Later On

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

Archive for May 7th, 2009

Presidential risk-taking: Restaurant edition

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Very interesting:

Pre-eminent food poisoning attorney and blogger Bill Marler has tipped Ob Fo that Ray’s Hell Burger, the Arlington, VA hamburger joint that the President and Vice President visited yesterday, has been cited by the Arlington Health District for health code violations as recently as December 18, 2008, their last inspection. Among other things, mouse droppings were observed in the storage area at Ray’s, and employees were handling food without protective gloves. But the joint was also given a dangerous "critical" citation:
CRITICAL: The food establishment serves hamburgers [cooked-to-order] undercooked without informing consumers of the significantly increased risk consuming such food by way of a disclosure and reminder using brochures, deli case or menu advisories, label statements, table tents, placards, or other effective written means.

Both the President and Vice President ordered their burgers medium well yesterday. Eating anything but a well-done burger is like playing Russian Roulette, which even the USDA will tell you; the agency recommends cooking hamburgers to a temperature of at least 160 degrees, but you’re free to cook at a much higher temp, too. Medium well is 150-155 degrees. Can that tiny difference in temperature be enough to make you ill with a foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli? Yes. Hundreds of thousands of the teeny E. coli nasties can fit on the head of a pin…but it takes only three to make you profoundly ill.

How long does it take for E. coli symptoms to develop and make you ill? …

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Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 12:04 pm

Good news for African American farmers

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From Obama Foodorama:

Later today, when the President announces his 2010 budget, which slashes 121 programs and about $17 billion, there’ll be one crucial area where spending will increase. Working with his closest advisers, President Obama is attempting to redress the longstanding civil rights grievances of black American farmers, by proposing a $1.25 billion deal to settle the ‘Pigford Claims," a longstanding discrimination against USDA.

The funding could benefit as many as 80,000 black farmers, who have experienced decades of unconscionable behaviour from USDA employees, in the form of denied services and racially biased lending practices. Pigford has been an emotional battle spanning multiple administrations and Ag secretary tenures, and the budget announcement is due to years of work by a bipartisan group of farmers, lawyers, and non-profit Ag and justice groups, led by Dr. John W. Boyd, Jr., president of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) (above). The President inherited the issue when he took office, and both he and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack pledged to help. The Congressional Black Caucus has been working on the issue too.

But today’s settlement offer almost didn’t happen.

"After the President got into office, they [administration officials] asked us to wait another two years, because of the state of the economy," Boyd told Obama Foodorama last night. "I said–two years! Some of these people have waited a lifetime already!"…

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Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 12:02 pm

Mother’s Day and marijuana

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An email from the Marijuana Policy Project:

This Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day behind bars because of marijuana prohibition and mandatory minimum sentencing.

In honor of the many mothers imprisoned due to harsh sentencing who won’t spend this Mother’s Day with their children, would you take a minute to ask your members of Congress to pass two important pieces of legislation that would help reduce our massive prison population?

1. The National Criminal Justice Act of 2009 — introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) — would create a commission to study the rising prison population and make recommendations for reforming America’s criminal justice system, including penalties for nonviolent drug offenses. You can generate a letter to your lawmakers about this bill here.

2. The Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009 — introduced by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) — would eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders, including statutory mandatory minimum sentences related to marijuana. You can generate a letter to your lawmakers about this bill here.

Taking action just takes one minute and can make an enormous difference for the many Americans imprisoned for marijuana “crimes.” Please visit and write Congress to urge support for these important pieces of legislation today.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 11:54 am

Top 10 money-saving guides for common purchases

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Another good post at Take a look.

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7 May 2009 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life

Book Army offers suggestions for your next read

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Take a look at this review on

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7 May 2009 at 11:48 am

Taskbar Shuffle

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I like to have my open programs in a particular order on my taskbar, going so far as to close a program and reopen it to move it to the end of the taskbar list. No more: Taskbar Shuffle lets you drag-and-drop those critters—and the system tray as well. Take a look. (Yeah, yeah—I know: the Mac probably comes with this capability.)

UPDATE: Works great. I downloaded it from here.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 11:14 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Googling Scalia

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This is pretty good, from Bruce Schneier’s blog:

Nice hack:

Last year, when law professor Joel Reidenberg wanted to show his Fordham University class how readily private information is available on the Internet, he assigned a group project. It was collecting personal information from the Web about himself.

