04/11/2015 archive

Random Japan

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Nine things that may shatter your dreams of living in Kyoto

Cara Clegg

Kyoto now welcomes 50 million tourists a year who come to experience Japan’s traditional culture and architecture, plus catch a glimpse of the city’s famed geisha. But, as anyone who lives in a tourist hot spot knows, living there is not the same as a short visit.

As such, the following is a list of some of the things that Kyoto locals probably have the urge to remind tourists of from time to time, so allow us to shatter your illusions with some of the realities that come with living in Japan’s ancient capital.

1. Kyoto City is actually the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, so when someone says they’re from Kyoto it doesn’t necessarily mean they live in the heart of Japan’s cultural capital.

Your NeoLib Nightmare

The good news is that this piece of garbage needs to be wrtten at all.

Why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Matters


APRIL 3, 2015

But the congressional outlook for this approach – called Trade Promotion Authority, or fast-track negotiating authority, because it does not allow amendments or filibustering – has dimmed. Without it, the agreement would collapse, the victim of endless amendments. The coming vote, therefore, is the equivalent to a vote on the TPP itself. Should it die, the adverse impact on American national security would be great.

The trade debate coincides with growing challenges to America’s allies. In the Western Hemisphere, the governments of Canada and Chile, which are parties to the trade negotiations, believe the accord (despite domestic critics) will stimulate growth. In Asia and the Pacific, parties to the deal – not only our allies Japan and Australia, but also Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia – see the trade accord as a way of counterbalancing China’s economic might. This is why trade is central to our foreign policy; without this deal, the so-called pivot to Asia will be hollow.

Free trade leads to greater overall prosperity. The gains from free trade need to be widely shared, but defeating the TPP would not solve America’s problems with inequality. Instead, it would further rattle our allies. “Further” is the key word here, as there already are rising doubts about American reliability – the result of the debt-ceiling crises, government shutdowns, the failure to follow through on threats in Syria and, most recently, the letter addressed to Iran from 47 senators. If the TPP fails, countries that, rightly or wrongly, see Washington as ineffective will pay America less heed.

It’s reasonable to debate the merits of this major trade agreement. But the critics have exaggerated and distorted the economic costs of the accord, while all but ignoring its benefits – and the strategic costs of a rejection. The real choice is between supporting a trade accord that would help most Americans and serve the country’s strategic aims, and defeating it, which would leave the country poorer and the world less stable.

So, basically, ignore your lying eyes and follow us blindly because we’re very serious people and if you say that the Emperor has no clothes you’ll ruin our credibility and we will haz a sad.

(h/t Lambert at Naked Capitalism)

A Monument to a Hero

During the night of April 6, a giant bust of Edward Snowden was placed atop a pillar in Brooklyn’s Fort Green Park by an anonymous group. Fort Greene Park is home to the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, dedicated to colonial revolutionaries who died during the War of Independence on British prison ships docked on the Brooklyn waterfront.

While most people slept, a trio of artists and some helpers installed a bust of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in Brooklyn on Monday morning. The group, which allowed ANIMAL to exclusively document the installation on the condition that we hide their identities, hauled the 100-pound sculpture into Fort Greene Park and up its hilly terrain just before dawn. They fused it to part of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a memorial to Revolutionary War soldiers. [..]

The idea for the Snowden tribute was conceived about a year ago by two New York City-based artists with a history of pulling off notable public interventions. They linked up with a renowned sculptor on the West Coast who was sympathetic to their cause.

The bust was found by the NYC police and the parks department covered the bust with a tarp and removed it to an unknown location. That didn’t deter the Snowden supporters, the next night the bust was replaced with a hologram.

That first lightning strike by an anonymous group of artists was followed by a second, carried out before dawn on Tuesday, by a group calling itself the Illuminators.

“We recreated it digitally,” said Grayson Earle, 28, a member of the second group. “We used some projection mapping software so we could put the image exactly where we wanted.”

So for about 20 minutes on Tuesday morning, a hologram of the Snowden bust hovered in the park, at the same spot where the object had rested the day before.

“We wanted to further the discussion,” said Kyle Depew, 29, who came up with the idea for the hologram.

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Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s 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

Asparagus: Spring’s Most Versatile Vegetable

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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

There’s a lot you can do with asparagus besides just eating it unadorned, steamed for five minutes or – if you’ve got nice, fat stalks – roasted. Delicate, thin stalks go wonderfully with eggs, either stirred into scrambled eggs or tossed with a vinaigrette and finely chopped hard-boiled eggs. I love to toss asparagus with pasta, and I often use it in soups. Children seem to like it, too. If the family table has seen too much broccoli, asparagus makes a fine alternative. [..]

When cooking asparagus, you must first break off the tough stem ends by bending the stalk. [..]

The tender, edible part of this lovely plant is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as a very good source of a number of other nutrients, including tryptophan, B vitamins, manganese, dietary fiber, phosphorus and potassium. All this comes in a very low-calorie package: there are about 40 calories in a cup of cooked asparagus.

~ Martha Rose Shulman ~

Roasted Asparagus

Roast asparagus this way and it becomes positively juicy.

Pasta With Asparagus, Arugula and Ricotta

This recipe works best if you use thin asparagus and peppery wild arugula, available at some farmers’ markets.

Asparagus and Mushroom Salad

Both thick and thin stems will work.

Asparagus With Green Garlic

When you sauté or roast asparagus in hot olive oil, the asparagus will have a much more concentrated flavor than it would if steamed or blanched.

Asparagus Salad With Hard-Boiled Eggs

A classic Italian salad, there are many versions of this dish.

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

Trevor Timm: The government will hide its surveillance programs. But they won’t eliminate them

Want to see how secrecy is corrosive to democracy? Look no further than a series of explosive investigations by various news organizations this week that show the government hiding surveillance programs purely to prevent a giant public backlash.

USA Today’s Brad Heath published a blockbuster story on Monday about the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) running a massive domestic spying operation parallel to the NSA’s that was tracking billions of international calls made by Americans. They kept it secret for more than two decades. According to the USA Today report, the spying program was not only used against alleged terrorist activity, but countless supposed drug crimes, as well as “to identify US suspects in a wide range of other investigations”. And they collected information on millions of completely innocent Americans along the way.

Heath’s story is awash with incredible detail and should be read in full, but one of the most interesting parts was buried near the end: the program was shut down by the Justice Department after the Snowden leaks, not because Snowden exposed the program, but because they knew that when the program eventually would leak, the government would have no arguments to defend it.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Social Security: The Anti-Populist Empire Strikes Back

The long knives have been coming out over Social Security lately. The latest wave of attacks was triggered by an amendment from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) which would have expanded Social Security benefits, and which won the support of most Democrats in the Senate. That signaled a potential shift in the political tide – toward Social Security in particular and economic populism in general.

It also meant that it was time to suit up conservatism’s frayed old straw men and send them into dubious battle once again.

The attackers this time around include a “libertarian” finance writer, an editor for the National Review, and – inevitably – the editorial board of the Washington Post. But the battle against economic populism isn’t just being waged by the right. There are factions within the Democratic Party that want to re-empower its “centrist” wing, and they’ve been pushing back on the party’s new populism – which the movement to expand Social Security both reflects and reinforces – this week as well.

Steven W. Thrasher: White outrage over Walter Scott doesn’t fix black fear of living in racist America

There is a fear I feel when I am in spaces dominated by powerful white people, and it can’t be captured on video. Black folks and other people of color will understand the fear I feel, but after the past week – after watching Walter Scott run away from a white police officer and then fall as he is shot in the back, and watching others watch it – I am not sure white people will ever understand it, even when they, too bear witness to the violent end of a black life. [..]

The visible carnage of a shooting like Walter Scott’s – and whichever new one will come in the next weeks – heightens the anxiety that black people feel in a white supremacist America, no matter how many white people watch and decry the violence. But addressing such obviously graphic brutality, and then ignoring the institutional discrimination that allows it to continue, cannot change how racism consigns black people to premature death in ways visibly and equally invisibly insidious, nor stop us from being afraid that we might be next.

Robert Reich: The Defining Moment, and Hillary Rodham Clinton

It’s a paradox.

Almost all the economic gains are still going to the top, leaving America’s vast middle class with stagnant wages and little or no job security. Two-thirds of Americans are working paycheck to paycheck.

Meanwhile, big money is taking over our democracy.

If there were ever a time for a bold Democratic voice on behalf of hardworking Americans, it is now.

Yet I don’t recall a time when the Democratic Party’s most prominent office holders sounded as meek. With the exception of Elizabeth Warren, they’re pussycats. If Paul Wellstone, Teddy Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, or Ann Richards were still with us, they’d be hollering.

The fire now is on the right, stoked by the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, and a pocketful of hedge-fund billionaires.

Today’s Republican firebrands, beginning with Ted Cruz, blame the poor, blacks, Latinos, and immigrants for what’s been happening. They avoid any mention of wealth and power.

Which brings me to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Morgan Hargrave: Police body cameras cannot replace the power of citizen witnesses

The case of Walter Scott shows just how valuable a citizen with a camera can be. Video footage capturing excessive police force can make all the difference in securing justice. Yet, in the conversation about more dashboard and body cameras for police, what gets lost is the value of video shot by citizen witnesses. We don’t need more video from the police perspective, but more from our own. [..]

Concerns about abuse and selective use of the cameras by police are well-founded, especially given that the rules are far from clear about when cameras will be on, what penalties (if any) there will be if an officer turns off their camera or loses footage, and who will have access to bodycam video. The original police accounts of the South Carolina shooting were shown to be so far from the truth – compare the original story from the Post And Courier with what we know now – that leaving police to record and publish video of events seems risky, to say the least.

Scott Ritter: When Debating Iran’s Nuclear Program, Sort Fact from Fiction

American policy makers have made it a point, expressed consistently over time, to emphasize that intelligence estimates do not, in and of themselves, constitute policy decisions, and are useful only in so far as they inform policy makers who then make the actual decisions. The logic of this argument allows for the notion of detached decision-making on the part of the policy makers, and includes a built-in premise that the estimates they use are constructed in such a manner as to allow for a wide range of policy options. This model of decision-making works well on paper, and within the realm of academic theory, but in the harsh reality of post-9/11 America, where overhyped information is further exaggerated through a relentless 24-hour news cycle that encourages simplicity to the point of intellectual dishonesty, it is hard to imagine a scenario where such a pattern of informed, deliberate decision-making has, or could, occur. [..]

The bottom line is that the IAEA’s continued ability to account for Iran’s safeguarded nuclear materials remains the best deterrent against any Iranian nuclear weapons program. Iran and the international community still have a long way to go before they will be able to reach any accommodation which provides Iran with the nuclear enrichment capabilities it desires while operating within an expanded framework of safeguards the IAEA and the West require. The nuclear framework agreement recently concluded between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany goes a long way toward achieving this, but the devil is in the details, and those details need to be hammered out by June 30.

The Breakfast Club (To the Right of Spring)

No, not that Right, your other Rite.

Ah, screw it.  Just make three lefts and while you wait for oncoming traffic I’ll passive aggressively stew here with my shotgun and whistle tunelessly.

Do I stress you out?

Oh, you don’t even know.

Le Sacre du printemps

Allow me to review the 3 Rules of Opera-

The 3 rules of Opera.

  1. It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
  2. The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
  3. Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.

Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.

I’m not afraid if the Terpsichorean Muse though I do like a nice bit of cheese-

I was a DJ after all and I know what (shudder) drags them out on the dance floor and it ain’t this-

You see, people only dance to the thoroughly familiar and cliched.

Those are ones I actually like.

Anyway the story of the Ballet goes something like this, the celebration of spring begins in the hills and a Crone enters to foretell the future which isn’t really even as interesting as a cold reading because this is a simpler, more primitive time and every Groundhog Day is pretty much exactly the same.

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What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

That about sums it up for me.

Except that today is different.  Today we go and kidnap us some virgins.  I dunno, I kind of agree with that part about the railroad tracks.

And then we celebrate Festivus with the airing of grievances until the Sage comes and tells us to stop it and get on to the orgy.

End of Act I.  Time to hit the lobby and get blasted because things are only going to get worse.

Act II

Evidently the ballerinas were out in the lobby too as they straggle on stage and wander around in circles for no particular reason.  It’s just like a Sigma Alpha Epsilon party at UVA only with more roofies.  One particularly befuddled co-ed is selected for sacrifice, sent off to perform goodness knows what kind of unspeakable acts with a bunch of dirty old men and then dances herself to death much to the amusement of the other performers and outrage of the audience.


Yeah, dance your way out of that Stravinsky.

As you might imagine this tale of pedophilic murder created quite a stir, even in Paris a city not noted for Puritanism.  At the debut there was a riot between the wealthy patrons of art and the bohemian hip crowd that liked it for it’s novelty.  From all accounts Nijinsky’s choreography sucked, but I think the whole concept was a bad idea from the git.

Despite my opinion it’s one of the most frequently recorded and performed ballets.

Oh wait, that’s Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery.  This is Le Sacre.

Don’t agree with my assessment?  Well, that’s the Politics of Dancing-

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History April 11

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.

April 11 is the 101st day of the year (102nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 264 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau ends the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte, and forces him to abdicate unconditionally for the first time.

War of the Sixth Coalition

There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812-13 while both the Russians and the French rebuilt their forces; Napoleon was then able to field 350,000 troops. Heartened by France’s loss in Russia, Prussia joined with Austria, Sweden, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal in a new coalition. Napoleon assumed command in Germany and inflicted a series of defeats on the Coalition culminating in the Battle of Dresden in August 1813. Despite these successes, the numbers continued to mount against Napoleon, and the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size and lost at the Battle of Leipzig. This was by far the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars and cost more than 90,000 casualties in total.

Napoleon withdrew back into France, his army reduced to 70,000 soldiers and 40,000 stragglers, against more than three times as many Allied troops. The French were surrounded: British armies pressed from the south, and other Coalition forces positioned to attack from the German states. Napoleon won a series of victories in the Six Days Campaign, though these were not significant enough to turn the tide; Paris was captured by the Coalition in March 1814.

When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, led by Ney, they confronted Napoleon. Napoleon asserted the army would follow him, and Ney replied the army would follow its generals. Napoleon had no choice but to abdicate. He did so in favour of his son; however, the Allies refused to accept this, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate unconditionally on 11 April.

   The Allied Powers having declared that Emperor Napoleon was the sole obstacle to the restoration of peace in Europe, Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces, for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to do in the interests of France.

   Done in the palace of Fontainebleau, 11 April 1814.

   -Act of abdication of Napoleon

In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the victors exiled him to Elba, an island of 12,000 inhabitants in the Mediterranean, 20 km off the Tuscan coast. They gave him sovereignty over the island and allowed him to retain his title of emperor. Napoleon attempted suicide with a pill he had carried since a near-capture by Russians on the retreat from Moscow. Its potency had weakened with age, and he survived to be exiled while his wife and son took refuge in Austria. In the first few months on Elba he created a small navy and army, developed the iron mines, and issued decrees on modern agricultural methods.