Later On

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

Archive for January 2016

Mississippi Roast resport

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Several days ago I inadvertently revealed my dinner plans by including the link for a Mississippi Roast recipe in a post about a razor I’m selling. I thought that, since I mentioned it, I should close the loop by reporting on how it turned out.

It’s an extremely good cold-weather dish—rich and savory—and it reheats very well indeed, one of those dishes that seem to get better with reheating.

I did a 4.6-lb roast, and the dozen pepperoncini really didn’t seem enough. I plan next time to use 1/4-1/2 c of sliced pepperoncini. I’ll decide based on how it looks.

The floured surface does indeed form a kind of crust in the browning, but the crust is subsumed into the liquid that develops in the cooking, so it’s not all that critical. The main thing is that the flour is cooked in the oil to make a roux, in effect, thus thickening the liquid.

For the neutral oil, I used avocado oil: very high (500ºF) smoke point, better than most other oils.

The recipe calls for 1 tsp of buttermilk. It is to laugh: buy a quart of buttermilk to use 1 tsp? I used a tsp of sour cream, not that it would make any noticeable difference. I also could not really taste the dill in the dressing.

I definitely plan to repeat it. Small servings are called for, but even small servings are quite satisfying: 6 Tbsp of butter help that along.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 6:23 pm

Ted Cruz uses fraudulent mailers in Iowa

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Ryan Lizza has a good report on a sleazy campaign fraud perpetrated by the Cruz campaign—more or less the sort of thing one would expect from a guy like Ted Cruz. The entire column is worth reading, but here’s the response of the Cruz campaign:

After looking at several mailers posted online, I was more curious about how the Cruz campaign came up with its scores. On all the mailers I saw, every voter listed had only one of three possible scores: fifty-five per cent, sixty-five per cent, or seventy-five per cent, which translate to F, D, and C grades, respectively. Iowans take voting pretty seriously. Why was it that nobody had a higher grade?

In Iowa, although voter registration information is free and available to the public, voter history is not. That information is maintained by the secretary of state, which licenses it to campaigns, super PACs, polling firms, and any other entity that might want it. So was the Cruz campaign accurately portraying the voter histories of Iowans? Or did it simply make up the numbers?
It seems to have made them up. Dave Peterson, who happens to be a political scientist at Iowa State University and is well-acquainted with the research on “social pressure” turnout techniques, received a mailer last week. The Cruz campaign pegged his voting percentage at fifty-five per cent, which seems to be the most common score that the campaign gives out. (All of the neighbors listed on Peterson’s mailer also received a score of fifty-five per cent.)
Peterson, who is actually a Hillary Clinton supporter, moved to Iowa in 2009. He told me that he has voted in three out of the last three general elections and in two out of the last three primaries.
“There are other people listed on my mailer who live in my neighborhood that are all different ages, but everyone on this sheet has the same score of fifty-five per cent,” he said. “Some are significantly younger and would have not been eligible to vote in these elections, and others are older and have voted consistently going back years. There is no way to get to us all having the same score.” (Peterson also spoke with Mother Jones.)
If the Cruz campaign based its score on local elections, Peterson said, the number also wouldn’t make sense, based on his participation in those elections as well. A source with access to the Iowa voter file told me that he checked several other names on Cruz mailers and that the voting histories of those individuals did not match the scores that the Cruz campaign assigned them in the mailer.
I e-mailed Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for the Cruz campaign, and asked her what the campaign’s methodology was for arriving at its voting scores and whether the scores were fraudulent or not. “This was a mailer designed from public information and modeled on past successful mailers used by the Iowa GOP to turn out voters, so that we can have as high of a turnout as possible on caucus day,” she said. “I’ll leave it at that.” She did not explain the methodology used nor did she answer my question about whether the numbers were made up.

The scores are obviously fraudulent. This is not a person one should trust.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Mapping Huckleberry Finn

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Very cool collection of literary maps, with the example being The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I don’t agree, BTW, that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is purely a children’s book: it does repay a careful and thoughtful reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Books

Facing Execution at 72, Georgia’s Oldest Death Row Inmate Exposes Death Penalty’s Racist Roots

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Liliana Segura writes in The Intercept:

The first time Michael Marcum saw the byline “Brandon Astor Jones,” he was working as a jail commander in San Francisco. It was 1993; Marcum can’t recall what the article was about. But he remembers it made an impression — and when he saw the author’s bio, he was taken aback. Jones was a man on Georgia’s death row.

Jones sent his articles everywhere, from newspapers in Atlanta to Australian political journals. His musings on politics and prison life found a particularly receptive audience abroad, where he had a number of devoted pen pals. Marcum wrote to Jones at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison, asking permission to reprint the piece in his jail newsletter.

It was an unusual publication, produced by prisoners and staff alike. But then County Jail #7 was an unusual jail. In the era of “three strikes” and the 1994 crime bill, it was an experiment in corrections, where prisoners raised plants in a greenhouse and tended to buffalo. Marcum had helped design it, firm in his belief that if the state of California was going to build new jails, they should be places for education and vocational training. Instead, Marcum saw the country going in the other direction.

Jones wrote back to Marcum, granting his permission to reprint the article. The two soon began exchanging letters. “We wrote a lot about our childhoods,” Marcum recalled. They found unexpected overlaps in their lives: Jones had grown up on the South Side of Chicago, where his favorite pizza joint belonged to Marcum’s father-in-law. Marcum continued to publish Jones’ writing in the newsletter; he saw it have a positive influence on inmates and staff alike. “Some of the prisoners saw Brandon as a role model,” he said.

But what really connected Marcum and Jones was the search for redemption. In 1966, when Marcum was 19 years old, he had shot and killed his own father with a hunting rifle — the violent culmination of years of domestic abuse against Marcum and his mother. It was Marcum who called the police; later he pleaded guilty and got a sentence of five years to life. When he was released in 1972, he said, “I felt I had to prove my value as a human being.” He was lucky. His parole officer helped him get into college and Marcum began an unlikely career in law enforcement, determined to use his experiences in prison to reform the system from within.

Now a retired assistant sheriff, Marcum acknowledges his journey is unique. But “this was California, not Georgia,” he said. “And I wasn’t black.”

Indeed, for his friend and pen pal across the country, the future held a very different fate. In 1979, Jones and an accomplice, Van Roosevelt Solomon, had killed a white man named Roger Tackett, the manager of a convenience store in Cobb County, Georgia. Jones and Solomon, who was also black, robbed the store, then shot Tackett to death, only to be apprehended immediately by a cop on patrol. The forensic evidence showed that both men had recently fired a gun — both denied shooting the fatal bullet. Both were convicted and sentenced to die.

Jones remained on death row — today he is 72. He no longer publishes articles, and some years back, Marcum stopped receiving letters from him. Then, earlier this month, Marcum came home to a message I left on his landline. Georgia had set an execution date for Jones — the state planned to kill him on February 2.

Marcum was shaken. “I had no idea,” he wrote in an email, agreeing to an interview. He then wrote two letters — one to his old friend, and one to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole in Atlanta, asking it to stop the execution.

If Jones dies by lethal injection on Tuesday, less than two weeks from his 73rd birthday, he will be the oldest prisoner ever executed by the state of Georgia. After more than 35 years facing execution, he embodies what Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer last year called the “unconscionably long” time prisoners spend on death row, many of them elderly and infirm. But Jones is also a relic of an earlier era of the death penalty in Georgia, the roots of which remain impossible to ignore.

To date, the oldest prisoner executed in Georgia was Andrew Brannan, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran with PTSD, who was killed last January. His was the first of five people executed by the state in 2015 — among them, an intellectually disabled man, a man with claims of innocence, and a woman sent to die for a murder her boyfriend carried out and who had became a poster child for rehabilitation.

If 2015 reaffirmed Georgia’s reputation for controversial executions, it also quietly revealed an opposite trend. “Despite the relative flurry of executions,” a Georgia legal website, the Daily Report, noted last December, “the other end of the death penalty process has slowed significantly.” Georgia did not send a single person to death row in 2015 — a development the Report called the “newsmaker of the year.” The turn away from capital punishment is part of a larger nationwide trend, even across the most active death penalty states. “The same thing that is happening in Georgia is also happening in Texas and Virginia,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told the Report.

Bridging the disconnect between the “new Georgia,” as Dunham put it, and the state’s recent spate of troubling executions are people like Jones. “We have this very strange situation now in which these people sentenced to death a long time ago — and who managed to get through all the stages of review — are now being executed,” said Stephen Bright, president of the 40-year-old Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. “They almost certainly would not be sentenced to death today.” (In court filings, lawyers for Jones point out that death sentences for killings carried out in the course of a robbery have “fallen into complete extinction.”) Bright describes them as “zombie cases” — convictions that “remind us of just how unfair” the system used to be.

Indeed, it was not until 2005 that the state opened the office of the Georgia Capital Defender, seeking to remedy a decades-old problem: defendants on trial for their lives with grossly inadequate representation. “At the time of Jones’ case and so many others,” Bright said, “any lawyer who was a member of the Georgia bar could be appointed to represent someone in a death penalty case.” With no meaningful funding for indigent defense — and a sloppy, ad hoc network of public defender offices throughout the state — death sentences were often handed out “not for the worst crime, but for the worst lawyer,” as Bright wrote in a 1994 article for the Yale Law Journal.

The problem was especially pronounced when it came to race. In 1974, five years before Jones landed on death row, a Georgia man named Wilburn Wiley Dobbs was sent to die for a murder carried out during a robbery. His court-appointed lawyer made no effort to save his life — in fact, he referred to his black client as “boy” during trial, later admitting that, as the grandson of a slaveholder, he believed African-Americans to be “inferior to whites morally and intellectually.” Dobbs’ death sentence was overturned in 1997, yet he has never had a resentencing hearing. At 66 and sick with prostate cancer, he will almost certainly die behind bars.

In a different 1974 case, a Georgia man named John Young was ineptly represented by an attorney who not only was later disbarred, but encountered his former client on the prison yard at the county jail, where the lawyer had been sent on drug charges. “Being born black in America was against me,” Young said before dying in the electric chair in 1985. “Y’all cry out that America was built on Christianity. I say it was built on slavery.”

Evidence that the state’s death penalty was racially biased was a major contributing factor that led to Furman v. Georgia, the landmark Supreme Court case that in 1972 suspended the death penalty across the country. (The plaintiff, William Henry Furman, was a black man deemed “mentally impaired” by a state psychiatrist, who had been convicted in a one-day trial in Savannah.) Furman forced states to amend their death penalty statutes to avoid the “arbitrary and discriminatory” imposition of capital punishment.

Just four years later, the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s new death penalty law in Gregg v. Georgia. Yet the law showed clear continuity with decades past: Of the first dozen people to die in the electric chair following Gregg, nine were black.

Bright still bristles at the “arrogance of that; to think that all of the problems identified in Furman — the racism, the consequences of poverty — to think that you could have that fixed in four years was just so incredibly preposterous.”

Jones was sent to Georgia’s death row three years after Gregg. . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 12:11 pm

Dogs arguing about chew toy

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Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 11:22 am

Posted in Video

The “Bernie Bros” Narrative: a Cheap Campaign Tactic Masquerading as Journalism and Social Activism

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Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:

The concoction of the “Bernie Bro” narrative by pro-Clinton journalists has been a potent political tactic – and a journalistic disgrace. It’s intended to imply two equally false claims: (1) a refusal to march enthusiastically behind the Wall-Street-enriched, multiple-war-advocating, despot-embracing Hillary Clinton is explainable not by ideology or political conviction, but largely if not exclusively by sexism: demonstrated by the fact that men, not women, support Sanders (his supporters are “bros”); and (2) Sanders supporters are uniquely abusive and misogynistic in their online behavior. Needless to say, a crucial tactical prong of this innuendo is that any attempt to refute it is itself proof of insensitivity to sexism if not sexism itself (as the accusatory reactions to this article will instantly illustrate).

It’s become such an all-purpose, handy pro-Clinton smear that even consummate, actual “bros” for which the term was originally coined – straight guys who act with entitlement and aggression, such as Paul Krugman  – are now reflexively (and unironically) applying it to anyone who speaks ill of Hillary Clinton, even when they know nothing else about the people they’re smearing, including their gender, age or sexual orientation. Thus, a male policy analyst who criticized Sanders’ health care plan “is getting the Bernie Bro treatment,” sneered Krugman. Unfortunately for The New York Times Bro, that analyst, Charles Gaba, said in response that he’s “really not comfortable with [Krugman’s] referring to die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters as ‘Bernie Bros’” because it “implies that only college-age men support Sen. Sanders, which obviously isn’t the case.”

It is indeed “obviously not the case.” There are literally millions of women who support Sanders over Clinton. A new Iowa poll yesterday shows Sanders with a 15-point lead over Clinton among women under 45, while 1/3 of Iowa women over 45 support him. A USA Today/Rock-the-Vote poll from two weeks ago found Sanders nationally “with a 19-point lead over front-runner Hillary Clinton, 50% to 31%, among Democratic and independent women ages 18 to 34.” One has to be willing to belittle the views and erase the existence of a huge number of American women to wield this “Bernie Bro” smear. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 10:01 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

The NY Times Endorses Hillary Clinton with a Banner Ad from Citigroup

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

Today’s digital edition of The New York Times captures the essence of the cancer eating away at our democracy: a leading newspaper is endorsing a deeply tarnished candidate for the highest office in America while a major Wall Street bank that has played a key role in her conflicted candidacy runs a banner ad as if to salute the endorsement. The slogan on Citigroup’s ad, “cash back once just isn’t enough,” perfectly epitomizes the frequency with which the Clintons have gone to the Citigroup well.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, among the top five largest lifetime donors to Hillary’s campaigns, Citigroup tops the list, with three other Wall Street banks also making the cut: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. (The monies come from employees and/or family members or PACs of the firms, not the corporation itself.)

Hillary Clinton famously told ABC’s Diane Sawyer in 2014 that she and Bill Clinton left the White House after his second term “dead broke.” But apparently, Citigroup felt they were a good investment. According to PolitiFact, Citigroup provided a $1.995 million mortgage to allow the Clintons to buy their Washington, D.C. residence in 2000. That liability does not pop up on the Clinton disclosure documents until 2011, showing a 30-year mortgage at 5.375 percent ranging in face amount from $1 million to $5 million from CitiMortgage. The disclosure says the mortgage was taken out in 2001.