This year, after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made public comments that seemingly may have questioned the need for more protection of private information, Reidenberg assigned the same project. Except this time Scalia was the subject, the prof explains to the ABA Journal in a telephone interview.

His class turned in a 15-page dossier that included not only Scalia’s home address, home phone number and home value, but his food and movie preferences, his wife’s personal e-mail address and photos of his grandchildren, reports Above the Law.

And, as Scalia himself made clear in a statement to Above the Law, he isn’t happy about the invasion of his privacy:

"Professor Reidenberg’s exercise is an example of perfectly legal, abominably poor judgment. Since he was not teaching a course in judgment, I presume he felt no responsibility to display any," the justice says, among other comments.

Somehow, I don’t think "poor judgment" is going to be much of a defense against those with agendas more malicious than Professor Reidenberg.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 11:11 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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A talk with Condi’s Stanford interrogators

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Scott Horton has a good post this morning. It begins:

On April 27, Condoleezza Rice went to a reception at a Stanford University dormitory, which was followed by a private dinner with some of the students. Stanford undergrads Jeremy Cohn and Sammy Abusrur took the opportunity to pose some demanding questions, while a third Stanford student, Reyna Garcia, captured the event on film. The tape was posted to the Internet and quickly worked its way on to the news in the U.S. and around the world. I discussed the event with Cohn and Abusrur.

Q: What gave rise to your sparring match with Condoleezza Rice?

Cohn: First of all, I should say that I never intended our conversation to become a “sparring match.” I knew that my questions were not soft questions, but I specifically went in with the intention of keeping my words civil.

I had seen an email a few weeks ago advertising that Rice would be coming to my dorm to speak with and have dinner with several students. I immediately signed up to be in the pool from which the students would be randomly selected. I thought about the questions that I might ask, though I really doubted that I would be able to ask anything, especially once I was told I was not one of the students selected for the dinner. I went to the meet and greet, which was open to the dorm as a whole, and as students began to leave, I approached Rice, though only after encouragement from one of my friends.

After my second question things became less civil, but you can watch the video and make your own decision about how things developed. She began to get defensive after my comment regarding World War II. After that our conversation wasn’t as polite.

Abusrur: I am a freelance photographer and was photographing Rice as she conversed with students at the Roble dormitory at Stanford. It bothered me that almost all of the students–except for the ones protesting outside–seemed thrilled to see her. They were simply lobbing banal questions and comments at her. Weren’t they aware of her history as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State in the Bush Administration? Finally Jeremy began asking Rice about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. I was disappointed when she deflected his questions with patronizing comments and finger-wagging. Rice’s defensive attitude prompted me to consider asking her a question, so I put down my camera and told her that I had a question. I told her about the recent report I had read concerning her approval of the use of torture by the CIA, and she objected, and I said, “not torture, waterboarding.” She seemed happy at that. Then it struck me to ask her whether she thought waterboarding was a form of torture. First, she replied …

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Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 10:48 am

More government destruction of important documents

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As you recall, 92 video records of terrorist interrogations were destroyed—presumably in an effort to obstruct justice by destroying evidence: the record of torture sessions. The destruction is otherwise inexplicable: interrogation tapes are primary evidence and normally are carefully preserved for later review in the light of new findings.

Now, more destruction of evidence is slated. Chisum Lee reports for ProPublica:

A stockpile of documents about hundreds of Guantanamo Bay detainees, some authored by the prisoners themselves, could be destroyed under a little-known provision of a federal court order the Bush administration obtained in 2004.

For four years records in the prisoners’ habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the legality of their detentions have been piling up in a secure federal facility in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Va. Because much of the information is classified, the 750 or so attorneys representing the detainees are required to do and store all their work on-site.

The provision is part of a broad order [1] (PDF) issued at the very outset of the habeas cases — at the last official count in January, 220 cases remained — that set rules for how sensitive documents and attorney access should be handled. It calls for the government to destroy all classified records given to, prepared by or kept by detainees’ counsel — including originals and copies of writings, photographs, videotapes, computer files and voice recordings — when the cases end.

Case files already fill 40 to 50 locked file cabinets, and restricted computer drives hold still more. Documents include …

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7 May 2009 at 10:42 am

Emergency plan needed for (clean?) coal ash spills

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Linda B. Blackford and Bill Estep report in the Lexington [KY] Herald-Tribune:

One of the far-reaching lessons of the massive spill of fly ash and sludge at the TVA plant in Kingston, Tenn., is that states like Kentucky need to be prepared to deal with waste from coal combustion, experts said Tuesday.

“We have to look at what needs to be done in case of such emergencies,” said Kingston’s program manager, Michael Scott, who spoke at the biennial World of Coal Ash conference in Lexington on Tuesday.

Cleanup of the Tennessee spill, which occurred nearly six months ago, could reach as much as $1 billion.

But the Kingston disaster — and a huge spill from a coal slurry pond in Martin County in 2000 — hasn’t been enough to persuade Kentucky lawmakers to pass a law requiring coal companies to develop plans in case of such emergencies.

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7 May 2009 at 10:35 am

Drones and air power: civilian casualty cost too high

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That’s my opinion, anyway. Take a look at this story by Carlotta Gall and Taimooor Shah in the NY Times:

American airstrikes that Afghan officials and villagers said Wednesday had killed dozens and perhaps more than 100 civilians in western Afghanistan threaten to stiffen Afghan opposition to the war just as the Obama administration is sending 20,000 more troops to the country.

The reports offered a grim backdrop to talks on Wednesday afternoon in Washington between President Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, whose office called the civilian deaths “unjustifiable and unacceptable.”

If the higher toll proves true, the bombardment, which took place late Monday, will almost certainly be the worst in terms of civilian deaths since the American intervention began in 2001. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said there would be a joint investigation and she expressed regret at the loss of civilian lives, although she cautioned that the full circumstances were not known. Defense Department officials said investigators were looking into the possibility that Taliban militants were responsible for the civilian deaths.

One villager reached by telephone, Sayed Ghusuldin Agha, described body parts littered around the landscape. “It would scare a man if he saw it in a dream,” he said.

Civilian deaths — more than 2,000 Afghans were killed last year alone, the United Nations says — have been a decisive factor in souring many Afghans on the war. The International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed dozens dead so far in this bombing, in the western province of Farah.

The American military confirmed that it had conducted airstrikes aimed at the Taliban, but not the number of deaths or their cause.

“We have some other information that leads us to distinctly different conclusions about the cause of the civilian casualties,” said the senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David D. McKiernan. He would not elaborate but said American and Afghan investigators were already on the ground trying to sort out what had happened.

In a phone call played on a loudspeaker on Wednesday to outraged members of the Afghan Parliament, the governor of Farah Province, Rohul Amin, said …

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7 May 2009 at 10:29 am

Whistleblower blocked from commenting

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Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent:

Interesting fact about the soon-to-be-declassified report from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility on the propriety of the Bush-era torture advocates at the department: while the office has gone out of its way to accommodate former Office of Legal Counsel officials John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, a rule-of-law whistleblower who nearly had her career destroyed by OPR never got remotely the same courtesy.

As Daphne’s been writing, OPR has been rather solicitous of the Bush administration lawyers who provided legal cover for the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program. They got to see the draft, comment on it, and then the office took their perspectives into account. That’s in keeping with standard practice to permit OPR targets a right of due response, the department explained. “In the past,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Ronald Welch to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) on May 4, “former Department officials who were subjects of OPR investigations typically have been permitted to appeal adverse OPR rulings to the Deputy Attorney General’s Office.” In keeping with that spirit, Welch continued, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, his deputy and the OPR chief agreed to “afford the subjects the chance to respond to the report prior to any release.” Such a move, they reasoned, was “fair and reasonably correlates with the process usually applicable to OPR investigations relating to former employees.”

Tell it to Jesselyn Radack. Radack was an early casualty of the Bush Justice Department. In 2001, as a department lawyer in the Professional Responsibility Advisory Office, she advised the FBI that it couldn’t interrogate John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban captured in Afghanistan, without affording him counsel. It happened anyway. Here’s what happened next, according to Jane Mayer in the March 10, 2003 New Yorker: …

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7 May 2009 at 10:17 am

Free personal finance eBook

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It’s not a lengthy book (49 pages), but useful. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 10:10 am

Posted in Daily life

Alarmist as top Homeland Security scientist?

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Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent:

Noah Shachtman at Danger Room has an alarming post about Tara O’Toole, the Obama administration’s pick to become Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Science and Technology. While O’Toole has an impressive resume — CEO of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biosecurity and chairwoman of the Federation of American Scientists — she also spearheaded a series of bioterror exercises, known as Dark Winter and Atlantic Storm, that subsequent research found significantly overstated the lethality of biological agents like smallpox.

