Later On

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

Archive for June 24th, 2008

Chevon order

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I love goat, and Copeland Farms is having some very tasty items on special this month. If you live in California or an adjacent state, the shipping can be via ground, which is much more reasonable. A whole goat is shipped free (and the specials include a whole goat as well as a whole kid). I’ve ordered from them before, and the bone-in leg is wonderful.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Not enough resources for Afghanistan

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Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 4:29 pm

How the DoJ made its selection

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Read the report referenced earlier, or check out the TPMMuckraker story. One statistic:

Of the 71 candidates who were deemed “Highly Qualified” (attended a top-20 ranked law school, were in the top 20% of their class and had previously held judicial clerkships and were members of the law review), 37% were deselected.

And the kicker?

15 out of the 17 highly qualified candidates who were categorized as “Liberal” were deselected. Zero of the five highly qualified “Conservative” candidates were deselected.

ThinkProgress also is weighing in.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 4:24 pm

Funny? or pathetic?

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The AEY hearing is stunning in showing the Keystone Kops mode of Pentagon operation under the GOP (and, probably, Democrats as well). Matthew Blake of the Washington Independent posts a good quote from the hearings into the $300 million arms contract with AEY:

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Ma.) exponentially raised the decibel at today’s House oversight hearing into AEY’s $300 million weapons contract: “The events here that we’re speaking of today are a disgrace. A disgrace! Let’s not hedge here. This kid [AEY President Efraim Diveroli] was 19-years-old. Nineteen years-old! And then he got a $300 million dollar contract! Has anybody been fired for this?”

“No, sir,” replied Mitchell Howell, executive director of the Pentagon agency in charge of weapons contracts.

“I’m absolutely beside myself!” Lynch responded.

More from the hearing, via Blake:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 11:45 am

Taking power over the Justice Department

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Any Executive that wants to establish an authoritarian government must of necessity hold tightly the reins of the Justice Department to protect itself from investigation, prosecution, and other checks to power. If it can control the Justice Deparment completely, it can begin to control the control the country. And the Bush Administration certainly tried. Take a look at this post by Kevin Drum. And Marcy Wheeler has an excellent discussion of the report. Here’s the full text of the report (PDF). And from Eric Lichtblau of the NY Times:

Justice Department officials over the last six years illegally used “political or ideological” factors to hire new lawyers into an elite recruitment program, tapping law school graduates with conservative credentials over those with liberal-sounding resumes, a new report found Tuesday.

The blistering report (PDF), prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general, is the first in what will be a series of investigations growing out of last year’s scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys. It appeared to confirm for the first time in an official examination many of the allegations from critics who charged that the Justice Department had become overly politicized during the Bush administration.

“Many qualified candidates” were rejected for the department’s honors program because of what was perceived as a liberal bias, the report found. Those practices, the report concluded, “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.”

The shift began in 2002, when advisers to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft restructured the honors program in response to what some officials saw as a liberal tilt in recruiting young lawyers from elite law schools like Harvard and Yale. While the recruitment was once controlled largely by career officials in each section who would review applications, political officials in the department began to assume more control, rejecting candidates with liberal or Democratic affiliations “at a significantly higher rate” than those with Republican or conservative credentials, the report said.

The shift appeared to accelerate in 2006, under then-Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, with two aides on the screening committee — Michael Elston and Esther Slater McDonald — singled out for particular criticism. The blocking of applicants with liberal credentials appeared to be a particular problem in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, which has seen an exodus of career employees in recent years as the department has pursued a more conservative agenda in deciding what types of cases to bring.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 11:17 am

Recovering from a breakdown

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Via Mind Hacks, this very interesting interview from a series in the Globe and Mail.

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24 June 2008 at 10:56 am

Impressive argument

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From Dan Froomkin today:

There was a pretrial hearing before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay last week for Mohammad Jawad, a minor when he was captured in Afghanistan after allegedly throwing a hand grenade that wounded two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. Jawad’s military defense lawyer, Maj. David Frakt, argued that charges should be dismissed because Jawad was tortured — subjected to 14 consecutive days of sleep deprivation.

Then, in his closing argument, Frakt delivered a scathing indictment against the president of the United States.

Here, via the ACLU, is the text of Frakt’s extraordinary closing argument. Some excerpts:

“On Feb 7, 2002, President Bush issued an order. The order stated, in pertinent part ‘I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that Common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either al Qaeda or Taliban detainees.’

“‘I determine that the Taliban detainees do not qualify as prisoners of war . . . al Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war.’

“‘Our values as a nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not legally entitled to such treatment. . . . As a matter of policy the United States Armed Forces shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.’

“With these fateful and ill-advised words, President Bush, our Commander-in-Chief, perhaps unwittingly, perhaps not, started the U.S. down a slippery slope, a path that quickly descended, stopping briefly in the dark, Machiavellian world of ‘the ends justify the means,’ before plummeting further into the bleak underworld of barbarism and cruelty, of ‘anything goes,’ of torture. It was a path that led inexorably to the events that brings us here today, the pointless and sadistic treatment of Mohammad Jawad, a suicidal teenager.

“President Bush’s words were important, and deserve special attention. For those of us in the military who have faithfully attended our annual Law of Armed Conflict training, or in my case, have given the training many times, the Geneva Conventions and humane treatment were synonymous, they were one and the same. The Geneva Conventions represented the baseline, they embodied the determination of the world to make war a more humane enterprise, to prevent a descent into wholesale barbarity, as had occurred during the Second World War. But now we were being told that humane meant something else, something less, than the Geneva Conventions. And we were being told that we could act inconsistently with the Geneva Conventions, when military necessity demanded it. Those of us who were familiar with the Geneva Conventions, whose job it was to know them, were puzzled and deeply troubled by the President’s order and had serious forebodings about the implications of such a decision. We understood that there were no gaps in Geneva, there were was no one who fell outside their protection, that Common Article 3 applied to everyone.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 10:47 am

H.L. Mencken on Education

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From Minority Report (publish by Alfred A. Knopf in 1956), no. 127:

The public schools of the United States were damaged very seriously when they were taken over by the State. So long as they were privately operated the persons in charge of them retained a certain amount of professional autonomy, and with it went a considerable dignity. But now they are all petty jobholders, and show the psychology that goes with the trade. They have invented a bogus science of pedagogy to salve their egos, but it remains hollow to any intelligent eye. What they may teach or not teach is not determined by themselves, or even by any exercise of sound reason, but by the interaction of politics on the one side and quack theorists on the other. Even savages have reached a better solution of the educational problem. Their boys are taught, not by puerile eunuchs, but by their best men, and the process of education among them really educates. This is certainly not true of ours. Many a boy of really fine mind is ruined in school. Along with a few sound values, many false ones are thrust into his thinking, and he inevitably acquires something of the attitude of mind of the petty bureaucrats told off to teach him. In college he may recover somewhat, for the college teacher is relatively more free than the pedagogue lower down the scale. But even in college education has become corrupted by buncombe, and so the boy on the border line of intelligence is apt to be damaged rather than benefited. Under proper care he might be pushed upward. As it is, he is shoved downward. Certainly everyday observation shows that the average college course produces no visible augmentation in the intellectual equipment and capacity of the student. Not long ago, in fact, an actual investigation in Pennsylvania demonstrated that students often regress so much during their four years that the average senior is less intelligent, by all know tests, than the average freshman. Part of this may be due to the fact that many really intelligent boys, as soon as they discover the vanity of the so-called education on tap, quit college in disgust, but in large part, I suspect, it is a product of the deadening effect of pedagogy.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 10:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

The itch

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There was a young woman from Natchez
Whose clothing was always in patches.
When confronted by those
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, “When I itches, I scratches!”

Itches do seem to demand scratching, as this article by Atul Gawande explains in some (occasionally gruesome) detail.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

More on Zoomii

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Zoomii is working smoothly now, and it’s quite cool. The expanse of bookshelves is a bit overwhelming, but fortunately you can jump directly to a category and browse just that section. A nice touch: as you mouse over the categories, you see the category section highlighted among all the shelves, which gives you an idea of the size of the category. Nice site.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 10:20 am

Posted in Books

Executive Privilege

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The Center for American Progress, via email:

As the Bush era winds down, the President is asserting executive privilege to impede congressional oversight of his administration. With a contempt of Congress vote looming by Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, President Bush asserted executive privilege last Friday morning, blocking the committee’s subpoenas for documents relating to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to reject California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to override scientific recommendations on ozone standards. Waxman found Bush’s action on Friday “extraordinary,” especially since EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson “has repeatedly insisted he reached his decisions on California’s petition and the new ozone standard on his own.” In a separate case, lawyers for Congress tried yesterday to convince a federal judge to take the “unprecedented step” and compel the administration to obey subpoenas related to the U.S. Attorneys scandal — the first lawsuit ever “filed by either chamber of Congress seeking to force the executive branch to comply with a subpoena.” Bush had cited executive privilege to prevent former White House counsel Harriet Miers from testifying and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten from turning over documents. As with President Nixon’s attempts to block the Watergate investigation and President Reagan’s efforts to hide the EPA dioxin scandal, Bush appears to be using his assertion of executive privilege as a tool to cover up his administration’s illegal actions.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 9:49 am

Great hard-to-find movies: Bye Bye Blues

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Some truly great movies don’t get the recognition they deserve, and Bye Bye Blues (1989) is of this number. I don’t believe it’s even available on DVD, though I have a video cassette edition. Starring the wonderful and luminous Rebecca Jenkins, the film includes some great music along with a solid story. If you ever get a chance, see this film. I hope that this will be made available on DVD sometime soon.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 9:41 am

Posted in Movies & TV

Fascinating graph of political blog network

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Via Kevin Drum, this interactive graph of the political blogs, news sites, and their interconnections. (Explanation here.)

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

US Ambassador helped sell illegal arms

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And he did it knowingly. Matthew Blake reports in the Washington Independent:

Friday the Justice Dept. arrested Efraim Diveroli, the 22 year-old arms contractor, for buying Chinese munitions from Albania. It’s illegal to purchase arms made in China under U.S. law.  According to documents released this morning by the House oversight committee, it turns out that Diveroli had a helping hand — the U.S. Embassy of Albania.

U.S. Major Larry Harrison, a top officer at the U.S. Embassy in Albania, told the committee that the U.S. Ambassador to Albania helped Diveroli’s company, AEY, remove Chinese labeling from rifle cartridges. The U.S. Ambassador discussed “late into the night”  with the Albanian defense minister how to best remove Chinese labeling from cartridges that AEY was about to sell to Afghanistan security forces.

Why were Chinese cartridges in Albania? The former Eastern bloc country bought millions of rounds from China during the Cold War. AEY would go to Albania, and other former Soviet nations, to buy these inexpensive cartridges as part of their Pentagon contract to provide ammunition to Afghanistan security forces. Pentagon contracts note that buying arms made in China is illegal.

Now it looks like the U.S. government played a role in this illegal transaction and only punished AEY after The New York Times ran an expose on the Miami-based arms dealer [and what an amazing story it is! – LG]. Committee chair Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today accusing the State Dept. of concealing information about the purchase of Chinese arms.

