Later On

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

Archive for September 22nd, 2006

Rational marijuana approach

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Check out the animated video. It explains how Nevada is planning to handle marijuana. It makes a lot of sense. Explore the debates—as usual, opponents of marijuana legalization cannot argue successfully using facts and truth, so they simply lie. Weird. Oh, and they break the law by having public officials spend taxpayer money fighting the initiative. That’s illegal. (Video requires broadband and sound.)

UPDATE: I just received this via email:

MPP’s opponents in Nevada might go to jail

On Tuesday, between 40 and 50 supporters of the Marijuana Policy Project’s initiative campaign in Nevada attended a county commission meeting in Las Vegas to protest the commission’s nonbinding resolution opposing MPP’s initiative. MPP Campaign Manager Neal Levine made a statement before the commission, explaining, “According to Nevada Revised Statutes 281.554, government officials and employees are prohibited from expending public funds, time, or resources to oppose or support a ballot question. This rule applies to the Clark County Commission.” You can watch the confrontation here.

Would you please consider donating the maximum amount that you can, so that we can afford to continue fighting to pass our initiative — and fighting our opponents — everywhere, and every day, until Election Day?

Despite the clear legal precedent — a Nevada Supreme Court decision in 2002 and a Nevada attorney general’s opinion in 2004 — that prevents public officials from weighing in on ballot questions, the commission’s lawyer opined that the resolution debate could proceed. The commission then voted unanimously to oppose MPP’s initiative, which would tax and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Following the commission’s vote, the campaign filed a formal complaint with the state’s attorney general, asking him to prosecute the county commissioners and other public officials — like Clark County Sheriff Bill Young, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Detective Todd Raybuck, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Stan Olsen — who have spent taxpayer money to oppose MPP’s initiative, which will be on the November 7 ballot. (Watch a short, 90-second animation video explaining the initiative here.)

The possibility of sending the county commissioners, sheriffs, and police to jail for illegally campaigning while on the public dime has generated a tremendous amount of news coverage by diverse media outlets, including the ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC television stations in Las Vegas; the NBC and CBS television stations in Reno; and the Associated Press, the Las Vegas Sun, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. You can view the ongoing media coverage of our campaign’s fight for fairness here.

We are doing everything we possibly can to ensure that Nevada voters pass our ballot initiative on November 7, but we need your help to continue to face growing (and often illegal) resistance by our opponents as Election Day draws near. Thank you in advance for anything you can give or do.

Sincerely,

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I’ve mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $3.5 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2006. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 4:16 pm

Nice camera

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My friend in Ohio has a Nikon digital, but I think this camera upstages it handily: 160-megapixel images, 1/20,000th-second shutter speed, etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Techie toys

Cute idea for kids: Squid Soap

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Squid Soap: When the kid presses the plunger to squirt out some soap, his hand is inked. He scrubs his hands until the ink is gone. Bob’s your uncle.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Toys

Very nice toy

with one comment

The Grandsons would like this—not to mention their dad. (Requires broadband)

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Toys

Political parties

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I want to address the second point raised by Politics Guy:

The two-party system contains a problem in that it works to divide the country, and in particular allows each party to attack every member of the other party for the missteps of a few.

Several of the Founders greatly feared the rise of political parties, but it seems almost inevitable that people will associate with others who share their beliefs and political outlooks. And, as pointed out in this interesting Wikipedia article, our system of voting then mashes those associations into two political parties. And if you continue reading, you’ll come to a list of the advantages and disadvantages of a two-party system.

So far as a third political party in the US: I think Don Marquis‘s archy got it exactly right when he wrote, “Is the time ripe for a third political party? It is more than ripe—it is rotten.”

But we do have two political parties, for all that we may wish otherwise, and of course both parties have members whose behavior is corrupt, unethical, and even illegal. The Democrats have William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson (he of the freezerful of currency) and John Murtha, who, for all his opposition to the Iraq War, has the usual flaws of someone who’s been chairman of an appropriations and has a very smelly reputation. The GOP has… well, quite a few: Ney, Abramoff, Safavian, DeLay, Harris, Bush, Gonzales, Cheney, Addington, Woo, Frist, Tobin, Cunningham, Allen, Hastert, …

In part, what we see is the corrupting effect of power: those who have long been powerful tend to be corrupt: to take care of friends (or of those from whom they can extort money), to do anything to increase their power, and the like.

The philosophies of the two parties generally lead to more wealth and power being found on the GOP side: a party that allies itself with the interests of large businesses (“What’s good for GM is good for the country.”) and of those with wealth. The Democrats have for years allied themselves with the working class and the poor and the minorities, who tend to have less wealth and power. The GOP sees government as the ally of business, the Democrats see government as a balance against the power of business. When the Democrats are in power, the agencies the regulate business—the FDA, for example—grow strong; when the GOP comes to power, those agencies are weakened and directed to help business. (I recall the Republican Senator Roman Hruska from Nebraska, who was widely known as “the defender of the strong.”)

So: we have a two-party system, like it or not, and I find my values align more with the espoused values of the Democratic Party. YMMV.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Election, Government

Whole lot of mismanagement going on

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Man, the reports are coming out fast and furious. This one, for example:

A scorching internal review of the Bush administration’s reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.

The government audit is unsparing in its review of how Reading First, a billion-dollar program each year, that it says has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use.

It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director’s views and in which only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.

In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn’t support, according to the report released Friday by the department’s inspector general.

”They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags,” the Reading First director wrote, according to the report.

That official, Chris Doherty, is resigning in the coming days, department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Friday. Asked if his quitting was in response to the report, she said only that Doherty is returning to the private sector after five years at the agency.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, in a statement, pledged to swiftly adopt all of the audit’s recommendations. She also pledged a review of every Reading First grant.

”I am concerned about these actions and committed to addressing and resolving them,” she said.

Reading First aims to help young children read through scientifically-proven programs, and the department considers it a jewel of No Child Left Behind, Bush’s education law. Just this week, a separate review found that the effort is helping schools raise achievement.

But from the start, the program has also been dogged by accusations of impropriety, leading to several ongoing audits. The new report from the Office of Inspector General — an independent arm of the Education Department — calls into question basic matters of credibility.

When the department fails to follow the law and its own guidance, the report says, ”it can only serve to undermine the public’s confidence in the department.”

The ranking Democrat on the House education committee was furious.

”They should fire everyone who was involved in this,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. ”This was not an accident, this was not an oversight. This was an intentional effort to corrupt the process.”

And, of course, this one:

In April, Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson told a group of real estate officials that he once canceled a government contract because the contractor was critical of President Bush. Awarding contracts based on political leanings “violates federal law.” Jackson is a “longtime Bush friend” and former neighbor in Dallas, Texas.

The Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development has conducted a detailed investigation and produced a 340-page report detailing his findings. The agency has given a copy to Jackson, but refused to release the report to the public.

ThinkProgress has obtained the executive summary. Here are some key excerpts:

– “During the investigation, Secretary JACKSON’s Chief of Staff, as well as the HUD Deputy Secretary testified that, in a senior staff meeting, JACKSON had advised senior staff, to the effect, that when considering discretionary contracts, they should be considering supporters of the President, language consistent with the remarks made by JACKSON in Dallas, Texas, on April 28, 2006.”

– “Investigation did disclose some problematic instances involving HUD contacts and cooperative agreement grants, in particular, the cooperative agreement award issued to Abt Associates…was blocked for a significant period of time due to Secretary JACKSON’s involvement and opposition to Abt. Secretary JACKSON’s Chief of Staff testified that one factor in JACKSON’s opposition to Abt was Abt’s political affiliation.

– “Secretary JACKSON’s Chief of Staff also identified other instances of Secretary JACKSON intervening with contractors whom he did not like. Reviews of political contributions indicated these contractors had Democratic political affiliations.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) have already called on Jackson to resign immediately. The White House yesterday gave him “a tepid vote of confidence.”

We’ve posted the full text of the report’s executive summary HERE.

I almost forgot this one:

An official overseeing oil leasing says he was directed in the 1990s to remove a provision concerning royalty payments, leading to a financial windfall to oil companies, the Interior Department’s inspector general said Wednesday. He also unleashed a broad rebuke of his department’s record on ethics.

Inspector General Earl Devaney testified at a House hearing that the leasing official’s claim could not be verified despite a lengthy investigation and a polygraph test, which the official passed. He said three people were implicated by the official but all denied making such a directive, and one also passed a polygraph.

Devaney, who has been the department’s internal watchdog for seven years, said he could not say if anyone will be disciplined over the oil royalty mistake. It involved thousands of leases issued in 1998-99 without a section that would have required royalty payments if oil prices reached a certain level.

He contended that midlevel department officials covered up the mistake for five years. Devaney also lashed out at what he said was the department’s failure to deal with ethical missteps and conflicts of interest.

“Short of a crime, anything goes at the highest level of the Department of Interior,” he said. “Ethics failures on the part of senior department officials — taking the form of appearances of impropriety, favoritism and bias — have been routinely dismissed with a promise of not to do it again.”

He said his office’s recommendations usually were ignored. In testimony before the House Government Reform’s energy subcommittee, Devaney described a meeting with former Interior Secretary Gale Norton about questionable ethical conduct by a senior official.

Norton, who resigned last March and cited personal reasons, “indicated that she accepted this official’s admission that he exercised bad judgment, but given his promise not to do so again, she was unwilling to take any action against him,” Devaney said.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 12:17 pm

US torturers safe now from prosecution

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From Dan Froomkin’s column today:

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU’s Washington office released this statement : “This is a compromise of America’s commitment to the rule of law. The proposal would make the core protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant and unenforceable. It deliberately provides a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ to the administration’s top torture officials, and backdates that card nine years. These are tactics expected of repressive regimes, not the American government.

“Also under the proposal, the president would have the authority to declare what is — and what is not — a grave breach of the War Crimes Act, making the president his own judge and jury. This provision would give him unilateral authority to declare certain torture and abuse legal and sound. In a telling move, during a call with reporters today, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley would not even answer a question about whether waterboarding would be permitted under the agreement.”

“The agreement would also violate time-honored American due process standards by permitting the use of evidence coerced through cruel and abusive treatment. We urge lawmakers to stand firm in their commitment to American values and reject this charade of a compromise.”

Also, this:

Warren Richey writes in the Christian Science Monitor: “In a significant but little-discussed move, the Bush administration is asking Congress to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases brought by Guantánamo detainees challenging the legality of their confinement. . . .

“Legal analysts say the measure has sparked surprisingly little debate among lawmakers. For example, the main alternative to the administration’s bill, legislation sponsored by Sens. John Warner (R) of Virginia and Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina, also calls for withdrawing federal court jurisdiction to hear such cases.

“Nonetheless, there is opposition.

“‘We are told this legislation is important to the ineffable demands of national security, and that permitting the courts to play their traditional role will somehow undermine the military’s effort in fighting terrorism. But this concern is simply misplaced,’ writes a group of prominent retired federal appeals court judges, in an open letter to members of Congress. . . .

“The judges say the proposed legislation may violate the Constitution’s mandate that ‘the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.’

“The so-called Great Writ is a bedrock principle of liberty dating to 1215 and the Magna Carta. It entitles a prisoner to demand to be brought before a neutral judge to force the government to prove the legality of his or her detention or be set free. It is the quintessential check on executive power.”

Thus does the US join the roll of those nations that regularly use torture on suspects. To what a strange and awful place we’ve arrived. And to think that this is the nation that once was respected as a bastion of liberty and freedom and justice. Now that torture has been institutionalized and protected, the descent may be swifter than we expect. Certainly Congress has abandoned all its powers of oversight. Just hope that you are never a suspect.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 10:27 am

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