Later On

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

Archive for August 17th, 2010

More on the fake controversy over the community center

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Steve Benen:

Last night’s segment on Park51 on "The Daily Show" featured some pretty brilliant insights, most notably Glenn Beck trashing Feisal Abdul Rauf for making nearly identical remarks to Glenn Beck’s own on-air commentary.

But of particular interest was the discussion between Jon Stewart and John Oliver about the conservative drive to conflate terrorists with all Muslims, even Muslim Americans. Oliver offered a tongue-in-cheek summary of the right-wing line: "What Newt Gingrich is trying to say is that Islam, like every religion, has to be responsible for its biggest assholes." When Stewart asked why faith traditions have to "bend to people’s worst suspicions about them," Oliver replied:

"Because there is a difference between what you can do, and what you should do. For instance, you can build a Catholic Church next to a playground. Should you? Or am I alone in thinking it’s a little too soon for that?"

Well, that’s not going to go over well at the Catholic League.

The comparison was obviously provocative, and intended to be confrontational — it’s a comedy show, after all, highlighting the absurdities of our discourse and modern life — but it’d be a mistake to dismiss the point reflexively.

After all, we’re dealing with a political environment in which many Americans want to blame an entire faith tradition for the gut-wrenching crimes of violent fanatics and monsters. What happens, then, if one takes John Oliver’s question seriously?

Everyone is well aware of the horrific scandal that has plagued the Roman Catholic Church, in which priests sexually abused countless children — across the United States, and around the world — and church officials neglected to act, often engaging in an international cover-up.

If a congregation wanted to build a church next to a children’s playground, would conservatives ask why it has to be right next to the playground? What about the feelings of the abused children’s parents? Can’t the church at least be five blocks away, just out of respect?

Of course, the questions are absurd on its face — by no reasonable standard should Roman Catholic Churches be assumed to be dangerous to children, just because of a systemic scandal involving sexual abuse. In America, we just wouldn’t tolerate this kind of discrimination.

But we should be just as offended when the same discriminatory attitudes are applied to other American minority faiths.

The video of the segment

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

What you learn from practicing frugality

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Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 11:26 am

Posted in Daily life

Repurposing the Burlington Coat Factory

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I simply cannot understand any objection to converting a one-time coat factory that’s not even visible from ground zero (it’s 2-3 blocks away, surrounded by a variety of stores and shops) to a community center for Muslims. What one earth is the problem? Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center, but Al-Qaeda is not involved in this at all.

Even ignoring the fact that the Constitution explicitly forbids the government from attempting to dictate whether private property can be used for religious purposes, I don’t get it. The men who were directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks are all dead, as you know. (At least, I have trouble believing that any could have survived the plane crashes.) We went to war immediately against Al-Qaeda, and then the Taliban. And for good measure, we invaded Iraq, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks but does have a lot of oil.

But none of that has anything to do with the community center in Manhattan—a community center that doesn’t seem to be an issue for the people; who actually live there.

And to have the objections to the place raised by the GOP, which normally defends the rights of private property owners, is simply weird.

UPDATE: I guess the GOP thing is really not so weird. The rights of owners of private property was an important GOP principle, but the GOP has long since abandoned its principles, along with ethics, morality, and honesty.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 11:16 am

Posted in Daily life

Justice in the natural world

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Interesting and somehow satisfying:

Antagonistic people, particularly those who are competitive and aggressive, may be increasing their risk of heart attack or stroke, researchers report in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers for the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), studied 5,614 Italians in four villages and found that those who scored high for antagonistic traits on a standard personality test had greater thickening of the neck (carotid) arteries compared to people who were more agreeable. Thickness of neck artery walls is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

Three years later, those who scored higher on antagonism or low agreeableness — especially those who were manipulative and quick to express anger — continued to have thickening of their artery walls. These traits also predicted greater progression of arterial thickening.

Those who scored in the bottom 10 percent of agreeableness and were the most antagonistic had about a 40 percent increased risk for elevated intima-media thickness, a measure of arterial wall thickness. The effect on artery walls was similar to having metabolic syndrome — a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

"People who tend to be competitive and more willing to fight for their own self interest have thicker arterial walls, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease," said Angelina Sutin, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow with the National Institute on Aging, NIH, in Baltimore, Md. "Agreeable people tend to be trusting, straightforward and show concern for others, while people who score high on antagonism tend to be distrustful, skeptical and at the extreme cynical, manipulative, self-centered, arrogant and quick to express anger."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:45 am

Prosecutorial Flim-Flam at Gitmo

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Scott Horton:

The military commissions are back underway at Guantánamo, and so far the Obama Administration proceedings look an awful lot like the end-phase proceedings under Bush. The process started with the sentencing of Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi, a 50-year-old Sudanese man accused of having served as chef, chauffeur, and bodyguard to Osama bin Laden.

“Jury recommends 14 years for al Qaeda cook” trumpets the AP headline. So al-Qosi gets a stiff sentence for preparing humus for the world’s most wanted terrorist, right? Wrong. Things have been carefully orchestrated to give that appearance. The prosecution was able to rehearse its charges, talk loudly about al-Qosi’s guilty plea, read a confession that was in all likelihood ghost-written, and parade a stiff sentence before the cameras. But al-Qosi will not be serving fourteen years in prison. In fact, in all likelihood, he will be back home in Sudan in no time.

The Arabic-language satellite news network Al Arabiya reported last month that the plea bargain reached in al-Qosi’s case would require him to serve not more than two years in prison. Multiple sources who have examined the plea bargain agreement have confirmed to me that the Al Arabiya report is accurate. They also noted that the military commissions panel would not be apprised of this arrangement, but rather would be asked to set a sentence between 12 to 15 years (as in fact occurred). The final sentence will be imposed by the convening authority sometime in the fall. The convening authority is bound by the plea bargain, and thus will impose the two-year sentence. Only then will the actual sentence become public. As Al Jazeera has reported,al-Qosi will be permitted to serve any sentence in a communal-living area of Guantánamo reserved for “compliant” prisoners.

You can count on it that the convening authority will not get around to announcing the actual sentence until sometime after the midterm elections in November.

The plea bargain seems perfectly sensible. The prosecution had good evidence for al-Qosi’s involvement with al Qaeda, although he played a consistently minor role. Moreover, al-Qosi has been in prison since December 2001, and eleven years is a long time to spend in stir for working as a cook for a terrorist. Consider, by comparison, what transpired with Hitler’s chef, Wilhelm Lange, at the end of World War II. He was held briefly in investigatory detention, asked questions, and required to fill out the U.S. military’s exhaustive questionnaire. Then he was set free. The man who cooked the Führer’s vegetarian delight was not a major target.

The cases of al-Qosi and child warrior Omar Khadr, now underway, highlight America’s current prosecutorial dilemma. Any prosecutor worth his salt would want to start the process just as Justice Jackson did at the end of World War II: with high-profile targets against whom powerful evidence has been assembled. But nine years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain at large. Thus the world is shown not the mastermind of a heinous crime but a short-order cook and a 15-year-old child who offers credible evidence that he was tortured in U.S. custody. The spectacle is so pathetic that we can understand why those running it want to turn to carnival tricks to conceal the unseemly reality.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:30 am

"Consider Drug Regulation" says ex-president of Royal College of Physicians

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From Transform:

In his final Bulletin, the outgoing President of the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore wrote:

"I feel like finishing my presidency on a controversial note. I personally back the chairman of the UK Bar Council, Nicholas Green QC, when he calls for drug laws to be reconsidered with a view to decriminalising illicit drugs use. This could drastically reduce crime and improve health. Drugs should still be regulated, and the argument for decriminalising them is clearly made by Stephen Rolles in the latest edition of the BMJ."

His comments come in the wake of a flurry of calls for reform from health professionals, in the lead up to the publication of the Vienna Declaration, an international manifesto for reform, which calls for drugs to be decriminalised in order to promote individual and public health.
Danny Kushlick, Head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation said:

"Sir Ian’s statement is yet another nail in the coffin of the war on drugs. The Hippocratic Oath says ‘First do no harm’. Physicians are duty bound to speak out if the outcomes show that prohibition causes more harm than it reduces. Sir Ian is justly fulfilling his role by calling for consideration of the evidence for legal control and regulation."

Kushlick concluded:

"With a Prime Minster and Deputy Prime Minister both longstanding supporters of alternatives to the war on drugs, at the very least the Government must initiate an impact assessment comparing prohibition with decriminalisation and strict legal regulation."

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:12 am

Activities near "hallowed ground"

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Erin Einhorn reports in the Daily News:

Opponents of a proposed lower Manhattan mosque and community center speak in hushed tones about the sanctity of the "shadow of Ground Zero."

Tell that to the patrons of the Pussycat Lounge, a strip club where a photo of a nearly naked woman marks its location just two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.

Or the Thunder Lingerie and peep show next door, where the marquee sports an American flag above a window display of sex toys and something called a "power pump."

Many come to the scene of the worst terrorist attack on American soil to pay tribute to pain and unspeakable tragedy. They’re welcomed by solemn memorials and a visitors center amid the noise of reconstruction.

If they’re so inclined, they can also buy porn, play the ponies and take care of all manner of personal business within steps of the former World Trade Center.

In a walk of the streets within three blocks of Ground Zero, the Daily News counted 17 pizza shops, 18 bank branches, 11 bars, 10 shoe stores and 17 separate salons where a girl can get her lady parts groomed.

"There is something for everyone downtown, from mom-and-pop establishments to luxury retailers such as Tiffany’s and Hermes," said Jeff Simmons of the Alliance for Downtown New York…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Corporations start funneling cash to politicos

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Steve Benen:

Try to contain your surprise.

News Corp., which owns Fox News and the New York Post, gave $1 million to Haley Barbour’s Republican Governors Association this year, according to the RGA’s most recent filing.

The company’s media outlets play politics more openly than most, but the huge contribution to a party committee is a new step toward an open identification between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and the GOP. The company’s highest-ranking Democratic executive, Peter Chernin, recently departed.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said, "News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."

In case you were curious, there were no comparable contributions to Democratic campaign committees. News Corp. has written some modest checks for a few Democratic incumbent lawmakers, but they’re of the four-figure variety — a small fraction of the $1 million check for the Republican Governors Association.

Indeed, the RGA’s "biggest corporate donor" happens to be Fox News’ corporate parent.

Matt Gertz asks, "Are there still people who doubt that Fox is just an arm of the GOP?"

There shouldn’t be.

On a related note, anyone want to lay odds on whether Fox News’ on-air broadcasters, reporting on gubernatorial races, disclose that the some company paying their salary is also helping finance the Republican candidate they’re covering?

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:07 am

Great jazz performances: "The Savory collection"

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I can’t wait. Larry Rohter writes in the NY Times:

For decades jazz cognoscenti have talked reverently of “the Savory Collection.” Recorded from radio broadcasts in the late 1930s by an audio engineer named William Savory, it was known to include extended live performances by some of the most honored names in jazz — but only a handful of people had ever heard even the smallest fraction of that music, adding to its mystique.

After 70 years that wait has now ended. This year the National Jazz Museum in Harlem acquired the entire set of nearly 1,000 discs, made at the height of the swing era, and has begun digitizing recordings of inspired performances by Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Bunny Berigan, Harry James and others that had been thought to be lost forever. Some of these remarkable long-form performances simply could not fit on the standard discs of the time, forcing Mr. Savory to find alternatives. The Savory Collection also contains examples of underappreciated musicians playing at peak creative levels not heard anywhere else, putting them in a new light for music fans and scholars.

