Later On

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

Archive for May 1st, 2013

Fed calls out GOP

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Kevin Drum has a good post:

From the Federal Reserve, explaining why the economic recovery remains sluggish:

Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has strengthened further, but fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.

This is an unusually straightforward statement from the Fed. They’re basically saying that the fiscal cliff deal and the sequester spending cuts are acts of idiocy. We should be spending more and taxing less right now, not the other way around. Belt tightening needs to wait another couple of years.

But tighten we do. Economic growth is not in the political interests of the Republican Party at the moment, so they’re not going to allow it. End of story.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 3:25 pm

Criminalizing curiosity

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The US continues toward to move toward being an authoritarian police-state. Jesse Walker at Reason.com reports:

Meet Kiera Wilmot, a 16-year-old student in Bartow, Florida. Before last week, Bartow High School Principal Ron Pritchard tells WTSP-TV, she had “never been in trouble before. Ever.” But then, the station reports, she

mix[ed] household chemicals in a tiny 8-ounce water bottle, causing the top to pop off, followed by billowing smoke in [a] small explosion.

Wilmot’s friends and classmates said it was “a science project gone bad, that she never meant to hurt anyone.”

Even the teen’s principal said, “She made a bad choice. Honestly, I don’t think she meant to ever hurt anyone. She wanted to see what would happen [when the chemicals mixed] and was shocked by what it did. Her mother is shocked too.”

The explosion happened around 7 a.m. Monday morning on school property, and no one was hurt. Staff, along with the school resource officer, acted quickly.

The principal told 10 News, “She told us everything and was very honest. She didn’t run or try to hide the truth. We had a long conversation with her.”

So: No one was hurt. There’s no sign that Wilmot was up to something malevolent. The kid’s own principal thinks this wasn’t anything more than an experiment, and he says she didn’t try to cover up what she had done. What punishment did you think she received? A stern talking-to? A day or two of after-school detention? Maybe she’ll have to help clean up the lab for a week?

Nope. The budding chemist has been kicked out of school and charged with a couple of felonies:

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Education, Government, Law

Destroying the US educational system

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It was once not all that bad—well, never all that good, for that matter—and it’s been downhill since. But we must recognized that an uneducated populace is easier to control: fewer pesky questions.

Yasha Levine writes at NSFWcorp.com:

When I traveled to the desert city of Victorville in Souther California this January, I little expected that the neighboring town of Adelanto would become ground zero for a fight between billionaires on one side, and poor, vulnerable minority parents and children on the other.

I first heard about the fight through the local right-wing paper, the Victorville Daily Press, which gleefully announced on its front page that a local school, Desert Trails Elementary, had just made history as the first school in the nation to be privatized under California’s new “parent trigger” law. The paper described the takeover as “promising a fresh start to the failing elementary school,” and claimed it had received widespread support from parents.

The national press gushed in similarly glowing terms. The LA Weekly described the Adelanto privatization as an “historic moment for the education-reform movement picking up steam across the nation.” The New York Timesdutifully compared the takeover of Desert Trails to “Won’t Back Down.” An “issues” movie starring Face of Indie Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Won’t Back Down” promotes the parent-trigger law as a panacea for America’s public-education problems, one that “empowers” parents to fight back against self-interested public school teachers and their union.

All in all, everyone agreed that this takeover of Desert Trails Elementary represented a triumphant moment for parents and their children, a victory for the people over rapacious elementary school teachers and their unions.

But something didn’t seem right about this story — it was too pat, too much like a triumph-of-the-spirit Disney tale, too much like Maggie’s movie. So I made some calls and started spending some time in Adelanto, to find out what really went on there. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 12:51 pm

Posted in Business, Education

The neoliberal assault on academia

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Al-Jazeera English has an interesting article by Tarak Barkawi:

The New York Times, Slate and Al Jazeera have recently drawn attention to the adjunctification of the professoriate in the US. Only 24 per cent of the academic workforce are now tenured or tenure-track.

Much of the coverage has focused on the sub-poverty wages of adjunct faculty, their lack of job security and the growing legions of unemployed and under-employed PhDs. Elsewhere, the focus has been on web-based learning and the massive open online courses (MOOCs), with some commentators celebrating and others lamenting their arrival.

The two developments are not unrelated. Harvard recently asked its alumni to volunteer their time as “online mentors” and “discussion group managers” for an online course. Fewer professors and fewer qualified – or even paid – teaching assistants will be required in higher education’s New Order.

Lost amid the fetishisation of information technology and the pathos of the struggle over proper working conditions for adjunct faculty is the deeper crisis of the academic profession occasioned by neoliberalism. This crisis is connected to the economics of higher education but it is not primarily about that.

The neoliberal sacking of the universities runs much deeper than tuition fee hikes and budget cuts.

Thatcherite budget-cutting exercise 

The professions are in part defined by the fact that they are self-governing and self-regulating. For many years now, the professoriate has not only been ceding power to a neoliberal managerial class, but has in many cases been actively collaborating with it.

As a dose of shock capitalism, the 2008 financial crisis accelerated processes already well underway. In successive waves, the crisis has hit each pillar of the American university system. The initial stock market crash blasted the endowments of the prestige private universities. Before long, neoliberal ideologues and their disastrous austerity policies undermined state and eventually federal funding for universities and their research.

Tuition soared and students turned even more to debt financing. Now that bubble is bursting and hitting all the institutions of higher education that depend on tuition. Students are increasingly unwilling to take on massive debt for jobs they have little confidence of getting.

The upshot is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 12:38 pm

Posted in Business, Education

Manufacturer takes action against customer for manufacturer defect

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This is really weird. The company that published (and through obnoxious spam solicited people to use) gambling software now attempts to pass to customers blame for defects in the software they were so eager that people use. I guess you’re not supposed to notice flaws in company strategy. Hell, why don’t they simply request $1 donations, of which they refund $.80? I’m reminded of a New Yorker subway cartoon: the coin machine on the pillar with a sign, “Deposit 10¢”. Cartoon man does, gets card, reads it: “Thank you.”

TL;DR: The company asked people to use the software it made available. Many did. End of story, should be.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Business, Law, Technology

Reinhart and Rogoff show signs of flop sweat and desperation (not pretty)

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Dean Baker in a column from Apr 26 (5 days ago) points out the sweat stains and explains the funky smell:

Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, used their second NYT column in a week, to complain about how they are being treated. Their complaint deserves tears from crocodiles everywhere. They try to present themselves as ivory tower economists who cannot possibly be blamed for the ways in which their work has been used to justify public policy, specifically as a rationale to cut government programs and raise taxes, measures that lead to unemployment in a downturn.

This portrayal is disingenuous in the extreme. Reinhart and Rogoff surely are aware of how their work has been used. They have also encouraged this use in public writings and talks. While it is unfortunate that they have “received hate-filled, even threatening, e-mail messages,” as one who works in the lower-paid corners of policy debates, let me say, welcome to the club.

This column is careful to halfway walk back the main claim of their famous paper, telling us:

“Our view has always been that causality [between high debt levels and slow growth] runs in both directions, and that there is no rule that applies across all times and places.”

It is good to hear the reference to causation from slow growth to high debt and that “no rule applies across all times and places.” However it is worth noting that Reinhart and Rogoff never felt the need to use their access to the NYT’s opinion pages to correct all the politicians who used their paper to argue the exact opposite: that their paper implied that countries with high debt levels could anticipate long periods of slow growth.

In addition to misleading the public about the role their work has played in policy debates, they also . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 12:17 pm

My own workout is not much like this one

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Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 10:12 am

Posted in Fitness, Video

Lethal “lemons” on the road to Bangladesh

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William Black has a couple of very interesting posts at New Economic Perspectives. First, this one::

If you have studied economics at the university level in the last 35 years it is likely you were introduced to the concept of “asymmetrical information” and George Akerlof’s famous 1970 article on markets for “lemons” (American slang for an automobile of terrible quality).  The Nobel committee that awards the prize in economics singled out that article for special praise in deciding to make him a Nobel Laureate in 2001.  The article discusses the implications of asymmetrical information in a number of contexts, but at least two of the contexts involved what criminologists call “control fraud” and a third involves the risk of fraud by borrowers.  Most of the examples Akerlof discussed involved fraud.  The frauds he analyzes concern deceit about the quality of goods being sold or the borrowers’ ability or willingness to repay a loan.

I have noted in many articles that the clan of economists has a primitive tribal taboo against saying the mystic “f” word out loud or even putting it in print, so Akerlof’s article does not contain the word “fraud.”  His language, however, makes it clear that he is discussing fraud and how it can create what we now call a “Gresham’s dynamic” in which bad ethics drives good ethics out of the market.

The theme of my article is to alert the reader to other variants of anti-purchaser control fraud in which the deception about the quality of the goods sold (or rented) affects safety, not simply the appropriate price of the bad quality goods.  I use as my example the recent deaths of nearly 400, and over 1,000 injured, Bangladeshis when the building they were working in collapsed.  I show that the same case is also an example of anti-employee control fraud. . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more and it is highly informative.

And he has a follow-up post:

wrote yesterday about the “control frauds” (in which the person controlling a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as a “weapon” to defraud) that target purchasers of bad quality goods (“lemons”) and employees.  The example I used to explain these concepts was the collapse of the building housing garment factories in Bangladesh.

As I write, there are terrible reports indicating that the death toll is far greater than currently reported.  Again, the initial reports from a disaster often prove inaccurate in important ways so I urge caution and the need to confirm whether the newer reports are accurate.

The higher death toll is not what prompts this article.  I write to discuss the intersection of control fraud, austerity, globalization, labor “reform,” and economic development.

The Road to Bangladesh

The most interesting event I have participated in is the Kilkenomics Festival in Kilkenny, Ireland held in early November.  It is an economics festival in which people with expertise in finance (dressed in jeans) partner with professional comics (dressed in suits) to discuss serious economic issues.  The organizers sell roughly 3,000 seats to non-wonks from Ireland and Europe.  The comedians keep us honest and minimize the jargon.

I appeared in six or seven events last November, including interviews with the BBC and Ireland’s Pat Kenny on RTE.  One of the subjects we discussed repeatedly was the intersection of austerity, “free trade,” and labor “reforms.”  I made the point that the EU had a single game plan for the Eurozone’s southern periphery.  They inflicted austerity, forcing the Eurozone into a gratuitous second recession and the southern periphery into an überDepression with unemployment rates significantly worse than the largest European economies generally suffered during the Great Depression.  (Cynically, and the EU is a past master in cynicism, the EU refers to the result as a “mild recession.”  It also avoids the word “austerity” like the plague and calls it “pro-growth.”)

What is far less well known in the United States is that Berlin has also demanded (successfully) that the “troika” (European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the IMF) insist that the nations of the periphery engage in labor “reforms.”  “Reform” is a word chosen for its positive connotations and its generality.  There is certainly some variant of a labor “reform” that would be desirable in any nation.  Unfortunately, what the troika means by labor “reform” is sharply lower working class wages.

The excuse for forcing lower working class wages is that doing so is essential to increase exports.  The troika’s recipe for the periphery’s recovery is for every nation of the periphery to become a significant net exporter.

A nation with a sovereign currency can use three strategies to speed its recovery from a recession or a depression.  The three strategies are not mutually exclusive.  The nation can adopt fiscal stimulus, an aggressive expansion of the money supply, and it can devalue its currency (which makes it far easier to become a net exporter).  A nation that adopts the euro, however, must give up its sovereign currency and its ability to employ any of these recovery strategies.  It cannot employ a significant stimulus program because doing so would violate the (oxymoronic) “Stability and Growth” pact.  It cannot expand the money supply because the ECB is controlled by German principles, which are based on the assumption that hyper-inflation lurks behind every corner.  It cannot devalue its currency because it no longer has a sovereign currency.

The only strategy left in the tool chest for a nation that adopts the euro and is mired in recession or depression, therefore, is to become a substantial net exporter.  There are two obvious problems with this sole remaining strategy.  One, not all nations can be net exporters.  One nation’s export is the other nation’s import.  The more Germany is a net exporter the harder it is for other euro nations to be net exporters.

Two, the way for a nation to gain a competitive advantage in exports and increase its chances of becoming a net exporter is either to have a far more skilled workforce producing high value exports or to slash working class wages. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 9:58 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

A neurologist looks at acupuncture

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100 seconds and worth watching:

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 9:47 am

Posted in Medical, Science

Banks can now legally take your money

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They’ve already shown that they can steal your house; now they can take your money as well. Ellen Brown, J.D., who wrote The Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free, has a good post:

[W]ith Cyprus . . . the game itself changed. By raiding the depositors’ accounts, a major central bank has gone where they would not previously have dared. The Rubicon has been crossed.

