Later On

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

Archive for June 7th, 2009

Conservative emotions

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Interesting study—I wonder whether it’s the result of a more general aversion to novelty or the unusual. The study:

Are you someone who squirms when confronted with slime, shudders at stickiness or gets grossed out by gore? Do crawly insects make you cringe or dead bodies make you blanch? If so, chances are you’re more conservative — politically, and especially in your attitudes toward gays and lesbians — than your less-squeamish counterparts, according to two Cornell University studies.

The results, said study leader David Pizarro, Cornell assistant professor of psychology, raise questions about the role of disgust — an emotion that likely evolved in humans to keep them safe from potentially hazardous or disease-carrying environments — in contemporary judgments of morality and purity.

In the first study, published in the journal Cognition & Emotion (Vol.23: No.4), Pizarro and co-authors Yoel Inbar of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Paul Bloom of Yale University surveyed 181 U.S. adults from politically mixed "swing states." They subjected these adults to two indexes: the Disgust Sensitivity Scale (DSS), which offers various scenarios to assess disgust sensitivity, and a political ideology scale. From this they found a correlation between being more easily disgusted and political conservatism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Science

More on the Comey memos

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And on how badly the NY Times misread the memos. Glenn Greenwald:

The New York Times was provided 3 extremely important internal Justice Department emails from April, 2005 (.pdf) — all written by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey — which highlight how the Bush administration’s torture techniques became legally authorized by Bush lawyers.  As Marcy Wheeler documents, the leak to the NYT was clearly from someone eager to defend Bush officials by suggesting that Comey’s emails prove that all DOJ lawyers — even those opposed to torture on policy grounds — agreed these techniques were legal, and the NYT reporters, Scott Shane and David Johnston, dutifully do the leakers’ bidding by misleadingly depicting the Comey emails as vindication for Bush/Cheney (Headline:  “U.S. Lawyers Agreed on the Legality of Brutal Tactic”; First Paragraph: “When Justice Department lawyers engaged in a sharp internal debate in 2005 over brutal interrogation techniques, even some who believed that using tough tactics was a serious mistake agreed on a basic point: the methods themselves were legal”).

I defy anyone to read Comey’s 3 emails and walk away with that conclusion.  Marcy has detailed many of the reasons the NYT article is so misleading, so I want to focus on what the Comey emails actually demonstrate about what these DOJ torture memos really are.   The primary argument against prosecutions for Bush officials who ordered torture is that DOJ lawyers told the White House that these tactics were legal, and White House officials therefore had the right to rely on those legal opinions.  The premise is that White House officials inquired in good faith with the DOJ about what they could and could not do under the law, and only ordered those tactics which the DOJ lawyers told them were legal.  As these Comey emails prove, that simply is not what happened.

The DOJ torture-authorizing memos are perfectly analogous to the CIA’s pre-war intelligence reports about Iraq’s WMDs.  Bush officials justify their pre-war statements about WMDs by pointing to the CIA’s reports — as though those reports just magically appeared on their desks from the CIA — when, as is well documented, Dick Cheney and friends were continuously pressuring and cajoling the CIA to give them those threat reports in order to supply bureaucratic justification for the attack on Iraq.  That is exactly how the DOJ torture-authorizing memos came to be: …

Continue reading. His conclusion:

Any rational and minimally well-informed person who actually read the Comey emails would walk away with the exact opposite point — what is “stunning” was how extreme was the pressure from the White House to issue these memos and how compliant DOJ lawyers were to White House dictates.   But that’s how our media works:  anonymous government officials tell them what to say; they write it down uncritically; and it then becomes conventional wisdom regardless of how false it is.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:59 am

Those funny old Republicans

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The comedy of the GOP has supported Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for quite a while, and now John Cole finds a gem:

“It’s clear that there is much more that we can do to protect our children and grandchildren from the unprecedented trillions in additional debt proposed by the administration,” – Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“This is scary. I believe we’ve reached the tipping point now … and if we tip over, it’s the point of no return. … We cannot go down this road.” – Senator Richard Shelby

“The stimulus, the omnibus, the budget—it’s all one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment.” – House Minority Leader John Boehner.

Their solution to the nearly two trillion dollar deficit? This bit of sketch comedy:

Aside from those two big-ticket items, House GOP leaders came up with less than $25 billion in actual program reductions and terminations over the next five years, or about $5 billion in cuts per annum—less than a third of the $17 billion in program reductions and terminations that Obama has proposed for the fiscal year that begins in October.

The GOP plan—which would rid the federal government of the office of the Treasurer, cut a program dedicated to creating safe school routes, and bar federal employees from getting paid for full-time union work, for example—was greeted with derision by analysts dedicated to reducing the size of government.

Well played. At least you didn’t release this idea on April Fools Day.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:53 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Pushing subprime loans on African-Americans

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Infuriating and true:

As she describes it, Beth Jacobson and her fellow loan officers at Wells Fargo Bank “rode the stagecoach from hell” for a decade, systematically singling out blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages.

These loans, Baltimore officials have claimed in a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo, tipped hundreds of homeowners into foreclosure and cost the city tens of millions of dollars in taxes and city services.

Wells Fargo, Ms. Jacobson said in an interview, saw the black community as fertile ground for subprime mortgages, as working-class blacks were hungry to be a part of the nation’s home-owning mania. Loan officers, she said, pushed customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages. Another loan officer stated in an affidavit filed last week that employees had referred to blacks as “mud people” and to subprime lending as “ghetto loans.”

“We just went right after them,” said Ms. Jacobson, who is white and said she was once the bank’s top-producing subprime loan officer nationally. “Wells Fargo mortgage had an emerging-markets unit that specifically targeted black churches, because it figured church leaders had a lot of influence and could convince congregants to take out subprime loans.”

Ms. Jacobson’s account and that of the other loan officer who gave an affidavit, Tony Paschal, both of whom have left Wells Fargo, provide the first detailed accusations of deliberate racial steering into subprimes by one of the nation’s top banks.

The toll taken by such policies, Baltimore officials argue, is terrible. Data released by the city as part of the suit last week show that more than half the properties subject to foreclosure on a Wells Fargo loan from 2005 to 2008 now stand vacant. And 71 percent of those are in predominantly black neighborhoods…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:50 am

Putting fame to good use

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Fascinating lengthy article in the NY Times Magazine, which begins:

Last October, on the plane from Miami to San Salvador, Shakira stared into her MacBook, pondering. The next morning, she was to give a speech on the importance of early-childhood development to an Ibero-American summit meeting that would gather most of the heads of state of Latin America as well as the prime minister and king of Spain, the prime minister of Portugal and a select group of somewhat lesser dignitaries.

This was not the usual venue for Shakira Mebarak Ripoll of Barranquilla, Colombia. That would be stadium-size, and could be anywhere in the world, filled with thousands and thousands of fans, the people who have made her among the biggest-selling female vocalists on the planet. But Shakira has this other side — she began charitable work right after she had her first big hit, at 18 — and two years ago she, her longtime boyfriend, Antonio de la Rua, and some of their friends conceived the idea of a loose union of Ibero-American singers, called ALAS (“wings” in Spanish), which would use the power of their fame to mobilize fans, and the politicians fans vote for, to advance the cause of early-childhood development. Since then they had rallied most of the biggest pop stars in the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking worlds; held enormous concerts in Mexico and Argentina; gained the philanthropic support of some of Latin America’s richest families (as well as Warren Buffett’s son Howard); and captured the attention of a good number of heads of state. Now, flying down to El Salvador, staring at her Mac, she was, perhaps, approaching her moment of political breakthrough.

“It’s already too long!” she said, smiling resignedly as she typed out her speech. “And I still have more I want to say.” Tap tap tap. At the back of the eight-seater plane was the Spanish megastar Alejandro Sanz, scratching out his own speech, his girlfriend next to him, in a leggy bundle, nursing a bad cold. His relaxed focus contrasted with Shakira’s nervousness, and periodically Shakira ribbed him about it, which made him grin. Tap tap tap.

She turned back to look at him. “I’m afraid,” she said in Spanish, her face momentarily still.

“Y por qué?” Sanz asked.

“Because it’s so important.”

The little group — a publicist, a manager, an aide, the already mute girlfriend — went silent. Then Shakira returned to her speechwriting as we passed above Cuba.

Celebrity philanthropy, rock ’n’ roll philanthropy, is no longer a novelty, but what Shakira and ALAS were trying was indeed new. They were looking to use the power of pop to help the populations not of distant impoverished lands but of the Ibero-American world from which they come. They have a policy focus — early-childhood nutrition, education and medical care — that is on a scale beyond the reach of private charity. It requires the steady effort of the state. It cannot be addressed by rich countries’ check-writing. So the trick is to take pop celebrity, marry it to big business and permanently alter the way Latin American governments help care for the young and the poor. What the golden-haired young woman staring at her laptop was trying to do was a tall order, given the fragility of celebrity influence, the dubious track record of Latin American governments in providing social services and the lengthening shadow of a global recession that was straitening everyone’s budget. But she is not someone whom it would be reasonable to underestimate…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:42 am

Chili oil

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This sounds like something good to have:

Fresh Dried Chili Oil

  • 2 medium-hot dried chili peppers, like a New Mexican red or other Southwestern chili
  • 1 small clove garlic, pounded into a paste in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt.

1. Crush chilies with fingers into pieces no bigger than 1/4 inch across. Place in small bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover, about 1 tablespoon; let sit until chili is hydrated, 10 minutes.

2. Add garlic and mint, and mix while slowly adding olive oil. Taste and season with salt. For best flavor, make several hours before using.

