Later On

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

Archive for December 12th, 2008

The torture report

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Dan Froomkin’s column today discusses the torture report. His column begins:

Yesterday’s bipartisan Senate report on the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere doesn’t just lay out a clear line of responsibility starting with President Bush, it also exposes the administration’s repeated explanation for what happened as a pack of lies.

“The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of ‘a few bad apples’ acting on their own,” the report finds. “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees. Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

The report notes that in early 2002, not long after the Defense Department legal counsel’s office started exploring the application of the sorts of abhorrent practices later documented at Abu Ghraib, Bush signed a memo exempting war-on-terror detainees from the Geneva Conventions. “[T]he decision to replace well established military doctrine, i.e., legal compliance with the Geneva Conventions, with a policy subject to interpretation, impacted the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody,” the report states.

And the report concludes:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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That Newt!

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What a guy:

In September 2008, as the U.S. Congress “was debating the first financial bailout, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on Fox News to decry how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had so ‘many politicians beholden to them’ that no one would step up to protect the American taxpayers,” notes Muckety.com. But, as it turns out, Freddie Mac paid Gingrich $300,000 in 2006, “to push back against tough, new regulations of the mortgage company at a time the Bush administration was concerned about how big the two government-backed mortgage giants had become.” After taking the money, Gingrich “talked and wrote about what he saw as the benefits of the Freddie Mac business model,” reported the Associated Press. The Gingrich hire was part of an effort to woo conservatives; Freddie Mac also hired Frank Luntz and the DCI Group in 2005. Freddie Mac spent $11.7 million on outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006; 17 firms focused on Republicans, while four focused on Democrats. Freddie also hired Gingrich in 1999, “to provide strategic counsel,” notes TPMMuckraker.

Source: Muckety.com, December 9, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Business, GOP

Reporters help CIA torture the truth

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Very interesting article at PR Watch.org. It begins:

There is a fierce battle going on over what kind of a CIA director Barack Obama should appoint, when he should close the prison camp at Guantanamo, and whether there should be a full scale investigation (and possible prosecution) of the torture advocates in the Bush administration,” notes Charles Kaiser in the Columbia Journalism Review. Unfortunately, reporting on this issue in the New York Times and elsewhere has been flagrantly one-sided, from a position that falsifies the facts and defends torture.

“Most of the Times‘s sources don’t think that anyone who formulated or acquiesced in the current administration’s torture policies should be excluded as a candidate for CIA director, or prosecuted for possible violations of criminal law,” Kaiser writes. A recent story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, for example, falsely repeated John O. Brennan‘s description of himself as a “strong opponent” of torture, even though “most experts on this subject agree that Brennan acquiesced in everything that the CIA did in this area while he served there.” …

Continue reading. Also note the documentary titled “Torturing Democracy” that is available on YouTube. Here’s part 1 (of 10):

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 1:03 pm

Good point re: the Corker plan

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From Kevin Drum:

….Corker today put forward a plan that would impose far more stringent auto industry restructuring standards than the House bill. It would reduce the wages and benefits of union workers at domestic car manufacturers by requiring the total labor costs of GM and Chrysler to be “on par” with those in non-union U.S. plants of foreign automakers such as Toyota and Honda.

OK, but I have one question: Is Corker also insisting that the total labor costs of GM’s white collar management staff be on on par with those of Toyota and Honda? Just curious.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Business, GOP

What does it take?

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John Cole of Balloon Juice has an excellent post this morning:

Reading over the comments from last night, I have to tend to agree with this comment:

The big question for me is how fucked up does the country have to get before the Villagers drop the cocktail party act? Who cares if Obama talked to someone who talked to someone who talked to Blago when there’s 1 million new lucky duckies next month and the Dow’s at 3000?Good Lord. I never thought I’d live through this kind of bullshit.

You know- that is a good question. How bad do things have to get before the bullshit artists just stop? Or can they?

There is an almost surreal feel to it all, isn’t there? It is like living in a Dali painting, or walking on an Escher staircase, or being the person in the alien movies when you encounter the unknown from another dimension. The country is falling apart- millions losing their jobs, the economy crumbling, people losing their homes, the budget a disaster, etc. So many problems it is depressing to list them all.

