Later On

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

Archive for June 24th, 2013

Complementary proteins from plants

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UPDATE: Unfortunately, the previous contents of this post was misinformation. I learned more recently that what I had posted all wrong. Indeed, the whole idea of “complementary proteins” is out of whack. I’ve deleted the old content and offer a couple of videos to correct the record.

Here’s the first:

I switched to a whole-food plant-based diet a couple of months ago (I’m writing this on 13 July 2019), and in my investigation I learned a lot. Here’s another video on how vegans/vegetarians do regarding protein:

This post describes in some detail the approach I worked out, along with the reasons for my choices. Take a look at that and see what you think.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Food

Terry Childs: San Francisco’s Imprisoned FiberWAN Administrator

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Very interesting article. Timothy O’Brien writes about Terry Childs:

Is your SysAdmin “maniacal”? Does she or he have an almost religious devotion to security? I’ve worked with a number of system administrators throughout my career, some were great and some were just awful, but the thing I’ve learned to expect is that good system administrators are, by definition, somewhat maniacal when it comes to security. This is what you pay a system administrator for, and I wouldn’t trust a sysadmin who was nonchalant when it came to security policy.

Enter the Terry Childs news story… Childs is the System Admin in San Francisco accused of “hijacking” the City’s network. If you were watching local news, this would be the cue for an ominous graphic (see right) and some sinister music followed by this headline:

News at 10: Terry Childs is a Power-hungry, Maladjusted Maniac Bent on Holding San Francisco Hostage
…oh, and BTW, he was convicted of a felony twenty six years ago.

The mainstream media will have you believe that Terry Childs is a power-hungry maniac, a man bent on holding San Francisco hostage. He is something of a modern day saboteur, a terrorist, if you will, determined to disrupt the civil services of San Francisco. He’s a “rogue employee” who locked everyone out of the system. Here are just a few of the things written about this man from various news sources: From Times Online (UK): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Bigger is often worse

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Bigger institutions are often not responsive—and moreover they crowd out smaller institutions that can provide a diversity of approaches. Richard Eskow at AlterNet looks at several institutions whose size has turned them into problems:

Bigger isn’t always better. From the Tower of Babel to Teddy Roosevelt’s trust-busting, that principle’s been enshrined in law and legend since the dawn of history. Have we forgotten the lesson?

Corporations, databases, storehouses of personal and institutional wealth all are expanding at ever-increasing speed, threatening to engulf our economy and our lives as they do. That’s the problem with Big Things: Once they reached a certain size, they keep on getting bigger.

Here are seven ways the runaway power of Bigger in finance and in data is threatening to overwhelm us all.

1. Bigger Corporations

Americans have known about the danger of overly large corporations since the founding of the Republic. “I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations,” said Thomas Jefferson, “which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”

“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity,” Abraham Lincoln observed. “The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy.”

Even an unlikely populist, Grover Cleveland, said this: “As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear, or is trampled beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.”

Oversized corporate power is why Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It’s why Theodore Roosevelt broke up the railroad. When businesses become so large that competition’s squeezed out, everybody suffers.

And yet today we’re confronted with the largest corporations in history, with predictable, even inevitable, results. In real dollar terms, the minimum wage is less than half what it was in 1968. One of the main reasons for that is that most minimum-wage employees work for large corporations [3] who dominate both their labor markets and the political process.

The Census Bureau [4] reported in 2008 that 33 million Americans—more than 25 percent of the total workforce—worked for corporations with 10,000 employees or more. The largest employer is Walmart, with an astonishing 1,400,000 employees, followed by the company that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, and then McDonald’s.

With that kind of clout it’s easy to keep wages low while doling out record payouts to executives and shareholders. Walmart, for example, paid $11.3 billion in dividends and share buybacks [3] last year. That comes to more than $8,000 per worker. McDonald’s shareholder payouts came to nearly $7,000 per worker.

What’s more, despite their PR campaigns, there’s no evidence that shoppers benefit by paying less for their goods. Walmart aggressively forces prices downward for its suppliers, sometimes below the cost of production. But the suppliers have to make up the difference somewhere, either by over-charging other stores or underpaying their own employees and suppliers.

