Later On

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

Archive for April 3rd, 2009

"I smoke pot and I like it"

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The post title is from Will Wilkinson’s article from The Week:

“The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy.” President Obama said it with a chuckle last week at a town hall-style forum. The idea was for Obama to answer some questions about the economy submitted to the White House website. The most popular ones all had something to do with the virtues of legalizing and taxing marijuana. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama joshed, and the good Americans assembled at the forum shared a little laugh. What does it say about the online audience? Maybe it says that advocates of marijuana legalization have hope that a president who once inhaled will, even in the middle of a recession, devote some attention to our country’s disastrous drug policies.

Have you heard of Santiago Meza Lopez? They call him “The Soupmaker.” In January he confessed to Mexican authorities that he had dissolved over 300 dead human bodies in acid. There’s a lot of money to be made in America’s black market for drugs and Mexican suppliers are willing to kill a lot of people to control those markets and capture the gains. Conservative estimates put the death toll of the war between rival Mexican gangs at over 5,000 in the last year alone. When you kill so many people it’s hard to know what to do with all of the rotting bodies. One way to handle the problem is to call in the Soupmaker. Six hundred American dollars per corpse.

Did you know that the United States of America, the Land of the Free, puts a larger portion of its population behind bars than any country on earth? Thanks in large part to the War on Drugs, Americans lock more of their own in cages than do the thuggish Russians or those “Islamofascist” Saudis. As it happens, American drug prohibition and sentencing policies hit poor black men the hardest, devastating already disadvantaged black families and communities—a tragic, mocking contrast to the achievement of Obama’s election. Militarized police departments across the nation month after month kick down the wrong doors, terrify innocent families, shoot lawful citizens, and often kill the family dog.

So why is Obama laughing? To be fair, …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

A robot scientist

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Not a scientist who studies robots, but a robot who does scientific research. Ed Yong tells about it in his blog Not Exactly Rocket Science:

In a laboratory at Aberystwyth University, Wales, a scientist called Adam is doing some experiments. He is trying to find the genes responsible for producing some important enzymes in yeast, and he is going about it in a very familiar way. Based on existing knowledge, Adam is coming up with new hypotheses and designing experiments to test them. He carries them out, records and evaluates the results, and comes up with new questions. All of this is part and parcel of a typical scientist’s life but there is one important difference that sets Adam apart – he’s a robot.

Adam is the brainchild of Ross King and colleagues at Aberystwyth, who have described it as a "Robot Scientist". The name is "almost an acronym" for "A Discovery Machine" and it also references Scottish economist Adam Smith and the obvious Biblical character. It has been loaded with equipment and software that allows it to independently design and carry out genetics experiments without any human intervention. And it has already begun to contribute to our scientific knowledge.

In a space the size of a small van, Adam contains a library of yeast strains in a freezer, two incubators, three pipettes for transferring liquid (one of which can manage 96 channels at once), three robot arms, a washer, a centrifuge, several cameras and sensors, and no less than four computers controlling the whole lot. All of this kit allows Adam to carry out his own research and to do it tirelessly – carrying out over 1000 experiments and making over 200,000 observations every day. All a technician needs to do is to keep Adam stocked up with fresh ingredients, take away waste, and run the occasional clean…

Continue reading for more information, photos, and a diagram.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 1:10 pm

New head of census understands statistics; GOP nervous

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The GOP prizes ignorance, so have the Census Bureau headed by a respected social scientist who understands statistics makes them very nervous. David Stout reports for the NY Times:

Robert M. Groves, a former census official and now a sociology professor at the University of Michigan, was nominated Thursday by President Obama to run the Census Bureau, a choice that instantly made Republicans nervous.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke described Mr. Grove as “a respected social scientist who will run the Census Bureau with integrity and independence.”

Even before the official White House announcement, rumors about the choice drew criticism on Thursday from Republicans already anxious about the 2010 census, a multibillion-dollar enterprise that will determine which states gains seats in Congress and which ones lose them, as well as the allocation of federal dollars to states and cities based on population.

Mr. Groves, 60, was not available for comment on Thursday. He faces confirmation by the Senate but, given the Democrats’ 58-to-41 advantage, would appear to have an excellent chance.

Republicans expressed alarm because of one of Mr. Groves’s specialties, statistical sampling — roughly speaking, the process of extrapolating from the numbers of people actually counted to arrive at estimates of those uncounted and, presumably, arriving at a realistic total.

If minorities, immigrants, the poor and the homeless are those most likely to be missed in an actual head count, and if political stereotypes hold true, then statistical sampling would presumably benefit the Democrats.

Republicans have generally argued that statistical sampling is not as reliable as its devotees insist. “Conducting the census is a vital constitutional obligation,” Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, said Thursday. “It should be as solid, reliable and accurate as possible in every respect. That is why I am concerned about the White House decision to select Robert Groves as director of the Census Bureau.”

Representative Darrell Issa of California, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also issued a statement of dismay. “This is an incredibly troubling selection that contradicts the administration’s assurances that the census process would not be used to advance an ulterior political agenda,” Mr. Issa said.

The Census Bureau is part of the Department of Commerce, whose secretary, Mr. Locke, said during his recent confirmation hearings that “there are no plans to use any type of statistical sampling with respect to population count.” …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 1:00 pm

The Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare

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Very interesting.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "The Cobbe portrait of Shakespeare", posted with vodpod

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

Caul fat

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I’m dying to use it in cooking. Take a look and read how to use it.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Marion Nestle on the pistachio recalls

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Good points by Marion Nestle from her blog Food Politics:

The interesting part about this latest recall – now 2 million pounds and involving 74 products so far – is how the Salmonella contamination was discovered.  According to a lengthy account in USA Today, a small nut company in Illinois, Georgia’s Nut, routinely tests for Salmonella and found the bacteria in nuts purchased from Setton Pistachio of California.  Georgia’s Nut recalled products distributed in the Chicago area.  This company also produces a trail mix for Kraft Foods.  It notified Kraft Foods, which also promptly recalled its products.

I’m guessing that Georgia Nut must follow a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) plan.  HACCP is a science-based food safety procedure that requires analyzing where contamination might occur in production processes (hazard analysis), taking steps to prevent contamination at those critical control points, and using pathogen testing to make sure the steps were followed and the plan is working.

HACCP, as I keep complaining, is only required for meat and poultry production on the USDA regulatory side (where is it poorly enforced) and for sprouts, fresh juices, seafood, and eggs on the FDA side.  The producers of everything else are supposed to follow Good Manufacturing Processes, which are considerably less rigorous and, as we saw with the peanut butter recalls (more than 3,800 products from 200 companies) and their health consequences (nearly 700 sick, at least 9 deaths), clearly do not work.

How about HACCP for all foods?  Worth a try?

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:28 pm

Free Java-based notetaking app

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Take a look—I’m going to try it.

UPDATE: I got a bot warning when I started the download. I’ve decided not to install at this point. Lifehacker is usually more reliable. Note the comment below.

UPDATE 2: This from a comment at the link above:

A quick search on the app’s forum shows that the developer is aware that AVG is flagging the installer (not the zip version): [sourceforge.net] If you’re still worried, you can try the zip version – AVG shouldn’t have a problem with it.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

MPP lobbyist testifies to Congress

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From the MPP email that pointed out the video:

Each year, Congress passes a spending bill that funds the Justice Department, including the DEA. At yesterday’s hearing about next year’s budget, MPP asked Congress to tell the DEA to:

  • Stop interfering with state and local law enforcement in California and other medical marijuana states;
  • Immediately stop the practice of sending letters to landlords of state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening to seize their assets; and
  • Stop blocking medical marijuana research and approve the application for a medical marijuana research facility at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

MPP was the only reform organization to provide expert testimony at the hearing yesterday. In fact, MPP is the only marijuana policy reform organization with a full-time lobbyist on Capitol Hill. Would you please support this important work by making a contribution today? We appreciate anything you can give.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:06 pm

Good analysis of the Iowa Supreme Court decision on gay marriage

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Chase Martyn has an excellent article in the Washington Independent explaining the Court’s reasoning. It begins:

In a unanimous decision released Friday morning, the Iowa Supreme Court has overturned Iowa’s law limiting marriage rights to opposite-sex couples, clearing the way for same-sex couples to marry across the Hawkeye State beginning later this month.

