Later On

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

Archive for July 16th, 2007

Biting the 1 GB bullet

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My Dell Dimension 9100 has 1 GB RAM. It’s not enough, it turns out, as I add more programs, many of which have pieces that hang out in RAM. Today I bit the bullet and ordered another 1 GB of RAM. Soon things will be better. I should have gotten 2 GB of RAM to begin with, of course.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Technology

Rube Goldberg machines

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Everyone knows what a Rube Goldberg machine is, right?

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Toys, Video

Pentagon does NOT support the troops

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This is vile and disgusting. “Duty, Honor, Country”—hah.

Pfc. Aaron Kincaid, 25, had been joking with buddies just before their Humvee rolled over the bomb. His wife, Rachel, later learned that the blast blew Kincaid, a father of two from outside Atlanta, through the Humvee’s metal roof.

Army investigators who reviewed the Sept. 23 attack near Riyadh, Iraq, wrote in their report that only providence could have saved Kincaid from dying that day: “There was no way short of not going on that route at that time (that) this tragedy could have been diverted.”

A USA TODAY investigation of the Pentagon’s efforts to protect troops in Iraq suggests otherwise.

Years before the war began, Pentagon officials knew of the effectiveness of another type of vehicle that better shielded troops from bombs like those that have killed Kincaid and 1,500 other soldiers and Marines. But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon’s own staff — to provide the lifesaving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat missions, USA TODAY found.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates late last month, two U.S. senators said the delays cost the lives of an estimated “621 to 742 Americans” who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs rather than Humvees.

The letter, from Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., assumed the initial calls for MRAPs came in February 2005, when Marines in Iraq asked the Pentagon for almost 1,200 of the vehicles. USA TODAY found that the first appeals for the MRAP came much earlier.

As early as December 2003, when the Marines requested their first 27 MRAPs for explosives-disposal teams, Pentagon analysts sent detailed information about the superiority of the vehicles to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, e-mails obtained by USA TODAY show. Later pleas came from Iraq, where commanders saw that the approach the Joint Chiefs embraced — adding armor to the sides of Humvees, the standard vehicles in the war zone — did little to protect against blasts beneath the vehicles.

Despite the efforts, the general who chaired the Joint Chiefs until Oct. 1, 2005, says buying MRAPs “was not on the radar screen when I was chairman.” Air Force general Richard Myers, now retired, says top military officials dealt with a number of vehicle issues, including armoring Humvees. The MRAP, however, was “not one of them.” Something related to MRAPs “might have crossed my desk,” Myers says, “but I don’t recall it.”

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Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:13 pm

Cunningham muck still deep

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From the LA Times:

An internal investigation that the House Intelligence Committee has refused to make public portrays the panel as embarrassingly entangled in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery scandal.

The report, a declassified version of which was obtained by the Los Angeles Times, describes the committee as a dysfunctional entity that served as a crossroads for almost every major figure in the ongoing criminal probe by the Justice Department.

The document describes breakdowns in leadership and controls that it says allowed Cunningham — the former congressman (R-Rancho Santa Fe) who began an eight-year prison term last year for taking bribes and evading taxes — to use his House position to steer millions of dollars to corrupt contractors.

When the committee’s investigation was completed last year, the Republican-controlled panel would not release the results; now that the committee is controlled by Democrats, it still will not release the findings.

The report provides the most detailed account to date of how former CIA Executive Director Kyle Dustin “Dusty” Foggo, whose indictment on charges of defrauding the government was recently expanded, allegedly used committee connections to advance his career at the agency.

And the report sheds new light on the roles of senior committee aides, including retired CIA case officer Brant Bassett, who had ties to Cunningham and Foggo as well as to contractors accused of paying the congressman millions of dollars.

Overall, the document provides a penetrating look into how the committee itself became central to the scandal, describing an atmosphere in which senior aides were deeply troubled by Cunningham’s actions but nevertheless complied with his requests out of fear.

But the report and committee members’ ongoing disagreement over whether it should be released also reflect the political currents still swirling around the scandal.

For all its finger-pointing at staffers, the document fails to address whether other committee members were aware of Cunningham’s abuses or were culpable. For instance, the report avoids any scrutiny of former Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), who was chairman of the panel when Cunningham’s most egregious abuses occurred. Goss went on to serve as CIA director, from September 2004 to May 2006.

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Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:09 pm

Show how obstructionist the GOP is

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It looks as though Harry Reid will finally take steps to reveal the obstructionism of the GOP. And they are obstructionist:

Last week on the Young Turks, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) said a Republican colleague of his told him that a strategy has been adopted by the minority to “prevent any accomplishment” by the new Congress:

I think that we could do a better job making our points, and one part of that is to let the American people see just how obstructionist this Republican minority is being. The leader has had to file cloture now over 40 times already this year. And cloture, as you know, is a special procedure to stop debate, to stop filibusters, in order to reach conclusion on legislation. I had a Republican colleague tell me it is the Republican strategy to try to prevent any accomplishment of the Democratic Congress. That is set in their caucus openly and directly that they don’t intend to allow Democrats to have any legislative successes, and they intend to do it by repeated filibuster.

OpenLeft and Firedoglake call for Congress to call the conservatives’ bluff and force them to filibuster the Levin-Reed Iraq redeployment bill.

Reid has now called them on it:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that in response to conservative obstructionism, he plans to force war supporters to physically remain in the Senate and filibuster Iraq withdrawal legislation.

Reid accused conservatives of “protecting the President rather than protecting our troops” by “denying us an up or down vote on the most important issue our country faces.” He said that if a vote on the Reed/Levin Iraq legislation is not allowed today or tomorrow, he will keep the Senate in session “straight through the night on Tuesday” and force a filibuster. From Reid’s speech:

Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end. They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops.

They are denying us an up or down — yes or no — vote on the most important issue our country faces.

I would like to inform the Republican leadership and all my colleagues that we have no intention of backing down.

If Republicans do not allow a vote on Levin/Reed today or tomorrow, we will work straight through the night on Tuesday.

The American people deserve an open and honest debate on this war, and they deserve an up or down vote on this amendment to end it.

Read Reid’s full speech HERE. Bob Geiger has more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:04 pm

US Injustice

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Why, perhaps, the US is becoming increasingly unloved: things like the following. Glenn Greenwald:

This month’s cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review is a truly superb account, written by Washington Monthly editor Rachel Morris, of the plight of Sami al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman for Al Jazeera who has been held in Guantanamo for the last five years.

Al-Haj has never been charged with any acts of terrorism against the U.S., which is true for 55 % of Guantanamo’s inmates. Instead, the interrogations to which he has been subjected while in captivity have focused almost exclusively on Al Jazeera. As Morris documents, that news outlet has long been viewed as a virtual terrorist organization by the Cheney/Rumsfeld faction inside the administration and their hatred for it is a key part, if not the most important motivating factor, in why al-Haj has been detained:

For his part, Stafford Smith [al-Haj’s lawyer] believes that al-Haj “is clearly in Guantanamo for one reason only, and that’s because he’s an employee of Al Jazeera.” According to Stafford Smith, al-Haj has been interrogated approximately 130 times. Roughly 125 of those sessions, he said, dealt not with the allegations but with Al Jazeera’s operations. Stafford Smith told me that military interrogators have repeatedly asked al-Haj to confirm that prominent Al Jazeera journalists are members of terrorist organizations or that Al Jazeera is funded by Al Qaeda. In addition, said Stafford Smith, interrogators offered to release al-Haj if he would spy on the network. Several military and intelligence sources with knowledge of Guantanamo told me that those contentions seem plausible, but they are impossible to confirm.

Morris details that al-Haj has been subjected to the by-now-familiar litany of Guantanamo outrages — the refusal to allow him to communicate with anyone for years, the vague and shifting accusations based on secret evidence, the severe physical and psychological abuse to which he and his fellow detainees have been subjected, etc. Morris’ entire article is chilling and very well-documented, but I want to highlight one vital aspect of it:

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Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 11:11 am

What we’re losing

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It occurred to me today, reading these remembrances of Khalid W. Hassan,”Solid Khalid,” that many (most?) of those who have lost their lives in Iraq and will lose their lives over the coming months (years?) are worth so much more, as human beings, than George W. Bush, shallow, uncurious, cowardly, dishonest, uncaring, meanspirited, stubborn, petulant, self-pitying, whining wretch that he is. And yet it’s his war—and a war he keeps in motion so that he can hand it off to his successor and never admit to himself how wrong he was.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 9:48 am

Posted in Iraq War, Media, NY Times

Krugman on healthcare

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Good points by Paul Krugman:

Being without health insurance is no big deal. Just ask President Bush. “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said last week. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

This is what you might call callousness with consequences. The White House has announced that Mr. Bush will veto a bipartisan plan that would extend health insurance, and with it such essentials as regular checkups and preventive medical care, to an estimated 4.1 million currently uninsured children. After all, it’s not as if those kids really need insurance — they can just go to emergency rooms, right?

O.K., it’s not news that Mr. Bush has no empathy for people less fortunate than himself. But his willful ignorance here is part of a larger picture: by and large, opponents of universal health care paint a glowing portrait of the American system that bears as little resemblance to reality as the scare stories they tell about health care in France, Britain, and Canada.

The claim that the uninsured can get all the care they need in emergency rooms is just the beginning. Beyond that is the myth that Americans who are lucky enough to have insurance never face long waits for medical care.

Actually, the persistence of that myth puzzles me. I can understand how people like Mr. Bush or Fred Thompson, who declared recently that “the poorest Americans are getting far better service” than Canadians or the British, can wave away the desperation of uninsured Americans, who are often poor and voiceless. But how can they get away with pretending that insured Americans always get prompt care, when most of us can testify otherwise?

A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: “In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems.”

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Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 9:23 am

Monday excellence

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Musgo Real shaving soap

Today’s shave began with washing my beard with Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil Soap, which now I believe is the perfect preparation for a shave. “The large rustic bar is made especially for cleaning the face before shaving. Glyce contains lime oil to refresh the face, castor oil to soak and soften whiskers before shaving, and a trace of alcohol to remove the dirt which restricts razor glide.”

I read about it on the shaving forums: wash your beard with this, rinse with a splash, not getting all of it off, and then lather. Wow! In addition, I used a QED Bergamot shaving stick and J.M. Fraser shaving cream—a very nice citrusy shave. The brush was the Rooney Style 3 Size 1 (Small) Super Silvertip, a brush for which my respect grows.

The razor and blade that left me with a perfectly BBS face after that prep was the Merkur Progress with a Feather blade. The aftershave was Paul Sebastian: “aromatic spices, hints of sweet florals, citrus plus the richness of soft woods and musk.”

Man, what a shave. And I’ve updated the next version of the book to include a mention of Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil Soap and links to Barclay Crocker, Sesto Sento, and Smallflower, all of which sell it along with a variety of other shaving supplies (including, interestingly, QED Shaving Sticks at Sesto Sento).

UPDATE: A fellow shaver was kind enough to point out the original post.

UPDATE 2: Lee’s Razors now also carries the soap.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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