Later On

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

Archive for February 10th, 2016

Scam? or not?

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Here’s the story. Note that it has a huge potential market as Baby Boomers hit the Golden Years, hard. So: scam? or not?

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 5:03 pm

Now it’s not keeping up with the Joneses, it’s simply keeping up: FOMO drives us all

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People keep inventing more and more things to keep up on because it’s structured so that your keeping up requires you to spend some sort of currency: dollars, personal information— something of value:.

YouTube has a new service: YouTube Red. Don’t you feel you should keep up?

Original movies and series from top creators now available with YouTube Red
Big news! YouTube Red Original movies and series are available starting today – and it’s all made possible by YouTube Red members.

We’re kicking things off with a brand new series from PewDiePie and three new movies from Lilly Singh, AwesomenessTV, and Rooster Teeth. With crazy fun ideas from top creators, we’re just getting started and can’t wait to share all the new shows coming throughout 2016.

Ready to check out YouTube Red Originals? All you need is a YouTube Red membership. Try it free.

YouTube has a new service. Keep up.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The struggle for control of the educational system: Shape the young and you shape the future

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Pretty clear struggle as corporations work to privatize education and thus create new profit centers with government-enforced participation—start slashing costs because every dollar of cost eliminated drops right to the bottom line. Obviously, some oppose this move, and many of them because they have devoted their lives to education and don’t want to see things happening like Mount St. Mary’s, blogged earlier today.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 3:25 pm

What NH shows

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At NPR Jessica Taylor takes a look. From her analysis:

. . . A 34 percent plurality of voters said whether a candidate is honest and trustworthy mattered most to them — and among those voters, Sanders thumped Clinton 91 percent to 5 percent. . .

That one hit home.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election, GOP, Politics

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Running a university like a business: Mount St. Mary’s president fires faculty (even tenured faculty) who disagree with him

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And the board supports it, presumably because such actions are in line with Catholic values. (Mount St. Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and Catholic institutions frequently fire those who are not in agreement with Catholic teachings.) I admit that I no longer understand what “tenure” means when tenured faculty can be fired at will for merely voicing disagreement rather than for, say, moral turpitude, which has generally been grounds for dismissing tenured faculty.

Reported in Salon:

“This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” the president of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland said to a group of professors. “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

President Simon Newman’s plan to get rid of struggling freshman students from Mount St. Mary’s didn’t get him fired. Instead, with a full vote of confidence and the backing of the University Trustees, Newman turned on the faculty who publicly expressed their dismay with these views. In lieu of respecting due process, Newman fired Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor of philosophy, along with Edward Egan, the faculty advisor for the student-run paper, The Mountain Echo, which had published Newman’s remarks. Newman also demoted the Provost, David Rehm, who thereby lost his administrative job but was kept on as a member of the philosophy faculty, as well as Joshua Hochschild, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, who is also a philosopher. The reason for the demotions and terminations? “Disloyalty.”

Naberhaus has disputed that charge, arguing that he was acting to defend the ethics and values of an institution dedicated to higher learning. In a report appearing in The Washington Post, he asked rhetorically: “Who’s to determine what’s loyalty, and who’s to define that?…A lot of us have been likening this to North Korea. It’s like a police state.”

Today, news outlets report that North Korea has executed its Army chief of staff on catchall charges of “corruption.”

To be sure, Newman didn’t literally plan on executing students. Helpfully, the Board of Trustees clarified that the bunny-drowning-shooting thing was an “unfortunate metaphor.” He did, however, intend to push out the most vulnerable from campus, using a deceptive (and non-confidential) questionnaire that asked students if they’d felt “depressed,” like “a failure,” or “disliked” in the week since arriving Mount St. Mary’s. The responses would guide a pre-emptive dump of 20 to 25 freshmen before they would have to be recorded as dropouts. Various sources have noted that the president’s email stated:

“My short-term goal is to have 20-25 people leave by [September] 25th. This one thing will boost our retention 4-5 percent,” the email says. Professors note that the president’s goal wasn’t stated as providing better counseling or support services to 20-25 students, but having them leave.

This would be done with the explicit goal of raising the institution’s retention rates, one of the metrics used to rank them, which influences which students decide to apply, matriculate, and ultimately pay its private-school tuition rates. (The total current enrollment is around 2,300 students.)

To compare this small Catholic university to a secretive dictatorship is histrionic, but the feelings of fear running through the Mount St. Mary’s campus are no less real. “Speaking anonymously,” Inside Higher Ed reported, “professors said some faculty and support staff members were crying in various offices. With the firing of the provost and two faculty members–all of whom had disagreed with the president–people said they were scared. ‘It’s terrifying, and nobody is safe,’ said one faculty member.”

Faculty around the country have been profoundly alarmed by these series of events, with a protest petition having been signed by thousands of professors, and rising.  “Of particular concern,” the petition noted, “is that Prof. Egan was fired partly for actions taken in his role as faculty advisor to the university’s student newspaper, which first broke the stories leading to the present controversy.” It also notes that Mount St. Mary’s is a Catholic institution, and as such it is bound by the teachings that “charity always proceeds by way of respect for one’s neighbor and his conscience” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1789). Instead, the university has resorted to tactics of fear and intimidation, the goal being acquiescence and silence.

So much for respecting freedom of the press, the right to reasoned dissent, the imperative to seek out uncomfortable truths, or the ability to critique power without fear of (and being blamed for) retribution. Notably, three of the four professors that Newman targeted—Naberhaus, Hochschild, and Rehm–are philosophers by training. If any of the liberal arts could be said to be diametrically opposed to the corporate sensibility that Newman (a former hedge fund manager with no background in academia) and the Chairman of the Mount St. Mary’s Board of Trustees represents, it’s the pursuit of philosophy, which has become the unlikely bulwark against the steady creep of corporatism in the 21st century. . .

Continue reading.

I earlier today commented in the post on American Red Cross’s dismal record under their current CEO that some organizations suffer a lot if they are run like a business. This is a good example.

So far as the president’s rationale, I would point out that refusing to accept seriously ill patients would greatly improve a hospital’s survival rate, but that sort of misses the point: the hospital exists to help the seriously ill, and educational institutions exist to help students. The president is not concerned with the institution’s purpose but merely in driving up the metrics.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Business, Education

The Shame of Wisconsin

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Lorrie Moore writes in the NY Review of Books:

Wisconsin is probably the most beautiful of the midwestern farm states. Its often dramatic terrain, replete with unglaciated driftless areas, borders not just the Mississippi River but two great inland seas whose opposite shores are so far away they cannot be glimpsed standing at water’s edge. The world across the waves looks distant to nonexistent, and the oceanic lakes stretch and disappear into haze and sky, though one can take a ferry out of a town called Manitowoc and in four hours get to Michigan. Amid this somewhat lonely serenity, there are the mythic shipwrecks, blizzards, tornadoes, vagaries of agricultural life, industrial boom and bust, and a burgeoning prison economy; all have contributed to a local temperament of cheerful stoicism.

Nonetheless, a feeling of overlookedness and isolation can be said to persist in America’s dairyland, and the idea that no one is watching can create a sense of invisibility that leads to the secrets and labors that the unseen are prone to: deviance and corruption as well as utopian projects, untested idealism, daydreaming, provincial grandiosity, meekness, flight, far-fetched yard decor, and sexting. Al Capone famously hid out in Wisconsin, even as Robert La Follette’s Progressive Party was getting underway. Arguably, Wisconsin can boast the three greatest American creative geniuses of the twentieth century: Frank Lloyd Wright, Orson Welles, and Georgia O’Keeffe, though all three quickly left, first for Chicago, then for warmer climes. (The state tourism board’s campaign “Escape to Wisconsin” has often been tampered with by bumper sticker vandals who eliminate the preposition.)

More recently, Wisconsin is starting to become known less for its ever-struggling left-wing politics or artistic figures—Thornton Wilder, Laura Ingalls Wilder—than for its ever-wilder murderers. The famous late-nineteenth-century “Wisconsin Death Trip,” by which madness and mayhem established the legend that the place was a frigid frontier where inexplicably gruesome things occurred—perhaps due to mind-wrecking weather—has in recent decades seemingly spawned a cast of killers that includes Ed Gein (the inspiration for Psycho), the serial murderer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, and the two Waukesha girls who in 2014 stabbed a friend of theirs to honor their idol, the Internet animation Slender Man.

The new documentary Making a Murderer, directed and written by Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, former film students from New York, is about the case of a Wisconsin man who served eighteen years in prison for sexual assault, after which he was exonerated with DNA evidence. He then became a poster boy for the Innocence Project, had his picture taken with the governor, had a justice commission begun in his name—only to be booked again, this time for murder.

Ricciardi and Demos’s rendition of his story will not help rehabilitate Wisconsin’s reputation for the weird. But it will make heroes of two impressive defense attorneys as well as the filmmakers themselves. A long-form documentary in ten parts, aired on Netflix, the ambitious series looks at social class, community consensus and conformity, the limits of trials by jury, and the agonizing stupidities of a legal system descending on more or less undefended individuals (the poor). The film is immersive and vérité—that is, it appears to unspool somewhat in real and spontaneous time, taking the viewer with the camera in unplanned fashion, discovering things as the filmmakers discover them (an illusion, of course, that editing did not muck up). It is riveting and dogged work.

The film centers on the Avery family of Manitowoc County, home to the aforementioned ferry to Michigan. Even though the lake current has eroded some of the beach, causing the sand to migrate clockwise to the Michigan dunes, and the eastern Wisconsin lakeshore has begun to fill forlornly with weeds, it is still a picturesque section of the state. The local denizens, whether lawyers or farmers, speak with the flata’s, throatily hooted o’s, and incorrect past participles (“had went”) of the region. There is a bit of Norway and Canada in the accent, which is especially strong in Wisconsin’s rural areas and only sometimes changes with education. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

is a crazy story. And the film’s double-edged title pays tribute to its ambiguity. Either Steven Avery was framed in a vendetta by Manitowoc County or the years of angry prison time turned him into the killer he had not been before. But the title aside, the documentary is pretty unambiguous in its siding with Avery and his appealing defense team, Jerry Buting and Dean Strang, who are hired with his settlement money as well as money his parents, Dolores and Allan, put up from the family business.

One cannot watch this film without thinking of the adage that law is to justice what medicine is to immortality. The path of each is a little crooked and always winds up wide of the mark. Moreover, nothing is as vain and self-regarding as the law. In Wisconsin prisoners will not get their parole unless they sign formal admissions of guilt and regret. (This kept Steven Avery from his own release when he was younger; he clung to his innocence.) These exacting corrections procedures are almost religious and certainly Orwellian in their desire to purge the last contrarian part from the human spirit. Any contempt for the law—even by a lawyer in court—will not go unpunished. And if one has the further temerity to use the law against itself—filing a lawsuit against law enforcement, for instance—one should be fearful. Especially in Manitowoc. Or so say many of the locals in front of Demos’s camera.

As portrayed in Making a Murderer, however, the law is not so vain that it doesn’t point out the low IQs of the defendants (an IQ test, it could be asserted, largely measures the desire for a high IQ) while omitting the fact that in Wisconsin most lawyers are practicing law without ever having taken a bar exam. (If someone has attended law school in the state, the bar exam is not required to practice there—a peculiarity of Wisconsin.)

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 12:19 pm

Some of Radley Balko’s links today

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Just a selection from these links Radley Balko posted in the Washington Post:

  • The Guardian reviewed the leaked contracts between police unions and dozens of U.S. cities that promise to keep personnel files and disciplinary actions hidden from public view.
  • Botched police raid No. 1: Florida cops dispatched to the wrong house, still open fire on innocent man. Somehow, he wasn’t hit.
  • Botched police raid No. 2: Drug-raiding Chicago police break down door to apartment occupied by single mom, two kids ages 11 and 14. They were acting on a tip from an informant, who said they’d find a drug dealer and heroin. They didn’t find either.
  • Investigation finds dozens of immigrants have died under suspicious circumstances at private detention facilities. More here.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 February 2016 at 12:14 pm

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