Later On

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

Archive for April 28th, 2009

Blast from the past

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Via ThinkProgress:

And how about this one:

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 3:05 pm

Arlen Specter on the need to roll back Presidential power-grabs

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In the NY Review of Books, Sen. Specter writes:

In the seven and a half years since September 11, the United States has witnessed one of the greatest expansions of executive authority in its history, at the expense of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers. President Obama, as only the third sitting senator to be elected president in American history, and the first since John F. Kennedy, may be more likely to respect the separation of powers than President Bush was. But rather than put my faith in any president to restrain the executive branch, I intend to take several concrete steps, which I hope the new president will support.

First, I intend to introduce legislation that will mandate Supreme Court review of lower court decisions in suits brought by the ACLU and others that challenge the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President Bush after September 11. While the Supreme Court generally exercises discretion on whether it will review a case, there are precedents for Congress to direct Supreme Court review on constitutional issues—including the statutes forbidding flag burning and requiring Congress to abide by federal employment laws—and I will follow those.

Second, I will reintroduce legislation to keep the courts open to suits filed against several major telephone companies that allegedly facilitated the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Although Congress granted immunity to the telephone companies in July 2008, this issue may yet be successfully revisited since the courts have not yet ruled on the legality of the immunity provision. My legislation would substitute the government as defendant in place of the telephone companies. This would allow the cases to go forward, with the government footing the bill for any damages awarded.

Further, I will reintroduce my legislation from 2006 and 2007 (the "Presidential Signing Statements Act") to prohibit courts from relying on, or deferring to, presidential signing statements when determining the meaning of any Act of Congress. These statements, sometimes issued when the president signs a bill into law, have too often been used to undermine congressional intent. Earlier versions of my legislation went nowhere because of the obvious impossibility of obtaining two-thirds majorities in each house to override an expected veto by President Bush. Nevertheless, in the new Congress, my legislation has a better chance of mustering a majority vote and being signed into law by President Obama.

To understand why these steps are so important, one must appreciate an imbalance in our "checks and balances" that has become increasingly evident in recent years. I witnessed firsthand, during many of the battles over administration policy since September 11, how difficult it can be for Congress and the courts to rally their members against an overzealous executive.

1. The Terrorist Surveillance Program—Act I

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 2:03 pm

Good news: Appeals Court Reinstates Torture Case Previously Dismissed on ‘State Secrets’ Grounds

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Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

Despite the Obama administration’s surprisingly vigorous arguments that the case had to be dismissed to prevent disclosure of “state secrets,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today reinstated the case of Mohamed v. Jeppesen Dataplan, in which five victims of the CIA’s notorious “extraordinary rendition” (transfer to torture) program sued Jeppesen, a subsidiary of Boeing, for assisting the CIA with the rendition flights.

The three judge panel reversed the lower court’s decision, which had accepted the government’s argument (then made by the Bush administration) that allowing it to move forward would endanger national security.

The logic of the state secrets privilege, the appeals court panel writes (pdf), “simply cannot stretch to encompass cases brought by third-party plaintiffs against alleged government contractors for the contractors’ alleged involvement in tortuous intelligence activities. Nothing the plaintiffs have done supports a conclusion that their ‘lips [are] to be for ever sealed respecting’ the claim on which they sue, such that filing this lawsuit would in itself defeat recovery.”

In other words, as the the American Civil Liberties Union had argued on behalf of the five victims, there is no reason to prevent the victims from having their day in court against a government contractor that they claim knowingly assisted in their torture. Pursuing those claims don’t have to reveal any secret evidence about the CIA program that could be dangerous to disclose.

This is a huge victory, not only for the five victims themselves, but also for many civil liberties advocates. The Obama administration first asserted the “state secrets” privilege in January, upsetting many of the president’s supporters who had hoped that his earlier promises of more open government would put an end to unnecessary secrecy.

Although the Obama administration didn’t change its mind, the federal court has now taken that argument out of its hands.

It remains to be seen whether Justice Department will seek re-hearing from the full court of appeals, or review by the Supreme Court.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 1:56 pm

Interesting broadcast

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Amy Goodman:

The Story of Mitchell Jessen & Associates: How a Team of Psychologists in Spokane, WA, Helped Develop the CIA’s Torture Techniques

We broadcast from Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. We speak with three journalists who have closely followed the story. [includes rush transcript]

Guests:

Mark Benjamin, National correspondent for Salon.com.

Katherine Eban, Investigative reporter and writer for several national publications. Her July 2007 article for Vanity Fair, “Rorschach and Awe.”

Karen Dorn Steele, a local investigative reporter who covered Mitchell and Jessen for The Spokesman-Review. She won a George Polk Award for a 1994 newspaper series on squandered money in the $50 billion Hanford Nuclear Reservation cleanup, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site.

Rush Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in Spokane, Washington, less than three miles from the headquarters of a secretive CIA contractor that played a key role in developing the Bush administration’s interrogation methods. The firm, Mitchell Jessen & Associates, is named after the two military psychologists who founded the company, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

Beginning in 2002, the CIA hired the psychologists to train interrogators in brutal techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and pain. Both of the men had years of military training in a secretive program known as SERE—Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape—which teaches soldiers to endure captivity in enemy hands. Mitchell and Jessen reverse-engineered the tactics taught in SERE training for use on prisoners held in the CIA’s secret prisons.

The declassified torture memos released last week relied heavily on the advice of Mitchell and Jessen. In one memo, Justice Department attorney Jay Bybee wrote, quote, “Based on your research into the use of these methods at the SERE school and consultation with others with expertise in the field of psychology and interrogation, you do not anticipate that any prolonged harm would result from the use of the waterboard.”

Well, today we’re going to take a detailed look at Mitchell Jessen’s role. We’re joined now by three journalists who have closely followed this story. Katherine Eban joins us from New York. Her 2007 article in vanityfair.com, “Rorschach and Awe,” gave a detailed account of the role of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. Mark Benjamin joins us from Washington, DC, national correspondent for Salon.com. He wrote about Mitchell and Jessen in his 2007 article called “The CIA’s Torture Teachers.” And here in Spokane, I’m joined by Karen Steele. She is a former reporter at The Spokesman-Review, where she covered this story.

We called Mitchell Jessen & Associates, based here in Spokane, not far from these studios, to invite them on the show, but, well, we did not hear back from them. Mitchell and Jessen have avoided speaking to the media for years. Two years ago, they released a statement to Vanity Fair that read, quote, “We are proud of the work we have done for our country.”

Well, why don’t we begin first with Mark Benjamin in Washington. How did you first hear of Mitchell and Jessen, Mitchell Jessen & Associates?

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 1:40 pm

African-American farmers seek fair treatment

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From Obama Foodorama:

The National Black Farmers Association is calling for President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to re-open the Pigford settlement, a 1999 agreement between a group of black farmers and the federal government. Pigford was a monetary settlement that attempted to compensate black farmers for decades of racially discriminatory USDA lending and credit practices. But thousands of farmers missed the filing deadline to apply, because they weren’t aware a lawsuit even existed. Since 1999, black lawmakers have sought to reopen the suit.

Last year, while still a Senator and on the campaign trail, President Obama was among a group of lawmakers who got $100 million added to the 2008 farm Bill, to be distributed to those farmers who had been locked out of the original Pigford settlement, even though the estimated amount for full compensation is closer to $4 billion. The Justice Department has recently filed to cap total payments to black farmers at the $100 million, which is causing outrage among black farmers and leaders. In a meeting last Wednesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus called on the Obama administration to hold meetings to discuss the issue. Aides have responded, indicating that the black farmers will get their grievance addressed.

And Ag Secretary Vilsack has indicated a willingness to work with NBFA, too; he’s made correcting the discriminatory practices of USDA a priority. In a memo sent to USDA employees Tuesday, Vilsack said the department would work with Justice to resolve late Pigford claims “fairly and expeditiously.”

“We agree more needs to be done not only on this particular issue but on civil rights in general. We are working internally at USDA as well as with the Department of Justice to ensure that people are treated fairly,” Vilsack wrote…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 1:27 pm

Putting paid to a stupid notion

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One tack the torture fans have taken is that waterboarding et al. can’t be torture because they’re part of  SERE training and thus done to American troops. This is so wrong-headed that it sets some sort of record: being subjected to a the "stress interrogation techniques" by your comrades, with the knowledge that you will have to experience it only once, and that at the end of the day you’re free—that’s rather different than being in the hands of your enemies in some remote location, with the chance of rescue falling to zero, and being subjected to the torture for weeks. Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent:

Anyone following the twists and turns of the increasingly cacophonous torture debate knows by now that one way the Office of Legal Counsel justified its many “extreme” interrogation methods — simulated drowning, slamming prisoners’ heads into walls, prolonged sleep and food deprivation, confinement boxes with insects, etc. — is by saying that all of this was proven not to cause any harm, physical or mental. These claims are based on the techniques’ use on U.S. soldiers undergoing SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape] training.

So on a Federalist Society-sponsored conference call with reporters this morning, David Rivkin, a corporate defense lawyer and former Justice Department official under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, reiterated the point that SERE trainees were never really hurt by their training; therefore, neither were suspected terrorists.  Accordingly, the techniques cannot possibly have violated domestic or international law forbidding torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

“It’s in this area that SERE research is so compelling,” said Rivkin. “Researchers went back at frequent intervals and analyzed large numbers of people” who underwent this training, and there was “no evidence to show that SERE training caused mental pain and suffering.”

OK, let’s set aside for a second that the memos also noted that interrogators in real-life situations at CIA black sites probably weren’t following the same laboratory-controlled conditions that SERE trainers follow on a U.S. military base, and, as Spencer has pointed out, that the trainers themselves acknowledged that such practices violate international law.

Focusing purely on the psychological impact of the techniques:  if you’re a soldier undergoing training under carefully monitored conditions, isn’t your experience of those SERE techniques going to be completely different than if you’re a prisoner captured by a foreign country and subjected to them by people trying to extract information from you? Isn’t the whole point of using “extreme interrogation techniques” to terrify the subject, so they will cough up useful information?

In other words, if we’re talking about the psychological impact of the techniques, it’s unclear to me how the impact of SERE training on U.S. soldiers even relevant to gauging the impact of those same acts by hostile interrogators on prisoners labeled “enemy combatants.”

As every lawyer knows, the lawfulness of any action depends heavily on its context. It’s a bit odd how easily some conservative lawyers are ignoring this one.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 1:23 pm

Interesting: CDC trying to do a little cover-up

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CDC needs some serious help with budget, personnel, and mission. But that’s no reason to hide things. Alison Young in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Employees at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have generated about 4,000 pages of documents assessing risks to the agency’s reputation posed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s reporting.

But the CDC is keeping those records secret, despite directives from the Obama administration that federal agencies presume government records are open to the public under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Release of the CDC records “would interfere with the agency’s deliberative process and have a chilling effect on employee discussions,” CDC freedom of information officer Lynn Armstrong said in a letter sent this month to the AJC.

The AJC asked for the documents in January 2007, after the newspaper learned that the agency was conducting risk analyses of this reporter’s news-gathering rather than releasing information of interest to the public. At the time, the AJC was pursuing stories about morale problems and an exodus of key scientists from the Atlanta-based agency, CDC’s chaotic response to Hurricane Katrina, lab animal welfare violations and costly taxpayer-funded construction projects at the agency’s campus on Clifton Road.

For complex document requests, the CDC reports that its median processing time is just 38 days (and just 11 days for simple requests). But several AJC requests have been pending for a year; some for more than two years…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 12:28 pm

The crazed GOP

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Senator Judd Gregg is outraged that the Democrats are going to use budget reconciliation for healthcare. Yet, as ThinkProgress notes:

Gregg supported the use of reconciliation when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. “We are using the rules of the Senate here,” said Gregg in 2005 as he defended using reconciliation to open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. "Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.”

It’s hard to know whether Gregg is stupid, hypocritical, crazy, or just liking to cause trouble rather than govern responsibly.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 10:55 am

Posted in Congress, Daily life, GOP

Sad note about Right wing credulity

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Apparently the Right doesn’t understand satire:

The International Journal of Press/Politics, Vol. 14, No. 2, 212-231 (2009)
DOI: 10.1177/1940161208330904

The Irony of Satire Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report Heather L. LaMarre

The Ohio State University, HLaMarre@gmail.com

Kristen D. Landreville

The Ohio State University

Michael A. Beam

The Ohio State University

This study investigated biased message processing of political satire in The Colbert Report and the influence of political ideology on perceptions of Stephen Colbert. Results indicate that political ideology influences biased processing of ambiguous political messages and source in late-night comedy. Using data from an experiment (N = 332), we found that individual-level political ideology significantly predicted perceptions of Colbert’s political ideology. Additionally, there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements. Conservatism also significantly predicted perceptions that Colbert disliked liberalism. Finally, a post hoc analysis revealed that perceptions of Colbert’s political opinions fully mediated the relationship between political ideology and individual-level opinion.

I would love to see how the Right reads Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

New evidence of one of Bush’s secret torture prisons

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Interesting article, originally in Der Spiegel, now translated for Salon:

Only a smattering of clouds dotted the sky over Szymany on March 7, 2003, and visibility was good. A light breeze blew from the southeast as a plane approached the small military airfield in northeastern Poland, and the temperature outside was 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). At around 4 p.m., the Gulfstream N379P — known among investigators as the "torture taxi" — touched down on the landing strip.

On board was the most important prisoner the U.S. had been able to produce in the war on terror: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, also known as "the brains" behind al-Qaida. This was the man who had presented Osama bin Laden with plans to attack the U.S. with commercial jets. He personally selected the pilots and supervised preparations for the attacks. Eighteen months later, on March 1, 2003, Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan by U.S. Special Forces and brought to Afghanistan two days later. Now the CIA was flying him to a remote area in Poland’s Masuria region. The prisoner slept during the flight from Kabul to Szymany, for the first time in days, as he later recounted:

"My eyes were covered with a cloth tied around my head. A cloth bag was then pulled over my head … I fell asleep … I therefore don’t know how long the journey lasted."

Jerry M., age 56 at the time, probably sat at the controls of the plane chartered by the CIA. The trained airplane and helicopter pilot had been hired by Aero Contractors, a company that transferred prisoners around the world for U.S. intelligence agencies. According to documents from the European aviation safety agency Eurocontrol, Jerry M. had taken off from Kabul at 8:51 a.m. that morning. Only hours after landing in Poland, at 7:16 p.m., he took off again, headed for Washington.

A large number of Polish and American intelligence operatives have since gone on record that the CIA maintained a prison in northeastern Poland. Independent of these sources, Polish government officials from the Justice and Defense Ministry have also reported that the Americans had a secret base near Szymany airport. And so began on March 7, 2003, one of the darkest chapters of recent American — and European – history…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 10:20 am

More on waterboarding myths

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One myth, of course, is that waterboarding is little more than getting your face wet: “swimming lessons,” one GOP representative call it.

But if that were true, why on earth would waterboarding make anyone confess to anything? It would be totally ineffective, whereas waterboarding fans are eager to proclaim that it’s totally effective: that terrorists break almost immediately.

Both stories are false: it’s torture, and after a while the victim will (and does) say anything to get it to stop. Indeed, that was its purpose: the extract false confessions.

Glenn Greenwald takes apart one myth that received some circulation: a false report that the TV talking heads lapped up without a second thought. It’s well worth reading.

The NY Times also has a story on this by Brian Stelter:

In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government’s use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly.

Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”

His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”

Some critics say that the now-discredited information shared by Mr. Kiriakou and other sources heightened the public perception of waterboarding as an effective interrogation technique. “I think it was sanitized by the way it was described” in press accounts, said John Sifton, a former lawyer for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 10:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Torture

Sen Arlen Specter to switch to Democratic Party

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I can’t say I welcome him, except for the head count. He has consistently made strong statements and then, when it’s time for action, backed down completely. Perhaps the best that can be said of him is that he’s a spineless windbag.

Here’s the story.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:54 am

Posted in Congress, Democrats, GOP

Good advice re: swine flu

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From the Center for American Progress:

In light of the spread of swine flu — which has now been confirmed to infect at least 50 people in the United States — the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines for staying healthy and preventing the spread of the disease. “If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them,” their guidelines state. While staying home from work when ill makes sense, a large number Americans simply may not be able to afford to do so. Currently, nearly 50 percent of private-sector workers have no paid sick days. For low-income workers, the number jumps to 76 percent and climbs to 86 percent for food service workers. These workers have to decide between the health of themselves and their colleagues, and the wages that they lose by staying home. While ill employees going to work contributes to the spread of diseases like swine flu, there is also a negative economic impact. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “when sick workers are on the job, it costs our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity. For employers, this costs an average of $255 per employee per year and exceeds the cost of absenteeism and medical and disability benefits.” Of the top 20 economies in the world, the U.S. is currently the only one with no national standard for paid sick days. In an effort to address the problem, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) plan to introduce the Healthy Families Act in Congress next month which would “guarantee workers up to seven paid sick days a year to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.”

Note also this chart, which helps distinguish influenza, the common cold, sinusitis, and allergies.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Progressive caucus pitching government healthcare option

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Good news, reported in Congressional Quarterly by Alan Ota:

Progressive Democrats plan to remind President Barack Obama of his liberal roots in a meeting Tuesday and press him to deliver on an expanded federal role in providing health care coverage.

Obama has caught the attention of liberals by wooing centrists and vowing to cut deals on issues such as health care. Last month, he raised eyebrows when he described himself as a New Democrat at a meeting with members of the more moderate New Democrat Coalition.

Now, liberals are pressing Obama to make sure that any deal includes a government alternative to private insurers. Raúl M. Grijalva , D-Ariz., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says the 78-member group will push for a government-run insurance option in a scheduled meeting at the White House.

“Some of our members want a single-payer system. But at a minimum, as a caucus, we want a public plan option,” Grijalva said. He and Lynn Woolsey , D-Calif., another CPC co-chairman, warned party leaders in an April 2 letter that CPC members “will not support legislation that does not include a public plan option.” …

Continue reading.

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28 April 2009 at 9:47 am

The Lost City of Z

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Sounds like an interesting book. Here’s a review, which begins:

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
by David Grann

A review by Greg Grandin

In early 1925, British Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, having convinced himself, based on a mix of archival research, deduction and clairvoyance, that a large undiscovered city lay hidden somewhere in the Amazon, entered the jungle to try to find it. The word "quixotic" has its origins in a story set on the Spanish plains, in the same century when Europeans were first entering South America’s vast, seemingly unending rainforest. Since then, the adjective has often been applied to those like Fawcett — explorers entranced by the promise of riches or fame, as assured in their quests as the Man of La Mancha was that the windmills he tilted at were giants. "I call it Z," wrote Fawcett of his fabled metropolis, "for the sake of convenience."

Fawcett, his son Jack and another companion were never heard from again, but their disappearance prompted a parade of would-be rescuers. With the US frontier closed, Africa carved up and the British Empire at its widest girth, "the big blank spaces in the map," as a character says in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, based partly on Fawcett’s earlier travels, were "all being filled in, and there’s no room for romance anywhere" — except for the opportunity to reprise Stanley’s feat and find a lost Victorian. By 1933 so many film crews, reporters and adventurers were converging on the Amazon in the hunt for the Fawcett party that the Brazilian government, to avoid having to save yet another writer looking for material or Hollywood actor hoping for publicity, put an embargo on future trips.

Fawcett is often called the last of the great explorers, and the man who wrote his eulogy was Peter Fleming, brother of the creator of James Bond. In 1932 Fleming answered an ad in the London Times for "guns" to join a Fawcett search. An Etonian and recent Christ Church graduate, he had no doubt he would be picked. "An Old Boy," he wrote, "is worth two young men." The party didn’t find Fawcett, but Fleming’s account of the trip, Brazilian Adventure, became a bestseller. In its introduction, he confessed that he tried to "pile on the agony a good deal; I felt it would be expected of me." He had, after all, a "free hand" in describing the "Great Unknown"; his predecessors had "made great play with the Terrors of the Jungle. The alligators, the snakes, the man-eating fish, the lurking savages, those dreadful insects — all the paraphernalia of tropical mumbo jumbo lay ready to my hand." But finding the privations of the Amazon nothing compared with the dangers of London, Fleming opted to write a "strictly truthful" book.

Fleming could be accused of dressed-up Anglo supremacy. "You don’t hit your butler, do you?" he asked a fellow traveler, rebuking him for striking their Brazilian boat pilot. But the quip disarmed a tense situation by appealing to a culturebound sense of propriety, which Fleming held responsible for the fight in the first place: the pilot had patted the Englishman’s back in a show of friendship, but with the pilot being slightly drunk "his gesture…lacked that crisp and manly impetus with which Anglo-Saxons slap each other between the shoulder blades." It was taken for "pawing," a "word abhorrent wherever the English language is spoken." Here then was empire looking back on itself, taking in the high-strung "homoerotic aura" of English public school, as described by historian Peter Gay, with its fastidious pretensions to "discipline, purity, and decorum." Or, as Noel Coward wrote the year before Fleming left for Brazil, "though the British are effete," like mad dogs they are "quite impervious to heat." "Only an alienist," Fleming admitted, "could have chronicled our activities either seriously or scientifically."

And yet over the years, the Amazon still beckons and …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:45 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

100 days of obstruction and opposition

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Today’s GOP in Congress (from the Center for American Progress):

In the first 100 days of the Obama presidency, the country has been confronted by a myriad of challenges. President Obama has faced an inherited economic recession — including widespread foreclosures, a banking system plagued by toxic assets, and mounting unemployment — as well as two wars, international terrorism, global climate change, millions of Americans still without health care, piracy and now, the threat of a flu pandemic. But instead of engaging in a substantive policy debate with the President, conservatives have spent the past three months immersed in a radical transformation, lurching further to the right. Indeed, the brand of conservatism now in ascendancy embraces apocalyptic rhetoric, cheers on reflexive attacks on Obama, and fuels a steady drumbeat of conspiracy theories. With control of neither the White House nor Congress, conservatives have looked to hate radio talkers like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh for leadership. The new Republican Party chairman, Michael Steele, has also championed the fringe voices of the right wing while threatening to punish members of his party who make any attempts at bipartisanship. The single greatest achievement of the conservative movement thus far has been the staging of anti-Obama, anti-tax "tea party" protests, which were attended by over 100,000 people country-wide and quickly embraced by GOP leaders as the future of the party. The tea party protests, along with the near universal party-line votes opposing Obama’s agenda items show how conservatives acting on Limbaugh’s pre-Inauguration Day proclamation that he hopes Obama fails.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:34 am

More food unsafety

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From the LA Times, and thanks to The Younger Daughter for pointing it out:

Last year it was tomatoes and then peppers, peanuts and pistachios. Now it is alfalfa sprouts.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are warning people not to eat raw alfalfa sprouts because of salmonella contamination. The warning extends to sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts, but other types of sprouts are still fine to eat, the federal agencies said.

Investigators believe seeds used to grow alfalfa may be the source of the pathogen. That’s made the outbreak worse because suspect lots of seeds may have been sold around the country and could account for a large proportion of what’s being used by sprout growers.

Six states — Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia — have reported 31 cases of illness with the same outbreak strain of Salmonella Saint Paul. No deaths have been reported.

Some victims reported eating raw sprouts at restaurants, while others reported purchasing raw sprouts for home cooking. The first cases started to appear last month, but the government is looking into whether this is actually the second phase of a larger outbreak. It could be related to Salmonella Saint Paul infections that occurred in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and Minnesota earlier this year. Those were also linked to raw alfalfa sprouts, and the pathogen strain was indistinguishable from the more recent cases.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:26 am

Can you spell "paranoid"?

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From the Center for American Progress:

"Twenty-eight groups representing millions of hunters and sportsmen" are demanding that Rush Limbaugh end his work with the Humane Society because they fear the organization has a "secret agenda to end all hunting in America." Limbaugh recently recorded two PSAs for the organization.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Ute Lemper

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I really like Ute Lemper, and nycmusicgirl101 left a comment that is worth promoting:

I saw her near Union Square in NYC a few weeks back and she was great. I liked her new album, although she’s such a great live performer. It’s hard to capture that on CD. =)

She also pointed out this new CD by Lemper, as well as this video:

Many thanks to nycmusicgirl101, and note the several additional Ute Lemper videos here.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

Tagged with

Beef boycott broken – and: interesting movie

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I had beef last night: short ribs. They looked very good, and they were from grass-fed beef. So I went for them. Delicious. I’m making a new batch tonight for The Wife.

Last night I watched The Anderson Tapes, starring Sean Connery and Dyan Cannon and "Introducing Christopher Walken." It was his first movie of any significance, though he had been in various TV productions. Directed by Sidney Lumet, it’s a kind of caper film, but with a twist. It’s a 1971 movie, so it reflects the paranoia of the times. From a novel by Lawrence Sanders.

Maybe the times are paranoid again: I note that The Anderson Tapes is slated for production in 2010.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2009 at 9:13 am

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