January 2, 2013

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM

Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band In Concert (NPR, January 2, 2013)

The large jazz orchestra, brassy and slick, powers through Goodwin's charts from the main stage of the historic jazz festival, celebrating its 55th year. Included is a performance of the Grammy-winning arrangement for George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."
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Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Bush Reconsidered (Victor Davis Hanson, January 2, 2013, National Review)

What helped to sink Bush's ratings among conservatives, however, was the chronic budget deficits that over two terms added more than $4 trillion to the national debt. Barack Obama seized on that profligacy, calling Bush "unpatriotic" for it and promising to halve the Bush annual deficit by the end of his first term, while blasting the "Bush tax cuts" that supposedly were the source of fiscal shortfalls and had only benefited the rich.

But Obama more than equaled Bush's eight-year borrowing in just four. Apparently, he also conceded that the once-derided Bush tax cuts had actually increased federal revenue while spurring the economy, since he soon insisted upon retaining them for all but those making over $250,000.

A comparative analysis of the Bush and Obama deficits between 2001 and 2012 proves disadvantageous to the latter: George Bush averaged a 2.7 percent ratio of deficits to GDP (less than those of Reagan or George H. W. Bush), Barack Obama so far 8.9 percent. 

...universal democratiziation, the spectacularly successful prescription coverage/HSA bill, the attempt to reform immigration, etc.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Chia seeds: turn them into a pet or a pudding (J.M. Hirsch, 1/02/13, The Associated Press)

Chia seeds' reputation for providing sustained energy -- as well as plenty of nutrients -- more recently have turned them into the darling of the fitness world. They also have shown up in a growing number of products in natural foods shops, from protein bars and baked goods to drinks such as kombucha.

That last one deserves special attention. When mixed with water (as well as some other liquids), chia seeds plump up and develop a pleasantly tender, gelatinous quality, similar to cooked tapioca pearls. Drinks to which chia seeds have been added resemble Japanese bubble tea (teas and juices to which tapioca pearls have been added) -- thick and studded with slightly chewy rounds. [...]

Chia-Almond Pudding

Top this pudding with whipped cream and a sprinkle of chia seeds. Or drizzle it with a bit of honey or agave syrup. Start to finish: Overnight (5 minutes active). Servings: 4.


2 cups vanilla almond milk

1½ tablespoons chia seeds

Zest of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt


In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir well. Leave the bowl on the counter and stir once a minute for about 10 minutes. This prevents the seeds from clumping as they absorb liquid. Cover and refrigerate the bowl for at least 6 hours, or ideally overnight. When you think of it, give the pudding a stir.

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Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Lack of Grand Bargain Complicates Obama's Priorities (COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON, 1/02/13, WSJ)

For President Barack Obama, the new year was supposed to bring an end to fiscal-cliff negotiations and the opportunity to begin work on a second-term agenda.

But the failure to craft a grand bargain to address the country's fiscal woes means that contentious discussions about spending cuts and the debt ceiling will continue in 2013--potentially diminishing the time and goodwill Mr. Obama needs to pursue his policy priorities.

...it's always waiting for you just down the road.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Gaza's tunnels rebound from Israeli offensive (MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, 12/11/12, Associated Press)

Rafah's biggest industry is back in business: Gazans are rebuilding the network of underground smuggling tunnels crisscrossing the Egyptian border that were pummeled in a recent Israeli offensive, restoring the illicit conduit for consumer goods and weapons so crucial to Hamas rule.

The 12-kilometer (eight-mile) slice of land at the Gaza Strip's southern tip is humming around the clock with workers carting in cement, bricks, gravel and scaffolding. The quick rebound has raised questions about how much damage Israel inflicted on the tunnels during last month's eight-day air offensive. [...]

The tunnel industry has become key to Gaza's economy since Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory after Hamas seized power there in 2007.

The tunnels ferry in a wide range of items besides essentials, including Chinese motorcycles, farm and zoo animals, appliances -- and large Iranian rockets that can hit Tel Aviv.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


How Evolution Explains High-Heeled Shoes : New research suggests wearing heels forces women to walk in a way that exaggerates their femininity. (Tom Jacobs, 1/01/13, Pacific Standard)

Fashions in dress come and go, but a peculiar one has stayed in style for many generations, and shows no sign of fading away. It's the high-heeled shoe, which first became a fashion statement in 16th-century France, and has been a part of the modern woman's wardrobe since the mid-19th century.

Ask a woman why she endures the awkwardness and discomfort, and she'll probably respond, "They make me look, and feel, more attractive." [...]

"High heels may exaggerate the sex-specific aspects of the female walk," a University of Portsmouth research team led by psychologist Paul Morris reports in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. While noting that preference in footwear is based in part on culture norms, they argue the enduring popularity of high-heeled shoes suggest their fundamental appeal stems from a deeper impulse.

That's pretty much all that remains of Evolution, conscious decisions to make oneself more attractive.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Illinois Governor Seeks Fast Vote on State's Long-Troubled Pension Systems (MONICA DAVEY, 1/01/13, NY Times)

As Illinois lawmakers head back to work this week, Gov. Pat Quinn is seeking to use the practical advantages of a lame-duck legislative calendar to fix the state's pension systems -- the most underfinanced in the nation -- in a matter of days.

Over the years, leaders here have fretted over the shortfall even as they watched it grow and grow, now reaching, by some estimates, $96 billion. Mr. Quinn, a Democrat, has come to describe the situation as the state's "rendezvous with reality" and Illinois's own "fiscal cliff." He has tried -- to somewhat mixed results and at least a degree of mocking -- to stir up public concern by releasing videos, including one featuring an orange cartoon snake named Squeezy the Pension Python.

"We're trying to do fundamental pension reform that has confounded 12 governors, 13 speakers of the House and 13 Senate presidents over the last 70 years," Mr. Quinn said in a recent interview, adding that despite that troubled history, he believed that a meaningful overhaul of the state's pension systems could be passed through the current legislature in a single week -- after lawmakers begin returning to Springfield on Wednesday and wrapping up before newly elected lawmakers are sworn in at noon on Jan. 9.

"We have come to the moment," Mr. Quinn said.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Supply of 'shadow' homes declines again (Alejandro Lazo, January 2, 2013, LA Times)

House hunters looking for bargain properties in the new year will probably be disappointed.

A new report by Santa Ana firm CoreLogic shows pending home supply declined again in October. This shadow inventory fell 12.3% from the year prior to stand at 2.6 million units, or a supply of about seven months. [...]

"The size of the shadow inventory continues to shrink from peak levels in terms of numbers of units and the dollars they represent," CoreLogic Chief Executive Anand Nallathambi said in that release. "We expect a gradual and progressive contraction in the shadow inventory in 2013 as investors continue to snap up foreclosed and REO properties and the broader recovery in housing market fundamentals takes hold."

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Lines of Resistance on Fiscal Deal (JONATHAN WEISMAN, 1/01/13, NY Times)

[B]efore the bill's final passage late Tuesday, House Republican leaders struggled all day to quell a revolt among caucus members who threatened to blow up a hard-fought compromise that they could have easily framed as a victory. Many House Republicans seemed determined to put themselves in a position to be blamed for sending the nation's economy into a potential tailspin under the weight of automatic tax increases and spending cuts.

The latest internal party struggle on Capitol Hill surprised even Senate Republicans, who had voted overwhelmingly for a deal largely hashed out by their leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The bill passed the Senate, 89 to 8, at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, with only 5 of the chamber's 47 Republicans voting no.

Twenty-one hours later, the same measure was opposed by 151 of the 236 Republicans voting in the House. It was further proof that House Republicans are a new breed, less enamored of tax cuts per se than they are driven to shrink government through steep spending cuts. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


'Gun control' doesn't survive Christmas (DYLAN BYERS, 1/2/13, Politico)

Blame it on the fiscal cliff, blame it on Christmas, blame it on our ability to forget, but the national discussion about gun control has once again ebbed. Mentions of the term "gun control" on television, in newspapers, and in online media are down to pre-Sandy Hook levels, according to the Nexis database.

Happily, we have no parliament.