Later On

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

Archive for June 13th, 2009

John Yoo ordered to testify about torture

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Interesting development reported by Amanda Terkel on ThinkProgress:

The New York Times reports that a federal judge in California has ruled that former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo will have to testify in court about accusations that his work led to the torture of a detainee:

The government had asked Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco to dismiss the case filed by Jose Padilla, an American citizen who spent more than three years in a military brig as an enemy combatant. Judge White denied most elements of Mr. Yoo’s motion and quoted a passage from the Federalist Papers that in times of war, nations, to be more safe, “at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.”

Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley has said that Yoo’s memos “provide the very definition of tyranny.”

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 12:15 pm

Major new accountability campaign from the ACLU

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Glenn Greenwald:

The ACLU today launched a major new campaign to impose accountability for torture and related Bush-era crimes.  The campaign — Accountability for Torture — is devoted principally to a restoration of the rule of law and the appointment by the DOJ of a Special Prosecutor.  The website to coordinate these efforts is here, and that site is also now probably the single best resource for all documents and other information relating to torture and accountability efforts.  The ACLU has clearly led the way in battling for disclosure of Bush-era war crimes secrets — so much of what we know is due to their litigation efforts and those of other civil liberties groups (rather than, say, the efforts of the "watchdog" media or the "oversight" Congress).  But what has been missing up until now is a coordinated, centralized effort to galvanize public demands for accountability, and this project is intended to provide that.

To launch the campaign, I hosted a podcast discussion on issues of accountability and transparency with international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands (author of Torture Team) and ACLU litigator Amrit Singh (co-author of Administration of Torture), which can be heard here.  It is roughly 25 minutes long.  One of the critical themes that emerged was that, both in general and specifically for Bush crimes, a prerequisite to accountability is transparency and disclosure.  Only once citizens know what their Government did will they be able to hold the wrongdoers accountable.  Along those lines, The Washington Post‘s Dan Froomkin today noted some very important observations from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a Senate floor speech he gave about the ongoing suppression of information relating to Bush crimes of torture:

[T]here has been a campaign of falsehood about this whole sorry episode. It has disserved the American public…. [F]acing up to the questions of our use of torture is hard enough. It is worse when people are misled and don’t know the whole truth and so can’t form an informed opinion and instead quarrel over irrelevancies and false premises. Much debunking of falsehood remains to be done but cannot be done now because the accurate and complete information is classified…

It is intensely frustrating to have access to classified information that proves a lie and not be able to prove that lie. It does not serve America well for Senators to be in that position.

Disclosure and transparency are the linchpin of meaningful, informed debates.  By contrast, suppressing information is what uniquely enables a government to lie and deceive.  Dick Cheney can run around making claims about the legality of the torture and rendition programs only because the current administration continues to engage in such extreme measures to block any judicial review or disclosure.  Identically, Cheney is free to claim that the abuses of Abu Ghraib were isolated aberrations because the current administration continues to suppress the photographs of detainee abuse that prove the opposite:   the abuse seen at Abu Ghraib was anything but isolated, as the tactics used at there were used at virtually every American "War on Terror" detention facility because they were the by-product of policies approved at the highest levels of government.  That is why principles of transparency generally and FOIA specifically are so vital:  as Sen. Whitehouse said, they are the only checks against the sort of rank deceit that has dominated debates over Bush-era policies and accountability for them.

In a separate column today, Froomkin — one the favorite media writers of progressives during the Bush era — noted the numerous steps the Obama administration has taken to bring greater transparency to domestic policy-making, but then observed: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 10:57 am

Under Bush, little attention to violent acts against abortion clinics

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Daphne Eviatar at the Washington Independent:

The fatal shooting allegedly by a known white supremacist at the Holocaust Memorial Museum Wednesday in Washington is the second murder apparently motivated by a hateful ideology that’s come to national attention in the last two weeks. James W. von Brunn, the 88-year-old suspect and convicted felon, was well-known for sending mass e-mail messages such as “It’s time to kill all the Jews” and promoting elaborate conspiracy theories on his Website. Similarly, Scott Roeder, the 51-year-old accused of murdering abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in his Wichita, Kans. church, had a long history of ties to a violent right-wing extremist group, had previously threatened another abortion provider, and had just that week vandalized Tiller’s clinic.

