Later On

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

Archive for October 2nd, 2013

Steven Colbert on Opt Out

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Colbert, in a video that I cannot seem to embed, but can be watched here, He really hits it out of the park on 3 points:

a. How insurance works (the Right doesn’t seem to understand)

b. The Right’s indignation at emotional appeals for ACA, leading immediately to the Right’s emotional appeal to…

c. Opt Out: Can there be any sicker or more perverse campaign than a campaign to convince young people NOT to buy health insurance (and pay a fine for the privilege of not getting health insurance). Next, they’ll be telling young males, “Look, if you’re a young driver, it’s stupid to have to buy car insurance. Don’t do it. What could possibly happen?”

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 5:13 pm

Posted in GOP, Healthcare

How a Purse Snatching Led to the Legal Justification for NSA Domestic Spying

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David Kravets writes at Wired:

It began as an ordinary purse snatching. On an early Baltimore morning in 1976, a local street thug crouched alongside his green Monte Carlo, pretending to change a flat, biding his time. Finally, a young woman passed by walking alone to her suburban home. The assailant wrenched her handbag from her grasp, jumped into his car and tore off down the street before the young victim could glimpse his license plate.

The perp, Michael Lee Smith, was apprehended weeks later, thanks in part to the police department’s use of a machine known as a “pen register” to track the threatening phone calls the assailant had started making to his victim. The court wrangling that followed, however, would continue for three years, and eventually land on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1979 the court upheld Smith’s conviction, and his 10-year prison term.

Almost 35 years later, the court’s decision — in a case involving the recording of a single individual’s phone records — turns out to be the basis for a legal rationale justifying governmental spying on virtually all Americans. Smith v. Maryland, as the case is titled, set the binding precedent for what we now call metadata surveillance. That, in turn, has recently been revealed to be the keystone of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone data, in which the government chronicles every phone call originating or terminating in the United States, all in the name of the war on terror. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 4:03 pm

Deportation, for a start

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Sebastian Rotella writes in ProPublica:

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A federal jury convicted a former Guatemalan army lieutenant Tuesday of immigration fraud, finding that he obtained U.S. citizenship in 2008 by concealing his role in the massacre of 250 men, women and children during Guatemala’s civil war three decades ago.

Jorge Vinicio Sosa Orantes, who for a time had operated three karate schools in Southern California, became the highest-ranking former soldier convicted on charges related to the slaughter that wiped out the jungle hamlet of Dos Erres in 1982. Investigations in the United States and Guatemala have achieved unusual progress in the case, the only mass killing among hundreds in the 30-year Guatemalan civil war for which soldiers have been held accountable.

Sosa, 55, will be sentenced Dec. 9. He faces a prison term of at least 10 years, loss of U.S. citizenship and then deportation to Guatemala, where he is charged with murder. U.S. authorities also have jailed two other former members of Sosa’s commando squad on immigration charges, while Guatemalan courts have convicted five Army veterans for the Dos Erres massacre itself.

Seven suspects, including two commanders, remain at large in a nation where war criminals are often protected by the security forces and criminal mafias.

Sosa, a second lieutenant during the war, was the junior officer among four lieutenants in the 20-man elite unit of commandos known as “Kaibiles.”  Jurors heard grim testimony from two participants and a survivor during the five-day trial. Sosa played a key role as a leader of the squad’s “assault team” specialized in interrogations and hands-on killing, according to testimony of two former soldiers.

The compactly-built martial arts expert oversaw the systematic extermination of villagers in the center of the hamlet, ordering his men to throw victims — including babies — into a well. Sosa fired his gun and threw a grenade into the pile of living and dead bodies in the well, according to testimony.

The spectators in the courtroom for the verdict included a survivor of the massacre: Oscar RamírezCastañeda, a 34-year-old restaurant worker and father of four who came from Boston to this city on the inland edge of Southern California’s urban sprawl. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

The shutdown is the Constitution’s fault

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Dylan Matthews takes a good look at what the framers of the Constitution got wrong:

The government is shut down. Two million federal workers are having paychecks delayed, and 800,000 of them might never be repaid at all. Food safety inspections are on hold. Kids are being refused experimental treatments for cancer.

So whose fault is it?

You can say it’s the fault of House Republicans, who refuse to pass a continuing resolution that gives them more in the way of spending cuts than they wanted just two years ago, but which the Senate’s passed already and President Obama has said he’ll sign.

If you’re Ted Cruz, you’ll say that it’s the fault of Obama and the Senate for not being willing to trade the government staying open for Obamacare getting defunded.

If you’re a congressional process nerd, you’ll blame a budget process that has stopped working, if it ever did work, and which asks Congress to take far more actions every year than it can be expected to take in its currently hyper-polarized state.

But the deeper answer is that it’s James Madison’s fault. This week’s shutdown is only the latest symptom of an underlying disease in our democracy whose origins lie in the Constitution and some supremely misguided ideas that made their way into it in 1787, and found their fullest exposition in Madison’s Federalist no. 51. And that disease is rapidly getting worse.

What Madison got wrong

It’s hard to discuss these issues calmly, given that the Constitution and the Federalist Papers have taken on a Holy Scripture-like role in American political debate. One does not debate if they’re right, but only the proper way to interpret them on a given matter, which is then presumed to be correct.

We’re basically the only country that does this. Angela Merkel does not stay awake at night, asking herself, “What would Bismarck do?” Camillo Benso and Giuseppe Garibaldi are not assumed infallible when Italians discuss politics. Canadians do not cite John Macdonald when discussing tax policy. The only parallel that comes close is Venezuela and Simón Bolivar, which probably isn’t a comparison most Americans would embrace.

But obviously the Founding Fathers were wrong about all kinds of stuff. Today, few Americans think it’s acceptable to kidnap African people, ship them to America and then compel them through torture and beatings to perform agricultural labor.

Madison is also wrong about how best to safeguard democracy in a diverse republic. The thesis of Federalist 51 is that elections alone are insufficient to guard against the possibility that a government will encroach upon the rights of citizens, either by a majority faction oppressing others or through all-out tyranny. “A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government,” Madison writes, “but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Congress, Government, Law

Why big business failed to stop its worst nightmare in D.C.

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Interesting post in Wonkblog by Lydia DePillis on the inability of big corporations to affect the dialogue.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Business, Congress

Has false-equivalence passed now?

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James Fallows has an excellent post—well worth the click—on the (belated) emergence of reality-based reporting regarding Congress. That is, instead of the tactful but false position that “both sides are to blame,” a recognition that in this particular crisis, the GOP is completely to blame. They deliberately refused to follow the regular budget process, would not conference with the Senate to work a budget, and explicitly said that they would move nothing forward on the budget in order to force a crisis and achieve their demands (to repeal a law passed by Congress and signed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court). The GOP lacks the votes to repeal the law, so they resorted to holding the country’s budget hostage to get their way.

His whole post is worth reading. What’s particularly remarkable is the breakthrough is in the Washington Post, which for years has blamed Democrats (and occasionally both parties) for failures of government. I wonder whether Jeff Bezos has already begun making some changes, moving to reporting based on reality.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 11:22 am

After 4 Decades in Solitary, Dying Prisoner Freed, Conviction Overturned

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An unbelievably grim story and reasons to avoid certain states in the US in which the criminal justice system is harsh, vindictive, and not very concerned about the finer points of the law, such as getting at the truth. (In Texas, for example, an innocent man was found guilty and condemned to death; when evidence and findings surfaced that showed he did not set the fire that killed his family, the execution proceeded on schedule. Rick Perry was governor. But it’s not just a GOP failing: President Obama has failed to use the power of the presidential pardon to right wrongs and make amends for miscarriages of justice.)

You can see the story at Democracy Now!, which notes:

A dying prisoner has been released in Louisiana after serving nearly 42 years in solitary confinement, longer than any other person in the United States. Herman Wallace and two others, known as the Angola Three, were placed in solitary in 1972 following the murder of a prison guard. The Angola Three and their supporters say they were framed for the murder over their political activism as members of one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panthers. In a surprise development on Tuesday, Wallace was released from prison after a federal judge overturned his conviction, saying he did not receive a fair trial. Wallace, who is near death from advanced liver cancer, was taken directly to a New Orleans hospital where supporters greeted his arrival. We are joined by three guests: Robert King, who until Tuesday night was the only freed member of the Angola Three and helped deliver to Wallace the news of his release; Wallace’s defense attorney, George Kendall; and Jackie Sumell, an artist and Wallace supporter who is with him at the Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans. “This is a tremendous victory and a miracle that Herman Wallace will die a free man,” Sumell says. “He’s had 42 years of maintaining his innocence in solitary confinement, and if his last few breaths are as a free man, we’ve won.”

Note that some nations do have MUCH worse systems of justice than the US. Also from Democracy Now!, this report:

Two Canadian citizens — acclaimed Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and medical doctor Tarek Loubani — have been jailed for more than a month and a half in Egypt without charge after witnessing a massacre by state forces on August 16 in Cairo. The two were traveling through Egypt en route to visit Gaza, where Greyson was to film Loubani as he trained emergency room doctors. In a statement smuggled out of their prison cell, Greyson and Loubani say they were arrested after rushing to the scene of a mass shooting of supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Greyson says he began filming the shooting’s aftermath while Loubani treated some of the injured. “We were arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a ‘Syrian terrorist,’ slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries,” they wrote. The two have been been held in cockroach-infested jail cells with as many as 36 other people. Over the weekend, Egyptian authorities confirmed their imprisonment has been extended another 45 days, still without charge. Greyson and Loubani have been on a hunger strike for the past two weeks against their imprisonment. We’re joined by three guests: Cecilia Greyson, the sister of John Greyson; Naomi Klein, the prominent Canadian journalist and author; and Sharif Abdel Kouddous, independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent based in Cairo. Klein criticizes the Canadian government for a lackluster response to Greyson and Loubani’s imprisonment. “We haven’t heard our government say these men are innocent. They were doing their jobs. They must be released right now,” Klein says. “That’s what we’re waiting for. We’re also waiting to hear that if they continue to be ignored and disregarded by the Egyptian government, which has been what’s happened so far, that there will be real consequences.”

Click the links for both of these to see the full stories.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 10:52 am

Posted in Government, Law

Shut down the military, too

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A good case that those working for the Federal government in the military should, like their civilian counterparts, not be paid when the government shuts down. David Dayen writes in Salon:

Yesterday, House Republicans came up with a novel idea to fund only the parts of the government that people would notice – things like the Veterans Administration and national parks – in an attempt to point the latest in a series of fingers at the opposition for their cruelty in ignoring important priorities. Democrats thundered back that such piecemeal efforts are “not serious” and “no way to fund a government.”

But that is exactly how one part of the government was funded just before the September 30 deadline. Without fanfare on Monday night, President Obama signed the “Pay Our Military Act,” ensuring paychecks throughout the government shutdown for all members of the armed forces, including active-duty reserve members, along with civilian personnel and contractors who happen to “provide support” to armed forces operations.

How can I put this delicately? This is wrong.

It’s a slap in the face to 800,000 federal workers, who do not deserve unfair treatment because their uniform is a different color, and their service to the country in a different form, than members of the military. The words of Senator Ted Cruz – “the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines who risk their lives for this nation should not have their paychecks held hostage to any government shutdown in Washington” – apply to every member of the federal government, and singling out service members for hero worship is as pernicious for our foreign policy as it is for our budget debate.

To pre-empt the inevitable “why do you hate our troops” criticisms, the question is not whether men and women dodging bullets overseas or defending America’s shores and skies deserve to have to work without pay for as long as Congress denies a government funding resolution. The question is whether everyone else who serves the public does.

After all, among those public servants sitting at home today include men and women who save lives every day, finding cures for diseases at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. They include those who ensure that Americans in need get life-saving necessities, such as employees with the Social Security Administration or the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness or the Womens, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. They include those who go out on the front lines every single day to protect Americans from poison, injury and death, like the brave folks at the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Numerous Americans won’t get flu shots because of the shutdown. 200 cancer patients a week will get turned away from federal clinical research centers. If the military deserves their pay because they keep Americans from being killed, then those who quite literally keep Americans alive probably rate the same treatment.

Consider the plight of our “essential” personnel – those investigating and prosecuting criminals in federal law enforcement, those guarding federal prisons in the Department of Corrections, those keeping planes from crashing into each other in air traffic control, those engaged in the defense of U.S. “national security.” They all have to go to work today and every day of the shutdown, with no guarantee of a paycheck for that service, maybe ever. Congress would have to approve retroactive pay for essential personnel after the shutdown ends, and there’s no telling whether they will agree to do so. Is someone going to seriously make the argument that workers tasked specifically with promoting public safety are somehow inferior because they aren’t requisitioned camouflage?

To those who argue that military members deserve pay because they “risk their lives” – that argument needs to incorporate all the federal workers not being paid currently whose job involves inordinate risk. That includes agents for the FBI and CIA, members of the U.S. Forest Service (which includes federal firefighters), surveyors studying everything from fracking wells to hazardous waste to dangerous public lands, mail carriers who fly into remote areas, Department of Corrections personnel (and actually, anyone who drives a car or participates at a worksite, where there are untimely accidents at a rate of nearly 16 deaths every day).

But it’s actually broader than that. It takes an exceedingly narrow conception of “freedom” to claim that the only public servants who deliver it are the ones with guns and tanks and fighter jets, or even the ones with the specific objective to protect Americans. Every single federal worker who contributes to the relatively smooth functioning of the state is indisputably engaged in that project. No one subset of this workforce should receive special treatment, as if their job is somehow more critical to serving the Constitution. The woman who helps safeguard America’s electrical grid keeps me free. The man at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to prevent dangerous financial products from damaging the economy also defends this country. The scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency providing data on the catastrophic effects of climate change bears a tremendous burden for our future as a planet. They aren’t in the military. They are no less critical to our society.

Moreover, as Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network recently pointed out, military operations increasingly rely on civilians, to help with supply lines, travel orders, mess hall activities, intelligence gathering and much more. Paying military service members during the shutdown is actually paying the defense industry to pretend like they’re working. It’s not for nothing that the Pentagon spent $5 billion on weaponsthe night before the shutdown, before the logistical support staff all vanished.

This goes part in parcel with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 9:15 am

Governing crisis set to escalate dramatically

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Greg Sargent has some somber news in the Washington Post. His column begins:

House Republicans are set to vote today on several measures funding parts of the government piecemeal, to reduce the political fallout from shutting the government, a move that’s being widely interpreted as a sign we may be headed for a protracted shutdown. Dems will reject these measures and continue to insist Republicans buckle and pass a “clean CR.”

In another sign Dems may well hold firm and not let Republicans escape from this predicament on terms more favorable to them, there’s now serious talk among Democrats of not accepting a GOP budget offering unless it also includes a debt limit hike if this shutdown crisis drags on.

Several Senate Democratic aides told me this morning that this is seriously being considered, confirming a report in Politico. As one put it to me: ”We are less than two weeks away from the deadline. If we were not having this shutdown fight, this is the week we would be moving a debt ceiling bill.” A second said: “It doesn’t make much sense to do a short term CR only to have to turn around and do it again with the debt ceiling.”

Needless to say, if it comes to this, the stakes in this battle will escalate dramatically — and the pressure on Republicans will intensify. This also comes as two new polls show Dems with an advantage in the overall battle.

new CNN poll finds that Americans say by 56-38 that not raising the debt limit would be bad for the country, and would blame Republicans over Obama by 53-31. Also tellingly, a majority say raising the debt ceiling is more important than delaying major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. While it’s true some polls have found opposition to raising the debt limit, others have found clear opposition to tying the debt limit debate to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, a new National Journal poll finds a plurality of Americans — and of independents — think the GOP’s top priority is causing political problems for Obama, far more than say the same about Dems. As I’ve argued here before, it’s very possible public perceptions of a protracted standoff will be shaped less by details of the budget debate and more by already existing perceptions of which side is more committed to constructive governing and which is actively trying to prevent the system from functioning for political reasons.

But here’s the problem: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 9:04 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

The Story of Solutions (from the woman who gave us The Story of Stuff)

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The story of stuff is good to watch in the fall before the big gift-buying begins.

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 8:59 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Video

Megs, taking the morning sun

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Megs taking sun

Megs likes the morning sun, and will lie in the puddle of sunshine in various ways: sometimes her back gets the sun, sometimes her tummy, sometimes just her paws (which we call “playing hotpaws”).

Here’s another. I should have forced flash to fill shadows, I see.

Megs taking sun 2

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 8:40 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

BBS from humpback razor

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SOTD 2 Oct 2013

A WEdger using the handle “proraso” offered a different sort of bakelite slant, shown in the photo. The brand, he told me, is Eros. [UPDATE 20 June 2014: It seems to be rather a German razor: the 1930 Walbusch. I saw one on eBay.]

This slant (unlike, say, the Merkur 37C) is asymmetric because it bends the blade over the baseplate in the usual way, without the twist the 37C applies, so that in this razor the blade slants down left to right on one side, down right to left on the other. The odd appearance, the black color, …  it was a bit intimidating. It didn’t help that when I put in the blade, it looked flat-out dangerous, and then I discovered I had made a classic mistake: baseplate was upside down.

Once that was corrected, it didn’t look so fierce, but I wanted to give it a go. If it worked, I figured I now had assembled a 7-day set of slants (this being the 7th one).

First, prep. I used Jlocke98’s formula with emu oil, which I’ve come to prefer. Part of the reason is explained at the link. Also, the lanolin oil separated and solidified as a disk. (Jlocke98 actually adds the lanolin as he uses it: a little Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, a couple of drops of lanolin oil, and wash beard. But I prefer to have it mixed in a bottle.) The formula I worked out based on his practice: 1/4 cup liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap, any fragrance, and 2 tsp oil. (I’ve used olive oil, emu oil, lanolin oil, and jojoba oil, and they all work. Some are allergic to lanolin, though). Shake well before each use, and wash beard at the sink with about 1 tsp, rinsing partially with a splash and then applying lather. I keep mine in a pump bottle.

I really like the Omega 20102 shown—a tip from another WEdger. Great brush, and it immediately evoked a thick, creamy, satisfying slick lather from my How To Grow A Moustache soap, which I continue to like a lot, both for the soap and for the generous work space the large puck provides.

The Eros in practice worked great. It carried a brand new Gillette 7 O’Clock Super Platinum blade and the action was smooth and comfortable. The asymmetry was not an issue—in fact, I barely noticed it. Once again experience proved expectations were incorrect A very smooth shave, no nicks or other problems, and totally BBS. A good razor. For me.

UPDATE: More photos of razor per request in comment:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

2 October 2013 at 8:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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