Later On

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

Archive for January 28th, 2010

STOU annotated by James Fallows

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Fallows was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter. His annotated STOU.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 9:49 pm

GOP still determined to oppose everything, propose nothing

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Pat Garofalo at ThinkProgress:

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama urged the Senate to adopt pay-as-you-go rules (PAYGO), which essentially stipulate that all spending increases will be offset by either cuts elsewhere or tax increases. “When the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason for why we had record surpluses in the 1990s,” Obama said.

Today, the Senate followed through, and considering all of the deficit fearmongering that has been going on in Congress, you’d think that it would have passed by a fairly wide margin. But no. Instead, the rules passed on a party line vote of 60-40.

And the blanket Republican opposition is particularly interesting considering that some Senate Republicans used to support PAYGO, even when it was opposed by their own party. For instance, in 2004, three current Senate Republicans — Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — joined 47 Democrats in adopting PAYGO, against the majority Republicans’ wishes (although the rule was ultimately scuttled when Congress failed to pass a budget). The next year, the same three senators were joined by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) in a failed attempt to implement the rule.

Yet all four of them opposed the rule today. Here’s what they’ve had to say in favor of PAYGO in the past:

VOINOVICH: I just don’t understand how we can continue to go this way.We’re living in a dream world. This deficit continues to grow.

COLLINS: [PAYGO is] much-needed restraint for members of Congress as we wrestle with fiscal decisions.

SNOWE: I believe now is the time for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to commit to pay-as-you-go rules for both revenues and spending.

Just last year, Snowe approved of Obama’s advocating for PAYGO. And in the last few weeks, all of these Republicans have voiced concerns about the deficit and spending. So what changed? And why did all the supposed deficit hawks in the Senate — like Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) — vote against it as well? Could it be that they’re actually deficit peacocks, who “like to preen and call attention to themselves, but are not sincerely interested” in addressing deficits?

In last night’s address, Obama chided Senate Republicans, saying that “just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.” They’re not off to a good start.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 5:03 pm

More on the iPad

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A post by an associate professor of medieval literature (who will probably like the iPad because it can accurately display pages from an illuminated book whereas the Kindle cannot). From Dan Colman’s Open Culture:

Today we have a guest post by William Rankin, director of educational innovation, associate professor of medieval literature, and Apple Distinguished Educator, Abilene Christian University. ACU was the first university in the world to announce a comprehensive one-to-one initiative based on iPhones and iPod touches designed to explore the impact of mobility in education. For the past year, they have been considering the future of the textbook. Rankin, who made a brief appearance on NBC Nightly News last night, does a great job here of putting the new Apple iPad in historical context and suggesting why it may solve the great informational problems of our age.

It may seem strange in the wake of a major tech announcement to turn to the past—570 years in the past and beyond — but to consider the role of eBooks and specifically of Apple’s new iPad, I think such a diversion is necessary. Plus, as regular readers of Open Culture know, technology is at its best not when it sets us off on some isolated yet sparkling digital future, but when it connects us more fully to our humanity — to our history, our interrelatedness, and our culture. I want to take a moment, therefore, to look back before I look forward, considering the similarities between Gutenberg’s revolution and recent developments in eBook technologies and offering some basic criteria we can borrow from history to assess whether these new technologies — including Apple’s iPad — are ready to propel us into information’s third age.

In the world before Gutenberg’s press — the first age — information was transmitted primarily in a one-to-one fashion. If I wanted to learn something from a person, I typically had to go to that person to learn it. This created an information culture that was highly personal and relational, a characteristic evidenced in apprenticeships and in the teacher/student relationships of the early universities. This relational characteristic was true even for textual information. The manual technology behind the production and copying of books and the immense associated costs meant that it was difficult for books to proliferate. To see a book — if I couldn’t afford to have my own copy hand-made, a proposition requiring the expenditure of a lifetime’s worth of wages for the average person — meant that I had to go visit the library that owned it. Even then, I might not be allowed to see it if I didn’t have a privileged relationship with its owners. So while the first age was rich in information (a truth that has nothing to do with my personal bias as a medievalist), its primary challenge involved access.

Gutenberg’s revolution, ushering in the second age, solved that problem. Driven by one of the first machines to enable mass-production, information could proliferate for the first time. Multiple copies of books could be produced quickly and relatively cheaply — Gutenberg’s Bible was available at a cost of only three years’ wages for the average clerk — and this meant that books took on a new role in culture. This was the birth of mass media. Libraries exploded from having tens or perhaps a few hundred books to having thousands. Or tens of thousands. Or millions. And this abundance led to three distinct revolutions in culture. Though the university initially fought its introduction, the printed textbook provided broad access to information that, for the first time, promised the possibility of universal education. Widespread access to bibles and theological texts fueled significant transformations in religion across the Western Hemisphere. And access to information, philosophy, and news led to the dismantling of old political hierarchies and some of the first experiments with democracy (have you ever stopped to notice how many of the American revolutionaries were involved in printing and publishing?).

