Later On

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

Archive for November 27th, 2007

OMG — look at TIME’s “correction”

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This is beyond bizarre—self-parody in the extreme. Glenn Greenwald:

Time Magazine has done a superb service for the country by illustrating everything that is rancid and corrupt with our political media. After I emailed Editor Josh Tyrangiel asking why the online version of Joe Klein’s column remains online uncorrected given that — as Managing Editor Rick Stengel now says — the article contains a “reporting error,” this is the “correction” Time has now posted to the article. Seriously — this is really it, in its entirety:

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don’t.

Leave aside the false description of what Klein wrote. He didn’t say “that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets.” He said that their bill “would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court” and “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” But the Editor’s false characterization of Klein’s original lie about the House FISA bill is the least of the issues here. All Time can say about this matter is that Republicans say one thing and Democrats claim another. Who is right? Is one side lying? What does the bill actually say, in reality?

Read the rest of the column.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Media

Immigrants no drag on healthcare

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I’ve had a few commenters who claim (based in one case on visiting a hospital and seeing some Latino patients) that immigrants a drain on our healthcare system. It turns out, if you go so far as to look at evidence, it’s not so:

A new study by the University of California’s School of Public Health finds that illegal immigrants do not pose as significant a burden on U.S. Health Care resources as is often claimed. Undocumented immigrants are less likely to have insurance, but seek out health care in much lower numbers:

“Low rates of use of health-care services by Mexican immigrants and similar trends among other Latinos do not support public concern about immigrants’ overuse of the health care system,” the researchers wrote.

Undocumented individuals demonstrate less use of health care than U.S.-born citizens and have more negative experiences with the health care that they have received,” they said.

The study is based on a 2003 survey of 42,044 people. Researchers compared the health care habits of U.S.-based Mexicans and Latinos and grouped the results according to citizenship or other status.

Among the other findings:

Undocumented Mexican and Latin American immigrants “are 50% less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use hospital emergency rooms in California.”

Mexican Immigrants paid “1.6 fewer visits to doctors” per year than by those born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants.

Other “undocumented Latinos had 2.1 fewer physician visits than their U.S.-born counterparts.”

Not only are undocumented immigrants not a burden on the U.S. health care system, but as Alexander N. Ortega, an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health and the study’s lead author points out, they “seem to be underutilizing the system, given their health needs.”

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 6:01 pm

You can see the direction DHS is going

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Neighbor spying on neighbor, anonymous tips, midnight raids without warrants, and so on. They’ve taken another step in that direction:

Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people’s privacy.

Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don’t need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.

But there are fears that they could lose the faith of a skeptical public by becoming the eyes of the government, looking for suspicious items such as building blueprints or bomb-making manuals or materials.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Americans have given up some of their privacy rights in an effort to prevent future strikes. The government monitors phone calls and e-mails; people who fly have their belongings searched before boarding and are limited in what they can carry; and some people have trouble traveling because their names are similar to those on terrorist watch lists.

The American Civil Liberties Union says using firefighters to gather intelligence is another step in that direction. Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now national security policy counsel to the ACLU, said the concept is dangerously close to the Bush administration’s 2002 proposal to have workers with access to private homes — such as postal carriers and telephone repairmen — report suspicious behavior to the FBI.

“Americans universally abhorred that idea,” German said.

The Homeland Security Department is testing a program with the New York City fire department to share intelligence information so firefighters are better prepared when they respond to emergency calls. Homeland Security also trains the New York City fire service in how to identify material or behavior that may indicate terrorist activities. If it’s successful, the government intends to expand the program to other major metropolitan areas.

Let’s take a deep breath, and think about this. First, suppose you are a terrorist or terroristically inclined, and a fire breaks out in your apartment. Are you going to call the fire department? No, you’ll leave the building and let it burn down.

Suppose your hobby is photography and you have a darkroom with chemicals. Is that going to trigger a visit from the DHS police? What about if your hobby is chemistry and you have a little lab? Another police visit, where you have to justify your private activities because a firefighter was nervous?

And what if you have a very grouchy neighbor, who stays inside a lot? Report him? Or perhaps he reports you? (Remember, if you’re a suspect you can be imprisoned without charges and without access to lawyers for an indefinite period and tortured to a fare-thee-well—or sent to some other country under cover of night and kept there for torture. You better hope that no one ever suspects you.)

And God help you if you read or write a foreign language, especially one that doesn’t use the Roman alphabet. And if you have any materials around in Arabic, you might as well put out your hands for the cuffs.

To continue:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 2:12 pm

Good news: 10% speed boost from XP Service Pack 3

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I can’t wait:

 After pronouncing Windows Vista SP1 a “performance dud” two weeks ago, Devil Mountain Software, a Florida-based software development firm, reported that an upcoming update for Windows XP will offer substantial performance gains.