Either way, it comes out of the public’s pocket in the end.

Companies like Walmart don’t create jobs, either. They take them from elsewhere, and frequently pay less in wages. A Pennsylvania study[5] found a correlation between the presence of Walmart and increases in county-wide poverty, which the authors speculated might have been because “Walmart stores destroy civic capacity in the communities in which they locate by driving out local entrepreneurs and community leaders.”

They can kill leadership at the national level, too.

2. Bigger Banks

The statistics on too-big-to-fail banks and financial institutions are staggering: The largest 0.2 percent of US banks—12 of them, altogether—control 69 percent of the industry’s total assets [6], while 98.6 percent of all banks held only 12 percent of assets.

The four biggest banks still control 83 percent of the derivatives market, and only 25 commercial banks—out of a total of 8,430 FDIC-insured commercial banks in the United States—control roughly 90 percent of the market.

With the exception of struggling Bank of America, the top five banks all grew even more [7] in the first quarter of this year. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, co-authored a plan [8] to address the unfair advantage these banks receive because everybody knows the government won’t let them fail.

And while the mega-banks tell us that customers can benefit from their “economies of scale,” customers have not seen lower rates or charges as the result of their extraordinary consolidation.

These banks are holding the economy and the public hostage to their own possible failure. That’s why they—and the bankers who work for them—were publicly notified [9] by the Attorney General of the United States that they needn’t fear prosecution for their crimes. He later tried to walk that statement back, but he had only articulated a policy that had long been obvious among observers and lawmakers.

Our largest banks are becoming bigger than the law.

3. Bigger . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 1:30 pm

The NYU Scandal Has the Same Cast of Characters as NYSE-Grasso-Gate

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Pam Martens writes at Wall Street on Parade:

Three well known figures on Wall Street find themselves entangled in NYU’s mortgage-gate, exactly one decade after their roles were scrutinized in the biggest New York Stock Exchange scandal since the Senate hearings of the early 1930s exposed the shady dealings of its members.

In 2003, Wall Street super-lawyer, Martin Lipton, was advising his friend, Richard (Dick) Grasso, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, on a massive compensation plan while simultaneously serving as counsel to the Stock Exchange’s committee on governance and as Chairman of its Legal Advisory Committee.

Joining Lipton in the unpleasant public spotlight was Kenneth Langone, Chair of the Exchange’s Compensation Committee, which had awarded Grasso $130 million in compensation and benefits for the three-year period of 2000 through 2002. That sum represented 99 percent of the Exchange’s net income for those three years according to then New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in a court filing.

Members of the Compensation Committee included executives of the very firms regulated by the Exchange who had excellent reasons to want to curry favors with Grasso. Laurence D. Fink, CEO of the money management firm, BlackRock, was one of the members of the Compensation Committee.  At the time this was playing out, the New York Stock Exchange was a not-for-profit institution subsidized by the taxpayer.

A few days before Labor Day in 2003 (timed to dampen media reaction), the Board of the Exchange issued a press release indicating it had paid a lump sum of $139.5 million to Grasso. Shortly thereafter, the Board learned that Grasso was owed another $48 million under his 2003 contract, which Lipton, according to an internal review, said “had been earned by Grasso and was legally his.”

Patrick Collins III, a floor trader, led a petition to oust management and together with other stock exchange members filed a complaint against Lipton with a legal disciplinary committee. Grasso resigned at the request of the Board and John Reed, a former Chairman of Citigroup, was brought in to clean up the Board and impose new governance controls. The law firm, Winston & Strawn, issued a detailed report of the matter, confirming Spitzer’s findings that Grasso’s pay had been unreasonable. Winston & Strawn had this to say on the impact to the NYSE’s brand and goodwill: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Business, Education

Texas! What a state!

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Lincoln Caplan discusses in the NY Times how Texas is No. 1 in executing prisoners (and in distorting trials to make sure minorities are easily convicted):

On Wednesday, Texas is scheduled to execute its 500th death-row inmate since the Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976. The state hasexecuted nearly five times as many people as Virginia, the second state on the list.

Texas’s death penalty system is notorious for its high tolerance of ineffective counsel for defendants, overly zealous prosecutors, and racial discrimination in jury selection. The case of Kimberly McCarthy, the woman scheduled for execution, seems tainted by all three.

Ms. McCarthy is an African-American who was sentenced to death in 2002 for murdering a white woman. That’s not surprising: In Texas as well as other states, a black person who murders a white person is more likely to receive the death penalty than when the victim is black.

The 12-person jury that convicted and sentenced Ms. McCarthy included only one person who wasn’t white, after prosecutors used their peremptory, or automatic, challenges to strike three other non-whites. That was in apparent violation of a Supreme Court ruling against purposeful exclusion of minorities from a jury when a minority is the defendant.

The defense counsel did not challenge these apparently unconstitutional race-based strikes or request the kind of hearing for doing so that the Supreme Court allows. The lawyer did not raise the issue on appeal. A different counsel did not raise the issue in the defendant’s later challenge through a writ of habeas corpus.

Because of these failures, no court has ever reviewed the merits of Ms. McCarthy’s claims about racial discrimination. Last week, Ms. McCarthy petitioned for that kind of review from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, represented by a new lawyer who is an expert in capital cases. As of Monday morning, the court had not yet decided the case. It is expected to rule by Tuesday.

Ms. McCarthy was convicted and sentenced in Dallas County, Texas where the prosecutor’s office has a well-documented history of intentional discrimination going back to the 19th century. Calling it history, though, misrepresents the reality. The discrimination has continued, on a modern foundation of deliberate bias.

In 1963, a manual of the office instructed that prosecutors should not take “Jews, Negroes, Dagos, Mexicans, or a member of any minority race on a jury, no matter how rich or how well educated.” In 1986, the Dallas Morning News reported that county prosecutors were still trying to keep almost all blacks off juries by using peremptory challenges.

In one trial that year, prosecutors used challenges to keep 10 of 11 blacks in the pool of candidates from serving on a jury. They justified the strikes with . . .

Continue reading.

Texas is also trying to ensure that only illegal abortions are available to women. Katie McDonough in Salon:

Leaflets printed with Bible verses littered the desks of Texas lawmakers early Monday as House Republicans voted to approve a sweeping abortion measure that, if passed, would shutter 37 of the state’s 42 abortion clinics.

Senate bill 5 aims to ban abortion after 20 weeks, force clinic doctors to hold admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and restrict abortions to surgical centers, measures that opponents say will virtually outlaw the procedure in the state and deny thousands of women vital medical care.

“If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,” Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also oppose the measure.

Hundreds of protesters filled the Capitol building on Sunday to voice their opposition to the measure, while House Democrats tried to delay the vote by drawing out the debate and adding amendments to alter the bill.

As reported by Chris Tomlinson at the Associated Press, one such amendment would have called for an exemption to the ban in cases of rape and incest; state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, felt such an exception was unnecessary because “in the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out,” she said, incorrectly comparing the procedure to collect physical evidence after a sexual assault to an abortion. “The woman had five months to make that decision, at this point we are looking at a baby that is very far along in its development.”

Following the exchange, Laubenberg, who is also the bill’s sponsor and a member of the state’s public health committee, rejected all proposed changes to the measure. House Republicans then forced a vote. The measure passed 97-33.

Senate Democrats said they will try to stage a filibuster until the special legislative session ends at midnight Tuesday night.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Is the government growing more stupid? A patent case suggests, “Yes.”

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Timothy Lee writes in the Washington Post:

Forget patenting an invention. These days, companies patent conceptual categories for future inventions.

During the first dot-com boom, Amazon famously patented the concept of buying things online with one click. More recently, companies have patented concepts such as scanning documents to an e-mail account, clearing checks electronically andsending e-mail over a wireless network.

The problem with these kinds of abstract patents is that lots of people will independently discover the same basic concept and infringe by accident. Then the original patent holder — who may not have come up with the concept first, or even turned the concept into a usable technology — can sue. That allows for the kind of abusive litigation that has been on the rise in recent years.A lawsuit over an Internet advertising patent offered a key appeals court an opportunity to rein in these abstract patents. Instead, the court gave such patents its endorsement on Friday, setting the stage for rampant patent litigation to continue unchecked.

