Later On

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

Archive for May 25th, 2007

Some of the “lost” emails turn up

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This is a very interesting story—especially if you enjoy paranoia. Remember: paranoia is perception if they are really out to get you.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 3:27 pm

Great civil-engineering story

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Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 3:23 pm

Blowback from the attorney firings

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From McClatchy Washington Bureau:

The Bush administration’s decision to fire nine U.S. attorneys last year has created a new problem for the White House: The controversy appears to be discouraging applications for some of the 22 prosecutor posts that President Bush needs to fill.

Of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, 22 are serving without Senate confirmation as interim or acting prosecutors. They represent districts in Alaska, Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, West Virginia and Washington.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the administration is committed to nominating candidates for all 22 open positions, but so far the administration has submitted only four nominees.

In Florida, the panel that’s evaluating candidates and making recommendations to the White House has received only two applicants for the vacancy left by U.S. Attorney Paul Perez in Tampa – even after it extended the May 3 deadline to apply. Perez, who resigned in March, left for a private-sector job. He’s said that he wasn’t forced out.

“I personally was disappointed we didn’t have more,” said Michael J. Grindstaff, the chairman of the Florida Federal Judicial Nominating Commission. “I was wondering if there was a way to attract more applicants.”

Some other states where Congress is investigating prosecutors’ ousters also have gotten fewer responses than the administration hoped for.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 3:09 pm

Good thoughts on Libby’s sentencing

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Christy Hardin Smith has a very good post on issues related to the sentencing of Scooter Libby. (Patrick Fitzgerald has asked for a sentence of 2 1/2 – 3 years.)

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 2:57 pm

Strengthen—no, reduce—the Border Patrol

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From ThinkProgress:

During a visit to the U.S-Mexico border last month, President Bush stated that “securing the border is a critical part of a strategy for comprehensive immigration reform.” Yesterday, Bush claimed that his administration had already “stepped up efforts to improve border security,” touting his attempts to “double the size of the Border Patrol.”

Today, however, such commitments ring hallow as Govs. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) and Bill Richardson (D-NM) have found that the defense contractor DynCorp has been authorized by the Bush Administration to hire as many as 120 “current and former U.S. Border Patrol agents.”

DynCorp “is offering $134,100 for a one-year stay, plus a $25,000 signing bonus,” a reported 70% pay raise. Further, “[t]he first $90,000 in income is tax free, and housing and food are free.”

Richardson and Napolitano both expressed outrage about the plan, saying in a letter to Bush that the plan “makes no sense“:

[A]t a time when violence is once again flaring up on our own border, it makes no sense for the United States State Department to empower a company to hire away as many as 120 veteran Border Patrol agents to serve as mentors to train Iraqis… We should be focused on supporting our nation’s security efforts along the Mexican and Canadian border instead of hampering [the Border Patrol] by sending our best agents to a war zone in Iraq.

The Bush administration’s attempts to “skim off Border Patrol agents” for duty in Iraq is made worse in light of the recent decision to withdraw half of the 6,000 National Guard troops temporarily stationed at the border.

The Bush administration had promised to replace the Guardsmen with an “equal number of new Border Patrol agents,” but “fewer than 350 new agents have been hired.”

And to put the icing on the cake:

ABC News reports today that “some Plains and western states have few if any helicopters on hand to respond quickly to a disaster.” For instance, “Nebraska’s contingent of Blackhawk helicopters are deployed in Iraq, leaving few aircraft for disaster relief missions at home.” Wyoming and Texas — Vice President Cheney and President Bush’s respective home states — are the only states in the region not facing significant shortages, with equipment levels around 70 percent.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 11:21 am

Haley Barbour & Mississippi recovery

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Apparently Haley Barbour is very good at getting money from the Bush Administration for rebuilding after Katrina—but not very good at all at doing the rebuilding. Salon:

As president of the supervisory board in Hancock County, Miss., Roderick “Rocky” Pullman faces more problems than he sometimes cares to think about. In August 2005, his coastal county became “ground zero” for Hurricane Katrina, when the eye of the most destructive storm in the nation’s history made landfall just south of Pearlington, the small town on the Louisiana border 40 minutes from New Orleans that he calls home.

Katrina’s 170-mph winds and 35-foot waves literally reduced Pearlington to rubble. Every last vehicle and building in town was destroyed. In Hancock County as a whole, 50 residents were killed, and half the businesses and homes were wiped out. When relief teams arrived 10 days later, they found 600 people living under tents and tarps, linked to the outside world only by ham radio.