Yield: 3/4 cup.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

More bad reporting in the NY Times

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Maybe the bad reporting is contributing to the decline of the Times. Three posts by Emptywheel get into detail; here’s a list of the posts (with links) along with the beginning of each post

Pre-Emptive Strike on OPR Report: NYT Misrepresents Comey Emails, Claims He Approved Torture

Update: Read the Comey emails. The NYT has–IMO–grossly misrepresented the emails. Not only have they printed a story with their source’s spin completely untouched, but they have ignored the real news in these emails.

The NYT has been leaked a bunch of the emails that will show up in the Office of Public Responsibility report on John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury’s role in approving torture. (h/t Jason Leopold) Their story on the emails appears to be a pre-emptive (and somewhat misleading) strike on the OPR report due out shortly.

The most news-worthy of these appears to be Jim Comey, agreeing that the May 10, 2005 opinion authorizing waterboarding was "ready to go." …

The May 10, 2005 Opinions Were Retrospective

I asked in my earlier post on the NYT leak of Jim Comey emails what the big rush was in May 2005 that Comey couldn’t use a week to fix the "combined techniques" opinion.

The emails themselves explain the rush–and that rush should have been the NYT story. On April 28, 2005, Comey wrote:

[Alberto Gonzales’s COS Ted Ullyot] mentioned at one point that OLC didn’t feel like it could accede to my request to make the opinion focused on one person because they don’t give retrospective advice. I said I understood that, but that the treatment of that person had been the subject of oral advice, which OLC would simply be confirming in writing, something they do quite often.

In other words, the May 10, 2005 authorization to use combined techniques was designed to give legal cover for something that had already happened.

Now, the other memo …

All the News NYT Does Not See Fit to Print

As I have pointed out in the last two posts, the NYT has a story up claiming that Jim Comey approved of torture, but that grossly misreads the Comey emails on which the story is based. In fact, the memos appear to show that the White House–especially Dick Cheney and David Addington–were pushing DOJ to approve the torture that had been done to Hassan Ghul, without the specificity to record what they had done to him; in fact, one of the things the push on the memos appears to have prevented, was for Comey and Philbin to have actually researched what happened to Ghul.

But the NYT instead claims that Jim Comey approved of torture legally, even while downplaying his concerns about the "combined techniques" memo that was the focus of his concerns (and not mentioning his response to the third memo).

But there is more news than that in the Comey emails–news the Grey Lady doesn’t seem to think is news. This includes: …

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:37 am

What’s next in wiretapping cases

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Emptywheel takes a look at where we are now and what’s next:

The other day, I did a post that summarized where we are on the interlocking warrantless wiretap claims. I summarized the state of affairs as follows:

  • Al-Haramain’s briefing on summary judgment due in late summer with a hearing September 1
  • The retroactive immunity challenge headed to the 9th for appeal, plus a possible refiling for telecom actions (probably) after January 7, 2007
  • The hearing in Jewel scheduled for July 15
  • The state cases dismissed pretty definitively
  • The Jeppesen ruling and its potential effect on the government’s invocation of state secrets in Jewell
  • Any discovery action in the Seda case
  • The legally required IG report on warrantless wiretapping due (ha!) next month

Since the beginning of the year, Walker has been proceeding very deliberately (read, slowly) with the cases under his control (indeed, the September 1 hearing date for al-Haramain may suggest he continues to do so), during which time a number of issues in these cases have solidified. In some cases, this holds true just for his courtroom; in others, it holds true at the 9th Circuit. Most haven’t been tested in SCOTUS yet. This deliberation sucks, insofar as the criminal statute of limitations on the primary illegal wiretapping that occurred in March 2004 has expired. But I think Walker allowed everything to mature such that–on Thursday–he felt he could move three of them forward at once. In this post, I’ll explain what I think has matured in these cases, and look at how it affects the Jewel suit against the government. In a follow-up post I’m going to look at what it might mean for post-January 7, 2007 surveillance.

Here’s my NAL ["not a lawyer" – LG] understanding of what has matured in that time (as always, feel free to kick my ass on my misunderstanding of the law or any other aspect of this): …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:30 am

Slow start, plus a movie note

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Somehow I’ve broken the thread of blogging and am finding it a little difficult to resume. So the daily post count may drop a little.

Last night I watched a 1948 MGM musical directed by Vincent Minnelli: The Pirate, starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. It’s a fascinatingly weird musical, worth seeing. I watched it because when I was a kid, my cousin Ronny and I fell into shouting "Macow!" and then dissolving in giggles. The cry came from the movie, where it was the signature call of Black Macoco, the eponymous pirate. The score was by Cole Porter and includes the song "Be a Clown," which was used a second time (with the title "Make ‘Em Laugh") in Singin’ in the Rain four years later. There was also a pedagogical song that pointed out that “CarriBEEan” is the noun and “CarRIBian” is the adjective. (Spellings denote pronunciations.) The chorus was a line about “sailing on the ‘CarriBEEan’ or the ‘CarRIBian’ Sea”.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 June 2009 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

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