Archive for July 11th, 2009
An orchestra of Japanese high-school girls. Jack in Amsterdam. Just listen to this:
Last night I watched a dysfunctional-family comedy, Eulogy, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Quite funny. I mentioned earlier that I watched the Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger film ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’, and I quite enjoyed that as well. It’s a bit old-fashioned, but I thought it was quite powerful, plus I was quite interested in the photos of the maelstrom. "A mythic romance" it was called, and I think that’s pretty accurate.
The romantic movie Happy Accidents I think I mentioned before, and I do recommend it. Quite satisfying as a small and interesting movie.
Interest in Go has returned, and I find myself studying at the board now that the table’s cleared off.
Lamb chops for lunch, and perhaps a duck breast for dinner, both with lots of veggies, of course.
Maybe this weekend. Mark Bittman:
Summer Seafood Salad
Yield 4 servings
Time At least 2 hours
You can make this salad ultrafast by starting with cooked shrimp or conch (sold frozen in many fish markets and some supermarkets). Or you can simmer conch or octopus until tender (this takes a while), or shrimp or scallops for just a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you can soak the seafood in citrus at least a couple of hours in the refrigerator until it becomes opaque and tender.
- 1 pound raw peeled shrimp, or scallops, conch or octopus
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 2 limes
- Salt and pepper
- 1 habanero pepper, seeded, stemmed and minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 medium red or white onion, finely chopped
- 1 avocado, diced
- 15 or more cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1 medium mango or peach, peeled and diced, optional
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1 head iceberg or romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped
1. Cut shellfish into 1/2-inch dice and toss with citrus juice and some salt; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If you prefer, poach fish for a few minutes in simmering salted water until opaque, then proceed. You can reduce marinating time to 10 minutes, though more will not hurt.
2. In bowl, add seafood to remaining ingredients except lettuce; toss, then taste and adjust seasoning. Divide lettuce among 4 bowls; sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Spoon a quarter of the seafood mixture over each portion of lettuce; serve immediately.
Generally speaking, war crimes done by the US or by a US ally are perfectly okay and must not on any account be investigated. War crimes done by everyone else are horrible and must be swiftly punished. A hard position to maintain for most, easy for Obama and the US in general. Greenwald:
The Bush administration repeatedly sought to block investigations into alleged killings of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners by a US-backed Afghan warlord in 2001, The New York Times reported Friday.
Top US officials discouraged separate probes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the State Department and the Pentagon into the mass killings because it was conducted by the forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostam, a warlord then on the Central Intelligence Agency’s payroll, the Times said on its website. . . .
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Richard Holbrooke, the special US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, have told Karzai they objected to the recent reinstatement of Dostam as military chief of staff, the Times said, citing a senior State Department official.
"We believe that anyone suspected of war crimes should be thoroughly investigated," the official added, hinting the Obama administration is open to an inquiry.
President Obama disappointed a lot of health care advocates earlier this year when, contrary to campaign vows, he declined to include in his budget the elimination of a decades-old ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs, which have been shown to prevent blood-borne illnesses like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
Enter the House Democrats.
A House Appropriations subcommittee today approved a massive $161 billion funding bill for the labor, health and education departments, including language to pluck the needle-funding ban that Obama didn’t.
Reuters has the money quotes that are indicative of the partisan debate that’s sure to loom, first from Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.):
Scientific studies have documented that needle exchange programs, when implemented as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy, are an effective public health intervention for reducing AIDS/HIV infections and do not promote drug use.
And on the other side, here’s Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kans.), the senior Republican on the Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee:
I am very concerned that we would use federal tax dollars to support the drug habits of people who desperately need help.
Earlier this year, we reported on how the Obama White House had bucked our European allies to oppose a nonbinding international resolution in support of so-called “harm reduction” measures, which include needle exchanges, safe injection facilities, drug substitution therapies and other programs designed to curb the damaging health effects related to illegal drug use. At the time, several House Democrats had raised eyebrows (and written letters) about the administration’s position, only to fall silent when it became clear that the White House was sticking to its guns.
In the eyes of many in the health care community, Congress redeemed itself today.
The real investigation is more likely to come now that Congress knows the CIA was not informing them (as Leon Panetta revealed). Greenwald comments on the IG report:
The Bush-era torture regime might have been that administration’s most flamboyant act of criminality, but its illegal NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (and other still-unknown surveillance programs) has always been the clearest. We had a law in place for 30 years that made it a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense to do exactly that which Bush got caught doing: eavesdropping on the communications of American citizens without warrants from the FISA court. The Inspectors General report (.pdf) on Bush’s NSA activities released on Friday afternoon — one that was mandated by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 in lieu of a real investigation — highlights how rampant and blatant was the lawlessness that pervaded the Bush administration.
Nonetheless, because the Obama administration is actively blocking any real investigation — Obama opposes all Congressional investigations into Bush-era crimes and, worse, is engaged in extraordinary efforts to block courts from adjudicating the legality of Bush’s surveillance activities by claiming that even long-obsolete and clearly criminal programs are "state secrets" — it is quite likely, despite how blatant is the lawbreaking, that there will be no consequences for any of it. In a Look-to-the-Future-Not-the-Past political culture, it’s irrelevant how severe is the lawbreaking by high government officials. They know they will face no consequences even when, as here, they deliberately commit felonies — which is precisely why criminality is so rampant in our political class.
(1) The IG Report is more notable for …
Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life’s Burning Questions
by Thich Nhat Hanh
A review by Chris Faatz
Thich Nhat Hanh is a favorite at Powell’s. His many books, including the epochal Being Peace and Peace Is Every Step, fly off the shelves. Anyone interested in Buddhism, and many who are already experienced explorers of the path, eventually find their way to his work.
Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master and social activist, has, in his way, changed the world. He’s brought the concept of mindfulness, of being totally aware and awake in each and every moment which we experience, to a mass audience. The example of his own life is almost as powerful as his words: he was an early peace activist in his homeland during the war there, and was eventually forced into exile. He worked with boat people and other refugees, and pioneered reconciliation work among veterans of the U.S. war. During that period he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. He’s founded a community, Plum Village, in France where his ideas are practiced and which serves as an example to countless people internationally.
Nhat Hanh pioneered the concept of Engaged Buddhism, an approach to living from a deeply spiritual perspective that’s not afraid to confront structures of power and oppression at all levels, from the personal to the societal. Engaged Buddhism recognizes that we are connected with everything that exists, and that there is a responsibility inherent in that connection. In Nhat Hanh’s terms, we "inter-are"; "interbeing" is the word he’s coined to encapsulate that understanding, and he’s founded a new Buddhist order rooted in this profoundly revolutionary and transformative worldview (the Tiep Hien Order; see his book Interbeing for more on this subject).
As well as all of that, he’s continued to write. And, now, with the publication of Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses to Life’s Burning Questions, he’s given us his best book in years.
Answers from the Heart is just that, a series of 50 questions and answers on a multitude of subjects. Chapter headings include …
I think it must be almost impossible to be a professional Republican if you have a sense of shame. Too often you are called upon to lie, rant against minorities, call for the resignation of Democrats caught in sex scandals while defending Republicans with the same problem, and so on. John Dean, one-time counselor to President Nixon, comments on a recent embarrassment by Rep. Peter King:
New York Republican Congressman Peter King, acting very much like a prototypical contemporary Republican congressman, recently appeared in front of a Wantagh, New York American Legion Post, to rant about the news coverage of Michael Jackson’s death. In doing so, Congressman King absolutely trashed and unashamedly defamed Jackson, even while the Jackson family was still coping with Michael’s death and had yet to bury him.
King’s "I’ll tell you what’s news and what’s not" outburst truly crossed the line, however, when he charged Jackson with crimes for which the entertainer had been found "Not guilty." King said: "…I don’t know how long now, this lowlife Michael Jackson, his name, his face, his picture is all over the newspapers, television, radio. All we hear about is Michael Jackson. And let’s knock out the psychobabble. This guy was a pervert, a child molester, he was a pedophile, and to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us and this country? …There’s nothing good about this guy…."
To defame Michael Jackson as "a child molester" and "a pedophile" – while claiming there was "nothing good about this guy" who devoted his considerable talents to carrying a message of peace and harmony throughout the world – was clearly way over the top.
A Profound Misunderstanding of Contemporary American Culture
Without a doubt, Michael Jackson’s appearance and lifestyle had become conspicuously weird, but Congressman King’s pronouncing Jackson guilty of child molestation and pedophilia, when a jury had listened to evidence for months on end and could not reach that conclusion, is not simply thoughtless on King’s part, it is dishonest. What empowers King to nullify the jury’s "Not guilty" finding? What does King know about the purported $20 million settlement with a boy whose mother allegedly accused Jackson of molesting him, if anything at all? On what basis can King elevate wild rumors to statements of fact? What exactly qualifies this Long Island right-wing Congressman to judge the appropriate news value of Michael Jackson’s passing?
