Later On

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

Archive for September 29th, 2015

American corporations laud the idea of “loyalty,” and then this

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Julia Preston reports in the NY Times:

When Congress designed temporary work visa programs, the idea was to bring in foreigners with specialized, hard-to-find skills who would help American companies grow, creating jobs to expand the economy. Now, though, some companies are bringing in workers on those visas to help move jobs out of the country.

For four weeks this spring, a young woman from India on a temporary visa sat elbow to elbow with an American accountant in a snug cubicle at the headquarters of Toys “R” Us here. The woman, an employee of a giant outsourcing company in India hired by Toys “R” Us, studied and recorded the accountant’s every keystroke, taking screen shots of her computer and detailed notes on how she issued payments for toys sold in the company’s megastores.

“She just pulled up a chair in front of my computer,” said the accountant, 49, who had worked for the company for than 15 years. “She shadowed me everywhere, even to the ladies’ room.”

By late June, eight workers from the outsourcing company, Tata Consultancy Services, or TCS, had produced intricate manuals for the jobs of 67 people, mainly in accounting. They then returned to India to train TCS workers to take over and perform those jobs there. The Toys “R” Us employees in New Jersey, many of whom had been at the company more than a decade, were laid off. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Pharmaceutical Gremlin Martin Shkreli Is Nothing Compared to the TPP

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 8:27 pm

Just a few of Radley Balko’s afternoon links about daily life in the US

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A few links from Balko’s Washington Post column, which has more:

  • It’s difficult to understand why someone who is dying shouldn’t have access to a drug that could save his life, regardless of whether that drug has been approved by the FDA.
  • Indiana couple say they were pulled over while speeding to a hospital to give birth. The couple claims one officer then pointed a gun at the pregnant woman’s belly and arrested her husband, causing him to miss the birth of his kid. One officer also apparently assured the other that he would “get rid of” the dash cam video of the incident. Portage, Ind., police chief Troy Williams later said the gun-pointing officer “should not be demonized for one unfortunate incident.”
  • DOJ is reviewing what a federal judge called use of “staggering” NSA surveillance data by the FBI and DEA for investigations that have nothing to do with national security.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 8:25 pm

The effects of not governing (in this case by the GOP Congress)

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James Fallows has an excellent column in the Atlantic:

Here’s another challenge for the press — and members of the American public, and people in the rest of the world affected by U.S. debates — in reckoning with this moment in U.S. political history. It’s one that Paul Krugman, with whom I’ve sometimes disagreed about politics, mentions almost as a throwaway line in his column early today, as shown at right.

The United States still has two major parties. But one of them is no longer interested actually in governing. And we’re dealing with the consequences.

Running any government, in any country subject to any kind of non-Kim Jong Un-style checks and balances, involves compromises, tradeoffs, making the best of imperfect choices. As John Boehner put it yesterday (a phrase I didn’t imagine myself writing) in explaining his frustration with his fire-breathing caucus, “You know this is the part that I really don’t understand. Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted to do. They wanted this long, slow process.”

That Republican party competition now is over positions — who can be more anti-Obama (and Obamacare), pro-Israel, anti-Planned Parenthood, anti-climate science and EPA — rather than over policies, which imply the tedious work of operating a government, is a familiar point. Here are two less familiar reminders than the momentum in the party is not about this or that policy detail but effectively against governance itself.

1) From Australia, the American security-policy veteran Aaron Connelly (now with my friends at the Lowy Institute in Sydney) writes about the damage that anti-governance paralysis in Congress has done to America’s position in Asia. You should read the whole essay, but here is his description of the key points:

There are three core arguments:

· First, while partisan gridlock in Congress has hindered the execution of US foreign policy overall,  it has disproportionately affected US policy towards the Asia Pacific, because the region has had few champions in either house in recent years. See, for example, the unequal treatment of ambassadorial nominees for the Middle East and and East Asia during the GOP lockdown on appointments last year, which I address in the paper.

· To the extent individual members have focused on the region in recent years, it has often been in pursuit of narrow objectives focused on a single country or issue area, without reference to a broader strategy…

· Though there are signs of increased interest in the region among more junior members of the current Congress, the nature of that interest and whether it can be sustained will depend on how the White House and its partners in the region engage them. The problems of Congressional dysfunction, as you well know, aren’t going away soon. But we can cultivate leaders who better understand the stakes.

So when it comes to the region that contains the world’s most populous nations and its fastest-growing economies, and where long-term U.S. security interests are enormous in both a positive and a potentially negative sense, today’s posturing Congress cannot be bothered to do such things as confirming ambassadorial nominees.

***

2) From General Electric, an announcement that it is moving 350 jobs from the United States to Canada because of the ongoing Tea Party stand of blocking the Export-Import Bank.

Could this be posturing by GE to shift an American policy? . . .

Continue reading. There’s more and it’s powerful.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Madam Secretary

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This series, with Téa Leoni as the eponymous character and also as a producer, has got me hooked. One thing I like about it (aside from the various plot twists and turns and nice interlacing of disparate story arcs) is that the protagonist has that rare thing on TV: a functional family, a family able to settle agreements and, though making mistakes from time to time, is able to respond rationally.

Free on Netflix streaming.

Some nice touches—and let this be a SPOILER ALERT

 

 

 

The father-in-law who conceals his losing his position (superannuated due to age) because revealing it makes it difficult to ignore the mortality issues: i.e., being too old for the job means . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Women in sports and social media

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A very interesting article that is also, I think, very important to read. Julie DiCaro reports in Sports Illustrated:

Editor’s Note: The following contains offensive, vulgar language used to address an important but sensitive subject matter. Reader discretion is advised.


The first time I was ever called a “cunt,” at least to my “face,” was on a sports blog in 2006. The comment that evoked the slur had nothing to do with the guy who aimed it at me. I had disagreed—politely—with something he had said about the Cubs’ starting lineup, and that prompted a reply along the lines of “Why would you bat Todd Walker second, you filthy cunt?” (If I recall correctly, it was because Walker had an OPS of almost .900 in spring training, but I digress.)

The offender had often debated lineups with other posters on the site, whose audience was almost all male. While I didn’t expect him to send me flowers for offering a different opinion, I certainly didn’t anticipate that kind of response. The site moderator quickly rebuked the offender and deleted the comment, but the message got through loud and clear: “You may not share your sports opinion while, at the same time, being a woman.”

Nine years later, in the midst of the Patrick Kane rape investigation, I found myself working from home Friday, having received a threat on Twitter that hit a little too close to home.

As an anchor for a prominent Chicago sports radio station, I understand my opinions are much more open to commentary now than they were 10 years ago, but this particular tweet contained personal details, and I simply did not feel entirely safe walking to my office. It didn’t help matters that I, like far too many women, am a rape victim, but I wasn’t taking any chances with my safety.

That threatening tweet, like the “cunt” comment nine years ago, was deleted immediately, but other unsettling remarks remained: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Wall Street in action: A big hand for the free market

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens write in Wall Street on Parade:

Stocks were variously spiking and tanking from moment to moment in early morning trade and much of the problem resides in one eight letter word – Glencore. The Switzerland-based industrial metals producer and commodity trading firm has lost over 75 percent of its share value this year, dumping 29 percent of that just yesterday. Two of the major credit ratings agencies, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, have stated they may downgrade the debt of the company. Credit markets have effectively made those rating outlooks moot and already started trading the debt as junk. The Lehman Brothers’ analogy is being made by market pundits.

As if all of this weren’t causing enough market angst, yesterday UK investment firm Investec issued a research report on Glencore, suggesting that shareholders could be wiped out if low raw material prices persist. The report stated: “In effect, debt becomes 100% of enterprise value and the company is solely working to repay debt obligations.”

The market has watched the cost of buying Credit Default Swaps (CDS) on Glencore debt jump dramatically and the added worry is just which financial institutions are on the hook to pay on those bets. That same kind of opacity persisted during the Lehman debacle, leading to credit markets seizing up.

Against this backdrop, the last place one would expect to find shares of Glencore is in college savings plans known as 529 plans. But according to a report from Morningstar, as of June 30, 2015, six VA CollegeAmerica 529 funds were holding a total of 179 million shares of the American Depository Receipts (ADRs) of Glencore (symbol: GLCNF). While the stakes represent a small percentage of the total assets in each fund, one has to wonder why the shares were not sold as the stock went into a nosedive beginning in December of last year.

Mutual funds report their portfolio holdings on a delayed basis so the 529 plans may have since sold their shares. But as of June 30, 2015, Morningstar reports that 179 million shares were still in the portfolios and that one of the 529 plans, the VA CollegeAmerica EuroPacific Growth Fund had increased its stake by 47.56 percent.

CollegeAmerica is managed by the well known mutual funds company, American Funds. Its web site says it “launched in 2002,” is the “nation’s largest 529 plan,” manages assets “topping $45 billion” and has been chosen by “1 million families nationwide.”

Recalling the research conflicts that got Citigroup’s Jack Grubman barred from the industry for life, Citigroup has been hired as an advisor to Glencore and is also issuing a buy rating on the stock. . .

Continue reading. Outright fraud is clearly being perpetrated—and that’s in large part because the perpetrators always escape any real punishment. Why not do it again?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 12:54 pm

Cogent comment from Paul Krugman on proposed GOP tax plans

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Krugman in his blog:

. . .  I do want to weigh in for a minute on Donald Trump’s tax plan — which would, surprise, lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit. That’s in contrast to Jeb Bush’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, and Marco Rubio’s plan, which would lavish huge cuts on the wealthy while blowing up the deficit.

At this point there are no Republican candidates deviating at all from the usual pattern. Why, it’s almost as if nobody in the party ever cared about deficits except as an excuse to slash social spending, and is totally committed to redistributing income upward.

And there is, of course, no evidence — zero, nada, zilch — that cutting taxes on the rich will yield large economic benefits.

What we’re seeing here is a party completely incapable of reforming …

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 12:49 pm

NY Times breathlessly reports something that did not happen

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A crusty Down Easter made a purchase at a hardware store and was staring hard at the change he was given. The clerk asked, “That’s the correct change, isn’t it?” The grudging reply was “Just barely.”

I was reminded of this by how the NY Times reported a recent story on Hillary Clinton, who is (too) frequently the object of animus from the Times.

The “story,” if you can call it that, is that a Clinton adviser did exactly the proper thing and removed herself from a discussion to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

That’s a news story? If the Times thinks that’s a story, then I have a great news story for them about how a bus full of people avoided crashing into a train!!! The bus came to a stop at the barrier as the train rushed by. Upwards of 50 people might have been killed! The bus was only 20 feet from the train!

That’s the sort of thing that passes for news at the NY Times these days.

The Times devoted 652 words to telling us that a conflict of interest did not arise. Was it a slow news day? Is it a way of breaking in reporters gently: first they report on things that did not happen and then later, as they gain experience, they report on things that do happen?

I think it’s just a particularly naked display of the Times’ traditional Clinton hatred—cf. Whitewater…

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 11:05 am

Posted in Election, NY Times

The primary military impulse is to hide problems: Concussions in the military academies

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The NY Times has an interesting story about how common concussions are as a result of the requirement that first-year students at the military academies take boxing. It’s not surprising that boxing would produce concussions, and it’s only in recent decades that we’ve learned about how much long-term damage concussions, particularly repeated concussions, can cause.From the story:

Twenty years ago, the Air Force announced plans to end mandatory boxing because of mounting pressure from the medical community. But boxing continues. The Air Force did not respond to questions, or make any staff members available for interviews.

So the story is interesting as another instance of something known to be a problem that requires fixing or replacement. (Another recent story told how high schools are starting to drop their football programs in favor of soccer, sometimes simply because the number of studies willing to accept the risk of concussions and injuries has dropped too low to field a team.)

The most interesting aspect of the story is how the military immediately started stalling and developing ways to cover up or minimize the problem—and that’s a story in itself, this one by Dave Philipps in the NY Times:

Two top Army generals recently discussed trying to kill an article in The New York Times on concussions at West Point by withholding information so the Army could encourage competing news organizations to publish a more favorable story, according to an Army document.

The generals’ conversation involved a Freedom of Information Act request that The Times made in June for data on concussions resulting from mandatory boxing classes at the United States Military Academy. The Times also requested similar data from the Air Force Academy in June, and from the Naval Academy this month.

During a Sept. 16 meeting at the Pentagon, the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, recommended to the superintendent at West Point, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., that the Army delay responding to The Times’s request, according to the document. General Horoho then suggested trying to get The Wall Street Journal or USA Today to publish an article about a more favorable Army study on concussions.

According to the document, described by Army officials as an executive summary of the meeting, the public affairs staff at West Point and the surgeon general’s office were instructed to promote that study, by a West Point sports medicine doctor, Col. Steven Svoboda, to the other publications. . .

Continue reading.

The report contains stunning examples of bad faith by the Army surgeon general, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho:

. . . Chris Gates, president of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates transparency in government, called the details of the meeting as described in the document “disturbing.”

“To think that high-level officials at the U.S. Army and West Point would intentionally delay responding to a FOIA request in order to place a more favorable story in another outlet,” he said in an email. “Every level of the U.S. government should follow the spirit of the law and comply with FOIA, not use it as an opportunity for media manipulation.”

In the Sept. 16 meeting, according to the summary, General Horoho cited having successfully undermined the news media in the past, referring to how she manipulated coverage of the Army’s Fourth Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Col., last year.

“We were able to do something similar with the 4th ID when The Colorado Springs Gazette attacked them with treatment of wounded warriors last year — killed any scrutiny from the media and killed their story,” the document summarizes General Horoho as saying.

The media coverage that the document says the Army surgeon general “killed” at The Gazette focused on an investigation into mistreatment of soldiers by psychologists at the Army hospital at Fort Carson in 2014, according to The Gazette’s military reporter, Tom Roeder. The Gazette waited six months to receive a copy of the Army Medical Command’s completed investigation, Mr. Roeder said in an email.

About a week before the investigation was released to The Gazette, General Horoho held a “media round table” inviting competing military reporters to the Pentagon to learn about the investigation. The event resulted in several stories that had her playing down the mistreatment of soldiers with mental health issues.

The Gazette article, which came out 10 days later, found that “some workers in the hospital’s behavioral health department were demeaning, patronizing, foul-mouthed” and that they felt pressured by commanders to push mentally ill soldiers out of the Army.

The briefing summary also quoted General Horoho as saying that she felt blindsided by coverage of a pillow fight at West Point, first reported by The Times, that caused 24 concussions — more this quarter than boxing or football.

“Next time when cadets are injured and it is sensationalized, please let me know ahead of time,” she is summarized as saying. “I can help shape the reaction from my position as surgeon general. I actually learned about this incident from the news.”

Lt. Gen. Horoho should be encouraged to leave the Army, or at least be removed from the position of surgeon general. Her priorities are clearly not to protect the health of service members but rather to protect the Army’s image, and to do that regardless of ethical considerations. She apparently thinks her primary responsibility is not medical but public relations.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 10:27 am

Starting the Super Speed series with the first Super Speed

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SOTD 29 Sept 2015

This is the first Super Speed Gillette offered in the 1940s—the one in the photo has an unnotched center post. (A notch was added fairly soon to make it easier to pull the blade from the dispenser.)

The brush is from Brent’s Brushes. As with yesterday’s brush, I initially didn’t like the brush because it was so soft—”lack of backbone” is the common expression—but once I decided to learn to use it, I find I like the brush a lot.

The soap, Le Père Lucien, is quite good, an artisanal soap from France, and you’ll note the tub is filled to the brim. This does not, in practice, present any difficulty in loading. I wet the brush well, give it a good shake, and brush the soap briskly. Because this brush is soft, I cannot use much pressure—though I do use some pressure—but briskly brushing the soap suffices to load the brush well.

Sharpologist has an interesting review by Craig K of Catie’s Bubbles, another soap that fills the containers rather than shipping partially empty tubs, and the reviewer comments:

Tub is crammed full of product and so cannot be easily loaded and cannot be brush lathered in the tub should you lack a scuttle of some sort. This close tolerance packing makes loading a mess, and cleanup more extensive than it ought to be. CB should either use an 8 oz container for their 6 ozs of product, or scale back loaded volume and prices accordingly.

I don’t quite understand what he means by “crammed full” (as distinct from “full”), but he clearly prefers to use partially empty containers: indeed he specifically states that he likes the soap container to be 1/3 empty when new.

I also don’t understand what he means by “brush lathered in the tub should you lack a scuttle.” I asked about it, since building the lather is normally done in a separate bowl or scuttle, or on the hand or face—but not directly on the soap. In his response, he noted that he also face lathers, so I’m still not sure what “brush lathered in the tub should you lack a scuttle” refers to. It sure sounds to me that he’s suggesting that one build the lather directly on the soap, using the tub as a scuttle.

In any event, I found that loading from the (crammed?) full tub of Le Père Lucien was not a mess, but easy and quick. Perhaps it’s simply that I have more experience and have learned how much water the brush should hold for efficient loading without a mess: too much water, and you get spills; too little water and loading is more difficult. Learning the right amount of water to use is where experience helps—and, of course, paying attention to the brush’s action in loading, in much the same way that one pays attention to the razor’s action in shaving: enough focus on what’s happening so that one can control it. I find that sense of control, whether loading the brush neatly or shaving with the right angle and pressure, to be gratifying.

I did have this thought: wetshaving is increasingly popular, so naturally we have many who are using a brush and shaving soap to make lather for the first time. Novices by nature lack the experience and thus the skill of more seasoned practitioners. Many probably do not pay the sort of attention to the loading because it’s one more thing to learn and the cost of being sloppy with the brush is nowhere near so dear as being sloppy with the razor. So novices pay close attention to the razor and quickly learn to avoid using too much pressure or a bad angle, but in using a brush carelessly just makes a mess, and if that can be blamed on something other than lack of skill or learning (“It’s not my fault. The container is too full!”), then that’s one less thing to learn. But learning occurs quickly if loading the brush is given the same degree of focused attention as using the razor, and the result is similarly satisfying.

In today’s shave, no cleanup was required, other than rinsing the brush at the end and sponging some water (not lather) from the counter. (I rinse the razor after each pass and place it on the counter while I rinse my beard and lather for the next pass, so the razor wets the counter a bit.)

And no additional loading was required: the reviewer commented that he must reload the brush a bit after the first pass. Again, one learns from experience how to load the brush with enough soap for all three passes, which mostly amounts to loading a bit longer (though my loading time is generally around 10 seconds and I doubt that it ever exceeds 15 seconds). Brisk brushing is the key, with a pressure appropriate to the nature of the knot: firmer pressure for firm knots, lighter pressure for soft knots.

If sloppy loading produced nicks, then proper loading would quickly be learned. But brushes don’t nick, so less attention is given to how they are used.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2015 at 9:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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