Later On

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

Archive for April 10th, 2009

How companies should think

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Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Books, Business

Drinking styles

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And, speaking of drinks, here’s an interesting post from Mind Hacks:

I’ve just re-read the fantastic Social Issues Research Centre article on social and cultural aspects of drinking and it has an amusing section illustrating the difference between British and French drinking cultures which helps to explain why the British have a reputation for drunkenness when they visit the continent.

The article discusses the link between alcohol and the marking of celebrations in different cultures, noting that in the UK, serving alcohol socially is usually associated with marking the occasion as ‘special’ or ‘different’ in some way whereas in France, booze has a more neutral meaning, so social drink doesn’t so strongly imply something is being celebrated.

The British visit France. Hilarity ensues.

McDonald (1994) provides an amusing illustration of the different perceptions of the drinking/festivity connection in different European cultures, and the misunderstandings that can result:

"Many modern visitors from Britain on a first visit to France have had experience of this for themselves. Drinks may be offered at ten o’clock in the morning, for example. This is obviously going to be one of those days. What are we celebrating? During the midday meal, wine is served. What fun! What are we celebrating? The bars are open all afternoon, and people seem to be drinking. What a riot! What are we celebrating?

Pastis is served at six o’clock. Whoopee! These people certainly know how to celebrate. More wine is served with dinner. And so on. Wine has different meanings, different realities, in the two contexts, and a festive and episodic drinking culture meets a daily drinking culture, generating a tendency to celebrate all day. This has often happened to groups of young British tourists, now renowned in France and elsewhere in Europe for their drinking and drunkenness."

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

International complicity in the US torture program

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Joanne Mariner of FindLaw:

A growing scandal has erupted in Britain over the government’s role in human rights abuses, centering on claims of British involvement in the torture of terrorist suspects detained abroad. The uproar was sparked by allegations by former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed that British agents were complicit in his abuse, but it has since broadened significantly in its scope.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national who had lived for several years in the UK, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He claims that he was questioned by a British intelligence agent while detained and mistreated in Karachi, and that later, after he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco, a British agent provided questions that he was asked by interrogators who tortured him. He was later moved to Afghanistan and then spent years in military detention at Guantanamo.

The British Attorney General announced last month that she would ask the police to probe allegations of "possible criminal wrongdoing" in relation to Mohamed, who was released from Guantanamo in February.

Britain is hardly alone in having collaborated with the US in "war on terror" abuses. In my last two columns, I explored some examples of such collaboration, showing how other countries facilitated abusive US practices. Today’s column sets out a few more examples, underscoring the need for countries besides the UK to carry out a searching probe of their records…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 12:00 pm

Sort of cute

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Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, DuPont Crop Protection, et al. are distressed that the White House garden is not putting their chemicals on the food. Unbelievable. Read it here. So they want the White House to dose the garden with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and the like. Make the food better, you know.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:51 am

Calling Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL)

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ThinkProgress has this brief note by Ali Frick:

While touring his district yesterday, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, declared that 17 of his House colleagues “are socialists”, according to the Birmingham News:

But he said he is worried that he is being steered too far by the Congress: “Some of the men and women I work with in Congress are socialists.”

Asked to clarify his comments after the breakfast speech at the Trussville Civic Center, Bachus said 17 members of the U.S. House are socialists.

Roll Call reports, “An e-mail to Bachus’ spokesman about the names of those 17 Members was not returned.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) could ask Bachus if he would support her call for a McCarthy-like investigation into the “anti-American” views of her peers in Congress.

I have Skype (love it!) and the Firefox Skype add-on lets me call a number by clicking on it. So looked up the number for Rep. Bachus’s DC office and easily found it: 202-225-4921. I call, and the office is open, so with great excitement I ask for the list of names. "It’s important to know who these socialists are," I say. No disagreement there.

Unfortunately, the Congressman is back in the district, and is not in contact with his office. But he’ll be back on April 20, so I told Jonathan (the guy I spoke with) that I would definitely call back for the list then, because it’s important to know who these people are.

This is fun.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:45 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Problems with Panetta

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Daphne Eviatar has a good take on the Panetta problem:

Following up on Spencer’s post about CIA Director Leon Panetta’s letter to his employees: Panetta’s statement that CIA officers “should not be investigated, let alone punished,” because this “is what fairness and wisdom require,” is not surprising. But it may not be all that wise, either.

Panetta, of course, has to win the support of his agency’s staff, many of whom weren’t so happy that President Obama picked a man with no intelligence agency background. Saying they shouldn’t be punished for following orders is one way to start doing that. And given that most people are more interested in going after the architects of the Bush administration’s torture policies than in prosecuting those who carried it out, Panetta might have thought his statement wouldn’t be all that controversial.

But I’m not sure it’s a good idea to start handing out blanket immunity to the people who carried out “extreme” interrogations that included torture and that they might well have known were illegal. Setting aside the fact that we didn’t buy that “just following orders” defense at Nuremberg, as a practical matter, excusing all those people from the start could doom the prosecution of higher-ups. (But maybe that’s the point.)

From a prosecutor’s perspective, the people carrying out the orders are precisely the ones who can provide the key evidence against the officials that gave them. But if you declare from the beginning that they’re all free to go, you’ve just thrown out any incentive you can offer them to cooperate. How smart is that?

What’s more, as John Sifton wrote in The Daily Beast, Panetta’s message also looks pretty self-serving, given that lots of the CIA officials who could be implicated in the torture policy, such as Stephen Kappes, are still at high levels in the agency, and are now Panetta’s advisers.

The other odd thing about Panetta’s message is what it says — or doesn’t say, rather — about current CIA policy and operations.

Panetta said he’s closing down the controversial CIA “black sites” where people were tortured during the Bush administration. But from his letter, it’s not clear if they’re closed or not, or if he just plans to close them in the future, and what exactly is taking so long?

Here’s his statement:

CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites and has proposed a plan to decommission the remaining sites. I have directed our Agency personnel to take charge of the decommissioning process and have further directed that the contracts for site security be promptly terminated. It is estimated that our taking over site security will result in savings of up to $4 million.

Is he closing the sites down or taking over site security? Is the CIA still operating secret black sites or not? And why does it take so long to “decommission” a bunch of secret prisons anyway?

Panetta’s going to have to be more clear about his intentions if he’s going to have any credibility — with his own staff, as well as with the public.

When it comes to prosecutions, though …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:35 am

Joe Klein takes apart Charles Krauthammer

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Excellent blog post by Joe Klein:

Charles Krauthammer, the ultimate bleating-heart neoconservative, is all atwitter over Barack Obama’s foreign trip. Where most rational observers saw a significant U.S. triumph, the beginning of our reconciliation with the rest of the world after eight years of stupid bellicosity, destructive threats and empty bluster, Krauthammer sees decline and weakness. Obama admitted past U.S. misbehavior! That is surely a sign of weakness… or maybe, perhaps, a sign of renewed strength? Or maybe, it’s just being honest, a quality the Bush Administration eschewed. The Euros chose not to play on Afghanistan? Perhaps that had something to do with the Bush Administration’s myopic avoidance of that theater of battle for the past seven years—the Euros, not the heartiest of allies when it comes to warmaking, were left to fend for themselves without any U.S. leadership or much U.S. support and they are aching to leave now. Over the next year, we’ll see what effect a renewed US good-faith effort in  Afghanistan has when it comes to stiffening the spines of our allies. The Euros didn’t buy Obama’s plea for a stimulus plan? Perhaps that has something to do with the rampant corruption that has marked US-style capitalism during the Reagan-Bush era. Oh—and uh-oh—another sign of Obama’s embrace of weakness: he actually admitted that the US finance-thieves had been part of the problem.

And there was—oh. my. God.—the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn’t work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don’t work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested). The real North Korean threat, created by George W. Bush’s first-term ineptness, is the nuclear fuel that was produced in the past six years—fuel that the wildly impoverished North Koreans could sell to terrorists or rogue states (as they sold their nuclear plant design to the Syrians). That is a threat that doesn’t yield easily to the empty bluster of neocons—indeed, it was accelerated by US bluster.

