Later On

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

Archive for January 22nd, 2011

Clarence Thomas tests ethics

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We had ample warning about Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress:

Federal judges and justices are required by law to disclose their spouse’s income — thus preventing persons who wish to influence the judge or justice from funneling money to them through their husband or wife. Yet, as the Los Angeles Times reports, Justice Clarence Thomas has not complied with this requirement for years:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report his wife’s income from a conservative think tank on financial disclosure forms for at least five years, the watchdog group Common Cause said Friday.

Between 2003 and 2007, Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, earned $686,589 from the Heritage Foundation, according to a Common Cause review of the foundation’s IRS records. Thomas failed to note the income in his Supreme Court financial disclosure forms for those years, instead checking a box labeled “none” where “spousal noninvestment income” would be disclosed. […]

Virginia Thomas also has been active in the group Liberty Central, an organization she founded to restore the “founding principles” of limited government and individual liberty.

In his 2009 disclosure, Justice Thomas also reported spousal income as “none.” Common Cause contends that Liberty Central paid Virginia Thomas an unknown salary that year.

This revelation that Justice Thomas failed to comply with his disclosure obligations comes as he is caught up in another ethics scandal regarding his participation in fundraisers for far-right political groups. Thomas once attended a gathering of wealthy corporate activists convened by billionaire Charles Koch to raise money for right-wing political causes, and he also attended at least one fundraiser hosted by the far-right think tank that used to employ his wife.

A Supreme Court justice lending a hand to a political fundraising event would be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, if it wasn’t for the fact that the nine justices have exempted themselves from much of the ethical rules governing all other federal judges. Under the Code of Conduct, “a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose,” except in certain very narrow circumstances that don’t apply to the Koch and Heritage fundraisers.

Nor is Thomas the only justice engaged in ethically questionable activities. Justice Antonin Scalia also attended one of Charles Koch’s right-wing fundraising and strategy sessions, and Justice Samuel Alito is a frequent speaker at fundraisers for groups such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute — the corporate front that funded the rise of Republican dirty trickster James O’Keefe and that used to employ anti-masturbation activist Christine O’Donnell.

Worst of all, today’s revelation that Justice Thomas has been submitting incomplete financial disclosures suggests that the conservative justices’ engagement with corporate political advocacy could be much more widespread than previously believed. If the justices are not disclosing their activities, it’s anyone’s guess what they could be hiding.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

America’s secret war (secret from the US public)

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Take a look at the articles in this series. The one about the private spy outfit is quite interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 6:33 pm

One-pot meals report

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I made quite an inglorious one-pot meal yesterday: way too much liquid, tastes didn’t work, etc. It was a kind of seafood curry (shrimp and scallops), which I thought I’d like better than the Cioppino recipe I was looking at. Live and learn. The result can be best described as edible.

Today’s was almost perfect. Layers, beginning with bottom:

1/2 sweet onion, sliced (and I made some slices thick)
1 c. (i.e., 1 serving) whole-wheat rotini
1/2 c. egg noodles (wanted to see how they would do)
1/3 cup lite coconut milk
8 oz chicken breast cut into bite-size chunks
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
Sliced mushrooms
1/2 red bell pepper and 1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1″ squares
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 c green beans, but into 1″ pieces

Mix in a small bowl:

2 Tbsp vinaigrette
Good dash soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
4-5 cloves garlic, minced

Pour that over the top. Cover, 45 minutes at 450º F.

It’s very tasty. Egg noodles (and rotini) worked well. Good flavors.

UPDATE: I’ve been thinking about it, and I have serious doubts whether this cooking method is suitable for shrimp or scallops, neither of which should be cooked too long. OTOH, the petrale sole worked fine. So I’ll stick with regular fish—next up with be Dover sole, and then perhaps some Pacific swordfish cut into chunks.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 2:01 pm

Many college students not learning to think critically

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And I would say it’s not just college students. Sara Rimer reports for McClatchy:

An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.

Many of the students graduated without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event, according to New York University sociologist Richard Arum, lead author of the study. The students, for example, couldn’t determine the cause of an increase in neighborhood crime or how best to respond without being swayed by emotional testimony and political spin.

Arum, whose book "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses" (University of Chicago Press) comes out this month, followed 2,322 traditional-age students from the fall of 2005 to the spring of 2009 and examined testing data and student surveys at a broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, from the highly selective to the less selective.

Forty-five percent of students made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning or writing skills during the first two years of college, according to the study. After four years, 36 percent showed no significant gains in these so-called "higher order" thinking skills.

Combining the hours spent studying and in class, students devoted less than a fifth of their time each week to academic pursuits. By contrast, students spent 51 percent of their time — or 85 hours a week — socializing or in extracurricular activities.

The study also showed that students who studied alone made more significant gains in learning than those who studied in groups.

"I’m not surprised at the results," said Stephen G. Emerson, the president of Haverford College in Pennsylvania. "Our very best students don’t study in groups. They might work in groups in lab projects. But when they study, they study by themselves."

The study marks one of the first times a cohort of undergraduates has been followed over four years to examine whether they’re learning specific skills. It provides a portrait of the complex set of factors, from the quality of secondary school preparation to the academic demands on campus, which determine learning. It comes amid President Barack Obama’s call for more college graduates by 2020 and is likely to shine a spotlight on the quality of the education they receive. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Ray Brown, Monty Alexander, Herb Ellis: "I Want To Be Happy"

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 11:05 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Europe between Hitler and Stalin: Bloodlands

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What evil fools these mortals can be:

Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin

by Timothy Snyder

A review by Doug Brown

Almost all accounts of non-combat deaths in the WWII European Theater focus on the Holocaust, as if it were a singular event and no other governments were involved in murdering civilians. In Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder opens up the scope to include murder by the Soviets in Central Europe from 1930 to 1950. The overall picture is one in which The Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania were very bad places to be in the mid-20th century. Snyder refers to this area as the Bloodlands, as over 14 million non-combatants were killed there in a 20-year period.

Through the 1930s, Stalin was the primary tormentor in the Bloodlands. First came agricultural collectivization, which meant starvation for five million Ukrainians. This was followed hard upon by the Great Terror of 1937-38, in which another 700,000 people were shot. Many of these victims were also peasant farmers, as the failure of collectivization had to be blamed on someone.

Once Hitler and Stalin carved up Poland between them and co-occupied it from 1939-1941, the killing was close to equal on both sides. Both Germany and Russia sought to rid Poland of its intellectuals and leaders, in order to eliminate anyone with the fortitude to rise up against their occupiers. At this point the Holocaust hadn’t really begun, as Jewish resettlement was still the Nazis’ plan (rather than the euphemism it became).

All that changed with the invasion of Russia in 1941, particularly in 1942 after the invasion stalled. The Soviet Union was still killing large numbers of its subjects, and many German POWs died of starvation in camps. Likewise, over a million Russian POWs died in German camps during the war. But behind German lines something new was happening. SS and police units, often assisted by the local populace, would round up all the Jews in a town, march them off somewhere, and shoot them. For the majority of the time the Holocaust was happening, shooting was the method of murder. The gas camps came later, and only account for half of all deaths. Shooting was often more efficient; units in large actions could kill 10,000 people a day, whereas Auschwitz-Birkenau rarely reached that rate. Snyder argues that the focus in the West on equating the camps with the Holocaust has created an unrealistic picture of the event.

As the Eastern Front crumbled and Germany was driven back, there was no respite in the Bloodlands. Now the killing was happening behind the Soviet lines, as accused collaborators and nationalist elements were purged. During this desperate time, the Holocaust reached its peak; more victims died in 1944 than any other year. Russia stirred up resistance elements to bring about the Warsaw uprising, but made no effort to assist. The Germans brutally smashed the uprising and bombed the city to rubble; Snyder reports that more Poles died in those few weeks than the total number of Americans killed in all foreign wars combined. Once the war ended, killing continued under Soviet rule as all communists who weren’t 100% pro-Russia were purged.

To people living in Central Europe, Germany and Russia were alternately viewed as saviors and monsters. After the famine and Terror, some in The Ukraine weren’t sad to see the Russians driven out. But then the Germans started killing the survivors, concentrating on Jews and communist leaders. After living under that boot for a while, the Russians were momentarily welcomed back, a welcome quickly worn out by fresh purges. By some estimates, 1 in 5 Ukrainians were killed in a 20-year period. Snyder makes a good case for not viewing the Holocaust as an event separate from history, or even separate from geography. For the middle years of the 20th century, two murderous regimes made a swath of the East European Plain their killing fields. Bloodlands brought to me a fresh perspective on a period that I have read a great deal about, and I recommend it to all who wonder how people can be so horrible to each other.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 11:03 am

Strange beast near the sea

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 10:57 am

Posted in Art, Video

No shave today

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I decided that I’d skip the weekend and enjoy a three-day stubble on Monday.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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