A firm called Ultramercial claims to have invented the concept of showing a customer an ad instead of charging for content. The company has sought royalties from a number of Web sites, including Hulu and YouTube. Ultramercial’s patent isn’t limited to any specific software algorithm, server configuration or user interface design. If you build a Web site that follows the general business strategy claimed by the patent, Ultramercial thinks you owe them money.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that abstract ideas cannot be patented. So one of Ultramercial’s targets, a company called WildTangent, challenged the validity of the patent. But in a 2011 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears appeals in all patent cases, sided with Ultramercial, holding that its patent is not too abstract to be patented.

In 2012, after striking down another abstract patent, the Supreme Court ordered the Federal Circuit to reconsider its 2011 decision.

On Friday, the Federal Circuit’s three-judge panel stuck to its guns. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Business, Law

The slide into fascism

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Fascism, as I understand it, is when corporations combines forces with the government, and that clearly seems to be the direction we’re going—one example: oil companies calling on DHS to take care of protestors by defining them as terrorists (“eco-terrorists”) and asking DHS to “take care of” them. John Pilger writes at AlterNet:

In his book, Propaganda, published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term “public relations” as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and “security” agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: “I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law … so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

On 11 June, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now “that abyss”.

Snowden’s revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism – that is the “abyss”. Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world – from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia – the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.

Fred Branfman, who exposed the “secret” destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. “Under Mr. Obama,” he wrote for AlterNet, “no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state.” Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand “the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962.”

In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt – they met in the ruins of Iraq – have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying program, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.

Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays’s point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were “torches of freedom” that would hasten women’s liberation.

It is in popular culture that the fraudulent “ideal” of America as morally superior, a “leader of the free world”, has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood’s most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.

When I showed my own film, The War on Democracy, to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to “ensure the movie is acceptable”. His memorable sop to me was: “OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?” Lately, Katherine Bigelow’s torture-apologizing Zero Dark Thirtyand Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets, a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in “liberated” Iraq.

The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by Collateral Damage, the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as “nice”. Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 12:23 pm

Insight into autism

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Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:59 am

Eat red meat, get type 2 diabetes

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Interesting article on NPR:

You’ve likely heard about the link between sugar consumption and Type 2 diabetes. But fresh research ties another dietary pattern to increased risk of the disease, too: eating too much red meat.

It’s not that we are trying to pick on meat (I’m a meat-eater, in moderation), but the recent studies linking carnivorous habits to health problems seem to be piling up. We’ve had Salami Suicide and Death By Bacon. Now, there’s a study that links red meat consumption to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.

The researchers tracked what happens after people changed their meat-eating habits, using data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study, which include about 100,000 people. Diet was assessed by food frequency questionnaires.

“Some people [in the study] increased their red meat consumption and other people decreased their consumption,” says Dr. Frank Huof the Harvard School of Public Health, one of the co-authors of the paper, which appears in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study found that among those who started eating more red meat, about 3.5 servings more per week, the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes during four years of follow-up increased by almost 50 percent, which Hu describes as “a really large increase.”

As with previous studies linking red meat to health concerns, the researchers found that processed red meats such as hot dogs and bacon were more strongly associated with the risk of diabetes.

Among those who starting eating less red meat, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:57 am

Treat gun companies like vaccine manufacturers

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Interesting op-ed by Lucinda Finley and John Culhane in the NY Times:

GUN manufacturers have gone to great lengths to avoid any moral responsibility or legal accountability for the social costs of gun violence — the deaths and injuries of innocent victims, families torn apart, public resources spent on gun-related crime and medical expenses incurred.

But there is a simple and direct way to make them accountable for the harm their products cause. For every gun sold, those who manufacture or import it should pay a tax. The money should then be used to create a compensation fund for innocent victims of gun violence.

This proposal is based on a fundamentally conservative principle — that those who cause injury should be made to “internalize” the cost of their activity by paying for it. Now, gun manufacturers and sellers are mostly protected from lawsuits by federal law.

