Later On

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

Archive for January 2016

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

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