Later On

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

Archive for October 3rd, 2014

Really, the sociopathic nature of the corporation is totally clear: Wall Street and Eric Holder

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report at Wall Street on Parade:

. . . On January 22, 2013, Frontline aired Smith’s program titled “The Untouchables,” revealing the stunning news that the U.S. Justice Department under its Criminal Division chief, Lanny Breuer, hadn’t even made a pretense of a real investigation against the powerful Wall Street firms for their role in the financial collapse. This is the transcript of that portion of the program:

MARTIN SMITH: We spoke to a couple of sources from within the Criminal Division, and they reported that when it came to Wall Street, there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.

LANNY BREUER: Well, I don’t know who you spoke with because we have looked hard at the very types of matters that you’re talking about.

MARTIN SMITH: These sources said that at the weekly indictment approval meetings that there was no case ever mentioned that was even close to indicting Wall Street for financial crimes.

The afternoon after Smith’s program aired, Lanny Breuer announced he was stepping down from the Justice Department. Breuer returned to his former law firm laden with Wall Street clients, Covington & Burling (where U.S. Attorney Eric Holder also hails from) to become its Vice Chairman. The firm’s web site says Breuer “specializes in helping clients navigate…Congressional investigations, securities enforcement actions, and other criminal and civil matters presenting complex regulatory, political, and public relations risks.”

Three months after the Breuer program, in April 2013 Smith knocked it out of the park again. Using simple graphs and language the average person can understand, Smith uncloaked Wall Street’s asset stripping of the average worker’s 401(k) plan. We reported at the time:

If you work for 50 years and receive the typical long-term return of 7 percent on your 401(k) plan and your fees are 2 percent, almost two-thirds of your account will go to Wall Street. This was the bombshell dropped by Frontline’s Martin Smith in this Tuesday evening’s  PBS program, The Retirement Gamble.

This is not so much a gamble as a certainty: under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that’s before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam.

We check Smith’s math in the program and find that there’s another way to prove his point and advise our readers to do the following: “Pull up a compounding calculator on line. Take an account with a $100,000 balance and compound it at 7 percent for 50 years. That gives you a return of $3,278,041.36. Now change the calculation to a 5 percent return (reduced by the 2 percent annual fee) for the same $100,000 over the same 50 years. That delivers a return of $1,211,938.32. That’s a difference of $2,066,103.04 – the same 63 percent reduction in value that Smith’s example showed.”

You can read our full coverage here and see the original Frontline program here. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Business, Media

The Koch brothers have thin skins

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And also great difficulty with facts. I fear they are overtly dishonest.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 6:31 pm

Posted in Business, Politics

False views: That the Middle Ages were a time of engineering stagnation

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In fact, quite a few important technological developments and advances took place in the Middle Ages. I thought of that in connection with the cerebellum’s evolution, which, like the technology advance of the Middle Ages, still is often overlooked.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Memes show the evolution of evolution

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From Virus of the Mind:

Once our brains evolved to the point where we could receive, store, modify, and communicate ideas, there suddenly appeared a new environment that had the two characteristics needed for evolution: copying and innovating. Our brains, which arose out of increasing usefulness in the process of keeping DNA hosts (that’s us) alive and breeding, suddenly were thrust into the spotlight of evolution.

The brand-new innovation of the human mind was not just another arena for evolution besides the cell, it was a far better arena, simply because evolution takes place far more quickly. The biological forces that evolved our brains to the point where we had minds were now outdone a million times over by the new memetic forces evolving our thoughts, our society, and our culture. Evolution of the meme was assured.

It requires little abstraction as seeing evolution bootstrapping itself to a higher (faster, better, cheaper) form of evolution: the next stage of evolution and an interesting example of emergence, always an interesting phenomenon.

And while I was without computer, I used the Kindle footnote function. From the same book:

The only way we learn and grow is by changing our belief systems-changing our memetic programming. Yet, paradoxically, we tend to hang on to that programming as if it would kill us to be wrong about any of our memes.

To which I footnoted:

Of course people resist changing their memes:

1. Any meme that survives at all includes self-protective measures—example from defense industry: spread contracts for a weapons system over as many Congressionsal districts as possible to survive budget cuts (self-protective memes, in a way): so a meme in an individual should attach itself to as manjy other memes as possible. [The idea just occurred to me, but I am now looking at meme attachment points beyond the usual commercial merchandising tie-ins. Do memes build a superstructure, I wonder? Like atoms, some pairs naturally bond, other pairs naturally repulse.]

