Later On

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

Archive for April 29th, 2008

Some amazing photos

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Take a look. Scott, are any of these yours?

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

How the GOP hacked the Justice Department

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Goal: to make it a vote machine. Scott Horton explains:

We should not be surprised, in this final year of the George W. Bush presidency, that the reputation of the Justice Department has reached a low point. For a long time now, the president’s party has had the odd tic of projecting its own intentions onto its political enemies, and it seems to project most intensely those desires it holds most dear. For instance, Republicans have decried the “big government” tendencies of “nanny state” liberals, even as they themselves have massively expanded the scope of the federal government. And they have been vocal about perceived Democratic legal perfidy. Indeed, the 2000 G.O.P. platform was openly contemptuous in its assessment of the Clinton Justice Department:

The rule of law, the very foundation for a free society, has been under assault, not only by criminals from the ground up, but also from the top down. An administration that lives by evasion, cover-up, stonewalling, and duplicity has given us a totally discredited Department of Justice. The credibility of those who now manage the nation’s top law enforcement agency is tragically eroded.

As a description of the Clinton Administration, this statement was preposterous. But as a description of the present-day Justice Department, it could not be more apt. Every new president comes to Washington with a policy agenda, of course, appointing officials in the expectation that they will implement that agenda. And especially since the end of the Sixties, such red-meat political issues as abortion, civil rights, and immigration policy have risen to the top of the law-enforcement agenda. This trend has caused controversy, as it should, but the controversy is nonetheless democratic. In recent years, though, these controversies have obscured a larger phenomenon. It is increasingly clear that Republicans have come to understand the Justice Department not as “the very foundation for a free society,” or even as a spoils system for issues-oriented voters, but rather as a machine that utilizes “evasion, cover-up, stonewalling, and duplicity,” among other techniques, to achieve the far more fundamental goal of taking and maintaining power.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 8:09 pm

The fight over raw milk

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Fascinating article by Nathanael Johnson on the raw-milk underground.

The agents arrived before dawn. They concealed the squad car and police van behind trees, and there, on the road that runs past Michael Schmidt’s farm in Durham, Ontario, they waited for the dairyman to make his move. A team from the Ministry of Natural Resources had been watching Schmidt for months, shadowing him on his weekly runs to Toronto. Two officers had even infiltrated the farmer’s inner circle, obtaining for themselves samples of his product. Lab tests confirmed their suspicions. It was raw milk. The unpasteurized stuff. Now the time had come to take him down.

Schmidt had risen that morning at 4 a.m. He milked his cows and ate breakfast. He loaded up a delivery, then fired up the bus. But as he reached the end of the driveway, two cars moved in to block his path. A police officer stepped into the road and raised his hand. Another ran to the bus and banged on the door. Others were close behind. Eventually twenty-four officers from five different agencies would search the farm. Many of them carried guns.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 8:02 pm

Decadence

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Is the US now a decadent society? I’m reading Jacque Barzun’s fascinating book From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (which I highly recommend), and came across this passage:

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Daily life

Good news for polar bears

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ThinkProgress:

In a major victory against Bush’s failure to admit the threat of climate change, a “federal judge has found the Bush administration guilty of violating the Endangered Species Act and ordered the administration to issue a final listing decision for the polar bear by May 15, 2008.” The district court ruling against Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne found:

Defendants have been in violation of the law requiring them to publish the listing determination for nearly 120 days. Other than the general complexity of finalizing the rule, Defendants offer no specific facts that would justify the existing delay, much less further delay. To allow Defendants more time would violate the mandated listing deadlines under the ESA and congressional intent that time is of the essence in listing threatened species.

The administration has been fighting to avoid protecting the polar bear since 2005.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 3:12 pm

Bad news for our pets

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Not good:

They are trying their best to warn us.

In the first study of its kind, Environmental Working Group found that American pets are polluted with even higher levels of many of the same synthetic industrial chemicals that researchers have recently found in people, including newborns.

The results show that America’s pets are serving as involuntary sentinels of the widespread chemical contamination that scientists increasingly link to a growing array of health problems across a wide range of animals—wild, domesticated and human.

Just as children ingest pollutants in tap water, play on lawns with pesticide residues, or breathe in an array of indoor air contaminants, so do their pets. But with their compressed lifespans, developing and aging seven or more times faster than children, pets also develop health problems from exposures much more rapidly. The National Research Council has found that sickness and disease in pets can inform our understanding of our own health risks (NRC 1991). And for anyone who has lost a pet to cancer or another disease potentially linked to chemical exposures, this sentinel role played by pets becomes a devastating personal loss.

