Later On

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

Archive for April 23rd, 2009

Closing the service academies

leave a comment »

Tom Ricks has some interesting posts—and even more interesting comments—concerning his proposal that the Army, Navy, and Air Force Academies be shuttered. (But not the Coast Guard Academy: interesting.)

Rather than try to excerpt these, let me just list them and recommend that you read them, including comments.

Closing the academies and war colleges (II)

Jumping from the Ivy League to olive drab (II)

Closing the war colleges and the academies (III): Who said this?

Does West Point produce good leaders?

From Ivy League to olive drab (III): what happens once they’re in

The academy strikes back

Data on different sorts of officers

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Education, Military

How they lie

leave a comment »

A good article by Michael Tomasky in the Guardian:

From the second I read the sentence, I knew there was something fishy about it. Many years’ experience in reading and then looking into rightwing canards set off the usual alarm bells in my head. So I know how these things work. But even I was shocked after I looked into the truth of the matter.

My daily readings led me to an interview with Newt Gingrich in Christianity Today. The former speaker was asked whether opposition to tax increases was an adequate "uniting message" for his party. Gingrich replied that there had to be more to the party’s story. For instance, he said:

You have Obama nominating Judge Hamilton, who said in her ruling that saying the words Jesus Christ in a prayer is a sign of inappropriate behavior, but saying Allah would be OK. You’ll find most Republican senators voting against a judge who is confused about whether you can say Jesus Christ in a prayer, particularly one who is pro-Muslim being able to say Allah.

That seemed, frankly, ridiculous. I happened to know that the "Hamilton" in question was from Indiana and had a reputation as a moderate-to-liberal jurist. I also happened to know that "her" first name was David, so Gingrich could not get even this basic fact straight (obviously, he assumed, only some sort of Wiccan lesbian could deliver such a ruling!). So I wanted to know more.

I Googled around, and sure enough, ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

Very good point by Kevin Drum

leave a comment »

Mr. Drum:

When the subject has anything to do with sex, the right in America is the party of moral absolutes.  We know what’s right, we know what’s wrong, and even if there’s a price to pay we can’t shirk our responsibility to set a proper example and do the right thing.

But when the subject is torture, suddenly it’s all about carefully weighing the costs and benefits.  Having an honest debate about how far we should go to protect ourselves.  Understanding the context of what happened.  It’s just not possible to flatly say that waterboarding and sleep deprivation and stress positions are barbarisms unfit for use by a civilized country.  It’s much more complex than that.

Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 2:12 pm

Posted in GOP, Religion

Pardons for torturers

leave a comment »

I don’t agree with this column by Michael Dorf, but I thought it was interesting and worth reading:

Last week, the Justice Department released four previously secret memoranda that the Office of Legal Counsel ("OLC") under President Bush had issued to the CIA. The memos provided an ostensible legal basis for abusive interrogation techniques that were used, during the Bush Administration, against detainees suspected of terrorism. In a statement accompanying the memos’ release, Attorney General Holder also announced that the Obama Administration would not bring federal criminal charges against government officials who acted in reliance on the memos, and would defend them against any international charges and civil lawsuits. Interestingly, Holder’s statement did not explain what, if anything, the Administration plans to do with respect to the people who designed the policy and wrote the memos.

At least six of those people—David Addington, Jay Bybee, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes II, and John Yoo—face the possibility of criminal charges being lodged against them by Spanish investigating judge Baltasar Garzón and by others elsewhere overseas. Meanwhile, some American commentators (mostly on the political left) have argued that these and other current and former government officials should be charged criminally in a U.S. court. Yesterday, President Obama told reporters that he would leave the decision whether to bring charges to the Attorney General "within the parameters of various laws."

Criminal charging decisions are indeed partly a matter of reading the applicable laws. But prosecutors, including the Attorney General, also have discretion, and it is hard to imagine that political considerations would not play some role in the determination whether to seek indictments arising out of the detainee abuse. As I shall explain below, those political considerations make it unlikely that anybody will face domestic criminal charges for torture.

