Later On

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

Archive for November 22nd, 2014

The question is: Will Sen. Udall (D-CO) step up and read the report of the Senate investigation into the record

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We have a lot of craven politicians, but I suspect no more a higher percentage than in the general population—except that craven politicians can think up more excuses for not acting. But time is running out for Sen. Udall: will he step up to the task, or turn tail and head home?

Read this for context: the argument between the White House and the Senators on whether the American public should be informed about what their government is doing. (The White House thinks not, and is doing everything in its power to hide the facts.)

Obama really is a piece of work. It’s too bad he’ll probably never realize the extent to which he has let the country down.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 6:02 pm

Comparing GOP priorities with the priority of the people of the US

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The NBC/WSJ poll found that the American public had these priorities for the new Congress (in order):

  1.   Access to lower cost student loans–80% support.
  2.   Increase spending on infrastructure–75%
  3.   Raising the minimum wage–65%
  4.   Emergency funding for fighting Ebola in Africa–60%
  5.   Addressing climate change/reducing carbon emissions–59%
  6.   Building Keystone Pipeline–54%

The GOP, which will control both houses of Congress, has listed its own priorities:

  1.   Authorize Keystone Pipeline.
  2.   Repeal ACA (“Obamacare”)
  3.   Pass the “Hire More Heroes” (veterans) Act.
  4.   Pass Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asia.
  5.   Lower corporate taxes.
  6.   Thwarting Obama on Immigration Executive Action.
  7.   Reign in the EPA and roll back environmental regulations.

Elections have consequences, and not voting is a dumb choice.

More information in this Daily Kos post.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 4:18 pm

Niggling bits of evidence about the JFK assassination

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Very interesting column by Justyn Dillingham in Salon. If RFK, Jr’s thought is true—that domestic opponents were behind it—those would been very powerful people, and those not only have great influence, it turns out that they cannot be touched when they are flagrantly guilty of war crimes: I’m referring, of course, to the open acknowledgement that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney instituted a program of kidnapping and torture. It’s very well known, and we even know those directly in the chain of command. But not only are no steps taken to hold accountable those responsible, President Obama will not even release the Senate committee’s own report of its investigations: the very body charged with oversight of this stuff.

And it’s all done quite openly.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Government, Law

Norms are easier to break than rules, and doing so does more damage

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What happens when the old norm is destroyed, a new norm is created. Reckless alteration generally is not an improvement. For example, Fox News broke the norm that a news channel is mostly non-partisan and instead became fiercely partisan, to the extent of broadcasting outright fabrications (without subsequent correction). The news channel had become a propaganda channel: not a breaking of rules, but of norms.

Thus we left the ideal of nonpartisan, accurate, reliable, fact- and evidence-based news. News became overtly a matter of agendas—at least more overtly than previously.

Now we see that the Congressional Budget Office, which has been the source of reliable, non-partisan information on budgets and budget projections (including estimating cost of legislation) is going to become a politicized, partisan—much like the change in the Supreme Court, come to think of it. The conservative majority hasn’t hesitated to ignore precedence (and experience and evidence) in arriving at partisan decisions—e.g., gutting the Voting Rights Act.

Elias Isquith writes in Salon:

As a rule, I try not to write about hypocrisy in politics. It’s such a constant, such a fact of life, that it can feel a bit like complaining about traffic or the weather.

But just as there’s a difference between waiting an extra 20 minutes during rush hour and being stranded in your car for five days — or between a typical snowstorm and what’s  happening currently in Buffalo — there’s a difference between the routine hypocrisy of politics and the kind we saw this week from Republicans in the House. One kind is an annoyance to be quickly forgotten; the other leaves a mark.

Before getting into why they’re so egregious, however, let’s pause to recap the Congressional GOP’s recent machinations.

Aware no doubt of how President Obama’s announcement this week on immigration reform would dominate both the media and the public’s attention, Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, have been working to make sure the next head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — which acts as Congress’s honest broker when it comes to scoring fiscal policy — is not a nonpartisan technocrat, as has usually been the case, but rather a loyal member of the conservative movement. And, as former CBO chief Peter Orszag recently explained, because the CBO has no institutional protections from partisan hackery, and maintains its integrity mostly through tradition, there’s precious little anyone can do to stop them.

