Later On

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

Archive for December 2014

10 Outrageous ‘Zero Tolerance’ Follies of 2014

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Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Daily life

Unbundling the DE razor

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I just noted on Wicked_Edge that we are seeing the unbundling of razors. And right now I’m thinking of buying a baseplate (separately): really unbundled.

Specifically: I have the ATT safety-bar slant head (purchased separately as head only) on a UFO razor handle (purchased separately as a razor handle), and now I’m thinking of buying the ATT S2 baseplate by itself to use with that handle and cap.

That really is unbundling the razor. TTO razors can’t do that. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Shaving

A strong reason to support De Blasio

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Conor Friedersdorf makes the case in the Atlantic. He concludes:

. . . The right should greet it with the skepticism they’d typically summon for a rally on behalf of government workers as they seek higher pay, new work rules, and more generous benefits. What’s unfolding in New York City is, at its core, a public-employee union using overheated rhetoric and emotional appeals to rile public employees into insubordination. The implied threat to the city’s elected leadership and electorate is clear: Cede leverage to the police in the course of negotiating labor agreements or risk an armed, organized army rebelling against civilian control. Such tactics would infuriate the right if deployed by any bureaucracy save law enforcement opposing a left-of-center mayor.

It ought to infuriate them now. Instead, too many are permitting themselves to be baited into viewing discord in New York City through the distorting lens of the culture war, so much so that Al Sharpton’s name keeps coming up as if he’s at the center of all this. Poppycock. Credit savvy police union misdirection. They’re turning conservatives into their useful idiots. If the NYPD succeeds in bullying de Blasio into submission, the most likely consequence will be a labor contract that cedes too much to union negotiators, whether unsustainable pensions of the sort that plague local finances all over the U.S., work rules that prevent police commanders from running the department efficiently, or arbitration rules that prevent the worst cops from being fired. Meanwhile, Al Sharpton will be fine no matter what happens. Will the law-and-order right remain blinded by tribalism or grasp the real stakes before it’s too late? Look toNational Review and City Journal before laying odds.

It’s pretty obvious that the police union is facing off in a direct contest of which will run the city—the police and their unions? or the elected government of the people? I can see which the police and their unions would favor, but why would anyone else not favor letting their own elected government be the boss?

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 12:05 pm

A look at what extensive torture of one highly placed captive produced

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Note that key information was obtained by the FBI through professional interrogation techniques, which I am given to understand are now quite developed and refined, with Israel’s most successful interrogator the model. That technique is to build trust, the idea being that the point of the exercise is to elicit intelligence, not to impose punishment or vengeance. Intel is the name of the game. (There are articles published about this Israeli interrogator; I’ll look for one.)

The CIA apparently were ignorant of these advances and simply resorted immediately to torture, the most brutal they could devise beneath a (transparent) veneer of legality.

Here’s the New Yorker piece by Dexter Filkins.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 11:58 am

The military concept of “honor” as reflected in how it treats the troops

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C. J. Chivers has a somewhat depressing article in the NY Times today. It’s a lengthy article, but it’s definitely worth reading.

Daniel Mould’s sense of abandonment was profound.

An Air Force staff sergeant wounded in a chemical weapon accident in 2004, he willingly helped the military study his wounds. From his bed in a Philadelphia burn ward, as blisters from sulfur-mustard agent erupted on his skin, he signed a waiver allowing doctors to gather his body fluids to experiment with new laboratory methods for confirming chemical exposure.

Over the next 18 months, as the military gave him attentive care and doctors prepared peer-reviewed journal articles about his case, another branch of the service, the Army, concluded that it needed to be exhaustive in tracking troops exposed to chemical warfare agents: Citing Sergeant Mould’s burns, it called for monitoring victims for life.

The case seemed a welcome example of the military’s working closely with a patient to improve understanding of a rare battlefield risk and to develop practices to learn from patients’ medical experiences. Then came the shift.

When Sergeant Mould accepted medical retirement in 2006, he was suffering a cascade of health problems, but he said he had been assured of long-term monitoring. Instead, he said, “the Air Force never contacted me again. I’ve never been tracked.”

In October, reacting to an investigation by The New York Times, the Army surgeon general’s office announced that it would begin monitoring the long-term health of all veterans exposed to nerve or blister agents during the American occupation of Iraq. The victims had been kept secret as long as a decade, and the Army’s treatment guidelines had not been followed.

For Mr. Mould, 45, who had never spoken publicly about the accident, the irony of the Army’s announcement was startling. Even the person whose wounds spurred one branch of the military to call for tracking exposed veterans had not been enrolled in long-term monitoring — by either the Pentagon or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The origins of his case span almost a century of American chemical-warfare policies, and like the experience of Iraq — where troops were wounded by abandoned chemical weapons — his example speaks to the persistent dangers presented by discarded or forgotten munitions.