Citigroup has also committed $5.5 million to the Clinton Global Initiative, a charity run by the Clintons. It has also paid enormous speaking fees to Bill Clinton.

What has Citigroup gotten from its outsized support of the Clintons? Bill Clinton is the President who repealed the most important investor protection legislation of the past century, the Glass-Steagall Act, an outcome heavily lobbied for by Citigroup. Hillary Clinton has signaled to Wall Street that she will not push to have the Glass-Steagall Act restored while her leading opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, vows to restore it and return sanity to America’s financial system.

Just nine years after Bill Clinton signed this massive deregulation of Wall Street and gave Citigroup’s Sandy Weill a souvenir pen from the signing, the U.S. financial system collapsed in the greatest implosion since the Great Depression.  Two years before the collapse, Sandy Weill had exited Wall Street as a billionaire as a result of this deregulation, while Citigroup became a penny stock in the crash and a ward of the government in the greatest taxpayer bailout in U.S. history.

In March of 2014, during the Senate confirmation hearing to install Stanley Fischer, a former executive of Citigroup, as Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Senator Elizabeth Warren summed up what Citigroup’s money can buy in Washington:

Senator Warren: “Many big banks are well represented in Washington but the connection between Citigroup and Democratic administrations really sticks out. Three of the last four Democratic Treasury secretaries have Citigroup ties; the fourth was offered but turned down the CEO position at Citigroup. Former Directors of the National Economic Council and the Office of Management and Budget at the White House and our current U.S. Trade Representative also have Citigroup ties. You once served as President of Citigroup International and are now in line to be number two at the Federal Reserve…”

Fischer said he thought his Citigroup experience would help him.

Senator Warren countered: “I also think it’s dangerous if our government falls under the grip of a tight knit group connected to one institution. Former colleagues get access through calls and meetings; economic policy can be dominated by group think; other qualified and innovative people can be crowded out of top government positions.”

One of Hillary’s strengths according to the Times’ endorsement is that she has engaged in a “lifelong fight for women,” a statement that only resonates in some Orwellian universe intractably mired in Newspeak.

Hillary Clinton is the woman who stood by her man as multiple women came forward to accuse him of adultery or sexual assaults. Hillary Clinton is the woman who served as First Lady as Bill Clinton eviscerated the lives of poor children and single mothers by enacting welfare reform, a program so draconian that Senator Edward Kennedy called it “legislative child abuse” and voted against it.

As a result of Bill Clinton’s handiwork in the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, millions more women and children and families were thrown into poverty during the financial crash; 10 million people were forced from their homes through foreclosures, while Bill and Hillary’s rich campaign supporters became even richer – right along with the Clintons.

According to the Washington Post, in less than a year and a half, Hillary and Bill Clinton earned over $25 million in speaking fees, a significant portion of which came from Wall Street firms. In 2012, Hillary’s last full year as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton socked away an astonishing $16.3 million in speaking fees. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 January 2016 at 9:59 am

The deep state is very thin-skinned and very aggressive in response.

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Much like Donald Trump, in fact, but with real power. Take a look at this report by Kari Paul in Motherboard:

Barely a month after his appointment, security reseasrcher and former FTC chief technologist Ashkan Soltani is leaving his post as a White House senior advisor, apparently unable to get security clearance from the US government.

Government officials have not commented on the nature of Soltani’s departure, or why he was not cleared—a White House spokesperson merely told The Guardian’sDanny Yardon that “his detail has ended”—but many have speculated it is due to his work reporting on documents leaked by former NSA intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. . .

Continue reading. And do read it: it quite clearly demonstrates what mindset now has power in the US. Indeed, the candidacies can be viewed as meme-matrices competing directly.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 1:49 pm

Well said at WE

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Good post. Concrete description and exactly what those who are still pondering the switch want to know. Perfect.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Shaving

The Clinton System explained

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Simon Head writes in the NY Review of Books:

On January 17, in the final Democratic debate before the primary season begins, Bernie Sanders attacked Hillary Clinton for her close financial ties to Wall Street, something he had avoided in his campaigning up to that moment: “I don’t take money from big banks….You’ve received over $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year,” he said. Sanders’s criticisms coincided with recent reports that the FBI might be expanding its inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails to include her ties to big donors while serving as secretary of state. But a larger question concerns how Hillary and Bill Clinton have built their powerful donor machine, and what its existence might mean for Hillary Clinton’s future conduct as American president. The following investigation, drawing on many different sources, is intended to give a full sense of the facts about Clinton and not to endorse a particular candidate in the coming election.