In just the last 24 hours, it was reported that some jackass defrauded people of 50 billion dollars on Wall Street, while the Republicans seem to have purposefully killed a plan to rescue the auto industry that cost 1/3 of what one con man scammed and 1/46th of what we pissed away on in the bailout of the Wall Street bigwigs. By all accounts, it appears the only reason they killed the bill was because the autoworkers were not being punished enough:

The negotiations were based on a plan advanced by Corker, the most junior member of the Banking Committee. His proposal sought to reduce the wages and benefits of union workers by requiring the automakers’ total labor costs to be “on par” with Honda and Toyota.The two sides agreed to most other issues, including those requiring automakers to reduce their debt obligations by at least two-thirds through an equity swap with bondholders. Payouts to workers who are laid off or temporarily furloughed would have been terminated.

Ford, unlike General Motors and Chrysler, has said it does not need bridge loans at this point and would not need to agree to those conditions.

But no agreement could be reached on the wage reductions. “It sounds like UAW blew up the deal,” Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said afterward.

Just in case you are confused- Republicans object to a car czar overseeing the bailout because it is too much government interference, but a few Republican Senators dictating from Washington how much companies pay their workers is just the invisible hand of the free market bitch-slapping you while you are down. Those Senators, btw, make $160k a year and have full medical and just decided that an autoworker making 50k a year is just too damned much money. $700 billion for the millionaires and billionaires who helped create this mess, not a dime for the guys who make $50-60k a year and whose chief sin is showing up for work every day. I don’t know if the bailout plan would work, but to let an industry die and watch millions of people lose their job because the workers make “too much money” seems almost criminal. How much money have we spent on Star Wars? How many weeks in Iraq is 15 billion? I am hard-pressed to come up with a reason Republicans spiked this other than union-busting and because they could.

And while that was going on, what are our media elites concerned about? Politico reporters are aghast at the innovative new way the Obama team is trying to answer the country’s questions, Eugene Robinson is upset because Obama is from the same state as Blagojevich, Krauthammer is up in arms because Obama may succeed in changing the country, and I have not seen the Madoff scam mentioned on CNN, but am watching a piece on the possibility Michael Chertoff may have had illegal aliens clean his house for the third time. And that is just a quick scan of one newspaper and what is on my television at the moment.

Maybe we, the country, deserves to fail. In the movies, young Barry returns at the end and everything is made better.

That was fiction.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Daily life

New policy at New Scientist

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This is very good news indeed. From Mind Hacks:

New Scientist have recently made a years’ worth of articles freely available online and have compiled a list of 2008’s top 10 neuroscience articles.

There are some fantastic articles in there, my favourite being a piece on Karl Friston’s ‘unified theory of the brain’ which argues that it’s essentially a hierarchy of Bayesian probability functions. We discussed it back in May if you want a brief overview.

If you’re not sure what Bayesian probability functions are or even if you do and it sounds like a long-shot theory, have a read as it’s a thought-provoking idea.

Some of the other pieces are also well worth checking out, and includes topics such as whether autism is an exaggeration of certain otherwise normal brain function, whether the brain has built in randomness and what happens to the sleeping brain, to name but a few.

A great collection and wonderful to see NewSci opening up their archive. Good stuff.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 11:55 am

Posted in Media, Science

What happened with the auto bailout

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From Josh Marshall:

A quick update from a knowledgeable source who works in that big building with the dome …

I don’t think it’ll be hard to explain why Senate Republicans had the final say: that’s what the Constitution and Senate rules require. How else would we have passed anything?I do think it’ll be hard for Senate Republicans to explain themselves.

They were invited, repeatedly, to participate in more than a week of negotiations with a Republican White House. They declined.

They were asked to provide an alternative bill. They refused.

Finally, one of their members – Senator Corker of Tennessee – participated in a day-long negotiation with Senate Democrats, the UAW, and bondholders. Everyone made major concessions. Democrats gave up efficiency and emissions standards. UAW accepted major benefit cuts and agreed to reduce workers’ wages. Bondholders signed off on a serious haircut. But when Senator Corker took the deal back to the Republican Conference, they argued for two hours and ultimately rejected it.

Why? Because they wanted the federal government to forcibly reduce the wages of American workers within the next 12 months.

Heard this morning that President Bush may still use TARP money to rescue the automakers. He reportedly doesn’t want to end up as the next Hoover.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2008 at 11:48 am

Posted in Business, Congress, GOP

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