Later On

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

Archive for April 12th, 2007

Josh Marshall is inventing a new mode of reporting

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Josh Marshall has been inventive and entrepreneurial in looking at the news business and modern technology and putting his finger on how to leverage the power of the Internet to do better reportage. Here are some of my thoughts:

First, much of the media have very poor reporting because they are owned by large corporations who (a) are risk-averse, and (b) have their own private agenda. So stories and dumbed down or ignored altogether, and information is either presented as infotainment or purely entertainment: the story of a missing white woman, particularly if she’s young and blonde and attractive, can hog the news slot, pushing aside stories about the Iraq War, about deliberations in Congress, about the discovery of corruption, about the decline of the dollar—in fact all news, except perhaps for a puppy trapped in a well.

But a small organization completely owned and controlled by someone who’s very interested in hard news can have focus and look at significant stories. In fact, that’s the old model of the good city independent newspaper: a publisher who loves news and makes sure his or her paper reports it, and who is ornery enough to ignore pressure from merchants and politicians and to fight hard for stories to beat the competition. But now city newspapers generally local monopolies owned and directed by large corporations, and they spend their energy avoiding offending anyone and trying to cut costs.

So that’s one part. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 11:26 pm

Posted in Government, Media

Christians who don’t understand church-state separation

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Paul Krugman has a good column on the movement in the Christian Right to infiltrate governmental organizations to get the government and the Christian religion intertwined. Some of his points:

In 1981, Gary North, a leader of the Christian Reconstructionist movement — the openly theocratic wing of the Christian right — suggested that the movement could achieve power by stealth. “Christians must begin to organize politically within the present party structure,” he wrote, “and they must begin to infiltrate the existing institutional order.”

Today, Regent University, founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson to provide “Christian leadership to change the world,” boasts that it has 150 graduates working in the Bush administration.

Unfortunately for the image, Monica Goodling is the most well-known of the Regent graduates.

The infiltration of the federal government by large numbers of people seeking to impose a religious agenda — which is very different from simply being people of faith — is one of the most important stories of the last six years. It’s also a story that tends to go underreported, perhaps because journalists are afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists.

But this conspiracy is no theory. The official platform of the Texas Republican Party pledges to “dispel the myth of the separation of church and state.” And the Texas Republicans now running the country are doing their best to fulfill that pledge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 10:57 pm

Something’s rotten in the state of Wisconsin

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Josh Marshall:

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 1:49 pm

What a meal!

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The Wife and I are having dinner before the Julien Clerc concert. I hope we’re having this. Those in and near NYC should try it and report in the comments. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Food

Carefully deleting Rove’s emails

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So it looks as though they were especially careful to delete all of Karl Rove’s emails. Obstruction of justice, anyone?  From TPMmuckraker:

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asked that the Justice Department retain all emails received or sent to a White House official’s RNC-issued email address.

But he also provided more details about those emails on the RNC servers — details derived from his staff’s interview with the RNC’s counsel Rob Kelner. According to Kelner, the RNC stopped deleting all of the White House staff’s emails in response to “unspecified legal inquiries” (i.e. Pat Fitzgerald’s investigation) in August of 2004. And there are some very tantalizing details concerning Karl Rove…

From the letter:

According to Mr. Kelner, the RNC had a policy, which the RNC called a “document retention” policy, that purged all e-mails from RNC e-mail accounts and the RNC server that were more than 30 days old. Mr. Kelner said that as a result of unspecified legal inquiries, a “hold” was placed on this e-mail destruction policy for the accounts of White House officials in August 2004. Mr. Kelner was uncertain whether the hold was consistently maintained from August 2004 to the present, but he asserted that for this period, the RNC does have alarge volume of White House e-mails. According to Mr. Kelner, the hold would not have prevented individual White House officials from deleting their e-mail from the RNC server after August 2004.Mr. Kelner’s briefing raised particular concems about Karl Rove, who according to press reports used his RNC accountfor 95%o of his communications. According to Mr. Kelner, although the hold started in August 2004, the RNC does not have any e-mails prior to 2005 for Mr. Rove. Mr. Kelner did not give any explanation for the e-mails missing from Mr. Rove’s account, but he did acknowledge that one possible explanation is that Mr. Rove personally deleted his e-mails from the RNC server.

Mr. Kelner also explained that starting in 2005, the RNC began to treat Mr. Rove’s emails in a special fashion. At some point in 2005, the RNC commenced an automatic archive policy for Mr. Rove, but not for any other White House officials. According to Mr. Kelner, this archive policy removed Mr. Rove’s ability to personally delete his e-mails from the RNC server. Mr. Kelner did not provide many details about why this special policy was adopted for Mr. Rove. But he did indicate that one factor was the presence of investigative or discovery requests or other legal concerns. It was unclear from Mr. Kelner’s briefing whether the special archiving policy for Mr. Rove was consistently in effect after 2005. [my emphasis]

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 1:04 pm

Oops. The dog just ate 5,000,000 emails

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington:

Today, CREW issued a new report, WITHOUT A TRACE: The Missing White House Emails and Violations of the PRA, and made the shocking new disclosure that the Bush White House has lost over FIVE MILLION e-mails in a two year period. The report also details the legal issues behind the growing controversy over the White House e-mail scandal.

Through two confidential sources, CREW learned that the Executive Office of the President (EOP) has lost over FIVE MILLION emails generated between March 2003 and October 2005. The White House counsel’s office was advised of these problems in 2005 and CREW has been told that the White House was given a plan of action to recover these emails, but to date nothing has been done to rectify this significant loss of records.

Our Executive Director, Melanie Sloan, issued the following statement after learning of the revelation:

It’s clear that the White House has been willfully violating the law, the only question now is to what extent? The ever changing excuses offered by the administration – that they didn’t want to violate the Hatch Act, that staff wasn’t clear on the law – are patently ridiculous. Very convenient that embarrassing – and potentially incriminating – emails have gone missing. It’s the Nixon White House all over again.

The full report can be found here.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 11:13 am

Allergy tips

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I mentioned that I had started running my Honeywell 17400 air cleaner at night in the bedroom, and that’s helped a lot. (The 17400 may not be in current manufacture, but I did find this similar model.) Today the tips below came in an email from the Harvard Medical School Newsletter. So far as antihistamines go: I had been using Allegra, but the doctor recommended I try Singulair (10 mg, one in the evening), which has proved to be much more effective. Singulair is not, as I understand it, an antihistamine, but rather stops the formation of histamines.

In springtime, when trees burst with leaves and flowers open, are you distracted by sneezing, sniffling, and itchy eyes? In summer, do you shut out the breeze and hide indoors? Year-round, do you wage a constant battle with dust mites or pet dander? If so, you are all too familiar with the symptoms of an allergy attack.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that 40 million to 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Allergies can range from irritating inconveniences to chronic debilitating conditions. They can even be life-threatening, as in the case of allergic shock. Because of their potential severity and increasing prevalence, allergic reactions have been the focus of rigorous research. This work has resulted in a greater understanding of the complex nature of allergic reactions, which in turn has led to more effective treatment options.

Hay fever, or rhinitis, is the most common allergy in the United States, affecting about 40 million Americans. There are two categories of rhinitis: allergic rhinitis caused by allergens, and non-allergic rhinitis caused by irritants, such as fragrances, tobacco, and wood smoke. Pregnancy can also bring on non-allergic rhinitis symptoms, as can certain medications and conditions, such as thyroid hormone deficiency.

Generally, an allergic rhinitis reaction occurs when you breathe airborne, outdoor or indoor allergens. Within minutes, the whole shebang of sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes is in full swing. Regular exposure to these allergens leads to persistent symptoms.

Allergies can be successfully managed but not cured. Educating yourself about your allergy — what triggers it, how it works in your body, and the various treatment options available — can make a big difference in the quality of your life. Especially if you are predisposed to allergies, you may have more than one type of allergy, making it even more important to understand how to manage your allergies.

Increased medical knowledge and new developments in modifying existing medicines are making allergy treatments safer and more effective. As a result, your doctor can tailor medications to you and your lifestyle.

Allergy tip: To reduce hay fever symptoms, start taking your allergy medicines (antihistamines, nasal steroids, and so forth) several weeks before you anticipate your allergy season will start. Clinical trials have demonstrated that this strategy is more effective than starting the same medicines after you have already developed symptoms.
When the trigger is pollen — from trees, grasses, or weeds — or mold, and your allergies kick in seasonally, the common term is “hay fever.” But allergic rhinitis can also be a year-round condition that can lead to and exacerbate other allergies, such as allergic asthma and allergic conjunctivitis. And repeated exposure to allergens hypersensitizes the nasal mucosa, so that ever lower amounts of allergens can spark a reaction, as well as make you sensitive to non-specific irritants.

Tips for avoiding pollen exposure

Here are some ways to minimize your pollen exposure:

• Stay indoors when the pollen count is high, and especially on dry, windy days.

• Stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., when airborne pollen is likely to be at its highest each day.

• Keep home windows closed at night, and turn on the air conditioner.

• Keep car windows closed when driving.

• Vacation at the coast during high pollen season.

• Don’t cut your grass; have someone else do it.

