Later On

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

Archive for January 2010

A GOP nest of snakes

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Interesting connections from Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel:

You’ve no doubt heard that James O’Keefe, the guy who broke some laws secretly filming ACORN employees, got busted yesterday trying to film some buddies bugging Mary Landrieu’s office.

But I’m not as interested, for the moment, in O’Keefe as I am in his alleged accomplice, Robert Flanagan.

You see, Flanagan is the son of the acting US Attorney for Western LA, William Flanagan. Flanagan, Sr., had only been in charge for a week–since January 18, when Bush’s US Attorney for the district, Donald Washington, stepped down–when his son got busted on federal property elsewhere in the state.

But that’s not the only neat connection that Robert Flanagan has. Last year–from January to April–Flanagan, Jr., interned for Congresswoman Mary Fallin (R-OK). And Fallin is one of just 31 Representatives who co-sponsored a resolution honoring James O’Keefe and his ACORN-filming accomplice, Hannah Giles. (Fallin was joined on the resolution by such notables as Joe Barton, Louis Gohmert, Steve King, and Jean Schmidt.)

It’s all very cozy, apparently, in Republican corruption circles.

Oh, and speaking of corrupt Republicans, you might be interested in knowing that Obama’s nominee to be US Attorney for LA’s Western District, Stephanie Finley, the woman who will replace Flanagan, Sr., is being blocked by LA’s other Senator, David “Diapers” Vitter.  Why? Because he wants to make sure LA’s US Attorney for the Eastern District–the one who will be prosecuting Messrs. O’Keefe and Flanagan, now–stays in office for a while longer.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Good post on Howard Zinn

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Bob Herbert in the NY Times:

I had lunch with Howard Zinn just a few weeks ago, and I’ve seldom had more fun while talking about so many matters that were unreservedly unpleasant: the sorry state of government and politics in the U.S., the tragic futility of our escalation in Afghanistan, the plight of working people in an economy rigged to benefit the rich and powerful.

Mr. Zinn could talk about all of that and more without losing his sense of humor. He was a historian with a big, engaging smile that seemed ever-present. His death this week at the age of 87 was a loss that should have drawn much more attention from a press corps that spends an inordinate amount of its time obsessing idiotically over the likes of Tiger Woods and John Edwards.

Mr. Zinn was chagrined by the present state of affairs, but undaunted. “If there is going to be change, real change,” he said, “it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves. That’s how change happens.”

We were in a restaurant at the Warwick Hotel in Manhattan. Also there was Anthony Arnove, who had worked closely with Mr. Zinn in recent years and had collaborated on his last major project, “The People Speak.” It’s a film in which well-known performers bring to life the inspirational words of everyday citizens whose struggles led to some of the most profound changes in the nation’s history. Think of those who joined in — and in many cases became leaders of — the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist revolution, the gay rights movement, and so on.

Think of what this country would have been like if those ordinary people had never bothered to fight and sometimes die for what they believed in. Mr. Zinn refers to them as “the people who have given this country whatever liberty and democracy we have.”

Our tendency is to give these true American heroes short shrift, just as we gave Howard Zinn short shrift. In the nitwit era that we’re living through now, it’s fashionable, for example, to bad-mouth labor unions and feminists even as workers throughout the land are treated like so much trash and the culture is so riddled with sexism that most people don’t even notice it. (There’s a restaurant chain called “Hooters,” for crying out loud.)

I always wondered why Howard Zinn was considered a radical. (He called himself a radical.) He was an unbelievably decent man who felt obliged to challenge injustice and unfairness wherever he found it. What was so radical about believing that workers should get a fair shake on the job, that corporations have too much power over our lives and much too much influence with the government, that wars are so murderously destructive that alternatives to warfare should be found, that blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities should have the same rights as whites, that the interests of powerful political leaders and corporate elites are not the same as those of ordinary people who are struggling from week to week to make ends meet?

Mr. Zinn was often taken to task for peeling back the rosy veneer of much of American history to reveal sordid realities that had remained hidden for too long. When writing about Andrew Jackson in his most famous book, A People’s History of the United States, published in 1980, Mr. Zinn said:

“If you look through high school textbooks and elementary school textbooks in American history, you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people — not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.” …

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music

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Sounds like an interesting book:

Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music

by Greg Milner

A review by Brian Hayes in American Scientist

"The story goes that, late in his life, Guglielmo Marconi had an epiphany. The godfather of radio technology decided that no sound ever dies. It just decays beyond the point that we can detect it with our ears. Any sound was forever recoverable, he believed, with the right device. His dream was to build one powerful enough to pick up Christ’s Sermon on the Mount."

