Later On

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

Archive for February 13th, 2015

Impromptu cooking: Chili sin frijoles

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I used the 6-qt 10″ pot.

I poured in about 1/4 c olive oil, then added:

3 medium yellow onions, chopped
good shaking of salt
several grindings black pepper

I let those sauté a while, then added:

10-12 cloves garlic, chopped small
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 ancho chilies, seeded, cut into strips, then across into small squares

After that had cooked a while, I then added:

2.5 lb boneless chuck roast, cut into small pieces

I browned that. Then I added:

5 tomatillos, diced
1 can Rotel Original diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 7-oz can diced green chilies
12-16 small tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp Illy Espresso grind Dark Roast coffee (the ground coffee itself)
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
2 Tbsp Dutch Process high-fat cocoa
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp brown rice vinegar

Simmered it an hour, and it became chili sin frijoles.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2015 at 6:46 pm

Confessions of a congressman

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Congress has stopped working. I don’t see it starting up again. I imagine politically aware people in the Roman republic were also witnesses to their government’s decline.

This Vox article by an anonymous member of Congress spells out why it doesn’t work and is unlikely to be fixed:

I am a member of Congress. I’m not going to tell you from where, or from which party. But I serve, and I am honored to serve. I serve with good people (and some less good ones), and we try to do our best.

It’s a frustrating, even disillusioning job. The public pretty much hates us. Congress polls lower than Richard Nixon during Watergate, traffic jams, or the Canadian alt-rock band Nickelback. So the public knows something is wrong. But they often don’t know exactly what is wrong. And sometimes, the things they think will fix Congress — like making us come home every weekend — actually break it further.

So here are some things I wish the voters knew about the people elected to represent them.

1) Congress is not out of touch with folks back home

Congress is only a part-time job in Washington, DC. An hour after the last vote, almost everyone is on the airplane home. Congress votes fewer than 100 days a year, spending the rest of the time back home where we pander to their constituents’ short-term interests, not the long-term good of the nation. Anyone who is closer to your district than you are will replace you. Incumbents stick to their districts like Velcro.

2) Congress listens best to money

It is more lucrative to pander to big donors than to regular citizens. Campaigns are so expensive that the average member needs a million-dollar war chestevery two years and spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money. Think about that. You’re paying us to do a job, and we’re spending that time you’re paying us asking rich people and corporations to give us money so we can run ads convincing you to keep paying us to do this job. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and corporations are people, the mega-rich have been handed free loudspeakers. Their voices, even out-of-state voices, are drowning out the desperate whispers of ordinary Americans.

3) Almost everyone in Congress loves gerrymandering

Without crooked districts, most members of Congress probably would not have been elected. According to the Cook Political Report, only about 90 of the 435 seats in Congress are “swing” seats that can be won by either political party. In other words, 345 seats are safe Republican or Democratic seats. Both parties like it that way. So that’s what elections are like today: rather than the voters choosing us, we choose the voters. The only threat a lot of us incumbents face is in the primaries, where someone even more extreme than we are can turn out the vote among an even smaller, more self-selected group of partisans.

4) You have no secret ballot anymore

The only way political parties can successfully gerrymander is by knowing how you vote. Both parties have destroyed your privacy at the polling booth. Thanks to election rolls, we don’t know exactly whom you voted for, but we get pretty damn close. We know exactly which primaries and general elections you have voted in, and since there are so few realistic candidates in most elections, down or up ballot, we might as well know exactly who you voted for. Marry that data with magazine subscriptions, the kind of car you drive, and all sorts of other easily available consumer information that we’ve figured out how to use to map your political preferences, and we can gerrymander and target subdivisions, houses — even double beds. Republicans want the male vote; Democrats the female vote.

5) We don’t have a Congress but a parliament

Continue reading.

Solutions are obvious and relatively easy to implement, but they will not happen because Congress and those in power do not want solutions. The current situation is a solution from their point of view: a way to control the levers of power to get what they want. It’s not good for the people, but they care only about what’s good for themselves.

Some easy steps:

Public financing of elections, with campaign contributions illegal (because campaign contributions are bribery, pure and simple: money is not speech).

Algorithmic drawing of Congressional districts.

A $100 fine levied against those who fail to vote.

That would help a lot.

It would also be good to reform the Senate, which is grossly disproportional, but let’s do the easy stuff first.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2015 at 5:18 pm

The Case for Members of Congress Skipping the Netanyahu Speech

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Really, what Netanyahu is doing is outrageous, and John Boehner is to be condemned—but John Boehner is well known to be a weak link. James Fallows has an excellent post on the incident:

For the record, and as explained in posts collected here, I am not a fan of:

(a) the idea of a foreign leader being invited to criticize existing U.S. foreign policy before a joint meeting of Congress, something that has never happened before; or

(b) the specific critique Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to advance in this setting, which, based on his statements over the past decade, is likely to involve such impossible conditions and strictures for an “acceptable” deal with Iran as to torpedo the negotiations. Not to mention …

(c) the idea that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations merits serious consideration for either the U.S. or Israel.

So, factor that in as you will. A recent crop of developments:

1) A Congressional statement you really should read. Vice President Biden showed one way of distancing himself from this spectacle, through the super-important though not-yet-specified “foreign trip” he’ll need to make just when Netanyahu is here.

Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky, a Democrat from Louisville (and one of 19 Jewish members of the House) demonstrated the other approach. Yesterday he put out a remarkable statement with the heading “Why I Will Not Be Attending PM Netanyahu’s Speech to Congress.”

Seriously, this is worth reading, for what it says both about the specifics of U.S.-Israeli relations and about larger institutional dangers in the conduct of foreign policy as a whole. Here are a few samples.

On the conversion of a “policy” speech into a political and lobbying stunt, with emphasis added:

It is both sad and ridiculous that attending this speech will be used as a litmus test for support of Israel. In short, roll will be taken, and some outside organizations have even threatened potential absentees with electoral repercussions …

It will become a matter of score-keeping as to who stands up and applauds and who doesn’t. Having visited Israel only months after Netanyahu addressed Congress in 2011, I know how much political impact these scenes have in that country. There is pressure to join the applause even if a member does not agree with statements made.

On the “informational” value of the appearance:

We know what he is going to say. Netanyahu’s position on the ongoing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program is not a secret. Like many other members, I have been visited by the Israeli ambassador and understand what they want and how that differs from what U.S. negotiators are attempting to accomplish.

The Prime Minister has plenty of other places to express his opinions. In fact he has done so many times.

On interference in U.S. policy-making by a foreign leader:

Speaker Boehner invited the Prime Minister to address Congress specifically to refute President Obama’s position. I will not contribute to the impression that this body does not support the President of the United States in foreign affairs.

Congress has a broader responsibility than the security interests of Israel. While it certainly is important that we understand the Israeli perspective, the American people will hear only Netanyahu’s perspective, creating a public perception that could undermine a broadly supported resolution to the Iranian nuclear situation.

This is as gutsy and non-boilerplate a statement as you’re going to see from any congressional office. The way to encourage more such behavior by elected officials is to recognize it when it occurs.

2) Why the obligatory applause lines can be the most damaging parts of the speech. From a reader who makes a point parallel to Yarmuth’s: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2015 at 5:10 pm

More bad faith from Catholic leadership

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The Catholic church, like many bureaucracies, works hard to keep its operations—and most important, its mistakes—a secret from those it claims to serve. The latest example of bad faith is not allowing parishioners access to closing documents so that they can appeal the closings. (Local leaders really do not like being held to account, so their use their power to protect themselves—and then lie about it.)

From Sharon Otterman’s article in the NY Times:

For aggrieved parishioners at churches ordered closed or merged by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan last November, it seemed like a simple task: Get a copy of the formal decree of his decision on their parishes, so they could properly appeal to the Vatican.

So across the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, they began calling and writing letters to Cardinal Dolan and his senior aides, asking for the decrees. Some seven weeks later, a definitive answer came back: No, they could not have copies.

But archdiocesan officials said they would allow parishioners to view the documents — under certain conditions.

There could be no photographs and no transcriptions. Notes could be taken, but sometimes only after the document was out of sight. Viewings were by appointment, monitored by archdiocesan officials, parishioners who saw their decrees said.

The rules bewildered parishioners, who feared they might be stymied in filing their appeals. And several leading canon lawyers interviewed this week said they represented a highly unusual departure from church norms.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I can’t imagine its purpose, except to prevent the parishioners from exercising their legitimate appeal rights,” said Nicholas P. Cafardi, dean emeritus at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

On Wednesday, a day after The New York Times sent a detailed inquiry about the matter, the archdiocese abruptly reversed course. After months of refusals, 50 decrees that ordered the mergers of more than 100 parishes in the archdiocese were suddenly posted on the archdiocesan website.

A spokesman for the archdiocese said on Wednesday that the failure to do so earlier was an “oversight.” [That is quite obviously an outright lie. Too bad the spokesman is unnamed. – LG] But that explanation did not ring true to the parishioners who had been fighting to get copies. To them, the stonewalling, and the turnabout, seemed indicative of the lack of transparency the sweeping process to consolidate New York parishes had from the start.

For more than a year, the archdiocese had emphasized the democratic nature of the consolidation process, citing the involvement of teams of lay people from each parish. But in many cases, the final decisions from the archdiocese contradicted the recommendations from the parish committees. By not providing the decrees, the archdiocese, according to canon lawyers and upset parishioners, had gone further, apparently in an effort to limit churches’ ability to appeal. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2015 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Religion

BBS with #101, along with Strop Shoppe Carnaby and the Simpson Emperor 2

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SOTD 13 Feb 2015

Extremely nice shave today. Carnaby has an excellent leather smell—indeed, an excellent-leather smell—and the lather was immediate and extremely nice, thanks in part to the Simpson Emperor 2 Super brush—somewhat smaller than yesterday’s Emperor 3, but quite ample for shaving.

My iKon Shavecraft #101 open comb is one of several razors of the very comfortable and very efficient type, and with a Personna Lab Blue blade I had no problem in getting a BBS result in three passes without really having to work at it. A splash of Geo. F. Trumper’s Spanish Leather finished the job.

My cold is indeed departing, with one foot out the door already. Still some nose-running and sneezing, but the unproductive cough is gone and I slept much better last night. Glad to be shut of it.

Written by Leisureguy

13 February 2015 at 8:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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