Later On

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

Archive for May 25th, 2009

Wimpy cowboys

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Montana seems to be populated by frightened people. Maybe those wide-open plains are scary. Gail Collins has an excellent column on how we need to rethink our mental image of Westerners:

Out of all the problems we have run into in dealing with the giant hairball that is known as the Bush War on Terror, one of the weirdest is the reaction to President Obama’s plan to close down Guantánamo.

In the rank of threats to public safety, putting the Guantánamo inmates in maximum-security prisons in the United States has got to come in way behind, say, making it easy for customers to purchase firearms at gun shows.

But to hear the howls coming from Congress, you’d think the Obama administration was planning to house the prisoners in suburban preschools. “Terrorists. Coming soon to a neighborhood near you,” warned a Republican Web video, which mixed pictures of accused terrorists with road signs in states where the G.O.P. predicted they might be sent. In another production, the occasionally loyal opposition resurrected the infamous “Daisy” countdown ad to show a little girl picking petals off a flower while the president prepares to close Gitmo.

“To bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come,” snarled Dick Cheney in his “no middle ground” speech. Although really, for the sake of the national mental health, it might be better if we all just ignore the former vice president until he agrees to undergo therapy. Forget I ever mentioned it.

Instead, consider the case of Hardin, Mont., a community of 3,400 people just down the road from the place where Custer made his Last Stand.

Lately, things have not been going any better for Hardin than they did for the general. Unemployment is rife. “You go look at our downtown, there’s many closed businesses … you’ll see drunks laying in the street. It’s not a pretty sight,” the head of the town’s economic development authority told National Public Radio. The town built a $27 million, 464-bed prison under the theory that other parts of the state would pay to have Hardin look after their problem residents. But it’s been empty since it was declared open for business nearly two years ago, and the construction loans are in default.

So, with the town council’s enthusiastic support, Hardin volunteered to take the Guantánamo prisoners.

It’s unlikely that the White House would have accepted the offer, but it was certainly an example of pluck and you’d think everyone would give Hardin three cheers. Instead, Montana’s Democratic senators went ballistic.

“We’re not going to bring Al Qaeda to Big Sky Country — no way, not on my watch,” said Max Baucus.

“If these prisoners need a new place, it’s not going to be anywhere near The Last Best Place,” said Jon Tester.

This shows us two things: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:29 pm

Muddy thinking

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Senator John Kyl doesn’t think very well. Lee Fang reports in ThinkProgress:

In an interview posted online by the National Review, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) candidly explained how his party would try to deceive the public during the coming health care debate. Kyl said that although Republicans believe in a “free market” approach to health care, to describe it honestly to the “people we have to convince” would not be “persuasive.” Instead, Kyl boasts that he and his colleagues will use the “hollow buzzwords” prescribed by GOP language consultant Frank Luntz:

KYL: We of course believe the free market can provide the incentives for everyone to be covered with good insurance but to talk about it in terms of the free market is not to be persuasive with the people we have to convince. We have to describe this in terms that people really do understand and care about and that is patient-centered. They don’t want to get between themselves and their doctor. They don’t want to have long waiting lines, possibly even denying care that they feel is important. They don’t want to lose insurance they like already. Those are all things we need to address in our alternatives and I think that’s the best way for us to talk about it rather than talking about the free market.

Watch it:

Of course, Kyl is pretending that for-profit insurance companies don’t already stand in between patients and doctors.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:22 pm

Rx and the single payer

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Bill Moyers and Michael Winship have a very interesting article in Salon:

In 2003, a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama told an AFL-CIO meeting, "I am a proponent of a single-payer universal healthcare program."

Single payer. Universal. That’s health coverage, like Medicare, but for everyone who wants it. Single payer eliminates insurance companies as pricey middlemen. The government pays care providers directly. It’s a system that polls consistently have shown the American people favoring by as much as 2-to-1.

There was only one thing standing in the way, Obama said six years ago: "All of you know we might not get there immediately because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate and we have to take back the House."

Fast-forward six years. President Obama has everything he said was needed — Democrats in control of the executive branch and both chambers of Congress. So what’s happened to single payer?

A woman at his town hall meeting in New Mexico last week asked him exactly that. "If I were starting a system from scratch, then I think that the idea of moving towards a single-payer system could very well make sense," the president replied. "That’s the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world.

"The only problem is that we’re not starting from scratch. We have historically a tradition of employer-based healthcare. And although there are a lot of people who are not satisfied with their healthcare, the truth is, is that the vast majority of people currently get healthcare from their employers and you’ve got this system that’s already in place. We don’t want a huge disruption as we go into healthcare reform where suddenly we’re trying to completely reinvent one-sixth of the economy." [Of course that was true at the time when he was making his promises. – LG]

So the banks were too big to fail and now, apparently, healthcare is too big to fix, at least the way a majority of people indicate they would like it to be fixed, with a single-payer option. President Obama favors a public health plan competing with the medical cartel that he hopes will create a real market that would bring down costs. But single payer has vanished from his radar.

Nor is single payer getting much coverage in the mainstream media. Barely a mention was given to the hundreds of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who came to Washington last week to protest the absence of official debate over single payer.

Is it the proverbial tree falling in the forest, making a noise that journalists can’t or won’t hear? Could the indifference of the press be because both the president of the United States and Congress have been avoiding single payer like, well, like the plague? As we see so often, government officials set the agenda by what they do and don’t talk about.

Instead, President Obama is looking for consensus, seeking peace among all the parties involved. Except for single-payer advocates…

Continue reading. I sure don’t like this. Single-payer is the most efficient and effective approach. Why not bite the bullet and use it? Answer: too many members of the House and Senate are in the pocket of Big Pharma and Big Insurance.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:19 pm

The Ireland child-abuse scandal

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An informative and moving column on how so many Irish children were abused over a period of almost a century. Read about it.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:14 pm

Cellphones in prison

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I’ve been reading about how gangs and other miscreants continue to do business inside prisons through cellphones that are smuggled in. The obvious step is for prisons to jam cellphone signals, but that doesn’t work except for isolate prisons—see this article. The jamming signal cannot be confined exactly to the prison, so cellphones stop working in the vicinity of the prison—which is not so good.

Still, jamming should work for prisons that are isolated and in the country.

For other prisons, I wonder whether a Faraday cage would work. It wouldn’t be hard to put a mesh barrier around a prison, but since the mesh must be smaller than the electromagnetic signal’s wave-length, and I would bet that cellphone wavelengths are quite short. If so, the mesh approaches a solid plate and becomes impractical for outside exercise areas (though it still should work indoors if the building is simply covered in the mesh). Perhaps some mechanism could detect cellphones as prisoners file into the yard.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Daily life

Celebrity patient goes off script

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Interesting—some poor marketing schlub will have to take a fall on this.

Source: Gooz News, May 14, 2009

The Wall Street Journal has published a revealing story about one of the seamier sides of the drug industry’s marketing campaigns: paying patients to offer testimonials about their drugs. As health industry observer Merrill Goozner explains, the story came to light because a "celebrity patient" had a "falling out with his corporate sponsor, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Andy Behrman is bipolar, and he earned $10,000 a day or $400,000 in total singing the praises of Abilify (aripiprizole, an atypical antipsychotic drug) to Bristol-Myers’ drug salesmen and physician-consultants. Behrman’s presentations worked off talking points provided by a public relations firm." He was supposed to tell people that the drug had no side effects and not to tell them that he was being paid by the company. "Behrman now claims he suffered serious side effects while on the drug," Goozner notes. He makes these and other charges in a new tell-all book. In response, the company says that he attempted to shake them down for a $7.5 million contract before turning against his former handlers.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Military law: an example

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Things like this make me exceedingly skeptical of the military commissions. The military doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of the concept of justice, and they’re too quick to do cover-ups instead of pursuing the truth. Richard Oppel reporting for the NY Times:

Capt. Kirk Black, who trains the Afghan police in this impoverished province, developed a practiced skepticism about claims of innocence during a decade as a Baltimore police officer.

But last January, when relatives of an Afghan imprisoned at the Bagram military detention center begged him to look into the case, he agreed to listen. Eventually he became convinced that the detention was a case of mistaken identity and put the family in touch with a lawyer.

Soon, Captain Black was facing a potential legal battle of his own. One of his senior commanders ordered him not to discuss the case, and the military sent an officer to investigate him. He retained military defense counsel.

The Bagram prison — where about 600 people, mostly Afghans, are being held indefinitely and without charges — is a delicate issue for the Obama administration at a time when it is struggling to come up with a plan for detainees in the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which it intends to close.

The administration has argued that military detainees in Afghanistan may not challenge their detentions in American courts. A federal judge ruled last month that some Bagram detainees captured outside Afghanistan had the constitutional right of habeas corpus, citing a Supreme Court ruling. But the new administration has appealed.

Captain Black’s involvement in the Bagram detainee’s case began in January, while the American officer was attending a meeting of village elders and leaders. He was approached by relatives of an Afghan named Gul Khan, who they said had been snatched by American troops in September and imprisoned at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul. The military apparently believed Mr. Khan was a Taliban leader named Qari Idris. But local Afghan officials told Captain Black it was a case of mistaken identity. Captain Black, believing that he was fulfilling a policy of the American counterinsurgency by trying to hear out locals with grievances, applied his police training to the evidence he heard.

“Upon speaking to multiple village elders, family members, the police chief and the subgovernor, I am convinced that the individual in question is not the person that the government claims,” he wrote in January to Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer he had met three years earlier during a posting to Guantánamo. “I am a police officer in the United States, and there is a mass of evidence that this individual does not need to be held.”

Mr. Stafford Smith, who has agreed to represent Gul Khan pro bono through his brother Kala Khan and is filing a writ of habeas corpus in federal court, provided a copy of the correspondence…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 12:00 pm

Ben Nelson ("D"-Neb) fights the conservative fight

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ThinkProgress’s Ali Frick:

This morning, Fox News Sunday hosted a debate on national security between Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), but it turned out that the two senators agreed on most issues. Nelson declared that trials of Guantanamo detainees should not take place in the United States and detainees should not be imprisoned here. He distinguished between terrorists like the Blind Sheikh — who “committed violations of American law” — and those at Guantanamo to say the latter should be kept out of the U.S.:

NELSON: I think the tribunals can occur anywhere, and I prefer not to see them occur in America, within the continental United States. Once they’re convicted, I’m assuming they will be, then I think we need to work out with their countries an arrangement where they’re incarcerated there. […]

But for those detainees who have violated the rules of war, we don’t have to worry about bringing them here. I think they need to be kept elsewhere, wherever that is. I don’t want to see them come on American soil.

Nelson also seemed to suggest that torture — or “enhanced techniques,” as he called it — could be used in the future:

NELSON: What we need to do is make sure that the intelligence information that’s gathered is accurate, that we do everything within our power to get good intelligence, and it may or may not consist of coming from enhanced techniques.

Watch it:

As ThinkProgress and others have pointed out, the United States is fully capable of housing terrorist suspects in American prisons. Indeed, this morning on ABC, Adm. Mike Mullen mentioned the dozens of terrorists in U.S. prisons and declared, “They don’t pose a threat.”

And if Nelson is truly concerned with getting “accurate” information and “good intelligence,” he should support President Obama’s unequivocal ban on so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. As military and intelligence experts have stated, over and over, Bush’s enhanced program derived unreliable and inaccurate information. It was the use of “enhanced techniques” that provided the “intelligence” of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda — intelligence that proved to be entirely false.