“Some of us were aware Savory had recorded all this stuff, and we were really waiting with bated breath to see what would be there,” said Dan Morgenstern, the Grammy-winning jazz historian and critic who is also director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. “Even though I’ve heard only a small sampling, it’s turning out to be the treasure trove we had hoped it would be, with some truly wonderful, remarkable sessions. None of what I’ve heard has been heard before. It’s all new.”

After making the recordings, Mr. Savory, who had an eccentric, secretive streak, zealously guarded access to his collection, allowing only a few select tracks by his friend Benny Goodman to be released commercially. When he died in 2004, Eugene Desavouret, a son who lives in Illinois, salvaged the discs, which were moldering in crates; this year he sold the collection to the museum, whose executive director, Loren Schoenberg, transported the boxes to New York City in a rental truck.

Part of what makes the Savory collection so alluring and historically important is its unusual format. At the time Savory was recording radio broadcasts for his own pleasure, which was before the introduction of tape, most studio performances were issued on 10-inch 78-r.p.m. shellac discs, which, with their limited capacity, could capture only about three minutes of music.

But Mr. Savory had access to 12- or even 16-inch discs, made of aluminum or acetate, and sometimes recorded at speeds of 33 1/3 r.p.m. That combination of bigger discs, slower speeds and more durable material allowed Mr. Savory to record longer performances in their entirety, including jam sessions at which musicians could stretch out and play extended solos that tested their creative mettle.

“Most of what exists from this era was done at home by young musicians or fans, and so you get really bad-sounding recordings,” Mr. Schoenberg said. “The difference with Bill Savory is that he was both a musician and a technical genius. You hear some of this stuff and you say, ‘This can’t be 70 years old.’ ”

As a result, many of the broadcasts from nightclubs and ballrooms that Mr. Savory recorded contain more relaxed and free-flowing versions of hit songs originally recorded in the studio. One notable example is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Music

Cool toothbrush, again

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Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 9:01 am

Food and fitness note

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Just back from the anniversary breakfast with The Wife. We went to the Victorian Corner in Pacific Grove, which is bathed in thick morning fog. I had Eggs Florentine and she Eggs Benedict, both with sliced tomatoes instead of potatoes.

This was after I did 12 minutes on the Nordic Track ski machine. I’m going to hold the morning workout to 12 minutes for a while, rather than increasing it, thanks to TYD’s reminding me of how I plunge into things and then am sidelined by overdoing it. 12 minutes is the minimum needed for the training effect to occur, according to Dr. Kenneth Cooper. So that should be enough to keep changes happening.

It turns out that, for me, weight loss requires exercise: I reached a point where I could not really restrict the diet more (and still have it be a sensible diet), but I was maintaining the same weight. The nutrition counselor told me that I would have to exercise enough to get short of breath, and as soon as I did that, I started again to lose weight. Obviously, I’m not burning the weight off from the exercise: 12 minutes isn’t enough to burn the calories in half an apple. But it seems as though exercise affects one’s internal processes, changing the way they act. At any rate, my weight is dropping again, and there’s a chance I’ll not be obese by the end of the week.

Getting this sort of direction is one benefit of having a nutrition counselor. Another is that you have someone to talk to about your weight-loss efforts. One has friends and spouses and children, of course, but one also recognizes that for others the topic of one’s own weight-loss efforts has limited appeal. But the nutrition counselor is actively interested and thus provides an excellent sounding board.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 8:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Speick and the Vision

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A superb lather from the Speick shaving cream and the Sabini brush. I had forgotten how much I like the Vision. I must work it into the rotation more frequently: a very smooth three-pass shave, with a splash of Speick for the finish.

And now I’m off for an anniversary breakfast with The Wife.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2010 at 7:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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