2. “Humans,” as individuals rather than animals, are CONSTRUCTED from memes—thus, a person losing a meme is losing part of himself/herself. So yes: they resist. The overall meme of the individual personality is threatened if/when the internal meme environment makes a sudden shift. Plus I imagine it takes a while for the various memes to find their bonding points/lowest energy state. But losing a part of who you are? Yeah, that might be resisted. OTOH, learning to spell something correctly doesn’t put much at risk: memes are of different sizes/natures, obviously.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Memes

A sampling of jaw-dropping stories…

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This list by Amanda Zamora is in ProPublica and comes out weekly—subscribe at the link:

“You never really think, ‘Is rape covered by insurance?'” Eight days after a New Orleans woman was raped, she was billed $2,000 for her medical treatment (her insurance would pay $1,400). A few days later, $1,700 in additional charges landed in the mail. Why was she being charged for treatment of a sexual crime? In Louisiana, rape victims are routinely billed for their medical care, despite state and federal guidelines stipulating that such treatment should be free. — The Times-Picayune via @laura_nelson

Should battered women be prosecuted for failing to protect their children?  BuzzFeed found at least 28 women in 11 states who were handed prison sentences for failing to prevent their children form being harmed by abusive partners, despite evidence that they were also being battered. One woman was sentenced to 45 years in prison after her boyfriend killed her son. “I done tried to leave plenty of times,” she testified, but he “actually called and threatened to kill my family.” — BuzzFeed News via @KendallTTaggart

“They’re punishing the families, not the inmates.” The privatization of prisons is taking a greater toll on poor families who are being forced to pay hefty fees to send money to loved ones serving time. Prison bankers are collecting tens of millions from inmates’ families. Just one Florida company now handles money transfers for nearly 70 percent of the U.S. prison population, and is the only option for at least 450,000 inmates.  — Center for Public Integrity via @mattapuzzo

Excessive force or ‘excited delirium’? A 25-year-old suspect loses consciousness with his face down to the ground, hands and ankles zip-tied behind his back. A week later, he dies. New Jersey authorities later concluded the young man died of a rare condition called “excited delirium” — but records cast doubt on the police accounting of his death. — NJ Advance Media via @carla_astudi

Beatings. Shootings. Broken bones. Since 2011, the city of Baltimore has paid $5.7 million to settle claims of false arrests, false imprisonment or excessive force by its police officers. In almost all of the largest payouts, people were cleared of any criminal charges.— Baltimore Sun via @petesweigard

He’d slept for only three hours and 20 minutes before the collision that left a mother dead, one son with a broken pelvis and eye socket, and another permanently disabled. The story of Dough Bouch, who was sentenced to five years in prison for the fatal crash, is one of a growing number of trucking accidents involving sleep-deprived truck drivers. — Bloomberg News via Paul Steiger

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Daily life

Finally! Good riddance to bad rubbish…

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Megan McCloskey reports for ProPublica:

The longtime scientific director of the problem-ridden Pentagon agency charged with identifying the remains of service members missing from past wars is out of a job.

At a recent Korean War family update meeting in Washington, Tom Holland announced he would soon be leaving as head of the laboratory at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or J-PAC.

“You’ve heard about the reorganization, and I found out last week that I’m not a part of the reorganization,” Holland told the group in August.

Holland’s impending departure is the first leadership change to come to light as part of the major overhaul of the mission announced by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel last spring in response to increasing criticism. J-PAC and a second agency involved in the effort will be consolidated starting Jan. 1 in an effort to streamline the inefficient process. An investigation by ProPublica and NPR in March found the agency’s efforts to be rife with outdated science, duplicative bureaucracy and poor leadership.

Holland, who led the lab for nearly 20 years, was the focus of ProPublica’s story, which found he served as an arbiter of identifications and established procedures that set an exceedingly slow pace at the lab. With 9,400 service members still buried as unknowns around the world, his restrictive policies were seen as overly cautious.  Under his leadership, only one out of every 10 cases considered was ever approved for disinterment to attempt identification.

Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Amy Derrick-Frost wouldn’t comment on personnel moves. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 3:22 pm

How police in the US have gone into the highway robbery business

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The police in the US are not going in a good direction. Radley Balko points out in the Washington Post a story that ran in the Des Moines Register:

The Des Moines Register has the story of William “Bart” Davis and John Newmer­zhycky, two gamblers who had more than $100,000 seized from them after they were pulled over by Iowa state police.