Justice Mark S. Cady wrote the court’s decision in the landmark case Varnum v. Brien, in which six same-sex couples sued Polk County Recorder Timothy Brien for not issuing them marriage licenses. Polk County Judge Robert Hanson found for the plaintiffs, but he delayed his ruling pending a decision from the Supreme Court.

“On our review, we hold the Iowa marriage statute violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution,” the Supreme Court’s decision said. The decision upheld Polk County Judge Robert Hanson’s initial ruling more than a year ago.

To determine whether Iowa’s marriage law violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution, the court chose to apply the “intermediate scrutiny” test, which is most often applied in gender discrimination cases.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

This makes me gag

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ThinkProgress’s Ryan Powers:

Last night, the Senate passed President Obama’s budget in a 55-43 vote. While not a single Republican broke with their party to vote yes on the measure, two “moderate” Democrats — Sens. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) — voted no. Nelson defended his vote in a prepared statement:

The administration inherited a lot of red ink in this budget, along with our ailing economy. But this budget still has trillion dollar-plus deficits in the next two years, and adds unsustainably to the debt. These are tough times, and the federal government needs to take a lesson from American families and cut down on the things we can do without.

I respect the Administration offering an honest budget…but it just costs too much.

Similarly, Bayh issued a statement saying he opposed the budget in an attempt to be the voice of “fiscal responsibility“:

[U]nder this budget, our national debt skyrockets from $11.1 trillion today to an estimated $17 trillion in 2014. As a percentage of our gross domestic product, it reaches a precarious 66.5 percent. The deficit remains larger than our projected economic growth, an unsustainable state of affairs. This budget will increase our borrowing from and dependence upon foreign nations. I cannot support such results. We can do better, and for the sake of our nation and our children’s future, we must.

But if Bayh and Nelson are really concerned about the cost of the budget, why then did they also vote yesterday in favor of a $250 billion tax cut for the rich? As the AP explains, Bayh and Nelson along with eight other “moderate” Democrats broke with Obama and voted to reduce estate taxes from which 99.7 percent of Americans were already exempt.

Further, as the Washington Post wrote yesterday, “Reducing the estate tax [will] harm charities because it eliminates some of the incentive for making charitable bequests — yet some of the very senators who back estate tax cuts were quick to denounce Obama administration tax proposals that they argued would hurt charitable giving.” Among those who opposed Obama’s proposal to reduce tax deductions for charitable giving: Bayh and Nelson.

For Bayh’s part, it’s unclear why he’s standing in the way of the agenda his constituents voted in support of last November. Yglesias suggests, “Bayh just made a decision of conscience and principle to stand with Mitch McConnell and Jim DeMint on the most important domestic policy vote of his career.”

Update: Ezra Klein notes that Bayh, while garnering an exceedingly liberal voting record during the 109th Congress as he prepared to run for president, became the Democratic caucus’s most conservative member in the 110th Congress. Klein explains further that when put in the context of his record since 2001, Bayh’s recent turn to the right represents "a sharp break in his voting patterns."

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 12:01 pm

Hemp legalization bill

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I believe I already blogged about legislation being introduced to allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent has a very nice report of the action:

Sponsored by Reps. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill would allow U.S. farmers to grow industrial, non-psychoactive hemp, which manufacturers use for everything from soap to shoes to car upholstery. Current law allows hemp to be imported, but not cultivated domestically.

Introducing the bill on the House floor yesterday, Paul says that prohibition is a mistake, particularly in a difficult economy.

It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has stood in the way of American farmers, including many who are struggling to make ends meet, competing in the global industrial hemp market. Indeed, the founders of our Nation, some of whom grew hemp, would surely find that Federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited, restrained Federal Government.

Aside from Paul and Frank, nine other House lawmakers have signed on their support, seven Democrats and two Republicans.

This bill should be quite popular with the GOP since it limits intrusion of the Federal government into deciding which harmless crops can be grown.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:46 am

Near-death experiences

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Very interesting article, which begins:

When doctors returned to check on the patient who had almost died and been in a deep coma before being resuscitated, he thanked them for all the work they had done. He had, he told the surprised team of medics, been very impressed and had watched everything they had done. He had heard all that had been said, too, and, at one point, had been concerned when resuscitation was about to be abandoned. He then went on to describe in detail the room where he had been treated – although he had never been conscious in there.

That near-death experience is one of a number recorded by Dutch doctors and one of thousands of similar cases that have now been documented in a major worldwide study.

New research shows that many critically ill kidney dialysis patients have similar experiences, and that almost one in 10 heart-arrest survivors also report near-death experiences whose features include out of body sensations, bright lights, dark tunnels, and images of life events and spiritual entities.

But there’s no consensus on what lies behind near-death experiences, even though they are being increasingly reported. Are they, as some people are convinced, signs of the soul leaving the body? Or are they, as others suggest, the last, dreamlike act put on by a dying brain?

Near-death experiences are surprisingly common. In the latest study, researchers quizzed 710 kidney dialysis patients and found that, out of 70 patients who had suffered a life-threatening event, 45 had gone though a near-death experience. And research by Virginia University shows that 10 per cent of heart-arrest patients, and 1 per cent of other cardiac patients, had reported having a near-death experience.

Near-death experiences occur in both sexes, in every culture, and at all ages. Researchers at the University Hospital of Geneva recently reported what they describe as the first case in a child of 12 who had undergone elective, uncomplicated surgery that had run into difficulties. But, in spite of considerable differences in ages, cultures and diseases, many features of near-death experiences are remarkably similar.

The spiritual theorists have it that this is the immediate prelude to death itself, and that it establishes that there is life after death. These theories take what the individual sees, hears and feels as being a report of exactly what happened. One suggestion is that, at the time of death, the body and soul separate and near-death experiences are a glimpse of the first part of that process.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

GOP sticks with its distortions of MIT study

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The GOP is not going to give up a good lie, as Brian Beutler reports in TPMDC:

Republicans won’t be changing their story on the cost of climate change legislation anytime soon. I just spoke with Michael Steel, spokesman for John Boehner, about the letter the House Minority Leader received from M.I.T. scientist John Reilly. By way of background, Reilly wrote to Boehner yesterday and gently informed him that he and other Republicans had "misrepresented in recent press releases" an M.I.T. study, which estimated that a cap and trade program would likely cost the average family $340 per year. The GOP is claiming, based on the same study, that the legislation would cost the average family $3,128 per year.

"We stand by our analysis," said Steel.

Steel says the GOP’s claim is based on the Obama budget proposal, which doesn’t propose rebating cap-and-trade revenues directly to consumers (i.e. writing a flat check to every tax payer).

Instead, his proposal contemplated rebating $64 billion a year through a payroll tax cut.

But, the Republicans say, Senate Democrats have suggested using cap-and-trade revenue to pay for health care reform. In reality, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has quashed that idea.

At any rate, the Obama budget proposal did not contain any legislative details–the numbers were early estimates, and the exact terms of a cap-and-trade bill will be hammered out by Congress.

So, speaking of Congress, I asked Steel whether the GOP would revisit their contention if the Waxman-Markey House climate change legislation we reported on earlier this week provided for a revenue rebate. Steel said, "We would obviously have to change the way we discuss the proposal…. We’ll deal with the facts in each case as it arises."

And then there’s the Senate. I asked Steel if he could comment on an amendment to the Senate budget resolution, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, which passed on Tuesday. It provides that cap-and-trade revenues will be used to forestall "increasing electricity or gasoline prices or increasing the overall burden on consumers."

"I don’t work in the Senate," said Steel.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:28 am

More on the Bagram detainee decision

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

For years, the 600 men imprisoned at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan largely escaped public notice. While the detainees at Guantanamo Bay roused the ire of critics of the Bush administration around the world, their counterparts at Bagram, held with fewer rights and much less scrutiny, languished in a U.S.-run prison and in some cases suffered gruesome beatings and even death at the hands of their captors.

Tina Monshipour Foster, the founder and executive director of the International Justice Network, was for years one of the few U.S. lawyers trying to do anything about it. So when she heard Thursday that a federal district judge in Washington had ruled that three of the four Bagram prisoners she represents have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court, she was thrilled.

“I’m very, very happy,” she said, reached by phone Thursday afternoon. “Maybe people will finally start listening to me.”

Foster’s reaction comes out of years of advocating for the Bagram detainees held as prisoners in President Bush’s “war on terror” but without any of the rights to which prisoners of war are usually entitled. And while lawyers from the major advocacy organizations and law firms labored hard to argue that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have constitutional rights, almost no one was willing to make that argument on behalf of the hundreds more men and boys being held at Bagram. The government — first the Bush administration, then the Obama administration — argued that because they were not U.S. citizens and were held outside the United States (and outside Guantanamo Bay), they had no constitutional rights whatsoever. That they were being held in Afghanistan, where the United States is engaged in armed conflict, made Foster’s argument that they had the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court even more difficult.

But as I’ve written before, and as Judge John D. Bates confirmed in a groundbreaking ruling yesterday, the situation at Bagram is in fact much like that of Guantanamo Bay. Men suspected of participating in or aiding terrorism, or sold for bounty to the U.S. government by Afghan warlords, were imprisoned without charge or trial at the U.S.-run air base, where the U.S. government, which has leased the base indefinitely, has complete authority over them. In its early years, Bagram was the site of horrific abuses, such as the murders of two prisoners who were beaten two death during interrogations. Although the Pentagon says it has improved the conditions at Bagram since then, it’s impossible to know, because no one other than the U.S. military and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which issues only confidential reports to relevant governments, is allowed into the prison.

Foster is one of the few U.S. lawyers who’s even tried to get into Bagram, and traveled to Afghanistan to meet with prisoners’ families. As a result, even after a few earlier cases were dismissed because the Bush administration transferred them to Afghan prisons, relatives of other prisoners who’d mysteriously disappeared (they later learned they were in Bagram) contacted Foster and her colleagues seeking help.

In the case Bates ruled on Thursday, the International Justice Network, with the help of legal clinics from Yale and Stanford law schools, was representing four men, each abducted by U.S. authorities in various parts of the world — all outside Afghanistan — and brought to Bagram to be imprisoned, some after being tortured, they claim, in CIA “black sites”. They had all been at Bagram without charge, or the right to meet with a lawyer or family member, for more than six years. The court found that as to at least three of them, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which determined that Guantanamo prisoners have the right to habeas corpus review, applies just as forcefully.

“[C]onfinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government,” wrote Bates, quoting Alexander Hamilton and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Quoting The Supreme Court in Boumediene, he continued: “…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:25 am

Preventing and helping carpal tunnel syndrome

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Via Lifehacker.com, which has more tips at the link:

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Cass Sunstein: probably a bad choice

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For reasons such as Jonathan Zasloff lays out this post:

I’m in the middle of reading Sunstein and Thaler’s Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, and a lot of it is illuminating, if somewhat predictable for those who have followed behavioral economics over the last few years.

But so far, by far the worst chapter has been the one on the environment, which has Sunstein’s fingerprints all over it. Large chunks of the chapter are devoted to cap-and-trade or carbon tax schemes for climate change. which all make sense, but have little to do with "libertarian paternalism," Sunstein & Thaler’s pat description of their governing philosophy. And they fall for the simplistic notion that such plans are "market-based" as opposed to relying on the heavy hand of government: who exactly do they think sets the quantity for carbon emissions (and thus profoundly influences the price)? The New York Stock Exchange?

But the worst comes right before this description, where they describe traditional environmental legislation such as the Clean Air Act, which mandates specified reductions in pollutant emissions over a period of time. "Such limitations," they acknowledge,

have sometimes been effective: the air is much cleaner than it was in 1970. Philosophically, however, such limitations look uncomfortably similar to Soviet-style five-year plans, in which bureaucrats in Washington announce that millions of people have to change their conduct in the next five years.

There is only one response to this: are you @#%&$E^$ing kidding me? The Clean Air Act is similar to a Soviet Five-Year Plan? Just because it sets pollutant limitations?

What about, say, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which criminalizes discharging refuse into navigable waters? Did they get that from Stalin, too? Pretty good, considering Congress enacted it 18 years before the Bolshevik Revolution.

I haven’t seen red-baiting that bad since the end of the Cold War — except from the likes of Sarah Palin. Sunstein doesn’t understand discounting, either: what in the world is this guy doing in a Democratic Administration? Hopefully not much: he seems like he’s spent far too much time trying to impress his former colleagues at the University of Chicago Law School.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:16 am

Significant accomplishments at G-20

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Kevin Hall and Steve Thomma report in McClatchy:

The leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations accomplished something at their G-20 summit here Thursday that rarely happens at such gatherings of heads of state.

They produced large achievements.

They pledged the first-ever global regulation of hedge funds and private-equity firms, big players in global finance that have enjoyed operating under the regulatory radar. They agreed to a require banks to set aside more capital in good times to help them function in bad times. They vowed to crack down on tax haven nations that allow the wealthy to escape taxation. And they pledged $1.1 trillion to the International Monetary Fund and related institutions to help revive the global economy.

In short, the summit marks the end of an era of unbridled global capitalism and a turn toward stronger government oversight of economics, coordinated globally. Leaders of the Group of 20 effectively closed the door on an era of history and opened the door to a new one…

Continue reading. And check out this chart:

Tax havens

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 11:01 am

Do you still have your vinyl LPs?

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Take a look at this Cool Tools review of an incredible resource.

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3 April 2009 at 10:37 am

Transparency stalled in OLC memo release

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Obama promised transparency and a cooperative attitude toward FOIA requests, but some problems are becoming evident. Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

The Justice Department on Thursday again delayed disclosure of three critical legal memos written by Steven Bradbury, then a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), that reportedly authorized the the CIA to torture prisoners. This is at least the second time that the government has postponed responding to a federal judge — who originally ordered the government to either produce the memos or justify withholding them by last October — in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The disclosure is reportedly a subject of heated debate within the Justice Department.

In his latest ruling on the matter, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein in New York had given the Justice Department an extension until Thursday to disclose the memos or explain its refusal. The ACLU yesterday said that it agreed to the government’s request to extend the deadline in exchange for commitments by the government that high-level officials will consider releasing not only the Bradbury memos written in May 2005, but also an August 2002 memo written by Jay S. Bybee, then head of OLC. The Bush administration had refused to produce the Bybee memo.

“Collectively, these memos supplied the framework for an interrogation program that permitted the most barbaric forms of abuse, violated domestic and international law, alienated America’s allies and yielded information that was both unreliable and unusable in court,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, in a statement. “While we are disappointed that the Bradbury memos were not released today, we are optimistic that the extension will result in the release of information that would not otherwise have been available to the public.”

The release of these memos has been highly anticipated, in part because if they provide legal justifications for torture and other plainly illegal conduct, they could be used in future prosecutions of former Bush administration officials to claim that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel was used by senior Bush officials to provide legal cover for unlawful government conduct…

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3 April 2009 at 10:35 am

The case for a public healthcare plan

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From the Center for American Progress in an email and well worth reading:

Though President Obama and 73 percent of voters strongly support a new public health insurance plan that can compete with private insurers equally and transparently within an insurance exchange, some lawmakers have indicated that a public plan may not be part of the final reform legislation. Yesterday, the Congressional Progressive Caucus threatened "to vote against any health plan that doesn’t include a public plan option." "We have polled CPC members very carefully in recent weeks and a strong majority will only support comprehensive healthcare reform legislation that includes a public plan option on a level playing field with private health insurance plans," explained CPC co-chairmen Reps. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)." Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has recently said that the public plan is just a bargaining chip to "encourage the private health insurance industry to move in the direction it knows it should move toward — namely, health insurance reform, which means eliminating pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, modified community rating." "I think we can accomplish" health care reform "without" a public plan, Baucus said in an interview with The Progress Report. The insurance industry asserts that a new public plan would underpay medical providers, increase costs for Americans with insurance, and force millions to leave the employer market and move into a public plan. There is also limited bipartisan support for the plan. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has warned that there is "no GOP support for a plan that included a government option" and in March, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to Obama, effectively taking this option off the table.

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Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2009 at 10:15 am

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