• Don’t hang clothing and bedding out to dry.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Julien Clerc concert tonight

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Julien Clerc is one of The Wife’s favorites. She got tickets to a concert in San Francisco, so up there we go. Not much blogging today.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 10:29 am

Posted in Music

Bush can spin on a dime

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From The Carpetbagger Report, two awesome reversals:

On Tuesday, in a fairly significant speech before an American Legion post, the president offered a couple of sweeping criticisms of the Democrats’ policy towards the war. The first insisted that the Dems’ approach may have an adverse impact on troop rotations.

“Congress’s failure to fund our troops will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines,” Bush said. “Others could see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated. This is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable to me, it’s unacceptable to our veterans, it’s unacceptable to our military families, and it’s unacceptable to many in this country.”

Just 24 hours later, the Bush administration announced that our military families will wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines and will see their loved ones headed back to war sooner than anticipated.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced yesterday that all active-duty soldiers currently deployed or going to Iraq and Afghanistan will see their one-year tours extended to 15 months, acknowledging that such a strain on the war-weary Army is necessary should the ongoing troop increase be prolonged well into next year.

The decision — coming three months after President Bush put forth his new security plan for Iraq, including the deployment of at least 28,000 additional troops there — reflects the reality that the new strategy is unfeasible without introducing longer Army tours.

The across-the-board extension will affect more than 100,000 active-duty soldiers and will result in the longest combat tours for the Army since World War II. It will also mandate for the first time that active-duty soldiers spend more time at war than at home.

“This recognizes … that our forces are stretched. There’s no question about that,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.

Hmm. On Tuesday, it’s wrong to keep the troops in Iraq longer than their scheduled tours. On Wednesday, it’s not. As House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel noted, “What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, extending tours of duty was ‘unacceptable’ to the President. Today, it is Pentagon policy.”

The White House flip-flopped on alleged “pork,” too.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 10:03 am

What if you “lost” incriminating emails

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Anonymous Liberal spells it out:

As an attorney who deals with subpoenas and requests for electronic documents on a regular basis, I can tell you that if a private entity–particularly one subject to legally mandated record keeping requirements–were to inform government investigators seeking such documents that they had been “mishandled” and were now “lost,” that entity would immediately find itself in a world of hurt and would be lucky if it survived the aftermath. No amount of talking would be enough to convince the authorities that there was an innocent explanation for the missing documents. They would be absolutely convinced that the “mishandled” documents were intentionally destroyed in order to cover up wrongdoing.

And rightfully so. One of the first things you learn as a litigator is that emails live forever. They can almost always be retrieved. As this diarist at Daily Kos explains:

As an IT guy, I know all too well that emails are nearly impossible to “lose,” especially if one really wants to find them. . . . I find it very difficult to believe that copies of these little devils aren’t lurking on various electronic devices hither and thither throughout the country (if not the world). Unless a Department of Defense grade hard drive wipe was initiated on every single workstation or device that came in contact with the emails in question, they can be found.

If these emails truly are gone forever, the White House should be subject to the very same presumption of wrongdoing that any other entity would under similar circumstances. Indeed, given this White House’s track record, that sort of negative inference is even more justified. Simply put, there is no reason that any intelligent person should take the White House’s explanation here at face value. They had a legal obligation to preserve official emails and only now, after they’ve been requested by Congress in connection with a high-profile investigation, are we informed that they have been “lost.” Henry Waxman, Patrick Leahy, and the other members of Congress investigating this matter have every right to be incredulous. This is just totally unacceptable.

The whole post is excellent. Go read it.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 9:58 am

Patrick Leahy speaks up

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Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 9:53 am

The pattern is clear

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Glenn Greenwald has a very interesting list of the remarkable number of times that documents essential for seeing what the Bush Administration has been doing have gone missing. Over and over, when documents that would definitively settle a question have been requested, they have turned up missing. Strange. Very strange. Almost… deliberate.

We are ruled by scum.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 9:31 am

More on the US as a non-Christian nation

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I got to thinking about my post on that treaty of 1796 that clearly specified that the US is not, in any way, a Christian nation, and the famous article 11 just seemed to neat. I was going to go to Snopes to see if this was some sort of hoax, but first checked Wikipedia’s entry on Tripoli, which provided a link to this Wikipedia article:

The official treaty was in Arabic text, and a translated version provided by Consul-General Barlow was ratified by the United States on June 10, 1797. Article 11 of the treaty was said to have not been part of the original Arabic version of the treaty, and was from a letter from the Dey of Algiers to the Pasha of Tripoli.[1][2]. However it originated, it was undeniably a part of the treaty as approved by President John Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and ratified by the Senate.

Article 11, reads:

    “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Article 11 has been a point of contention regarding the proper interpretation of the doctrine of separation of church and state. Supporters of the separation of church and state contend that this article is significant in that it confirms that the government of the United States was specifically intended to be religiously neutral. Supporters of the “Christian Nation” theory dispute this, arguing that the article in the treaty carries little or no significance.

