Later On

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

Archive for April 24th, 2009

More on Ben Nelson

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This guy should be booted from the Democratic Party, since he doesn’t really seem to hold Democratic values seriously. Satyam Khanna in ThinkProgress:

Greg Sargent reports that centrist Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (NE) — who voted to confirm both Sam Alito and John Roberts — will oppose Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Nelson says he opposes Johnsen, a noted legal scholar and outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s torture program, because of her pro-choice views:

Senator Nelson is very concerned about the nomination of Dawn Johnson, based on her previous position as Counsel for NARAL. He believes that the Office of Legal Counsel is a position in which personal views can have an impact and is concerned about her outspoken pro-choice views on abortion.

Nelson is buying into the right-wing’s war against Johnsen. Outspoken anti-choice Republican Rep. Chris Smith (NJ) said Johnsen has a "a prejudice against motherhood, the family and a fundamental respect for all human life." The National Review’s Andy McCarthy claimed she would be a "culture-war agitator." Republicans have threatened a filibuster against her.

Update: Nelson had opposed the use of the filibuster on John Bolton and former Bush EPA administrator Stephen Johnson. "Nelson generally opposes the filibuster on nominees, even if he doesn’t like the candidate," notes Brian Beutler. It remains to be seen whether he will filibuster Johnsen.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 1:11 pm

"Smoky" Joe Barton defends the energy industry

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Joe Barton is not serious about his duties, obviously. But I do think in part this is because he’s stupid—and, of course, totally owned by the oil industry.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 1:05 pm

Lamb burgers

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This recipe by Mark Bittman sounds great:

Cumin-Spiced Lamb Burgers

Yield 4 servings
Time 30 minutes

The grilling process is familiar: The heat need not be too high, and the heat source should be at least four inches from the rack, to avoid burning. Lamb, because it is leaner than most beef, tends to brown more evenly and catch fire less readily. Turn once or twice, and you are done.

  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb in one-inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon wedges for squeezing

1. Start a charcoal or gas grill, or heat a broiler. The fire should not be too hot, and the rack should be about 4 inches from the heat source.

2. Combine all ingredients except lemon in a food processor, and pulse on and off until meat is ground. Shape into burgers, and grill about 8 minutes total for rare meat, turning once. Squeeze lemon juice over burgers and serve on toasted buns.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Good recipe for a quick and easy spelt bread

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Can’t find it in the store? Then make it at home. This recipe from the SmarterFitter blog is very quick and easy (and photos of the bread at the link):

Three Minute Spelt Bread

You can use whatever seeds or nuts you have on hand to make this recipe. I used almonds, pumpkin and flax seeds.

500g [1.1 lbs] Spelt Flour
10g [1/3 oz] fast-acting dried yeast
1/2 tsp sea salt
50g [1.75 oz] sunflower seeds
50g [1.75 oz] sesame seeds
50g [1.75 oz] linseeds [i.e., flaxseed]
500ml [2.1 cups] warm water

Preheat oven to 200 C / 390 F. Combine all the ingredients, adding the water last. Mix well and turn the dough into a greased loaf tin. Put straight into the oven and bake for an hour. Remove the loaf, turn it out of the tin and then return it to the oven without the tin for another 5-10 minutes.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

What happens when a group gets to break the law with impunity

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An update to a column yesterday by Greenwald:

The Atlantic‘s Ta-Nehisi Coates posts video of the Peggy Noonan comments and writes:

The job of journalists is to challenge the government and to challenge their readers and viewers. What sort of journalist tells his readers that some things must be mysterious?  What sort of writer tells her readers, and viewers, essentially, to not ask too many questions? We have a fine era, when otherwise respected, intelligent, and well-read people step on a national stage and endorse national ignorance.

There’s nothing unusual about Noonan’s mentality; it’s the dominant mindset of our political and media class.  The American Prospect‘s Adam Serwer notes a column from The New York Times‘ Roger Cohen today arguing against prosecutions (of course) and observes:

Cohen’s argument simply reflects the consensus among certain journalistic and political elites that the powerful simply shouldn’t be held accountable when they make mistakes, because, after all, we all make mistakes. This compassionate attitude naturally doesn’t extend beyond this small group. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, fully 1 percent of the population. I’m sure there are millions of people currently incarcerated who would like it if Cohen’s policy of absolution for crimes was extended to them.

That elite-protecting consensus is the central affliction of America’s political culture.  It explains not only how we continuously shield our elites from the consequences of their crimes, but also explains the reason such crimes keep happening.  If you constantly announce to a small group of people that they will be able to break the law with impunity, you are rendering inevitable future rampant criminality. That’s just obvious.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Media

Whatever happened to the rule of law?

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I am stunned by the number of people who want no investigations of the US torture scandal, with indictments and prosecutions as warranted, because it would be a lot of trouble. What planet are these people from?

Of course, that’s probably not the real reason for the opposition. As Glenn Greenwald points out at the end of this column, the reason people fight investigation is because they’re implicated. The conclusion of his column:

Democrats spent the last several years vehemently complaining about the “politicization of the Justice Department” under Alberto Gonzales.  Yet so many of these same Democrats are now demanding that the Obama DOJ refrain from prosecuting Bush criminals based on purely political grounds:  namely, that those prosecutions will interfere with Obama’s political agenda.

Blocking criminal investigations for political reasons is definitively corrupt — period.  That’s true whether Democrats or Republicans do it.  In The New York Times today, Mark Mazzetti and Neil Lewis advance the Jane-Harman/Alberto-Gonzales/AIPAC scandal by making clear that at the core of the scandal lies the actions of Alberto Gonzales, who intervened to block a criminal investigation of Harman for purely political reasons:

One reason Mr. Gonzales intervened, the former officials said, was to protect Ms. Harman because they saw her as a valuable administration ally in urging The New York Times not to publish an article about the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants.

As Michael Isikoff pointed out on Rachel Maddow’s show earlier this week, what Gonzales did there (blocking a criminal investigation of Harman because the investigation would undermine the White House’s political interests) is extremely similar to what many Obama loyalists are arguing now (that criminal investigations of Bush crimes should be blocked because such investigations would undermine the White House’s political interests).  That is what made the efforts of Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and even Obama to dictate who would and would not be prosecuted so improper:  it the role of independent Justice Department officials to make that decision based on purely legal and apolitical grounds, not the role of White House officials to try to interfere for political reasons.  I was preceded yesterday on Warren Olney’s To the Point program by Philip Zelikow, and Zelikow said:  “I really don’t think the President should have opinions on who should or should not be prosecuted — full stop.”

Punishing politically powerful criminals is about vindicating the rule of law.  Partisan and political considerations should play no role in it.  It is opponents of investigations and prosecutions who are being driven by partisan allegiances and a desire to advance their political interests.  By contrast, proponents of investigations are seeking to vindicate the most apolitical yet crucial principle of our system of government: that we are a nation of laws that cannot allow extremely serious crimes to be swept under the rug for political reasons.  That’s true no matter what is best for Obama’s political goals and no matter how many Democrats end up being implicated — ethically, politically or even legally — by the crimes that were committed.

UPDATE:  Just to underscore how continuously Democrats are complicit in thwarting the rule of law in the United States:   one of Obama’s most impressive and rule-of-law-defending appointees, Dawn Johnsen, has had her nomination as OLC Chief blocked for months by the Right, and the office of a key Democratic Senator — Ben Nelson — just told Greg Sargent that Nelson “is all but certain to vote against Johnsen,” substantially increasingly the GOP’s chances of preventing her from becoming head of the OLC.  That’s our bipartisan Washington establishment in a nutshell:  key Bush torture architects such as John Rizzo and Bush intelligence policy defenders such as John Brennan are able to remain in positions of high power in the Obama administration, while those, like Johnsen, who want accountability for government crimes are considered fringe, extremist and unfit for office.

Is Sen. Ben Nelson really a Democrat? He doesn’t much act like one.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 12:37 pm

Does New Jersey really want this guy as governor?

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Lee Fang reports for ThinkProgress:

While serving as a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration, Christopher Christie, now a Republican candidate for Governor in New Jersey, tracked the whereabouts of citizens through their cell phones without warrants. The ACLU obtained the documents detailing the spying program from the Justice Department in an ongoing lawsuit over cell phone tracking.

While the documents reveal 79 such cases on or after Sept. 12, 2001, they do not specify how many of the applications were made during Christie’s tenure. Christie served as U.S. attorney from Jan. 17, 2002 through November 2008. ACLU staff attorney Catherine Crump noted:

Tracking the location of people’s cell phones reveals intimate details of their daily routines and is highly invasive of their privacy. The government is violating the Constitution when it fails to get a search warrant before tracking people this way.

The new revelations about the cell phone tracking program under Christie is yet another example of the warrantless spying programs authorized under the Bush administration. Previous programs approved without a court order or warrant have included the secret program to monitor radiation levels at over 100 Muslim sites and the NSA spying program on the phone and e-mail communications of thousands of people inside the U.S. These programs run contrary to the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids "unreasonable searches" and sets out specific requirements for warrants, including "probable cause."

During his tenure as U.S. attorney, Christie also awarded his former boss, John Ashcroft, a $28-52 million dollar no-bid contract to "monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court." Former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach blasted the decision, saying that awarding a no-bid contract "suggests other political things, and that seems to me to be as wrong as it can be." Christie also doled out "a multi-million-dollar, no bid contract to an ex-federal prosecutor who declined to criminally prosecute Christie’s brother on stock fraud charges two years earlier."

Christie’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, declined to comment on the cell phone spying program "due to pending litigation."

Written by LeisureGuy

24 April 2009 at 12:08 pm

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