Archive for November 2015
Absolutely crystal-clear case of corruption: using the power of pubic office for private gain, obstruction of justice, destroying evidence, and so on. Bernard Harcourt reports in the NY Times:
THERE’S been a cover-up in Chicago. The city’s leaders have now brought charges against a police officer, Jason Van Dyke, for the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. But for more than a year, Chicago officials delayed the criminal process, and might well have postponed prosecution indefinitely, had it not been for a state court forcing their hand.
They prevented the public from viewing crucial incriminating evidence — first one police car’s dashboard camera video; now, we learn, five such videos in total. And these senior officials turned a blind eye to the fact that 86 minutes of other video surveillance footage of the crime scene was unaccountably missing.
The Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, must have had probable cause to indict Officer Van Dyke for the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of Mr. McDonald the moment she viewed the police dash-cam video, after her office received it two weeks later. That video, in her own words, was “everything that it has been described to be by the news accounts. It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling.”
Ms. Alvarez, and other city leaders, surely knew they would have to indict Mr. Van Dyke for murder as soon as the public saw that footage. “I have absolutely no doubt,” Ms. Alvarez finally said last week, “that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”
But the timing, in late 2014, was not good.
Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
And so the wheels of justice virtually ground to a halt. Mayor Emanuel refused to make the dash-cam video public, going to court to prevent its release. The city argued that releasing the video would taint the investigation of the case, but even the attorney general of Illinois urged the city to make it available.
Then the city waited until April 15 — one week after Mr. Emanuel was re-elected — to get final approval of a pre-emptive $5 million settlement with Mr. McDonald’s family, a settlement that had been substantially agreed upon weeks earlier. Still, the city’s lawyers made sure to include a clause that kept the dash-cam video confidential.
Around the time the freelance journalist Brandon Smith filed suit for release of the dash-cam video, on Aug. 5, 2015, the Chicago Police Department told him that it had already received, and rejected, 14 other Freedom of Information Act requests for the evidence. The city spent thousands of dollars in legal expenses to keep the video under wraps. And it would probably have continued to do so, had Judge Franklin Valderrama of the Cook County Circuit Court not ordered its release.
Meanwhile, the state’s prosecutor, Ms. Alvarez, concluded that there had been no evidence of tampering when police officers allegedly erased 86 minutes of video footage from Burger King surveillance cameras close to the location of Mr. McDonald’s shooting by Officer Van Dyke. The missing footage was from 9:13 to 10:39 p.m. — bracketing the time when Mr. McDonald was shot (around 9:50 p.m.).
City leaders did everything in their power to keep the homicide from the public as long as possible. Indeed, Mr. Van Dyke was indicted only after the forced release of the videos.
We can surmise that each had particular reasons. Mayor Emanuel was fighting for re-election in a tight race. Superintendent McCarthy wanted to keep his job. Ms. Alvarez needed the good will of the police union for her coming re-election campaign and probably wished to shield the police officers who bring her cases and testify in court.
None of that alters the fact that these actions have impeded the criminal justice system and, in the process, Chicago’s leaders allowed a first-degree murder suspect, now incarcerated pending bail, to remain free for over a year on the city’s payroll.
There is good reason to appoint an independent commission to investigate the conduct of these public servants. But frankly, at this point, who would trust Chicago’s political institutions or criminal justice system? . . .
In the NY Review of Books, Paul Krugman reviews an interesting book by Robert Reich:
Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few
by Robert B. Reich
Knopf, 279 pp., $26.95
Back in 1991, in what now seems like a far more innocent time, Robert Reich published an influential book titled The Work of Nations, which among other things helped land him a cabinet post in the Clinton administration. It was a good book for its time—but time has moved on. And the gap between that relatively sunny take and Reich’s latest, Saving Capitalism, is itself an indicator of the unpleasant ways America has changed.
The Work of Nations was in some ways a groundbreaking work, because it focused squarely on the issue of rising inequality—an issue some economists, myself included, were already taking seriously, but that was not yet central to political discourse. Reich’s book saw inequality largely as a technical problem, with a technocratic, win-win solution. That was then. These days, Reich offers a much darker vision, and what is in effect a call for class war—or if you like, for an uprising of workers against the quiet class war that America’s oligarchy has been waging for decades.
