Later On

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

Archive for June 25th, 2008

Chris Dodd speaks against the FISA bill

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You can watch the speech on video and/or read the transcript of the speech (as prepared). He speaks strong words. Watch it here. Here’s the beginning of Froomkin’s column today:

A senior Democratic statesman took to the Senate floor yesterday and delivered a jeremiad against President Bush and his lawlessness the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve ever heard there before.

What set off Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) was the warrantless surveillance bill sent over from the House this week and seemingly assured of passage in the Senate. The bill significantly broadens Bush’s spying powers and essentially guarantees civil-lawsuit immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated in earlier surveillance efforts.

But to Dodd, it’s just the latest indignity from a president who has come to expect a corrupted political system to jettison the rule of law on his say-so.

“Retroactive immunity is on the table today; but also at issue is the entire ideology that justifies it, the same ideology that defends torture and executive lawlessness,” Dodd said.

Here is the text and video of his speech.

“If we pass this legislation, the Senate will ratify a domestic spying regime that has already concentrated far too much unaccountable power in the president’s hands and will place the telecommunications companies above the law,” he said.

“[B]y short-circuiting the judicial process we are sending a dangerous signal to future generations. They see us establishing a precedent that Congress can — and will — provide immunity to potential law breakers, if they are ‘important’ enough. . . .

“I am here today because with offense after another after another, I believe it is long past time to say: ‘enough.’

“I am here today because of a pattern — a pattern of abuse against civil liberties and the rule of law. Against the Constitution — of which we are custodians, temporary though that status may be. . . .

“I am here today because warrantless wiretapping is merely the latest link in a long chain of abuses. . . .

“What is at stake is nothing less than equal justice — justice that makes no exceptions. What is at stake is an open debate on security and liberty. . . .

“This bill does not say, ‘Trust the American people; Trust the courts and judges and juries to come to just decisions.’ Retroactive immunity sends a message that is crystal clear. . . .

“And that message comes straight from the mouth of this President. ‘Trust me.’ . . .

“What is the basis for that trust?”

Ticking off examples of “an abandonment of the rule of law” — including the politicization of the Justice Department and the rolling back of habeas corpus rights — Dodd eventually came to the ultimate case study.

“I don’t think you can hold the rule of law in any greater contempt than sanctioning torture,” Dodd said. . . .

“Controlled death. Outsourced torture. Secret prisons. Month-long sleep deprivations. The president’s personal power to hold whomever he likes for as long as he’d like. It is as if we woke up in the middle of some Kafka-esque nightmare.

“Have I gone wildly off-topic . . . ? Have I brought up a dozen unrelated issues?

“I wish I had. . . I wish that none of these stories were true.

“But, we are deceiving ourselves when we talk about the U.S. attorneys issue, the habeas issue, the torture issue, the rendition issue, or the secrecy issue as if each were an isolated case! As if each one were an accident! When we speak of them as isolated, we are keeping our politics cripplingly small; and as long as we keep this small, the rule of men is winning.

“There is only one issue here. Only one: the law issue.

“Does the president serve the law, or does the law serve the president? Each insult to our Constitution comes from the same source; each springs from the same mindset; and if we attack this contempt for the law at any point, we will wound it at all points.

“That is why I’m here today. . . . Immunity is a disgrace in itself, but it is far worse in what it represents. It tells us that some believe in the courts only so long as their verdict goes their way. That some only believe in the rule of law, so long as exceptions are made at their desire. It puts secrecy above sunshine and fiat above law.”

Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald writes: “[I]f I had one wish this week, it would be that any journalist who will ever write or utter the words ‘FISA,’ ‘telecom immunity’ or ‘Terrorism’ would be forced to watch this speech from start to finish without distraction.”

Here is more blogger reaction.

Click the link above to read more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 7:03 pm

“Clean coal” (as if…)

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25 June 2008 at 4:45 pm


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25 June 2008 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Congress

Useful DoJ update

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Interesting. And Josh Marshall needs a shave pretty badly.

