Later On

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

Archive for June 18th, 2007

Bush breaks everything he touches

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Looks like he’s pretty much ruined the Department of Justice:

The investigations into the Bush administration’s decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys have exposed how the administration has eroded the firewall between partisan politics and the Justice Department and compromised the independence of the nation’s top law enforcement agency.

As early as 2002, administration policymakers, Republican legislators and GOP party officials began injecting politics into criminal investigations and civil and voting rights enforcement and applying political litmus tests to judges and career lawyers at the Justice Department.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of thousands of Justice Department documents, congressional testimony and interviews with current and former Justice Department officials reveals that the administration:

  • Issued a series of directives to dismantle the traditional boundaries between White House political operatives and the Justice Department, permitting a larger circle of aides to discuss pending criminal and civil investigations.
  • Ignored the advice of top Justice Department lawyers and crafted national security policies that pushed or breached the limits of the law. In one case involving secret spying, at least 10 top department officials — including then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and the head of the FBI — were prepared to resign in protest.
  • Allowed political adviser Karl Rove and the White House Office of Political Affairs to become conduits for complaints about politically sensitive prosecutions. Elected officials and even lobbyists took their frustrations about individual cases or prosecutors to Rove, or to the attorney general and his aides.
  • Replaced some independent-minded U.S. attorneys and career Justice Department lawyers with young lawyers who had little trial experience but belonged to the conservative Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association.
  • These changes began years before Alberto Gonzales became attorney general in February 2005, in the ask-no-questions atmosphere that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They occurred with the cooperation of a Republican-led Congress and reverberated from the distant Pacific territory of Guam to the Deep South to Western states that could be battlegrounds in next year’s presidential election.

    White House officials deny that the administration has allowed partisan politics to taint the Justice Department. They’ve also defended last year’s firings by emphasizing a president’s right to change his appointees and blaming the prosecutors for failing to carry out President Bush’s policies.

    White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the congressional investigation proves only that the firings could have been “handled better” and that “it’s clear that the attorney general did nothing wrong.”

    The administration maintains that it’s a coincidence that most of the fired U.S. attorneys served in battleground election states, were investigating Republicans or had irritated local Republicans with their refusals to prosecute Democrats.

    Administration officials note that the Justice Department has prosecuted high-profile Republicans, including lobbyist Jack Abramoff and ex-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham on corruption charges, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, for lying and obstructing an investigation.

    Yet many of the nation’s legal experts, including Republicans with long government service, see a troubling change in the administration of justice.

    “We have a Justice Department that has substantially been turned into a political arm of the White House,” said Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer and a Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, who’s become one of the conservative movement’s fiercest critics of the president.

    “To elicit confidence in the legitimacy of law enforcement, you have to at least create the appearance to the public that prosecutorial decisions and high-level personnel decisions do not pivot on political affiliation,” Fein said. “Irrespective of whether there’s actual partisanship in these decisions, the fear among the public is that this is occurring. It creates a chilling effect on the entire political discourse of the country.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:47 pm

    New-screen-door excitement

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    Today the new screen door for the sliding glass door onto the balcony arrived! Much excitement and, on the part of Megs, not a little suspicion. The guy who delivered it has the last name “Ham,” and has a brother named “Michael Ham.” I asked that the door be billed to his brother. 🙂

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Posted in Daily life

    Support all our troops

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    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Onion marinade in action

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    So I’m trying it. Processed half of a large onion to a pulp, which seemed dry, so I added juice of a lemon, about a Tbsp of hot sesame chili oil, and a Tbsp of my homemade garlic chili paste. I have two thick pork chops sitting covered in the result and will broil them.

    — Pretty good. 8 minutes first side, 7 minutes second side, shut oven door, turned temp to 300 degrees and left for 10 minutes. Done to perfection, and quite tasty. Not onionish.

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 10:06 am

    Posted in Food, Recipes

    Wonder whether this works

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    I’m supposed to put drops in my eyes—arrrrrrrrrrrgh! just thinking about it! But I have somewhat dry eyes, and that’s why the doctor recommended it. But I got this tip from Daytipper, and it sounds much easier and less awful:

    Use saline mist to refresh eyes

    Ever notice how your eyes feel dry and tired after traveling or after a long day staring at a computer screen? Purchase a small spray bottle from the trial-size section of your grocery store (normally under $1), disinfect it, and fill it up with saline solution. To refresh your eyes, spray some mist in front of your face and blink. Much better!

    Any thoughts whether this will work? (Do I have any ophthalmologist readers?)

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 10:02 am

    Posted in Daily life, Health

    Collapse of the USSR, step by step

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    I blogged this a few days ago, using Kevin Drum’s post as a link, but let me direct you to the complete article. (You can also get the document as a PDF file.) It’s absolutely fascinating, and shows the results when politicians simply ignore a problem (*cough* global warming *cough cough* peak oil *cough* erosion of civil rights *cough* torture by US *cough*)

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 8:39 am

    Posted in Government

    Looks like obstruction of justice to me

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    ThinkProgress:

    House investigators have learned that the Bush administration’s use of Republican National Committee email accounts is far greater than previously disclosed — 140,216 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone — and that the RNC has overseen “extensive destruction” of many of the emails, including all email records for 51 White House officials.

    For the last several months, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been “investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act” by using email accounts maintained by the RNC and the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications. Today’s findings confirm that the accounts were used “for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.” The report adds:

    Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.

    Some other key findings:

    – RNC account use far greater than believed: Despite White House spokesperson Dana Perino’s claim that 50 White House officials used RNC email accounts “over the course of the administration,” the committee learned that at least 88 White House officials had RNC e-mail accounts.

    – Bush-Cheney 04 campaign stonewalling: The committee says it may need to “issue compulsory process” to force the cooperation of the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign. Despite providing at least eleven White House officials with email accounts, “the campaign has unjustifiably refused” to provide the Committee with even the most basic information about the accounts, including the number of e-mails that have been preserved.

    – Destroyed RNC emails may be preserved by federal agencies. The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Karl Rove during Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Rove prior to November 2003. “For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.” Several federal agencies contacted by the committee have indicated they “have preserved official communications that were destroyed by the RNC,” but others have resisted the investigation.

    – Gonzales may have known about RNC account use. According to a deposition from Rove’s former assistant Susan Ralston, in 2001, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales “may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.” The committee calls for an investigation into Gonzales’ actions on this matter.

    Read the full oversight committee report HERE.

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 8:24 am

    VUPlayer

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    Just to let you know: this freeware player is now available in version 2.48 here. It’s a great, very simple player that plays many formats (including FLAC, which is what I mostly use these days), and installation is trivial. Windows only, though. Sorry.

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 8:21 am

    Posted in Music, Software

    Gin watch: Back River Gin from Maine

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    Sounds good:

    Sweetgrass Farm Winery and Distillery’s Back River Gin is 43% abv. / 86 proof and is hand made on a family farm converted into a small winery and distillery in the town of Union, Maine. The botanicals used in Back River Gin are Juniper, Angelica root, Coriander seeds, Cassia (cinnamon), dried lemon peel, ginger root, and for a unique twist, wild Maine blueberries harvested from just down the road from the distillery.

    I first tasted Back River Gin directly in the distillery just a few days ago as I had the luck of sampling the first bottling they have made. The aroma struck me instantly as I lifted the glass to my nose. I was completely entranced, more so than with any other gin I have smelled before. I didn’t even take my first sip until I enjoyed the aroma for several minutes, taking deep breaths through my nose as it was pressed deep into the glass.

    The smell is quite complex. A pleasantly musky base overlain with juniper and a myriad spicy and floral scents. Hints of citrus, spices of all kinds, and the barely evident cinnamon showed through well. There was even a tiny bit of an anise aroma in there, combined with luscious and complex scents that I can’t even name or place. I said entranced before, but I really do mean it. I was spellbound by the fabulous aroma of this gin. More so than any I have smelled before.
    The taste more than did justice to the aroma. Spices, juniper, citrus, hints of fruit, and a deep musky taste pleasantly coursed over my tongue and across my palate. Filling my mouth and nose with a fabulous head-filling melange of flavors, aromas, and sparking my emotions heatedly. I was completely taken aback.

    More at the link. Wonder how I can get a bottle of this?

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 8:14 am

    Posted in Drinks

    Problems of using stock photography

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    Duplicate covers

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 8:02 am

    Posted in Books, Daily life

    Maybe military might is the wrong approach?

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    From today’s LA Times, a column by Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

    …  The great lesson of Iraq (further affirmed in Afghanistan) is that the umma — the Arabic name for the entire Muslim community — is all but impervious to change imposed from the outside. If anything, our ham-handed efforts to inculcate freedom and democracy, even if well-intentioned, have played into the hands of violent Islamic radicals. The Bush administration’s strategy has exacerbated the problem it was designed to solve, while squandering American lives, treasure, moral standing and political influence to little avail.

    Given the mess in which we currently find ourselves, increasing the number of men and women under arms makes about as much sense as drinking bourbon to treat depression. In the short term, the antidote might make you feel better, but at a cost of masking the underlying problem and allowing it to fester.

    The underlying problem is that the basic orientation of U.S. policy since 9/11 has been flat wrong. Bush’s conception of waging an open-ended global “war” to eliminate terrorism has failed, disastrously and irredeemably. Simply trying harder — no matter how many more soldiers we recruit and no matter how many more Muslim countries we invade and “liberate” — will not reverse that failure. More meddling will evoke more hatred.

    The challenge confronting those aspiring to the presidency, therefore, is to devise an alternative to Bush’s failed strategy. To pass muster, any such strategy will have to recognize the limits of American power, military and otherwise. It must acknowledge that because the United States cannot change Islam, we have no alternative but to coexist with it.

    Yet coexistence should not imply appeasement or passivity. Any plausible strategy will prescribe concrete and sustainable policies designed to contain the virulent strain of radicalism currently flourishing in parts of the Islamic world. The alternative to transformation is not surrender but quarantine.

    Over time, of course, Islam will become something other than what it is today. But as with our own post-Christian West, that evolution will be determined primarily by forces within. Our interest lies in nudging that evolution along a path that alleviates rather than perpetuates conflict between Islam and the West. In that regard, the requirement is not for a bigger Army but for fresh ideas, informed by modesty and a sense of realism.

    The candidate who can articulate such ideas might well merit respect and popular support. Those who in the absence of serious strategic analysis reflexively posture about the need for more troops deserve only contempt.

    Read the whole thing.

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:29 am

    Perhaps why we make little progress

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    We’re fighting a “war against terrorism” and yet the number of terrorists does not seem to dwindle. Could things like this perhaps be a reason? Headline in Washington Post:

    U.S.-Led Airstrike Kills 7 Children in Afghanistan

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:21 am

    The legislative history of indefinite detention

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    The Anonymous Liberal has a very informative post on the legislative history of indefinite detention, which shows how very strained are the government’s arguments in the particular case of Al-Marri. The post begins:

     Earlier this week, a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the government did not have the authority to detain Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri–a Qatari national who had come to the United States on a student visa–indefinitely without process. Al-Marri–who the government claims is a terrorist–has spent the last four years in a military brig in South Carolina. He has not been charged with a crime or even an immigration violation.

    The Bush administration claimed that Congress had implicitly provided statutory authority for this sort of detention when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) shortly after 9/11. The Fourth Circuit rejected this argument, noting that “if Congress intended to grant this authority it could and would have said so explicitly.”

    The Court then pointed out the obvious historical flaw in this argument:

    In fact, shortly after Congress enacted the AUMF, it enacted another statute that did explicitly authorize the President to arrest and detain “terrorist aliens” living within the United States believed to have come here to perpetrate acts of terrorism. . . .

    [T]he Patriot Act establishes a specific method for the Government to detain aliens affiliated with terrorist organizations, who the Government believes have come to the United States to endanger our national security, conduct espionage and sabotage, use force and violence to overthrow the government, engage in terrorist activity, or even who are believed likely to engage in any terrorist activity. Congress could not have better described the Government’s allegations against al-Marri — and Congress decreed that individuals so described are not to be detained indefinitely but only for a limited time, and by civilian authorities, prior to deportation or criminal prosecution.

    In sum, Congress has carefully prescribed the process by which it wishes to permit detention of “terrorist aliens” within the United States, and has expressly prohibited the indefinite detention the President seeks here. The Government’s argument that the President may indefinitely detain al-Marri is thus contrary to Congress’s expressed will.

    Though the Court stopped there, the evidence that Congress did not wish to authorize this sort of detention is even stronger than the opinion lays out.

    The day after the attacks on 9/11, the Justice Department began drafting what would later become the Patriot Act. A week later John Ashcroft delivered the administration’s proposed bill to Congress and demanded that it be enacted within days. One of the key provisions of the administration’s bill would have allowed the government to indefinitely detain immigrants whom it deemed to be threats to national security.

    Despite the enormous political pressure to act quickly, this provision immediately encountered resistance from both sides of the aisle. From the New York Times, September 20, 2001:

    Continue reading.

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:15 am

    A Tragic Legacy

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    Glenn Greenwald’s new book, A Tragic Legacy, is now available for pre-order at a discount. He comments on the book:

    The central purpose of the book is to examine what has happened to the United States for the last six years under the Bush presidency. That is the “Bush legacy” — our national character and national identity have been fundamentally degraded, our moral standing and credibility in the world eroded to previously unthinkable depths, our government engaged in the very behavior which, for decades, we have collectively deplored, our trust in America’s governmental and journalistic institutions reduced virtually to zero, and our country placed on a plainly unsustainable course as a result of the militarized, imperial role we are choosing to play in the world.

    At the heart of this process lies a binary moralistic view of the world, one which seeks to define every conflict and political challenge, both foreign and domestic, as a battle of Good versus Evil. The crux of this mindset is the continuous identification of an Enemy, one which embodies Evil and which must be stopped, typically destroyed, at all costs. No competing considerations, no rational arguments, no counter-balancing objectives, not even constraints of reality or resources, can compete with the moral imperative of this mission. The mission of destroying Evil trumps all.

    And the converse then also falls comfortably into place: those who seek to destroy Evil — whether it be America, or President Bush, or the right-wing political faction that has supported the Bush presidency — are, by definition, the embodiment of Good. Thus, whatever steps they take, whatever instruments they employ in service of their mission, are intrinsically justifiable because, by definition, they are employed in service of the Good.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:11 am

    Monday shaving joy

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    I used the D.R. Harris Almond shaving stick, worked up the lather with the Plisson HMW 12 shaving brush, and removed the lather (and beard) with the newly restored and sparkling clean Hoffritz Slant Bar loaded with Wilkinson Sword blade. The Slant Bar did its usual amazing job of polishing the face, removing most of the stubble in the first pass. Alum block and then Pashana aftershave. Perfectly smooth face.

    So tomorrow I’ll use the D.R. Harris Almond shaving cream, just to match…

    Written by Leisureguy

    18 June 2007 at 7:00 am

    Posted in Shaving

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