Thus begins Perfecting Sound Forever, Greg Milner’s cultural and technological history of the sound-recording industry. As far as I know, the original-cast album of the Sermon on the Mount has not yet been released on CD, but plenty of acoustic waves emitted in our own era have been captured and preserved, to become the golden oldies of future generations. Neil Young said it: Rock and roll will never die.

Living in an age of ubiquitous recorded audio, it can be hard to appreciate that sound was once the most evanescent of sensory experiences. Faces could live on in portraiture (even before photography), and words could be written down, but until Edison dreamed up his phonograph, the human voice never survived except in memory and imagination.

Edison thought he had invented a dictation machine; his business model was to sell recording equipment and blank media on which people would make spoken memos to themselves or perhaps to posterity. The recording of music was an afterthought; almost 25 years passed between the first version of the phonograph and the release of the first commercial music recordings. After that, though, it wasn’t long before the "phonograph" became the "record player." This was not to be an instrument with which we would record our own voices; instead, a few star performers — from Enrico Caruso to Hannah Montana — would sell millions of copies of recordings, which the rest of us would listen to over and over. The process of creating those sound recordings became an art, a science and an engineering profession.

Edison’s early phonographs recorded on wax-coated cylinders; the rival gramophone machines of the Victor Company played shellac-coated discs. The competition between these two recording formats was the first of many contests for market share that occupy much of Milner’s history. Over the years, consumers of recorded music have been confronted with a long series of choices: 78s versus 45s versus 33s, mono versus stereo, tubes versus transistors, tapes versus discs, cassettes versus eight-track, CDs versus vinyl, analog versus digital, and now MP3s versus WAVs and a dozen other digital file formats. Behind the scenes, equally contentious issues have divided the community of producers and sound engineers. Should the studio be a performance hall that contributes ambience to the sound, or an anechoic chamber? Do microphones belong out in the auditorium where a listener would sit or close to the voices and instruments? Should a performance be recorded all in one take or assembled from bits and pieces?

My own exposure to recorded music began around the time that the "record player" turned into the "hi-fi." …

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 12:42 pm

Rewriting the OPR report so malefactors will get off

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Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel:

Mike Isikoff and Dan Klaidman put up a post about an hour ago letting the first blood for the Obama Administration’s intentional tanking of the OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility) Report. In light of Obama’s focused determination to sweep the acts of the Bush Administration, no matter how malevolent, under the rug and “move forward” the report is not unexpected. However, digesting the first leak in what would appear to be a staged rollout is painful:

…an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The news broken in the Newsweek Declassified post is huge, assuming it is accurate, and the sense is that it is. In spite of the weight of the report, the report tucks the substantive content behind the deceptively benign title “Holder Under Fire”. The subject matter is far too significant though for it to have been casually thrown out. Consider this description of the OPR finding on the nature and quality of the critical August 1, 2002 Torture Memo:

The report, which is still going through declassification, will provide many new details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role that top White House officials played in the process, say two sources who have read the report but asked for anonymity to describe a sensitive document. Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

Hard to figure how this finding and conclusion could be determined by David Margolis to warrant the “softening” of the original finding of direct misconduct. Margolis is nearly 70 years old and has a long career at DOJ and is fairly well though of. Margolis was tasked by Jim Comey to shepherd Pat Fitzgerald’s Libby investigation. In short, the man has some bona fides.

Margolis is, however, also tied to the DOJ and its culture for over forty years, not to mention his service in upper management as Associate Attorney General during the Bush Administration when the overt acts of torture and justification by Margolis’ contemporaries and friends were committed. For one such filter to redraw the findings and conclusions of such a critical investigation in order to exculpate his colleagues is unimaginable.

One thing is for sure, with a leak like this being floated out on a late Friday night, the release of the full OPR Report, at least that which the Obama Administration will deem fit for the common public to see, is at hand. Mike Isikoff and Dan Klaidman have made sure the torturers and their enablers can have a comfortable weekend though. So we got that going for us

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 12:14 pm

Obama and civil rights

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Greenwald, in an exceptionally good column (and be sure to the comparison with Ronald Reagan’s policies):

As has been voluminously documented here, one of the most notable aspects of the first year of the Obama presidency has been how many previously controversial Bush/Cheney policies in the terrorism and civil liberties realms have been embraced.  Even Obama’s most loyal defenders often acknowledge that, as Michael Tomasky recently put it, "the civil liberties area has been [Obama’s] worst.  This is the one area in which the president’s actions don’t remotely match the candidate’s promises."  From indefinite detention and renditions to denial of habeas rights, from military commissions and secrecy obsessions to state secrets abuses, many of the defining Bush/Cheney policies continue unabated under its successor administration.