Almost all of the military’s previous chemical-exposure victims had been World War I veterans or human subjects in classified military tests during World War II and the Cold War. The latter group, tens of thousands of enlisted men, were systematically exposed to nerve and blister agents in gas-chamber tests, field exercises or other efforts to evaluate protective equipment and human reactions to chemical-warfare agents.

Often the human subjects were sworn to silence. The Pentagon denied their existence for decades, until victims came forward with medical claims, prompting a 1993 review of the military’s conduct by the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, which noted “a well-ingrained pattern of abuse and neglect” of the human subjects, some of whom had been duped into consent.

That review also found enduring negligence: “No formal long-term follow-up medical care or monitoring was provided” for exposure victims, even though follow-up, the authors said, “could have provided a wealth of information on the effects of these war gases.”

Tracking exposure victims is important, military and health officials say, because blister and nerve agents can carry long-term effects. Sulfur mustard, for example, can cause lingering respiratory difficulties and is carcinogenic, although precise risks have proved hard to measure in the limited studies to date.

That legacy of squandered opportunities appeared to change by 2004, when Sergeant Mould was burned.

His wounding was like a case study in the long-lasting dangers of modern weapons. In 1917 and 1918, the United States brewed chemical agents for use on Europe’s front lines, only to find it had little storage capacity for thousands of tons of chemical artillery shells that had not been fired before the armistice in 1918.

The Army found a solution: Dump them off the East Coast. “War Gas Dumped Far Out At Sea,” read the headline on a New York Times article in 1919, which noted that one vessel dropped 200,000 shells overboard between 60 and 100 miles out.

Little is known of the locations of many shells, which were scattered by multiple ships. But out of sight did not mean out of reach. One shell intersected with Sergeant Mould more than eight decades later, after the police found a rusted artillery projectile at a chicken farm in Delaware in the summer of 2004.

The projectile had been brought ashore by a fishing vessel and delivered to the farm with a load of crushed clamshells to be used as roadway fill.

Sergeant Mould, at the time assigned to an explosive ordnance disposal team on Dover Air Force Base, was dispatched to pick up the shell and bring it back the base. There, he said, he and a more senior noncommissioned officer misidentified it as a conventional, high-explosive 75-millimeter round.

The next day, Sergeant Mould’s team was assigned to destroy the shell. The plan was to breach it with a small shaped charge, causing its suspected contents to burn out and minimizing the risk of a larger blast or fragmentation.

After the team detonated the shaped charge, Mr. Mould recalled later, something was clearly wrong: The shell was leaking a “liquid about the consistency of vegetable oil and black as the ace of spades.” The liquid, he said, smelled like hot asphalt.

Continue reading.

See also this collection of reports. The blurb:

For nearly a decade, the United States government kept secret that troops were being injured as they stumbled across aged chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein had built for his war with Iran. Explore the original Times investigation, eyewitness accounts from victims and the developments that led to the Pentagon’s response, policy changes and follow-up care.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 11:06 am

The “Broken Windows” theory of crime: Broken?

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Kevin Drum has an excellent takedown of the lazy theory that if police jump on every small infraction, crime rates will fall rather than rise. His post—which you definitely should read—includes this graph:


Some of the cities did “broken windows” policing, some did not. Not much difference in crime-rate trends, though. That suggests that something else was causing the decline.

Read the post.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 10:22 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

BBS with Edwin Jagger—and a renewed love of Spellbound Woods

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SOTD 31 Dec 2014

A really terrific shave today. I forget how very good the Edwin Jagger head is.

But first the prep. I wet the horsehair knot thoroughly before my shower, and by the time I was ready to shave, the brush was ready. The usual MR GLO pre-shave beard wash, then I rubbed Mama Bear’s Spellbound Woods over all my beard. I really like the fragrance of this one a lot.

The lather was immediate and thick—a great lather, in fact. And the Edwin Jagger head on a Weber Bulldog handle makes a very nice razor indeed. With a SuperMax Titanium blade I achieved a trouble-free BBS result in three easy passes.

A good splash of Peary & Henson aftershave from, and I’m ready to see the start of a new year once more.

Written by Leisureguy

31 December 2014 at 9:42 am

Posted in Shaving

A strong NY Times editorial that lists the NYPD grievances against the Mayor

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And then asks the police to do their jobs—which the police have apparently given up doing.

The NYPD is out of control—quite literally: they refuse to obey the command structure and they seem unhinged to the point of attributing the murder of the two police officers to Mayor De Blasio. (The actual murderer was a mentally ill man.)

