Later On

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

Archive for March 2nd, 2023

Florida bill would require bloggers who write about governor to register with the state

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The US seems to be sleepwalking into an authoritarian takeover — well, except for those diligently working to expedite the change. Sam Sachs writes for WFLA:

Florida Sen. Jason Brodeur (R-Lake Mary) wants bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, and other members of the Florida executive cabinet or legislature to register with the state or face fines.

Brodeur’s proposal, Senate Bill 1316: Information Dissemination, would require any blogger writing about government officials to register with the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics.

In the bill, Brodeur wrote that those who write “an article, a story, or a series of stories,” about “the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature,” and receives or will receive payment for doing so, must register with state offices within five days after the publication of an article that mentions an elected state official.

If another blog post is added to a blog, the blogger would then be required to submit monthly reports on the 10th of each month with the appropriate state office. They would not have to submit a report on months when no content is published. . .

Continue reading. The key, it seems, is to stifle dissent and to identify dissenters (doubtless for special harassment). We’ve seen this movie before, and it doesn’t end well.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 10:04 pm

Here’s the real reason the EPA doesn’t want to test for toxins in East Palestine

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Stephen Lester writes in the Guardian:

The decision to release and burn five tanker cars of vinyl chloride and other chemicals at the site of a 38-car derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, just over three weeks ago unleashed a gigantic cloud full of particulates that enveloped surrounding neighborhoods and farms in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It is well documented that burning chlorinated chemicals like vinyl chloride will generate dioxins. “Dioxin” is the name given to a group of persistent, very toxic chemicals that share similar chemical structures. The most toxic form of dioxin is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin or TCDD. TCDD is more commonly recognized as the toxic contaminant found in Agent Orange and at Love Canal, New York and Times Beach, Missouri, both sites of two of the most tragic environmental catastrophes in US history.

Dioxin is not deliberately manufactured. It is the unintended byproduct of industrial processes that use or burn chlorine. It is also produced when chemicals such as vinyl chloride are burned such as occurred in East Palestine.

The organization I work for, the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, has worked with communities affected by dioxins for over 40 years. We have seen the impact of exposure to dioxins in communities from Love Canal and Times Beach to Pensacola, Florida. And now, we are asking, why isn’t EPA testing for dioxins in East Palestine, Ohio? Are dioxins present in the soil downwind from the site of the accident?

At a townhall meeting in East Palestine last week, people talked about what it was like when the black cloud reached their property. One person who lived 15 miles away described burned ash material from the fire that settled on her property. Another who lived 3 miles away described how the black cloud completely smothered his property. Repeatedly people asked: was it safe for my kids to play in the yard? Is it safe to grow a garden? What is going to happen to my farm animals?

These are important questions that deserve to be answered. Today there are no clear answers. Why? Because no one has done any testing for dioxins anywhere in East Palestine. No one. And, it seems, that the EPA is uninterested in testing for dioxins, behaving as though dioxin is no big deal.

This makes no sense. Testing for dioxin, a highly toxic substance, should have been one of the first things to look for, especially in the air once the decision was made to burn the vinyl chloride. There is no question that dioxins were formed in the vinyl chloride fire. They would have formed on the particulate matter – the black soot – in the cloud that was so clearly visible at the time of the burn. Now, the question is how much is in the soil where people live in and around East Palestine. Without testing, no one will know and the people who live there will remain in the dark, uncertain about their fate.

This is important because . . .

Continue reading.

The institutions, organizations, and agencies whose mission it is to protect the public are failing badly. The police now endanger the public as much as protect it, the EPA no longer protects the environment, the government does not ensure that railroads are safe, the DOJ and FTC have not stopped monopolies, the Supreme Court now takes away rights, companies simply fire anyone who wants a union (illegal, but nothing is done to stop it), … It goes on.

Robert Reich points out a few things:

otal student loan debt erased by Biden plan: $400 billion

Total cost of the 2017 GOP tax cuts: $1.9 trillion

Funny how Republicans have no problem giving corporations and billionaires big tax cuts, but erasing some student loan debt for millions of people is just too much.

and also

The upward redistribution of wealth over the past 40 years has shifted $50 trillion from the bottom 90% to the top 1%. That’s $50 trillion that would have gone into the paychecks of working Americans.

The greatest trick of all is trickle-down economics.

And yet people still will vote for Republicans.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 9:59 pm

Texas Republican wants ISPs to block a wide range of abortion websites

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The US seems to be crumbling quickly to an authoritarian religio-fascist nation. Jon Brodkiin writes in Ars Technica:

A proposed state law in Texas would force Internet service providers to block websites containing information on how to obtain an abortion or abortion pill. Republican lawmaker Steve Toth, a member of the state House of Representatives, introduced the bill last week.

Texas already has several laws that heavily restrict access to abortion, but the new proposal is notable for its attempt to control how ISPs provide access to the Web. “Each Internet service provider that provides Internet services in this state shall make every reasonable and technologically feasible effort to block Internet access to information or material intended to assist or facilitate efforts to obtain an elective abortion or an abortion-inducing drug,” the bill says.

The bill lists six websites that would have to be blocked:, and ISPs would also have to block any website or online platform “operated by or on behalf of an abortion provider or abortion fund” and any website or platform used to download software “that is designed to assist or facilitate efforts to obtain an elective abortion or an abortion-inducing drug.”

Finally, the bill would force ISPs to block any website or platform “that allows or enables those who provide or aid or abet elective abortions, or those who manufacture, mail, distribute, transport, or provide abortion-inducing drugs, to collect money, digital currency, resources, or any other thing of value.”

People who become aware of websites containing prohibited abortion information may notify an ISP “and request that the provider block access to the information or material in accordance with that section,” the bill says.

Bill encourages civil lawsuits

Toth’s proposal isn’t just aimed at ISPs. Individuals in Texas would be prohibited from making or hosting a website or platform “that assists or facilitates a person’s effort in obtaining an abortion-inducing drug,” for example.

More broadly, the bill would establish “civil liability for distribution of abortion-inducing drugs.” It attempts to extend the law’s reach outside the Texas borders, saying “the law of this state applies to the use of an abortion-inducing drug by a resident of this state, regardless of where the use of the drug occurs.” Women who get abortions would not be held liable, as the bill targets distribution instead.

The bill would create a private civil right of action that would let individuals sue people or organizations that violate the proposed law. The private right of action would include letting Texans sue any interactive computer service that provides “information or material that assists or facilitates efforts to obtain elective abortions or abortion-inducing drugs.”

While the bill would make it a criminal offense to pay for the costs of an elective abortion or to destroy evidence of an elective abortion, it mostly limits enforcement to civil lawsuits in other circumstances. It specifies that no state or municipal official can take action against ISPs, interactive computer services, or others who violate specific sections of the law.

ISP liability shield could spur more blocking

Despite the focus on civil lawsuits, the bill says government officials “may request or encourage an Internet service provider to comply with the requirements of this subchapter.” It would also give ISPs a liability shield that could act as an incentive to err on the side of blocking more websites.

ISPs would have “absolute and nonwaivable immunity from liability or suit” for any “action taken to comply with the requirements of this subchapter, or to restrict access to or availability of the information or material described,” the bill says. ISPs that qualify for this immunity would even be able to recover financial damages from people who sue them.

The bill also seems to encourage ISPs to cut off broadband service from people who aim to spread information about abortion. ISPs would have the  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 9:09 pm

OpenAI Is Now Everything It Promised Not to Be: Corporate, Closed-Source, and For-Profit

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Chloe Xiang reports in Vice:

OpenAI is at the center of a chatbot arms race, with the public release of ChatGPT and a multi-billion-dollar Microsoft partnership spurring Google and Amazon to rush to implement AI in products. OpenAI has also partnered with Bain to bring machine learning to Coca-Cola’s operations, with plans to expand to other corporate partners.

There’s no question that OpenAI’s generative AI is now big business. It wasn’t always planned to be this way.

OpenAI Sam CEO Altman published a blog post last Friday titled “Planning for AGI and beyond.” In this post, he declared that his company’s Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)—human-level machine intelligence that is not close to existing and many doubt ever will—will benefit all of humanity and “has the potential to give everyone incredible new capabilities.” Altman uses broad, idealistic language to argue that AI development should never be stopped and that the “future of humanity should be determined by humanity,” referring to his own company.

This blog post and OpenAI’s recent actions—all happening at the peak of the ChatGPT hype cycle—is a reminder of how much OpenAI’s tone and mission have changed from its founding, when it was exclusively a nonprofit. While the firm has always looked toward a future where AGI exists, it was founded on commitments including not seeking profits and even freely sharing code it develops, which today are nowhere to be seen.

OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit research organization by Altman, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, among other tech leaders. In its founding statement, the company declared its commitment to research “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” The blog stated that “since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact,” and that all researchers would be encouraged to share “papers, blog posts, or code, and our patents (if any) will be shared with the world.”

Now, eight years later, we are faced with a company that is neither transparent nor driven by positive human impact, but instead, as many critics including co-founder Musk have argued, is powered by speed and profit. And this company is unleashing technology that, while flawed, is still poised to increase some elements of workplace automation at the expense of human employees. Google, for example, has highlighted the efficiency gains from AI that autocompletes code, as it lays off thousands of workers. 

When OpenAI first began, it was envisioned as doing basic AI research in an open way, with undetermined ends. Co-founder Greg Bockman told The New Yorker, “Our goal right now…is to do the best thing there is to do. It’s a little vague.” This resulted in a shift in direction in 2018 when the company looked to capital resources for some direction. “Our primary fiduciary duty is to humanity. We anticipate needing to marshal substantial resources to fulfill our mission,” the company wrote in an updated charter in 2018.

By March 2019, OpenAI shed its non-profit status and set up a “capped profit” sector, in which the company could now receive investments and would provide investors with profit capped at 100 times their investment. The company’s decision was likely a result of its desire to compete with Big Tech rivals like Google and ended up receiving a $1 billion investment shortly after from Microsoft. In the blog post announcing the formation of a for-profit company, OpenAI continued to use the same language we see today, declaring its mission to “ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI) benefits all of humanity.” As Motherboard wrote when the news was first announced, it’s incredibly difficult to believe that venture capitalists can save humanity when their main goal is profit.

The company faced backlash during its announcement and subsequent release of its GPT-2 language model in 2019. At first,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 10:27 am

Phoenix & Beau The Specialist — again, an extra-creamy lather

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A silvrtip shaving brussh with a striped polo handle next to a tub of soat that shows a white drawing on a black background of the head of a man wearing a winged helmet, his eyes hidden behind a red bar labeled "The Specialist." Next is a small botttle with a white pump cap and a large yellow label that reads "Nourishing Balm." In fron is a slant razor lying on its side.

I want to reprise the Phoenix & Beau experience from yesterday — an exceptionally creamy lather — and to check whether the same would be true for my other P&B soap, The Specialist, an exclusive edition for West Coast Shaving.

I chose Mr Pomp, which has a knot somewhat similar to yesterday’s Rooney Emilion — silvertip, short loft — and again started with a brush that was merely damp. And again I got the creamy lather. I think it would loosen quickly with more water, so add any water sparingly. It’s a very pleasant lather, and The Specialist again had a low-wattage fragrance, though a pleasant one: “vanilla, vetiver, malt whiskey, hops, barley, & freshly picked tobacco leaf” is the fragrance description for the aftershave, and generally that matches the soap. But the fragrance is muted.

My Goodfellas’ smile Legione Slant is quite comfortable but still efficient, and three passes resulted in a BBS result. A drop of Grooming Dept Nourishing Balm finished the shave and left my skin feeling wonderful.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Storm Watcher (though it is in fact a brilliantly sunny morning): “a Yunnan and Ceylon blend — full-bodied with low astringency, a selection of tea terroirs blended for a brisk, satisfying mug. Slightly smoky with toasted malty notes.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 9:58 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

The rogue’s gallery of the Washington Post Opinion Section, a sad, toxic wasteland

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Dan Froomkin has an excellent column at Press Watch on something I’ve also observed: the Washington Post Opinion Section is dominated by hacks and idiots. There are three or four exceptions (Greg Sargent, Jennifer Rubin, Paul Waldman), but the remainder are resolutely shallow and wrong-headed — and Froomkin provides the receipts.

Froomkin writes:

The Washington Post opinion section is arguably the most underachieving real estate on the internet.

What should be a lively, thought-provoking, agenda-setting forum on public policy and other matters is instead dominated by a bevy of unoriginal right-wingers who make stuff up, defend the indefensible, and bore the tears out of you, all at the same time.

One of the many signs of moral rot in the Washington Post’s opinion section is its all-white editorial board. As Sara Fischer reported for Axios this week, Jonathan Capehart resigned from the board under protest in December, leaving ten white people speaking on behalf of the Post.

It is inexcusable and irresponsible to have an all-white editorial board at a national newspaper in this day and age, least of all one based in a city where half the population is Black.

Capehart reportedly quit after the white people on the board couldn’t resist both-sidesing in an editorial about Raphael Warnock’s victory over Herschel Walker in the Georgia senate runoff. The board insisted on taking a gratuitous potshot at the left and the civil rights community, writing that “turnout remained high despite hyperbolic warnings by President Biden and other Democrats that updated voting rules amounted to Jim Crow 2.0.”

Even when it had Black people on it, the Washington Post editorial board was consistently reprehensible. Its long tradition of trolling intelligent people includes insisting that the U.S. should always project power across the globe and that you’re only serious about the budget if you want to cut Social Security and Medicare.

One new twist since their acquisition by mega-magnate Jeff Bezos: Defending corporate greed. Locally, the board has been outright hostile to progressives, preferring Republicans to Democrats who it says “lean left.”

But guess what? Nobody really cares about editorials anyway. The signal failure of the Post’s opinion section has been its choice of columnists and op-ed writers.

Compare it to the New York Times

The New York Times opinion section regularly publishes absolute tripe – most recently, a barrage of virulent and ignorant anti-trans rhetoric and panicking about wokeism. Several of its columnists are well past their sell-by date. Some are just trolls.

But there’s no denying that overall, it remains intellectually stimulating, ground-breaking, and consequential.

The Post’s opinion section doesn’t come in for remotely as much criticism as the Times’s — but that’s because nobody cares about it enough to criticize it.

It offers a regular megaphone to some of the most retrograde ninnies in the business, and has had no impact on the national discourse since torture ended (they were for it).

When’s the last time someone encouraged you to read a column by Marc Thiessen? Or Henry Olsen? Or Gary Abernathy? Or Kathleen Parker?

There are of course a few notable exceptions to the Post opinion section’s mediocrity. The two people closest to must-read status are Greg Sargent and Jennifer Rubin, whose voluminous work product is mostly online-only, and often on the website’s most-read lists.

Sargent, along with his colleague Paul Waldman, provides a sometimes essential reality-check to the Post’s gutless and often deceptive political reporting. Rubin’s current persona – a wild turnaround from her stint as an fanatical Obama-hating neocon – very effectively channels Trump outrage.

Once in a while, E.J. Dionne Jr. and Eugene Robinson and Dana Milbank come up with a gem. Perry Bacon is developing a bold voice. Catherine Rampell has her ups and downs.

But pretty much everyone else is not even worth a hate-read. The op-eds are almost without exception unremarkable.

Hiatt’s Legacy

The sad state of the Post’s opinion section is mostly a testament to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 8:29 am

Rail unions tell Biden officials that workers have fallen ill at Norfolk Southern derailment site

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Uh-oh. This can’t be good. Lori Ann LaRocco reports for CNBC:


  • The presidents of U.S. railroad unions told Biden administration officials that rail workers have fallen ill at the Norfolk Southern derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio, in a push for more train safety.
  • Leaders from 12 unions met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
  • Earlier Wednesday, a group of bipartisan senators introduced The Railway Safety Act of 2023, aimed at preventing future train disasters like the derailment that devastated the Ohio village.

The presidents of U.S. railroad unions told Biden administration officials that rail workers have fallen ill at the Norfolk Southern derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio, in a push for more train safety.

Leaders from 12 unions met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to discuss the derailment, aftermath and needed safety improvements.

“My hope is the stakeholders in this industry can work towards the same goals related to safety when transporting hazardous materials by rail,” said Mike Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. “Today’s meeting is an opportunity for labor to share what our members are seeing and dealing with day to day. The railroaders labor represents are the employees who make it safe and they must have the tools to do so.”

Jeremy Ferguson, president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division, told CNBC that Buttigieg plans on more talks with the unions in the future.

“This was a good start,” said Ferguson. “It’s important these . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 7:54 am

A more nuanced discussion of erythritol and the risks that go with it

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I earlier posted an NPR article on erythritol as a possible cause of heart attack and stroke, and in a comment I noted that Greger’s site has already added a warning note about erythritol, advising that until more is known to avoid it — for example:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Though the observational data does appear rife with reverse causation, a new study published interventional data in mice and in vitro on 2/27/23 that suggests erythritol may indeed be harmful, and so I urge everyone to stop consuming it until we know more.

I don’t sweeten things (with refined sugar or with artificial sweeteners, most of which decimate the microbiome), so it’s not an issue. I have in the past used erythritol to make Greger’s Pink Power Juice, but I haven’t had that for a while. If I make it again, I’ll use date sugar (pulverized dried dates) as the sweetener.

In general, though, I have decided to prefer savory to sweet, and when I do want something sweet, I eat fruit or berries.

Still, what about erythritol, which is used in many “calorie-free” sweet foods? F. Perry Wilson, MD, has a good 7-minute video in Medscape that describes in detail what the experiments were and what they found. It’s worth watching. There’s also a full transcript if you prefer reading to watching.

Written by Leisureguy

2 March 2023 at 7:25 am

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