Later On

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

Archive for July 21st, 2010

Pepper sauce

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I’ve been waiting and waiting for red Fresno peppers to show up in the store. Today they had red habaneros, so I went with those. This batch is going to be a bit hotter than normal. I did add 4 dried ancho peppers to mild it down a little, but I think it is still going to be extra hot.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

More Moroccan tomato soup

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I had to make it again. Improvements:

1. I bought heritage tomatoes

2. I sliced the tomatoes thinly and then used scissors to cut up the top and bottom (so no big piece of tomato skin). The immersion blender then worked much better.

It’s chilling now. And I did add some chopped Walla Walla onion at the end.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 1:23 pm

Interesting: the GOP is focusing on dissing African-Americans

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Steve Benen makes a good point:

The notion that conservative outrages tend to be manufactured nonsense isn’t new. The last 18 months has been filled with them.

Remember how excited the right was about the Gerald Walpin firing? Or the time conservatives were convinced that the White House was closing car dealerships based on owners’ political contributions? How about the time the right was apoplectic because the president urged kids to do well in school when last year’s school year began? And who can forget when Republicans discovered job offers to congressional candidates and compared it Watergate?

Inexplicably, several major news outlets responded to stories like these by insisting that the media should do more to take seriously the kind of stories and ideas that bubble up on conservative websites and talk radio.

More recently, however, the larger trend has taken a turn for the worse. It’s not just that the right gets worked up over stories that fall apart after minimal scrutiny — though that’s part of it — it’s also that the trumped up garbage is starting to get more focused. Kevin Drum raised an excellent point today:

There have been three big conservative outrages that have choked the airwaves over the past couple of weeks. #1 was about a bunch of scary black men, the New Black Panther Party. #2 was about a bunch of scary Muslims who want to build a triumphal mosque on the sacred soil of Ground Zero. #3 was about a vindictive black woman who works for the government and screws the white people she deals with. The running theme here is not just a coincidence.

This, by the way, coincided with leading Tea Party zealots blasting the NAACP as "racist," and a coordinated attack against Thurgood Marshall by Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There have to be some decent folks on the right who are uncomfortable with this. I know RNC Chairman Michael Steele recently conceded his party relied on a racially-divisive "Southern Strategy" for at least four decades, and that animosity towards Barack Obama is exacerbated by race, but conservatives — Fox News, GOP activists, prominent far-right media voices — continue to push the boundaries of acceptable discourse here. We’ve gone from conservatives making up scurrilous nonsense to gin up excitement with far-right voters to conservatives making up racist nonsense to gin up excitement with far-right voters.

And as the midterms draw closer, the ugliness seems to be intensifying. Where are the Republican grown-ups willing to say, "Enough"?

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Why the insane fear of gays?

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I simply don’t understand why gays cannot openly serve in the US military.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

Scott Horton on the Post series on "Top Secret America"

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Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 11:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Steps toward a police state

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One important step is to prevent coverage of police actions, so that the police can operate with as little oversight as possible. Thus the increasingly strong movement to prevent recording or videotaping (e.g., with cellphones) police (public servants) as they do their work. Here are some recent stories on this wrong-headed movement:

Ray Sanchez has this story at ABC News:

Growing Number of Prosecutions for Videotaping the Police
Prosecutions Draw Attention to Influence of Witness Videos

That Anthony Graber broke the law in early March is indisputable. He raced his Honda motorcycle down Interstate 95 in Maryland at 80 mph, popping a wheelie, roaring past cars and swerving across traffic lanes.

Anthony Graber was arrested for posting a video of his traffic stop on YouTube.
But it wasn’t his daredevil stunt that has the 25-year-old staff sergeant for the Maryland Air National Guard facing the possibility of 16 years in prison. For that, he was issued a speeding ticket. It was the video that Graber posted on YouTube one week later — taken with his helmet camera — of a plainclothes state trooper cutting him off and drawing a gun during the traffic stop near Baltimore.

