Later On

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Archive for December 3rd, 2012

The Eldest’s soup idea again.

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I made it again:

In 4-qt pot:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large chopped Spanish onion
good pinch of salt

Sauté until onion is soft and starting to brown. Add:

1 Tbsp smoked paprika (actually, I used sweet paprika: whatever)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
3/4 c (approx) chopped celery
1/2 c (approx) finely chopped parsley
good grinding of black pepper

Sauté for a while, then add:

1 small head cabbage, chopped or shredded
water to fill pot 3/4 full, more or less
about 1 Tbsp gochujang sauce
about 1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Penzeys Ham soup base
4 star anise
about 1 Tbsp 5th Taste brand umami seasoning (comes in a tube)
2 Tbsp vinegar (sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar: vinegar brightens taste)
1/4 c Amontillado sherry (optional)

Bring to boil, simmer covered 30 minutes. Add:

1/2 c converted rice

Cover again and simmer 20 minutes. Add:

1 package frozen potstickers from Trader Joe’s (pork, tonight)

Simmer 10 minutes. Serve.

Very tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Pushing back on the Monster of Monticello

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Some take exception to condemning Jefferson’s attitudes and actions regarding his slaves, including his several offspring from the slave Sally Hemmings. Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg write in Salon:

The firestorm over author Henry Wiencek’s unsparing portrait of Thomas Jefferson, “Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves,” has taken to the pages of the New York Times and other media outlets with a vengeance. Amid tepid praise for Jon Meacham’s folksy best-seller,  ”Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” which skirts the complex world of slavery, it is Wiencek’s hubristic treatment that has returned Jefferson to center stage in historians’ long-standing war over whom to blame first and foremost for our racist underpinnings as a nation.

Wiencek seizes upon stray notes in Jefferson’s hand in which the Virginia planter performs cold calculations on the monetary value of slaves. A Scrooge-like Jefferson becomes cruel and uncivilized as he obsesses over the slave economy – which he comes to see as a “convenient engine” of American growth. You don’t remove the human face from slavery and come out ahead. But that is what Henry Wiencek has done to Thomas Jefferson.

Swayed as many of us were by Wiencek’s deft examination of George Washington and slavery, Jefferson scholars expected a hard-hitting sequel. But in its design to shock, “Master of the Mountain” rashly removes the conversation from the long-active scholarly community, by self-consciously claiming that Wiencek, as historical detective, has smoked out a criminal.

Here’s the irony: Nothing is new in the current debate. Jefferson and his fellow founders have been sensationalized in the press and in popular literature and academic monographs without cease for over 200 years. For the uninitiated reader who has not followed the long parade of books on Jefferson, every spin on the third president appears at first to have merit. Jefferson has been a political symbol since he first sought the presidency, and a piñata in America’s culture wars for nearly as long as that.

Matthew Livingston Davis, Aaron Burr’s first biographer, actually knew Jefferson. When Thomas Jefferson Randolph published four volumes of his grandfather’s papers in 1829, Davis went through the letters and was shocked to discover that the Virginian’s real talent lay in deception. His favorite term of derision for Jefferson was “Jesuitical.” But the award for the most entertaining portrait of a villainous, hypocritical Jefferson goes to the late Gore Vidal. In his fictional “Burr,” we get a president who violated the Constitution while seducing his foes at the dinner parties he threw (those gatherings Jon Meacham offers up as his model of bipartisanship). Vidal’s Jefferson is surrounded by mixed-race offspring; his concubine Sally Hemings is pretty, but unfalteringly stupid.

Meacham’s Jefferson is “attractive and virile,” a smooth operator, serenely philosophical about the criticism he regularly receives, and a man who swings gleefully from realism to idealism, blending republican politics with haute cuisine. Oh, and also a master compromiser (which he was decidedly not). These characterizations of the sensitive politico serve to reframe the Jefferson biography as a Bob Woodward-style, inside-the-White-House intimate drama. Making Jefferson recognizable to us as a practitioner of political hardball allows the biographer to go on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” and delight the host with comparisons to whatever is happening in Washington this week.

A studious historian strives to contextualize evidence. The 4 percent annual profit on the births of slave children that Wiencek seizes on is not pretty; no one gives Jefferson high marks, because there is no such thing as a good master. Yet the evidence Wiencek plucks from the page belongs . . .