To understand the difference between The Work of Nations and Saving Capitalism, you need to know about two things. One, which is familiar to most of us, is the increasingly ugly turn taken by American politics, which I’ll be discussing later. The other is more of an insider debate, but one with huge implications for policy and politics alike: the rise and fall of the theory of skill-biased technological change, which was once so widely accepted among economists that it was frequently referred to simply as SBTC.
The starting point for SBTC was the observation that, around 1980, wages of college graduates began rising much more rapidly than wages of Americans with only a high school degree or less. Why?
One possibility was the growth of international trade, with rising imports of labor-intensive manufactured goods from low-wage countries. Such imports could, in principle, cause not just rising inequality but an actual decline in the wages of less-educated workers; the standard theory of international trade that supports such a principle is actually a lot less benign in its implications than many noneconomists imagine. But the numbers didn’t seem to work. Around 1990, trade with developing countries was still too small to explain the big movements in relative wages of college and high school graduates that had already happened. Furthermore, trade should have produced a shift in employment toward more skill-intensive industries; it couldn’t explain what we actually saw, which was a rise in the level of skills within industries, extending across pretty much the entire economy.
Many economists therefore turned to a different explanation: it was all about technology, and in particular the information technology revolution. Modern technology, or so it was claimed, reduced the need for routine manual labor while increasing the demand for conceptual work. And while the average education level was rising, it wasn’t rising fast enough to keep up with this technological shift. Hence the rise of the earnings of the college-educated and the relative, and perhaps absolute, decline in earnings for those without the right skills.
This view was never grounded in direct evidence that technology was the driving force behind wage changes; the technology factor was only inferred from its assumed effects. But it was expressed in a number of technical papers brandishing equations and data, and was codified in particular in a widely cited 1992 paper by Lawrence F. Katz of Harvard and Kevin M. Murphy of the University of Chicago.1 Reich’s The Work of Nations was, in part, a popularization of SBTC, using vivid language to connect abstract economic formalism to commonplace observation. In Reich’s vision, technology was eliminating routine work, and even replacing some jobs that historically required face-to-face interaction. But it was opening new opportunities for “symbolic analysts”—people with the talent and, crucially, the training to work with ideas. Reich’s solution to growing inequality was to equip more people with that necessary training, both through an expansion of conventional education and through retraining later in life.
It was an attractive, optimistic vision; you can see why it received such a favorable reception. But while one still encounters people invoking skill-biased technological change as an explanation of rising inequality and lagging wages—it’s especially popular among moderate Republicans in denial about what’s happened to their party and among “third way” types lamenting the rise of Democratic populism—the truth is that SBTC has fared very badly over the past quarter-century, to the point where it no longer deserves to be taken seriously as an account of what ails us.
The story fell apart in stages.2 First, over the course of the 1990s the skill gap stopped growing at the bottom of the scale: real wages of workers near the middle stopped outpacing those near the bottom, and even began to fall a bit behind. Some economists responded by revising the theory, claiming that technology was hollowing out the middle rather than displacing the bottom. But this had the feel of an epicycle added to a troubled theory—and after about 2000 the real wages of college graduates stopped rising as well. Meanwhile, incomes at the very top—the one percent, and even more so a very tiny group within the one percent—continued to soar. And this divergence evidently had little to do with education, since hedge fund managers and high school teachers have similar levels of formal training.
Something else began happening after 2000: . . .
I made a very tasty fish soup because the supermarket has some nice-looking true-cod fillets. My recipe was really just a list of ingredients:
Leeks [started sautéing these and added the rest as it cooked; include salt and a good amount of pepper]
Yellow bell pepper
Red bell pepper
Flour [2 Tbsp added a cooked a while to make a roux]
Water [added by eye; probably 3 cups]
Penzey’s Seafood Soup Base
Canned tomatoes [1 can of original Ro-Tel]
Bag of frozen edamame
Herbes de Provence
Fish [It turned out to be 1.5 lb, and I cut it into chunks]
Cream [around 1/2 c of heavy cream]
It is very tasty.
A recent post on Wicked_Edge expressed combined surprise and dismay:
I felt like I was fully converted. bought a shiny expensive razor, hundreds of blades, new products, and loving using them. asking questions on here, thinking about new brushes and blades. a full convert.
until just now when my faith was shaken.
just now I got a whisker away from a BBS with a $3 disposable and canned foam that I only used because I was in a hurry. shave took less than 2 minutes, and it’s about 95% perfect. another 2 minutes and I would have had a BBS.
I don’t know what to do with this information.
He augmented the post the next day, after reading and sleeping on the replies he received. And one of those replies was from me:
You may be looking in the wrong direction: toward efficiency instead of enjoyment. I regularly got good shaves with a cartridge and canned foam, though generally short of a BBS result, and the shave didn’t take long. It certainly took much less time than the 25 minutes I spent at the outset, though over a few months that dropped to about 15-20 minutes (and now is 5 minutes).
However, shaving was for me a tedious, boring, hateful chore, devoid of enjoyment. I got a clean-shave face, but I hated the task. The biggest payoff for me was that, using brush and soap and a DE razor, I found I actually enjoyed shaving and looked forward to my morning shave, which was a period of meditative activity that left me feeling refreshed and restored and ready for the day and what it might bring.
iIn the early chapters of my Guide I point out this particular benefit in detail, since most men who shave with cartridges and canned foam focus only on the end result, and (for obvious reasons) pay little attention to the nature of the experience of the process of shaving. Their attention is directed away from the experience, so it requires some effort to focus on the right things. It’s as though one goes to a concert and pays attention to the orchestra’s attire and not to the music, and becomes impatient for the concert to end once he’s looked over the orchestra carefully. What more is there?, he might ask as the music swirls around him, unnoticed.
If you truly enjoy what is happening, you generally don’t mind the time it takes. Men who brag that they can make love in 3 minutes flat are missing the point. 🙂
Extremely smooth result today: the two-day-stubble effect, in part.
I really like Mickey Lee’s Bee Witched a lot and was recommending it until I learned it was a limited edition rather than regular stock. It has a fine fragrance and makes a terrific lather quite easily. Today I just Mr Pomp, the brush shown, and the lather was as good as ever.
I’m still comparing slants v. regular razors in the same shave, using razors with a similar format. This morning I picked the Merkur fraternal twins, 34G and 37G. I used both in each of the first two passes. I started by putting a brand new Gillette Silver Blue blade in each razor so I could test the razors and not the blade. (The Gillette Silver Blues, I’m beginning to think, should be included in every sampler pack.)
I did find that, for me, the 37G glided through the stubble a little more easily. The effect would doubtless be more noticeable for those whose beards are thicker and tougher and harder to cut, but I could detect it. YMMV, of course, depending on your beard.
I used the slant only in the final pass, since I’ve found that, for me, a slant more easily results in a BBS result. And indeed the final result was BBS.
This is the end of the Alt-Innsbruck: one final splash, and the bottle heads for recycling.
A very nice shave, in terms of both experience and result. A fine way to start the week.
Tom Vitale has a good report at NPR, and at the link is a podcast. Story begins:
In 1964, near the end of his career, Billy Strayhorn accompanied himself on a live recording of one of his best-known songs. It starts:
I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life
From jazz and cocktails …
When Strayhorn wrote “Lush Life” in 1936, he could only dream of the Paris nightlife described in the lyrics. He was a 20-year-old living in the poorest neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He had already written a musical revue called Fantastic Rhythm, but he wanted to play classical piano.
Strayhorn was working at a drugstore to pay for his lessons, and when he made deliveries, he played for the customers who had pianos. He had also written a number of original songs.
“They were unheard,” Strayhorn told interviewer Paul Worth in 1962. But “they were heard by the drugstore customers. And they got after me to have someone else hear them.”
Composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn would go on to create some of the most popular American music of the 20th century: songs like “Lush Life” or “Take The ‘A’ Train.” Born 100 years ago today, Nov. 29, 1915, Strayhorn did it his way — without ever hiding who he was.
His accomplishments are made all the more remarkable by the fact that he received little attention during his own lifetime. Strayhorn spent the bulk of his career in the shadow of his employer — bandleader Duke Ellington.
You Must Take The ‘A’ Train
In December 1938, a friend took Strayhorn backstage at the Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh to meet Duke Ellington. Strayhorn played some of his music for Ellington, who invited him to New York — scribbling down directions to his home in Harlem.
Strayhorn turned those notes into a song, and took it to Ellington a month later. Duke Ellington hired the young composer and made Strayhorn’s “Take The ‘A’ Train” his theme song. . .
See also: Billy Strayhorn in Five Songs