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Archive for August 4th, 2015

The Iran Deal: The best deal we can realistically get

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Of course, the GOP has little interest in realism, so they are struggling to kill the deal (and, just as in the case of Obamacare, with absolutely nothing to replace it). James Fallows has an excellent column in the the Atlantic:

The latest set of indicators:

1. Logic. Graham Allison, who originally made his academic reputation withEssence of Decision, his study of the negotiations that averted a U.S.-Soviet nuclear catastrophe in 1962, has another installment in his series of Atlantic essays on the details and implications of the nuclear agreement with Iran. This one is called “9 Reasons to Support the Iran Deal,” and it begins by reestablishing a crucial point about the deal’s critics.

None of them, from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “historic mistake” Netanyahu to U.S. Senator Lindsey “it’s a declaration of war on Israel” Graham, has yet risen to the challenge of offering a better real-world alternative. Better is something that would make Iran less likely to develop a nuclear weapon. Real-world is something that the Russians, Chinese, and other nations on “our” side would agree to demand from the Iranians, and that the Iranians would accept too. As the saying goes, this is the worst possible deal, except for all the alternatives.

2. A vote for. Representative Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and “a moderate’s moderate,” tells theAtlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that he thinks the deal is in the best interests of both the United States and Israel, so he will support it. “At the end of the day, I could not find an alternative that would turn out in a better way than the deal,” he told Goldberg, making the essential real-world point. “The risks associated with rejection of the deal are quite a bit higher than the risks associated with going forward.”

[More votes for. Significantly, on Tuesday Democratic Senators Tim Kaine of Virginia, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Barbara Boxer of California sign on. On the WaPo’s site Greg Sargent explains why these are bellwether declarations.]

3. A potential vote against. I take this headline from Politico as a good sign for the deal’s prospects in Congress: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 7:56 pm

Interesting Forbes article on Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements

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Interesting read. The author notes at one point “Smythe (née Hodges),” which suggest that Hodges is female. He is, in fact, male, and “née” should be “né” (cf. “fiancée” and “fiancé).

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 6:52 pm

Posted in Shaving

US law enforcement in action

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Radley Balko offers these links:

  • In New Orleans, a lawsuit alleges another traffic stop that police needlessly escalated, ending with an unarmed man shot in the head.
  • Headline of the day: Suspended Cops Say Video of Them Eating Marijuana Edibles During a Raid Violated Their Privacy
  • Nashville’s police department has imposed strict parameters for high-speed chases. The number of bystanders killed in such chases has dropped dramatically.
  • A former Madison County (Ala.) deputy faces federal civil rights chargesfor allegedly beating a man, then intimidating witnesses, including an allegation that he put an unloaded gun to a witness’s head and pulled the trigger. Note that it took a federal indictment to hold him accountable.
  • Also in Alabama, an officer has been cleared for shooting an unarmed man in a raid to serve an arrest warrant for misdemeanor offenses.

And also check out this story: Federal appeals court: Drug dog that’s barely more accurate than a coin flip is good enough

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Why The U.S. Isn’t Prosecuting White Collar Criminals

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Mainly because white-collar criminals now control much of the government, but also contributing significantly was Eric Holder’s obvious desire to return to a lucrative Wall Street job and Obama’s apparent hopes (cf. his support of TPP and his support of keeping most of the provisions of TPP secret).

Alan Pyke reports in ThinkProgess:

A British banker is headed to prison for over a dozen years for cheating the markets, but American prosecutions of financial and other professionalized crimes are at their lowest levels in 20 years, according to data compiled by Syracuse University’s Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

The decline in American vigor against crooks who keep their hands clean comes as Britain prepares to send a financier to prison for his role in a megabank conspiracy to rig interest rates in their favor. Tom Hayes, 35, was sentenced Monday to 14 years behind bars by a British jury.

Prosecutors called the former UBS and Citigroup trader the “ringmaster” of the small group of bankers who carefully tweaked a key rate called LIBOR over a period of years. LIBOR rigging affected hundreds of trillions of dollars’ worth of financial products across a wide range of industries, potentially harming an almost endless list of individual borrowers and taxpayer-funded governments.

Upon his release, the conviction will ensure Hayes cannot attain the kind of high-powered finance job that might afford him the chance to re-offend. The stiff sentence should also dissuade others in his industry from being cavalier about the law.

Such deterrence is a key tenet of any law enforcement effort. In the United States, a wave of potentially criminal financial activity before, during, and after the 2008 Wall Street crisis has failed to produce any kind of proportional prosecutorial response. The U.S. government is on track to prosecute 36.8 percent fewer white collar crimes this fiscal year than it did in 1995 according to the TRAC data.

William Black, a white collar criminologist and finance professor who helped expose the vast fraud underlying the Savings & Loan (S&L) crisis of the 1980s and then authored a book titled “The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One,” said the prosecutorial neglect going on today makes future abuses more likely.

“This means that deterrence has been eliminated and the fraud epidemics that drive our future financial crises will be led by the same elite bankers who will already have fraud schemes down pat,” Black said in an email. “Both results are in sharp contrast to the S&L debacle, with more than 1,000 felony convictions in cases…that were hyper-prioritized against the most elite and destructive defendants.”

The government’s response to the fraudulent deals that triggered the S&L crisis was far more robust from the jump, as the New York Times has detailed. There were multiple task forces set up within the first two years after the crisis broke that specifically investigated criminal behavior related to the S&L meltdown. By contrast, federal officials took over a year after the housing market collapsed to even propose a task force – and the idea was shot down by Justice Department decisionmakers. It would eventually reverse course and create the task force 3 years after the crisis, but that team was notoriously underfunded and overhyped. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

For example, later in the article:

The administration has even acted to lighten the burden of the few stringent deals it’s won. Just one Wall Street executive went to prison after the crisis, and he wasn’t from one of the mortgage securities firms or loan originators or credit ratings agencies that are primarily responsible for crashing the economy and destroying the lives of millions of homeowners. People much closer to the crisis’ epicenter like former Lehman Brothers head Dick Fuld walked away with their fortunes intact.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 1:41 pm

The secret of Trump’s (somewhat limited) appeal

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Kevin Drum has a very interesting theory that is based on the low-information voter’s view of the Presidency.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 12:29 pm

Some interesting entities in action in John Conway’s game of Life

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I suggest you turn off the sound for this video, since it adds nothing.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Math, Video

Recasting public libraries for modern needs

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A very interesting article in the Atlantic by Deborah Fallows:

Beyond the traditional marketing of public-service announcements, newspaper inserts, or direct mail, libraries have gotten creative. Library staff in Winters, California, and Columbus, Ohio, took to the streets, shops, and parks looking for moms with new babies to entice them with welcome boxes of books and library cards to the family-friendly library. In Ferguson, Missouri, after the unrest that led to closing schools, the libraries stayed open long hours to offer the children a safe and interesting place to be, as well as their own personal library cards.

Dunkelberg and Deschutes came up with a creative strategy of their own to introduce themselves to the people: They would rename their staff “community librarians” and encourage them to carry the message of the resource- and activity-rich library to civic organizations.

At first, Dunkelberg said, the somewhat puzzled reaction from the groups they went to visit was, “Why are you here?” But a few years later, after listening, learning, and sharing stories, people see the librarians coming and ask them, “How can we work with you?” By now, library staff is represented in more than 60 community groups from the Chamber of Commerce to the City Club, the Homeless Leadership Coalition, and Bend 2030, a planning group, and so many more.

So, what is going on at the Deschutes libraries? You can start with a list that now seems familiar to me from offerings at the busiest, most energized libraries elsewhere: art exhibits, book clubs, author readings, computer classes. Also: service programs on topics like car-seat safety, self-defense, everything about fire; and offerings for teens in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) programs. The downtown branch of the system also has taken the first step into the “Maker Movement,” the term for the current trend across the country describing people making everything from humble hobbyist stuff to tech-sophisticated products enabled by equipment like 3D printers. Every month the Bend library’s downtown branch has Maker Monday meetings. The July meetingfeatured a local maker movement leader introducing digital multimeters (DMM), a common piece of test equipment used in the electronics industry, and the August meeting is about how to make drinking glasses from wine bottles.

Sometimes, libraries are fixing old problems, rather than creating new offerings. They often answer vexing problems with surprisingly simple, yet effective answers. For example, in Columbus, Ohio, school kids were misbehaving on school buses. The library, which worked closely with the schools, offered to put boxes of books at the front of each bus for kids to grab during the ride home. Voila! The kids were hooked and down went the trouble incidents. The Deschutes libraries came up with a number of such answers to their own particular problems.

For the older folks in assisted living, who are often uncomfortable in the presence of lots of squirmy toddlers or fidgety teenagers, the library offers an exclusive hour before the normal opening times, to enjoy the library in peace.

Some older school-age kids who can’t yet drive, and may be too far away to bike or walk, can’t get to the library on their own. Instead, the library comes to them. Kids can request books, which are then delivered to their schools.

For the littlest readers, librarians used to hand out little toys as freebies in their summer-reading programs until they frequently, and sadly, found them discarded on the floor. Then they thought, “We’re a library! Let’s give them a book.” The switch was gratifying, reports Dunkelberg, who sometimes “works the desk” in the children’s section, just to keep in touch. He said that the kids love the books, and that the books are especially meaningful to the kids who don’t have books at home.

For the preschoolers, the main library in Bend recently designed a big play space.“Instead of preaching” about the importance of good play, Dunkelberg said, “we would show how it’s done.” The result is a bright, airy, sprawling space, with areas for different age-groups.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 August 2015 at 12:21 pm

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