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25 June 2008 at 4:38 pm

Useful guide to grains and other edible seeds

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Via Slashfood, check out this useful list of grains and edible seeds. “Grains” or “cereals” are the seeds of grasses. Other plants have useful edible seeds—buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, chia are notable examples—but these are not “grains” because the plants are not grasses. Rice, corn, wheat, barley, oats, and the like are grains.

At any rate, it’s a useful list, even with the errors.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Food


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Half an hour yesterday, an hour today. Both at a moderate (around 3mph) pace. Calorie intake over past six days (average per day):

And nutrition looks okay:

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Can’t tell detainee he’s not an enemy combatant

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Amazing. Civil rights are vanishing left and right.

Nearly two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that detainees held at Guantánamo Bay have the right to habeas corpus and can thus challenge their detention in civilian courts, a U.S. Court of Appeals dealt another blow to the Bush administration’s detention policy.

The appeals court ruled that the Pentagon improperly designated Huzaifa Parhat, an ethnic Uighur Chinese national, an “enemy combatant” after being swept up by the U.S. military in Afghanistan in 2001 and then sent to Guantánamo Bay, where he has been held since.

Despite the ruling, Parhat has yet to see any of its benefits. In fact, he doesn’t even know about it. Parhat’s lawyer told CBC radio’s As It Happens last night that Parhat is currently being held in solitary confinement and “has no idea” the appeals court ruled in his favor because, he added, “I’m not allowed to tell him”:

DEREK STOFFEL, CBC HOST: Mr. Willett, what’s your client’s reaction to this ruling?

SABIN WILLETT (PARHAT’S LAWYER): Boy what a great question that is because my client doesn’t know about this ruling because I’m not allowed to tell him. […] He’s sitting in solitary confinement today. He has no idea what’s happened as far as I know.

Listen here:

Indeed, it is unclear what the appeals court’s ruling actually means for Parhat. The New York Times noted that the U.S. “said it will not return Uighur detainees to China because of concerns about their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government, which views them as terrorists.” Thus, as another one of Parhat’s lawyers noted, the “court victory may not mean freedom for him.”

For now, Willett said that “we’re going to file a motion with a judge to order them to let us call him on the phone and take him out of solitary confinement.” He added, “We’ve got a man in solitary confinement that they’ve got no authority to hold at all. Its unbelievable.”


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25 June 2008 at 12:39 pm

Federal searchs of your computer with no cause

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Can the Feds search your computer’s hard drive, even without probable cause. The Consitution says no, US Customs & Border Patrol says yes. Read this important post by Peter Swire. The post begins:

In recent months, I have become increasingly aware of what I consider a deeply flawed and disturbing policy. In April, a federal appeals court held that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) can search laptops, and even copy their entire contents, as a routine part of border searches. The ruling held that the CBP does not need probable cause, or even the lower standard of “reasonable suspicion.”

The government’s legal theory is that it can open a suitcase at the border, so it can force a traveler to open a laptop and reveal passwords and encryption keys as a condition of entering the country. This simplistic legal theory ignores the massive factual difference between a quick glance into a suitcase and the ability to copy a lifetime of files from someone’s laptop, and then examine those files at the government’s leisure. Some of the problems that arise with this policy:

Continue reading.

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25 June 2008 at 12:35 pm

Book titles

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In a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco last night, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan offered cutting criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney, saying he “had a terribly negative influence over this president.” At one point, McClellan suggested “some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider“:

McClellan who is clear that he has no great admiration for Cheney, joked to the audience that his national book tour has given him some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider: “The Lies I Told,” or “I Upped Halliburton’s Income – So Up Yours.”

McClellan also offered potential book title ideas for Karl Rove and Scooter Libby: “The Lies I Told to Whom and Why” and “Well, Pardon Me,” respectively.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 12:32 pm

Thinking of a career change?

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Some excellent thoughts and resources here, courtesy of the redoubtable Dustin Wax.

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25 June 2008 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with , ,

A glimmer of hope for stopping the FISA bill

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This video is from an excellent column by Glenn Greenwald—please read it. One excerpt:

Chris Dodd went to the Senate floor last night to speak against the FISA bill and delivered one of the most compelling and inspired speeches by a prominent politician that I’ve heard in quite some time. He tied the core corruption of the FISA bill’s telecom amnesty and warranltess eavesdropping provisions into the whole litany of the Bush administration’s lawless and destructive behavior over the last seven years — from torture and rendition to the abuse of secrecy instruments and Guantanamo mock trials — with a focus on the way in which telecom amnesty further demolishes the rule of law among our political class.That speech signals that the small minority in the Senate devoted to stopping this bill have made this a priority. Small, vocal, passionate minorities in the Senate — backed up by vocal, passionate and engaged citizens — can do much to prevent a bill’s quick and painless passage. Dodd’s speech can be seen and/or read here. I highly recommend it, and if I had one wish this week, it would be that any journalist who will ever write or utter the words “FISA,” “telecom immunity” or “Terrorism” would be forced to watch this speech from start to finish without distraction.

Much more at the link. And here’s a clip from Russ Feingold’s fine speech:

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25 June 2008 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life

Stupidity loves ignorance

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This would be astounding in any other administration. Reported by Felicity Barringer in the NY Times:

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

The document, which ended up in e-mail limbo, without official status, was the E.P.A.’s answer to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that required it to determine whether greenhouse gases represent a danger to health or the environment, the officials said.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

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25 June 2008 at 12:12 pm

Learn a language at no cost except time and effort

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I just updated the list of free resources for language learning. Probably about time you learned a new language, eh?

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 11:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

The telecoms bought immunity

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Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent explains:

When scores of House Democrats joined Republicans last week to reauthorize a controversial White House spying program, many critics attributed that support to election-year jitters. But as liberal voters continue to bash Democrats on the issue, some campaign finance reformers charge that political contributions from the telecom industry, which benefited handsomely under the bill, probably also swayed votes.

In an analysis released Tuesday,, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog group, found that lawmakers voting Friday in support of the wiretap deal averaged roughly twice the donations from the nation’s leading telecoms — Verizon, Sprint and AT&T — over the last three years as those voting against it. [With a little work, one could probably figure out exactly the price tag for each of those legislators. – LG]

The figures might not have raised eyebrows except that the proposal contained a gift for the industry, effectively granting retroactive legal immunity to the telecoms that enabled the Bush administration’s warrantless eavesdropping program. The immunity provision — blasted by civil libertarians for putting industry concerns above Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure — rescues the companies from the roughly 40 lawsuits pending against them. Some money-in-politics watchdogs say the connection between the contributions and votes is no accident.

The money-in-politics debate is hardly new to Washington, but it has taken on greater urgency as both political contributions and federal budgets grow larger with each passing year. Under the current system, lawmakers have become ever more reliant on campaign coffers to maintain their hold on power. Industry, meanwhile, is under constant pressure to be at the negotiation table when related legislation is being crafted on Capitol Hill. Money is often the quickest way to gain that seat. This combination of factors has created a near symbiotic relationship between Congress and industry, often lending a sense that business interests take priority over citizens’ concerns.

“It’s not a dollar given and a vote bought,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign finance reform advocate, “but it is a system where large industries can gain influence and direct how policy is decided.” [That sounds to me pretty much like dollars given in exchange for votes. – LG]

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25 June 2008 at 11:42 am

Scalia lies

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It’s very hard to respect Justice Scalia—and not because of his conservative positions. It’s his flouting of basic ethics (e.g., the comradely hunting trip with Cheney, who had a case coming before the Justice), his flippant attitude toward serious questions, and his tendency to tell lies. For example, as Marjorie Cohn points out:

To bolster his argument that the Guantanamo detainees should be denied the right to prove their innocence in federal courts, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush: “At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield.” It turns out that statement is false.

According to a new report by Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, “The statistic was endorsed by a Senate Minority Report issued June 26, 2007, which cites a media outlet, CNN. CNN, in turn, named the DoD [Department of Defense] as its source. The ’30’ number, however, was corrected in a DoD press release issued in July 2007, and a DoD document submitted to the House Foreign Relations Committee on May 20, 2008, abandons the claim entirely.”

The largest possible number of detainees who could have “returned to the fight” is 12; however, the Department of Defense has no system for tracking the whereabouts of released detainees. The only one who has undisputedly taken up arms against the United States or its allies, “ISN 220,” was released by political officers of the DoD against the recommendations of military officers.

Scalia bolstered his hysterical claim that the Boumediene decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed” with stale information that was proven to be false one year ago. Professor Mark Denbeaux, director of the Seton Hall Center, said, Scalia “was relying uncritically on information that originated with a party in the case before him.”

The Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that the Guantanamo detainees were entitled to file petitions for writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. More than 200 men who have been held for up to six years and have never been charged with a crime will now have their day in court. Many were snatched from their homes, picked up off the street or in airports, or sold to the US military by warlords for bounty.

Scalia, who sits on the highest court in the land, has acted as a loyal foot soldier for the executive branch of government.

Again: note that the decision does NOT require that enemy combatants be released, or recognized terrorists: it requires only that the government prove that the persons imprisoned are enemy combatants or terrorists. That seems an unremarkable requirement.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 11:34 am

Posted in GOP, Government

Good tofu secrets (and a good recipe)

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I think I may make this recipe today. And the way s/he handles tofu is good to know.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 11:21 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tagged with

Beans ready

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I just cooked another pot of black beans: dry beans in water, bring to boil, and simmer for about an hour. Drain, cool, and freeze in 1-cup packages for use later. It feels thrify—hell, it is thrifty—and the beans are better than canned, I think.

BTW, I think my use of Fitday and the lowered-calorie diet is starting to take effect: last night I dreamed of food.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 11:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Culture shock

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As you age, you begin to experience culture shock in your own country—only it’s not really your country anymore, as ownership and responsibility passes to a younger generation. Some obvious things that come to mind: haircuts change, popular music is different (and less pleasing to those older), dress codes change (a whole generation must have experienced some sort of shock when men of my generation stopped wearing hats), body adornments change (tatoos and piercings still seem wrong to me, though I know they are accepted (for now) by the denizens of tomorrow—but that, too, will change).

Things are matters of fashion and will doubtless cycle back and forth: facial hair for me, no facial hair for men, facial hair for men, etc. Same with hats—some signs that they are returning. Popular music—hard to say. What a young generation wants is music that will shock and displease their parents. I doubt that the golden age of American song, with its collaborative (and thus expensive) underpinnings will return. Back in the day, you had one talented person to write lyrics, another talented person to write music, other talented people to play the music, yet another talented person to sing the song—each talent at the top of its category—now replaced by one person to write lyrics, music, play, and sing. Think: Ira Gershwin + George Gershwin + any great jazz ensemble + any great jazz singer vs., say, Bob Dylan doing it all. The overall quality of invention and technique thus cannot be maintained, though of course sincerity may increase somewhat. I’m not sure that sincerity, though, is the defining criterion for excellence.

Just a mild rant. Thanks.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 11:17 am

Posted in Daily life

Spiced pepper purée

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Mark Bitten has a tasty-sounding recipe today. Before roasting the peppers, read this excellent post by The Wednesday Chef.

Spiced Pepper Purée
Yield About 1 cup
Time 30 to 60 minutes

This is an ideal dip for bread, especially focaccia, and a perfect sauce for any grilled or roasted meat or fish. It adds flavor to mild dishes like grilled chicken or broiled halibut, and nicely complements roast lamb or cold poached shrimp.

* 4 large bell peppers, yellow, orange or red, about 2 pounds
* 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, or 2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 inchlong piece of ginger, peeled
* Salt and pepper to taste

1. Grill or broil peppers: adjust a rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil the peppers, turning frequently as they blacken, until they collapse, about 15 minutes. Wrap in aluminum foil and let cool.

2. Toast cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking pan occasionally and removing from heat when fragrant. Grind to a powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

3. When peppers are cool, remove core, skin and all seeds. Place peppers in a food processor with cumin and ginger; add a large pinch of salt and purée. Stop machine, adjust salt and pepper to taste. Store, well covered, in the refrigerator for several days, or the freezer for up to a month. Return to room temperature before serving.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 10:53 am

Weird musical instruments: unsuited for marching band category

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This is one weird instrument—but it does have a nice sound, and an even nicer outdoor ambience when installed.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2008 at 10:38 am

Posted in Art, Music

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