Running an Office productivity test suite on a preview version of Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, Devil Mountain discovered a 10 percent performance boost over the current version of Windows XP, the company reported on its blog.

The news comes as a “nice bonus,” the research staff said on the blog, because SP3 was expected mainly to deliver bug fixes and consolidate various patches. “In fact, XP SP3 is shaping up to be a must-have update for the majority of users who are still running Redmond’s not-so-latest-and-greatest desktop OS,” the company said.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

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Rusty sculptures

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Via Boing Boing, this site of entrancing sculptures.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 10:54 am

Posted in Art

12 most influential on-line videos

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From the Webby awards. With links to the videos.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 10:39 am

Posted in Video

Cool video from some Rightful dudes

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Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 10:31 am

Posted in Video

Isn’t it time you got serious about learning cryptography?

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And just in time for the holidays, when you’ll have lots and lots of spare time to do the background reading: a course with the reading list, assignments, videos of lectures, and everything you need. To save you a click, here’s your holiday reading list:

Via Schneier on Security.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 10:19 am

De Tocqueville saw it coming

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From the Prologue to Strike! (Revised and Updated Edition). (You can read the Introduction here.)

Visiting the United States in 1831, the French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville accepted as unsurprising the subordination of women, blacks, and Indians. But he was astonished not to find the extremes of rich and poor, aristocrat and peasant that were also taken for granted in Europe.

In the United States, the great majority of men were not landless peasants, but farmers working their own land, primarily for their own needs. Most of the rest were self-employed artisans, merchants, traders, and professionals. Other classes—wage earners and industrialists in the North, slaves and planters in the South—were relatively small. The great majority, de Tocqueville found, were independent and free from anybody’s command.

Yet the forces that were to undermine this relative equality—and to produce the mass strikes that are the subject of this book—were already visible. De Tocqueville noted with concern “small aristocratic societies that are formed by some manufacturers in the midst of the immense democracy of our age.” Like the aristocratic societies of former ages, this one tended to divide Americans into classes made up of “some mean who are very opulent and a multitude who are wretchedly poor,” with few means of escaping their condition.

Further, de Tocqueville saw that production tended to become more and more centralized, for “when a workman is engaged every day upon the same details, the whole commodity is produced with greater ease, speed, and economy.” Thus, “the cost of production of manufactured goods is diminished by the extent of the establishment in which they are made and by the account of capital employed.” The large, centralized companies naturally won out.

This process shaped both the worker and the employer. “When a workman is unceasingly and exclusively engaged in the fabrication of one thing, he ultimately does his work with singular dexterity; but at the same time he loses the general faculty of applying his mind to the direction of the work.” Thus, “in proportion as the workman improves, the man is degraded… [H]e no longer belongs to himself, but to the calling thathe has chosen.” But, de Tocqueville argued, while “the science of manufacture lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters,” until the employer more and more resembles the administrator of a vast empire.

De Tocqueville believed that “the manufacturing aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes is one of the harshest that ever existed in the world.” And he concluded that “if ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrates into the world, it may be predicted that this is the gate by which they will enter.” …

More in the book, available here.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 10:03 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Tagged with

Why Joe Klein and others keep their jobs

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The shortcomings of the Beltway media pundits are all too often exposed. Joe Klein is the latest, but similar examples of sloppy, lazy, counterfactual reporting and being a tool of the Right can be found in many (Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, and others), not to mention their occasionally weird hobby-horses (like Chris Matthews’s obsessive and prurient interest in the Clintons’ sex lives, or his drooling admiration of “he-men”). So how do they keep their jobs?

It occurred to me that none of them want to apply any minimal standards to any of their number for fear that the same standards might be applied to them—and they all uneasily aware (at some level) that the game has passed them by and that they’re now in over their head, skating along on vague impressions of politicians and legislation without ever having the time, interest, energy, or intelligence to dig into the nitty-gritty details and read the primary documents and study the patterns of voting. They now rely almost totally on what amounts to gossip, passed along to them by interested parties. Living in a house of cards, they are fear to blow the whistle on any other member of the club because then their own transgressions and inadequacies would come to light.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 9:46 am

Posted in Media

At last! Editor identified and held to account.

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And the editor in question doesn’t even seem to appreciate our recognition of her responsibility. Read Greenwald’s column today and take action as appropriate.

One aside: from the column:

As Jane details here, she called Painton in an attempt to find out information about how these false claims made it into Klein’s article, what Time was planning on doing to correct it and whether they would account for what happened. I happened to be conversing with Jane by video when she was finally able to speak by telephone to Painton and thus heard Jane’s end of the discussion.

The call lasted roughly 10 seconds. Jane asked one or two questions in the most polite and professional manner possible — whether Painton was Klein’s Editor and how such errors made their way into the article. As Jane describes, after she asked Painton how such inaccuracies could make it into the Time article, Painton snapped: “That assumes that there are errors.” She then slammed down the phone in Hamsher’s face.