Continue reading. The problem is that many at the time did in fact recognize the wrongness of human slavery. It required conscious denial not to see the evil.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

When public officials fail in their responsibilities

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This story by Jennifer Preston, Sheri Fink, and Michael Powell, gives a detailed account of how New York City public officials, from Bloomberg on down, failed in their duties to see that the citizens of the city do not come to harm. This story is not about the failure to plan for Rikers Island. It’s about the nursing home patients who were effectively abandoned:

Hurricane Sandy was swirling northward, four days before landfall, and at the Sea Crest Health Care Center, a nursing home overlooking the Coney Island Boardwalk in Brooklyn, workers were gathering medicines and other supplies as they prepared to evacuate.

Then the call came from health officials: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, acting on the advice of his aides and those of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, recommended that nursing homes and adult homes stay put. The 305 residents would ride out the storm.

The same advisory also took administrators by surprise at the Ocean Promenade nursing home, which faces the Atlantic Ocean in Queens. They canceled plans to move 105 residents to safety.

“No one gets why we weren’t evacuated,” said a worker there, Yisroel Tabi. “We wouldn’t have exposed ourselves to dealing with that situation.”

The recommendation that thousands of elderly, disabled and mentally ill residents remain in more than 40 nursing homes and adult homes in flood-prone areas of New York City had calamitous consequences.

At least 29 facilities in Queens and Brooklyn were severely flooded. Generators failed or were absent. Buildings were plunged into a cold, wet darkness, with no access to power, water, heat and food.

While no immediate deaths were reported, it took at least three days for the Fire Department, the National Guard and ambulance crews from around the country to rescue over 4,000 nursing home and 1,500 adult home residents. Without working elevators, many had to be carried down slippery stairwells.

“I was shocked,” said Greg Levow, who works for an ambulance service and helped rescue residents at Queens. “I couldn’t understand why they were there in the first place.”

Many sat for hours in ambulances and buses before being transported to safety through sand drifts and debris-filled floodwaters. They went to crowded shelters and nursing homes as far away as Albany, where for days, they often lacked medical charts and medications. Families struggled to locate relatives.

The decision not to empty the nursing homes and adult homes in the mandatory evacuation area was one of the most questionable by the authorities during Hurricane Sandy. And an investigation by The New York Times found that the impact was worsened by missteps that officials made in not ensuring that these facilities could protect residents.

They did not require that nursing homes maintain backup generators that could withstand flooding. They did not ensure that health care administrators could adequately communicate with government agencies during and after a storm. And they discounted the more severe of the early predictions about Hurricane Sandy’s surge.

The Times’s investigation was based on interviews with officials, health care administrators, doctors, nurses, ambulance medics, residents, family members and disaster experts. It included a review of internal State Health Department status reports. The findings revealed the striking vulnerability of the city’s nursing and adult homes.

On Sunday, Oct. 28, the day before Hurricane Sandy arrived, Mr. Bloomberg ordered a mandatory evacuation in Zone A, the low-lying neighborhoods of the city. But by that point, Mr. Bloomberg, relying on the advice of the city and state health commissioners, had already determined that people in nursing homes and adult homes should not leave, officials said.

The mayor’s recommendations that health care facilities not evacuate startled residents of Surf Manor adult home in Coney Island, said one of them, Norman Bloomfield. He recalled that another resident exclaimed, “What about us! Why’s he telling us to stay?”

The commissioners made the recommendation to Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Cuomo because they said they believed that the inherent risks of transporting the residents outweighed the potential dangers from the storm.

In interviews, senior Bloomberg and Cuomo aides did not express regret for keeping the residents in place. . . [In other words, they learned nothing. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 4:53 pm

How Cellphone Companies Have Resisted Rules for Disasters

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The cellphone companies want voluntary standards. Businesses always want voluntary standards because then they can safely ignore the standards. “We decided not to volunteer,” they say, and they all say that: because of competitive pressures and bottom-line focus, if one business ignores the voluntary standards in order to gain a competitive advantage, they all must, or they fall behind. The question to ask is, “If we make it a voluntary standard, will you follow it?” and when they say, “Oh, yes. Absolutely. You can depend on that,” the response should be, “Excellent. Then you won’t mind if we make it a law, since you’ll be doing it anyway.”