The point is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:32 am

Obama has problems with transparency

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Particularly in his bailout plan and his hiding evidence regarding the US torture program, which (I suppose) makes him an accessory after the fact. Mary Kane points out how the Administration is pressuring banks to keep quiet:

So much for that transparency and openness when it comes to the Obama administration’s financial rescue efforts: The Federal Reserve has reportedly told banks to keep quiet when it comes to the results of stress tests done to find out more about their bottom lines, Bloomberg reports.

The story cites “people familiar with the matter” who say the Fed asked the banks to keep mum.

The Fed wants to ensure that the report cards don’t leak during earnings conference calls scheduled for this month. Such a scenario might push stock prices lower for banks perceived as weak and interfere with the government’s plan to release the results in an orderly fashion later this month.

The stress tests are being used to determine how well banks will be able to weather the recession. Some of the analysts interviewed by Bloomberg agreed with the Fed’s approach, saying the stress tests could distract from earnings results, and have the potential to overly influence the stock market.

That may well be true. But the lack of transparency surrounding the government’s rescue efforts already has created a suspicion and mistrust, and concern that things are really much worse than what’s being reported. Banks being ordered to stay quiet on stress tests will only add to this.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:25 am

Office design through the decades

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The idea is that office design reflects how work is conceived. Very interesting article by Cliff Kuang at Wired. It begins:

Since the dawn of the white-collar age, office designs have cycled through competing demands: openness versus privacy, interaction versus autonomy. Here’s a brief history of how seating arrangements have reflected our changing attitudes toward work.

Continue reading to see the layout diagrams.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:06 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Interesting: customers like traffic-light food labels

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Marion Nestle at Food Politics:

Lots of well meaning people are trying to develop systems for labeling foods by their degree of nutritional quality (I file posts on this topic under Scoring systems).  My preference is for traffic lights — green for eat anytime, yellow for once-in-a-while, and red for hardly ever).  So I was not surprised to see an announcement of a new study from Australia that tested consumers’ understanding of several kinds of food ranking systems.  According to the study itself, traffic lights beat out the other systems tested in helping consumers choose healthier foods.  I hear rumors that the Institute of Medicine is starting a study to evaluate consumers’ understanding of the various kinds of ranking labels on food products.  I suppose we will need to wait until that study is complete – a process that usually takes two or three years – before we hear its conclusion.  If we have to have one system, I’m voting for traffic lights.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 11:01 am

This bartender REALLY knows his stuff

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Note that the Martini would be stirred, NOT shaken.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 10:59 am

This is how to make an Old Fashioned

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I heartily endorse this recipe and method. Cracked ice is what I usually use: not finely cracked, but chunks of ice. And I do like a squeeze of lemon peel over the top at the end. Otherwise, he and I are in total agreement:

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 10:58 am

Brief outing

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Had to return library books, deposit state tax refund, pick up some quarters for laundry (I hate running out: I got 6 rolls this time), and measured a .5 mile distance from the apartment: there and back = 1 mile. So after lunch I’ll take a little walk.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life

Fighting change with all their heart

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The conservatives are gearing up to challenge another Obama appointee. David Weigel has the story in the Washington Independent:

A coalition of conservative activists is beginning to form around opposition to Harold Koh, President Obama’s nominee to become the legal advisor for the Department of State. In Koh, opponents of “transnational” legal theory have found a test case to prove that international law is a political loser–and a way to preemptively discredit a possible candidate for the Supreme Court.

“This is the culmination of years of arguments about international law superseding our own Constitution,” explained John Fonte, a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who is lobbying conservative jurists and lawyers to sign a letter opposing the Koh nomination. “This had been an academic argument, then an obscure argument, but it’s surfacing now because there’s real scrutiny being paid to Harold Koh’s views.” Other conservatives who talked about Koh on Wednesday wanted to take the chance to “create a paper trail” of Koh criticism, to knock him down the list of possible Supreme Court appointees.

Koh, the dean of Yale Law School since 2004 and a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor under President Bill Clinton, was announced as the nominee for the State Department job on March 23. His nomination didn’t come as much of a surprise to conservatives, as Koh, long considered one of the most powerful legal minds on the left, had been floated as a possible Obama Supreme Court nominee as long ago as September 2008. At the time, Center for Ethics and Public Policy President Ed Whelan wrote a series of posts about Koh’s legal theories for National Review Online, digesting Koh’s views for conservative readers. Among Koh’s sins were appealing to “decent respect to the opinions of humankind” in opposing the death penalty, declaring “lesbian and transgender rights” a closely-held legal position, and citing “international and foreign court decisions” in an amicus brief arguing for the overturn of Texas’s sodomy law.

“What judicial transnationalism is really all about,” wrote Whelan, “is depriving American citizens of their powers of representative government by selectively imposing on them the favored policies of Europe’s leftist elites.” …

Continue reading. Apparently the GOP doesn’t understand that, if you lose the election, the people being appointed will not be Republicans, generally speaking. (Gates is a Republican: good counterexample.)

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:50 am

Embracing change

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Change is always difficult, it seems. Lane Wallace has an interesting post at the blog No Map. No Guide. No Limits.™ titled “Change or Die”. It begins:

Every January, the gym where I work out is jam-packed with new members. For about six weeks, it’s a frenetic zoo. And then … it goes back to normal. It’s as predictable as the coming of spring. The regulars remain. But all those good intentions of people wishing to change their fitness levels and workout routines just don’t last. Why is that? Answer: because change is hard. Old patterns and behaviors give up their dominance reluctantly, for a variety reasonsboth neurological and psychological. This is hardly a news flash.

But exactly how ingrained our resistance to change is … that’s the first shocker of  Alan Deutschman’s Change or Die (which started life as an article in the magazine Fast Company, and then became a book by the same title). Imagine, Deutschman says, that your doctor says that you must either change something about your lifestyle or die. You’d change, right? Wrong. Or, at least, wrong 90% of the time.

Yup. Statistically, a whopping one out of 10 people actually manage to effect and maintain changes they attempt … even when their lives depend on it. This is why diet centers will never go out of business. And, perhaps, why we shouldn’t expect spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends/significant others to magically alter ingrained dysfunction or habits. “I’ll change!” is the perennial cry of the about-to-be-jilted. But the sobering truth, according to many who study the subject, is, “No, you won’t. You’ll mean to. You’ll want to. You’ll even make a stab at it. But then you’ll slide back.” After all, if most of us don’t even manage change when our lives depend on it, a mere relationship or marriage isn’t going to tip the balance.

So, that’s the bad news. But wait! There’s hope, as well, Deutschman says. Just because people don’t tend to change doesn’t mean they can’t. He points to researchers like Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, who put heart disease patients on a rigorous diet and lifestyle change program for a year. Three years later, 77% of them had managed to maintain the lifestyle changes.

From that study, and the work of others who’ve looked at instances where individuals and companies have managed to effect lasting change on their attitudes and behavior, Deutschman draws several conclusions: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:47 am

Posted in Daily life

The TARP thing

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Paul Krugman in his blog:

The oversight panel’s report on the TARP and all that is out, and politics aside, it’s a terrific resource, with excellent short histories of what has been done at other times and in other places.

Interestingly,John Sununu files what amounts to a protest against any discussion of alternative approaches. Because clearly, nobody in government should even consider the possibility that current policy is on the wrong track.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:43 am

Shilling for the F-22

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Ali Frick at ThinkProgress:

Last year, the New York Times revealed that numerous cable news “military analysts” never disclosed their ties to military contractors. Yesterday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney appeared on Fox News to discuss the Somali pirates situation, and managed to use it as an opportunity to shill for the F-22:

McINERNEY: I’d put F-22s and combat air patrol out there, two of them, with tankers. … The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter cannon.

Gawker flagged the appearance and noted that McInerney, conveniently, worked as a consultant to Northrop Grumman, a major contractor for the F-22. Watch it:

“It doesn’t take an Air Force general to see how bizarre McInerney’s military reasoning is,” Gawker’s Ryan Tate writes, noting that the F-22 — an exceedingly expensive fighter jet designed for air combat — could do nothing to solve the current problem.