That behavior on Painton’s part seems quite unprofessional. But consider: if she were a professional, would she (a) allow blatant and obvious errors to go into print (or even accept an article on a piece of legislation from a writer who had never bothered to read the legislation), or (b) denied the existence of the error when it has been publicly exposed?

I fear that many editors, like other creatures that spend their lives out of sight in the dark, may run affrighted when when the light finally shines in upon them. Rather little joy in being discovered not doing your job, generally. But don’t forget: many of these editors (like Painton) are quite clearly in over their heads, and the panicky feeling of being found out gives them little peace of mind. It’s little wonder that they react as the do.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 9:37 am

Posted in Media

Tax cuts: GOP says they’re always needed

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Paul Krugman makes a good point:

So the WSJ says that a recession is good for Republicans — as Atrios likes to point out, for the news media everything always is. In this case, it’s because tax cuts will suddenly become desirable as a way to stimulate the economy:

The good news for them is that they can start pushing tax cuts as a way to spur a slumping economy. That’s a better argument than pushing tax cuts for their own sake, which is pretty much where Republicans have been. The moment may be meeting the message.

For Democrats, the tax-cut question will be the opposite: If the economy is perilously close to recession, do you really want to propose tax increases? And a tax increase is precisely how Republicans portray any move to undo the Bush tax cuts.

Beyond the point that everything that happens is good news for Republicans, however, notice that everything that happens is good for tax cuts.

If the economy is growing, and tax receipts are rising, then it shows that past tax cuts achieved wonders, plus the Laffer curve is right — so let’s cut taxes some more!

If the economy is shrinking, well, it needs a boost — and what better boost than another round of tax cuts!

See, cutting taxes is always good. It makes you wonder why we ever had taxes in the first place.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 9:26 am

Posted in GOP, Government

Tagged with

Great idea for US roads

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Wonder when we’ll see it in the US:


Night-time travel is a necessary part of the busy world in which we live, but due to decreased visibility, traveling in the dark can be dangerous. The British have shed some light on night driving with the invention of the Astucia SolarLite flush road stud. The stud emits LED light, which is powered by small solar panels. The new stud tech is present on 120 British roads, and night-time accidents are down a dramatic 70% since the devices were installed. Amazingly, the SolarLite road stud gives drivers 900 meters of visibility, which increases reaction times to over 30 seconds. Reaction time with standard reflector studs is just 3.2 seconds.

With thousands of Americans dying on night roads every year, any incremental price vs. reflector studs would likely be a drop in the bucket when compared to the incredible savings in insurance claims alone. The government mandates billions of dollars in safety equipment on our cars and trucks, and both the automakers and customers foot the bill in the name of safety. If the SolarLite road stud is nearly as effective as it claims, the governments incorporating them could effectively reduce the likelihood that many automotive safety features would never need to be deployed.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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The Maeslant Storm-Surge Barrier

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An engineering feat—and it works! Worth a click. It’s in Rotterdam.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 9:11 am

Posted in Technology

Book & A.J. Liebling

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I’m somewhat obsessed about the book—have you noticed? It’s now 102 pages, 41,594 words. Maybe up Thursday… In the meantime, here’s another A.J. Liebling quotation, one that has stuck with me for decades:

A good appetite gives an eater room to turn around in. For example, a nonprofessional eater I know went to the restaurant Pierre, in the Place Gaillon, a couple of years ago, his mind set on a sensibly light meal: a dozen, or possibly eighteen oysters, and a thick chunk of steak topped with beef marrow, which M. Pierre calls a Délice de la Villette—the equivalent of a “Stockyards’ Delight.” But as he arrived, he heard M. Pierre say to his headwaiter, “Here comes Monsieur L. Those two portions of cassoulet that are left—put them aside for him.” A cassoulet is a substantial dish, of a complexity precluding its discussion here. (Mr. Root devotes three pages to the great controversy over what it should contain.) M. Pierre is the most amiable of restaurateurs, who prides himself on knowing in advance what his friends will like. A client of limited appetite would be obliged either to forgo his steak or to hurt M. Pierre’s feelings. Monsieur L., however, was in no difficulty. He ate the two cassoulets, as was his normal practice; if he had consumed only one, his host would have feared that it wasn’t up to standard. He then enjoyed his steak. The oysters offered no problem, since they present no bulk.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 8:55 am

Refreshing Lemon

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The shaving cream this morning was Palmolive Refreshing Lemon, and refreshing it was. It comes in a tube, so I squeeze out a smidge and smear some on each cheek and my chin. The the Simpsons Chubby 1 Best worked up a good lather, and the Gillette NEW with (I think) an Astra Superior Platinum blade shaved it off. Really excellent result: 9.8. And for the aftershave, A. I. Clubman Geo.

Now with coffee, to work on the book a bit. I keep waking up with things in mind that I forgot to include.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2007 at 7:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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