Later On

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

Archive for November 3rd, 2008

How McCain could win

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An email from Greg Palast:

It’s November 5 and the nation is in shock. Media blame it on the “Bradley effect”: Americans supposedly turned into Klansmen inside the voting booth, and Barack Obama turned up with 6 million votes less than calculated from the exit polls. Florida came in for McCain and so did Indiana. Colorado, despite the Democrats’ Rocky Mountain high after the Denver convention, stayed surprisingly Red. New Mexico, a state where Anglos are a minority, went McCain by 300 votes, as did Virginia.

That’s the nightmare. Here’s the cold reality.

Swing state Colorado. Before this election, two Republican secretaries of state purged 19.4 percent of the entire voter roll. One in five voters. Pfft!

Swing state New Mexico. One in nine voters in this year’s Democratic caucus found their names missing from the state-provided voter registries. And not just any voters. County by county, the number of voters disappeared was in direct proportion to the nonwhite population. Gore won the state by 366 votes; Kerry lost it by only 5,900. Despite reassurances that all has been fixed for Tuesday, Democrats lost from the list in February told me they’re still “disappeared” from the lists this week.

Swing state Indiana. In this year’s primary, ten nuns were turned away from the polls because of the state’s new voter ID law. They had drivers’ licenses, but being in their 80s and 90s, they’d let their licenses expire. Cute. But what isn’t cute is this: 566,000 registered voters in that state don’t have the ID required to vote. Most are racial minorities, the very elderly and first-time voters; that is, Obama voters. Twenty-three other states have new, vote-snatching ID requirements.

Swing state Florida. Despite a lawsuit battle waged by the Brennan Center for Justice, the state’s Republican apparatchiks are attempting to block the votes of 85,000 new registrants, forcing them to pass through a new “verification” process. Funny thing: verification applies only to those who signed up in voter drives (mostly black), but not to voters registering at motor vehicle offices (mostly white).

And so on through swing states controlled by Republican secretaries of state.

The Ugly Secret

Here’s an ugly little secret about American democracy: We don’t count all the votes. In 2004, based on the data from the US Elections Assistance Commission, 3,006,080 votes were not counted: “spoiled,” unreadable and blank ballots; “provisional” ballots rejected; mail-in ballots disqualified.

This Tuesday, it will be worse. Much worse.

That’s what I found while traveling the nation over the last year for BBC Television and Rolling Stone Magazine, working with voting rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. This we guarantee: there will be far more votes disappeared by Tuesday night than the three million lost in 2004. A six-million vote swipe, quite likely, shifts 4 percent of the ballots, within the margin of error of the tightest polls.

Begin with this harsh statistic: since the last election, more than ten million voters have been purged from the nation’s vote registries. And that’s just the start of the steal.

If the noncount were random, it wouldn’t matter. But it’s not random. A US Civil Rights Commission analysis shows that the chance a black voter’s ballot will “spoil” or be blank is 900 percent higher than a white voter’s.

Does that mean the election’s stolen and you should forget voting and just go back to bed for four years? Hell, no. It means you vote and vote smart, learn how to pry their filthy little hands off your ballot (there’s a link at the end).

Read the rest exclusively at Truthout.org

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 1:12 pm

GOP protects crime

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Certain crimes, that is. Tax evasion, for example: the GOP regularly starves the IRS, particularly the investigative arm and the program of random audits (which reveal the extent of non-compliance and tax evasion) because their consituents are the most likely to evade taxes: business owners and the wealthy. The GOP will also cut off funding to the FBI if it’s investigating crimes likely to be committed by Republicans. Example:

The Bush administration is rejecting FBI pleas for more agents to investigate crimes that helped trigger the global financial meltdown, bureau sources said this week.

“They are bogged down big-time or there would be some indictments by now,” said a recently retired bureau official who played a pivotal role in setting FBI policy after 9/ 11.

The FBI’s response to the meltdown stands in sharp contrast to past financial crises, he said. “There are three comparable things … the S&L crisis, corporate fraud like Enron and health care fraud. There was a clear, well-delineated effort there. I don’t see it here.”

The administration — in reinventing the FBI after the 2001 terrorist attacks — shifted about 2,400 agents from traditional crime-fighting squads to counterterrorism units, according to a Seattle P-I analysis of FBI data. At least 1,700 of those agents haven’t been replaced, and the latest Bush budget continues that trend.

The P-I has chronicled the result for the past 18 months, finding a dramatic drop in the number of crimes investigated by the FBI nationwide.

An FBI official in a position to know said Thursday that efforts to keep the problem before the administration and Congress are continuing.

“People are making sure that Congress and the administration are aware of the issues we are facing,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 11:50 am

Good rice

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I just got some extremely good looking organic brown rice from Massa Organics. I’ve not had it yet, but I’m cooking some now. If you like rice, take a look at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 11:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Kitties and boxes

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Again:

Via Cute Overload, which points out the kitty’s own Website.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 11:44 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Don’t think much of McCain, but these ribs sound good

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John McCain’s Rib Recipe–in the CrockPot.

Of course, I’ll used crushed garlic, not garlic powder. Fresh is better, right?

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 10:24 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Molly, the pampered princess

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Molly at rest on her special cushion

Molly at rest on her special cushion

Check out that stupendous ruff. Molly is a Maine Coon kitty, about 18 months old.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 9:57 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly

The future of the GOP: less moderate

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Paul Krugman concludes his column today (and the entire column is worth reading):

… The Republican base, egged on by the McCain-Palin campaign, thinks that elections should reflect the views of “real Americans” — and most of the people reading this column probably don’t qualify.

Thus, in the face of polls suggesting that Mr. Obama will win Virginia, a top McCain aide declared that the “real Virginia” — the southern part of the state, excluding the Washington, D.C., suburbs — favors Mr. McCain. A majority of Americans now live in big metropolitan areas, but while visiting a small town in North Carolina, Ms. Palin described it as “what I call the real America,” one of the “pro-America” parts of the nation. The real America, it seems, is small-town, mainly southern and, above all, white.

I’m not saying that the G.O.P. is about to become irrelevant. Republicans will still be in a position to block some Democratic initiatives, especially if the Democrats fail to achieve a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

And that blocking ability will ensure that the G.O.P. continues to receive plenty of corporate dollars: this year the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has poured money into the campaigns of Senate Republicans like Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, precisely in the hope of denying Democrats a majority large enough to pass pro-labor legislation.

But the G.O.P.’s long transformation into the party of the unreasonable right, a haven for racists and reactionaries, seems likely to accelerate as a result of the impending defeat.

This will pose a dilemma for moderate conservatives. Many of them spent the Bush years in denial, closing their eyes to the administration’s dishonesty and contempt for the rule of law. Some of them have tried to maintain that denial through this year’s election season, even as the McCain-Palin campaign’s tactics have grown ever uglier. But one of these days they’re going to have to realize that the G.O.P. has become the party of intolerance.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 9:35 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP

Lead in your drinking water: a follow-up

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I blogged about how faucets can leach lead into your drinking water because of large amount of lead in the brass of which they’re made. Now Janet Raloff has a follow-up story. It begins:

Yesterday I noted how a major university stumbled onto a big lead-in-water problem plaguing what turned out to be every new building on campus. The problem traces to the brass used in faucets and fountains that dispense drinking water.

When Carolyn Elfland, an associate vice chancellor at the University of North Carolina got sucked into redressing this problem two years ago, she didn’t know much about brass. She’s since had a crash course and can now cite you chapter and verse on industry plumbing standards, both as they now exist and as they’re are slated to change soon. Just not too soon.

The reason plumbing fixtures still contain lead is that it makes the brass easier to machine, explains Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “There are alternatives,” he says. “Unfortunately, each time they identify one, its price skyrockets. So [the industry is] still putting lead into brass.” Concentrations of up to eight percent of the brass (by weight) can be lead, he notes — at least as long as the fixture won’t leach more than 11 parts per billion lead into the water passing through it. (That allowable limit drops to 5 ppb in 2012.)

But that limit doesn’t apply to all water. Just the water passing through sample fixtures during industry certification tests. And to make sure that each fixture faces the same challenge, the water’s recipe must be carefully duplicated each time.

Unfortunately, Edwards says, “We showed a few years ago how those performance standards were very, very lax.” That is, the water wasn’t “aggressive” enough to really threaten much lead leaching. As a result of his team’s publication of those data, NSF International — a nonprofit that helps develop industry standards and product-certification procedures — “actually did tighten the standard up,” Edwards notes. “But it’s going to take quite a while before it’s implemented.”

“It goes into effect in 2012,” Elfland says, “because manufacturers must have time to reformulate their brass.”

But not all plumbing brass must make the switch to lower lead and testing under with more aggressive waters, she notes. Just those designed to dispense drinking water.

I called NSF International today and learned which faucets are exempt from the coming, tighter lead standards. Lead concentrations in plumbing brass (and lead leaching) may legally remain high in faucets used to supply water to: showerheads, bathtubs, washing machines, stationary tubs (also known as slop sinks, where people might wash hands and paint brushes) and outdoor hoses (such as those used to wash a car, fill a swimming pool, or slake the thirst of lawns and gardens). Also on this exemption list: metered or sensor-driven faucets in public bathrooms (because they’ve been designed for washing hands only).

Bottom line: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 9:12 am

They’ve squandered lives, fortunes, and our sacred honor

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Very good commentary by Joe Galloway. It begins:

Here’s to the American people, the electorate, for finally coming to their senses and voting for something different, for someone different and for a chance to fix the multitude of man-made disasters that confront us.

By their votes, the Republican revolution and all it’s wrought — an economic meltdown, two endless wars, class warfare that’s enriched the very rich and beggared everyone else and a treasury bulging only with IOU’s — will be crushed.

That revolution began to take root with the criminality of Richard Nixon’s administration, with its paranoid enemies list. It gathered steam in the time of Ronald Reagan and with Newt Gingrich’s seizure of Congress.

To be sure, there have been pauses, first during Jimmy Carter’s four years and then during Bill Clinton’s eight, in the GOP’s rush to recover — with interest — the presidential power that Nixon lost to a second-rate burglary and assorted other dirty tricks.

High tide arrived with the unlikeliest occupant of the Oval Office in our history, the beady-eyed, smirking, tongue-tied, counterfeit cowboy George W. Bush, and a Congress that after 9-11 was run by runaway Republicans who were too busy enriching themselves and their friends to care what their president was doing to the country, the Constitution and even their own party. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 9:01 am

Should polluted fish be labeled “organic”?

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I don’t think so. From an email I got this morning:

In less than two weeks, bureaucrats at the National Organics Standards Board will be deciding whether fish exposed to mercury and highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or raised in farms that contaminate the environment, can be labeled organic.

Personally, I expect the organic label to mean high standards. I believe in spending a bit more on quality food that is safe for my family and the environment. But selling toxic fish under the organic label? That defeats the whole purpose! Tell the National Organics Standards Board that you expect higher standards.

The board is considering two situations that would lower the organic standards. One is labeling fish organic even if it is fed wild fish. But some wild-caught fish come from polluted environments and are high in mercury and PCBs, which would transfer and compound those toxins in the fish sold under the organic label.

The second problem is labeling fish raised in open ocean net pens as organic. Ocean net pens, such as those used to farm salmon, can be highly polluting, with a great deal of waste and disease entering the surrounding natural ecosystems. Organic production should be environmentally sound – not pollute our environment.

We have less than two weeks to demand high standards for organic fish. Please take a moment to sign the petition today and defend “organic”!

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 8:46 am

Knots today

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Is it a knot? or not a knot?

For a good summary of knot theory today, check out this Science News article by Julie Rehmeyer. It begins:

Sometimes, a simple, even childish question turns out to be connected to the deepest secrets of the universe. Here’s one: How many different ways can you tie your shoelaces?

Mathematicians have been puzzling over that question for a century or two, and the main thing they’ve discovered is that the question is really, really hard. In the last decade, though, they’ve developed some powerful new tools inspired by physics that have pried a few answers from the universe’s clutches. Even more exciting is that the new tools seem to be the tip of a much larger theory that mathematicians are just beginning to uncover. That larger mathematical theory, if it exists, may help crack some of the hardest mathematical questions there are, questions about the mathematical structure of the three- and four-dimensional space where we live.

One of the reasons knots have given mathematicians fits is that the same knot can appear in very different guises. Tug here, tug there, and soon a knot will become unrecognizable, but remain fundamentally unchanged. To allow a knotted string to wiggle around without danger of untying, mathematicians seal its two ends together, making it a knotted circle. The first question mathematicians have to answer is simply, when are two knots really, secretly the same?

The dream is to create a sort of machine: Send in one of these looped knots, and out pops some result that would be the same regardless of the particular configuration of the knot. Because the answer wouldn’t vary with the arrangement of the knot, such a machine is called a “knot invariant.” And indeed, in 1927, mathematician J.W. Alexander created just such a “machine,” a method that produces a polynomial (an expression like 3×2 + 4x + 1) from any knot. The good news is that Alexander’s method always gives the same polynomial for a particular knot, even if the knot has been wiggled around to look very different. The bad news is …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 8:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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What a shave!

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A truly exceptional shave this morning, thanks to a confluence of supportive events. First, of course, was the two-day stubble. And then the D.R. Harris shave stick (not the one pictured, as it happens: I picked up by accidental the identical package that holds Lavender soap), which produces always surprisingly good lather, with no exception this morning using the Simpsons Harvard 3 Best brush. And then the older Merkur slant bar holding a once-used “Swedish” Gillette blade. The shave was totally effortless, and remarkably smooth even after the first pass. Three passes—with, across, and against the grain—and I truly had a baby-bottom-smooth face. The Pashana aftershave was a very pleasant cap to a pleasurable ritual.

I finally did see the hairline crack in the handle. Not a problem, so far. It’s at the top of the handle proper, just as the handle is attached to the little cap that supports the razor head.

As always, click photo and then click result for full-size image.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2008 at 8:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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