Later On

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

Archive for March 4th, 2008

The Bush Administration isn’t doing the job

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Take a look:

Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. But instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in Washington recently issued an alert about the ”disturbing events” and the “increase in the number of employee arrests.”

Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times — even when they are not on the job.

”It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,” Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald.

Winkowski’s memo cites several employee arrests involving domestic violence, driving under the influence and drug possession. But court records show that CBP officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican border states have been charged with dozens of far more serious offenses.

Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 7:25 pm

They never learn

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Ronald Reagan had his Iran-Contra, and now George Bush has his Hamas blowback. Read the whole article. The blurb:

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.

And the beginning:

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 2:54 pm

Interesting article on the White House plagiarist

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Read the whole thing, but this in particular struck me:

… Finding the theft took 60 seconds; drafting a post for my blog, about an hour. I held it overnight to give my ex-colleagues a little notice and published it at 7:38 a.m. Friday. It was linked pretty quickly by Romenesko and then by some of the big-traffic amplifiers (Talking Points Memo, Atrios). I figured the story would get some notice, but I was unprepared for the turns it would take.

After posting the original entry, I thought I’d poke around in some of Goeglein’s other published work and see whether anything else turned out to have been borrowed. As a journalist whose formative years took place in the 20th century, I thought of that, quaintly, as a “second-day” story.”Second-hour” would have been more accurate. By the time the post started drawing traffic, other readers were having the same idea. At 11:03 a.m., a commenter called the Kenosha Kid noted duplicate passages in a Goeglein column on Hoagy Carmichael and a Washington Post piece on the same subject by Jonathan Yardley. At 11:30 a.m., the Journal Gazette, the other daily in Fort Wayne, had a story up saying Goeglein had come clean in an e-mail, taken full responsibility, and said, “[T]here are no excuses.”

I’d expected a more typical explanation, something about multiple windows open on the computer desktop, sloppy cutting and pasting between notes and drafts, something that was at least remotely plausible and face-saving. But surely Goeglein knew what else was coming.

At 11:59 a.m. and noon, two other commenters on my blog, Adam Stanhope and Grytpype Thynne, had found more wholesale borrowings, these in a piece on composer Gian Carlo Menotti. The original, by Robert R. Reilly in Crisis magazine, was written in the first person and contained such observations as, “Despite criticism, Menotti never surrendered the role of beauty. We can now hear one of his strongest expressions of it in the appropriately named Missa: O Pulchritudo. … My first reaction was: What kind of cultural prejudice kept this recording on ice for 25 years?”

Goeglein lifted it all, right down to Reilly’s first reaction about cultural prejudice.

From there, it snowballed. By day’s end, the official count of cut-and-paste columns was 20 out of 38 submitted since 2000, but the paper’s reporters continued to check, and on Monday the total was revised to 27. Goeglein submitted his resignation on the way out the door Friday, less than 12 hours after my first posting.

Saying the news cycle moves at an ever-increasing pace doesn’t even qualify as a cliché anymore. But this felt like a new record. Reporting in one minute, writing in one hour, a whole career undone in one day. Reading the comments piling up on the original post was a surreal experience, as one reader after another checked in with evidence, with links. It was journalism as hive mind. “Everyone wants to play now,” someone wrote after posting a link.…

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 2:50 pm

Encrypt those files on your thumb drive

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When you can pack multiple gigabytes of files on a USB driver the size of a pack of chewing gum, you pretty much have to encrypt those files—it’s too easy to loose the thing, and it is a UNIVERSAL serial bus device: i.e., it will work in the finder’s computer.

Kruptos 2 offers an excellent solution for Windows XP and 2000 computers. It’s free, but definitely worth a contribution.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Software

Before you order, check for free shipping

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At FreeShippingOn.com.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Daily life

Bacon vodka

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Via Accidental Hedonist, this recipe:

Bacon vodka

What to do with it you ask? You can give it away as a gift, use it in a Bloody Mary, Make a Bastardized Cloudy Martini (a real martini doesn’t have vodka) with it and a blue cheese stuffed olive. I haven’t tried this one, but I can recognize the appeal of a Pickle Juice Sport made with bacon vodka (that’s pickle juice mixed with vodka).

It is also wonderful when mixed with date syrup for a sweet bacon cordial. It can also be poured into a spray bottle and used to spritz just a touch of smoky bacon flavor to salads, toasts or stews… wherever you want to add a touch of flavor.

Perhaps a dab behind the ears?

Bacon Vodka

makes up one pint

Fry three strips of bacon.

Add cooked bacon to a clean pint sized mason jar. Trim the ends of the bacon if they are too tall to fit in the jar. Or you could go hog wild and just pile in a bunch of fried bacon scraps. Optional: add crushed black peppercorns.

Fill the jar up with vodka. Cap and place in a dark cupboard for at least three weeks. That’s right: I didn’t refrigerate it.

At the end of the three week resting period, place the bacon vodka in the freezer to solidify the fats. Strain out the fats through a coffee filter to yield a clear filtered pale yellow bacon vodka.

Decant into decorative bottles and enjoy.

UPDATE: Go the the link above and read the comments!

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 1:35 pm

Clever idea

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I admit that some stuff gets lost in the back of the fridge from time to time, so this tip makes a lot of sense:

A little tip that has saved me a lot of $ over time: every week I ‘post’ my grocery receipt on the side of the fridge and then as the week progresses,  anything that I’ve

a) thrown away
b) allowed to perish before using
c) couldn’t find a use for
d) just didn’t feel like eating
e) liked less than I thought I would

… all gets crossed off or noted. Things that I missed and wished I’d purchased get added to the end. It sounds strange but its kept me accountable to those “ooh, let’s try this random thing that I’ll have to research recipes for” items many times and has been a good reminder to stop making impulse purchases without planning for their use and actually using them.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 11:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Good news about lighting via LEDs

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Take a look (and also see this article).

Nano-crystal LEDs

LEDs are fantastic. But for a long time, they’ve been fantastic more because of what we think they can do than what they actually do. We’ve been pretty sure that LEDs can produce warm, white light at efficiencies far beyond even the much-touted compact fluorescent bulbs. But we’ve yet to actually see that.

Years ago, scientists were already producing LEDs that were far more efficient than fluorescents. The problem was, they only did it at very specific wavelengths. So the light was either pure red, or pure orange, or pure blue. And while it’d be nice to have an efficiently lit workspace…I’d prefer it if everything in my life wasn’t purple.

So in the last ten years, scientists have switched their goals from producing efficient LEDs to producing “natural light” LEDs. Unfortunately, whenever they did this, they had to make significant efficiency sacrifices. Well, here’s the breakthrough — those days are no more.

Using a nano-crystaline coating, scientists at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey have created an LED that produces attractive white light while wasting next-to-no electricity . For every watt of light produced, about 300 lumens are visible to the human eye. Fluorescents produce about 80 lumens per watt, and other white LEDs are closer to 60. 300 lumens per watt is two times more visible light per watt of radiation than I’ve ever heard of for any light source, and they’ve done it with natural-looking light.

Honestly, the results are so spectacular that I must admit a bit of skepticism. If anyone can cast some light on how efficiencies like this could be possible, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The nano-crystalline coating bends the wavelengths exiting the light into a broad spectrum. The key is that the process is nearly 100% efficient, and the LEDs themselves, (which are blue) are extremely efficient as well.

Of course, any scientist will tell you that making something happen in a laboratory and putting it on a shelf at Wal-Mart are two very different things. The nano-crystalline coating is very expensive and difficult to produce, and, so far, there aren’t a lot of ideas as to how to mass produce these things. But the question is no longer “if”….the question is now “when” and that’s a breakthrough that I can celebrate.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 11:17 am

What should everyone know about science?

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It’s always fun to come up a list of the basic knowledge everyone should possess about some given field: cooking, maths, shaving, English literature, the US Constitution, chess openings. Usually these are numbered, with the numbers 5, 7, 10, and 12 favored, but really one wants a list that truly comprises the basic essential knowledge. We’ll be doing some of that as time goes on, but let’s start with science and this post:

Michael Nielsen is planning to attend an “unconference” and is considering possible topics. He quotes one from Eva Amsen:

My idea: find 4 or 5 volunteers from different backgrounds to sit on a 20 minute panel and (with audience feedback) make a list of Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Science. Since we have a wide audience, this hopefully would be a varied list. Actually, maybe we could just put up a large sheet of paper and have people write down what they think should be on the list and get back to it later.

Michale offers a suggestion, which leads him to ponder scientific literacy, but I’m going to stick with the original question:

What Should Everyone Know About Science?

I have three suggestions, which are really all part of one big idea:

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 11:12 am

Teeny pigs as pets

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Not the pot-belly pigs of yesteryear, but really teeny teacup piggies:

Minipig

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 11:04 am

Posted in Daily life

Mukasey’s Paradox

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Ingenious, as Jonathan Turley, a professor of law at George Washington University, points out:

The recent decisions of Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey to block any prosecution of Bush administration officials for contempt and to block any criminal investigation of torture led to a chorus of criticism. Many view the decisions as raw examples of political manipulation of the legal process and overt cronyism. I must confess that I was one of those crying foul until I suddenly realized that there was something profound, even beautiful, in Mukasey’s action.

In his twisting of legal principles, the attorney general has succeeded in creating a perfect paradox. Under Mukasey’s Paradox, lawyers cannot commit crimes when they act under the orders of a president — and a president cannot commit a crime when he acts under advice of lawyers.

Such a perfect paradox is no easy task. Most attempts fall apart because of some element of logical consistency. The closest example to Mukasey’s Paradox is the Grandfather Paradox: If you go back in time and kill your grandfather before he meets your grandmother, you would not be conceived and therefore you could not go back to kill your grandfather. That one can play real tricks with your head.

Mukasey’s Paradox appears designed to play tricks with Congress. Its origins date back to Mukasey’s confirmation hearings, when he first denied knowing what waterboarding was and then (when it was defined for him) refused to recognize it as torture. In fact, it is not only a crime under U.S. law, it is a well-defined war crime under international law.

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 10:39 am

Mark of the Bush Administration: raging incompetence

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Take a look:

The lead paragraph in this McClatchy report sets up the story: “Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.”

And, of course, you can guess what happened: “His jailers shrugged off Warziniack’s claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.”

Warziniack had a drug problem.  When arrested, he told authorities improbable stories of having swum ashore from a Russian submarine.  Maybe he’d seen the Alan Arkin movie.  But he had a southern accent and did not speak Russian. A Colorado court hearing his case figured out quickly that he was a U.S. citizen by birth.  The court records, however, according to McClatchy, still list his his current location as “the Soviet Union.”

That threw Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a loop, and Warziniack was almost deported, although not to the Soviet Union, saved at the last moment by a birth certificate that ICE at first did not credit.

An attorney at the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College says she has identified at least seven U.S. citizens whom ICE has mistakenly deported since 2000.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:48 am

How much is my blog worth?

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It depends. First, https://leisureguy.wordpress.com is worth $6,209.94.
But https://leisureguy.wordpress.com/ (with trailing slash) is worth $134,925.06. So that’s $141,135.00 so far.

My blog is worth $134,925.06.
How much is your blog worth?

For tax reasons, I’d like the check made out to “Cash.” And if you buy before the end of the month, you get a 25% discount—worth more than $35,000 to you!

Thanks to The Son for pointing this out.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:37 am

Posted in Daily life

The Rule of Law

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Spencer Ackerman:

In this corner, we have the surge—the idea of which was to provide security so the Shiite Maliki government and Iraqi Sunnis could have “breathing room” to back the country away from the sectarian abyss. And in the other corner, the Maliki government lets Shiite mass murderers walk because they only kidnapped and slaughtered Sunnis. Your tax dollars help pay their salaries, and your sons and daughters give their lives to protect them. The Washington Post brings us this bitter detail:

The case was heard at the multimillion-dollar Rule of Law Complex, protected and supervised by the United States, which has said that the development of an impartial justice system is essential to Iraq’s long-term stability.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:29 am

A little campaign excitement

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Translation:

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Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:12 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Do consumers actually want safe products?

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If so, they’re out of luck with the GOP:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been “working on” several rules to ensure product safety since at least 2004 (two since 1994!). These rules cover hazards that the agency itself blames for more than 900 deaths and more than $460 million in property damage every year.

These unfinished rules would help protect the public from:

  • Bed rails, crib slats and baby bath seats that can suffocate, strangle or drown infants;
  • Excessively flammable upholstery, bed linens and clothes that are among the leading causes of fire-related death in U.S. homes; and
  • Cigarette lighters that, by the CPSC’s own analysis, fail to meet an industry-created voluntary standard at least 60 percent of the time.

Current law requires the agency to produce a final rule within 14 months of adopting an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), a standard the agency has met only once since President Bush took office in 2001. Since 1990, the CPSC has completed 38 rules; just four of those were during the Bush administration.

Public Citizen’s new report, “Held Back: Incomplete Consumer Product Safety Commission Rules, Class of 2007,” details each of the rules that are in development and the reasons for the delays.

The CPSC is hamstrung by rulemaking procedures that are far more burdensome than those of most federal agencies. The rulemaking procedure established by Congress during the Reagan era requires the agency to provide double the usual amount of notice and opportunity for public comment, to explain repeatedly why it is not deferring to industry’s voluntary proposals, and to prove that any rule imposes as little burden as possible on industry.

Moreover, the agency’s procedures call for it to halt any rulemaking if industry creates a voluntary standard that appears likely to address the problem – even though such voluntary standards are unenforceable. Not surprisingly, industry often derails the CPSC’s efforts by strategically adopting voluntary rules.

These problems point to the need for Congress to reform the CPSC to fulfill its mission of protecting the public from hazardous products.  The Senate is considering a bill now that would give the CPSC some much-needed muscle.  You can write your senators here now.

Learn more and read the report at www.ToyingWithSafety.org.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:11 am

The Famous Flag Lapel Pin

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The Flag Lapel Pin, as we know, is proof absolute of integrity and patriotism. Which is why this movie is interesting:

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Rose and excellence

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Tryphon Rose Shaving Cream, worked into a thick and fragrant lather with the Simpsons Duke 3 Best brush. I used yesterday’s Treet Blue Special, still residing rust-free in the Gillette Fatboy set at 5, thanks to the 99% rubbing alcohol rinse before racking.

Very smooth shave, and this time I did use the shaving oil (my mix) for the Oil Pass. And it did produce a better shave.

Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner (no alcohol) and then, later, a little splash of New York aftershave.

Better shave than on Monday. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2008 at 9:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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