Just as federal law specifically penalizes hate crimes, the law also makes it a federal crime to threaten or commit violence against abortion providers, or to vandalize their clinics. Yet as TWI revealed last week, the criminal law was not being enforced. The day after Dr. George Tiller was murdered, TWI obtained data revealing that under the Bush administration, criminal enforcement of the federal law designed to protect abortion providers and clinics had declined by more than 75 percent over the last eight years.

But there’s also a civil component to that federal law, known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act. That part of the law allows the attorney general to seek an injunction and compensatory damages for anyone who’s been harmed by any activity that violates the law. And it turns out that the Department of Justice over the last eight years didn’t use that part of the law to protect abortion providers, either.

Under the FACE Act, in addition to criminal charges, the Justice Department can obtain damages and an injunction against anyone who “by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with” anyone who provides or receives reproductive health services. It also allows the government to prosecute and sue anyone who “intentionally damages or destroys the property” of an abortion clinic, because they are frequently vandalized as part of protesters’ intimidation tactics. The clinic where Dr. Tiller worked, for example, was repeatedly vandalized, including just days before his murder.

Yet despite these broad powers that Congress granted the attorney general in 1994 to prevent and combat violence against abortion clinics and providers, the Bush administration almost never used them. From 2000 until 2008, during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Justice Department filed only one civil case under the FACE Act. From 1994 until 1999, in contrast, in just five years of the Clinton administration, the Department filed 17 civil cases under the FACE Act — in addition to its much heavier load of criminal cases that we’ve reported before.

It’s possible, of course, that the law was so effective in its early years that it deterred all future violations. “I do think that the statute was very effective,” and “for the most part there were fewer complaints coming to us,” said Cathleen Mahoney, vice president and general counsel of the National Abortion Federation and director of the Justice Department’s Task Force on Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers until 2006.

But crime statistics provided by the National Abortion Federation show that violence did not stop when the Bush administration came into office. The group reports 3,291 acts …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 10:50 am

Robert Reich: Demand a government option in the healthcare program

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Good point:

Here’s the latest contortion from Senate Dems trying to win over a few Republicans to a "public option": Let nonprofits create healthcare cooperatives, then call them the public option. Kent Conrad, of North Dakota, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, came up with this bamboozle. Finance Committee chair Max Baucus, D-Mont., is impressed, and some Republicans — even Chuck Grassley of Iowa — seem interested. Watch your wallets.

Nonprofit healthcare cooperatives won’t have any real bargaining leverage to get lower prices because they’ll be too small and too numerous. Pharma and Insurance know they can roll them. That’s why the Conrad compromise is getting a good reception from across the aisle, just as Olympia Snowe’s "trigger" (whereby there’s no public option until sometime down the pike, and only if Pharma and Insurance don’t bring down costs and extend coverage a tad) is also gaining traction.

The truth is that there’s only one "public option" that will truly bring down costs and premiums — one that’s national in scale and combines its bargaining power with Medicare, and that’s allowed to negotiate lower drug prices and lower doctor and hospital fees. And that’s precisely what Pharma and Insurance detest, for exactly the same reason.

Whatever it’s called — public option or chopped liver — it has to be able to squeeze Pharma, Insurance, and the rest of the medical-industrial complex. And the more likely it is to squeeze them, the more they’ll fight it. And the greater the opposition from Republicans and from Dems who either believe any bill has to have some Republican support or who have sold themselves out to the medical biggies.

As long as single payer is off the table, then we need a real public option. Don’t be fooled by labels. Demand the real thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 10:47 am

More pepper sauce

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I feel like Christopher Walken in the SNL cowbell skit: "I have a fever, and the only thing that will cure that fever is more pepper sauce." This batch I tried a combination:

6 habaneros
10 red Fresnos
3 large serranos
2 large jalapeños
2 large dried anchos
6 dried chipotles
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup olive oil
12 oz white balsamic vinegar
12 oz (approx) apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Blend, simmer, cool, blend, bottle. This batch is a nice dark red, which clearly comes from the anchos and chipotles. The batch I made with Fresnos was orange.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 10:41 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Susan Collins takes on oil speculators

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Why aren’t Democrats all over this? David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall report for McClatchy:

Oil prices shot past $72 a barrel this week, and a growing number of experts point to Wall Street speculators as a key reason why Americans are suddenly paying a lot more for oil and gasoline.

Although soaring oil prices threaten the fragile economic recovery, most Capitol Hill lawmakers have remained silent about them, but not Sen. Susan Collins. The Maine Republican pumps her own gas and heats her Bangor home with oil, and on trips home, she gets an earful from angry consumers, who, like her, blame speculators.

"Constituents get it," she said. "They don’t see the reason for it. They don’t see (supply) shortages. They don’t see (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) greatly reducing production or other reasons prices are going up so much."

Collins has been one of the few on Capitol Hill and even fewer Republicans who blame the rising oil prices in part on Wall Street investors. She and her allies, mostly Democrats, are trying to limit speculative investments in oil and other commodities, but they say they need more support from President Barack Obama.

McClatchy has been reporting for 14 months that speculative investment — not simply supply and demand — has been helping drive oil prices higher. On June 5, Deutsche Bank, a major global financial institution, echoed the warning that excessive speculation is behind rising oil and gasoline prices. The price of crude peaked nearly a year ago at $147 a barrel.

"Crude oil prices appear to have been divorced from the underlying fundamentals of weak demand, ample supply, and high inventories," commodity analysts at the bank wrote. "Rising OPEC production and very high OPEC spare capacity also appear to be unimportant to oil market investors at this time."

OPEC on Friday further reduced, by 1.62 million barrels per day, its forecast for global oil consumption this year…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 9:40 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

First reactions to the Kindle DX

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Very easy on the eyes, especially since you can readily adjust font size. When you change the font size, the text re-flows to fit, but the result is always justified type. I personally prefer flush left, ragged right so that the inter-word spacing is consistent, but for some reason that option is not offered. It would, I think, be trivial to add to the text flow and realignment routine, and in fact would be easier that justifying the type. I sent in a suggestion, and got an immediate response that showed clearly that the support person had read the suggestion: I mentioned in passing that I had accidentally ordered a book as I was looking at the sample: $10 for a mistake I’ll be careful not to make in the future.

The support person told me that I can readily return the book, and offered a link to do that. I was told I can return any Kindle purchase within a week.

Some of the Kindle downloads are free: I just got Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope: $0.00. If you search the Kindle store on the tag "Kindle freebies" you can find more.

The background is gray rather than white, and The Wife tells me it’s been found that too much contrast (between type and background) is not good. OTOH, the gray is intensified because the chassis surrounding the screen is an intense, bright white. If black had been chosen instead, the gray background would have appeared lighter (in contrast to the black), but I’m sure the white was not a casual choice but resulted from testing. I just don’t understand what the reason is.

The size is very nice for me: the height of a newsmagazine (e.g., New Scientist), but not quite so wide. The controls are quite easy to learn.

In the Kindle discussions, I read that one person who has both the Kindle 2 and the Kindle DX really likes the size of the Kindle 2 since it’s easy to slip into her purse. That’s a thought, but I do like the larger page size of the DX. Of course, I’m a guy who buys hardbound copies of books rather than paperbacks (often, I admit, used copies from Abebooks.com).

With a physical book, you know where you are in it—that is, how much of the book remains to be read. The Kindle provides this information in several ways. If the text is open, at the bottom is a progress bar, showing how much you’ve read and how much is left. It also tells you, for example, that you’ve read "17%" of the book. On the Home page, which is a directory, a line of dots beneath each title indicates total book length, with larger dots indicating the part’s that read.

One of the most impressive (to me) features exploits the eBook aspect: you can "clip" passages, which are saved in "My Clippings," and transfer those to your computer. This is invaluable for research, of course, and much easier than typing the passage from the book. You can also add notes and bookmarks.

If the text has footnotes, it’s easy to jump to them and back, and you can also use the on-board dictionary to look up words. When you point to a footnote or a note you’ve made, the contents are also displayed at the foot of the screen.

One cute thing: the power cord and the USB cord are the same. You get a power plug (that fits a normal electrical outlet and has a USB port at the other end), and if you plug the cord into that, it’s a power cord; unplug it, and it’s a USB cord plus a detached power plug.

All in all, I’m very happy with this. Of course, it could all go horrible: the books and the software and the wireless connection all belong to Amazon, and if you lose your account there or if Amazon drops the product, you’re screwed. In the meantime, though, it’s quite handy.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 9:06 am

Green Irish Tweed and St. James

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SOTD090613

A fine shave today. Creed’s Green Irish Tweed shaving soap makes a fine lather, and the Plisson HMW 12 did its own part in that production very well. The Apollo Mikron smoothed the stubble away, with TOBS St. James providing a very nice finish.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2009 at 8:49 am

Posted in Shaving

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