Later On

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

Archive for November 25th, 2015

Not a surprise: Koch brothers want to advance their own corporate interests, not reform the criminal justice system

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Dan Froomkin writes in The Intercept:

The New York Times on Wednesday reported the shocking news that the “rare coalition” on criminal justice reform that included liberal groups and the right-wing billionaire Koch brothers is falling apart.

But as The Intercept‘s Lee Fang wrote earlier this month, the ostensible alliance over liberalization of America’s criminal justice laws was based on a misunderstanding of the Koch brothers’ fundamental political goal.

That goal is, quite consistently, to advance their own corporate interests.

So, while the Kochs and the liberal groups used similar language in their critique of the criminal justice system, when it came down to actual legislation, the Kochs were focused on reducing criminal prosecutions of corporations, not people.

Koch and the House Republicans turned out to be pushing a bill that critics describe as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for white collar criminals.

Members of Washington’s elite media crave stories about bipartisanship, so groups like the pro-Clinton Center for American Progress garnered positive media attention for finding common ground with the Kochs earlier this year.

Now, CAP president Neera Tanden is issuing statements that “the bill is not aimed at addressing the aspects of the criminal justice system that are the drivers of mass incarceration and inequality and should not be part of any genuine discussion of criminal justice reform.” To the contrary, she says: “The bill would make it much more difficult to enforce bedrock regulatory safeguards—such as environmental, health, and consumer safety protections—and leave communities of color disproportionately vulnerable to unscrupulous, fraudulent, and predatory business practices that exacerbate existing inequality in our communities.”

There are some conservatives truly devoted to criminal justice reform – and there’s even a truly united left-right coalition on some specific criminal justice issues, like prison rape.

But, as Fang wrote, even while the Kochs were talking criminal justice reform, their money was notably continuing to finance election-year efforts that promote tough-on-crime politics.

Of the 38 federal lobbyists employed by Koch, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 2:09 pm

Military presents results of its investigation of the attack on the MSF hospital

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Kevin Drum summarizes the report here.

I have to say the military’s story of what happened strains my credulity to the breaking point. I can see why the military and President Obama were so strongly opposed to an independent investigation, given that this is the best they could come up with. It is not believable. Too many routine procedures in a row violated by trained and experienced staff. Simply not believable, though if it had been an independentinvestigation, it might be credible. But the determination to keep independent investigators away has already released a bad odor. This silly story makes it worse.

If you think the story is true, then you still are left with the question of why was an independent investigation so strongly (and successfully) resisted? Normally that would be taken to mean that they were trying to hide something.

And it’s weird when the target cannot be found that they simply decide to pick some nearby building and blow it to hell. Really? They just pick something that’s in the neighborhood—in this case a large building with the lights on and a big Red Cross flag on the roof.

The military also does not address the phone call MSF made (and logged) to military headquarters at the very beginning of the attack to call the attack off. The attack continued. This is well described in this excellent column by Amy Davidson, based on the timely report by MSF>

The MSF response in the LA Times story is right on target:

. . . The summary did not answer all the questions about what went wrong, including whether the errors identified in the report constitute war crimes or why the crew opened fire when it appears they had reason to be uncertain about the target. [It also does not address the fact that the MSF immediately contacted military headquarters directly as soon as the attack began, but the attack continued for half an hour or more. – LG] Campbell did not take questions from reporters after his statement.

Doctors Without Borders, which had previously said the attack likely was a war crime, released a statement saying the report left “more questions than answers.”

“It is shocking that an attack can be carried out when U.S. forces have neither eyes on a target nor access to a no-strike list and have malfunctioning communications systems,” said the statement from the group, also known as MSF, its French acronym.

“It appears that 30 people were killed and hundreds of thousands of people are denied life-saving care in Kunduz simply because the MSF hospital was the closest large building to an open field and ‘roughly matched’ a description of an intended target,” the statement said.

“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war,” the group said, repeating its call for an “independent and impartial investigation.” . . .

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

Why Democrats lost the white South

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Kevin Drum has a very clear explanation, with some wrinkles new to me:

Modern conservatives are oddly fond of pointing out that it was Democrats who were the party of racism and racists until half a century ago. There’s always an implied “Aha!” whenever a conservative mentions this, as though they think it’s some little-known quirk of history that Democrats try to keep hidden because it’s so embarrassing.

It’s not, of course. Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and Republicans were the face of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Because of this, the South became solidly Democratic and stayed that way until World War II. But in the 1940s, southerners gradually began defecting to the Republican Party, and then began defecting en masse during the fight over the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

But wait: the 1940s? If Southern whites began defecting to the GOP that early, racism couldn’t have been their motivation. Aha!

But it was. The Civil Rights movement didn’t spring out of nothing in 1964, after all. Eleanor Roosevelt was a tireless champion of civil rights, and famously resigned from the DAR when they refused to allow singer Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall in 1939. FDR was far more constrained by his need for Southern votes in Congress, but the WPA gave blacks a fair shake and Harold Ickes poured a lot of money into black schools and hospitals in the South. In 1941 FDR signed a nondiscrimination order for the defense industry—the first of its kind—and he generally provided African-Americans with more visibility in his administration than they had ever enjoyed before. After decades of getting little from Republicans despite their loyal support, this was enough to make blacks a key part of the New Deal Coalition and turn them into an increasingly solid voting bloc for the Democratic Party.

From a Southern white perspective, this made the Democratic Party a less welcoming home, and it continued to get less welcoming in the two decades that followed. Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948, and Hubert Humphrey famously delivered a stemwinding civil rights speech at the Democratic convention that year. During the 1950s, Dwight Eisenhower was widely viewed—rightly or wrongly—as unsympathetic to civil rights. Conversely, LBJ was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

In other words, Southern whites who wanted to keep Jim Crow intact had plenty of reasons to steadily desert the Democratic Party starting around World War II. By the early 60s . . .

Continue reading.

And do read the whole thing. Later:

. . . This history is what makes the conservative habit of pointing out that Democrats were the original racists so peculiar. It’s true, but it makes the transformation of the party even more admirable. Losing the South was a huge electoral risk, but Democrats took that risk anyway. That made it far more meaningful and courageous than if there had been no price to pay. . .

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 11:58 am

The looting of Tyco—and it was indeed looted, pure and simple

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It’s on the same template as the way the Mafia reportedly takes over your restaurant, as a “partner” who steals everything not nailed down, takes out loans secured by the business, and leave it a broken, destroyed shell. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade in an article on how golden parachutes have gotten pathological:

On September 11, 2002, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against the three top executives of Tyco International. The complaint began with this: “This is a looting case.”

The SEC charged that Tyco’s CEO, Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Schwartz, its CFO, “took hundreds of millions of dollars in secret, unauthorized and improper low interest or interest-free loans and compensation from Tyco.” The transactions were concealed from shareholders and, according to the SEC, “Kozlowski and Swartz later pocketed tens of millions of dollars by causing Tyco to forgive repayment of many of their improper loans” and “engaged in numerous highly profitable related party transactions with Tyco and awarded themselves lavish perquisites — without disclosing either the transactions or perquisites to Tyco shareholders.”

USA Today reported that the Manhattan apartment that Tyco had been providing to Kozlowski “includes a $6,000 shower curtain, coat hangers valued at $2,900, two sets of sheets for $5,960 and a $445 pincushion.”

The SEC also charged that the General Counsel of Tyco, Mark Belnick, a former partner of the corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, “defrauded Tyco shareholders of millions of dollars through egregious self-dealing transactions.” According to the SEC, “from 1998 into early 2002, Belnick received approximately $14,000,000 in interest-free loans from Tyco to buy and renovate a $4,000,000 apartment on Central Park West and to buy and renovate a $10,000,000 ski chalet in Park City, Utah.” The SEC noted that “by failing to disclose his self-dealing to investors, Belnick violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.”

Kozlowski and Schwartz were eventually tried by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and sent to prison. (Both are out now.) Belnick was acquitted by a jury on fraud and larceny charges brought by the D.A. The jury believed that Belnick had internal company approvals for the loans. The SEC eventually settled its civil case against Belnick with a civil penalty in the amount of $100,000 and the prohibition that he not serve as an officer or director of a public company for a period of five years. He was allowed to retain his law license.

One of the most striking revelations in the Belnick case was the retention agreement Belnick had with Tyco. It guaranteed Belnick a payment of at least $10.6 million should he commit a felony and be fired before October 2003.

Another obscene Golden Parachute that came to light involved a Dow Jones Industrial Average blue chip company: General Electric.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 11:51 am

This year’s winner of the Dance Your Ph.D. contest

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More information on the contest, with some of the runners up.

Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 8:46 am

Posted in Education, Science, Video

Two synthetic badger brushes, Mühle and RazoRock, and the DOC

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SOTD 25 Nov 2015

I was asked how the RazoRock Synthetic badger compared to the Mühle version known as Silverfiber, so I did a side by side comparison, using Strop Shoppe’s Péche shaving soap, one of her limited editions.

Both brushes perform extremely well and lathering was a breeze. (The soap itself helps a lot, of course.) The brushes are extremely close in feel on the face: both are soft with good resilience, both have ample capacity. The RazoRock felt a smidge softer, probably because the knot was not quite so densely packed as that of the Mühle, but if you used them on separate days, I doubt you could tell the difference. Since I like the feel of a soft brush on my face, I perhaps might favor the RazoRock, and certainly the price difference is noticeable: the RazoRock is $17, the Mühle substantially more (particularly in the US, where Mühle prices are so high it pays off to order from the UK or EU).

Well-lathered—twice—I picked up the Double Open Comb razor from Phoenix Artisan and set to work. A very nice shave, with a totally smooth result with no nicks at all.

A splash of Alt-Innsbruck—and I’m pretty sure this is the penultimate splash from this bottle—and I’m read for the day.


Written by Leisureguy

25 November 2015 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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