Later On

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

Archive for May 7th, 2013

Conservative v. Liberal mindset

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Kevin Drum has an extremely interesting post in which explores possible explanations for the differences in how conservatives and liberals approach things.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2013 at 10:56 am

Posted in Democrats, GOP

The military’s “rape culture” problem in a nutshell: Military sexual assault prevention officer charged with sexual battery

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Katie McDonough has the story in Salon:

Chief of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch at the Pentagon Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery in Virginia over the weekend.

Krusinski is accused of drunkenly fondling a woman in a parking lot, according to Arlington County police.

As reported by local news site ARLnow: . . .

Continue reading.

And note Craig Whitlock’s story in the Washington Post:

An Air Force general has run afoul of Congress for granting clemency to a convicted sex offender without any public explanation, the latest case to raise fundamental questions about how the military justice system handles sex crimes.

The case is the second this year in which a three-star Air Force general has raised lawmakers’ hackles by effectively pardoning an officer found guilty of sexual assault, a crime many experts see as a growing problem in the military.

This time the general is a former astronaut who has served as a role model for other female officers as she climbed into the upper ranks of the Air Force.

Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who as a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour became the first U.S. military woman to travel in space in 1993, was poised to make another ascent in her career in March when the White House nominated her to become vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command.

But her nomination has been blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, who wants to examine Helms’s previously unpublicized decision to overturn the conviction, on charges of aggravated sexual assault, of a captain at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Helms’s action mirrors another case that has drawn angry attention from Congress and prompted legislators to propose landmark changes in military law. In that instance, victims’ advocates called for the firing of Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, after he tossed out the sexual-assault conviction of a star fighter pilot in February.

In both cases, the generals ignored the recommendations of their legal advisers and overruled a jury’s findings — without publicly revealing why. Neither general was a judge and neither observed the trials, but they intervened to grant clemency before the convictions could be heard by an appeals court. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2013 at 9:50 am

Posted in Law, Military

Obama Embraces Plutocrats Again With His Billionaire Commerce Secretary Choice

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It is becoming overt and obvious that the US is now run by the 1%, and they do hang together. Obama has long since embraced the financial industry (or become the servant of the industry), so this story in Alternet by Steven Rosenfeld is no surprise.

President Obama has let the public down once again with his pick for Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the billionaire businesswoman who led the national 2008 fundraising effort that kept the Obama campaign’s hopes alive and catapulted him to the White House.

Loyalty and trust are prized political values—and clearly Obama trusts Pritzker, whom he has known [3] for two decades. But Obama’s fealty is going to be tested because her record as a businesswoman shares similarities with Mitt Romney’s. Her massive wealth is kept [4] in tax-avoiding offshore accounts. Her family’s best-known business, the Hyatt hotel empire, is known for bitter and ongoing disputes [5] with labor unions. Her resume includes running a bank that pioneered high-interest subprime loans and then failed miserably, leaving uninsured depositors with losses averaging [6] $6,000.

Since 2008, when Pritzker was said [7] to have wanted the Commerce post, she apparently has disentangled her assets from her family’s portfolio. But there is no escaping that her nomination highlights the biggest schism in the Democratic Party: it cannot be a party that embraces both workers and the wealthy without large doses of hypocrisy.

“There is a huge unresolved set of issues in the Democratic Party between people of wealth and people who work,” Andy Stern, the Service Employees International Union ex-president, told [8] theNew York Times last July. “Penny is a living example of that issue.”

Not Just An Heiress

Pritzker is the second female CEO Obama has nominated to a cabinet post this term. He picked Sally Jewell, CEO of Recreational Equiment, Inc., for Interior Secretary. But Pritzker’s record in business, politics and philanthropy is much deeper. Her career is that of a person who wanted to be known for more than a family fortune. Yet there is no escaping which side of the economic tracks she hails from.

Pritzker, who turned [9] 54 on the day Obama nominated her, is one of three children of Donald Pritzker, who co-founded Hyatt hotels. She went to private schools in Chicago, earned an economics degree from Harvard University, and then a JD/MBA at Stanford. In the late 1980s, an uncle bought [10] 50 percent of the Illinois-based Superior Bank from the FDIC for $42.5 million and was given $645 million in federal tax credits.

Pritzker was Superior’s chairwoman from 1991-1994, when it pioneered the same kind of high-interest subprime loans that caused the real estate market to crash several years ago. Consumer advocates called [10] Superior’s loans predatory because they were sold to people who could not afford them. But the bank also sold its debt as securities and hid its true financial health from regulators—much like Enron [11], the Texas energy company that branched out into deriviatives and collapsed at that time.

After the uncle who bought the bank died in 1999, the family [9] asked her to take over the bank. She did and tried to restructure its debt, but the FDIC seized the bank in July 2001. The agency then worked out a settlement with the Pritzker family, where they agreed to pay $460 million over 15 years. That settlement still left account holders a total of $10 million short—an average [5] of $6,000 for uninsured depositors. Federal courts ruled the family could not be sued to recover any more funds.

“This is a story of two Americas with two sets of laws, one for the rich and powerful and another for the rest of us,” Clint Krislov, the depositors’ attorney, told [10] Consortium News in 2008. “My clients will all be dead, before they get back their money, given the [U.S.] Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the lower court, which put the predatory owners on the front of the line, if any money is recovered.”

The Pritzkers and the Unions

Subsequent fights within the Pritzker family led to a breakup [9] of its holdings, starting in 2005 and unfolding over the next half-dozen years. But she has been on the Hyatt board since [12] 1999, in addition to other businesses she co-founded, which include [12] real estate development, airport parking lots and a credit reporting service, Hyatt’s website said.

The Hyatt chain “has long battled Unite Here in Los Angeles, Chicago and elsewhere,” the Chicago Tribune reported [5] in its nomination coverage. “And Pritzker, who served on the Chicago Board of Education until she resigned in March, has been harshly criticized by the Chicago Teachers Union. When she stepped down, a union official said she ‘has a long and storied history as an anti-labor and anti-worker kind of boss.’” . . .

Continue reading.

Near as I can tell, Obama has no strong allegiance to principles; instead he is guided by a kind of ambitious opportunism and seeks out money.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2013 at 9:45 am

US Border Patrol firing into Mexico, killing civilians

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The Border Patrol is a badly broken agency, and particularly in Texas and the Southwest, quite brutal. John Carlos Frey reports in the Washington Monthly on one incident:

Until moments before U.S. Border Patrol agents shot him dead on the night of October 10, 2012, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez had passed a pleasant evening in his hometown of Nogales, Mexico. He had visited his girlfriend, Luz, and watched television with her family; at around eleven o’clock, he asked Luz if she wanted to join him in his nightly routine of grabbing a hot dog at the convenience store where his brother worked. When she declined, he set out alone on the five-minute walk down International Avenue.

At about the same time, right across the border, a Nogales, Arizona, police officer named Quinardo Garcia responded to a call about “suspicious subjects” running south toward the fourteen-foot wall that divides the two towns. At 11:19 p.m., Border Patrol agents, including K-9 Officer John Zuniga, arrived as backup.

“I passed Officer Garcia’s patrol vehicle and I saw two male subjects climbing the international fence and were trying to get over to the country of Mexico,” Zuniga wrote in his report. “I gave them numerous commands to climb down.… I then decided to deploy my assigned canine, Tesko, and hold him on a leash and secure the area in case the male subjects climbed down. Moments later, additional Border Patrol Agents arrived on the scene.”

The two Mexican men were carrying large backpacks, according to the police report. Garcia and Zuniga stated that they presumed the packs contained illegal narcotics and that the two men were trying to evade capture. “I then heard several rocks start hitting the ground and I looked up and I could see the rocks flying through the air,” Zuniga’s account continues. “As I tried to get cover between a brick wall and small dirt hill, I heard an agent say, ‘Hey your canine’s been hit! Your canine’s been hit!’ ”

Border Patrol agents responded by opening fire across the border into the dark streets of Nogales, Mexico. No agents or officers claimed they’d been struck by rocks—the dog was the only one hit. By the time the agents were done firing, Jose Antonio had received two bullets to the back of the head; at least six more bullets entered the back of his body after he fell to the ground.

He landed facedown on the sidewalk, and died there, outside a small clinic whose sign read “Emergencias Medicas.” He was unarmed, according to the Nogales, Mexico, police report. Border Patrol officials, as of this writing, have declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation by the FBI, which has also declined to comment.

Fatal shootings by Border Patrol agents were once a rarity. Only a handful were recorded before 2009. Even more rare were incidents of Border Patrol agents shooting Mexicans on their own side of the border. A former Clinton administration official who worked on border security issues in the 1990s says he can’t recall a single cross-border shooting during his tenure. “Agents would go out of their way not to harm anyone and certainly not shoot across the border,” he says. But a joint investigation by the Washington Monthly and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute has found that over the past five years U.S. border agents have shot across the border at least ten times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil.

There is no doubt that Border Patrol agents face a difficult job. Between 2007 and 2012, twenty agents have died in the line of duty; most of these deaths were the result of accidents, but four were due to border violence. For instance, in 2010 Agent Brian A. Terry was struck down near Rio Rico, Arizona, in the Border Patrol’s Nogales area of operation, by AK-47 fire after he and his team encountered five suspected drug runners. In 2012, Agent Nicholas J. Ivie was shot by friendly fire after being mistaken by other agents for an armed smuggler.

But following a rapid increase in the number of Border Patrol agents between 2006 and 2009, a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force has emerged. When I first began to notice this spate of cross-border shootings, I assumed that at least some victims were drug traffickers or human smugglers trying to elude capture. But background checks revealed that only one had a criminal record. As I began to dig more deeply, it turned out that most of the victims weren’t even migrants, but simply residents of Mexican border towns like Jose Antonio, who either did something that looked suspicious to an agent or were nearby when border agents fired at someone else.

In one case, agents killed a thirty-year-old father of four while he was collecting firewood along the banks of the Rio Grande. In another, a fifteen-year-old was shot while watching a Border Patrol agent apprehend a migrant. In yet another, agents shot a thirty-six-year-old man while he was having a picnic to celebrate his daughters’ birthdays.

As the debate over immigration reform heats up on Capitol Hill, . . .

Continue reading. The US authorities are being desensitized to brutality—and some of these cases sound like outright murder.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2013 at 9:38 am

Terrific shave with a slant

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SOTD 7 May 2013

Another fine shave. My Rooney Victorian worked up a fine lather from the TFS puck, and then I set to work with the new slant razor holding a previously used Trig blade. I noticed that this razor, which not so light as the bakelite, is still pretty light. Including blade:

This slant: 57 g (Virtually all of that is the handle: the head is quite lightweight.)
The bakelite slant: 19 g

The slant I’m using has a prominent knob at the base, very handy for the ATG pass. Very smooth finish. I got a tiny nick at the site of yesterday’s nick, which seems to happen: the previous trauma apparently raises the skin slightly. Still, it was a much smaller nick, barely worth My Nik Is Sealed. Tomorrow should be back to normal.

An application of the Annik Goutal, and I’m good for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2013 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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