But the proliferation of information had a dark side as well, creating a new …

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 4:59 pm

If a corporation is a person, can it run for Congress?

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Zaid Jilani at ThinkProgress:

Last week, “all five of the [Supreme] Court’s conservatives joined together…to invalidate a sixty-three year-old ban on corporate money in federal elections,” a move that Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said “opens the floodgates for the purchases and sale of the law” by big corporations. While progressives were outraged by the court’s judicial activism, many Republican politicians applauded the decision, with RNC Chairman Michael Steele even calling the ruling nothing more than “an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment.”

The progressive PR firm Murray Hill Inc. has announced that it plans to satirically run for Congress in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th congressional district to protest the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision. A press release on its website says that the company wants to “eliminate the middle man” and run for Congress directly, rather than influencing it with corporate dollars:

“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

“The strength of America,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?” […]

Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that “puts people second” or even third. “The business of America is business, as we all know,” Klein says. “But now, it’s the business of democracy too.” Klein plans to use automated robo-calls, “Astroturf” lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get out the vote.

Murray Hill Inc. plans on spending “top dollar” to protect its investment. “It’s our democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

Murray Hill Inc. released its first campaign video Monday. A narrator in the video explains, “The way we see it, corporate America has been the driving force behind Congress for years. But now it’s time we got behind the wheel ourselves.” Watch it:

UPDATE Radio host Thom Hartmann interviewed Murray Hill Inc’s spokesman Eric Hansel yesterday on his radio show. Hansel explained to Hartmann that his company chose to run in the Republican primary because the GOP is more sympathetic to corporations. Watch it:

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 4:51 pm

iPad will crush Kindle

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Mr. B from Columbus points out this article by Ben Elowitz in the Washington Post:

Editor’s note: Ever since yesterday’s debut of Apple‘s iPad, the debate has been raging about what it means for Amazon’s Kindle. Will it kill it? Will it not? Is comparing the two like comparing a computer to a typewriter? To add fuel to the fire and, well, because we love top 10 lists, we present this guest post from Ben Elowitz, who comes down very firmly on the Kindle-is-kaput side of the debate. Ben is co-founder and CEO of Wetpaint, a media company with an audience of 10 million monthly unique users; and author of the Digital Quarters blog. Prior to Wetpaint, he co-founded Blue Nile (NILE), the largest online retailer of fine jewelry.

1) The multi-functional capability. Buy a Kindle and you get? a reader. Another dedicated device to carry. Buy an iPad, and you get a whole new companion that can do pretty much anything. Games, movies, browsing, documents, and more?all in one. And zillions of iPhone apps. It?s sooooo much more than a reader, it?s a whole-life device.

2) The screen. Full color, multi-touch screen, gestures, and more. It?s a pleasure to look at it ? and we all can rely on Steve Jobs? aesthetics to know that it?s a pleasure to hold as well.

3) The compatibility. iPad supports ePub out of the box, overcoming publishers? resistance to having to support a proprietary format such as Kindle?s; and creating compatibility with books sold through a leading standard format through any channel. (Something tells me Amazon will be making an announcement about ePub support real soon?)

4) The iBooks store. Apple has captured the magic of shopping. Once again, whereas Amazon does great with the functional needs of buying a book, Apple goes beyond to create an experience.

5) The …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 4:45 pm

Day’s events

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Light blogging. The Wife took me out to breakfast at The Breakfast Club, then to the DMV for my driver’s license exam. Thanks to the LASIK, I no longer have the "corrective lenses" restriction—passed the vision test easily with my left eye. Right eye had to struggle, but apparently that doesn’t matter if I will ensure that any bug in the car flies into my right eye, not the left. (Actually, I do wear corrective lenses while driving anyway, but removing a restriction is good.)

I also missed 3 questions on the written test:

You must notify the DMV within 5 days if you…  sell or transfer your vehicle (not "if you have an accident").

Smoking inside a vehicle when a person younger than 18 years of age is present is:  illegal at all times (not "unrestricted by law").

When is it legal to use a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving? When making a call for emergency assistance (not "never").

Then we drove up to Santa Cruz to visit our optician and order new glasses for each of us (new prescriptions, old frame in my case starting to fall apart). Bad news: Takumi frames from Japan are no longer made in Japan: they’ve outsourced all manufacturing and the frames are now of poor quality. (In fact, the optician is no longer carrying them.) But I found a new make that looks as though it will work, and The Wife found a very attractive and lightweight frame (from Austria, I believe).

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tracking programs

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In moving to a new computer, I have to download and reinstall quite a few programs. I am doing this gradually, picking up only those programs I actually use. I think part of the problem with my old computer was that I was a bit too promiscuous is my downloading of software and along the line I picked up a bot. That’s my theory, anyway.

I gradually got quite a few programs through CNET’s download service. That’s a good way to go because you can be reasonably certain that the downloads are virus free and moreover, CNET will email you when a new version of the program becomes available. I’m using those emails to gradually reinstall the programs I want/need.

At the link (which goes to the Windows programs), you will find tabs for Mac, Mobile, and Webware.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2010 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

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