Their idea seems to be that because a mentally ill man killed two police officers the police should be free to do whatever they want. That doesn’t hold water, but the police seem to have become infatuated with their power. This is not going to end well.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 10:08 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Some military leaders have zero respect for soldiers and refuse to support them

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Robert Scales writes in the Atlantic:

One afternoon just a month and a half after the Battle of Gettysburg, Christopher Spencer, the creator of a seven-shot repeating rifle, walked Abraham Lincoln out to a grassy field near where the Washington Monument now stands in order to demonstrate the amazing potential of his new gun. Lincoln had heard about the mystical powers of repeating rifles at Gettysburg and other battles where some Union troops already had them. He wanted to test them for the rest of his soldiers. The president quickly put seven rounds inside a small target 40 yards away. He was sold.

But to Army bureaucrats, repeaters were an expensive, ammunition-wasting nuisance. Ignorant, unimaginative, vain, and disloyal to the point of criminality, the Army’s chief of ordnance, General James Wolfe Ripley, worked to sabotage every effort to equip the Union Army with repeating rifles, mostly because he couldn’t be bothered. He largely succeeded. The Civil War historian Robert V. Bruce speculated that had such rifles been widely distributed to the Union Army by 1862, the Civil War would have been shortened by years, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Ripley’s bureaucratic victory over Lincoln was the beginning of the longest-running defense scandal in American history. I should know. I was almost one of Ripley’s victims. In June of 1969, in the mountains of South Vietnam, the battery I commanded at Firebase Berchtesgaden had spent the day firing artillery in support of infantry forces dug into “Hamburger Hill.” Every person and object in the unit was coated with reddish-brown clay blown upward by rotor wash from Chinook helicopters delivering ammunition. By evening, we were sleeping beside our M16 rifles. I was too inexperienced—or perhaps too lazy—to demand that my soldiers take a moment to clean their guns, even though we had heard disturbing rumors about the consequences of shooting a dirty M16.

At 3 o’clock in the morning, the enemy struck. They were armed with the amazingly reliable and rugged Soviet AK‑47, and after climbing up our hill for hours dragging their guns through the mud, they had no problems unleashing devastating automatic fire. Not so my men. To this day, I am haunted by the sight of three of my dead soldiers lying atop rifles broken open in a frantic attempt to clear jams.

With a few modifications, the weapon that killed my soldiers almost 50 years ago is killing our soldiers today in Afghanistan. General Ripley’s ghost is with us still. During my 35 years in the Army, it became clear to me that from Gettysburg to Hamburger Hill to the streets of Baghdad, the American penchant for arming troops with lousy rifles has been responsible for a staggering number of unnecessary deaths. Over the next few decades, the Department of Defense will spend more than $1 trillion on F-35 stealth fighter jets that after nearly 10 years of testing have yet to be deployed to a single combat zone. But bad rifles are in soldiers’ hands in every combat zone.

In the wars fought since World War II, the vast majority of men and women in uniform have not engaged in the intimate act of killing. Their work is much the same as their civilian counterparts’. It is the infantryman’s job to intentionally seek out and kill the enemy, at the risk of violent death. The Army and Marine Corps infantry, joined by a very small band of Special Operations forces, comprises roughly 100,000 soldiers, some 5 percent of uniformed Defense Department employees. During World War II, 70 percent of all soldiers killed at the hands of the enemy were infantry. In the wars since, that proportion has grown to about 80 percent. These are the (mostly) men whose survival depends on their rifles and ammunition.

In combat, an infantryman lives an animal’s life. The primal laws of tooth and fang determine whether he will live or die. Killing is quick. Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq reinforces the lesson that there is no such thing in small-arms combat as a fair fight. Infantrymen advance into the killing zone grimy, tired, confused, hungry, and scared. Their equipment is dirty, dented, or worn. They die on patrol from ambushes, from sniper attacks, from booby traps and improvised explosive devices. They may have only a split second to lift, aim, and pull the trigger before the enemy fires. Survival depends on the ability to deliver more killing power at longer ranges and with greater precision than the enemy.

Any lost edge, however small, means death. A jammed weapon, an enemy too swift and elusive to be engaged with aimed fire, an enemy out of range yet capable of delivering a larger volume of return fire—any of these cancel out all the wonderfully superior and expensive American air- and sea-based weapons that may be fired in support of ground troops. A soldier in basic training is told that his rifle is his best friend and his ticket home. If the lives of so many depend on just the development of a $1,000, six-pound composite of steel and plastic, why can’t the richest country in the world give it to them?

The answer is both complex and simple. The M4, the standard carbine in use by the infantry today, is a lighter version of the M16 rifle that killed so many of the soldiers who carried it in Vietnam. (The M16 is still also in wide use today.) In the early morning of July 13, 2008, nine infantrymen died fighting off a Taliban attack at a combat outpost near the village of Wanat in Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. Some of the soldiers present later reported that in the midst of battle their rifles overheated and jammed. The Wanat story is reminiscent of experiences in Vietnam: in fact, other than a few cosmetic changes, the rifles from both wars are virtually the same. And the M4’s shorter barrel makes it lesseffective at long ranges than the older M16—an especially serious disadvantage in modern combat, which is increasingly taking place over long ranges. . .

Continue reading.

We are often advised to respect the military, but there’s much about the military that deserves no respect. Canceling the A10, providing soldiers with weapons that do not work, lying about Pat Tillman’s death: that cannot be respected.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Business, Military

Catholic church’s determination to impose its rules on everyone, believer or not, degrades medical services

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The Catholic church has a complex relationship to issues of morality. While the church has allowed the raping of children and protect the pedophiles who do it, even helping them get to new hunting grounds when their current parish begins to react, the church is absolutely determined to stop contraception of any sort because…  well, because that’s their rule and if they have the power, they will make sure everyone follows their rules, whether those are Catholics or not. It’s the same philosophy that drives the Taliban, in fact: all must do as we ordain.

Nina Martin reports in ProPublica on how, as the Catholic church takes over more hospitals, more and more non-Catholics are finding that their own beliefs are not respected. She writes:

The Vatican has an absolute prohibition on sterilization for the purposes of birth control. The U.S. Catholic bishops consider the procedure “intrinsically immoral,” on par with abortion. Yet for years, Genesys Health System, a Catholic medical center near Flint, Mich., allowed doctors delivering babies there to tie the tubes of new mothers who wanted to ensure they never got pregnant again.

Genesys’s policy wasn’t hard to fathom: Performing a tubal ligation immediately after childbirth is the long-established standard of care, especially if a woman is having a cesarean section. “She’s already cut open — her tubes are right there,” said Sarah Ward Prager, an associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology and director of family planning at the University of Washington Medical School. Subjecting a new mother to a second surgery carries “unnecessary risk,” Prager said. “It is simply unethical to say, ‘I’m going to make you come back to a different hospital to have another surgery in six weeks because the bishop says I can’t tie your tubes right now.”

Then, seemingly out of the blue, Genesys reversed course. Starting November 1, sterilization with the “direct” aim of preventing pregnancy — as opposed to for some other medical (“indirect”) reason — was banned. Patients who had planned to have the procedure after childbirth were left scrambling; their irate doctors were, too.

Genesys won’t say why it allowed sterilizations to go on for so long or why it has forbidden them now. In a statement to ProPublica, the hospital acknowledged only that it had “updated its policy on tubal ligations to comply with current Church teaching.”

But this much is clear: The Genesys decision is almost certainly a sign of things to come.

In November, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to tighten its rules on partnerships and collaborations between Catholic and non-Catholic health care providers. The move has potentially sweeping implications for patients, doctors, and medical providers in thousands of communities from New York to California.

As the new rules are hammered out in the coming year, the policy on tubal ligations will be a central issue. Concern over how some Catholic hospitals have been accommodating secular health care partners that want to continue doing postpartum sterilizations is at the heart of why the Vatican and the American bishops are pushing to revise the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. Those directives govern care at every Catholic-sponsored hospital, clinic, nursing home, and health-care business in the United States. They are also meant to cover the joint operations of merged Catholic and secular health care facilities..

Many women’s health advocates worry that a further restriction of tubal ligations could affect not just patients and doctors today but well into the future. “Physicians who receive their training in Catholic institutions are not getting trained in this basic procedure,” said Debra Stulberg, an assistant professor in family medicine at the University of Chicago who has studied the role of doctors in Catholic systems. “You are sending them out to provide obstetric and gynecological care without a full set of tools in their toolbox.” . . .

Continue reading. Later in the article:

A key requirement: when Catholic and secular health organizations merge or affiliate, the non-Catholic partner must agree to “respect church teaching and discipline.”

Since the Catholic church itself does not respect church teaching and disciple (assuming that the raping of children is against church teaching and discipline), it seems a little rich that they are demanding that non-believers follow church teaching and discipline.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Business, Religion

Life imitates money: Bridges based on euro designs now built

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Pretty cute story. From the article:

In a strange case of fact following fiction, a Dutch designer was inspired to create physical versions of faux-historical bridges first drawn on European currency in 2002.

The original two-dimensional illustrations of Austrian Robert Kalin were intended to represent periods rather than built objects, spanning Baroque, Classical, Gothic, Romanesque, Rococo and Modern 20th-Century styles.

Their three-dimensional counterparts, meticulously designed by Robert Stam draw on every detail of the notes, right down to the colors used. His works were erected as part of a housing project in Spijkenisse, Holland (near Rotterdam).

Photos at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Daily life

Some interesting posts on police activity

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Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 10:32 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Horrifying civil liberties predictions for 2015

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A fairly safe prediction: all that Radley Balko lists in his column did actually happen in 2014:

Sometimes, real life can be stranger than parody. This can be particularly true when it comes to the beat we cover here at The Watch, civil liberties. With that in mind, I’ve gone out on a limb to make some predictions about what might happen on the civil liberties front in 2015. I realize that some of these prognostications may seem a wee bit hyperbolic, a bit paranoid, maybe even a little nutty. But I think we can all agree that we should hope none of them actually do come to pass.

So on with the predictions. In 2015, I foresee the following:

• A state judge will quite reasonably suggest that prosecutors shouldn’t suborn perjury, shouldn’t retaliate against political opponents, shouldn’t suppress evidence, and that we should discipline those who do. That state’s prosecutors will revolt, accuse the judge of bias and demand that the judge recuse himself from all criminal cases.

• In the name of “preparation,” school officials will stage terrifying active-shooter scenarios on children in which cops and other community leaders storm school buildings with guns. In some cases, neither parents nor children will be notified ahead of time that the scenario is a drill. In others, kids will be recruited to play victims, complete with bloody bullet holes and gaping wounds.

• We’ll see a record number of wrongly convicted men and women get exonerated, including some on death row. We’ll also see some horrifying executions gone wrong. Perversely, some death penalty states will respond by speeding up their executions — and making them less transparent.

• A large percentage of those wrongly convicted people will never be compensated for their arrests, convictions and time in prison.

• Officers at a major metropolitan police department will get caught breaking the law by fabricating tickets in order to steal overtime pay from taxpayers. However, a court will rule that because the officers’ supervisors were also breaking the law, the officers can’t be held accountable.

• The indiscriminate police raids will continue, with aggressive, door-kicking raids on people suspected of increasingly petty crimes, such as credit card fraud and underage drinking. In a rare moment of sanity, at least one federal appeals court will decide that maybe SWAT raids are an unconstitutionally excessive way to conduct regulatory inspections. But such raids will continue elsewhere.

• At least one former politician will come to appreciate how dangerous this trend really is, but only after he gets raided himself.

• 2015 will also show that you can be subjected to a violent police raid for merely shopping at a gardening store.

• The government will dispense with “due process” and just start seizing property from people without even charging them with a crime, much less convicting them of one. The proceeds from these seizures will then go back to the police departments and prosecutor officers that did the seizing.

• Some cities will hand out free condoms . . . then arrest women who are in possession of them, on the theory that only women involved in sex work carry condoms. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 10:13 am

Some delicious exotic fruits you don’t see in the US

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The photos are tantalizing. A reason to travel… 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 10:04 am

Posted in Food

Perfect BBS with Feather AS-D2 and Tabac

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SOTD 30 Dec 2014

Absolutely fantastic shave this morning—and I see in the photo that I matched the Tabac color scheme with the brush I chose.

The Vie-Long horsehair brushes are terrific; I don’t especially like their horse+badger brushes, though: somehow too dense. But this is a lovely brush. I wet the knot well under the hot-water tap before my shower, as I do with all boar and horsehair brushes.

On Wicked_Edge yesterday a guy was wondering how to use a shave stick. I provided some guidance and realized that I’ve not used a shave stick myself for a while. Since I do enjoy them, I thought I’d switch over for a while. The Tabac stick is very nice indeed, and has a fine fragrance.

I used a dampish brush to work up the lather, adding a driblet of water to the brush as needed. The lather springs up abundantly, and the AS-D2 with a Feather blade is a fine combination: no resistance felt, very comfortable on the face, and BBS three passes later.

A good splash of Tabac, and we draw to the close of another year.

Written by Leisureguy

30 December 2014 at 9:57 am

Posted in Shaving

The fix was in: High-Level Fed Committee Overruled Carmen Segarra’s Finding on Goldman

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I’m reading Ratking, the first in the series of novels about police detective Aurelio Zen, set in Italy and written by Michael Dibdin. (These are the novels on which the TV series Zen (available on Amazon Prime) are based.) In the wonderful opening we see step by step how corruption in modern Italy works: the favors asked, the promises made, and so on.

And we see exactly the same process at work in the Fed: higher-ups using them power to quash investigations, get rid of troublesome people with integrity who threaten to upset the whole applecart and bring the whole thing tumbling down by showing that crimes are clearly being committed to defraud the public, but the payoff to all the influential people is so great that those high up in the hierarchy simply put the kibosh on things.

Obvious example: Eric Holder closing down an investigation after getting a call from Jamie Dimon. It’s exactly the same corruption that we can somehow clearly see in Italy in this novel but are blind to when it happens here.

Jake Bernstein reports in ProPublica:

A committee that includes senior Federal Reserve officials reviewed and overturned a bank examiner’s finding that Goldman Sachs lacked a firm-wide policy to prevent conflicts of interest, according to a top Fed official.

Bill Dudley, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, disclosed the action by the “Operating Committee” in a little-noticed aspect of his testimony last month before the U.S. Senate. Dudley said the panel was part of a new effort by the Fed to raise standards across the board by comparing  the practices and health of the nation’s banks against each other.

In his testimony, Dudley provided the Fed’s most detailed account to date of how it reversed the conclusions of Carmen Segarra, a New York Fed bank examiner who asserted that Goldman lacked the Fed’s recommended firm-wide policy to prevent conflicts of interest. Dudley told the senators that the Operating Committee had “fully vetted” Segarra’s finding but said “there was this lack of willingness to agree.” He said that while he encourages examiners to speak up, their views must be “fact based.”

New documents and secret recordings shed more light on the facts Segarra marshaled to support her position. The examiner, for example, compared Goldman’s approach to conflicts with that of Barclays and Morgan Stanley. She found that, unlike with Goldman, the policies of both banks were detailed, specific and clearly addressed to the entire firm.

ProPublica also found that:

  • Goldman executives acknowledged to Segarra that they had no single firm-wide policy on conflicts of interest, according to official meeting minutes she kept.
  • Segarra formally presented her findings in a session with specialized Fed examiners stationed at nine of the too-big-to-fail banks. They agreed that Goldman did not have the sort of policy recommended in Fed guidelines, according to Segarra and another examiner who was present.
  • In disputing her finding just before she was fired, the senior Fed official overseeing Goldman Sachs pointed to the code of conduct for employees displayed on Goldman’s website, saying it amounted to a firm-wide policy. Goldman’s code of conduct at the time did not contain characteristics that were found in the conflicts policies of other banks that experts consider best practices. The Goldman code addressed conflicts involving employees’ personal holdings but not those that could arise from the firm’s deals.

Segarra was not called to testify at the Senate hearing. And in his appearance, Dudley did not detail specifically what evidence the Operating Committee considered in overruling Segarra, on what basis the decision was made, or whether it considered any of Segarra’s documentation or examination findings.

“I think the position of the senior supervisors was that there was a conflict-of-interest policy, and that is what the debate was about,” Dudley said.

As ProPublica and This American Life previously reported, Segarra secretly recorded 46 hours of internal meetings while at the Fed after encountering resistance to her examination into Goldman.

At the hearing, David Beim, a Columbia University professor, testified that the recordings “illustrated in Technicolor” the problems he found in the 2009 study of the New York Fed’s culture that Dudley had commissioned. Among other things, the study said examiners were afraid to speak up and that findings were being watered down by higher-ups and an over-reliance on consensus.

“It does suggest to me that not as much change has happened as I would have hoped and that indeed, there is a continuing cultural problem and culture is slow to change,” Beim told the senators.

Continue reading. There’s more. And at the link you can listen to some of Carmen Segarra’s actual recordings.

Boy, that must make the Fed writhe: this was the last thing they need to get out: that the Fed simply ignores compliance (and crimes) in those it should regulate. Instead the Fed uses its power to quash investigations and protect Wall Street. The Fed is part of Wall Street, so like any profession, they band together to cover up misdeeds or indeed even things that are merely embarrassing. Exactly the same behavior is seen in police departments, the military, any administration at all—city, state, or federal, the Catholic church, and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2014 at 12:56 pm

Terrific letter from Nashville police chief in response to a citizen complaint

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UPDATE: An even better story on the NPD work with the public.

Catherine Thompson reports for TPM Livewire:

Anderson posted a holiday message on the police department’s website that included the text of the critic’s email. Among the critic’s complaints were that police allowed protesters marching in reaction to a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri police Officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Michael Brown to cut off the interstate highway.

“Instead of at least threatening to arrest them, they were served coffee and hot chocolate,” the critic complained. “I don’t feel that is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. It sends a message that they can do whatever they want and will be rewarded.”

Anderson shared his response to the critic with the rest of the police department as an example of the small percentage of residents who strongly disapprove of the department’s actions during the demonstrations just because they disagree with the protesters’ social positions. He encouraged officers not to heed those “fringe” voices.

“Clearly, they are more angry at the thoughts expressed by the demonstrators than how the demonstrations are being conducted,” Anderson wrote. “While I respect their right to take that position, we cannot allow those views to be a part of our decision making process.”

