Later On

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

Archive for December 22nd, 2007

Mandatory binding arbitration: kill it off

with 3 comments

Read this:

Today, Jamie Leigh Jones will appear before the House Judiciary Committee and tell how she was gang raped by her co-workers in Iraq while working for a Halliburton subsidiary called KBR. Afterwards, her assaulters confined her to a shipping container and warned that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be fired. That’s where she was found by agents sent by the U.S. embassy to rescue her — after her father called their congressman, Representative Ted Poe (R-Texas).

Now, Jamie Leigh Jones has been victimized twice over. Because KBR/Halliburton requires employees to sign contracts containing a binding mandatory arbitration (BMA) in the fine print, Jones is being denied her constitutional right to bring her perpetrators before a jury and be heard.

But Jamie Leigh Jones will be heard by Congress today — and then, lawmakers should waste no time in re-opening the doors of justice for Jones and the rest of us. It’s time to ban binding mandatory arbitration in employment and consumer contracts once and for all. There may be no other device being used today by Halliburton and other corporate giants that does more to systematically deny rights to workers and consumers.

Congress is beginning to focus.

Last Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on the Arbitration Fairness Act — a bill that would ban most forms of binding mandatory arbitration introduced in the House by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and in the Senate by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).

Senator Brownback called it a “where the rubber meets the road hearing.”  He could not have been more right.  While witnesses for the bill showed real-world harms from the system of biased, privatized justice that many companies force on their customers and employees, opponents offered scarecrow arguments crafted with cherry-picked data from out-dated studies.  Still, it was impossible to ignore at least one hard fact: binding mandatory arbitration ruins lives.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 2:09 pm

One cool electric car

with 17 comments

By Alison Cassidy – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Aptera. Popular Mechanics has a video with a lot of technical detail.

UPDATE: More here.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 1:48 pm

Posted in Technology

Some top 10 lists

leave a comment »

Lots of top 10s.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Science

VA healthcare system

leave a comment »

Via Paul Krugman, a post from the blog of the Director of the Congressional Budget Office:

CBO just released an interim report on the VA health system. VA’s health care program has attracted lots of attention, and as part of CBO’s ongoing effort to expand our health-related activities, we are examining the evidence on the VA system — along with what lessons, if any, it may hold for other parts of the health care system.

In general, VA’s experience underscores the potential for improving performance in a large and relatively integrated system through a sustained and comprehensive effort that involves indicators of quality, financial incentives that are aligned with those objectives, and the use of health information technology. It is important to note, though, that the combination of these factors — a large, relatively integrated system; well-designed incentives; performance measurement; and health information technology — likely creates much more substantial opportunities for improvement than any of the pieces taken by themselves. The applicability of VA’s experience to other parts of the health system, which often have a much different structure than the VA system, is therefore unclear and will be explored in CBO’s final report (which will be published next year).

A few highlights of today’s interim report:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 10:18 am

Caesar Salad

leave a comment »

Back in the day, the waiter would always come to your table and assemble the Caesar salad there, making the dressing from scratch. Nowadays it’s very rare to find Caesar salad (actual Caesar salad, rather than Caesar-like salad product) in any restaurant. Try this:

Caesar Salad

2 cloves of garlic
1 anchovy fillet
1 tbsp olive oil
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 dash tobasco
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese

In a large bowl crush garlic until it is a paste.
Add each ingredient mixing after each addition.
Add lettuce and toss until well coated.
You can add croutons if you like.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 10:11 am

Posted in Beef, Daily life, Food

How we learn to read

with 2 comments

The earlier post about the decline in the reading of books doesn’t imply that reading will go away. So how do we learn to read?

Reading is an important skill, so it’s not surprising it gets a lot of attention from researchers. Reading is an ancient skill — at least in some parts of the world — but not so old that we don’t know when it was invented (as opposed to, for instance, basic arithmetic). And, unlikely language, it appeared recently enough in most of the world that it’s unlikely that evolution has had time to select for reading skill…which would explain the high prevalence of dyslexia.

Some decades ago, there was a considerable amount of debate over whether reading was phonologically based — that is, “sounding out” is crucial (CAT -> /k/ + /{/ + /t/ -> /k{t/) — or visual-recognition based — that is, you simply recognize each words as a whole form (CAT -> /k{t/). People who favored the former theory emphasized phonics-based reading instruction, while the latter theory resulted in “whole language” training.

At least from where I sit, this debate has been largely resolved in favor of phonics. This isn’t to say that skilled readers don’t recognize some high-frequency words as whole, but it does mean that sounding out words it crucial at least in learning to read. One important piece of evidence is that “phonological awareness” — the ability to figure out that CAT has 3 sounds by COLON has 5 or that DOG and BOG rhyme — is just about the best predictor of reading success. That is, preschoolers who are at the bottom of the pack in terms of phonological awareness tend to in the future be at the bottom of the pack in learning to read.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Education, Science

Stan Kenton (1911-1979)

leave a comment »

The Stan Kenton Orchestra went through several incarnations, beginning in 1941 with his first band, “Artistry in Rhythm” (named after his theme song). Wikipedia:

In 1950 he put together his most advanced band, the 39-piece Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra that included 16 strings, a woodwind section, and two French horns. Its music ranged from the unique and very dense modern classical charts of Bob Graettinger to works that somehow swung despite the weight. Such major players as Maynard Ferguson (whose high-note acrobatics set new standards), Shorty Rogers, Milt Bernhart, John Graas, Art Pepper, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Laurindo Almeida, Shelly Manne, and June Christy were part of this remarkable project, but from a commercial standpoint, it was really impossible. Kenton managed two tours during 1950-1951 but soon reverted to his usual 19-piece lineup.

Here’s a 1945 performance with June Christy:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Yum: candied bacon

leave a comment »

This looks yummy—and he uses the same kitchen timer that I do!

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 9:13 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Tinfoil-hat time: fluoridated water

leave a comment »

From the LA Times:

Virtually all of the science and medical establishment — including the American Dental Assn., the American Medical Assn., the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have endorsed fluoride in water. Supporters say numerous studies over the decades show that the chemical, in low concentrations — about one part per million or the equivalent of three drops in 42 gallons of water — reduces tooth decay by 20% to 60% with minimal risk.

“The science is crystal clear,” said Jon Roth, executive director of the California Dental Assn. Foundation. “The unfortunate thing is there are still folks out there who do a good job of cherry-picking the scientific information. . . . I don’t know where the motivation comes from. I just don’t get it.”

Though far fewer in number, fluoride’s opponents are strident and proud to be committed to an uphill fight. In the 1960s, foes said fluoride produced Down syndrome in children. Today, opponents emphasize fluoride’s purported links to bone cancer, thyroid dysfunction and other diseases. They say toxins such as arsenic and lead contaminate the hydrofluosilicic acid used to fluoridate water. They say the benefits are vastly overblown and point to Europe, which has low rates of tooth decay even though most countries there don’t add fluoride to their water.

As it happens, I grew up in a little town in southern Oklahoma whose water supply was naturally fluoridated. Of course, I eventually got type 2 diabetes, which I blame on the fluorides. 🙂

The whole story at the link is worth reading, alternately amusing and depressing.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 8:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

Three passes to perfection

with one comment

A truly great shave this morning, beginning with the Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream, applied with the Sabini ebony-handled brush: lather of perfect thickness and wonderful fragrance. Then, again, the Gillette 1940’s Aristocrat with the Treet blade, this its third shave—why mess with a winning streak?

After the first pass, I felt little stubble, so went to the sideways pass and then the upward, against-the-grain pass. No nicks, no weepers, just wonderful smoothness.

Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Aftershave completed the pleasure.

Why do some men select shaving techniques they do not enjoy? A puzzle.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2007 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: