Later On

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

Archive for June 13th, 2008

That Supreme Court decision

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President Bush has said that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision restoring habeus corpus. Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column on the decision—well worth reading. It includes this update, which makes the key point:

I was just on WNYC debating yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling with Jed Babbin, one of the most enthusiastic and active participants in the Pentagon’s “military analyst” program (Babbin was one of the “military analysts” on the indescribably propagandistic trip to Guantanamo, where they were led around by the Pentagon for a grand total of 3 hours and then came back and, in unison, pronounced Guantanamo free of abuse; Babbin is still squeezing propaganda mileage out of that trip, as he said this morning that he was at Guantanamo and there was no abuse. Detainees even play soccer there, he said).

The question I put to him again and again was one that he simply couldn’t answer: how and why would any American object to the mere requirement that our Government prove that someone is guilty before we imprison them indefinitely or execute them? That is all that yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling required — not that detainees be released, but that their guilt be proven in a fair proceeding. The fact that the Right is so enraged by this basic requirement vividly reveals the authoritarian impulses which define them. After all, key McCain ally Lindsey Graham is actually threatening to amend our Constitution to limit the right of habeas corpus in response to yesterday’s ruling. The authoritarian radicalism of this faction can’t be overstated.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 4:50 pm

GOP obstructionism continues unabated

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Mary Kane in the Washington Independent details how the GOP really does not want hearings held.

A funny thing happened to University of Illinois law professor Robert Lawless on his way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week. Lawless, an expert on credit and bankruptcy, was set to testify before the Committee on how the U.S. Supreme Court decisions affect people in their everyday lives. Lawless said he was looking forward to talking about how the high court’s decisions in the financial services area sometimes take away state protections against deceptive lending practices. Lawless cited the way Jon Stewart once described a regulatory development  – “Yes, it’s boring. That’s how they get away with it” – to explain how he hoped the hearing would shed light on seemingly arcane rulings that have major impacts on people’s lives.

But that’s not how things turned out.

In a post describing the event, Lawless explained that he had barely begun his turn at testifying when the hearing abruptly was ended. As Matt Blake noted the day it happened, an unnamed Republican senator had cut the hearing short by using an obscure Senate rule that requires any hearing to close within two hours after the Senate convenes for the day.

The Senate almost always waives this rule, but not this time. Another unnamed Republican senator used the same rule on Tuesday, to shut down a hearing on whether coercive interrogation tactics were effective, Lawless said.

From Lawless:

As one of the spectators in the hearing quipped afterwards, you know you have a hit a nerve when the same tactics as were used in the torture debates are being used to silence those who would speak in favor of stronger protections of consumers

Democrats on the committee were understandably upset. Here’s Lawless’ summation of the hearing, prior to the gavel coming down:

We heard heart-breaking testimony from Bridget Robb, a 34-year old mother who nearly died in front of her 6-year old daughter while receiving repeated electric shocks because of an electronic lead in a pacemaker the manufacturer knew to be defective but for which had given no notice. Because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision protecting medical device manufacturers, Ms. Robb has been stripped of the right to sue for damages because of the harm she has received. We also heard from Maureen Kurtek, a 44-year old mother whose insurer denied her coverage for necessary medical treatment although it knew her previous insurer had authorized the same coverage on three previous occasions. As a result of not receiving a needed, Ms. Kurtek nearly died, had half of her right foot amputated, lost five fingertips, and suffers from numerous painful conditions. Again, Supreme Court decisions strip Ms. Kurtek of the right to sue. Professor Tom McGarrity was there from the University of Texas to provide expert commentary on how the Supreme Court’s preemption decisions led to these results. I was there to discuss how the same trends toward centralized federal regulation in the financial services area similarly deprived consumers of important protections.

I think that gives a pretty clear picture of why someone wanted the hearing over – and fast. Maybe next up for the Committee should be considering how to keep Republican partisans from abusing Senate procedural rules to protect their own agendas. Given their tendency to cite a rule that ties hearing times to when the Senate convenes, I’d suggest getting started first thing in the morning.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Mackerel fillets

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Mackeral is extremely high in omega-3 and a fish worth seeking out. Mark Bittman has a good recipe and good advice:

Mackerel is one of the loveliest of fishes, one of the tastiest, one of the cheapest and one of the few that remains plentiful. Yet it’s scorned by nearly everyone, considered too strong-flavored, oily and, well, fishy. All I can say is, don’t knock it until you try it.

Mackerel Fillets Simmered in Soy Sauce
Yield 3 to 4 servings
Time 20 minutes

Even more than most fish, mackerel is best eaten when it is super-fresh. It does not freeze well, and its quality deteriorates rapidly once the fish is out of water.

* 1/2 cup soy sauce
* 1/3 cup sake or dry (fino) sherry
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
* 5 or 6 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
* Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
* 3 or 4 crushed garlic cloves
* 4 mackerel fillets, about 1 pound total, skin on
* Cooked white rice for serving
* Chopped scallions for garnish

In a 12-inch skillet with a cover, mix together all ingredients except fish, rice and scallions. Add 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, uncovered.

Add fish skin-side down and simmer until cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (You can hasten cooking a bit by covering pan, but it is not necessary.) Spoon a fillet and some sauce onto a mound of white rice; garnish and serve.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 12:57 pm

Leaders: cat types vs. dog types

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I, like many others, have noted that authoritarian personalities tend to prefer dogs, with their fine sense of hierarchy and willingness to obey, while independent thinkers—those who tend to operate outside the “leader/follower” paradigm—prefer cats, a similarly independent and intelligent animal. Exceptions to this rule are much rarer than examples of it. And now Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times comments on this rule:

I was re-viewing the opening episode of “The World at War” (as one does) – and was struck by the footage of Hitler looking cheerful, surrounded by yapping German shepherd dogs. The great dictator was a dog lover, and had a pet Alsatian called Blondi.

Churchill, by contrast, was a cat man.

Is there a political moral here? Obviously. Dictators like dogs because they are obedient, pack animals. Democrats like cats, because they are free spirits.

Once you start looking for the evidence, the trend becomes clear. Other famous cat-haters include Mussolini, Genghis Khan, Cherie Blair and Napoleon – the latter was once caught stabbing a wall repeatedly, because he believed there was a cat concealed behind it. By contrast, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt were well-known cat lovers.

Churchill’s political secretary, John Colville, made this diary entry at the height of the Battle of Britain:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Government

Bot protection

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I occasionally worry that a bot’s taken over my computer and turned it into a spam zombie—I heard the hard drive busily working, even though I’m doing nothing. Of course, it could just be Windows at work on some system task, but I still worry. Now MakeUseOf has a post about a freeware program, RU Botted, specifically designed to protect against bots and detect and remove them. I’m giving it a go.

— “No bots found.” Still, I’m glad to have the program.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

US grants political asylum to Berzain

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From The Week:

Thousands of Bolivians marched on the U.S. Embassy this week after learning that America has granted political asylum to a former defense minister implicated in the deaths of 60 people. Carlos Sanchez Berzain, now a resident of Key Biscayne, Fla., was in charge of the nation’s military in 2003, when soldiers opened fire on Aymara Indians protest their “marginalization” at the hands of the government. After Berzain revealed last week that he had been granted U.S. asylum, and so could not be extradited, Bolivian President Evo Morales filed a strong protest.
“We want the United States to help us bring to justice those who have done so much harm to Bolivia,” Morales said. Philip Goldberg, the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, deflected comment, saying that Bersain’s status was up to the “independent judicial branch in the United States.”

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Government

Argentina builds a new drug policy

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From The Week:

Buenos Aires, Argentina: A young man charged with possession of marijuana was set free last week when a federal tribunal ruled that punishing people for using drugs is unconstitutional. It was the third such ruling in Argentina in recent months, as courts have moved to effectively decriminalize drug use. The Argentina legislature has been rewriting anti-drug laws to shift the focus from users to traffickers, but courts have been moving more swiftly. Anibal Fernandez, Argentina’s minister of justice, security, and health, said there was no reason to treat people who abuse marijuana and cocaine more severely than alcoholics, whose drug of choice is legal. “We have to stop being hypocrites,” he said.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 11:57 am

Magnifier for those tiny fonts

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This little freeware package looks like a good answer for aging eyes. From the link:

It happens to all of us. As we get older, we find it a bit harder to read the text on our computer screens, or make out fine details on digital images. OneLoupe can help. This tiny Windows utility (like, 22kb tiny), hangs out in your system tray until you need to zoom in on an area of your desktop. Then you just click the OneLoupe icon, move your mouse to the portion of the screen you want to zoom in on, and you too can see a highly pixelated version of any web page, picture, or other media.

More at the link. Works like a charm.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 10:51 am

Posted in Software

Friday catblogging: Miss Molly the teenager

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The Wife thinks Molly looks like a teenager in this photo…  At any rate, she certainly looks comfortably uncomfortable, the way cats like to rest.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 10:12 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

Coffee-Mocha morning

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Yesterday’s shave reminded me that it’s been too long since I used QED’s wonderful Coffee-Mocha shave stick—in this case, a coffee-chocolate combination. Extremely nice fragrance and, with the Rooney Style 2 Finest, extremely nice lather. I picked up the Gillette NEW that carried a Polsilver blade, and enjoyed a very smooth and nice shave. No oil pass, and finished with Geo aftershave.

Written by Leisureguy

13 June 2008 at 10:06 am

Posted in Shaving

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