Later On

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

Archive for March 11th, 2015

Republican idiocy on Iran

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An excellent editorial in the NY Times:

After helping to ignite a firestorm over a possible nuclear agreement with Iran, Senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, is now sort of acknowledging his error. “Maybe that wasn’t exactly the best way to do that,” he said on Fox News on Tuesday.

He was referring to the disgraceful and irresponsible letter that he and 46 Senate colleagues sent to Iran’s leaders this week that generated outrage from Democrats and even some conservatives.

The letter was an attempt to scare the Iranians from making a deal that would limit their nuclear program for at least a decade by issuing a warning that the next president could simply reverse any agreement. It was a blatant, dangerous effort to undercut the president on a grave national security issue by communicating directly with a foreign government.

Maybe Mr. McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should have thought about the consequences before he signed the letter, which was drafted by Tom Cotton, a Republican of Arkansas, a junior senator with no foreign policy credentials. Instead of trying to be leaders and statesmen, the Republicans in Congress seem to think their role is outside the American government, divorced from constitutional principles, tradition and the security interests of the American people.

The letter was the latest shot to blow up the negotiations with Iran. Earlier this month, House Republicans invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to denounce a pact in a speech to Congress, and a group of senators is pushing legislation that could set new conditions on a deal and force a congressional vote.\

Besides being willing to sabotage any deal with Iran (before they know the final details), these Republicans are perfectly willing to diminish America’s standing as a global power capable of crafting international commitments and adhering to them.

Vice President Joseph Biden Jr. was blistering in his condemnation, saying, “This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that our commander in chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments — a message that is as false as it is dangerous.” But perhaps President Obama described this bizarre reality best. “It’s somewhat ironic to see some members of Congress wanting to make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran,” he said. “It’s an unusual coalition.”

So far, the Iranians have largely dismissed the bumbling threat, with their foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, describing the letter as “propaganda.” But there are fears it could embolden hard-liners in Iran who, like the Republicans and some of the Democrats in Congress, oppose any nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States and its major allies. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government, Iran

Interesting point by Paul Krugman: Black = White under similar situations

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Paul Krugman in his NY Times blog:

Back in the 60s and 70s — which I, sad to say, actually remember — there was much talk about the disintegration of the black family and of African-American values more generally, and how that was the root cause of America’s poverty problem. And the social dysfunction was clearly real. But was it cause or effect? William Julius Wilson, in When Work Disappears, famously argued that it was a symptom: good jobs in inner cities, where African-American men could take them, went away, and the cultural changes followed.

So, how could you test that hypothesis? Well, here’s an experiment: change the structure of the economy in such a way that a large class of white men — say, white men without a college degree — similarly lose access to good jobs. If Wilson was right, we’d expect to see a sharp decline in stable marriages, a rise in unwed births, growing drug use, and other forms of social disruption.

And that is, in fact, exactly what happened: William Julius Wilson was right. Which makes it remarkable to see people look at that very evidence and say that it shows that the real problem isn’t money, it’s values.

David Brooks, in the column discussed at the link, provides an excellent example of fundamental attribution error.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 6:21 pm

CIA is active domestically, helping the Justice Department spy on our cellphones

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Devlin Barrett reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The Central Intelligence Agency played a crucial role in helping the Justice Department develop technology that scans data from thousands of U.S. cellphones at a time, part of a secret high-tech alliance between the spy agency and domestic law enforcement, according to people familiar with the work.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Justice Department, developed technology to locate specific cellphones in the U.S. through an airborne device that mimics a cellphone tower, these people said.

Today, the Justice Department program, whose existence wasreported by The Wall Street Journal last year, is used to hunt criminal suspects. The same technology is used to track terror suspects and intelligence targets overseas, the people said.

The CIA and the U.S. Marshals developed technology that would trick phones into revealing their registration data. WSJ’s Devlin Barrett discusses his exclusive story. Photo: Getty

The program operates specially equipped planes that fly from five U.S. cities, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population. Planes are equipped with devices—some past versions were dubbed “dirtboxes” by law-enforcement officials—that trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information.

The surveillance system briefly identifies large numbers of cellphones belonging to citizens unrelated to the search. The practice can also briefly interfere with the ability to make calls, these people said.

Some law-enforcement officials are concerned the aerial surveillance of cellphone signals inappropriately mixes traditional police work with the tactics and technology of overseas spy work that is constrained by fewer rules. Civil-liberties groups say the technique amounts to a digital dragnet of innocent Americans’ phones.

The CIA has a long-standing prohibition that bars it from conducting most types of domestic operations, and officials at both the CIA and the Justice Department said they didn’t violate those rules. . .

Continue reading.

The CIA is prohibited by law from domestic operations, but OTOH the CIA knows that no matter what laws it breaks, it will not be held accountable. That gives them considerable latitude. And the CIA has certainly undertaken domestic operations—e.g., breaking into the computers of the Senate committee.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 1:06 pm

Elaine Pao, CEO of Reddit, takes the stand

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Nitasha Tiku reports for Verge:

For the past two weeks, Ellen Pao has been sitting quietly at the plaintiff’s table while her former colleagues at Kleiner Perkins have painted her as a prickly careerist, ill-equipped for the high-stakes sausagefest of venture capital financing in Silicon Valley. Yesterday, at long last, it was Pao’s turn to speak. She has not disappointed.

Pao is now the CEO of Reddit. She is suing the venture capital firm for $16 million in damages, alleging gender discrimination and retaliation by Ajit Nazre, a Kleiner investor who was fired in 2012 for sexual harassment.

The self-assured woman who initially took the stand — quick with a smile, confident in her responses, literally leaning in to the microphone — was nothing like the picture her ex-managers conjured of an inexperienced junior partner, who couldn’t command a room. Before their relationship disintegrated, Pao’s mentor at Kleiner, billionaire John Doerr, urged her to use her dry sense of humor. That’s how she came across for most of yesterday, before the trial unraveled into its daily tailspin of performance reviews and emails chains.

There is lot riding on Pao’s credibility. Many of the headline-grabbing anecdotes from her complaint feel untrustworthy after hearing multiple perspectives. There are only so many versions of joking about porn stars on a private jet before everyone’s motivation seems suspect.

In its trial brief, Kleiner’s lawyer Lynne Hermle wrote: “Pao’s case rests largely on her own testimony— which is predominantly based on the self-serving notes she wrote throughout her employment that are inadmissible hearsay.” In other words, Kleiner wants to make the case that she was planning on suing them all along. Hermle’s objections like “triple hearsay and “backdoor hearsay” make Pao’s account seem less believable.

Pao is testifying right now and perhaps tomorrow and still hasn’t been questioned by Kleiner’s attorney, but here are the important revelations from her testimony so far.

At the center of Pao’s complaint is her relationship with Nazre, who directed some of Pao’s work with the green investment team. He allegedly “pressured her” into a brief, consensual affair in 2006, which Pao broke off when she found out that he had lied about still being married. When Nazre was fired in 2012, it was for sexually harassing Trae Vassallo, another female partner, not Pao.

This is where the retaliation allegations come into play. Pao said over and over on the stand that Nazre “made it difficult” for her to do her job by cutting her off from vital information and meetings. Pao also alleges that Kleiner retaliated against her because she would not stop complaining.

Yesterday, we learned why she was so relentless. Around the time she contemplated leaving Kleiner in 2007, Pao shared her concerns about Nazre with Juliet de Baubigny, the partner in charge of recruiting who unofficially handled some human resources issues. (At this point, Kleiner had invested in Google, Amazon, and Electronic Arts, but did not have an HR rep.) De Baubigny responded that she thought Nazre was “a sex addict.” Pao was surprised. “It was a strong phrase to use,” she said in court. Pao spoke with de Baubigny because she heard three administrative assistants dealt with harassment as well. Despite awareness of Nazre’s issues, he was soon promoted to senior partner.

Pao repeatedly said Kleiner did nothing to address her concerns. She brought up Nazre again in a self-review from 2009: “Because I continued to bring up the issue and Kleiner Perkins continued to do nothing.” According to Pao, Vassallo complained about Nazre in the summer and winter of 2011, and “they had done nothing. Twice.” In fact, she found out about Vassallo’s concerns when they went to see COO Eric Keller about other instances of gender bias at Kleiner.

Continue reading. There’s more.

BTW, keeping a timely record (which is what Elaine Pao did) is basic protocol when someone is being subjected to harassment, retaliation, inappropriate behavior, inappropriate comments, and the like. It’s to record at the time what happened so that you do not have to depend on memory. That the defendant and the lawyers the defendant is paying are attempting to portray keeping a timely record as somehow something that it is inappropriate to do indicates that they are arguing in bad faith.

However, see this account for a very different take.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Physicians should take into account their patients’ early-life traumas

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But that, of course, would require asking about them, something physicians seem loath to do. And one can understand their reluctance when you look at the questions that should be asked. They’re tough questions, but it’s important that the physician know the answers for effective treatment.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 11:24 am

Interesting Software Update: Tinderbox How-To, Jerry’s Brain

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James Fallows has an interesting update—and in particular a good example of how The Brain works, with clickable links that allows you to explore. Definitely worth a look. From the column at the link:

Jerry Michalski’s Brain. For years I’ve also loved the innovative, multi-platform program TheBrain, from TheBrain software in Los Angeles. I wrote about it in the New York Times 10 years ago, and then in the Atlantic in 2009and 2012. It has various free or very low-cost versions; the full-strength desktop editor, for Mac or Windows, starts at $219.

