Later On

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

Archive for December 6th, 2010

The modern state reveals its totalitarian, authoritarian soul

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Read this column, which reveals the strength of authoritarianism in Western nations. The lynch-mob mentality is just under the surface. From the column:

. . . Just look at what the U.S. Government and its friends are willing to do and capable of doing to someone who challenges or defies them — all without any charges being filed or a shred of legal authority.  They’ve blocked access to their assets, tried to remove them from the Internet, bullied most everyone out of doing any business with them, froze the funds marked for Assange’s legal defense at exactly the time that they prepare a strange international arrest warrant to be executed, repeatedly threatened him with murder, had their Australian vassals openly threaten to revoke his passport, and declared them “Terrorists” even though — unlike the authorities who are doing all of these things — neither Assange nor WikiLeaks ever engaged in violence, advocated violence, or caused the slaughter of civilians.

This is all grounded in the toxic mindset expressed yesterday on Meet the Press (without challenge, naturally) by GOP Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said of Assange:  “I think the man is a high-tech terrorist. He’s done an enormous damage to our country, and I think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law.”  As usual, when wielded by American authorities, the term “terrorist” means nothing more than: “those who impede or defy the will of the U.S. Government with any degree of efficacy.”  Anyone who does that is, by definition, a Terrorist.  And note McConnell’s typical, highly representative view that if someone he wants to punish isn’t a criminal under the law, then you just “change the law” to make him one.

But that sort of legal scheming isn’t even necessary.  The U.S. and its “friends” in the Western and business worlds are more than able and happy to severely punish anyone they want without the slightest basis in “law.”  That’s what the lawless, Wild Western World is:  political leaders punishing whomever they want without any limits, certainly without regard to bothersome concepts of “law.”  Anyone who doubts that should just look at what has been done to Wikileaks and Assange over the last week.  In this series of events, there are indeed genuine and pernicious threats to basic freedom and security; they most assuredly aren’t coming from WikiLeaks or Julian Assange.

People often have a hard time believing that the terms “authoritarian” and “tyranny” apply to their own government, but that’s because those who meekly stay in line and remain unthreatening are never targeted by such forces.  The face of authoritarianism and tyranny reveals itself with how it responds to those who meaningfully dissent from and effectively challenge its authority:  do they act within the law or solely through the use of unconstrained force? . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Fighting for realistic (i.e., evidence-based) regulation of drugs

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Dick Taverne has a very interesting piece in New Scientist on how drug regulation is done: without evidence. He writes:

Asked by Galileo to look through his telescope at the newly discovered four moons of Jupiter, a representative of the pope answered: “I refuse to look at something which my religion tells me cannot exist.” The attitude of most western governments to the harm caused by recreational drugs is not dissimilar.

This attitude is exemplified by the UK government’s response to a recent report by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, led by former government adviser David Nutt. The report is a methodical analysis of the harm caused by different drugs, not only to the user but also to others and society at large (The Lancet, vol 376, p 1558). Its conclusions are broadly similar to those of an earlier study by Nutt (The Lancet, vol 369, p 1047) and of one by drug addiction experts in the Netherlands.

The committee found that crack cocaine and heroin were the most harmful to the individual, but on the overall scale of harm, alcohol easily came top because of the violence, crime, road accidents, police time, job losses and relationship problems associated with its use.

Seen in this light, the UK’s system of classifying harmful drugs has no basis in evidence. Ecstasy and LSD, which are among the least harmful, are classified with the most harmful such as heroin and crack cocaine. Cannabis is classified in the second highest category, listed as seriously harmful, although its effect on individuals and others is relatively mild. Alcohol and tobacco are of course not included at all.

When I challenged the government in the House of Lords to reconsider its present system of classification in the light of the new report and take much stronger action against the abuse of alcohol, I was met by a blank refusal. I was told that there is no consensus about what constitutes evidence, that all classified drugs are extremely harmful to society, that the government must provide a stable and enduring system, and that the current system continues to serve that purpose.

In effect, the government’s message echoed the answer of the pope’s representative: “We refuse to look at the evidence because our policy is fixed and that tells us the evidence cannot be true.”

So we continue to fill our jails – which are already fuller than in any other European Union country – with drug users, even though the link between criminal penalties and drug use is weak. When for a while the penalties for possessing cannabis were downgraded in England, use of cannabis declined. This does not prove that lower penalties caused the decline, but they certainly do not inevitably result in increased use.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Politics, Science

Red CKO: I’m making it for dinner

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Red CKO is the name I just made up for a dish that combines red chard, red kale, and red onions:

Cut top and bottom off a red onion, cut it in half vertically, and discard papery outer layers.

Slice each onion half thinly—I use my Swissmar Borner V-Slicer. At the link, note the cut-resistant glove: I never use the V-Slicer without wearing a cut-resistant glove after V-slicing away a chunk of my thumb.

Sauté sliced onion in 2 tsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid. Continue sautéing until onion is starting to caramelize.

Wash chard and kale in a sink full of cold water, shake dry, and chop. Chop stems into small pieces, but I include them in the dish.

Add chard and kale to onions, stir, and sauté briefly. Then add 3/4 cup chicken stock or water, a glug of good balsamic vinegar, some salt, some pepper and/or homemade pepper sauce, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

I find it quite tasty, myself.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 10:47 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Dream facts

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Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

The Tea Party: New hypocrites the same as the old hypocrites

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Reid Wilson reporting for National Journal:

Members of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus may tout their commitment to cutting government spending now, but they used the 111th Congress to request hundreds of earmarks that, taken cumulatively, added more than $1 billion to the federal budget.