As it happens, a model for this approach already exists. Under the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, those injured by vaccines are eligible for compensation from a fund financed by an excise tax on the sale of every dose of vaccine. In creating this no-fault system in the 1980s, Congress sought to provide care for those injured by vaccines while protecting manufacturers from undue litigation.

Vaccines are essential for public health but inevitably cause harm to a small number of people. Since all of us benefit from a vaccinated population, the compensation program spreads the costs when things go wrong to everyone who received a vaccination, rather than leaving the injured and their families to bear the cost. It also avoids the time, expense and inefficiencies of litigation, and dispenses with the need to prove fault. The compensation fund thus ensures that vaccine manufacturers will remain in the market rather than being forced out by the prospect of huge legal judgments against them.

Guns, of course, are not essential for public health. But Congress has made painfully clear that it values the largely unfettered ownership of guns and their manufacture — despite the social costs of the violence that results when guns work as designed. For that reason, it makes sense to tax gun manufacturers directly. The result would be that those who derive a benefit from guns — for hunting, target practice, self-defense or simply for collecting — would shoulder some of the social costs of their choice as manufacturers pass along the cost of the tax to them.

Such a tax might also exert at least some economic pressure on manufacturers to market especially lethal guns less aggressively, or to implement safer gun technologies, like “smart guns” that could be used only by the registered owner. Right now, they have no such incentive — they’re immune from most lawsuits, and guns are expressly exempt from regulation by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is supposed to protect the public from unreasonable risks from consumer products. (Thus, the commission can ban lawn darts or cork guns, but not real firearms.)

Since safer guns would mean fewer compensable injuries or deaths, the tax should be adjustable, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:54 am

Highway Robbery for High-Speed Internet

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Paul Waldman writes in The American Prospect:

If you’re one of those Northeastern elitists who reads The New York Times, you turned to the last page of the front section Friday and saw an op-ed from a Verizon executive making the case that “the United States has gained a global leadership position in the marketplace for broadband,” and don’t let anyone tell you different. “Hey,” you might have said. “Didn’t I read an almost identical op-ed in the Timesjust five days ago?” Indeed you did, though that one came not from a telecom executive but from a researcher at a telecom-funded think-tank. And if you live in Philadelphia, your paper recently featured this piece from a top executive at Comcast, explaining how, yes, American broadband is the bee’s knees.

That smells an awful lot like a concerted campaign to convince Americans not to demand better from their broadband providers. Perhaps they’re trying to influence the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who has been named by President Obama but not yet confirmed (they probably don’t have to worry; the nominee, Tom Wheeler, is a former lobbyist for telecom companies). Or perhaps they just want to make sure the public isn’t overly affected by the public-interest groups that for years have been complaining that compared to other advanced countries, the broadband Americans have is spotty, slow, and absurdly overpriced.

The telecoms are right about one thing: In the last few years, broadband speeds have improved. Instead of being ranked in the 20s or 30s when it comes to the average speed of their internet, America by at least one measure has cracked the top ten. We still trail Japan and Hong Kong and Switzerland and Latvia and South Korea and … well, you get the idea. But it has gotten better.

But we’re paying for what we get—oh boy, are we ever paying.

There is blazing fast internet available in America—if you live in the right place. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, around half of Americans have access to service with download speeds over 100 megabytes per second. That’s a big increase over just a few years ago; in 2010, only one in 10 Americans could access those speeds. But access is all but meaningless if the service is so outrageously expensive that only a few people can afford it. Last year, Comcast debuted its “Xfinity Platinum” service, delivering 300 megabytes per second—for an unbelievable $300 a month. Verizon’s Fios Quantum gives the same speed for a mere $200 a month. If you’re in Hong Kong, you can get 1 gigabit service—over three times as fast—for less than $50. . .

Continue reading. It’s odd that the US is so backward in its broadband speed. Some is due to wide-open spaces, but that doesn’t apply to the Boston-Washington corridor.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:30 am

Posted in Business, Technology

Why shouldn’t David Gregory be charged with a crime?

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David Sirota asks the question in Salon:

Two weeks into the hullaballoo surrounding whistleblower Edward Snowden and Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, one thing is clear: they did not just reveal potentially serious crimes perpetrated by the government — including possible perjury, unlawful spying and unconstitutional surveillance. They also laid bare in historic fashion the powerful double standards that now define most U.S. media coverage of the American government — the kind that portray those who challenge power as criminals, and those who worship it as heroes deserving legal immunity. Indeed, after “Meet the Press” host David Gregory’s instantly notorious performance yesterday, it is clear Snowden’s revelations so brazenly exposed these double standards that it will be difficult for the Washington press corps to ever successfully hide them again.

The best way to see these double standards is to ponder 10 simple questions.

1. During that “Meet the Press” discussion yesterday of Greenwald publishing stories about Snowden’s disclosures, Gregory asked Greenwald, “Why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Beyond the odiousness of a supposed journalist like Gregory seeming to endorse criminal charges against journalists for the alleged crime of committing journalism, there’s an even more poignant question suggested by Mother Jones’ David Corn: Why hasn’t David Gregory asked reporters at the Washington Post, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News the same question, considering their publication of similar leaks? Is it because Greenwald is seen as representing a form of journalism too adversarial toward the government, while those establishment outlets are still held in Good Standing by Washington?

2. Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation asks a question that probably won’t be asked of Gregory: Should Gregory himself be prosecuted? After all, as Trimm notes, “when interviewing Greenwald, he repeated what government officials told him about classified FISA opinions.” So will anyone of Gregory’s stature in Washington go on national television and ask if Gregory should now be charged with a crime?

3. Later during “Meet the Press’” discussion of Greenwald’s reporting, NBC’s Chuck Todd demanded to know “How much was (Greenwald) involved in the plot?…What was his role — did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information? And is he going to have to answer those questions?” Why did Todd not ask that same question of reporters at Washington Post, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News? Again, is it because Greenwald is seen as representing a form of journalism too adversarial toward the government, while those establishment outlets are still held in Good Standing by Washington?

4. A year ago, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane published a hagiographic article about President Obama’s so-called “kill list.” This article was based on selective — and potentially illegal — leaks of classified information by White House officials. Likewise, a recent draft Inspector General report documented then-CIA director Leon Panetta’s possibly illegal release of top secret information to filmmaker Mark Boal for his Obama-worshiping film, “Zero Dark Thirty.” Why haven’t Gregory or the Washington press asked whether the Becker, Shane and Boal “should be charged with a crime” for doing what Greenwald did by publishing that secret information?

5. In light of the Obama administration’s decision to prosecute Snowden and other whistleblowers for leaking, why haven’t Gregory or other reporters asked the Obama administration whether similar prosecutions will soon be forthcoming against the leakers who were the sources of the New York Times “kill list” story and “Zero Dark Thirty”?

6. After an appearance on ABC’s “This Week”, former Obama aide and corporate raider Steve Rattner took to Twitter and accused Snowden of being “a criminal, not a whistleblower.” Such outraged accusations of criminality are more than a bit rich coming from a guy fined by the SEC and banned from the securities industry for pay-to-play crimes. But on top of that, there’s this question: Why didn’t Rattner accuse aforementioned Obama officials who similarly leaked classified info of being criminals, too?

7. The Obama administration’s Department of Justice prosecuted major league pitcher Roger Clemens of perjury before Congress. It was precisely the same kind of perjury that Snowden’s disclosures showed that National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA chief Keith Alexander engaged in during their sworn testimony before Congress. Why haven’t Washington reporters bothered to ask the administration if it will prosecute Clapper and NSA chief Keith Alexander on the same charges that the administration aimed at Clemens?

8. On top of exposing Clapper and Alexander’s possible perjury, we also know that according to the New York Times, the NSA “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress.” Additionally, we now know that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled that at least some of the NSA’s surveillance programs are illegal. In light of that, why do many media outlets still somehow portray the NSA surveillance programs as perfectly legal?

9. . . .

Continue reading.

