Later On

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

Archive for April 4th, 2011

Exactly right on the Quran burning and response

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This post by Gretchen Koch is exactly right. I was hoping someone would make the points that she does:

Remember Terry Jones? Not the guy from Monty Python, but the Florida pastor who threatened to burn copies of the Qur’an last August in response to the building of the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center a few blocks away from where the World Trade Center used to stand? And the president actually got on television to ask him not to do it? And Jones responded that he wouldn’t, not ever?

He finally got around to burning a Qur’an about a week ago. Well, another pastor actually did it but Jones “supervised,” during a mock trial of the text in which it was apparently found guilty. And nobody much cared…until some angry mullahs in Afghanistan encouraged a crowd of 20,000 Muslims to “avenge” the burning. Which they did yesterday, by attacking a United Nations compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, killing at least twelve people, none of whom were American. Seven of them were United Nations workers from European countries, and five were Afghani. The crowd had attacked the United Nations building because they had been unable to find any Americans on which to vent their anger.

Mr. Jones, the Florida pastor, caused an international uproar by threatening to burn the Koran last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Among others, the overall commander of forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, had warned at that time that such an action could provoke violence in Afghanistan and could endanger American troops. Mr. Jones subsequently promised not to burn a Koran, but he nonetheless presided over a mock trial and then the burning of the Koran at his small church in Gainesville, Fla., on March 20, with only 30 worshipers attending.

The act drew little response worldwide, but provoked angry condemnation in this region, where it was reported in the local media and where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Last week, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan condemned the burning in an address before Parliament, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan on Thursday called on the United States to bring those responsible for the Koran burning to justice.

A prominent Afghan cleric, Mullah Qyamudin Kashaf, the acting head of the influential Ulema Council of Afghanistan and a Karzai appointee, also called for American authorities to arrest and try Mr. Jones in the Koran burning.

The Ulema Council recently met to discuss the Koran burning, Mullah Kashaf said in a telephone interview. “We expressed our deep concerns about this act, and we were expecting the violence that we are witnessing now,” he said. “Unless they try him and give him the highest possible punishment, we will witness violence and protests not only in Afghanistan but in the entire world.”

Mr. Jones was unrepentant. “We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities,” he said in a statement. “Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability.”

Do I need to list off all of the absurd elements in this situation? Maybe I do:

  1. Both sides were blaming enormous groups for the actions of individuals. In Jones’ case it was the entirety of Islam for the acts of some terrorists; in the mob’s case it was the entirety of America for the acts of a small congregation of loony Americans. And in the mob’s case they not only decided to punish the group as a whole, but couldn’t even be bothered to make sure that the people they attacked were even members of it or that the property they destroyed was owned by members of it.
  2. Had the three mullahs in Mazari-i-Sharif not encouraged people to take to the streets and commit murder, they almost certainly would not have done so. Just as with the Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad, none of this destruction would have happened had it not been for mullahs stirring up the anger of Muslims.
  3. And yet, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 11:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Have you started gardening?

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If not, this little book will ease your progress. Link is to Cool Tools.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 11:14 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food

Duke Ellington Orchestra play their classics

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 11:09 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Bernie Sanders’s list of top tax avoiders

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Michael Mechanic has an interesting article in Mother Jones on how our tax system is not working as we want:

In a Sunday press release calling on wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their share, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont offered a list of what he calls “some of the 10 worst corporate income tax avoiders.”

Sanders, you’ll recall, made headlines for his epic 8.5-hour speech/filibuster this past December, dealing with how Obama’s pending tax-cut deal with the GOP would be bad for America. The speech—published this month as a paperback simply titled The Speech—was in vain: Congress passed the deal, extending tax breaks not merely to the poor and middle-class, but to America’s richest people.

It also slashed the estate tax from 55 percent to 35 percent and exempted the first $5 million of an estate’s value ($10 million for a couple)—up from $1 million pre-Bush. In his speech, Sanders warned against this change, noting, “Let us be very clear: This tax applies only—only—to the top three-tenths of 1 percent of American families; 99.7 percent of American families will not pay one nickel in an estate tax. This is not a tax on the rich, this is a tax on the very, very, very rich. (Click here for our blockbuster charts showing just how rich the very, very, very rich actually are.)

If the estate tax—which Republicans have cleverly rebranded the “death tax”—were to be eliminated entirely (another GOP goal), Sanders says it would cost US taxpayers $1 trillion over 10 years. “Families such as the Walton family, of Walmart fame, would have received, just this one family, about a $30 billion tax break,” he said in the speech.

As one of few voices in Congress calling seriously for balance between cuts and new revenues, Sanders wants to close corporate tax loopholes and get rid of tax breaks for Big Oil. He’s put forth a bill that would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on household income north of $1 million, and earmark that money for deficit reduction. He estimates it would bring in $50 billion a year, whereas Congress’ recent tax-cut deal will add around $700 billion to the deficit.

So, without further ado, here’s Bernie’s tax-avoiders list. In this case, one of his staffers informed me, “refund” means “negative federal income tax liability.” If you have any quibbles with his facts, let us know in the comments.

1) ExxonMobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings. [Note: Our post last April reported that ExxonMobil was owed $46 million by the IRS.]

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 11:07 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Relationship diagnosis note: Look at how they fight and also over what

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Interesting note from Richard P. Grant:

Few would dispute that good communication is essential to a happy and successful relationship. Even arguments might not necessarily be a bad thing–an air-clearing argument need not be destructive, and is probably more healthy than sullen silences. But recent work reported in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy now suggests that what partners discuss, or argue about, could be indicative of the health of a relationship 10.1080/0092623X.2011.547352.During recorded discussions between newlyweds the researchers noted how the participants behaved during conflict. While conflict itself, or even ‘negative behaviour’ (from the paper: “contemptuous, domineering, belligerent, defensive, and angry” behaviour) during conflict did not of itself predict a lower satisfaction with the marriage, negativity when discussing sexual issues did. 

R. Taylor Segraves, evaluating the article, points out that there are two conclusions for marital therapists: first, they should focus on sexual behaviour in newlyweds; second, the behaviour of the couple while discussing sexual matters should be noted.

It’s a small study (only 15 couples were interviewed) but if borne out implies that emotionally charged conflict (i.e. over sexual matters) could be a much stronger predictor of relationship distress than mere arguments about the mortgage, or what colour curtains go best with the carpet.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 10:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Pilates thought

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I was thinking about Pilates today—The Wife and I have a joint session today—and the role it was playing in my fitness program. I had been working on cardio-vacular fitness (the Nordic track) and on muscle strength (some weight training following Miriam Nelson’s program in Strong Women Stay Young), and more or less taking a pass on flexibility and balance—thinking that once I lost enough weight I’d work on those. (It seemed difficult to work on flexibility when I was encased in fat.)

Weight training builds muscle and strength, but it doesn’t really seem to address body systems the way that bodywork (Rolfing, Feldenkreis, Pilates, et al.) does. With Pilates, for example, I am working not only on strength, but also flexibility and balance, and the focus is on body systems and overall patterns of movement, which weight training more or less ignores except for being careful to use good form in working with the weights.

Pilates really seems worth seeking out.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Pilates

Smoked goodness

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I got my order from Smoke Fine Foods (warning: site is slow loading, possibly because the photos are at too high a resolution?) and I can’t wait. I’m cooking some of the smoked rice for lunch and kick myself for not ordering 4 bags instead of one.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 10:47 am

Posted in Food

A Klar Seifen sort of morning

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A nice clean shave to start the week: terrific lather from the excellent teamwork of the Plisson Chinese Grey and the Klar Seifen shaving soap. Three smooth passes of the Hoffritz with a Swedish Gillette blade, a splashof Klar Seifen Klassik, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 April 2011 at 10:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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