boat out of aluminum foil. Whichever you use, tent the top with foil.
  • Drizzle with a spoonful or two of olive oil, just enough to very lightly coat when tossed. Toss.
  • In general, the harder (to the touch) the vegetable, and larger in size, the longer it takes to roast. Whole beets can take an hour or more, while asparagus will roast up in about 10 minutes and doesn’t need the tenting.
  • Test for doneness by pricking with the tip of a paring knife. Knife should pull out easily. Also notice the aroma becoming rich and even listen for sounds from the oven.
  • For a crispy finish, remove when you have 5-10 minutes left.
  • Serve with a light shower of sea salt or sprinkle nuts (whole, chopped or ground), breadcrumbs, or grated cheese (like Parmesan) on top.

Don’t be afraid to experiment: while the classics like potatoes, squash, beets and carrots are always good, try branching out with cabbage, fennel, leeks, even fruit like grapes, oranges, and quince.

A Few Recipes for Roasted Vegetables

If you absolutely must follow a recipe, here are a few to get you going:

I would also note that sprinkling the oiled veggies with fresh herbs is very nice, but dried herbs tend to taste bitter after roasting. So: fresh rosemary, not dried.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:19 pm

Book insight

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I’m reading Lev Grossman’s Codex, in which an investment banker is drafted into cataloguing a collection of old books. He knows little about it, but acquires the help of a scholar interested in a particular medieval author. When she sees the books, she also sees that the protagonist really doesn’t know what he’s doing. From the book:

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Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 12:04 pm

Late start

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I had to have a fasting blood sample taken this morning and the lab waiting room was filled when I got there: standing room only. Still, they moved quickly through the backlog and within 45 minutes I was on my way to Toasties for breakfast.

Both kitties seem to be completely moved to canned food (Evo 95% venison for Molly, Evo 95% duck for Megs), and mealtimes for the kitties have been added to each day’s events, since the girls get quite excited as mealtime nears. For dinner, Megs gets the other half of the small (5.5 oz) can with a wild-salmon-oil capsule squeezed over the top. Molly is moving toward 1.5 of the small cans a day.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 11:48 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Another first-use of boar brush

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I believe this is the Giovanni Arbate brush, made to honor the founder of Razor & Brush. Like the other Omega boar brushes I’ve tried, it was quite good even for a first use—and, of course, it will get better and better as it breaks in. The lather it created from the Soap Opera’s Himalaya shea-butter shaving soap was quite workable, though it, too, will get better as the brush breaks in. The lather was plenty good enough for a fine shave, using the Elite Razor (white quartz with gold lacing) and a previously used Astra Keramik blade. And New York remains one of my favorite aftershaves.

Written by Leisureguy

12 November 2009 at 11:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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