Later On

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

Archive for July 7th, 2014

Incredible! Cuba plot to smear U.S. Senator

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I think I will not doubt it. For now. Here’s the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Congress, Government

Company cultures have a strong survival instinct: GM edition

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Culture—the active memes in use of the current cultural (or sub-cultural) populations–are close enough to living that they try to reproduce and if threatened, they struggle to survive. GM had a big Moment of Truth after the Cobalt incident and their own investigation clearly indicts the culture: Things Will Never Be The Same.

Only culture is sticky and alive: see this story. The new GM acts a lot like the old GM.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 6:22 pm

Old bridge saying: “One peek is worth two finesses.”

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And in intel terms, that means stealing the research done by others: much cheaper than doing your own. Story.

What’s interesting is that they do this essentially out in the open: everyone knows it’s being done, everyone knows who’s doing it. But it continues because, I suppose, it’s worth it to avoid war? I guess I would say that it is. Obviously we should use good security and not simply set things out for the taking (in effect). So improving security is important. It would help if NSA were interested in strengthening instead of weakening cybersecurity. As it is, no one trusts NSA, for very good reasons: while past performance is not an indicator of future results, it’s still the best predictor we’ve got, and NSA’s track record is abysmal.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 6:12 pm

Google CEO Larry Page discusses the possibility of a four-day work week

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Page talks about in in this report by Jena McGregor in the Washington Post. It has been tried, and tried successfully, but business owners seemed quite skittish about their employees having more leisure time: too much time to think and “to get up to mischief,” as I bet some said. Read the fascinating article at the second link. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the idea.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

How to Block Online Tracking

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I use Disconnect, but this article discusses some other tools as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 3:38 pm

Posted in Software, Technology

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Good summary of Hobby Lobby implications

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Alan Park has a good post at Mother Jones on the problems implicit in the Hobby Lobby decision. Basically, one the corporate veil is ripped open, then things flow in both directions: if the owners can have the corporation reflect their religious beliefs, they are well on their way to having to pay (personally) for the corporation’s debt. Park’s post begins:

Here’s one more reason to worry about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed the arts and crafts chain to block insurance coverage of contraception for female employees because of the owners’ religious objections: It could screw up corporate law.

This gets complicated, but bear with us. Basically, what you need to know is that if you and some friends start a company that makes a lot of money, you’ll be rich, but if it incurs a lot of debt and fails, you won’t be left to pay its bills. The Supreme Court affirmed this arrangement in a 2001 case, Cedric Kushner Promotions vs. Don King:

linguistically speaking, the employee and the corporation are different “persons,” even where the employee is the corporation’s sole owner. After all, incorporation’s basic purpose is to create a distinct legal entity, with legal rights, obligations, powers, and privileges different from those of the natural individuals who created it, who own it, or whom it employs.

That separation is what legal and business scholars call the “corporate veil,” and it’s fundamental to the entire operation. Now, thanks to the Hobby Lobby case, it’s in question. By letting Hobby Lobby’s owners assert their personal religious rights over an entire corporation, the Supreme Court has poked a major hole in the veil. In other words, if a company is not truly separate from its owners, the owners could be made responsible for its debts and other burdens.

“If religious shareholders can do it, why can’t creditors and government regulators pierce the corporate veil in the other direction?” Burt Neuborne, a law professor at New York University, asked in an email.

That’s a question raised by 44 other law professors, who filed a friends-of-the-court brief that implored the Court to reject Hobby Lobby’s argument and hold the veil in place. Here’s what they argued:

Allowing a corporation, through either shareholder vote or board resolution, to take on and assert the religious beliefs of its shareholders in order to avoid having to comply with a generally-applicable law with a secular purpose is fundamentally at odds with the entire concept of incorporation. Creating such an unprecedented and idiosyncratic tear in the corporate veil would also carry with it unintended consequences, many of which are not easily foreseen.

In his opinion for Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito’s insisted the decision should be narrowly applied to the peculiarities of the case. But as my colleague Pat Caldwell writes, the logic of the argument is likely to invite a tide of new lawsuits, all with their own unintended consequences.

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Business, Law, Religion

The DLC iKon slant

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Three razors

My new DLC iKon slant just arrived! From the front: stainless iKon slant, new iKon slant with dlc coating and longer handle; DLC Weber (with UFO handle).

The Weber is included because I wanted to show something that doesn’t really show up in the photo: the Weber DLC is matte black, but the iKon DLC coating seems polished—you can see the light reflecting off the teeth of the guard, for example.

The new iKon also has a noticeably longer handle with a noticeable knob at the end, larger in diameeter than the handle proper.

I’ll shave with it tomorrow and provide a report. Full disclosure: Greg is a blog reader, and the razor came as a gift.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Shaving

Cool article on rapid notetaking

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Very interesting article in the Atlantic by Dennis Hollier.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 11:44 am

The Mayday PAC succeeded—a superPAC to fight superPACs.

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Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:

Last week, with just a couple of days until a hard July 4 deadline, Mayday PAC still had to raise a whopping $2.5 million. It was an ambitious target. When I spoke to Harvard law scholar Lawrence Lessig about his chances then, he seemed grimly optimistic in the way a battlefield commander might be about taking a particularly well-defended hill: They’d get there.

Turns out, the super PAC that’s trying to end the influence of money in politics had reinforcements in waiting. It broke past its $5 million goal over the holiday weekend with about $300,000 to spare. With more than 50,000 contributors, the average donation works out to about $140. No matter what side you’re on when it comes to campaign finance, this was a triumph of grassroots organizing, with small donations leading the way. . .

Continue reading.

Full disclosure: I contributed, and more than the mean.

From later in the article:

With the $5 million comes a $5 million match from high-profile investors. Together with another $2 million raised earlier this year, Mayday PAC will have more than $12 million in its pocket to get campaign finance reformers elected to Congress.

“The pundits say ‘America doesn’t care about this issue,'” wrote Lessig in a note to supporters. “This is America caring.”

As I wrote last week, this is where Mayday PAC’s real work begins. It needs to figure out how to spend that money effectively. It needs to pick the right races to make that money competitive.

Mayday PAC might need to be smarter and faster than the average super PAC, because depending on the contest, it may be drawing people’s attention to campaign money for the first time. Unlike other issues that have already been politicized — taxes, or health care, say — Mayday’s task is two-fold. First it has to convince people that campaign finance is an issue worth voting on at all. Then it has to persuade people to vote its way. If Mayday’s selected a race in which neither candidate has taken a firm position on campaign finance reform, getting it onto people’s radar will be that much harder. This is where the heat map above may prove useful as a way to identify likely races — and an active base of existing supporters and potential volunteers.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 11:42 am

The curse of smart people

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An interesting blog post that discusses a problem in decision-making laid out in Russo and Schoemaker’s highly useful book Decision Traps: Ten Barriers to Brilliant Decision-Making and How to Overcome Them: that we tend to trust people who radiate confidence, and that confidence is often misplaced—that is, the confidence is based on their own self-esteem and the logic/rationalization they used to arrive at their conclusion. Quite often, the confidence is based on (logical) expectations rather than (actual) experience. From many painful mistakes, human culture ultimately arrived at the scientific method in which experience of the actual is the supreme arbiter—but we still love a shortcut, and confident people offer one.

At any rate, an interesting post. And I continue to recommend the book, as you see.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 11:16 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

Why OSHA is required: Otherwise, businesses would let their employees be killed

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Michael Grabell reports at ProPublica:

Inside the sugar plant in Fairless Hills, Pa., nobody could find Janio Salinas, a 50-year-old temp worker from just over the New Jersey border.

Throughout the morning, Salinas and a handful of other workers had been bagging mounds of sugar for a company that supplies the makers of Snapple drinks and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. But sugar clumps kept clogging the massive hopper, forcing the workers to climb inside with shovels to help the granules flow out the funnel-like hole at the bottom.

Coming back from lunch that day in February 2013, one employee said he had seen Salinas digging in the sugar. But when he looked back, Salinas was gone. All that remained was a shovel buried up to its handle. Then, peering through a small gap in the bottom of the hopper, someone noticed what appeared to be blue jeans.

It was Salinas. He had been buried alive in sugar.

As harrowing as the accident was, federal safety investigators recently discovered something perhaps even more disturbing: A safety device that would have prevented Salinas’ death had been removed just 13 days before the accident because a manager believed it was slowing down production.

After a series of gruesome accidents involving untrained temp workers, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has stepped up its enforcement of rules affecting temp workers. In recent cases, OSHA has held companies and temp agencies jointly responsible for training, and it has fined temp agencies for not assessing potential dangers before sending people to a workplace.

But the federal report on the accident that killed Salinas reveals how deeply rooted the problems are—and how difficult a challenge OSHA faces in changing the way temp workers are treated.

The Salinas case is featured in a new investigative report by Univision, airing tonight on its news magazine show, Aquí y Ahora. The report also features undercover video from the growing blue-collar temp world. Earlier this year, the Spanish-language TV network sent two producers to work for temp agencies in an immigrant neighborhood in New Brunswick, N.J. From there, the agencies provide workers to local warehouses to unload goods coming in from overseas.

Univision quickly learned that the agencies weren’t following employment rules. At five of the seven agencies they visited, the employment forms the producers received were in English, even though they spoke Spanish and the overwhelming majority of workers who use the agencies don’t speak English. One producer was asked to sign a safety quiz that had already been filled out. When they got to the warehouses, both men were sent to work without any training.

The temporary staffing business has been . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 11:09 am

Planning for your future: Take up art

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Tom Jacobs has an interesting article in Pacific Standard:

If you’re approaching retirement, you’ll be facing some difficult issues, even if your finances are in order. Fundamental concerns inevitably arise, including “What shall I do with my time?” and “How can I continue to feel strong and capable?”

New research from Germany suggests an advantageous answer to both of those questions could be to start making art.

A research team led by neurologist Anne Bolwerk reports “the production of visual art improves effective interaction” between certain regions of the brain.

What’s more, this improvement in brain function—found in a small group of new retirees who took a class in which they created paintings and drawings—was matched by self-reports of strengthened psychological resilience. . .

“Our results have important implications for preventative and therapeutic interventions,” the researchers write in the online journal PLoS One. . .

Continue reading.

It sounds as though the benefits would be valuable even before retirement.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 10:34 am

Posted in Art, Mental Health, Science

This is depressing: Destroying small businesses for fun and profit

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Kevin Poulsen reports in Wired:

Washington DC-area residents with a hankering for lion meat lost a valuable source of the (yes, legal) delicacy last year when a restaurant called the Serbian Crown closed its doors after nearly 40 years in the same location. The northern Virginia eatery served French and Russian cuisine in a richly appointed dining room thick with old world charm. It was best known for its selection of exotic meats—one of the few places in the U.S. where an adventurous diner could order up a plate of horse or kangaroo. “We used to have bear, but bear meat was abolished,” says proprietor Rene Bertagna. “You cannot import any more bear.”

But these days, Bertagna isn’t serving so much as a whisker. It began in early 2012, when he experienced a sudden 75 percent drop off in customers on the weekend, the time he normally did most of his business. The slump continued for months, for no apparent reason. Bertagna’s profits plummeted, he was forced to lay off some of his staff, and he struggled to understand what was happening. Only later did Bertagna come to suspect that he was the victim of a gaping vulnerability that made his opened his Google listings to manipulation.

He was alerted to that possibility when one of his regulars phoned the restaurant. “A customer called me and said, ‘Why are you closed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday? What’s going on?’” Bertagna says.

It turned out that Google Places, the search giant’s vast business directory, was misreporting the Serbian Crown’s hours. Anyone Googling Serbian Crown, or plugging it into Google Maps, was told incorrectly that the restaurant was closed on the weekends, Bertagna says. For a destination restaurant with no walk-in traffic, that was a fatal problem.

“This area where the restaurant is located is kind of off the beaten path,” says Bertagna’s lawyer, Christopher Rau. “It’s in a wealthy subdivision of northern Virginia where a lot of government employees live on these estates and houses with two- or three-acre lots … It’s not really on the way to anything. If you’re going there, it’s because you’ve planned to go there. And unless you know that the place is going to be open, you’re probably not going to drag yourself out.”

Bertagna immigrated to the U.S. from northern Italy when he was young. He’s 74 now, and, he says, doesn’t own a computer—he’d heard of the Internet and Google but used neither. Suddenly, a technological revolution of which he was only dimly aware was killing his business. His accountant phoned Google and in an attempt to change the listing, but got nowhere. Bertagna eventually hired an Internet consultant who took control of the Google Places listing and fixed the bad information—a relatively simple process.

But by then, Bertagna says, his business was in a nose dive from which he couldn’t recover—service suffered after the layoffs, and customers stopped coming back. He shuttered the Serbian Crown in April 2013. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the story:

. . . Beneath its slick interface and crystal clear GPS-enabled vision of the world, Google Maps roils with local rivalries, score-settling, and deception. Maps are dotted with thousands of spam business listings for nonexistent locksmiths and plumbers. Legitimate businesses sometimes see their listings hijacked by competitors or cloned into a duplicate with a different phone number or website. In January, someone bulk-modified the Google Maps presence of thousands of hotels around the country, changing the website URLs to a commercial third-party booking site (which siphons off the commissions).

Small businesses are the usual targets. In a typical case in 2010, Buffalo-based Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry saw its Google Maps listing changed to “permanently closed” at the exact same time that it was flooded with fake and highly unfavorable customer reviews.

“We narrowed it down as to who it was. It was another jeweler who had tampered with it,” says Barbara Oliver, the owner. “The bottom line was the jeweler put five-star reviews on his Google reviews, and he slammed me and three other local jewelers, all within a couple of days.”
Barbara Oliver.

Barbara Oliver. Courtesy Barbara Oliver & Co.
Oliver’s Google Maps listing was repaired, because she had something Bertagna didn’t have: a web consultant on retainer feeding and caring for her Internet presence. That consultant, Mike Blumenthal, says he’s countered a lot of similar tampering over the years.

“I had a client who’s phone number was modified through a community edit,” says Blumenthal, who closely tracks Google Maps’ foibles in his blog. “It was a small retail shop—interior design. I traced it back to a competitor who left a footprint.” . . .

Those who destroy businesses in this way should face prison terms.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 10:20 am

Posted in Business, Technology

Israel confronts its own extremists

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The 16-year-old boy, burned alive by six Israelis; the 15-year-old boy, savagely beaten by Israeli police: Israel’s aggressive and illegal actions are attracting attention, and perhaps this will lead the country to reconsider its stance and its chosen responses to problems. Ruth Eglash, Sufian Taha, and Grif Witte report in the Washington Post. It’s worth reading the article. From it:

On Sunday, Israel reckoned with rising homegrown extremism as it arrested six Jewish suspects who are believed to have burned Mohammad Abu Khieder to death in revenge for the killing of three Israeli teens.

The arrests shocked those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide — Palestinians because many had assumed Israel would never act against its own, and Israelis because there had been widespread doubt that Jews could have carried out such a heinous crime.

Sunday’s action could help defuse what has been seen as a dangerous swelling of Palestinian anger, with violent protests in East Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel feeding fears of a budding intifada, or uprising. Demonstrators who have called for such a revolt against the Israeli occupation have decried a lack of justice and had bitterly predicted that Abu ­Khieder’s killers would never face trial.

But by arresting the suspects, the Israeli government must confront ­extremist elements within its ­society.

Human rights advocates have long warned of an alarming rise in anti-Arab vandalism and vigilante attacks carried out by Jewish extremists. Such incidents are referred to by their perpetrators as the “price tag” for what they see as Israeli government concessions to the Palestinians.

But Abu Khieder’s killing Wednesday went far beyond most such attacks in its raw brutality. Some Israeli officials had speculated that the slaying was a result of a family dispute amid disbelief that it could have been revenge for the deaths of the three Israelis.

“This a shock for most Israeli Jews, and I think it’s a kind of wake-up call,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview Sunday evening. “This is something that will change the way people think, and it will lead to a better understanding that we need to act when we see even the smallest signs of incitement, whether it is on Internet sites or price-tag attacks.”

Livni said the conflict is “not just between the Israelis and the Palestinians, it is within Israel between different Israeli citizens, and this is what worries me the most.”

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 9:50 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Woman Man Shaving Goat Milk Rose Soap

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STOD 7 July 2014

A reader recommended this soap, so I gave it a shot. It has an interesting list of ingredients:

Materials: soap, shaving, rose, coconut butter, mango butter, palm oil, jojoba oil, french clay, shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, coconut rum, castor oil

The rose fragrance is fairly strong, which I like, and the lather is quite good. I did my wet-brush loading and then palm-lathering, stopping this time before adding too much water. (I think that happened on Saturday.) I got tired of using the same brush every day, so I broke out the Wet Shaving Products Prince, and loved using it.

The bakelite slant with a Lab Blue blade swiftly and easily and—dare I say?—pleasurably removed the two-day stubble, leaving my face BBS. A good splash of The Shave Den Store’s Lavender Rose aftershave, and I’m ready to start another week. Some cross-cut beef shanks are already in a 200ºF oven, sitting amongst chopped onion and Roma tomatoes that were cooked briefly in olive oil, with thyme, savory, salt, pepper, and a little fish sauce. That should be ready in good time for dinner.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 9:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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