Later On

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

Archive for October 26th, 2016

Bill Clinton Era SEC Chair Tells Elizabeth Warren to Muzzle Herself

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

Yesterday, former SEC Chair Arthur Levitt penned an OpEd for the Wall Street Journal, effectively telling Senator Elizabeth Warren to stop criticizing Mary Jo White in public. White is the current Chair of the SEC that Senator Warren publicly asked President Obama to fire this month for her bad leadership.

Obviously Levitt thought it was appropriate to criticize Senator Warren in public. So what is wrong with Senator Warren, doing the same thing to the Chair of the SEC, particularly since it is the responsibility of Congress to ride herd on Federal agencies, and the SEC has been a spectacular failure in protecting the public, but highly successful at protecting Wall Street firms. I would say that Sen. Warren’s criticism of Mary Jo White is totally appropriate, particularly since Levitt by his example validates this sort of public criticism. Continuing the column:

Senator Warren is a genuine champion of the investing public and understands how the SEC has become a lapdog to Wall Street under White’s inept leadership. Levitt is part of the Bill Clinton machine that de-regulated Wall Street and turned it into a massive looting racket in the 1990s through today. It’s important to take note of Levitt’s effort to muzzle Warren in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. Expect to see more of this coming from a lot more of Wall Street’s cronies.

Arthur Levitt was appointed as SEC Chair by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Levitt served until 2001, making him the longest serving SEC Chair. Levitt had previously been Sandy Weill’s business partner in a Wall Street brokerage firm. In 1998, when Weill wanted to create Citigroup by merging his Travelers Group, which owned an insurance company, brokerage firm and investment bank, with Citibank, an insured depository bank – an illegal merger at the time under the Glass-Steagall Act — Levitt and his other cronies in the Bill Clinton administration eagerly got the ball rolling.

During his long tenure, Levitt presided over the serial looting of the public by Wall Street. Levitt was in charge when two university professors discovered that the Nasdaq stock market had been fleecing investors for more than a decade in an illegal price-fixing scheme. Levitt was in charge when Wall Street’s fraudulent research and IPO pump and dump schemes led to the great tech bubble crash, wiping away $4 trillion in market value. Levitt was there when JPMorgan and Citigroup helped Enron cook its books.

So when Levitt tells readers of the Wall Street Journal that “Mary Jo White has been a firm, thoughtful SEC chairman who, through speeches and a carefully chosen agenda, has made herself a capable steward of an essential agency,” one should take it with a grain of salt.

In 1994, a year after taking the reins at the SEC, Levitt . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 5:09 pm

The government against the vets: It goes way beyond tryng to renege on enlistment bonuss

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Charles Ornstein and Mike Hixenbaugh have a scathing report that shows the government once more determined to screw over American vets. The blurb: “For decades, the military and the VA have repeatedly turned to one man to guide decisions on whether Agent Orange harmed vets in Vietnam and elsewhere. His reliable answer: No.”

And do read this illustrative report: “Eight Times Agent Orange’s Biggest Defender Has Been Wrong or Misleading.”

Just like corporations choosing arbitrators that have a history of deciding always in favor of the corporation, the government chooses experts who have a history of supporting the government position.


Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 1:28 pm

Banning things to cast shade on a group

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Communities of any size, from village to nation, have groups considered “acceptable” by the dominant power group and groups considered “questionable at best” and groups considered “not acceptable.” The group definitions and categories vary with time, but Radley Balko points out in a column today that banning breeds of dogs is a way of showing displeasure toward, and a measure of rejection of, the groups who enjoy those breeds.

The banning of marijuana was due in part as a way to express disapproval Hispanic Americans, just as the bannot of alcohol was rural Protestants showing they diapproved of urban Catholics, what with their drinking and all. (One reason for Prohibition’s failure, I’ve read, was that the amendment was passed as a statement with no real interest in enforcement.)

The zoot-suit ban was aimed at Mexican-Americans in LA and urban African Americans in the Northeast.

Banning: a way to take a stand.  It’s just a boycott in reverse.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Fascinating: Why snakes now have no legs. (They once did.)

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First, watch this brief (less then 3 minutes) video; then read this article by Madison Margolin in Motherboard.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science, Video

The GOP has learned nothing

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Just read this Kevin Drum column. From the column:

. . . I suppose this means that Republicans are resigned to losing and are probably putting their heads together to figure out how they can work with Hillary Clinton over the next four years in order to accomplish at least—

Eh? What’s that, Ilya Shapiro?

The Senate Should Refuse To Confirm All Of Hillary Clinton’s Judicial Nominees

Um, OK. That’s clear enough. Gonna be tough on the federal judiciary, though. Don’t big businesses need the courts to stay fully staffed so they can continue suing each other over dumb patent infractions? Maybe not. But anyway, Shapiro is just one guy. This is probably not a common opinion, right?

OK, fine: two guys. But surely wiser heads in Congress will prevail?

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

Welp, it’s sure sounding like the Republican Party has learned nothing and forgotten nothing over the past eight years. If this is how things go, . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Congress, Election, GOP

The U.S. is no longer a white, Christian country. How do we handle that?

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Very interesting video from the Atlantic:


Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 11:59 am

Manufacturing is one of many areas in which my ignorance is vast: Video of spring-making machine in action

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Do you have to build the machines yourself? I cannot imagine there’s a big enough market that you could buy such a machine from a catalog. Watch it at work:

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 11:51 am

Posted in Technology, Video

Esperanto in the world

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Esther Schor wrote a book of her experiences in Esperantujo (“Esperanto-land”), Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language. Unfortunately, according to a generally favorable review by David Mikics in Tablet, she supports this idea:  “If we could all speak the same language we would truly understand one another, and then wars and bloodshed would cease.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, that statement shows a remarkable degree of ignorance—even willful ignorance—or outright stupidity. Certainly Zamenhof, the creator of Esperanto, never held such a foolish notion. He did see clearly that speaking different languages blocks communication and thus exacerbates tensions and stymies peaceful resolution of conflicts, but he certainly had no illusions that having a common language would mean the cessation of bloodshed. (Really, would any sensible person ever say such a thing?)

Zamenhof was well aware of many counter-examples:  the U.S. Civil War (same language spoken by both sides), the War of the Roses (same language spoken by both sides), the French Revolution (same language spoken by both sides), and many other conflicts in which both sides spoke the same language.

What Zamenhof actually believed was that having a common language is a necessary but not sufficient condition for peaceful resolution of conflicts. That’s much more sensible, it seems to me.

Mikics’s review also seems to presume that Esperanto is “a secret language.” It is pretty much the opposite of a secret language: Esperantists are constantly trying to tell others about it and encourage them to learn it—as a propaedeutic language, if nothing else.

Mikvics’s review begins:

It is 1922, and the League of Nations has just pledged to take up the question of a world language. It’s been a long, rewarding day at the Esperanto Congress. Speaker after speaker, in fluent Esperanto, has described the rosy prospects of the new universal tongue. Finally, with dinner time approaching, one of the lecturers turns to another and remarks, “Nu, vus makht a Yid?”—roughly, “How’s it going?” this time not in Esperanto but Yiddish.

This old joke plays on the fact that so many of Esperanto’s early champions were, like its inventor, Ludwik Leyzer Zamenhof, Eastern European Jews. They already had a common language for Jewish purposes, but Yiddish could never become truly universal. A huge majority of Jews knew Yiddish, and they had never made war on one another. So the early Esperantists had a messianic fantasy: If we could all speak the same language we would truly understand one another, and then wars and bloodshed would cease.

It was not for nothing that Zamenhof dubbed himself Doktoro Esperanto, Dr. Hopeful. His fervor has long since passed: Today’s Esperantists resemble ham-radio enthusiasts or birdwatchers, hobbyists rather than utopian dreamers. Few people realize that hundreds of thousands of people still gossip, joke and hold forth in Zamenhof’s ingenious tongue, and if they did, they likely wouldn’t care. It’s probably better to spend your time learning Lithuanian or Tamil, which, unlike Esperanto, stand at the center of a living culture, with native speakers and a literary tradition. But Esperanto is a unique case, because it flourishes, to the extent it does, without the support of a day-to-day home culture. Instead of a mamaloshen, it is a super ego sprache, the voice of high-minded, old-school internationalism. Despite its lack of a people and a territory, Esperanto has acquired many of the spices that a living language needs: slang, popular songs, and even a few poets and novelists. It has the edge over Klingon, at least for now.

Esther Schor’s entertaining new book, Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language, combines the life story of Zamenhof with a history of the Esperanto movement and sandwiches both between a lively account of Schor’s own experience as a globe-trotting Esperanto enthusiast. As you might expect, the Esperanto movement has its share of attractive oddballs, and Schor hits her stride when she sketches the friends she has met at Esperanto meetings in Vietnam, Cuba, Poland and elsewhere. She confesses that she occasionally “crocodiles” (the Esperantist term for speaking one’s native language at an Esperanto gathering). But she has worked hard at her Esperanto, attending the crash course held each summer in California along with a slew of international congresses. Esperanto speakers boast  that, once you learn Zamenhof’s lingo, you’ll enjoy free room and board throughout the world, courtesy of your fellow Esperantists: no more Airbnb! The real draw, though, seems to be sharing the company of characters who, like the language they speak, are nothing if not original.

Zamenhof, Esperanto’s creator, was an eye doctor from Bialystok. The town was about 70 percent Jewish in Zamenhof’s day, with the rest mostly Poles, Russians, and Germans. As Schor puts it, Zamenhof, who was born in 1859, “grew up convinced that linguistic difference lay at the root of interethnic animosity.” If you could solve Babel, he thought, swords would be beaten into plowshares, and the nations rescued from their strife.

An amateur through and through, Zamenhof was a great improviser in the cause of linguistic simplicity. He made up words by taking a root, usually a Latinate one, and adding -o for a noun, -a for an adjective and -e for an adverb. Esperanto roots themselves remain invariable, which is not the case in Indo-European languages: Esperanto is what linguists call an agglutinative language (think Japanese, Hungarian or Navajo). Most important, Zamenhof had a stroke of genius after publishing his Unua Libro and Dua Libro, Esperanto’s “first and second books,” in 1887-88. He turned over the further development of Esperanto to the community of speakers: Let them argue out new vocabulary and grammar. The fact that speakers could make up the language together as they went along was a tremendous draw. Esperanto, in other words, was a Wiki.

Zamenhof’s original idea was, in its way, a traditional one. Esperanto was never supposed to be a native tongue, but rather an adaptable second language that would form a bridge between foreign speakers. The Western world had long had a lingua franca, whether Greek, Latin or, in Zamenhof’s day, French. But these languages had spread through imperial conquest. Esperanto, by contrast, was supposed to transcend nationalism. The language didn’t catch on the way Zamenhof planned: He hoped for 10 million speakers within a few years, but there has never been anything close to that number. Zamenhof’s belief in the fina venko, the final victory of Esperanto as a worldwide lingua franca, was dead long before the 1980s, when the Esperanto movement declared it impossible. Global English killed the Esperantist utopia without even breaking a sweat. [Not just global English: the Great War interrupted Esperanto’s initial momentum, which was gathering strength when war broke out and put an end to international cooperation on many endeavors, Esperanto among them. Then, after the war, as Esperanto began to grow again, World War II again put any growth on hold. – LG]

Esperanto, like English, is . . .

Continue reading.

Notice you can see my Esperanto-oriented posts by selecting “Esperanto” for the category search at the right.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 11:39 am

Escher interlude

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Via Open Culture (more info at link).

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 10:36 am

Posted in Art, Math, Video

Comparing two iKon open-comb razors, with Martin de Candre

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SOTD 2016-10-26

I thought today to compare two iKon open-comb razors. The one in gold is iKon’s second model, made in polished stainless steel that I subsequently had gold-plated. The other is the iKon Shavecraft Short Comb on the ATT Kronos handle.

First, I did a thorough prep: stubble washed with MR GLO, then Martin de Candre’s fine lather, made with the Maggard 24mm synthetic shown.

The shave began with a cut: I brought the gold razor to my face at exactly the wrong angle, and as it touched, it cut. That was the only nick received, and it was totally user error. Both these razors are extremely comfortable and will not nick if used properly. My bad.

They are also both quite efficient, and I had no problem getting a BBS result on both sides of my face. Indeed, I thought the two shaved very much alike.

A commenter wondered why I don’t specify the brand of blade I use. I referred him to this post, which explains that the performance of any given brand of blade varies by person and by razor. For that reason, I consider irrelevant the particular brand I use: it may or may not work for you, and trying it would be the only way to know.

A good splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Wood aftershave, and the day gets underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 October 2016 at 8:52 am

Posted in Shaving

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