Later On

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

Archive for October 30th, 2014

Report To U.N. Calls Bullshit On Obama’s ‘Look Forward, Not Backwards’ Approach To Torture

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I was stunned when President Obama flatly stated that he would ignore the legal requirements to investigate credible allegations of torture—allegations that by the time of his statement we knew to be factual, but without knowledge of how vast the torture program was nor the details of those guilty of participating in the torture system, torture quite clearly being a crime under US (nd international) law. But President Obama did not seem bothered by it because, you see, the crimes had been committed in the past, so that we should not even look into them: “Look forward, not back,” something that must have puzzled law-enforcement agencies, whose total workload and responsibilities are dealing with crimes that took place in the past. However, I am sure it was heartening to criminals everywhere—and in particular those who had tortured people (some of them perfectly innocent of any wrong doing) and transported people to be tortured: The President has said that bad deeds done in the past are perfectly okay.

But now the dereliction of duty is starting to fester. Murtaza Hussein reports at The Intercept:

Months after President Obama frankly admitted that the United States had “tortured some folks” as part of the War on Terror, a new report submitted to the United Nations Committee Against Torture has been released that excoriates his administration for shielding the officials responsible from prosecution.

The report describes the post-9/11 torture program as “breathtaking in scope”, and indicts both the Bush and Obama administrations for complicity in it – the former through design and implementation, and the latter through its ongoing attempts to obstruct justice. Nothing that the program caused grievous harm to countless individuals and in many cases went as far as murder, the report calls for the United States to “promptly and impartially prosecute senior military and civilian officials responsible for authorizing, acquiescing, or consenting in any way to acts of torture.”

In specifically naming former President George W. Bush, Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo and former CIA contractor James Mitchell, among many others, as individuals sanctioned torture at the highest levels, the report highlights a gaping hole in President Obama’s promise to reassert America’s moral standing during his administration. Not only have the cited individuals not been charged with any crime for their role in the torture program, Obama has repeatedly reiterated his mantra of “looking forward, not backwards” to protect them from accountability.

Needless to say, you shouldn’t try that defense in court if you’re an ordinary American on trial for, say, a drug crime.

It’s also worth remembering that, horrific as it was, the torture regime described in the report was only a tiny part of the wide-ranging human rights abuses the United States committed after 9/11. It doesn’t even account for the network of prisons where hundreds of thousands of people were detained in Iraq and Afghanistan – many of whom suffered beatings, rape and murder at the hands of U.S. soldiers.

The environment that allowed such treatment as again authorized at the highest levels, but just as with the CIA program the only people to receive any legal sanction for these actions have been low-level soldiers who’ve essentially been used as scapegoats for the crimes of their superiors.

By refusing to prosecute Bush-era officials for their culpability in major human rights abuses such as the CIA program and Abu Ghraib, President Obama is not just failing to enforce justice but is essentiallyguaranteeing that such abuses will happen again in the future. His administration has demonstrated that even if government officials perpetrate the most heinous crimes imaginable, they will still be able to rely on their peers to conceal their wrongdoing and protect them from prosecution. This not only erodes the rule of law, it also helps create a culture of impunity that will inevitably give rise to such actions once again. . . .

Continue reading.

And it’s worth noting that Obama appointed John Brennan, deeply implicated in the torture program, to head the CIA, and has had people involved in the torture program trying to whitewash the Senate report on the torture program—while Obama refuses to declassify it.

Obama is quite clearly a willing accessory to the torture program, going to great lengths to protect those who did the torture and to prevent the US public from knowing exactly what happened. This is a dark blot on his record and reveals an aspect of his character worth considering.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2014 at 12:20 pm

How the Border Patrol became America’s most out-of-control law enforcement agency

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Interesting story in Politico by Garrett Graff:

il Kerlikowske was hoping to make it through at least his first week on the job without being awakened in the middle of the night. President Barack Obama’s new head of Customs and Border Protection, Kerlikowske could have used a week of quiet as he began to figure out the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, with its 46,000 gun-carrying Customs officers and Border Patrol agents and massive $12.4 billion annual budget. He didn’t get it. On his sixth night after taking office in March, a Border Patrol agent’s single gunshot 1,500 miles away from Washington interrupted Kerlikowske’s sleep. The gunshot itself wasn’t all that surprising; Border Patrol agents regularly open fire on suspected smugglers, border crossers and people harassing them from across the Mexican line. So often, in fact, that the agency doesn’t even bother to release details on most shooting incidents. But this wasn’t a regular shooting incident.

Early the day before, while Kerlikowske, an affable career cop who had spent five years as Obama’s drug czar, was going about his meetings in CBP’s headquarters at Washington’s cavernous Ronald Reagan Building, three Honduran women had surrendered to a green-uniformed U.S. Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley.

That, too, was a common occurrence. “RGV,” as it’s known in the Border Patrol, has been the epicenter of this year’s “border crisis,” the latest in a long series that stretches back decades—crises that inevitably lead to calls for more money, more agents, more fences. In this year’s iteration, tens of thousands of people fleeing the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have journeyed through Mexico to turn themselves in at the U.S. border seeking asylum. Many of the refugees have been unaccompanied minors (“UACs” to the bureaucracy), a fact that strained the U.S. government response and unleashed critical 24-hour cable media coverage. RGV had been particularly flooded, and so the detention of the three Honduran women—a mother, her 14-year-old daughter and a second teen—around midday on March 12 shouldn’t have been anything other than routine.

Except that they surrendered to Esteban Manzanares.

Manzanares, a stocky 32-year-old agent who kept his head shaved short, was already under suspicion for misconduct—colleagues suspected he had let two border violators go free—but there was a huge backlog of misconduct cases at the inspector general’s field office in McAllen, Texas, and Manzanares was but one small unconfirmed red flag amid many along the southern border, so even under suspicion, he remained on duty with the Border Patrol.

Rather than detain the three Honduran women and bring them to the McAllen holding center, a 300-bed unit that some nights this spring hosted more than 1,000 people, Manzanares locked the women in the back of his Ford patrol truck—and drove them around the scrubland surrounding McAllen for an hour or two. It was a perfectly lovely South Texas day—sunny, low 70s, a bit cool for that time of year.

At 3:15 p.m., Manzanares texted his ex-wife, saying he wanted to be a good dad to their two children: “I want to help in any way I can but I am very limited.”

Then he stopped his truck in a wooded area. He raped both the mother and the daughter. He slit the mother’s wrists and tried to break the daughter’s neck, leaving them for dead in the brush.

He drove off with the third woman bound in his green-and-white heavy-duty Border Patrol truck with a red-and-blue light bar on top, a Department of Homeland Security logo on the door and a U.S. flag on the hood. Somewhere out in the borderlands, the agent left his third prisoner hidden, bound with duct tape.

Manzanares wrapped up his scheduled shift a little after 4 p.m. and returned his truck to the motor pool at the McAllen Border Patrol station, a huge new 68,000-square-foot facility constructed for $22.4 million as part of the agency’s influx of new agents and money over the past decade. Only at 5:45 p.m., his paperwork for the day completed, did he finally pull out of the Border Patrol station. His apartment was just three miles straight down the highway, past South Texas College and then a right turn at the Exxon station, but he wasn’t going straight home.

It was just around that time that other Border Patrol agents made a horrifying discovery, spotting one of the women Manzanares had left for dead wandering past a security camera—one link in the huge post-9/11 network of electronic eyes and sensors that now monitors the border region. Agents responded to the scene and after a brief search located both the injured mother and daughter, took them to the hospital and began looking for their attacker; the women described him as wearing green, so the agents suspected they were looking for one of their own.

They were, and he was not far away: After leaving work, Manzanares had retrieved the third victim and brought her back to his apartment in a housing complex, the last set of buildings before the Rio Grande that demarcates the two countries. The complex was home to a number of his Border Patrol colleagues—including his next-door neighbor and one across the hall. They all joked about how safe it was. Border Patrol agents seemed to be everywhere in McAllen these days, as the agency since 9/11 had become one of the region’s largest employers, a boon for one of the poorest metropolitan areas in the country. There were now some 3,200 agents in RGV—driving along the border, patrolling by boat, flying overhead in helicopters, working interior checkpoints, watching cameras, staffing the Border Patrol’s new overhead surveillance blimp, the latest high-tech toy cast off by the Pentagon and repurposed to protect the border.

Back inside his apartment, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2014 at 11:44 am

An interesting look at the originators of Wonder Woman

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Who knew? In the NY Review of Books Sarah Kerr reviews two recent books on Wonder Woman, whose origins are quite astonishing. The review begins:

In 1978, David Levine drew the birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger wearing a leotard with stars below the waist, bouncing confidently off what looked at first like a trampoline. On second glance it was a springy contraceptive diaphragm. Of course: Sanger as Wonder Woman. (See illustration below.)

