Archive for August 2007
Glenn Greenwald has an important post:
The severe dangers from allowing the government to engage in surveillance of Americans’ communications with no oversight ought to be self-evident. That government leaders will abuse unchecked powers is the most basic premise of our country since its founding, and independently, the dangers are obvious.
But reasoning of that sort is not even required to appreciate and convey to Americans why oversight-less spying powers of the type the Congress just vested in the Bush administration are so pernicious. There is a long and recent record demonstrating that surveillance powers, when exercised against Americans without oversight, will be abused. And that record just got longer and more disturbing, thanks to a superb investigative report from a local television news station in Houston, which obtained the previously secret FBI surveillance file on Coretta Scott King.
Here is what happens when we allow our political leaders to spy on Americans with no oversight:
Kevin Drum has a highly useful graph of troop fatalities, which show the exact opposite of what the Bush Administration is saying (and the mainstream media are printing):
Not to put too fine a point on it: The. Surge. Is. Not. Working.
The military seems to be becoming more and more involved in politics. This is ominous. Once the military starts taking political positions and undertaking political actions, the possibility of a military coup (“just until we can stabilize the country and re-align public opinion”) starts to loom.
1) General Petraeus wrote a political op-ed just before the last presidential election, apparently to help Bush. Now Petraeus is campaigning in Australia, including making false and misleading statements, to help a Bush ally.
2) The military is passing out “smear” bios of Democrats who visit the Green Zone. These bios include false statements and are highly slanted.
3) As already blogged, the military is blocking access to ThinkProgress.org because of its politics, while continuing to allow access to the National Review and Fox news.
Bush should put a stop to this sort of thing immediately, but of course Bush is the guy behind firing the US Attorneys who were insufficiently political.
This morning, a minister married two men, “sealing the state’s first legal same-sex wedding. Less than 24 hours earlier, a judge had thrown out Iowa’s ban on gay marriage.” More than a dozen gay couples tied the knot in Iowa this morning.
As you know, the Right has consistently said that same-sex marriages will destroy heterosexual marriages, even though Massachusetts, the first state to allow same-sex marriages, has the lowest divorce rate in the country.
But now we have a good check. Let’s see if, following this step, the divorce rate in Iowa goes up, goes down, or stays the same. Inquiring minds want to know.
ThinkProgress is now banned from the U.S. military network in Baghdad.
Recently, an avid ThinkProgress reader — a U.S. soldier serving his second tour in Iraq — wrote to us and said that he can no longer access ThinkProgress.org. The error message he received:
The ban began sometime shortly after Aug. 22, when Ret. Maj. Gen. John Batiste was our guest blogger on ThinkProgress. He posted an op-ed that was strongly critical of the President’s policies and advocated a “responsible and deliberate redeployment from Iraq.” Previously, both the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times had rejected the piece. An excerpt:
It is disappointing that so many elected representatives of my [Republican] party continue to blindly support the administration rather than doing what is in the best interests of our country. Traditionally, my party has maintained a conservative view on questions regarding our Armed Forces. For example, we commit our military only when absolutely necessary. […]
The only way to stabilize Iraq and allow our military to rearm and refit for the long fight ahead is to begin a responsible and deliberate redeployment from Iraq and replace the troops with far less expensive and much more effective resources–those of diplomacy and the critical work of political reconciliation and economic recovery. In other words, when it comes to Iraq, it’s time for conservatives to once again be conservative.
Not surprisingly, both the National Review and Fox News are still accessible.
Paul Krugman has a good take on this:
Two years ago today, Americans watched in horror as a great city drowned, and wondered what had happened to their country. Where was FEMA? Where was the National Guard? Why wasn’t the government of the world’s richest, most powerful nation coming to the aid of its own citizens?
What we mostly saw on TV was the nightmarish scene at the Superdome, but things were even worse at the New Orleans convention center, where thousands were stranded without food or water. The levees were breached Monday morning — but as late as Thursday evening, The Washington Post reported, the convention center “still had no visible government presence,” while “corpses lay out in the open among wailing babies and other refugees.”
Meanwhile, federal officials were oblivious. “We are extremely pleased with the response that every element of the federal government, all of our federal partners, have made to this terrible tragedy,” declared Michael Chertoff, the secretary for Homeland Security, on Wednesday. When asked the next day about the situation at the convention center, he dismissed the reports as “a rumor” or “someone’s anecdotal version.”
Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding, as opposed to emergency relief, has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects — an impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.
On the other hand, generous investment tax breaks, supposedly designed to spur recovery in the disaster area, have been used to build luxury condominiums near the University of Alabama’s football stadium in Tuscaloosa, 200 miles inland.
An email from the Drug Policy Alliance:
The DEA and a regional narcotics task force raided the home of a paraplegic medical marijuana patient in what appears to be a cruel publicity stunt designed to intimidate New Mexico patients and policymakers.
With the help of supporters like you, the Drug Policy Alliance passed legislation earlier this year in New Mexico that legalized marijuana for medical use. Since the law took effect, 38 patients have been approved by the state’s Department of Health to possess and use marijuana to alleviate their conditions. The day after our medical marijuana legislation was signed into law, however, U.S. Drug Czar John Walters publicly expressed his disappointment with state policymakers. While we expected then that federal agencies would try to interfere with New Mexico’s efforts to fully implement the medical marijuana law, we didn’t believe they would go after those most vulnerable in the state – the patients.
On Tuesday, agents of the Pecos Valley Drug Taskforce in conjunction with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration searched the home of a registered medical marijuana patient who has lost the use of his legs and suffers chronic pain and muscle spasms due to a spinal cord injury. They seized his medicine and are now threatening to prosecute him in federal court where there are no legal protections for medical marijuana patients. This intimidating raid comes at the very time New Mexico officials are debating the best way to develop a state-licensed production and distribution system for medical marijuana.
A press release issued by the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force illustrates the political nature of the raid, reading in part, “Citizens of New Mexico need to be aware that they can still be prosecuted on the federal level even though New Mexico has a law permitting marijuana for medicinal use.” The Pecos Valley Drug Task Force is part of the Southwest Border HIDTA, a local, state, and federal law enforcement partnership financed and managed by the drug czar’s office.
This cruel misuse of law enforcement resources is only the latest scandal to be connected to regional narcotics taskforces. DPA has been trying to cut off federal funding to these corruption-prone taskforces for years. From the wrongful conviction of dozens of people in Tulia, Texas to the harassment of electronic music lovers in Flint, Michigan, these taskforces are at the center of some of our country’s worst civil rights abuses.
Please take a minute today to e-mail your members of Congress and ask them to protect medical marijuana patients and reform federal law enforcement grant programs.
One interesting note from the AP article:
UPDATE: Gov. Rick Perry just commuted the death sentence for Kenneth Foster.
Texas commutes very few death sentences, for any reason, and the state seems to go out of its way to execute people. Here’s another:
A 30-year old man, Kenneth Foster, is set to be executed today for a murder which he not only did not commit, but which the authorities in Texas accept was carried out by another man in 1996.
The trial judge, the prosecutor, and the jury that sentenced Mr Foster to die admit that he did not murder the victim Michael LaHood. But, under a controversial “law of parties”, in Texas an associate of a perpetrator can be found co-responsible in a capital case. The law imposes the death penalty on anybody involved in a crime where a murder occurred.
Megs has one of these kitty trees. I like it, because I can assemble it the way I want. And now, after five years, I have to replace the sleeper cover. Not bad.
These new weishi razors look very cool indeed. (Thanks to Hyperwarp for pointing them out.) The gunmetal looks extremely nice, in a Die Hard sort of way, but I’m partial to the chrome and gold. As you would expect from the name, these are made in China—as, indeed, are many of the devices we use. I’ll give a report when I actually have with one. If you’ve used a weishi, post a report in the comments.
Recently, Gordon has found that, on most weekdays, there are more women in the park than men. This is how his boss, Dan Biederman, would like it to be. Biederman, the longtime president of the Bryant Park Corporation, was a protégé of the urban sociologist William (Holly) Whyte, whose theories about the dynamics of public space included the idea that the presence of women indicates civic health.
“Women pick up on visual cues of disorder better than men do,” Biederman said the other day. “They’re your purest customers. And, if women don’t see other women, they tend to leave.” Biederman visits the park several times a day and sometimes goes undercover. (Look out for a fit, middle-aged gentleman in a pin-striped suit, reading “The Red Badge of Courage.”) He has discerned that women notice homeless people more than men do, object more to crumbs on picnic tables, and are more sensitive to foul odors, such as that of urine, which signals that there are no clean, functional bathrooms nearby. Twenty years ago, Bryant Park was an infamous shambles. Few women—or men—would go near it. Now it’s a handsome place, with flower beds, pétanque games, a lending library, a carousel, thousands of portable chairs, theatrical performances, and many other inducements. And so the women come. Presumably, a female preponderance not only emboldens more women but also entices more men. “There’s great girl-watching,” Biederman acknowledged.
… “Go to any public space in the world,” Biederman had said. “If it’s skewing overwhelmingly male, get out as soon as possible.”
Women: the canaries in the coal-mine of public parks.
Megs is now only three small cans of canned food away from being a kibble kitty once more. She wouldn’t eat the canned food unless I mixed in a lot of Cat-Man-Doo shaved bonito flakes, and I got tired of that. So I’ve been trying out various canned foods to see whether there’s one she’ll eat straight from the can. So far, no luck. I picked those whose first five ingredients (at least) were meat (or fish or poultry).
I’ll post these in the recipes as well, but for those who are interested:
Made it exactly according to the recipe except (1) I added a few ounces of Kona kampachi sashimi for more protein, and (2) I used agave syrup (low glycemic index) instead of honey. It was excellent. I’ll make it again.
Tomato bread soup
Made it using a half loaf of whole wheat kalamata olive bread I had, thanks to the Younger Daughter. I like a little spiciness and thought of using some crushed red pepper, but instead chopped up a couple of jalapeños (with seeds) and sautéed them with the onion and garlic. Then, at the end, I added some ocean scallops, quartered, for more protein. It was excellent. No basil, no ricotta salata.
I had been getting intermittent connection problems for a while, and Wednesday night DSL was down altogether—only it wasn’t. When I called my ISP, they quickly discovered the problem was my modem, so I drove the old modem down to swap it for a new one. (They’re only a few blocks away.) The new one, unfortunately, required a standard phone jack, whereas the old one used a wide jack. So the phone company has to come and work on the connector and jack—only I can use an independent phone guy, who used to work for the phone company before starting his own business. He comes by in an hour or two, the phone company takes several days. And his rates are lower, too. But he had appointments yesterday and couldn’t come until 8:00 this morning (Friday).
It feels very strange these days to have a computer that’s not connected to the Internet. It’s as if the greater part of the computer is missing—the part that lets you look things up, order things, check facts, etc. Instead of a computer, I felt like I had a fancy typewriter.
Yesterday I decided to use the mango-oil soap again, this time with an excellent brush so I could enjoy the lather. So the G.B. Kent BK4 volunteered, and soon I was slicing the lather away with a new Black Beauty blade (Treet Blue Special) in the Wilkinson “Sticky.” Very smooth and nice shave, finished with Booster Oriental Spice aftershave. New slogan:
The Treet Blue Special: it’s not for everyone.
Today, I went with a vintage soap I acquired a while back: Paisley’s Lavender Scented Shaving Soap. The lavender scent is now so faint that I couldn’t detect it, but I got a fine lather with the Rooney Style 2 Finest, surely one of the best all-round brushes made, and used the same Black Beauty blade from yesterday, transferred today to an English red-tipped Super Speed. Another superb shave, this time finished with Booster Aquarius aftershave.
Phone guy just left, and I’m back in business with a new modem—which I imagine will cure some intermittent connection problems I’ve been experiencing. How y’all been?
This is The Wife writing. LG’s modem died, and the replacement modem requires a different kind of DSL wiring than he currently has (or something), and the guy who’s coming to do the work can’t make it until tomorrow. So it’s a day without blogging. To tide everyone over, here’s a picture of Molly squinting down at me from the top of the hutch.