According to a Hotline review of records compiled by Citizens Against Government Waste, the 52 members of the caucus, which pledges to cut spending and reduce the size of government, requested a total of 764 earmarks valued at $1,049,783,150 during Fiscal Year 2010, the last year for which records are available.

“It’s disturbing to see the Tea Party Caucus requested that much in earmarks. This is their time to put up or shut up, to be blunt,” said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste. “There’s going to be a huge backlash if they continue to request earmarks.”

In founding the caucus in July, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she was giving voice to Americans who were sick of government over-spending.

“The American people are speaking out loud and clear. They have had enough of the spending, the bureaucracy, and the government knows best mentality running rampant today throughout the halls of Congress,” Bachmann said in a July 15 statement. The group, she wrote in a letter to House Administration Committee chairman Bob Brady, “will serve as an informal group of Members dedicated to promote Americans’ call for fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government.”

Bachmann and 13 of her Tea Party Caucus colleagues did not request any earmarks in the last Fiscal Year, according to CAGW’s annual Congressional Pig Book. But others have requested millions of dollars in special projects…

Continue reading to see the names and how much each requested in earmarks.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 9:04 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Prisons run by private industry: Very bad idea

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Private industry has one goal: to turn a profit. Anything that might interfere is quickly thrown overboard. Via Ed Brayton, this depressing story reported by AP’s Rebecca Boone:

The surveillance video from the overhead cameras shows Hanni Elabed being beaten by a fellow inmate in an Idaho prison, managing to bang on a prison guard station window, pleading for help. Behind the glass, correctional officers look on, but no one intervenes when Elabed is knocked unconscious.

No one steps into the cellblock when the attacker sits down to rest, and no one stops him when he resumes the beating.

Videos of the attack obtained by The Associated Press show officers watching the beating for several minutes. The footage is a key piece of evidence for critics who claim the privately run Idaho Correctional Center uses inmate-on-inmate violence to force prisoners to snitch on their cellmates or risk being moved to extremely violent units.

On Tuesday, hours after the AP published the video, the top federal prosecutor in Idaho told the AP that the FBI has been investigating whether guards violated the civil rights of inmates at the prison, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America.

The investigation concerns the prison’s rate of violence and covers multiple assaults between inmates, including the attack on Elabed, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company is cooperating with federal agents, as it has with other law enforcement overseeing the prisons.

Lawsuits from inmates contend the company denies prisoners medical treatment as a way of covering up the assaults. They have dubbed the Idaho lockup "gladiator school" because it is so violent.

The AP initially sought a copy of the videos from state court, but Idaho 4th District Judge Patrick Owen denied that request. The AP had already obtained a copy and decided to publish the videos after a person familiar with the case verified their authenticity.

The videos show at least three guards watching as Elabed was stomped on a dozen times. At no time during the recorded sequence did anyone try to pull away James Haver, a short, slight man.

About two minutes after Haver stopped the beating of his own accord, the metal cellblock door was unlocked. Haver was handcuffed and Elabed was examined for signs of life. He bled inside his skull and would spend three days in a coma.

CCA, the nation’s largest private prison company, said it was "highly disappointed and deeply concerned" over AP’s decision to release the videos.

"Public release of the video poses an unnecessary security risk to our staff, the inmates entrusted to our care, and ultimately to the public," the prison company said in a statement.

Continue reading. Emphasis added. Note that the company is not at all disturbed by the attack or by the inaction of the guards—only by the matter becoming public. This is typical: corporations fit the psychological profile of a sociopath, whose only concern is his own interests. Nothing else matters.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 9:01 am

Why people should oppose the death penalty

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Because people are being put to death by the state for things they did not do. Example: DNA Test Proves Critical Hair Evidence in a Capital Murder Case Didn’t Match Man Executed. At that link:

The Innocence Project today released DNA test results proving that crucial hair evidence found at the scene of a murder, the only physical evidence linking the accused Claude Jones to the crime, did not belong to Jones. Although he always maintained his innocence, Jones was executed for murdering Allen Hilzendager on December 7, 2000. George Bush, who was awaiting a decision from the Florida Supreme Court on whether the presidential election recount would continue, denied Jones’ request for a 30 day stay of execution to do DNA test on the hair sample. The memo from the General Counsel’s office that recommended against the stay did not tell Bush that Jones was seeking a DNA test of the hair. Evidence that the hair “matched” Jones was critical to the prosecution’s case at trial and proved to be the key factor in a narrow 3-2 decision by the Texas Court of Appeals finding there was sufficient corroboration of the accomplice who testified against Jones to uphold the murder conviction.

“I have no doubt that if President Bush had known about the request to do a DNA test of the hair he would have would have issued a 30-day stay in this case and Jones would not have been executed,” said Barry C. Scheck, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.

Scheck noted that Bush had issued a stay for DNA testing just months earlier in another capital case and said at the time, “Any time DNA evidence can be used in its context and can be relevant as to the guilt or innocence of a person on death row, we need to use it.”

“It is unbelievable that the lawyers in the General Counsel’s office failed to inform the governor that Jones was seeking DNA testing on evidence that was so pivotal to the case,” said former Texas Governor and Attorney General Mark White.  “If the state is going to continue to use the death penalty, it must figure out a way to build safeguards in the system so that lapses like this don’t happen again.”

In November 1989, Hilzendager was shot to death while working at a liquor store in San Jacinto County, Texas.  Jones was arrested for the crime with two co-defendants, Timothy Mark Jordan and Kerry Dixon…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 December 2010 at 8:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

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