Later On

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

Archive for April 5th, 2007

Gonzales unbound

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My, Alberto’s been busy. Here’s a report from Josh Marshall:

There’ve been a few hints that something fishy was up in the Minneapolis US Attorney’s office where 33-year old Rachel Paulose was sworn in to office last month in a lavish ‘investiture‘ ceremony some have called a ‘coronation’. Paulose’s predecessor left under murky circumstances. And there are some hints that the Justice Department may originally have considered giving Paulose a Patriot Act appointment rather than going down the old-fashioned senate confirmation route.

Now there’s this just breaking this evening

It’s a major shakeup at the offices of new U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose.Four of her top staff voluntarily demoted themselves Thursday, fed up with Paulose, who, after just months on the job, has earned a reputation for quoting Bible verses and dressing down underlings.

Deputy U.S. Attorney John Marty is just one of the people dropping themselves in rank to simply a U.S. Attorney position. Also making the move are the heads of Paulose’s criminal and civil divisions and the top administrative officer.

The move is intended to send a message to Washington – that 33-year-old Paulose is in over her head.

As the article notes, before getting the plum US Attorney spot, Paulose was a special assistant to Alberto Gonzales and apparently big buds with none other than 5th amendment invoker Monica Goodling.

I think we may be hearing more about this.

Late Update: The Star-Tribune adds: “The job changes followed a visit to the office by a representative from the Executive Office of the U.S. Attorney in Washington.”

Still Later Update: The Pioneer Press has more quotes from an unnamed source …

A source said managers had been unhappy with Paulose and decided to collectively resign.”They did it jointly because they couldn’t stand her anymore,” the source said, citing what been described as her “dictatorial management style and general lack of management experience.”

Paulose replaced former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who resigned in February 2006. At 34, she’s the youngest current U.S. attorney. She’s also the first woman to hold the post in Minnesota.

The move might have come from a disagreement in the direction of the office, but is also “indicative of how the U.S. Department of Justice is acting now,” another source said.

“These are career prosecutors who wouldn’t do it without a reasonable basis,” the source said. “If these folks took this action en masse and all of them are well respected career prosecutors, they wouldn’t do so lightly.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 9:18 pm

Cinema à clef: The Good Shepherd

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Just finished watching The Good Shepherd. Anyone who’s read some history of the CIA (or, as I learned in the movie, “some history of CIA”) will enjoy this. Shot in a leisurely pace—which seems right for a movie covering decades—almost always at night or in dark rooms, cutting back and forth over time, the movie slowly gathers up various strands of fact and supposition and finally draws them all together at the end. Mesmerizing and fascinating. Very fine job, IMHO, and well worth seeing.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Government, Movies & TV

Krugman on two health-care plans

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Paul Krugman:

Consider the choice between two government programs.

Program A would provide essential health care to the eight million uninsured children in this country.

Program B would subsidize insurance companies, who would in turn spend much of the money on marketing and paperwork, and also siphon off a substantial fraction of the money as profits. With what’s left, the insurers would provide additional benefits, over and above basic Medicare coverage, to some older Americans.

Which program would you choose? If money is no object, you might go for both. But if you can only have one, it’s hard to see how anyone could, in good conscience, fail to choose Program A. I mean, even conservatives claim to believe in equal opportunity — and it’s hard to say that our society offers equal opportunity to children whose education may be disrupted, who may even find their lives cut short, because their families can’t afford proper medical care.

And here’s the thing: The question isn’t hypothetical. Universal health care may happen one of these years, but the choice between A and B is playing out right now.

Program A is the proposal by Senator Hillary Clinton and Representative John Dingell to cover all children by expanding the highly successful State Children’s Health Insurance Program. To pay for that expansion, Democrats are talking about saving money by shutting down Program B, the huge subsidy to private insurance plans for Medicare recipients — so-called Medicare Advantage plans — created by the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act.

The numbers for that trade-off add up, with a little room to spare. Covering all children would cost about $50 billion over the next five years, while the Congressional Budget Office estimates that eliminating the Medicare Advantage subsidy would save $65 billion over the same period (and $160 billion over the next decade.)

Now, nobody is proposing that Medicare ban private plans — all that’s on the table is requiring that they compete with traditional Medicare, run directly by the government, on a fair basis. And that’s not what’s happening now. According to Medpac, the official nonpartisan commission that assesses Medicare payments, Medicare Advantage plans now cost taxpayers an average of 12 percent more per enrollee than traditional Medicare. Private fee-for-service plans, the fastest-growing type, cost 19 percent extra.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 7:09 pm

Dem candidates silent on the drug war

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Arianna Huffington makes a good point:

There is a major disconnect in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

While all the top candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed War on Drugs, a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

Consider this: according to a 2006 ACLU report, African Americans make up 15 percent of drug users, but account for 37 percent of those arrested on drug charges, 59 percent of those convicted, and 74 percent of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: America has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70 percent) are black or Latino.

Such facts and figures have been bandied about for years. But what to do about the legion of nonviolent — predominantly minority — drug offenders has long been an electrified third-rail in American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by our political leaders, who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

You might have thought this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential campaign. But a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls’ websites reveals that not one of them — not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson — even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

Obama has written eloquently about his own struggle with drugs, but has not addressed the tragic effect the war on drugs is having on African American communities.

As for Clinton, she flew into Selma to reinforce her image as the wife of “the first black president,” and has made much of her plan to attract female voters, but has ignored the suffering of poor, black women right in her own backyard.

Located down the road from her Chappaqua home are two prisons housing female inmates, Taconic and Bedford. Forty-eight percent of the women in Taconic are there for nonviolent drug offenses; 78% of those in the prison are African-American or Hispanic. And Bedford, the state’s only maximum security prison for women, is home to some of the worst victims of New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws — mothers and grandmothers whose first brush with the law resulted in their being locked away for 15 years or more on nonviolent drug charges.

Yet even though these prisons are so nearby, Clinton has turned a blind eye to the plight of the women locked away there, notably refusing to speak out on their behalf.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 5:53 pm

ABC News just doesn’t get it

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They don’t understand why we don’t swallow whole—hook, line, and sinker—whatever story they tell us to believe. And they’re stubborn in their refusal to look at the fact (as shown by polls) of how much the American public distrusts them. Like Bush, they move in a world in which their beliefs are the reality, and they ignore the real-world facts that shown their beliefs are unjustified.

Read Glenn Greenwald’s column today and see if you can conclude anything else. It’s a fascinating summary of his conversation with Jeffrey Schneider, Senior Vice President of ABC News, concerning the story published (and broadcast) by ABC’s Brian Ross and Christopher Isham on Monday. That story claimed that “Iran has more than tripled its ability to produce enriched uranium in the last three months” and therefore “Iran could have enough material for a nuclear bomb by 2009.”

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 10:41 am

Posted in Media

Bush hates government’s role

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Look at this:

President Bush on Wednesday appointed as his top regulatory official a conservative academic who has written that markets do a better job of regulating than the government does and that it is more cost-effective for people who are sensitive to pollution to stay indoors on smoggy days than for government to order polluters to clean up their emissions.

As director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, Susan E. Dudley will have an opportunity to change or block all regulations proposed by government agencies. …

The budget office’s regulatory shop acts as a funnel for all regulations emanating throughout the government.

In congressional testimony, Dudley has favored dispensing with costly air pollution controls and initiating a pollution warning system “so that sensitive individuals can take appropriate ‘exposure avoidance’ behavior” — mostly by remaining inside.

She opposed stricter limits on arsenic in drinking water, in part because she argued that the Environmental Protection Agency’s calculations of the costs and benefits overvalued some lives, particularly those of older people with a small life expectancy.

She has argued that air bags should not be required by government regulation but requested by automobile consumers who are willing to pay extra for them.

Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy for the watchdog group OMB Watch, called Dudley a “terrible pick.” He described her as “an anti-regulatory extremist” who believed that the proper regulatory lever was the free market, “and if the market doesn’t protect you, too bad.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, called her a “radical reactionary” who favored business over public protection.

Dudley, who recently resigned as an expert on government regulation at the Mercatus Center, a free-market think tank at George Mason University, was first nominated to the post in July.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 9:19 am

Microsoft Word mysteries

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At least one problem has been solved, thanks to this note. Here’s the problem as I stated in the Microsoft Office online discussion group:

I am using Word 2003 under XP Pro. I am using Endnotes with no problem except that the first endnote starts after 17 greyed out paragraph marks that follow the short-line beginning. I cannot delete those paragraphs, I can’t insert a new page before the first endnote.

I really don’t want to see the endnotes starting inexplicably in the middle of the page. I’ve tried doing a section break just after the first line of the page (which says “Appendix”), but I still get the 17 ghost paragraphs.

Any ideas how to get rid of those so that the first endnote will start at the top of the page? Thanks for any help.