Despite all that, there is substantial political pressure from all directions for Obama to reverse the very few decisions where he actually deviated from Bush/Cheney radicalism in these areas.  In the wake of extreme political pressure, mostly from Democrats, the White House just forced Eric Holder to retreat on his decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, and numerous Democrats now appear prepared to join with the GOP to cut-off funding for civilian trials altogether, forcing the administration to try all Terrorists in military commissions or just hold them indefinitely.  The administration has created a warped multi-tiered justice system where only a select few even get civilian trials — those whom they know in advance they can convict — yet there are growing signs that the President will abandon even that symbolic, piecemeal nod to due process.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post is publishing demands from former Bush CIA and NSA Chief Michael Hayden — who presided over the blatantly criminal warrantless eavesdropping program — that Obama must even more closely model his Terrorism policies on Bush’s, as though the architects of Bush’s illegal policies are our Guiding Lights when deciding what to do now.  Even Obama’s own top intelligence official criticized the Justice Department’s decision to treat Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as what he is — a criminal — and accord him normal due process.  And an internal Justice Department investigation which — under Bush — had concluded that John Yoo and Jay Bybee committed ethical violations in their authoring of the "torture memos" and should be investigated by their state bars has now, under Obama, reportedly been changed — whitewashed — to conclude that they acted appropriately (even if their written opinions exhibited "poor judgment").

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 12:11 pm

Light therapy for S.A.D. people

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A surprising number of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, in which depression sets in as daylight hours become fewer and darker. Sitting with full-spectrum lighting of sufficient intensity has been found to be an effective therapy for many. In Healthbolt, Marijke Durning, a registered nurse, recounts her experiment in treating herself:

It’s been a week since I started using my SAD light (My S.A.D. Light Experiment Starts Today) and here’s my update: I think it’s working.

I started using it for half an hour, the first two days on 50% strength, the next few on 60% and starting today at 70%. The first two days, I used it within the first hour of being up and then again for 15 minutes in the late afternoon. Since then, I’ve only done it in the morning, again within the first hour of being up, always for half an hour.

I had a few concerns before starting with it. The biggest one was …

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Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 11:54 am

Win 7 tips

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I did a search on Windows 7 tips, and found this useful post by one of the developers, Tim Sneath. Some information from there (but read the whole thing):

Over future blog entries, I’ll spend time drilling into some of those areas in more detail; of course, there are plenty of articles already out there that dissect Windows 7 in some depth, with the Windows SuperSite and Ars Technica providing notably comprehensive entries. I’d also like to draw particular attention to the series of Windows 7 interviews that Yochay Kiriaty has been posting on Channel 9, which give the inside scoop on the development of many of the most significant new features…

The Black Box Recorder. Every developer wishes there was a way that an end-users could quickly and simply record a repro for the problem that they’re running into that is unique to their machine. Windows 7 comes to the rescue! Part of the in-built diagnostic tools that we use internally to send feedback on the product, the Problem Steps Recorder provides a simple screen capture tool that enables you to record a series of actions. Once you hit “record”, it tracks your mouse and keyboard and captures screenshots with any comments you choose to associate alongside them. Once you stop recording, it saves the whole thing to a ZIP file, containing an HTML-based “slide show” of the steps. It’s a really neat little tool and I can’t wait for it to become ubiquitous on every desktop! The program is called psr.exe; you can also search for it from Control Panel under “Record steps to reproduce a problem”


Gabriola. As well as the other typographic features mentioned above, Windows 7 includes Gabriola, an elaborate display type from the Tiro Typeworks foundry that takes advantage of OpenType Layout to provide a variety of stylistic sets, flourishes and ornamentation ligatures:


Rearranging the Furniture. Unless you’ve seen it demonstrated, you may not know that the icons in the new taskbar aren’t fixed in-place. You can reorder them to suit your needs, whether they’re pinned shortcuts or running applications. What’s particularly nice is that once they’re reordered, you can start a new instance of any of the first five icons by pressing Win+1, Win+2, Win+3 etc. I love that I can quickly fire up a Notepad2 instance on my machine with a simple Win+5 keystroke, for instance.
What’s less well-known is that you can similarly drag the system tray icons around to rearrange their order, or move them in and out of the hidden icon list. It’s an easy way to customize your system to show the things you want, where you want them.

Hiding the Windows Live Messenger Icon. Hopefully your first act after Windows 7 setup completed was to download and install the Windows Live Essentials suite of applications (if not, then you’re missing out on a significant part of the Windows experience). If you’re a heavy user of IM, you may love the way that Windows Live Messenger is front and central on the taskbar, where you can easily change status and quickly send an IM to someone:

win 7

On the other hand, you may prefer to keep Windows Live Messenger in the system tray where it’s been for previous releases. If so, you can fool the application into the old style of behavior. To do this, close Windows Live Messenger, edit the shortcut properties and set the application to run in Windows Vista compatibility mode. Bingo!

Much more in the post, but those are the things that I found most interesting/useful.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 January 2010 at 11:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

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