Hopefully some of AEY’s highly original business practices can be sorted out tomorrow when the oversight committee is supposed to hold a hearing on the contractor.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 8:56 am

The Supreme Court vs. The Unitary Executive

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The view of the Bush Administration is one that encompasses limitless powers for the president: indefinite detention of suspects with no right habeus corpus but with torture included, the right to spy on citizens with no overview, the right to issue “signing statements” that exempt the president from following laws, and so on. This view suffered a serious setback in the recent Supreme Court decision, and Herman Schwartz has a good story on that in the Washington Independent. (BTW, as Kevin Drum points out, the decision does not mean that “enemy combatants” will be released—it merely requires that the government proves in court that someone detained is indeed an enemy combatant.)

Herman Schwartz:

The Supreme Court’s Boumediene v. Bush decision earlier this month on the treatment of alleged enemy combatants at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, signals the end of the Bush administration’s effort to set the presidency above the rule of law. The long-term significance of this defeat, however, now turns on whether Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) takes the Oval Office next January.

Ever since 9/11, the Bush administration has insisted on a free hand on all national-security and related foreign-affairs issues. Its initial demand was breathtaking — neither the courts nor Congress could impose any on limit on how President George W. Bush exercised his powers as commander-in-chief.

Supreme Court justices don’t like to be told they are powerless; and in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004) all but Justice Clarence Thomas rebuffed the executive branch.

Two more cases followed, in which the administration’s demands were rejected. In Rasul v. Bush, decided the same day as Hamdi, the first of three bitterly divided decisions, a 5-4 majority refused to let the administration make Guantanamo Bay a legal no-mans land. Two years later, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the same justices blocked an effort to prosecute suspected terrorists without complying with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 8:54 am

Free-basing nicotine

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As I recently wrote, those trying to quit smoking have better success if they view any relapse not as a failure but as the end of a particular practice session: to achieve a goal, you must practice, and that holds for quitting smoking, too: practice quitting. Also, it’s been found that people quite smoking in clusters: a group will quit, rather than a solitary smoker. (This makes sense: if a group is quitting, the members won’t see/smell each other smoking and thus won’t have the stimulus to smoke. Also, the members can’t bum cigarettes from each other.) And I’ve recommended the book Changing for Good, which describes the six stages of changing a behavior (such as smoking).

But why is it so difficult to quit smoking? This explains:

Most American cigarette makers including Philip Morris (PM) have used ammonia in their manufacturing processes for decades, to “puff up” tobacco to increase its volume, highlight certain flavors, help hold together reconstituted tobacco sheet and reduce the amount of nicotine in tobacco. Lesser known, though, is that tobacco companies use ammonia to “freebase” the nicotine in smoke, essentially turning naturally-occurring nicotine into “crack nicotine.” Freebase nicotine is absorbed by the body more quickly and easily, resulting in a faster, harder “kick” after lighting up. Using ammonia has allowed tobacco companies to lower the tar and nicotine levels in cigarettes while still keeping smokers addicted, a chemical strategy they applied to deal with the health fears surrounding cigarettes. PM was the first to use “ammonia technology” this way, applying it to Marlboros in the 1960s. After the change, Marlboro zoomed from a minor brand to a runaway market success, causing the other cigarette makers to scramble to discover PM’s “secret.” After PM was accused of intentionally manipulating the nicotine deliveries of its cigarettes, the company pointed to all the other uses for ammonia to defend itself against the charge.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 8:36 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Health

All is well

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My Firefox is working again, and it perhaps was a Windows problem—some damage from an installation or uninstallation, likely. This helpful comment directed me to Dial-A-Fix, and that immediately fixed the Firefox image-load problem.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 8:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Lenthéric shaving soap

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This morning I used my Lenthéric shaving soap, which resides in a square plastic bowl with the legend “Lenthéric Paris – London” on the bottom. The Rooney Style 2 made quite a nice lather, and I picked the English Rocket (or Junior Aristocrat—can’t quite recall the difference) that carried a Black Beauty blade. Great shave, with the Gessato oil for the polishing pass. Aftershave was D.R. Harris Arlington. Quite wonderful.

Written by Leisureguy

24 June 2008 at 8:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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