12 hours later, I had this response:

It sounds like the paragraph marks are attached to the Endnote
Separator. To clear them:

5. Random Lines Appear

I have noted that additional lines will occasionally inexplicably appear in the headers and footers. I’ve been deleting those, but I bet the same glitch that produces those was also throwing additional lines in the Endnotes separator where they just accumulated.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 7:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Things even worse at Guantánamo

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Amnesty International, via TalkLeft:

Amnesty International released a new report today, “USA: Cruel and Inhuman — Conditions of Isolation for Detainees in Guantánamo Bay.”

More than 80% of the 385 detainees are held in isolation, “a reversal of earlier moves to ease conditions and allow more socializing among detainee.” While some detainees are held in solitary confinement at Camp Echo and Camp 5, conditions are worst at Camp 6, which opened in December.

Detainees are reportedly confined for 22 hours a day to individual, enclosed, steel cells where they are almost completely cut off from human contact. The cells have no windows to the outside or access to natural light or fresh air. No activities are provided, and detainees are subjected to 24- hour lighting and constant observation by guards through the narrow windows in the cell doors. They exercise alone in a high-walled yard where little sunlight filters through; detainees are often only offered exercise at night and may not see daylight for days at a time.

Many of these detainees have been held for more than five years without charges.

While the United States has an obligation to protect its citizens and those living within its borders from attacks by armed groups, that does not relieve the United States from its responsibilities to comply with human rights and the rule of law. By rounding up men from all over the world and transporting them to an isolated penal colony, holding them without charge or trial, the United States has violated several U.S. and international laws and treaties. Statements by the Bush Administration that these men are “enemy combatants,” “terrorists” or “very bad people” do not justify the complete lack of due process rights.

It’s time to close Guantánamo and end the unfair military tribunals. The detainees should be charged or released, and if charged, should face trial under the Military Code of Justice. Enough is enough.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 7:15 am

Government translucency

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It would be nice to have transparency, but I suppose translucency is better than opacity.

In a direct challenge to Congress and the way it does business, the White House on Wednesday unveiled an online list of all the pet spending projects lawmakers tucked in the federal budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year.

The Internet database details spending known as earmarks, funds that lawmakers funnel to projects, programs and sometimes even specific recipients without going through the normal budget review — such as the $25 million provided to California spinach farmers in the recent Iraq spending bill.

The amount of earmarked money has tripled in the last decade. And in early January, just as Democrats were taking power, President Bush challenged Congress to halve the number and amount of earmarks, from a record $19 billion in fiscal 2005.

“You didn’t vote them into law. I didn’t sign them into law. Yet they are treated as if they have the force of law,” Bush said in his State of the Union address. “The time has come to end this practice.”

The database, which allows the public to search for earmarks by state and by agency but not by name of the sponsoring lawmaker, is the most comprehensive list produced by the government. But Democrats pointed out Wednesday that it did not include the earmarks the president and his administration requested. …

The database, at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb , lacks some information considered vital by activists. It is only for fiscal 2005 and does not give the name of the lawmaker behind the earmark.

It also does not include any earmarks requested by the administration. As a result, it contains fewer earmarks than some other sources. For example, the Congressional Research Service found $48 billion in earmarks in its review.

Some of those deficiencies will be addressed next year when congressionally authorized earmark disclosure data are released.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 7:11 am

Mentholated morning

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Oofta! I haven’t used Proraso Pre- and Post-Shave Cream in quite a while, and thought I’d give it a go this morning. Great stuff if you like menthol.

I used the Woodstock shaving soap from Em’s Place: ” Patchouli, Sandalwood, Balsam, Cinnamon and Ginger. Has a rich, earthy, woody herbaceous scent with a hint of spice. This masculine scent is appreciated by all patchouli and sandalwood enthusiasts with purifying skin care properties too.”

She notes on the bottom of the tub of soap: “Only the finest grade vegetable glycerin and natural vegetable oils are used for this quality shaving soap. Pure essential oils are used for scent and there are synthetics or colorants.”

Fine lather, worked up with the Plisson shaving brush. Then I used a Gillette black-tipped Super Speed with Swedish Gillette blade to get a smooth, nick-free shave. Alum bar followed by Thayers Peach Witch Hazel: “Ingredients: Thayers Proprietary Witch Hazel, Peach leaves, Orange Flower, Tangerine, Kiwi, Passion Fruit, Vitamin C, Aloe Vera, natural grain alcohol as a preservative (10%) and an Emulsified All-Natural Peach Fragrance”

Written by Leisureguy

5 April 2007 at 6:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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