Later On

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

Archive for July 28th, 2012

Corporations really do intend to seize the government

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They were beat back in this one effort, but they surely will return. Steve Horn reports in Nation of Change:

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional. The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 “…violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.”

Act 13 — pejoratively referred to as “the Nation’s Worst Corporate Giveaway” by AlterNet reporter Steven Rosenfeld — would have ended local democracy as we know it in Pennsylvania.

“It’s absolutely crushing of local self-government,” Ben Price, project director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), told Rosenfeld. “It’s a complete capitulation of the rights of the people and their right to self-government. They are handing it over to the industry to let them govern us. It is the corporate state. That is how we look at it.”

Where could the idea for such a bill come from in the first place? Rosenfeld pointed to the oil and gas industry in his piece.

That’s half of the answer. Pennsylvania is the epicenter of the ongoing fracking boom in the United States, and by and large, is a state seemingly bought off by the oil and gas industry.

The other half of the question left unanswered, though, is who do oil and gas industry lobbyists feed anti-democratic, state-level legislation to?

The answer, in a word: ALEC.

PA Act 13, Originally an ALEC Model Bill 

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is in the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. ALEC is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative, Republican Party-centric “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC’s meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze, and then vote on what it calls “model bills.” Lobbyists have a “voice and a vote in shaping policy,” CMD explains. They have de facto veto power over whether their prospective bills become “models” that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

A close examination suggests that an ALEC model bill is quite similar to the recently overturned Act 13.

It is likely modeled after and inspired by an ALEC bill titled . . .

Continue reading. The effort to seize control of government is unremitting, because the government is the last barrier to corporations doing whatever they want.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 7:22 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Government, Law

Oofta! Passwords brought up to snuff.

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Three full days, pecking away at passwords. Every log-on has its own unique password now, a scrambled mix of 12-14 characters, with a few exceptions. Some sites, it turns out, do not allow you to change your password—those are few, though, and universally of no danger. So a hacker gets into the grocery list program and runs off his own grocery list on my account: no serious damage done. As one would expect, the sites that do business are more, well, business-like.

Around 15% of the sites in my LastPass list turned out to be gone, with a 404 message or a placekeeper page of links for various products—not surprising: it’s a volatile business. For a surprising number—perhaps 5%—I was warned not to try logging: “site not trustworthy”. They were mostly obscure sites, but one was ThinkLinkr.com, which has a very nice outliner that I now will not be using. I’m not so willing to take chances as I once was, following this password-fixing effort. (I did try the URL of the untrustworthy sites in both Firefox and Chrome, and both browsers warned me away.)

LastPass has a number of quirks of its own, and I definitely plan to browse through the help document to get a better understanding of some of its decisions—for example, when you register to create an account, LastPass will often store that URL as the log-in URL, which of course does not work. From now on when I save a site with LastPass, I will definitely inspect the information stored to fix such errors. On the whole, though, the program is invaluable and it’s designed so that these little tweaks are easily done.

Really, since it can generate secure passwords on the fly as you create an account, there’s no sense in having “standard” passwords—except, I suppose, for sites that you visit from a variety of computers. But that doesn’t apply to me, so I have no excuse.

This sort of mind-deadening detail work in which you have to be careful and pay attention is draining, I find. I feel totally exhausted—but very glad that it’s done.

Do check shouldichangemypassword.com to verify that your email is not present among the (many) hacked accounts. Until businesses suffer for having poor security, this sort of thing will continue to happen: they don’t want to pay money to protect others from damage, only themselves. I personally think some laws are in order, given that the market has totally failed to address this problem.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 5:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Nuns working on response to Vatican rebuke

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It will be interesting in seeing how this plays out. The nuns seem to be approaching their duties from considering the precepts of Christ whereas the Vatican views the duties of the nuns based on demands and requirements of the organization. Laurie Goodstein reports in the NY Times:

American nuns are preparing to assemble in St. Louis next week for a pivotal meeting at which they will try to decide how to respond to a scathing critique of their doctrinal loyalty issued this spring by the Vatican — a report that has prompted Roman Catholics across the country to rally to the nuns’ defense.

The nuns will be weighing whether to cooperate with the three bishops appointed by the Vatican to supervise the overhaul of their organization, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents about 80 percent of women’s Catholic religious orders in the United States.

The Leadership Conference says it is considering at least six options that range from submitting graciously to the takeover to forming a new organization independent of Vatican control, as well other possible courses of action that lie between those poles.

What is in essence a power struggle between the nuns and the church’s hierarchy had been building for decades, church scholars say. At issue are questions of obedience and autonomy, what it means to be a faithful Catholic and different understandings of the Second Vatican Council.

Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the Leadership Conference, said in an interview that the Vatican seems to regard questioning as defiance, while the sisters see it as a form of faithfulness.

“We have a differing perspective on obedience,” Sister Farrell said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”

These same conflicts are gripping the Catholic Church at large. Nearly 50 years after the start of Vatican II, which was intended to open the church to the modern world and respond to the “signs of the times,” the church is gravely polarized between a progressive wing still eager for change and reform and a traditionalist flank focused on returning to what it sees as doctrinal fundamentals. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 9:58 am

Posted in Religion

Educational game for iPad

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For those who have the combination of a tablet computer and a small child, this educational game sounds intriguing and worthwhile. It sounds as though it would develop the “feel” for equation solving, which provides a solid support for rules learned later. Rules alone are inadequate, since rules require memorization and rote application, whereas having a feel for the process allows one to approach with confidence the task of solving the problem.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 7:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Games

Windows workhorse laptop computer choice

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Wirecutter has a detailed and favorable review of the Lenovo T430 as a good choice for a solid Windows laptop at $830. Read here for full particulars.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 7:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Tabula Rasa, Rod Neep, and the Red-Tipped Super Speed

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Today saw another excellent shave. Tabula Rasa is a German shaving cream and the Dark Lavender fragrance is extremely nice. With the Rod Neep (Pens of the Forest) brush shown, I immediately worked up a fine lather, and the red-tipped Super Speed with a Schick Plus Platinum blade delivered a smooth shave. The acoustics today seemed excellent, and the sound of the stubble’s being cut was distinct. A splash of Mr. Taylor’s aftershave, and I’m ready for the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

28 July 2012 at 7:30 am

Posted in Shaving

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