Later On

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

Archive for June 20th, 2009

New locution

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The Younger Grandson, playing chess with The Eldest, captures a Bishop and crows, "Who’s got the hot sauce now?!"

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Daily life

More on the Froomkin firing

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Glenn Greenwald has an exchange with John Harris (formerly of the Washington Post and now at Politico).

Yesterday, after I read the news, I immediately sent an email to the "tips" address at the Washington Independent, recommending that they immediately hire Froomkin. The reply I got said that I was the third person to make the recommendation. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Daily life

Foreign workers in the US

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Christian Miller of ProPublica writes:

Rey Torres dreamed of a better life for his wife and five children when he left a neighborhood of wooden shacks and burning trash piles to drive a bus on a U.S. military base near Baghdad.

He hoped to send his children to college and build a new home with the $16,000 a year he earned in Iraq — four times what he could make in the Philippines.

Then, in April 2005, Torres, 31, was killed in an ambush by Iraqi insurgents. His widow and children were supposed to be protected by a war zone insurance system overseen by the U.S. government. They were eligible for about $300,000 in compensation.

But Gorgonia Torres knew nothing about the death benefit and did not apply. When she did learn about the insurance, two years later, it was from a reporter. She has since turned down an insurance company’s $22,000 settlement offer. Her only hope of receiving full compensation is a legal fight that could drag on for years.

"He knew it was dangerous…. He had second thoughts all the time," she said of her husband. "But he’d say, ‘If I don’t go, there’s no way we’ll be able to survive.’"

Torres was among tens of thousands of civilian contract workers from poverty-stricken countries hired to support the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. In case of injury or death, they are supposed to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance financed by American taxpayers. But the program has failed to deliver medical care and other benefits to many foreign workers and their survivors, a Los Angeles Times-ProPublica investigation found.

Previous articles by the Times [1] and ProPublica [2] described how American civilians injured in Iraq have had to battle insurers for medical care, artificial limbs, and other services.

An examination of what happened to foreign nationals has uncovered an even more dismal record. Injured workers have gone without medical treatment and compensation because they were never informed of their right to the benefits. Widows and children have not received death payments for the same reason.

The system relies on companies to make employees aware of insurance coverage and to report deaths and injuries to insurers and the federal government. But some employers have shirked those obligations, and the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the program, has done little to ensure compliance, punish violators or reach out to injured foreigners or their survivors.

An analysis of Pentagon and Labor Department records …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 10:09 am

Obama doesn’t think much of defendant’s rights

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Glenn Greenwald:

On Thursday, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision (.pdf), ruled that convicted criminals have no constitutional right to access the state’s evidence in order to subject it to DNA tests which could prove their innocence.  Two lower courts, a district court and the Ninth Circuit, had ruled there was such a right.  In reversing those rulings, the Court’s majority was composed of its conservative Justices (Roberts (who wrote the opinion), Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy).

Numerous liberal commentators are, rightfully, infuriated by the decision, but have been notably incomplete in their critiques.  Matt Yglesias describes the ruling as “Conservative Justices’ Strange Enthusiasm for the Punishment of the Innocent” and argues that ruling in favor of the state over defendants, the executive over the legislature, and the corporation over the individual is “conservative jurisprudence in a nutshell.”   Think Progress’ Ian Millhiser also blames conservatives for this perverse outcome.  Scott Lemieux, in making excellent arguments against the Court’s reasoning, similarly writes that “this is your court on conservatives” and concludes that it gives the lie to the John-Roberts-claim that judges are mere neutral “umpires.”  Several other liberal commentators exclusively blame conservatives for this decision.

There’s one important fact missing from all of that analysis:  namely, this was yet another case where the Obama DOJ sided with the Bush administration and advocated the position that the conservative justices adopted.  The Obama DOJ aggressively argued before the Court that convicted criminals have no constitutional right to access evidence for DNA analysis.  Indeed, its decision to embrace this extreme Bush position caused much controversy and anger back in February.  Law Professor Darren Hutchinson wrote back then:

The Office of the Solicitor General has adhered to Bush’s position that the inmate does not have a constitutional right to re-test the DNA evidence, even though doing so could establish his innocence and despite the fact that his attorney will pay for the new scientific analysis of the evidence. . . .

As a state senator, Obama sponsored and lobbied for legislation that gave all inmates a post-conviction right to DNA evidence — the same right that Osborne asserts in this case. . . . The Bush administration was not required to take a position in this case. Although the Bush administration decided to submit a brief in the case, the Obama administration could have refused to defend it, withdrawn it, or even switched position.

Indeed, the Obama DOJ rejected explicit requests from defendants rights advocates to repudiate the Bush position.  Instead, the Obama DOJ announced that Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal would make his debut appearance before the Supreme Court in that capacity advocating the Bush position (and that’s what then happened): …

Continue reading. What the HELL is going on in Obama’s DoJ? Greenwald concludes with this observation:

In general, how much one criticizes Obama is largely a function of the areas on which one tends to focus.  If I had spent the week writing about Iran, I would be largely defending — and praising — Obama’s very wise restraint, even in the face of bipartisan political pressure, when it comes to interfering in Iran’s internal political disputes.  His private and public refusal to cheer on all of Israel’s policies is also commendable.  Conversely, those who focus on gay issues have been understandably furious with the administration, and in the areas of civil liberties, secrecy, and his Justice Department generally, the administration has been nothing short of abysmal.  Criticizing the Right for its support of these positions is understandable, but in our modern political culture, the President is, far and away, the driving force, and those who supported him can have far more of an impact pointing out, rather than ignoring, the role he is playing in advancing these policies.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 10:05 am

Froomkin on Obama’s lack of transparency and penchant for secrecy

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Froomkin is at the Washington Post for the rest of this month, and this morning he has an excellent column on how Obama is clinging to Bush’s secrecy apparatus. (BTW, Krugman has a good comment on Froomkin’s firing.) Froomkin writes:

The Obama Justice Department yesterday put forth an new legal argument, one that even the Bush team might not have had the gall to employ. Call it the Daily Show disclosure exclusion.

Yes, a Justice Department lawyer actually argued to a federal district court judge that there should be an exemption from Freedom of Information Act disclosure rules for documents that would subject senior administration officials to embarrassment — as in on late-night television.

This is not just wrong, it’s perversely wrong. By contrast, a good rule of thumb would be: The more embarrassing, the more we need to know. The Justice Department and the White House should be forced to renounce this assertion immediately.

And if this wasn’t bizarre enough, consider the irony that in the case at hand, the Obama Justice Department is fighting the release of a transcript of former vice president Dick Cheney’s testimony to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about his role in the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

And guess what else? The Obama team relied extensively on a legal opinion (via Emptywheel) authored by Stephen Bradbury, the utterly discredited head of the Office of Legal Counsel whose other writings included memos outrageously asserting that torture was legal — and that Karl Rove had absolute immunity from congressional oversight.

In his memo, Bradbury described the information in question: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 10:04 am

Inspiring story: homeless girl goes to Harvard

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Esmeralda Bermudez in the LA Times:

Khadijah Williams stepped into chemistry class and instantly tuned out the commotion.

She walked past students laughing, gossiping, napping and combing one another’s hair. Past a cellphone blaring rap songs. And past a substitute teacher sitting in a near-daze.

Quietly, the 18-year-old settled into an empty table, flipped open her physics book and focused. Nothing mattered now except homework.

"No wonder you’re going to Harvard," a girl teased her.

Around here, Khadijah is known as "Harvard girl," the "smart girl" and the girl with the contagious smile who landed at Jefferson High School only 18 months ago.

What students don’t know is that she is also a homeless girl.

As long as she can remember, Khadijah has floated from shelters to motels to armories along the West Coast with her mother. She has attended 12 schools in 12 years; lived out of garbage bags among pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. Every morning, she upheld her dignity, making sure she didn’t smell or look disheveled.

On the streets, she learned how to hunt for their next meal, plot the next bus route and help choose a secure place to sleep — survival skills she applied with passion to her education.

Only a few mentors and Harvard officials know her background. She never wanted other students to know her secret — not until her plane left for the East Coast hours after her Friday evening graduation.

"I was so proud of being smart I never wanted people to say, ‘You got the easy way out because you’re homeless,’ " she said. "I never saw it as an excuse."…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

The Myth of the Rational Market

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I’m reading a fascinating book: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, by Justin Fox. Highly readable, it shows a history of economic and financial thought, fascinating in itself, and fascinating in the context of today’s economy. Highly recommended.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 9:53 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Super shave

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Yet another incredibly smooth and close trouble-free shave. The lather from Floris Elite, created by the Plisson Chinese Grey, was superb, and the Gillette Fat Boy, still using the Swedish Gillette of several shaves, did a great job. The blade seems as sharp as ever. Very, very smooth shave. And I liked June Clover so much yesterday that I had to go with it again.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2009 at 9:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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