Actually, Peter King is completely out of tune with America’s celebrity culture, and apparently is uninterested in understanding it. In fact, King’s moralistic scolding of the news media is only one step removed from Iran’s ayatollahs’ broadcasting women discussing sewing on state-run television when outraged Iranian voters were rioting in the streets. King’s moralistic view of pop culture is about as 1960s as that of Daniel Boorstin, who famously described a celebrity as "a person who is well-known for their well-knownness," and found both celebrities and "pseudo celebrity events" vacuous and inane. The moralizers have, of course, began declaring the end of civilization as we know it for decades, but civilization has survived them.
More enlightened views, set forth nicely in Graeme Turner’s …
Marci Hamilton, a FindLaw columnist and the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, points out a consistent bias in two areas of law:
Last week, the Dean of Villanova University School of Law, Mark Sargent, tendered his letter of resignation, and the University accepted it. He will not be returning even as a faculty member. According to a number of Philadelphia news sources, a Pennsylvania State Police report states that Sargent was a customer at a brothel when it was raided last November. The owner of the home where the brothel operated was sentenced to 5 to 23 months in jail; Sargent, however, was not charged, apparently because he cooperated with the authorities.
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer experienced the same fate when it was publicly disclosed that he had frequented a high-priced call-girl ring, spending approximately $80,000. He lost his public job, but he was not charged with any crime.
It appears that those who administer our justice system believe that when a successful man has lost his job because his liaisons with prostitutes became public knowledge, he has suffered enough. Even though what Sargent and Spitzer were doing was illegal, and even though both played prominent roles in the world of the law (with Spitzer even backing an anti-prostitution statute), they were not even given a slap on the wrist. Just a walk.
These men, though, are absolutely essential to make the prostitution system flourish. Without them, prostitution operations would go the way of all businesses that fail to attract paying customers. Conversely, letting these men in high legal positions avoid legal consequences furthers the business. When prosecutors do not charge prominent men like Sargent and Spitzer they are wasting a valuable opportunity to hurt the business of prostitution and to deter the next takers.
The Argument for Charging Prostitutes’; Customers with Crimes: The Inherent Harm to Women
As Melissa Farley and Norma Ramos wrote for Newsweek.com on November 10, 2008, prostitutes’; customers "buy and sell women for sex. . . . [and there is] growing evidence that prostitution is emotionally and physically harmful to those used in it." Prosecutorial decisions not to charge "johns" contribute to the degradation and commodification of women and girls. According to Farley and Ramos, there are "volumes of evidence that prostitution arises out of adverse social conditions such as being sexually abused in childhood, poverty, racism, lack of educational and economic opportunities, disability, and a culture that increasingly commodifies girls." In other words, these careers are not about choice, but rather about enduring, and attempting to survive, difficult beginnings and coercive environments.
The argument against charging the male customers appears to be that …
The rightward tilt of the Court will eventually be corrected, but until then we can expect split decisions that favor big businesses over employees and customers, that undermine civil rights (especially of the powerless), and the like. Steve Sheppard, the Judge Enfield Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law, writes about one recent decision that flies in the face of common morality:
In June, the Supreme Court ruled that a convicted rapist has no right to test the DNA in his trial evidence with new technology. Chief Justice Roberts lionized DNA testing’s accuracy, yet still opined that because he thinks Congress and the states are embracing the use of DNA evidence well enough, "[t]here is no reason to constitutionalize the issue."
This approach confuses the role of the courts with the purposes of the Constitution, and – even more importantly – it confuses the rights of a convict with the state’s obligation to ensure the due process of law. Until the Court overrules this decision, it will promote bureaucracy over truth and justice.
The Crime and the Trial
The facts in District Attorney v. Osborne are awful. In 1993, K.G., a woman in Anchorage, Alaska, was raped by two men and then shot. Left in the snow to die, she barely escaped alive.
In 1994, William Osborne, a Black man in Alaska, was convicted of those crimes. He was identified by the one known assailant and by the victim. At his trial, despite his claim of innocence and his alibi, Osborne’s attorney was so sure he was guilty that she did not ask for the best available DNA test, for fear it would identify him.
The DNA test that was actually done, to two hairs and to fluids in a condom found at the scene, "matched" them to Osborne, but to a probability of only one out of six among black men.
Once in prison, Osborne confessed to the crime as a step toward seeking release on parole.
Osborne Seeks Superior DNA Testing
In 1997, Osborne sought fuller DNA testing, via a habeas corpus petition. The court denied it, saying …
A nice tropical theme: coconut and bay rum. The Sabini ebony-handled brush made a great lather from Geo. F. Trumper shave soap—thick and fragrant with coconut. The Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth (with the old head) did a great job with the Swedish Gillette blade. My face felt exceptionally smooth as I applied the St. John’s Bay Rum. Terrific shave.