Read Anderson’s full reply below:

Mr. _____________While I certainly appreciate your offer to intercede on my behalf with our Mayor, you should know that the Mayor has not issued any order, directive or instruction on the matter with which you take issue. All decisions concerning the police department’s reaction to the recent demonstrations have been made within the police department and approved by me. Therefore, any reasons or rationale supporting your proposal as what would be the best approach for all of Nashville, and not just a method of utilizing the police department to enforce a personal agenda, should be directed to me.

In that your thoughts deserve consideration, I will attempt to address some of the issues you have raised:

• Has consideration been given as to whether the response of the police department “help or hurt the community.”

It is our view that every decision made within the police department should be made with the community in mind. Obviously, there are some matters in which we have no discretion. On matters in which we do have discretion, careful consideration is given as to the best course of action, always with the welfare of the general public in mind.

That has been the consideration on this issue. Certainly, in comparing the outcome here in Nashville with what has occurred in some other cities, the results speak for themselves. I stand on the decisions that have been made.

• “These actions are putting the department at disharmony from the majority of the citizens.”

While I don’t doubt that you sincerely believe that your thoughts represent the majority of citizens, I would ask you to consider the following before you chisel those thoughts in stone.

As imperfect humans, we have a tendency to limit our association with other persons to those persons who are most like us. Unfortunately, there is even more of a human tendency to stay within our comfort zone by further narrowing those associations to those persons who share our thoughts and opinions. By doing this we can avoid giving consideration to thoughts and ideas different than our own. This would make us uncomfortable. By considering only the thoughts and ideas we are in agreement with, we stay in our comfort zone. Our own biases get reinforced and reflected back at us leaving no room for any opinion but our own. By doing this, we often convince ourselves that the majority of the world shares opinion and that anyone with another opinion is, obviously, wrong.

It is only when we go outside that comfort zone, and subject ourselves to the discomfort of considering thoughts we don’t agree with, that we can make an informed judgment on any matter. We can still disagree and maintain our opinions, but we can now do so knowing that the issue has been given consideration from all four sides. Or, if we truly give fair consideration to all points of view, we may need to swallow our pride and amend our original thoughts.

And, it is only by giving consideration to the thoughts of all persons, even those that disagree with us, that we can have an understanding as to what constitutes a majority.

• “I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.”

I have to admit, I am somewhat puzzled by this announcement. None of the demonstrators in this city have in any way exhibited any propensity for violence or indicated, even verbally, that they would harm anyone. I can understand how you may feel that your ideologies have been questioned but I am not aware of any occurrence that would give reason for someone to feel physically threatened.

• “I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.”

It is somewhat perplexing when children are injected into the conversation as an attempt to bolster a position or as an attempt to thwart the position of another. While this is not the type of conversation I ordinarily engage in, here are some thoughts you may find useful as you talk with your son.

First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.

Later, it might be good to point out that the government needs to be, and is, somewhat flexible, especially in situations where there are minor violations of law. A government that had zero tolerance for even minor infractions would prove unworkable in short order.

Although this is unlikely, given your zero tolerance stance, suppose that, by accident or perhaps inattention, you found yourself going 40 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone and that you were stopped by a police officer. Then, after making assurances that licenses were in order and that there were no outstanding warrants, the officer asked you not to speed again and did not issue a citation, but merely sent you on your way.

As you have suggested, a question may come to you from the back seat, “How can I respect the police if they will not enforce the law?” In the event this does occur, here are some facts that might help you answer that question.

In the year 2013, our officers made over four hundred thousand vehicle stops, mostly for traffic violations. A citation was issued in only about one in six of those stops. Five of the six received warnings. This is the police exercising discretion for minor violations of the law. Few, if any, persons would argue that the police should have no discretion.

This is an explanation you might give your son. Take into account, however, that the innocence of children can produce the most profound and probing questions. They often see the world in a very clear and precise manner, their eyes unclouded by the biases life gives us. This could produce the next question. “If you believe that the police should enforce the law at all times, why didn’t you insist that the officer write you a ticket?”

I don’t have a suggestion as to how that should be answered.

I do know, however, that this is a very diverse city. Nashville, and all of America, will be even more diverse when your son becomes an adult. Certainly, tolerance, respect and consideration for the views of all persons would be valuable attributes for him to take into adulthood.

Mr. ______, thank you for taking the time to express your position on this matter. I assure that your thoughts will be given all due consideration. We will continue, however, to make decisions, on this and all matters, that take into account what is best for all of Nashville.

