Later On

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

Archive for June 16th, 2008

Sign the petition to stop telecom immunity

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Just received via email:

House “Democratic” Leader Steny Hoyer doesn’t understand the meaning of NO.

On March 14, we won a huge victory when the House voted 213-197 for a bill to strengthen FISA without providing immunity for Bush and the telcos who illegally spied on millions of Americans without a warrant. Thanks to your lobbying efforts – including over 58,000 petitions! – just six Bush Democrats voted for immunity.

Even Steny Hoyer voted against immunity. But Hoyer kept conspiring with Bush to sneak immunity through Congress when no one was watching. And on Friday, Hoyer quietly announced a new bill to provide retroactive immunity for past warrantless wiretapping and allow new wiretapping for six more years.

So it’s time for us to tell Congress once again that we will not tolerate warrantless wiretapping by George Bush or any other President, and we demand full accountability for George Bush through impeachment. Our last wiretapping petition sent over 58,000 emails to Congress – let’s see if we can double that number to over 100,000.

Wiretapping: Impeachment Not Immunity – Sign the Petition

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 8:01 pm


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Thanks to Liz for pointing this out:

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Book review, behavioral economics, and Obama

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Obama’s vision may be in the direction of using government regulations to force companies to be more forthcoming with information to help the consumer and less toward any additional intervention. Here’s a lengthy and discursive book review that discusses the issues. Worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 4:23 pm

Chipotle beans

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This recipe is well worth making.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 4:16 pm

Beautiful produce

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When you’re shopping for groceries, do you ever see produce so beautiful that you buy it without having any idea what you’ll do with it? I certainly do, and I just got some leeks. Unlike the usual grocery-store leeks, with about 1″ of white, these were long and slim and the white part was 5″-6″ long. Very fresh looking, too. Time to browse recipes using leeks. (I also got a nice wild sockeye salmon fillet, so maybe I can use the leeks with that.)

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Encrypting files

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I mentioned a while back that, when a news item says that a laptop is stolen, it would to include whether the laptop had a strong password and whether the files were encrypted. I’ve also mentioned that anyone who carries unencrypted files on a thumb drive (a USB flash drive) is asking for trouble: those drives now hold a lot but they are quite small and easy to lose. If you lose one that’s encrypted I think you’ll have less cold sweat and will sleep better if you’ve encrypted the files.

Now, via MakeUseOf, here’s an encryption program, plainly named “Encrypt Files“, that will readily encrypt your files (and also securely erase files by writing over them). And it’s free for personal use. So no more unencrypted critical files on a laptop or a thumb drive, okay?

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 4:06 pm

Charles McCarry’s Paul Christopher novels

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A note on the reading sequence: although the publication dates are out of sequence, the events in The Secret Lovers actually precede those in The Tears of Autumn. So I recommend that you read them in this order:

  1. The Miernik Dossier (1973)
  2. The Secret Lovers (1977)
  3. The Tears of Autumn (1974)
  4. The Better Angels (1979) (Christopher family)
  5. The Last Supper (1983)
  6. The Bride of the Wilderness (1988 ) (historical novel concerning the Christopher family)
  7. Second Sight (1991)
  8. Shelley’s Heart (1995) (Christopher family)
  9. Old Boys (2004)
  10. Christopher’s Ghosts (2007)

It is very much worth noting that Charles McCarry wrote novels in addition to the Paul Christopher novels. I’m now reading The Shanghai Factor, and it’s terrific. Just read the first few pages using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and you’ll be hooked—or at least I was.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 2:43 pm

Posted in Books

Creating jihadists

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Our prisons for terrorists include many who did not wrong but who, understandably, now hate the US. The problem with imprisoning people without due process is that there’s no way to winnow the innocent from the guilty. We know that, of course: that’s why our Constitution guarantees due process. But those in the Bush Administration who are contemptuous of law don’t care. An article by Tom Lasseter of McClatchy newspapers prompted this comment from Spencer Ackerman:

Can you imagine being held for years on the basis of a mistake, without facing any charge, entirely at the discretion of your jailer? To suffer through the loss of your liberty, the destruction of your life, torture, psychological degradation, minimal contact (if any) with your family, forced feedings, and suicide attempts? And all the while, your captors call you a terrorist — linking you, implicitly, to 9/11, and thereby exploiting the American people’s desire for revenge — and proclaim that their kangaroo court system, invented on the fly, provides good-enough justice for the likes of you? I’ve seen the cells at Guantanamo’s Camp Delta. I walked the blocks. I watched a man in an orange jumpsuit, shackled by his feet and neck to the flatbed of a small vehicle, carted from one side of the camp to another, glowering at us all the way. I shuddered.

We should really stop calling them “detainees.” Until Thursday’s Boumediene ruling, the men held within Camp Delta were, for all intents and purposes, disappeared.

Here’s Lasseter’s article:

GARDEZ, Afghanistan — The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted “Allahu Akbar” — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar’s head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as “the worst of the worst.”

But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo’s Camp Four who hissed “infidel” and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn’t: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

“He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government,” a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo.

While he was held at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base, Akhtiar said, “When I had a dispute with the interrogator, when I asked, ‘What is my crime?’ the soldiers who took me back to my cell would throw me down the stairs.”

The McClatchy reporting also documented how U.S. detention policies fueled support for extremist Islamist groups. For some detainees who went home far more militant than when they arrived, Guantanamo became a school for jihad, or Islamic holy war.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 2:02 pm

Voting machines

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From a post worth reading by Mark Kleiman:

… In his interview with WhyTuesday, Felten makes what seems to me a shocking revelation: under the contracts between the voting machine companies and the local election authorities — contracts paid for by federal tax dollars — the companies have the power to stop elections officials from investigating apparent irregularities. Sequoia Voting Systems threatened Union County, NJ with a lawsuit if Union County allowed Felten to examine its machines, and Union County backed off.

What are they hiding? And how long is Congress going to put up with it? The notion that a private entity with a direct interest in the outcome can prevent inquiry into whether its products work as advertised, and in so doing make it impossible to know whether the votes reported match the votes cast, is outrageous on its face. We’re playing for high stakes with Big Jule’s dice. …

Read the entire post—it has some interesting points not included in the above.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 1:56 pm

Posted in Business, Election

Remember polar bears?

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Extinction looms, thanks to Bush and his followers. I think we can safely put Bush and the Bushies solidly in the ranks of lawbreakers: if they do not like the law as it stands, they simply break the law. They are thugs, using their power to set their own course, regardless of the law of the land. “Signing statements” are one obvious sign, but the degree to which the Bush Administration agencies ignore the laws directing the agency is another. The Bush EPA is degraded and corrupt. This from Dina Cappiello of the Associated Press:

Less than a month after declaring polar bears a threatened species because of global warming, the Bush administration is giving oil companies permission to annoy and potentially harm them in the pursuit of oil and natural gas.

The Fish and Wildlife Service issued regulations this week providing legal protection to seven oil companies planning to search for oil and gas in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska if “small numbers” of polar bears or Pacific walruses are incidentally harmed by their activities over the next five years. [Reminds me of Blackwater’s legal immunity for homicide and the telecom’s legal immunity for breaking laws regarding spying on citizens—the Bush Administration is big on providing legal immunity for lawbreaking, and Scooter Libby for one is quite thankful. – LG]

Environmentalists said the new regulations give oil companies a blank check to harass the polar bear.

About 2,000 of the 25,000 polar bears in the Arctic live in and around the Chukchi Sea, where the government in February auctioned off oil leases to ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Oil Co. and five other companies for $2.6 billion. Over objections from environmentalists and members of Congress, the sale occurred before the bear was classified as threatened in May. [Remember how the EPA delayed and delayed this classification so that the deal could go through. – LG]

Polar bears are naturally curious creatures and sensitive to changes in their environment. Vibrations, noises, unusual scents and the presence of industrial equipment can disrupt their quest for prey and their efforts to raise their young in snow dens.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 11:17 am

When the Taliban takes over

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Religious fundamentalists despise a diverse and secular society—they want everyone, believers or not, to follow the rules promulgated by the fundamentalists. This is true of Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, and doubtless holds for other religions as well. Securely in possession of the only truth, self-righteous psychotics seek ever-greater power to strike at those who hold other views. And it’s coming to your town as well. From a Washington Post article by Rob Stein:

When DMC Pharmacy opens this summer on Route 50 in Chantilly VA, the shelves will be stocked with allergy remedies, pain relievers, antiseptic ointments and almost everything else sold in any drugstore. But anyone who wants condoms, birth control pills or the Plan B emergency contraceptive will be turned away.

That’s because the drugstore, located in a typical shopping plaza featuring a Ruby Tuesday, a Papa John’s and a Kmart, will be a “pro-life pharmacy” — meaning, among other things, that it will eschew all contraceptives.

The pharmacy is one of a small but growing number of drugstores around the country that have become the latest front in a conflict pitting patients’ rights against those of health-care workers who assert a “right of conscience” to refuse to provide care or products that they find objectionable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 11:07 am

“Do what I say or lose a city”

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Glenn Greenwald has a good column today on the ravings of Newt Gingrich and his constant threat that we’ll “lose a city” if we don’t allow an authoritarian takeover of the government. Worth reading. From the column:

We better not allow people we seek to imprison for life to have access to a court — or require our Government to show evidence before it encages people for decades — otherwise . . . we’ll “lose a city.”

Casually threatening Americans with the loss of a city unless they allow their Government to violate core constitutional guarantees is deranged fear-mongering in its most unadorned form, exactly what every two-bit tyrant tells his country about why they must be deprived of basic liberties. But what makes it all the more notable is how repeatedly Gingrich invokes this same deranged formulation in order to argue for a whole array of policies he supports — we better accept what Gingrich wants or else we’ll “lose a city”:

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 10:48 am

Now that’s a swimming pool

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66 million gallons, $2 billion to build, $4 million/year operating costs, over a kilometer long—and located right next to the ocean. Take a look (and watch the video).

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 10:01 am

Posted in Daily life

Cool way to check out the news

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Via Ethan Ham’s blog, I learned of, and—in particular—this particular page. Play around with it a while, and you’ll discover various ways to view a page of interest, including a cursor-controlled magnifier. Very good site to know.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 9:45 am

Posted in Daily life, Media

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Another Treet Dura Sharp

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Treet makes two Dura Sharp blades: Dura Sharp Hi-Tech Steel (carbon steel) and Dura Sharp Classic (stainless steel). Pictured above is the latter, the one I used today. I loaded it into a Gillette English open-comb Aristocrat, and lathered up with the D.R. Harris Marlborough shave stick and the Sabini ebony-handled brush. At first the blade seemed a little tuggy, but this is the first shave with it and some blades require a shave or two to sharpen the edge (presumably by wearing off a coating that covers the cutting edge). So too soon to judge. In any event, it produced a very smooth shave, following an oil pass with  Gessato shaving oil. Masters Lilac Vegetal was the aftershave, and the final result is as good as any shave I’ve had.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2008 at 9:24 am

Posted in Shaving

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