In early April, state police officers raided Graber’s parents’ home in Abingdon, Md. They confiscated his camera, computers and external hard drives. Graber was indicted for allegedly violating state wiretap laws by recording the trooper without his consent.

Related:
WATCH: Caught on Tape: Cop Punches Girl

WATCH: Should Cops Wear Body Cameras?

WATCH: Cop Cam

Arrests such as Graber’s are becoming more common along with the proliferation of portable video cameras and cell-phone recorders. Videos of alleged police misconduct have become hot items on the Internet. YouTube still features Graber’s encounter along with numerous other witness videos. "The message is clearly, ‘Don’t criticize the police,’" said David Rocah, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland who is part of Graber’s defense team. "With these charges, anyone who would even think to record the police is now justifiably in fear that they will also be criminally charged."

Carlos Miller, a Miami journalist who runs the blog "Photography Is Not a Crime," said he has documented about 10 arrests since he started keeping track in 2007. Miller himself has been arrested twice for photographing the police. He won one case on appeal, he said, while the other was thrown out after the officer twice failed to appear in court.

"They’re just regular citizens with a cell-phone camera who happen to come upon a situation," Miller said. "If cops are doing their jobs, they shouldn’t worry."

The ACLU of Florida filed a First Amendment lawsuit last month on behalf of a model who was arrested February 2009 in Boynton Beach. Fla. Her crime: videotaping an encounter between police officers and her teenage son at a movie theater. Prosecutors refused to file charges against Sharron Tasha Ford and her son…

Continue reading. It’s a long story. I see no reason whatsoever to forbid taping police as they do their work. Indeed, I think it’s a great idea that should be encouraged. The police are public servants, and the public is well-served by seeing how they operate. I also believe that city council meetings should be videotaped and broadcast, and that trials should be videotaped and broadcast. Why not?

Carlos Miller, mentioned in the story, blogs about this issue. Here’s a sample post:

ABC News is the latest national mainstream media news organization to address the growing epidemic of cops using wiretapping charges to arrest people videotaping them.

And as in the previous cases, Photography is Not a Crime gets a link, a mention and I even get a quote in.

In the last few weeks, USA Today, The Washington Post (article and editorial) and NPR’s Talk of the Nation have addressed the issue.

Also on a more local level, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that the Allegheny County district attorney’s office settled a federal lawsuit by agreeing to redistribute a memo to police departments explaining that it is not against the law to videotape a cops on duty.

Unfortunately, memos don’t seem to make a difference because an Oregon police chief who received a similar memo from the city attorney vowed that these arrests would continue.

All this media coverage was probably what prompted U.S. Congressman Ed Towns last week to introduce a resolution to protect citizens against these arrests.

From what I’ve learned, a resolution is merely a ceremonial gesture that doesn’t carry much legislative weight.

But nothing happens overnight in Congress. The fact that a Congressman even made the effort to address the issue is a move in the right direction.

However, now it’s up to us to keep the momentum going by reaching out to the rest of Congress.

The first step is to create a national database of where these incidents have taken place.

Radley Balko, senior editor of Reason Magazine, suggested we create a map as he did when we worked at the Cato Institute to address the epidemic of botched police raids.

The question is, should we just limit the map to where people have been charged with wiretapping charges for videotaping cops or should we include all photography harassment, including at the hands of security guards?

I prefer the latter, only because it will really demonstrate that this is a regular occurrence.

Let me know what you think and what we can do to get more Congressional attention.

Finally, see Bruce Schneier’s post on this issue:

In at least three U.S. states, it is illegal to film an active duty policeman:

The legal justification for arresting the "shooter" rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists" (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

Massachusetts attorney June Jensen represented Simon Glik who was arrested for such a recording. She explained, "[T]he statute has been misconstrued by Boston police. You could go to the Boston Common and snap pictures and record if you want." Legal scholar and professor Jonathan Turley agrees, "The police are basing this claim on a ridiculous reading of the two-party consent surveillance law — requiring all parties to consent to being taped. I have written in the area of surveillance law and can say that this is utter nonsense."

The courts, however, disagree. A few weeks ago, an Illinois judge rejected a motion to dismiss an eavesdropping charge against Christopher Drew, who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler’s license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

This is a horrible idea, and will make us all less secure. I wrote in 2008:

You cannot evaluate the value of privacy and disclosure unless you account for the relative power levels of the discloser and the disclosee.

If I disclose information to you, your power with respect to me increases. One way to address this power imbalance is for you to similarly disclose information to me. We both have less privacy, but the balance of power is maintained. But this mechanism fails utterly if you and I have different power levels to begin with.

An example will make this clearer. You’re stopped by a police officer, who demands to see identification. Divulging your identity will give the officer enormous power over you: He or she can search police databases using the information on your ID; he or she can create a police record attached to your name; he or she can put you on this or that secret terrorist watch list. Asking to see the officer’s ID in return gives you no comparable power over him or her. The power imbalance is too great, and mutual disclosure does not make it OK.

You can think of your existing power as the exponent in an equation that determines the value, to you, of more information. The more power you have, the more additional power you derive from the new data.

Another example: When your doctor says "take off your clothes," it makes no sense for you to say, "You first, doc." The two of you are not engaging in an interaction of equals.

This is the principle that should guide decision-makers when they consider installing surveillance cameras or launching data-mining programs. It’s not enough to open the efforts to public scrutiny. All aspects of government work best when the relative power between the governors and the governed remains as small as possible — when liberty is high and control is low. Forced openness in government reduces the relative power differential between the two, and is generally good. Forced openness in laypeople increases the relative power, and is generally bad.

EDITED TO ADD (7/13): Another article. One jurisdiction in Pennsylvania has explicitly ruled the opposite: that it’s legal to record police officers no matter what.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 11:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

The GOP attitude toward the unemployed

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This is sort of sickening. First, Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

Today, the Senate extended unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans. Despite the terrible shape of the economy, conservatives resisted extending unemployment insurance for weeks for Americans who can’t find work, launching a filibuster to prevent a vote on the benefits.

Writing at the American Spectator yesterday, former Nixon speechwriter and TV personality Ben Stein downplayed the suffering unemployed Americans are experiencing by writing that the people who are unemployed right now are “generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities.” He claims the unemployed are Americans with “unpleasant personalities…who do not know how to do a day’s work“:

The people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities. I say “generally” because there are exceptions. But in general, as I survey the ranks of those who are unemployed, I see people who have overbearing and unpleasant personalities and/or who do not know how to do a day’s work. They are people who create either little utility or negative utility on the job. Again, there are powerful exceptions and I know some, but when employers are looking to lay off, they lay off the least productive or the most negative. To assure that a worker is not one of them, he should learn how to work and how to get along — not always easy.

Of course, saying that the 15 million Americans who are unemployed right now are “generally” people with “poor work habits” is as offensive as it is wrong. The current recession is a global phenomenon caused by the collective bad behavior of the world’s largest financial institutions. Before the recession, the unemployment rate hovered around six percent; it is ludicrous to say that millions of Americans suddenly got lazier and less able to work within the span of a few months.

Unfortunately, Stein is a widely respected voice on the American right who regularly appears on cable news to offer his thoughts on politics and policy. Using the Critical Mention media search engine, ThinkProgress finds that the name “Ben Stein” was mentioned 64 times in major television media networks within the past thirty days alone.

And Steve Benen comments on the GOP, even when it loses, holds on like dead-enders:

There was quite a bit of attention yesterday afternoon when the Senate, after multiple tries, finally overcame a Republican filibuster on extended unemployment benefits. It was welcome, overdue news.

What got far less attention was what happened next.

Under inexplicable Senate rules, after a filibuster is broken, the minority trying to block passage can delay a final, up-or-down vote for 30 hours. Democrats hoped Republicans would agree to waive this pointless delay, and allow the Senate to vote on jobless aid. Republicans, who know the bill is going to pass anyway, refused without explanation.