The NSA leak is revealing just how far the US has moved from toward a government and press in thrall to power and wealth. The country will not long survive if it goes in this direction—at least, not in the usual understanding of what the US represents.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:18 am

Top Ten Ways US TV News are Screwing us Again on NSA Surveillance Story (Iraq Redux)

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Very good post from Juan Cole. TV news is totally owned and controlled by major corporations, so the “news” you get is always slanted, and stories that would disfavor the corporate owners are simply blocked.

US television news is a danger to the security of the United States. First, it is so oriented to ratings that it cannot afford to do unpopular reports (thus, it ignored al-Qaeda and the Taliban for the most part before 9/11). Second, it is so oriented toward the halls of power inside the Beltway that it is unable to examine government allegations critically. US television news was an unrelieved cheering section for the launching of the illegal and disastrous Iraq War, which will end up costing the taxpayers many trillions of dollars, which seriously wounded 32,000 US military personnel (many of them will need help the rest of their lives), which left over 4000 soldiers, Marines and sailors dead, and which was responsible for the deaths of on the order of 300,000 Iraqis, the wounding of 1.2 million Iraqis, and the displacement from their homes of 4 million Iraqis (out of a then population of 26 million). In 2002 and 2003, Bush administration leakers and ex-generals led the television reporters and anchors by the nose. The corporations were all for the war, and they own the news. Where on-screen talent was unwilling to go along, such as Phil Donohue or Ashley Banfield, they were just fired.

Now, corporate television news is repeating this shameful performance with regard to the revelations by Edward Snowden of massive, unconstitutional government surveillance of Americans’ electronic communications. The full failure to do proper journalism was on display on Sunday (when, unfortunately, critical voices such as Rachel Maddow are absent). Here are the propaganda techniques used to stack the deck on Sunday:

1. Focus on the personality, location, and charges against the leaker instead of the substance of his revelations.

2. Smear Snowden with ad hominem fallacies. His transit through Moscow was held up as a sign of disloyalty to the United States, as though nowadays American business people and government officials don’t transit through Moscow all the time. The US ships significant amounts of military materiel for Afghanistan through Russia. Is that treasonous?

3. Focus on politicians making empty threats against China and Russia for not being sufficiently obedient to the United States. The US can’t do anything to either one that wouldn’t hurt the US more than it did them.

4. Ignore important breaking stories that impugn the government case. For instance, The Guardian broke the story Saturday morning that the NSA PRISM program was small compared to the TEMPORA program of GCHQ, its British counterpart, which Snowden alleged has attached sniffers to the fiber optic cables that stretch from New York to London, and is vacuuming up massive amounts of email and telephone conversations. A Lexis Nexis search in broadcast transcripts for Sunday showed that no US news broadcastermentioned TEMPORA or GCHQ. This was true even though the NSA has 250 analysts assigned to TEMPORA and even though that program sweeps up and stores exactly the kind of material (telephone calls, emails) that President Obama denied were being collected.

5. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 9:03 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Media, NSA

New stuff, great shave

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SOTD 24 June 2013

Really fine shave today. The brush with the Snoo is my new Wicked_Edge brush, with a badger+horsehair knot. It’s a very nice brush indeed, made by Vie-Long. The shaving soap is new to me, and I’ll be using it more. This morning I got a good lather despite the puck slipping around in the tub (purchased separately from Mama Bear). The fragrance is good, but I need more experience.

My vintage German slant did a fine job with a three-pass shave, and finish of Creed’s Green Irish Tweed makes a good start to the week.

I did indeed use a Jlocke98 pre-shave. I finally got my bottles and mixed up four types. (I am also interested in grapeseed oil and avocado oil and almond oil). I used 1/4 c Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap and 2 tsp of the oil. Here they are, just after mixing and shaking:

Pre-shaves shaken

After they settled overnight, the soil separated somewhat, just like the (hazelnut) oil in my Martin De Candre shampoo, shown at the left. So these are “shake before using” mixes.

Preshaves settled

The one I used this morning was the emu-oil mix. It seemed to work well. I’ll use it for the week, then try a different one for a week.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 June 2013 at 8:52 am

Posted in Shaving

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