—Eric Sprott, Shree Kargutkar, “Caveat Depositor

The crossing of the Rubicon into the confiscation of depositor funds was not a one-off emergency measure limited to Cyprus.  Similar “bail-in” policies are now appearing in multiple countries.  (See my earlier articles here.)  What triggered the new rules may have been a series of game-changing events including the refusal of Iceland to bail out its banks and their depositors; Bank of America’s commingling of its ominously risky derivatives arm with its depository arm over the objections of the FDIC; and the fact that most EU banks are now insolvent.  A crisis in a major nation such as Spain or Italy could lead to a chain of defaults beyond anyone’s control, and beyond the ability of federal deposit insurance schemes to reimburse depositors.

The new rules for keeping the too-big-to-fail banks alive: use creditor funds, including uninsured deposits, to recapitalize failing banks.

But isn’t that theft?

Perhaps, but it’s legal theft.  By law, when you put your money into a deposit account, your money becomes the property of the bank.  You become an unsecured creditor with a claim against the bank.  Before the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was instituted in 1934, U.S. depositors routinely lost their money when banks went bankrupt.  Your deposits are protected only up to the $250,000 insurance limit, and only to the extent that the FDIC has the money to cover deposit claims or can come up with it.

The question then is, how secure is the FDIC?

Can the FDIC Go Bankrupt?

In 2009, when the FDIC fund went $8.2 billion in the hole, Chairwoman Sheila Bair assured depositors that their money was protected by a hefty credit line with the Treasury. But the FDIC is funded with premiums from its member banks, which had to replenish the fund. The special assessment required to do it was crippling for the smaller banks, and that was just to recover $8.2 billion.  What happens when Bank of America or JPMorganChase, which have commingled their massive derivatives casinos with their depositary arms, is propelled into bankruptcy by a major derivatives fiasco?  These two banks both have deposits exceeding $1 trillion, and they both have derivatives books with notional values exceeding the GDP of the world.

Bank of America Corporation moved its trillions in derivatives (mostly credit default swaps) from its Merrill Lynch unit to its banking subsidiary in 2011.  It did not get regulatory approval but just acted at the request of frightened counterparties, following a downgrade by Moody’s. The FDIC opposed the move, reportedly protesting that the FDIC would be subjected to the risk of becoming insolvent if BofA were to file for bankruptcy.  But the Federal Reserve favored the move, in order to give relief to the bank holding company.  (Proof positive, says former regulator Bill Black, that the Fed is working for the banks and not for us. “Any competent regulator would have said: ‘No, Hell NO!’”)

The reason this risky move would subject the FDIC to insolvency, as explained in my earlier article here, is that under the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005, derivatives counter-parties are given preference over all other creditors and customers of the bankrupt financial institution, including FDIC insured depositors. Normally, the FDIC would have the powers as trustee in receivership to protect the failed bank’s collateral for payments made to depositors. But the FDIC’s powers are overridden by the special status of derivatives.  (Remember MF Global?  The reason its customers lost their segregated customer funds to the derivatives claimants was that derivatives have super-priority in bankruptcy.)

The FDIC has only about $25 billion in its deposit insurance fund, which is mandated by law to keep a balance equivalent to only 1.15 percent of insured deposits.  And theDodd-Frank Act (Section 716) now bans taxpayer bailouts of most speculative derivatives activities.  Drawing on the FDIC’s credit line with the Treasury to cover a BofA or JPMorgan derivatives bust would be the equivalent of a taxpayer bailout, at least if the money were not paid back; and imposing that burden on the FDIC’s member banks is something they can ill afford.

BofA is not the only bank threatening to wipe out the federal deposit insurance funds that most countries have.  According to Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup, most EU banks are zombies. And that explains the impetus for the new “bail in” policies, which put the burden instead on the unsecured creditors, including the depositors.  Below is some additional corroborating research on these new, game-changing bail-in schemes.

Depositors Beware

An interesting series of commentaries starts with one on the website of Sprott Asset Management Inc. titled “Caveat Depositor,” in which Eric Sprott and Shree Kargutkar note that the US, UK, EU, and Canada have all built the new “bail in” template to avoid imposing risk on their governments and taxpayers.  They write: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 9:37 am

Health

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I saw my doctor yesterday in a brief office visit to follow up on my tapering off the antidepressant I used to get through my panic attacks triggered by my getting rid of most of my stuff and moving. The antidepressant did a fine job and restored a more realistic perspective, and now, job done, I’m tapering off. (He likes to taper people off antidepressants in the spring or summer, but not in the fall or winter, for obvious reasons.)

We got to talking about the recent findings on the mechanism by which beef injured arterial health: A diet that frequently includes beef leads to a population of gut microbes that transform the carnitine in beef into TMAO, a chemical that attacks arteries and leads to arteriosclerosis. People who eat beef regularly get a big burst of TMAO whenever they eat beef; people who rarely beat beef have different gut microbes, and on the occasions when they eat beef, they get no TMAO because they don’t have the gut microbes that produce it.

I told him that as soon as I read the results, I went immediately and bought a big steak. (I eat beef maybe once every month or two.)

He responded by saying that even worse in “wheat belly,” and avoiding wheat is a good thing. Since The Wife is gluten intolerant, we rarely eat wheat products, and I told him that I ate almost no wheat.

“No wonder you’re so healthy,” he said. 🙂

I looked up wheat belly when I got back and found this book:

A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage,
shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems.

Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.” According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch.

After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the
disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic—and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle.

Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 9:24 am

The fate of cursive writing in our schools

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So long as pens and pencils exist, we will have handwriting. The question is whether children should be formally instructed in handwriting or simply left to pick it up as best they can—that is, try on their own to work out a system of handwriting that is at least legible and ideally attractive and that does not degrade significantly when written at speed. There is indeed such a system: italic handwriting, aka chancery cursive.

Kate Gladstone is among the handwriting experts in this interesting discussion of directions to take in teaching communication skills to children. Her contribution is here.

I should note that some people suffer from dysgraphia (the writing equivalent of reading’s dyslexia); they have a neurological configuration that interferes with written communication—not only is their handwriting likely to be an illegible scrawl, the act of writing interferes with thinking because it takes all their attention and concentration (again, cf. the difficulties of dyslexia).

Dyslexics often are entrepreneurial. They can work effectively with people and can have excellent management skills, and by starting their own companies they can turn almost all reading over to (non-dyslexic) employees.

Similarly, dysgraphics tend to choose occupations in which writing is minimal. Take medicine, for example: there’s a reason why doctors’ handwritten prescriptions are so commonly difficult to read and why medical dictation/transcription became a common practice early on.

But for the majority who do not suffer from dysgraphia, italic handwriting is a useful and enjoyable skill: like traditional wetshaving, italic handwriting transforms a routine chore from drudgery to delight.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 9:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Imagine that this is you

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And consider the opinion you would form about the United States. Joe Nocera writes in the NY Times:

Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif is one of about 100 detainees on a hunger strike in the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was captured in 2001 by Pakistanis after crossing the border from Afghanistan, and, by 2002, he was in the American naval detention facility. He was 20 years old. He has been there since.

Although the Americans contend that Hentif left his home in Yemen to become an Al Qaeda jihadist, he has always insisted that he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A devout Muslim, he says he went to Afghanistan to do charitable work to honor the memory of his father — and that he then left Afghanistan for Pakistan because, as one of his lawyers, Robert Palmer, put it to me recently, “the place was a mess.”

Like most Guantánamo detainees, Hentif spent years in solitary confinement. He was subjected to “alternative interrogation techniques” as it was euphemistically called. He watched the Bush administration release more than 500 of the 779 detainees who have passed through Guantánamo. He learned about lawyers arguing in court that the detainees had the legal right to a habeas corpus hearing — that is, to try to prove that they were not enemy combatants and had been detained illegally.

And, in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that they did have that right. That same year, a presidential candidate headed toward the White House, Barack Obama, promised to close Guantánamo. That never happened, though President Obama continued the Bush policy of releasing detainees who were not deemed a threat to the United States.

Hentif, in fact, was among those set to be released. In late 2009, he was hours away from flying home to Yemen when a man on a flight to Detroit tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear. Because the man had purportedly been trained by an Al Qaeda affiliate with bases in Yemen, Congress demanded that the administration stop releasing all Yemen detainees. Obama complied.

And so it went: Hentif had a habeas corpus hearing in 2010, but, by then, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had made a mockery of the Supreme Court’s ruling, establishing evidentiary presumptions that made it impossible for a detainee to win a habeas ruling. (The Supreme Court has declined to hear further cases.) Sure enough, the judge ruled against him in 2012, despite concluding, among other things, that Hentif had never been to an Al Qaeda training camp, as the government alleged.

Meanwhile, along with 55 other Yemen detainees, he has been placed on a “cleared” list compiled by a commission composed of national security officials, meaning he could be transferred out of Guantánamo. But Congress, led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, quickly passed laws that put impossible conditions on their release. Shamefully, President Obama signed those bills.

Is there any wonder that Hentif — and the other detainees — are on a hunger strike? “It is a total expression of despair and hopelessness,” said Brent Rushforth, who also represents him. . .

Continue reading. There’s more. For example:

On April 13, Hentif was returning from morning prayers when the raid began. He was pushed up against a fence and shot with rubber bullets at such close range that five of them penetrated the skin. He was handcuffed and taken to the clinic. Now back in solitary confinement, he is worried that one of his wounds is becoming infected. Given their concerns about hunger strikers, the military medical staff haven’t been able to pay him much attention.

Keep in mind that this is a man who, so far as we can tell, did nothing wrong. In other words, a man exactly like you. Keep that in mind if they come for you.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 8:43 am

The high cognitive cost of multi-tasking

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Drunks perceive themselves to be witty and attractive. Multitaskers perceive themselves to be efficient. Both perceptions turn out to be inaccurate. Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D., writes in Psychology Today:

Does this describe you? While you are on a teleconference call you are writing up your quarterly report, checking your email, and texting your friend about where you are meeting for lunch. You would say that you are good at multi-tasking, right? You might want to re-think your strategy. Recent estimates are that you can lose up to 40% of your productivity if you multi-task.

Task switching, not multi-tasking — The term multi-tasking is actually a misnomer. People can’t actually do more than one task at a time. Instead we switch tasks. So the term that is used in the research is “task switching”.

Task switching is “expensive” — There has been a lot of research on task switching. Here’s what we know from the research:

  • It takes more time to get tasks completed if you switch between them than if you do them one at a time.
  • You make more errors when you switch than if you do one task at a time.
  • If the tasks are complex then these time and error penalties increase.
  • Each task switch might waste only 1/10th of a second, but if you do a lot of switching in a day it can add up to a loss of 40% of your productivity.
  • Task switching involves several parts of your brain: Brain scans during task switching show activity in four major areas: the pre-frontal cortex is involved in shifting and focusing your attention, and selecting which task to do when. The posterior parietal lobe activates rules for each task you switch to, the anterior cingulate gyrus monitors errors, and the pre-motor cortex is preparing for you to move in some way.

I know it’s popular to think that you are multi-tasking, but the research is clear that people actually can’t multi-task, with one specific exception that I’ll get to in a minute. . .

Continue reading. The article includes some interesting findings.

You might find these related articles of interest as well:

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 8:35 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

The 401(k) ripoff

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By and large, the 401(k) plans amount to little more than transferring money from the poor to the wealthy. Read this post by Kevin Drum.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 8:29 am

Posted in Business, Government

Mayday shave: Perfectomundo

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SOTD 1 May 2013

What can I say? A wonderfully smooth face following an enjoyable interlude, with fragrance.

The brush is my first expensive brush and still one of my favorites: the Rooney Style 2 Finest. It made a great lather from a little I Coloniali smeared onto my wet beard, then my new Maggard razor. He offers four models (one is sold out), and the link is to the one I got. The head is clearly modeled on the Edwin Jagger/Mühle head, and it shaves quite similarly. I used a Kai blade and found the razor quite friendly and effective—and at $16 a bargain. I think now for a beginner razor, I’ll recommend a choice of the Sodial ($2.30, but that includes shipping), a Maggard ($16), or the Edwin Jagger ($30 for the DE86bl (faux-ebony handle)).

A good splash of Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet in honor of Mayday. I vividly recall the May baskets that adorned every doorfront along the block of Prince George Street from College Avenue to Maryland Avenue every May 1—quite a novelty to a small-town Oklahoma boy.

Great shave, beautiful day, celebrate life while you have it.

Written by Leisureguy

1 May 2013 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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