The very most ambitious and creative user of TheBrain has long been the tech-world figure Jerry Michalski. He has been chronicling his life and thoughts via this software for 18 years now and has posted his results on the web. Now he’s created an iOS app, called JerrysBrain. He sends some notes about what he’s doing:

My Brain has been openly available on the Web for many years and will remain so, at JerrysBrain.com. Now a Jerry’s Brain app is available for iOS and costs a buck. Here’s the direct link to it in the app store.

It’s easy for me to create permalinks to specific thoughts in my online Brain, though not to the iOS app. Here are a few useful and interesting direct links:

I started this Brain in December 1997. It has over 257K thoughts, all put in by hand. I just ran the numbers and it’s a span of 6300 days, or 40 thoughts a day.

The top insight from 17+ years of using TheBrain is that we’re an amnesic society. We have little context or memory available. A huge causal force is the business model of the media businesses, which historically needed us to watch the ads scattered in the content, so it kept the content from us.

For further exploration, here’s a screenshot from Jerry’s Brain and then three posts and screencasts from Jerry Michalski on how and why he works this way: . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Very interest contrast: Reagan’s big recession vs. the more recent one

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Paul Krugman writes in his blog:

With job growth finally running at the pace we’d expect to see after a deep slump, we’re not hearing as much about how Obama’s anti-capitalist policies are the reason we’re not having a V-shaped recovery, the way we did under the Blessed Reagan. But it’s true that recovery was a long time coming. Why?

Well, the answer has long been obvious: constrained monetary policy thanks to the zero sort-of lower bound, constrained fiscal policy because of the combination of debt fears and Republican obstruction. But it might be useful to have a simple graphical demonstration; in any case, I was putting together some figures for class and thought they might be of use to others. In both cases I compare developments following the business cycle peak — July 1981 for Reagan (ignoring for this purpose the 79-80 recession, even though 79-82 is widely regarded as a single episode) and Dec. 2007 for Obama.

First, monetary policy:

Krugman1

The 81-2 recession and the 2007-9 recession had very different causes. The first was caused by tight money, imposed by the Fed to curb high inflation. As a result, there was plenty of room to cut rates (and also pent-up housing demand). The second was caused by private-sector overreach; we came into it with inflation and interest rates already low, so that there was much less room to cut, more or less guaranteeing a slow recovery. And yes, I predicted this in advance.

Second, fiscal policy:

Krugman2

This, I didn’t see coming. But the effect is clear: at a time when monetary policy was limited in its effectiveness, fiscal policy was perverse. In practice, Reaganomics was far more Keynesian while Boehnernomics — which is what it ended up being, in practice — was anti-Keynesian.

That’s the story of the delayed recovery.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 10:55 am

Posted in Business, Government

Three shootings in Vallejo

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A police officer guns down three people in 5 months and then gets a promotion. This is US police today. Albert Samaha reports for Buzzfeed News:

Officer Sean Kenney had shot two people in less than five months, and even though they had both died, he was still patrolling Vallejo, California, on Oct. 24, 2012, when he responded to a call about a domestic disturbance.

The report came in after neighbors heard a commotion in Jeremiah Moore’s front yard at around 1 a.m. Marvin Clouse, who lived next door, went outside to see what was going on. Jaime Alvarado, who lived across the street, looked out his window.

Moore, who was white, was a friendly neighbor. He was autistic, his family said. He lived with his boyfriend Jason Jessie and the two of them fixed up old cars, which sat parked on their front lawn. The garage was packed with antiques and vintage electronics that Jessie spruced up and sold on eBay. One of the items he kept in the garage, Clouse said, was a 1920s-era .22-caliber rifle.

In recent months, neighbors had noticed that the couple had started acting strange — paranoid rants, extravagant conspiracy theories, that sort of thing. They had started taking peyote and other heavy drugs, Clouse said.

“They were really nice guys, but they had a mental breakdown,” said Clouse.

Moore and Jessie were in their front yard, naked, smashing their cars. Clouse pulled out his phone to record what he was seeing. It was dark outside, so you can’t see anything in the video, but the audio is clear. “You start the fire,” Jessie told Moore. Moore went back inside the house and within minutes smoke was rising from out the back of the house. By now, police had received multiple calls about the disturbance. Patrol cars pulled up and officers stepped out.

“And within about 30 seconds they shot Jeremiah,” Clouse said.

There was a volley of several gunshots at first. Then a pause of a few seconds. Then “Show me your hands!” Then two more shots.

The police later said that Moore had pointed a rifle at the officers. In the press release version of events, Moore “appeared from the back of the interior of the house with a rifle. The man with the rifle placed the barrel of the rifle directly against an officer’s stomach. Another officer saw this and fearing for his life and the life of his fellow officer, immediately discharged his firearm.”

In July 2014, the D.A.’s office cleared Kenney of the Moore shooting. The two-page summary regurgitated the version told in the press release, with one difference: that Moore did not press the rifle against an officer’s stomach but was pointing it at the officer from further away.

The summary did not mention any non-police witnesses. Clouse, who said he spoke to investigators, was not cited. According to Michael Haddad, the lawyer for Moore’s family, the D.A.’s office did not contact Jaime Alvarado.

“The D.A. is just choosing who to believe,” Haddad said. “Every cop knows if he wants to justify a shooting, just say, I feared for my life or for someone else’s life. If our D.A.s are just going to take police at their word, nobody will police the police.”

The version Alvarado and Clouse told was much different from what the police claimed. From Alvarado’s vantage point, Moore was standing on his porch with his hands up. His arms were flailing and he had a nervous look on his face. Clouse believed that, between his autism and the drugs, Moore was in a state of panic. “He was unable to respond,” he said.

Alvarado, who was advised by Haddad to refrain from speaking to any more media outlets, recalled to local public radio station KQED last year that Moore “can’t stop moving. He starts shaking. That’s when the officer gets, like, scared. He got the gun and shoots him.”

He added: “This guy who got shot, he doesn’t have a rifle in his hands.”

Moore was the third person killed by Officer Sean Kenney in 21 weeks. Months later, rather than a reprimand, Kenney earned a promotion to detective. . .

Continue reading. As is so often the case, the official police story is contradicted by witnesses to the shooting. I’m surprised that the police didn’t use the usual line (“he made a furtive movement toward his waistband”) and claimed that he had a rifle.

Interesting how prosecutors cover for the police, but the police have ways of retaliating against prosecutors who do not toe the line.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 10:50 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Andrew Cuomo seems hopelessly corrupt

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First he established a commission to investigate corruption, and then, when it looked as though the investigation might lead to him, he quickly shut it down. And now we see his corruption has early roots, prior to his governorship. Justin Elliott reports for ProPublica:

Previously undisclosed emails by a mortgage industry lobbyist doubling as a consultant for then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo show the lobbyist played a self-described “critical role” in one of Cuomo’s signature financial crisis investigations.

The emails from 2007 and 2008 detail how the lobbyist, longtime Cuomo confidantHoward Glaser, was involved in an investigation of mortgage industry players that included Glaser’s own clients.

In one email, Glaser touted his influence over a Cuomo deal that weakened rules to prevent misdeeds in the mortgage market. That deal, with mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reflected Glaser’s “significant, critical, and current input,” he wrote in an email, “a fact to which current [Fannie and Freddie] employees and the NYAG’s office are prepared to attest.” Fannie and Freddie were both Glaser’s clients.

The emails contradict Glaser’s previous account of his involvement in Cuomo’s investigations.

ProPublica and the Albany Times Union reported last year that Glaser was working simultaneously as a consultant for the attorney general’s office and for a bevy of mortgage industry firms. Glaser said at the time that he only gave general advice to Cuomo’s office, that he did not represent clients with the attorney general, and that he was “not involved” in specific mortgage industry cases.

According to the emails, however, Glaser was involved in mortgage industry cases and traveled to Cuomo’s office repeatedly over the course of nearly two years while investigations related to Glaser’s clients unfolded.

“Oy. I Spent the last 48 hrs at the NY AG’s office and am glad to give you an off the record briefing and my observations,” Glaser wrote in a Nov. 7, 2007, email to the federal regulator of Fannie and Freddie. That same day, Cuomo announced subpoenas of the two mortgage giants as part of an investigation into fraudulently inflated home appraisals.

“These emails on their face indicate a serious conflict of interest, a conflict that could very well have influenced enforcement actions by Cuomo, much to the benefit of Glaser’s clients,” said Craig Holman of the government watchdog group Public Citizen.

The new emails also show how Glaser briefed industry players about Cuomo’s investigation while Glaser was involved in it.

In early November 2007, . . .

Continue reading.

Note how Cuomo has changed government policy to ensure that emails don’t stick around to embarrass or implicate public servants. Totally corrupt outlook.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 10:03 am

A -wood shave

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SOTD 11 Mar 2015

Teakwood and Sandalwood provide the fragrances for today’s shave.

The lather from Strop Shoppe’s Special Edition Teakwood was wonderful, and the Plisson did a very fine job. I think this was the first SE soap that Strop Shoppe made. Great stuff.

I didn’t realize I had hidden the razor so much. It’s the Maggard Razor with the thick handle that has a removable base. It did a very nice job: BBS in three passes.

Finally, a splash of ToBS Sandalwood and I’m ready for the day, which opened with (much-needed) rain.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 March 2015 at 10:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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