Obviously the “Christian Nation” supporters think the article has no significance since it totally blows their position out of the water. Either they have to accept that the US is religiously neutral and a secular state, or they have to somehow claim that this treaty (and that article in particular) doesn’t, somehow, exist. “Not significant”? Give me a break.

It reminds me of Attorney General John Ashcroft, a fierce defender of state’s rights, unless the state chose to exercise a right with which he personally disagreed—as happened in Oregon with the state passage of an assisted suicide law. Suddenly he’s all Federalist and takes them to court up to the Supreme Court, where his case loses totally. (Now California is going for assisted suicide.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 8:51 am

Posted in GOP, Government

The voter-fraud scam

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The GOP loves to talk about voter fraud as if it were a widespread practice. Only it’s not: their position is totally contrary to fact. (Sound familiar?) Kevin Drum lays it out nicely:

The New York Times, in a genuine act of public service, has conducted an investigation into voter fraud. Republicans claim it’s rampant, and the only way to stop it is via strict voter ID laws that — purely by coincidence — happen to have the effect of reducing turnout among several traditionally Democratic constituencies. So what’s the score? By 2005, four years after John Ashcroft had changed Department of Justice guidelines to streamline prosecutions, how much voter fraud had DOJ dug up?

….about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year. Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

…. In swing states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, party leaders conducted inquiries to find people who may have voted improperly and prodded officials to act on their findings.

But the party officials and lawmakers were often disappointed. The accusations led to relatively few cases, and a significant number resulted in acquittals.

Here’s the nickel summary: In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.

So in four years of concerted effort, the Bush Justice Department managed to come up with maybe half a dozen cases of actual voter fraud. In other words, two or three per election cycle. Mostly in rural districts for low-level offices. And because of this, we’re supposed to believe that it’s a high priority to spend millions of dollars on voter ID laws that plainly do nothing except make it harder for poor people to vote.

Can we now please put this nonsense to rest? Can we please stop writing stories that treat voter ID laws as if they’re sincerely designed to stop voter fraud? There’s no longer any excuse.

POSTSCRIPT: This stuff can also ruin lives. Be sure to check out the part of the story about the guy who was deported to Pakistan because he mistakenly filled out a voter registration card while standing in line at the DMV. I’m sure the prosecutor who brought that case is proud of himself.

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 8:42 am

The criminals are being backed into a corner

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From Froomkin today:

Countless e-mails to and from many key White House staffers have been deleted — lost to history and placed out of reach of congressional subpoenas — due to a brazen violation of internal White House policy that was allowed to continue for more than six years, the White House acknowledged yesterday.

The leading culprit appears to be President Bush’s enormously influential political adviser Karl Rove, who reportedly used his Republican National Committee-provided Blackberry and e-mail accounts for most of his electronic communication.

Until 2004, all e-mail on RNC accounts was routinely deleted after 30 days. Since 2004, White House staffers using those accounts have been able to save their e-mail indefinitely — but have also been able to delete whatever they felt like deleting. By comparison, the White House e-mail system preserves absolutely everything forever, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.

The White House yesterday said it has no idea how many e-mails have been lost.

In an afternoon conference call with reporters, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel spread the blame all around. “White House policy did not give clear enough guidance,” he said. “The oversight of that wasn’t aggressive enough.” And individual White House staffers “did not do a good enough job of following existing preservation policy — or seeking guidance.”

Said Stanzel: “I guess the bottom line is that our policy at the White House was not clear enough for employees.”

But when I asked Stanzel to read out loud the White House e-mail policy, it seemed clear enough to me: “Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff,” says the handbook that all staffers are given and expected to read and comply with.

“As a result, personnel working on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for all official communication.”

The handbook further explains: “The official EOP e-mail system is designed to automatically comply with records management requirements.”

And if that wasn’t clear enough, the handbook notes — as was the case in the Clinton administration — that “commercial or free e-mail sites and chat rooms are blocked from the EOP network to help staff members ensure compliance and to prevent the circumvention of the records management requirements.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 8:27 am

Hoffritz slant-bar razor

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A commenter brought up the Hoffritz slant-bar razor—no longer made, but still available on eBay from time to time. I have one, and it is pretty clearly made by Merkur—quite similar to the Merkur slant bar, but with chequering on the handle not so deep and distinct and the head lacking the scalloped edges that the Merkur boasts.

So today I brought it out for a shave. Gillette (Swedish) blade, and a lather worked up from Truefitt & Hill soap with the Rooney Style 2 Finest. Quite a good shave, no nicks and quite close. I do find the handle of the Hoffritz is somewhat slipperier than the Merkur’s handle: the sharp and deep chequering of the Merkur really helps. Still, a perfectly good slant bar.

Finished with the alum block and Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel. Feeling up—today’s the big photo shoot for the book cover!

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2007 at 8:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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