It’s an axiom of Washington politics in the age of Citizens United and Super PACs that corporations and the very rich can channel almost unlimited amounts of money to candidates for high office to pave the way for later favors. According to the public service website Open Secrets, in the 2016 campaign, as of October, in addition to direct campaign contributions, Jeb Bush had at his disposal $103 million in “outside money”—groups such as PACs and Super PACs and so called “dark money” organizations that work on behalf of a particular candidate. Ted Cruz had $38 million in such funds, Marco Rubio $17 million, and Chris Christie $14 million.

Yet few have been as adept at exploiting this big-money politics as Bill and Hillary Clinton. In the 2016 campaign, as of October, Hillary Clinton had raised $20 million in “outside” money, on top of $77 million in direct campaign contributions—the highest in direct contributions of any candidate at the time. But she and her husband have other links to big donors, and they go back much further than the current election cycle. What stands out about what I will call the Clinton System is the scale and complexity of the connections involved, the length of time they have been in operation, the presence of former president Bill Clinton alongside Hillary as an equal partner in the enterprise, and the sheer magnitude of the funds involved.

Scale and complexity arise from the multiple channels that link Clinton donors to the Clintons: there is the stream of six-figure lecture fees paid to Bill and Hillary Clinton, mostly from large corporations and banks, which have earned them more than $125 million in the fifteen years since Bill Clinton left office in 2001. There are the direct payments to Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns, including for the Senate in 2000 and for the presidency in 2008 and now in 2016, which had reached a total of $712.4 million as of September 30, 2015, the most recent figures compiled by Open Secrets. Four of the top five sources of these funds are major banks: Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and Morgan Stanley. The Clinton campaign meanwhile has set a goal of raising $1 billion for her Super PAC for the 2016 election.

Finally there is the nearly $2 billion that donors have contributed to the Clinton Foundation and its satellite organizations since Bill Clinton left office. It may seem odd to include donations to the foundation among the chief ways that corporations and the super-rich can gain access to the Clintons, earn their goodwill, and hope for future favors in return. The foundation’s funds are mostly spent on unequivocally good causes—everything from promoting forestation in Africa and helping small farmers in the Caribbean to working with local governments and businesses in the US to promote wellness and physical fitness.

Moreover, . . .

Continue reading.

He doesn’t pull his punches, does he? And certainly we’ve seen in the Obama administration just how very gently an administration can treat Wall Street: no criminal convictions, fines and fees inflated for headlines but in fact much lower—and no criminal convictions and sometimes Wall Street or big corporations are explicitly given blanket immunity in civil suits for any past wrongdoing (GM doesn’t have to pay for the many deaths caused by its ignition switch, for example). Of course, admittedly you see the same thing on the criminal side: innocent prisoners who have been locked up for four or five decades, living out their prime years in prison, are more or less forced to sign an Alford plea, which disallows any subsequent lawsuits for what was done to them. Innocent foreigners get shorter shrift yet: those innocent men who were abducted and tortured by the US, as is well known and recognized, cannot even get a court hearing: “state secrets.” Yeah, it’s a big secret that they kidnapped and tortured these guys. Not.

That may be why I find myself supporting Bernie Sanders. We tried Bill Clinton, we tried Barack Obama. Some things got better, but the looting of America continued unabated (and in the Obama administration the government went on a kind of information lockdown, slow-walking FOIA responses, classifying everything, keeping as much secret as possible (TPP negotiations, anyone?), viciously persecuting whistleblowers who pointed out government waste (the billions NSA blew away for nothing: Thomas Drake) or government lawbreaking (the illegal wiretaps of GWB: the Department of “Justice,” as it’s quaintly called, is right now going after a DOJ employee who released that to the public. The charge is, I suppose, failure to cover up illegal acts.). The US government overtly becomes more authoritarian as we watch it. And we read many stories about, for example, how the Chicago PD on the whole breaks their dash cams and/or do not turn them on—and Chicago is not alone: it’s a national problem. Police departments really do think that outsiders should just accept what they do, and civilian review panels are treated with contempt in some cities.

So I think people are sort of fed up and do not want, “Steady as it goes.” I think a lot of people think that, if the game is rigged, as it truly is (see the Michael Lewis book (and now movie) The Big Short), then for the love of Pete, let’s change the game.

Bernie is talking about changing the game. Hillary thinks she can give us a slide edge on the house, maybe. But see article above: Hillary is not going to be able to disrupt that rigged game: it is that on which the Clinton System depends.

So Bernie for me.

UPDATE: See also this Salon post by Curtis White.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 1:07 pm

Perhaps Spiderman could

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That from this post on Motherboard, by Louise Matsakas. More info at the link.

I do wish the guy had known to look at the camera with the little red light… see that? Look at that.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 12:34 pm

Meme warfare: Ferminism v. Patriarchy

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The conflicts are obvious and many, but if you look at its as two very different (and mutually contradictory) memes are locked in a fight for survival—and the memes will evolve to benefit their own survival, not necessarily to benefit the host. Indeed, in a world that is egalitarian on gender and also economically egalitarian, you get the Scandinavian model, which does indeed turn out to be very beneficial to the humans hosting the meme: happiness levels, education levels, health levels, and so on: top notch. So it definitely works well and is good for the host, but the issue will be decided purely on which meme “wins” (in the sense of propagating better and having better retention rates). The benefits to the host are secondary to the meme.

So the conflict of ideas leads to meme warfare, the effects of which you see everywhere—cf. the earlier blog post about the long-haired motorcyclist.

I’m reading Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine, so that viewpoint—a meme’s-eye view, as it were—is on my mind.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Memes

10 things about the Flint tragedy, from Michael Moore, including the use of Flint for live-ammunition military exercises

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Michael Moore reports:

News of the poisoned water crisis in Flint has reached a wide audience around the world. The basics are now known: the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, nullified the free elections in Flint, deposed the mayor and city council, then appointed his own man to run the city. To save money, they decided to unhook the people of Flint from their fresh water drinking source, Lake Huron, and instead, make the public drink from the toxic Flint River. When the governor’s office discovered just how toxic the water was, they decided to keep quiet about it and covered up the extent of the damage being done to Flint’s residents, most notably the lead affecting the children, causing irreversible and permanent brain damage. Citizen activists uncovered these actions, and the governor now faces growing cries to resign or be arrested.

Here are ten things that you probably don’t know about this crisis because the media, having come to the story so late, can only process so much. But if you live in Flint or the State of Michigan as I do, you know all to well that what the greater public has been told only scratches the surface.

  1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water. A few months after Governor Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The Governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water. Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.
  2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented. Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the Governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River. “How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer. I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the State may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.
  3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water. In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water. Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least ten have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.
  4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold. Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home. So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?
  5. While They Were Being Poisoned, They Were Also Being Bombed. Here’s a story which has received little or no coverage outside of Flint. During these two years of water contamination, residents in Flint have had to contend with a decision made by the Pentagon to use Flint for target practice. Literally. Actual unannounced military exercises – complete with live ammo and explosives – were conducted last year inside the city of Flint. The army decided to practice urban warfare on Flint, making use of the thousands of abandoned homes which they could drop bombs on. Streets with dilapidated homes had rocket-propelled grenades fired upon them. For weeks, an undisclosed number of army troops pretended Flint was Baghdad or Damascus and basically had at it. It sounded as if the city was under attack from an invading army or from terrorists. People were shocked this could be going on in their neighborhoods. Wait – did I say “people?” I meant, Flint people. As with the Governor, it was OK to abuse a community that held no political power or money to fight back. BOOM!
  6. The Wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff Is a Spokeswoman for Nestle, Michigan’s Largest Owner of Private Water Reserves. . .

Continue reading.

I want some confirmation on some of this: the Army practicing urban warfare with live ammunition seems incredible.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 10:57 am

The Holy Black: Brush, Slant, and Aftershave, with WSP Formula T Tobacco

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SOTD 2016-01-30

Got my shipment from The Holy Black yesterday. The brush is quite nice: a somewhat rustic feeling handle with a sculptured bas-relief and an angel-hair synthetic knot of a size that works well for me. It has good resilience while still being quite soft and giving.

Wet Shaving Products makes exceptional soaps, and their Formula T series uses tallow. (Their Rustic line is a (very good) vegan soap, a Martin de Candre shavealike.) The lather was rich, thick, and creamy and provided excellent glide. I do recommend their soaps highly.

And now the pièce de résistance: The Holy Black’s slant. The head looks a lot like the Merkur 37C head except for color and texture (the 37C has a polished finish, The Holy Black’s finish is lightly textured but still has excellent glide). Like the 37C, this slant is a two-piece design with an internal shaft with the tightening knob at the end of the handle. But the razor is much heavier than the 37C (142g vs. 78g for the 37C), with much of that weight in the handle, which feels somewhat short and stubby. Still, the razor was quite easy to handle, and the shortness of the handle was not a problem. The weight plus short handle did give the razor a different feel in the hand, though: the handle felt as though it was playing a different role, in a way. EDIT: Actually, the handle on THB slant is the same length as the 37C handle, but THB’s handle’s greater weight and greater diameter makes it feel stubby. But they are in fact the same length, about 2 15/16″; it’s just that the 37C handle feels longer because it’s thinner and lighter.

The shave itself was quite good. I used a Gillette Silver Blue blade and three passes easily result in a BBS finish with no nicks or other problems.

The Holy Black aftershave lotion shown is a creamy balm, and it works well. I did not pick up much fragrance, but it felt good and did the job.

It’s good to see a new slant. The weight and feel are good, and although the head may be much the same as the 37C head, this razor, the prices differ: $40 for The Holy Black Slant, around $45 for the 37C.

