Later On

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

Archive for May 2nd, 2007

“Voter fraud prosecution” = vote suppression

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McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Accusations about voter fraud seemed to fly from every direction in Missouri before last fall’s elections. State and national Republicans leaders fretted that dead people might vote or that some live people might vote more than once.

The threat to the integrity of the election was seen as so grave that Bradley Schlozman, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and later the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, twice wielded the power of the federal government to try to protect the balloting. The Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly also stepped into action.

Now, six months after freshman Missouri Sen. Jim Talent’s defeat handed Democrats control of the U.S. Senate, disclosures in the wake of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys show that that Republican campaign to protect the balloting was not as it appeared. No significant voter fraud was ever proved.

The preoccupation with ballot fraud in Missouri was part of a wider national effort that critics charge was aimed at protecting the Republican majority in Congress by dampening Democratic turnout. That effort included stiffer voter-identification requirements, wholesale purges of names from lists of registered voters and tight policing of liberal get-out-the-vote drives.

Bush administration officials deny those claims. But they’ve gotten traction in recent weeks because three of the U.S. attorneys ousted by the Justice Department charge that they lost their jobs because they failed to prove Republican allegations of voter fraud. They say their inquiries found little evidence to support the claims.

Few have endorsed the strategy of pursuing allegations of voter fraud with more enthusiasm than White House political guru Karl Rove. And nowhere has the plan been more apparent than in Missouri.

Before last fall’s election:

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Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 6:22 pm

Luxury plug-in hybrid car coming

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 Bricklin SV-1

Malcolm Bricklin built the SV-1 in Canada from 1974-76, and 2,854 were sold. Now he’s planning to make a luxury plug-in hybrid, to go on the market in late 2009.  Bricklin is more widely known for bringing the Subaru and Yugo brands to America.

Now, the indefatigable auto entrepreneur has taken his ambitions to a new level with his latest goal of single-handedly creating a mass-market, plug-in hybrid car industry, including: creating his own high-volume 100-mpg luxury vehicle; building a new dedicated component factory in China to produce lithium phosphate batteries and electronic parts for his car and for other fledgling electric car makers; organizing a chain of exclusive dealerships placing advanced bulk orders; and engineering a wireless network allowing service technicians to monitor the performance of a vehicle from a distance.

Here’s an interview with him.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 3:33 pm

A thought on new shaving products

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In a shaving forum, a shaver commented on all the new brushless shaving creams and gels that are coming to market—new brands from new companies.

My thought on why so many new companies are springing up to market new brushless products: Men are very dissatisfied with the shaves they’re getting from the multiblade cartridges.

Because shavers are dissatisfied, marketers know that they will be willing to try new products in an attempt to improve the shave (not realizing that the problem is the multiblade cartridge itself). Modern shavers generally don’t have a shaving brush, so the new products are brushless. (No marketer wants to put an obstacle in the way of someone buying the product, and having to have a brush already, or buy one to use the product, would be a big obstacle.)

The general experience of unsatisfactory shaves also, I think, lies behind all the “healing” aftershave balms you see on drugstore shelves: guys are getting bad shaves, their skin feels awful, so they are buying new shaving preparations (creams, gels, aftershaves, balms, healers, etc.)—but they still continue to use the razor technology that’s at the root of the problem.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Why Bush CANNOT fire Gonzales

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Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 12:09 pm

This really sounds like obstruction of justice

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The firing of Carol Lam seems more and more as though it will result in some obstruction of justice indictments. And note that the firing demand “came from the very highest levels of government”. That would be George W. Bush, specifically. Read it here.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 11:50 am

Extremely cool audio software (free, too)

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Take a look at this if you use Windows. At the link:

Quintessential Player

Quintessential Player (a.k.a. QCD) is a feature rich media player for Microsoft Windows. It supports all popular audio formats including MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and CDs. QCD is highly skinnable and has a robust plug-in architecture.

QCD performs CD Ripping and Encoding, streams Internet Radio, and can Clean and Tag all your audio files. QCD uses Gracenote for the best music recognition. QCD even plays videos. These great features are just scratching the surface.

QCD is Freeware. Free of cost and free of any bundled secrets.
Don’t be a player hater, try it today.

Trying to escape giant corporate media players that exist only to sell you things?

Want a media player that is meticulously designed and implemented?

Need a media player that is fun and just sounds great?

Welcome to a place where two guys spend a crazy amount of time and energy making a player for no reason other than we want to. We are using it everyday to listen to our own music and that’s enough reason for us to continue to improve it. We hope you will use it too. But do us a favour – tell your friends about it!

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in Music, Software

New study removes last objection to medical marijuana

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The last logical/medical objection, that is. The objection “I just don’t want people to do it” is harder to overcome. The article, via the reader in the Netherlands:

Anyone who advocates for medical marijuana sooner or later runs into arguments about smoking: “No real medicine is smoked.” “Smoking is bad for the lungs; why would any doctor recommend something so harmful?” It’s a line of reasoning that medical marijuana opponents have used to great effect in Congress, state legislatures, and elsewhere. Indeed, the FDA’s controversial 2006 statement opposing medical marijuana was couched in repeated references to “smoked marijuana.”

But new research demonstrates that all those fears of “smoked marijuana” as medicine are 100 percent obsolete.

The smoking argument was the closest thing to a scientifically meaningful objection to medical marijuana. While marijuana smoke, unlike tobacco, has never been shown to cause lung cancer, heavy marijuana smoking has been associated with assorted respiratory symptoms and a potentially increased risk of bronchitis. That’s because burning any plant material produces a whole lot of substances such as tars, and carbon monoxide that are not good for the lungs.

Nevertheless, inhalation is clearly the best method for administering marijuana’s active components, called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids such as THC are fat-soluble molecules that are absorbed slowly and unevenly when taken orally, as in the prescription THC pill Marinol. This means that Marinol typically takes an hour to two hours to work, and dose adjustment is nearly impossible. Patients often report that when it finally kicks in, it hits like a ton of bricks, leaving them too stoned to function.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 9:14 am

Posted in Drug laws, Medical

Getting around the Electoral College

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Interesting article via a frequent reader:

Sometimes it is said that the president is the only official in America that the whole nation elects. But this is wrong. In picking the president, we act through the filter of 51 separate elections in which presidential electors are appointed on a winner-take-all basis in all states but two, Maine and Nebraska, which each award two electors statewide and the others by congressional district. In this fragmented system, the goal of presidential candidates is not to win a majority vote in the nation but to stitch together enough states and districts to accumulate 270 presidential electors regardless of the national popular will.

In practice, this patchwork regime quickly reduces the competitive election to a small minority of states. Most Americans live in the 34 states where our Electoral College votes are safely taken for granted by one major party or the other. I live in Maryland, which is safely blue. My brother and older sister live in Virginia, safely red. My younger sister is in Washington, D.C., which is blue. I have family and close friends in New York (blue), Texas (red), Connecticut (blue), Mississippi (red), Massachusetts (blue), Utah (red), California (blue), Alaska (red), Hawaii (blue) and South Dakota (red). The dominant party wastes no money on seeking votes in these states and the weaker party considers it a lost cause and won’t spend a dime either.

The presidential campaign planes fly over all of us in red and blue America in search of “swing voters” in the dwindling set of “swing states.” Fully 99 percent of presidential campaign funding in the last two cycles went to move voters in a mere 16 states, and two-thirds of the money was poured into five states. The majority of Americans have become long-distance spectators to the exciting action in the battleground states where issues are debated and campaign ads air. We watch as the candidates, the campaign staff and the media bear down on Florida, Ohio, New Mexico and a handful of others states blessed with closely divided electorates. Voter turn-out in the general election sometimes approaches 70 percent in the swing states but hovers in the mid-50s in demoralized spectator states, driving our national turn-out rates down to among the lowest on earth.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 9:10 am

Posted in Election, Government

No more blogs and emails from soldiers

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Not unless content cleared in advance:

The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops’ online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

“This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging,” said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. “No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has — it’s most honest voice out of the war zone. And it’s being silenced.”

Army Regulation 530–1: Operations Security (OPSEC) (.pdf) restricts more than just blogs, however. Previous editions of the rules asked Army personnel to “consult with their immediate supervisor” before posting a document “that might contain sensitive and/or critical information in a public forum.” The new version, in contrast, requires “an OPSEC review prior to publishing” anything — from “web log (blog) postings” to comments on internet message boards, from résumés to letters home.

Failure to do so, the document adds, could result in a court-martial, or “administrative, disciplinary, contractual, or criminal action.”

More at the link. This makes sense in a military context (sensitive information about troop dispositions and movements, etc.), but will have a chilling effect on non-sensitive communications.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 9:07 am

Posted in Military

GOP’s Inspector Generals not always up to snuff

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The Washington Post:

The inspector general of the Department of Commerce, the watchdog charged with rooting out wrongdoing at the agency, is himself the subject of three separate government investigations into allegations that he misspent his budget and retaliated against employees who raised concerns about his actions.

Last week, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.); Rep. Joe L. Barton (Tex.), the ranking Republican on the panel; and two other members sent an eight-page letter to the inspector general, Johnnie E. Frazier, demanding scores of records. Investigators from two executive-branch agencies have also been looking into Frazier’s conduct.

Among the allegations are that he engaged in questionable travel at taxpayer expense, at times over weekends and accompanied by his grandchildren, to cities where the inspector general does not have offices, according to documents and interviews with people close to the inquiries. The investigators are also interested in whether Frazier improperly arranged for a no-bid $150,000 contract to be awarded to a consulting company that the committee’s letter alleges was “connected” to a retiring employee of Frazier’s office.

A number of senior staff members, including Frazier’s deputy, have been reassigned in recent months. At least two have sought whistle-blower protection by alleging that Frazier retaliated against them, and a third has contacted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination and retaliation, according to the people interviewed.

Frazier declined to comment. He referred reporters to a statement from his office’s acting legal counsel, Carolyn Croak, which said that officials in the inspector general’s office are “cooperating fully with these investigations and look forward to their speedy resolution.”

Among the accusations mentioned in Dingell’s letter was that Frazier cut short a government conference so he and senior managers could go gambling in Atlantic City.

“Numerous current and former employees have made serious allegations against you and the way that you have managed your office,” Dingell and his colleagues wrote. “They have provided the Committee on Energy and Commerce with credible allegations of serious and widespread fraud, waste, and abuse within your office that involves not only you personally, but also many members of your current management team.”

The letter directs Frazier to preserve all records related to the investigation, noting that some witnesses had told the committee that records have been “destroyed, altered and/or tampered with.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 9:03 am

Bill O’Reilly, propagandist

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ThinkProgress:

A new study by Indiana University media researchers finds that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly calls “a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night.”

The study documented six months worth, or 115 episodes, of O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” editorials “using propaganda analysis techniques made popular after World War I.” Researchers found that O’Reilly “was prone to inject fear into his commentaries and quick to resort to name-calling. He also frequently assigned roles or attributes — such as ‘villians’ or downright ‘evil’ — to people and groups.

Some findings from the study:

Fear was used in more than half (52.4 percent) of the commentaries, and O’Reilly almost never offered a resolution to the threat. For example, in a commentary on “left-wing” media unfairly criticizing Attorney Gen. Alberto Gonzales for his role in the Abu Ghraib scandal, O’Reilly considered this an example of America “slowly losing freedom and core values,” and added, “So what can be done? Unfortunately, not much.”

– The researchers identified 22 groups of people that O’Reilly referenced in his commentaries, and while all 22 were described by O’Reilly as bad at some point, the people and groups most frequently labeled bad were the political left — Americans as a group and the media (except those media considered by O’Reilly to be on the right).

Left-leaning media (21.6 percent) made up the largest portion of bad people/groups, and media without a clear political leaning was the second largest (12.2 percent). When it came to evil people and groups, illegal aliens (26.8 percent) and terrorists (21.4 percent) were the largest groups.

The techniques used by Indiana University researchers to study O’Reilly were also “used during the late 1930s to study another prominent voice in a war-era, Father Charles Coughlin. His sermons evolved into a darker message of anti-Semitism and fascism, and he became a defender of Hitler and Mussolini.” The researchers note, “O’Reilly is a heavier and less-nuanced user of the propaganda devices than Coughlin.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 8:55 am

Posted in GOP, Media

What the US needs is a President above the law

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That is, a President who can ignore the law without any consequences for him/her. That’s the explicit argument made in the WSJ today and analyzed in detail by Glenn Greenwald.

The analysis is well worth reading, and he ends with this note:

I just want to add one related point here. Much of the intense dissatisfaction I have with the American media arises out of the fact that these extraordinary developments — the dominant political movement advocating lawlessness and tyranny out in the open in The Wall St. Journal and Weekly Standard — receive almost no attention.

While the Bush administration expressly adopts these theories to detain American citizens without charges, engage in domestic surveillance on Americans in clear violation of the laws we enacted to limit that power, and asserts a general right to disregard laws which interfere with the President’s will, our media still barely discusses those issues.

They write about John Edwards’ haircut and John Kerry’s windsurfing and which political consultant has whispered what gossip to them about some painfully petty matter, but the extraordinary fact that our nation’s dominant political movement is openly advocating the most radical theories of tyranny — that “liberties are dangerous and law does not apply” — is barely noticed by our most prestigious and self-loving national journalists. Merely to take note of that failure is to demonstrate how profoundly dysfunctional our political press is.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 8:50 am

The Martini revisited

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As you know, I like the Martini—i.e., the true Martini, made with gin and Noilly Prat in a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio, with an olive and the top misted with a twist of lemon (the twist then discarded, not put into the drink). And stirred, for the love of God, not shaken.

The NY Times did some important research in testing which gins are best in a Martini. The complete article is well worth reading, but here are the results:

Plymouth English Gin $22 *** 1/2
82.4 proof 1 liter

Subtle and elegant with crisp, lingering flavors of citrus and juniper: a martini in a dinner jacket. (Importer: Absolut Spirits, New York)

Junipero $35 ***
Anchor Distilling Co.,United States 86 proof 750 milliliters
Smooth, clean and very dry with assertive, classic flavors of juniper and citrus: a martini with one eyebrow raised.

Cadenhead’s Old Raj Dry Gin $50 ***
Scotland 110 proof 750 milliliters

Powerful, muscular and hot, but in a good way: a martini with a punch. (Preiss Imports, Ramona, Calif.)

Seagram’s Extra Dry $15 ** 1/2
80 proof 750 milliliters

Surprisingly complex, with fruit, ginger, juniper and citrus flavors: a martini with a thesaurus.

Tanqueray London Dry Gin $22 ** 1/2
England 94.6 proof 750 milliliters

Crisp with a hint of mint and juniper flavors: a martini peeking out from librarian’s glasses. (Diageo, Norwalk, Conn.)

Hendrick’s $40 ** 1/2
Scotland 88 proof 750 milliliters

Unusual, intriguing floral aromas: a martini in a Hawaiian shirt. (William Grant & Sons, New York)

Gordon’s London Dry $12 ** 1/2
United States 80 proof 750 milliliters

Gentle and harmonious with cardamom and nutmeg aromas: a martini in a gray flannel suit.

Bombay Sapphire London Dry $30 **
England 94 proof 1 liter

Jangly flavors of mint, herbs and citrus, with detectable alcoholic heat: a neurotic martini. (Bombay Spirits, Miami)

Quintessential London Dry $30 **
England 80 proof 750 milliliters

Smooth and direct, but with an odd, bittersweet flavor: a martini with a blemish. (White Rock Distilleries, Lewiston, Me.)

Martin Miller’s London Dry $32 **
England 80 proof 750 milliliters

Soft and slightly sweet, with floral aromas, but not a hint of juniper: a martini in pedal pushers. (Skyy Spirits, New York)

Note to family: good ideas for gifts to Leisureguy. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 8:35 am

Progress in Iraq, now and forever

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Watch this summary of “Mission Accomplished” by Keith Olbermann: it’s powerful, devastating, and mesmerizing. Extremely well done.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 8:08 am

Sophie caught napping

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Sophie asleep

Sophie’s much more active than Megs, but she still honors the tradition of taking naps in odd and uncomfortable places. Here she is with her head hanging off the edge of the desk, so sound asleep she didn’t stir even when the camera came out and photo was made. (Normally if the camera’s in view, she’ll trot right over to sniff it.)

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 7:47 am

Posted in Cats, Sophie

Grafton today

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Continuing the Truefitt & Hill exploration, today I worked up a wonderful lather from T&H Grafton shaving cream using the Simpsons Persian Jar 2 Super. Extremely nice. Then the chrome Merkur Slant Bar neatly and effortlessly sliced away the stubble—it’s the slicing action of the slanted blade that makes it such a fine razor. Aftershave was Musgo Real, but I really should get some T&H Grafton aftershave for these days:

Description:

–> A crisp and spicy masculine fragrance in which top notes of Tarragon, Lavender and Incense are combined with hints of green Galbanum, Lemon and other Citrus notes.

If Truefitt & Hill tempts you (and it is one of the three “T”s of English shaving: T&H, Geo. F. Trumper, and Taylors of Old Bond Street), here’s a useful site to know.

Written by Leisureguy

2 May 2007 at 7:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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