06/16/2012 archive

Random Japan



   Officials in a small town in northern New Jersey were visited-twice-by delegations of Japanese diplomats urging them to remove a public monument commemorating “women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers during World War II.”

   Private railways and bus companies in Japan are beginning to grumble about the decades-long tradition of providing free rides to members of the Diet. They say it’s getting increasingly difficult “to secure understanding from [ordinary] users.”

   US President Barack Obama is said to have presented a birthday cake to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at last month’s G8 summit in Maryland. Noda turned 55 during the weekend of the meeting.

   Back in Japan, the PM held talks with the leaders of three Pacific island states. Micronesia’s president offered Noda “two palm ropes as a token of friendship.”

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News 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.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Quinoa Salads With Spring Vegetables


Quinoa makes great salads because it has such a vegetal flavor. It can be the main ingredient or a lesser element added for texture and variation. This week’s recipes have great staying power, so make some of these on a Sunday and take them to work during the week.

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad

A lemony buttermilk dressing gives this salad a tangy richness.

Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Fava Beans and Herbs

Toasting the grains in a hot pan before cooking the quinoa gives this richly textured salad a deeper flavor.

Quinoa, Pea and Black Bean Salad With Cumin Vinaigrette

Fresh English peas, a springtime treat, are ideal for this salad, but in a pinch you can use frozen peas.

Red Quinoa, Cauliflower and Fava Bean Salad With Buttermilk Curry Dressing

This colorful and brightly flavored salad is packed with protein and other nutrients.

Quinoa, Spinach and Mushroom Salad

Quinoa lends bulk to the classic pairing of spinach and mushrooms, and walnuts add richness.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

New York Times Editorial: A Step Toward a Dream

The Obama administration’s decision to allow as many as 800,000 young immigrants avoid deportation and apply for work permits makes perfect sense. It wisely rescues blameless young people from legal limbo in an immigration system marked by dysfunction and toxic politics.

Before the fog sets in – with the predictable Republican outrage and the distortions of an election year – it is important to be clear that this move does not offer amnesty and has nothing to do with green cards or a path to citizenship. [..]

If this reminds you of the Dream Act, it should. The Dream Act is a bill in Congress to give legal status to young immigrants who go to college or serve in the military. It has long been stalled by Republicans who oppose relief of any sort for people without papers. Those who were complaining about Mr. Obama’s action on Friday should acknowledge that Congress could have taken on this job, but immigration extremists have not allowed it.

William K. Black: The JOBS Act and Green Slime

We learned recently about the secret adulteration of our hamburgers with “pink slime.” Agribusiness companies created pink slime from ultra-fatty beef tissue that was more likely to harbor salmonella and e coli. They processed it with ammonia (Mr. Clean) in a partially successful effort to reduce the risk of infecting the consumer. Pink slime, unbeknownst to the public, comprised up to 15% of our hamburgers.

The financial sector is far worse. Pink slime represented a relatively small portion of each burger and generally did not make the consumer sick. In the financial sector, “green slime”-slime with the color of money-came to dominate entire sectors, and it always caused severe damage. “Liar’s loans,” made without the lender verifying the borrower’s actual income, were 90% fraudulent. Collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), securities giving their owners claim to a part of debtors’ interest payments, were typically composed overwhelmingly of fraudulent liar’s loans. It was lenders who overwhelmingly put the lies in liar’s loans, issuing loans that were nothing more than “green slime” and then turning around and selling them as Grade A Prime cuts.

Robert Reich: Why the Economy Can’t Get Out of First Gear

Rarely in history has the cause of a major economic problem been so clear yet have so few been willing to see it.

The major reason this recovery has been so anemic is not Europe’s debt crisis. It’s not Japan’s tsumami. It’s not Wall Street’s continuing excesses. It’s not, as right-wing economists tell us, because taxes are too high on corporations and the rich, and safety nets are too generous to the needy. It’s not even, as some liberals contend, because the Obama administration hasn’t spent enough on a temporary Keynesian stimulus.

The answer is in front of our faces. It’s because American consumers, whose spending is 70 percent of economic activity, don’t have the dough to buy enough to boost the economy – and they can no longer borrow like they could before the crash of 2008.

George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling: Economics and Morality: Paul Krugman’s Framing

In his June 11, 2012, op-ed in The New York Times, Paul Krugman goes beyond economic analysis to bring up the morality and the conceptual framing that determines economic policy. He speaks of “the people the economy is supposed to serve” – “the unemployed,” and “workers” – and “the mentality that sees economic pain as somehow redeeming.”

Krugman is right to bring these matters up. Markets are not provided by nature. They are constructed – by laws, rules and institutions. All of these have moral bases of one sort or another. Hence, all markets are moral, according to someone’s sense of morality. The only question is, whose morality? In contemporary America, it is conservative versus progressive morality that governs forms of economic policy. The systems of morality behind economic policies need to be discussed.

Alexander Cockburn: Cuomo’s Marijuana Proposal

Last week there was much rejoicing when Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, flanked by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, came out in support of ending the practice of arresting individuals for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view.

The details here are very important. These arrests come in consequence of stop-and-frisk police powers — used across the country — otherwise known as a Terry stop (OK’d by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968) under which a cop may briefly detain a person upon reasonable suspicion of involvement in a crime but short of probable cause to arrest. When a search for weapons is also authorized, the procedure is known as a stop-and-frisk. [..]

Obviously, anything that crimps the cops’ lawless actions is good. Maybe there are future Obamas who will be able to keep a misdemeanor off their record. But let’s retain our sense of reality. “Together, we are making New York fairer and safer, and ensuring that every New Yorker has access to a justice system that doesn’t discriminate based on age or color,” said Cuomo last week. Doesn’t discriminate? In the first three months of 2012, the police stopped 203,500 New Yorkers. Commissioner Kelly obviously didn’t feel he faced a mutiny by his men, an inventive lot when it comes to construing the law. Don’t forget. Drug policy in the U.S. is about social control. That’s the name of the game.

Gail Collins: Running on Empty

Our biggest political division is the war between the empty places and the crowded places.

It’s natural. People who live in crowded places tend to appreciate government. It’s the thing that sets boundaries on public behavior, protects them from burglars and cleans the streets. If anything, they’d like it to do more. (That pothole’s been there for a year!) The people who live in empty places don’t see the point. If a burglar decides to break in, that’s what they’ve got guns for. Other folks don’t get in their way because their way is really, really remote. Who needs government? It just makes trouble and costs money. [..]

This fall, the Republican Party is going to be running on the Empty Places war cry, and it’s ironic that Mitt Romney’s supposed to be the one to lead the charge. Maybe he’ll one-up Perry and find four federal agencies to promise to close. Maybe he’ll bag a deer. Or a moose. They’re serious this time around.

Joe Nocera: The Safest Bank

We’re counterprogramming today.

This is not another column about the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, the one and only Jamie Dimon. I mean, what’s left to say after his appearance this week before the Senate Banking Committee? With the senators unwilling to ask even mildly probing questions about the trades that cost the bank billions – hoping, no doubt, to be rewarded with JPMorgan campaign contributions – you could practically see Dimon regaining his old swagger with every passing minute.

Instead, let’s focus on a bank chief executive devoid of swagger. An executive who doesn’t denigrate the importance of regulation. Who has actually come out in favor of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And who doesn’t view banks as institutions that should be taking supercharged risks hoping to make supercharged returns for shareholders. I’m talking about Vikram Pandit of Citigroup. The Times’s Ben Protess once labeled him the anti-Dimon. Bingo.

The Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency

You may know it as the 24 hours of Le Mans.  Held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, cars cover the 8.5 mile laps in about 3:30.

From a racing standpoint it’s kind of like a longer, duller Formula One where faster cars pile up huge time advantages.  In endurance this tends to be evened out by mechanical failures and accidents.

There are 4 main classes of cars on the same track at once, Prototype 1 and 2 and Touring 1 and 2.  Cars are required to be able to accept a passenger seat, but not to actually carry one.

This year most of the interest is in GP1 where there are 3 distinct types participating.  The first is the returning champions, the Audi Quattro Diesels.  Conventionally turbo charged.  The second is the Toyota Diesel/Electric hybrid. This car is appearing one year early on an accelerated development schedule to mark Toyota’s recovery from the 2011 Tsunami.  The third is an Audi Quattro Diesel/Electric hybrid.

Between the 2 hybrids the Toyota is clearly the superior design (though The New York Times disagrees).  It uses its electric motors to drive the rear tires through the regular transmission.  The Audi on the other hand is a front wheel drive with separate drive shafts that increase mechanical complexity and drag.

Racing in its own class is the Nissan DeltaWing which looks much faster than it drives, qualifying at the tail end of the GP2 pack.  Touring 1 (Pro) will be a 3 way contest between Ferrari, Aston Martin, and Corvette.  Touring 2 (Am) is dominated by Porsche 911s.

Coverage on Speed will be continuous until the conclusion except for a 90 minute break at 1 pm for Turn Left and 30 minutes at 7 pm for Speed Center.

Trevor Potter via Alternet

Not that it’s a reliable source.

How I Became Stephen Colbert’s Lawyer — And Joined the Fight to Rescue Our Democracy from Citizens United

Trevor Potter, Alternet

May 25, 2012

The Colbert Report coverage is so successful because it accurately describes a campaign finance world that seems too surreal to be true.  A system that claims to require disclosure of money spent to elect or defeat candidates, but in fact provides so many ways around that requirement as to make disclosure optional; a system that says that “independent expenditures” cannot be limited as a matter of Constitutional law because they cannot corrupt because they are “totally independent” of candidates and parties-when the daily news reports about these supposedly “independent” groups show that candidates raise money for them, candidates’ former employees run them, and candidates’ polling and advertising vendors advise them.  And the major donors to these “independent” groups are often also official fundraisers for the candidate.  Other major donors have private meetings with the candidates, or travel with them on campaign trips!

How did we get here? It is often forgotten, but for long periods of the previous Century, we had a pretty well functioning campaign finance system.  In 1904 President Roosevelt called for public funding of the political parties, and a ban on corporate contributions.  In 1907 he got one of those with the passage of the Tillman Act, which banned corporate contributions in federal elections, Congress extended contribution and expenditure restrictions to unions in 1947, and rewrote the laws following Watergate to ensure disclosure, set new individual contribution limits to candidates and parties, and create for the first time a public funding system for presidential elections and establish the FEC as an enforcement and disclosure agency.

In the last two years, the Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate and labor spending in all elections in the U.S., overturning 60 year old federal laws and some older laws in 26 states.  It has declared unconstitutional as a restriction on speech the Arizona public financing system, because it provided additional public funds for more speech to candidates participating in the public funding system, triggered if their opponents spent that amount. The DC Circuit has declared unconstitutional the longstanding $5,000 contribution limit to independent-expenditure only political action committees, which decision has resulted in the creation of what we know as SuperPACs-like Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

On This Day In History June 16

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.

June 16 is the 167th day of the year (168th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 198 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1933, The National Industrial Recovery Act is passed.

The National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), officially known as the Act of June 16, 1933 (Ch. 90, 48 Stat. 195, formerly codified at 15 U.S.C. sec. 703), was an American statute which authorized the President of the United States to regulate industry and permit cartels and monopolies in an attempt to stimulate economic recovery, and established a national public works program. The legislation was enacted in June 1933 during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislative program. Section 7(a) of the bill, which protected collective bargaining rights for unions, proved contentious (especially in the Senate), but both chambers eventually passed the legislation and President Roosevelt signed the bill into law on June 16, 1933. The Act had two main sections (or “titles”). Title I was devoted to industrial recovery, and authorized the promulgation of industrial codes of fair competition, guaranteed trade union rights, permitted the regulation of working standards, and regulated the price of certain refined petroleum products and their transportation. Title II established the Public Works Administration, outlined the projects and funding opportunities it could engage in, and funded the Act.

The Act was implemented by the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA). Very large numbers of regulations were generated under the authority granted to the NRA by the Act, which led to a significant loss of political support for Roosevelt and the New Deal. The NIRA was set to expire in June 1935, but in a major constitutional ruling the U.S. Supreme Court held Title I of the Act unconstitutional on May 27, 1935, in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495 (1935). The National Industrial Recovery Act is widely considered a policy failure, both in the 1930s and by historians today. Disputes over the reasons for this failure continue, however. Among the suggested causes are that the Act promoted economically harmful monopolies, that the Act lacked critical support from the business community, and that the Act was poorly administered. The Act encouraged union organizing, which led to significant labor unrest. The Act had no mechanisms for handling these problems, which led Congress to pass the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

Popular Culture (Music) 20120615: The Moody Blues – Peak and Decline

Last time we discussed Seventh Sojourn, considered by many to the finest album made by the band.  Tonight we shall examine the time after that record.

After Seventh Sojourn was released, The Moody Blues were the top record selling band at the time, and had reached their zenith.  Their success brought a huge world tour.  As a matter of fact, the tour, although broken up into a couple of legs commenced in October 1972, in the US (with at least 13 dates played in late 1972).  They then took a break until the European leg started in September 1973, playing at least 33 dates (some were back in the US).  They played another 12 at least sets in Japan, Hawaii, and California in January and February of 1974.