The choice of imagery was obvious. Many decades earlier, Sanger had argued that women should be taught about sex, its pleasures and consequences, and given the information and medical support they needed to determine their destinies as mothers (or as not-mothers, should they so choose). In cofounding America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916, Sanger launched a movement that would eventually complete the job of making contraception and reproductive medicine available in the United States and much of the world (even if rearguard legislative actions today keep the descendant of that early clinic, the now venerable Planned Parenthood, fighting to stay viable in America’s red states).

Wonder Woman was one of only a few symbols of womanhood who could be considered strong enough to win so big a battle. And she was enjoying a revival in the 1970s. In 1972, Gloria Steinem and the cofounders of Ms. magazine picked Wonder Woman to be the cover girl of its first issue. Ms. even helped publish a book, a culling of feminist-friendly story lines, that for decades was a much-used compilation of the comic’s early years. In the introduction, Steinem recalled the thrill she felt encountering at the age of eight this stunning, buff Amazon princess, flying by invisible airplane from her sheltered island to help America in World War II: “Looking back now at these Wonder Woman stories from the ’40s, I am amazed by the strength of their feminist message.”

It’s Jill Lepore’s contention in The Secret History of Wonder Woman that in looking back to the original Wonder Woman for a model, Steinem and her cofounders were on to more than a commercial hook. The superheroine, Lepore argues, has all along been a kind of “missing link” in American feminism—an imperfect but undeniable bridge between vastly distinct generations. Hiding in her kitschy story lines and scant costume were allusions to and visual tropes from old struggles for women’s freedom, and an occasional framing of battles like the right to a living wage and basic equality that have yet to be decisively won.

Wonder Woman stories showed women shackled in endless yards of ropes and chains—a constant theme in art from decades earlier demanding the right to vote. The traditional allegory of an island of Amazon princesses appears in feminist science fiction early in the twentieth century; the rhetoric of a nurturing, morally evolved strongwoman opposed to the war god Mars goes back even further. At the same time, the early comics often included a special insert, edited by a young female tennis champion and highlighting women heroes. Those chosen ranged from white suffragettes to Sojourner Truth to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, professional and sports pioneers, and a founder of the NAACP. It’s unlikely that any platform for American girls’ role models was as popular as this one until three decades later.

Wonder Woman was, in short, an explicitly feminist creation. Yet younger generations of feminists have lacked an awareness of the degree to which this is so, just as 1970s feminists were baffled when asked to identify pictures of the early suffragettes. So Wonder Woman is also the symbol of a culture-wide amnesia, part of the more general problem that American feminists can’t be inspired or taught the most useful lessons by their past until they gain a more cohesive sense of it.

On a literal level, too, Lepore has telling details to add to the feminist backstory of Wonder Woman. Officially, the comic (not a comic strip in a newspaper but a book following the serial adventures of a hero or in this case a heroine) was launched in 1941 by a man named William Moulton Marston. Marston, working under the name Charles Moulton, was without doubt the creator, but in practice he was assisted by his wife, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway Marston (sometimes called Sadie, sometimes Betty), and by a younger woman, Olive Byrne, who had lived with the married couple for years. After Marston died, in 1947, Sadie and Olive would live together for several more decades. The trio’s domestic arrangement has often been called “polyamorous,” a shorthand label that doesn’t quite capture its alternating vibes of sexual fluidity, personal and professional fusion, and the convenience of its work–life balance. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2014 at 9:49 am

Posted in Books

Not quite BBS—I see one reason why Feather may have gone to the AS-D2

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30 Oct 2014

Almightywhacko recommended this soap, of which I’d never heard. The maker has an Etsy store, however, with a good selection of soaps. I ordered several and this one is the Tobacco. The fragrance is like a good-quality tobacco, not overwhelming. When I smelled it, I thought immediately of Alt-Innsbruck as a good aftershave.

No problem at all in getting a very high-quality lather. Based on this first tub, it really is an excellent soap. It’s somewhat soft, though by no means so soft as some of the Italian soft soaps.

Today I did the entire shave with the loaner AS-D1 shown, and I see what the owner means: sometimes the head somehow does not allow the blade to engage. I got a good-enough shave, though not the BBS I get from my own AS-D1 (at least in my memory; I’ll use mine for tomorrow’s shave to confirm). And I was indeed using a Feather blade. This may indeed be the problem that prompted the AS-D2, which looks much the same but probably addresses this problem. ( is selling the D2 for $147.50 right now on a mass order—a few days left to join and order. Since the normal price is $200, that is a good savings.)

A good splash of Alt-Innsbruck, and we undertake another day.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 October 2014 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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