If the Obama Administration ultimately decides not to initiate prosecutions against anybody who designed, justified, or carried out the Bush Administration’s program of detainee abuse, then it ought to consider issuing pardons to all such persons. As I will explain below, doing so would at least have the virtue of acknowledging that wrongs were committed.

The Memos’ Justification for Detainee Abuse

Even before the latest release of memos, it was widely known that the Bush Administration had used waterboarding and other coercive techniques in an effort to extract information from detainees. The newly-released memos are nonetheless significant because they show both how systematic the Bush program of cruelty was, and the lengths to which the Administration went to justify it. The techniques for which the Administration sought legal authority included: nudity; facial immobilization during interrogation; face slapping; abdominal slapping; cramped confinement; stress positions; water dousing; prolonged sleep deprivation; and waterboarding…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Torture

Parochial Senators

leave a comment »

Senators often (generally?) work to protect their home-state contributors rather than promote the national interest and the greater good for the public. While I view the government as having a mission to counterbalance the power and influence of big business, Senators seem generally to view their mission as helping big business do whatever it takes to get bigger. From a story by Mike Lillis:

The House is set to take up a credit card bill on the floor as early as next week — with some White House sponsored amendments expected to be offered during debate. That bill is likely to pass without much resistance (84 House Republicans voted for the same bill last year). In the Senate, where a similar bill barely squeaked out of the Banking Committee last month, success is much less certain. Indeed, protectionist Democrats like South Dakota’s Sen. Tim Johnson and Delaware’s Sen. Tom Carper have a history of voting with the famously regional credit card issuers, leaving consumer advocates all but certain that the Senate bill will need a good deal of watering down to pass the upper chamber.

Johnson and Carper will, of course, say that they are doing their duty to stymie any national initiative that might threaten their biggest donors. So it goes.

The full story, though brief, does contain a statement by President Obama on his principles for the credit-card industry. The principles are good, but the Senate does have its priorities.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 12:50 pm

Balzheimer’s Disease

leave a comment »

Via Dan Froomkin:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Balzheimer’s Disease", posted with vodpod

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 12:38 pm

Posted in GOP

Interesting approach to an invasive fish species

leave a comment »

Eat them all. Here’s the story:

Lionfish 2

A handful of ravenous, venomous lionfish, a species native to the western Pacific, were spotted off North Carolina in 2000.

Turns out they like it here. A lot.

The lionfish population has exploded at a pace unlike anything scientists have ever seen from an invasive fish species in this part of the world. They are appearing in huge numbers from here southward into the Caribbean and are so plentiful that divers off the North Carolina coast routinely find up to 100 on a single shipwreck.

"If you go deeper than 100 feet, they’re ubiquitous now," said Paula Whitfield, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Beaufort. "They’re absolutely everywhere."

Little research has been done on lionfish, and researchers at NOAA’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort are rapidly becoming some of the world’s leading experts as they respond to worried fisheries managers. It’s feared that the newcomers are making life harder for already struggling popular commercial reef fish such as grouper and snapper by stealing their food, seizing their turf and eating their young.

"They’re eating everything," said Lisa A. Mitchell, executive director of Reef Environmental Education Foundation, a Florida nonprofit group that is helping several Caribbean governments deal with the influx of lionfish. "They could wipe out entire reefs."

The odd offshore interloper has joined the growing list of harmful species spread by global commerce, climate change misguided humans, such as zebra mussels in the Great Lakes, and the fire ants and Japanese stilt grass that are problems in the Triangle and elsewhere.

There are so many lionfish off North Carolina already that scientists don’t think it’s possible to eliminate them, but hope there may be ways to at least control the population. The researchers are joining forces with sport divers and even culinary instructors from Carteret Community College to see if the critters can be kept in check with spears, nets and tartar sauce.

Lionfish, it turns out, have a sweet, white meat similar to the tasty groupers and snappers they are threatening…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2009 at 12:22 pm

%d bloggers like this: