Later On

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

Rudy Giuliani, Explained

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Kevin Drum has an interesting take:

So: Rudy Giuliani. He’s been busy over the past few days doing interviews about Donald Trump’s involvement in building a Trump Tower in Moscow. After each interview he then “clarified” what he meant, ultimately ending with a statement today that nothing he said was based on talking to Trump anyway.

Many people are asking what the deal is with this. Is Giuliani nuts? Senile? Totally out of control? Or what?

He may be all or none of the above. But it’s obvious what Giuliani has been doing ever since he started representing Trump last year: tossing out chaff so vigorously that nobody can tell from day to day what the current story is supposed to be. The point of this—and this is the important part—is not just to confuse everyone. It’s to make Giuliani the bearer of bad news so that eventually, when Trump is forced to admit something damaging, it’s “old news” that he’s been “saying all along.” The complete explanation for Giuliani looks something like this:

  • Giuliani is chosen as Trump’s “lawyer” because TV networks love him and will always give him airtime.
  • In times of crisis, Giuliani starts tossing out story after story, creating confusion and making Giuliani, not Trump, the center of attention.
  • All of these stories are deniable by the White House since they come from someone whose actual position is kind of vague. Eventually, though, one of them sticks.
  • Later—which could be days or weeks depending on how long Trump lies low—Trump publicly acknowledges the final story and says it’s already been litigated to death and is old news.
  • By then, (a) everyone really is confused, (b) they don’t remember all the details from a few weeks ago, and (c) there’s some new scandal that’s seized everyone’s attention. So Trump’s confession slides under the radar.

This isn’t a foolproof hack of the media, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2019 at 1:42 pm

A Betrayal: A teen who helped police against MS-13 is hung out to die

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Hannah Dreier reports in ProPublica:

IF HENRY IS KILLED, his death can be traced to a quiet moment in the fall of 2016, when he sat slouched in his usual seat by the door in 11th-grade English class. A skinny kid with a shaggy haircut, he had been thinking a lot about his life and about how it might end. His notebook was open, its pages blank. So he pulled his hoodie over his earphones, cranked up a Spanish ballad and started to write.

He began with how he was feeling: anxious, pressured, not good enough. It would have read like a journal entry by any 17-year-old, except this one detailed murders, committed with machetes, in the suburbs of Long Island. The gang Henry belonged to, MS-13, had already killed five students from Brentwood High School. The killers were his friends. And now they were demanding that he join in the rampage.

Classmates craned their necks to see what he was working on so furiously. But with an arm shielding his notebook, Henry was lost in what was turning out to be an autobiography. He was transported back to a sprawling coconut grove near his grandfather’s home in El Salvador. In front of him was a blindfolded man, strung up between two trees, arms and legs splayed in the shape of an X. All around him were members of MS-13, urging him on. Then the gang’s leader, El Destroyer, stepped forward. He was in his 60s, with the letters MStattooed on his face, chest and back. A double-edged machete glinted in his hand. He wanted Henry to kill the blindfolded man.

For years, the gang had paid for Henry’s school uniforms, protected him from rival gangs and given his grandmother meat for the family. In exchange, Henry had delivered messages and served as a lookout. Then the gang started asking him to come to shootouts, to help show strength in numbers. They also beat him for 13 seconds — an initiation ritual — and asked him to choose a gang name. He eventually settled on Triste, the Spanish word for “sad.” What you become when your parents abandon you as a toddler and go to America and leave you behind in a slum.

Henry hunched over his notebook, oblivious to the kids around him. Now he was 12, standing in the coconut grove, and it was time to complete the final initiation rite. He took the machete. It was sharper, with more teeth, than the one he used for chores at home. El Destroyer traced his index finger on the trembling man to show Henry where to cut: first the throat, then across the stomach.

“Your first killing will be hard,” El Destroyer told him. “It will hurt. But I’ve killed 34 people. I’m too tired to do this one.” He said the devil was there in the grove and needed fresh blood. And if Henry didn’t kill the man, the gang would kill them both.

So, to live a little longer, I had to do it.

But now, Henry wrote, he wanted to escape the life that had followed him from El Salvador. If he stayed in the gang, he knew he would die. He needed help.

He tore out the pages and hid them inside another assignment, like a message in a bottle. Then he walked up to his teacher’s desk and turned them in.

A week later, Henry was called to the principal’s office to speak with the police officer assigned to the school. In El Salvador, Henry had learned to distrust the police, who often worked for rival gangs or paramilitary death squads. But the officer assured Henry that the Suffolk County police were not like the cops he had known before he sought asylum in the United States. They could connect him to the FBI, which could protect him and move him far from Long Island.

So after a childhood spent in fear, Henry made the first choice he considered truly his own. He decided to help the FBI arrest his fellow gang members.

Henry’s cooperation was a coup for law enforcement. MS-13 was in the midst of a convulsion of violence that claimed 25 lives in Long Island over the past two years.

President Trump had seized on MS-13 as a symbol of the dangers of immigration, referring to parts of Long Island as “bloodstained killing fields.” Police were desperately looking for informants who could help them crack how the gang worked and make arrests. Henry gave them a way in.

Under normal circumstances, Henry’s choice would have been his salvation. By working with the police, he could have escaped the gang and started fresh. But not in the dawning of the Trump era, when every immigrant has become a target and local police in towns like Brentwood have become willing agents in a nationwide campaign of detention and deportation. Without knowing it, Henry had picked the wrong moment to help the authorities.

HENRY HAD TRIED to escape MS-13 before.

From the day he joined the gang, he was part of an operation that trafficked in a single product: violence. Other criminal enterprises attract members who want to get rich and who sell drugs or women or stolen goods to achieve that aim. Violence is a tool for carving out territory and regulating the marketplace. MS-13, by contrast, was established by Salvadoran refugees in Los Angeles who were seeking community after fleeing civil war. The gang offers a sense of security and belonging to its members, who kill to strengthen the group and move up the ranks. Members sometimes sell marijuana and cocaine, but major cartels have been uninterested in partnering with the gang, because purposeless violence is bad for business. MS-13 kills in large groups to minimize betrayal, and it uses machetes, a weapon even the poorest can afford.

In his first few years running with the gang in El Salvador, Henry witnessed more than a dozen murders. He learned how soft skin feels when you slice into it and how bodies, when they are sprayed with bullets, look like they are dancing. Then, in 2013, a shaky truce between MS-13 and the rival gang Barrio 18 broke down. The country’s slums became as dangerous as any war zone. One afternoon, when he was 15, Henry was playing cards in an abandoned lot when he got a call from a stranger. The voice on the phone told him that if he did not leave the country within 24 hours, he would be disappeared — along with his grandparents. To protect his family, Henry set out that night to join his mother and father on Long Island. Before he left, his grandfather made him promise he would use the new start to break with the gang.

Henry made the journey north through Mexico stowed away in the back of a livestock truck. Some 200,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have shown up at the U.S. border since 2013, and nearly 8,000 continued on to Long Island, most to join parents who had settled there years earlier. The suburbs have proved an ideal landing spot — close to low-wage work around New York City and filled with illegal basement apartments. By the time Henry arrived, so many Salvadorans were living in Suffolk County that El Salvador had opened a consulate in the town of Brentwood, the only foreign government with an office on Long Island.

Henry entered the U.S. legally, turning himself over at the border and pleading for asylum. He was granted release pending a final hearing that could be years away, and sent to join his mother. He didn’t recognize her when she ran up to him at JFK Airport, clutching welcome balloons; in all the time she’d been gone, she had never sent him a photo. As they headed to her apartment, he learned that she had long ago separated from his father. He soon became acquainted with her abusive boyfriend, who one day threw hot cooking oil at her head, landing her in the hospital with third-degree burns. His father helped Henry lie about his immigration status and age to get a job in a factory, where he worked 12-hour shifts punching perforations in toilet paper for $9 an hour. On payday, he handed over almost all his earnings to his mother, who expected him to pay for rent and groceries. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The US has become a hostile, unreasoning place for its most vulnerable. Take a look at these additional reports:

Former MS-13 Member Who Secretly Helped Police Is Deported – Also by Hannah Dreier, and a follow-up to the story above.

What It Was Like Reporting on a Teenager Marked for Death by the Gang MS-13 – Dreier comments on the emotional and psychological impact of reporting the story

He Drew His School Mascot — and ICE Labeled Him a Gang Member – Dreier reports on another injustice by the US.

Long Island Schools Move to Curb Police Role in Detaining Immigrant Students – A step in the right direction

The Hunted: What happens when you say no to MS-13 – A grim report.

The Disappeared: Police on Long Island wrote off missing immigrant teens as runaways. One mother knew better

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2019 at 12:36 pm

A lemon-fragranced shave

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Another great shave with J.F. Fraser’s shaving cream, with the Kent Infinity making an extremely good lather—I think I loaded a bit more shaving cream than in my last shave, since the Kent is more resilient than the Rooney Victorian that I used before.

Three passes with the wonderful Dorco PL602 left a perfectly smooth face for a splash of Thayers Lemon Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Astringent (i.e., 10% alcohol).

Good start to the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2019 at 8:06 am

Posted in Shaving

This reminds me of how Detroit approached innovation (with similar results): The decline and death of Eastman Kodak

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2019 at 10:42 am

What does a $1.1 million lobbying contract buy in Trump’s Washington?

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I recently started reading an interesting newsletter, Popular Information, written by Judd Legum. The newsletters are brief, clear, and generally single-topic. Today’s newsletter:

Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president of Nigeria, had not visited the United States for twelve years. He is currently running for president and his inability to travel to the United States was being used by his political opponents in Nigeria as proof of his corruption and unsuitability for public office.

A former U.S. government official confirmed to Popular Information that Abubakar was formally barred from obtaining a visa pursuant to a presidential proclamation targeting corrupt foreign officials.

Then everything changed.

With the election less than a month away, Abubakar arrived in the United States last Thursday and promptly checked into the Trump hotel.

What happened? In November, Abubakar hired a key member of Trump’s political operation with a $1.1 million per year lobbying contract.

Abubakar’s visit was almost entirely ignored by the U.S. media. But it’s a story that reveals a lot about how things work in Trump’s Washington.

$40 million in suspect funds

The corruption allegations against Abubakar are detailed in a 2010 bipartisan report by the U.S. Senate, “KEEPING FOREIGN CORRUPTION OUT OF THE UNITED STATES: FOUR CASE HISTORIES.” Abubakar denies all allegations of corruption in the report and has never been criminally charged.

The report says that Abubakar, through his wife, Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, funneled $40 million in “suspect funds” to the United States, including millions in “bribe payments.” An alleged bribe which came from a major German corporation, Siemens, looms large.

Siemens has admitted in court to engaging in widespread bribery and bank records link the corrupt activity to Abubakar and his wife.

In December 2008, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleged in a formal complaint against Siemens AG, a German company, that, among other actions, in 2001 and 2002, Siemens wire transferred $2.8 million in bribe payments to a U.S. bank account belonging to Ms. Douglas as part of a scheme to bribe Nigerian officials.

In response to this and other legal actions, Siemens admitted to engaging in widespread bribery payments, pled guilty to criminal violations and settled civil violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to pay over $1.6 billion in civil and criminal fines. Ms. Douglas has denied any wrongdoing, but the Subcommittee has obtained financial records showing the transfer of over $1.7 million from Siemens AG to Ms. Douglas’ account at Citibank.

A freezer full of cash

Abubakar was also implicated in the investigation of William Jefferson, the former Congressman who is serving a 13-year sentence for corruption. Abubakar denies any wrongdoing connected to the case and has not been charged.

But the FBI raided Abubakar’s Maryland home during their investigation. An affidavit released by the FBI describes a scheme between Jefferson and Abubakar.

The documents included an affidavit signed by an F.B.I. agent who said that the Nigerian vice president, Atiku Abubakar, now a candidate for president of that oil-rich West African nation, asked for at least half of the profits of a technology company controlled by Mr. Jefferson that was seeking to do business in Nigeria.

About the same time last year, the documents said, Mr. Jefferson told colleagues of his plans to bribe Nigerian officials, including Mr. Abubakar, in exchange for their help in winning business in Nigeria, and that Mr. Abubakar would be paid as much as $500,000 in cash.

According to the FBI, cell phone records and conversations between Jefferson and a confidential informant confirmed the scheme. The FBI did not provide conclusive evidence that any money was paid to Abubakar. But the FBI says the $90,000 in cash found in Jefferson’s freezer was intended for Abubakar. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s interesting.

Representative William Jefferson was known by the nickname “Dollar Bill” Jefferson because he was so open in his corruption. Good riddance.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2019 at 10:04 am

Google doesn’t want to reveal employee compensation to the government

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This is intriguing. I wonder what they’re trying to hide—and the fact that Google did not know that such information was required reeks of incompetence.

Kristin Wong writes in the NY Times:

Here’s what we know about salary transparency: Workers are more motivated when salaries are transparent. They work harder, they’re more productive, and they’re better at collaborating with colleagues. Across the board, pay transparency seems to be a good thing.

Transparency isn’t just about business bottom line, however. Researchers say transparency is important because keeping salaries secret reinforces discrimination.

“From a worker’s perspective, without accurate information about peer compensation, they may not know when they’re being underpaid,” said Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, an economist at U.C.L.A. who ran a study in 2013 that found workers are more productive when salary is transparent. Without knowing what other workers’ salaries look like, “it naturally becomes harder to make the case that one is suffering a form of pay discrimination,” Dr. Huet-Vaughn said.

For example, in 2017, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit and investigation against Google. Their regional director Janette Wipper told the Guardian, “discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.” The suit claimed that Google refused to disclose data on employee salary history, as required by equal opportunity laws.

Which brings us to the wage gap. Rather than a deliberate, methodical attempt to sabotage women’s earnings, often the wage gap takes on more subtle, but no less detrimental forms. For example, women are viewed as less likable when they negotiate. They’re also less likely than men to get what they want when they ask for a raise, according to Harvard Business Review.

“By keeping compensation secret, we might obscure structural inequalities and enable inequalities to persist,” said Morela Hernandez, a researcher and Associate Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. In the big picture, it’s easy to see how these biases might contribute to a wage gap, but it’s harder to prove wage discrimination on an individual level. Employers can hide “structural inequalities” (even from themselves) with a myriad explanations. When wages are transparent, it’s harder to hide.

It’s not just women. Pay secrecy reinforces racial biases as well, and the pay gap is wider for black and Hispanic men and women, according to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In a study with her colleague Derek R. Avery of the Wake Forest University School of Business, Dr. Hernandez found that when black job applicants negotiated their starting salaries, evaluators viewed them as more pushy than white job applicants who also negotiated. Evaluators also mistakenly thought black job applicants negotiated more than white applicants, even when they negotiated the same amount. Worse still, the black job applicants received lower starting salaries as a result of this.

Dr. Hernandez said that because evaluators expected black job seekers to ask for less, they perceived the black applicants as pushy when they negotiated and penalized them accordingly. In the real world, employers probably aren’t even aware of this dynamic; that’s how unconscious biases work. When numbers are out in the open, however, it’s easier to see potential blind spots.

“In my opinion, transparency in pay can be one way to help us calibrate our own views of fairness and appropriate compensation,” Dr. Hernandez said.

Katharine Bolin, a marketing professional in Minneapolis, said she once discovered a male colleague earned more than her by accident.

“In my mid-twenties, I was a D.J. at a downtown bar in Minneapolis,” she said. “I was asked to let a new male D.J. shadow me in the booth for part of his interview. Everything was going great until he said, ‘This is a pretty good gig for $15 an hour.’ I was livid.”

Earlier that week, Ms. Bolin had asked for a raise for that same amount, but she was offered less. She confronted her manager about the situation.

“I said that I was very upset as a woman and a longtime employee to hear that a potential new male hire was getting offered more than me,” she said. Her manager relented, offering her the same amount. “It’s one of my proudest moments standing up for myself.” Ms. Bolin closed her own gap, but it wouldn’t have happened without transparency.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: See also “Women won’t ask a man for more pay – but they will ask a woman.” That article begins:

The figure of 78 cents to a man’s dollar is familiar to many of us. It’s how the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics has quantified the gender gap among full-time workers: for each dollar that men earn, women earn 78 cents. This data from the US is not an exception but the norm: in Australia, the gap is 15 cents; in the European Union, the gap is about 16 cents; and so all over the world. When trying to make sense of this wage gap, a long list of characteristics – such as gender differences in academic training, and in choice of industry or occupation – are able to explain a substantial fraction. But not all of it. There is no doubt that discrimination plays a role, but there are other factors that deserve attention. Here, we’ll focus on how gender affects salary negotiations, and how the prevalent structure in the workplace (in which the empowered party is usually a man) can negatively affect women’s negotiation outcomes and salaries.

With high-paying, high-skill jobs in particular, which demand highly qualified staff, a substantial amount of the salary is the result of one-on-one negotiations with the firm’s representative. Interestingly, the data show that the gender pay gap is higher in these high-skilled positions. It is also worth mentioning that negotiations are not a one-off experience, but rather present throughout a professional’s life, in the form of pay increases, bonuses and promotions. So, if highly skilled men and women negotiate differently and reach different outcomes, this would explain part of the gender gap that we still cannot account for. This explanation is supported by the economist Linda Babcock and her co-author Sara Laschever in their book Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (2009). The authors show that among graduates of Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania, 57 per cent of men negotiated their starting salary, while only 8 per cent of women did so. Such a disparity would certainly contribute to a gender pay gap among this otherwise identical population. But there is more to the story.

Even when men and women both negotiate, their final outcomes can differ. Men tend to be more competitive and less prosocial, which allows them to get higher salaries than women through the negotiation process. But, in our recent research, we found that gender differences in negotiation are not so general but rather depend crucially on the gender composition of the bargaining table. Put simply, women negotiating their salaries ask for lower compensation when the firm’s representative is a man than when that representative is a woman. And, given that, most of the time, a firm’s bosses are men, this dynamic plays a role in salary outcomes.

We reached this conclusion by using data from a TV show. In that TV show, a contestant was endowed with a certain amount of money. He or she was asked a simple question. Then the contestant had to find someone in the street to answer the question on his/her behalf. This is where the negotiation took place: the contestant had to buy the answer from a responder on the street, negotiating the price by a process of bargaining, in which the contestants made offers and the responders made demands. As in most real-life situations, the TV show offered a setting in which there is a strong bargaining party (the contestant) and a weak one (the responder). The contestant is able to drop the negotiation at any time to look for another responder, and the contestant also knows the amount of money available to pay. Thus, the setting replicated a typical job-negotiation situation, in which the firm’s representative knows the maximum that the firm is willing to pay the worker. And if negotiations get too hard, the firm’s representative can use the threat of breaking off altogether to hire another worker.

We used this setting to look at the final outcomes of the negotiation, based on the gender composition of the ‘negotiation table’ (male contestants with female responders, female contestants with male responders, and so on). We found that the likelihood of reaching a deal, as well as the number of offers and counteroffers (which proxies the degree of conflict during the negotiation), was the same, independent of the gender combination. However, male responders negotiating against female contestants captured more of the pie than any others, getting around 2 per cent more than responders in any other matching. Meanwhile, female responders to male contestants got around 16 per cent less than responders in any other matching – the penalty faced by women for negotiating against men. More importantly, when coming to explain this penalty, we found clear evidence that there wasn’t discrimination from men towards women through lower offers, but rather women who self-discriminated by asking for less. But, crucially, this was the case only among those women who negotiated with a man. When comparing women negotiating against other women, they behaved in exactly the same way as men did.

One critical aspect of our findings is that gender differences arise only in negotiations between a man and a woman where the woman is in the weak position, but not when the woman is the empowered party. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2019 at 9:32 am

Garden Mint in anticipation of spring

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Spring is not far away… well, really it is: 58 days. But I’m looking forward to it. Garden Mint is perhaps more a summer fragrance, but it’s very pleasant this time of year and my RazoRock 400 synthetic made a really nice lather from it this morning.

Three passes with the wonderful Stealth slant left a perfect smooth face to accept a splash of TOBS No. 74. Very nice start to the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2019 at 8:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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