Written by Leisureguy

30 January 2016 at 8:31 am

Posted in Shaving

Clinton’s “top secret” emails said the US is responsible for drone strikes—wow! That is secret!

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Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Via the AP, here’s the latest on Hillary Clinton’s email woes:

The Obama administration confirmed for the first time Friday that Hillary Clinton’s unsecured home server contained some of the U.S. government’s most closely guarded secrets, censoring 22 emails with material demanding one of the highest levels of classification….The 37 pages include messages recently described by a key intelligence official as concerning so-called “special access programs” — a highly restricted subset of classified material that could point to confidential sources or clandestine programs likedrone strikes or government eavesdropping.

Special access programs are the most secret of all secrets, so this sounds bad. But wait. What’s this business about drone strikes? That’s not much of a secret, is it? Maybe you need a refresher on all this, so let’s rewind the Wayback Machine to last August, when we first heard about top secret emails on Clinton’s server that turned out to be about drone strikes:

The drone exchange, the officials said, begins with a copy of a news article about the CIA drone program that targets terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere. While that program is technically top secret, it is well-known and often reported on….The copy makes reference to classified information, and a Clinton adviser follows up by dancing around a top secret in a way that could possibly be inferred as confirmation, the officials said.

Hmmm. A news article? Here’s a Politico piece from a couple of weeks ago, when we heard that the inspector general’s office was concerned about some of Clinton’s emails. Politico’s source is a “US official”:

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some or all of the emails deemed to implicate “special access programs” related to U.S. drone strikes….The information in the emails “was not obtained through a classified product, but is considered ‘per se’ classified” because it pertains to drones, the official added….The source noted that the intelligence community considers information about classified operations to be classified even if it appears in news reports or is apparent to eyewitnesses on the ground.

OK then: the emails in question discuss a news article containing information that’s widely-known but nonetheless top secret because…um, why not? Here’s more from the Ken Dilanian, formerly of the AP and now with NBC News:

The classified material included in the latest batch of Hillary Clinton emails flagged by an internal watchdog involved discussions of CIA drone strikes, which are among the worst kept secrets in Washington, senior U.S. officials briefed on the matter tell NBC News. The officials say the emails included relatively “innocuous” conversations by State Department officialsabout the CIA drone program.

So what do you suppose the “closely guarded secrets” in the latest batch of 22 emails are? Drones? That’s a pretty good guess. Most likely, this all started with someone sending around a news article about the drone program in Pakistan or Yemen, and then several other people chiming in. It wasn’t classified at the time, and most likely contains nothing even remotely sensitive—but the CIA now insists on classifying it retroactively. That’s why Clinton’s spokesperson calls this“classification run amok” and says, once again, that they’ll seek to have all these emails released to the public. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 5:14 pm

80 percent of Chicago PD dash-cam videos are missing audio due to ‘officer error’ or ‘intentional destruction’

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Law enforcement in the US seems to be seriously out of whack. Radley Balko reports on how the Chicago Police Department has worked to allow police to do anything they want, with no accountability, and he includes examples that show it’s not simply a Chicago problem. From the column:

. . . But it isn’t just Chicago. In April 2014, the Los Angeles Times ran a similar story about the Los Angeles Police Department.

Los Angeles police officers tampered with voice recording equipment in dozens of patrol cars in an effort to avoid being monitored while on duty, according to records and interviews.

An inspection by Los Angeles Police Department investigators found about half of the estimated 80 cars in one South L.A. patrol division were missing antennas, which help capture what officers say in the field. The antennas in at least 10 more cars in nearby divisions had also been removed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top officials learned of the problem last summer but chose not to investigate which officers were responsible. Rather, the officials issued warnings against continued meddling and put checks in place to account for antennas at the start and end of each patrol shift.

Members of the Police Commission, which oversees the department, were not briefed about the problem until months later. In interviews with The Times, some commissioners said they were alarmed by the officers’ attempts to conceal what occurred in the field, as well as the failure of department officials to come forward when the problem first came to light.

Emphasis mine. So the city’s police chief learned that dozens of cops were deliberately sabotaging equipment intended to keep them accountable but chose not to investigate. Don’t the residents of Los Angeles deserve to know which cops committed the sabotage? What might their actions say about their credibility on the witness stand or how much credibility we should put in their reports when those reports are contradicted by witnesses or suspects? A crafty police chief might have seen the tampering revelations as a handy way to identify officers who should be watched closely for other signs of abuse. Instead, police officials tried to sweep it all away.

As we’ve discussed here in the past, this sort of thing is disturbingly common.

  • When University of Maryland student John McKenna was beaten by police after a basketball game, the surveillance camera that should have been pointing at the area where the incident occurred had been turned off. Fortunately, the confrontation was captured by numerous students on their cellphones. The officer in charge of the cameras just happened to be married to one of the officers later disciplined for McKenna’s beating.
  • In 2007, a TV reporter and her cameraman filed a lawsuit alleging they were assaulted by several police officers in Prince George’s County. During discovery, the county claimed that all seven dash-cams at the scene of the incident had coincidentally malfunctioned.
  • In 2010, an appeals court judge in Texas noted that curiously, in a high percentage of cases in which a DWI suspect had challenged the charges, dash-cam footage of the traffic stop had gone missing. “At some point, courts must address the repeated failure of officers to use the recording equipment and their repeated inability to remember whether the car they were driving on patrol or to a DWI stop contained the video equipment the City of Fort Worth has been paying for,” she wrote.

Let’s get real here. The notion that most of these incidents are honest mistakes simply defies credulity. These are deliberate attempts to destroy evidence, as are the countless incidents in which police have destroyed cellphone footage of arrests, beatings and other confrontations later resulting in allegations of abuse. But the courts long ago determined that when evidence goes missing in a criminal case, the defense must prove ill intent on the part of police or prosecutors. That’s a nearly impossible standard. . .

There’s a lot in the column. Read it all, because it’s a bellwether of the direction the US is going.

One thing that would help enormously is for state laws to include a “missing video presumption”: If the police officers have video capabilities and it fails to work, then the presumption is that the video would corroborate the defendant’s account. (That sentence is from this post by Scott Greenfield at the blog Simple Justice; I highly recommend reading it.)

That would solve it.

Another step might be that any officer whose dash cam or body camera shows deliberate destruction should lose his or her job immediately—or at least be placed on unpaid administrative leave until the matter is resolved.


Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 2:39 pm

Problems the free market doesn’t solve: Drug shortages

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The free market seems to work well in solving problems if there are large profits to be made from the solution. If the solution does not involve large profits, it seems that many corporations lose interest and decide to leave the job for some other company less interested in large profits. (There are very few corporations in the profit sector that are interested in small-profit ventures.)

In the NY Times Sheri Fink provides a disturbing description of how the US free market approaches drug shortages:

In the operating room at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Brian Fitzsimons has long relied on a decades-old drug to prevent hemorrhages in patients undergoing open-heart surgery. The drug, aminocaproic acid, is widely used, cheap and safe. “It never hurt,” he said. “It only helps.”

Then manufacturing issues caused a national shortage. “We essentially did military-style triage,” said Dr. Fitzsimons, an anesthesiologist, restricting the limited supply to patients at the highest risk of bleeding complications. Those who do not get the once-standard treatment at the clinic, the nation’s largest cardiac center, are not told. “The patient is asleep,” he said. “The family never knows about it.”

In recent years, shortages of all sorts of drugs — anesthetics, painkillers,antibiotics, cancer treatments — have become the new normal in American medicine. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists currently lists inadequate supplies of more than 150 drugs and therapeutics, for reasons ranging from manufacturing problems to federal safety crackdowns to drugmakers abandoning low-profit products. But while such shortages have periodically drawn attention, the rationing that results from them has been largely hidden from patients and the public.

At medical institutions across the country, choices about who gets drugs have often been made in ad hoc ways that have resulted in contradictory conclusions, murky ethical reasoning and medically questionable practices, according to interviews with dozens of doctors, hospital officials and government regulators.

Some institutions have formal committees that include ethicists and patient representatives; in other places, individual physicians, pharmacists and even drug company executives decide which patients receive a needed drug — and which do not.

An international group of pediatric cancer specialists was so troubled about the profession’s unsystematic approach to distributing scarce medicine that it developed rationing guidelines that are being released Friday in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“It was painful,” said Dr. Yoram Unguru, an oncologist at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore and a faculty member at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. “We kept coming back to wow, we’ve got that tragic choice: two kids in front of you, you only have enough for one. How do you choose?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 2:21 pm

When I Quit Cutting My Hair, I Learned How Men Treat Women On American Roads

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Misogynists abound, apparently. Read this guy’s experience.

What on earth makes some men so hostile toward women? Is it because they view women as weaker?—that is, the man feels safe in mistreating a woman because he thinks he can beat her up? That doesn’t cover the cause of the hostility, merely explains why the man feels free to express it. Did their mothers treat them badly? Do they in fact feel a kind of hostile anger to everyone but are fearful of expressing it toward a man?

I don’t get it, but it’s real, as this guy found out.

I did do a Google search.

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 1:58 pm

Creating graphic images using Excel: Advanced division

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You—or, more precisely, Tatsuo Horiuchi, age 73—can use Excel to make images such as this:


Here’s another of his Excel spreadsheets:


Here’s the story, and at the link you can download the Excel files for the above.

A photo of the artist and some of his work. The four-panel image is impressive, eh?


Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Art, Technology

A good desk that easily adjusts for sitting or standing for $230 from IKEA

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Read this review.

Written by Leisureguy

29 January 2016 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health

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