Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category

Doesn’t this count as yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater?

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And given that exception, shut down the site and fine the owners substantial sums.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 4:54 pm

Two videos showing lack of control and accountability for prosecutors

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

The first is from Anthony Fischer at Reason.tv. It includes just about every drug war excess imaginable, including a militarized police raid for a nonviolent crime, vaguely written drug laws, prosecutorial misconduct, the coercive use of bond, abuse of conspiracy charges, abuse of the plea bargain and the intimidation of media and witnesses to duck transparency.

The second video is from the conservative criminal justice reform group Right on Crime. It’s about prosecutorial discretion and the criminalization of environmental law. The couple in the video were forbidden from building on a parcel of land they had purchased when, after they had purchased it, it was designated a “wetland,” apparently because a backed-up drainage system had caused some standing water . . .

Continue reading.

You know, regarding the first video, I’ve seen police aggression exactly like this in movies, but generally it’s Cold War East German movies, or Soviet-spy thrillers set in Moscow: such police actions and tactics were viewed as a sign of a bad government, a government that was starting to oppress its citizens. It’s a pretty familiar pattern, and I’m sorry to see it underway in the US.

Another example, from a NY Times article by Jim Dwyer today:

. . . When Bill de Blasio was running for mayor last year, he noted that marijuana arrests, which fall most heavily on black and Latino males, “have disastrous consequences,” and pledged to curtail the practice of ratcheting up what should be a minor violation of the law into a misdemeanor.

This week, a report showed that such arrests were continuing at about the same pace as last year; the de Blasio mayoralty had not appreciably changed the number of such cases. The Legal Aid Society has a roster of clients across the city who face misdemeanor charges for possession of minuscule amounts of pot because, it was charged, they were “openly displaying” it. About 75 percent of those charged had no prior criminal convictions, and more than 80 percent were black or Latino, according to the report, from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance. . .

Think about it: the NYPD no longer heeds the mayor. The NYPD is an independent entity with no controlling authority—well, no authority that can in fact exert control.

Police departments in this country are starting to seem like military emplacements to control the citizenry—at least in places (cf. Ferguson MO).

And the above raid was done with the support and participation of Federal law enforcement. It’s a little too Kristallnachtish for my taste. If you say, “Well, that’s only one case” (or three, depending on how you count), I would point out that each case is only one case—and moreover, don’t we want to take vigorous action to nip this kind of police work in the bud?

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 2:46 pm

Another example of expectations misfiring: Face judgments

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A very intriguing article by James Hamblin in The Atlantic. From the article:

. . . “When we see someone’s face, we can make a lot of useful judgments,” he said, “like about age, emotional state, gender, et cetera. For this, the face is pretty useful. But there’s a pretty rich literature showing that we don’t just stop there.” . . .

“The fact that social decisions are influenced by facial morphology would be less troubling if it were a strong and reliable indicator of people’s underlying traits,” the researchers write in today’s article. “Unfortunately, careful consideration of the evidence suggests that it is not.”

The primary problem is that people feel they have this sense, and they ignore other relevant information, Olivola said. Politics is a great example. His research has shown that politicians whose facial structure is deemed to look more competent are more likely to win elections. (They use actual politicians in these studies. Fortunately for researches, Olivola noted, most Americans don’t know who most congressional candidates are.) But that sense of competence in a face amounts to nothing. “We really can’t make a statement on that,” he said. “What’s an objective measure of competence?” . . .

And, as you might expect about judgments based on expectations, the judgments we make about a person based on their facial appearance naturally would often be wrong.

Read the article. Both interesting and useful (if we learn how to desist from such judgments—it will  take practice, I’m sure).

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 2:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Everyone In America Would Be Better Off If We Soaked The Rich

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Take a look at this chart, from a Slate article by Eliot Spitzer:

Marginal tax rates and GDP

Two things should be evident: the US marginal tax rate is currently VERY low (even compared with our own history, much less compared to developed nations in the EU), and that dropping the marginal tax rate has zero effect on GDP: the notion that we would get lots of economic growth from cutting taxes is quite clearly false—and always has been. (Kansas is finding that out now. Thanks, Kansas, for taking one for team.)

Obviously, without tax revenue, government expenditures must be cut—or, to put it more bluntly, government services that help the public will be shut down. (One could, of course, say that a lot of tax money is spent for the wrong things—e.g., the $7.6 billion totally wasted in trying to shut down the opium trade in Afghanistan: we spent $7.6 billion, and the trade increased. The money may as well have been burned. And let’s not even talk about the $2 trillion Iraq war, which opened the door to jihadist revolution now underway.)

But government revenues have indeed fallen, so government services are cut, favoring cuts to groups that have no lobbyists: the poor, minorities, the mentally ill (now sent to prison or shot), and so on. In the meantime, bank lobbyists (several of whom are former heads of the SEC) are berating the SEC for feebly attempting to enforce the law. Their chutzpah knows no bounds—banks are the NSA of money: they want to collect it all.

Bryce Covert has a modest solution, which he describes at ThinkProgress:

A 90 percent tax rate on the top 1 percent of American earners wouldn’t just significantly reduce income and wealth inequality and boost government tax revenues. It would also be the optimal level for Americans’ welfare, according to a new paper from economists Fabian Kindermann and Dirk Krueger.

They find that the top marginal tax rate that maximizes government revenues before being so high as to discourage the wealthiest from earning more is very high, or 95 percent on those who are among the top 1 percent of earners. They also find that a 90 percent tax rate on the richest 1 percent could significantly reduce the Gini index, a measure of income inequality, and wealth inequality would also steadily decline.

But these effects aren’t worth the policy change in and of themselves, they argue. In an email to ThinkProgress, Krueger wrote, “One could certainly reduce inequality in the economy to zero, by the government confiscating all income and wealth and redistributing it equally among all households… Of course people would stop working and saving and the outcome would be disastrous.” But the interesting finding in their paper is that the same tax rate that would maximize revenues and drive down inequality is nearly the same one that would make everyone better off, or what they call the optimal top marginal tax rate.

Everyone’s welfare is improved if a tax change allows the government to compensate them with enough wealth so that they are at the same level they were before the change, but the government still has money left over. “The more is left over, the better is the reform,” Krueger said. Everyone’s welfare improves or stays steady, including that of the 1 percent, under a 90 percent top tax rate. In fact, the welfare gains are “very substantial,” they note in the paper.

There are trade offs to such a policy change. . .

Continue reading.

I doubt this can happen: President Obama has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting the banking industry and the wealthy in general—those are his donors. (I’m reminded of Roman Hruska, one-time Senator from Nebraska, who was known as “the defender of the strong.”)

UPDATE: Fort Lauderdale Votes To Make It Harder To Feed The Homeless, Joining Two Dozen Other Cities

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 12:10 pm

Comprehensive sex ed results in students postponing sex

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Will conservatives, on seeing the evidence, will strongly push for comprehensive sex education in schools? That remains to be seen, but I will bet heavily that they will ignore the evidence. Why would any rational person ignore evidence? Ah, now you’ve put your finger on it: any rational person. A rational person does not ignore evidence—at least that’s my definition of rationality: aligning your plans and programs so that they match reality. Others choose a different course.

Tara Culp-Ressler reports at ThinkProgress:

 Comprehensive sex ed classes that emphasize healthy relationships and family involvement can encourage more middle school students to put off having sex, according to the results from a new study published in the Journal of School Health. The results have big implications for school districts that are trying to decide what type of health classes to offer to kids in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.

The three-year study was conducted by researchers at the Wellesley Centers for Women, who wanted to figure out whether Get Real — a comprehensive sex ed program developed by Planned Parenthood — has an impact on middle schoolers’ sexual behavior. In order to do that, the researchers tracked a group of racially and economically diverse kids at 24 different schools in the Boston area, half of which implemented Get Real and half of which continued with their existing sex ed programs. Kids were periodically surveyed about their sexual activity.

The results were “quite strong,” according to the lead researchers on the project. The study found that 16 percent fewer boys and 15 percent fewer girls became sexually active by the end of eighth grade after participating in Get Real, compared to the kids who didn’t participate in that curriculum.

It’s particularly significant that Get Real helped both girls and boys delay sex. The previous research into other sex ed programs has been mixed, and hasn’t been able to demonstrate such clear results for both genders.

“It’s certainly a very important and positive contribution,” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 October 2014 at 11:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Science

Tagged with

Could Police Reform In Cincinnati Provide Model For Ferguson?

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William Freivogel writes for St. Louis Public Radio:

Cincinnati’s police reform following a deadly police shooting and riots in 2001 has lessons for Ferguson and St. Louis. Here is what the reformers there say:

  • Police reform will take a long time – many years, not many months.
  • A Justice Department investigation, such as the one underway in Ferguson, is necessary but not sufficient to bring about lasting reform. The Justice Department goes away after five years.
  • An enforceable court order will be necessary to make sure changes are implemented in the long term. A new policing strategy is also needed to bring the police and community together.
  • The reforms should include transparency when police shoot civilians, an early warning system to identify troubled officers, new policies minimizing use of force, a civilian review board and video and audio on police cars and officers.

Here’s the story of the reformers in Cincinnati.

A stranger in her hometown

Iris Roley burst into tears when a federal monitor told her a decade ago that it would take more than 10 years to transform the relationship between the black community and the Cincinnati police.

Roley, a leader of Cincinnati’s Black United Front, wanted action right away. She felt so alienated that when people asked where she lived she refused to say Cincinnati. “I didn’t feel included,” she said.

Police had killed 15 young black men in the six years leading up to the 2001 shooting death of Timothy Thomas. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:54 pm

Politicians who cannot comment on climate change because they are “not a scientist” speak out about Ebola

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Inconsistency, thy name is Politician. Emily Atkin reports at ThinkProgress:

On Saturday, political blogger Lee Papa made an interesting observation about Republicans who widely recommend panicking about Ebola. “Does any Republican talking about Ebola say, “I’m not a scientist” like they do with climate change?” he tweeted, referencing the long list of political figures who claim to not know the science behind climate change, even though they actively oppose any policy to fight it.

On Monday, Papa answered the question for us with a resounding “no.” As might be expected, most prominent Republican politicians who are not willing to talk about climate change because they lack qualifications are willing to talk about Ebola, despite the fact that they lack qualifications. As might also be expected, all those politiciansfavor strict policy measures to deal with the disease, even though most scientists say Ebola is not easily transmittable and does not pose a widespread threat to Americans.

“Republicans are glad to tell you that either the evidence is inconclusive or that they are too dumb to understand the science when it comes to climate change, so they think it’s wrong to act like it’s a crisis and refuse to do anything to slow or halt it,” Papa writes at his blog Rude Pundit. “However, they will go bugnuts crazy and try to cause panic when it comes to the science around the spread of Ebola, even when they have it wrong.”

The list of perpetrators is long. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 October 2014 at 4:09 pm

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