Steve Anderson
Chief of Police

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2014 at 10:52 am

Interesting development: Charles Koch’s views on criminal justice system may surprise you

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It would be interesting to get some real money behind a push to reform the criminal justice system, which is dysfunctional in almost every city and state—and even at the Federal level, when we saw that Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase can simply telephone Eric Holder, US Attorney General, and get a criminal case stopped in its tracks.

Here’s the article.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2014 at 10:50 am

Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA’s War on Internet Security

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The NSA, the FBI, and other authoritarian organizations do NOT want a secure internet because that would make their work more difficult. Wanting to make their jobs easier is why both the named organizations have frequently broken the law: if obeying the law makes their job harder, fuck the law. (Other criminals have the same attitude.) So both organizations are working hard to undermine internet security.

The German newspaper Spiegel has an interesting article on what is going on:

US and British intelligence agencies undertake every effort imaginable to crack all types of encrypted Internet communication. The cloud, it seems, is full of holes. The good news: New Snowden documents show that some forms of encryption still cause problems for the NSA.

When Christmas approaches, the spies of the Five Eyes intelligence services can look forward to a break from the arduous daily work of spying. In addition to their usual job — attempting to crack encryption all around the world — they play a game called the “Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz,” which involves solving challenging numerical and alphabetical puzzles. The proud winners of the competition are awarded “Kryptos” mugs.

Encryption — the use of mathematics to protect communications from spying — is used for electronic transactions of all types, by governments, firms and private users alike. But a look into the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that not all encryption technologies live up to what they promise.

One example is the encryption featured in Skype, a program used by some 300 million users to conduct Internet video chat that is touted as secure. It isn’t really. “Sustained Skype collection began in Feb 2011,” reads a National Security Agency (NSA) training document from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Less than half a year later, in the fall, the code crackers declared their mission accomplished. Since then, data from Skype has been accessible to the NSA’s snoops. Software giant Microsoft, which acquired Skype in 2011, said in a statement: “We will not provide governments with direct or unfettered access to customer data or encryption keys.” The NSA had been monitoring Skype even before that, but since February 2011, the service has been under order from the secret US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to not only supply information to the NSA but also to make itself accessible as a source of data for the agency.

The “sustained Skype collection” is a further step taken by the authority in the arms race between intelligence agencies seeking to deny users of their privacy and those wanting to ensure they are protected. There have also been some victories for privacy, with certain encryption systems proving to be so robust they have been tried and true standards for more than 20 years.

For the NSA, encrypted communication — or what all other Internet users would call secure communication — is “a threat”. In one internal training document viewed by SPIEGEL, an NSA employee asks: “Did you know that ubiquitous encryption on the Internet is a major threat to NSA’s ability to prosecute digital-network intelligence (DNI) traffic or defeat adversary malware?” . . .

Continue reading.

It’s a long article, with sidebars of links to NSA documents and specific recommendations for encryption technology that NSA currently cannot crack and—equally important—programs that are open letters for NSA (e.g., Skype).

And note this (from later in the article):

Even more vulnerable than VPN systems are the supposedly secure connections ordinary Internet users must rely on all the time for Web applications like financial services, e-commerce or accessing webmail accounts. A lay user can recognize these allegedly secure connections by looking at the address bar in his or her Web browser: With these connections, the first letters of the address there are not just http — for Hypertext Transfer Protocol — but https. The “s” stands for “secure”. The problem is that there isn’t really anything secure about them.

The NSA and its allies routinely intercept such connections — by the millions. According to an NSA document, the agency intended to crack 10 million intercepted https connections a day by late 2012. The intelligence services are particularly interested in the moment when a user types his or her password. By the end of 2012, the system was supposed to be able to “detect the presence of at least 100 password based encryption applications” in each instance some 20,000 times a month.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2014 at 10:34 am

“Staged” does not mean “faked”

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Catherine Thompson, writing for TPM News, has an article the worst media fails of 2014. The article includes this:

5. Speculation about whether ISIL beheading videos were staged

For some reason, both television channel Al Jazeera and author Naomi Wolf separately came to the conclusion that videos of Islamic State militants beheading American journalists may have been staged.

I do not see how anyone could doubt for an instant that the beheading videos were staged. Does she really think that, totally by accident, the beheader and his victim simply happened to stumble across a video camera that somehow got turned on at just the right moment and they, totally by chance and unconsciously, were in frame and in focus? Really?

That seems insane to me. Quite clearly the event was staged: “You stand there—wait, no, the light’s bad. Stand over there. Let me get this set up….  Say a few words,” etc. Events are almost always staged.

Possibly she is simply ignorant of the meaning of “staged” and thinks it means “faked.” It doesn’t. It refers to staging things: deciding who stands where, how movement will be done, and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

29 December 2014 at 10:20 am

Posted in Video, Writing

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