Read ThinkProgress’ report on why Bush’s enhanced interrogation program failed here.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 11:05 am

The new rules of engagement

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Very interesting column in the Washington Post by Jim Hoagland:

George W. Bush’s refusal to work with Congress and other nations to update national and international legal norms to fight al-Qaeda immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, now haunts the nation and his successor. Bush’s stubborn rejection of sharing authority, and responsibility, left us to fight a 21st-century enemy with mid-20th-century instruments of justice.

Today the failure to grasp the need for change created by the globalization of crime and punishment has migrated to the opposite end of the spectrum — to the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics on the left who absurdly accuse President Obama of adopting the Bush agenda on national security as his own. They are now the ones who are stuck in time.

Speaking somewhat caustically at the National Archives on Thursday, Obama implicitly urged these critics not to rush past the obvious.

Unlike Bush, this president insists on oversight of his actions by the courts and Congress. And he wants to collaborate with Congress on detention policies that "should not be the decision of any one man." Obama hinted that among the modifications he would like to see is a form of preventive detention for suspected terrorists who cannot be convicted in U.S. courts but who "remain at war with the United States." He views them as prisoners of war — but a different kind of war.

That thought was central to his convincing refutation of GOP fear-mongers who portray Americans as automatically becoming endangered if terrorist suspects are moved from the prison in Guantanamo to the U.S. mainland.

But what Obama proposed in his clear and balanced speech was overly modest when compared with the huge challenges posed by the rapid changes being forced on every nation and its practice of the rule of law. Even as it makes government power more necessary, globalization renders government practice obsolete.

Obama offered congressional oversight in national security matters as one panacea. But Nancy Pelosi’s spat with the CIA over what she was or was not told underlines the inadequacy of that oversight. It needs to be immediately broadened, and deepened, as CIA Director Leon Panetta proposed last week.

And Obama failed to offer support for innovative proposals for a new system of national security courts able to prosecute and adjudicate transnational crimes while handling classified information from domestic or foreign sources. The need for such courts should be apparent to anyone who read these two sentences in a Post article last week: …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 11:02 am

On-line barter sites

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Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar gets better and better. Check out this list of sites through which you can barter. Post begins:

All of us have things we don’t want and, at the same time, want or need other things. Usually, the transition between the two requires selling what you don’t want and buying what you want or need – but often, you lose value on both transactions.

A better solution is bartering – exchange something you have for something of roughly equal value that someone else has. This works quite well in some environments, but it’s often difficult to find like-minded people to barter with.

That’s where the internet comes in handy. Here are fourteen great services for bartering, most of them operating by mail and from the convenience of home. I use most of the services listed below and I’ve mentioned quite a few of them before – some of them, particularly PaperBackSwap, are part of the fabric of my life at this point.

Let’s dive right in and get bartering! (One quick note: the sites that trade “everything” aren’t necessarily the best places to go – often, it’s difficult to find things you want on those sites. I find the niche sites have a much higher level of success for that specific area.) For a few links, I’ve included my email address in the link if you click on it so I can quickly touch base with any readers who sign up for the service…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 10:43 am

Posted in Daily life

Changes in harassment laws

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Interesting follow-on from teen suicide as a result of cyber-bullying, as reported by Laura Bauer for the Kansas City Star:

The July sentencing of a Missouri mom convicted for her part in an Internet hoax that led to a teenager’s suicide may disappoint those looking for justice.

Lori Drew faces anything from probation to three years in prison for her role in deceiving Megan Meier on MySpace. But a California judge hinted last week that he could throw out Drew’s three misdemeanor cases because of the way the law was applied.

Regardless of what happens in court, experts say Drew’s prosecution and Megan’s death have changed the way many behave in cyberspace. Not only have they prompted parents to become more aware of what their kids are doing, they have caused lawmakers to account for modern communication.

“It made us all realize how out-of-date some of our laws were,” said Naomi Goodno, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., who has written about cyberharassment. “We needed to get caught up with technology.”

At least 45 states have changed harassment laws to include cyberbullying. Many, including Kansas and Missouri, pushed for change shortly after the news of Megan’s death. Several Missouri counties have already used the new law, prosecuting people who harass victims on the Internet or on a cell phone.

Megan hanged herself in her St. Louis suburb bedroom in October 2006 when she was just 13. A fictitious boy …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 10:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Characters in the latest domestic terror melodrama

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Zachary Roth for TPM Muckraker:

We’re starting to get a rich picture of the four hapless Jihadis who were arrested Wednesday night for plotting to bomb two New York synagogues, as well as the FBI informant who deceived them. And the overall portrait that’s emerging is that of a group of struggling, disaffected petty criminals, who bonded at a Newburgh, NY mosque over having spent time in prison, before being taken in by a Pakistani immigrant looking to win leniency for a crime of his own.

There’s little doubt the bumbling would-be bombers went far enough with the plot to demonstrate that they had the intention to commit terror, and for that they’ll pay the price. But the whole tale comes off perhaps more as a sad glimpse into the lives of a loose group of aimless and obscurely embittered Americans than as a dire illustration of the threat of home-grown terrorism.

Based on reports in the New York Times, Post, and Daily News, and the Associated Press, here’s what we’ve learned about five men at the center of plot:

David Cromitie, 44
– Described as the ringleader of the plot, Cromitie has spent 12 years in prison, most recently for selling drugs to undercover officers behind a school.
– During his last two incarcerations, he changed his listed religion from Baptist — the faith in which he was raised — to Muslim. After getting out of prison two years ago, he told relatives that he had converted and his new name was Abdul Rahman. His mother says that when he visited a few years ago, for the first time in 15 years, and told her of his conversion, she told him: "Get out of here."
– He told the informant last year that his parents had lived in Afghanistan before he was born, and that, thanks in part to that personal tie, he was angry about the US killing of Muslims there. But his mother now says neither she nor his father, who left the family when Cromitie was a young child, ever lived in Afghanistan. Police now think Cromitie was lying to boost his "terror cred."
– A relative of his girlfriend says: "He was always making up big-time stories. Big whoppers about everything. He would just lie for conversation."
– He would host the other three men on the "creaky porch" of his Newburgh home, drinking and barbecuing.
– He admitted in court yesterday that he had smoked pot before the bust, and smokes "regularly."

David Williams, 28

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 10:37 am

Closing in on Murtha

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Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) regularly makes the list of most corrupt members of Congress, and it looks as though they’re finally starting to take action. High time. Carol Leonnig for the Washington Post:

In tiny, cash-strapped Monongahela, Pa., the city clerk was stunned when federal investigators arrived this fall with a subpoena seeking information on a crime-fighting grant she’d never heard of. She takes pride in tracking every dollar in the municipal budget.

The $15,000 federal grant was to buy police radios and other equipment to protect the city’s 4,700 residents, but it had traveled an unusual route, never crossing the clerk’s desk.

Over the past five years, a local defense contractor with close ties to Rep. John P. Murtha, a Democrat who has represented southwestern Pennsylvania for three decades, has selected several small police departments in the region to receive $10 million in Justice Department grants.

The company, Mountaintop Technologies, was selected by the lawmaker in a series of earmarks to hand out and monitor the grants. As it distributed the money to the departments, the firm would explain each time that it was arriving through the largess of Murtha — often just before fall elections.

Once she learned from the investigators that Monongahela’s police department was getting money outside of normal channels, City Clerk Carole Foglia was disturbed.

"I wasn’t happy with the situation at all," Foglia said. "I didn’t want to be involved in anything that was done improperly, because that’s not the way I work in my office. And this was improper. No question about it."

The tale of how a defense company ended up getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to distribute federal police grants is a chapter in a larger story of Mountaintop Technologies, its far-flung operations and its dependence on Murtha. The Johnstown firm has received at least $36 million in the past eight years in earmarks and military contracts, without competition and with the backing of Murtha, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. It also hired the lobbying firm where Murtha’s brother worked.

Mountaintop Technologies founder David H. Fyock said …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 10:32 am

Solar energy installment innovations

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This is very cool:

The cool tool here is creative solar financing. Solar-electric panels are pretty much a commodity, but still high priced. What’s new is an innovative way for a homeowner to afford an expensive solar set up. Nine months ago I covered my studio roof with 5 kilowatts of solar panels financed by a solar company. We are generating about 85% of the electricity we use now. Here’s how it works.

You sign up with a company that installs high-quality panels on your property for no money down. Zero dollars! On sunny days the panels make electrons which run your meter backwards. The quantity of panels are sized to cover about 80-90% of your current electric bill, so that you should be expected to pay the utility only 10-20% of what you pay now. In addition to the much smaller payment to your electric grid company you will also now pay the solar company a fee based on the number of watts you send into the grid. This is how they make money to cover the costs of installing the panels and their profit. The rates they will charge you per kilowatt will be less than the utility rates, so your total bill for electricity will be less each month. (Not zero, not half, but less.) Because the solar company makes money by how much electricity your panels produce they have a clear incentive to maintain the panels’ performance and keep them clean and the inverters going. After 15-18 years, you own the panels and set up free and clear.

You could think of this as a lease-to-own option for solar panels, where the solar company’s rents for electricity are cheaper than the utility grid’s. Those cheaper rents are made possible in part by government solar subsidizes, which the solar company will claim on your behalf. But this is a business. While you may be generating 90% of your usage, because you are leasing the panels, your total combined bill will not be 90% less. It may only be 10% less per month. But since it costs you nothing or little up front, over 18 years that 10% adds up. In California, one company providing this zero down financing is …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 9:56 am

House Democrats battle Democratic proposals

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Too many Democrats, purchased by campaign donations from big businesses, fight Democratic initiatives on behalf of their industrial overlords. Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent:

Even as some House Democrats moved closer last week to installing first-of-a-kind limits on the carbon emissions blamed for global warming, others are in a full-court press to kill a separate White House effort to curb those same greenhouse gasses.

The episode is just the latest in a series of confrontations between liberal Democrats who favor strict emission-cutting reforms and a number of moderates who have sided with the various industries that would be affected by the changes. Unfortunately for environmentalists, the moderates, thus far, are winning the fight.

On Thursday, for example, the Energy and Commerce Committee passed sweeping climate change legislation sponsored by Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — but not before the proposal was diluted to satisfy panel Democrats representing the coal, oil and automobile industries [Exactly: they represent business interests, not their constituents or the Democratic party. – LG]. As a result of the changes, many environmental groups are opposing the Waxman bill outright.

In the latest episode, most members of the House Agricultural Committee contend that newly proposed White House emission rules for biofuel producers would hobble the industry and increase the nation’s reliance on imported fossil fuels. Similar to the earlier E&C debate — where key Democrats leveraged their votes in order to water down Waxman’s bill — many of the Democrats on the Agriculture panel are poised to join Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) in opposing the Waxman bill unless something is done to eliminate the biofuel rules being proposed by the White House.

The saga is emblematic of the difficulty facing environmentally minded lawmakers as they push reforms opposed by enormously influential industries like those found in the energy and agriculture sectors. It also highlights the difficulty of moving such reforms in the middle of a recession when any actions imposing additional costs on industry — even if they’re done in the name of public and global health — are quickly labeled job-killers. In what is quickly becoming a common theme in Washington, the Obama administration’s plans to cut emissions are running smack into an industry buzz saw that they just might not escape.

The new White House proposal, unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency this month, aims to shift the country away from foreign oil by mandating an increase in renewable fuel usage — to 36 billion gallons by 2022, up from 9 billion gallons in 2008. In a controversial move, EPA has also outlined a plan — mandated by Congress in 2007 — for ensuring that the shift to biofuels won’t unintentionally hike carbon emissions elsewhere. For example, there are fears that increasing the U.S. production of corn for ethanol — once the darling in the renewable fuels debate — would lower food supplies on the global market. In that case, EPA’s model is designed to account for deforestation by overseas farmers who might be forced to expand cropland in response to higher food costs. Those fuels failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by certain amounts relative to the gas and diesel they would replace would no longer be eligible for federal subsidies.

Appearing last week before the House Appropriations environmental subpanel, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told lawmakers that the agency “did propose to take into account indirect land use because that’s what the law required us to do.”

Although the proposal exempts most corn ethanol from the so-called “indirect land use” requirements, the biofuels industry and its congressional champions are up in arms…

Continue reading. I suppose it’s inevitable that, with private funding of Congressional elections instead of public funding, many Representatives are up for sale: give them enough money and they’ll do what you want. Unfortunately, that continues the process of weakening the country.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 9:54 am

Torture at Bagram

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ThinkProgress’s Faiz Shakir writes:

In an interview with CNN, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef — a close ally of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and Afghanistan’s former ambassador to Pakistan — described his detention experiences at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base and at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Zaeef has since been freed and claims he is no longer a member of the Taliban. “He says he is still bitter about his time there. Closing Guantanamo Bay, he told CNN, is only part of the justice those detained there deserve”:

“It was a bad stain on American history,” he said. “If they are closing Guantanamo for justice, they have to bring the people who are torturing people, who abuse people, to justice.” […]

“I didn’t see a worse situation in my life than Bagram,” recalled Zaeef. “They were beating me, they put me in the snow, in the cold, until I was unconscious.”

Watch the video.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 9:47 am

Indefinite imprisonment without due process

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The idea that the United States will formalize a procedure whereby it can imprison anyone the government deems “dangerous”, without evidence or trial or any defense, and that imprisonment can be for years and years—that’s a grave shock. Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty or give me death!”) would be appalled: we are turning to a totalitarian technique merely because we’re fearful?

George Bush said that the jihadists hate us because of our freedoms. Maybe the idea is to start discarding those freedoms in hopes that the jihadists will start to hate us less.

At any rate, although many in the Beltway have fallen right in line, there’s still vocal opposition to shutting down the Constitution. For example:

Glenn Greenwald: two excellent columns that definitely should be read:

Facts and myths about Obama’s preventive detention proposal (with six updates so far)

Backlash grows against Obama’s preventive detention proposal (only two updates so far, but it’s still early)

Barry Eisler has two new posts that also are well worth reading:

The Torture Mentality, Part 3

Our Warden-in-Chief

President Obama, like President Bush, makes much of his mission to protect American lives. But the oath that the presidents took reads:

US Constitution, Article II, Section 1

Before he enter on the execution of his office, he shall take the following oath or affirmation: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

His oath is to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Imprisoning people indefinitely without evidence or a trial violates both his oath and the Constitution.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 9:42 am

Travel prep

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Today is devoted to cleaning up the house and leaving it nice for the cat-sitter to see. Plus I have some library books that should be returned before we leave. And then tomorrow is packing and calling the taxi for a 6:00 a.m. pickup and the like.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 9:18 am

Posted in Daily life

Mint & Menthol Morning

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A truly exceptional shaving this morning. Honeybee Spa’s Rosemary-Mint shave stick was fragrant and bracing and produced an excellent lather with the help of Simpsons Duke 3 Best shaving brush. The Merkur Slant Bar (an old model) provided a very smooth and easy shave with a Swedish Gillette blade, and the Floïd gave a cooling menthol shock at the end. Very nice—one of those shaves where you keep rubbing your face.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2009 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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