Cora Currier reports for ProPublica:

In a natural disaster or other emergency, one of the first things you’re likely to reach for is your cellphone. Landlines are disappearing. More than 30 percent of American households now rely exclusively on cellphones.

Despite that, cell carriers have successfully pushed back against rules on what they have to do in a disaster. The carriers instead insist that emergency standards should be voluntary, an approach the Federal Communications Commission has gone along with.

After Hurricane Katrina, for instance, carriers successfully opposed a federal rule that would have required them to have 24-hours of backup power on cell towers. In another instance, an FCC program to track crucial information during an emergency — such as which areas are down and the status of efforts to bring the network back — remains entirely voluntary. Nor is the information collected made public.

After Sandy, when thousands roamed the streets looking for service, many had no idea where they could get a signal. AT&T and Sprint, among the major carriers, didn’t initially release details on what portion of their network was down.

The emergency issue has been part of a trend in deregulation of the telecommunications industry. Since 2010, more than 20 states have passed laws limiting their regulation of telecoms.

“The FCC is very concerned about the nature of their overall authority and whether rules would survive a court challenge,” says Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a technology advocacy nonprofit. “So their approach is to push and nudge and come up with things that would be more acceptable to the industry.”

“Traditional carriers had reliability requirements, and reporting requirements,” says Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former technology adviser to President Obama. “We treat wireless and broadband much differently.”

An FCC spokesperson declined to comment on emergency planning issues beyond pointing to field hearings announced last week, to study the response by networks to Hurricane Sandy and other recent disasters.

Katrina also generated concern over emergency communications plans, but did not lead to binding rules. Instead, the FCC advised that the industry work with them to create emergency preparations checklists — voluntary best practices, rather than requirements.

The FCC’s voluntary Disaster Information Reporting System was also created in the wake of Katrina. The agency does not say which carriers are participating in the system, and says it can’t release the data that is reported because it is considered “sensitive, for national security and/or commercial reasons.” The FCC also hasn’t determined to what extent it can share information with state and local governments. [The FCC seems to be working on behalf the companies rather than for the public interest. – LG]

Carriers “actively report” to the database, and also work with the Department of Homeland Security during emergencies, according to Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice-president of regulatory affairs at CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry group. “It’s clearly a balance,” he says, between “working with the government on getting information to them” and “trying to stand up the networks.”

Others argue that a voluntary system isn’t enough to inform the public or hold companies accountable. “When it’s voluntary, what are the expectations about the accuracy of information?” Feld says. “It’s a whole other thing to have to give a serious, mandatory assessment to a federal agency.”

Another instance where a voluntary initiative met pushback from carriers is a new system of . . .

. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 4:14 pm

Part of the 47% dependent on the government: Corporations

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Corporations receive MUCH from the government, from the infrastructure they use to the tax write-offs and government handouts they demand (the oil depletion allowance and corn subsidies are egregious examples). They also are excused from paying taxes, as described in NY Times article today by Louise Story, part of a continuing series. Today’s installment begins:

DALLAS — The Preston Hollow neighborhood has been home to many of Texas’ rich and powerful — George and Laura Bush, Mark Cuban, T. Boone Pickens, Ross Perot. So it is hardly surprising that a recent political fund-raiser was held there on the back terrace of a 20,000-square-foot home overlooking lush gardens with life-size bronze statues of the host’s daughters.

The guest of honor was Gov. Rick Perry, but the man behind the event was not one of the enclave’s boldface names. He was a tax consultant named G. Brint Ryan.

Mr. Ryan’s specialty is helping clients like ExxonMobil and Neiman Marcus secure state and local tax breaks and other business incentives. It is a good line of work in Texas.

Under Mr. Perry, Texas gives out more of the incentives than any other state, around $19 billion a year, an examination by The New York Times has found. Texas justifies its largess by pointing out that it is home to half of all the private sector jobs created over the last decade nationwide. As the invitation to the fund-raiser boasted: “Texas leads the nation in job creation.”

Yet the raw numbers mask a more complicated reality behind the flood of incentives, the examination shows, and raise questions about who benefits more, the businesses or the people of Texas.

Along with the huge job growth, the state has the third-highest proportion of hourly jobs paying at or below minimum wage. And despite its low level of unemployment, Texas has the 11th-highest poverty rate among states.

“While economic development is the mantra of most officials, there’s a question of when does economic development end and corporate welfare begin,” said Dale Craymer, the president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, a group supported by business that favors incentives programs.

In a state that markets itself as “wide open for business,” the lines are often blurred between decision makers and beneficiaries, according to interviews with dozens of state and local officials and corporate representatives. The government in many instances is relying on businesses and consultants like Mr. Ryan for suggestions on what incentives to grant and which companies should receive them, as well as on other factors that directly affect public spending and budgets, the interviews show.

Mr. Ryan does not claim to be neutral on where the money should go. “It’s widely known that I represent a lot of taxpayers,” he said in an interview. “I have client relationships with people who hopefully, if they invest in Texas, they’ll receive incentives.”

Granting corporate incentives has become standard operating procedure for state and local governments across the country. The Times investigation found that the governments collectively give incentives worth at least $80 billion a year.

The free flow of tax breaks and subsidies in Texas makes it particularly fertile ground to examine these economic development deals and the fundamental trade-off behind them: the more states give to businesses, the less they have available in the short term to spend on basic services, a calculation made more stark by the recession.

To help balance its budget last year, Texas cut public education spending by $5.4 billion — a significant decrease considering that it already ranked 11th from the bottom among all states in per-pupil financing, according to recent data from the Census Bureau. Yet highly profitable companies like Dow Chemical and Texas Instruments continue to enjoy hefty discounts on their school tax bills through one of the state’s economic development programs.

In the Manor school district, which comprises the town and part of Austin, Samsung has been awarded more than $231 million in incentives from state and local officials. But the recent budget cuts have left the district with crowded classes and fewer programs.

Mr. Perry, who took office at the end of 2000, has been a longtime proponent of lowering taxes. He said in an interview that companies could put the money to better use than the government and would spend it in ways that would create jobs and help Texans. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 10:53 am

Posted in Business, Government

GOP’s lack of ideas exposed

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Paul Krugman has an excellent column today in the NY Times:

In the ongoing battle of the budget, President Obama has done something very cruel. Declaring that this time he won’t negotiate with himself, he has refused to lay out a proposal reflecting what he thinks Republicans want. Instead, he has demanded that Republicans themselves say, explicitly, what they want. And guess what: They can’t or won’t do it.

No, really. While there has been a lot of bluster from the G.O.P. about how we should reduce the deficit with spending cuts, not tax increases, no leading figures on the Republican side have been able or willing to specify what, exactly, they want to cut.

And there’s a reason for this reticence. The fact is that Republican posturing on the deficit has always been a con game, a play on the innumeracy of voters and reporters. Now Mr. Obama has demanded that the G.O.P. put up or shut up — and the response is an aggrieved mumble.

Here’s where we are right now: As his opening bid in negotiations, Mr. Obama has proposed raising about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade, with the majority coming from letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire and the rest from measures to limit tax deductions. He would also cut spending by about $400 billion, through such measures as giving Medicare the ability to bargain for lower drug prices.

Republicans have howled in outrage. Senator Orrin Hatch, delivering the G.O.P. reply to the president’s weekly address, denounced the offer as a case of “bait and switch,” bearing no relationship to what Mr. Obama ran on in the election. In fact, however, the offer is more or less the same as Mr. Obama’s original 2013 budget proposal and also closely tracks his campaign literature.

So what are Republicans offering as an alternative? They say they want to rely mainly on spending cuts instead. Which spending cuts? Ah, that’s a mystery. In fact, until late last week, as far as I can tell, no leading Republican had been willing to say anything specific at all about how spending should be cut.

The veil lifted a bit when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 9:40 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

BBS with Bakelite Slant

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SOTD 3 Dec 2012

BBS after a two-day stubble is always a pleasure—and not rare: a multiday stubble seems to result in a better shave, for some reason.

Mystic Waters Coconut shave stick has a wonderful fragrance and with the Mühle silvertip I got a fine lather. The bakelite slant did its usual superb job, today with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade. (I just yesterday saw on Wicked Edge a shaver advising someone to throw out this very brand without bothering to test it because he had found that it didn’t work at all for him. How can we spread the word that one’s own personal experience with a blade is a totally unreliable guide for others? Saying “YMMV” obviously doesn’t do it.)

A splash of Krampfert’s Finest Bay Rum and the week begins—with a load of laundry.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 December 2012 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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