Some of the comments at the link:

noseeum Says:

McINERNEY: … “The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter canon.”

This is extremely important when combating wooden boats with outboard motors.

noseeum Says:

“Red Leader to Gold Leader, did you see anything?”
“Gold Leader to Red Leader… negative sir, but I think we’re over Australia by now, perhaps we should double back…”
krazeeinjun Says:

Yes — let’s use a $360 million dollar aircraft to chase some rag-tag “pirates” scooting around the Gulf of Aden in rickety wooden boats with outboard motors. What a brilliant idea!

Maybe it’s that kind of thinking which explains why the General is no longer a General and is now a resident Fox know-nothing preaching to the rubes.

Just saying . . .

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:34 am

Posted in Business, GOP, Media, Military

Steele and the US Census

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David Kurtz quotes interesting points raised by his readers:

Some reader reaction to the RNC fundraising letter claiming Obama and ACORN want to rig the 2010 census.

TPM Reader HL:

Michael Steele is playing a dangerous game with that fund-raising letter, and people are going to die because of it.

Nine years ago, my wife worked for the Census, knocking on people’s doors and gathering information. There’s no way she’ll do it again next year. Steele is making it too dangerous.

Census takers put themselves in vulnerable positions. They don’t know who or what is on the other side of the door. The door might be opened by a sexual predator, or someone who’s not in control of a vicious dog. Or the door could be opened by someone with a gun in one hand and Steele’s letter in the other, seething with hatred for liberals and ACORN.

Remember that gunman who attacked a Unitarian church last year, and left behind a letter urging people to kill liberals? I’m convinced that there are plenty of unbalanced people who won’t leave their houses to seek liberals to kill, but will kill a "radical leftist" (Steele’s words) who knocks on their door in a mission to "falsify the U.S. Census and manipulate elections in their favor" (again, Steele’s words).

There’s been an astonishing number of gun rampages in this country in the last month, and at least one (in Pittsburgh) was politically motivated, by a man who had been convinced that the liberals wanted to take away his guns. For Steele to choose this time to use inflammatory language to politicize the Census … well, this is a very frightening development. The comments accompanying TPM’s article make it seem like most readers are bemused by Steele’s letter. But it’s not a laughing matter.

Let’s describe Steele’s actions for what they are: The chairman of the Republican Party is raising money by politicizing the decennial Census and inciting violence against Census takers. I’m sure Steele would deny that he’s trying to incite people, but this letter is being mailed during a time of rampant violence, some of it targeting liberals. It must be viewed in this context.

TPM Reader JG:

I was a census taker in the year 2000 in Atlanta, which meant I followed up on forms that hadn’t been turned in.

I remember having a hard time getting any information at all from hard-core right-wing radio listeners — in this case, fans of Neal Boortz, Mr. Fair Tax, who is based in Atlanta. I had to beg and plead with them, citing the Constitution’s call for a census, before they would even tell me how many people lived in the house. Never would give me their names.

Don’t be surprised if tax protesters turn into census protesters, which will screw things up. Who knows? Maybe the right wing will disappear completely after the 2010 census.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:31 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Greenwald comments on the Bush-Obama stance

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Greenwald has a good column commenting on the TPMmuckraker article on how Obama has adopted Bush’s radical "state secrets" position, which seems to be that the government can stop any investigation or lawsuit by uttering the magic phrase "King’s X state secrets neener neener." His column is well worth reading simply to explore the links he cites. Here’s just one bit:

… This controversy is clearly growing, as well it should.  These radical theories were not ancillary to the liberal critique of Bush/Cheney lawlessness but central to it.  Last night on CBS News, Katie Couric repeatedly asked Eric Holder about this issue, and — as The Washington Independent‘s Daphne Eviatar noted — Holder was forced to say that he has reviewed the cases where the Obama administration invoked "state secrets" and agreed with virtually everything the Bush administration did in those cases with regard to that doctrine, making clear (as Eviatar put it) "that the Obama administration [with the possible exception of one unnamed case] is unlikely to depart dramatically from the Bush administration’s position on the use of the state secrets privilege."

The Bush administration’s use of the "state secrets" privilege was the linchpin of its efforts to shield its criminality from judicial review and — as Democrats, progressives and other Bush critics repeatedly argued — was one of the principal prongs of its lawlessness and radicalism.  Yet here is the Obama administration doing exactly the same thing and now admitting that they intend to continue to do so.  Relatedly, Jim White digs up some election year Obama quotes to underscore what a betrayal of Obama’s constant commitments these actions are. 

Finally, …

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:28 am

The US NEEDS a torture investigation

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From the Center for American Progress:

Although the CIA stated yesterday that it will decommission overseas prisons where detainees were tortured, CIA Director Leon Panetta announced that he would not punish those who perpetrated the acts. He said officers who committed such acts "should not be investigated, let alone punished" because the Justice Department under President Bush had assured them that their actions were legal.  The New York Times writes that Panetta’s move to close the prisons "underscored the new administration’s sharp break with policies" from the Bush administration after 9/11. However, "a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta," writes The Daily Beast’s John Sifton. "Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry. Indeed, as Salon’s Glen Greenwald writes, Panetta’s stance reflects an administration "vigorously shielding criminals from all investigation and accountability." Meanwhile, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) insists he is still "continuing to explore" the idea of a truth commission-style torture investigation in Congress even though he told several of his constituents last week that the political opposition from Republicans may be too great to overcome.

I totally do not get the idea that those who tortured suspects should not even be investigated—that’s embracing ignorance as a policy, and the idea is stupid, so far as I can see. Without an investigation, we cannot know how deep the rot penetrated nor how likely it is that torture as a US policy will return. Panetta is mimicking the "See no evil" monkey.

Panetta also omits the fact that the torture of prisoners legally REQUIRES an investigation, according to treaties and laws of the US. So we’re treated to the spectacle of more law-breaking in high places. The following is from a story by Scott Shane in the NY Times:

… This week, at his confirmation hearing, Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general-designate, did not hesitate to express a clear view. He noted that waterboarding had been used to torment prisoners during the Inquisition, by the Japanese in World War II and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.

“We prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam,” Mr. Holder said. “Waterboarding is torture.”

In the view of many historians and legal authorities, Mr. Holder was merely admitting the obvious. He was agreeing with the clear position of his boss-to-be, President-elect Barack Obama, and he was giving an answer that almost certainly was necessary to win confirmation.

Yet his statement, amounting to an admission that the United States may have committed war crimes, opens the door to an unpredictable train of legal and political consequences. It could potentially require a full-scale legal investigation, complicate prosecutions of individuals suspected of committing terrorism and mire the new administration in just the kind of backward look that Mr. Obama has said he would like to avoid.

Mr. Holder’s statement came just two days after the Defense Department official in charge of military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said in an interview with The Washington Post that she had refused to permit a trial for one detainee there, Mohammed al-Qahtani, because she believed he had been tortured.

Together the statements, from a current and an incoming legal official, cover both the Central Intelligence Agency, which has acknowledged waterboarding three captured operatives of Al Qaeda, and the military’s detention program.

Legal experts across the political spectrum said the statements would make it difficult for the incoming administration to avoid a criminal investigation of torture, even as most also say a successful prosecution might well be impossible.

Two obvious obstacles stand in the way of a prosecution: legal opinions from the Justice Department that declared even the harshest interrogation methods to be legal, and a provision in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that grants strong legal protections to government employees who relied on such legal advice in counterterrorism programs.

Still, Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said, “It would be contrary to the principles of the criminal justice system for the attorney general to say he believes a very serious crime has been committed and then to do nothing about it.”

Charles D. Stimson, who served as the Defense Department’s top official on detainee affairs from 2004 to 2007 and is now a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the statements “certainly will increase the pressure on Holder to mount some kind of investigation.”

In addition to domestic political pressures, the United States appears to have a legal obligation as a party to the international Convention against Torture to follow up on the torture statements. That treaty requires signatory states to conduct a “prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.”

Emphasis added. Leon Panetta is suggesting that the US simply ignore its treat obligations. Interesting. Someone should ask him about that.

Written by Leisureguy

10 April 2009 at 9:18 am

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