In recognition of the unique roles that pets play in our lives, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) undertook a study to investigate the extent of exposures pets face to contaminants in our homes and outdoor environments. In a novel study representing the broadest biomonitoring investigation yet conducted in pets, what we found was surprising.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Business, Cats, Daily life, Environment, Health, Science

Tagged with ,

Top 10 greenest colleges

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Just in case it’s one of your criteria for selecting a college, the top 10 are:

The Sierra Club selected the top ten most environmentally friendly colleges and universities in the country. Results are based on clean-energy purchases, green-building policies, bike facilities, food served in dorms, recognition by environmental organizations, among other factors. Arizona State University, Bowdoin College, Carleton College, Emory University, and Northern Arizona University received honorable mention for their efforts.

Rank College Name Location Number of Students
1. Oberlin College Oberlin, Ohio 2,800
2. Havard University Cambridge, Mass. 20,000
3. Warren Wilson College Swannanoa, N. C. 850
4. University of California System 10 locations 214,000
5. Duke University Durham, N.C. 12,800
6. Middlebury College Middlebury, Vt. 2,400
7. Berea College Berea, Ky. 1,600
8. Pennsylvania State University 24 locations 83,700
9. Tufts University Medford, Mass. 8,800
10. Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, Pa. 10,000
Source: The Sierra Club, November/December 2007. Web: Sierra Club .

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 11:59 am

McCain’s 100 years

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Very good explanation by Josh Marshall:

And also read this post by Marshall.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 11:02 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Starting easy

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Dumb Little Man has two simple post-breakfast routines. I’m going to do them. How about you?

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 10:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Airplane flight patterns video

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Extremely cool. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Corporate power

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The previous two posts show how corporate power can distort and subvert the public dialogue, which works to undermine our country. Charlie Cray has a good article on the need to put a check on corporate power:

If we get seduced into seeing the vicissitudes of electoral politics as the only means to the ends of equity and justice we will end up with a situation much like 1992, when many progressives concluded that there was little need to put pressure on the Clinton/Gore administration because they believed it would represent their views.

Many would later feel betrayed. The reason is that the ultimate enemy of democracy — corporate power — extends far beyond the two major parties and the three major branches of government. The permanent government inside the beltway — the 30,000 lobbyists that work for corporations and the dozens of corporate legal foundations, public relations firms, think tanks, trade associations and front groups — will doubtless continue pushing their agenda forward regardless of who sits in the White House.

Therefore, it makes little sense to hang our hopes on progressive candidates unless we can also build the kind of institutional strength and momentum that will be necessary to stiffen their spines.

Whatever administration comes into office will also be saddled with two major handicaps before they can turn to a proactive plan — the war in Iraq and a downward-spiraling economy. Nevertheless, progressives can start pushing now for a few measures which have the potential to begin building momentum for other parts of the progressive agenda.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:41 am

Toxic sludge supported by (fradulent) research

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Sigh. “Government of, by, and for the chemical industry.”

David Lewis, a University of Georgia professor and former Environmental Protection Agency scientist, is suing officials at his university for publishing allegedly fraudulent research funded by the federal government. In court documents, Lewis claims that university researchers, who were paid more than $1.5 million in federal grants, intentionally distorted toxic substance amounts in the sludge from wastewater treatment plants in Augusta, Georgia by collecting samples only during droughts, when levels would be “misleadingly low.” Last month U.S. District Court judge Anthony Alaimo ruled that sludge treated in Augusta’s facilities had metals concentrations thousands of times over allowed toxicity levels, noting that the University of Georgia’s report on those facilities was “faulty and incomplete.” Lewis has investigated the harmful side affects linked with the sludge since 1998 and argued in 2005 that his research led to his firing from the EPA. (We examined the sludge issue in our 1995 book, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You.)

Source: Integrity in Science Watch, April 28, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:36 am

More on Voter ID requirements

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From an email sent by the Center for American Progress:

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that “states may require voters to present photo identification before casting ballots, upholding “an Indiana state law that requires voters to show a current government-sponsored photo ID.” The law is generally regarded as the strictest in the nationbecause it “requires a voter to present a photograph as part of an unexpired document issued either by Indiana or the federal government.” In most cases, such a requirement “can be satisfied only by a current driver’s license or a passport,” which critics “say discourages voting among the elderly and the poor.” The lead opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, argued that Indiana has a “valid interest in protecting ‘the integrity and reliability of the electoral process.” However, “the case contained ‘no evidence’ of the type of voter fraud the law was ostensibly devised to detect and deter.” Writing in dissent, Justice David Souter “said that for those on whom the law had an impact, the burden was ‘serious’ and the state had failed to justify it.” Though the ruling leaves “the door open to future lawsuits” that provide more evidence of discouragement and disenfranchisement, critics of voter ID laws worry “that a more likely outcome than successful lawsuits would be the spread of measures that would keep some legitimate would-be voters from the polls.” Yesterday’s decision “is not the end of the story on voter ID,” said Wendy Weiser, Deputy Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “Now it’s up to legislators and courts” in the states to decide “if they are going to follow Indiana’s lead” or “if they’re going to protect the right to vote for all Americans.”

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:34 am

The GOP and the people

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One early GOP president famously said that the United States has a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but today’s GOP seems to have replaced “people” with “industry and business.” For example, the Center for American Progress notes:

WHITE HOUSE INTERFERES WITH EPA’S PROGRAM TO ASSESS TOXIC CHEMICALS: A report to be released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) finds that “non-scientists play an increasing role” in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), which contains the agency’s “scientific position on the potential human health effects of exposure to more than 540 chemicals.” In the last two years, the EPA has completed only four toxic chemical assessments, even though the agency has a set goal to assess 50 per year. The GAO attributes the delays to interference from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which has allegedly used inter-agency reviews to delay the assessments of toxic chemicals without making these reviews public. The report recommends that the EPA adopt a timely IRIS assessment program that is transparent and restores credibility to the review process. The OMB responded by saying that it does not make the reviews public because they are covered by the “deliberative process privilege.” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said that the White House’s interference is a “scandal of major proportions.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:32 am

New version of Foxit PDF Reader

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I use Foxit all the time, and a new version (2.3) is now available. The basic Foxit is still free, the “Pro” add-ons still inexpensive. You can download the new version here.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:20 am

Posted in Software

John Brown’s Life

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“John Brown’s body lies a-moldering in the grave,…” was a song of the Civil War, which he pretty much started. Christopher Hitchens in 2005 reviewed a biography of Brown, and it sounds interesting. The review begins:

When Abraham Lincoln gave an audience to Harriet Beecher Stowe, he is supposed to have greeted her by saying that she was the little woman who had started this great war. That fondly related anecdote illustrates the persistent tendency to Parson Weemsishness in our culture. It was not at all the tear-jerking sentiment of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that catalyzed the War Between the States. It was, rather, the blood-spilling intransigence of John Brown, field-tested on the pitiless Kansas prairies and later deployed at Harpers Ferry. And John Brown was a man whom Lincoln assiduously disowned, until the time came when he himself was compelled to adopt the policy of “war to the knife, and the knife to the hilt,” as partisans of the slaveocracy had hitherto been too proud of saying.

David Reynolds sets himself to counter several misapprehensions about the pious old buzzard (Brown, I mean, not Lincoln). Among these are the impressions that he was a madman, that he was a homicidal type, and that his assault on a federal arsenal was foredoomed and quixotic. The critical thing here is context. And the author succeeds admirably in showing that Brown, far from being a crazed fanatic, was a serious legatee of the English and American revolutions who anticipated the Emancipation Proclamation and all that has ensued from it.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Tagged with ,

Monday steps: 8892

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Not 10,000 or really very close, but OTOH 8892 steps that I take is better than 10,000 steps I don’t. It was a walk along my usual route, and it seemed to go easily, though I was tired at the finish. Still, I feel great today and up for another tour of the town.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Health

Mitchell’s Wool Fat

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Yesterday’s walk was taken in somewhat chilly and overcast weather in New Monterey, though Pacific Grove was clear and sunny—unusual: it’s usually the other way around. At any rate, the Mitchell’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap seemed attractive this morning, so the G.B. Kent BK4 went to work and soon I was enjoying the feel of a fine brush and warm lather on my face. I brushed away until I was satisfied with the lather, picked up a Gillette NEW with an Astra Superior Platinum blade of some uses in it, and shaved away. Very smooth indeed, sliding through the stubble. Three passes, a few drops of Gentlemens Refinery Pre-shave Oil for the oil pass, and then TOBS No. 74 aftershave. Really quite a smooth shave today.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2008 at 8:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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