Later On

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

Archive for January 25th, 2009

Professional interrogators vs. torture

leave a comment »

David Danzig has an excellent post in the Oxdown Gazette part of Firedoglake:

Interrogators are lauding President Obama for signing an executive order that will shut down secret CIA prisons and place the use of coercive interrogation techniques completely off limits.

“[The order] closes an unconscionable period in our history, in which those who knew least, professed to know most about interrogations,” said Joe Navarro, a former special agent and supervisor with the FBI.

“Some die-hards on the right – who have never interrogated anyone — are already arguing that forcing interrogations to be conducted within army field manual guidelines is a step backward and will result in ‘coddling’ dangerous terrorists,” retired Colonel Stuart Herrington, who served for more than 30 years as a military intelligence officer, said soon after the order was signed. “This is a common, but uninformed view. Experienced, well-trained, professional interrogators know that interrogation is an art. It is a battle of wits, not muscle. It is a challenge that can be accomplished within the military guidelines without resorting to brutality.”

The way interrogation works is largely misunderstood by the general public and some senior policy makers, according to Navarro, Herrington and other intelligence professionals.

“Interrogation is not like a faucet that you can turn on – and the harder you turn, the more information will pour out,” explains Herrington, who conducted a classified review of detention and interrogation practices in Iraq for the U.S. Army…

Continue reading. There’s more good stuff at the link.

UPDATE: Also read this excellent post.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:35 am

Terrorists in American prisons???!!! OMG!!!

with 4 comments

Conservatives are having a hissy fit over the possibility—well, probability—that the US will imprison terrorists on the US mainland—as it has in the past, recall. Hilzoy does a great takedown of this latest little conniption from the Right:

From the NYT:

“Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed coming to a prison near you?

One day after President Obama ordered that the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be shuttered, lawmakers in Washington wrestled with the implications of bringing dozens of the 245 remaining inmates onto American soil.

Republican lawmakers, who oppose Mr. Obama’s plan, found a talking point with political appeal. They said closing Guantanamo could allow dangerous terrorists to get off on legal technicalities and be released into quiet neighborhoods across the United States. If the detainees were convicted, the Republicans continued, American prisons housing terrorism suspects could become magnets for attacks.

Meanwhile, none of the Democrats who on Thursday hailed the closing of the detention camp were stepping forward to offer prisons in their districts or states to receive the prisoners.”

Jim Geraghty explains why housing terrorists in US prisons would be much worse than housing all the dangerous people who are already there:

“It’s hard to picture militia members, the Crips, Bloods, or what have you doing something as extreme as, say, crashing a plane into the prison to facilitate an escape and/or provide martyrdom to their brethren.”

As Glenn Greenwald notes, there are already terrorists in US prisons. He helpfully provides a partial list: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:26 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Tagged with

Holding off Holder is not enough

leave a comment »

The GOP is a very peculiar party, with peculiar thought processes. The prosecution, trial, and sentencing of Scooter Libby, for example, was cast as a “liberal” plot against the Bush Administration, despite the fact that ALL players were Republicans and appointed by Republicans. Patrick Fitzgerald: appointed by Republicans. The judge in the trial: appointed by Republicans. The sentence: in accordance with the guidelines established by the Republican Administration.

Now the GOP are having fantods because of Holder, and yet (as the Washington Post points out) the current investigation was a product of the Bush Administration:

Even as Senate Republicans seek assurances that new leaders at the Justice Department will not prosecute former government officials over national security abuses, one of the highest-profile investigations of the Bush era is grinding to a close.

A little more than a year ago, then-Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey handpicked a prosecutor to investigate the destruction of CIA videotapes depicting harsh interrogation tactics used against two al-Qaeda suspects. The disclosure that the tapes, believed to portray the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, were destroyed in 2005 touched off an outcry from defense lawyers and civil liberties advocates who said the government should have produced the materials in lawsuits pending at the time.

Since then, the federal inquiry has proceeded mostly in the shadows. But prosecutor John H. Durham recently told a federal judge that he would wrap up interviews by the end of February — a timetable complicated by the highly sensitive subject, the reluctance of current and former agency employees to cooperate and Durham’s painstaking approach, according to court documents and three lawyers following the case…

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:20 am

“No recession coming”: clips for a year or two ago

leave a comment »

There’s a great post at AmericaBlog with a video compilation of brief clips of financial analysts mocking Peter Schiff, who foresaw the financial meltdown quite clearly and tries to explain it to the clowns on Fox News.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:12 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media

Global warming killing old-growth forests?

leave a comment »

More and more evidence accumulates as deniers work harder and harder to deny it. Here’s a story in the Scientific American:

The majestic old-growth forests of western North America, greening patches of the landscape from Arizona to British Columbia, may be far more vulnerable to subtle climate change than scientists previously believed. A study published today in the journal Science reveals that these western forests are dying at faster rates as regional average temperatures climb more rapidly than the global average.
"Tree death rates have more than doubled," says study co-author Phillip van Mantgem, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

He and his team analyzed data (collected from 1955 to 2007) on about 58,000 trees, including firs, pines, hemlocks and others, in 76 old-growth forest plots covering six western states and a Canadian province: Arizona, Colorado, California, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Their findings: …

Continue reading. The core problem: trees can’t afford lobbyists.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:07 am

Robert Burns, 1759-1796

leave a comment »

A very nice profile of Robert Burns—read it, and then memorize a bit of Burns’s poetry-—”To a Mouse,” for example.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 11:00 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Microsoft Live Writer

leave a comment »

As a blogging tool, Live Writer is really excellent, albeit with an occasional bug or unpolished infelicity. As an example of the latter, when your cursor clicks on a category name, the name is highlighted, but no check appears in the check box (as it does when using the WordPress internal editor). I imagine that in time things like this will be corrected through routine polishing. I’m a little worried that the Microsoft layoffs might have impacted the Live Writer group, but time will tell. In the meantime, give it a go. You may have to uncheck “Edit using template” under “View,” depending on the WordPress template you’re using. But I’m liking the program a lot.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 10:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Bush Administration incompetence: not just on the surface

leave a comment »

Incompetence in the Bush Administration ran deep. The Washington Post reports:

President Obama’s plans to expeditiously determine the fates of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and quickly close the military prison there were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials — barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees — discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Instead, they found that information on individual prisoners is "scattered throughout the executive branch," a senior administration official said. The executive order Obama signed Thursday orders the prison closed within one year, and a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. They said that the CIA and other intelligence agencies were reluctant to share information, and that the Bush administration’s focus on detention and interrogation made preparation of viable prosecutions a far lower priority…

Continue reading. It’s an amazing story. Keystone Cops doesn’t touch it.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 10:49 am

Crime and drug policy report

leave a comment »

Mark Kleiman looks over the published Obama Administration stance on crime and drug abuse and finds it a little light, though (as he says) this new Administration has yet to really tackle these issues. His post is well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 10:44 am

How Obama should reform healthcare

leave a comment »

Very interesting article in the New Yorker by Atul Gawande. It begins:

In every industrialized nation, the movement to reform health care has begun with stories about cruelty. The Canadians had stories like the 1946 Toronto Globe and Mail report of a woman in labor who was refused help by three successive physicians, apparently because of her inability to pay. In Australia, a 1954 letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald sought help for a young woman who had lung disease. She couldn’t afford to refill her oxygen tank, and had been forced to ration her intake “to a point where she is on the borderline of death.” In Britain, George Bernard Shaw was at a London hospital visiting an eminent physician when an assistant came in to report that a sick man had arrived requesting treatment. “Is he worth it?” the physician asked. It was the normality of the question that shocked Shaw and prompted his scathing and influential 1906 play, “The Doctor’s Dilemma.” The British health system, he charged, was “a conspiracy to exploit popular credulity and human suffering.”

In the United States, our stories are like the one that appeared in the Times before Christmas. Starla Darling, pregnant and due for delivery, had just taken maternity leave from her factory job at Archway & Mother’s Cookie Company, in Ashland, Ohio, when she received a letter informing her that the company was going out of business. In three days, the letter said, she and almost three hundred co-workers would be laid off, and would lose their health-insurance coverage. The company was self-insured, so the employees didn’t have the option of paying for the insurance themselves—their insurance plan was being terminated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 10:13 am

Most healthful foods

leave a comment »

The tip on Bok Choy came via The Sister from the Web site (and newsletter mailer) World’s Healthiest Foods. Take a look, and note their useful tips on cooking Bok Choy (the recipe has a link on the home page right now):

Healthy Sautéed Bok Choy

Healthy Sauté will concentrate both the flavor and nutrition of your bok choy.

Prep and Cook Time: 4 minutes

  • 1 medium bunch bok choy
  • 3 TBS low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2-3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: chicken and shiitake mushrooms
  1. Cut the leafy portion into 1/4-inch slices to ensure they cook al denté. Cut stems into 3/4-inch slices because if they are cut too thin, they will become watery. Let stems and leaves sit for at least 5 minutes to enhance their health-promoting benefits.
  2. Chop or press garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Heat 3 TBS broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet.
  4. When broth begins to steam, add stems and cook uncovered for 1 minute. Add leaves, cover and continue cooking for 3 more minutes.
  5. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2

Healthy Cooking Tips:

Stems will become creamy, and the leaves will develop a robust flavor. The outside will be tender while the inside will be crisp.

If stems become translucent or watery, you know you have overcooked them. For more enjoyment, you may want to add more olive oil.

For best flavor, dress bok choy while it is still hot.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 10:06 am

Texas about to execute an innocent man?

leave a comment »

William Blackstone famously observed in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in the 1760’s, that it’s “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” The Bush Administration took a different tack: better that ten innocent persons be imprisoned and tortured than one guilty escape. And Texas, famous home of the Bush Administration, perhaps shows whence that sentiment comes. BlueTexan has this post on Firedoglake:

Forensic pathologists say the science points to yes.

Four forensic pathologists agree that Larry Swearingen, set to be executed Tuesday, could not have committed the 1998 murder that sent him to death row.

The four include the medical examiner whose testimony helped secure Swearingen’s guilty verdict. That medical examiner now says college student Melissa Trotter’s curiously preserved body could not have lain in the East Texas woods for more than 14 days — and probably was there for a much shorter time.

The results mean Swearingen was in jail when the 19-year-old’s body was left behind, the pathologists say.

The Houston Chronicle calls for a stay and points to other exculpatory evidence.And Texas Monthly‘s excellent piece on the case, concludes:

The bottom line: Someone killed Melissa Trotter and dumped her body in the Sam Houston National Forest. But that someone was not Larry Swearingen.

Tell Governor Rick “Culture of Life” Perry stay the execution. Amnesty International has a petition.

Find out more here.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 9:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Mitch McConnell and Smart Power

leave a comment »

Booman Tribune has an excellent post. It begins:

Hendrik Hertzberg has a piece in the latest New Yorker that discusses the concept of ‘Smart Power’. It’s easiest to define Smart Power by referring to Hillary Clinton’s recent confirmation testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal—diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural—picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The ancient Roman poet Terence declared that “in every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first.” The same truth binds wise women as well.

The term ‘Smart Power’ comes from a 2004 article by Suzanne Nossel that appeared in Foreign Affairs. At its most basic, Nossel’s argument is in favor of a new form (that isn’t really all that new) of liberal internationalism.

When the United States, the only industrialized power left intact by the war, faced challenges ranging from containing Soviet ambitions to rebuilding war-ravaged Europe, it did not try to shoulder the burden alone. Instead, it crafted an interdependent network of allies and institutions that included the UN and NATO. The United States stood at the center of this order, but it shared the task of maintaining it. The sources of U.S. strength — economic, political, and moral — thus reinforced one another. International institutions helped spread American values, which in turn fueled an appetite for American products. Trade enhanced political influence, and political influence helped further extend American values.

Nevermind the whitewash-y feel of Nossel’s history, when American foreign policy worked well and was on firm moral ground, it was working within the constructs that Nossel describes. If the United States is committed to maintaining its dominant international role, then this is certainly the right and humane way to go about it. Smart Power puts diplomacy first and relies on cultural and economic ties as much or more than military ties to maintain American influence and good relations in the world. That’s all good.

I was watching Minority Leader Mitch McConnell answer questions from the audience yesterday during his appearance at the National Press Club…

Continue reading. The point made about the GOP view is quite cogent and revealing.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 9:37 am

Strange attachment to torture

leave a comment »

You’d think that everyone would be happy that the US will no longer torture prisoners—a step in the right direction. Oddly enough, many people seemed displeased. One assumes, of course, that they don’t want to be tortured themselves, nor (probably) do they want to torture. They just want to be reassured that the US will continue to torture the occasional prisoner.

The torture fans, it should be noted, have had no experience in interrogation and really don’t seem to understand the goal: to get reliable information and induce a cooperative attitude. Those with actual interrogation expertise don’t believe that torture works nearly so well as other (and legal) methods. I refer you, for example, to How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq, by Matthew Alexander and John Bruning.

Still, the media is doing what it seems to love to do: running excited stories to stir people up (and increase ratings). Media Matters has two good takedowns of the latest media scare: CNN, AP falsely claim that Pentagon says 61 Guantánamo detainees have returned to terrorism (43 may have returned to fight—but no real evidence). Media Matters has another smackdown here.

Also, watch this brief Rachel Maddow interview:

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 9:30 am

Morning report

leave a comment »

I’m watching Brick Lane and so far enjoying it.

I learned about Rail Riders at Cool Tools and ordered a pair of their Backcountry Khaki pants. They’re quite geeky, but The Wife observed that with the increase in popularity of Geek Chic, the designs have gotten better (to expand the market, I assume). And they are extremely comfortable and tough. I live a casual life these days, and these pants will work well. I had been buying Dockers, but the last two pair I bought were shoddily made and started coming apart in just a few weeks. These will endure.

Last night I made a Chinese Chicken Coleslaw, using the Swissmar Borner V-Slicer a lot: purple cabbage, carrot, purple onion, celery, pumpkin seed, cilantro, and a chicken breast, dressed with sesame oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Very tasty and having a good veg:meat ratio (about 8:1, I’d say).

The Sister reminded me that Bok Choy is in season, a green I’ve not had lately. I’ll shop for that next time. I still have a bunch of Lacinato Kale to eat.

Written by Leisureguy

25 January 2009 at 9:10 am

%d bloggers like this: