Daily Archive: 12/17/2011

Dec 17 2011

Random Japan



Railway fans flocked to Tokyo station to witness the initial runs of the new 300kph E5 Series Hayabusa bullet train. Someone even bid ¥385,000 for a ticket.

A young woman received a kidney from her brain-dead mom, the first case of a family member being prioritized since Japan revised its organ transplant law last year.

Peace-loving no more: lawmakers say they are rethinking Japan’s long-standing ban on the export of “weapons and related technologies.”

Takuya Kagata has taken sumo wrestling to the beaches of Japan as executive director of the Nippon Beach Sumo Association.

Fagiano Okayama defender Ryujiro Ueda scored what is thought to be a world-record 58.6-meter goal with a header during a J. League second division soccer match against Yokohama FC.

It’s official-Guinness World Records has declared the 634m-tall Tokyo Sky Tree the world’s tallest tower, supplanting the 600m Guangzhou Tower in China.

Dec 17 2011

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Soups on for the Holidays

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

If you don’t have an immersion blender, you might think about putting one on your Christmas list. With this blender on a stick, you can purée the soups right in the pot you cooked them in. I’ve never found a food processor to be efficient for blending soups; there’s too much liquid in the mix, and that can run out of the bowl or prevent the blades from really puréeing the soup. You can achieve a smooth result if you use a blender, but puréeing in a blender is a hassle, and it can be scary, too, as the hot soup will blow the top off the blender if you close it tightly. If you do use a blender, fill the jar only about one-third full, and remove the lid’s detachable center and pull a dish towel down over the top so that the hot soup won’t splash out. ~ Martha Rose Shulman

Puréed Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Ms. Shulman noticed the most popular boxed soup at her supermarket was a tomato and red pepper soup, so she came up with a version of her own.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

It will take you only about 10 minutes to prep the ingredients for this comforting soup.

Leek, Turnip and Rice Soup

This simple, fragrant soup is delicious as thick vegetable soup, not puréed.

Sweet Potato Soup With Ginger, Leek and Apple

Inspired by a sweet potato and apple purée, this soup also has savory overtones.

Puréed White Bean Soup With Pistou

White beans and pesto or pistou (pesto without the pine nuts) always make a nice marriage.

Dec 17 2011

A Glass Half Full

Sigh.  I’m reluctant to jump on the bandwagon but there is a section of the Left/Democrat blogosphere that agrees with dday in his assessment that the inclusion of a Keystone XL deadline in the 2 month Social Security Tax Holiday extension (bad for reasons not relevant here) contrary to conventional Washington “Wisdom” actually effectively kills the project.

Republicans Demand to Kill the Keystone XL Pipeline

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Friday December 16, 2011 10:54 am

The provision would force the Administration to decide on a permit for the pipeline within 60 days, and that the permit would automatically be granted otherwise. The President could decide that the pipeline production “would not serve the national interest,” and deny the permit. Politico goes on to claim that this decision would be “fraught with political risks in the thick of an election year.”

No it wouldn’t. The State Department has already come out and said that they would not have enough time within 60 days to assess the environmental risks from the pipeline project. So they would have to deny the permit if forced into a 60-day decision-making process. And that serves as the excuse. It becomes a political discussion, like any other, and calling it a “risk” is really overblown.

Senate Passes Two-Month Extension for Payroll Tax Cut, Unemployment Benefits, Doc Fix

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Saturday December 17, 2011 8:41 am

The second measure concerns the Keystone XL pipeline. There’s been a ton of misinformation around this part. I know some people have termed this a GOP victory but I don’t see why. Even the venerable 350.org rushed out a call to action last night saying that Obama caved on the pipeline and that everyone must call to get him to veto the bill. They are either playing along or don’t understand that this provision will ensure a denial of the permit in rapid fashion.

The bill stipulates that the Administration must make an up-or-down decision on the permit for the pipeline within two months of the signing of this act. The State Department has already said that doesn’t leave them enough time to explore the re-routing both they and the state of Nebraska and pipeline owner TransCanada have said they want to consider, to avoid the Ogalalla Sand Hills region, and particularly the aquifer that supplies water to the area. So if faced with a 60-day timeline, the State Department said, they would have to deny the permit. Earlier in the week the White House agreed with them, saying that The House bill simply shortens the review process in a way that virtually guarantees that the pipeline will NOT be approved. So adding this provision kills the pipeline in the short term.

And Republicans, by the way, KNOW this. They want the President to deny the permit. The tell is that Newt Gingrich spoke up about the pipeline in the debate on Thursday night. Republicans want to position Obama as someone destroying US jobs to satisfy environmentalists. They also would like to say that he is stopping the supply of domestic energy production. None of this is true with regards to Keystone XL. The pipeline won’t create jobs, all the energy production in this case comes from Canada, and the President actually has presided over a boom in domestic energy production, although that hasn’t led to a drop in oil prices because we simply don’t have that much oil domestically.

But the likely outcome on Keystone XL fits a narrative for the GOP. So they want to see the President cancel the pipeline to make it a campaign issue. The counter-argument for the Democrats is that the demand by House Republicans to give an answer within 60 days on a pipeline whose route remained in flux killed the permit. So this becomes your run-of-the-mill he-said/she-said, and the pipeline doesn’t get built. My understanding is that it would not impact the possibility of the pipeline being approved after the elections, when more time is given to the environmental impact. So that’s a fight environmentalists will still have to wage. In the short term, within 60 days they will have a President reject the pipeline, and then they can go to their lists and tell everyone how their pressure got it done. But they’ll have to extend a note of gratitude to Republicans, who made it all possible.

If those are not adequately sourced enough for you there is also The Hill

Democrats: Concession to GOP on Keystone will force Obama to kill pipeline

By Alexander Bolton, The Hill

12/16/11 09:08 PM ET

Republicans hailed inclusion of the pipeline provision as a victory, but Democrats said the practical effect of the language would be to kill the project.

“They’ve just killed the Keystone pipeline. They killed it because they forced the president to make a decision before he can make it so he’s not going to move forward with it,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and an ally of environmental groups.

A senior Obama administration official noted that the president said he would not accept an attempt by Congress to mandate construction before adequate review of health and safety regulations.

Regardless of the current decision there’s no reason at all the next Administration couldn’t revisit the proposed project provided it’s still economically viable, but that seems less and less likely with every delay.  Pushing the deadline to 2013 is a good thing, but not a stake in the heart.

I’m an optimist.

Not that it does any good.

Dec 17 2011

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Gail Collins: An Early Holiday Hangover

Right now you’re probably asking yourself: What’s up with reproductive rights this holiday season?

And the answer is: a lot! This is America, and we don’t restrict our battles over people’s sex lives to 11 months a year.

Just this week in Washington, House Republicans were thwarted in their attempt to tie the latest bill providing money to keep the government going with the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Those two things aren’t necessarily linked in most citizens’ minds, but everything reminds the House Republicans of their hatred of Planned Parenthood. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. “Jingle Bells.” A partridge in a pear tree.

Their rancor has been a sort of a Christmas present to Planned Parenthood itself. “It’s been such a stunning year,” said Cecile Richards, the organization’s perpetually embattled president. “More than a million new activists joined Planned Parenthood, and our approval rating is at 68 percent. Congress is I think at 9.” (It may be time to stop pointing out that you have a higher approval rating than Congress. Really, everything has a higher approval rating than Congress. Termites. Zombies. Donald Trump.)

Charles M. Blow: Inconvenient Income Inequality Inconvenient Income Inequality

Is income inequality becoming the new global warming? In other words, is this another case where the facts of an existential threat lose traction among a weary American public as deniers attempt to reduce them to partisan opinions?

It’s beginning to seem so.

A Gallup poll released on Thursday found that, after rising rather steadily for the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who said that the country is divided into “haves” and “have-nots” took the largest drop since the question was asked.

This happened even as the percentage of Americans who grouped themselves under either label stayed relatively constant. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans still see themselves as the haves, while only about a third see themselves as the have-nots. The numbers have been in that range for a decade.

This is the new American delusion. The facts point to a very different reality.

Ted Rall: Obama’s “Mission Accomplished”

Troops and Prisons Move, Wars and Torture Never Ends

Most Americans–68 percent–oppose the war against Iraq, according to a November 2011 CNN poll. So it’s smart politics for President Obama to take credit for withdrawing U.S. troops.

As it often is, the Associated Press’ coverage was slyly subversive: “This, in essence, is Obama’s mission accomplished: Getting out of Iraq as promised under solid enough circumstances and making sure to remind voters that he did what he said.”

Obama’s 2008 campaign began by speaking out against the war in Iraq. (Aggression in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was not only desirable but ought to be expanded.) However, actions never matched his words. On vote after vote in the U.S. Senate Obama supported the war. Every time.

As president, Obama has claimed credit for a December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated by his predecessor George W. Bush–a timeline he wanted to protract. If the Iraqi government hadn’t refused to extend immunity from prosecution to U.S. forces, this month’s withdrawal would not have happened.

William B. Gould IV: Crippling the Right to Organize

UNLESS something changes in Washington, American workers will, on New Year’s Day, effectively lose their right to be represented by a union. Two of the five seats on the National Labor Relations Board, which protects collective bargaining, are vacant, and on Dec. 31, the term of Craig Becker, a labor lawyer whom President Obama named to the board last year through a recess appointment, will expire. Without a quorum, the Supreme Court ruled last year, the board cannot decide cases.

What would this mean?

Workers illegally fired for union organizing won’t be reinstated with back pay. Employers will be able to get away with interfering with union elections. Perhaps most important, employers won’t have to recognize unions despite a majority vote by workers. Without the board to enforce labor law, most companies will not voluntarily deal with unions.

New York Times Editorial: Beyond Durban

Startling new evidence that global carbon dioxide emissions are rising faster than ever did little to increase the urgency of the climate talks in Durban, South Africa, which concluded earlier this week. Once again, the world’s negotiators kicked the can down the road.

Even as delegates from nearly 200 countries were meeting, the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists, reported that emissions from carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the main greenhouse gas, had jumped 5.9 percent in 2010, the sharpest one-year rise on record. The report also said that carbon emissions cumulatively had risen by an astonishing 49 percent since 1990, higher than any previous estimate.

Nobody had expected great progress from Durban, the 17th in a series of habitually quarrelsome and mostly unproductive gatherings since the same countries met in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro under the auspices of the United Nations and agreed to address the gradual warming of the earth.

John Nichols: Can Paul Ryan-and His Agenda-Be Beat? It’s Possible

House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, is the poster boy for the assault on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. His budget plan, which laid the groundwork for the undermining of those essential programs and their eventual privatization, speaked a national outcry earlier this year. A historically Republican Congressional seat in western New York fell to the Democrats in a special election that turned largely on the question of Ryan’s austerity agenda.

But could Ryan himself be beat in 2012?

It’s possible. His southeastern Wisconsin district has elected Democrats in the past. It voted for Barack Obama in 2008. And even after a Republican-friendly redistricting, it is still home to traditionally Democratic towns such as Racine, Kenosha and Janesville.

Ryan faces a determined challenger in Democrat Rob Zerban, a local elected official in Kenosha who has been running hard all year. And a new poll suggests that Zerban, who has made the defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid the core theme of his campaign, poses a genuine threat to the Republican incumbent.

Leslie Savan: Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul Pop GOP Bubbles in Sioux City Debate

Here’s how conservative, self-described “word doctor” Frank Luntz  labeled each of the candidates immediately after the Republican debate on Fox News last night. Luntz told Sean Hannity:

   Newt defined himself as the Reagan conservative,

   Mitt Romney, the private-sector conservative,

   Ron Paul, the civil liberties conservative,

   Rick Santorum, the conviction conservative,

   Jon Huntsman, the consistent conservative,

   Michele Bachmann, the female conservative,

   and my favorite is Rick Perry, the Tim Tebow conservative.

Whatever you think of these flattering tags, note that Bachmann doesn’t even warrant one. Luntz gives each of the guys a value-laden adjective, but Bachmann is merely “the female conservative.” Which is odd, because last night the Minnesota congresswoman clearly proved herself to be the cojones conservative.

We might not see much of her if she does poorly in the Iowa caucuses next month, but let it be known that in Sioux City only she and Ron Paul (and to a lesser extent Huntsman) really punctured some establishment Republican verities: he, on war; she, on buying favors in Washington.

Dec 17 2011

On this Day In History December 17

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 17 is the 351st day of the year (352nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 14 days remaining until the end of the year

On this day on 1865, the first two movements of Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony”, Symphony No. 8 in B minor, is performed in Vienna, Austria.

(The symphony) was started in 1822 but left with only two movements known to be complete, even though Schubert would live for another six years. A scherzo, nearly completed in piano score but with only two pages orchestrated, also survives. It has long been theorized that Schubert may have sketched a finale which instead became the big B minor entr’acte from his incidental music to Rosamunde, but all the evidence for this is circumstantial.[1] One possible reason for Schubert’s leaving the symphony incomplete is the predominance of the same meter (three-in-a-bar). The first movement is in 3/4, the second in 3/8 and the third (an incomplete scherzo) also in 3/4. Three consecutive movements in exactly the same meter rarely occur in the symphonies, sonatas or chamber works of the great Viennese composers (one notable exception being Haydn’s Farewell Symphony).

Dec 17 2011

Popular Culture (Music) 20111216: A Brief History of The Who

Hello, boys and girls!  Last week, until my ill advised outburst, we were finishing up 1968.  Actually, I think that some of their finest work was done then, but their commercial success was not as much as they would have liked, and Townshend in particular was in sort of a crisis of his ability to write and delivers songs that would chart well.

There were other things going on as well.  Please remember the it was Daltrey who invited Townshend to join HIS band, and by the end of 1968 is was pretty clear that Daltrey was not the “owner” of the band any more, Townshend was.  Daltrey had always been pugnacious, but he recognized that under the leadership of Townshend The Who was much more successful than The Detours ever would have been.

There were some other dynamics as well, as Kit Lambert began to spiral out of control with drink and narcotics, hard narcotics.  This was not full blown at the end of 1968, but the die had been cast and Townshend was well on his way to being the undisputed leader.

Dec 17 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles:The Polar Express



A gray December afternoon.  4:30 pm. Your Bloguero sits near the fire, and his eyes slowly close. The galaxy of bright dreams just under his eyelids begins to shimmer. He can hear his breathing deepen, his chest is rising and falling. Soon there will be bright lights, magical thinking. There will be dreams. Maybe it will be the Polar Express. But something’s wrong. He wonders what it could be. Something is not right. “Oh,” he thinks, “It’s Friday. You forgot the weekly digest, the one you’ve been writing for all these many months. This must be the one you don’t write.” This wakes your Bloguero up with a start. The dream journey is aborted. The Polar Express isn’t coming for him. Your Bloguero begins to ponder.

There ensues a debate. “Nobody reads it anyway, nobody cares, you see, virtually no one comments or recommends. It won’t even be missed. Let the dreams begin. Forget that post.”  This negative, critical, disparaging thought is of course opposed. Your Bloguero is adept at having contentious debates with himself. Especially if the choices are dreams or writing, his own sloth or productivity. “It’s not so hard, and it’s good to have a weeky practice, and who knows what you’ll write, it’ll be fun. And if you do it before Friday is over, you will have completed this task and will be able to pick it up again next week, when, hopefully you’ll feel more like writing.”  This chatter seesaws back and forth for a while. Yadda yadda yadda. Habla bla bla bla bla. It disrupts the incipient nap. Your Bloguero finds himself at the keyboard instead of the dreamy pullman. He just wants to check in, insert a place mark on Friday, December 16, 2011.

Chanukah is next week; Christmas, the week after. Solstice is next week; Kwanzaa, the week after. And Festivus is next week. ‘Tis the season. Your Bloguero dispenses with his usual remarks about the pernicious Festival of Capitalism and wishes each of you and your families and friends a very happy Holiday. May it be a day of comfort and joy. May you be happy and find delight.

Your Bloguero would be remiss if he didn’t repeat, given the season and its expected shopping behavior, that his new novella, Tulum, is now available, and you can should buy it at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and iUniverse.  This would make a perfect stocking or Kindle stuffer.  It would make a lovely gift. Your Bloguero thinks you would like to read it.  No stocking should be without one.  And lest he not admit it, it will profit your Bloguero.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Usually, it appears on Friday. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn’t actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For the essays you have to visit The Dream Antilles


cross-posted from The Dream Antilles