Why would they bother? It’s not just about Republicans being callous misanthropes — though that’s likely part of it — it’s also a matter of running out the clock. There’s just not much time left on the Senate schedule, and the GOP wants to use up as much of the calendar as possible to prevent other bills and nominations from coming to the floor.

If that means needlessly delaying aid to struggling families for a couple of days, Republicans see this as a small price to pay. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) spoke on the chamber floor last night, lamenting the pointless holdup. "I want everyone watching the proceedings tonight to again understand what the Republicans are doing," Reid said. "We just passed badly needed legislation to help 2.5 million unemployed. To show the lack of understanding and feeling and compassion of the Republicans, they’re making us waste 30 hours. There are people who are desperate for this money — desperate. And they’re making us wait because that’s what the rule of the Senate is.

"Now, I hope the American people understand how callous this is. People are desperate, can’t make house payments, car payments, can’t pay for kids’ food. And they are having us wait for 30 hours after cloture’s been invoked. We only need a simple majority to pass this bill now, but they’re making us wait. I just can’t articulate in strong enough feelings how unfair this is to 2.5 million people…. Every hour that is delayed is more misery for 2.5 million people."

I should also note that, under these same rules, the Senate can’t take up any other bills or nominations while waiting for the 30 hours to elapse. In effect, it’s like a mini-filibuster that gets tacked on to the failed filibuster.

If Republicans push this to its limit, the Senate won’t vote on the extended unemployment benefits until 9 p.m. (ET) this evening.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 11:22 am

Bad signs for Obama Administration

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A Greenwald column that observes how greatly Stony Hoyer has changed his tune on Guantánamo:

Letter signed by Steny Hoyer to George Bush, June 29, 2007, demanding closing of Guantanamo:

Holding prisoners for an indefinite period of time, without charging them with a crime goes against our values, ideals and principles as a nation governed by the rule of law. Further, Guantanamo Bay has a become a liability in the broader global war on terror, as allegations of torture, the indefinite detention of innocent men, and international objections to the treatment of enemy combatants has hurt our credibility as the beacon for freedom and justice. Its continued operation also threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad. . . . A liability of our own creation, the existence of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay is defeating our effort to ensure that the principles of freedom, justice and human rights are spread throughout the world.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, today:

Gitmo shut-down not a priority, top Dem says

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer acknowledged Tuesday that closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison is not a top priority for congressional Democrats.

In response to a question from a reporter about where shutting down Gitmo stands, Hoyer said, "I think that’s not an item, as you point out, of real current discussion. There’s some very big issues confronting us – dealing with growing the economy and Iraq and Afghanistan."

Hoyer added, "I think you’re not going to see it discussed very broadly in the near term."

How can it be that it’s not a priority to end something which — as Hoyer put it in 2007 — "threatens the safety of U.S. citizens and military personnel detained abroad"?   Why would Democrats like Hoyer be so willing to jeopardize the safety of American citizens and the lives of Our Troops abroad by de-prioritizing something which (at least if the 2007 Hoyer was to be believed) directly threatens them?  Also, we had wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2007 along with a whole variety of other problems — if those issues now justify de-prioritizing the closing of Guantanamo, why wasn’t that also true in 2007 when Hoyer (and most other Democrats ) were vocally demanding that Bush close the camp? 

This, needless to say, is par for the course:  policies which establishment Democrats pretended to vehemently oppose when out of power magically transformed into policies they embrace when in power.  Ironically, in response to the 2007 Hoyer letter, a Bush spokesperson "said the letter was received and noted that Bush has said he wants to close Guantanamo. ‘A number of steps need to take place before that can happen, and we’re continuing to work on those,’ she said."  Sound familiar?  Recall, too, that even the Obama plan to move the camp to Illinois would have entailed preserving one of the core factors condemned by Hoyer ("Holding prisoners for an indefinite period of time, without charging them with a crime goes against our values, ideals and principles as a nation governed by the rule of law").

Along these same lines, a provision in the new Intelligence Authorization Act which would provide for substantially greater oversight of the intelligence community has now disappeared from the bill in the face of a threat from the Obama White House to veto any bill containing it.  I wrote before about the Obama administration’s efforts to prevent greater oversight of covert intelligence programs — greater oversight also used to be an advocated Democratic policy — but it’s particularly ironic that Obama succeeded in quashing further oversight on the exact day that The Washington Post documents the completely out-of-control, unaccountable, secret world of the National Security and Surveillance State.  Allowing an audit of these intelligence programs by the General Accounting Office to ensure compliance with the law — something Nancy Pelosi was pushing — would have been one mild means of ensuring at least a marginal degree of accountability over Top Secret America.  Yet it looks likely even that will not happen because Obama is threatening a veto to prevent it.  I wonder why he would do that?

And another bad sign, from the same column:

Charlie Savage just noted on Twitter that Marty Lederman — the former blogger, Georgetown Law Professor, and vociferous critic of Bush executive power and Terrorism policies — is leaving his position at the Office of Legal Counsel to return to Georgetown Law.  Late last month, David Barron — the acting OLC Chief — also announced that he is leaving, to return to Harvard.  With Dawn Johnsen never having been confirmed and her nomination to head the office now withdrawn, what had originally seemed to be such a promising team at OLC — the office which determines for the Executive Branch the legal limits of presidential authority — no longer exists.  It will be interesting to see if Lederman comments on any of the theories and policies that were continued and/or adopted during his tenure.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 11:17 am

Food and progress notes

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I lost another 1/4 pound. I think that by 31 July I may be able to leave the realm of the obese. At my height, 230 lbs is the dividing line between "obese" and "overweight."

I bought some heritage tomatoes to make another batch of the Moroccan tomato soup. It’s terrific.

While I was at Whole Foods, I looked at some fruit juices and fruit juice drinks. I note that sugar gets added to almost every drink. No wonder the US is the land of the obese. I did find some that did not use sugar, so I got those to add as flavoring to my iced white tea.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life

The heartless Obama Administration

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There is much to like in the Obama Administration, but sadly, also much to condemn—the Obama citizen-assassination program first and foremost, but much else besides. Take a look, for example at this report by Nina Bernstein:

Vincenzo Donnoli was 9 when his family immigrated legally to Brooklyn. He attended Erasmus Hall High School, married and divorced in Flatbush, ran a landscaping business and had five children. But at 51 he is back — alone and jobless — in Pomarico, the hill town in southern Italy where his father was a shepherd, as a deportee banned for life from returning to the United States.

His offense: two misdemeanor convictions for possessing small amounts of cocaine, in 1988 and 2006, both guilty pleas resolved without jail time. Retroactively, immigration authorities added them up to equal an “aggravated felony” that required Mr. Donnoli’s automatic deportation last year.

That kind of arithmetic, an aggressive government interpretation of 1996 immigration laws that has been increasingly invoked in recent years, was rejected by the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision in June. But the ruling came too late for Mr. Donnoli and thousands of deportees like him, all former lawful residents who have no way to turn that legal vindication into a chance to come home.

“The Supreme Court has said in a series of cases that the government’s theories of deportation have been wrong for years,” said Daniel Kanstroom, a professor at Boston College Law School, citing earlier decisions that rejected the government’s classification of other minor crimes as deportable offenses. “And yet the legal system has not developed a mechanism to right that wrong for the thousands of people who have been wrongly deported.”

Under the ruling last month, which echoed decisions by four federal circuit courts, including the one covering New York, legal residents with minor drug convictions are eligible to have an immigration judge weigh their offenses against other factors in their lives and decide whether to let them stay.

But deportees who were denied such a hearing have no means to get one now. The Board of Immigration Appeals says it has no jurisdiction over any case after deportation. Government regulations prohibit any motion to reopen the case of someone who has left the country; judicial circuits are divided over that interpretation of immigration law, and a request that the Supreme Court consider the matter is pending.

The Obama administration, which is on track to deport a record 400,000 people this fiscal year, according to government statistics, has shown no eagerness to open the door. Now two dozen legal rights groups are calling for a process that would let immigrants reopen their cases under the ruling last month.

“American principles of justice — fairness, due process and discretion — require that these immigrants now receive their day in court,” the groups wrote in a June 18 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security.

The Justice Department referred questions about the letter to the Department of Homeland Security, where a spokesman, Matthew Chandler, declined to comment on the issues it raised. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 9:47 am

Trusting business: Asbestos edition

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Where is that guy who took the position that we can simply trust businesses to do what’s good for us, the general public? I would love for him to explain this story, whose headline is included:

Lobbyists push use of deadly asbestos in developing nations

A global network of lobby groups has spent nearly $100 million since the mid-1980s to preserve the international market for asbestos, a known carcinogen that’s taken millions of lives and is banned or restricted in 52 countries, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found in a nine-month investigation.

Backed by public and private money and aided by scientists and friendly governments, the groups helped facilitate the sale of 2.2 million tons of asbestos last year, mostly in developing nations. Anchored by the Montreal-based Chrysotile Institute, the network stretches from New Delhi to Mexico City to the city of Asbest in Russia’s Ural Mountains. Its message is that asbestos can be used safely under "controlled" conditions.

As a result, asbestos use is growing rapidly in countries such as China and India, prompting health experts to warn of future epidemics of lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, an aggressive malignancy that usually attacks the lining of the lungs.

The World Health Organization says that 125 million people still encounter asbestos in the workplace, and the United Nations’ International Labor Organization estimates that 100,000 workers die each year from asbestos-related diseases. Thousands more perish from exposures outside the workplace.

Dr. James Leigh, the retired director of the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health at the Sydney School of Public Health in Australia, has forecast a total of 5 million to 10 million deaths from asbestos-related cancers by 2030, an estimate he considers conservative.

"It’s totally unethical," Jukka Takala, the director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and a former International Labor Organization official, said of the pro-asbestos campaign. "It’s almost criminal. Asbestos cannot be used safely. It is clearly a carcinogen. It kills people."

Indeed, a panel of 27 experts convened by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer reported last year, "Epidemiological evidence has increasingly shown an association of all forms of asbestos … with an increased risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma."

The asbestos industry, however, has signaled that it will fight to protect sales of raw fiber and finished products such as asbestos cement roofing and water pipes. Among its allies are industry-funded researchers who have contributed hundreds of articles to the scientific literature claiming that chrysotile — white asbestos, the only kind sold today — is orders of magnitude less hazardous than brown or blue asbestos. Russia is the world’s biggest chrysotile producer, China the biggest consumer…

Continue reading. So: They know their product will cause agonizing deaths for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. That’s on the hand. On the other hand, they can protect themselves and their families and they will make a lot of money. For a certain kind of person (a sociopath), it’s easy to decide in favor of the money. And those are the people who run businesses—the ethical and moral get sorted out in the process because they are unwilling to put the company’s profits first, before all other consideration.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 9:25 am

Georgia becomes first country to sign the Vienna Declaration

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Interesting story from Transform:

The First Lady of Georgia announced at a breakfast event at the AIDS 2010 conference today that Georgia would sign the Vienna Declaration, the first country to do so. It is the official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2010).

From the Declaration: "The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in  overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed."

This is a significant step forward for this important initiative and is likely to herald a series of national endorsements, at the very least challenging other states to sign or explain why they are opposed to evidence based drug policy. In stark contrast Canada has been the first country to specifically reject an invitation to sign the declaration – attracting vocal criticism and protest at the Vienna AIDS conference.

In related news a special edition of the Lancet on HIV and drugs was launched at AIDS 2010 yesterday, its cover stating that "We want to see aggressive, state sponsored hostility to drug users replaced by enlightened, scientifically driven attitudes and more equitable societal responses". The Lancet includes and endorses the Vienna declaration. A video of the impressive conference session (below) at which the special edition was presented is available below (details here). It is particularly worth viewing the presentations that bookend the session, by the Lancet editor Richard Horton, and Prof Chris Beyer (Johns Hopkins – Baltimore) – both making unambiguous calls for the decriminalisation of drug users. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 9:19 am

Remember when we were warned about right-wing terrorists?

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The DHS put together a warning document on right-wing militias as a source of domestic terrorism. Although this report was prepared by the Bush Administration, the Right went into breath-holding hissy-fits at the outrage of it all, and so the report was withdrawn. This did not, however, alter the facts on the ground, which tend to undercut the positions of the Right. Steve Benen:

Over the weekend, a well-armed unemployed carpenter named Byron Williams allegedly initiated a shootout with police in Oakland. Williams’ mother told reporters her son, who survived the ordeal, was angry at "the way Congress was railroading through all these left-wing agenda items." Another report indicated that Williams has a history of opposing "liberal causes."

I held off on writing about this, waiting for official confirmation about the gunman’s motivations. Alas, the early reports were correct — Williams was an anti-government zealot, hoping to start a "revolution." (via Oliver Willis)

Convicted felon Byron Williams loaded up his mother’s Toyota Tundra with guns, strapped on his body armor and headed to San Francisco late Saturday night with one thing in mind: to kill workers at the American Civil Liberties Union and an environmental foundation, prosecutors say.

Williams, an anti-government zealot on parole for bank robbery, had hoped to "start a revolution" with the bloodshed at the ACLU and the Tides Foundation in San Francisco, authorities said.

But before he made it to the city, Williams was stopped at early Sunday by California Highway Patrol officers for speeding and driving erratically on westbound Interstate 580 west of Grand Avenue in Oakland.

Police say he then initiated a chaotic, 12-minute gunbattle with officers, firing a 9mm handgun, a .308-caliber rifle and a shotgun. He reloaded his weapons when he ran out of ammunition and stopped only after officers shot him in areas of his body not covered by his bullet-resistant vest, authorities said.

Remarkably, no one was killed, though Williams was firing a rifle with ammunition that "could penetrate ballistic body armor and vehicles, police said." He was in court yesterday, and will face all kinds of criminal charges, including the attempted murder of four police officers.

But stepping back, every time there’s violence like this, I’m reminded of the concerns raised by the Department of Homeland Security last year, about potentially violent anti-government extremists — concerns that appear increasingly prescient.

These examples of politically-motivated attacks seem to keep piling up. Just this year, John Patrick Bedell opened fire at the Pentagon; Joe Stack flew an airplane into a building; Jerry Kane Jr. and his son killed two police officers in Arkansas; and the Hutaree Militia terrorist plot was uncovered. Last year, James von Brunn opened fire at the Holocaust memorial museum; Richard Poplawski gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent "Obama gun ban"; and Dr. George Tiller was assassinated. In 2008, Jim David Adkisson opened fire in a Unitarian church in Tennessee, in part because of his "hatred of the liberal movement."

Let there be no doubt: deranged madmen are responsible for their own violent actions. But in the wake of these attacks, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to wish that some of the leading far-right voices would lower the rhetorical temperature a bit, helping to cool the tempers of those who might be inclined to hurt others.

I expect we’ll be seeing more of these as the Tea Party and Tea-Party candidates call for armed resistance to laws they don’t like and the movement to carry firearms in public continues to grow.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 9:15 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Mühle open-comb and a great shaving cream from the past

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A commenter suggested a comparison on the Mühle open-comb with the iKon open-comb, so today is the Mühle’s day: a very smooth and comfortable shave, thanks in part to the excellent lather from the Tryphon Violet shaving cream—the Lucretia Borgia synthetic-bristle brush did a great job, and Tryphon shaving crams are excellent. You’ll notice that Giovanni used no dye in his formulation.

The shave was smooth and quite comfortable—the previously used Astra Keramik Platinum blade still did a great job. The Mühle is considerably lighter than the iKon: 1.7 ounces vs 3.1 ounces for the iKon. Tomorrow I’ll use the iKon and get a closer comparison.

A splash of the wonderful New York aftershave, and I’m good to go.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2010 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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