Today, Hancock County and the rest of coastal Mississippi are 21 months into a recovery that has garnered Gov. Haley Barbour lavish praise. Governing magazine named Barbour its 2006 Public Official of the Year largely due to his supposed post-Katrina leadership and savvy, including his skill in convincing federal lawmakers to channel billions of relief dollars to the Magnolia State. As Billy Hewes III, a Republican official from Gulfport, said: “He is to Katrina what Rudy Giuliani was to 9/11.” Outsiders might be surprised to learn then, that despite the plaudits, and despite the fact that Barbour’s GOP connections seem to have won him a disproportionate share of relief money from Washington, post-Katrina recovery in some of the hardest-hit areas of the Mississippi coast is moving as fast as molasses in winter.

In Hancock County, Rocky Pullman paints a bleak picture. The recovery is proceeding so slowly that, almost two years after the storm, most of his neighbors still can’t get mail. Before Katrina, the majority of Pearlington residents used post-office boxes; but since no post offices — or any other major city, county or school buildings in Hancock County — have been rebuilt, they have to drive an hour round-trip to Bay St. Louis to pick up a letter.

“We’ve been asking for three post offices to be erected in Hancock County for well over a year now and have got no response whatsoever,” Pullman says. “Those are the kind of things that really bother you. It’s hard to get people to feel good when they have to spend the amount of money they do with the price of gasoline just to get their mail.”

Much more at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 10:07 am

Posted in GOP, Government

NASA’s “integrity”

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Can you imagine a general counsel doing this:

A key congressional leader said Thursday that NASA’s top lawyer may have committed a crime in destroying a recording of a controversial meeting between agency Administrator Michael Griffin, his embattled inspector general and agency staffers.

A hearing Thursday before the House Science Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee painted “an ugly picture” of how NASA leaders reacted to a highly critical outside investigation of NASA Inspector General Robert “Moose” Cobb, said Chairman Brad Miller, D-N.C.

The space agency’s general counsel, Michael Wholley, admitted under oath Thursday that he took DVD recordings of a controversial April 10 meeting, snapped them in half and tossed them into the trash because he didn’t want them making their way to the public.

“It is impossible not to assume the worst about what the destroyed DVD showed,” Miller said. “NASA officials knew perfectly well in advance that the meeting could further compromise the independence of the Inspector General’s Office. People who attended the meeting report that’s exactly what happened, and NASA officials admit that they destroyed the DVD to keep it from becoming public.”

U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., lashed into Wholley for destroying public records and said he is willing to sign a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales with Miller requesting a criminal investigation.

“I think it’s very clear the tape was a public record,” Sensenbrenner said, brandishing a copy of federal law on preserving public documents. “It’s also a crime to destroy public records.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 9:54 am

Who is the Secret Senator?

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We’ll find out, for sure. But in the meantime:

It’s an almost unbelievable irony that a bill called the OPEN Government Act has been sequestered by another secret hold.

The bill in question is a bipartisan effort to update the seminal Freedom of Information Act to make the government more open and accountable.  It recently overwhelmingly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The House version of the bill, “Freedom of Information Act of 2007,” passed on March 15 by 308 to 117.  More than one hundred organizations and thousands of citizens have expressed support for the bills.

Yet, when Senators Leahy and Cornyn tried to bring the bill to a vote on the floor last Thursday, the vote was blocked by “Senator Anonymous.”  Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold.

This is not the first time the secret hold has been used to thwart transparency.  In fact, this tactic for lampooning openness in government seems to be the new darling of the old school back-room deal makers.

The secret hold is used to block a bill from coming to the floor for a vote.  It is typical for a non-controversial bill – like the OPEN Government Act – to be brought to the floor by unanimous consent.  However, any senator can call their party leader and ask that the bill be held – anonymously and with absolutely no transparency.  That will change if the Senate lobbying and ethics bill passed in January ever becomes law.

Until then, we have only grassroots pressure to ferret out the secret holder.

It’s time to expose the cowardly senator who mocks us by hiding behind an anachronistic power play and blocking real reform.  Everyone with a Republican senator should call or email to ask: Did you place the secret hold on the OPEN Government Act?

Any senator with a spine would speak up now.

Hit comments below this post or email us and tell us what you learn in your calls.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 9:06 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Corrupt, corrupt, corrupt

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Whatever happened to ethics? Hell, whatever happened to obeying the law?

Sallie Mae executives met with Bush administration budget officials in December, less than two months before the company chairman sold $18.3 million of Sallie Mae stock. Three days after the sale, President Bush unveiled a budget that included unexpectedly large cuts to lending subsidies, after which the company’s shares plummeted.”

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 8:28 am

New Kiva loan

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Three of the microloans I made through Kiva have been repaid. I have now the option to withdraw the funds, contribute them to Kiva, or to make more loans. I chose the third, and just made a loan to this guy:

Gabil Rahimov is a 27 year-old local resident [Beylagan, Azerbaijan]. He is married and has two children. He is engaged in cattle breeding and selling. He has been doing this business since 2004 and now has three cows. At first he borrowed $600 from Normicro Beylagan branch to buy livestock. His subsequent loans were $900 and $1000. The business is now developing. He needs $1200 to buy four calves and increase his income.

I encourage you to make a Kiva microloan. It’s quite satisfying to see the results. Here are the three that were repaid:

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Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 8:08 am

Posted in Daily life

The savage Americans

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Did you know that only 46% of Americans believe that intentional attacks on civilians are never justified? Glenn Greenwald has the story. FWIW, 80% of Iranians believe that attacks on civilians are never justified. Indeed, the American distaste for attacks on civilians is much less than in any of the Muslim countries polled.

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 7:41 am

Posted in Daily life

The bad aspect of the military mind

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A love of protocol, going through channels, following procedure… Take a look:

The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq has failed to meet many urgent requests for equipment from troops in the field, according to an internal document obtained by The Associated Press.

Of more than 100 requests from deployed Marine units between February 2006 and February 2007, less than 10 percent have been fulfilled, the document says. It blamed the bureaucracy and a “risk-averse” approach by acquisition officials.

Among the items held up were a mine resistant vehicle and a hand-held laser system.

“Process worship cripples operating forces,” according to the document. “Civilian middle management lacks technical and operational currency.”

The 32-page document – labeled “For Official Use Only” – was prepared by the staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force after they returned from Iraq in February.

The document was to be presented in March to senior officials in the Pentagon’s defense research and engineering office. The presentation was canceled by Marine Corps leaders because its contents were deemed too contentious, according to a defense official familiar with the document. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The document’s claims run counter to the public description of a process intended to cut through the layers of red tape that frequently slow the military’s procurement process.

The Marine Corps had no immediate comment on the document.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 7:30 am

Posted in Iraq War, Military

Carbon steel

with 5 comments

Today I tried the first of the two types of carbon steel blades I got for the GEM G-Bar. Why carbon steel? Based on a comment from Steven (and thanks for the pointer), I read this note, which makes the case that carbon steel blades are sharper:

The GEM Scientific Razor Blades are fabricated from carbon steel, not stainless steel. The reason for this is very simple: One can achieve a sharper (smaller radius of curvature at the) edge with carbon steel than with stainless steel, and the GEM Scientific Razor Blades are the sharpest edges we can offer. In addition, they are not coated with oil or anything else to protect the edge and increase corrosion resistance. This does mean that the blades will rust easily if exposed to a moist environment. It also means that they will not contaminate the material being cut, a feature of great importance for many scientific and other technical applications. For those not familiar with razor blade technology, the ease of cutting of stainless steel blades is achieved by coating the cutting edge, not by the sharpness of the blade.

For kitchen knives, I know that carbon steel sharpens more easily than stainless and to a sharper edge, but also dulls more quickly—the compensating factor being the ease of sharpening. Professional meat cutters, I’ve read, use carbon steel and simply have a sharpening steel (to restore the edge) hanging from their belt: cut, cut, cut, steel; cut, cut, cut, steel—easy and practiced, much like a billiard player’s using the chalk between shots.

At any rate, I ordered carbon steel blades from Ted Pella (the site above requires a $50 minimum order). Steven pointed out that Ted Pella actually seems to have two different types of carbon-steel blades. Today, I used this one.

But first, of course, the prep. I used D.R. Harris Arlington shaving soap in the wooden bowl. I am greatly impressed by the D.R. Harris soaps. Great stuff—I think their soap is even superior to their shaving cream. I used the Rooney Style 3 Small Super Silvertip, and got a very nice lather very quickly.

Then, with the Gem G-Bar loaded with the carbon steel blade…. [to be continued]

Written by Leisureguy

25 May 2007 at 7:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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