Later On

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

Archive for March 29th, 2007

Another DoD failure

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The Department of Defense is not using its own digital medical records system, and soldiers are suffering as a result:

Lapses in using a digital medical record system for tracking wounded soldiers have led to medical mistakes and delays in care, and have kept thousands of injured troops from getting benefits, according to former defense and military medical officials.

The Defense Department’s inability to get all hospitals to use the system has routinely forced thousands of wounded soldiers to endure long waits for treatment, the officials said, and exposed others to needless testing.

Several department officials said the problem may have played a role in the suicide of a soldier last year after he was taken to Fort Lewis in Washington State from Iraq. His intentions to kill himself were clearly documented in his digital medical record from overseas, but doctors at Fort Lewis did not consult the file and released him, according to department records and defense officials.

“The D.O.D.’s failure to share data and track patient records is truly a matter of life and death,” Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, said in a statement. “This isn’t an isolated case, but a system-wide failure.”

The system was designed to make seamless the transition of soldiers who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan as they moved to hospitals stateside. But only 13 of 70 military treatment centers in the United States use it even though it was mandated by the Pentagon more than two years ago, according to agency documents.

As a result, military doctors say they are less able to learn from mistakes since they cannot track the progress of wounded soldiers from one location to another. Others complain of costly and redundant testing.

“Patients are being unnecessarily exposed to radiation,” said Lt. Col. Gina Dorlac, medical director of the intensive care unit at a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where most severely wounded soldiers are taken from Iraq.

She said doctors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and elsewhere regularly ordered CAT scans and M.R.I.’s even though the same tests had already been performed and the results were in the tracking system. “It’s a waste of time and money,” Colonel Dorlac said.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:23 pm

If you use your laptop in bed

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Take a look at this homemade contraption. The builder notes:

I replaced the cardboard hanger a couple of times, and if I still let myself bring a laptop to bed, I’d have made something more permanent from 1/4″ plywood, and glued canvas strips. But the cardboard worked pretty well.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 7:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

Ten classic April Fool hoaxes

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Watch out!

Here are 10 of the top April Fool’s Day pranks ever pulled off, as judged by the San Diego-based Museum of Hoaxes for their notoriety, absurdity, and number of people duped.

— In 1957, a BBC television show announced that thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop. Footage of Swiss farmers pulling strands of spaghetti from trees prompted a barrage of calls from people wanting to know how to grow their own spaghetti at home.

— In 1985, Sports Illustrated magazine published a story that a rookie baseball pitcher who could reportedly throw a ball at 270 kilometers per hour (168 miles per hour) was set to join the New York Mets. Finch was said to have mastered his skill — pitching significantly faster than anyone else has ever managed — in a Tibetan monastery. Mets fans’ celebrations were short-lived.

— Sweden in 1962 had only one television channel, which broadcast in black and white. The station’s technical expert appeared on the news to announce that thanks to a newly developed technology, viewers could convert their existing sets to receive color pictures by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. In fact, they had to wait until 1970.

— In 1996, American fast-food chain Taco Bell announced that it had bought Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, a historic symbol of American independence, from the federal government and was renaming it the Taco Liberty Bell.

Outraged citizens called to express their anger before Taco Bell revealed the hoax. Then-White House press secretary Mike McCurry was asked about the sale and said the Lincoln Memorial in Washington had also been sold and was to be renamed the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial after the automotive giant.

— In 1977, British newspaper The Guardian published a seven-page supplement for the 10th anniversary of San Serriffe, a small republic located in the Indian Ocean consisting of several semicolon-shaped islands. A series of articles described the geography and culture of the two main islands, named Upper Caisse and Lower Caisse.

— In 1992, US National Public Radio announced that Richard Nixon was running for president again. His new campaign slogan was, “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” They even had clips of Nixon announcing his candidacy. Listeners flooded the show with calls expressing their outrage. Nixon’s voice actually turned out to be that of impersonator Rich Little.

— In 1998, a newsletter titled New Mexicans for Science and Reason carried an article that the state of Alabama had voted to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the “Biblical value” of 3.0.

— Burger King, another American fast-food chain, published a full-page advertisement in USA Today in 1998 announcing the introduction of the “Left-Handed Whopper,” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new burger included the same ingredients as the original, but the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. The chain said it received thousands of requests for the new burger, as well as orders for the original “right-handed” version.

— Discover Magazine announced in 1995 that a highly respected biologist, Aprile Pazzo (Italian for April Fool), had discovered a new species in Antarctica: the hotheaded naked ice borer. The creatures were described as having bony plates on their heads that became burning hot, allowing the animals to bore through ice at high speed — a technique they used to hunt penguins.

