Later On

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

Archive for July 14th, 2012

Terrific dance number

leave a comment »

I am watching Easter Parade, which I’ve not seen in so long I’ve totally forgotten it. The toy-store dance number by Fred Astaire, with drums and taps, is astonishingly good. Fantastic.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2012 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Sovietization of the American bureaucracy

with one comment

The managers and leaders of several Federal agencies seem completely out of control. There’s the Federal Bureau of Investigation, knowing that faulty laboratory work and procedures had sent innocent men to prison (and seemingly one to his execution), but not notifying any of the defendants or their lawyers. I blogged that, and a Google search will turn up more. (The FBI and DoJ continue to maintain that what they did was perfectly fine.)

And the National Reconnaissance Office using its lie detector tests to go far beyond legal limits in looking for personal information. Marisa Taylor reported that story for McClatchy, and the NRO immediately responded by attacking the whistleblower. Just as with the FBI and DoJ, the bureaucrats circle the wagons and don’t give an inch: they will do what they want to do, ethics and laws be damned. From the story at the first link:

. . . The National Reconnaissance Office is so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior that officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses, a McClatchy investigation found.

The disclosures include a wide range of behavior and private thoughts such as drug use, child abuse, suicide attempts, depression and sexual deviancy. The agency, which oversees the nation’s spy satellites, records the sessions that were required for security clearances and stores them in a database.

Even though it’s aggressively collecting the private disclosures, when people confess to serious crimes such as child molestation they’re not always arrested or prosecuted.

“You’ve got to wonder what the point of all of this is if we’re not even going after child molesters,” said Mark Phillips, a veteran polygrapher who resigned from the agency in late May after, he says, he was retaliated against for resisting abusive techniques. “This is bureaucracy run amok. These practices violate the rights of Americans, and it’s not even for a good reason.”

The agency refused to answer McClatchy’s questions about its practices. However, it’s acknowledged in internal documents that it’s not supposed to directly ask more personal questions but says it legally collects the information when people spontaneously confess, often at the beginning of the polygraph test.

After a legal review of Phillips’ assertions, the agency’s assistant general counsel Mark Land concluded in April that it did nothing wrong. “My opinion, based on all of the facts, is that management’s action is legally supportable and corrective action is not required,” he wrote.

But McClatchy’s review of hundreds of documents – including internal policy documents, memos and agency emails – indicates that the National Reconnaissance Office is pushing ethical and possibly legal limits by: . . .

Wired‘s Robert Beckhusen has a post commenting on the child molestation issue, basing his post on the McClatchy stories above. But nothing seems to be done about these things.

And now we learn that FDA management spied on its own scientists who were exposing misbehavior at that agency. The government bureaucracies—at least some of them—have become authoritarian islands unconcerned about the public welfare and vindictive toward those who expose incompetence and bad decision-making—and Obama leads the pack with his unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers and his increasingly secretive administration. And this is the liberal party. I shudder to think where the country’s going if even more authoritarian elements take control.

Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane have the story on the FDA in today’sNY Times:

A wide-ranging surveillance operation by the Food and Drug Administration against a group of its own scientists used an enemies list of sorts as it secretly captured thousands of e-mails that the disgruntled scientists sent privately to members of Congress, lawyers, labor officials, journalists and even President Obama, previously undisclosed records show.

What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.

Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.

The agency, using so-called spy software designed to help employers monitor workers, captured screen images from the government laptops of the five scientists as they were being used at work or at home. The software tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by line as they were being drafted, the documents show.

The extraordinary surveillance effort grew out of a bitter dispute lasting years between the scientists and their bosses at the F.D.A. over the scientists’ claims that faulty review procedures at the agency had led to the approval of medical imaging devices for mammograms and colonoscopies that exposed patients to dangerous levels of radiation.

A confidential government review in May by the Office of Special Counsel, which deals with the grievances of government workers, found that the scientists’ medical claims were valid enough to warrant a full investigation into what it termed “a substantial and specific danger to public safety.”

The documents captured in the surveillance effort — including confidential letters to at least a half-dozen Congressional offices and oversight committees, drafts of legal filings and grievances, and personal e-mails — were posted on a public Web site, apparently by mistake, by a private document-handling contractor that works for the F.D.A. The New York Times reviewed the records and their day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour accounting of the scientists’ communications.

With the documents from the surveillance cataloged in 66 huge directories, many Congressional staff members regarded as sympathetic to the scientists each got their own files containing all their e-mails to or from the whistle blowers. Drafts and final copies of letters the scientists sent to Mr. Obama about their safety concerns were also included.

Last year, the scientists found that a few dozen of their e-mails had been intercepted by the agency. They filed a lawsuit over the issue in September, after four of the scientists had been let go, and The Washington Post first disclosed the monitoring in January. But the wide scope of the F.D.A. surveillance operation, its broad range of targets across Washington and the huge volume of computer information it generated were not previously known, even to some of the targets. . .

Continue reading.

Just as with the financial sector: illegal and highly damaging actions are exposed and nothing is done. No one responsible is punished. A few corporations pay fines in trivial amounts (compared to their assets and revenues), but no individual suffers in the least.

Things are looking grim indeed, at least to me.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2012 at 4:08 pm

More on the effort to close medical marijuana dispensary Harborside Health Center

leave a comment »

The Federal effort in the case of Harborside Health Center is particularly egregious, since it is directly contrary to promises made by Eric Holder and President Obama. Scott Morgan reports:

One month ago, Eric Holder testified before Congress that the Dept. of Justice is only targeting medical marijuana businesses that violate their state’s laws. Anyone who didn’t realize it was a lie should be getting the message right about now.

The federal government is moving to shut down the nation’s largest and highest-profile medical marijuana dispensary operation, filing papers to seize properties in Oakland and San Jose where Harborside Health Center does business.

Copies of the federal Complaint for Forfeiture were taped to the front doors of the two dispensaries Tuesday, alleging that they were “operating in violation of federal law.”

Medical marijuana advocates, as well as some state and local officials, decried the action, saying it hurts patients in legitimate need of the drug and breaks repeated promises by President Obama‘s Justice Department that it was targeting only operations near schools and parks or otherwise in violation of the state’s laws. [LA Times]

They’re not even pretending it’s about state law anymore. Harborside has a permit from the City of Oakland and pays millions in taxes to the state of California. They’ve been covered extensively in the press, and featured on the Discovery Channel program “Weed Wars”. Everyone knows exactly what goes on inside Harborside because we’ve seen it with our own eyes: they provide high-quality medical cannabis and other services to qualified patients. This is the definition of a legal and well-regulated medical marijuana dispensary.

So how are the feds justifying their attempt to shut down the most responsible business in the industry? They are claiming, I kid you not, that it’s just too successful:

I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need. – U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag

This is beyond outrageous and it flies in the face of even the most recent excuses put forward by the Attorney General and the President himself when attempting to justify their escalating war on medical marijuana.

By targeting Harborside solely on the basis of its reputation as the nation’s “biggest” medical marijuana provider, DOJ forgets something rather important: it’s the biggest because it’s the best. Harborside is a model of safe, secure, patient-oriented medical marijuana services. It’s also a model of legal compliance, and any effort to shut its doors simply obliterates the Attorney General’s recent claims that DOJ is merely upholding local laws. He really should stop saying that. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2012 at 11:06 am

The baby Omega Badger

with 2 comments

The baby Omega Badger is a Wee Scot act-alike: loads of good lather in a tiny format. With the Martin de Candre soap, I immediately got enough lather for multiple passes, though I did only three, using the asymmetric iKon OSS (open comb one side, straight bar the other) with a Swedish Gillette blade. It was a particularly smooth and pleasant shave today: very fine soap and lather, excellent razor and blade, and the Speick aftershave was a good finish. It’s always a settling thing to start the day with an enjoyable experience.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2012 at 8:39 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: