Later On

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

Archive for November 2008

Best online places to play and learn chess

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I haven’t talked much about chess, though I was an enthusiast (of no great strength) for years. Here’s a good list of chess sites.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2008 at 7:42 am

Posted in Daily life, Games

Today is the last day of NaNoWriMo

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And to close off the month, one more interview.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2008 at 7:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Writing

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Kevin Drum on climate change

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Kevin Drum has a good post this morning:

Joe Romm passes along the news today that Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than anyone has previously predicted. You can add this to Romm’s list of other climate change impacts that are happening faster than most climate models predict, including the canonical IPCC models:

This is why climate scientists have been running around with their hair on fire for the past couple of years. It would be nice to think that perhaps our current climate models are too pessimistic; or even that they’re right but maybe we’ll end up at the low end of the predicted warming ranges; or at worst that the models are right and we’ll end up right at the center. But that just doesn’t seem to be the case. What it really looks like is that our current models aren’t pessimistic enough and that the growth in greenhouse gas emissions is exceeding even the modelers’ highest estimates. We are fast approaching a point of no return that will likely kill hundreds of millions of people, destroy much of the world’s food supply, and spark resource wars that make Rwanda look like a mild family quarrel. More from Romm here and here on what’s happening and what to do about it.

And yet there still are those (like my commenter) who think that all the data are faked and that the whole thing is a fraud. I don’t think the future looks good. Skimping on science education turns out to have a high cost.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2008 at 7:14 am

Good site for global warming skeptics

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I posted recently about global warming and got a comment from a denier. His position was that all the scientists of the world have ganged up to commit fraud, and that in fact the Earth has been cooling since 2000. In looking for a response, I found this very nice site that lists common skeptic arguments and the science that undermines those arguments.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2008 at 6:50 am

What if your health insurer won’t pay?

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Turns out that help is available, as described in this article by Paul Raeburn in US News & World Report. It begins:

Timothy Stewart’s health insurance nightmare began in June of last year, when Tom, his 17-year-old stepson, complained of pain in his left leg. Doctors found a chondromyxoid fibroma, a rare benign tumor, on a bone of his lower leg. At the physicians’ urging, Stewart, who manages an RV park near Grand Teton National Park, took Tom from their home in Thayne, Wyo., to Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City for care. Treatment was successful, generating a bill of roughly $13,000 for surgery and a one-night stay.

But the hospital was not in the network of Stewart’s healthcare insurer—which he doesn’t want to name because it still covers his family. The insurer paid the hospital only about $2,600 of the bill, asserting that this amount was the “reasonable and customary” charge. That left Stewart, 53, on the hook for more than $10,000. His formal appeal to the healthcare insurer was denied. The Wyoming insurance commissioner’s office offered only sympathy.

“I was at my wits’ end,” says Stewart. “I didn’t know what to do.” Turning to the Internet, he unearthed Trudy Whitehead, founder of Advantage Medical Bill Review in Salt Lake City and one of dozens of paid “medical billing advocates” who negotiate with healthcare providers and insurance companies to lower consumers’ medical bills. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of hospital and insurance billing practices, Whitehead went to bat for Stewart to negotiate a better deal.

Billing advocates have several lines of attack they can follow. They often uncover errors such as services that were billed but never delivered and single procedures billed multiple times, says Nora Johnson, vice president of Medical Billing Advocates of America in Salem, Va. They also have tools to determine typical payments to hospitals and physicians by Medicare and private insurers, which are lower than the amounts charged to out-of-network patients and even lower than the charges levied on patients with little or no insurance. And they can drill down to a hospital’s bottom-line cost for specific services, which tells them just how much wiggle room there is for jawboning inflated charges lower.

In Stewart’s case, the insurance company had told him that the $2,600 payment to Primary Children’s was double what Medicare typically would have paid for the procedure and therefore was a reasonable reimbursement for an out-of-state, out-of-network procedure. But Whitehead knew that was wrong. …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2008 at 11:28 am

Interesting site

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Go take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2008 at 9:07 am

Posted in Daily life

How the media talks about torture

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Glenn Greenwald has an excellent column dissecting the way that media talk about torture. It begins:

Yesterday, The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti, in reporting on John Brennan’s withdrawal from consideration for a top intelligence post, wrote:

The opposition to Mr. Brennan had been largely confined to liberal blogs, and there was not an expectation he would face a particularly difficult confirmation process. Still, the episode shows that the C.I.A.’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base, making it difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone for a top intelligence post who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since the Sept. 11 attacks.

I quoted that paragraph yesterday to show how the establishment media is acknowledging the role blogs played in this episode, prompting Billmon to materialize in the comment section and make this point:

Glenn should have noted the sly way that asshole Mazzetti slides from “the CIA’s secret detention program remains a particularly incendiary issue for the Democratic base” — because, of course, only those wacko lefties worry about war crimes — to the completely bogus assertion that said concerns have made it “difficult for Mr. Obama to select someone . . . who has played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda since 9/11″ (emphasis mine).

So, according to the New Pravda (sometimes known as the New York Times) to criticize crimes against humanity is to oppose the entire campaign against the people responsible for 9/11. Dick Cheney couldn’t have put it better.

Now THAT’S some sleazy journalism we can believe in.

Digby noted the same passage and made a similar point:  that to object to someone like Brennan — who advocated and defended the Bush administration’s rendition and “enhanced interrogation tactics” — is hardly the same as objecting to anyone who “played any role in the agency’s campaign against Al Qaeda.”  And Andrew Sullivan made a related point about an AP article by Pamela Hess which contains this wretched sentence:  “Obama’s advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over Web logs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics, including waterboarding, which critics call torture.”  As Sullivan notes:  “no sane person with any knowledge of the subject disputes the fact that waterboarding is and always has been torture. So why cannot the AP tell the truth?”

All of this underscores a crucial fact:  a major reason why the Bush administration was able to break numerous laws in general, and subject detainees to illegal torture specifically, is because the media immediately mimicked the Orwellian methods adopted by the administration to speak about and obfuscate these matters.  Objective propositions that were never in dispute and cannot be reasonably disputed were denied by the Bush administration, and — for that reason alone (one side says it’s true) — the media immediately depicted these objective facts as subject to reasonable dispute.

Hence:  “war crimes” were transformed into “policy disputes” between hawkish defenders of the country and shrill, soft-on-terror liberals.  “Torture” became “enhanced interrogation techniques which critics call torture.”  And, most of all, flagrant lawbreaking — doing X when the law says:  “X is a felony” — became acting “pursuant to robust theories of executive power” or “expansive interpretations of statutes and treaties” or, at worst, “in circumvention of legal frameworks.” …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2008 at 8:59 am

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