— Noted British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on the radio in 1976 that at 9:47 am, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event, in which Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, would cause a gravitational alignment that would reduce the Earth’s gravity. Moore told listeners that if they jumped in the air at the exact moment of the planetary alignment, they would experience a floating sensation. Hundreds of people called in to report feeling the sensation.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 5:33 pm

Posted in Daily life

An injury to avoid, if possible

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From the Friday

Man in unfortunate saw-mill penis incident


Here is a picture of a nice fluffy rabbit to take your mind off this story

A man has been taken to hospital in Australia after his penis and groin got caught in the machinery at a saw mill.

The Adelaide Advertiser reports that the accident is not thought to have had life-threatening consequences, but that there was a degree of uncontrollable bleeding involved.

The thirty-year-old man was taken to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

A spokesman for Parafield Gardens Saw Mill said: ‘He got caught in the log moving mechanism on one of the saws.’

The spokesman maintained that the man’s injuries were not serious. Which is easy for him to say.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 5:24 pm

Posted in Daily life

If you have a Bluetooth phone

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Here’s a review of 6 Bluetooth headsets, with one a PC Magazine Editor’s Choice.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Technology

What we call the news

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Via Carpetbagger report, a little video satire on what we now call the (TV) news.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Media

A Bush sort of judge

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Via ThinkProgress:

Today, President Bush nominated Texas state trial Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Elrod is a graduate of Baylor University and Harvard Law School, where she edited the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, the official journal of the Federalist Society.
As a state trial judge, Elrod once issued a controversial prior restraint enjoining an exposé by local news station KTRK about conservative evangelical preacher Benny Hinn.  A third-party acquired documents embarassing to Hinn from Hinn’s legal counsel, and passed these documents to KTRK.  Because Hinn enjoyed an attorney/client privilege with his counsel, Judge Elrod held that this was sufficient reason to issue a temporary restraining order forbidding KTRK from broadcasting any information contained in the document.

Judge Elrod’s order was subsequently lifted by another judge.  The U.S. Supreme Court has held that “prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 3:20 pm

The dumbing down of the Media

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Via AmericaBlog, take a look at this post (with magazine covers).

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Business, Media

10 steps to control high blood pressure

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From the Harvard Medical School newsletter:

It is almost certain that you or someone you know has high blood pressure, known medically as hypertension. An alarming one in three American adults has this disorder. If you are among them, you can take steps today to protect yourself from the damage it causes.

High blood pressure isn’t usually something that can be cured. Like an in-law who comes to stay for good, it’s something most people need to learn to live with. Drugs offer an easy fix, but most also cause unwanted side effects. Making healthful lifestyle changes is harder, but it yields benefits far beyond better blood pressure. That’s why it makes sense to start with these, and add medications only if needed. Here are 10 steps that can help you lower your blood pressure and keep it under control:

1. Check it. You can’t do much about your blood pressure unless you know what it is. Your doctor should check it at every visit. Measuring it at home is even better. Relatively inexpensive home monitors are available in most pharmacies.

2. Get moving. Regular exercise, even something as simple as brisk walking, improves blood vessel flexibility and heart function. It can lower blood pressure by 10 points, prevent the onset of high blood pressure, or let you reduce your dosage of blood pressure medications.

3. Eat right. A landmark study called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) showed that you can eat your way to better blood pressure. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts, and downplays red meat, sweets, sugar-containing beverages, and saturated fat and cholesterol.

4. Control your weight. If you are carrying too many pounds for your frame, losing weight can lower your blood pressure. You don’t need to become rail-thin — losing 10% of your current weight, or even 10 pounds, can make a big difference.

5. Don’t smoke. Nicotine constricts small blood vessels. Smoking a cigarette can cause a 20-point spike in systolic blood pressure. Quitting is tough, but there are now more aids to help.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 10:42 am

Posted in Health, Medical

More on US torture under Bush

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The reader in the Netherlands passes along this article on Tony Lagouranis (see earlier post):

Tony Lagouranis is a 37-year-old bouncer at a bar in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. He is also a former torturer.

That was how he was described in an e-mail promoting a panel discussion, “24: Torture Televised,” hosted by the Center on Law and Security of the New York University School of Law on March 21. He doesn’t shy away from the description.

As a specialist in a military intelligence battalion, Lagouranis interrogated prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Al Asad Airfield and other places in Iraq from January through December 2004.

Coercive techniques, including the use of dogs, waterboarding and prolonged stress positions were employed on the detainees, he says. Prisoners held at Al Asad Airfield, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad, were shackled and hung from an upright bed frame welded to the wall in a room in an airplane hanger, he told me in a phone interview.

When he was having problems getting information from a detainee, he recalls, other interrogators said, “Chain him up on the bed frame and then he’ll talk to you.” Lagouranis says he didn’t participate directly in hangings from the frames.

The results of the hangings, shacklings and prolonged stress positions – sometimes for hours – were devastating. “You take a healthy guy and you turn him into a cripple, at least for a period of time,” Lagouranis told me. “I don’t care what Alberto Gonzales says. That’s torture.”

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 10:39 am

Why unions are important to workers

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Kevin Drum points out this article, and asks, “Are any executives going through the same process?”

Circuit City Stores Inc. has a message for some of its best-paid employees: Work for less or work somewhere else.

The electronics retailer on Wednesday laid off 3,400 people who earned “well above” the local market rate for the sort of jobs they held at its stores.

In 11 weeks they’ll be able to apply for their old positions — which will come with lower hourly wages.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Organize your school life/work

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Wonder whether The Older Grandson would find this useful, now or later—or perhaps The Daughter’s students could use it:

Getting and staying organized in any school level can be a little difficult, now there is a free online application that could help.

mySchoolog is an online application that students can easily use to track and organize their school lives. Users start off by entering lessons they take and organizing them into categories, and make weekly schedules. Schedules can be made through a drag and drop lesson planner with times associated for each class to keep them organized. Of course it has a to-do area where appointments, homework and anything else can be added, and reminders set to be sent out by email or sms. Lesson notes can be entered online, searched, exported and printed so they can be kept and used when required. 20GB of File storage is available for documents, audio or images, and can be categorized by lesson.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 9:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

This chicken salad sounds good

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From Simply Recipes today. I really like fresh tarragon—good with chicken and good with fish. Extremely different flavor from dried tarragon—fresh is much more complex. I’m going to make this one for lunch:

The dried cranberries add some sweetness to the chicken salad, and the lemon juice just enough acidity to brighten all the flavors.

2 cups chopped, cooked chicken meat*
1/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons dried tarragon (or 1-2 Tbsp fresh chopped tarragon)
Salt and pepper to taste

* Poach about 1 1/2 lbs of skinless chicken breasts and thighs, preferably bone-in (for flavor), in a quart of salted (1 teaspoon) water, for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from water, let cool, remove bones, chop the meat into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch cubes.

Mix all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning. Serve with lettuce for a simple salad, in a tomato that has been cut open for a stuffed tomato, or with slices of bread for a chicken salad sandwich.

UPDATE: Safeway’s had a special on chicken thighs and also on chicken wings. So those I got. Several of the chicken thighs are now simmering, along with the wing tips, in salted water with peppercorns, whole cloves, good amount of crushed red pepper, chopped celery (the inner ribs with the leaves), some cut-up onion, and a couple of cut-up carrots. When I take the chicken out, I’ll save the stock for later use.

Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to have dried cranberries, but I got some dried blueberries and dried Bing cherries, and those will work fine. The English walnuts are a good idea, Scott.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 9:05 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Smokers are poorer workers

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The Scotts Company recently got quite a bit of attention for firing a smoker who wouldn’t cooperate in the company’s effort to have a non-smoking workforce. Maybe Scott wasn’t wrong:

Smokers perform worse at work than non-smokers, finds a study of US navy female service members published in Tobacco Control. Smokers were also more likely to have a less than honourable discharge, to be demoted, to desert, and to earn less than their non-smoking colleagues, the study showed.

Historically, the prevalence of smoking among US military personnel has been higher than among civilians, say the authors. After a period of decline, smoking rates have once more started to climb. There are currently around 59,000 women serving in the US Navy.

The findings are based on an analysis of the career progression of almost 5,500 women entering the US Navy over a period of 12 months between 1996 and 1997.

Time in service, the proportion being discharged early or facing disciplinary procedures, as well as promotions, demotions, absences without leave, and pay grades were all assessed.

The women’s progress was tracked for around eight years. Some 45% had never smoked. But 27% were daily smokers when they enlisted. The remainder were ex smokers or smoked occasionally.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:53 am

Posted in Business, Health, Science

Cold fusion heats up

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In 1989, ‘cold fusion’ was hailed as a scientific breakthrough with the potential to solve the world’s energy problems by providing a virtually unlimited energy source. But subsequent experiments largely failed to replicate the initial findings and the controversial concept was dismissed by most people in the scientific community.

“Although ‘cold fusion’ is considered controversial, the scientific process demands of us to keep an open mind and examine the new results once every few years,” says Gopal Coimbatore, Ph.D., of Texas Tech University, program chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of Environmental Chemistry.

Now, some researchers say they have new evidence that the phenomena — now called ‘low energy nuclear reactions’ — has evolved and is supported by rigorous, repeatable experimental data. All papers in this symposium are embargoed for 8:30 a.m., March 29. The symposium will be held at McCormick Place South, Room S106B, Level 1.

Selected highlights are shown below:

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:44 am

Posted in Science

Reduce cholesterol: write down affectionate thoughts

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This is surprising, but certainly worth trying:

According to new research, writing down affectionate thoughts about close friends and family can reduce your cholesterol levels. Floyd et al. (2007) randomly assigned participants to one of two groups: one experimental and one control. The experimental group wrote with affection about one person in their lives for 20 minutes on three occasions over a five-week period. The control group wrote mundane descriptions of their activities over the week, jobs they had done and places they had lived.

The results from two separate studies demonstrated that after only 25 days, the experimental group who had written affectionate notes, showed a significant reduction in cholesterol. These reductions were seen independently from the effects of general health factors like age, drinking, smoking and so on. Mean cholesterol levels reduced from 170 mg/dL to 159 mg/dL (figures are from the second study which was methodologically more secure).

The researchers also examined whether linguistic features of the experimental group’s writing affected cholesterol reduction. They found that those who wrote directly to someone showed greater reductions in cholesterol than those who wrote in the third person about someone.

One of the strengths of this study was that it specifically examined the benefits of expressing affection. Other studies have found evidence for the benefits of expressing affection but have had difficulties separating the expressing from the receiving. This is because when you express affection towards someone else, they are likely to reciprocate. Expressing is, therefore, tightly bound up with receiving.

In an age where human nature is often considered profoundly selfish, here’s a selfish reason to be nice to people. Of course compared with all the money-spinning methods of reducing cholesterol levels around nowadays, you’ll never see this one advertised (except on PsyBlog!) because it’s essentially free. So, pass it on…

These are preliminary results. The research was carried out in a small sample (Study 1, N=34; Study 2, N=30) of healthy US college students all in the normal range for cholesterol. More research will be required to see if this generalises across cultures, overall health status and so on. On the other hand, the possible side-effects of writing affectionate letters are not that worrying, unless you count paper cuts.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:38 am

More evidence of the Bush trend

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Bush’s vision of what America should be is frightening. Read this column by Joseph D. Rich, who was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department’s civil right division from 1999 to 2005. He now works for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The scandal unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:28 am

Pork shoulder and purple potatoes

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A very fine looking dinner, with step by step instructions and photos, from The Amateur Gourmet. Looks not very difficult, too.

This was an OUTRAGEOUSLY good dinner. Diana kept saying “oh my God” to herself as she ate and Craig did his enthusiastic “MMMMM” over and over again. Later, Diana said if there was more pork she could’ve kept eating it and eating it without stopping. It’s sort of like brisket but better.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:20 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Thugs and goons taking over government

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You may have thought I was exaggerating in the post below where I likened the Bush Administration’s inner circle as quite similar to the group working to take over the German government in the 1930’s. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration: read this column by Greenwald:

David Brooks’ column in The New York Times this morning contains several important observations. It would maximize clarity in our political discussions if journalists could just ingest Brooks’ central point: the dominant right-wing political movement in this country that has spawned and driven the Bush presidency has nothing to do with — it is in fact overtly hostile to — the ostensible principles of Goldwater/Reagan small-government conservatism. Though today’s so-called “conservatives” exploit the the Goldwater/Reagan mythology as a political prop, they don’t believe in those principles in any way. That movement is the very antithesis of those principles.

Brooks comes out and explicitly declares the twin icons of “conservatism” to be every bit as quaint and obsolete as the Geneva Conventions: “Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they’re not models for the future.”

Brooks admits what has been crystal clear for some time — namely, that so-called “conservatives” (meaning the contemporary political “Right”) no longer believe (if they ever did) that government power should be restrained in order to maximize freedom. That belief system, says Brooks, is an obsolete relic which arose out of the the 1970s, and has been replaced by the opposite desire — for expanded government power on every front.

Deceitfully purporting to speak on behalf of what he calls “normal, nonideological people” (the dishonest tactic he constantly uses), Brooks says:

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 8:02 am

“Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch”

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Good column by Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt:

As Congress probes the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, attention is centering on who knew what, and when. It’s just as important to focus on “why,” such as the reason given for the firing of at least one of the U.S. attorneys, John McKay of Washington state: failure to prosecute the phantom of individual voter fraud.

Allegations of voter fraud — someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote — have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.

But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously “found” a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.

Before and after every close election, politicians and pundits proclaim: The dead are voting, foreigners are voting, people are voting twice. On closer examination, though, most such allegations don’t pan out. Consider a list of supposedly dead voters in Upstate New York that was much touted last October. Where reporters looked into names on the list, it turned out that the voters were, to quote Monty Python, “not dead yet.”

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Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2007 at 7:47 am

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