Later On

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

Archive for July 2nd, 2014

Good example of devastating review

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Wow! Robin Thicke’s Paula reviewed by Sophie Gilbert.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Music

Mayday PAC: A run at campaign-finance reform

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Brian Fung has a very interesting article in the Washinton Post, and I did make a pledge to Mayday PAC:

Whatever your politics, chances are you’re among the vast majority of Americans who believe there’s too much money in the whole business. With the Supreme Court knocking down one campaign finance barrier after another, money in politics has only grown more central to U.S. culture — not less. Even as the cycle of spending and giving accelerates, it’s not clear what, if anything, ordinary voters can do about it.

Except, perhaps, to fight money with money.

Lawrence Lessig is the Harvard scholar who’s better known for his work on intellectual property and co-founding Creative Commons, the licensing framework that allowed me to use the photo at the top of this post. But going to Congress to ask for a more progressive copyright regime was a fool’s errand, he discovered, because he found that everyone on the Hill had been captured by large, wealthy interests who had a stake in keeping things the way they were. So lately, Lessig has taken to running a campaign of his own: launching a super PAC that would dismantle the modern-day campaign finance system.

Lessig wants to break the resignation he’s seeing in Americans. And he wants to do it now. On Friday, the three-month-old Mayday PAC will hit a key deadline; if Lessig and his fellow activists successfully raise $5 million, Kickstarter-style, the super PAC will get a massive match, putting it within reach of its $12 million goal and making Mayday PAC competitive in five House races around the country.

That’s the idea, at any rate. If Mayday PAC fails to hit its target — the group still must raise nearly $2.5 million in the next two days — the money gets returned to the crowdfunders and basically nothing happens. To help push it over the top, the Internet’s grassroots activism machine is already churning in high gear: In recent weeks, Mayday PAC has been promoting itself as the Internet’s superPAC, gaining endorsements from prominent tech geeks like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Silicon Valley investors like Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. On Wednesday, the group announced it would even begin taking donations in bitcoins.

Why would anyone support a super PAC whose sole purpose is to reduce the role of money in politics, anyway?

The case for Mayday PAC — and what Lessig hopes will make it compelling both to liberals and conservatives — is that . . .

Continue reading.

Fung also points out a win for transparency in campaign finance—a small reform that was fought viciously by conservative donors.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Election, Politics

An interesting attack on Jane Jacobs’s pseudoscientific views

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Jane Jacobs has had enormous influence in city planning and urban sociology, but Jim Russell sees serious problems in her approach. Read this thoughtful and interesting article.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Books, Science

When Taliban meets Hobby Lobby…

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Steve Coll writes in the New Yorker:

Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence.

This year, three out of five of the world’s new polio cases have been found in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, particularly in North Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban and groups like it have run a de-facto state since about 2008. The great majority of the polio victims are children under two years old.

If the Pakistani Taliban, aided by clever lawyers, organized a closely held American corporation, and professed to run it on religious principles, might its employees be deprived of insurance coverage to inoculate their children against polio? And would the Supreme Court, by the five-to-four decision issued on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, endorse such a move?

In setting up stateside to enjoy the freedom proclaimed by the Court, the Taliban would have to overcome its awkward position as a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization under American law. Shooting health workers with whom the Taliban disagrees would also be out of the question, since such acts would bring into play other strands of American law, such as the prohibition on homicide. (Residents of the F.A.T.A., governed by tribal codes that legitimize revenge killing, do not enjoy the same protection.) But these are obstacles that the Taliban’s lawyers, if they were good ones, might well overcome. The Taliban could inspire American followers to put together a corporate charter separately and independently, without any financial or military links to the banned mother organization. And the American offshoot could learn to hire lobbyists rather than gunmen.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s conservative majority, sought to evade such thought exercises by predicting, without evidence, that there will not be “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.”

Why not? Is it because the justices do not intend to extend their reasoning to companies that hold religious views less proximate to their own Christian beliefs? Or because the judges believe that they can enforce what they imagine to be a rational or permissible resistance to reproductive rights for women, while blocking what they might see as irrational resistance to transfusions and vaccines? As it happens, it is not just the Taliban who are paranoid about vaccines; many American groups, secular and religious, evince such skepticism. Some groups believe, for example, that certain childhood vaccines may cause autism, even though there is no scientific basis for such beliefs.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants—Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other—as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday’s ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women. If so, that is another failure of their reasoning, one that exposes what really seems to have gone on in this decision: four longtime adherents to the deeply rooted conservative movement to limit or ban abortion in the United States, joined by a fifth willing to defer to them, saw in the Hobby case an opportunity to advance their cause incrementally, and they reasoned to achieve that end—not, as their opinion claims, to construct a sustainable framework of religious resistance to public-health laws. . .

Continue reading.

Unfortunately, I believe the majority that supported the Hobby Lobby confused their religious beliefs with the law of the land.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Religion

When will Guantánamo end?

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It has been, like other initiatives by George W. Bush, a monumental failure. David Cole has a good post at the New Yorker:

Ten years ago Saturday, the Supreme Court ruled, in Rasul v. Bush, that foreign “enemy combatants” held at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station had a right to challenge the legality of their detention in court. The decision, the first to extend such a right to the enemy in an armed conflict, was widely and justifiably hailed as a major victory for the rule of law. The Court had rejected President George W. Bush’s claims of uncheckable authority to deprive people of their liberty without review. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, in a companion case issued the same day, “a state of war is not a blank check for the President.”

Ten years later, the remaining prisoners at Guantánamo—a hundred and forty-nine of them—may wonder what all the fuss was about. They obtained the theoretical right to seek judicial review, but in most cases that review has proved virtually meaningless. At first, the district courts ruled that many detainees were unlawfully detained. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which had earlier denied the detainees any review at all, upheld the government in every appeal it filed. Moreover, the detainees themselves cannot see most of the evidence against them, and therefore often cannot participate meaningfully in their own defense. After a decade, not a single detainee has been released because of the government losing or exhausting its appeals. (The Administration chose not to appeal some release orders, but given its record in the court of appeals these releases were, for all practical purposes, voluntary.) The Supreme Court, meanwhile, has repeatedly declined to step in.

In this respect, the Rasul decision recalls another Supreme Court opinion: Brown v. Board of Education. When Brown was decided, in 1954, the Court unanimously declared that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. In a ruling on remedies shortly thereafter, however, the Court announced that the problem did not need to be fixed immediately but, rather, “with all deliberate speed.” Segregation persisted for years; practically speaking, it persists to this day. Progress required the active involvement of Congress and the President, through the passage of civil-rights laws in the sixties, and such initiatives as President Eisenhower’s ordering troops to Little Rock to protect newly integrated students.

The Court in Rasul issued no such open invitation to delay, but the effect has been much the same. The Court addressed only the question of whether detainees could have a day in court, but it provided no guidance for how such judicial review should be exercised, or even what the government would have to show to justify continued detention. It rested its decision on statutory grounds, which prompted Congress to amend the law to deny judicial review. It was another four years before the Court invalidated that statute, and held, in Boumediene v. Bush, that judicial review was constitutionally compelled. Even then, it said nothing about what rights detainees might have once they got into court. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:15 pm

Maine’s weird governor, conspiring with the Sovereign Citizen movement

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Things get weird when so many of the electorate skip voting. The article at the link begins:

At 8 a.m. on February 4, 2013, a signal crackled to life from the WXME radio tower in Aroostook County, about a mile and a half from the Canadian border. The broadcast went out locally on the AM band as well as the station’s online stream. The signal was picked up from the Internet and rebroadcast through a network of low-power FM repeaters maintained by volunteers willing to skirt the edges of FCC regulations in towns across Maine. Listeners tuning in that morning were greeted first with a medley of patriotic and religious songs and then by the voices of Jack McCarthy and Steve Martin, hosts of the Aroostook Watchmen radio show.

McCarthy and Martin are two men with a cause. They believe they have access to truths that few others know or want to hear, primarily that the American government is illegitimate and that the shadowy cabal of elites who control it are preparing for a war on the American people. The 9/11 attacks, the Boston bombing, most mass shootings, and a wide range of other events generally attributed to terrorists and criminals are actually false-flag operations perpetrated by the American government against its own people as part of a ramp-up to a final reckoning, according to the hosts. The Watchmen, who consider themselves “Sovereign Citizens” outside government control, feel it’s their responsibility to reveal these conspiracies and to help wrest back control of the country from the usurpers. Their program is broadcast six days a week.

This particular Monday morning, the Watchmen discussed new evidence that they said proved the Sandy Hook school shooting was a false-flag operation made possible through government mind control. They warned that Jewish Senators Diane Feinstein, Chuck Schumer, and Joe Lieberman were attempting to disarm the patriots of America so that they could begin their “holocaust against America’s Christian population.” They also had something more locally relevant to talk about: McCarthy’s hour-and-a-half meeting, two days earlier, with Maine Governor Paul LePage.

The meeting with the governor had taken place two days after McCarthy and a group of fellow conspiracy theorists calling themselves the Constitutional Coalition held a press conference at the State House. They stood behind a podium in the Hall of Flags (just outside LePage’s suite of offices) and announced that the president of the Maine Senate, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, and Governor LePage had all violated their oaths and should be removed from office. The group explained that they had submitted a set of “remonstrances” to all three government officials on January 14 accusing them of acting unlawfully and had received no reply. Under their unique interpretation of the Maine Constitution, this meant that all three politicians must surrender their elected offices. The men were there to announce their intention to enforce that judgment.

One of the participants, Constitutional Coalition leader Wayne Leach, made reference to the American Revolution and declared that “hopefully this remonstrance, which uses words, will be sufficient. The weapons, I hope, will not be used.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 11:54 am

Posted in Government, Politics

Why I love artisanal shaving vendors

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2 July 2014

Mainline vendors will never offer novelty fragrances like Texas on Fire (a kind of mesquite smoke fragrance) and Fresh Dirt (smells as though I had a productive morning in the garden).

I had again some lather problems with Stirling: no lather after the first pass. I probably did not load brush sufficiently, though the lather for the first pass seemed excellent. I’ll continue trying, though I do say I don’t have such difficulties with other soaps. But I am determined to master it.

For the second and third passes I returned to the Speick soap from yesterday: immediate bountiful and thick lather, with a fresh clean smell, an interesting contrast to Texas on Fire.

The iKon OSS did a fine job, and I did like the robust earthiness of Fresh Dirt from The Shave Den Store.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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