Later On

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

Archive for July 13th, 2009

The wastefulness of the F-22

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Another way to look at it, by Spencer Ackerman:

Something I didn’t know but Brandon Friedman at VoteVets did: a staff sergeant leading an infantry squad in Afghanistan makes, with combat pay, about $44,500 per year. And it costs about $42,000 per hour to fly an F-22, a fighter jet never used in post-9/11 combat at a time when the two wars the United States is fighting require a lot of infantry squad leaders and not a single fighter jet. This is all apropos of the vote this week on the fiscal 2010 defense authorization bill, which President Obama has threatened to veto because of all the money for the F-22 back into it as Defense Secretary Bob Gates tries to end the jet’s production line. Obama’s big ally on the effort to put the F-22 out to pasture is none other than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom you may remember from the 2008 campaign, when he attacked Obama’s judgment on national security questions.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 12:36 pm

Uh-oh. Problems ahead in healthcare

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Steve Benen at Political Animal:

Barack Obama is right that our health care system is so wasteful and poorly organized that it is possible to lower costs, expand access, and raise quality all at the same time — and even have money left over at the end to help pay for other major programs. He’s also right that to achieve these reforms the health care industry must join the 21st century and computerize its medical records — and indeed there is $20 billion in the stimulus package to pay for it.

Unfortunately, that $20 billion is likely to be squandered on buggy, inadequate proprietary software sold by the very companies that lobbied for the money, unless the Obama administration takes decisive action to promote the adoption of better-quality "open source" health IT. So reports Phillip Longman in his tour de force cover story in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly.

Done right, digitized health care could help save the nation from insolvency while improving and extending millions of lives at the same time. Done wrong, it could reconfirm Americans’ deepest suspicions of government and set back the cause of health care reform for yet another generation.

Read Longman’s story, "Code Red," here.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 11:23 am

Singing a song is the best revenge

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The story (from YouTube):

There is now a video response:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_X-Qo…

Full Story: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story… – In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world. United: Song 1 is the first of those songs. United: Song 2 has been written and video production is underway. United: Song 3 is coming. I promise. Follow me at http://twitter.com/DaveCarroll . Video Produced by Curve Productions of Halifax, http://www.curveproductionsinc.com.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 11:02 am

Large Hadron Rap

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Found via this fascinating article:

In the recent Tom Hanks/Ron Howard film "Angels & Demons," science sets the stage for destruction and chaos. A canister of antimatter has been stolen from CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research — and hidden in the Vatican, set to explode right as a new pope is about to be selected.

Striving to make these details as realistic as possible on screen, Howard and his film crew visited CERN, used one of its physicists as a science consultant, and devoted meticulous care to designing the antimatter canister that Hanks’ character, Robert Langdon, and his sexy scientist colleague, Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), wind up searching for.

But there was nothing they could do about the gigantic impossibility at the center of the plot. While the high-energy proton collisions generated at CERN do occasionally produce minute quantities of antimatter — particles with the opposite electrical charge as protons and electrons, but the same mass, which can in turn be combined into atoms like antihydrogen — it’s not remotely enough to power a bomb. As CERN quips on a Web site devoted to "Angels & Demons," antimatter "would be very dangerous if we could make a few grams of it, but this would take us billions of years."

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies, Science

Goldman Sachs’s blow-out profits

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Greenwald:

Remember all of this — the $700 billion bank bailout, the AIG scandal, dark and scary threats of imminent global meltdown if there wasn’t full-scale capitulation by the citizenry to the immense transfer of public wealth to the private investment banking sector?  Such distant, hazy memories:  so many exciting celebrity deaths and riveting celebrity resignations ago.  If sequences of events like these don’t cause mass citizen outrage, then it’s hard to imagine what will:

The New York Times, September 19, 2008:

WASHINGTON — It was a room full of people who rarely hold their tongues. But as the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, laid out the potentially devastating ramifications of the financial crisis before congressional leaders on Thursday night, there was a stunned silence at first.

Mr. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had made an urgent and unusual evening visit to Capitol Hill, and they were gathered around a conference table in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“When you listened to him describe it you gulped," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York.

As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program “Good Morning America,” the congressional leaders were told “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.”

Mr. Schumer added, “History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment.”

When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as “somber,” Mr. Dodd cut in. “Somber doesn’t begin to justify the words,” he said. “We have never heard language like this.”

“What you heard last evening,” he added, “is one of those rare moments, certainly rare in my experience here, is Democrats and Republicans deciding we need to work together quickly.”

ABC News, September 26, 2008:

The embattled Goldman Sachs investment banking firm and its employees have spent more than $43 million dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions to cultivate friends and buy influence in Washington, D.C. since 1989, according to an ABC News analysis of campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

As a group, Goldman Sachs bankers have been the country’s top political campaign contributors this year and have given $29.5 million in contributions since 1989, according to the Center.

"They are almost in a class by themselves," said Sheila Krumholz, the executive director for the Center for Responsive Politics.

"Their top executives are in a class that is way above the clout and name-dropping that most other American businesses can achieve," says Krumholz.

The New York Times, September 27, 2008:

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Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:35 am

Spicy, Citrusy Black Beans

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A tasty-sounding recipe from Simply Recipes (with good photos at the link):

Spicy, Citrusy Black Beans Recipe

  • 4 cups dried black beans
  • 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) water
  • 2-3 fresh sprigs oregano, or 1 Tbsp dried
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 small or 3 large sage leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 chopped peppers – bell pepper, Anaheim, or jalapeño (your choice, depending on taste for heat), seeds, stems and ribs discarded
  • 6 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Ancho red chili sauce, or chili powder or Tabasco to taste
  • 1-2 teaspoons of puréed chipotle in adobo, chipotle Tabasco, or chipotle powder (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp cumin, (crushed whole toasted cumin seed is best, if possible)
  • 3 Tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate or 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

1 Prepare the beans. Rinse and sort the beans, discarding any stones or shriveled beans. You can soak the beans overnight in cold water (cover with several inches of water) OR pour enough boiling water over them to cover by a few inches and soak them for an hour OR skip the pre-soaking step. Soaking will speed up the cooking process. If you soak, discard the soaking liquid after soaking.

2 Add beans to a large pot with 2 1/2 quarts (10 cups) of water. Add oregano, bay leaves, and sage. Bring the beans to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the beans are soft, but not quite done. The time will vary depending on how large, dry, or old your beans are, and if you have pre-soaked them, from anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.

3 While the beans are cooking, sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until soft. Add chili puree and cumin, and garlic. Sauté until spices are fragrant.

4 Fish out and discard the bay leaves, stems of oregano, and sage leaves from the pot of beans. Remove, but reserve, extra cooking liquid until there is about 1/2-inch of liquid above beans.

5 Add the onion mixture and salt to the pot of beans. Cook another hour or so until thickened. Add reserved liquid if needed.

6 Add half of the orange juice, and simmer. Adjust chili heat at this point – you may or may not want to add more of your chili paste. Just before serving, add remaining orange juice, lime juice, and vinegar. Salt to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Serve with corn tortillas, and/or rice, sour cream, and salsa.

Serves 8.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

"Body and Soul" – Portena Jazz Band, 1972

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Another discovery from Jack in Amsterdam:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Jazz, Video

The Bloody White Baron

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Sounds like an interesting read:

The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia
by James Palmer

A review by Anne Applebaum

Like a contemporary reincarnation of Adela Quest, the heroine of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, James Palmer was both attracted and repelled by his first encounter with the grotesque, grimacing, wooden gods of Inner Mongolia:

I entered the shrine of a gruesome god, his sharp teeth grinning and his head festooned with skulls. I wasn’t certain who he was, since the Tibetan pantheon inherited by the Mongolians is replete with such figures. In a small dark room, with incense burning and other gargoyles looming, it seemed capable of an awful, twitching animation; I felt it might lick its lips at any moment. A rural Mongolian couple were kneeling on the floor before it, chanting and kowtowing; they’d brought oranges to feed the god and cash to bribe him. Even after the pilgrims had left, I didn’t want to stand in front of the thing, let alone examine it closely; it was the first time I’d had any concrete sense of the word "idol."

Although he was "raised Anglican, which takes most of the fear out of religion," that temple — dim and shadowy, echoing with the sound of distant chanting — awakened Palmer’s religious awe. Outside the entrance, he bought some oranges and sticks of incense, and then returned. He placed the incense in front of the most horrifying god, and left the oranges and a five-yuan note at its feet. "Better safe than sorry, after all."

This story, like most of the other personal stories in Palmer’s extraordinary book, is not here by accident: he uses it to give the reader some hint of what originally intrigued him, horrified him, and drew him to write about one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Mongolia. It also helps explain the motives of the subject of his story, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, a White Russian fanatic who briefly terrorized the region in the early 1920s:

Such a temple, with its close, fearful atmosphere, would surely have made a deep and lasting impression on Ungern. He had not come to it a blank slate — he was a cruel and ruthless man long before his arrival in Mongolia — but the images of Mongolian Buddhism, filtered through the perspective of the equally murky world of Russian mysticism and its fascination with the "Orient," had shaped his thinking and his actions.

Indeed the baron eventually came to regard himself not only as "the last khan of Mongolia" but as one of the gods himself. The story of his evolution — from failed, rejected, and ousted Russian nobleman to a member of the Mongolian pantheon — is the central drama of Palmer’s book. And drama is the right word here: though The Bloody White Baron is a work of history based on archives and memoirs, it also resembles, in its style and themes, the classic British Central Asian travelogues, from Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana and Fitzroy Maclean’s Eastern Approaches to Colin Thubron’s The Silk Road — not to mention Rudyard Kipling‘s fictional tales of the same region. Palmer shares those writers’ penchant for wry anecdote. More to the point, he shares their fascination with the extraordinary things that can happen when impressionable and easily unhinged Europeans encounter the ancient cultures of Central Asia.

As a young man, it has to be said, Freiherr Roman Nikolai Maximilian von Ungern-Sternberg showed …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:22 am

Posted in Books

Happy birthday, Eau de Cologne

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From the ShaveMyFace.com shaving forum this factoid:

On this day in 1709 Giovanni Maria Farina opened his shop in Cologne, Germany and is today the world’s oldest fragrance factory.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:13 am

Posted in Daily life

The building foreclosure crisis

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Mary Kane of the Washington Independent sounds the alarm:

The time may be ripe for a shift in strategy as the foreclosure machine grinds on, and new foreclosure notices reach the troubling milestone of 10,000 per day.

A weak economy has added job losses and falling home values to the mix of toxic loans that prompted the crisis two years ago, making an already difficult situation even more severe. Government measures from foreclosure freezes to loan modifications have only served, so far, to stall the inevitable – and to create an ominous backlog of millions of pending foreclosures. Plus, more than one in five homeowners now owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, according to the real estate website Zillow.com. No one can predict with assurance whether those underwater homeowners will keep paying on their loans, or take a walk.

And as bad as things may seem now, there’s still a long period of pain to come: A steady drumbeat of foreclosures, and a stagnant housing market, for the next several years ahead, at a minimum. Some see an even more dire picture: Five to 10 years, in California alone, of record high foreclosures. No significant home prices increases nationwide on the horizon, not for next year. Or the year after. Or for as long as the next five years. Some 9 million foreclosures are expected by 2012.

While economists search for signs of green shoots, or optimism, “no one’s really saying anything about this,” noted Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance, a Bethesda, Md. publication that covers the lending industry. “There’s really no good news out there, other than we can’t possibly get in much worse shape than we already are.”

Given this bleak scenario, some say it’s finally time for more forceful action. Congress and the Obama Administration need to move boldly to stop foreclosures, requiring lenders to go beyond what Calculated Risk dubs “extend and pretend” repayment plans, and actually write down loan balances. And the Obama Administration should move quickly to bring more players to the table to pick up the pace of those loan modifications – including the Internal Revenue Service. Servicers might be more aggressive about writing down loans if they’re sure it won’t create tax liabilities for trusts they represent, an impediment that currently stands in the way of getting more mortgages modified, said Kathleen Engel, a Cleveland State University law professor who studies mortgage securitizations.

There’s more to be done: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:09 am

Applewood smoked turkey

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In the bargain bin at Safeway I found a couple of turkey thighs, three turkey necks, and some thick-cut pork chops. I’m going to fire up the Orion cooker and smoke them all today using applewood. I think I’ll rub the (skinless) turkey necks with oil, but the rest will just go in as they are. Probably 45-50 minutes for the chops and maybe 65-70 min for the others.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Scientists compared to the public at large

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This is interesting:

Scientists vs the PublicThis is from a very interesting article on the survey recently done by the Pew Research Center. Note that 84% of scientists (those who know the most science and are best positioned to evaluate the scientific reports of climatologists) believe that the earth is getting warmer because of human activity. 

Read the whole report on the survey.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Looking backward

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Hilzoy again—she’s terrific!

From the Washington Post:

"Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is leaning toward appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate whether CIA personnel tortured terrorism suspects after Sept. 11, 2001, setting the stage for a conflict with administration officials who would prefer the issues remain in the past, according to three sources familiar with his thinking.

Naming a prosecutor to probe alleged abuses during the darkest period in the Bush era would run counter to President Obama’s oft-repeated desire to be "looking forward and not backwards." Top political aides have expressed concern that such an investigation might spawn partisan debates that could overtake Obama’s ambitious legislative agenda. (…)

Holder’s decision could come within weeks, around the same time the Justice Department releases an ethics report about Bush lawyers who drafted memos supporting harsh interrogation practices, the sources said. The legal documents spell out in sometimes painstaking detail how interrogators were allowed to subject detainees to simulated drowning, sleep deprivation, wall slamming and confinement in small, dark spaces.

Any criminal inquiry could face challenges, including potent legal defenses by CIA employees who could argue that attorneys in the Bush Justice Department authorized a wide range of harsh conduct. But the sources said an inquiry would apply only to activities by interrogators, working in bad faith, that fell outside the "four corners" of the legal memos. Some incidents that might go beyond interrogation techniques that were permitted involve detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are described in the secret 2004 CIA inspector general report, set for release Aug. 31.

Among the unauthorized techniques allegedly used, as described in the report and Red Cross accounts, were shackling, punching and beating of suspects, as well as the waterboarding of at least two detainees using more liquid and for longer periods than the Justice Department had approved. That conduct could violate ordinary criminal laws, as well as the U.N. Convention Against Torture, which the United States signed more than a decade ago."

This is good. CIA officials who exceeded the unbelievably expansive rules laid down in the torture memos should be prosecuted. That said, I’d give up all hope of any prosecutions of CIA officials for prosecution of the people who set policy — people like Cheney and Addington. They created the Bush administration’s interrogation policy. They decided to set aside law, morality, and basic humanity. They should bear the consequences.

Moreover, the idea of prosecuting lower-level people while the people with real power get off scot-free sticks in my craw. The laws should apply to everyone, and people like Cheney and Addington, who did not have to worry about losing their jobs if they stood up for basic human decency, have less excuse than anyone for violating it.

This will, undoubtedly, set off another round of wailing from the CIA, about being asked to do the dirty work that keeps us free and then being prosecuted for their troubles. I have very little sympathy for this, especially in the present case: by all accounts, if Holder does appoint a prosecutor, that prosecutor will be looking into the possibility that some interrogators exceeded the rules that the DoJ laid down. Those rules were — how to put it? — hardly confining. Moreover, much as I dislike the actual interpretation of the law given in the DoJ memos, it was quite specific. CIA interrogators knew the rules. If they broke them, that’s too bad.

It’s especially hard to feel too sorry for CIA officials when we’ve just learned that they kept Leon Panetta in the dark about one of their programs until June 23. Keeping the director of an organization in the dark about one of its programs for nearly six months is unconscionable. The people who had that clever idea should …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:53 am

His word was law

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Hilzoy:

I was out and about last night, so I didn’t get to write about the IG report (pdf). Luckily, other people covered the role of John Yoo in all this; besides Steve, publius and Anonymous Liberal are particularly good on this point. I want to focus on another bit.

To set the stage: Comey and Goldsmith have been read into the surveillance program, and have discovered that Yoo’s memos are both legally flawed and factually inaccurate, and that some parts of the program are probably illegal. The programs need to be reauthorized by the President, and normally he does so after the Department of Justice certifies that they are legal. By now, Ashcroft is in the hospital, and Comey and Goldsmith refuse to provide this certification. For this reason, Bush sends Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card to the hospital to try to get Ashcroft to sign off on the reauthorization, which he refuses to do. So:

"On the morning of March 11, 2004, with the Presidential authorization set to expire, the President signed a new authorization for the PSP. [Ed. note: the Presidential Surveillance Programs.] In a departure from the past practice of having the Attorney General certify the authorization as to form and legality, the March 11 authorization was certified by White House counsel Gonzales. The March 11 Authorization also differed markedly from prior Authorizations in three other respects. It explicitly asserted that the President’s exercise of his Article II Commander-in-Chief authority displaced any contrary provisions of law, including FISA. It clarified the description of certain Other Intelligence Activities being conducted under the PSP to address questions regarding whether such activities had actually been authorized explicitly in prior Authorizations. It also stated that in approving the prior Presidential Authorizations as to form and legality, the Attorney General previously had authorized the same activities now being approved under the March 11 authorization. (…)

At approximately noon, Gonzales called Goldsmith to inform him that the President, in issuing the Authorization, had made an interpretation of law concerning his authorities and that DOJ should not act in contradiction of the President’s determinations."

‘The President had made an interpretation of law’. Think about that. President Bush is not a lawyer. He has no expertise on this matter. Commanding the DoJ to accept his word about what the law is is as crazy as commanding the Environmental Protection Agency to accept his determination that some power plant does not, in fact, pollute, or commanding the FDA to accept his determination that some drug is safe. (Or, alternately, to take his word for it that that power plant or drug is not a "power plant" or "drug" within the meaning of the relevant statutes, and thus that they don’t need to make any determinations about it.)

If the President gets to do that, then laws have no meaning, and we might as well have a monarchy.

This would be less awful had the President …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:50 am

Sometimes you want to scream

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From an excellent post (and read the whole thing):

Cokie Roberts explains the politics of health reform: The political reality is that the Senate can’t agree on a bill; so the House bill will be out there calling for $500 billion in new taxes, so health care reform won’t be supported.

Cokie was unable to report in the same thought that the House-proposed $500 billion would be transferred only from the very wealthiest Americans — people like Woodward, Roberts and George Will (who would prefer to tax everyone else), that it’s over 10 years, that it’s offset by comparable amounts in reduced Medicare payments. Nor can she recall that in the exchange, we would provide coverage for nearly 40 million more Americans and end fraudulent practices like rescission, end prior condition exclusions and create a public choice for everyone else.

They then all nod that America can’t afford to cover everyone, because, you know, other countries who do that for less than we pay don’t exist if you don’t mention them.

But ignoring all those facts, and failing to note massive public support for a public plan and and willingness to pay higher taxes to achieve expanded coverage, Cokie concludes health care reform will be unpopular because . . . the Democrats want to raise $500 billion in new taxes. Why didn’t Stephanopoulos just invite John Boehner so we would know not to watch?

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:45 am

Digby shows how the elite pundits view the rule of law

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Very good post by Digby, which begins:

Stephanopoulos reported on This Week that the possible Holder investigation is going to be very narrow and will not pursue policy makers or anyone who took orders directly from the policymakers. He’s going after "rogue interrogators" who inflicted more torture than was strictly allowed.

The Village roundtable all gasped in horror anyway because who knows where such an investigation might lead and as Cokie complained, it would mean that the whole town would be mad at each other again and nobody wants that! "Everybody hates each other and the poison gets very thick." She did finally come down on the side of following the rule of law even though it would make her uncomfortable at cocktail parties, but it was a close thing.

Bob Woodward was very upset at the idea that the government can’t keep secrets because "we need them!" Besides, Holder shouldn’t be like Janet Reno and just initiate investigations willy nilly. (He seems to think that Reno authorizing independent counsels to investigate her own president for trivial political reasons is the same thing as investigating whether the previous administration tortured prisoners.) They all chuckled at the notion that Holder was really independent and if he is, that means he’s a rogue interrogator himself.

George Will thought …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:42 am

Are we once again going after scapegoats?

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The Abu Ghraib investigation led to several enlisted soldiers going to prison, but no officers were punished at all—at most, one colonel got a minor reprimand, as I recall. It looks as though we might reprise that approach: convict some low-level scapegoats, but allow those who directed the effort to go scot-free. Greenwald:

Yesterday, I treated this new Newsweek report that Eric Holder is "leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices" as something to celebrate.  But new facts about what that investigation would entail and, more importantly, would exclude — facts added by today’s Washington Post — strongly suggest it’s the opposite.  At least if that article is to be believed — and it seems clear that Holder dispatched his allies to leak his plans in order to gauge reaction — the investigation will only target "rogue" CIA interrogators who exceeded the limits of what John Yoo authorized, and would not include high-level policy makers who authorized the torture tactics and implemented America’s torture regime:

Any criminal inquiry could face challenges, including potent legal defenses by CIA employees who could argue that attorneys in the Bush Justice Department authorized a wide range of harsh conduct. But the sources said an inquiry would apply only to activities by interrogators, working in bad faith, that fell outside the "four corners" of the legal memos. . . . The actions of higher-level Bush policymakers are not under consideration for possible investigation.

Balloon-Juice’s Tim F. is absolutely right that such an approach — targeting low-level interrogators while shielding high-level policy-makers from prosecution — would be "something close to the worst of both worlds."  That’s true not only because it would replicate the disgraceful whitewashing of the Abu Ghraib prosecutions.  It would do that, but even worse, it would bolster the principal instrument of executive lawlessness — the Beltway orthodoxy that any time a President can find a low-level DOJ functionary to authorize what he wants to do, then it is, by definition, "legal" and he’s immune from prosecution when he does it, no matter how blatantly criminal it is.  As Tim put it:

Hard to believe as it may seem, Holder’s probe will take John Yoo’s work . . . and treat them as the settled law of the time. Already clear and public evidence that DOJ lawyers drafted those memos entirely in bad faith, on orders from Bush officials who literally dictated what they wanted the memos to say, will be similarly ignored.

It’s worth emphasizing here that all of these reports are preliminary and from anonymous DOJ sources, so it’s a bit premature to get too worked up over a prosecution approach which Holder hasn’t even announced yet.  Still, given how many DOJ sources went to multiple newspapers at the same time to disclose Holder’s plans, it seems clear that this was a coordinated, approved effort to disseminate Holder’s intentions as a "trial balloon" to gauge public reaction.  If this is the approach Holder takes — one that, yet again, shields high-level Bush officials while targeting low-level "rogue" agents — one can make a strong argument that it is worse than doing nothing, that this will actually further subvert the rule of law rather than strengthen it…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:37 am

Animated engines

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This site I found via a post on ShaveMyFace.com. It’s a great resource for people like The Older Grandson. :) Quite a few types of internal combustion engines, steam engines, and Stirling engines are shown in animation, accompanied by explanations, and you can control the speed of each animation.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 9:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Amazing stop-action videos

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 8:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Food, movies, and music

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For dinner last night, I sautéed a duck breast. I tried a new technique. As usual, I stabbed all over the skin side with a fork. Then I heated the large sauté pan on low for five minutes or so, and added the duck breast skin side down.

I let that sauté on low while I used my Swissmar V-Slicer to julienne a potato and a yellow crookneck squash, and chopped a few shallots. – The key to sautéing a duck breast is finding things to sauté in the duck fat later. Another good candidate, it occurs to me, is Brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically. Sauté those for a while and then put into a 375º oven to finish. But last night it was potato, squash, and shallot.

When the duck breast was fully brown on the skin side, I turned it over to finish cooking. I probably could have added the veg at that point, but waited until I removed the breast, then sautéed the veg. On top I put Sriracha chili sauce: a purée of fresh red jalapeños, garlic powder, sugar, salt and vinegar. At the link you can read about the company. I’ve decided that in my own pepper sauce, I’ve been working toward something very like Sriracha, so perhaps I’ll just buy that from now on.

The movie—and not to be missed, please—is The Great Ziegfeld, a three-hour production for which the word "lavish" is too weak and pale. You really must see this, but observe that it runs just over 3 hours. A few notes: of the many production numbers, the one with the ever-ascending staircase is the weirdest and perhaps most amazing; astounding costumes appear in the own sequence; Anna Held (played by Luise Rainer) gives the 1936 Hollywood stereotype of a Frenchwoman—which apparently includes milking a scene for all that it’s worth; in many of the dances, you are shown just how much can be done with the grey scale in a B&W movie with an excellent cinematographer; the special feature "Ziegfeld on Film" is definitely worth watching; and William Powell is one of those male actors who can dial urbanity and suavity up to 11. Some others: Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Gregory Peck, Randolph Scott… Your nominees?

Finally, another great performance from the Big Friendly Jazz Orchestra—who knew that Japanese schoolgirls could blast out swing like this?

Written by LeisureGuy

13 July 2009 at 8:41 am

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