Later On

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

Archive for December 22nd, 2015

Interesting: The US has long considered civilian populations valid military targets

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It’s strange that the US is so condemnatory of terrorists for targeting innocent civilians, since civilian populations have been a deliberate target of the US military, which apparently has long since approved civilians for destruction. See this report in the NY Times.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2015 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Military, Terrorism

Kevin Drum has an interesting post on the role of fear in creating our respective realities

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Here’s the column. Ignore the footnote by-play. The point is quite serious, or so it seems to me.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2015 at 1:22 pm

2015 saw no ‘war on cops’ and no ‘national crime wave’ but private-prison exec says good times are ahead

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First, Radley Balko has a good article in the Washington Post on how crime rates have fallen and how policing has never been safer for law-enforcement officials. For example:

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 11.33.15 AM

And, later in his article:

So what about the overall crime rate? Here’s an excerpt from a press release sent out yesterday from the group Law Enforcement Leaders:

Amid misleading reports on increasing crime, Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration—a group of 150 of the country’s most prominent current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, district and state’s attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, attorneys general, and other law enforcement leaders—has issued the following statement. Members of the group include the leaders of the New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Houston police departments . . .

“Crime in the U.S. is at an all-time low across the country, and we expect it to stay that way,” said Ronal Serpas, Chairman of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration and the former New Orleans Police Superintendent. “Despite some misleading reports about a surge in crime rates, the data show just the opposite. In fact, as recent studies show, the overall crime rate will be lower this year than it was last year, and half of what it was in 1990. Some cities have seen a rise in murder, but these are isolated incidents—not a new crime wave—which local leaders are taking steps to address.

“At this moment of rare national consensus that incarceration levels in this country have reached a crisis point, we cannot let sensational headlines slow the momentum to reduce unnecessary incarceration. As public officials charged with keeping all Americans safe, we’re counting on real reform to help us focus our resources most effectively and continue to keep crime at its historic lows across the country.”

Here’s the most thorough of those studies, from the Brennan Center. Even the New York Times, which last summer helped drive fears about an alleged national crime wave with a (much criticized) front-page article about urban crime, is backing off. From an editorial last month: . . .

Read the whole thing.

But despite the good news, private prisons see a bright future. Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

A senior executive with the second-largest for-profit prison company in America assured investment bankers last summer that despite talk of drug policy and criminal justice reform, the country will continue to “attract crime,” generating new “correctional needs.”

“The reality is, we are a very affluent country, we have loose borders, and we have a bad education system,” said Shayn March, the vice president and treasurer of the Geo Group. “And all that adds up to a significant amount of correctional needs, which, thankfully, we’ve been able to help the country out with and states with by providing a lower cost solution.”

The previously unreported remarks were made during a presentation at the Barclays High Yield Bond & Syndicated Loan conference in June.

While students and activists have protested private prison corporations, scoring a recent victory last week with the decision by the University of California system to divest from firms like Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America, the firms have largely avoided the spotlight.

Private prison companies are a controversial player in America’s criminal justice system. In the 1990s, private prison firms pushed for tougher sentencing laws at the state level and have been tied to efforts in recent years to compel local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws. Geo Group has also been faulted for multiple incidents of abuse, ranging from inmates who have died in their facilities to employees charged with sexual assault.

March told attendees at the conference that he was getting questions about drug offenses and sentencing guidelines, an issue he noted had been raised by Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. “I got to be honest with you, there’s very few people I know, if anybody, who’s in prison for smoking marijuana. It doesn’t exist, guys. That’s not why people are in prison,” March said.

Rather than reducing incarceration rates, March told his audience that drug reform could have the “opposite effect” by increasing prison terms. Most drug-related sentences, he asserted, are the result of plea deals stemming from violent crimes, so if there isn’t an alternative plea arrangement, the only outcome defendants face is for the violent crime, which carries longer sentences. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2015 at 11:38 am

Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back

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An article in the NY Times by Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery describes the kind of routine injustice that I find absolutely infuriating:

Clifford Cain Jr., a retired electrician in Baltimore, was used to living on a tight budget, carefully apportioning hisSocial Security and pension benefits to cover his rent and medication for multiple sclerosis.

So Mr. Cain was puzzled when he suddenly could not make ends meet. Months later, he discovered why: A debt collector had garnished his bank account after suing him for about $4,500 the company said he owed on an old debt.

Mr. Cain said he never knew the lawsuit had been brought against him until the money was gone. Neither did other Baltimore residents who were among the hundreds of people sued by the collector, Midland Funding, a unit of the Encore Capital Group, in Maryland State Court. Some of them said they did not even owe any money, or their debt had long expired and was not legally collectible, according to a review of court records.

In any case, the Encore subsidiary was not licensed to collect debt in Maryland.

Yet when Mr. Cain brought a class action in 2013 against Midland Funding, the company successfully fought to have the lawsuit dismissed.

If the plaintiffs wanted to try to recover their money, they would have to do so in private arbitration. And because class actions are banned in arbitration, Mr. Cain and the others would have to fight the unit of Encore — one of the largest debt buyers in the country with vast legal resources — one by one.

“I can’t for the life of me understand how this is allowed to happen,” said Mr. Cain, who could not afford to pursue his case alone in arbitration.

In short, Encore and rival debt buyers are using the courts to sue consumers and collect debt, then preventing those same consumers from using the courts to challenge the companies’ tactics. Consumer lawyers said this strategy was the legal equivalent of debt collectors having their cake and eating it, too.

The use of arbitration by the companies is the latest frontier in a legal strategy orchestrated by corporations in recent years. By inserting arbitration clauses into the fine print of consumer contracts, they have found a way to block access to the courts and ban class-action lawsuits, the only realistic way to bring a case against a deep-pocketed corporation.

Their strategy traces to a pair of Supreme Court decisions in 2011 and 2013 that enshrined the use of class-action bans in arbitration clauses.

The result, The New York Times found in an investigation last month, is that banks, car dealers, online retailers, cellphone service providers and scores of other companies have insulated themselves from challenges to illegal or deceptive business practices. Once a class action was dismantled, court and arbitration records showed, few if any of the individual plaintiffs pursued arbitration.

In the last few years, debt collectors have pushed the parameters of that legal strategy into audacious new territory. Perhaps more than any other industry, debt collectors use the courts while invoking arbitration to deny court access to others. The companies file lawsuits seeking to force borrowers to pay debts. Because borrowers seldom show up to challenge the lawsuits, the collectors win almost every case, transforming debts that banks had given up on into big profits.

Other industries have tested the boundaries of arbitration in different ways. Auto dealers, for example, successfully lobbied Congress in 2000 to make sure that they could go to court when they had a dispute with their manufacturers. Today, though, dealers regularly require their customers to go to arbitration, while they can still sue manufacturers in court.

In the case of debt collectors, the arbitration clauses that companies are invoking are often in contracts that borrowers presumably agreed to with their original lenders — not with the debt collector. Additionally, debt collectors often cannot produce a copy of the agreement in court, according to records and interviews.

Consumer advocates argue it is not fair for debt collectors to enforce an arbitration agreement a consumer signed with a different company. Debt collectors counter that they are buying loan contracts, and the terms come with them. . .

Continue reading.

The bias in American jurisprudence toward protecting the powerful and wealthy (including corporations) seems ineradicable. The Roberts court has been in many ways a disaster.

Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2015 at 9:09 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Great shave with Otoko Organics and Baby Smooth, and a possible reason Otoko hasn’t worked for some

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SOTD 22 Dec 2015

I had a very nice shave. My Omega 21762 did a fine job, though I had to load it on the new tub: the small ring of soap hiding in the bottom corner of the old tub did not do the job for this brush (though a brush with a smaller knot has no trouble).

Three passes later with the Razorock Baby Smooth and my face indeed was BBS. The Baby Smooth is a terrific razor and I’m sad that it is no longer being produced.

A splash of Suede aftershave by Ginger’s Garden and the week moves along.

A blog reader in Australia, who noted my previous comments on reports of some having trouble lathering Otoko Organics, provided an insight:

I have been off work since Friday of last week and have not shaved since Thursday of last week. Yesterday I had been pottering around the house doing odd jobs, and the day had been really dry and hot. [The writer lives in Australia, where it is mid-summer.]  I had spent the better part of the day with my new BBQ, finding out how the coals would work and slow cooking some meats, when I got a call and had to go out. Needing a shave but not having the time to shower as normal before I decided to moisten my face with warm water and work some Otoko into my stubble to help soften them. Everything went fine, I started working the Otoko in using my fingers then the brush and the lather died on my face… I wasn’t particularly worried as I was planning on wiping this off anyway before applying properly to shave.

It was only when I wiped my face and looked at the cloth that I saw what the Otoko had done. It had removed dirt, smoke, and oil and visibly cleaned the lower portion of my face. I had not realized the oil layer that had been bought to the surface of my skin during the day. I washed my whole face with Otoko which made my whole face feel refreshed and then I moved onto shaving paying close attention to the lather.

I do not normally aim for thick father, but this time I went for it. On my cleaned face and neck I loaded my Omega brush quickly from the puck – no more than 4 swirls around – smeared it around the shave area and worked the lather on my face. The lather burst into a thick creamy beard and seemed to stay whipped the whole time I shaved doing a thorough one pass with a few buffing strokes (without more lather). No nicks, no burn, and no irritation.

Being pressed for time I did not have the luxury of further experiment but I am leaning towards thinking the lather may firstly dissolve/emulsify oils on the skin. Perhaps oily skin needs to be thoroughly cleaned with a smear of Otoko before trying to build a lather? I do not have particularly oily skin except across my nose (causing black heads) and I have long used Otoko when cleaning my pores with great results. Maybe yesterday with the extra dirt/oils that were on my face I was approaching heavy oils on my whole face. I can tell you my face felt much more fresh once cleaned and the lather worked beautifully and the shave was smooth and irritant free.

If this is a cause—too much oil on the face cripples Otoko’s lather—then my own practice of shaving after showering and then in addition washing my beard at the sink with a high-glycerin soap—would prevent me seeing any problem. I offer this as a potential approach for those having difficulties getting Otoko to lather. That has truly never been a hint of a problem for me, but it may be that my prep prevented the problem.


Written by Leisureguy

22 December 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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