Davis and Newmer­zhycky were westbound on Interstate Highway 80 in Poweshiek County on the morning of April 15, 2013, traveling from a World Series of Poker event at the Harrah’s casino in Joliet, Ill. During the trip Davis, a longtime professional poker player, mentored Newmer­zhycky on how to improve his poker playing, Newmerzhycky said. The two had known each other for approximately two years.

At the time of the stop, Newmerzhycky was driving a rented red Nissan Altima with Nevada license plates. The Des Moines Register obtained depositions, other documents and dash camera video detailing what happened next.

At 8:50 a.m., Trooper Justin Simmons — a member of eastern Iowa’s interdiction team — began following the vehicle carrying Newmerzhycky and Davis. In a report, Simmons wrote that an Illinois law enforcement officer had relayed concerns to Iowa authorities about a red vehicle, a forfeiture complaint says.

But in a deposition taken while the pair fought the seizure of their money, Simmons said he did not know why Illinois authorities had flagged the red vehicle or whether they’d suspected it was involved in criminal activity. More than 10 minutes after he began following the car, Simmons initiated a traffic stop, claiming Newmerzhycky failed to signal while passing a black SUV.

However, attorneys have now argued that a dash camera video taken from Simmons’ patrol cruiser — which was several car lengths behind the Altima — shows Newmerzhycky using his turn signal, contrary to the troopers’ report . . .

So the entire stop that lead to the seizure was based on claims by the trooper that either can’t be verified or are clearly contradicted by dash-cam video.

Simmons took Newmerzhycky into his patrol car to conduct a “motorist interview,” a tactic used by interdiction officers to ask questions of a motorist and ferret out suspicious behavior, Simmons said in a deposition. During the interview, Newmerzhycky appeared to be breathing rapidly and fidgeting with his hands — all signs interdiction officers are trained to look at as signs of potential criminal activity, Simmons said in a deposition.

Nonsense. Perhaps he was nervous because he’d heard about the practice of civil forfeiture and was afraid they’d take his money. Or maybe he’s just nervous around cops. Perhaps because he’d read stories like this one.

After telling Newmerzhycky he was free to leave with a warning, the trooper asked whether there were any drugs or cash in the car. Despite Newmerzhycky’s asking if he was free to leave, Simmons called Trooper Eric VanderWiel to the scene so that VanderWiel’s drug dog, Laika, could scan the car’s exterior.

This is another common tactic. The cop tells the motorist he is “free to go,” then tosses out a couple of additional questions or asks to bring in the drug dog. The cop can then argue in court that the additional questions were voluntary, not a product of the official detainment. The insinuation here is that the motorist was free to leave, therefore the search was voluntary. It’s pure fiction. What would have happened if, after Simmons summoned the other trooper, Newmerzhycky simply got into his car and drove away? Would Simmons have let him go? Of course not. Driving away would have been cast as an attempt to flee and probably would have brought criminal charges.

The pair had told the troopers they had no drugs or currency inside the car. In reality, however, Davis kept his money — $85,020 of the total — packaged neatly inside a locked briefcase.

So yes, they lied to the cops. Probably because they knew if they told the cops about their cash, the cops would have taken it from them.

The troopers told the pair that VanderWiel’s dog “alerted” on the vehicle’s back side. However, the spot where the dog alerted was out of the frame of the video from Simmons’ vehicle, the lawsuit said.

Convenient. And not at all uncommon. And drug dogs are notorious forfalse alerts in the field. In this case, however, the police did find a small amount of pot and a grinder, enough to merit a misdemeanor charge for Newmerzhycky. That was also enough for the state of Iowa to try to keep the money. The Iowa police then called California authorities, who searched the men’s homes. Despite both men having medical marijuana cards, those searches led to felony charges in California. After more than a year, all charges in both states have been dropped, and the state of Iowa has returned $90,000 of the money. But the men are still out some $30,000 they spent on attorney fees and other legal expenses. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Police work continues to get safer and safer

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Based on statistics, absolute terms (total numbers) 2013 was the safest year for cops since WWII, and in terms of the rate of injuries, 2013 was the safest year for cops in a century.

For civilians, not so much. Cities are now paying millions in settlements from lawsuits from those the police have hurt, either maliciously or from incompetence—though maliciousness seems to be the rule. Take Baltimore, for example. Or the recently blogged post about the boy from the Bronx, locked up at 17 and released when he was 20, most of his time spent in solitary confinement. No charges filed. He was simply locked up. (Apparently, the prosecutors knew that they had no case—he hadn’t actually done anything wrong—so they kept him locked up to get him to plead guilty to a lesser offense. He didn’t plead guilty and they finally gave up when a judge ordered him released. The prosecutor’s office said that they did nothing wrong.)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

When 911 doesn’t answer…

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It sounds as though 911 may or may not work, and particularly is unreliable on mobile phones. The phone companies and the FCC do not seem to be very interested in solving the problem or even uncovering the causes. This sound serious to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 1:20 pm

FCC to Marriott: No, you can’t force your customers onto terrible hotel WiFi

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As I often note, businesses will do anything that will increase profits—legal or not, moral or not, ethical or not: the entire goal is to grow profits. CEOs who point to other goals—socially useful goals, not profit-related—find themselves by CEOs more willing to focus solely on profits. The result is that we end up with very powerful entities—multinational corporations—headed by sociopaths. That bodes ill.

Take a look at this report by Brian Fung in the Washington Post:

Marriott has agreed to fork over $600,000 after regulators said the hotel chain forced people to buy their pricey, slow WiFi instead of letting customers use their own personal hotspots.

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that Marriott admitted to using a jamming system in at least one of its hotels in a move that prevented visitors from connecting to the Internet via mobile broadband. The agency said employees at one Tennessee hotel, the Gaylord Opryland, deliberately sought out visitors who were using WiFi hotspots and sent “de-authentication packets” to those devices, disconnecting them from laptops, tablets and phones.

It so happens that this policy runs directly counter to Section 333 of the Communications Act, the FCC’s congressional charter. So now, in addition to the fine, Marriott will have to file reports every three months to the FCC showing it’s on good behavior.

“It is unacceptable for any hotel to intentionally disable personal hotspots while also charging consumers and small businesses high fees to use the hotel’s own Wi-Fi network,” said Travis LeBlanc, the FCC’s top enforcement official.

Marriott sells its own WiFi access for $14.95 a day. Those fees can quickly add up, particularly when a customer is being charged separately for each new device, as some have complained. Marriott charges as much as $1,000 per device in some cases, according to the FCC. . .

Continue reading.

Those who hate the government: Note that it is the only force that can advocate for consumers and the public while being powerful enough to stand against large corporations—which is exactly why large corporations so systematically try to undermine the government and particularly the regulatory agencies.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 12:39 pm

GOP: “You want evidence of voter fraud? By God, we’ll give you evidence!”

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Trigger warning: This article describes dangerous levels of irony. A woman running for Attorney General of Arkansas on the GOP ticket turns out to be registered to vote in at least 3 states—and has voted there. Since her voter registration in Virginia precludes her voting in Arkansas, she also cannot run for Attorney General in Arkansas, where candidates for state office must be able to vote in state elections.

Oddly, the GOP is outraged—not that the woman committed voter fraud (she’s a Republican, and Republicans in general are okay with things that outrage them if done by Democrats), but that she is being removed as a valid candidate.

The GOP has taken “Win at any cost” way, way beyond any decent limit.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Shaves return with new computer

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This morning was a very nice shave: Pre de Provence shaving soap, which made a fine lather with Mr Pomp, my striped-handled silvertip brush. The razor was Above the Time R1—and dang! I don’t remember the blade. Probably an Astra Superior Platinum. 4711 aftershave.

The new computer is in hand, and I am doing an initial backup on my new 1Tb backup hard drive (99GB backed up of 112GB total, so soon done).

The CPU on this is slightly slower than on my old computer (2.8 Ghz instead of 2.9 Ghz), but the solid-state drive makes it respond more snappily. And the Retina display is very nice. With no CD drive, it’s quite a bit thinner.

I have ordered a keyboard cover ($8 from Amazon with free delivery via Prime, $29 in the Apple store—I decided to go with Amazon). I had used one on my first MacBook but didn’t on the second—and the key surfaces very quickly wore through.

I had over 900 email messages, but after downloading them all, only 140 new messages—I use SpamSieve, so spam is weeded out automatically for the most part. (A few slip through, but SpamSieve adds to Apple Mail’s menu an item “Mark message as spam,” highly satisfying to use: it flips the message into the spam folder and trains SpamSieve for any future such messages.)

It’s good to be back on-line, and I have to say that I missed being able to check things easily.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2014 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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