Later On

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

Archive for January 2014

Good impromptu one-dish meal

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I just made this up because I had a bunch of collards to use.

Pre-heat oven to 225ºF. Take a 3-qt cast-iron pot, and put in it:

1 smoked ham shank
1/3 c. water

Cover and cook in oven for 6-7 hours. Let cool somewhat, then remove remove meat from bone and discard the bone, reserving the meat.  Add to the pot (which still contains the fat from the ham shank):

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

Sauté for several minutes, then add:

1/4 c finely chopped garlic

Cook for about a minute, then add:

the meat from the ham shanks
1 bunch collards, chopped small, stems minced
1 bunch kale, chopped small, stems minced
3 c water
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Bring to simmer and cover. Cook for 5-10 minutes so greens wilt. Then add:

about 3/4 lb small fingerling potatoes, I would guess—I just got a couple of handfuls.

Cover and simmer for 50 minutes or so.

It turned out to be quite tasty. A little pepper sauce would go well, but it doesn’t agree with The Wife.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 6:35 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Avocado lassi

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Just made it. Tastes good.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Stephen Glass reconsidered

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He’s unrepentant. But the story of his unmasking is very interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Media

Watch how a NY Times editorial turns a fact into “he said/she said”

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NY Times editorial today omitted a word in one sentence, which seriously changed the meaning, but it did produce the familiar “he said/she said” formulation so beloved by the Times.

Sentence as printed:

A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.

Sentence without the “he said/she said” twist:

A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, as the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.

The fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol is well established. Alcohol damages the body in many ways, is much more addictive than marijuana, and is lethal in overdose while marijuana is not. This is not in dispute.

Perhaps the editors could try to be less timorous about embracing well established facts. It would be a nice change. (I’m not holding my breath.)

In the meantime, one-fourth of the male population of Russia dies before age 55. The reason: vodka.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Drug laws, NY Times

Christie Knew About Lane Closings, Ex-Port Authority Official Says

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Wow. It’s a little early on Friday for this to break.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 1:38 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

Tagged with

Change.org petition: Remove marijuana from Schedule I drugs

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You can sign here.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 1:34 pm

Even Texas Prison Guards Want Less Use of Solitary Confinement

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Nicole Flatow writes for ThinkProgress:

In the past, prison unions have been seen as one of the primary obstacles to some criminal justice reforms, particularly reform of solitary confinement. But in a letter obtained by the Texas Observer, the state’s largest prison union is now calling for the state to curb its use of prisoner isolation.

“As the president of the largest correctional professional organization in Texas I am calling on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to change the death row plan to positively impact both the correctional staff and offenders on Texas death row,” American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3807 President Lance Lowry wrote.

Solitary confinement has been called torturecruel and unusual, and a living death because of the affect it has on inmates, particularly the mentally ill. But from the union’s perspective, it also increases the risks to the guards because it tends to foster violence. The union argues that in solitary, “inmates have very few privileges to lose” and staff become easy targets. Instead, “the Texas death row plan needs to address tools that can manage positive behavior” — bolstering arguments against solitary confinement that extend beyond just death row inmates.

The letter says increased confinement of death row inmates in solitary housing that keeps them in their cells 23 hours a day and allows them almost no interaction with other prisoners was a “knee jerk reaction” to an inmate’s escape that “ignored the root of the problem” — lack of staff competency.

Recently, a Virginia federal judge held the automatic solitary confinement of all death row inmates unconstitutional, and other courts have held the practice unconstitutional as applied to the mentally ill. But the practice remains rampant in some prisons, despite widespread opposition and protest.

The old assumption is that corrections officers are inclined to lobby for policies that create jobs for corrections officers. But this is one of several areas in which prison employees are now joining the movement for criminal justice reform in the name of officer safety and prisoner humanity. A few months ago, the world’s largest correctional association called for the elimination of mandatory minimum prison terms.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 11:05 am

Posted in Government, Law

Interesting: In effect, state pension funds are raided for gifts to corporations

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Amazing how state priorities have shifted from citizens to corporations. Lydia DePillis writes in the Washington Post:

When Louise Jordan walked into the doors of Abraham Lincoln High School in North Philadelphia 34 years ago, after landing her dream job as a special education teacher right out of college, she didn’t worry about her tiny salary — just $10,770 per year back then. It wasn’t a lot to live on, but if she kept contributing 7.5 percent of every paycheck into Pennsylvania’s pension fund, the state would support her when the time came to retire.

“The expectation was crystal clear,” Jordan says. “You kind of took for granted that the state would fulfill its obligation.” For a teacher with a long career of service, the funding formula would have allowed her to essentially keep receiving the equivalent of a middle-class income through retirement.

So she bought a house in nearby Jamison, Pa., which she’s still paying off, while putting a kid through college. Now 56 years old, she’s risen to become Lincoln High’s special ed program coordinator, making $82,000 a year. But that retirement promise? Potentially dashed, with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett on a mission to roll all new public employees into 401(k) plans, and tweak the formula such that the current defined-benefit pensions pay out less.

“We’re so afraid,” Jamison says. “We’re not getting people to fill our vacancies now, because of the uncertainty. We have so many young people, and they’re worried, is this a place where they should work?”

Here’s what happened in between: When the pension system’s investment portfolio grew bloated in the go-go 1990s, the state increased benefit levels, without increasing the amount either employees or the government paid into the fund. After those investments collapsed, the accounts were drained, increasing the contribution necessary every year just to keep the fund solvent.

If you just look at the steeply climbing trajectory of Pennsylvania’s pension costs, it does appear that some sort of drastic action is necessary — and with all other budgets squeezed to the bone, perhaps public employees should be asked to pay for the miscalculations of politicians past.

Employer contributions

But is there another way?

It’s easy to cast about for other big pots of money to raid when these kinds of shortfalls arise, and no politician wants to raise taxes. There is, however, another big expense that tends to get overlooked: The tax breaks states already hand out to corporations, on the theory that they won’t stick around without them. In Pennsylvania, they amount to about $3.9 billion per year — several times the $1.4 billion that the state needs to contribute in order to make good on its pension obligations.

That means companies all around Lincoln High avoid taxes through offshore bank accounts, stashing income money in other states because of a failure to adopt “combined reporting,” locating in low-tax “opportunity zones,” and taking advantage of credits for research and development — while kids go without prom and after-school programs because the money isn’t there to fund them.

And it’s not just Pennsylvania.

Continue reading.

Once again we see large corporations raiding the public treasury, taking everything they can lay their hands on.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 10:55 am

Posted in Business, Government

Various US failures in Afghanistan

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The Afghanistan War might have had a different outcome if President Bush had focused on taking out Bin Laden (who had been trapped, but forces were recalled—that was shortly before Bush said that he really didn’t care about Bin Laden anymore), achieved that, and then got out of Afghanistan. It’s unclear why the US has remained so long as it has, though we seem to have killed many civilians whose families then hate the US and support attacks against us.

But our road efforts take the cake. Kevin Sieff reports in the Washington Post:

SAYEDABAD, Afghanistan — They look like victims of an insurgent attack — their limbs in need of amputation, their skulls cracked — but the patients who pour daily into the Ghazni Provincial Hospital are casualties of another Afghan crisis.They are motorists who drove on the road network built by the U.S. government and other Western donors — a $4 billion project that was once a symbol of promise in post-Taliban Afghanistan but is now falling apart.

Western officials say the Afghan government is unable to maintain even a fraction of the roads and highways constructed since 2001, when the country had less than 50 miles of paved roads. The deterioration has hurt commerce and slowed military operations. In many places, the roads once deemed the hallmark of America’s development effort have turned into death traps, full of cars careening into massive bomb-blast craters or sliding off crumbling pavement.

“There’s been nothing. No maintenance,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly.Since 2012, the United States has refused to fund the Afghan government’s road maintenance projects because it has no faith in the country’s ability to perform even simple tasks, such as dispatching a contractor to fill in a pothole or repaving a stretch of highway.Despite those concerns, the U.S. government is still building new roads in Afghanistan, multimillion-dollar projects whose funds were allocated years ago. . .

Continue reading.

And this is not to say that the Afghanistan War is doing well on other fronts. Evan Munsing, a Marine Corps officer serving as a military adviser in Afghanistan, has an interesting blog post on how our counterinsurgency efforts are failing. It begins:

With President Karzai as unlikely as ever to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with the United States, an early withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan seems increasingly probable.  Although the focus will soon turn to determining how to safely extract coalition forces, the United States also needs to think about how to preserve the strategic gains it has won at so great a cost over the past dozen years.  Unfortunately, America’s own institutional inertia will probably lead Washington to continue pushing a failed national counterinsurgency strategy on the Afghan military.  The United States has taught its Afghan allies—albeit not always successfully—to fight and govern as Americans fight and govern, rather than teaching them to do so in a way consistent with their culture and in line with their own strategic beliefs. The current strategy, which requires a unified national policy directed by a strong, legitimate government, is unrealistic in its expectations and inappropriate against violence that is dispersed and motivated by local concerns.  Unless the United States begins pushing the Afghan National Security Forces to adopt policies more suited to their current needs and their military culture, the blood and treasure we have poured into Afghanistan over the past twelve years will have been for nothing.

Current counterinsurgency doctrine presumes a national solution to local problems: . . .

Continue reading.

And Patrick Smith in Salon has a seething and detailed indictment of US efforts in Afghanistan:

Some readers may recall the joke that went around when George W. Bush launched Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. To prolong the tradition, it starts to look as if Hamid Karzai has endured the American presence in his country just about to his limit.

The Obama administration, which is to say the defense and intelligence establishments, is not getting its way with the Afghan leader these days. This is serious for a couple of reasons. One, it is our defense and intelligence teams that run U.S. foreign policy now — instruments of policy are now setting policy, tail wagging dog. The State Department’s role in the apparently eternal “war on terror” has devolved to limiting the very worst excesses — and then dissembling the best it can when the very worst comes to be. Which is usually.

Two, the war in Afghanistan and its silly name are to pass into history sometime this year, one way or another. And the end may be as ignoble as it is now proving in Iraq. Yet more American families will look at the framed photographs of their fallen and ask, “For what, exactly?”

Karzai warned Americans about this question long ago. “Military action in the country will … not deliver the shared goal of eliminating terrorism,” he said to the U.N. General Assembly in 2006. Let us keep this sound observation in mind as we interpret what amounts to a latter-day rebellion by the single most important client on Washington’s long list of them. It is an aid to understanding what we are not, in our media, encouraged to understand.

Here is what the Afghan leader has been serving up for the Obama administration of late. . .

Continue reading. It’s an important piece, showing how the US tries to impose a standard solution on a nonstandard situation.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life

OneNote available as free Web service

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One of the drawbacks of moving from Windows to the Mac is that the invaluable Microsoft Office program OneNote was not available on the Mac. But now the application is available for free on the Web. Check out OneNote.com. It’s not quite as slick as the computer-resident program, but it does offer much of the capability. For example, you can start typing anywhere on the page. It’s also free.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 10:42 am

Posted in Software

Fascinating confessions of an ex-TSA agent

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Jason Harrington writes in Politico:

On Jan. 4, 2010, when my boss saw my letter to the editor in the New York Times, we had a little chat.

It was rare for the federal security director at Chicago O’Hare to sit down with her floor-level Transportation Security Administration officers—it usually presaged a termination—and so I was nervous as I settled in across the desk from her. She was a woman in her forties with sharp blue eyes that seemed to size you up for placement in a spreadsheet. She held up a copy of the newspaper, open to the letters page. My contribution, under the headline “To Stop a Terrorist: No Lack of Ideas,” was circled in blue pen.

One week earlier, on Christmas Day 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had tried to detonate 80 grams of a highly explosive powder while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He had smuggled the bomb aboard the plane in a pouch sewn into his underwear. It was a masterpiece of post-9/11 tragicomedy: Passengers tackled and restrained Abdulmutallab for the remainder of the flight, and he succeeded in burning nothing besides his own genitals.

The TSA saw the near-miss as proof that aviation security could not be ensured without the installation of full-body scanners in every U.S. airport. But the agency’s many critics called its decision just another knee-jerk response to an attempted terrorist attack. I agreed, and wrote to the Times saying as much. My boss wasn’t happy about it.

“The problem we have here is that you identified yourself as a TSA employee,” she said.

They were words I had heard somewhere before. Suddenly, the admonishment from our annual conduct training flashed through my head—self-identifying as a government employee in a public forum may be grounds for termination.

I was shocked. I had been sure the letter would fall under the aegis of public concern, but it looked as though my boss wanted to terminate me. I scrambled for something to say.“I thought the First Amendment applied here.”

She leaned back in her chair, hands up, palms outfaced. Now she was on the defensive.

“I’m not trying to tread upon your First Amendment rights,” she said. “All I’m saying is: Couldn’t you have run those First Amendment rights past the legal department first?”

She dismissed me with the assurance that we would discuss the matter further at some point in the future.

I never heard anything more about it during the next three years of my employment at the TSA, save for some grumbling from one upper-level manager (“What’s this I hear about you writing letters to the New York Times? You can’t do that here.”) It was the last time I would speak out as a government employee under my real name.

But it was by no means the last time I would speak out.

My pained relationship with government security had started three years earlier. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 10:18 am

Posted in Government, Terrorism

Reducing peanut allergy

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Interesting note by Kerry Grens in The Scientist:

It’s a frightening thought: deliberately feeding peanut protein to severely allergic children. But that approach has actually fought back children’s allergic reactions, according to results from a study published in The Lancet today (January 30). “We’ve shown fantastic results, with 80 [percent] to 90 percent of children being able to tolerate eating peanuts regularly after treatment,” lead researcher Andrew Clark of Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK, told New Scientist.

Clark and his colleagues fed several dozen kids peanut flour in tiny amounts—just 2 milligrams (mg) to begin with—and gradually increased the daily dose to 800 mg over a course of six months. By the end of the study, 84 percent of participants could safely eat several peanuts’ worth of the protein at a time. “It’s huge, absolutely huge,” Maureen Jenkins, the director of clinical services at Allergy UK, told New Scientist. “There hasn’t been any way of treating this before.”

The scientists caution that this should not be used as a home remedy to treat peanut allergy, and said that it’s too soon to know whether the approach will work outside of a research setting. There were many more allergic events among the kids in the treatment group than those in the control group. It’s also not clear how durable the effect is. In their paper, the authors wrote: “It is probable that long-term peanut protein ingestion will be needed to provide continued protection from accidental exposure, perhaps for several years.”

There are a number of unanswered questions that will need to be worked out, such as the optimal dose and whether the children will suffer any long term consequences, pointed out Hugh Sampson, an allergy researcher at Mount Sinai Hospital. He told Science that “while this study adds to the growing data on the potential utility of oral immunotherapy for treating food allergy, I am not sure that this study brings us closer to the answers.”

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science

Brazil’s approach to ending poverty: Give people money

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The simpler the program, the smaller the overhead. Drug-testing welfare recipients wastes a lot of money that otherwise could be used to help people, for example. Howard Schneider discusses Brazil’s anti-poverty program in the Washington Post:

Here is a brilliant idea for how to help poor people: give them money. Specifically, give them enough money to end their poverty.

This is from Brazil’s social development minister Tereza Campello, who was in Washington this week discussing the country’s first decade of experience under the highly-touted Bolsa Familia cash transfer program.

It’s a discussion relevant to the U.S., involving a simple social contract that hands over cash – with no strings attached on how it is spent or who is considered part of a family – as long as any kids involved attend school.

The same day Campello addressed executives and staff at the World Bank, where the Bolsa program is considered a model that might be transplanted to other developing countries, a panel at the Brookings Institution was dissecting the performance of U.S. safety net programs during the recession.

There has been a spate of research on that topic. Some of the findings are comforting. Some are not.

Overall, said Robert Moffitt, a Johns Hopkins University economics professor who reviewed social spending and income data for the crisis years, programs like the earned income tax credit, extended unemployment insurance, food stamps and other safety net programs kept millions from falling into poverty. A study by the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the boost in safety net spending – some of it cooked into the design of the programs, some of it driven by Congressional action – held the increase in poverty to a minimum even as the country endured its worst economic slide in a century.

ceapoverty-800x604

But Moffitt also noted that U.S. poverty programs as currently designed aren’t as progressive as might be expected: the “working poor” who earn more tend to benefit the most under the earned income tax credit, while those who earn the least have to rely on traditional welfare benefits. Those tends to be more constrained, and while spending on food stamps did increase sharply during the recession, the state-run Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program did not.

Each program comes with its own set of strings attached – food stamps on what can be purchased, and TANF with work, training and paternity rules depending on the state.

All told, Moffitt said, it seems the programs did their job helping families weather the recession. . .

Continue reading. The way the program works is extremely interesting—and it’s working.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Latest Christie developments

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Elias Isquith in Salon:

Probably because of his well-documented problems with the GOP’s Tea Party base, Chris Christie never benefitted from a ton of high-profile Republicans offering their support and defending the governor in public. But after former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s  comments on Thursday — supposedly given in Christie’s defense — the governor of New Jersey may decide having Republican friends in high places is more trouble than it’s worth.

Here are the latest developments in the Chris Christie saga:

  • Speaking on the radio with Geraldo Rivera, Giuliani estimated the chances that Christie knew of the lane closure at the George Washington Bridge to be dead even. “”It’s 50-50, it leaves you with no possible way of knowing did [Bridget Anne Kelly] discuss it with him or didn’t she discuss it with him,” said Giuliani. “I like Chris very much and he’s being unfairly treated, and he’s a good friend,” he added.
  • Not long after Giuliani’s comments had made the media rounds, however, the former presidential candidate was back-tracking, furiously. Saying he was “offended” by how the media characterized his remarks, Giuliani insisted he was only commenting on the chances that a recent New York Times article — which described Christie’s operation as obsessed with winning over Democratic mayors’ endorsements, and Christie himself as a micromanaging, details-oriented leader of the team — proved Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge payback scheme. If this strikes you as a distinction without a difference, join the club.
  • Meanwhile, folks involved with Christie’s reelection campaign are hoping to use their leftover funds to pay the legal fees associated with the Bridgegate investigation.
  • In other legal-financial news, the Christie administration has agreed to pay $650 per hour to a law firm to represent some of the top Christie advisors who find themselves embroiled in the Bridgegate scandal.
  • The Rockefeller Group, the developer who sought to build an office complex in Hoboken — a vision Christie allegedly agreed with so much that he was willing to blackmail Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer to get it — has severed ties with the law firm Wolfson & Samson, whose founder, David Samson, was chairman of the Port Authority when Bridgegate happened.
  • In political news, Christie continues to see his poll numbers drop, with the latest poll of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents from the Washington Post finding New Jersey’s governor in third place among likely candidates for the 2016 GOP nomination. Before Bridgegate happened, he was in first.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:14 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Politics

Israeli Annexation of Palestinian West Bank, Scarlett Johansson and BDS

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Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

The determination of the Likud Party to annex the Palestinian West Bank is damaging the interests of world Jewry. This harm is clearly visible in the controversy that has engulfed movie star Scarlett Johansson, who was a global ambassador for the Oxfam charity and who also agreed to become a spokesperson for the Israeli company Sodastream, which has a factory in the Occupied West Bank. She will star in a Superbowl commercial for the company.

Oxfam points out that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal, and it is opposed to trade with settler commercial enterprises based there. The Sodastream factory in set in a 40,000-strong Israeli squatter settlement designed to cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and make a Palestinian state impossible. Israel squatters divert most of the West Bank’s water and other resources to themselves, leaving Palestinians impoverished.

In the end, Ms. Johansson had to choose between the two, and she gave up her association with Oxfam.

The Israeli Occupation institutions in the Palestinian West Bank are increasingly being boycotted, especially in Europe (Oxfam is based in Britain). Although it is clearly illegal for an Occupying Power to move its population into occupied territory (Geneva Convention of 1949), far right wing Israeli governments have flooded this Palestinian territory with hundreds of thousands of illegal squatters, who have usurped Palestinian property, confined Palestinians to Bantustans, and imposed onerous checkpoints on them. The Jewish supremacist squatter settlements are Jewish-only and no Palestinian can live in them. The militant squatters are often heavily armed and are increasingly attacking Palestinians and their mosques and other institutions, as well as waging economic warfare on them by cutting down their olive trees.

The European Union has decided to use its economic clout to push back against the clear Israeli determination to annex the whole West Bank while keeping its indigenous Palestinian population stateless and without the rights of citizenship.

The European Union has insisted that Israeli institutions and companies based in the Palestinian West Bank be excluded from any Israeli participation in a program of the European Union. (The EU treats Israel like a member, offering it many perquisites, opportunities for technology interchange, and access to EU markets; Brussels is saying, however, that none of that largesse can go to Israelis in the Occupied Weat Bank.)

About a third of Israel’s trade is with Europe (the US and China are its biggest trading partners, and Turkey comes after the EU). The EU imports $300 million a year from the settlements, but is clearly moving toward cutting that trade off.

Norway’s enormous sovereign wealth investment fund has just blacklisted Israeli firms with settlement ties.

This follows on a Netherlands’ investment fund divesting from five Israeli banks that fund squatter settlements on Palestinian territory.

European governments are increasingly warning their companies not to invest in or do business with Israeli firms in the Palestinian West Bank, since they might well be sued in Europe by the Palestinians so harmed. The recognition by the UN General Assembly of Palestine as a non-member observer state (on the same footing at the UN as the Vatican) has given Palestine more standing, even in national courts. Palestine is increasingly being upgraded diplomatically in Europe. The issue is also affected by European Union human rights law and a halo effect from the enactment of the Rome Statute in 2002 and the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

Here’s the problem for Jews in Europe and the United States who, like Ms. Johansson, do business with Israeli companies: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:05 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

A poem the 1% might consider

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I came across Bertolt Brecht’s 1935 poem “Questions from a Worker Who Reads”:

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:03 am

Posted in Daily life

Another BBS result from a Maggard razor

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SOTD 31 Jan 2014

The title is a bit of an exaggeration: prep, blade, and skill also play a role, but I am finding the Maggard head to be excellent.

First, the lather: The Baroness brush from Wet Shaving Products is an excellent brush, and with full loading (brushing the soap at length until bubbles are microscopic), Kell’s Original shaving soap makes a wonderful lather. I do like the Almond fragrance, as well.

The Maggard with a Super Max Titanium blade did a wonderful job: easy cutting, smooth feel, no nicks or burn.

A bit of Guerlain Vetiver and we finish up the week. (Sorry I had the bottle reversed so you see only the back of a label. I take the photos early in the morning.)

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Shaving

Detailed story of a scam on conservatives

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Amazing story.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2014 at 6:07 pm

Posted in Business

330 US drone strikes in Pakistan recorded in Leaked official document

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Alice K. Ross writes at Informed Comment:

The Bureau is today publishing a leaked official document that records details of over 300 drone strikes, including their locations and an assessment of how many people died in each incident.

The document is the fullest official record of drone strikes in Pakistan to have yet been published. It provides rare insight into what the government understands about the campaign.

It also provides details about exactly when and where strikes took place, often including the names of homeowners. These details can be valuable to researchers attempting to verify eyewitness reports – and are often not reported elsewhere. But interestingly, the document stops recording civilian casualties after 2008, even omitting details of well-documented civilian deaths and those that have been acknowledged by the government.

Last July the Bureau published part of the document for the first time. This documented strikes, which hit the northwest tribal areas of Pakistan between 2006 and late 2009, and revealed that the Pakistani government was aware of hundreds of civilian casualties, even in strikes where it had officially denied civilians had died.

The reports are based on information filed to the FATA Secretariat each evening by local Political Agents – senior officials in the field. These agents gather the information from networks of informants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the area bordering Afghanistan.

Now the Bureau has obtained an updated version of the document, which lists attacks up to late September 2013.

Read the secret document here

The document contains estimates of how many people have been killed in each strike, as well as whether the dead are ‘local’ or ‘non-local’ – a broad category that includes those from elsewhere in Pakistan, as well as foreigners.

When the Bureau released the first part of the report last summer, anonymous US officials attacked the document, claiming that the report was ‘far from authoritative’ as it was based on ‘erroneous media reporting’ and ‘indirect input from a loose network of Pakistani government and tribal contacts’. But the US has consistently refused to release information on what it believes has been the result of its drone strikes.

The overall casualties recorded by the document are broadly similar to those compiled by the Bureau, which uses sources including media reports, sworn affidavits and field investigations. The Bureau estimates that at least 2,371 people died in the time covered by the document (excluding 2007, which is missing from the record), while it records 2,217 deaths in total. . .

Continue reading.

More lies from the US government as they try to deny the death toll of our drone attacks.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2014 at 5:57 pm

The practice of lying in politics

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Earlier today I blogged about how one tires of outright lies from members of Congress, referencing Rep. Cathy Rodgers (R-WA), who said that she strongly supported equal pay for women—despite having voted against that every time the issue came before the House (four votes against equal pay for women). But President Obama is equally guilty. He is currently working hard to try to repair relations with Germany and other countries on which NSA has spied. He (and NSA) repeatedly state that they are simply fighting terrorism (apparently thinking Angela Merkel has terrorist contacts). But they don’t really think that. Obama was simply lying.

Juan Cole writes at Informed Comment:

When President Obama looked us in the eye and said that the US is not engaged in electronic surveillance for economic reasons, but only for the sake of security and anti-terrorism, he was lying through his teeth. He should be careful. His approval ratings have tanked in some large part because he has lost those who care about the 4th amendment and personal privacy. Reagan also became unpopular with Iran-Contra, when it became clear that he was lying to us what weapons he sold to Iran and what he did with the black money.

Lying is not fatal to a political career, but for the public to come to realize that you are systematically lying to them about something they care about– that is deadly.

Laura Poitras broke the story in a Danish newspaper and The Huffington Post also reported it, late Wednesday. The United States National Security Agency spied on delegates to the 2009 Climate Summit and used the knowledge they gained to game the negotiations in favor of the US (one of the world’s two major carbon polluters).

In the end, armed with knowledge of the summit leaders’ proposals, Obama sidestepped the UN process and essentially made a separate peace with a handful of other countries calling for holding global warming to a 3.4 degrees F. increase (2 degrees C.), but declining to put it into law or specify any specific steps to achieve that goal. It now appears clear that the US and the world will miss this goal by a large margin, and we are likely going to an average surface temperature increase of 9 degrees F., which could so destabilize the earth’s climate over time as to endanger human life.

This behavior at Copenhagen and since is consistent with Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy, which is a disaster for the earth. The policy allows Obama to praise non-existent “clean coal,” to display joy that the US is producing more oil by environmentally damaging hydraulic fracturing, and to express, as he did in the State of the Union address, a hope for natural gas-fueled automobiles.

His praising of the advances of solar energy in the US was also disingenuous, since the US is way behind on solar installations compared to other advanced countries, and solar accounts for less than one percent of our electricity generation nationally: . . .

Continue reading.

We, the public, simply can no longer trust the people we elect. This is bad.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 January 2014 at 5:54 pm

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