To George Smith, a protein chemist and senior fellow at, these exercises show O’Toole to be “the top academic/salesperson for the coming of apocalyptic bioterrorism which has never quite arrived. [She’s] most prominent for always lobbying for more money for biodefense, conducting tabletop exercises on bioterrorism for easily overawed public officials, exercises tweaked to be horrifying. [And she] has never obviously appeared to examine what current terrorist capabilities have been… in favor of extrapolating how easy it would be to launch bioterror attacks if one had potentially unlimited resources and scientific know-how.”It’s a “superb appointment if you’re in the biodefense industry and interested in further opportunity and growth,” he tells Danger Room. “Alternatively, a disaster if threat assessment and prevention ought to have some basis in reality.”

The administration sent O’Toole’s nomination to the Senate yesterday.

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7 May 2009 at 10:07 am

Tax havens and the business lobby

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From the Center for American Progress:

This week, President Obama announced "a major offensive against businesses and wealthy individuals who avoid U.S. taxes by parking cash overseas." The administration plans to prevent corporations from claiming tax deductions on overseas investments until they pay U.S. taxes on their profits. It also aims to reverse a Clinton-era rule known as "check the box," which allows companies to easily shift income into tax havens. "Even as most American citizens and businesses meet [their tax] responsibilities, there are others who are shirking theirs," Obama said. "And many are aided and abetted by a broken tax system, written by well-connected lobbyists on behalf of well-heeled interests and individuals." Indeed, the business lobby immediately cried foul over the proposed changes, claiming that they will harm corporations’ competitiveness and "eliminate American jobs." "It is the wrong idea, at the wrong time for the wrong reasons," said John Castellani, the Business Roundtable president. "This is going to be the largest fight that the U.S. multinational community has this year and probably into next," added Kenneth Kies, a tax lobbyist who represents firms like Caterpillar, General Electric, and Microsoft.

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7 May 2009 at 9:44 am

The financial crisis

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I have exchanged emails with a conservative friend on the cause of the subprime crisis, which was what toppled the financial industry (bad loans plus credit default swaps). He somehow thinks the cause was the Community Reinvestment Act along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I have tried to show him that the agents of the crisis were completely in the private sector and had nothing to do with government programs—except the government’s refusal to regulate the subprime market. He doesn’t understand, but I got this from the Center for American Progress this morning:

The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) released an extensive report yesterday detailing how Wall Street firms fueled the subprime lending that helped create the current economic crisis. CPI reported that "at least 21 of the top 25 subprime lenders were financed by banks that received bailout money — through direct ownership, credit agreements, or huge purchases of loans for securitization." More importantly, CPI wrote, "increasingly, lenders were selling their loans to Wall Street, so they wouldn’t be left holding the deed in the event of a foreclosure. In a financial version of hot potato, they could make bad loans and just pass them along." The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo noted that the Wall Street firms would in turn "sell the loans to institutional investors, and use the money raised to buy more subprime loans, in a vicious cycle of buying, selling, and lending." This report paints quite a different picture than the one conservatives were trying to sell last fall, when they repeatedly claimed that the mortgage crisis was the fault of banks lending to minorities. As Fox News’s Neil Cavuto said at the time, "loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster."

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 9:39 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, GOP

How do you stand on gay marriage?

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I’ve been reading and commenting on conservative09’s blog, which is named for three colors (guess what they are for extra points—hint: not puce, fauve, and celadon).

He had the good idea of polling his readers for their stance on gay marriage. I thought I’d copy the idea here:

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 9:31 am

Posted in Daily life

Megs, working on one of her sofa dents

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Megs has created three Megs-shaped dents in the top of the sofa’s back pillows. She works on these from time to time to improve depth and fit. Here is a photo of her hard at work on the rightmost dent.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 9:10 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Movie report

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I’m watching some old favorites and finding new pleasures in them. For example, Blow Dry (2001) is a seriously good movie—and what a cast: Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett, and Bill Nighy. Well worth watching.

And Shaun of the Dead is fun to rewatch. It’s a very good comedy and gives new depth to the word “oblivious.”

Both are recommended.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2009 at 9:04 am

Posted in Movies & TV


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I find that I like the Marlborough fragrance better than the Arlington, though both make a great lather. Today I used the Sabini ebony-handled brush, and then the Progress, which did its usual deft job: a very smooth finish, with Arlington aftershave to get me started on the day.

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7 May 2009 at 8:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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