While there are no doubt many changes ideologues like Ryan would like to see the CBO make, reports indicate that the main reason GOPers want to install a right-wing hack as its chief is in order to make the agency integrate “dynamic scoring” more fully into its estimations. “Dynamic scoring,” for those who don’t know, is a phrase conservatives like to use to give a tenet of their anti-tax religion — lower taxes lead to more revenue! — an intellectual gloss. More importantly, dynamic scoring is generally the special sauce right-wing “wonks” put into their projections in order to claim that massively cutting taxes on the rich won’t lead to fiscal ruin. Remember the absurd claim that Bush’s tax cuts wouldn’t explode deficits? Thank dynamic scoring for that.

So that’s what’s happening under the radar with the CBO. And if that were the whole story, it’d probably fall under into the “routine traffic and weather” category of hypocrisy I mentioned earlier. What makes this more of a Buffalo snowstorm-level problem is the context — specifically, the fact that Republicans are destroying yet another norm of American politics, the nonpartisan CBO, at the very same time that they’re waging a relentless and disingenuous campaign to persuade the media (and thus the American people) that the way the Affordable Care Act was written was a breach of democratic norms without precedent.

Yes, this is where “Grubergate,” the most recent of the GOP’s seemingly endless supply of manufactured outrages, comes in. . .

Continue reading.

Basically, the GOP is going to wreck one of the navigation instruments by which we chart the course of government.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Two small food notes

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First, the ancho chiles did not work well in the Chicken Cacciatore recipe. Worth a try, I think. Next time I’ll just double the amount of red bell pepper: two instead of one.

Second, I made The Wife’s Sausage & Egg Breakfast Bites with red chard this time, and the chard was so very nice and fresh, I saved the stalks (which are not used in the dish) and simmered them covered for 20 minutes in a very little chicken stock—cover the chopped stalks only halfway. They steam to tenderness. They tasted surprisingly like red beets/beet greens. I wonder if what I’m tasking is the pigment compound.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

ProPublica‘s Muck Reads

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Here they are. A couple of examples from the link:

“Penn State was no surprise. Abuse like this has been going on forever.” Outside magazine examines the legacy of sexual abuse in competitive U.S. swimming. The problem is so pervasive that in 2010, USA Swimming took the unusual step of creating a public list of coaches and officials banned for code of conduct violations, including sexual advances or contact with athletes. The list includes 106 members, 73 of whom were banned for sexual misconduct — punishment experts say is the exception in “the only country without a national government agency for these children.” — Outside via @amzam

That wasn’t a piece of meat with eyes, that was a human being.” It was 24-year-old Dennis Munson Jr.’s first kickboxing fight. The first round went OK. The third round didn’t. Within five hours, he was dead. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation found that kickboxing – unlike mixed martial arts – isn’t regulated by the state. This leaves promoters to oversee their own matches. A “cascade of errors” identified by the Sentinel and fight experts during the course of Munson’s fight, as well as dangerous weight cutting in lead up – all areas that are regulated in some other states – may have cost him his life. — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via @john_diedrich

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

GM “bullied” manufacturer over poorly designed part

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Very interesting story, and it seems to destroy Raymond DeGiorgio’s claim that he didn’t remember making the alteration to the part. The report by Bill Vlasic in the NY Times begins:

DETROIT — General Motors pressured a supplier to continue producing a substandard ignition switch a decade ago and leaned on the company to improve it even though it could not be fixed, a newly disclosed email shows.

The switch, made by Delphi, has become the focus of a safety crisis at G.M. and is linked to at least 33 deaths and dozens of injuries.

In the email, part of internal Delphi correspondence in 2005, a Delphi official said the company was pressured by G.M. to make the faulty switch work even though it did not meet G.M.’s own standard and continued to fail in testing.

It is the first publicly disclosed document showing Delphi’s longstanding concerns with the switch, and it demonstrates how G.M. pushed Delphi to continue to manufacture a faulty part. The email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, was introduced as evidence in a sweeping collection of lawsuits against G.M. and was made public on Friday.

A Delphi official, Thomas Svoboda, wrote in the email that Delphi was intimidated by a G.M. engineer, Raymond DeGiorgio, into accepting the switch’s design. . .

Continue reading.

It seems like GM has pretty consistently lied and tried to cover this up.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Business, Law

How to season cast-iron cookware: Use flaxseed oil

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I found this post quite interesting, and I am definitely going to try reseasoning my Griswold skillets.

She mentions cleaning out the old seasoning (and grease build-up) in a cast-iron skillet by using oven cleaner. If you have a self-cleaning oven, it’s even easier: just leave the skillet in the oven for a cleaning cycle. When the cleaning cycle is done, the skillet will be covered with gray dust, easily rinsed away.

And then… flaxseed oil. Who knew?

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 11:58 am

Recent history: The MIT Tech Model Railroad Club

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That railroad club was the origin of the acronym “mung,” as in “this train car is now munged.” “Mung” = “mashed until no good.”

Here’s the history, and it’s a fun read.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 10:27 am

The GOP has at least completed its Benghazi investigation: Nothing there

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As Kevin Drum notes, the GOP Congressional committee that investigated Benghazi for two years released its report late on a Friday afternoon—the traditional time for releasing bad news—because, apparently, in their view the report was bad news: no wrong-doing of any sort; no conspiracy; no hiding of terrible secrets. I wonder if Lara Logan will note this.

Kevin Drum:

For two years, ever since Mitt Romney screwed up his response to the Benghazi attacks in order to score campaign points, Republicans have been on an endless search for a grand conspiracy theory that explains how it all happened. Intelligence was ignored because it would have been inconvenient to the White House to acknowledge it. Hillary Clinton’s State Department bungled the response to the initial protests in Cairo. Both State and CIA bungled the military response to the attacks themselves. Even so, rescue was still possible, but it was derailed by a stand down order—possibly from President Obama himself. The talking points after the attack were deliberately twisted for political reasons. Dissenters who tried to tell us what really happened were harshly punished.

Is any of this true? The House Select Intelligence Committee—controlled by Republicans—has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, they issued their findings. Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report’s summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is:

  • The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi….Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support….
  • Second, the Committee finds that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks. In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.
  • Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al Qa’ida, participated in the attacks….
  • Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the Administration’s initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate….There was no protest.The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke)….
  • Fifth, . . .

Continue reading.

And William Douglas of McClatchy has a report as well:

The Obama administration didn’t issue ‘stand down’ orders to security forces at the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya or knowingly give erroneous details about the incident to the public, a quietly-released report by the House Intelligence Committee concluded Friday.

The two-year investigation by the bipartisan panel shoots down a series of conspiracy theories and cover-up claims. It’s the fourth congressional committee to reach similar conclusions.

‘The report has endeavored to make the facts and conclusions within this report widely and publicly available so that the American public can separate the actual facts from the swirl of rumors and unsupported allegations,’ the report stated in its findings.

It debunks talk that the administration ordered CIA and security forces at the compound to ‘stand down’ during that attacks that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: And ThinkProgress has a good report on the findings of the committee:

Two years ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives commissioned a House Intelligence Committee investigation into the 2012 attack on an American consulate in Benghazi. While failures of security were acknowledged by the administration, the investigation was one of many formed with the intent to prove some conspiracy theories about the incident, including a supposed high-ranking order for the CIA tostand down in the midst of the attack.

But the latest report, released Friday, does little to back up Republicans’ suspicion of negligence, and it finds no intelligence failure on the part of the CIA.

The investigative report is authored on the right by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and the left by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). Rogers previewed the report during a Fox News this September when he smacked down one of the leading right-wing theories, that the State Department issued a stand-down order before the attack. “It was the commander on the ground making the decision,” Rogers explained at the time. “I think it took 23 minutes before they all, including that commander, by the way, got in a car and went over and rescued those individuals.”

The report also disproves other conspiracy theories about that tragic night, including . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 10:10 am

Has our country become mean-spirited: Denying food to children

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In ThinkProgress, Bryce Cover has a summary report of what strikes me as a new and mean-spirited attitude:

First grader Xavier says that when the lunch lady at his Snohomish County School District school was recently handing out bagged lunches to all the students, she told him, “Guess what, you can’t have a lunch.”

His father says Xavier is on the school lunch program, but he was sent home without eating and with a slip saying he had a negative lunch balance.

A school spokesperson told Q13 Fox News that if a student’s account goes $20 or more into the red, he should still get a cheese sandwich, a drink, and unlimited fruits and vegetables. But Xavier says he didn’t get anything to eat, and his father argues that this shouldn’t apply to his son anyway since he gets federally funded lunches. “My question was never answered as to why he was denied,” he said.

“It happened to me as a child and I can still feel that hurt and I can only imagine what he went through,” Xavier’s dad said. “It made me feel really bad for him. That’s not right. That’s like saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have your book bag so you can’t have your education.’ You can’t do that. Feed them. They need to eat. They need to concentrate. They can’t concentrate without eating. I just don’t want this to happen to any other kid. It’s hurtful.”

But these kinds of incidents are not uncommon. A school in Utah threw out about 40 elementary students’ lunches because their parents were behind on payments. [Threw out the food rather than have the children eat it! I thought Utah was religious. – LG] A school in Texas threw out a student’s breakfast because his account was 30 cents short. [Again: better to destroy food than allow children to eat it. – LG] Those who get free lunches have also been humiliated, as students in a Colorado school who had their hands stamped in front of better off classmates. A Congressman even floated the idea that students who get free meals should be made to earn them by sweeping school floors.

Some school districts are taking a different approach that could do away with hunger problems, public shaming, and fights over account balances altogether. They’re participating in a federal program that allows them to give all students in the district free breakfast and lunch, regardless of income. So far districts in Boston, Chicago,Dallas, Indianapolis, and Winston-Salem, North Carolina have signed up, and New York City has explored the idea. The change reduces paperwork for parents and for schools, which reduces costs, while it also helps parents who had originally fallen just outside income eligibility limits.

It also addresses the hunger crisis in America’s schools. Three-quarters of the country’s teachers say they have students regularly showing up to class hungry. More than one in five children live in a food insecure household. Hunger has a particular impact on the young, as it can hamper their cognitive and social development and puts them at greater risk of mental illness. If more students got free breakfast, it would mean a significant boost to test scores and graduation rates and a drop in absences.

In districts that haven’t enrolled in the federal meals program, however, some private citizens have stepped in. A man in Texas paid off students’ balances so they could keep eating full meals. A first grade teacher in New Mexico started a program to send students home with backpacks full of food.

There is something seriously wrong with the attitude reflected in these stories.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 10:04 am

Great shave, and thoughts on lathering

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SOTD 22 Nov 2014

A wonderful shave today, with a BBS result with little effort.

I used the Wet Shaving Products Monarch brush shown and Martin de Candre’s excellent shaving soap. In this case, the soap goes to the brim of the bowl, but the surface is slightly concave. As I have described my lathering method, I have said that I start with a dripping wet brush, hold the tub on the side over the sink, and lather briskly and firmly, letting excess water and the first sloppy lather spill away into the sink, gradually righting the tub as I continue loading, watching for the bubbles being formed to become microscopic. And it’s true to this degree: I first started making a good lather using that technique.

But as I observe what I now actually do, I can see that I have unconsciously adapted the technique with experience, probably (I don’t really know the motives of my unconscious) to save time and effort by eliminating the part of the process where excess lather and loose sloppy foam spills into the sink. I now give the brush one moderate shake—that takes care of the excess water, so cuts out that—and I brush with a bit more restraint: still briskly and firmly but with a more restrained action so all the lather produced during the loading goes into the brush as it is loaded. The tub, which does start somewhat tilted (habit), is turned upright quickly, and I’m more aware of the soap and lather loaded, so I don’t need the clue of the microscopic bubbles: I can tell from the appearance and feel of the brush when it’s loaded and time to move to my beard.

I brush lather all over my beard, and twice I added a driblet of hot water to the center of the brush and brushed that into the developing lather. At a certain point, I recognized that the lather was done (experience again). No muss, no fuss.

I think part of the polishing of performance through practice and experience is the gradual elimination of inefficiencies. At first you start with too much water and get rid of the excess; eventually you find yourself starting with the right amount of water for the task. And, too, one adapts the technique (with experience) from soap to soap: e.g., with some soaps I add the driblets of water as I load, rather than after loading, because I’ve gradually learned/observed that some soaps require more water.

Probably this evolution of technique stems from observing the admonition to experiment: to try different things, and note what one is doing and what results. The adaptive unconscious then molds practice to fit, in the direction of efficiency.

At any rate, I got a really good lather, and the Shavecraft #101 did a great job. I’m beginning to think that razor is an unappreciated gem: extremely comfortable, highly efficient, and quite handsome. As we start making wishlists, keep that one in mind.

Three passes with a Personna Lab Blue blade, and after the final rinse and dry, a good splash of Fine Clean Vetiver aftershave, with the menthol a bit chilly this morning. (Still haven’t turned on the heat, but we are approaching stubbornness in this regard.)

TL;DR: No nicks, great shave.

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2014 at 9:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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